Most of this catterel (like doggerel but featuring cats) was written for the kids – not with any ambitions to emulate Old Possum, but simply to sum up the character of each of the cats who came into our lives. It doesn’t cover all of them by any means, and I know very well that it is of little literary merit, so don’t bother criticising it if it makes you cringe!
A dog or a horse is a clever creation
I’ll grant you that:
But it takes something more than imagination
To think up a cat:
A squishy soft furry thing
Supple, sleek purry thing
Scratching and squirmy thing
Secret, inscrutable CAT!
It’s no good speaking sternly to a cat:
She’ll simply take offence,
Let you know there is no sense
In talking to a cat LIKE THAT.
It’s no good telling her that you’re the boss:
Because she knows you aren’t,
She also knows you can’t
Persuade her if you’re going to get cross.
It’s no good getting up on your high horse:
Whatever you expect,
A cat has no respect
For people who resort to using force.
The only way to get around a cat
Is to practice being gentle,
Honey-tongued and sentimental
And she may respond if you can talk like that.
SOME OF THE CATS WE HAVE KNOWN AND LOVED
Eleanor was the first: My daughter’s cat, jet black with three white whiskers on her breast. She was orphaned at the age of five, when her people got divorced, and came to live with Melanie for the rest of her life. She was a very remarkable cat in many ways, but principally in that she was a true “flat-dwelling cat”, completely disoriented if ever she found herself outside the flat, and also in that she was a “cog”: brought up with a dog, she “spoke” dog language, wagged her tail when she was pleased and growled when she was angry. She lived to the ripe old age of seventeen, even in her last months keeping the wild and playful giant puppy in order with a casual snarl and a tap on the nose.
Always keen to know what was going on and extremely hospitable, she loved visitors and always made a great fuss of everyone who came. Her great moment of freedom came on holiday in Brittany, when she wandered out of the house and couldn’t find her way back. She was discovered a couple of days later sitting forlornly under the bushes in a garden a couple of roads away and welcomed back with great rejoicing. Only Eleanor ever knew what exactly had happened, but why shouldn’t there have been a “Fest Noz” (Breton Ceilidh, held at night) for the non-humans of this Celtic environment, with “kant ha diskan” (singing and dancing) in the moonlight?
JUST WHAT’S GOING ON
‘cos she watches and she never shows
a whisker to anyone.
So nobody knows she’s there
as she peeps
from her perch on high
and only one thing keeps
her from being a purrfect spy:
When she reports back she mews
In a code only she understands,
So nobody knows what she views
From her look-out over the lands!
Eleanor is a most gracious hostess,
Delighted and happy when company comes,
And finds many marvellous ways to impress
Her visitors, sometimes by biting their thumbs.
The sight of any unoccupied laps
To sit on and sleep on and tread with her paws
Makes her ecstatic. Little catnaps
On visitors – heaven! Just witness her snores!
But what about people who come to the house
And really don’t like to be sat on by puss?
And think feline fervour needs a short dowse,
And they really don’t want all this bother and fuss?
Eleanor just doesn’t care about that:
Where there’s a lap, there’s a cat!
When the moon shines bright over Trestel Bay,
The mermaids sing around Port Le Goff:
The fairies dance and the Korrigans play,
And Eleanor thinks “I’m OFF!
Now I’m not so young, time will soon have flown
So I’ll dance and sing and explore this place –
I’m on my holidays, my time’s my own!”
So away she goes, never leaves a trace.
What sort of antic
Can our Eleanor be up to?
But not a sound
Or sight of her in Trévou!
But not to worry,
There’s no hurry
She’s found a Fest Noz romance!
Kant ha diskan
Cats and dogs can
Join in the moonlight beach-dance!
Gypsy was a rescue cat, a skinny, lanky black and white individual with eau-de-nil coloured eyes, a Roman nose and markings that gave him a face like Marcel Proust. We had a staircase with open treads, fully carpeted, at the time, and Gypsy used to go up it on the underside, literally swinging by his claws, so that when we came to sell the house, the new owners were puzzled as to why the carpet was almost as worn on the underside as on the top of the treads. He would also watch, fascinated, any cooking preparations, which led me to invent the story of how he had been a (very bad) cook in a former incarnation and now had to learn to do it properly. Sadly, he was run over and killed.
