Saturday, 31 March 2007


It's the weekend and for those who fancy keeping in mental trim need while on their 'down time', here's a mean little brain-teaser for you...

Find a nine-letter English word from which you can remove ONE LETTER at a time and always leave another NEW WORD.

The letters can be removed from anywhere within the word, but the order of the remaining letters cannot be rearranged.


In between puzzling over that (or if it just gets too painful to think about) you can amuse yourself with this teaser. Then, when you've mastered it, cut it out, stick it onto a piece of cardboard (an old corn flakes box is particularly good) and carry it with you to impress your friends in the pub, office canteen, supermarket checkout queue, pre-school creche or STD clinic...

Meanwhile, two latecommers have, finally, joined in the Like & Dislikes Game - there are 10 of each from David Weeks beginning with the Letter 'M' ("Why with an M?" said Alice. "Why not?" said the March hare) and 5 of each (it was so long ago, she forgot the rules!) beginning with 'C' from the The Diva of Deception.

[Illustration (top left): Words are Sweet Sounds for Objects Unreal, a portrait of Jack Kerouac by Justin Simoni composed of the first page of text of Kerouac's On The Road.]

Friday, 30 March 2007


There was a Snail who was painfully shy and timid.

“You know what your trouble is,” said the Blackbird, “you’re far too insular and self-possessed, too reticent and retiring. You need to come out of your shell more.”

More?” said the Snail. “I’ve never come out of my shell!”

“You haven’t?” asked the Blackbird in mock-amazement. “My dear! What have you been doing?”

“No a lot,” replied the Snail feeling awkward and embarrassed.

“Well then,” the Blackbird enthused, “You really mustn’t delay any longer! You need to come out and enjoy a bit of freedom!”

“I’m not sure,” hesitated the Snail. “I certainly couldn’t do it with you watching… I'm far too shy and bashful…”

“I understand, of course,” replied the Blackbird, “but supposing I were to look away?”

“Then," said the Snail after some deliberation, "I guess I might be able to manage it.”

“Good!” said the Blackbird, turning around and savouring the prospect of the effort-free lunch that he would soon be enjoying. “Just let me know when you’re out...”

The moment the Blackbird’s back was turned, the Snail silently slithered away and hid herself amongst a pile of several dozen large stones.

“Are you ready yet?” asked the Blackbird but there was silence and when, at last, he turned around there was no sign of the Snail anywhere.

The next few minutes proved two things: that snails are much better off not coming out of their shells and that a blackbird’s beak bashed against several dozen large stones will eventually break.

© Brian Sibley 2007
Read more of my Likely Stories

Thursday, 29 March 2007


Some humour, however vintage, never really ages - for example: The Dairy of a Nobody and 1066 And All That...

And that was never more true than of a little book of "manners for the multitude" first published in 1907 and entitled NEVER - Never Complain, Never Explain, Never Do Anything Eccentric.

Written by Walter Emanuel, this amusing little pocket book has witty illustrations by the great cartoonist, illustrator and poster artist John ('Skegness is So Bracing') Hassall.

Among the pieces of useful etiquette are such indispensible pearls of wisdom as:

However dull a dinner-party may be, never produce a book from your pocket, prop it up against a candlestick, and begin reading it - even though this may lead to your never being asked to that house again.

If a fish-bone sticks in your throat at dinner, on no account make a fuss. Quietly ask for a cat. When she is brought to you, open your mouth as wide as possible, and let puss insert her head and body and she will soon fetch out the obstruction. Care should be taken to keep a firm hold of the hind legs, as the entire disappearance of the cat may lead to a fit of coughing and no gentleman draws attention to himself.

Be neighbourly. If a dead cat be discovered in your garden, throw it back over the wall. If you get a letter from the next-door people denying that the cat was theirs, write a polite note saying that they may keep it all the same.

Never wear motor-goggles when riding on a motor-bus. It is considerd pretentious.

Never draw attention to yourself. Especially if you are a pick-pocket.

If a lady drops her purse, not only pick it up, but return it to her.

And my personal favourite...

Do not omit to take a menu away with you. It may help the Coroner.

[Never is published in facsimile by Copper Beech Gift Books]

Wednesday, 28 March 2007


"Well", as Sam Gamgee says, "I'm back?"

I had intended to begin the first blog after Shutdown Day by asking whether any one else shut down and, if so, what did you do with all those extra hours reclaimed from computerdom?

But it all seems so long ago that it’s hardly worth the effort.

