Tuesday, 29 April 2008


Writing about Enchanted the other day with its pastiche of Disney classics such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty reminded me that if the Disney Studio's latest foray into faeryland might have caused Uncle Walt to raise a quizzical - even, possibly, a disapproving - eyebrow, then there are, hidden away in various nooks and crannies on the net, dozens of examples of subverted Disney imagery that would most certainly have the Boss of the Mouse Factory spinning in his grave...

For example the Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty may not actually have been sleeping at all - but merely been unavoidably tied up!

Or indulging some other extreme fantasy...

...which could explain why her gallant Prince Philip was off in search of a somewhat more gay life-style...

As for Maleficent, the villainess in Sleeping Beauty, and her equally bad sister the Wicked Queen in Snow White, they wouldn't have had time for evil spells being far too busy entering the local down-town Joan-Crawford-Look-Alike Contest...

While, clearly, Snow White and Cinderella were no better than they should have been...

...and Roger and Jessica Rabbit were busy putting the wonder back into wonderland...

The fact is, the Disney Family simply isn't quite how we remember it...

But then, the truth is...

Images: Bondage Sleeping Beauty, Sexy Snow White and Cutie Cinderella by Amy Mebberson
Prickly Sleeping Beauty by 'M'
Prince Philip by David Kawena
Maleficent and The Wicked Queen by Belldandies
Jessica-Alice and Roger W Rabbit by Briana Garcia
Addams-Disney Family by Nathan Lee James
'This Ain't No Disney' by Andre-Mark

Sunday, 27 April 2008


All My Greek Friends
and Friends of Greece

I'm sure you know, but if you don't - and have ever wondered - the reason why the Greek (and Russian) Orthodox Church celebrates Easter at a different time to most of us, is because it still calculates the date of the festival using the Julian Calendar, while the rest of us determine the date of Easter using the Gregorian calendar.

The Julian calendar was designed by the astronomer Sosigenes and introduced in 46 BC, by the emperor Julius Caesar. It was this calendar that, for the first time, divided the year into 365 days grouped into 12 months and with an extra (leap year) day added to February every four years.

A reform of the Julian calendar was first proposed by the Calabrian doctor, Aloysius Lilius, and decreed under a papal bull issued by Pope Gregory XIII - after whom it was named - on 24 February 1582.

There are lots of fascinating facts about these two calendars and how and why they were devised and the curious might care to check out Wikipedia's entries on the Julian and the Gregorian calendars while the exceptionally curious will find even more about both - as well as calendars used in Aztec, Bahia, Egyptian, Hebrew, Indian, Islamic and a other cultures - at Calendopedia: The Encyclopedia of Calendars!

It's all a reminder, I suppose, of both how arbitrary are our notions of the passage of time and, of course, how utterly fleeting it is...

One of the illusions of life is that the present hour is not the critical, decisive hour. Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. No man has learned anything rightly, until he knows that every day is Doomsday.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Oh, yes, and don't forget to check out Buttons' thoughts on the subject...

Image: The Church of St John the Baptist, Pothia, Kalymnos, Greece
© Brian Sibley 2006

Saturday, 26 April 2008


(23 May 1921 - 25 April 2008)
affectionately known as

"...And so, as the 4x4 of destiny on the level crossing of fate stalls in the path of the speeding freight train of doom, and the signalman of time rushes to fetch his camera..." it is time to say farewell to jazz legend, cartoonist (co-creator, with Wally Fawkes of the wonderful Flook), humorist and incomparable, irreplaceable, chairman of the BBC's "antidote to panel games", I'm Sorry I haven't a Clue...

If you don't know Humph (above centre, with Graeme Garden, Barry Cryer and Tim Booke-Taylor) or have never heard ISIHAC, then there's nothing I can say to convey the brilliance of his dry, deadpan humour and impeccable comic timing or what he meant to millions of listeners to the show... If you do... well, then you don't need me to tell you!

Last Tuesday, the Clue team were due to record the programme at the Pavilion Theatre in Bournemouth but the chairman - who had never signed a long-term contract for the show which began in 1972! - was indisposed. Rob Brydon took the chair and opened with a pre-recorded - and utterly characteristic - message from Lyttelton...

"I'm sorry I can't be with you today as I am in hospital --- I wish I'd thought of this sooner!"

To the very end he made us smile. Thanks for all the laughs, Humph, and the great music.

