Friday 31 October 2008


Anyone could see that the wind was a special wind this night, and the darkness took on a special feel because it was All Hallows' Eve.

Everything seemed cut from soft black velvet or gold or orange velvet. Smoke panted up out of a thousand chimneys like the plumes of funeral parades.

From kitchen windows drifted two pumpkin smells: gourds being cut, pies being baked.

Ray Bradbury - The Halloween Tree

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

Consult the following (foregoing) Sibley-blogs to read about...

Thursday 30 October 2008


The Results!

You will remember I asked you to provide some dialogue for John and Margaret Treherne who have spent the last 400 years on public show in Southwark Cathedral

The call for captions on this occasion yielded a bumper crop of such uniform excellence that deciding on a winner was particularly testing...

There was one response that I wasn't altogether sure about: was it a caption or was it a complaint from one of John and Margaret's decedents who took exception to my describing their epitaph as doggerel? It was posted by David Trehearne and merely read '...doggerel?' Oh, dear, sorry, Mr Trehearne.

Anyway, back to what were definitely entries...

CARL V speculated:

I can quite literally hear him making one of many lascivious comments about the endowments of the women of today while she quite clearly seems to be saying, 'Good heavens, I have a worrying feeling in my colon.' (Thank you Vicar of Dibley)

ANDY in GREECE picked up on that plaque which the Trehearnes's are holding:

John: You would have thought that after 400 years someone would have fixed this plaque in place so we could let go of it.
Margaret: Perhaps you ought to try getting out a bit more.

BOLL WEAVIL (as is his wont) produced a variety of possible comments:

Margaret: I see Sibley's here again, Sire.


John: I've told Brian when that hospital can do new pins, they can come and fetch me!

And, again...

John: Another recession out there! Nothing for hundreds of years then two come together!

GILL picked up on Mrs T's bored expression and suggested:

John: I know it is tedious Margaret darling, but do at least try to smile for the tourists.

ANONYMOUS considered the inevitable exhaustion of standing around for 400 years:

John: At last finally recognised for all that I did for him [the King]. Just wish that we could now sit.

While SUZANNE noticed that Mrs T seemed to have less room than her husband:

Margaret: Shove up a bit, I'm squashed up against this wall and my shoulder's killing me.
John: Oh, stop nagging woman!

SUZANNE also suggested:

John: As if 50 years wasn’t enough and she’s still giving me the belly ache.
Margaret: I never should have had that roasted swan - I’m sure it wasn’t fresh.

While SHEILA (remembering earlier blogs about culinary potential of goats) offered the following glimpse into the Trehearne's dietary habits:

Margaret: I knew I shouldn't have had goat stew for my last supper.
John: And I don't think having an ice pack on your head is going to sort out a 400-year-long stomachache.

I liked the ice pack!

Interestingly, quite a few of the entries were concerned with food, eating and the aftereffects thereof...

JEN offered:

John: Don't hold your stomach like that, it'll put folks off the menu...

LISAH suggested:

John: I wish they'd all hurry up and leave - I'm dying to nip out for a kebab.

LUINFALATHIEL also imagined an exchange about grub:

Margaret: Whoo... I knew I shouldn't have had that burrito!
John: When they're all gone, I'll go get you some Tums, dear.

And ROGER, similarly inspired came up with:

Margaret: Will someone hurry up and invent Gaviscon (TM)?

So to the WINNERS!


SUZANNE with...

Margaret: Why couldn't Will have written your epitaph? Now we're stuck with this rubbish for ever.
John: How many time do I have to tell you? Will died two years before us!

And DAVID WEEKS with...

John: Those priests look more effeminate every year.
Margaret: Verily my dear, that is because they are women.
John: Women priests!
Margaret: Yea, John.
John: Tush 'tis unnatural. They'll have women in the service of Her Majesty next!
Margaret: John!


BOLL WEAVIL who offered this simply but effective one-liner...

John: Faith, Sire, that was a good night! I'm totally legless!


