Tuesday, 28 January 2014


Deadlines are closing in on me on a couple of projects and having lost virtually a fortnight through preparing to speak at and attending two funerals and a memorial service (I shall shortly be inviting investments in my latest company venture – Eulogies R Us!) there's been little time for blogging...

So, with profound apologies, this is by way of a being a kind of make-weight lifted from a recently-uncovered copy of a Writer's Notebook that I started with confidence 22 yers ago but never got beyond page 4!

In 1992, I appeared on a Radio 4 literary panel game entitled Slightly Foxed and the participants were asked to write various pieces about themselves in different poetic forms.

There was a limerick and mine went:

Sibley's better-known radio plays
Featured hobbits and Elves and their ways
Some listeners liked Tolkien
Some found it revoltien
And a lot were left in a daze.
There was  also (less well-crafted) a clerihew:
Brian Sibley was tireless
When speaking on the wireless
And he was one of the very few
Who could also write a clerihew.
Finally, in this piece of shameless showyoffness, we were invited to suggest some titles for our autobiography. I offered three, beginning with two that like the show's title, Slightly Foxed, parodied second-hand bookseller terminology:



and the one I would still probably use if I ever (which I won't ) wrote the story of my life:


(In case you wondered in the photo at the top of the page, I am wearing one of the Vicar's African hats!)

Tuesday, 21 January 2014



This was the photo I asked you to caption...

...and you provided a bumper crop of excellent offerings getting the 2014 Sibley Blog Caption Competitions off to a fantastic start!

Roger Shrigley snapped the shot of the corralled penguins during the demolition of the Christmas Ice Rink at London's Somerset House, so I asked Roger and his wife, Sheila, to judge the entries submitted (as usual) anonymously.

Roger was slightly disappointed that no one came up with his own caption suggestion...

Sole penguin with black tie:" I didn't know it was a RED tie event."

But here, thanks to their judging, are the results, beginning with (as they say on TV, 'in no particular order) with...

Stephen Baker
"Order what you will. They'll be no bill; it's complimentary!!"

Chris Lee
"Penguins being held back after global warming protest in Trafalgar Square"

Deanna Cornwall
"Penguins rounded up after tragedy at local bowling alley... Penguins mistaken for bowling pins, one dead, many injured."

Ellie Luchinsky
"Where's Morgan Freeman when you need him?"
Michael Goldberg 
“If we stand just so, the paparazzi won't recognize us and take our photo."

Mickey Mark 
"Excited Penguins line up for the sequel to March of the Penguins."

Becky Dillon
“My feet are definitely NOT happy!”

1st penguin: "What are you auditioning for?"
2nd penguin: "Saving Mr Banks."
3rd penguin: "What? Are they doing that tea party thing again?"
2nd penguin: "I don't know... but it's worth a try".
1st penguin: "Don't be absurd, Dick Van Dyke's way too old for that now."

"How many men did you say? All running around after a ball? And we're stuck in here waiting to see THAT?"

Chris Biles
"Westminster ? The 'Eyes' certainly have it by the nose! A case of black is black and white is white for once."

John O’Riordan
“The start of the Annual Penquin Marathon – a regular fun-run to save the human race."

Rob Page 
"I hate Black tie events, we all look the same, when do the doors open?"

David Weeks
"Spartacus? No, never even heard of him!"

Val, Kate & Co
P-P-P-Pick up a Penguin––– Please!

Chris Hyde
“Crowd reacts to the Little Mermaids wardrobe malfunction."

"Sea World announces planned budget cuts for 2014."

"It's Ronaldo on a breakaway. Shot... Goal!!!!!"

"Dad, I don't want to stand in line for an hour just to see some stupid humans!"

Sharon Mail 
"Red, white and black-based penguins stand shoulder to shoulder, in a rare act of unity."

Bob Loomis

"Start line for penguin snowboarding contest!"

Veronica Zundel
“When do we get p-p-p-picked up?”

Saturday’s Toys
"Ken O'Connor!"

Ian Rowland
"Global Warming: the evidence gets stronger every day"

Marcel Aubron-Bulles 
"We don't need no education."

Matt Darby
"We thought this was the queue for South Arctic line on the tube…"

Boll Weavil
"And also my brothers, FREE FISH FOR ALL!"

"Penguin suits off on the count of three, down to the undies and its one for the caption competition...."

"I wonder if we're the first birds ever to appear in Brian's caption competition ?"

"What time is Attenborough due?"

Wolfgang Greisinger
"A visit to the zoo."

Mathew Brauchli
"It's official, the Chinese really have no idea what a flamingo really looks like."