Here he is, with the Harlem Ramblers, playing 'If I Could Be With You'.

Poor Samantha, what will she do now she can no longer sit on Humph's left hand...?!

You'll find quite a few memorable lines from the wrinkled forehead of radio's greatest quiz show on Wikipedia's entry for I'm Sorry I haven't a Clue. And you can visit Humphrey Lyttelton's web-site and leave your thoughts on its 'Remember Humph' page.
As we journey through life, discarding baggage along the way, we should keep an iron grip, to the very end, on the capacity for silliness. It preserves the soul from dessication.
- Humph

Image (top): The Walter Hanlon Archive

Friday, 25 April 2008


I don't know what's happened, but fewer bloggers seem to be tagging one another with 'memes' these days, but then probably the daily - hourly - pressure of coping with the demands of Facebook and MySpace means that folk simply don't have the time any more!

Anyway, Qenny was tagged the other week and - I have to say, in a totally dissolute way - invited people to tag themselves in response.

So I have...

The rules of this particular 'meme' are as follows:
1. Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more.
2. Open it to page 123.
3. Write down the first 4 sentences.
4. Invite 5 friends to do the same.
Here then are my five sentences taken from page 123 of Somewhere a Band is Playing by Ray Bradbury:

She was a beautiful woman not to one man or two men but to every man who lived in the town of Green River, Illinois in that summer when the sound of the trees at night was like a great green sea moving on an endless shore of warm white sand.

She was the sun who moved among them by day. She was the moon that glided, moving the shadows aside, by night. Her face was snow, her hands snow, her dresses lemon and lilac.

Somewhere a Band is Playing by Ray Bradbury was first published by Gauntlet Press in 2007.

The extract is actually from one of Bradbury's early fragments out of which grew his novel Dandelion Wine, and because I love Bradbury's lyrical prose so much, I have to give you - simply as a bonus - the next few sentences...
Her hair was soft sun wheat. Her lips said apple, cherry, apricot and rose. Her eye spoke cool iliac in fresh rain. Early mornings you would see trails of footprints on her lawn and knew she had been out early walking somewhere. You hated to see the sun rise and draw off the dew, annihilating the paths forever.

The windows of her house were always up that summer and she sat before one and touched the piano keys with her white hands and the songs she played were songs every man carries in his head all his life...
The novella Somewhere a Band is Playing is also included (along with Bradbury's Leviathan '99) in the volume Now and Forever, published by William Morrow in 2007

Now I'd like to invite Boll Weavil, Diva of Deception, Gill, Good Dog and Lisah, to pick a book, look up page 123 and send me their five sentences.

And if anyone else wants to join in - well, please, feel free...

Now check out the Thoughts section below to see what pages got turned up...

Wednesday, 23 April 2008



Click to enlarge

I blogged about St George on this day last year and, if you're curious, it's maybe worth a look!

As for St George's Day, this was - from the early 15th century onwards - a major feast day in England, second only in importance to that of Christmas. Although no longer celebrated with the same fervour as in days of yore, there are those who'd like to see it revived and even made the subject of a public holiday.

If you fancy helping this process along, things you really ought to do today include wearing a red rose, flying the St George's Cross and singing 'Jerusalem'!

If you want know more about St George's Day in England (and in other parts of Europe where this generous saint has extended his patronage) you'll find a handy introduction here.

So, whatever DRAGONS you may have to engage with today, I wish you VICTORY!

Of course, as Buttons discovered, today is also the 444th birthday of William Shakespeare.

The photograph of St George in act of despatching the dragon is from a stained glass window in The Magic Barn, Massachusetts, USA, and was taken by Mandy Davis aka Diva of Deception. You'll find another of Mandy's photos from this curious location on my blog, Window Gazing: just one over 240 images in a gallery dedicated to looking at, into, or out of windows...

Image © Mandy Davis, 2008

UPDATE: 23 April 2008, 09.50 am

The Prime Minister has, apparently, suggested that all public buildings with two flagpoles should fly the English flag alongside the Union Jack.

And English Heritage have devoted a lot of its web-site to the celebration of England's National Day including countrywide events (although if you click on 'London' you get the rather pathetic result: "Sorry there are no St George’s Day events in London"), 'Dragon Trails' for the kids and a poll in which readers can vote for St George or the Dragon!

