Thursday 31 May 2007


Shortly after the publication of my biography of Peter Jackson, I was sitting in a pub when my mobile phone rang. I answered it...

"Is that Brian Sibley?" boomed an unmistakable, stentorian voice.

"Christopher Lee!" I replied. "Nice to hear from you!"

"How did you know it was me?" the caller asked in a vaguely miffed tone, "I was disguising my voice!"

Not too successfully as it happened... I've had plenty of opportunities to get used to that distinctive voice: from the movies, of course, and from having lunched and dined with it's owner, talked with him on numerous occasions while writing my books about The Lord of the Rings movies and the Jackson biography, and having conducted most of his on-camera interviews for the Rings DVD 'extras'.

Writing, the day before yesterday, about Peter Cushing, reminded me how nervous I was when I met Christopher Lee for the first time in many years at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival preview of the sneak footage of The Fellowship of the Ring.

It was in a room in a French château, taken over for the weekend by New Line Cinema and imaginatively decked out to look like a composite set from the movie.

Christopher was going over the proofs for my The Lord of the Rings: Official Movie Guide and characteristically telling me off for too many blood-spattered references to his movie representations of Dracula!

He is tall and imposing and with a voice like that and a penetrating gaze like his, one is not apt to argue! But my fear actually arose from recalling an encounter thirty-something years earlier...

I was a passionate young film fan and my best mate and I had bought tickets for the BAFTA Awards in the days when the event was not quite the big deal that it is today.

We had hired penguin suits and had pretty good seats in the National Film Theatre. To my delight, I discovered that I was sitting behind Christopher Lee and, after the ceremony and in the hope of impressing my friend, I tapped Lee on the shoulder - or as near as I could reach! - and assayed a conversation...

"Mr Lee," I began, "you won't remember me..." Fatal words, of course! "We met at Pinewood a couple of years back on the set of Nothing But the Night, when I was there to interview Peter Cushing..."

"Oh, yes," he replied politely and then turned to go - except that I was hoping to take the conversation further.

"So..." I said and Christopher turned back to look at me, wondering, no doubt, to what further inconsequential inanities he was to be subjected... Simultaneously, I realised that I didn't actually have anything else to say...

"So," I said again, "How is Peter Cushing?"

Storm clouds lowered and his eyes burned with positively more than just a hint of red!

Then came the devastating put-down: "We don't LIVE TOGETHER, you know!"

I was crushed! Devastated! Utterly speechless!

Needless to say, I've never, subsequently, had the nerve to remind him of this encounter. Well you wouldn't, would you --- just in case you got told off again!

Wednesday 30 May 2007


As that excellent panel game, Call My Bluff used to demonstrate so eloquently, the English language is full of the most amazing array of words suited to just about any and every occasion in which you might find yourself lost for words!

Which is why I've been toying with the idea of an occasional series of short rambles into old dictionaries.

Sometimes I might just introduce readers to a word that has been languishing unused and unloved for far too long; while, on other occasions - such as today - I might make it the subject of a----


So, here's today's word...


Now, I know what LUCE means, what I want to know is what you think LUCE ought to mean!

Send me your deft definitions and I'll select the wittiest and most apposite entries * for everyone to enjoy!

* For "the wittiest and most apposite entries" read "all entries"!!

Tuesday 29 May 2007


You can't keep a good vampire-hunter down, it seems...

A recent day-trip to Whitstable brought to mind a man of whom I have many fond memories; for Whitstable is not only famous as the place where some of the tastiest native oysters snuggle down in their beds, but also as the residence of that pre-eminent vampire-sleuth-and-slayer, the most gentlemanly film actor of his age --- PETER CUSHING.

The fact that the Hammer House of Horror star made his home beside the long shingly shore of this little town on the Thames Estuary, has now been honoured by naming a street CUSHING'S WALK and designating a spot on what passes for an esplanade, CUSHING'S VIEW...

I first met Peter Cushing when I was in my early twenties. I had ambitions to write and came up with the (not very original) idea of a book about 'actors' and one of the people I approached for an interview was Cushing.

I had already written him several letters as a fan that had led to a correspondence and he responded to my request for an interview with an invitation to visit him at Pinewood Studios where he was filming what would turn out to be one of very few turkeys in his prolific career, Nothing But the Night.

