15th April 2000 As I write this epistle, huge dark clouds have banked up in the rain sodden skies of Western Cornwall, thunder is rolling over the hills and two 30 meter beam trawlers are plunging through the raging, crashing seas towards the safety offered by St Michael's Mount and Newlyn harbour.
It must have been prolonged weather like this that drove Tom and his cat Mowzer out into Mount Bay, in their tiny fishing boat, to save the village people of Mousehole from starvation so long ago.
The fishing village of Mousehole, pronounced Mowsel, is so named because of the smallness of its harbour and the narrowness of its harbour mouth. Mousehole was to be our destination, and that of Ilona and Alan together with Betsy, their dog.
After much deliberation we decided not to take Gromet, our trusty flame red SWB Series III Land Rover, who has stoically ferried us all over the country for years. It was only eighteen months ago that we ventured into the principality of Cornawall. It was a short stay, only three days, we loved it but Gromet's memories were not so good, his transfer box packed up and ultimately his gear box needed replacing soon after his return from the principality.
We decided to take the Tank. The Tank is a Range Rover, newer, dark green, hovers on air suspension and travels with cruise control. It therefore transpired that at 9am on Saturday the 15th of April in the year 2000 the Tank was pointed in the direction of Mousehole, drive was engaged and cruise control set. Seven hours later Ilona and Alan waved us into our, very own but very tight, parking spot, overlooking Mount Bay.
We watched a fisherman mending his nets before wandering down to the harbour
The object of our quest was to find out why Mousehole is covered in lights at Christmas, we had a sneaking suspicion it was something to do with Mowzer, a cat who lived in Mousehole, with an old fisherman called Tom, a long, long time ago. It is recorded in Mowzer's diary that her life was very pleasant, because Tom loved her and she loved Tom. 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 she liked to be tickled.
Mousehole harbour is not always fighting storms
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 seas of Mount Bay, and caught fish for Mowzer's dinner.
Our gastronomic cravings, however, were not quite so basic.The second objective, of this trip, into the most south westerly corner of the UK, was clotted cream, scones and tea, Cornish ice cream and the occasional Cornish pasty.
Mowzer's spirit is everywhere in Mousehole, and quite rightly so. She came to prominence during one terrible winter, when a great storm engulfed this part of Cornwall. It was so bad that none of the boats could go out to fish, so that by Christmas, there was no food left in Mousehole. It was then that Tom and Mowzer set out in their little boat, to try and save their village. As they crossed the harbour Mowzer knew that either she must soothe the Storm-Cat's anger, or she and Tom would surely die.
For the whole moving story you need to read Antonia Barber's narration which is neatly bound in with Nicola Bayley's illustrations which bring a vivid and shimmering sense of truth to this long-ago Cornish adventure.