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Ya know, thinking about my posting on Timbuktu below, I am sometimes gobsmacked at the range of crap Nick, myself and Pa are capable of commenting on.

I showed this poem to a friend a couple of days ago, and found myself explaining the meaning and history of tyrian hue (to me the term is instantly obvious), and the reasons it is the colour of imperial and royal authority. Did you know that in Rome and Byzantium the term ‘assuming the purple’ was a euphemism for becoming Emperor?

Anyway, who are we that we, all of us, possess such deep hoards of trivia across so many disciplines? And more to the point, how the hell did we get it?

Don’t expect an answer from me, I dunno.

Well, anyway, back to the poem. Have a look at it. Superficially it is turgid to the point of unreadability, or so it seems to me, but if you actually read it, and concentrate on every line, it is a work of shining beauty. Even if it is about some poor kitty cat drowning in a tub of goldfishes*.

This has to be a pair of my favourite lines ever penned:

What female heart can gold despise?
What cat’s averse to fish?

Two lines when joined together creating multi levelled words of genius, but you gotta laugh.

And we all know that all that glistens is not gold, don’t we?

Well, how about the original:

Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
And heedless hearts is lawful prize,
Nor all, that glisters, gold.

*Similar to one of Nick’s (and mine) favourite poems right here. The language is gorgeous, the allusions span time, continents and philosophies, but all he is really saying is – get your kit off love, spread your legs and gis a look.

But the words he uses to say it justify his immortality.

I’m going to bed. Good night.


  1. NickM says:

    We are curious characters Cats. That is all.

  2. Bod says:

    Without knowing much about any of you guys, it strikes me that about one or two generations ago, the kind of education you were probably exposed to in the UK would have provided you with a lot of this ‘Trivial Pursuit Plus’ level of general knowledge.

    At the time, I think there was some justification in looking down our British noses at the educations provided in other, less fortunate lands. But no longer. From where I sit, the stunning thing has been the rapidity of the decline in British education, particularly on the fringes where kids pick up ‘general knowledge’ that isn’t part of a rigid, exam-focused curriculum.

    There used to be a school competition in my bailiwick where schools entered teams of 4 kids to qualify for a spit in a TV show – “Top of the Form” I think it was called. I doubt that exists now, reliant as it was on knowledge of topics outside of the core curriculum. The only suitable currency in that competition now would be how large Jordan’s bra is now (just to set Nick off again), and not (to my eternal shame, because I lost the contest for my school) in not knowing what sport Bisley is known for.

    Much of the knowledge I learned on the fringes of ‘proper education’ was from a cadre of teachers who were more interested in encouraging learning than passing tests – but then I suspect I was fortunate.

    My guess is that you guys are right on the cusp of the British educational system’s decline into crapulence.

  3. RAB says:

    I wonder what Mrs Donne had to say about it?


    Yes Dear?

    Watcha writing?

    What this dear? a mere scribble, a flight of whimsy nothing more!

    It it had better be! If I catch you sending poems to that widow bitch at number 34 again, you know what will happen dont you? and science isn’t up to sewing them back on yet, is it!

    I dont know what you mean Dear?!!

    Oh yes you bloody do! I saw you watching her putting the milk bottles out the other week. I sneaked over there and read the note you left in the empties. It didn’t say “Two extra pints of gold Top and a Yogurt” did it? No it was something about “Has earth anything to show more fair” or somesuch rubbish that your scumbag mate Shakespeare wrote for you, cos you cant woo to save your arse.

    And if I catch you texting that Cheryl Cole again…

    Cheryl who dear? Never heard of her, I have signed the Pledge over on that clever blog site Counting Cats In Zanzibar. Pull it up and see for yourself!
    You wont find a wittier and more intellegent one now will you? ;-)

  4. RAB says:

    Christ Bod! that’s a trip down memory lane. I was actually on Top of the Form, but we got knocked out in the semi-final, and it wasn’t my fault! Bisley? Shooting. I have shot there myself.
    You are so right about UK education. I passed the 11+ and went to Grammar school, but even the kids who didn’t pass and went to Secondary Moderns all could read, write and count at eleven.
    Well when I entered the upper 6th, the school was made a Comprehensive and we had the first influx of 11year olds for 3 years. So many that there were not enough teachers to cope, so us 6th formers were drafted in to take lessons to relieve the strain.
    The first class I took and asked these new kids to read a passage from a book, well let’s just say that the first four I asked plainly couldn’t read worth a damn.
    The Labourite equality cunts had completely screwed our Education sytem in about five fuckin years, and we are never going to get it back.

  5. NickM says:

    You might be right but… The fundamental issue really is not what one learns in school but what one is allowed to learn outside of school and the appalling fact that – as I see it – increasingly these days all neducation (not an sp – ask a Scotsman) has to be at the hands of the state.

    I think it is wider. Yeah, we still have University Challenge which last I saw had as a final question one about calculating the determinant of a matrix but we also have “Deal or no Deal” with Noel Edmonds (and his scrotum-shearingly tight trousers) which I first watched transfixed by the sheer imbecility of it. I mean there is more sagacity displayed at a hook-a-duck sideshow.

    As to breasts. As a heterosexual man they are a constant source of love, pleasure and aesthetic delight. As to Jordan… Well I enjoyed volleyball at school as well.