I must say, I hadn’t expected that titling a post ‘Blogging Off!’ would have turned out to be quite so prophetic…

But there I was in the small hours of Saturday morning with a violent stabbing pain in my chest and having great difficulty in breathing. Eventually the pain passed off but by Saturday morning when I had a tingling in my left hand and a feeling like a tight belt around my chest I decided to ring 999 (the emergency telephone number in the UK) and ask for help…

After that it was the ambulance trip hooked up to various machines followed by eight-and-a-half hours of examinations by A&E doctors and then medical-team doctors, ECG tests every hour or so, blood tests, chest x-rays and the eventually decision to keep me in for further observation and more tests…

The concern: was it a heart attack or, perhaps, a clot on the lung? More doctors, registrars and professors ordered injections of drugs and extractions of blood followed by a Doppler Scan and a CT Scan which involved inhaling radioactive air and being injected with radioactive gallium so that I now respond noisily to any Geiger counters I come across!

Then yesterday afternoon, after four days and three nights in Kings College Hospital (which is, I have to say, a really good place in which to be ill!) came the much-desired release and the return home knowing that I am pretty much positively OK - but with still some more tests and a referal to cardiac specialist at a future date.

I emerged from my hospitalisation with some benefits from the enforced rest (such as much lower blood-pressure) and a reinforced belief that the nursing profession are woefully underpaid for a demanding, exhausting and often messily unglamorous job.

Anyway, very many thanks for all the expressions of concern on and off the blog. And now, here we go again…

Monday, 26 March 2007


Was the final line of the previous blog but, 'the end?'

No! I think not.

When Brian decided to log-off for the day of the 'internet shut-down' he had intended to return the next day. . .

However, the logging-off has lasted rather longer than intended.

He has had to go into hospital for some tests; we await both the scans and the results of them, as I write this.

Apologies to all readers and visitors; normal service will be resumed ASAP.

pp. Brian Sibley

Friday, 23 March 2007


Remember, folks, no blog tomorrow, it's...

So, just to help you acclimatise and realise that you can do it - that you can actually go for 24 hours without using your computer - here is something you never ever expected to find on the world wide web...

Thursday, 22 March 2007


Hard to believe that there can be ANYTHING that you don't know about the funny and fragrant Qenny?

Then you'd best check out his blog-tag revelations!


Here's the Other Side of the new street sign that recently went up outside the church next door...

"Thou shalt love the Lord iPod with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might... for iPod is a jealous pod, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me..."

I'm so glad I took those photos when I did - the signs themselves have all been stolen!

Wednesday, 21 March 2007


Our local café curently has an exhibition of paintings by a multi-tasking, portmanteau-worker who describes herself as:

Childminder/Mobile Creche Provider/Artist

Since the going rate for most of the pictures is within the £60-90 price range, one cannot help but wonder what percentage actually goes to her mobile creche collaborators!

Tuesday, 20 March 2007


‘A NIGHT OF BLAZING SUSPENSE’ was how the posters billed one of my all-time favourite movies, the 1974 archetypal disaster movie, Towering Inferno.

My friend Irascible Ian was writing about this film the other day and commenting on the rivalry between Steve McQueen and Paul Newman which, reputedly, was eventually resolved when Newman’s lines were pared back to a word-count identical to McQueen's lines and which resulted in a piece of diplomatic poster design which gave Steve first-place credit while, at the same time, nudging Paul’s second-place billing a tad higher than Steve's!

Similarly when the film publicists came up with their original poster design for the 1963 mega-dollar blockbuster, Cleopatra, it featured only Elizabeth Taylor (she of the title) and Richard Burton (Mark Anthony) who were then reigning Queen and King of Hollywoodland.

Rex Harrison, however, who had the film's third lead as Julius Caesar insisted on getting in on the picture and so his likeness was rather uncomfortably added in, even though he ended up looking as if he were playing the Roman equivalent of gooseberry.

The first time I was aware of the importance of movie-poster billings was when as a young collector of Disneyana, I purchased an Exhibitor’s Campaign Book for the 1967 film The Jungle Book.

These elaborate publications were intended to help the cinema manager promote the movies on release with press-stories, publicity stunts (‘Run a fancy dress competitions at your local zoo…’) and lots of small-print stuff on posters and press ads. Scouring the latter, I discovered that specific type sizes were rigorously insisted upon (in % terms of the name ‘Walt Disney’ and the film title) and, in relation to the use of the name of the voice talents.

So, for example, George Sanders' name could only be featured as playing Shere Khan if Phil Harris (Baloo), Sebastian Cabot (Bagheera) and Louis Prima (King Louie) - all of whom preceded his name - were also mentioned.

