Wednesday 28 February 2007


Everyone’s doing it! Blogs are riddled with them! Catalogues of 10 Likes and 10 Dislikes, beginning with a letter randomly handed you by a fellow blogger.

Silly Billy kindly gave me the letter ‘D’ and here are the resulting lists…

1) Deceptions…

An emporium full of magic, illusions, sleights of hand and tricks of the eye; enchantments and chimeras, mazes, riddles, puzzles and conundrums!

2) Disneyland…

Uncle Walt’s toy-littered rumpus room: a labyrinth of imaginative diversions and canny commercialism; a kingdom scaled to a size where a child feels like a king and a grown-up feels like a child.

3) Dreams…

Those outlandish extravaganzas in which I seem to get entangled almost every night: by turn uninhibitedly torrid, terrifyingly sweat inducing, frantically exciting or just ludicrously absurd!

4) Dinosaurs…

Once-living proofs of the rampant impossibilities of nature: beautiful, beastly and bizarre; lurching and lumbering through the past with creation-shaking thunderings and roarings; monstrous dancers in the ballet of survival and extinction performed with a fearful tearing of fangs and a ripping of claws.

5) Dandelions…

One of the world’s simplest, most honest and down-to-earth flowers; radiant sunbursts scattered in long grass like tossed handfuls of gold doubloons; or harvested and bottled as 'Dandelion Wine' by my friend, Ray Bradbury.

6) Doges Palace…

Because it’s in Venice - which even though the time of the Doge is long gone, is still the world’s most beautiful, captivating and haunting city - and because it’s next door to the Doge's personal chapel (aka St Mark’s basilica) which is the world’s most glorious and exquisite building!

7) Dickens…

Charlie-boy, the supreme master of storytelling, conjuring the greatest cast of characters - marked out by idiosyncratic foibles, failings and endearments - and setting them in scenes described with a painter’s eye for commonplace detail and suffused with a heart-touching distillation and refinement all human emotion and sentiment.

8) Dragons…

The winged, fire-breathing figurehead on an Ark-full of fantastical beings that we believed in with perfect ease when we were young but which was cruelly torpedoed by maturity and reason…

9) Derrières…

I’ve always had a fondness (oh, what the heck, fetish!) for what the dictionary fulsomely describes as: “The part of one's back on which one rests in sitting: buttock (used in plural), posterior, rump, seat. Informal: backside, behind, bottom, rear. Slang: bun (used in plural), fanny, tush. Chiefly British: bum.” Whilst, as you might expect, my interest has tended to focus mainly on the male derrière, I am sufficiently liberal-minded to appreciate a shapely example wherever I see one!

10) David...

My friend and lover of seventeen years who is still the object of my passionate desire from his soulful eyes to --- well, to his derrière for one thing!!

1) Deceptions…

Lies, half-lies, fibs, cheats and scams committed by others - or myself…

2) Dentists…

And the relentless horror of lying there as their rubber-skinned fingers prod and probe amongst a mouthful of crumbling masonry in desperate and expensive need of being propped up or pulled down…

3) Doctors… and 4) Drugs…

Because I need them and I hate needing them and because that kind of dependence is really not healthy!

4) Deckchairs…

Can’t easily open them; can’t easily close them; can’t easily sit on them… So, what's the point?

5) Dusting…

Since it is never truly ‘done’ and therefore about as unfulfilling a task as you could wish to undertake!

6) Dancing…

Because I can’t! Whether it’s a waltz or the loosest of free form jigging-around, I am uncoordinated, instantly embarrassed and, in the event of trying, utterly humiliated! So, if you don’t mind, I’ll just sit this one out…

7) Debts…

Hideous, demonic, red-eyed fiends that rip, tear, bite and chew at - simultaneously - my bank balance and my peace of mind.

9) Dogs…

Soppy or aggressive, I’m really not keen. Big long haired ones make me sneeze; short haired one snuffle round my ankles; all of them always want to stick their nose in my crotch and, when I was a kid, a poodle once peed up my leg.