The acrobats on the trapeze
At the Circus are sure of rewards
As they gracefully swing at their ease
For below them the public applauds.
And likewise, under the stair,
Gypsy plays Tarzan-like games
That no other feline would dare:
As he hangs from one claw
“Look, only one paw!”
Is what everybody exclaims.
Boris and Tommy came to us as kittens, and were probably the most expensive birthday present I ever had in terms of the damage they did: scratched dining-chair backs and legs, soft furnishings used as lavatories, and, most of all, their favourite game of leaping in a series of bounds from floor to table and from table onto the top of the door, where they would use their body weight to swing the door to and fro, finally descending down the length of the door leaf or jamb, leaving grooves where their claws dug in and making a sound like fingernails screeching down a blackboard. Boris was the chief culprit in this, practically defying gravity in his Baryshnikov-like flights. They were very affectionate and we loved them dearly, but eventually found them a new home before they demolished ours, where they lived happily ever after! Their new home was near a stream where Tommy discovered the joys of fishing. We didn’t have any more cats for a while, following their departure.
If ever you see a cat sky-high
It’ll be Boris flying by.
He’s got trampolines in his toes
And when he jumps, straight up he goes.
I think he’ll reach the stratosphere
And orbit in the catosphere.
A moggy with a turned-up nose
Who looks at you with mischief eyes
And purrs and cuddles up real close
Kitten affection, giant-size.
Minouche was a big, beautiful tabby, extremely shy and wary of strangers whether human or non-human. She had the appearance of a tiger and the courage of a mouse. The first sound of any visitor would send her scurrying under the bed, and although she lived to be thirteen, my grandchildren never saw her because she always hid when they came. Her ideal house would have lots of window sills to sit on, and no windows or doors, as she always seemed to find herself on the wrong side whenever a window or door was closed. Her interest in botany was pronounced, and she was always the first to investigate any new house-plant, posy or bouquet that she came across. She was not generally a playful cat, but she couldn’t resist scooping hydroponic “balls” out of the plant pots and whacking them about for a few minutes until she suddenly realised that this is not the most dignified behaviour for a Lady Tabitha. Her favourite pastime was lying curled up asleep in a fragrant bed of herbs.
She likes to watch the grass grow
and think about her supper.
She watches through the window
hiding beneath the yucca.
She’d like to be a gardener
attending to the flowers –
She is the gardener’s partner
After working hours.
And as for all the house-plants
She considers it her duty
To check up on their chief wants
And to maintain their beauty.
Minouche doesn’t seem to know
That as time passes, pussies grow,
So in her mind she’s just a kitty –
A scaredy cat, which is a pity!
REGULAR VISITING CATS
Benson and Hedges appeared as six-month-old twin marmalade kittens exploring our living room one Indian summer day before we had any cats of our own. Seeing them sitting on the light oak parquet in a sunbeam, with their great amber eyes and thick silky coats, I just exclaimed “Pure gold!” – and that’s how they came to be Benson & Hedges. Their official owners called them Max and Moritz. This couple split up soon afterwards and left the village, abandoning the cats. Hedges soon found himself new accommodation with a loving family, but Benson insinuated himself into several homes and “had people” the way some people have cats. He was a friendly, easy-going, undemanding character with a regular routine, appearing like clockwork at 12 noon for lunch, leaving after his siesta, and re-appearing equally promptly at 5.30 for his “tea”. He provided an admiring feline audience for Gypsy’s acrobatics and seemed to have a calming effect on that somewhat neurotic personality.
Benson sits like a marmalade ball
Patiently waiting for dinner to fall
Like manna from heaven on the place below –
And often it DOES! Which goes to show
That everything comes to him who waits
(Even cats’ dinners, served on plates!)
