Clown of the Sea

This, I believe, is ideal Saturday fare:  My pal Deb Godin, of Notes From the Cloud Messenger, very kindly suggested me to write a fitting limerick in tribute to a wonderful bird.  This came about as the result of a fabulous photograph at the website Wrenaissance Reflections (love that name!)  Go check out her wonderful nature and photography site and visit Deb’s thoughtful and always entertaining blog too!

Photo courtesy of Flickr


The Puffin’s a seabird fantastic
His black and white plumage, monastic
He dives in the drink
Roosts high in rock-chink
And his webbed feet of orange look plastic.

Kathleen Mortensen©2009

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Where once we stood

In trunks of wood

The cedar scarred

For shame and show;

In colours loud

We towered proud–

All spirits of the

Winds that blow.


Now monoliths

Of metal rise

In place of us

Vibrating wild;

Through cables cold

The armature

Transmits its evil–

Steel, unmild.

Kathleen Mortensen©2009

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The Conversationalist

(Please note: I notice that overnight, I lost a couple of followers with this post. Before you read on, you need to know that it is rife with “poetic license” and mainly concerns who I was in another life.
I find Southerners charming and amiable; I love Jesus(!) and I also prize a good sense of humour and a belief system in a man. Above all, in my adulthood, I do not hold spelling OR grammar against anyone.)

I didn’t ask for much when it came to dating: a passably good-looking guy, a bit of courtesy and the ability to speak the English language were really all I wanted. Okay, maybe that’s stretching the truth just a tad, but I was never one of those, “What kind of car do you drive?” or “What are your career-goals?” or “I love your suit, is it Yves St. Laurent?” kind of girls. With me, the nitty-gritty was something like this:
Who do you listen to? What do you like to eat? What’s your favourite movie? Who are you reading? Simple. Right? Not really.