I’ll make exceptions for Snoopy, Fred Bassett, Lady and the Tramp and the 101 Dalmatians, but otherwise I’d really rather keep a python!

10) Drivel…
Listening to it or, worse, talking it…

So, anyone want a letter? Just let me know…

Tuesday 27 February 2007


When exactly did our holidays and festivals start getting l o n g e r and L O N G E R ?

Was it, perhaps, when we stopped believing in what we were supposed to be celebrating?

I ask this because it’s still five-and-a-half weeks until Good Friday and the Hot Cross Buns have been in the shops for the past fortnight! As indeed have been the Easter Eggs, which started to appear several weeks before that!

Now, as it happens, I’m really rather keen on Hot Cross Buns, but I do feel - apart from noting that the ready availability of such treats must be hard on those attempting to observe the season of Lent - that something is lost by being able to eat HCBs before, during and after Good Friday with such abandon.

I can still remember the excitement of the baker delivering the buns (13 if you ordered a dozen) on the day itself and then rushing to the kitchen to pop them under the grill…

And then the rich aroma of spices permeating the house and the butter melting and dribbling down your chin!

Small pleasures; still, in an era when radio on Good Friday virtually only broadcast church services, passion plays and sacred music and the most exciting thing on TV (if you had one, that is) was a screening of The Robe, such small pleasures were significant…

By the way, does anyone know why it was (according to the old song), "One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns"? There seems to be some confusion in that lyric as to the precise unit cost!

Monday 26 February 2007


In yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, actor Richard Griffith was whinging about his fans, telling interviewer, Nigel Farndale: "I'm not interested in the casual interest of strangers… I hate the odious business of sucking up to the public. I hate it."

Now, I have no problem with actors wanting to maintain a private side to their life, but I am bored to distraction with people like Griffiths who want us to feel sorry for them because of the interest shown in them by the very public without whose applause, adulation and affection -- not to mention payments for theatre tickets -- they would not be enjoying their treasured ‘star status’.

It is tedious and tiresome…

The airheads and crack-heads of the pop world or the catwalk may not know better, but an actor of Griffith’s stature and experience certainly should…

I have never forgotten a conversation I had many years ago now with the late Dame Thora Hird. I had the privilege of writing several radio scripts for Thora and on this particular occasion we had just had lunch in a hotel restaurant near Broadcasting House.

As we were crossing the lobby, the girl behind the reception desk rushed over and asked Thora if she could possibly have an autograph for her mum who was one of her biggest fans.

“Of course you can, love,” said Thora. Handing me her walking stick (she had just had a hip replacement) she rootled about in her handbag, found a photograph, chatted with the girl, asked the mum’s name, signed and handed over the picture.

Then we walked out of the hotel and were on the point of crossing the road when a black cab screeched to a halt in front of us. Winding down his window, the cabby bawled out: “Thora Hird! Saw you on the telly on Sunday! You’re a bloody wonder!”

Thora laughed. “Thank you cabby!” she shouted back with a triumphant wave of her walking stick.

A few yards further on, just as we were about to enter Broadcasting House, Thora was accosted by a bunch of youngsters who were encamped outside the nearby entrance to Radio 1 in the hopes of spotting any arriving or departing pop stars, but who now came rushing over to get the autograph of a woman old enough to be their granny.

I did walking stick duty once again until everyone had been spoken to and had their autograph.

When we finally made it inside the building and were traveling up in the lift, I asked: “How do cope? Don’t you ever get tired of all that attention, of people being so demanding?”

“You listen to me, young man,” said Thora, giving me a dig with the walking stick, “those are the people who put me where I am and who have kept me there! How else should I treat them?

Pity Thora’s no longer with us, she could have told Richard Griffiths a thing or two!

Sunday 25 February 2007


“If only money were no object…”

It’s one of our sayings, though I can’t quite remember now when we started saying it! Essentially, it’s always a prologue to our mentioning some luxury that we would dearly like to indulge in, but which is either impractical, too expensive or both!

I’m not talking about BIG luxuries - houses, cars, yachts and what-not - I’m referring to those small, but highly desirable, pleasures that would immeasurably improve the chances of everyday happiness!