English Heritage have also commissioned an ode from the brilliant Brian Patten which re-tells the legend of St George with an eye to 21st century ecological thinking and concerns about the protection of endangered species - as well as with a couple tips of the literary cap to Keats and, naturally, Shakespeare:


St George was out walking
He met a dragon on a hill,
It was wise and wonderful
Too glorious to kill

It slept amongst the wild thyme
Where the oxlips and violets grow
Its skin was a luminous fire
That made the English landscape glow

Its tears were England’s crystal rivers
Its breath the mist on England’s moors
Its larder was England’s orchards,
Its house was without doors

St George was in awe of it
It was a thing apart
He hid the sleeping dragon
Inside every English heart

So on this day let’s celebrate
England’s valleys full of light,
The green fire of the landscape
Lakes shivering with delight

Let’s celebrate St George’s Day,
The dragon in repose;
The brilliant lark ascending,
The yew, the oak, the rose

Brian Patten

Tuesday, 22 April 2008


A post-script -- or Pooh Script, perhaps -- on the recent death of Charlton Heston: the actor Peter Dennis (right), an old mate of mine and a regular reader of this blog talked to the Los Angeles Times about his friendship with Heston, the actor's controversial defence of gun ownership and their mutual affection for ---- Winnie-the-Pooh.

The article is a reminder that most of the time, most of us know a lot less about people than we suppose...

Heston was undoubtedly capable of extreme reactionary attitudes that many found indefensible; so much so, that it became fashionable to make attacks on the man, even to the extent - as George Clooney shamefully did - of mocking his last illness: "Charlton Heston announced again today that he is suffering from Alzheimer's..."

However, in a typical case of long-term media memory-loss, it was conveniently forgotten that the man who was denounced for his intention of hanging on to his gun until it was wrested from his "cold, dead hands" had once castigated Time Warner for the release of an album by Ice-T featuring a song called 'Cop Killer' and, years before that, had walked shoulder-to-shoulder with Martin Luther King in the Washington civil rights march of 1963.

So, like most of us, Charlton Heston was a complex, often contradictory, person... But few of us knew - or would have ever believed - that Moses' nickname was 'Tigger'.

You can find out more about Peter Dennis and his superb recordings of the Winnie the Pooh books by visiting him at 'Pooh Corner'.



The Caption Competition results - eagerly awaited as ever - are now in! As you will see, the usual high standard of submissions was maintained - even surpassed - and I confess that, personally, I would have found it quite difficult to choose winner from a such a range of witty offerings.

Fortunately for me, the competition was judged - as anonymous entries - by SOPHIE, sometime owner of the cats in the picture, and I think it's probably fair to say that some of your entries have made her view her former feline friends in a rather different light!

Here are the entries that weren't placed, though each has its own very definite merits...

From GILL...
Black-and-White Cat: I don't care how much you protest, he looks very like the milkman to me!

Ginger Cat: It wasn't me! I NEVER fart in public!

Bruce & Wayne (through gritted whiskers): You know, last year ginger coats where all the rage - now they are just pussy.


I think that's, 'passé'.

(Pause - or paws)

Yes, passé pussy.

Ginger: Huh?
Ginger: Hey… HEY, you know that room… you know where the humans sit down; yeah, sit down on great big water bowl; you know, the one with the lid on it, and they refill the bowl with water when they stand up, and, you know……

WELL… that paper roll they have, you know, the one that's there for Labrador puppies to pull? You know, the one that's there for us to pat around…

WELL… Today, I did with it what the humans do with it… Yeeeeees sireee! I only used a bit of it, held it in my teeth and, you know - course you do…

WELL… guess what? Yes, YES, it's true! The cat food now tastes a whole lot different! Really, and it smells different too! You just got to try it………..

Mungo & Jerry: (Thinks): No comment.

From JOHN...
Yellow Cat (to white cat): Look at him, all alone, no friends, poor colin.

White Cat (to yellow cat): How many times do I have to tell you? It’s porcelain!

From LISAH...
Ginger Cat (to other two cats): So you've been told by the rabbit what life is going to be like, too - we're liable to be stuck down cracks in floors, amongst prickly leaves and may even be asked to model men's underwear!

Middle Cat: Maybe, on reflection, our previous existence was purrfect after all.

Cat on Right: I'm definitely not amewsed.

And so to the winners....

In Third Place from BOLL WEAVIL...
Black-and-white Cat to Orange Cat: No,we can't talk just now. We're taking part in the big Cat Freeze.You wouldn't understand dear, but it's ART.