On the appointed day, I was treated royally: given a seat on set to watch filming (I was fascinated by the fact that Cushing, a chain-smoker, wore a white cotton glove on his right hand when not on camera so as not to get nicotine stains!) and I was introduced to his co-stars, his long-time screen nemesis, Christopher Lee, and the pneumatic Miss Diana Dors.

Then I was toured round the studio lot and was shown all those wonderfully phoney facades (walk through the door of a Mexican town and find yourself in a Cornish fishing village!); taken to lunch in the commissary (sitting at the next table to one of my film gods, Ken Russell, who was then filming Savage Messiah); and, after the interview, given a lift back into London by Cushing and Paddy, his Irish chauffer/stand-in.

The book never got written but we maintained our correspondence and, years later when I was presenting a book programme on the BBC, I twice got to interview Peter when he published two volumes of autobiography.

My last memory of this warm, courteous and generous man was of his going through the second volume, Past Forgetting, correcting various typos in his immaculate copperplate handwriting - to the complete frustration of his publicist, who wanted to whisk him off to his next appointment!

Anyway, back to Whitstable...

I am sitting propped up against one of the groins on the very windy beach when a man with a loud know-it-all megaphone-voice scrunches over the shingle, holding forth to a companion who hangs on his every word. "Oh, yes," says Megaphone, "I know this beach like the back of my hand..."

I tune-out for a while - to avoid crucial levels of boredom - but then, suddenly, pick up on a name that I know...

"Peter Cushing?" Megaphone is saying, " Oh yes, that's his house over there - the black weather-boarded one..."

"Do you ever spot him?" asks his friend eagerly.

"Well," replies Megaphone, "of course, he's a bit of a recluse, you know, so we don't see him about much nowadays..."

Hmmm! Not too surprising really... Not when you think that the dear man has been dead for almost THIRTEEN YEARS!

Monday 28 May 2007


After my use, yesterday, of the latin aphorism 'carpe diem' - which, as everyone who's ever seen Dead Poets Society will know, means 'seize the day' - I stumbled across a whole joke-book full of humorous variations on the 'carpe' theme that, frankly, I'm surprised Robin Williams didn't incoporate into the DPS script!

I then discovered that several of them are available as logos on T-shirts, sweatshirts, boxer shorts, thongs, caps, coffee mugs, coasters, tote bags and fridge magnets...

What more could one ask?!

carpe noctum = seize the night

carpe carp = sieze the fish

carpe deum = god is a fish

crape diem = bad day

carp diem = complain daily

carpe per diem = seize the cheque

carpe cocoa = seize the chocolate

carpe calypso = seize the day-o

carpe canem = seize the dog


carnivore carpe = RUN!!

[Carpes 'caught' at Fun With Words; to enjoy the full range of avilable Carpe Design products, visit Cafe Press at Just4Yucks!]

Sunday 27 May 2007


Responding to my story about taking a photograph in Venice, Wednesday Windows, a couple of regular readers have sent in their own photography stories.

The first comes from SHARON MAIL, who writes:
You are obviously very patient and willing to wait until you get the photo you want. However, I’m not the most patient of souls, but when I took this picture - from my hotel balcony in the Los Boliches area of Fuengirola in Spain in November 2003 - I was prepared to wait for about 15 minutes till the fishing boat arrived in place!
That exercise in patience resulted in a blazing sun shot that is given symmetry and interest by the presence of the boat silhouetted on the golden path of the rising sun.

The next story recounts a photography expedition by NICK CLARK:
Last October I was in Bruges with a friend who is also a keen photographer. Having previously visited the city during a beautifully sunny day, we had already seen it at its best. This time we were not so fortunate. It rained heavily and the day’s photography was largely washed out by overcast skies and perpetual rain.

Then, in the late afternoon, the clouds parted and the sun exploded through them creating an unbelievable atomic landscape. It happened just before sunset and all of the cobbled streets around us were turned orange by the glow.

At first, I was over-awed by the suddenness: so quickly did it occur that I was caught up in what was becoming an event. Even the staff in the various restaurants and bars around the main square (where we were) came out of doors to witness the passing sky.

