The issue that has caused such a huge rift all revolves around local celebrity "Cooper", a seven year old cat who has been greeting visitors to the local Morrison's supermarket now for several years. Whilst bringing delight to some shoppers, others are not so keen. The situation has now escalated to a point where only a local referendum to decide whether Cooper should stay or leave can decide the issue.
|Souper Cooper's deal of the day!|
Fans of Cooper have been gathering outside the store, bringing him treats, and holding up banners in his support. One lady we interviewed said.
"Coops is lovely and the reason I come to Morrisons each day for my shopping. He's a little ray of sunshine. I can't believe people are offended by him, but then, people seem to be offended by just about anything these days".
A local councilor also came out in support of Evesham's most famous cat, saying "There is no doubt that Cooper remaining is very important for local trade. Many people come here specifically to see him and spend their money while they are here, helping to create new jobs and boost the local economy".
Other were opposed, though. One man with a shaven head and a union jack T-shirt identified himself as a member of one of Britain's far right parties. He said "You may say he's doing no harm sitting on the kitchen roll in the foyer, but that's the tip of the iceberg. Before you know it he'll be in the store then bringing all his friends and family in and they'll be taking over".
The councilor who had spoken up in support of Coops dismissed this man's words as bigoted rubbish, but there are others with less inflammatory motives who want Coops to leave too. Many believe that allowing Coops near food products in the foyer of the store presents a health risk, despite the fact that the products in question are all sealed in packaging.
One young mother complained that Coops had brushed against the outer wrapping of some kitchen roll and it might trigger an allergic reaction in one of her children if she bought a product that had come into contact with the kitchen roll. She said she had invited an environmental health team to investigate.
Another Meowxiteer we spoke to, a middle-aged woman from Hampton welcomed the investigation, making the following claim:
"It's a little known fact that the Black Death which spread across Europe in the fourteenth century was not caused by rats and fleas at all. It was actually all started by a man from Weymouth who went across to fight in the crusades in the late thirteenth century. When he came back he brought a Persian cat as a souvenir. With no army pension in those days, he opened a shop on the seafront selling ice-creams to Medieval tourists and his cat used to sit on the counter when he was serving. A few decades later the plague broke out in England in this very spot. Co-incidence? I don't think so!"
When our local historian pointed out the numerous inaccuracies in this statement, the woman stomped off in a huff muttering something about emailing head office and that she would be getting her potatoes from Tesco from now on.
It's clear that Cooper has polarised local opinion more than the great love it or hate it Marmite debate leaving the referendum too close to call. But what does the great 'man' himself have to say on the issue? We caught up with Coops outside the shop and asked him if he intended to abide by the decision of the people. All he had to say was:
"I'm a cat. I do what I want".
Jason Ayres is the author of seven novels, including the Amazon bestseller, The Time Bubble. You can find out more here.