Friday 30 November 2007


Rehearsals for my new stage adaptation of Charles Dickens' immortal tale, A Christmas Carol continue apace in preparation for next Tuesday's opening night.

Some people -- many, even -- may ask: "What? Yet Another Christmas Carol?"

True, Dickens' seasonal classic is so well-known that it has become part of popular mythology, like a folk-tale that is perennially retold and endlessly reworked in the telling.

Even people who have never read the book, actually believe they have! Just say the word “Humbug!”, and people think of Ebenezer Scrooge; utter the phrase: “God bless us, every one!” and they immediately recall the words of Tiny Tim.

It's got apparitions, transformations and all manner of imaginative scenes from the frenzied delights of a Christmas ball to ghostly goings-on in a graveyard.

A Christmas Carol might almost have been written for the stage and it's certainly been on stage somewhere or other in the world during every one of the 164 years since the book’s publication.

It was in December 1843 that Dickens novella made its appearance and, within weeks, there were no fewer than eight dramatised versions of the story being simultaneously presented on the London stage!

There was one version billed as A Christmas Carol, or the Miser's Warning and another bearing the epic title, A Christmas Carol, or Scrooge the Miser's Dream, or, The Past, Present, and Future. Hardly any of them could be described as being entirely faithful to the original and not a single one paid so much as a penny to the author.

One of the first actors to portray Scrooge was a celebrated Victorian thespian called Mr O Smith, whose performance was described by Dickens as “drearily better than I expected”, adding that he found it “a great comfort to have this kind of meat underdone”,' something which can hardly be said of many of his successors!

A long and distinguished line of actors have portrayed the “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner” and 'Scrooging' has been a particularly popular pastime among the knights of the theatre with spirited performances, over the years, from Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, John Gielgud, Alec Guinness and Michael Hordern.

Theatrical veterans Bransby Williams and Seymour Hicks both played the part first in legitimate theatrical productions, then turned their performances into solo music hall acts and eventually became two of the earliest screen Scrooges, succeeded by the likes of Alistair Sim, Albert Finney, Michael Caine and George C Scott.

Indeed there always seems to be a new film-version in the offing - the most recent of which, slated for 2009, will feature Jim Carrey.

Every conceivable medium has been employed in telling Dickens’ story from a mime by Marcel Marceau to an opera sung by Sir Geraint Evans and there have been Ebenezer Scrooges for every possible taste: from the senior partner of Steptoe and Son, Wilfred Brambell, to the captain of the Starship Enterprise, Patrick Stewart; not to mention musical versions starring Anthony Newley and Tommy Steele.

In America, where A Christmas Carol is equally beloved, Dickens' stonyhearted skinflint was portrayed on wireless for many years by Lionel Barrymore and elsewhere by Orson Welles, Basil Rathbone, Frederick March, Ronald Colman and Kelsey Grammer.

Everyone, of course, loves the Muppets’ take on the story, with Kermit and Miss Piggy as Bob and Mrs Cratchit and the Great Gonzo’s unforgettable impersonation of Charles Dickens; but there have been many other animated Carols featuring an interesting role-call of cartoon Scrooges ‘played’ by Mr Magoo, Fred Flintstone, Yosemite Sam and Donald Duck's penny-pinching uncle, Scrooge McDuck!

In fact, there has always been a generous supply of odd-ball versions including a couple of female incarnations of Scrooge and Americanised retellings and updatings with the likes of Henry Winkler, Bill Murray and, in an all-black musical, Gregory Hines portraying Scrooge as the landlord of a Harlem slum.

Despite the existence so many dramatisations of Dickens’ “ghost story of Christmas”, few of them have managed to find a way of retaining the highly personal and strongly present authorial voice.

Of all the memorable characters and events in Dickens’ prodigious literary output, those in this little tale - written in response to the terrible poverty of his day - were created with white-hot zeal and human compassion.

This is one of the reasons why this book has always been so beloved by generations of readers: Dickens the man is heard not just in his wonderful descriptions evoking the rituals of Christmas, but also in the storyteller's intense emotional involvement with the business of saving Scrooge’s soul.

It was this aspect of the book that I most wanted to preserve in dramatising it anew.

As a result, Dickens (himself a talented amateur actor and a celebrated performer of his own works, right) physically becomes part of the telling of the story: not simply as a narrator, but as a character - a convivial host, puppet-master and conjuror - setting the scene, introducing a vast cast of characters (portrayed by a relatively small ensemble group) and leading his audience through the curious events of an unforgettable Christmas Eve...