Of course, I then realised that I had a chance of some good pictures and my friend and I had to make a decision as to what, in this beautiful city, we would go for. We chose differently. He ran out of the square to catch the scene at an area we called 'photographers corner' where the carillon tower peeks out slyly over floodlight buildings and the canal turns between them. I elected to stay in the square and photograph the sky over the buildings there where the tower was in silhouette.

By the time I had followed my friend, I had missed the best of it, but my first series of shots were quite different to his and so we were able to share of pictures later.

Here are two of mine from the square.

Whilst Sharon is right that sometimes the good photo is caught by patience, Nick’s experience is a reminder that, as often as not, it's about being a snappy snapper! About having the ‘luck’ to be in the right place at the right time -- with a camera! -- and seizing the moment.

I often think of advice given to me by my friend Pierre Vinet, who took all the stills photographs on The Lord of the Rings (right, with Peter Jackson grabbing his camera to photograph me photographing them!): “If you’ve seen it,” said Pierre, “you’ve missed it!”

So, perhaps the real secret of photography is to see the photo opportunity just before it occurs - whether that means waiting 15 minutes for the boat to get in position or just keeping your eye glued to the viewfinder and your sure-fire trigger-finger on the button ever-ready to shoot on sight!

Saturday 26 May 2007


I saw my friend Mandy the other night, after an absence of several weeks.

Did she ask: "What have you been up to lately?"?


"So," she began, "what have you been BLOGGING about?"

Friday 25 May 2007


So, if you are really and truly "ARE what you eat", then WHAT are you if you eat this...?

Well, obviously...

NUTTY, FRUITY and... er... SEEDY?!

Thursday 24 May 2007


One of the several arty blogs listed among the 'absolutely animation' links (right) is that of Boris T Hiestand.

I've always enjoyed the diverse way in which cartoonists represent animal attributes so I was amused when Boris recently introduced his readers to a group of eccentric cartoon characters called Polar Friends, beginning with Penguin the penguin who is "madly in love with Polarbear the polar bear, but finds it hard to communicate with him..."

And Polarbear "a semi retarded polar bear, whose only wish in life it is to KILL Penguin the penguin"!

I asked Boris if there was also a walrus and a day or two later the said creature turned up with the simple dedication For Brian...

Rather disturbingly, Walrus the walrus is described as "a private detective" who is "a pompous old prick and well loved by everybody despite the fact that he smells of cabbage".

I momentarily worried in case Walrus' character was, in any sense, based on mine. But then I realised that it couldn't be because I am NOT a private detective!

Thanks, Boris!

By the way, I assume he left his tusks in the glass by his bed!

Check out Boris' blog (I once fell down a manhole) to encounter some of his other creations and meet more of Polarbear and Penguin's friends such as Snake the snake, "the laughing stock of the polar friends, because he wears Clavin Klein boxershorts".


Wednesday 23 May 2007


I'm starting an occasional feature called Wednesday Windows in which I'll be reproducing favourite shots from my Window Gazing blog with a little bit of background about how and why I came to take the photograph.

Click on any image to enlarge.

This picture was taken on the 29 December 2005 on one of the balconies of the Ca'd'Oro Palace on the Grand Canal in Venice.

It was our first visit to Ca'd'Oro which had only recently re-opened after several years of being under restoration.

Photography of the relics and antiquities in the museum is not allowed, but it is permitted outside on the loggias where most people settle for a shot of the gondolas or water-taxis passing to and fro on the Grand Canal below or of the fish market on the opposite embankment.

I, however, was captivated by the reflections created by the glass wall and doors that separated the museum rooms from the balconies - acting as both windows and mirrors - and the accompanying shadows cast by the columns and arches of the loggia itself.

I spent a long time waiting for the loggia to become empty so as to get a 'perfect' mirror image, but to no avail. I gave up and wandered round the rest of the exhibits. Then, just before we left, I went back up to have a final look.

To my surprise, it was now deserted apart from a woman talking to a man wearing a long coat and a fedora. I tried, without success, to get a shot of the pair silhouetted against the late afternoon light and eventually, the women left and the man began making calls on his mobile telephone. I suddenly realised that this figure, alone on the balcony, might offer an interesting image suggesting mystery and melancholy.

