Wednesday 31 May 2006


The Butterfly fluttered in at the open window of the art gallery and flittered about looking at the paintings hanging on the walls. She hovered in front of a vast, romantic landscape with rolling, wooded hills and a herd of cows standing by a stream, but it was nothing like the real countryside that she knew because there was no smell of grass, no sound of babbling water or lowing cattle.

Then the Butterfly paused by a still life depicting a pyramid of fruit and a scattering of dew-covered flowers; but it was also nothing like real life, having no mingled fragrances of orange, apple and wild roses.

Then she saw what seemed to her the most beautiful thing in the world: a huge canvas splattered with multi-coloured abstractions and vibrant explosions of vivid colour; dots and spots, dashes and splashes; a riot of hues and tints, pigments and tinctures…

It was love at first sight.

Dancing rapturously before the picture, the Butterfly bobbed and curtseyed in whirling gyrations by which she hoped to woo and win the affection of this dazzling creature. But the painting did not respond - even to the most sensual and seductive of her dances during which she brushed her delicate wings against his rough-edged brushstrokes.

The Butterfly’s life would, in any event, have been brief but here, in the art gallery, it was even briefer, though more ecstatic. In a heart-stopping spasm of unrequited love, she died, clinging to the canvas and shedding microscopic butterfly tears.

A passing Curator stopped in horror, appalled at what he saw: life crudely intruding into the hallowed sanctuary of High Art and daring to touch a priceless masterpiece…

A Child, who was wandering by, stopped in wonder, entranced by what he saw: a painting that in one corner and for one, brief, glorious instant, shimmered and fluttered and almost burst into life…

© Brian Sibley 2006

Tuesday 30 May 2006


Mention of my mother in yesterday’s blog reminded me that today is the anniversary of her death. It is a far from a profound observation, but the intervening years - a mystical seven of them - feel simultaneously an eternity and no time at all…

Nothing in life is as mercilessly uncompromising and irreconcilable as being parted by death from those whom we have loved...

Doris Alice Sibley

Monday 29 May 2006


As a ten year old, my one driving ambition in life, my utterly passionate desire, was to be a cartoonist. I spent hours making drawings of my favourite cartoon characters: the new generation of critters currently being exhibited on TV such as Top Cat, Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear and Boo Boo as well as the ubiquitous Mouse and the other fabulous animals in the Disney bestiary.

My mother would watch me labouring over a sketch of Dumbo or Pixie and Dixie and demand to know how I thought that was ever going to help me get a job. And, as mothers so often are, she was right! I never did become a cartoonist or an animator. But then I also never lost my love of cartoons or the miracle of animation that makes us laugh and cry with characters who exist only in the flat, celluloid, world of ink-and-paint.

Happily my mother lived long enough to at least see me writing books about the people who brought cartoons to life and, I guess, forgave me all those wasted hours with paper and crayons!

What amazed me when I first began to explore various cities, towns and villages of Toonworld - and what amazes me still - is that most people have only a very limited perception of ‘animation’. To some it is ‘The Lion King’ and the like, to others, ‘Toy Story’ and the cgi marvels of Pixar; while, for a legion of loyal Brits, it is the antics of those Plasticine heroes, Wallace and Gromit.

But the truth is that whilst animation is a genre of filmmaking, it is as rich in its diversity as cinema itself. Everyone knows that a ‘movie’ may be a western, a thriller, a romance or a musical; that it might be a slapstick comedy, a psychological drama or blood-spattered gore-fest. Similarly, animation is itself capable of being anything and everything: funny, sentimental, powerfully dramatic, frothily trivial or deeply profound. And, unlike the rest of cinema, it can conjure its magic through many different disciplines and techniques: drawings, models and puppets, stop-motion photography, silhouettes, paintings on glass, drawings in sand... The forms are as limitless and the subjects they portray.

