Friday, 30 June 2006


I have just received an extraordinary e-mail that, with minimal editorial work, I have succeeded in transforming into a piece of astonishingly oblique, enigmatic and symbol-laden prose worthy of some distant cousin of the late James Joyce:

“…and under the new-name, padlock-law, I have momentary-contact with the Old-Clothesman - the moth-eaten, near-legged, palm greaser - and the Ore-Smelter: passion-breathing, monster-teeming, orange-madder…

“At the oblong-linear oyster bar we feast on paraffin-based, parliament cake with microscopic, trioxide, mouse-eared hawkweed; methyl-blue peanut butter; pearl-blue Monterey halibut; niff-naff, opal grey mistletoe bird and mist grey passenger falcon …

“Then, beneath the nectar-streaming, orange-tree, in the outside loop, in the mid-period party circle, in the north-northwestwards open-view-milk-condensing open-spacedness we join the Neo-celtic Morris-dance with parchment-coloured organ coral, a mew-gull, wax orchids and a moss-covered Neo-sogdian night monkey…”

All that and not so much as a mention of Hoodia or Viagra!

Thursday, 29 June 2006


It starts out as the interview from Hell and ends up with a passionate conversation about the joys of chocolate over a Tupperwear-box crammed full of Smarties, Crunchies, Mars Bars and Kit-Kats

It is 1988, and I am travelling to Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire to interview Roald Dahl for the BBC. I go with numerous warnings hammering in my head: the creator of Willy Wonka and the BFG is known to be difficult with interviewers. If he doesn’t like you or your line of questioning, you can easily find yourself being shown the door quicker than you can say “Oompah-Loompas!”

Of course, I know my stuff (I’ve been reading Dahl long before the writer achieved his status as the country’s premiere children’s author), but I’m anxious - TOO anxious - to impress… So, I have thoroughly boned up on dozens of articles about the man and made copious notes drawn from other people’s assessments of Dahl’s genius. I am absolutely determined to leave nothing to chance…

I arrive and am shown into the sitting room, where I set up my recording equipment. A few minutes later, Dahl enters wearing a cardigan and smoking a cigarette. He is considerably taller than I’d expected and I am intrigued by the way in which he sits down, collapsing his considerable height into an armchair rather as you might close up a large umbrella. The atmosphere is polite, if a little frosty; the eyes are gimlet-sharp rather than twinkly.

And so, the interview begins…

Referring to my numerous notes, I say in as confidant a tone as I can muster: “One commentator has noted that, essentially, your characters are all archetypes----”

I get no further.

“Are WHAT?” growls Dahl suspiciously.

“Archetypes…” I repeat lamely…

“Oh! That’s not a word I’m accustomed to using myself,” snaps Dahl waspishly. “What exactly does it MEAN?”

“Well…” comes the fumbled reply, “It means - um… That is - er… Well, an archetype is…”

The gimlet eyes bore deeper and my voice trails away.

“I see!” snorts Dahl. “You don’t seem to know what it means either! So, do you have anything YOU want to ask me, based on your own knowledge, as opposed to other people’s opinions? Or shall we forget this interview, rather than waste any more of each other’s time?”

Desperate measures are clearly called for…. Abandoning my notebook, I blurt out the first thing that comes into my head: “At the end of George’s Marvellous Medicine, you say that George felt as if he had reached out and, with the very tips of his fingers, had touched the edge of a magic world… Is that what you want your young readers to do?”

There is a long pause. Dahl gives a wry half-smile. I await the inevitable explosion. Instead, comes a question: “Do you drink?”

It has just gone 10.30 in the morning, but I nod.


I nod again.

Two large glasses are filled and the interview begins all over again - as if the uncomfortable prologue had simply never taken place - and continues for an hour-and-a-half, with Dahl talking freely and incisively about his books and how he writes them: "Whatever age group I'm writing for, I can instantly and precisely project myself back into what it felt like to be a child of three or seven or nine and then write for that child..."

He talks his philosophy of life: his love of libraries and good teachers and his passion for chocolate which stems from a childhood ambition to work as an inventor in a sweet factory just like the one in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for which he wrote the screenplay: "Oh, God, but that was an awful movie!"

His ultimate appraisal of the books he has written is almost self-deprecating: "I think one or two of them may outlive me and even come to be thought of in a 'classicy' sort of way..."

He also reveals some of his pet-hatreds which include - in addition to the unthinking use of such words as ‘archetypes’ - virtually everyone involved in politics, bad teachers, bad parents and all instances of facial hair, such as the beard sported the terrible Mr Twit and, indeed, by the hapless interviewer!

“I have to tell listeners,” Dahl confides into my microphone, “the gent who is talking with me now has a face COVERED in fungus! It’s really quite DISGUSTING! I can even see part of his breakfast in there! I dare say if it wasn’t smothered in all that ghastly hair, it would be quite a NICE face, but there’s absolutely no way of knowing!”

“Do you have a razor?” I daringly quip.

“Shave in your own time, not mine!” parries Dahl with a chuckle.

“I wasn’t thinking of shaving,” I instantly reply, “I was thinking of CUTTING MY THROAT!”

Dahl roars a long, deep, smoker’s laugh.

At the end of the interview, Dahl signs my copy of his very first book, The Gremlins that was originally to have been made into a Disney WWII animated film.

He inscribes it “With love, Roald Dahl”, asks my date of birth and then adds it to the inscription - but cunningly backdated six years to 1943, the year of publication.

“There!” he bellows triumphantly, “If they come across this after you’re dead, that should screw things up nicely for whoever’s trying to sort your affairs!”

Not wishing to push my luck, I make my thank-yous, pack up my tape-recorder and prepare to leave -- only to be invited to stay for lunch!

A deliciously long and jolly meal eventually concludes with a dessert in the form an outsized Tupperware-box stuffed with sufficient sweets and chocolate bars to satisfy even the great Mr Wonka!

An unforgettable encounter - and a most valuable warning against the irresponsible use of the word ‘archetype’!

© Brian Sibley 2006
[Illustrations (except 'The Gremlins'): © Quentin Blake]


The torture is ENDED!

No longer need you agonise over “Who-said-what-to-whom-in-the-last-minutes-of-those-six-movies” that were chosen by Nick Clark as containing Indispensable Last Lines.

You may agree with his judgement or you may not; but, in any event, at least (and at last!) the answers are now finally revealed!

