Thursday, 30 July 2009


Following on from my posting about holy manifestations in and on food I received the following communication from Brother Roger of the Church of Perpetual Nonsense:

Yes, indeed, brothers and sisters - oh, yeah! - I indeed photographed this picture of the Lord (or John Lennon or Osama Bin Liner) Hallelujah! on an olive tree in Skiathos last year...

Praise the Lord! Sheila [Brother Roger's wife] only turned her back for a minute and the water in my glass turned into Metaxas!

I'm saved, I'm saved!!

(OK, you have to "squint a bit" as Anthony Aloysius Hancock, the Boy from East Cheam would have said!)

Too late for jokes, Bro, the tree has already had a shrine built around it and is the subject of an annual pilgrimage!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009


At last (or, 'already', depending how you look at it) we have our first animated - as opposed to still life - peep into Tim Burton's Wonderland...

Well, it's certainly suitably Burtonesque, but it's probably just as well - all things considered - that Mr Dodgson is not still with us...

Sunday, 26 July 2009


Just overheard, on The Archers -- for overseas readers: BBC radio's long-running 'everyday story of country folk' -- a question one so rarely hears asked amongst city-dwellers...

"How are you getting on with the lama-wool blanket?"

But the Line-of-the-Week, has to be Lynda Snell's:

"It's been a bit of a while since I rounded up the members of the PCC and we got to grips with the graffiti on Susan Grundy's bench."

You know, it's another world out there in the country...

Saturday, 25 July 2009


There's a great anecdote about Sir John Gielgud who, on learning that the stage in Peter Brook's production of Oedipus Rex would be dominated by a 18-foot high golden phallus mounted on a plinth, asked: "Plinth Philip or Plinth Charles?"

That story came to mind when I first heard that the wonderful Anthony Gormley (see also here) had come up with a scheme for filling the fourth, vacant, plinth in Trafalgar Square (up-stage right of Horatio Nelson) with living statues twenty-four hours a day for 100 days.

The One & Other project has been running for several weeks now with a different member of the public on the plinth every hour, day and night, come rain or shine.

I tried to persuade David to put his name into the lottery so he could get up there and do an hour of magic but he was having none of it and, of course, it would have been a unique opportunity for a Buttons photo-shoot...

Anyway, there have been some interesting plinthians' (a coined word probably already destined to make it into the OED), though fewer actors, artists and musicians than I'd expected. There have been cricketers and conductors and people dressed as aliens and cartoon characters, someone organised a teddy bear's picnic and someone else drank tea out of a union jack mug while wearing a Danish t-shirt and playing Abba music! As I write this there's a guy who is not too successfully attempting to make a large inflatable hand by blowing up black bin liners...

However tempting it is to mock, at least they tried. Quite a lot of people, rather shamefully, have done nothing more than sit and read or make mobile telephone calls which activities are, frankly, at the bottom end of my creativity-appreciation schedule!

On Thursday - for the first time - someone was on the plinth whom we knew, so off we went up to Trafalgar Square to provide a little support in their, literally, making an exhibition of themselves.

Nelson and Sally II

SALLY, had a turquoise umbrella inscribed with messages of peace and good wishes and spent the hour turning it into a cross between a mobile and carousel by hanging up fluttering strings of beautiful white linen birds and leaves.

Each of the leaves was inscribed with the name of someone she knew who was in the square or, if she didn't know, them a description of what they looked like or were wearing.

Sally & doves

It was a particularly successful piece of plinthing, because it was visible from all points and because it developed both as an event and as a piece of creativity...

Sally's plinth-stint ran from 6 to 7 o'clock in the evening (she was, as it happened, the last plinther for several hours that day to plinth in the dry!) and I took advantage of the late afternoon sun to take some photographs of the famous fountains down below in the Square...

Fountain I

Fountain group X

Fountain group III

Fountain group (detail)

Fountain group VII

I absolutely loved Sally's plinthing, but, to be honest, I'm not sure whether I think Mr Gormley's plinthians are, for the most part, 'ART' - at least as we know it, Jim... However, they are most certainly part of a diverting and intriguing 'event' - a 'happening' - and, as such, are to be applauded for bringing a few smiles and thoughtful moments into our currently harried lives.

If you want to check out what the current plinthers are up to (and they will be at it until 14 October) you can visit SkyArts website with its live round-the-clock camera coverage.

