Mr Twink

MR TWINK

the cat detective. I must have been
seven or eight when I met him,
in the Children’s Public Library.

Mr Twink, the black cat; so calm,
so clever. So sleek, so slim,
so self-contained.

Sgt. Boffer, the large, hairy,
friendly dog assistant, ran around,
laboriously, all over the place;
sweating, fretting, getting nowhere,

while Twink slept, preened
his immaculate fur, and solved
the case, by pure ease of intellect.

Poor old Boffer ended up
baffled, bothered, and bewildered.
How I envied Twink! How I wanted
to be him!

Later, I read Conan Doyle;
saw Holmes and Watson as pale
simulacra of Twink and Boffer.

Then there was Cardew
of the Fifth Form: lax, lazy
with his homework,

lounging, smoking cigarettes,
while his schoolmates toiled
and scratched their heads.

Coolly timing his decisive
surge to the tape in The 440 Yards
on School Sports Day.

Later still, I recognised Mr Twink’s
feline intelligence in Mrs Peel
on The Avengers.

Steed was no slouch,
but he would puzzle and fret,
while she calmly cut to
the heart of the case.

They were my heroes; my idols.
I wanted to glide, lazily, through life;
succeeding, where others failed,
by the languid use of my
incisive intelligence.

But now, as I veer unsteadily
towards my doddering seventies,
I can see that Mr Twink as me
was something that could never be.

I was, have always been, Sgt. Boffer:
bothered, baffled, bedraggled,
and now, increasingly,
bewildered.

The global success of the BBC TV series “Sherlock”, with Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as Dr Watson, is the latest incarnation of the Holmes and Watson characters from the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  When I first started reading the Sherlock Holmes stories, as a teenager, my initial response to them must have been fairly unusual, for I remember thinking “Oh, I see what this is: this is an imitation of the Mr Twink stories!”

I can still vividly remember my excitement when I came across a series of books, in the Children’s Section of Barnsley Public Library, all featuring a cat detective called Mr Twink and his collie dog assistant Sgt Boffer.  I was, I think, seven or eight years old at the time.  I remember the books having jackets in different shades of pastel colours, and black and white illustrations of the animal characters.  I’ve searched the internet many times without success, looking for any trace of these wonderful books.  I even started to wonder whether they were a figment of my imagination.  It was only today that I finally found a website that actually had the information I was looking for.  So I now know that the books were written by a children’s nurse called Freda Hurt, and the illustrations were by a well-known artist called Nina Scott Langley.  There were a series of nine books, published between 1953-1962.  One other interesting fact, that did not impinge upon me at the time, is that Mr Twink’s owner happened to be a poet!   

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