Wednesday, 28 June 2006


Following my earlier blog on the saving grace of the apple, my good friends at English Apples have contacted me to say:

"You might be interested in a cut-through picture of a 'red devil'. This is why it has the unusual name..."

It seems that if "God didn't make little green apples" then maybe it really was down to his Opposite Number - at least in the case of those little RED apples that do, after all, appear to carry the imprimatur of His Infernal Nastiness!

[Image: Simon Mills]


The notice first appeared tied to a lamppost outside the church and declared: “THE APPLE CLEANSES THE SOUL…”

Then, a day or two later, we received a more detailed report in the form of a typed and photocopied tract shoved through our letterbox.

Since it is headed ‘YOUR SOUL’, I feel a sense of obligation to share at least part of its teachings with you…

“You do have a SOUL that takes you to HEAVEN, but can dwindle and disappear as you gradually SIN. If it does disappear, you let the DEVIL take over your life. And he will make you do all the SIN you never dreamed of, to control of you here and in hell.

“The proof you do have a SOUL is the WHITE light you see at the back of your eye, when you place a finger there, in the dark. It goes RED if your white light goes out. Shine white light in one of the EVIL ONE’S eyes, and you see RED reflected there. Proof they are there. Controlling the WORLD, the world which is really the GARDEN of EDEN.”

When do we get to the bit about the APPLES, you ask? Bear with me - or, rather, bear with the person promulgating ‘The Gospel According to Granny Smith’:

“The eating of little creatures, big and small, is a SIN. You should not even eat vegetables - they were meant for the animals. Well, what do you eat? At the beginning in the garden you were meant to eat APPLES and only APPLES, no water even, you get liquid from the APPLE…

“The special thing about the APPLE - and the DEVIL has hidden it from the beginning - is the fruit of the APPLE forgives SIN. So, eat the APPLE and it forgives you your SIN. The PEEL of the APPLE keeps the EVIL ONES away from actually harming you.

“You have to eat APPLES on a daily basis to get these benefits. When they are there, you can see History and the World in a new light.”

So, there you have it in a nutshell - or in an apple-pip - and if it’s got the juices going and you want to explore the joys of appledom in greater detail - though not necessarily for its sin-absolving properties - then you could start with this intriguing site in praise of English Apples.

A word of warning, however, there is a variety of apple that ought, perhaps, to be avoided at all costs...

It’s called---


[Image: Red Devil apple by Simon Mills]

Tuesday, 27 June 2006


This is one of my favourite fortune-cookie fortunes!

Well, at least it’s honest…

Monday, 26 June 2006


Supper tonight in a once greatly-loved Italian restaurant that, unfortunately, turned Persian for a year, but which - Hoorah, hurray! - is now reborn as a NEW Italian restaurant!

Chalked up on the 'Special's Board' were several tempting delights including "Filled steak with peppercorn souse" and an irresistible dish of "prowns on a bad of rocked and carry tomato".

I think we'll be going there quite often!


Disneyland fans (as devoutly loyal a band of souls one could ever wish to meet) are, according to the ‘Los Angeles Times’ (and several other Californian publications) deeply divided about goings-on at The Magic Kingdom...

The cause of their anxiety, disquiet or downright dismay - depending on which faction you listen to - is the makeover that has recently been completed on the veteran attraction, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’.

The canal-boat ride-thru, featuring Audio-Animatronic pirates plundering and pillaging their way across the Spanish Main, originally opened at Disneyland in March 1967 and was the last major attraction at the park to have been personally supervised by Walt Disney, who had died three months earlier.

For nigh on forty years, ‘Pirates’ has been one of Disneyland’s most popular rides - as indeed is also the case in Disney’s Florida, Paris and Tokyo theme parks.

And that’s how everything merrily rolled along until 2003, when Disney trawled up a net-load of treasure-trove with a movie inspired by the attraction and called ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl’.

The film’s huge success - due, in no small measure, to Johnny Depp’s high-camp performance as Captain Jack Sparrow and the accompanying eye-candy provided by Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley - immediately sent Disney questing after more box-office gold. As a result, it was soon announced that not one, but TWO, sequels were in the offing: ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest’, opening next month, and the still-to-be-titled ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 3’, due on our cinema screens in 2007.

Then came the problem: visitors to Disneyland - other than those who've been going there since they were tiny tots and therefore understood the lore and history of the park - stood in line for an hour or more to ride ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and came out wondering what in the name of Davy Jones was going on and what the hell had happened to Jack Sparrow?

Disney’s solution? Revamp the ride to incorporate Jack and tie the attraction more securely to what looks like an unsinkable movie franchise.

And thus the fan’s dilemma... Do they sing, “Yo-ho, Yo-ho, they’ve given a much-loved attraction a little more fun and excitement!” or do they whine, “Boo-hoo, boo-hoo, they’re spoiling and ruining our all-time favourite ride!”

Whether you're a Disney theme park fan or not, this is an interesting microcosmic example of how many of us find ourselves feeling when changes and modernisations are carried out at places where memory has caused us to make strong, bindingly emotional investments.

Perhaps we all need reminding that change is part of life and that accepting those changes and adjusting to them is an inevitable part of the challenge of living…

As for Disneyland, well Walt himself would, I suspect, have been far more pragmatic than some of his most devoted followers… After all, he once said: "Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world." And I reckon that would have included letting Jack Sparrow into ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’!

Oh, yes, and while on the subject of the outrageous Cap’n Jack, my little friend, Buttons asked me to share this picture of him avast-and-belaying on the deck of ‘The Black Pearl’.

Naturally, he would really like you to believe that he was on intimate buddy-buddy terms with Mr Depp, but the truth is that this encounter actually took place in the Hollywood Wax Museum - although I am happy to confirm that Buttons is most certainly NOT made of candle-grease!

Buttons also points out that some of his exploits “Are, as well worth reading", as he charmingly puts it, "as anything on Brian’s stupid blog!”

I’m afraid, for a rabbit, he’s extremely forthright!

[Poster:; Wax Museum: © Brian Sibley]]

Sunday, 25 June 2006


I am aroused, as I am every Sunday morning, by the clangour of church bells, merrily pealing out across the lea…

Well, actually, rattling the goddam windows!

There are several GOOD things about living next door to a church: it can be very handy if you happen to find yourself in sudden need of sanctuary; and it is also useful because, having a lightning conductor on the spire, it’s far more likely to get struck by lightning than you are!