Sometimes movie poster billings have been engineered so as to promote a film where the lead performer was not (yet) a star as with David Lean’s 1962 epic, Lawrence of Arabia where the names that were used to attract the punters were co-stars ALEC GUINNESS, ANTHONY QUINN, JACK HAWKINS, JOSÉ FERRER and (in slightly smaller type) ANTHONY QUAYLE, CLAUDE RAINS and ARTHUR KENNEDY before the words ‘Introducing PETER O’TOOLE as Lawrence and OMAR SHARIF as Ali’.

Similarly Peter Cushing got his own line and Alec Guinness was given an ‘and’ on the posters for Star Wars, being, at the time, the only bankable names on the bill. Additionally, Guinness famously picked up a highly profitable profit-share deal, which he subsequently had the bad taste to be vaguely rude about!

I’ve always intrigued by the use of ‘ands’ or ‘withs’ - sometimes accompanied by a nice little box to show off the name of a star who is turning in a cameo performance either because they have fallen on hard times or because they happen to be sleeping with the director.

It is said, for example, that Sondra Locke got what was arguably a disproportionately high billing (in relation to prominence of her role) on The Outlaw Josey Wales on account of being the current girl friend of the film’s star, Clint Eastwood.

Today, the solution to complex questions of who’s top dog (or bitch) is often bizarrely resolved by lining up names and faces in an eccentric - but perhaps contractually beneficial - order.

So, posters for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl showed the name ‘Johnny Depp’ over the face of Keira Knightley, ‘Geoffrey Rush’ over Orlando Bloom, Mr B over Mr D and Keira’s name over a mug-shot of Geoffrey Rush who was conveniently holding a skull to make the four faces up to five and give Johnny centre spot! Now that is tortuous!

There are numerous other examples and one suspects that, in the end, the detail probably matters more to those named than to the average cinemagoer.

After all, let’s not forget Spencer Tracy’s reply when asked why he was always billed above Katherine Hepburn in their films, when the etiquette of ‘ladies first’ was surely called for…

“Look,” he replied, “this is a movie, not a lifeboat!”

Monday, 19 March 2007



I know I'm going to regret this, but the picture below
does seem to be be crying out for a


Oh, well, off you go... but do try and keep it clean!

Sunday, 18 March 2007


An odd bit or serendipity…

Our local cinema is showing, concurrently, The Good GERMAN and The Good SHEPHERD,

The week after Crufts Dog Show, I was half hoping to find they were also screening a movie called The Good GERMAN SHEPHERD!

Now, that would have been something to blog about!

[Image: Hawaiian Dog Stuff from Dakinedog]

Saturday, 17 March 2007


What will you be doing this time next week? Saturday 24 March, 2007? If you're reading this, it's pretty much certain that you'll be on-line at your computer at some point or other during the day. Unless, that is, you decided to join in with SHUTDOWN DAY!

Consider the following statistic: in the region of ONE BILLION people have a computer and spend at least ONE HOUR A DAY on the internet which adds up to 372,609,004,374 HOURS EVERY YEAR.

So, here's the premise behind Shutdown Day:
It is obvious that people would find life extremely difficult without computers, maybe even impossible. If they disappeared for just one day, would we be able to cope?

Be a part of one of the biggest global experiments ever to take place on the internet. The idea behind the experiment is to find out how many people can go without a computer for one whole day, and what will happen if we all participate!

Shutdown your computer on this day and find out! Can you survive for 24 hours without your computer?
I'm going to give it try --- apart from anything else, it will save having to write a blog!

Friday, 16 March 2007


Yes, once again, it's...


What better way to start Comic Relief Day than with a few good laughs?

EVERYONE, it seems, is getting the red-nose habit - even Buttons!

Visit Button's blog for a special Red Nose Day Joke and another silly photo!

[If you want to add a Red Nose to YOUR photo (like mine, not Buttons!) you can do it on Comic Relief's Nose-ify Yourself page!]

Thursday, 15 March 2007


Did you know...
Short-term “jails” are planned for supermarkets and town centres to deal with yobs and shoplifters under Home Office proposals to ease the burden on police. Discussions have already started about building a “retail jail” inside the Selfridges store in Oxford Street, London.

Suspects would be held for up to four hours in a small room with a clear plastic front so they were visible to custody officers at all times during their detention.

Ministers are also proposing a huge expansion of police powers to take fingerprints, DNA and other samples from offenders and store them on national databases. People caught speeding, failing to wear a seat belt, allowing their dog to foul the footpath and dropping litter could be forced to give fingerprints or DNA to police for checking against other databases.
Winston Smith suggests you might care to read the full story...