John Foster
"Red Carpet line up for the Primer of Happy Feet Three."

"Arrested after a protest against the new Nobel Peace Prize, Mr Bill Gates."

Most Relevant to Brian's Blog
Leo N Holzer
"Pamela, if we replace the animation sequence with these, would that make you happy? -- Walt"

Penguin at the back: "Wow! Look guys! It's Dick and Julie!"
Boll Weavil
"I wonder if we're the first birds ever to appear in Brian's caption competition ?"

Wackiest Entry
Ian Rowland
"Desmond's 'blend in with the crowd' ruse worked well, until blood from the scene of the crime was noticed on his feet."

Honourable Mention  
Bob Sangwell
"P-p-p-pen up a pick... No, that doesn't quite work."

Fourth Place 
Phil Nichols
"Animal rights campaigners release shocking photos revealing McVities' battery farming techniques."
Third Place
Chris Hyde
"The queue for the ‘All You Can Eat’ Krill Buffet."

 Second Place
Boll Weavil

"I thought you said you had the fence cutters ?"

First Place
Ian L Collier

“And at the British Antarctic Base, the protestors maintained a dignified silence despite the use of 'kettling'."

Thanks to everyone who took part and well done to all the winners!

Saturday, 18 January 2014


Today is A A Milne's birthday.

The author of all those verses and stories about Christopher Robin and his bear of Very Little Brain, Winnie-the-Pooh, was born 132 years ago in Hampstead, London, on 18 January, 1882.

Pooh's good friend, Eeyore, gloomily (but accurately) observed...

"After all, what are birthdays? Here today and gone tomorrow." 

...so to brighten him and everyone else up, I thought I'd mention that my book, Three Cheers for Pooh, is being republished later this year to mark the 90th anniversary of the first publication of When We Were Very Young, in the pages of which Winnie-the-Pooh (then known, formally, as 'Mr Edward Bear' or sometimes simply as 'Teddy Bear') made his bow. Here are the proofs of the cover...

And, for anyone who'd like to know a little more about the man who gave us Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger, Kager, Roo, Owl, Rabbit and all his friends (and relations!) sit down with a nice cup of tea and a smackerel of something and enjoy this programme, originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2006, and starring Alec McCowen and Jasper Britton. It was entitled (after Milne's autobiography) It's Too Late Now...

Thursday, 16 January 2014


When you read this, I will be on my way to Derbyshire to speak at tomorrow's funeral of my friend Robin Allan, with whom – over some 40+ years – I have shared so many common enthusiasms and from whose knowledge of art, literature and cinema, I have learned so much.

What initially brought us into a friendship was a mutual obsession with the life and films of Walt Disney. Later we both went on to write about Disney and Robin earned his Phd for his superbly researched and argued 1993 thesis, The European Influences on the Animated Feature Films of Walt Disney.

Five years later, this ground-breaking study was published as Walt Disney and Europe: one of the most significant books on Disney art to be written and to which I was honoured to contribute a preface.

Robin and I lectured together on one or two occasions and whenever I got the opportunity, I would involve him in my broadcasts. He appeared in programmes I wrote about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (which he he had seen as a young boy on its first release and which remained one of his favourite films), a documentary marking Mickey Mouse's 60th birthday and a feature on Disney's 1940 masterwork, Fantasia, and its sequel, Fantasia 2000. 

Today, I am posting a broadcast I made for the BBC World Service in 1992 to mark the release of Walt Disney Productions' Beauty and the Beast and which explores the way in which fairy-tales have been retold in the cinema. Robin Allan is joined by fellow commentators Christopher Frayling and Marina Warner and I hope you will enjoy the programme and the observations of my oldest and dearest friend...

Here are some more Disney radio programmes featuring contributions from Robin Allan...

Saturday, 11 January 2014


Spotted by Roger on Monday during the demolition of the Somerset House Christmas Ice Rink...

Illegal immigrants awaiting deportation?

Actually, I like the photo SO much,
I've decided that it must be our New Year


Enter NOW!! Closing date: 19 January 2014

Photo: Roger Shrigley

Wednesday, 8 January 2014


'Hateful day when I received life!' I exclaimed in agony. 'Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and abhorred.' 

One hundred-and-ninety-six years ago this month saw the first publication of a book by a twenty-year-old girl that would have the most extraordinary impact on literature and, eventually, world-wide popular culture.

That book was Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley.

More recently (a mere nineteen years ago!) I wrote and presented this radio feature about Shelley's book and its mythological status in our contemporary world. Among the programme's contributors is the wonderful and utterly delightful Peter Cushing...

"The world was to me a secret
which I desired to divine."

Monday, 6 January 2014