ROGER who suggested the following intimate revelation...

Margaret: I know our older sons are already bearded,my lord, but verily, I believe I'm up the duff again.
John: Gadzooks, wife, I should have gelded that Groom of the Bedchamber!

Congratulations to all the winners and many thanks to all the entrants for providing us with so many amusing conversations!

Tuesday 28 October 2008


The Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence is vast: an exhausting labyrinth of passageways, corridors and rooms, adorned with what, at some time or other, has been rated as Great Art, though in truth it ranges from the dull and mediocre via the curious and passably interesting to works of masterful brilliance like Sandro Botticelli's famously iconic, Birth of Venus...

Click image to enlarge

...and his equally delightful (and similarly allegorical) Primavera...

Click image to enlarge

In case you wondered, here's (basically) what's going on...

Venus, , the goddess of love, is standing in the centre of the picture, set slightly back from the other figures. Above her, Cupid is aiming one of his arrows of love at the Charites or Three Graces who are dancing a rondel and who are, from youngest to oldest, Aglaea (Beauty), Euphrosyne (Mirth) and Thalia (Good Cheer).

The garden of Venus is guarded on the left by Mercury, who stretches out his hand to part the clouds of winter and make way for spring. From the right, Zephyrus, the god of the winds, is forcefully pushing his way in, in pursuit of the nymph Chloris (who, according to mythology, he raped but later, in a mood of contrition for his volent crime, married the wronged ladyand made her the goddess of flowers. Botticelli shows Chloris transforming into Flora who scatters flowers before Venus.

What I love about this picture is the fact that it's packed with stuff happening, crammed to the edges with activity: the scene is dense with detail (the flowers springing from Chloris' mouth as she turns into Flora, not to mention every leaf, bud and blade of grass) and everything is obviously laden with significance, such as the halo of foliage that frames the head of Venus.

Looking at this crowded scene, it's also amusing to realise that there are times when even the gods can be a bit cramped for space!

Anyway, I was reminded of Boticelli's masterpiece not long ago when saw a young pavement artist painstakingly recreating the picture in coloured chalks on a sidewalk on London's South Bank.

Whether hanging in one of the most prestigious art museums of the world or drawn on paving stones where it will be walked on and rained away, all art is really transient and, perhaps, that very vulnerability is part of it's power and beauty...

Image: Brian Sibley © 2008

Sunday 26 October 2008


There is no area in which women are more prejudiced against than in the inconvenient inadequacies of public conveniences. For example, while the guys are enjoying an interval drink at the theatre, the ladies are standing in line outside the loos until the two-minute bell is ringing...

I can only assume that the wall decoration for a gents toilet below (thoughtfully forwarded to me by Cindy) is an example of female revenge!

Friday 24 October 2008


Writing in Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883-1885) Frederich Nietzsche included this allegorical exchange between the protagonist, Zarathustra, and an elderly Saint:

'And what is the saint doing in the forest?' asked Zarathustra. The saint answered: 'I make songs and sing them; and when I make songs, I laugh, cry, and hum: thus do I praise God. With singing, crying, laughing, and humming do I praise the god who is my god. But what do you bring us as a gift?'

When Zarathustra had heard these words he bade the saint farewell and said: 'What could I have to give you? But let me go quickly lest I take something from you!' And thus they separated, the old one and the man, laughing as two boys laugh.

But when Zarathustra was alone he spoke thus to his heart: 'Could it be possible? This old saint in the forest has not yet heard anything of this, that God is dead!'

Well, one of the top news stories this week has been the announcement that the British Humanist Association with the backing of Professor Richard (The God Delusion) Dawkins have raised £36,000 to pay for an advertising campaign on the sides of thirty London 'bendy buses' announcing...


Er... Sorry? What was that......


I mean, you'd expect the British Humanist Association to be a bit more certain really, wouldn't you? After all, you don't get many churches saying 'There probably IS a God'.