You would think that criteria like the aforementioned would be very easy to meet, but not so. You see, finding the passably good-looking guy, who treated a girl right – that’s right, opened the door for me, opened the car door for me, pulled out my chair in a restaurant. Wait a minute, let’s just back that up. Since I’ve pulled out that dirty word “restaurant”, let me just say, that grabbing a Big Mac and fries through the car window, or a hot dog from a street-vendor, or EVEN a gigantic carton of popcorn at the movies, is NOT going out for a meal. To quote Richard Widmark in Kiss of Death, “Ya get me, pal?”
My long-standing gripe about my dating years was that so many young men just never wanted to go out for dinner. Real dinner–service with a menu, napkins and candles kind of dinner. What was that about? They could afford to go to concerts, sporting events, ski-trips and even travel abroad, but they could not stump for a fine-dining experience.
I could overlook the absence of haute cuisine. I could ignore the forgetting to open my door, I could even take my contact lenses out and pretend a less than passable guy was God’s gift, BUT I could not condone bad grammar, lazy language and in some instances (say, in a lovely letter expressing his adoration of my person) poor spelling!
I’m not a snob, BUT when it comes to the English language, I’m a stickler for the right words, the right form and the right placement of letters of the alphabet. Blame my father! He drilled in to me the necessity of erudition and adherence to correct verbiage. Sometimes I wish I weren’t such a purist. It never went down well with anyone I met – male or female. The thing is, I’m also not the most tactful of people. I’m one to jump in with these sorts of comments: “You liked THAT movie?” Ugh! I really can’t stand so-and-so, or “That director really is awful; I haven’t seen anything of his I like!” My husband has trained me, rather like a clever parrot, to hold my tongue in these instances. He knows my preferences and fortunately can anticipate my reactions. We have developed that wonderful communication that long-standing partners have. You know, the quick, frozen-eyed glare, or a good nudge in the ribs at the dinner table? We’ve got that down to a science, thank goodness.
When it comes to English, however, I find it very difficult to hold my tongue. There are words and phrases that have become commonplace by virtue of their everyday usage (despite their corruption of the real ones) that make me cringe. I’m not going to short-list them for you, because I don’t want to offend anyone (I’m dying to put them out there, but I won’t).
In the dating life of my youth, I was not so kind, UNLESS, I was dealing with a (to my mind) gorgeous, nitwit whose mouth I wanted to shut, not with words, but with my own smackers. Then, I would overlook the frailties of his expressions for the greater good.
reject However, the average fella who could not enunciate his words and rather slovenly drawled them out (lessin’ he waz frum the South), would be packin’ his bags before the night was over. Another thing that was intolerable to me, was ignorance. Ignorance of the world of literature, or the arts or history was like a big ink-stamp on the forehead that read “FAILED” like some sort of Quality Control designation.
I had the opportunity to vet a number of men in my younger life. Not finding the man of my dreams by the time I was 27, I resorted to newspaper ads and telephone dating before I met my husband. It was like having a second job. I spent the better part of my weeknights screening calls and reading scores of responses to my ad in the local “Pennysaver”. I had letters from self-proclaimed sociopaths, Jesus-freaks look-alikes, and bikers. I would have given them a second look if only they could spell!
I also had the great good fortune to be “set up” by “friends”. It is amazing how someone you think knows you really turns out to have no idea what you are about. Take a peek at a blind date my room-mate and friend of 3 years duration coordinated for me:
I’m pacing back and forth between the two front windows of my parents’ bungalow. Waiting for the unknown “great guy” to make his appearance on my driveway. Is that him in the Camaro? Nope. Is this him in the little Honda? Nope. Is this him in the monster truck? You betcha!
I open the front door and step onto the driveway, hesitantly. (Please let him at least be the cowboy type with some good hair, I whisper under my breath). No such luck. Coming round the front of the Hemi is a rail-thin, mustachioed (think Salvador Dali) receding hair-lined gringo in stone-washed denim (not the good kind) with a matching bomber jacket. Hot, he is not, BUT I am still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Until. Until he opens his mouth and it’s just all wrong. Very basic, one-syllable sort of stuff, not conducive to a refined chat at all.
Bizet We go to a restaurant in a big mall under very bright lights that do nothing to enhance his appearance (or mine, for that matter). We attempt to have an intelligent conversation. I have to give him credit. He really tries. He puts up a valiant fight, until somehow the conversation swings around to classical music. How we get there, I’ll never know, but it really is the “kiss of death” for him. When he tells me (rather cockily, I might add) his favourite classical musician is “Bizzet”, I nearly snort my decaf right through my nostrils and onto his cheesecake. Game over. Take me home now, buddy. It’s a losing battle. You are DUN!
Do you know my girlfriend actually had the nerve to ask “How’d it go?” as if she really believed it could have gone swimmingly and we were going to pick out the rings on our next date. I have always thought I’ve been pretty good at revealing who I am to the people around me. Obviously, I was mistaken.
And so, I went back to my original checklist of criteria for the man who was good enough for me and I stuck to it. I didn’t get married until I was nigh on 33, BUT I’m pleased to report, he’s courteous, can speak, read and write and bonus: he’s a looker too.
nunstone I did have a backup plan and this time the quote is from Shakespeare: Says Hamlet to Ophelia: “Get thee to a nunnery!” (I hear those sisters are really well-read.)

Kathleen Mortensen©2009

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Biography: Errol Le Cain


Errol Le Cain was born in 1941, in Singapore. Following the Japanese Invasion his family was evacuated and went to live in India until the end of World War II. At this time, they moved to the United Kingdom, settling in England.

Although educated in Singapore, Le Cain had no formal art training. He was fascinated with the cinema and produced a small film at the early age of 14. It was an animation entitled, The Enchanted Mouse. At age 15, he created another animated film called, The Little Goatherd which drew the attention of British film distributor, Pearl and Dean Limited.

In 1965, Le Cain worked in advertising and film studios designing film titles for the Richard Williams Studio, for such films as The Charge of the Light Brigade and the original Casino Royale. He became a freelance designer in the late 60s. He worked for the British Broadcasting Corporation as a set designer for t.v. programs and also did cartoon illustrations and graphics.

His first illustrated book was published in 1968 and was entitled, King Arthur’s Sword for the publisher Faber and Faber. His chosen path of children’s book illustrator was revealed to him at this time through the “scope and possibilities” this genre provided. Le Cain believed above all that he should be true to the writer’s vision and this is evident in all of his many delightful renderings of classic and innovative children’s stories.

Le Cain worked with Faber and Faber and was runner up for the Kate Greenaway award on two occasions, finally winning it in 1985 with his illustrations for Hiawatha’s Childhood.

Le Cain was married and had 2 children. He died after a long illness in January 1989. He was just 47.