Chief among our desires would be to have a daily supply of fresh towels and bed linen as used to be provided in hotels before they became ecologically-minded and started asking their guests to make do for longer…

“Oh, if only money were no object," we say, "we'd have clean sheets and towles every day!"

I wonder what YOU would choose…?

Saturday 24 February 2007


Time to reveal the results of the"DESCRIBE THAT MOVIE!"
CompetitionTHE WINNERS


The panel of judges - Polkadots, Frannie and David - chose the following winners from an anonymous list of submissions:

: Anon

He's guilty!
Oh no he's not!
Oh yes he is!
Oh no he's not!
Ok then! He's not!

- Twelve Angry Men


Slight, fight, fight, fight!

- The Duellists


They wake up from a dream to be killed in a nightmare.

- Alien


Don't be prissy, become a slut to get the guy of your dreams.

- Grease


Crossing all boundaries of class and height, two lovers strive desperately to escape a sinking script.

- Titanic

RUNNERS-UP (In Alphabetical Order of Films!)

A flying visit abroad doesn't go to plan when it's discovered the previous occupants haven't properly vacated the premises as expected.
- A Bridge Too Far (GOOD DOG)

Death On The Nile meets To Have and Have Not without the whistle.
- Casablanca (JAMES FORTUNE)

Young orphan leaves guardians to explore his magical powers and defeat powerful force of evil.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone or Star Wars (QUENY)

Big Shark! It kills! It gets killed!
- Jaws (ANON)

Painstakingly recreated dinosaurs and millions of dollars of visual special effects on show in a film set mostly at night and shot in the dark.
- Jurassic Park (SCROOGE)

Invisible fluffy-footed hero battles invisible CGI foes and persistent bad weather to rid himself of something he shouldn't have had in the first place.
- The Lord of the Rings (SCROOGE)

Sing-song sex with sizzling Satine.
-Moulin Rouge (JAMES FORTUNE)

Young orphan gives up criminal proclivities for life of pleasure with a rich old man.
- Oliver! / Oliver Twist (QUENY)

Fun and frolics with Fred Astaire in a life affirming look at the future of humanity. It'll raise your spirit higher than a mushroom cloud!
- On the Beach (ANDY J LATHAM)

Absentee father reluctantly returns to look after his son.
- Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (QUENY)

Maybe the most pointless film of all time. Three and a half hours when everyone knows that she's going to sink at the end!
- Titanic (SUZANNE)

A fraught journey reveals that the tired and emotionless pilot is just a big baby.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (GOOD DOG)

Of those who entered the second half of the competition and attempted to NAME those movies that had been described, the results were as follows:

CAFRINE and SUZANNE guessed 7 correct answers each; GOOD DOG and MARK LEE guessed 9 each; but the WINNER with an impressive 12 out of a possible 17 was PETE EMSLIE, an artist with a cool eye for cinematic caricature!


Friday 23 February 2007


My book-blog guru, Petrona recently wrote about the hoo-ha over the shocking discovery that Costa Book of the Year Award winner Stef Penney whose novel
The Tenderness of Wolves
is set in the Canadian tundra didn’t visit even a non-frozen bit of Canada while researching her book!

As Petrona observed (in a comment that got her blog blogged by The Guardian): "Since the invention of the papyrus and parchment, people have written about events and places that they have witnessed only in their imagination. It is interesting to be able to write convincingly about somewhere you have never been, but not overwhelmingly so."

"Here, here!" say I.

After all, did Shakespeare ever go to Denmark, Venice or fair Verona --- or even, come to that, Scotland?

And what about all those writers who've described places where even Ryanair don’t fly, such as Lilliput, Narnia, Wonderland and Oz, Gormenghast, Middle-earth and Earthsea, Moominland, Neverland and Cloudcuckooland!

Frankly, if we'd waited until those authors actually found a way to their fantastic destinations before they told us about them, we'd have had a very LONG wait!

[Image: Map of Oz by Dick Martin]

Thursday 22 February 2007


The roads, avenues, closes, lanes and walks of Britain are now a miasma of signage: an ugly jumble of what is referred to a street furniture which furnishes little other than annoyance!