Imagine my delight on discovering Cartoon Brew, a fascinating web-site, edited by the outrageously knowledgeable Jerry Beck - and I’m not simply saying that because he mentioned me as one of the contributors to a new Disney publication! Cartoon Brew is devoted to celebrating and exploring the breadth and scope of animation and comic art: the popular and esoteric, the contemporary and historic.

So, “That’s All (from me) Folks!” Go take a swig of the Cartoon brew!

Sunday 28 May 2006


Just seven months to Christmas! That's only 211 days! Almost time to start getting ready!

You think I jest? Well, the young couple at the next table to us in a restaurant the other evening were doing exactly that. For more than an hour, they plotted and planned their family Christmas with the desperate feverishness of those scarred by previous seasonal get-togethers.

There was much talk about the days on which the various family members would arrive and where they would be accommodated (a futon in the sitting room, an inflatable bed in the study) and detailed plots involving enticements and compromises: “We’ll get Mother to make one of her special potato-salads...”

Their increasing anxiety was disturbingly infectious and it was difficult to resist the temptation to try and make helpful suggestions such as: “Do you really think that making the potato salad is going to compensate for the fact that your mother won’t be cooking the turkey and Christmas pud this year?”

When we left they had reached the point of discussing how they were going to “sell” the plan to the various family members and who needed to be won over first…

What we knew, and what they were closing their minds to, is the fact that, however relation-proof they imagine their scheme to be, it will without doubt go horrendously wrong - somewhere between 24th and 26th December…

Saturday 27 May 2006


I was going to write about the movie I watched on DVD last night, then stupidly ran a Google-check and blundered onto Rotten Tomatoes (Check out your personal, all-time favourite movie and see how wrong you were!) and came across a whole page of reviews carrying such words as ‘absurd’, ‘corny’, ‘ludicrous’, ‘inept’, ‘incompetent’ and ‘BAD’ in such abundance that I changed my mind!

However, I was struck by one verdict on this movie - which I dare not now admit to having seen! - by Claudia Puig in ‘USA Today’: “One wonders why Hollywood is so determined to churn out outlandish tales of manufactured peril when the real world is scary enough.” To which the sages and savants of contemporary society will doubtless trill: “Good question!”

But, I wonder… Might not the same have been said of, among many others movies (all admittedly in a different league to the one I watched last night), ‘Metropolis’, ‘Nosferatu’, ‘Frankenstein’, ‘Things to Come’, ‘Planet of the Apes’ and ‘Blade Runner’?

Surely Fantasy Cinema - like its literary equivalent - exists, in part, to make us look at the ‘real world’ with different eyes: to be scared and warned about the dangers of paths we are treading or simply to laugh at outlandish fears and perils so as to put those encountered in our daily existence into their true perspective.

Then I remember that the movie I was going to write about was (according to ‘Newsday’) indicative of “the rock bottom bankruptcy of subtle minds in pop culture” and realize that I know NOTHING…


There was once a Flea who, for an invertebrate, was an inveterate social climber. He lived on the back of an old, fat, grey Rat in a farmer’s barn, but was deeply dissatisfied with his way of life and was always boring the other fleas with his dreams of getting on in the world.

One day his opportunity came when the farmer’s Dog (who was a lazy individual) decided to chase the only rat in the barn who looked too old and too fat to give him much a run for his money.

The Dog quickly cornered the rat and as his jaws clamped themselves around the rat’s neck, the Flea deftly jumped from prey to predator.

Life on the Dog was better than life on the Rat, but still the Flea wasn’t satisfied and soon another opportunity presented itself for social improvement.

The Farmer who owned the Dog took him foxhunting and whilst the Dog, being lazy, never got within a yard of catching the Fox, he and his master arrived in time to see the kill.

The flea judged his moment to perfection and in a series of calculated moves leapt from dog to dog and finally onto the brush of the unfortunate Fox, just as the leader of the hunt seized the corpse and held it aloft for the satisfaction of the assembled company.

The Flea was enjoyed a light snack of freshly drawn fox-blood when fate dealt the Flea a winning card. It so happened that the Huntsman was employed by no less a person than the King and so, as duty demanded, he offered the bloody trophy to his monarch.