(However, I'd give the next half-hour a miss if I were you as there's some young cove up there 'playing' the violin so badly as to make Jack Benny sound like Yasha Heifitz!)

Stormy sky

Going back to that production of Oedipus Rex, it's said that when, on the opening performance, the phallic set-piece was greeted by an astonished gasp from the audience, that deliciously wicked lady, Coral Browne, looked up from her programme and observed to her companion: "It's alright, dear, it's no one we know!"

Images: Brian Sibley, © 2009 uploaded via flickr

Wednesday, 22 July 2009


Anticipation and expectation are fearful masters of the imagination!

Let me explain...

I've always a had a passion for pyrotechnics: the elemental theatricality of fire fleetingly illuminating the darkness with dazzling explosions of light and colour is, for me, a kind of primitive, visceral magic.

When I was a child we were either too poor to afford fireworks or I was too poorly to go to other people's firework parties and so I invariably ended up watching them with my nose pressed wistfully against the windowpane. In later years there were other difficulties...

It was November 5th, bonfire night, almost twenty years ago, when I was still living at home. I had bought a box of fireworks and had invited a couple of our neighbours (of my parents vintage) along with David to join us for a drinks, nibbles and a modest back-garden firework display.

After two rockets, three Roman Candles, one Vesuvius and a Mine of Serpents, my mother - sometimes a bit of a tricky character, apt to put the damper on things for no apparent reason - suddenly decamped from the display area (the patch of lawn where the pond used to be) with the announcement: "Well, I think that's probably enough fireworks for this time of night."

Dad and the neighbours dutifully followed, leaving David and I writing rude words in the air with our sparklers! The rest of the neighbourhood, needless to say, went on whiz-banging away until well after midnight.

So, in flying off to Venice to see the fireworks at the annual Festa del Redentore (David's 60th birthday present to me), I was more than a tad apprehensive. As a would-be-Venetian, I'd read about, and seen impressive pictures of, the fireworks.

But would I, perhaps, be disappointed...?

Bad enough reaching at the age of sixty - seemingly without any warning - but to fly 1000 miles to celebrate the occasion with a damp squib would be intolerable...

Well, we arrived, and were welcomed by our good friends at Hotel Ala, who have been our Venice hosts for the last 12 of our 13 visits to the city, and then ate dinner al fresco (something we are never able to do during our December visits) at Ristorante da Raffaele with it's candle-lit, canal side setting...

The following day, we duly sampled the delights and curiosities of La Biennale di Venezia (the 53rd bi-annual international art exhibition - of which more in a later post); witnessed an amazing thunderstorm with hailstones the size of Trebor Soft Mints (but, obviously, a good deal harder!) fortunately from the dry perspective of the colonnade beneath the Procuratie Nuove that runs along the south side of St Mark's Square; and visited our favourite bar for a glass or two of Aperol.

In fact, everything was pretty agreeable with the one exception of David getting stabbed on the forehead by a malicious mosquito!

And so, at last, we came to the weekend - and the Festa...

The pontoon bridge, which I described in an earlier post, was erected across the Giudecca Canal from the Zattere on the main island to the very doorstep of Andrea Palladio's Chiesa del Santissimo Redentore.


Inside the church: candles...


Outside: balloons...




And plenty of cold drinks...

Keeping cool

Then, while we were having a spot of lunch in a nearby caffè, the proprietor excitedly pointed out of the window and said "Fires! Fires!"

Somewhat alarmed, I looked where he was pointing and saw the first of several barges laden with fireworks being towed by tugs up the Canal to the spot from which they would be fired later that night.

The excitement was, by now, very definitely building...

Operation fireworks
And so, you ask, what about those FIREWORKS?

We had dinner in the courtyard garden of one of our most frequented eating places in the City, Restaurant La Caravella ...

After dinner, along with other guests, we boarded a taxi from La Caravella's water gate and made our way out onto the Bacino San Marco, the open expanse of water at the end of Grand Canal.

The Basin was tightly jam-packed with thousands of crafts of every conceivable type: gondolas, motor boats, launches, barges, fishing boats, inflatables, even canoes, many of them decked out with branches of greenery and paper lanterns and crowded - probably way beyond the prescribed limits for health and safety - with partying Venetians.

There were also quite a lot of official boats - police, coastguards and fire brigade - rushing self-importantly back and forth with their uniformed personnel frantically blowing whistles and waving arms in attempt to direct the water traffic.