Amongst the clutter, however, there are always the odd amusements, like this sign photographed by reader, Jennifer Miller...

...and this one erected outside the church next door by someone with a healthy irreverence for the Lord and his servants!

Wednesday 21 February 2007


There was once a Pig who was absolutely not as happy as a pig in s---!

He lived with a lot of other pigs that obviously were as happy as pigs allegedly are when living in that substance, whereas he couldn’t even bring himself to allow such an offensive word to besmirch his piggy lips, let alone feel happy about it.

While other pigs lived in sties that were messy and mucky and conducive to average pig-happiness, the Pig with whom we are concerned was prim and proper and kept his sty in astonishingly prissy and pristine condition.

He was, incidentally, also the only pig on the farm who had a corner of his sty designated as what his American cousins would call ‘The Restroom’.

His sty was so clean that, as the saying goes, you could have eaten your meal off the floor - which is exactly what he did everyday when the Farmer upturned a battered swill-bucket all over the neat little yard to the Pig’s neat little home.

The moment he had finished his meal, the Pig felt obligated to spend the next several hours cleaning and tidying-up.

Every few days, the Pig would notice that one or two of his neighbours were led away from their sties and never came back.

“That’s what happens,” he said to himself, “when you don’t keep your sty spick and span! You get your marching - or, I suppose I should say, ‘trotting’ - orders!” Then with a smug laugh he went to check that everything in his sty was just as it should be.

And so he went on for a long time, never allowing so much as an apple-core or a potato peeling to litter his home; priding himself on what a clean pig he was and how he found true happiness by not allowing his living standards to drop to the excremental levels of his peers.

Then, one day, the Farmer came to his sty, tied a rope around his neck and led him away.

At first, the Pig was confused and wondered whether he had, perhaps, slipped up somehow: overlooking, perhaps, a stale crust or two or a piece of pumpkin rind…

But then, knowing that that was a total impossibility, he decided that, on the contrary, he was being moved to more palatial accommodation as a reward for his impeccable manners and behaviour.

Alas, however, that was not the case and it was only as he got his first glimpse of the great gleaming Sausage-Making Machine that he knew that not only were his days of happiness truly at an end, but that he was now - like it or lump it - in the s***!

© Brian Sibley 2007
Read more of my Likely Stories

Tuesday 20 February 2007


The challenge: an invitation to readers of this blog to describe the plot of a movie in no more than twenty-four words.

The result: seventeen entries of a very high standard published (in a totally random order) below.

While an independent panel of judges is choosing a winner from a list of uncredited submissions, readers are invited to try and identify the films described.

How many can YOU correctly name (apart of course, from your own offerings)? Guesses and Comments via the usual route…

They wake up from a dream to be killed in a nightmare.

A fraught journey reveals that the tired and emotionless pilot is just a big baby.

Big Shark! It kills! It gets killed!

He's guilty! Oh no he's not! Oh yes he is! Oh no he's not! Ok then! He's not!

Young orphan gives up criminal proclivities for life of pleasure with a rich old man.

Young orphan leaves guardians to explore his magical powers and defeat powerful force of evil.

Crossing all boundaries of class and height, two lovers strive desperately to escape a sinking script.

Sing-song sex with sizzling Satine.

Invisible fluffy-footed hero battles invisible CGI foes and persistent bad weather to rid himself of something he shouldn't have had in the first place.

Slight, fight, fight, fight!

Absentee father reluctantly returns to look after his son.

Fun and frolics with Fred Astaire in a life affirming look at the future of humanity. It'll raise your spirit higher than a mushroom cloud!

Painstakingly recreated dinosaurs and millions of dollars of visual special effects on show in a film set mostly at night and shot in the dark.

Death On The Nile meets To Have and Have Not without the whistle.

A flying visit abroad doesn't go to plan when it's discovered the previous occupants haven't properly vacated the premises as expected.

Maybe the most pointless film of all time. Three and a half hours when everyone knows that she's going to sink at the end!

Don't be prissy, become a slut to get the guy of your dreams.