As His Majesty took hold of the fox’s brush, the Flea took another leap and landed on the royal personage itself. He could scarcely believe his good fortune and supposed that his life would, from then on, be one of peace and tranquillity with unlimited opportunity to gorge on the finest blue blood in the land.

But it was not to be. The other fleas who had been born and bred to the royal life looked down their proboscises at a Flea who came from such humble origins as a rat in a barn!

It wasn’t long before the Flea was once again very unhappy with his lot in life and, after spending only a few days in the King’s armpit, decided that he needed a change of air. One morning he hopped onto the Royal Butler and thence to a Royal Serving Man and by a series of brilliant manouvers made his way down into the Royal Kitchen where he found an old, fat, grey Rat who lived under a flagstone in the Cook’s pantry.

And there he lived happily for the rest of his long life, earning great respect from the other fleas dwelling on the kitchen Rat, who thought him a very superior individual. He was accorded all the bogus esteem shown to a celebrity and his fellow fleas constantly begged and pestered him to recount stories of his many adventures in the world and, most especially, his intimate and minutely detailed memoirs of his life in the service of Royalty.

© Brian Sibley 2006

Friday 26 May 2006


"There must be more to life
than having everything."

- Maurice Sendak

[Image: © Brian Sibley]

Thursday 25 May 2006


My shame is at an end! I can, at last, hold up my head once more! Over lunch at our local, ‘The Black Sheep’ (aptly named in this instance), I picked up one of those newspapers that I only ever look at in a pub, which has writing in red on the top of the front page! Lo and behold, there was all the latest “goss” on ‘Big Brother’, seven days into the sojourn. So, if anyone now happens to mention anything about Shabaz the self-styled “wacky Paki poof” being kicked out, I will know what they’re talking about - sort of…

Thanks to a full-page advert, I also now know that I must avoid eating any KitKat bars in the foreseeable future, in case I have the bad luck to discover the ‘Golden Ticket’ that could make ME a Housemate!

Eric Blair has a lot to answer for!


Checking one or two of my favourite blogs, I have realised that (with the exception of a few, small furry aliens on the TV-free planet Splott) we are the only people in the universe who are NOT watching ‘Big Brother’.

Naturally, the stigma at being ‘invert voyeurs’ and the resulting sense of shame and isolation is both depressing and deeply humiliating…

Wednesday 24 May 2006


The Rabbit was sitting quietly in the sunshine nibbling away at some very juicy grass when a furious argument broke out between the Hippopotamus and the Lion.

The Hippopotamus stoutly maintained that since he had the largest mouth of any of the animals, it naturally followed - as night follows day - that whatever he said was more important than anything said by anyone else.

The Lion, on the other hand, loudly argued - with many ferocious snarls - that since he possessed what was, unquestionably, the loudest roar in the jungle, it was necessarily the case that what he had to say was of far greater significance.

The argument went on like this for many hours and became so noisy that it woke up all the other animals - even the Sloth who was the soundest sleeper imaginable. One by one (or, if they knew their Bible, two-by-two), they wandered away into the bush so as to get a bit of peace and quiet.

Only the Rabbit remained, quietly munching his grass.

Eventually, when both the Lion and the Hippopotamus realised that their dispute was getting no nearer being resolved, they decided to appeal to the Rabbit, since he alone had heard all the points of view and all the reasoning, back and forth.

“Who is right?” roared the Lion.

“Which of us is correct?” bellowed the Hippopotamus.

“About what?” asked the Rabbit looking up for the first time.

“About our argument!” demanded the Lion.

“What argument?” asked the Rabbit.

“You’ve got the longest ears of any of us animals,” stormed the Hippopotamus, “you must have heard what we were arguing about!”

“It is true,” said the Rabbit. “I do have long ears and so I hear better than any of you. But that doesn’t mean that I am also obliged to listen…”

© Brian Sibley 2006


6:33 am, and I am awakened by David, announcing in a loud voice: “It’s a thistle!”