Lumpi, a lively, emerald-eyed dark tabby tomcat, belonged to our neighbours’ children, and first came sniffing around our garden one autumn day when my five-year-old granddaughter was helping me to plant crocus bulbs. He was only about six weeks old at the time and every time we dropped a bulb into a hole, he tried to scoop it out. Since my granddaughter was filling up the holes and slamming the earth down hard with the flat of the shovel, I was rather apprehensive that Lumpi was also going to end up flattened in a crocus-bulb grave, but he managed to dodge her – or she managed to miss him. As he got older he would creep into our house, we never found out how, to escape from the clutches of his four-year-old owner and her two-year-old twin siblings
Lumpi with the lamplit eyes
Sneaks through keyholes, I surmise.
No door or window shut up tight
Deters him; morning, noon or night
We find him curled up on the chair
Pretending that he isn’t there.
Wuscheli was a little grey waif no bigger than a kitten, although she was in fact 16 at the time she appeared under our hedge in a rainstorm. We learnt that normally she never went out, but her owner’s dog had pushed a window open with his nose and Wuscheli had slipped out. As it’s easier to go downhill, that’s what she did until she got to our garden just as the rain started. It was quite a distance, so she was too exhausted to go back home (uphill), and probably didn’t know the way either. We took her in on the second day, which is when the ad appeared in the paper offering a reward. We refused the reward, being relieved to have reunited the poor little cat with her ninety-year-old owner, but the old lady was so delighted to have her Wuscheli back that in the end we asked her just to make a donation to the cats’ home, which she did.
Came to our house,
Sat in the garden
As still as a mouse.
Little grey Wuscheli
Had lost her way
And didn’t, unluschily,
Know how to say
Where she had come from
Or what was her name
So every day
She sat out in the rain
With nowhere to play
And nothing to do.
We gave her some food
And kept saying “Shoo!”
But Wuscheli, luschily,
Did not go away.
For we read in the paper
The very next day
That this little grey cat
Wasn’t really a stray.
She belonged to a lady
Who lived up the hill
So we phoned and she said
“Please keep her until
I get there. I think
It must be my puss.”
And she came – and it was –
(We could tell by the fuss!)
And we were so glad
For the little grey cat
And her little grey lady –
And that was that!
Blackie was a black and white Jellicle and belonged to the little boy across the road. Apart from his castration, the first eight months of his life were uneventful, but then he left his garden to explore the main road and got hit by a car right outside his own house. Luckily, the lady driver stopped at once and, although hysterical, was able to let his owners know what had happened. Blackie was conveyed straight to the vet. The prognosis was poor, and we all thought he was a goner. However, he was a fighter and in spite of his broken pelvis, within a week Blackie was limping around on three legs and a month later his fourth leg was working again – albeit slightly twisted.
Out exploring –
Car came roaring,
Knocked poor Blackie down.
To the vet
Like a jet
But never made a sound.
Very sad –
Looking bad –
What has the doctor found?
Broken pelvis –
Now, like Elvis,
He can swing his hindleg round.
Midnight‘s real name was Tchikka, but it was a cold, wet midnight when he made a dramatic first appearance outside the window. Pitch black like Eleanor, minus the white whiskers, he was sitting on the windowsill begging to come in, but it was so dark that all we could see were his two enormous golden eyes. Miserable and pathetic as he seemed to us that night, he terrified Minouche, so we had to refuse succour and shooed him back to his home across the way. (No great hardship for him, really, it was only about twenty metres away!)
The Midnight Rambler
Looks through the window, miserable:
Eyes like full moons
Bright as buttoons
And the rest remains invisible
The Hill-Billy Kid was a farm cat, as far as we could ascertain, with the manners of a boorish peasant. His ancestry iwas heterogeneous, including tabby, white and black, as evidenced by his fur, and he seemed – like a genuine cowboy – to sleep in his boots. A thicker-skinned feline never appeared in our garden. He used to sit like a sphinx on the steps, moving back just enough to stay out of reach if you approached. But as soon as you tured around, he was back where he was before. Maybe “sphinx “is too intellectual – his stare seemed moronic rather than inscrutable! His first appearance was as henchman to a frivolous black-and-white Jellicle with white socks we nicknamed Zorro on account of his mask and his way of appearing out of the blue. But Zorro got run over on one of his expeditions, so perhaps the Hill-Billy Kid was really Tonto in disguise, having mistaken Zorro for the Lone Ranger, and waiting for his boss to return.