Send your ANSWERS soon!
will be announced on

Monday 19 February 2007


There was a time when the ‘Spamsters’, whose tireless efforts in communication are constantly cluttering up our computer inboxes, had ordinary names like ‘Robert’ and ‘Elizabeth’, presumably hoping that if you happened to know either the Brownings or the Barretts you might be tempted to open and read their mailings.

But Sam and Pam Spamster (as I've decided to call them) have obviously got bored and are now becoming rather more devious. So, receiving a communication from ‘Rose Sanford’, you might easily be fooled into thinking it was actually from ‘Sanford Rose’ the (possibly well-known) “global network of independently owned offices in the personnel search and staffing business” when, in fact, Ms Sanford is only another of those hucksters inviting you “get your hands on fast moving stocks and short term profits.”

Similarly, if you’ve ever holidayed in Calabria, Italy, then seeing the same ‘Clarice Catanzaro’ might stir a few distantly passionate memories of a magical evening spent in a little vine-fringed taverna so that, before you know what you are doing, you have clicked on the mailing, only to discover, too late, that this Clarice is just another Viagra-pusher - albeit one who, oddly, signs-off her e-mails with a quote from The Hobbit

Personally, I have always taken real pleasure from trashing mailings on which the Spamsters have clearly spent some needlessly creative time. There is a real zest with which I delete such gloriously bizarre personalities as ‘Balloon E Vulgarest’, ‘Glaring V Dawdled’ and a character who might easily have been played by Groucho Marx - ‘Swivelling J Hopewell’.

A gentler soul than I of my acquaintance, prompted by human sympathy, asked me whether these eccentric sub-Dickensian individuals might not deserve a life beyond Junk Mail Hell?

Stung by an unexpected pang of conscience, I decided to launch a discreet investigation into the true origins of the mailings I daily receive from the likes of ‘Uzziah Legler’ and ‘Ricardo L Hemlock’.

As a result, I can now reveal that maybe - just maybe - this cyberspace freak show of mutant-identities really are, in fact, not inventions of the Spamsters at all, but people as real as you or I!

At first glance, you might dismiss ‘Lawanda Lamb’ and ‘Quincy Smiley’ as being nothing but absurd fictional monikers, but spend a few dedicated hours in company with Google scanning the records of international governments and you’ll quickly come across official lists littered with the names of people who are no more outlandish than the ‘Gretchen Hoarfrost’ who wrote to me today to offer me a very cheap imitation Rolex.

You may scoff, but consult just one such schedule - I offer in evidence The United States Department of the Interior’s lengthy directory of “Unknown People” - amongst whom you will find (or not find, as it were) ‘Margaret A Finkboner’, ‘Carl J Oldperson III’ and many others whom you can confidently expect to be sending you a few spam samples very shortly!

So, benefit from my research and take my advice, the very next e-mail you get purporting to come from ‘Alma F Rabbit’, ‘Henry Angus M Badbear’ or ‘Bobby Lee Saddleblanket, Jnr’, don’t trash it and don’t waste a second - ring the American Embassy at once - or, if you’ve got their direct line, the CIA.

It is your duty and, though I obviously cannot personally guarantee it, if you’ve helped the Greatest Democracy in the World to locate a few of its ‘Unknown People’, there may well be a reward for your vigilance.

Alternatively, of course, Mulder and Scully may suddenly break into your house accompanied by a lot of men in white suits and radiation helmets.

Let me know…

[Images from the Spam Fan Club at, who really do not deserve to be associated with the activities of e-mial junk peddlers!]

Sunday 18 February 2007


There was a time when palaeontologists puzzling over the fossil remains of the stegosaurus came across a notable enlargement in the creature's spinal cord at the point where it passed through the pelvis. The fact that the stegosaurus had a minute brain - no bigger than a walnut - and since it was a mere 1/20th of the size of whatever it was the stegosaurus was hauling around in its hindquarters, gave rise to the speculation that prehistoric giant had some auxiliary brain power in its bum.

