Macavity, The Mystery Cat Strikes!


Poems by their very nature are conduits to our souls. They have a way of getting straight to the point, there is no waste of time or effort and usually by the end of the first line – the hook goes in. Today, I was re-acquainted with such a poem. One I have not given any thought to since secondary school but on hearing its first verse I was transported back to the 1980s; a time when everyday was a bad hair day, ski-pants were de rigueur and I suffered Serious Crush Syndrome. It was a time when my classmates and I sniggered from the back of the class as a new poem was dished out. There was one week though when that sort of changed it was the week T.S. Eliot’s, Macavity: The Mystery Cat came to town.

We, the super cool brigade, thought we had finished with nursery rhymes, but then Macavity turned up and reminded us that we’re never too old for a rhyme! What Macavity did for my imagination a chemistry lesson did for a science student. The curious rhymes and energetic rhythms suffused the air with excitement and fun; when Macavity visited our classroom boredom vanished and teenage self-consciousness disappeared when asked to read aloud. The escapades of The Mystery Cat had weaved their spell and by the end of the day more than one of us recited it on the way home. This is poetry at its best: when a poet has done his job well: when a class of 30 teenage girls do not even realise they are studying – smooth!  That week, we shared in an adventure, our imaginations ran wild and we become one under T.S. Eliot’s spell; his craft with words still evoke fun and enjoyment all these years later. Today.

A good dollop of school-day nostalgia is priceless and like the poem good for the soul.  To revisit the days of old and to re-discover that there was once passion, fun and adventure – there still is and it’s only a poem away.

T.S. Eliot

Macavity’s a mystery cat
He’s called the Hidden Paw
For he’s a master criminal who can defy the law
He’s the bafflement of Scotland Yard
The Flying Squad’s despair
For when they reach the scene of crime Macavity’s not there
Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity

He’s broken every human law
He breaks the law of gravity
His powers of levitation
Would make a fakir stare
And when you reach the scene of crime, Macavity’s not there

You may seek him in the basement
You may look up in the air
But I tell you once and once again
Macavity’s not there

Macavity’s a ginger cat
He’s very tall and thin
You would know him if you saw him for his eyes are sunken in
His brow is deeply lined in thought
His head is highly domed
His coat is dusty from neglect
His whiskers are uncombed

He sways his head from side to side
With movements like a snake
And when you think he’s half asleep
He’s always wide awake

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity
He’s a fiend in feline shape
A monster of depravity
You may meet him in a by-street
You may see him in the square
But when a crime’s discovered then Macavity’s not there

He’s outwardly respectable
I know he cheats at cards
And his footprints are not found in any files
Of Scotland Yard’s

And when the larder’s looted
Or the jewel cases rifled
Or when the milk is missing
Or another Peke’s been stifled
Or the greenhouse glass is broken and the trellis past repair
There’s the wonder of the thing, Macavity’s not there!

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity
There never was a cat of such deceitfulness and suavity
He always has an alibi and one or two to spare
Whatever time the deed took place, Macavity wasn’t there!

And they say that all the cats whose wicked deeds are widely known
(I might mention Mungojerrie)
(I might mention Griddlebone)
Are nothing more than agents for the cat who all the time
Just controls the operations, the Napoleon of crime!

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity
He’s a fiend in feline shape
A monster of depravity
You may meet him in a by-street
You may see him in the square
But when a crime’s discovered then Macavity,Macavity,Macavity
When a crime’s discovered then Macavity’s not there!

Macavity’s not there!
We have to find old Deuteronomy

What I Wish I Knew After My MFA Ended


BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

A guest post from Sara Finnerty:

420-Jacquelyn-Mitchard-splits-limbo-looking-back.imgcache.rev1308082218874In the years after I got my MFA I was a miserable mess. I felt like a failure as a writer and a human being. I still feel that way sometimes, but now I try and fail and try again and I know that does not mean I am a failure, it only means I am a person like everyone else. If I could, here are some things I would tell my self six years ago when I was finishing graduate school.