Reviewing A Christmas Carol in 1843, William Makepeace Thackeray wrote: “It seems to me a national benefit, and to every man and woman who reads it a personal kindness.”

Over of a century-and-a-half later, there still seems no reason to quibble with that verdict.

Thursday 29 November 2007


I've heard of pubs being called The Bear, The Cock and The Bull, The Tiger's Head, The Red Lion and The White Hart - even (disgustingly uninviting though it sounds) The Slug and Lettuce, but---


Still, it's doubtless a handy hostelry for any big-game hunters who happen to be on safari in South West London...

Wednesday 28 November 2007


I'm on about Arks again, today...

I've always been amused by the notion that the Ark would have embarked from somewhere in 'The Holy Land' with - if we are to believe the numerous representations of the event - specimens of animals not found within a thousand miles of Noah's shipyard: such as polar bears, penguins and kangaroos and kinkajous...

In fact, it's doubtful, surely whether Mr N could have even laid his hands on one elephant, let alone two!

What's intriguing about the ark below (from the 16th century Halberstadt Bible) is that apart from the birds - including a cockerel, an owl and a brace of peacocks - there are more people than animals: in fact, there only seems to be two dogs and one cat (or, maybe, two cats and one dog) plus a mouse or, possibly, a rat...

Nevertheless, this remarkably under-subscribed cruise is accompanied by a couple of mermaids (one of whom is busy at her toilette) no doubt accounting for Noah's slightly anxious expression!

Anyway, it gives me a chance to offer a preview of a book scheduled for publication next March which contains a couple of lively ark-scenes by a brilliant young artist with a witty, vibrant style in illustration - STEPHEN WATERHOUSE...

Click to enlarge

The book, published by Lion Hudson, is entitled 50 Favourite Bible Stories and they are retold by Yours Truly from an earlier work by God.

"Why fifty?" you ask. To which the not-entirely-obvious answer is: because the stories have been chosen by Sir Cliff Richard who, next year, celebrates 50 years in show-biz!

"Ah, yes," I hear you saying, "of course! Silly of me not to have thought of that!"

And, so, along with the book itself (160 pages stuffed with Stephen and my versions of such "standards" as 'Creation', 'Jonah and the Whale', 'The Good Samaritan', 'The Feeding of the Five Thousand' and, of course, 'Noah's Ark') there are three CDs of them being read -- not sung! -- by Sir Cliff himself.

Whilst anticipating the kind of comments this announcement is likely to evoke from some quarters, I'll leave you with Stephen Waterhouse's charming visualisation of the Ark finally coming into dock...

Click to enlarge

Images: The Bible Story © Look and Learn; Noah's Ark illustrations from 50 Favourite Bible Stories © Stephen Waterhouse, 2007

Tuesday 27 November 2007


Usually with pen-top-creatures, you can see quite clearly that they sitting, as it were, on top of the pen...

These pens (purchased in my local pharmacy, which, in itself, is pretty disturbing) rather embarrassingly appear to be part of - or (how can I put it?) an 'extension' of - the bears themselves...

Hmmmm... No wonder they are trying to cover their eyes!

Monday 26 November 2007


No wonder the nation's spelling is so appalling: the very first sign kids visiting Brighton Pier see is this one...

Interesting that they don't spell doughnuts donuts (as in Dunkin' Dittos) - but then, of course, if they did douglicious wouldn't make any sense!

AND then they add insult to injury with "Brighton up your day..."!

I blame Homer Simpson myself...

Sunday 25 November 2007


I decided to take a photograph of a box of organic eggs I bought at my local branch of the Co-operative and which were so fresh that they actually came with a couple of authentic, organic feathers...

Fresh from the coop to the Co-op!

I looked up to see Who'd written What about Eggs and found that Henry James (with his usual verbosity) observed:
I had an excellent repast -- the best repast possible -- which consisted simply of boiled eggs and bread and butter. It was the quality of these simple ingredients that made the occasion memorable. The eggs were so good that I am ashamed to say how many of them I consumed...

It might seem that an egg which has succeeded in being fresh has done all that can be reasonably expected of it.
While Frank McCourt in his novel Angela's Ashes put it rather more succinctly:
Oh, God above, if heaven has a taste it must be an egg with butter and salt!

Image: Brian Sibley, © 2007

Saturday 24 November 2007


Following on from my posting of one of many favourite Peanuts strips the other day, I should mention that I've been reading David Michaelis' Schulz and Peanuts, the recently published (and arguably controversial) biography of the creator of Charlie Brown and Snoopy whose cartoon creations are not just icons of American popular culture but also internationally beloved folk characters.