According to Professor Dawkins: "This campaign... will make people think - and thinking is anathema to religion." But a recent article by the Prof in The Huffington Post was entitled Why There Almost Certainly Is No God (my italics).

There we go again... 'Almost Certainly'?

Sounds suspiciously like hedging your bets to me. You didn't catch Nietzsche saying "God is probably dead" or "God is almost certainly dead", he just said "Gott ist tot" --- "God is dead".

Still, since we're still waiting for London Mayor, Boris Johnson, to rid London's streets of the ghastly bendy buses, maybe - come January, when the campaign gets rolling - he'll get some divine help. Certainly, every time a bus breaks down, I'm going to be checking out what ads are displayed on its sides!

It could, almost-certainly-probably, happen...

And, if not, then maybe a few Non-Humanists ought to raise a fund for an ad featuring this piece of German graffiti (courtesy of W C Notes)...

Or we could all buy T-shirts and bumper stickers (available here) with the English translation...

To be fair to Nietzsche, his famous line has largely been taken out of context - his chief argument being that since belief in God was being reasoned into non-existence, by what philosophy and moral code would future mankind live.

It is interesting to read if you've got the time (if not it's been around for over 120 years and will keep!) another of his allegorical stories in The Gay Science (Die fröhliche Wissenschaft) of 1882:

Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market-place, and cried incessantly: "I am looking for God! I am looking for God!"

As many of those who did not believe in God were standing together there, he excited considerable laughter. Have you lost him, then? said one. Did he lose his way like a child? said another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? or emigrated? Thus they shouted and laughed. The madman sprang into their midst and pierced them with his glances.

"Where has God gone?" he cried. "I shall tell you. We have killed him - you and I. We are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained the earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not perpetually falling? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is it not more and more night coming on all the time? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God's decomposition? Gods too decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, murderers of all murderers, console ourselves?

"That which was the holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet possessed has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us? With what water could we purify ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we need to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we not ourselves become gods simply to be worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whosoever shall be born after us - for the sake of this deed he shall be part of a higher history than all history hitherto."

Here the madman fell silent and again regarded his listeners; and they too were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern to the ground, and it broke and went out. "I have come too early," he said then; "my time has not come yet. The tremendous event is still on its way, still travelling - it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time, the light of the stars requires time, deeds require time even after they are done, before they can be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than the distant stars - and yet they have done it themselves."

Thursday 23 October 2008


Today's photo is the handiwork of Sibley-blog-regular (pun-intended) BOLL WEAVIL...

Well, after all: when you've gotta go...

Image: Nick Clark © 2008

Tuesday 21 October 2008


I quite often visit Southwark Cathedral - it's a little treat I give myself after sitting around for hours in the rheumatology clinic in nearby Guy's Hospital.

A place of Christian devotion for over 1,000 years, Southwark is a beautiful oasis of peace, light and tranquility poised on the banks of the Thames, alongside London Bridge which spans the river from the hustle and bustle of the fruit and vegetable traders of Borough Market and that of the bankers and brokers of the City.

Whenever I'm there I renew my acquaintance with the Once-Great-and-the-Good who are buried here in an aggregation of the most characterful - and colourful - tombs...

There is, for example, the final resting place (well, it's more like a very elaborate, slightly gaudy, canopied bed) of John Gower, the fifteenth century poet and friend of Chaucer with whom he shares - at least amongst literary historians - the distinction of being one of the fathers of English poetry...

But, my favourite tomb (if that doesn't that smack of too much morbidity) is that commemorating the life of...

John Trehearne
Gentleman Portar to King James the First

who died in 1618 and who is depicted alongside Margaret with whom "he lived together man and wife for fifty years" and (below) a collection of children and Very Small People...

Click image to enlarge

The plaque that Mr and Mrs Trehearne are holding is inscribed with a piece of doggerel that is quite clearly not the work of the aforementioned J Gower Esq...