(From Mr. Mistoffelees with Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer)

Errol Le Cain Titles (courtesy of Erroll Le Cain website)

King Arthur’s Sword
The Cabbage Princess
Sir Orfeo
Rhymes and Verses
The Faber Book of Children’s Songs
The House on the Strand
The Child in the Bamboo Grove
The Beachcombers
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Early Britain: The Celts and the Romans
Let’s Find Out About Halloween
The King’s White Elephant
The White Cat
The Caine Mutiny
The Lotus and the Grail
The Dragon Kite
The Devil’s Piper
The Flying Ship
Thorn Rose
The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mullah Nasrudin
Judge Pao
The Green Glass Bottle
King Orville and the Bullfrogs
The Puffin Annual Number 2
The Rat, the Ox and the Zodiac
The Little Dog of Fo
Kammerer’s Cave
Puffin’s Pleasure
Cupid and Psyche
The Sly Cormorant and the Fishes
The Twelve Dancing Princesses
The Snow Queen
Beauty and the Beast
Mrs. Fox’s Wedding
The Three Magic Gifts
Molly Whuppie
Hiawatha’s Childhood
A School Bewitched
The Light Princess – Video
The Snow Queen – Video
Growltiger’s Last Stand and other poems
Crisis at Crabtree
The Enchanter’s Daughter
The Christmas Stockings
Christmas 1993 or Santa’s Last Ride
The Pied Piper of Hamelin
Alfi and the Dark
Tail Feathers From Mother Goose
Mr. Mistoffelees
Have You Seen My Sister
Additional Animation Work

Collected Rhymes and Verses
Walter de la Mare
Published by Faber and Faber in 1970
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

“CATS” Highlight

EPSON scanner image 

Illustration by Errol LeCain


The best part of the show “CATS” last night was the enactment of this poem.  It was like Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore, with cats!  Great fun! Great show!  (Now I can’t stop singing all the tunes.)


Growltiger’s Last Stand

Growltiger was a Bravo Cat, who lived upon a barge;
In fact he was the roughest cat that ever roamed at large.
From Gravesend up to Oxford he pursued his evil aims,
Rejoicing in his title of “The Terror of the Thames.”

His manners and appearance did not calculate to please;
His coat was torn and seedy, he was baggy at the knees;
One ear was somewhat missing, no need to tell you why,
And he scowled upon a hostile world from one forbidding eye.

The cottagers of Rotherhithe knew something of his fame,
At Hammersmith and Putney people shuddered at his name.
They would fortify the hen-house, lock up the silly goose,
When the rumour ran along the shore:

Woe to the weak canary, that fluttered from its cage;
Woe to the pampered Pekingese, that faced Growltiger’s rage.
Woe to the bristly Bandicoot, that lurks on foreign ships,
And woe to any Cat with whom Growltiger came to grips!

But most to Cats of foreign race his hatred had been vowed;
To Cats of foreign name and race no quarter was allowed.
The Persian and the Siamese regarded him with fear –
Because it was a Siamese had mauled his missing ear.

Now on a peaceful summer night, all nature seemed at play,
The tender moon was shining bright, the barge at Molesey lay.
All in the balmy moonlight it lay rocking on the tide –
And Growltiger was disposed to show his sentimental side.

His bucko mate, Grumbuskin, long since had disappeared,
For to the Bell at Hampton he had gone to wet his beard;
And his bosun, Tumblebrutus, he too had stol’n away –
In the yard behind the Lion he was prowling for his prey.

In the forepeak of the vessel Growltiger sat alone,
Concentrating his attention on the Lady Griddlebone.
And his raffish crew were sleeping in their barrels and their bunks –
As the Siamese came creeping in their sampans and their junks.

Growltiger had no eye or ear for aught but Griddlebone,
And the Lady seemed enraptured by his manly baritone,
Disposed to relaxation, and awaiting no surprise –
But the moonlight shone reflected from a thousand bright blue eyes.

And closer still and closer the sampans circled round,
And yet from all the enemy there was not heard a sound.
The lovers sang their last duet, in danger of their lives –
For the foe was armed with toasting forks and cruel carving knives.

Then Gilbert gave the signal to his fierce Mongolian horde;
With a frightful burst of fireworks the Chinks they swarmed aboard.
Abandoning their sampans, and their pullaways and junks,
They battened down the hatches on the crew within their bunks.