In 1912, Chicago Tribune columnist, Bert Taylor, penned the following ditty on the subject:
Behold the mighty dinosaur
Famous in prehistoric lore,
Not only for his power and strength
But for his intellectual length.
You will observe by these remains
The creature had two sets of brains--
One in his head (the usual place),

The other in his spinal base.
Thus he could reason "A priori"
As well as "A posteriori."

No problem bothered him a bit

He made both head and tail of it.

So wise was he, so wise and solemn,

Each thought filled just a spinal column.

If one brain found the pressure strong

It passed a few ideas along.

If something slipped his forward mind

'Twas rescued by the one behind.

And if in error he was caught

He had a saving afterthought.

As he thought twice before he spoke

He had no judgment to revoke.

Thus he could think without congestion

Upon both sides of every question.

Oh, gaze upon this model beast;

Defunct ten million years at least.
Later experts revised this theory, deciding that the 'rear brain' was simply a neural junction where a lot of nerves converged on entering the spinal cord.

There are those who would argue that Homo sapiens exhibit evidence of the original stegosaurus theory and Australian designer Bruno Banani clearly knows where the intellect and intelligence of most males of the species is to be found!

Saturday 17 February 2007


I'm off to Brighton today - a flying visit in order to interview Dakota Blue Richards, the 12-year old who is playing Lyra in the film version of The Golden Compass.

Were I not in the grip a nasty cold that has turned into a chest infection with a death-rattle cough, I'd have made a day of it: crunching my away along the beach and getting myself a good healthy breath of sea air before enjoying a fish-and-chip lunch (with mushy peas, naturally) followed by a '99' ice cream on the pier...

But, alas, that is not to be... Instead, I shall be crawling out of bed, guzzling a slug of Lemsip, zooming down to Brighthelmstone and croaking my way through the interview before zooming up to London and hopping back into bed again!

Oddly, a year ago yesterday, I was in Brighton with David and our friend Polkadots & Moonbeams watching the fascinating natural phenomenon of thousands of swarming starlings swooping over, under and around the Palace Pier in the late afternoon...

Here's a moment of two from their fascinating avian gymnastics...

They'll be at it again this afternoon - I'll be sorry to miss the display!


But I didn't miss it! Emerging from the Metropole Hotel at 5 o'clock this afternoon, there they were: thousands of starlings in a great cloud, hovering and swirling over the rusting skeleton of the West Pier...

So, here they are...

Friday 16 February 2007


I am currently writing a book about the making of The Golden Compass: the film currently in production based on Northern Lights, the first volume of the award-winning 'His Dark Materials' trilogy by Philip Pullman. Starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, the film is being produced by New Line Cinema who previously brought The Lord of the Rings to the screen.

In the process of my research, I found the following compelling quote by Pullman on the power of the story...

"After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world."

As Pullman has observed elsewhere: "There's fast-food language and there's caviar language..." But whatever the language and regardless of whether those stories are written in book, magazine and newspaper or enacted on stage or screen, he is right --- we do all need our daily bread from the tellers of tales...

[Caricature of Philip Pullman by David Levine]

Thursday 15 February 2007


for the

Only One More Day to Go!

You are invited to submit a one-sentence plot summary (maximum 25 words)
of a reasonably well-known movie, with the answer.

No more than three entries from any one contestant.

Closing date for entries: TOMORROW, Friday 16th February.

"Take your medicine and you'll soon be
as high as a kite."


One day in the late 1940s, Walt Disney was walking through London when he came across a young Englishman drawing chalk pavement pictures. He was so impressed with the artist’s brilliance at creating realistic scenes, that he immediately offered him a job and took him off to Hollywood where he lived happily ever after creating special effects for dozens of Disney movies.

It’s a nice story, but total baloney! However, that’s the story that Walt Disney used to tell about Peter Ellenshaw (right) who died on Monday in California, aged 93.

Ellenshaw was one of the last great practioners of the now-lost art of matte painting - a special effects technique which involved making highly realistic paintings on plates of glass that, when placed in front of the camera while filming a scene in a movie, extended the physical settings in which the actors were filming to create elaborate interiors or dramtic and fantastic landscapes.