“A What?” I blurrily respond.

“A THISTLE! A dried thistle!”

“Ah, so it’s a thistle, is it…?” I am now playing a doctor humouring a patient in the grip of malarial fever…

“Yes!” replies David in exasperation. “Read the notice: ‘See Above’! There’s the picture…”

And with that he rolls back into the arms of Morpheus.

In two weeks and one day, we will have been sleeping together for sixteen years and I still don’t have the faintest idea what he gets up in Slumberland… I mean, dried thistles?

Tuesday 23 May 2006


Caloo, calay! We’re back ON-LINE! We have a telephone once more! We have uninterrupted internet-access!

Deprived of these technological marvels for just one week, we had begun to sink into the deepest despair, feeling a sense of social isolation akin to that experienced by Mr R. Crusoe.

For the moment, we are once again enjoying the thrill of being able to sort our mail from our spam. But the horrific memory of life without Safari and Firefox remains fresh in the mind and prompts the question of how long the human race could hope to survive if, on a global scale, it permanently lost the power to Google.

Extinction would surely be swift and terrible! Doubt it if you will, but remember that the dinosaurs at the height of their evolutionary sophistication - some time in the late afternoon of the Cretaceous Period - probably thought that life was pretty much as good as it gets, even as showers of climate-changing, life-eradicating meteors were hurtling through space towards a small blue planet…

[Image: © Brian Sibley]

Monday 22 May 2006


There was a time when certain things could be relied upon: the constants and keystones of our culture. But the reassuring status quo by which we measured the order (or disorder) of society went to the wall long ago. And yet, even when one thinks that we must have surely experienced every conceivable change in the way of “life as we knew it, Jim”, a new and unexpected outrage occurs!

Waiting on an underground platform for a late-running tube, I was passing the time by looking at the goods on offer from the (as usual) not-working, money-stealing, sweet-vending machine when I suddenly reeled back in disbelief at the shocking announcement that it was possible to purchase a strange alien, hybrid entity of a chocolate bar calling itself ‘Cadbury Dairy Milk with Crème Egg’!

So, the world has finally gone mad! As if white Maltesers and Cappuccino KitKat weren’t distressing enough, someone has now taken two legendary - even iconic - sweets and genetically engineered a Frankenstein novelty: the world’s first flat, oblong egg! Whatever next? The ‘Jelly Babies on Mars’ bar?


"LONELINESS is the poverty of self...
SOLITUDE is the richness of self."

- May Sarton

[Image: © Brian Sibley]

Sunday 21 May 2006


Magician, David Weeks was spotted performing close-up magic for Kate Hoey, MP for Vauxhall, when she attended the Cleaver Square Fete today. Was she exploring the possibility of using a little prestidigitation to magically undo Labour’s recent prescott-agitation - or was she simply mesmerised by meeting someone in hunting pink?

Actually, Ms Hoey was what, when I was young, we used to call a brick, spending several hours mixing with local Kennington residents who, with typical British phlegm, had responded to the very un-fete-like weather and shifted the various attractions (including home-made cakes, chicken tikka wraps from Kennington Tandoori, second-hand books and records and a rather good Punch and Judy show) from the square to the interior of St Anselm’s Church.

Interestingly, Mr Weeks’ use of ‘Abracadabra’ in a consecrated building passed without protest - at least as far as the earthly observers were concerned!

[Image: © Brian Sibley]


I bought some fancy cheeses the other day, including 'RED LEICESTER with AEGEAN TOMATO', which I thought was more than a little curious because, as everybody knows, there isn't a 'g' in 'tomato'!


I spent Saturday with a lot of very passionate people. During the day I attended an event held at University College London entitled ‘Beyond Imagination’, celebrating ‘The World of Science Fiction and fantasy Art’.