But as for the bells… Oh, no, no, no!

Now, I was brought up in the country (it’s not really country anymore, but it was then - and I’m talking about having a blacksmith with an open forge in the village high street!) so I KNOW about church bells.

Indeed, I’ve even served my turn tolling the single bell for the Angelus, so I’m well aware that complex clarions are only achieved as a result of a lot of expertise, practice and an acquired understanding of such terms as ‘Little Bobs’ and ‘Weasels’.

I also know that bell ringing should really only be done by a team of hoary old yokels drawn from a 1950s cast of ‘The Archers (An Everyday Story of Country Folk)’ ideally with such names as Ned Larkin, Tom Forrest and Walter Gabriel.

What Bell ringing most certainly is NOT, is having the vicar of a church flick a switch in order to turn on an electronic recording…

Every Sunday morning, our relatively peaceful neighbourhood is shaken by a riotous ding-donging of bells (involving first-rate ‘treble bobs’ and ‘dodges’) niftily accomplished by the ringers from St Gudgeon’s, Tittums Touch, and transmitted to the rudely-awakened world via a rather tiny loudspeaker in the tower.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, EVERY evening at six o’clock we are treated to a flat-ish rendition of the first verse of ‘The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended’ (words by John Ellerton, music by Clement C Scholefield, 1874), which may well have been one of Queen Victoria’s favourites but which, heard on a daily basis, soon outstays its welcome and is seldom ENDED quickly enough!

Incidentally, those not aux fait with the darker recesses of ‘Hymns Ancient & Modern’ may care to BRIEFLY check out this turgid little number... Just turn up those speakers for maximum effect --- and think BELLS!

Anyway, Lord Tennyson may well have written: “Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,” but I tell you, if he’d been living next to OUR next-door church he’d have been wildly praying for a power-cut!

[Image: © Brian Sibley]

Saturday, 24 June 2006


The secret of Blogger's finances is finally revealed!

My comment of a few days ago about that curious 'Word Verification' (Right) was obviously nearer the truth that I supposed.

What was the significance, I asked, of the letters 'hfcku'?

I was, of course, only jesting, but today when I go to verify a comment I find THIS word:

Can we now be in any doubt that - cunningly coded and subliminally disguised - French Connection UK is actually the money behind Blogger?



To begin with the forest creatures simply referred to him as “The Wise Old Owl”, without ever actually knowing how old or wise he was. But then that, of course, is precisely how reputations are made.

Every evening (which was the beginning of the Owl’s day) a queue of animals could be seen at the bottom of his tree, waiting for him to emerge and dispense wisdom and knowledge.

Whatever they asked him, it seemed, he would have an answer. No question was too trifling or too profound for his expertise. True, there were times when his answers proved challenging - even difficult - for the less intellectual creatures such as shrews and moorhens. But, by and large, everyone accepted that if anyone knew SOMETHING about ANYTHING, it was the Owl.

And so, by degrees, his fame spread and more and more animals visited his tree. Before long they started referring to him as “The Wisest of the Wise” and it was now commonplace to hear it being said that Owl knew EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING.

The Owl, who should have known better, began to believe his own publicity and it eventually proved to be his undoing.

One night, an elderly Fox - who was to mendacity and deception what the Owl was to wisdom and knowledge - came for a consultation. He insisted that his enquiry was of an particularly intimate and personal nature and that, if the Owl would do him the courtesy, he would prefer to discuss it in private without broadcasting his concerns to the rest of the forest.

Now the Owl, who had become increasingly self-important, was mildly flattered by this approach and so shooed the other creatures away and flew down to the ground in order to be able to talk to the Fox in privacy.

“Tell, me,” said the Fox in a sly voice and with a twitch of his rusty-red brush, “what do foxes eat?”

“Ah,” responded the Owl, “that is very simple, and surely you must know the answer to that question for you are no cub! Foxes eat rabbits and mice and other little creatures commonly found in field and hedgerow, but also have a particular penchant for chickens and geese.”

“Do they ever eat any OTHER birds?” asked the Fox.

“Not to the best of my knowledge,” the Owl replied, “and, as you are aware, I know EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING!”

“Really?” said the Fox, sounding incredibly impressed.

“Certainly,” the Owl continued, “But, of course, if you can enlighten me to the contrary, then I shall be glad to add the information to my ever-growing storehouse of wisdom.”

So the Fox opened his jaws - revealing a great many, extremely unpleasant, teeth - and with one bound and, with a fair amount of munching and crunching, he duly enlightened the Owl…

Wiping his whiskers, the Fox reflected that whilst a little learning is undoubtedly a dangerous thing, a LOT of learning can, on occasion, be downright fatal!

© Brian Sibley 2006

[Images: Clipart Etc]
Read more of Brian's Fables and Likely Tales in 'Just Stories'.

Friday, 23 June 2006


I’ve just started off the day with a pot of Muller light yoghurt. Nothing, please note, as run-of-the-mill as peach or raspberry. Oh, no! I’m talking about CHERRY BAKEWELL TART Flavour --- with Cake Pieces!

We once had Stilton sorbet, but that was after dinner in one of those fancy restaurants where such things can happen. It’s altogether different to come across Cherry Bakewell Tart-flavoured yoghurt - at the breakfast table!

Apparently, Muller also offer Strawberry Cheesecake, Lemon Cheesecake and Apple Pie yoghurts: all of which, to me, seem like the kind of food that one would normally expect to encounter in reasonably solid - as opposed to semi-liquid - form and to ingest by chewing rather than slurping…

Maybe they’re really intended as comfort food for grown-ups who secretly yearn to return to their babyhood when a chicken dinner came in a bottle

Anyway, keep watching the chiller cabinet, because it can only be a matter of time before Muller come up with the Bacon, Egg, Sausage and Black Pudding Yoghurt -- with Toast Pieces, naturally!

Thursday, 22 June 2006


Be honest, does this look like a ‘Word Verification’ code to you? Or could it be the brand name of some trendy new fashion house?

Maybe we should put it on some t-shirts and see if they sell. Although I guess we'd do better if we dropped the ‘h’...?


We’re back in the dark again today, having woken up just minutes before the movie credits roll…

Here are six more Last Lines that my friend Nick Clark says you've GOT to put on any list of cinematic conclusions.

So, here we go:

"Take good care of the forests, Dewey!"

Bring-bring, bring-bring, bring-bring...