Then, at 11:45, a couple of maroons went off and the fireworks began!

Now I have seen some pretty impressive firework displays in my time - with the exception of the aborted event already mentioned! On the Thames, for example, marking the appointment of a new Lord Mayor of London; in the skies above the fairytale spires and turrets of Disneyland, Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris; on the closing night of the Edinburgh Festival with a waterfall of fire cascading down the castle walls and on the dangerously crowded streets of Braga in Portugal. But none of these pyrotechnic events remotely compared with the forty-five-minute long spectacle that eventually ensued...

Words, of course, are simply inadequate and in attempting to describe the experience one has to reach for metaphors and talk about sunbursts of radiant orange fire; blossomings of chrysanthemums, hydrangeas and peonies in the most vibrant hues; sparkling mosaics tossed into the air like handfuls of millefeuille; spiraling fountains of golden and silver coinage; swarms of blue fireflies scudding off in all directions into the darkness; clouds of livid green and hot chili smoke; and bombardments of pulsating, iridescent explosions that turned the waters of the lagoon blood red or ice blue and crashed and banged with such violence that the vibrations shuddered through our bodies while our nostrils were filled of the scent of cordite and ash settled on us like black snow.

Here are just a few seconds of a small part of the complete vista that filled the night sky during this extraordinary and emotionally exhausting exhibition...

And here are the closing minutes of the finale, building and building towards an orgasmic climax in which the sky was finely cross-hatched with layer upon layer of antique gold tracery...

When, at half-past midnight, the last closing maroon had ricocheted around the lagoon and the boats full of cheering, singing, celebrating Venetians (and us, fortunate, outsiders) began to steer their crafts homeward or off to the Lido to party the night away until the dawn, I settled back on the cushions in our water taxi with a very silly grin on my face and a tear or two in my eyes.

That's when David leaned over and whispered, "Well, I think that's probably enough fireworks for this time of night..."

Images: With the exception of the picture of La Caravella, all photographs and videos are by Brian Sibley and David Weeks, © 2009

Photographs uploaded by flickr where you'll find my album collection, Visions of Venice, featuring more portraits of this unforgettable city and its people.

Monday, 20 July 2009


I'll report on my 60th birthday expedition to Venice shortly, but first I must mark, with great respect, the passing of one of the finest communicators of the twentieth century...


Americans growing up in the 50s and 60s had a pair of honorary uncles: Uncle Walt and Uncle Walter: the first dominated popular entertainment, the other popular journalism.

Both men - Walt Disney and Walter Cronkite - became, through the new medium of television, household names, familiar faces, essentially part of the family...

As CBS 'anchor-man' (the first journo to be given that title), Cronkite chronicled some of the greatest events in the history of his nation and the world. In doing so, he earned the trust of the common man and demonstrated the importance of qualities that are, nowadays, all too rarely associated with the journalist's craft: humanity and integrity.

It's a measure of Walter Cronkite's stature that, despite being retired for several years, his name and reputation live on in the memory of everyone - in and out of America - who ever watched one of his broadcasts.

He was, after all, quite simply an icon: and that's the way it is...

Saturday, 18 July 2009


When you are reading this, we will be in our beloved Venice, partly to celebrate (or to try and forget) the arrival of the Big Six-O and - more importantly - to be there for what is one of the City's great annual festivals - Festa del Redentore.

Held on the third Saturday and Sunday of July, the Festa del Redentore began as a religious thanksgiving feast marking the end of the terrible plague of 1575-6, that killed 46,000 people - 25-30% of the city's population. Among those who died as the sickness swept through the narrow, huddled streets and waterways, was the great Venetian painter, Titian.

On 4 September 1576, the Senate decided that the Doge - Alvise Mocenigo II - should announce that the people of Venice would vow to erect a church dedicated to the Redentore (Redeemer), in return for help in ending the plague.

Andrea Palladio was commissioned to design a magnificent church on the waterfront of the Canale della Giudecca, one of the Venice islands.

Palladio's Redentore

Construction on the Chiesa Santissimo Redentore (Church of the Most Holy Redeemer) was begun in May 1577. After the foundation stone had been laid, a small temporary wooden church was built along with a temporary bridge erected on barges across the Canale, so that the Doge - by this time Sebastian Venier - could make a pilgrimage to the site.