The book is controversial because, according to the subject's family (who now regret having authorized the book) Michaelis has represented Charles ('Sparky') Schulz as an essentially unhappy, unfulfilled man whose lifelong sadnesses and insecurities were the basis for the cartoon strip adventures featuring the Peanuts gang.

According to Michaelis: “[Schulz] was a complicated artist who had an inner life and embedded that inner life on the page. His anxieties and fears brought him Lucy and the characters in Peanuts. A normal person couldn’t have done it.”

Authorized biographies are, frankly, dodgy territory (I know, I've written two!): the seal of approval may give the biographer access to people who might not be so willing to cooperate with an unofficial chronicler, but it also tends to encourage interviewees to speak with a openness that places a heavy burden on the writer when the time comes to decide just how much candidness to go in for!

Since the subject of his book was dead, David Michaelis went for a 'warts and all' approach, although apart from an affair at the time that his first marriage was breaking-up there aren't much in the way of skeletons in the Schulz cupboard.

In fact, part of the difficulty with the book is that Schulz' life was pretty uneventful: he did what he did consistently well for many years, but not much else happened. As a result, Michaelis is forced into trying prove that everything in the Peanuts comic strips has some source of inspiration in Schulz' life and personality which effectively reduce the artist's very real genius to little more value than a series of thinly-veiled autobiographical sketches.

The portrait that emerges is rather dour and depressing and casts a long, somewhat chilly shadow over the cosily fuzzy public perception of Schulz's world and its 'Happiness is a Warm Puppy' philosophy.

Suddenly those episodes in which Charlie Brown fails to fly a kite or kick the football or summon up the courage to speak to the Little Red-Haired Girl are seen as Schulz grappling with bitter angst-ridden memories or exorcising ugly personal demons. In consequence, the reader finds many fondly remembered Peanuts episodes raising less of a smile than a shudder.

I corresponded briefly with Schulz and wrote his obituary for The Times when he died, but I never met him and have no idea if he truly was the Mr Misery that emerges from Michaelis' sombre and - bizarrely for a work devoted to the work of a humorist - singularly humorless book.

I do know, however, that Schulz won the admiration of other professional cartoonists for a career spanning almost 50 years in which he single-handedly wrote and drew 17, 897 strips. One has only to look at dozens the tribute cartoons that were drawn by America's leading artists when Schulz put down his pen for the last time in 2000 to see the esteem in which he was held...

This is just one of many examples.

I also know - as do millions of others - that Schulz made us LAUGH: at Charlie Brown's unfailing stoicism, at Linus' philosophical astuteness, at Lucy's innate crabbiness, at Peppermint Patty's infallible optimism and, above all, at Snoopy's irrepressible joie de vivre: whether in doing the obvious doggy things including making it patently clear when it was SUPPER TIME or indulging in less usual canine activities such as dancing, skating, performing a puppet version of War and Peace on top of his dog-house, donning flying helmet and goggles in order to tackle the cursed Red Baron or sitting at the typewriter and pounding out a new magnum opus...

Click image to enlarge

David Michaelis' book may be the authorised word on Schulz, but it's unlikely to be the last word...

Images: © Charles Schulz

Friday 23 November 2007


I should have learned from all those scandals at the BBC! I have deceived the world! Regular comment-poster, Lisa H sent an entry to the CAPTION COMPETITION which, shamefully, was not submitted for judging!

Sincere apologies to LisaH whose suggested caption was:

ROB: “Where did they get their clothes from?”

As there were no actual prizes for the winners I will not be declaring the contest void, but I am, naturally, willing to resign as Competition Director!!

Thursday 22 November 2007


Following our recent discussions on whether or not giant spiders and cracks in the floor are 'art', I offer the following lesson in art-analysis, courtesy of that well-known cultural authority, Professor Lucy Van Pelt...

Click to enlarge

Image: © Charles Schulz

Wednesday 21 November 2007


Click to enlarge (if you're not squeamish!)
NO ONE WOULD HAVE BELIEVED in the last years of the twentieth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.

With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same.
No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise.

Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early in the twenty-first century came the great disillusionment...
So, has the fearful invasion finally begun?


It's just - did I say 'just'? - Louise Bourgeois' impressively monumental sculpture Maman, which was originally exhibited in the Turbine Hall of London's Tate Modern when the gallery first opened in 2000 and which now straddles a section of Southbank as part of a retrospective exhibition to mark the artist’s 95th year.

