A Short Discussion on the Meaning of Life.
Present: Catkins, a cat; Douglas, a dog and Mixy, a mouse.
Douglas: Catkins, what’s up? You look even sadder than usual. You haven’t even hissed at me today!
Catkins: Dougie, I’m beyond mere sadness. I have come from the funeral of my esteemed companion, Sheba.
Mixy: Sheba? Who is Sheba?
Catkins: Sheba was my cousin, you ignorant little apology for a quadruped!
Mixy: Oh, well, I can’t be expected to keep track of all your relatives, can I?
Catkins: Oh, what is cat? A frail perishable thing. What is our little life? Is it a glory or a tale told by an idiot? Is it a mellifluous melody or a primeval scream? A gift or a curse? Less than an hour ago I beheld the stiff remains of Sheba; not the faintest miaow came from her thin lips, not the faintest twitch from her whiskers. What is the point of climbing walls or licking my tale any more. All is unprofitable and stale. Oh, all has been stolen away by cruel Death.
Douglas: Come now Catkins, that’s no way to talk. I thought you were a philosopher. Surely you realise that birth and death are part of the great scheme of things?
Catkins: You are no doubt correct to remind me of the eternal verities Dougie and I thank you for it.
Mixy: If you ask me there’s a lot to be said for cheese, girl-mice and song. Live for the moment; that’s what I say.
Catkins: Well, Mixy you are condemned by your own words; I always knew you were shallow.
Mixy: Well, I may be shallow but at least I’m happy. Now where’s that cheese?
Catkins: I put it to you both that the unexamined life isn’t worth living. I mean, Dougie, no offence, but you do live a rather animal existence don’t you; food, sex and sleep! Surely you must realise there’s more to life?
Douglas: I rather resent your arrogant attitude Catkins. I’m happy chasing a stick, or lying asleep in the sun. Look at you moping about. It’s natural to feel sad at the death of a loved one, but if you ask me I always thought you were much too melancholy for your own good. I’ve seen you sitting on the dustbin hardly lifting a paw except to lick it. You just don’t have a life, do you? You’re far too aloof. I recommend wagging your tale at humans and occasionally gazing into their eyes.
Catkins: Give me patience Douglas! That would be beneath my dignity. I can’t do with ingratiating myself with humans like you grovelling dogs. I mean a cat has to be his own person. I have standards to keep up!
Mixy: I don’t know what you’re complaining about. I think you’re a bit of a hypocrite if you ask me. My grandfather told me before the peace treaty that you used to torture mice. And I heard that you personally have welshed on the treaty on numerous occasions!
Douglas: Now Mixy, I think that’s going a bit far. No one is casting aspersions on poor Catkin’s moral character.
Mixy: Well, I’m just saying what I heard in the no 43 bus queue.
Douglas: What were you doing in a bus queue Mixy?
Mixy: Just hopping on a bus for a lift, what do you think dumbo?
Douglas: Alright, no need to be sarcastic. So, Catkins have you broken the treaty?
Catkins: Now, that does it; who needs enemies when I’ve got friends like you! Friends? Not anymore! [begins to walk away in a huff]
Douglas: Where are you going?
Catkins: To see if I can make an amendment to the Peace Treaty to exclude dogs and mice. Then I’m going to finish my memoirs, The Life and Opinions of Tom Cat Catkins, or Cat is the Measure of all Things. Goodbye!
Inspired by The Life and Opinions of Tom Cat Murr by ETA Hoffmann and a certain well-known English playwright and a couple of Ancient Greek philosophers.
World Book Night
Did you know it is World Book Night today, 23 April. Why today? Because Shakespeare was born and died on this date. I’ve just been to a celebratory event put on by my local library. David Almond gave an inspirational talk about the importance of reading and how story-telling goes back to our origins, or at least to prehistoric times when we formed groups and artists and story tellers were members of these groups. We had some readings from librarians and also a literary quiz.
In the UK around 35% of the population don’t read books. One of the ideas of World Book Night is for publishers to make available a selection of fiction free of charge, and afterwards we each took a book we thought would be good to give to someone who doesn’t read much.
Has anyone else been involved in WBN? If so, could you post what you did on my comments please. I’m curious to know, for example, which countries organise events or for that matter recognise the annual date.
You can read all about WBN, including the books that are being given away, at the following:
HeART Online (Human Equity Through Art) is the only online journal of literature devoted to fighting discrimination and promoting social justice. I have a poem published in the latest edition here: (I’ll put in a permanent link sometime.)
Here is a link to the exhibition of the cut outs that Matisse did at the end of his life.
You can watch a video about him on my blog. After the short video of him doing the cut outs there is a longer art documentary you can click on.
I wrote this poem after visiting the Oak Effect exhibit by Mathew Darbyshire in the Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead. The exhibit ‘presents a 2 bedroom show home made to EU recommended standards with ubiquitous oak effect finish.’ Various old artifacts are displayed within the rooms. Hence the juxtaposition of the new and old; and artifacts taken out of their usual context. I didn’t notice the carving of Shakespeare the first time I visited! Its by Gerrard Robinson.
Visiting Shipley Art Gallery
I walk into the art gallery and see
carved in wood.
Oak leaves form a sort of halo
around his eight inch figure.
Evidence of his seven ages
is all around:
1. Infant – a wooden African cradle
2. School pupil – a 1930s desk
3. Lover – a 1920s gramophone complete with shellac 78
4. Soldier – a spear from New Guinea
5. Maturity – a Burmese Buddha
6. Old age – an abacus
7. Death – a faceless long-case clock
Falstaff is nearby to ensure we don’t dwell
too much on ‘mere oblivion.’
On the wall behind Shakespeare
there is a chorus of birds, painted in oils on copper
by Jan van Kessel around 1650.
Polychromatic parrots, parakeets and hoopoes sing
from a little song-sheet.
Is this a coda, an afterthought afterlife or
is this how it always is?
When I visit friends in France one of the highlights is watching nightjars gliding mysteriously over the fields at dusk and in darkness. They are a bird of myth and one belief was that they sucked on the teats of goats!
Fern owl fragments
Fern owl moth gulper
hidden in heathland leaves
bird of dream
white wing tipped
silent ghost glancing
wobbly over canopy
like a balsa wood glider
at the end of your journey
from the heart of darkness
no mate this year
to answer your velvety churring
Continue reading “Fern owl fragments”
“When we speak of nature it is wrong to forget that we ourselves are part of Nature. We ought to view ourselves with the same curiosity and openness with which we study a tree, the sky or a thought, because we too are linked to the entire universe.”
In his old age Matisse used charcoal on the ends of long poles to draw with. He also used coloured paper to make pictures, cutting shapes with large scissors even when he was bed-ridden.