Every year, on the anniversary of the end of the plague, a pontoon bridge is constructed and the same pilgrimage is made...

Click image to enlarge

Palladio's beautiful building - one of the finest examples of what is known as 'Palladian architecture' - was finally consecrated in 1592, twelve years after the death of its architect.

Tonight, as every year, the St Mark's Basin will be teeming with a variety of boats and craft as the people of Venice take to the water to await the traditional grand firework display that, for best part of an hour, will fill the skies with gorgeous eruptions of light and colour reflected in the mirror of the lagoon.

After the last rocket has soared, burst and died, the young people will make their way to the Lido to sit on the beach and await the sunrise over the Adriatic. Then the faithful will follow in the footsteps of Doge Venier and cross the pontoon bridge to make their religious devotions at this historic church.

As whenever we visit Venice, this will be another opportunity to, briefly, inhabit the pages of a this extraordinary living history book.

Salute at Sunset

Visit my flickr albums collection Visions of Venice, for more portraits of this unforgettable city and its people.

Some of those photographs will also be found on the website of of our Venice residence - Hotel Ala.

Other images: Paper sculpture of Palladio's Church of the Holy Redeemer by Ellen Rixford Studio for Gucci's Italian Geniuses series. The ghost of Andrea Palladio draws up the plans for his Venetian masterpiece, paper sculpture about 4 1/2' tall. Panorama by Roger Howard.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009


Wandering the length of Oxford Street on Monday looking for a copy of Bram Stoker's Dracula (I'll tell you why another time) I was shocked to find that my first port of call, Waterstones, was shut down and boarded up.

So, I soldiered on to the massive branch of Borders where, on the first floor, I was astonished to be confronted by a sign reading 'Classics' and yard upon yard of empty, yawning shelves.

"Excuse me," I asked at the Information desk, "where are classics now?"

"Gone!" came the reply.

"GONE?" I echoed idiotically.

"Yes," said the assistant gloomily, "we're closing down and the classics were the first to go!"

I imagined them, sadly and huffily, marching down the escalator and out the doors in author alphabetical order: Aesop leading and Zeno bring up the rear!


Tuesday, 14 July 2009


Good times and bum times, I've seen 'em all
And, my dear, I'm still here!
Plush velvet sometimes,
Sometimes just pretzels and beer,
But I'm here!

I've run the gamut, A to Z
Three cheers and dammit, C'est la vie!
I got through all of last year - and I'm here!
Lord knows, at least I was there, and I'm here!
Look who's here!
I'm still HERE!

- Stephen Sondheim Follies

Image: David Weeks © 2008

Sunday, 12 July 2009


On the last bank holiday weekend, the weather being glorious, we decided to go for a drive. Ideally, I'd have liked to go to the seaside - being a Cancerian, I always have the crab's desire to scuttle back to the sea - but knowing that the roads would be a town-to-coast traffic jam, we set off without any specific destination in mind.

Now, this not a first-choice type of excursion for someone who has never learned the - as our American cousins say - to 'hang loose', but as we were driving through Brenchley, near Tonbridge in Kent, I happened to spot a sign to Marle Place Gardens and we decided to stop by and take a look...

What a happy happenstance that was...


This surprising act of spontaneity (which, as I've indicated, is a quality in which I am sadly deficient) led to an idyllic afternoon wandering around, and photographing, one of the most satisfying gardens I've ever visited.

Marle Place has both formal and wild features, from the ordered serenity of the scented walled garden to the chaotic kaleidoscope of colour in the poppy garden...

Summer afternoon

What was obvious at every turn was that this place had been created and maintained by people who love gardening...

Now, personally speaking, I've always loved gardens - whether in country cottage or great parks - but I've absolutely never been one for getting involved in the actual grubby, back-aching business of gardening. As a kid I used to make a vague attempt to help my parents but - probably due to early intimations of gayness - simply hated getting my hands dirty! Also there were worms and slugs other slithery and creepy-crawly creatures...

I did once attempt to make a model garden in one of my Mum's soup tureens (the unfortunate results of which you can read about, along with an account of one of my favourite parks, here) but, for the most part - well, for the whole part, really - I'm absolutely content to admire and enjoy the down-to-earth labours of others...