Like the crack in the floor, this may incite further questions on the nature of art; but, as a lover of Science Fiction, it sends shivers up my spine and takes only a very small amount of suspending disbelief to imagine this fearful creature either crossing the Thames to assail the dome of St Paul's or, perhaps, scaling the sheer walls of the former power station in order to summon more of its kind and begin the final conquest and destruction of planet earth!

Where is Tom Cruise when we need him most...?

* H G Wells The War of the Worlds (with minor amendments)

Images: Brian Sibley, © 2007


That horse-chestnut from the Anne Frank Tree being sold on ebay finally went for $10,240.00

It was not the wisest investment as it turned out, since the tree (due to have been felled today) was granted an eleventh hour stay of execution by an Amsterdam judge who said that the city had not considered other solutions and asked all sides to sit down and come up with alternatives to cutting down the 150-year-old tree.

No doubt the lucky purchaser of the world's most expensive chestnut would now like to see the seller "roasting on an open fire"...

Tuesday 20 November 2007


A post-script to today's blog about the Anne Frank Tree: the person living next door to the house where the tree awaits execution is selling one of its horse-chestnut on ebay.

The bidding on this item of entrepreneurial opportunism currently stands, at the time of writing (with 10 hours 23 minutes to go), at $10,240...

That's one hell of an expensive conker.


A court today will be considering an appeal for an injunction against the felling of a tree...

Not any tree, but a horse-chestnut tree in Amsterdam that is over a 150 years old and sick to its roots with a fungus infection that is making it unsafe. So, why is anyone anxious to save it?

Quite simply because it stands in the garden of a house in Keizersgracht that is overlooked by the secret annex where a Jewish family by the name of Frank hid from the Nazis for two years during WWII and where the family's youngest daughter, Anne, would write a diary that made her name famous throughout the world...

When we were in Amsterdam, we visited the Anne Frank House on Prinsengracht. I wasn't agile enough to climb the ladder-like stairs into the secret annexe, but it is impossible to be in the building - despite the somewhat sanitized, visitor-friendly feel which is inevitable for a public museum receiving thousands of visitors every day - without feeling the weight of true history: not the great dealings of rulers and dictators or the terrors of the battlefield, but the small, ordinary drama of human history as seen through the eyes of a young and gifted child.

On 18 April 1944
, Anne Frank wrote:
April is glorious, not too hot and not too cold, with occasional light showers. Our chestnut tree is in leaf, and here and there you can already see a few small blossoms.

In a speech given in 1968, Anne's father, Otto Frank, spoke of the thoughts that came to his mind when he read Anne’s diary for the first time:
 "How could I have suspected that it meant so much to Anne to see a patch of blue sky, to observe the gulls during their flight and how important the chestnut tree was to her, as I recall that she never took an interest in nature. But she longed for it during that time when she felt like a caged bird. She only found consolation in thinking about nature..."

As, indeed, she did. On 13 May 1944
, just three months before the family were betrayed and their hiding place was revealed to the Nazis, Anne wrote:
Our chestnut tree is in full blossom. It is covered with leaves and is even more beautiful than last year.
Now, if the injunction fails, the tree will be felled and a small, some might say insignificant, piece of history will be lost.

There are plans, if it has to fall, to plant a healthy graft from the tree to keep alive the notion of freedom that it represented to Anne and - it could only happen in our modern age - the Anne Frank House Museum has 'planted' a Virtual Tree...

But neither, of course, can ever replace the tree itself...
23 February 1944:

The two of us looked out at the blue sky, the bare chestnut tree glistening with dew, the seagulls and other birds glinting with silver as they swooped through the air, and we were so moved and entranced that we couldn’t speak.

Image: Peter Dejong/AP Photo

Today is Closing Day for entries to our

Monday 19 November 2007


So, what was going on in those strange pictures of shocking disasters which I published on yesterday's blog?

GILL was the first reader to correctly guess, e-mailing to ask: "Are these from the famous 'crack in the floor' (can't remember what it is really called) in the Tate Modern?"

Following which ANDY J LATHAM commented: "Those tragedies CRACKED me up Brian! Speaking of tragedies, that wouldn't happen to be the Tate Modern would it? Oooooooo!"

While PHIL was bold enough to say what, doubtless, many have thought: "Isn't that the rather silly crack in the floor of the Tate Modern, which is being passed of as art? And which several people have rather foolishly fallen into?"

Well, yes, Phil it is; and, yes, Andy it would; and, yes Gill, they are!