In Joint-Second Place from GILL and DAVID WEEKS...

No eye contact, no eye contact; he'll only ask for money!
No eye contact!

And in FIRST PLACE (and, thus, a double-triumph) BOLL WEAVIL with...
Black-and-white Cat to Orange Cat: Just join us in posing.You only normally get on this site if you're wearing M&S underwear.

Congratulations to the winners, thanks to everyone for taking part and to Sophie for providing the cats and the judging - and here's to the next competition!


Belated apologies to Eudora for losing her caption entry which was...
White Cat: Shhh! Don't look at him! I told you, this is not as distinguished as Chelsea!

Sunday, 20 April 2008


It's funny but people of a certain class seem incapable of speaking at any volume lower than a loud-hailer. Maybe this is due to having to converse on a daily basis along the full length of baronial banqueting tables.

At any rate, the Duke and Duchess were the only other people sitting in our local restaurant and seemed totally unphased by the fact that - munching away on our penne pasta - we couldn't help but hear every word of their conversation as they went through the next six months of their social engagements with reference to a gold-crest-embossed diary.
"So, next week we've the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Abbey - we have the tickets for that, don't we..."

"And we're confirmed with the Dean for afterwards."

"Excellent! Then it's just two weeks until Moscow. Of course, it's only for four days, so we shouldn't have to take too much. Then we've a bit of a lull after that, yes?"

"Well there's Roberta's exhibition preview - which we simply have to go to..."

* Grunt *

"And Philip's book launch at the Royal Institute or the Royal Society of Arts or wherever it is - the invitation is on the mantelpiece..."

"Yes, I'm rather keen to go to that - quite a coup to be having it there, I think..."

"After that, we can take things a bit easier - at least until the Sherbourne Abbey Festival and Glyndebourne..."

"That's the Monteverdi, isn't it?"

"Yes, we opted for that rather than the Britten. And if you remember we have four tickets because we didn't get to The Pearl Fishers..."

"Who are we taking?"

"Well we thought about Lucinda and Tristram..."

"Yes. That would be good. Haven't seen them in ages and Lucinda would love it..."

"Except - I think they may be away surfing that weekend..."

"Well, let's check and see and if not maybe we can think of someone else..."
We were on the point of volunteering when the Duke, unwrapping one of the mini-lollipops that the management always deliver with the bill, announced with determination and finality...

"Well that's all very good... Then all that's left to do is deal with America..."
Which, undoubtedly, they will!

Friday, 18 April 2008


Once Upon a Time...

Well, only this week, actually, I finally caught up with a film on DVD that was one of last year's surprise hits: Enchanted, and I was... well... simply enchanted!

Giselle is a perfectly straightforward Disney girl... She lives in the animated world of Andalasia, doing what all such young ladies do: chatting with the local woodland creatures, singing songs in a trilling coloratura and dreaming of meeting Prince Right.

When handsome (but nicely dim) hunk, Prince Edward, happens to hear Giselle's dulcet tones wafting through the forest glades as he is galloping around on his big white charger, all ought to be set for a happily-ever-after ending, but it's not as easy as that...

Prince Edward has one of those liabilities commonly encountered in the realm of faery: the wicked Stepmother and the villainous Queen Narissa has no intention of allowing the couple to enjoy married bliss since that would unnecessarily impinge on her own royal status.

Disguised as a crone, the Queen tricks Giselle into taking a turn around the palace gardens in order to make a wish at the local wishing well. Once there, she gives Giselle the old heave-ho, shunting her through a magic portal into another fantastical world - modern day Manhattan.

Once in the 'real' world, Giselle (Amy Adams) takes on human - as opposed to animated - form, as do Prince Edward (James Marsden) when he sets out to rescue the girl of his dreams, Queen Narissa's loyal henchman, Nathanial (Timothy Spall) who is intent upon frustrating the rescue-attempt and Giselle's particular woodland chum, Pip the Chipmunk, who is doing his Disney-best to help...

Truly a maiden in distress, Giselle is aided by a divorce lawyer, Robert Philip (Patrick Dempsey) and his six-year old daughter, Morgan, who readily accepts that the somewhat kooky lady in the white ball gown might be the princess she claims to be...

There are complications arising as a result of Robert's pending engagement to his current girlfriend, Nancy, and the usual dangers associated with poisoned apples.