1)   Don’t even try to get published. There are some people in your class who will stop writing altogether. There are some who will only tangentially write. You will never stop writing, but don’t try to publish right now because your writing is still borderline terrible. Yes, you have an MFA but an MFA does not give you the heart, the will, the…

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I am standing at my kitchen sink, the stainless steel bowl laden with dirty crockery.  The Weetabix is caked onto the white bowls. There’s not much hot water so I don’t hold out much hope for removing the cemented butter from the knives. I have run out of wishing-up liquid, there’s only one place these kitchen accoutrements can go and that’s into the dishwasher. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with using the dishwasher in fact, I think I’d lose my mind if I ever lost it! I’m ever so thankful that I’m not a scullery maid of 1677 whose duties included: washing and scouring all the plates’ dishes that are used in the kitchen…also the kettles, pots, pans and chamber pots’ – If Walls Could Talk, Lucy Worsely (Faber & Faber), the poor misfortunate and here I am complaining about a bit of Weetabix.  But it’s not so much the caked cereal and two tea bags sitting in the plug hole that are driving me mad. It’s the realisation of something bigger – an epiphany or as I like to call it Kitchen Sink Realism. 
I’m BUSY. I’m so BUSY. I’m finding it difficult to catch my breath and the fun and enjoyment that life is full of is beginning to slip through my fingers. On the face of it a tiny harmless four lettered word, but one that has insidiously weaved its way into my vocabulary and my many conversations of late. It’s a harmless word BUT then it’s not so much the actual word that annoys me it’s more the being and staying busy that does.
Once upon a time, our culture was one of achievement. However, that’s long since gone and now today’s modus operandi is OVER achievement. We have gone from a giving it 100% society to anything less than 150% and you are of no use to that same society. The general consensus is that busy people get things done; they’re the movers and the shakers, the ones you need to marry, employ, be friends with and just generally associate with.  Each of us has our own unique proliferating set of demands, for me it’s balancing my work life with my home life whilst trying to squeeze in my writing: an elusive balance.  Add to that my obsession with being the best mother I can to my little girl, and who is growing up at such a ferocious rate that I feel a little like a pioneer heading into an unknown prairie. Then there’s my efforts to be a good wife and home-maker, a women gets tired you know! Others out there are striving to be the best wife, husband, father, daughter, sister, brother, auntie, uncle, employee, dog or cat owner. I’m exhausted. We are all exhausted.  This excessive need to be the busiest and the best is chipping away at our contentment just as a sculptor chisels away at a piece of marble; the difference is that the sculptor knows eventually the marble will run out and quits when he’s ahead. Apparently there is a reward for all this speeding through life at such a pace; but, as yet, the discovery and attainment of such remains a mystery. What what happens if you become the best? Sure the glory and actual achievement is great in the beginning, but feeding the insatiable beast of OVER achievement is a relentless game and soon you get tired and start to lose your footing; a time may come when you don’t even know what’s missing any more and you fall. Down.
Twenty years ago my mother was busy. She did not have a dishwasher.  Her type of busy didn’t define her or didn’t overwhelm her, she was unperturbed by her list of duties.  She didn’t seem to be caught up in the spider web of intensive mothering. Yet, she was always present my siblings and I never went without anything – love, attention, fun, nurture, food, clothing it was always there for the taking. My mother and my father for that matter seemed to take it all in their stride.   We got plenty of quality time, plenty of one-to-ones but we were also left to our own devices on more than one occasion and never more than we could individually handle. The result of which meant we all grew up robust and capable adults, I think! I cannot recall hearing my mother say to another mother how busy she was or that there were not enough hours in the day. Of course, I am sure there was days when she was tired and times when all she wanted to do was put her feet up and read; sometimes she did that sometimes she didn’t. She never went crazy trying to be perfect or the best– she just was, still is. Even though there were times when the sink overflowed with milk stained glasses and bowls were stacked four high stuck with dried-in, break a finger nail muesli there was always a clean bowl in the cupboard. Then when I was about fifteen we got a dishwasher. A few days after it arrived my mother declared that she did not understand what all the fuss was about. She had a great view from the kitchen sink of my sisters, my brother and I playing in the garden, while we had a great view of her standing there watching.
I’m certainly not so naïve to think that my fairy godmother will arrive and erase my to-do list.  Practically speaking things do need to get done, and I need to work, clean the house and the walk the dogs. However, from now on I think I will try a new type of busy, a more relaxed version, a looser let it all hang out list! This is going to take a little bit of practise and I’m sure there will be times when I will get it all wrong messing up along the way, but I will try. I will close some of those multi-coloured tabs in my mind and relax. The time has come for me to step back and to stare; to fill the sink up with bubbles, to miss some of the appointments, to ponder, to just be and to make sure I have a little bit of marble left.
W. H. Davies
WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Life’s Loveliest Things