In fact, these iconoclastic additions to a modern work of art were temporarily (and somewhat impertinently!) added to Doris Salcedo's Shibboleth (that's what it's really called, Gill): a lengthy crack that has opened in the floor of the Turbine Hall of London's Tate Modern like a localized earthquake...

Here's how the Tate's exhibition-notes describe this installation - or, perhaps, 'intervention' would be a better word:
Doris Salcedo’s Shibboleth is the first work to intervene directly in the fabric of the Turbine Hall. Rather than fill this iconic space with a conventional sculpture or installation, Salcedo has created a subterranean chasm that stretches the length of the Turbine Hall. The concrete walls of the crevice are ruptured by a steel mesh fence, creating a tension between these elements that resist yet depend on one another.

By making the floor the principal focus of her project, Salcedo dramatically shifts our perception of the Turbine Hall’s architecture, subtly subverting its claims to monumentality and grandeur. Shibboleth asks questions about the interaction of sculpture and space, about architecture and the values it enshrines, and about the shaky ideological foundations on which Western notions of modernity are built.

In particular, Salcedo is addressing a long legacy of racism and colonialism that underlies the modern world. A ‘shibboleth’ is a custom, phrase or use of language that acts as a test of belonging to a particular social group or class. By definition, it is used to exclude those deemed unsuitable to join this group.

"The history of racism", Salcedo writes, "runs parallel to the history of modernity, and is its untold dark side". For hundreds of years, Western ideas of progress and prosperity have been underpinned by colonial exploitation and the withdrawal of basic rights from others. Our own time, Salcedo is keen to remind us, remains defined by the existence of a huge socially excluded underclass, in Western as well as post-colonial societies.

In breaking open the floor of the museum, Salcedo is exposing a fracture in modernity itself. Her work encourages us to confront uncomfortable truths about our history and about ourselves with absolute candidness, and without self-deception.
Yes... Well, I'm not altogether sure I understand some of that, but I really like the way Shibboleth begins as nothing more than a hair-line crack - scarcely more than a scratch on the surface - and then splits open and widens and deepens as it snakes down the length of the Hall.

At first glance it looks like a candidate for such comments as Phil's observation (above) or "Is it art, demolition work, or Act of God?" But what is fascinating about Shibboleth is that it really does look as if it were a crack that has split open and even though quite a lot of flooring material has been removed in order to create the fissure, the edges of each side of the excavated area are so perfectly matched - from the tiniest wriggle to the most sharply-angled bend, as to suggest that if the two edges could somehow be pushed back together, they would fit with jig-saw precision.

Like many installations, Shibboleth is also about the relationship between 'art' and 'spectator' and much of the fascination with viewing the work is in terms of viewing how people react to it: lying down to peer into its depths, stepping back and forth across it as if they were giants passing to and fro over the Grand Canyon, even now and again - as Phil noted - falling into it under the mistaken assumption that must be painted onto the floor rather than carved into it!

And, of course, there's always a chance that you might be able to photograph a curious little fellow...

...photographing Dinky cars, LEGO men and assorted plastic wildlife in scenes of Lilliputian tragedy!

Images: Brian Sibley & David Weeks, © 2007

Sunday 18 November 2007


What - and where - on earth...?

All will be revealed --- TOMORROW!

Images: Brian Sibley & David Weeks, © 2007

Saturday 17 November 2007


This is Tiny Tim as he will appear in my dramatisation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol which Flat Pack Productions are presenting at the Greenwich Playhouse over Christmas and New Year.

Along with Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim is one of Dickens' immortals, but few people realise that the name that is known to millions of people the world over (even if they've never read Dickens' book) was not the author's first choice.

In the original manuscript, Dickens had initially referred to Bob Cratchit's son as Little Fred; it was only when he decided to name Scrooge's nephew 'Fred' that he had to come up with a new name for the child to whom he had given one of his most famous lines: "God bless us, every one!"

And that's how, when and why Little Fred became Tiny Tim.

Will Tosh as Bob Cratchit with Tiny Tim

Friday 16 November 2007


I certainly unleashed a flurry of responses with my recent posting about mushrooms... I'd no idea that people felt so passionately about them!

Anyway, you may recall that I was mildly critical of mushroom soup with its unhealthy colour of decay... This prompted a recollection of what I've always thought of as a decidedly odd line in the lyrics to Howard Ashman and Alan Menken song, 'Be Our Guest', from Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

Here's the opening of that song as written by Ashman and Menken:
Be our guest! Be our guest!
Put our service to the test
Tie your napkin 'round your neck,
And we'll provide the rest:
Soup du jour,
hors d'oeuvres,
Why, we only live to serve.