Born in Essex in 1913, Peter Ellenshaw learned his trade under Britain’s foremost special effects artist, W. Percy (‘Pop’) Day, assisting on such legendary movies as Things to Come, The Thief of Bagdad, A Matter of Life and Death, Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes.

After serving with the RAF during WWII, Ellenshaw retuned to the movies providing superb matte paintings for a quartet of live action features made by Walt Disney in the UK: Treasure Island, The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, The Sword and the Rose and Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue. Then, in 1953, Ellenshaw went to Hollywood to work on Disney’s lavish adaptation of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

With one or two exceptions - he made uncredited contributions to Quo Vadis and Spartacus - Ellenshaw worked exclusively for Walt Disney on almost three dozen movies including such family classics as Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, Pollyanna, Swiss Family Robinson, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and the film that won him an Oscar for his stunning London panoramas, Mary Poppins.

The moment when Mary Poppins, Bert and the Banks children, having climbed the smoke staircase, look out across the vista of chimneys, spires and domes as the sun sets and the street lights twinkle on is surely one of the most magical scenes in a magical movie.

In 1979, I had the privilege to host a Guardian Lecture with Peter Ellenshaw at the National Film Theatre when the artist came to London to promote The Black Hole - a truly terrible picture for which he was, nevertheless, justly Oscar-nominated for his powerful visual effects.

During the lecture he revealed that, in addition his extraordinary pictorial contributions to Poppins, he had assisted with the music and choreography, by first suggesting (and then demonstrating) to Walt Disney and composers, Richard and Robert Sherman, the Cockney song-and-dance called ‘Knees Up, Mother Brown’ which would provide the inspiration for the chimney sweeps’ ‘Step in Time’ number on the rooftops.

Then, grabbing my arm and pulling me out of the safety of my interviewer’s chair, Peter insisted that I join him in doing a knees-up for the audience - one of the most humiliating moments in my media career!

Of course I forgave Peter Ellenshaw for the embarrassment he caused me, because he was a truly formidable talent - not just for the extraordinary visual creations he brought to the cinema screen (work done nowadays using a computer), but also for the strikingly beautiful landscapes and seascapes that he painted for his own satisfaction and which now hang in many public and private collections.

As Bert, that other pavement artist working near Cherry Tree Lane, observes:

"Today, I'm a screever, and as you can see,
A screever's an artist of 'ighest degree,
And it's all me own work
From me own memory..."

Visit the Ellenshaw Family website to learn more about Peter Ellenshaw and his son (and fellow artist) Harrison Ellenshaw and their work inside - and outside - the House of Mouse.

Wednesday 14 February 2007


My first Valentine! I still blush and shudder every time I think of it!

I was 16 and Anne (known as Teddi) was 14.

Our parents were friends and her younger brother, Paul, went to my school and sort of hero-worshiped me. Had it been a private school instead of a sec mod he would, undoubtedly, have been my fag! As it was, he tagged along every day as I walked to and from school with my mates, begging me to let him carry my bag!

I think there was some sort of parental expectation that Teddi and I would become girl-and-boy friends and maybe in response to that, or in an attempt to prove to myself that I was ‘normal’ rather than ‘not’, I decided, one February 14th, to send Teddi a Valentine's Day card…

I can remember spending ages in the card shop choosing it and the accute embarrassment of purchasing it from Mr Cooling who had known me since I was five! What I can’t now recall is what kind of card it was: silly or sloppy, though it was probably funny rather than romantic…

Anyway, it was bought and signed with a question mark, the envelope was addressed in a disguised hand and the missive posted.

Come February 14, the telephone rings... My mother answers. Gales of laughter! It’s Teddi’s Mum phoning to ask my Mum to thank me for Teddi’s Valentine card!!


The sheer, toe-curling, face-reddening HUMILIATION!!!!

Of course, I vehemently denied it, but my parents knew from my stammering protestations and guilty blushes that it was all too true!