Street lamps, house lights and neon signs; lights in stores and office blocks; floodlights at sporting venues and on historic buildings. If the entire world were in darkness at the same time this is how the villages, towns and cities of Planet Earth would light up the night sky.

This striking image (click to enlarge) comes courtesy of NASA and was created with data from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) Operational Linescan System (OLS).

Originally the OLS was designed in order to be able to view clouds by moonlight, but it is also used to map the locations of permanent lights on the Earth’s surface.

The earliest cities sprang up along coastlines and, across the millennia, their growth followed transportation networks of rivers, canals, roads and railways. Even if the underlying map were missing from this image, it would still be possible to trace the outlines of most of the world’s continents.

The interstate highways of the USA form an intersecting maze joining one city centre to another; while in Russia, the Trans-Siberian railroad is a brilliant dot-to-dot line that runs from Moscow through the centre of Asia to Vladivostok.

And yet there are still whole swathes of land where electricity has yet to shed any illumination: the Arctic and Antarctica; the jungles of Africa and South America; the forests of Canada and Russia; the towering mountain ranges of the Himalaya and the desert lands of Africa, Arabia, Australia, Mongolia, and the United States.

The result is a complex portrait of both the reach and the limit of man's presence on the blue planet...

You can read more about this photograph in a three-page NASA article Bright Lights Big City and download your own copy (it makes an impressive desktop picture) at Visible Earth.

[Image credits: Data courtesy Marc Imhoff of NASA GSFC and Christopher Elvidge of NOAA NGDC. Image by Craig Mayhew and Robert Simmon, NASA GSFC.]

Wednesday, 14 March 2007


A curious encounter...

Passing through the arches under London Bridge Station the other day, I noticed a beggar sitting by the wall with his upturned hat on the ground in front of him and a cardboard notice which read:



Maybe it was being currently broke that moved me to want to help ("There but for the grace of God, go I SOON!") but, for whatever reason, I felt driven to extend the hand of charity.

Noticing a stall selling a range of mouth-watering, nose-teasing, home-made pies, I decided that rather than throw money in his hat that might end up being spent on booze or drugs, I'd offer to buy him something to eat.

"Would you like a pie?" I asked.

Then came the totally unexpected response...

"No, thanks," he replied, "I've just eaten."

Oh, well, maybe he was already aquainted with Mrs Lovett's pies...

[Image: 'Simple Simon' from Mother Goose illustrated by W W Denslow]

Tuesday, 13 March 2007


Five tagged bloggers have blogged! Read their revelations here...


And, better late than never, here's Good Dog...

...and NOW --- the Diva of Deception!


A much-loved Venice landmark is under threat as the city's mayor pronounces death sentence on the Ponte dell Accademia...
During a press conference on Wednesday 7 March, Mayor Massimo Cacciari made an unexpected announcement. "It is my intention” he said, “to entirely rebuild the Accademia Bridge which, in my opinion, is a wooden piece of junk. The municipality is tired of spending millions of euros on its maintenance every few years."

To journalists’ questions about the cost of the project, the mayor replied that "money is the last of the problems because the world is full of architects who would design the new bridge for nothing and of sponsors who would back the project financially." For the record, the current wooden Accademia Bridge (one of the three bridges which cross the Grand Canal) has been provisional since 1932 when it replaced -- "temporarily" -- an iron bridge built in 1854.
I suppose in a city as old and as unchanging as Venice a bridge that is only 75 years old is probably considered too recent an interloper to merit saving, still there are those of us that will mourn its passing and a Venetian friend tells me that locals are up in arms having witnessed three years of bungled design and construction work on a planned fourth bridge intended to span the Grand Canal at the bus terminal, Piazalle Roma, but still not in place...

Anyway, a couple of words of advice to Signor Cacciari: firstly, if you build a new bridge, make sure it spans the view towards Santa Maria della Salute as elegantly as does the present bridge...

...and, secondly, when you pull down the old bridge, don't dump "the wooden piece of junk" --- sell it to the Americans, they'll look after it and they'll get a far better buy than when they bought the old London Bridge!

[Images: (top) David Weeks, (bottom) Sophie Walpole; both © 2006]

Monday, 12 March 2007


There’s a game of blog-tag going around and I got tagged by Brian Sibley…

Yes, yes, I know

But this is another Brian Sibley who lives in the USA.

The idea is that I have to reveal FIVE things about myself that no one (or most people) won’t know and then tag five other bloggers to carry on the game…

So, here are my five little-known Sibley facts.

I have…

1) Performed, solo, on the stage of the London Palladium…
My God, but it’s a big stage! By the time you’ve walked to the centre spot, you’ve aged six months!

2) Taken tea with Julie Andrews…
And she actually said: “Shall I be mother?”