At first I tried to get the man, the balcony and the vista of rooftops beyond, but the solitariness of the man's silhouette seemed to lose its impact when set against the backdrop.

I then moved so as to include a further window and a distant campanile, but the subject of the picture no longer seemed as clear...

I started rapidly shooting off picture after picture - some vertical, some horizontal - each from slightly different angles and (since the man refused to stand still) I was well aware that in several shots (left) it was going to be all too obvious that he was on a mobile...

To add to my problems I was now shooting into the sun and so had to be careful to position myself so that the sun would be obscured behind one of the columns or the architectual tracery of the loggia arches.

The more clearly I saw in my mind's eye the shot I was looking for, the harder it became to get it!

Soon I was worrying that the man's female companion might return, or that a horde of tourists would suddenly spill out onto the balcony and ruin the composition. There was also an increasing risk that he might turn round and catch me taking photographs of him!

Then, at long last, he finished his call and just stood looking out at the view.


I had the picture I wanted.

A second later, the door opened, the woman crossed to join the man and they turned and went off together into the museum...

© Brian Sibley, 2005

If you have a photo that you'd like to offer for display on Window Gazing, send it as a jpg to

Tuesday 22 May 2007


The United States Postal Service used to guarantee its proficiency with a phrase borrowed from the Pony Express Riders...

Amazingly, this cliché actually dates back to the 5th Century BC and the writings of the Greek historian, Herodotus, who praised the horseback messengers of King Xerxes of the Persians in these words...

Since this doubtless looks all Greek to you, here's a literal translation by Bill Casselman, to whose fascinating website on books and words I am indebted for this information:
...Not snowstorm, not thunder-shower, not heat, not night shall work to delay their imposed mail-route nor their carrying it out as fast as possible.
Unfortunately, in the UK the Royal Mail don't seem to have quite the same dedication as those Persian riders or their later North American counterparts.

For example...

I have JUST RECEIVED a somewhat belated CHRISTMAS CARD from the wonderfully talented author, artist and illustrator Ian Beck...

Thanks, very much Ian! nice to be remembered and the new book looks good!


When did Ian POST this card which was correctly addressed including the all-important postal code?


22 December 2006

Still, at least it was posted FIRST CLASS!

Anyway, bearing mind how much snow, rain, heat and gloom of night we've gone through in the past five months, I suppose it's a bloody marvel it arrived at all!

[Images: Illustrations by Ian Beck from Butterfingers by Juliet Trewellard]

Monday 21 May 2007


After recent watery warnings on this blogspot, I thought it was time to splash out and share with you some extraordinary liquid images by a hugely talented photographer.

Cafrine was for some while a regular comment-contributor to these pages and had her own delightfully diverting blog, the late, lamented Wonky Comma.

More recently, Cafrine started Muddled but almost immediately got seduced away by the joys of flickr which provided a fitting showcase for her astonishing experiments with macro photography!

Cafrine has developed a particular knack for capturing amazing shots of water falling and splashing, of which these images are - as you might say - just a drop in the bucket!

Click on images to enlarge

Enjoy more of Cafrine’s fantastic images in her flickr albums, Water, Rainbow, Drop and others.

Sunday 20 May 2007


At the recent memorial service for Ian Richardson, Dame Helen Mirren read a poem entitled 'Dirge without Music' by the American lyrical poet and playwright, Edna St Vincent Millay (1892 – 1950), the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

It has something in common with Dylan Thomas' well-known verse, 'Do not go gentle into that good night...' and W H Auden's 'Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone...' (made famous by the film Four Weddings and a Funeral) in that it is about the raging anger that is an intrinsic part of grief.

Dirge without Music

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, --- but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.


Dame Helen's reading was charged with high emotion and she was all but overcome by the final line of the second verse. This was hardly surprising since, without question, this is one of the most passionate and painful responses to the death of a loved one I have ever encountered...

On the subject of grief and anger...

Bela, a fellow admirer of Ian Richardson, attending the service, refers to this poem and its reading in a post headed Grotesque and Unseemly, a title that refers not to Dame Helen's touching performance but to the scrum of photographers and autograph-hunters that flocked like vultures around the steps of St Paul's Covent Garden, following the service, button-holing every famous name they could recognise.