I was there to interview Alan Lee while he showed a selection of the literally thousands of inspirational and concept illustrations that he made while working on the film trilogy, ‘The Lord of the Rings’. What is it that impresses me most about Alan’s work? Is it the assurance with which he wields a pencil, creating delicate - yet often intricately detailed - graphite dream-images? Yes, but more than that, it is his quietly intense passion for what he does.

An artist - like all creative people - craves an audience, but for the Tolkien film project, Alan parked his ego (and it’s one of the most microscopic egos I’ve ever encountered!) in order to become Jackson’s amanuensis - responding to the director’s visions and then helping to bring to reality on the drawing board.

It was fascinating to see examples of the most exquisite work created on the off-chance that it might be seen in the films - such as Saruman’s book, which contained not only the Blakeian vision of a Balrog which is featured in one shot in ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’, but also many other pages of natural history drawings and such esoteric topics as a study of the colour spectrum (Saruman the White in Tolkien’s text - but not in Jackson's script - had become Saruman of Many Colours) just in case, as Christopher Lee turned the pages of the book, any of the images were picked up by the camera.

Alan also showed designs made when Peter Jackson was briefly toying with a flashback for ‘The Return of the King’ that would show the five Istari or ‘wizards’ (sorry, Tolkien aficionados, I know that’s a rank simplification!) referred to in the book. The film trilogy features Gandalf and Saruman but not the other three: Radagast the Brown and two mysterious 'Blue Wizards'. Before this sequence was abandoned, Alan drew multiple designs for the five wizards’ costumes and their various magic staffs. The Istari artwork was, of course, just the tip of an iceberg of usused material, now drifting somewhere in the Sundering Seas!

It is this passionate commitment to his craft - completing the task whether seen or unseen - that came across in Alan’s reminiscences of six years of toiling in Middle-earth and it was clearly shared by the other legendary fantasy artists - among them Jim Burns, Chris Moore and Fred Gambino - who took part in the event.

From ‘Beyond Imagination’ I dashed across town to Ealing where my partner (and fellow Magic Circle member) David Weeks and I were guests at the Diamond Jubilee dinner of the Zodiac Club. After several hours of looking at images of life in Lothlórien or on the moons of Jupiter, it was a curious journey filled with such harsh and disorientating irritations of the ‘real world’ as a suspended service on the Northern Line and no Piccadilly Line trains between Green Park and Ealing Common!

But the struggle was worth the stress, since we were privileged to be seated on the table of the club’s president, Jean Purdy, along with other guests The Magic Circle’s President Alan Shaxon and Honorary Life Vice-President, Ali Bongo… Yes, gentle reader, mortal magicians, have a hierarchy that is as rigidly precise as Tolkien’s celestial Istari!

The Zodiac Club is undoubtedly one of the friendliest and most welcoming of London’s magical societies and it was a memorable evening spent in the convivial company of yet more passionate people whose creativity, skill and dexterity - like that of those fantasy artists who transport us to other worlds - allow us to suspend our disbelief and accept, if only briefly, that wonders lie all around us (and within us) if we will only open our eyes - and our imaginations…

Friday 19 May 2006


In Los Angeles, last month, the billboards advertising ‘The Da Vinci Code’ were telling the world (or at any rate the denizens of Hollywood) to “BE A PART OF THE PHENOMENON”.

Has the phenomenon turned out to be what everyone at Sony Pictures hoped it would be or what they feared it might be?

And, anyway, what is the phenomenon? Being one of zillions daft enough to spend good money to see a film that’s been described as “The Greatest Turkey Ever Sold”?

Well I’m just back from being part of the phenomenon and am ready to tell you exactly what I think… As if you cared! If you’re going to see it, you’ll do so whatever I say; and if you’re not going to see it, well nothing I am about to say is likely to make you change your mind!

The trouble is, the film has managed to preserve the worst aspects of Dan Brown’s shoddily-written novel - the ludicrous situations and risible dialogue - while failing to capture the book’s few virtues: it’s cracking pace and page-turning urgency.

