Lucy Vickery

Spectator competition winners: T.S. Eliot’s cats get to grips with the 21st century

Spectator competition winners: T.S. Eliot’s cats get to grips with the 21st century
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The latest competition asked for poems featuring one of T.S. Eliot’s practical cats getting to grips with the modern world.

Your 21st-century reincarnations of Eliot’s felines (the poems were originally published in 1939 and inspired by the poet’s four-year-old godson, who invented the words ‘pollicle’ for dogs and ‘jellicle’ for cats) were terrific, making it especially difficult to decide on the winners. Some fine Macavitys narrowly missed the cut (take a bow, Nick Syrett, David Shields and Hamish Wilson), as did Bill Greenwell’s Jellicles and Brian Allgar’s Growltiger, the Tory Cat.

This week’s top cats are printed below and pocket £35 each.

Sylvia Fairley

Bustopher Jones has firm flesh on his bones,

In short, he has ceased to be fat,

He had a rebirth and he’s saving the earth,

He’s a Vegan Society cat.

And this is the reason, when game is in season,

He turns his impeccable back,

And the merest glimpse of those winkles and


Makes him yearn for a plant-based quick snack.

Instead of pigs’ cheeks, he eats chickpeas and


Or a spinach and kale cassoulet.

If it’s growing, he’ll try it; he finds on this diet

The pounds just keep falling away.

Walking out, slim and svelte, he must tighten his


Or his trousers, well-cut, might descend.

Yet it’s said, now he’s lean, that it’s cool to be


And that wearing white spats is on-trend!

Chris O’Carroll

From a long line of troupers, our Gus came of age

Among mentors and models whose lives on the


Took for granted that everyone knows it’s all right

To cast a black role with an actor who’s white.

An Othello’s corked face and his kinky-hair wig

Were perceived not as hate crimes — just par for

the gig,

And a cat, like his human co-stars, could feel free

To assume any colour he wanted to be.

But today, if a cat wears a blue-lens disguise

For a turn on the stage with faux Siamese eyes,

Or dares to say dye to a natural follicle,

He is sure to touch off storms of rage diabolical.

If he dons extra fur to go Maine Coon or Persian,

Angry critics will launch a barrage of aspersion.

So if all of that stuff is off limits, thinks Gus,

Then how come human beings get to dress up like


Nick MacKinnon

Growltiger is a Boho Cat who gentrifies the slums:

he’s living on a Dutch barge with some

floorboard-sanding chums.

From Peckham Rye to Hoxton he’s developing

the stews,

rejoicing in his title as ‘The Doer-up of Mews’.

The cottagers of Rotherhithe know something of

his crimes:

a pop-up restaurant appears that’s big on kaffir


kombucha in the greasy spoon, some tofu at the


then there’s no more work for strippers down the

Deptford Social Club.

In the forepeak of his vessel Growltiger sits alone.

He’s prowling over rooftops via a camera on his


as priced-out cockney dockers gain a foothold on

the barge,

obliged to live in Luton when they long to live it


The working class press forward in displaced rank

on rank;

Growltiger to his vast surprise is made to walk the


The Isle of Dogs rejoices when they hear it on the


while the staff of Wapping Waitrose weep in

crematorium pews.

Basil Ransome-Davies

Life had posed a fateful question to the Lady


The tragic death of Growltiger had left her quite


Would she find her Mr Darcy, as in all the best


Or live an unprotected queen, the prey of feral


The first few weeks were tough as hell. She hung

out by the docks,

A teat of her survival skills, a college of hard


The local males all tried it on. She bid them go to


Macavity came sniffing round. She brushed him

off as well.

Some cats are fat and lazy; not so Lady


You could call her too intense, but she was always

in the zone.

She formed a group of female cats to busk around

St Paul’s

For tourists who applauded their melodic


Though she did it for morale’s sake, for a booster,

for a gas,

As selfies taken with the group popped up online

en masse

Their fanbase swelled to millions. They were soon

living the dream.

Who needs Fitzwilliam Darcy when your act’s a

viral meme?

To mark the 70th anniversary of George Orwell’s death, your next challenge is to submit a short story with an Orwellian flavour. Please email entries of up to 150 words to by midday on 19 February.