3) Preached a sermon in the Chapel of Magdalene College, Cambridge…
Unfortunately I shocked the porter because I didn’t have any robes! “You’re a free-church minister then are you, sir?” he asked and when I told him I was a layman, he went very pale and almost fainted away!

4) Spent the night in Cannon Row Police Station...
All further details withheld!

5) Dubbed the voice of Christopher Lee as Saruman…
It was ONLY a TEMPORARY soundtrack mocked-up during the making of the extended cut of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, but if Mr Lee had ever found out he would have been seriously NOT amused!

That's five of my not-so-dark secrets revealed and I now tag the following bloggers:

David Weeks
Good Dog
Irascible Ian
Queen Anne's Revenge
Ridley Walker
Silly Billy

So, what FIVE things about you doesn't anyone know? Tell me if and when you blog details of your secret life and I'll post a link.

Meanwhile, regular readers who have the misfortune (or possibly the good luck) to be 'blogless' are welcome to use my blog as a confessional!

[Image: Children's Games by Pieter Brueghel (including touch-tag)]

Sunday, 11 March 2007


The word "veteran" has various connotations: a uniformed chest bristling with medals or, maybe, an old car pop-popping its way along the London to Brighton road. It is not, however, a word I have ever thought of in connection with myself - until this week, that is, when the accolade was applied to me by the…

I quote: ‘“It gleams and glistens on the screen,” veteran British broadcaster and Disney expert Brian Sibley said this weekend…’

The veteran (that is, I) was referring to Walt Disney’s animated classic Peter Pan, the restored print of which is shortly to be newly re-released on a 2-disc DVD.

As Buttons has already reported, I was engaged to help re-launch the screen career of the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up in the capacity of ‘Disney Historian’, but nobody said anything about needing to be a veteran!

Anyway, I had an interesting time preparing for the event refreshing my knowledge of J M Barrie and the genesis of Pan. I also discovered a fact overlooked by all the many biographies of Walt Disney that his decision to film Barrie's 'fairy play' was inspired by the youthful experience of having seen the original American Peter, Maude Adams (left), in a touring production which visited Disney’s boyhood home-town of Marceline, Missouri in 1914, and that not long after Walt had himself played Peter in a school production...

It only took getting on for forty years for his version of the story to reach the cinema screen; but then Disney was noted for his determination and persistence.

The event also meant that I got to work with Margaret Kerry (right), who at the age of nineteen had performed - in pantomime for the live-action camera - reference footage on which the animators based the curvaceous character and spritely movements of Tinker Bell; and my dear friend Kathryn Beaumont (left) who, as a 12 year-old living in Hollywood with an impeccable English accent, had been personally chosen by Disney first to speak and sing for the eponymous heroine of Alice in Wonderland and then to act as both the voice and the physical model for Wendy Darling in Peter Pan.

You can read a diverting account of the event (including all the things that I didn’t get to do such as taking a helicopter flight over London and clambering up inside Big Ben) as seen through the American eyes of Kit Bowen in the New York Post.

I am quoted as saying (amongst other things):

“The quintessential story, the message, remains the same: It’s important not to lose touch with the innocence and imagination of childhood and of being young. We ought to think it’s tragic that Peter doesn’t grow up. Peter, we would say, doesn’t lead a fulfilled life because he doesn’t become a full-grown human and have emotional interactions with people. But of course, what Barrie is saying is that Peter keeps the spirit of youth, the spirit of imagination alive…”

And since it has the ring of an unedited transcript of a verbatim recording, I guess I very probably did!

On the subject of Disney movies, the fourth edition of Walt’s People has just been published.

Edited by Didier Ghez and with cover-art featuring the brilliant caricatures of Pete Emslie, this latest volume in a highly-valuable, on-going archive of Disney history, contains interviews with several decades of Disney talents including the late Marc Davis, the animator responsible for Tinker Bell’s memeorable on-screen persona.

There also just happens to be an interview with me about the relationship between Walt Disney and P L Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins books, along with a lot of information about the unmade sequel, Mary Poppins Comes Back, for which I wrote the screenplay.

That was - good heavens! - TWENTY YEARS AGO! Blimey! I am a ruddy veteran!!

Saturday, 10 March 2007


The last of my regular readers to to express their likes and loathings is Ridley Walker who, in response to being given the letter 'L' shows himself to be seriously passionate about 'Life', 'Love' and 'Literature' and (for some reason) 'Lava Lamps'!

But Ridley really gets into his stride when inveighing against 'List Shows', 'Local Colour' and 'Lowest Common Denominators'.