"Arthur? Arthur? Arthur?"

"I have to leave you now, I'm going to have Christmas dinner with my family."

“My name's, McCardle. Well, so long.”
“So long.”

"Cut the red wire, chaps... R - E - D, RED!"

Meanwhile, for the hundreds who’ve been pestering me to identify the earlier lines listed on this blog -- well, maybe not YOU, but they are out there, believe me! -- check out the answers in the comments to the original posts: my personal Top Ten (+ One) Last Lines and James the Magician’s Favourite Movie Lines.

Alternatively, get a life….

[Image: Internet Movie Poster Awards]

Wednesday, 21 June 2006


Will Rogers famously used to say: “All I know is what I read in the papers!” Were he around today, twirling his lasso and sharing his homespun philosophies, would he have modified this statement to: “All I know is what I read on the INTERNET!”?

Probably not, because - despite his 'Common Man' persona - Will Rogers was a pretty savvy fella…

But many of us read whatever Google, Yahoo and the other genies of cyberspace conjure up on our computer screens and take it for Gospel.

For example, a friend recently sent me one of those e-mail stories that seem to circulate more often than a goldfish in a whiskey glass.

This mailing claimed to give the origins of popular sayings such as “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water” and “Raining cats and dogs”, all of which were said to have resulted from various social conditions of ‘Life in the 1500s’.

My friend prefaced his forwarding, with the comment: “I don’t know how much of this is true, but it makes interesting reading…” And he was right. It WAS interesting - fascinating, actually. After reading it, you felt as if you’d gained a lot of intriguing information and, at the same time, had been entertained.

But my friend’s question nagged away… Was it also TRUE?

I summoned the Google genie and he quickly located a reference to the story on a very useful site called The Phrase Finder which revealed that not only has this particular story been in circulation since April 1999, but also that its claimed derivations are “unproven, lacking evidence or credibility” and, say Phrase Finder, were “almost certainly made up by whoever posted that message.”

In reproducing the original mailing (with its beguiling explanations for such expressions as ‘upper crust’, ‘bringing home the bacon’ and ‘dead ringer’) Phrase Finder begs:

“Please don't mail us saying that these aren't correct - WE KNOW. They are included here merely as examples of the types of folk etymological myths that can so easily spread, and in the hope that this may in a small way help to dispel those myths.”

Which is why, in turn, I’m passing this on as a blog.

The Internet is, without doubt, the single most incredible invention of our time. It's an amazing research tool: instantly accessible newspapers, magazines, dictionaries, encyclopaedias and a zillion other publications on every facet of life we’ve ever wanted to know anything about --- and a great many others that we haven’t!

But we should never forget that it can also be fallible and may contain as many untruths as it does truths.

To revise an old adage: we live in an age of lies, damn lies, statistics and search-engine results! So we need to keep our minds open and keep asking questions - but not, necessarily, accept the first answers we’re given.

Which is why I commend a couple of useful sites which every sceptic should instantly ‘bookmark’: Hoax-Slayer and The Museum of Hoaxes.

Oh, and by the way, if any Will Rogers devotees happen to be reading this and STILL believe anything of what they read in their newspapers, then take time to check out everything2 ‘If it is in the newspaper, it must be wrong.

Remember, as Mulder and Scully used to say: “THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE!”

[Image: Will Rogers on stage at The Coleman Theatre Beautiful in Miami, Oklahoma.]

Tuesday, 20 June 2006


Today comes a cryptic e-mail from China:

“We found company ready to EXPLODE!!”

I find myself worrying...

Why do I keep getting stuff like this that makes my head hurt?

What am I supposed to do?

Is this a hoax or a serious threat? And, if the latter, whom should I tell? MI6? CIA? Interpol?

Or can it, maybe, wait until I see Dr Finklestein next Thursday?


Following my fly-on-the-wall confession of yesterday, Harriet Macdonald - a member of my absurdly talented (adopted) family in Tasmania - sent me this cover-art for my still-to-be-completed thesis on “The Relationship between Flies and Dead Composers”!

With a wrapper-design like this, how can it fail to sell a zillion copies and totally revolutionise musical appreciation throughout the known world?

[Image: © Harriet Macdonald 2006]

Monday, 19 June 2006

MY FIRST PET by B. Sibley (Form 3)

My first pet was Fred the fly. Later we had a hamster called Hamlet (because he was sort of blonde coloured) but Fred came first.

Fred moved in at the end of autumn and stayed more or less until the beginning of spring, although as my dad says, to be truthful we never actually saw the going of him.

Being a housefly, Fred was already completely house-trained and never did any of those rather disgusting things that the ‘Children’s Encyclopaedia’ said flies do - or, if he did, we didn’t ever see him doing them.

Fred was a very intelligent fly and always sat on one corner of the TV screen watching everything from nature programmes like ‘Tales of the Riverbank’ to ‘Dr Who’ (mainly when they were fighting insect-type aliens), though my mum always said he would damage his eyes by sitting that close.

He also showed good taste when it came to music and would sit very still on the arm of our gramophone player for the whole side of a long-playing record. Fred's favourites were ‘The 1812 Overture’ (with live canons) and the soundtrack from ‘South Pacific’ and my dad said he was probably the reincarnation of Beethoven, but we couldn’t test this out, as we didn’t have any Beethoven records.

When I grow up and can afford to buy a few more records, I’d like to have another fly and carry out some experiments to see if all dead composers become flies in the end.

The End

[Image: Serene Fly Control]

Sunday, 18 June 2006


It is often the unplanned moments of our over-scheduled lives that turn out the most pleasurable.

When my good friend, Malcolm Prince, suggested spending the day together yesterday, I was delighted because it is all too easy to devote time to developing new relationships, whilst taking old and established ones for granted.

But Malcolm, who is not only an incredibly talented but extremely busy executive producer with BBC Radio 2 (whose weekly shows include - excuse the imminent name-drop - Elaine Paige on Sunday), is the first to recognise that the grabbed coffee or even the snatched lunch is no substitute for the all the shared exploits, mishaps, chats, giggles and tears that form the basis of a long and lasting friendship.

We duly set out from Victoria on an amazingly hot and sunny day to have an al fresco lunch (courtesy of M & S) in Green Park. What we had overlooked, and what only became clear when we discovered that all the roads leading up to Buckingham Palace were closed off and policed by British Bobbies wearing medals (and, please!, WHITE GLOVES) was that it was the Official Birthday of HMQEII and that, therefore, this was the day for Trooping the Colour!