Try the grey stuff,
It's delicious!
Don't believe me? Ask the dishes...

Now, whilst I admire any songwriter who can rhyme 'delicious' with 'dishes', I do wonder why they would ever write "Try the GREY stuff"?

Maybe it's mushroom soup - what else? But how exceptionally unappealing it sounds!

I mean, why GREY stuff, when RED, GREEN, PINK or several other colours would have fitted the lyric just as well and sounded a good deal tastier?

Thursday 15 November 2007


This is beginning to feel very S P O O K Y...

When, the day before yesterday, I blogged a post about my chosen 'daemon' from the world of The Golden Compass (or, rather, the world wide web version of it), it was called Aleone and was in the form of a RAVEN: it was, honest!

And, see, I can prove it because they sent me a picture of Aleone in an e-mail...

But, if you take a look NOW, you'll; see that Aleone has shape-shifted into some simian creature! Or, at least, it had the last time I looked...

Forgive my mentioning it, but when I invited blog-friends to help get my daemon into shape, I hadn't quite expected them to make a monkey out of me!

[Actually, I just checked and, apparently, it's a marmoset - but that doesn't make quite as good a joke as a monkey!]

In Philip Pullman's books, people's daemons start out as flexible beings - able to take on a variety of forms when a person is a child and only settling into a permanent shape on reaching adulthood. In the case of The Golden Compass website, however, that youthful state of flux only lasts for twelve days.

So, we'll just have to keep an eye on what's going on and hope I don't end up as a slug...

Meanwhile, as is the all-pervasive way with movie franchises, it seems that daemons can sometimes take on the form of... er... stuffed toys!

Here's Mrs Coulter's Golden Monkey daemon...

...and Lord Asriel's Snow Leopard, Stelmaria... marketed ($35 each) by F A O Schwarz.

And no doubt collectors of character dolls will be pleased to know that Mrs C and Lord A are also available - at $200 and $160 respectively...

Wow! I bet Barbie and Ken don't have daemons ---- yet!

Tuesday 13 November 2007


As you may have noticed from the side bar (right), I've a couple of new books out, one of which is The Golden Compass: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion, which should absolutely not be confused with earlier titles such as The Lord of the Rings: The Official Movie Guide...

Essentially, however, this is another of those 'book-of-the-film-of-the-book' books; but it's been rather nicely got-up and, at £14.99 (or, probably, cheaper!), it will make a fairly spiffing present for someone-or-other's Christmas stocking!

Just in case you have been vacationing on Mars, I should explain that The Golden Compass is the upcoming fantasy film blockbuster (from New line Cinema who brought you... er... yes... that's right, The Lord of the Rings) and stars Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Tom Courtney, Jim Carter and talented newcomer, Dakota Blue Richards.

The film, is based on Northern Lights (or as it is known in the USA, The Golden Compass), the first volume of the award-winning, best-selling trilogy, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman.

Even if you're not just back from Mars, you might just have missed the trailer, take a look at it here.

Stunning-looking stuff!

What...? Ah, yes, that was the voice of Gandalf speaking for Iorek Byrnison the armoured bear (a late substitute brought in from the Gray Havens to replace Nonso Anozie) and, yes, again, that really was Saruman in one shot, playing, I'm told, Lord Boreal - although this came as a bit of a surprise to the author of The Golden Compass: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion, since whilst Lord B is a character in Pullman's book, he wasn't in any version of the shooting script that I ever read...

Anyway, as readers of Philip Pullman's trilogy will already know all of the characters in the story are accompanied by a daemon: an outward manifestation of their 'soul' in animal-form. And as part of the fun-and-games on the official website, you can answer a questionnaire in order to identify your personal daemon.

I had a go and and I'd like to introduce (below) to Aleone, the daemon that has been chosen for me...

However, before it takes on its final manifestation, you can assist in shape-shifting it into a possibly more appropriate form by joining in the process.

Thanks for your help - I await the outcome with interest and will report back in due course...

Monday 12 November 2007


Apart from the occasional dope-smoking bear (see yesterday), there are certain things you expect to find in Holland such as WINDMILLS...

And CLOGS...

And - with all that cheese - COWS...

...BUT not, usually, on the ceiling!

Ooops, sorry, that's better... on the CEILING!!

Perhaps it was just something to do with whatever it was that Baloo was smoking...

Images: © Brian Sibley & David Weeks, 2007