Souvenir cat

We took a cat home when we visited Penzance a couple of years ago. I know you should avoid holiday cats, but this was the best kind; a book cat. We are real cheapskates around here, but sheer luck made it possible to book a few days in the Egyptian House in Penzance, which didn’t cost the earth. Landmark Trust holidays are lovely, but not for those with thin cheque books. Anyway, our Egyptian middle floor flat came with books, as all Landmarks do, and in particular, local books.

The Mousehole CatSo, I finally sat down to read The Mousehole Cat, thinking “it’s just a picture book”. It’s not. It’s a good story, and it even made me cry this morning, as I re-read it. And it’s got Nicola Bayley’s cat pictures.

It’s about cats keeping humans as pets. Well, not really, but it’s the idea that you can look at a relationship two ways that’s fun. Mowzer, and his fisherman Tom, live in Mousehole in Cornwall. Life is idyllic until bad weather stops the fishing. Tom and Mowzer go out and behave suitably heroically, and then the reader can cry a little at the end.

After this we had to go to Mousehole for a look. It’s a lot of expensive homes, these days, and less of the fisherman stuff, but the harbour wall is there.

And the book had to be bought to come and live with us. It’s easier to know what to do with a book, than all those shells Daughter recently discovered she had carted home from Cornwall.

14 responses to “Souvenir cat

  1. I came across this book when I, at that time a school governor with special responsibility for literacy, was on a course for a programme called ‘Success For All’. Its a US devised programme that is being used mainly in primary schools in deprived areas (like the one my kids go to – 40 languages, history of low achievement) with the aim of giving children access to lots of whole books rather than just excerpts. My initial response to the book was, like yours,’ it’s a picture book, isn’t it a bit young for juniors’, but like you I was soon won over. The language used is wonderfully poetic and although not a cat person I was glad to have been introduced to a book I otherwise would not have met.

  2. You have been warned. There are more cat books coming, and I’m not a cat person, either.

  3. If you can avoid urban foxes, I’d be grateful. Here in my East London garden they are on the rampage – digging up lettuces, squashing beetroots ripping up grass heads. Yet, whenever we spot the family of four who are responsible we all say ‘Aah’.

  4. Sudden rush of nostalgia at the reference to ‘The Nargun and the Stars’. When I was at primary school (Year 5 I think, in the new money) we listened to an audio-play version of that. And it SCARED the proverbial out of the entire class.

    In my memory the roar of the Nargun still provokes an involuntary shudder.

  5. Just a picture book? JUST a picture book? Is that the wise witch speaking or her evil twin? As a fellow foreigner, my happiest discovery was Orlando the Marmalade Cat, whose vacation spot was on the Suffolk coast, Aldeburgh. And the drawings! Swoon! Just a picture book? Will shield this column from Jeanne Willis and her Bog Babies lest they come after you.

    p.s. I liked the Mousehole Cat too.

  6. But, but, this was ages ago. Like, umm, over two years ago. I’ve seen the error of my ways. It’s all right, Jeanne can have a go at me. I don’t mind.

    Could I have a twin and not know it?

  7. Visst är det en fantastisk bok, fast det “bara är en bilderbok” ( fy på dig för att tänka så !!). Tack för att vi fick den! Vad har du mer för kattböcker på lager?
    Trevlig midsommar! Annika

  8. Va, är det midsommar?

    Vänta och se vilka kattböcker som kommer.

  9. That’s not fair. I bet it translates as: “There certainly are a goodly number of hot-tempered pedants on your blog today.”

  10. Actually, Meg, School Friend (for it is she) joined you in telling me off. That’s what happens when you encourage people.

    Then she had the nerve to ask for advance info on future cat books (she is a cat owner, and had it not been for her, we would never have known we are allergic to the creatures). Hah!

    After that, a well wishing to do with it being Midsummer. Today all Swedes will get drunk and ruin the lives of their neighbours. This is after dancing round the Maypole and pretending to be frogs. The fox may even run across the ice, for all that it’s June.

  11. I have always loved this book. Ravishing illustrations, fantastic sense of place…a riveting read all round. And Mousehole itself is enchanting. Alas, I still have never tried star-gazey pie!

  12. I got so carried away with the theme that I also bought a pile of cards from Nicola’s illustrations. Merchandise, eh?

  13. One of my lifelong dreams has been to spend midsummer’s eve in Sweden — well, Finland, possibly, after a friend told me about hers, waist deep in the freezing north sea in the sunshine at 3am. I feel confident I could dance round a maypole and pretend to be a frog with the best of them.

  14. You could. I, on the other hand, worry too much about my dignity for these things.

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