I too was appalled, but decided not to mention it in my report because I didn't want to sound a sour note when writing about something that had been a loving, celebratory service, honouring a fine actor.

But Bela is absolutely right: the display of insensitivity was staggering and anger-inducing and - whilst everyone attending the service behaved impeccably and gave the photographers and autograph collectors the snaps and inscriptions they wanted - it was a reminder of the extraordinary level of intrusiveness that celebrities are expected to endure.

What staggered me, as I noted on Bela's blog, was that some of the autograph seekers didn't even wait until people got outside the church... I happened to be coming down the aisle behind Elizabeth Spriggs - who was walking on a stick and with some difficulty - when a fan pushed his way in front and thrust an open autograph book and a pen at her. Then, having got her signature, he snatched back the book and dashed off in pursuit of Prunella Scales.

[Image: Tomb on San Michele, Venice © Brian Sibley]

Saturday 19 May 2007


We really are a desperately territorial species. This doubtless explains why the residents of three of the four flats in our house feel assaulted by the fact that - without so much as a Do-You-Mind or a By-Your-Leave - one family have annexed no less than HALF of the communally-shared garden and turned it into an adventure playground for their two children...

The rest of us are considering our options, ranging from complaints to some authority or other such as Health-and-Safety-Weights-and-Measures- Town-and-Country-Planning to good old-fashioned ARSON!

My latest response, however, is to investigate the possibilities of purchasing and installing a large family of gibbons, setting up a turnstile and licensing a few hot-dog, ice-cream and Coca-Cola concessions!

Friday 18 May 2007


"Water, water, everywhere..." and two signs to prove it!

The first was spotted by regular reader, Jen Miller, on the ferry boat from Tate Britain to Tate Modern...

Now, it may say No entry but, for all we know, it might very well be an entry --- for the Turner prize!

The second sign of madness was captured on film by Nick Clark (aka Boll Weavil, the blog-commentor formally known as Scrooge).

Anyone ringing the coastgauard to report someone in danger at sea are instructed to give the location as SCARBOROUGH ESPLANADE...

Unfortunately, the sign is actually located some 100 miles away by SKEGNESS PIER!!

Thursday 17 May 2007


Meet Fraser...

Fraser was born in Scotland and decided to come down to London to visit with Buttons.

He made the journey with a little assistance from my friend Sharon and he has now climbed out his bag and has already settled down as part of Button's gang with special responsibility for poetic entertainments which seem to takes the form of lengthy recitations from the works of William Topaz McGonagall as a result of which Buttons already has 'The Tay Bridge Disaster' by heart!

Looking at Fraser reminds me of what Christopher (Robin) Milne, sometime friend of Winnie-the-Pooh, wrote about bears...
A row of teddy bears sitting in a toy shop: all one size, all one price. Yet how different each is from the next.

Some look gay, some look sad. Some look standoffish, some look lovable. And one in particular, that one over there, has a specially endearing expression.

Yes, that is the one we would like please.

[Image: Winnie-the-Pooh by E H Shepard]

Wednesday 16 May 2007


Among yesterday's congregation were David Suchet, Prunella Scales, Julian Glover, Charlotte Rampling, Trevor Nunn, Charles Kay, Isla Blair and Elizabeth Spriggs. They and many other familiar faces from stage and television had gathered at St Paul’s Covent Garden, ‘The Actor’s Church’, to pay tribute to the late Ian Richardson.

It was an hour-long drama performed and directed to perfection, evoking laughter, summoning tears, combining mourning and celebrating in equal measure, in order to say farewell to a much loved and admired actor in the way only theatre people can...

We entered the church to a subtle organ arrangement (so subtle that most people would have missed it) of songs from My Fair Lady: a doubly appropriate welcome since Ian had acted and sung the role of Professor Henry Higgins and because St Paul’s is the church featured in the opening scene of Pygmalion and My Fair Lady and under the portico of which Higgins loiters in order to eavesdrop on the gutter-English of Eliza Doolittle.

This was followed (unbilled in the order of service) by Ian’s voice as Richard II exhorting us, for god’s sake, to sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings…

“Ian loved memorial services,” said one of the actor’s sons, Miles Richardson, “He said it was an opportunity for all the old farts to get together!” Then, looking round the pews packed with names from the Who’s Who of British Theatre, he added, “Thank you for coming!”