Read the full lists on his News Sluice blogspot, which he imaginately describes as The blundering vomitorium of an unarmed wit - although, as you'll see, he's not entirely without weaponry!

[Letter L by Erte]


Commenting on yesterday's post recounting my dream about the Queen, Suzanne wondered what dreams are "trying to tell us", which put me in mind of another dream involving royalty that is dreamt in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-glass and What Alice Found There.

During Alice's encounter with Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the twins point out the Red King lying fast asleep...

...He had a tall red night-cap on, with a tassel, and he was lying crumpled up into a sort of untidy heap, and snoring loud-- "fit to snore his head off!" as Tweedledum remarked.

"I'm afraid he'll catch cold with lying on the damp grass," said Alice, who was a very thoughtful little girl.

"He's dreaming now," said Tweedledee: "and what do you think he's dreaming about?"

Alice said, "Nobody can guess that."

"Why, about you!" Tweedledee exclaimed, clapping his hands triumphantly. "And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you'd be?"

"Where I am now, of course," said Alice.

"Not you!" Tweedledee retorted contemptuously. "You'd be nowhere. Why, you're only a sort of thing in his dream!"

"If that there King was to wake," added Tweedledum, "you'd go out-- bang!--just like a candle!"

"I shouldn't!" Alice exclaimed indignantly. "Besides, if I'm only a sort of thing in his dream, what are you, I should like to know?"

"Ditto," said Tweedledum.

"Ditto, ditto," cried Tweedledee.

He shouted this so loud that Alice couldn't help saying "Hush! You'll be waking him, I'm afraid, if you make so much noise."

"Well, it's no use your talking about waking him," said Tweedledum, "when you're only one of the things in his dream..."
Every time I read this surreal description of the Red King's Dream I think how astonishing it is to find such a disturbing philosophical conundrum within the pages of a children's book.

I remember being decidedly bothered by this passage when I was young, but the closer I get to going out -- bang! -- like a candle, the more alarming it seems...

[Images: Sir John Tenniel]

Friday, 9 March 2007


Last night I had dinner with the Queen. Strictly speaking it was a pre-show supper, but it was lavish enough to have been a full-blown, top-notch, pukka dinner…

We were going on to attend a gala performance of something and since I don’t know what it was, I’d best come clean and say that this was in a DREAM!

There was a big screen in the corner of the room relaying images of the crowds gathering and the stars arriving. We were a select group: the Queen and I and two men who, at the time, I seemed to know very well, but who, I now realise, were total strangers!

The others were clearly involved with organising the event in some way and kept excusing themselves and dashing in and out, leaving HM and myself to keep each other company.

The Queen was dolled up in a sparkly evening gown and was wearing a tiara, but the most striking feature was her hair, which was swept up into a great wave of green and white stripes.

I admired the effect and the Queen said she was glad that I liked it as she felt it was an improvement on her usual hair-do. Then she turned slightly in order to show me that the hair at the back of head was raven black. “The trouble is,” she confided, “It’s started growing out, so I’m going to have to get it redone soon.”

We chatted on (some elements of the dream are crystal sharp, others hazy) and, apropos of nothing, the Queen asked if I had seen a list of the people she was going to have to meet. When I said that I hadn’t, she sighed in a slightly world-weary way and said with a smile: “Oh well, I expect they’ll show me one eventually…”

A butler was serving the food and, at one point when he had left the room, the Queen leaned forward and asked, sotto voce, if I had any money with which she might use for a tip. Unfortunately, I hadn’t so she handed me her purse and told me to have a look inside. “It’s no good my looking,” she said, “I haven’t got my specs.”

I rootled through the purse (which seemed to contain very little except a lipstick and large quantity of different-sized Band-aids) and eventually found a ten-pound note carefully folded to display the portrait of herself - though, oddly, without green and white hair.

I expressed some surprise, saying that I’d always heard that the Queen never carried any money.

“Oh, yes!” she replied, “I make it a rule to have a note of the realm handy at all times in case of emergences. In fact, I always say, I never go anywhere without ‘Ten ME’s’!”


If it had really been the Queen, she would have said: “In fact, I always say, I never go anywhere without ‘Ten ONE’s’!”

But that’s dreams for you…

[Image: Royal menu from Royal Insight Magazine; Ocean of Dreams by Josephine Wall]

Thursday, 8 March 2007


Another regular reader of this blog, Anne, belatedly asked me -- or, rather, asked Buttons -- for a letter to play the Likes & Dislikes game.

Buttons gave Anne the letter 'B' to play with and it turns out that, among other things, she likes 'Books', 'Bagels' and 'Bubble wrap' but isn't too keen on 'Bills', 'Bugs' and 'Brandy'!