Maybe they were secretly pleased and their worst fears momentarily faded away... Who knows? But it was, for me, a small but devastating trauma! And it was to be a very long time before I sent another Valentine and that was to a real, genuine, bone fide girlfriend in my last days as a reluctant heterosexual before I finally gave up the pretence and went off after the boys instead!

Anyway, today, to my Valentine of almost 17 years (and to lovers everywhere) I say...


If you've ever wondered who VALENTINE was and how he became the Patron Saint of Florists and Card Manufacturers, here are a few links to informative sites:


Picture Frames

Tuesday 13 February 2007


The other night I fell out of bed! "My God!" you're thinking, "he really is running out of things to blog about!"

But I did! One minute I was in the thrall of an amazingly bizarre dream (the details of which, regrettably, are not suitable for an un-rated blogsite - "Dr Freud will see you now, Mr Sibley...") when I experienced the much-written-about, boringly-stereotypical falling sensation...



I am rudely awakened to find myself on the floor wondering, firstly, whether I might have broken something and, secondly, how I was going to get up again!

When I was a kid, I fell out of bed more often than Windsor McKay's Little Nemo tumbled out of Slumberland.

The difference was that in the days of blankets and sheets, I rarely if ever made landfall. Instead, I usually found myself suspended, cacoon-like, in an inch above my Mickey Mouse-Sorcerer's Apprentice bedside rug.

In fact, I would be so tightly wound up in the bedding (Imhotep would have marvelled at the thoroughness of my mummification) that I invariably had to call out to my father to extricate me from my self-imposed bondage!

Anyway, it's something that - until the other night - I've not done for years and, looking at the bruises, bumps and grazes I sustained, it is something I don't plan on doing again in a hurry!

In the event of a repeat performance, however, I may just have to go in for the Sinanco Bed Support of which there are two types: the Standard Model and - if I felt in need of a little extra confidence - the Security Model "for senile and confused patients".

The only drawback seems to be that once in...

...if you've forgotten to take your specs off, you have to keep them on all night!

Or, instead, I could go for a safety mat from FALL-EZ: "Great for everyone from Infant to Senior! With FALL-EZ falling does not mean fear!"

Except that I am tempted to think that the man shown above is beyond fear being, in fact, already DEAD!

Supposing, however, you are alive, it does seem a simple enough product to use. "When properly placed adjacent to a bed," we are told, "the FALL-EZ™ safety mat can greatly reduce injuries resulting from falls..."

See? As easy as falling off a log and if you happen to be sleeping like a log then it is obviously perfect!

What's more: "When not in use, the FALL-EZ™ safety mat can be easily stored behind or under the bed." Or possibly used for karate practice --- if, that is...

... you can actually manage to lift it without the aid of two trained members of the medical profession!

May it would be easier if I just had a chat with David and see how he feels about handcuffs...

Monday 12 February 2007


"What I dream of is an art of balance..."

of purity and serenity devoid of
troubling or depressing subject matter
a soothing, calming influence on the mind."

- Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

Sunday 11 February 2007


In a world where we suffer from communications overloaded, there’s a lot to be said for keeping stuff short and sweet.

I fondly remember a four-word review penned by The Observer film critic C A Lejeune. The picture in question was the 1947 bio-pic of composer Joe Howard and took its title from one of his songs...

I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now

I couldn’t care less!

On the subject of film, I’ve always enjoyed snappy movie summaries and a favourite has to be the brilliant and oft-quoted one-sentence plot summary for The Wizard of Oz offered by Rick Polito of the Marin Independent Journal:

"Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again."

So, with that as inspiration I’m launching a new two-part competition!

You are invited to submit your own one-sentence plot summary (maximum 25 words - that’s one more word than Rick Polito used!) of a reasonably well-known movie, with the answer. No more than three entries from any one contestant.* Closing date for entries Friday 16th February.

The winning submission and those of all runners-up will appear on the Sibley blog so that readers can then attempt to identify the films described.

* NOTE: Mr David Weeks will not be entering this competition following charges of nepotism (utterly unfounded, I might add) resulting from his having won the recent caption competition! Mr Weeks will, therefore on this occasion, join me in judging the winners.

[Image: The killer's first victim (above) by Ryan Gray!]