There was a sterling rendition of ‘Jerusalem’ that would have gladdened the heart of every member of the Women’s Institute from whose ranks, one suspects, had come the considerable phalanx of female admirers that swelled the congregation.

There was a Robbie Burns song from Scottish soprano, Isobel Buchanan; Stephen Gray singing 'Blow, Northern Wind', a song Ian had sung in a production of Pericles; and there was a hilarious piece of comic nonsense from Sir Donald Sinden about watching a Noh Drama in Japan which - though Sir Donald forgot to mention it - was Ian's favourite joke!

There were readings by Dame Helen Mirren and Simon Russell Beale and reminiscences from composer Guy Wolfenden and the theatre equivalent of Zeus, Sir Peter Hall.

Sir Peter recalled seeing Ian act for the first time with the Birmingham Rep and of inviting him to join the newly founded RSC. He praised Ian's 'voice' and noted that "some actors think that to raise ones voice is unnatural!" Not a view with which PH has any truck: "I tell them, 'You are wearing somebody else's clothes, saying somebody else's words and sitting on somebody else's chair. What's natural about THAT?'"

In concluding what was the closest thing in the service to a eulogy, Sir Peter said that Ian had, in his work both as a classical actor and as a star of popular television dramas, provided “hours and hours not of truth, but of credibility”.

Richard Pasco then read Shakespeare's poem 'Fear no more...' from Cymbeline:
Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages;
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Fear no more the frown o' the great;
Thou art past the tyrant's stroke:
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.

Fear no more the lightning-flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan;
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.

No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renownéd be thy grave!
Lines that were aptly followed by Geoffrey Burgon’s famous setting of ‘Nunc Dimittis’ in the version used as the closing music to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (in which Ian had played the ‘Tailor’) with St Paul’s Cathedral chorister, Paul Phoenix piping Simeon's prayer, "Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace..."

After which it was left to Sir Derek Jacobi to deliver the curtain speech in the form of Prospero's final perorartion from The Tempest:
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

A reminder…

There are two more episodes of Ian Richardson’s reading of my book Shadowlands still to be broadcast on BBC Radio (88-90.2 FM) this and next Friday evening at 21.15.

Last week - for the second time - Radio Times chose Shadowlands as its ‘Pick of the Day’, calling it “a rare and poignant piece of radio.” And that is a tribute solely to the performance of the reader who posessed one of the great voices of our age...

Tuesday 15 May 2007


Yari was desperately excited! It was a few weeks ago: we had gone to our local Italian restaurant, Amici, and were energetically greeted from the above the pots and pans in the kitchen by Yari, the pizza chef.

“Mr Sibley! Mr Sibley!” shouted Yari, “I saw you, hello, with Gino D’Acampo!” This sounded like gibberish, so I said "Hello!" back and smiled politely as one has been taught to do when confronted by excitable foreigners talking unintelligibly. “He is my favourite chef,” Yari continued, “You both go to the opening of new restaurant!”

I shook my head and explained that I hadn’t gone to any restaurant openings and that I didn’t know Signor D’Acampo. I didn’t, at the time, confess to not actually knowing who he was…

“Yes, yes!” Yari insisted, "you and Gino were there in Hello magazine!”

I gave up the struggle, laughed and shrugged and Yari, convinced that I was an idiot, went back to his pizzas.

I did, idly, flick through the current copy of Hello when I next went to a newsagent, but (not too surprisingly) didn’t find anything about Gino and/or myself.

It remained a mystery. In fact, I naturally assumed I had been mistaken for Francis Ford Coppola - as has happened!

Then, the other day, a publicist with the Walt Disney Company sent me a clipping from a recent issue of Hello magazine which featured a picture of Gino D’Acampo attending the opening of a restaurant in Hampstead and close by (but unrelated) a photo of myself at the recent press launch for the new DVD release of Peter Pan, snapped with my friend Kathryn Beaumont (the voice of Wendy in the film) and so, at last, Yari’s excitement was explained!