    We also have this:

    I once chatted-up a girl successfully by having a nodding aquaintance with Kant’s “Critque of Pure Reason”.

    Truly, I wasted my time. A bottle of Lambrini and a two minute scuttling over a dumpster amongst the disgarded fag-ends and used condoms of a multi-storey car-park and I wouldn’t have had to bother with the meaningful relationship bit but could have really lucked-out and advanced straight to Go and throwing chairs around on the Jeremy Kyle Show on ITV3.

    (US readers – Jeremy Kyle is to Jerry Springer what a village idiot is to the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge).

    I seriously have no idea if I’m considered sexually liberal or not anymore. Really. It’s a fucking choker.

  6. Bod says:

    I guess you have a good point there, Nick. “Everything inside the State School, Nothing outside the State School“.

    And yes, I see University Challenge as a bit of a black swan, I can only ascribe its survival to some oversight by the Powers That Be, or becuase some mandarin somewhere wants to cement his knighthood by becoming a TV presenter when he’s finally ousted from Whitehall.

    Breasts. Oh my. Well, if I had a pair of my own, I doubt that I’d ever leave the house, but I’m a devotee of the natural, or almost natural variety, and not the abominations of the kind that Jordan and the WAGs seem to tote around, but hey, that’s their personal choice too.

    I guess that from a philosophical point of view, we shouldn’t have to give a shit about what people in general want when it comes to funbags and entertainment, but even that’s becoming a problem because when most of the universe wants Noel Edmonds in ‘nad-snappingly tight kecks, real-life versions of “The Running Man” and Bill Oddie’s “Lord of the Flies For A Day” it’s easy to doubt the value of mankind surviving.

    Man, I miss IanB. The hobbit-porn? Not so much. NTTAWWT.

  7. NickM says:

    …that Jordan and the WAGs seem to tote around, but hey, that’s their personal choice too.

    And mine too.

  8. View from the Solent says:

    Turgid? That was one of Gray’s lighter pieces. Probably rattled it off after a night at the pub.
    I’m delighted that you (subtly) pointed out the widespread misconception about ‘glistens’. The latter is probably not a word that old Bill would have recognised.
    What a pleasure it is to come here, I have absolutely no idea what will appear next.

  9. CountingCats says:

    View old chum,

    Thank you for the kind words. We try.

  10. NickM says:

    At the risk of pedantry… That’s Donne’s 20th elegy and not 19th. Or is it? I’m getting mixed messages via the interwebs on the subject and my book is in Gateshead.

  11. Philip Scott Thomas says:

    For whatever it matters, it is the XIX. The XX is “Till I have peace with the, warr other men.” It is missing from the The Literature Network’s listing. Someone there seems to have got confused.

    All those years spent assembling a library finally pay off a little. Hope it helps.

  12. permanentexpat says:

    Must’ve missed that bit of Donne which, IMHO, doesn’t measure up to Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress”…but there you go….’Come, let us sport us while we may…’

  13. Sam Duncan says:

    Bod, Nick, I think you’re spot-on about state education. It’s the usual infantilisation that state provision always engenders: it – education, health, sanitation, general law and order – becomes the responsibility of “them”, not us.

    The one thing – probably the only thing – I’d really miss if I got my wish and the BBC ceased to exist overnight isn’t Universally Challenged, it’s Round Britain Quiz on Radio 4. That’s what we’re talking about here. The breadth of knowledge and dexterity of lateral thinking on show there gladdens the heart even when you can’t answer the questions.

    FWIW, I did know about Tyrian purple – learned it in school, thanks to the Classics department (ie, Mr. Hadcroft; but how many state schools have one at all?) – and to my shame and frustration I’ve never really “got” verse – my eyes just glaze over, for some reason; yes, it is shocking, and yes, I am missing out – so the Donne might as well be Swahili.

  14. CountingCats says:


    I’ve never really “got” verse – my eyes just glaze over

    Same here, but there are somethings that just appeal.

    I read ‘Banjo’ Patterson from cover to cover and enjoyed the lot. Ditto Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Otherwise, just bits here and there.

    Although, it is surprising the effect it has on women, being able to recite an entire poem for them, even if it is only Clancy of the Overflow or McCavity. Works better than a bunch of flowers, I can assure you.

  15. Sam Duncan says:

    So I’ve heard, Cats. Them women’s brains is better at word stuff than what us blokes are.

  16. RAB says:

    Them women’s brains is better at word stuff than what us blokes are.

    Yeah well that’s what feminist sociologists keep telling us, but is it true?
    How many first class poets can you name who were or are female? Compared to men (even Germain Greer agrees with this one) practically none.

    Sylvia Plath?? Well if she hadn’t killed herself someone would have to have done it for her, so dire and dismal was her stuff.
    Elizabeth Barratt Browning? pretty lightweight stuff riding on he old man’s coat tails.
    We get down to Pam Eyres pretty quickly dont we?

    I got the verse thing right away Cats, used to write it in my youth. Chair Bard of my High School (diqualified) remember?

    Women generally talk more than men it is true, but about what exactly? Do any of us fellas actually listen? They like the sound and rhythm of Poetry, but do they actually understand it.
    Running for cover pretty sharpish now! ;-)

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