Tag Archives: cats

Head swivelling and the Art of Sleeping

I recently came across these two short films by the French director Chris Marker (1921-2012) from Bestiaire (1990). The first one is a cat sleeping on a piano. And the second a series of owls, mostly swivelling their heads rather amazingly.

Looking at the cat, I realised for the first time that sleeping can be an art form.

Also, the next time I find it hard to sleep I am going to try to imagine being that cat and see what happens. (I shall stop short of lying down on top of the piano keyboard, however).

The owls go through a range of motion which is so far beyond our abilities as to seem aliens or objects (periscopes, perhaps).

Also, there is something about these films which seems to belong to another time, although though they are quite recent. Perhaps it is just the fact that they seem completely separate from our new multi-tasking customs. Marker focuses on one thing and doesn’t get distracted.

Chat écoutant la musique


An owl is an owl is an owl


If you have now become curious about how far an owl can swivel its head, look at this:


A Party of One

(Listen to the poem here)

(best seen if you stand back and squint a little and imagine it as a set of slightly cubist paintings with runny paint and everything a little crooked)

Tonight I dine alone but,
better said,
I am a party of one.
I have brought all my music
with me
in my head
and I have
poems read to me
by poets I have never met.
They flit between the waiters
and bend their verses round the oil,
the pepper and the vinegar.
Read more…

Settetto buffo di sette gatti


I can’t find where the original of this picture comes from. I suppose the instrument must be a gattoforte, because it must be pinching their tails or something not too pleasant, so there is no way they are yowling softly, which means it is definitely not a gattopiano  I think someone should compose a piece to go with it, using some sampled cat sounds. In the meantime, since we don’t have a septet yet, while five cats sit on the sidelines, here is a recording of Rossini’s Cat Duet  (Duetto  buffo di due gatti) performed by Victoria de los Angeles and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf .

Montezuma’s Revenge

(Listen to the poem here)

I used to have a frog,” the lady says,

which changed its colour when it sang-

until one day it was eaten by the cat”.

The cat itself

stares at us from the corner,

sitting in Egyptian style,

blinking uncomfortably its


no, green…

red (?)


                                                                                                            Phillip Hill 2003





(This poem is included in my book The Observation Car which is available from