[Unless you've got 20/20 vision, click on the image to enlarge]

I am still amused by the fact that Kathy needed to be identified, while my celebrity status was clearly taken for granted!! In fact, it can only be a matter of time before they request an exclusive tour of my most gracious home…

Monday 14 May 2007


If it's true that 71% of the earth's surface is covered in water and 70% of the human body consists of water...

Then how the Hell can one bottle of Voss Artisian Water from Norway, containing less than 1 litre, cost (including restaurant service), wait for it ...


Mind you, since an average human being apparently drinks about 16, 000 gallons of water in a lifetime, Voss must be doing very-nicely-thank-you!

We did our bit to redress the balance by taking the empty bottle home with us and refilling it with Sainsbury's Caledonian Sparkling!

Sunday 13 May 2007


Believe it or not, Sibley blogging began a year ago TODAY and it very quickly took on the format of a daily publication.

True, I missed a week-and-a-bit at Christmas, but I’ve nevertheless still managed to clock up 410 postings, plus 206 daily photographs posted on my Window Gazing blog; 24 Likely Stories; and 15 bookish posts on my Ex Libris blog; not to mention giving a helping paw with the 26 posts on buttons blog.

All of which adds up to a grand total of 681 postings in just 365 days and which, between them, have scored in excess of 28,000 hits…

Blimey! I’m exhausted just thinking about it!

My current health problems and the need to find some new paying work may soon result in a somewhat less ambitious publication schedule - perhaps a weekly offering or, at least, not quite as frequently as the daily service to which you’ve all become accustomed. My apologies in advance...

What I really want to do today is express my huge appreciation for your enthusiasm for my blog - your witty and thoughtful comments, your generous sharing of ideas and pictures, your ingenious competition entries and above - or beneath - all your tolerance of quite so many young men in their underpants!

I've really enjoyed the challenge of the past year - not just for the fun of finding funny pictures, recounting (and occasionally inventing) silly stories and logging a few bizarre recollections from My Life to Date, but for the numerous new friends I've made among my regular readers and for the many visits I've taken to other people’s blogs and from which I have derived much amusement and considerable education and intellectual stimulation.

So, thank you all and here’s to the ongoing joys and delights of being citizens of Universal Kingdom of Blog!

[Cartoon by Dave Walker We Blog Cartoons]

Saturday 12 May 2007


Overheard in Edinburgh...

1st American:

Sure is a beautiful castle!

2nd American:
Yeah... but a real pity they built it so close to the railway!

[Image: Stuck on Scotland]

Friday 11 May 2007


At a recent Bloomsboury Book Auction possibly the most NON-PC title imaginable went under the hammer...


A case of the Utterly Unacceptable in pursuit of the Indisputably Inedible!

Illustrated by Florence K Upton and with verses by her mother, Bertha Upton, The Golliwogg's Fox-hunt was published in 1905 and was one of a phenomenally successful series of thirteen books featuring two Dutch Dolls and their friend, a black-faced doll that Florence Upton named 'Golliwogg'.

Upton had begun their doll-and-golly books in 1895 and the name 'Golliwogg' was coined from a combination of 'pollywog', a word for tadpole (from the Middle-English 'polwigle' : 'pol' [head] and 'wiglen' [to wiggle]) and 'Golly!' as in an expression of surprise, since the character in question is depicted as permanently wearing a wide-eyed look of astonishment.

The name, which Upton omitted to copyright, eventually lost its final 'g' and became 'golliwog', as in the books by Enid Blyton and others.

Subsequently, Golliwog was further shortened back into 'Golly' and had a long, popular and successful career as a character in advertising and promotional campaigns for the preserve manufacturers James Roberton & Son, until they found themselves in a bit of a political-correctness jam and finally (and, most people would say, correctly) corrected the situation by showing Golly the door.

You can read about Upton's work on various sites on the web, including that of the Museum of Childhood, which also carries an informative feature entitled What's the Matter With Golly?, discussing the social history and racial implications of the golliwogg name and likeness.

Another detailed exploration of the term Golliwogg can be found on Wikipedia and you can find out all that you might want to know (and probably more) about Robertson's Golly at Golly Corner, including where to buy renegade golly badges now that you can no longer get them by collecting labels on jam jars.

[Image: Three Wise Gollys by Hills Brothers (Continuing the Golly Legend)]