Check out her full list at Queen Anne's Revenge.

By the way, it's been pointed out to me that on my personal list, David only managed to scrap onto my inventory of 'Likes' at number 10 and that it was a pretty mean of me to put my best chum and lover at the bottom of the list - even if he was preceded by 'bottoms' (in the form of 'derrières') and was even complimented on his own rear!

Well, I certainly didn't intend to give David the bum's rush, I just hadn't thought of the 1-10 numbering being a ranking order!

So, to put the matter straight (as it were) David is most defintely Number One and everything else (including derrières, his and others) are in any order there on down!!

Here he is giving Jack Sparrow a run for his dubloons!

[Images: Letter 'B' by Creations Unlimited; Long John Weeks by Brian Sibley!]

Wednesday, 7 March 2007


Monday evening in a nice little Italian restaurant in London where we eat every week with members of The Magic Circle, I had my much loved, world-travelled Tumi bag stolen…

How did it happen? I hung it on the back of my chair.. Yes, I know! An act of rank stupidity that I’ve cautioned so many others about…

But what is most disturbing is that it had to have been taken by someone who was dining at one of the nearby tables.

Lots of late night calls to police, credit card companies etc were a tiring addition to the distress of losing the bag and its contents.

Then, Tuesday morning comes a phone call from a chirpy young lady at Holloway Bus Garage in north London. “Have you lost anything?” she asked, presumably thinking that I had carelessly left my possessions on a bus.

“Well, I had a bag stolen last night,” I told her to which, in a rather more sober voice, she told me that she had it safe and sound in Lost Property…

A two-hour round trip to Holloway Road reunited me with my Tumi and, miraculously, some of the contents...

The thief’s choice of what to steal and what to dump is bizarre but interesting…


* Folding umbrella (It was raining)

* Oyster card (Stopped, so of no use)

* A rather nice, new pink silk tie (Stylish selection on the thief’s part!)

* Small bottle of Hermés Concentré D’Orange Verte eau de toilette (Excellent choice!)

* Nokia mobile phone (Old but still serviceable but, with the sim card stopped, no use to them or me)

* Canon ixus 5 mp digital camera (* Sigh * Sob!)

* Packet of Halter sugar free Apple bonbons (Well, they were sugar-free)

* Packet of Germoloid Tissues (Hurrah! At least the thief’s got piles!)


* Tumi bag (Worn, but still desirable)

* Ventolin inhalers (So the thief doesn't have asthma as well as piles; pity!)

* Oyster card folder (Thoughtful!)

* Leather credit-card wallet (A 50th birthday gift, so I’m glad to have that back)

* Entire contents of wallet: Membership cards to The Magic Circle, Equity and NUJ; PRESS card; NHS Pre-paid prescription card; Clapham Picture House and Dulwich Picture Gallery membership cards; Boots, W H Smith and Co-operative cards and a Steroid-users card.

* Silver, hallmarked pill box (Huh??)

* 3 credit cards (Doh!)

What was a Very Lucky Escape was that Buttons wasn’t along for the ride as he quite often is (see below); although he says that if he had been in the bag, then he would have Made a Loud Noise Enabling the Thief to be Apprehended!

Tuesday, 6 March 2007


"Distance has the same effect
on the mind as on the eye."

- Samuel Johnson

The photographer responsible for this wonderful picture is unknown to me (if you know, tell me and I'll give credit where credit is due), but if you like it, then you need to explore one of the great sites on the www.

The World Wide Panorama, is filled with the most amazing vistas of beautiful, bizarre, romantic, ordinary, extraordinary and unlikely places that can be viewed from every conceivable angle!

You can visit and re-visit and always find somewhere new on the globe to wonder at --- and there's no need for a passport or vaccinations, and no worries about reduced baggage allowances or increased APD!

So, off you go and BON VOYAGE!!

Monday, 5 March 2007


Every now and again YouTube justifies its normally dull and boring existence by bringing us a genuine gem.

One such rarity is Kiwi, a delicious little animated film by Dony Permedi, which runs for just 3 minutes 9 seconds but re-plays in the memory indefinitely...

Dony's Master's Thesis Animation, Kiwi was completed while he was at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. It brilliantly succeeds in achieving what Walt Disney used to refer to as "The Plausible Impossible" and, what's more, shows an imagination as inspired and unique as the heroic and determined vision of its central charcter.

Come! Let's fly...

I for one look forward to seeing more of Dony's work in the future; meanwhile, you can download Kiwi from Dony's Animation; and read more about the animator and the creation of Kiwi in an interview on Happy Junk.