I have a new friend well I think that’s what he wants to be. He’s been following me around for a few weeks now each time I look up he is only feet away.  He watches me from his favourite perch, the roof ridge of my shed; he has quite a view from there, I can only imagine how things look from his perspective and what he makes of me as I to and fro in my garden. He regards me with a sort of nonchalance, yet at times his curiosity breaks free and he nearly speaks to me. I wish I knew what he was singing. I wish I could sing back. But no matter what he continues to sing his age-old verses from his tiny throat singing the joys of spring not only to himself but to any potential mates who may be flying by filling the air with his melodic lyrics; his song keeping me company just like a loyal friend. His name is Robin. He is a soloist and a member of the Dawn Chorus.  There are other members of the orchestra about but it’s only him who seems to have an interest in me! The black redstart, blackbird, wren, cuckoo, great tit, chiffchaff, chaffinch, house sparrow and starling are too busy, too caught up with their pre-ordained tasks to take notice of little old me! But what a cast!  All stars!

It’s at this time of the year that the air vibrates with the melodic, full throated songs of these tiny feathered creatures.  It’s as if a turbulent contest is going on and everything in Nature especially the birds reflect these activities. Not so long ago I was intrigued to discover that Mother Nature has devised a very clever song schedule to ensure each bird’s song is not drowned out by another – in essence each bird has its own time slot and time to shine.  This way only males of the same species compete to out-sing their rivals leaving the female of the species choose the best suitor. How do they do this? Well it’s all very elementary really – the bird that sings the longest and the loudest wins! How wonderful, how ingenious and how lucky we are that such a rapturous symphony surrounds us. We just need to listen and to hear.

But the robin it seems is not the first to sing that accolade goes to the black redstart who usually starts proceedings one and a half hours before sunrise.  Then ten minutes later my little friend Robin starts his gurgling throwing himself into his slot for ten full minutes!  He must move over and make room for the blackbird who gets only five minutes of glory. Hot on the blackbird’s heels is the wren, the tiny little fella steps up to the mark his song making up for what he lacks in size. All this starts at 5am and the sequence in which the birds sing is genetically pre-programmed and is the same everywhere.  The crucial factor is the exact time at which the sun rises, which varies by location and calendar day.  So the further east you live you must subtract a few minutes, whilst those of us living further west must add a few minutes.  It appears that Mother Nature is quite an accomplished mathematician!

About one hour before sunrise the cuckoo begins his wistful coo-coo followed ten minutes later by the great tit whose neon yellow breast blows his breath from deep within.  I’ve often wondered how such tiny birds can produce an amazing range of notes in ever increasing and decreasing volumes.  I’ve since discovered that it is their voice box (syrnix) that allows the bird to draw air over it and it is this process that produces a noise or as I prefer to say a song. Muscles and membranes are contained within the voice box and it is these that are altered to change the note and volume of sound the bird produces.  Some birds have a more highly developed voice box which allows them to produce the superb and sometimes vociferous song that we hear.

It’s soon the turn of the chiffchaff who gets ten minutes to announce his arrival followed by the chaffinch whose amber coloured face and perky beak gives it all he’s got!  As the sun raises her big bright self it is the house sparrow who chimes in ten minutes before the first rays of daylight appear.  Did you know that the house sparrow loves being close to humans?   All that remains is for the starling to wrap up this musical treat with his tune ten minutes after sunrise. AMAZING.

Least we forget Mother Nature has endowed each of us too with our own unique and wonderful song.  Don’t forget to sing yours as often as you can. And don’t pass by the loveliest things in life without noticing them.

Photograph of my little friend Robin above.


© Maria E.FitzGerald