But things get really fiery when H M Queen Narissa (the magnificently nasty Susan Sarandon) eventually shows up in person and, as these ladies sometimes tend to do, transmogrifies into a huge, scaly, wing-beating, tail-lashing dragon.

Anyone who has ever seen Disney's classic fairy-tales Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty will recognize the numerous parallels and decode what is a lovingly and charmingly fabricated piece of pure homage.

Enchanted works on many levels. For those who accept the story just as it's told, it is a delightful fantasy and a piece of first-rate family entertainment; while out-and-out Disney-geeks will immediately identify the voice of Julie (Mary Poppins) Andrews as the film's storyteller and instantly spot the cameo-appearances by Paige O'Hara (Belle in Beauty and the Beast), Jodi Benson (Ariel in The Little Mermaid) and Judy Kuhn (Pocahontas).

Of course, only very sad people will notice - and understand why - the name of Robert's law firm is Churchill, Harline and Smith or why the TV soap opera, which is an important plot device and features the aforementioned Ms O'Hara, has characters called 'Angela', 'Jerry' and 'Ogden'...

And probably no one - other than me - will have realised why the TV reporter was named 'Mary Ilene Caselotti'...

Got it?



Well, if you understood that reference, then you get double--- No!--- Treble-bonus points; but then you wouldn't really need to watch Enchanted because you'd probably already be living in Disneyland!

Anyway, here's the trailer - though it is merely a glimpse of the full enchantment in store...

DON'T FORGET: TODAY is the closing date for submissions to the current CA(P)TION COM-PET-ITION

Thursday, 17 April 2008


My friend Tony was a habitué of Pound Stores and, when abroad, always kept a eye open for products with unlikely names or quirky examples of mis-translation...

Here's a bottle cap-remover (or decapsulador uña) purchased in Spain which, on the face of it, looks pretty ordinary...

However, Tony's reason for purchasing it becomes clear when you take a closer look at the English translation for decapsulador uña...

And, talking of cats, don't forget there's only one more day before the closing date for entries to the current...

Tuesday, 15 April 2008


The name of Oliver Martin Johnston Jr may not instantly ring a bell, but for cartoon buffs it is one of the revered names in the annals of animation. Oliver 'Ollie' Johnston, who died yesterday at the age of 95, was one of the great Disney animators whose artistry-in-motion contributed to what is often - and rightly - referred to as 'The Golden Age of Animation'.

Ollie was the last survivor of a group known as 'The Nine Old Men': a phrase coined by Walt Disney to describe some of his most trusted and long-serving artists. It was a jesting reference to Franklin D Roosevelt's description of the nine judges of the US Supreme Court - although, at the time Disney gave the group that moniker, they were still only in their thirties and forties.

Yet they grew into their title, becoming the masters of the craft of bringing inanimate drawings to life and, in process, raising a once-crude, knock-about entertainment into a true 20th century art form.

Ollie and the others - each a legendary talent in his own right - contributed to all of Disney's classic animated features beginning with the first, groundbreaking venture that, in 1937, took the world by storm, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Forty years later, several of them were still making Disney magic long after magician himself was gone in films such as The Aristocats, Robin Hood and The Rescuers.

Among the films on which Ollie worked were Pinocchio (he animated the scene where Pinocchio's nose grows and grows as tells the Blue Fairy bigger and bigger fibs) and Bambi to which he contributed a couple of memorable sequences: one was that moment of brilliantly-observed child observation when, prompted by his mother, Thumper the rabbit recites his lesson about the importance of eating clover greens - "Eating greens is a special treat, It makes long ears and great big feet. But it sure is awful stuff to eat." I made that last part up myself!; the other is the scene in which when the young deer watches his father, the Great Prince of the Forest, pass by him on the Meadow and acknowledge their kinship...

Ollie's animation helped give life to Alice on her perpetually puzzling wanderings through Wonderland, the fumbling-bumbling Mr Smee in Peter Pan, the three good fairies - Flora, Fauna and Merriweather - in Sleeping Beauty, Pongo and Perdita in 101 Dalmatians and Mowgli and Baloo in The Jungle Book; not to mention the troupe of penguin-waiters who serve Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke on their 'Jolly Holiday' romp in Mary Poppins.

One of Ollie's last creations was Rufus, the orphanage cat (right), in The Rescuers who with his moustache and glasses bore an uncanny resemblance to his creator!