Had Kings a power to lend their Svbject's breath,
Trehearne thov shovld'st not be cast down by Death,
Thy Royal Master still wovld keep thee then.
Bvt length of days are beyond the reach of men,
Nor wealth, nor strength, or great men's love can ease
The wound Death's arrows make, for thov hast these.
In thy King's Covrt good place to thee is given,
Whence thov shalt go Ye King's Covrt in Heaven.

Now, the Trehearne tomb has given me the idea for a new


What I'm inviting you to do is suggest what conversations, comments and observations might be being exchanged by the Trehearnes as they pass yet another day in their getting-on-for-400-year-long sojourn in Southwark...

Click image to enlarge

Submissions via the 'Thoughts' option below.

Closing date 26 October
. Usual Terms and Conditions apply!

Images: Brian Sibley & David Weeks © 2008

Sunday 19 October 2008


Here's another of those animals - well, in this case a fish - on the Underground...

And here is some more marine life which I caught sight of the other day swimming up an escalator on the Piccadilly line...

These new advertisements are astonishing but they are also, it should be noted, highly dangerous, since one gets so absorbed in watching them that it's all too easy to STOP watching out for the end of the escalator!

Not only that, of course, but we really must hope those tanks don't start leaking!!

Saturday 18 October 2008


In response to yesterday's loo-door signs, the insanely-talented (well he's certainly insane) ELLIOT COWAN left a comment and a link to a picture that, for some time, was posted on his blog.

Elliot spotted this sign on a toilet door on the ferry from Melbourne to Devonport and, he says, "I still have no idea what it means..."

Anyone got any helpful suggestions??

Added later...

Regular blog-reader JEN has solved the mystery! It is a PHOTOLUMINESCENT MUSTERSTATION SIGN (No. 6039, by the way) and, should you feel the need, you can buy one - at $5.50, a mere snip - from American Nautical Services, Inc!

The only mysery remaining is why anyone would decide to locate the MUSTER STATION in the ferry toilet. Maybe it's an Australian thing...

Friday 17 October 2008


We're all of us used to seeing cautionary signs such as the one on the left and, if we have any sense, we heed their---


Recently, SUZANNE saw on a sign posted on a sliding toilet door on Belgium Pier that - depending on what language you happen to speak - appears to offer contradictory advice...

If you speak English you're relatively OK, SLIDE PLS; if Flemish is your language, you'll read SCHUIVEN AUB ('PLEASE MOVE' or 'SHOVE') and, probably, get the generally idea; but what about those poor French who see GLISSER SVP and read it as 'SLIP (or even SKID), IF YOU PLEASE'?

Let's just hope the floors were dry...

Talking of signs on lavatory doors, I spotted one on my recent hospital visit...

Excellent, I thought: a PATIENT TOILET: just what we all need at some point! You know, the kind of toilet that, however many times you need to use it's facilities, will never complain; and however long your visits take, will never get cross and impatient and try and hurry you out! Very considerate and thoughtful, I call it!

However, the adjacent door carried this warning...


And if that no-go symbol represents a PATIENT, what does the symbol for a member of STAFF look like? Maybe it has a stethoscope...

Wednesday 15 October 2008


There's an old saying (which, like all those Old Sayings, is trite but true): “It isn't what you have in your pocket that makes you thankful, but what you have in your heart.”

Which - in unromantic terms - is what I've been worrying about for the past eighteen months since a hospital test suggested that I had something in my heart that oughtn't to be there - to wit, one or more malfunctioning arteries.

Finding out what's going on in a person's heart is far easier and more prosaic than the poets ever imagined: you undergo a coronary catheterization (it's OK, you don't have to click on that link!) which provides photographic evidence of what, if anything, is not tick-tocking properly within your ticker.

After several postponements (due to infections resulting from the drugs I take for arthritis) and one painful aborted attempt when they couldn't insert the catheter through which to pass the camera, yesterday was the designated date for the next attempt.

Then, over then weekend, it looked as it would once again have to be postponed when I started having a serious plumbing malfunction which led to my spending most of Monday in A & E fully expecting to have a rather different kind of catherterization. