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Literacy

We're going to be carrying on our work on the Mousehole Cat using the following extract to help us interview different characters. 

 

This sounds tricky, but it depends on the question you ask. For example.

 

Me: What is your favourite colour?

Old Tom: ....

 

There's no way to answer that one as it doesn't tell us in the text! Instead, what we want to do is find an answer first. So, reading through the text I've spotted where Old Tom talks about his family, meaning we could ask him...

 

Me: Have you got any family?

Old Tom: I had a wife and parents but they passed away, and my children are grown up now.

 

See if you can come up with 4 or 5 questions and answers for any characters in the extract below - set it out like I did above. I look forward to seeing what you ask!

The Mousehole Cat

 

At the far end of England, a land of rocks and moorland stretches itself out into a blue-green sea. Between its high headlands lie tiny sheltering harbours where the fishing boats hide when the winter storms are blowing. One of these harbours is so small and the entrance between its great stone breakwaters is so narrow that fishermen called it “the Mousehole”. The people who lived in the cottages around the harbour grew fond of the name and they call their village Mousehole to this day.

 

They say it in the Cornish way, “Mowzel”, but you may say it as you choose. Once there lived in the village a cat whose name was Mowzer.

She had an old cottage with a window overlooking the harbour, an old rocking-chair with patchwork cushions and an old fisherman named Tom.

 

Mowzer had had many kittens in her time but they had all grown up and left home. Her eldest son kept the inn on the quayside. It was noisy and smoky and his man had once spilled beer on Mowzer’s head as he was drawing a pint. So she did not go there very often. One of her daughters kept the shop on the corner. It was busy and crowded and her lady had

once stepped on Mowzer’s tail as she was weighing out some vegetables. So she did not go  there very often either. Sometimes Mowzer felt that her children had not trained their people properly.

 

Her own pet, old Tom, was very well behaved. He never spilled the cream when he was filling her saucer. He always stoked the range to a beautiful golden glow. He rocked the rocking-chair at just the right speed. He knew the exact spot behind her left ear where Mowzer liked to be tickled. What was more, he never wasted his time drawing pints of beer or weighing out

vegetables. When he was not looking after Mowzer he passed the day in the most useful way possible. He took his little boat through the narrow opening between the great breakwaters, out into the blue-green sea, and caught fish for Mowzer’s dinner.

 

Mowzer was very partial to a plate of fresh fish.

In fact, she never ate anything else. But she liked a little variety.

So, on Mondays they made morgy-broth, Mowzer’s favourite fish stew.

On Tuesdays, they baked hake and topped it with golden mashed potatoes.

On Wednesdays, they cooked kedgeree with delicious smoked ling.

On Thursdays, they grilled fairmaids, a mouth-watering meal.

On Fridays, they fried launces with a knob of butter and a squeeze of lemon.

On Saturdays, they soused scad with vinegar and onions.

And on Sundays they made star-gazy pie with prime pilchards in pastry.

All in all, Mowzer’s days passed very pleasantly.

 

Then one year there came a terrible winter. At the far end of England, the blue-green sea turned grey and black. The Great Storm-Cat is stirring, thought Mowzer as she watched at her window. The wind whined like a wild thing about the high headlands. It came hunting the fishing boats in their hidden harbours. When the Great Storm-Cat is howling, thought Mowzer, it is best to stay snug indoors by a friendly fire. The sea drew itself up into giant waves and flung itself against the great breakwaters.

 

All along the coast of Cornwall, the stone walls stood the shock. Then the sea sucked up its strength again and roared right over them, sinking the sailing boats in their home havens. But it could not get into the Mousehole. Mowzer watched as the Great Storm-Cat clawed with his giant cat’s paw through the gap in the harbour wall. But it was too small. He snarled and leaped up at the great breakwater under the lowering sky. But it was too high. The fishing boats sat safe as mice in their own mousehole. But they could not get out.

 

And because the fishermen could not fish, there was no more food. They ate up the few vegetables that were left in their storm-wracked gardens. They ate up the salted pilchards that were left in the cellars. Mowzer hated vegetables and the pilchards were too salty for her taste. Soon there was nothing left. The cats and their people grew very hungry. Mowzer sat by her window, staring out at the storm, and thought longingly of morgy-broth and star-gazy pie.

 

Every day the fishermen gathered on the quayside and sometimes they would try to take a boat out through the Mousehole. But always the Great Storm-Cat lay in wait for them and they were lucky to escape with their lives.

 

Then at last one evening, as old Tom sat with Mowzer on his knee, she felt him take a deep sigh.

“Mowzer, my handsome,” he said, for he was a courteous and well spoken man, “Mowzer, my handsome, it will soon be Christmas, and no man can stand by at Christmas and see the children starve. Someone must go fishing come what may, and I think it must be me. It cannot be the young men, for they have wives and children and mothers to weep for them if they do not return. But my wife and parents are dead long since and my children are grown and gone.”

Mowzer purred to tell him that she understood, for it was the same with her.

“I shall go out tomorrow, Mowzer, my handsome,” said the old man, “and I shall not come back without a catch.” Mowzer purred louder to tell him that she would go with him. For he was only a man, she thought, and men were like mice in the paws of the Great Storm-Cat.

 

Besides, she knew that if he did not come back, she would not much care to live in her cottage without him. There would be no one to pour the cream or stoke up the range or rock the rocking chair. There would be no one in all the world who knew just where she liked to be tickled behind her left ear. “Tomorrow night, Mowzer, my handsome,” he said, “we shall eat morgy-broth, baked hake, ling and launces, fairmaids, soused scad and star-gazy pie!” Then Mowzer purred as if she would burst to tell him that she loved him more than any of these things.

 

The next morning, they set out very early, before the others were waking. Before they went, Tom stoked up the old range and damped it down so that it would burn steadily until they returned. Then he hung a lamp in the window so that it would shine out across the harbour and light their way. As they reached the quayside, Mowzer looked back through the wind and rain, and thought how warm and welcoming the window looked.

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