Ollie was a humble, modest man - respected by his peers and loved and animators and admirers of animation - and if I were to single out a specific characteristic to describe his talents, it would be that he gave his creations humanity. He was able to capture - in that most elusive medium, the moving drawing - joy and sadness, loneliness and grief and, above all, vulnerability. He had an actor's understanding of character and made us care about people and animals that existed only as pencil lines on paper and evoked emotions that moved us to laughter and tears with nothing more than ink and paint on celluloid.

Many of Ollie's finest assignments were made in collaboration with his close friend and fellow animator (and another of the 'Nine'), Frank Thomas. 'Frank and Ollie', as they were always known, shared their passion for the art of animation as well as much of their lives - living in adjacent houses with their respective wives, Marie and Jeanette: a lovable quartet, whose company - for those of us privileged to know them - was always a delight.

We met in the UK whenever they visited this side of the pond and at one or other of their Flintridge homes whenever I was in LA. They talked Disney and animation for my colleague, Richard Hollis, and myself when we were researching our books about the Disney studio, Mickey Mouse and Snow White and they enthused endlessly about the same subjects when I got the opportunity to interview them at London's National Film Theatre and (on several occasions) for various BBC radio programmes.

Then, of course, there were other times when we just talked!

Their annual Christmas cards always arrived within a day or two of one another's (they could sensible have shared an envelope and saved the postage!) and their seasonal greetings - often embellished with personal caricatures - always sat side by side on the same bookshelf or mantelpiece...

Today, I'm wearing a Mickey Mouse paisley tie they once gave me - just because it seems like a nice way to remember them...

After their retirement from the Disney studio in 1978, Ollie and Frank co-authored four books: Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life - the veritable 'Bible' on Disney animation techniques - Too Funny for Words, Walt Disney's Bambi: The Story and the Film and The Disney Villain.

These books - a mine of fascinating reading for the Disney-fan, an indispensable handbook for the artist - were as much a part of their legacy as the films to which they (and their seven celebrated colleagues, Les Clark, Marc Davis, Ward Kimball, Milt Kahl, Eric Larson, John Lounsbery and Wolfgang Reitherman) contributed: a way of passing on their hard-earned knowledge and skills to inspire new generations of animators.

The Johnston-Thomas partnership was also the subject of a lovingly-crafted documentary film, Frank and Ollie, made in 1995 that provided a brilliant insight into Disney's Golden Age, the art and craft of animation, and the personal lives of these two great men - including Ollie's long and passionate love-affair with steam locomotion that led him to build a 1" scale backyard railway with 1/12th scale engines.

It was a project that would, in turn, inspire his boss, Walt Disney, to embark on a similar venture and which, thus, led to the creation of the Disneyland Railroad which carried visitor around the perimeter of the famous theme-park.

Frank and Ollie remains a touching memorial to their individual and collective talents and their friendship, but they also became the subject of various film homages: immortalised as 'Dr Frankenollie' by animation director, Chris Bailey, in the 1995 Mickey Mouse short, Runaway Brain; and, later, by Pixar director Brad Bird, who included digital caricatures of the duo in the closing sequences of his film The Incredibles - for which, naturally, they provided their own voices!

Frank Thomas died in 2004, aged 92, and Ollie's wife, Marie, died the following year. Bereft of his two lifetime companions, Ollie soldiered on and, as the final survivor of Walt's core creative team, was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bush in November 2005.

It is impossible not to see Ollie's death as the final passing of a epoch in popular art and cinema the like of which we will probably never see again...

Speaking of the characters he had brought to life, Ollie once said: "They were all good friends, whom I remember fondly."

Perhaps that is why we also remember them so fondly...

31 October 1912 - 14 April 2008

Monday, 14 April 2008


Our friend Sophie was having a bit of a clear out the other week, prior to major building work being undertaken on her house.

In the process of the purge, various knick-knacks and gee-gaws that had entered the category of 'clutter' were being tossed into the waiting maw of a Black Rubbish Sack. And among the casualties were three little kittens! True, they were made of wood, but even so... It was just too inhuman to contemplate. So, obviously, I was forced to save them and give them shelter.

So, here they are, sitting on the fence, and inviting you to enter our latest...


Send us your ideas of Which Cat is saying What to Who? Deadline for entries: Friday 18th April.

Usual Terms and conditions apply!

Saturday, 12 April 2008


As a teenager in the 'sixties, I remember the era of 'happenings' and I'm really glad that, forty years on, groups of people are still getting together to stage eccentric events that make people stop, look, smile, laugh, tut, curse and shake their heads...