Unable to get any further than St James’s Park, we picnicked overlooking the lake, a-swim with ducks, geese, swans and - it always surprises me - pelicans! We were surrounded by hordes of sun-worshippers: several ‘bodies beautiful’, delightfully arranged, and quite few others that one could only seriously admire for their total lack of inhibition!

A scattering of minor dignitaries, en route from Horse Guards Parade - and despite their top hats, morning suits and summery frocks - enjoyed ice-cream cones with unselfconscious delight; while hordes of ecstatic tourists rushed to photograph marching bandsmen in bearskins and scarlet tunics - and even a knot of police marksmen who had left off their white gloves in favour of flack jackets and guns!

“Bunch up!” called one matronly lady waving her digital camera to get a couple of the boys-in-blue to huddle up for a snap, “just a quick one!” We almost expected to hear someone add, “Come on, lads! Just point your guns at the camera!”

Later, crossing the Mall we heard the ‘Feu de Joue’ (Fire of Joy) a “cascade of blank rounds” interspersed with bars of the national anthem: a ceremonial novelty to mark HMQ's 80th birthday that has never been previously performed (if that's the right word) during her reign.

Then, walking down Pall Mall, we found ourselves witnessing an amazing fly-past of aircraft ranging from a WWII Lancaster bomber to a lot of seriously sophisticated contemporary war machines and concluding with the Red Arrows' famous formation fliers filling the skies with above the heart of the capital with red-white-and-blue smoke.

A day of expected pleasures (good conversation, shared laughter, fond memories) and the totally UNexpected, such as everything I’ve just described --- oh, yes, and spotting a Japanese tourist in Starbucks wearing an England football shirt with ‘Rooney 9’ on the back. I was sorely tempted to ask how his metatarsals were and why he wasn’t out in Germany, but thought it might loose something in translation!

[Images: © Brian Sibley 2006]

Saturday, 17 June 2006


Yesterday’s blog on memorable last lines from the movies prompted my friend James the Magician to offer a few of his own favourite lines...

Strictly speaking, they’re not so much 'favourites lines' as ones that stuck in his head - through “constant exposure” - when (as one of his first jobs) he worked in the projection booth at the Embassy Cinema, Esher…

Nor, to be fair, are they LAST lines, which is changing the rules of the game somewhat. I mean, if I’d allowed myself lines from ANYWHERE in a picture then I’d have definitely included: “I suppose it’d be better if I’d never been born at all…”

And I’d have certainly have wanted: “Dip the apple in the brew. Let the Sleeping Death seep through…”; “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and - blow...”; and, somewhere near the top of the list: “Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!”

Anyway, here are James’ submissions for your amusement and/or puzzlement (answers in a day or two’s time):

A gun goes off at a football game.
“Oh my God! They've shot him!”
“--- ----, you incredible nincompoop! It's the end of the quarter!

“It just occurred to me... I've travelled halfway around the world, at great expense, simply to kill a different kind of bird.”

“------ told me once, 'Never be too disturbed if you don't understand what a woman is thinking. They don't do it very often.'"

“What's the point of all this, Doctor?”
“By doing this, I've survived a great deal of other peoples’ deaths, and I intend to survive a great deal more!”

“They're the Umbala tribe. They eat people. Very backward.”
“Well, they're not eating ME backwards!”

"Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. You won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."

Suffice it to say, it’s a mixed bag: a couple of classics and one or two lost gems of cinema that, arguably, would have been better LEFT lost!

Friday, 16 June 2006


There was once an Elephant who had the worst memory of any pachyderm in history. He forgot everything: which waterhole provided the best wallowing; which mango-tree grove had the sweetest, juiciest mangos; and he never, ever, remembered the birthdays of his family.

In fact, he wasn’t precisely sure which, if any, of the elephants in his herd, WERE his relations!

“Don’t you know who I am?” asked his sister in considerable irritation and he innocently replied, “I’m sorry, I forget…”

“Don’t you even recognise your very own brother?” angrily demanded his own very brother and, since he didn’t, he could only reply, “I’m sorry, I forget…”

Eventually, his relatives shunned him and even his mother, to her great distress, decided that she had no choice but to disown him.

The Head of the Herd (an elephant of venerable age and great authority) summoned the Forgetful Elephant to give an account of himself but, unfortunately, he forgot to turn up for the appointment.

“You are a disgrace to pachyderm-kind!” said the Head Elephant when their paths finally crossed. “You should be ashamed to call yourself an elephant!” Then, glaring down his trunk at the miscreant, he trumpeted: “You are forthwith banished from the herd! Now GO!”

So, the forgetful Elephant sauntered off and no one saw or heard anything of him for many, many years.

But then, at long last - when all the other elephants of his generation had grown old and gone to the Elephant’s Graveyard - the forgetful Elephant was discovered to be still alive and wandering absent-mindedly through the world.

The Old Vulture, who was charged with overseeing such delicate matters, flew around for a great many days looking for the Forgetful Elephant in order to find out why he had outstayed his allotted time-span.

“You were never supposed to have lived this long!” the Vulture crossly announced when, eventually, he tracked him down.

“Oh,” replied the Elephant, genuinely surprised and even mildly interested, “I didn’t know that…”

The Vulture continued: “You should have gone to the Elephant’s Graveyard long ago!”

“Oh,” said the Elephant again, “I didn’t know that either…”

“Every creature under heaven,” explained the bird, “is told when the time has come for them to die. Were you not told?”

“I don’t know,” replied the Elephant with complete truthfulness, “I forget…”

The Old Vulture nodded, turned his back and went away to file a report saying that he had been unable to find the Forgetful Elephant. He had decided, on this occasion, not to enforce the rules since he thought that anyone who refused to accept the limitations imposed on them by convention - even if it was only because of a bad memory - deserved some reward.

And so, to the best of my knowledge, the Elephant is still alive, somewhere in the world. Of course, if he is ever asked how old he is, his answer is always the same: “I’m sorry, I forget…”

© Brian Sibley 2006
[Images: Elephant from Larvalbugg; vulture from Clipart Etc]

Read more of Brian's Fables and Likely Tales in 'Just Stories'.


Association of ideas: the title of my recent post on the most desirable temperature for buttered toast, reminded me of a conversation I was having with Ian the other evening about memorable moments in movies, such as the closing seconds of Billy Wilder’s enduringly brilliant comedy --- ‘Some Like it Hot’.