The story is hopelessly mired in a slavish attempt to make cinematic sense of Brown’s page upon page of exposition, which here becomes an even messier hodgepodge of history, theology and wacky fringe hypotheses cobbled together with less insightfulness than an average issue of ‘The Reader’s Digest’.

The characters (with exception of Ian McKellen as the two-timing English knight with a bit of a Holy Grail obsession) are empty husks with nothing to make us care about them or the fate of their crackpot quest. Tom Hanks looks permanently anxious (as well he might) and has a relationship with Audrey Tautou that has just about sufficient electricity to light a very small forty-watt bulb.

The vague, bleached out, blue-washed flashbacks add little or nothing to our understanding of the characters and, unlike the historical flashbacks (Emperor Constantine becoming a Christian on his death bed with vestal virgins shimmying on the palace steps), don’t even have the benefit of raising a faint smile.

Is it the worst movie ever made? No. Is it dull, ponderously plodding and deeply unfulfilling? Yes! I’m just glad I saw it at the Clapham Picture House (at members’ discount ticket prices) rather than in the West End for twice as much money.

Still, at least I have the satisfaction of having been one of the first to become part of the phenomenon, which feels well, pretty phenomenal…

I guess…

[Image: © Brian Sibley]


"Throw your heart out in front of you, and run ahead to catch it..."

- Arabic Proverb

[Image: © Brian Sibley]


At a post film-preview screening party London’s West End the other evening, I spotted Anthony Daniels, aka C3PO, the gilded droid from the ‘Star Wars’ mythology. Some years ago, I interviewed Mr D, but decided that it was far too tenuous a link from which to try and launch a conversation.

What could I have said? "If I told you half the things I've heard about this Jabba the Hutt, you'd probably short circuit." No, he’d have heard that before…

And yet, I wish I’d spoken, because the majority of partygoers clearly didn’t identify him as the man who played what is - whether you’re a ‘Star Wars’ fan or not - a veritable icon of cinema. The one couple I noticed who did recognise him, waited until he had passed by and then did a not very good parody of C3PO’s jerky head and arm movements…

How very curious, I thought, to be as famous as Mr D and yet still to be able to walk through life virtually incognito. There are, of course, a lot of famous (and infamous) people who’re able to push a trolley round Tesco’s without fear of being mobbed: scientists, inventors, architects, financiers, serial killers and most writers - with notable exceptions such as Jackie Collins and Salman Rushdie.

So, for a performer, it may well feel good to have a degree of anonymity denied to ‘X Factor’ contestants or the inmates of the ‘Big Brother’ house. But, there again, maybe it sometimes feels a little lonely, as if part of your psyche had been left somewhere else - such as in a corner of George Lucas’ wardrobe department!

Now, I really do wish I’d said “Hello…”


Every day, the child pressed his face against the window of the sweet shop. He never went inside because he never had any money.

His family was very poor and it was hard enough for his widowed mother to put bread upon the table, let alone have anything to spare for fripperies and folderols.

But he could always look and, every day, his hungry eyes lingered on the snow-capped mountains of Turkish Delight, the black, tangled undergrowth of liquorice, the glittering gem caskets of fruit-drops.

Day after day, he looked and feasted his imagination. From the shop’s open door came the mingled aromas of chocolate, fudge and spun sugar and he fancied he could identify their various tastes and textures without ever having tasted the twisted tang of sherbet lemons or the bee-sweet crunch of honeycomb.

One day, an elderly man who was passing by noticed the child’s wistful gaze, stopped, took a bright new shiny coin from his pocket, pressed it into the child’s hand and went on his way.

The child looked at the coin and realised that he could go into the shop and buy some sweets and that, at long last, he could lick, suck and chew what he had previously only savoured in his dreams.

But what to buy? A craggy chunk of toffee-nut brittle, a puffy cloud of pink-blushing marshmallows or a clutch of pale pastel-painted sugar-almonds?

The child lingered for a long time until the storekeeper, coming out and beginning to shut up the shop, asked the child whether he wanted to buy anything before he closed for the night.