This particular experiment in mass improvisation is something more: it is a piece of theatre, a momentary work of art, pure poetry in motion --- or, rather, absence of motion...

Thursday, 10 April 2008


Google sent me a note the other day telling me that I was in bad odor...

As it turned out, it wasn't me, but yet another of my several doppelgängers around the world...

Foul smell will cease, Sibley says

Company begins phasing out chemical that causes stench

BELLINGHAM — The odor that has disturbed Roosevelt and Sunnyland residents should abate by early next week, now that Brooks Manufacturing Co. has agreed to phase out use of an offending chemical...

Brooks spokesman Brian Sibley said the company expects to make the switch by Monday, acting on its own initiative. "We have identified a solvent," Sibley said, "that we believe will accomplish the same task with substantially less odor." The odor came from one of the ingredients - aliphatic esters.

The esters are part of a mix of chemicals that Brooks uses to treat lumber at its plant at 2120 Pacific St.
Sibley said the change in the process won’t disrupt production. "We’re very committed to solving this problem and to continue to be a good neighbor," Sibley said.
After reading that, my life seems positively fragrant!

Tuesday, 8 April 2008


One of the joys of living in South London is being surrounded - immersed - in cultural diversity. For example, there can't be many parts of the UK where it is possible to buy...

...a RASTAFARIAN broom!

Incidentally, the significance of the Rastafarian colours are as follows:

RED symbolizes the blood of those killed for the cause of the black community, throughout Jamaican history

GREEN represents Jamaica's vegetation and hope for the eradication of suppression

GOLD signifies the wealth of Ethiopia

BLACK is often added to denote the colour of the Africans who initiated Rastafari

Sunday, 6 April 2008


I have just spent three days in hospital in a ward where it was hotter than a Swedish sauna - though, obviously, without the sex! Radiators too scalding to touch were pumping heat into a room that throbbed like the core of nuclear reactor and with the windows pushed open to the maximum-allowed aperture of two inches in a vain attempt to let some of it out into the already overburdened atmosphere.

Now, I'm back home in our refreshingly uncentrally-heated flat and - guess what? - outside its snowing a blizzard!

The world is truly losing its grip! And to make matters worse - very bad news for a Sunday morning, this - I have to tell you---

GOD is DEAD...

...or, at least, His Official Spokesman is silenced




Of course, Charlton ('Chuck') Heston didn't just represent God, he was also the quintessential Hollywood representation of what it means to be an American.

As PAULINE KAEL, the legendary film critic of The New Yorker once wrote: "With his perfect, lean-hipped, powerful body, Heston is a god-like hero; built for strength, he is an archetype of what makes Americans win. He represents American power - and he has the profile of an eagle."

Read the obituary in today's L A Times

Saturday, 5 April 2008


I intend to make none of my usual half-hearted apologies for today's post, since I am (a) bringing information of vital importance to my readers, and (b) quoting that widely-read and much-respected journal...

have been looking into pants following the uncovering of that brief complaint by TV's Jeremy Paxman.

What's come out in the wash is that tests uphold M&S, but (or butt) do nothing to support the reputation of Calvin Klein whose pants are four times as expensive as Marks & Sparks and yet, apparently, are, well, pants!

In case it slipped by you, here's the low-down...

M&S pants top our briefs encounter
But Calvin Klein bottom in Which? test

has rigorously tested some of the UK’s most popular men's underwear following TV presenter Jeremy Paxman’s much publicised gripe over Marks & Spencer (M&S) pants. The Newsnight host hit the headlines when he complained that M&S pants no longer provided ‘adequate support’. So Which? decided to pitch M&S against Tesco, Asda and designer brand Calvin Klein. We found that Calvin Klein’s Body trunks came out badly for pilling (bobbling), despite costing £20 a pair - while Asda’s, costing £1.75, were the least susceptible to this.

Fading and shrinking

Our scientists washed and tumble-dried the pants to see whether they kept their shape and colour. M&S pants, at £5 a pair, kept their colour the best after ten washes while Asda’s and Calvin Klein’s faded the most. The M&S trunks didn’t shrink too badly, but Calvin Klein’s shrank a lot in parts – particularly in the leg. However, Calvin Klein might pass the Paxman test for ‘gusset anxiety’, as the Tesco and Asda gussets shrank the most.