Sunday, 4 March 2007


In the spirit of the Victorian parlour game, "I love my love with an A" (and all the succeeding letters of the alphabet), quite a few bloggers are currently making lists of their likes and dislikes using a letter given them at random by a fellow blogger...

Following my own list of ten Likings and Loathings beginning with the letter 'D', I was requested to pass out a few letters to friends; so I did and here's what came back...

I gave QENNY the letter 'R' and (on the plus side) he came up with such 'R's as 'Ribaldry', 'Razamatazz, 'Rainbows' and 'Roger' --- as in 'Jolly Roger' and pirates generally! You can read the full list on his blog posting The Letter R; although my friend Buttons was more than a little upset to find 'Rabbits' topping the list of dislikes - as well as very scary references to 'eating' and 'r*bb*t st*w'!!

Anyway... moving swiftly along, it gives me pleasure to publish the responses of two regular, blog-less, readers...

SCROOGE was given the letter 'H' and decided - in a fit of abstemiousness - to limit himself to five likes and four dislikes. Here they are...

SCROOGE's Likes...

Happy - I have to be happy; so much so that I do a poorly paid job to be happy at work. I'm scared of not being...

Homestead - a company that deal with people who can't do websites and help them to create one very easily! I have three but if there were more time, I'd do 103.

Heart - this rules my life. If I had any logic in my head I'd be more successful, but I insist on following this organ to the bitter end.

Hazel - the missus and the love of my life, without whom nothing would be possible. She puts up with all the stupidity I throw at her and somehow carries on.
Hope - that round the corner, something even better will come along. Talk about being greedy!

SCROOGE's Dislikes...

Hotmail - why does it take so long to load up and why do they allow people to offer me investment opportunities in Nigeria and fake Rolex watches so easily?

Hate - because I inevitably come out of it worse than the object of my detestation.

Harry Potter - which I've never quite grasped but which now seems to be hyped out of all proportion.

Hype - that thing you add to something that isn't very good to make people want it.

GILL went for the full ten likes and dislikes with her given letter, 'P' and here they are...

GILL's Likes...

Philip but I am not going to expand on this!

Primroses: Harbingers of spring, I love the delicate colour and the lift they give my spirits, especially when seen on railway cuttings in an otherwise dreary journey.

Poetry: From teenage romanticism [Rupert Brooke whose photograph lived under my pillow] to more recent appreciation of the wit of Wendy Cope.

People: I insist on finding the majority of people good and kind, and they are!

Peanut Buter: But only the crunchy kind!

Purple: Since I am heading rapidly for a disgraceful old age I am going to start wearing more purple.
Paper: Blank and beautiful and inviting great thoughts.

Pens: Any kind but especially fountain pens to go with paper above.

Paperbacks: Which let me read entertaining rubbish and suffer no guilt when I pass them on or throw them out [I couldn't do that to a hardback].

Presents! At Christmas and birthdays I am about 4 years old. I love getting presents, I love unwrapping them, the content is less important than the parcel!

GILL's Dislikes...

Pollyanna: The "glad game" always made me feel distinctly sick.

Pettiness: Of all kinds. It is small minded and small spirited and often represents some ghastly need for power or to win.

Parking: I do not have a car, but I have to cope with endless discussions between car owners about how they should be allowed to park absolutely anywhere with no regard to the pedestrian, how demonic traffic wardens are [aren't they just doing their jobs?], and in particular drivers who think it is OK to park across pavements even though this means wheelchairs and pushchairs have to use the road to get round them.

Parties: Love small gatherings where I can talk to people [and hear what they are saying] hate big noisy parties I always want to go home [and sometimes do].

Party politics: The system that takes well meaning dedicated people and turns them into mendacious self seeking monsters.

Prisons: Since I have to visit these in a profesional capacity I know they are dirty, soul destroying, violent, dangerous places The punishment is supposed to be loss of liberty, not loss of dignity and destruction of the soul. Am happy to discuss this with anyone who believes the tabloid "Holiday camp" mythology.

Picallilli: Why does anyone want to eat raw cauliflower dyed bright yellow and tasting of the worst kind of vinegar?

Paperwork: Of the beauracratic kind, symptomatic of a world of number - crunching and targets and used to exercise control.

"Phlying": Sorry, I know this is a cheat! But I don't understand how all that metal stays in the air. Can cope if I sit in an aisle seat with a good book and pretend I am on a train.

Piffle!: "Wallpaper" conversation, illogical argument, droning...... [yes, I confess, I do it too!].

[Images: Scribblaphy; Upper & Lower Case Magazine; Art Design and Sign; British Library]