In fact, I’d unhesitatingly vote Joe E Brown’s “Well, nobody’s perfect!” as the Number One of my ‘Top Ten Last Lines from the Movies’.

Of course, you really have to see the film to understand the context and I’m not into ‘spoilers’!

My other nine candidates, for what they’re worth, are:

“You finally really did it. You maniacs! You blew it up! God damn you! God damn you all to hell!”

“Oh, no! It wasn't the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast.”

“Oh, Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars.”

“Oh, Auntie Em, there's no place like home.”

“I'll go home, and I'll think of some way to get him back! After all, tomorrow is another day!”

“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

“All right, Mr De Mille, I'm ready for my close-up.”

“Hello, everybody. This is Mrs Norman Maine.”

“Goodbye, Mary Poppins. Don't stay away too long.”

Oh, yes…

And in ‘First Reserve’ position:

"Emily, I have a little confession to make. I really am a horse doctor, but marry me and I'll never look at any other horse."

[Images: Joe E Brown/Jack Lemmon, GoneMovies; Marx Brothers posters available from barewalls]

Thursday, 15 June 2006


Last evening, with David and Sophie, to Bodeans for an all-American supper (BBQ burnt ends, pulled pork, refried beans and onion rings) and then to Clapham Picture House to see ‘United 93’, the story of the fourth plane hijacked on 9/11 and how, unlike the other three, it failed to reach its target…

Written and directed by Paul Greengrass, 'United 93' is filmed in a faux “cinema verite” style that is hypnotically powerful.

The restless, hand-held, cinematography and the half-heard snatches of inconsequential dialogue give the motion picture a compelling authenticity and a terrible urgency.

This “fly-on-the-wall” verisimilitude is then eerily endorsed by having leading personnel from the Federal Aviation Administration playing themselves in this achingly painful recreation of the day’s events.

‘United 93’ is unavoidably reverential and there is no attempt - as there would be in a conventional disaster movie - to tell the back-stories of the people involved. We know little or nothing about any of passengers and crew, have no real inkling of their plans and ambitions for that day or for the rest of their lives. Nor are we told anything about the families and friends whom they manage to telephone in their final moments of life in order to pass on a simple, unaffected, litany of love…

As for the hijackers, other than their devout prayerfulness throughout the lead up to their terrifying mission, we understand nothing more about what made them tick or what motivated their suicidal pact with death, than we did on that September day, five years ago.

That we stay hooked into the relentlessly unfolding drama despite having no obvious points of emotional contact is due, perhaps, to a undiminished desire to make sense of the jig-sawed events of 9/11 and a need to believe in the small heroisms of humanity.

Added to which, every one of us who has ever experienced - even for a second - a fear of being involved in an air disaster cannot escape putting ourselves in the claustrophobic cabin of that aircraft and vicariously experiencing the last flight of United 93…

[Image: © Universal Pictures]






Wednesday, 14 June 2006


After a weeklong heat wave, the sun is gone and we are back to the more acceptably British combination of grey skies, rain and mugginess.

There was, however, plenty of solar brilliance at the Royal National Theatre last evening where we saw the revival of Peter Shaffer’s ‘The Royal Hunt of the Sun’.

The central performances sharply, even starkly, contrasted: Alun Armstrong as the world-weary, earth-bound Pizarro, haunted by death; Paterson Joseph as Atahuallpa, the life-radiating, air-borne child of the Sun for whom the concept of dying means no more than a sunset followed by a sunrise.

Polemic and spectacle are constantly competing for mind and eye in Trevor Nunn’s production which is resplendent in shimmering feathers and gilded trinketry and swathed in excessive cascades of billowing parachute-silk: blue-white for the Andes, gore-red for blood, ingot-yellow for gold…

But Shaffer’s dialogue dances and sparkles, not just with one-line epigrams (‘Fame is long. Death is longer…’) but also with profoundly simple observations on the human condition that span continents and centuries:

“Everything we feel,” says Pizarro, “is made of Time. All the beauties of life are shaped by it. Imagine a fixed sunset: the last note of a song that hung an hour, or a kiss for half of it. Try and halt a moment in our lives and it becomes maggoty at once. Even that word ‘moment’ is wrong, since that would mean a speck of time, something you could pick up on a rag and peer at…”

And the questions raised by the play remain as sharp as when they were first asked in 1964. Questions, on a human level, about trust and betrayal and, on a global scale, about political greed, expansionism and imperialism and Christianity’s enduring talent for absolving those who invade, kill and rob in the name in the One True Faith.

[Image: © Royal National Theatre]


I'm back on the subject of toast for a moment, partly because I just remembered that Owl (in ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’) whilst being able to read and write “somehow went all to pieces over delicate words like --- BUTTEREDTOAST!”

My other reason being that polkadots & moonbeams commented on one of my recent postings on the joys of toast: “You missed out one vital point about buttered toast... and that is that it must be hot, so that the butter is all melty and the toast a golden colour!”

This, of course, is indisputable and my only defence in failing to point out this simple (but crucial) condition, is that I assumed it was an obvious fact - wrongly and stupidly!

My experiences staying in a variety of hotels the length and breadth of the British Isles should have taught me by now that that the concept of hot toast is one that is utterly alien within the catering trade. Indeed, order a 'Full English Breakfast' and your tea/coffee and toast will be delivered while you’re still on your cornflakes, in order to guarantee that it is really dry, cold and chewy by the time you’ve got to the end of your eggsbaconsausagebeansmushroomsandtomatoes…

It is time to act! Time for a little Breakfast Rage! We need, without further delay and ado to launch a campaign for Hot Buttered Toast for Breakfast! Campaigners would wear discreet lapel badges emblazoned ‘HBT4B’ and hotel minions proffering their nasty little stainless steel toast-racks with cold, dried-out triangles of yesterday’s ‘Sunblest’ would only have to see it in order to quake with terror and rush to bring us the Real Thing forthwith…

Tuesday, 13 June 2006


For Lord Byron, Venice was: “The pleasant place of all festivity, the revel of the earth, the masque of Italy.” For many years since, it has been a city padding on old lion paws towards inexorable extinction.

And now the British who have, for so long, been in love with this exquiste place are questioning the wisdom of helping hold back the tides and shore up the crumbling churches and palazzi…

Or are they...?