Gusset anxiety

Overall, Calvin Klein was ranked lowest, while M&S came out top. Despite this, an industry insider, told us: 'There’s a trend across industry for cheaper cotton, so I can understand how Jeremy feels.’

It's obvious from these findings why CK have to employ so many skimpily-clad models (see gratuitous illustration below) in order to sell their fast-fade, quick-shrink skivies...

I suppose this is one way of getting people with a horror of heights to take a turn on the London Eye, but what really intrigues me is just how this photo was taken...

I mean, did the ten lads queue up to buy their tickets dressed (or undressed) like this, or is there a great pile of jeans, t-shirts, socks and shoes on the other side of the pod? And were they already kitted out with their CKs before getting on the Eye or did they have to change out of their M&S knickers on the way up?

And, supposing the photograph was taken when the wheel was at the height of its revolution - and bearing in mind how long photographers always take - did they have to rehearse much to find out how long it would take getting it off and getting it on again?

Not only that, but how many people are actually in that pod? Well, obviously the ten models and the photographer (with lights and reflectors), but who else? CK's brand manager? The advertising agency's account manager? The artistic director? Plus, of course, assistants to all the aforementioned, wardrobe, hair and make-up and, doubtless, London Eye security staff...

I'm not sure that we haven't exposed some serious health and safety issues here...

Wednesday, 2 April 2008


Pointless trying to pull the wool over your eyes! Yes, yesterday was April 1st and - as you obviously all guessed - my story about seeing that 'falling boy' was nothing more than an All Fools Day hoax...

The photograph was, in fact, an odd angled snap of part of the sculpture known as 'Boy with a Dolphin' by the artist David Wynne, which - as Gill said - can be seen, just north of Albert Bridge, on Chelsea Embankment.

Here's what it looks like from a couple of different viewpoints...

Hopefully, you weren't taken in by any April Foolery yesterday, but if you were, then take comfort from - and enjoy some of - the wittiest and cheekiest pranks to be perpetrated on the 1st of April as selected by one of my favourite web-sites...

Here you will find no fewer than 100 All Fool's Day pranks and hoaxes, including such gems as whistling carrots that let you know when they are cooked, the Sydney Harbour Iceberg, Instant Colour Television, the Islands of San Serriffe, and plans for the M25 to become a one-way street, Big Ben to have a digital read-out and the relocation of the Eiffel Tower in what was then called EuroDisneyland.

But the Number 1, top-ranking April Fool Hoax was, apparently, BBC TV's celebrated Panorama programme report on The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest of 1957...

Read the full story of this brilliant, legendary spoof in this Museum of Hoaxes' article.

And view the other 99 fooleries on the Museum's collection of The Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes of All Time.

There's more here about The Museum and its curator Alex Boese.

And here are some of Alex's best-selling books on Hoaxes, Scams and Cons...

Mark Twain on All Fool's Day...

"This is the day upon which we are reminded of what
we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four."

- Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar

Tuesday, 1 April 2008


Wherever I go, nowadays, I carry my camera - just in case a photo opportunity arises that I would, for ever afterwards, be kicking myself for having missed.

For example, the other month, I saw a man waiting at the bus stop at the end of our road with a life-size stuffed toy tiger over his shoulders and I didn't have my camera. I dashed back home, grabbed the Panasonic and hurried back down the road, but the bus had obviously arrived and the hunter and his prey were nowhere to be seen.

So, now I have my camera at the ready and just the other day got an astonishing shot of an extraordinary scene that, bizarrely, I have not seen reported anywhere in the media.

I accept that what I am about to tell you, strains somewhat at credulity but walking down a deserted London street on a dark, stormy afternoon in London I glanced up suddenly and saw a naked youth in mid-air, looking as if he had leaped from one of the windows of the nearby building.

Admittedly the camera angle is skewed and the shot is extremely underexposed, but you will, at least, get a strong sense of what I saw.

What was so remarkable - miraculous even - was that despite having seemingly fallen in this dramatic way, the youth was quite unhurt and seemed less concerned by the experience than I was as an observer.

Being the only person around at the time, as soon as I had recovered from my shock, I made an attempt to speak with the young man, but he repeatedly declined to reply to my various questions. So, in default of discovering anything further on the subject, I am left with nothing other than an extraordinary photograph of an amazingly bizarre occurrence.

But it has, at least, confirmed me in my habit of carrying my camera at all times.