The child dumbly shook his head and turned and went away. He knew that nothing that he might buy could ever hope to taste as rare and delicious as they did in his imagination.

Stopping off at a market on the way home, he bought two bunches of carrots and a turnip and took them home to his mother.

After supper, the child climbed into his bed and drifted off to sleep, dreaming that he could taste on his tongue the mingled flavours of butterscotch, aniseed and chocolate covered raisins…

© Brian Sibley 2006
[Image: © Brian Sibley]

Thursday 18 May 2006


It’s been a harrowing time over the last thirty-six hours. The telephone landline is seriously - possibly terminally - ill! BT has undertaken to have find and fix the fault by - at the latest estimate - next Monday! In consequence, I have only intermittent internet access!

After an ‘outage’ that lasted 18 hours, blind panic began to set in!

Our dependency on modern technology - and our impotence when it ‘goes down’ - is, of course, utterly absurd, but maybe it was ever thus… Maybe in the years immediately following the introduction of the Penny Post in 1840, people got into a similar state of high anxiety whenever bad weather delayed the mail-coach from Bristol to London!

Who knows, deprived of seeing a Penny Black for a couple of days, they may even have wondered how THEIR ancestors coped with a communication system based on messengers running the length and breadth of the country with notes stuck in cleft sticks! Right now, however, the cleft stick system seems rather appealing…


Apropos my earlier blog 'Matters of Life and Death', Emma - who is my Adopted Sister in Tasmania (I'll explain all that when I've got time) - responded with the following e-mail:

"Worried about death? No, I worry about being ALIVE!!!"

Well, yes, I am forced to agree: that's pretty worrying, too!

I wonder....

When we were still in the womb, were we worrying about BEING BORN?

[Image: © Brian Sibley]

Wednesday 17 May 2006

10 THINGS (1)

We live, it seems, in an age of LISTS! It's practically impossible to open any newspaper or magazine without being confronted by a list of some kind: 'The 100 Most Over-Hyped Movies of All Time', 'The 50 Most Useless Gadgets of the Week', 'The 25 Most Uncomfortable Positions in the Kama Sutra'.

This, then, is my personal contribution to this burgeoning cultural trend!

The first in an occasional series (well, possibly) of TEN THINGS that have made my life more special than it might otherwise have been.

I’m starting off with my choice of…

Ten Things That Have Made My Life More MAGICAL:

Teddy bears
Card tricks
Steam trains
Thunder and lightning
Dinosaur fossils
The sound of waves

You are now invited to submit your own choices. There’s only one rule - and, look, I invented the game so I can make the rules! OK? - you are not allowed things that are uniquely personal to yourself such as your mum and dad, lovers (present or former), Baskerville the poodle, or (in Sophie’s case) Elsie the car!

Oh, yes, and please choose things that are genuinely ‘magical’ for you - not because they’ll make you look like smart if anyone else accidentally happens to read this blog!

[Images: © Brian Sibley]

Tuesday 16 May 2006


“Nothing is worth more than today…”

- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

[Image: © Brian Sibley]


I had lunch at Pizza Express yesterday and there were three new dishes on offer. Three! And all of them featuring AUBERGINE! Why this current culinary obsession with the eggplant? There is absolutely nothing about this vegetable - colour, taste or texture - to justify cursing every possible salad and pizza option with its obnoxious presence!

Yes, I admit, I have eaten aubergine --- and liked it, but only as cooked by my friend Irene at the taverna ‘Artistico’ in Emporios on the Greek island, Kalymnos. The secret there being that Irene takes thinly sliced aubergine, dips it in batter, deep-fries it and drizzles it (as they say on all the best menus these days) with Kalymnian honey. Utterly and unbelievably scrummy! But sadly not available at Pizza Express or probably anywhere else outside Emporios! So, aubergine lovers (and haters): book your flights today...


Am I alone in finding myself thinking, at least once a day - and probably far more frequently - about DEATH?