A Venetian friend wrote, a day or two back: “I saw a newspaper saying the British won't help Venice anymore... I believe a lot has been made by the British for Venice, I never believe newspapers 100%, but can understand some get tired by the Italian Situation - or especially the Venetian situation. There is a word - "Venice is a Byzantine city" - to describe a city were we talk... and talk... and talk without finding solutions but always some problem…”

My friend can rest assured that, whatever the newspapers may say, Venice in Peril who organized last night’s debate at the Royal Geographical Society on the costs of attempting to ‘save’ Venice made it clear at the beginning that “whatever the outcome of the debate, Venice in Peril will not be shutting up shop!”

The motion, ‘Enough Money Has Been Spent Saving Venice’ was proposed by Professor Sir David King and seconded by Professor John Kay who - unworthily in a debating chamber - preceded their arguments with statements more suited to the opposition in the form of declarations of love for Venice and their personal wish that it might be saved for future-kind… In consequence, their weakened advocacy was forced to rely on arguments that never really addressed the stated motion.

Sir David King maintained that attempts to save Venice were a waste of time and money since, unless the perils of global warming were addressed, Venice is inevitably doomed to sink beneath the waves - probably some time around the year 2060.

Professor Kay, on the other hand, argued that saving Venice was a fruitless exercise, since Venice suffered from outstandingly poor management and that, unless the keys to city were handed over to the Walt Disney Company to run it as the theme park that it already is, it will never survive.

Opposing the motion, Professor Joseph Rykwert pleaded the case for protecting Venice as a ‘living city’ rather than a tourist destination, a view endorsed by A N Wilson, who went to so far as to express the wish that the Italian government would BAN tourism in Venice - a curious argument since, no longer the Queen of the Adriatic, Venice is now solely dependent on the 50 million tourists who descend on the city every year for its financial survival.

The audience’s pre-debate vote showed 101 people to be in favour of the motion, with 347 against and 197 ‘don’t-knows’.

Following the debate, the voting figures shifted in that those undecided had dwindled to a mere 34 with 151 for the motion and 475 against.

Favourite quotes…

Wilson: “Think of a world without Venice where fragments of Tinteretto’s paintings from the Scuola Grande di San Rocco can only be seen in ‘Glory That WAS Venice’ exhibition, designed by Richard Rogers, in Treviso…”

Rykwert: “Buildings are to money what blotting paper is to ink - they absorb it incessantly!”

Unnamed Man-behind-me: “Well, I don’t give a monkey’s about Venice and if even one penny from British tax-payers is going to pay for it, then I say give it to the people of ‘ackney, ‘cos they really ain’t got enough ‘ousing…”

My own humble contribution, from the floor, was to point out that since we can now only speculate on just how wonderful the seven wonders of the ancient world once were, we simply HAVE to keep trying to save la Serenissima unless we want our descendents in some future millennium to refer to Venice as we now speak of, say, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon…

[Images: © Brian Sibley 2006]


Emerging from last evening's debate held at the Royal Geographical Society (‘Enough Money Has been Spent Saving Venice’) about which I may write anon, I took an idyllic saunter along the banks of the Serpentine in Kensington Gardens and watched swans preening against a fabulous painted sunset…

After two hours pondering the fate of the Serenissima - a city that I adore, but which teeters on the edge of survival with sinking land and rising waters - it was balm and bliss to walk for a while in the green heart of my own city - even though it is truly no more immune from the ravages of pollution and no more secure from the fall-out of global warming than Venice…

And the swans? Well they were an unexpected and joyful bonus and you never see those on the Grand Canal!

[Image: © Brian Sibley]

Monday, 12 June 2006


The dish was piled high with a vibrant tumbling of blackberries, raspberries and blueberries. Placing it on the garden table, Sophie picked up one particularly large, perfectly formed blackberry and looked at it appreciatively. “If you were God,” she observed, “how could you not be proud to have created something as perfect as this blackberry?”

Joined by the raspberries and blueberries (bravely refusing to be cowed by the adulation shown the blackberries), and accompanied by Strawberry Panna Cotta ice cream - also from God, but with the assistance of his disciples at Hagan Daz - it was the perfect ending to a perfect summer Sunday evening…

[Image: [Image: © David Weeks]

Sunday, 11 June 2006


The regular reader of this blog --- sorry, the WHAT? --- will notice it has been given a make-over... OK, well, basically, I just chose a new blogger template! This 'face-lift' - or is that too grand an expression? - is simply aimed at making it slightly easier to read since, at my age, print seems to be constantly getting smaller!

Oh, yes, and I’ve also started a NEW blog which will contain, as it’s title explains, Just Stories so they can be read without having to wade through all my other mental meanderings. All of which is more than enough effort for a day when the temperature in London is already 29º and rising…


The Crocodile was a child of nature. He lazed about in the sun on the banks of the Nile for quite a lot of the time and when he wasn’t basking, he was swimming around gobbling up hundreds of innocent little fish by the toothy jaw-full.

The Crocodile was happy and whilst the fish weren’t especially happy (although it all happened far too quickly for much in the way of philosophical reflection) everyone accepted that it was ‘nature’s way’: crocodiles ate fish; fish got eaten…

Then one day a Missionary came to call and, through the use of many texts of Holy Scripture and much passionate oratory, showed the Crocodile the error of his ways. So powerful a preacher was this Missionary that the Crocodile was quickly convicted of his fearful wickedness, after which - with many tears of contrition - he repented of his manifold sins and embraced the True Faith with every fibre in his scaly body.

Thereafter the Crocodile became a totally reformed individual and never again ate little fishes --- without, that is, offering up a devoutly fervent prayer for their tiny immortal souls!

© Brian Sibley 2006
[Image: Larvalbug]

Saturday, 10 June 2006


Latest from BBC News-online: "FULL-TIME: England defeat Paraguay 1-0 in their World Cup opener, but it was far from convincing from England."

Oh, dear, I thought it hadn't gone too brilliantly as there weren't excessive sounds of jubilation coming from the streets.

Changing the subject, then...

Returning to favourite literary meals (see one of yesterday’s blogs), my dear friend Michael (an American) e-mailed to say that he always liked reading about “the little meals of bread and cheese” that Dorothy enjoyed en route to the Emerald City in ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’.

But when it comes to toast - I mean BUTTERED toast - I can’t help feeling that this is a peculiarly English obsession.