He ambles through the shrubbery
As if he didn’t care
He walks all loose and rubbery
And has a shameless stare.
He’d really like to be called “SIR”
And rule with guns and bullets.
He hides his holsters in his fur
And terrifies the pullets.
And if you shout and flap your hands
Or call out “Shoo!” or “Scat!”
He doesn’t move an inch. He stands
And glares. A REAL COOL CAT.
Mangy and Rangy only appeared a couple of times, a bedraggled couple of half-starved moggies, very down at heel and down on their luck. They were presumably unwanted farm kittens, hangers-on of the Hill-Billy Kid but lacking his plodding persistence. They were so jittery, they seemed scared of their own shadows, but maybe by sticking together they gott by, and gained confidence as they got older.
They crept around the corner with terror in their eyes,
Skeletons with fur on, hyenas in disguise,
Skulking in the bushes, fleeing through the night,
Pathetic, half-grown wild things pursued by fear and fright.
Miss Sophie, grande dame par excellence,
Has an air of distinction and elegance,
As she daintily poses her purposeful toes
Neatly and carefully under her nose.
A toss of the head, a disdainful stare,
If you haven’t brought supper, a dismissive glare;
She sits on the staircase and looks through the rails
Listening to gossip and storing up tales.
Oh, how could you think that she’s Little Miss Snooty?
A cat white and ginger, a soft-hearted beauty,
Never was any so misunderstood
As Sophie, who really is gentle and good.
Just look how she dotes on the people who love her;
Remember, you can’t judge a book by its cover.
This is the tale of Babe, a big, beautiful, pinky-beige coloured ball of soft fur, with eyes like pools of pale-green water, adopted from the cats’ home by my granddaughter and her husband.
DeeJay and Babe were orphans
Adopted by Michi and Ky,
They lived in a flat and never went out
For the sake of their safety.
One day they moved to an attic flat
Where from the balcony
They could climb on the roof and gaze over the land
With a view to infinity.
Then they lived in a house on a hill
Right next to a little farm
With a barn full of mice for exercise
Which couldn’t do any harm.
Here Babe found her vocation
As Mouser Number One
And thought she was in Paradise,
Her life was full of fun.
But Michi and Ky found another home
Just a few miles away,
And Babe had to go and leave her dream –
Though she hid, she couldn’t stay.
A few days later, the farmer phoned:
“Your cat has come back home,
What shall I do?” “We’ll fetch her back.
And tell her not to roam.”
It was in vain. Babe knew her place
Was in the farmer’s hay,
So back she went to the hilltop farm –
The third time, they said she could stay.
For several years she was happy there
Till the farmer sadly died,
And Babe was moved back to Michi and Ky –
Where she only sat and cried.
At last she escaped, and ran away
Back to her hunting ground
And the new people there made her welcome,
So she stayed there, safe and sound.
This tale has a happy ending:
Babe’s making a clean sweep.
Her people are glad to be rid of the mice
So Babe still earns her keep.
A comment on another page (“Why blog?”) elicited these two delightful “pomes” from Paul Morrow. I am in no way averse to adding quality work of others to my page, provided they meet my criteria, so here they are:
I have two Kittens of Mass Destruction (KMDs) that provoke pomes(*) and cartoons
They tell me that Dalek tastes like lobster
Where they got to eat lobster
I don’t know
And a cat that brings home small cocktails sausages
During Barbeque Season
If I can do nothing else
I’d like to share 🙂
– and the pome about the pigeon falling down the chimney:
Scuffling in front room
Cat 1 belong house she go look
Cat 2 belong house she go look…
Man belong house go look
Cats shes look at fireplace
Behind the boxed in chimbley.
Bugger sez I
chimney box he come out
Fat stupid pigeon
Fell off chimbley pot
He look at me
I try grab
He hit ceiling
He hit floor
He do this many time
Many many time
many cat belong house she laff
Pigeon He land in Conservatory
Man belong house, him open door
Man belong house explain
Kittens belong mass destruction
Sitting other end of long house
Man belong house swear
So, just another sleepy day in Knebworth
can’t wait for the frogs…