An unusual employee of a railway station is the protagonist of a heartwarming new biography.
When the employees at Huddersfield railway station got themselves a team kitten in 2011, they couldn’t possibly have imagined what would happen next. The original idea was that a cat might be fun to have around and could perhaps catch a few mice. Six years later, and Felix—who was named before the team found out she was a girl—is now famous enough to have her own biography.
Image via welovecatsandkittens
At first, Felix stuck mainly to charming her (human) colleagues—even the ones who’d been decidedly grumpy about having a cat at all. But once she was confident enough to hit the platforms, it became clear how good she was at charming everybody else too: able to soothe the angriest of passengers and to stop screaming children mid-tantrum. By 2013, she was a big enough part of station life to be given a personalised cat-flap when electronic barriers were introduced.
Not long afterwards, a business commuter who’d fallen under her spell created a Felix Facebook page—and soon after that her promotion to senior pest controller was reported by the local paper (a slightly scandalous promotion, some might say, given that she’s never been much good at catching mice).
And it was then that her career really took off—as, like The Beatles before her, Felix’s fame spread from her hometown to the rest of Britain, and from there to the world. By 2016, she had 100,000 Facebook followers and a film of her in action was being shown on TV programmes from America to Japan, Australia to Mexico. But for some fans—including in this passage, a young boy with autism—only seeing Felix in the flesh would do...
"Huddersfield station had become a key destination for Felix's tens of thousands of fans. They travelled for miles—the team had met people from China, Germany and Canada who had come to see her. English fans altered their travel plans so they could alight at Huddersfield in the hope of catching a few minutes with Felix; regular commuters came that little bit earlier in the mornings just to have some fun.
Then came a warm day when [team leader] Andrew McClements noticed a mother with a five-year-old son battling towards him on the platform. ‘Hello, there!’ he said in a friendly fashion to the boy.
But the child stared pointedly at the floor and refused to make eye contact.
‘Hello,’ his mother said. Even in her cool summer dress she looked a little harried. ‘I was wondering,’ she went on anxiously. ‘I understand if we can’t, but can we see Felix, please? My son really likes Felix.’
Andrew glanced at the child again.
'Oh, do you?’ he said jovially; but once again the child said nothing. He stood unmoving by his mother’s side, his eyes boring holes into the ground.
He seemed really shy—or perhaps, Andrew realised, it was something else.
"His mum watched him with the purest, happiest smile on her face. She looked at Andrew above her child’s head and mouthed, ‘Thank you.’"
‘It would mean a lot to us,’ his mother said, speaking for her son again.
‘Let me see if I can find her,’ Andrew replied.
Felix had just woken up in the shower room and was more than happy to accompany Andrew back along the platform. ‘If you need me, I’m here,’ her merry walk seemed to say. The two of them made their way back to the mother and her son.
As soon as the station cat loomed into view, the child raised his head. ‘FELIX!’ he yelled exuberantly—the first thing Andrew had heard him say. ‘Felix, Felix, Felix!’
He started flapping his arms and grinning wildly. Andrew had never seen anyone so excited in all his life. The boy became incredibly animated and flapped his way over to the cat. ‘Felix, Felix, Felix!’ he kept saying, over and over and over again, as if in that one word were all the words in the world: love, hope, happiness.
His mum watched him with the purest, happiest smile on her face. She looked at Andrew above her child’s head and mouthed,
As for Felix, she stopped where she stood and waited for the boy to come to her. She blinked up at him, as he stared obsessively back at her, still flapping a little, unable to control his limbs in his overwhelming excitement. As she stared at him, looking deep into his eyes, it was as though she was making a special, personal connection. The child reached out a still-flapping hand and patted her gently. ‘Felix,’ he said again. She sat down next to him, wrapping her big fluffy tail around herself and settling in for a cuddle. ‘Felix,’ he said again as he stroked her, squatting down. His animation eased into a profound calm. ‘Felix.’"
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