Fiery feathers II

Still, I sometimes feel a twinge of guilt about my lack of green fingers (although from experience, as I say, I've always found the predominant colour to be black, rather than green!), especially whenever I read that wonderful patriotic ode to the joys of gardening by one of our great pop poets, Rudyard Kipling...

OUR ENGLAND is a garden that is full of stately views,
Of borders, beds and shrubberies and lawns and avenues,
With statues on the terraces and peacocks strutting by;
But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye.

For where the old thick laurels grow, along the thin red wall,
You will find the tool- and potting-sheds which are the heart of all;
The cold-frames and the hot-houses, the dungpits and the tanks:
The rollers, carts and drain-pipes, with the barrows and the planks.

And there you'll see the gardeners, the men and 'prentice boys
Told off to do as they are bid and do it without noise;
For, except when seeds are planted and we shout to scare the birds,
The Glory of the Garden it abideth not in words.

And some can pot begonias and some can bud a rose,
And some are hardly fit to trust with anything that grows;
But they can roll and trim the lawns and sift the sand and loam,
For the Glory of the Garden occupieth all who come.

Floxglove I

Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing: "Oh, how beautiful!" and sitting in the shade,
While better men than we go out and start their working lives
At grubbing weeds from gravel-paths with broken dinner-knives

There's not a pair of legs so thin, there's not a head so thick,
There's not a hand so weak and white, nor yet a heart so sick.
But it can find some needful job that's crying to be done,
For the Glory of the Garden glorifieth every one.

Then seek your job with thankfulness and work till further orders,
If it's only netting strawberries or killing slugs on borders;
And when your back stops aching and your hands begin to harden,
You will find yourself a partner in the Glory of the Garden.

Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees
That half a proper gardener's work is done upon his knees,
So when your work is finished, you can wash your hand and pray
For the Glory of the Garden, that it may not pass away!
And the Glory of the Garden it shall never pass away!

Three flames

My days of getting down on my knees are - with all due respect to God - gone with the wind, since, if I were to get down there, I'd quite simply never now get up again!

But I will go on glorying in the garden, acknowledging the craft and graft of all those gardeners whose work is truly never done and I'll continue to offer thanks and praise to whatever deity is responsible for the endless multiplicity of shapes, colours and fragrances that they contain...

Succulent I

You can see more of my and David's photos from Marle Place Gardens and other garden spots in my flickr album, Up the Garden Path.

And you can read buttons account of the trip here.

Thursday, 9 July 2009


I was kind-of 'tagged' by Sibley-blog-regular, SCB (alias Where there are Meadowlarks), with a meme based on the Alphabet.

So, here's my ABC - which stands, in case you wondered, for Autobiographically Blogged Confessional...

A Age: 59 --- for five more days only!

I will be, as the mathematicians amongst you will by now have deduced, 60 on 14 July.

In fact I've already received my application for my winter fuel allowance. Am I at all
depressed? Well, what do you think?

B Bed Size: Super King Size - and, even with all that room (as David will unhappily testify) I still take up more than my half!

C – Chore you hate: All chores! That's why they're called 'chores'! The clue's in the word!

D – Dog’s name: I've never owned a dog, probably because when I was a small boy, some friends of my parents had a poodle who mistook me for a tree (or, possibly, a lamppost) and peed up my leg!

Favourite fictional dogs (mostly - but not entirely - with Disney connections): Lady and the Tramp (and their canine companions), the One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Old Yeller, Greyfriars Bobby, Rin Tin Tin, Pluto,
Toto and, obviously, Snoopy...

E – Essential start your day: Tea, toast and marmalade.

F – Favourite color: The fact that I can't instantly name a favourite colour means I probably don't have one - other than black, of course, which is what I wear most of the time under the misbegotten belief that it makes me look slimmer.

G – Gold or Silver: I don't have much of either and rarely wear what I have. I occasionally wear the gold signet ring with a blood stone that my parents gave me when I was 21, a gold bracelet that I bought with birthday money when I was forty and a silver cross given to me, a few years ago, by our friends on Kalymnos.

Every now and again I wear my mother's wedding ring on a gold chain which was a birthday present from my friend Dave, twenty years ago.

And, of course, I constantly wear my
white and yellow gold partnership ring - which matches David's and came from Athens...

H – Height: 5′10.5″ I fervently believe I used to be taller but have, in keeping with my advancing years, now started to shrink - except, needless to say, around the waist!

I – Instruments you play(ed): The recorder, tambourine and triangle - at school and badly!