I mean, when J Alfred Prufrock (in the poem by T S Eliot, another American) talks of “the taking of a toast and tea”, it sounds decidedly pale, thin and dry - and absolutely nothing like the buttery doorsteps so enjoyed by Mr Toad.

Whereas perhaps only an Englishman such as sometime Poet Laureate, John Betjeman (denied all those muffins and waffles enjoyed by Americans at breakfast), could talk about being "safe in a world of trains and buttered toast" with a passionate conviction that tells you just how substantially thick the toast (and the butter) need to be!

And even in the bizarre world of Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (also an Englishman) selects it as the final triumphant addition to the unorthodox ingredients of Alice’s ‘Drink Me’ bottle: “Alice ventured to taste it, and finding it very nice, (it had, in fact, a sort of mixed flavour of cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast,) she very soon finished it off…”

Mind you, like my antibiotics, that particular beverage did result in some rather unpleasant side effects!

[Image:Sir John Tenniel]


Shouldn't have mocked... By 4.00 a.m., I was developing several nice, by-the-book, penicillin side-effects: aching joints and muscles, swollen face, itching eyes, pins-and-needles; though not, to my great relief, the much to be abhorred 'black, hairy tongue…'

After a call to the emergency doctor, I was taken off the medication and have to go to a pharmacy in Brixton to which - it all sounds very unlikely - they will have a faxed a new prescription for a non-penicillin antibiotic...

Interesting, by the way, that 'antibiotic' was coined from the Greek words 'anti' (against) and 'bio' (life). Hmm, 'against life'? Not the most reassuring name to have come up with!

Friday, 9 June 2006


Just back from the doctors with antibiotic medication for cellulitis, a condition that is both painful and boring. However, according to the accompanying leaflets, the tablets (which come in a choice of colours) are ALSO used in treating chest and throat infections; infections of the mouth, gums and teeth; boils, abscesses and carbuncles; ulcers, eczema and acne; sinusitis, pharyngitis and tonsillitis as well as inflammation of the middle ear! So, as David helpfully suggested, they may well help cure a few other things besides the cellulitis - and maybe even some things I don’t even know I’ve got!

The list of potential side effects - vomiting, stomach pain, heartburn and diarrhoea - is predictable, but problematic since, as David again helpfully pointed out, how does one know if the diarrhoea is ‘side effect diarrhoea’ or just common-or-garden diarrhoea?

Anyway, all that pales into insignificance when compared with what, to me, is a completely new and very alarming possible side effect --- ‘BLACK HAIRY TONGUE’!

Excuse me; I’ve got to go take a look in the mirror….


I see we’re having the usual rubbishy British summer then…

Just compare some of today's temperatures around the world:

Los Angeles: 18°
Sydney : 19°
Mexico City : 20°
Venice : 21°
Athens : 22°
Istanbul : 23°
Lisbon : 24°
Bermuda : 25°
Tenerife : 26°
Casablanca : 27°
Tokyo : 28°


Well, need you ask?
Only what you'd expect..........
A miserable and totally unsatisfactory 29°!

[Image: Clipart Heaven]


In my book, the test of a good writer is his or her ability to write about food so that I can actually TASTE it!

Enid Blyton, for example, was constantly hauling out the picnic basket and dispensing the proverbial lashings of ginger beer and the books of Roald Dahl, Beatrix Potter, Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, A A Milne, J R R Tolkien and C S Lewis are FULL of nosh and noshing! And for ever book I mention, you could probably suggest a dozen more...

Of my many favourites, the one I savour the most is in Kenneth Grahame’s incomparable ‘The Wind in the Willows’.

I read it first - and in one day! - when I was nine years old. Grahame clearly loved his food and the book contains several substantial meals. But it is the simple snack that the Gaoler’s Daughter takes to the hapless Toad when he finds himself incarcerated in “a dank and noisome dungeon” that sets my taste buds dancing:

“She carried a tray, with a cup of fragrant tea steaming on it; and a plate piled high with very hot buttered toast, cut thick, very brown on both sides, with butter running through the holes in it in great golden drops, like honey from the honeycomb. The smell of that buttered toast simply talked to Toad, and with no uncertain voice; talked of warm kitchens, of breakfasts on bright frosty mornings, of cosy parlour firesides on winter evenings, when one’s ramble was over and slippered feet were propped on the fender; of the purring of contented cats and the twitter of sleepy canaries…”

Now, that’s how toast ought to be! If only Mr Russell Hobbs had read ‘The Wind in the Willows’…

[Illustration © Ernest H Shepard]

Thursday, 8 June 2006


It's OK, it was just a false alarm!

I’ve just noticed that two days have passed since the calendar read 6/6/06 and yet, despite the remake of ‘The Omen’ having opened (happily to dismal reviews) and dark media-rumours of rampant paranoia amongst expectant mothers not wishing to give birth on such a seemingly inauspicious date, there’s no actual sign that the Anti-Christ is now in our midst - apart, of course, from the usual suspects…

But what do I know? I’m just a cynic. Far better to consult an informed oracle and I commend (either because, if you’re a believer, you may find it helpful or because, if your not, it’s good to spend at least a few minutes each day wondering why-the-internet-is-full-of-such-scarily-strange things) a web-page entitled What about Barcodes and 666: The Mark of the Beast?

You that have ears to hear, listen for the sounds as the bar-code reader scans your bargain-value pack of toilet tissue... It is the call of the Beast: "Clickety-clickety-click..."


Scouring the internet for apartments in Venice, I have found some truly evocative property descriptions, such as “large leaving room, very lighty, with arc windows over the underneath canal.”

One of the best, however, is this advertisement that - were I not seriously allergic to cats - would be impossible to resist:

“Apartment Eva is an apartment in San Polo area, near the Church Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. Situated on the first floor, it is composed of a bedroom, kitchen, little bathroom and a terrace with a table and the chairs.

“This is an apartment where a young journalist Sabrina lives. She spends a lot of time out of her house and
sometimes rents her apartment for short stay.

“There is a cat named Eva, who lives in apartment. Sabrina picked her up and took care about her. And now, when she is away her friends take care about her, and when apartment is rented to some guest, they should devide apartment with Eva. In case you like cats she would be glad to share apartment with you.

“Eva is completely authonomouse. There will be the food for her, you should only give it to Eva.”

As opposed, presumably, to anyone else!

[The cat in the snap (by David) is not - as far as I am aware - ‘Eva’, but she is a genuine Venetian feline and is probably equally “authonomouse”!]