Then Griddlebone she gave a screech, for she was badly skeered;
I am sorry to admit it, but she quickly disappeared.
She probably escaped with ease, I’m sure she was not drowned –
But a serried ring of flashing steel Growltiger did surround.

The ruthless foe pressed forward, in stubborn rank on rank;
Growltiger to his vast surprise was forced to walk the plank.
He who a hundred victims had driven to that drop,
At the end of all his crimes was forced to go ker-flip, ker-flop.

Oh there was joy in Wapping when the news flew through the land;
At Maidenhead and Henley there was dancing on the strand.
Rats were roasted whole at Brentford, and at Victoria Dock,
And a day of celebration was commanded in Bangkok.

T. S. Elliot

Off to the show!

Tonight, my mother and I are going to see a production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s, “CATS”. It’s rather strange that it has taken us this long to see it since we are all great cat-lovers in this family. We’ve seen “Phantom” and “Les Mis” and a few other shows, but never “CATS”.

The show is of course Webber’s bringing to life the wondrous poems of T.S. Eliot from his collection, “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats”. Amazing it is, to me that the same man who wrote “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (see video in my adjacent sidebar) had such a whimsical side. If you have the chance sometime, read Eliot’s poetry in “Old Possum’s” – it is delightful, full of the most exciting rhymes and a grand old time is had by the reader (and the poet too, I suspect).

Here’s my favourite poem that was adapted for a song in Webber’s “CATS”. I love to sing this one at the top of my lungs (and the four cats chime in, of course).

Now. What to wear?

Mr. Mistoffelees

You ought to know Mr. Mistoffelees!
The Original Conjuring Cat –
(There can be no doubt about that).
Please listen to me and don’t scoff. All his
Inventions are off his own bat.
There’s no such Cat in the metropolis;
He holds all the patent monopolies
For performing surprising illusions
And creating eccentric confusions.
At prestidigitation
And at legerdemain
He’ll defy examination
And deceive you again.
The greatest magicians have something to learn
From Mr. Mistoffelees’ Conjuring Turn.
Away we go!
And we all say: OH!
Well I never!
Was there ever
A Cat so clever
As Magical Mr. Mistoffelees!

He is quiet and small, he is black
From his ears to the tip of his tail;
He can creep through the tiniest crack
He can walk on the narrowest rail.
He can pick any card from a pack,
He is equally cunning with dice;
He is always deceiving you into believing
That he’s only hunting for mice.
He can play any trick with a cork
Or a spoon and a bit of fish-paste;
If you look for a knife or a fork
And you think it is merely misplaced –
You have seen it one moment, and then it is gawn!
But you’ll find it next week lying out on the lawn.
And we all say: OH!
Well I never!
Was there ever
A Cat so clever
As Magical Mr. Mistoffelees!

His manner is vague and aloof,
You would think there was nobody shyer –
But his voice has been heard on the roof
When he was curled up by the fire.
and he’s sometimes been heard by the fire
When he was about on the roof –
(At least we all heard somebody who purred)
Which is incontestable proof
Of his singular magical powers:
And I have known the family to call
Him in from the garden for hours,
While he was asleep in the hall.
And not long ago this phenomenal Cat
Produced seven kittens right out of a hat!
And we all said: OH!
Well I never!
Did you ever
Know a Cat so clever
As Magical Mr. Mistoffelees!

T.S. Elliot

Kat needs to stop fooling around!

Isn’t that “Good bye” a little ominous?

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I am a sucker when it comes to goofy ideas and memes and wacky stuff on the internet. So, no surprise that I immediately went for this one. My friend, Matt at “My Side of the Story” did a post on googling oneself. That’s interesting enough, I suppose. I know there’s an architect (some Kats actually have ambition and achieve success apparently) in the U.S. with my exact name. However, Matt’s post went a little further (just for the “hay” of it) and here’s what happened at My Side of the Story. So, being the inquisitive Kat that I am, I just had to do the same thing. The results are bang on! Amazingly, this proved almost prophetic. I feel as if I’m back in my best friend’s basement fooling around with the ol’ Ouija board. Here’s what I got:

Kat needs to be Kat
Kat needs a rest
Kat needs BBT training
Kat needs help
Kat needs your help
Kat needs our prayers
Kat needs kash
Kat needs cookies
Kat needs a pet dog
Kat needs to be stop’d.

See what I mean? (Maybe I should be working in a Bubble Tea shop. What is that anyway?)

Try it out for yourself and let me know what you get.