If the human voice counts, I sang as a Policeman (in a papier mache helmet and with a rubber truncheon) in a school production of Gilbert and Sullivan's
The Pirates of Penzance ("Tarantara, tarantara!") and almost sang the role of Captain Corcoran in G&S's H M S Pinafore - until the music mistress had a breakdown and never came back!

Many years later - I sang and (sort-of) danced in To Sea in a Sieve, a musical play based on the life and verses of Edward Lear (right) written with my composer friend, Dave Hewson, and performed with Polly March (playing everyone except Edward Lear, including Queen Victoria and a parrot!) at the Edinburgh Festival and then at the Westminster Theatre, London.

I also sang a bit - in a Rex Harrisonesque fashion - in a show entitled, England, Our England, compiled and presented with my friends Ms March and Tony Miall which opened the St James's Arts Centre in Malta. The description 'international singer', would, therefore, not be entirely unjustified!

J – Job title: 'Writer'. It used to 'Writer and Broadcaster', but since I hardly ever get to do the latter nowadays, it seems a bit presumptuous.

K – Kid(s): None. Though, happily, quite a few of my grown-up friends fall into this category!

L – Living arrangements: Flat but the word 'arrangement' really does not apply to the constant muddle in which we live!

M – Mom’s name: Doris. As a young woman she was very handsome and my first memories are of her looking very much like this...

My Mum

She died 10 years ago, but I still wish I could pick up the phone and talk with her...

N – Nicknames: At school I was 'Sibbers' (which I never liked but had to get used to) and, to a few people, 'Bri' (which I've always hated). More cruelly, I was 'Frog's-eyes' (because of their prominence) and, when I started wearing specs, inevitably, 'Four-eyes'.

Occasionally, people have jokingly called me 'Brain'! I
n fact, when I was born, my Mum misspelled my name thus in announcing my arrival to my paternal grandparents. Nowadays, it's only my magician friend, Fay Presto, who uses that moniker.

My mate, Dave (collaborator on the aforementioned Lear musical) used to call me 'Brisy' which was a bit camp - even for me - and, thankfully, never really caught on!

O – Overnight hospital stay other than birth: Major internal operation, aged 3 or 4, performed in the early hours of morning. Being in the days before parents were allowed to stay with their children in hospital, I was alone except for my white polar (teddy) bear, Brumas (see later under 'Z' for 'Zoo'), and was utterly terrified! I carry the physical and psychological scars to this day.

I had a duodenal ulcer, aged 21 (cured with several weeks of bed rest and a liquid diet - yuck!); and, rather more recently, a few heart-scares. Undoubtedly (and unfortunately) there's more to come...

P – Pet Peeve: Waiters (and other people in the so-called 'service industries') who tell me that something I've requested is "No problem!" Also most other debasements of the English Language!

Q – Quote from a movie: "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"

Advice from an Angel

Said by Clarence Oddbody the Angel (Henry Travers) to George Bailey (James Stewart) in Frank Capra's 1946 film, It's a Wonderful Life.


"If you can't say nuffin' nice, don't say nuffin' at all!"

"If you can't say nuffin' nice..."

Spoken by Thumper (quoting his father's advice) in Disney's 1941 animated feature,

– Right or left handed:
Right. Always thought it would be cool (and occasionally useful) to be ambidextrous but have never seriously tried and am terrified of breaking my right arm!

S – Sports: Er... No!!

T – Time you wake up: Depends how bad a night I've had. Usually around 7:00-7:30 am, but I'm frequently having a cuppa and doing correspondence, writing blogs and playing Bejewelled at 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning.

U Underwear: Have you read my blog?!

One thing I know: underwear advertising has certainly changed during my lifetime...

Er... Just a little...

Unloadin' it

V – Vegetable you dislike: Aubergine, which is a pity, because, uncooked, they look so beautiful.

That said, Irene Glinatsi at Artistico (in Emporios) serves them thinly sliced, battered and drizzled in Kalymnian honey. Sensational!

W – Ways you run late: Believing that David is really ready to go when he says he's ready to go! Believing I'm ready to go, when I've yet to locate my keys, watch, phone, credit card or brain...

X – X-rays you’ve had: Chest, hips, feet, knees and (using a long tube with a camera on the end) boomp-sa-daisy.