I don’t mean the mystery of what happens when people set off for that “undiscover’d country from whose bourne no traveller returns”, but one’s own, very personal encounter with the Grim Reaper…

Maybe it's just my own chronic morbidity and melancholia, but I really do think about it a great deal and quite often in the small hours of the night when, it is said, the greatest numbers of people die. I find myself wondering when and how it will happen for me and in what state of health and frame of mind I am likely to be in at the time.

Once, when I was interviewing Terry Pratchett, author of the ‘Discworld’ novels in which Death is an ever-present character, I asked: “What would you do if the door were to whisper open now and a cowled figure were to glide in and lay his bony fingers on your shoulder?”

Pratchett replied: “Well, there’s nothing I COULD do! But it’s really not something I fear - I’ve always taken life as it comes…” Then, after a moment’s pause, he added: “Which, of course, is precisely what Death does --- takes life as it comes!”

[Image: © Brian Sibley]

Monday 15 May 2006


"Each moment of the year has its own beauty, a picture which has never been seen before, and which shall never be seen again."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

[Image: © Brian Sibley]

Sunday 14 May 2006


I’m not long home from the BBC where I was giving the week’s entertainment review on “Parkinson’s Sunday Supplement” and am now gearing myself up to go into Broadcasting House again, tomorrow, in order to record the first of a series of programmes I am making for Radio 2 about the songs and music in the Disney Songbook.

It’s the most broadcasting activity I’ve had in a long while - which feels great but also curious when I think that, just a few years back, I was presenting two live radio programmes a week… It’s nice to be back in the swim - if only briefly…

Anyway, the new series - which is entitled “Ain’t No Mickey Mouse Music” and begins on 7th July - has set me thinking again about the extraordinary potency of the music which has accompanied Disney films for almost eighty years from ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ to the ‘Toy Story’ movies.

The catalogue of memorable, award winning, songs (37 Oscars no less!) is, whether we like it or not, part of 20th (and now 21st) Century popular culture. And, as visitors to Disney’s various theme parks in America, Europe and Asia will know, that music is further driven into our communal consciousness from being wrapped around us as we ride the attractions, watch the parades or just stroll around in the all-enveloping atmosphere of total Disneyfication!

There is no question that songs like Snow White's "I'm Wishing" or the Little Mermaid's "Part of Your World" have helped define the characters in those films and tell their story, or that songs like "Baby Mine" from 'Dumbo' or "Little April Shower" in 'Bambi' have powerfully evoked emotions; but the question remains whether numbers like the famously anthemic "When You Wish Upon a Star" from 'Pinocchio' or the theme park attraction song "It's a Small World After All" are anything more than overly sentimental wishful thinking. Among many other topics, the radio series will examine this question and show how Disney has been peddling its morality pills since the earliest days of filmmaking - always, of course, suitably sugar-coated for ease in swallowing!

But, whatever the pros and cons, the truth is that even those who make no secret of their dislike for Disney songs could very probably hum a verse of 'Feed the Birds' or 'Zip-a-dee-doo-dah' - if their lives depended on it!

Full details of “Ain’t No Mickey Mouse Music” are on my website:

[Image: © Brian Sibley]


The older we get, the swifter time seems to pass and the quicker memories seem to fade. A week after encountering the entrancing Sultan's Elephant on its time-travelling visit to London, I am still haunted by memories of this extraordinary vision: a mechanical creature, forty-foot high moving through the city - for once devoid of traffic - with an indescribable combination of power, grace and beauty. No photographs capture the magic because, like every good illusion, it was effective simply because it was 'of the moment'.

The best our photographs can do (and how many million images were shot that weekend, using everything from the most sophisticated equipment to mobile phones?) is to provide a memory-jogger for some future time when we need to remember having experienced something as wonderfully strange and moving as a time-travelling elephant visiting our cynical, too-busy-to-stop-and-stare world…

[Image: © Brian Sibley]

Saturday 13 May 2006


This is the first blog of a Reluctant Blogger who will either never be heard from again or will soon be cluttering up cyberspace with his rantings and ravings...