Y – Yummy food you make: Never cook these days, but I used to make a mean cottage pie and a rather good strawberry fool-type desert with semi-frozen Muller Light.

Z – Zoo favorite: I vividly remember my first visit to the London Zoo as a child (age 2 or 3) having a ride on an elephant and seeing the polar bear, Ivy and her cub, Brumas, who had been born four months after me in November 1949.

Ivy and Brumas

I was re-introduced to the zoo by a zoology-mad school chum and, a few years later, became a member of the Zoological Society of London going there at least two or three times a month.

I still love all zoos (if they're well run) and most of their inhabitants - except reptiles and insects. Particular favourites: bears and elephants (of which - quite rightly - there are now fewer or none in zoos),
giraffes, hippos (the one below lives in Amsterdam zoo), red pandas, otters, penguins and pelicans.

Bath time

So, that's it: ME from A to Zee!

Now, let's see...

I'll tag... Sharon M, Bitter Animator, Good Dog, Susan D-L, Diva of Deception, the blog-less Roger and/or Sheila (send your entry as a comment) and anyone else who fancies a challenge!

Quite a few of the images were uploaded via flickr.

Monday, 6 July 2009


Today is NATIONAL KISSING DAY - a bit inconvenient, being a Monday, but maybe it will bring a bit of unexpected enjoyment to your journeys to and from work or, indeed, at work...

Of course, there are kisses and kisses...

And, as I'm sure you know, they're not all Romeo-and-Julietesque...

Romeo and Juliet

Nevertheless, here are a few interesting facts about kissing...

The 'science' of kissing is called philematology

A one-minute kiss burns 26 calories!

The average person spends 20,160 minutes of their lifetime kissing,
which amounts to two whole weeks!

Some people say that when you smooch a person with
the same hair colour, it results in a more passionate kiss

Of course, our imaginings (and, perhaps, our expectations) of kissing have been heavily influenced by the movies, and film stars have been puckering-up pretty much from the start of the industry. In fact, the first-ever on-screen kiss was in one of the earliest films to be commercially shown.

The Kiss (also known as The May Irwin Kiss, The Rice-Irwin Kiss and The Widow Jones) is a 47-second-long piece of 1896 actuality, recreating a scene from the New York stage comedy, The Widow Jones, starring May Irwin and John Rice.

According to Edison film historian, C Musser, the actors staged their kiss for the camera at the request of the New York World newspaper. The resulting film (directed by William Heise for Thomas Edison) was the most popular Edison Vitascope film in 1896, whose catalogue advertised it thus:

"They get ready to kiss, begin to kiss, and kiss and kiss and kiss in a way that brings down the house every time."

However, the film scandalized kinetoscope-goers in some places where it was screened and in some cities it was greeted with outraged newspaper editorials and calls for police action from high-minded moralists. One appalled critic spluttered: "The spectacle of the prolonged pasturing on each other's lips was beastly enough in life size on the stage but magnified to gargantuan proportions and repeated three times over it is absolutely disgusting."

In 1999, this shocking piece of footage was deemed so "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress that it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

And, after all that, here's what's left of the original footage that caused all that fuss...

After that, the cinema got down to the serious business of snogging and here's a rather good montage of some (but, by no means, all) of the best of the screen kissers at work...

Since there wasn't so much as a single same-sex kiss in that reel, here's Jake and Heath (aka Jack and Ennis) getting to grips with a few manly kisses on (and off) Brokeback Mountain...

And two more, strangely overlooked, kisses that are among my favourite silver screen smackers, the first of which is one of the hottest (and wettest) clinches ever filmed: Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in the 1953 drama, From Here to Eternity...

"How did you plan the famous kiss scene?" I once asked the film's director, Fred Zinnemann. "Oh," he replied casually, "I asked Deborah and Burt to lie on the beach and we just waited for the tide to come in..."

And, finally, one of cutest cinema kisses: though it's scarcely more than a nuzzle of the muzzle, it's part of one of the most romantic - and, OK, kitchiest - love scenes in the movies. Yes, it's that dinner-date from Disney's 1955 animated feature, Lady and the Tramp...

Incidentally, that night of discreetly depicted canine bliss in the park is the reason why, in the film's final scene Lady and Tramp are seen as having been blessed with puppies!

Anyway, I hope you get a least one kiss today - even if it's from the dog!

Images: arty kisses by Auguste Rodin, Gustav Klimt and Frank Dicksee.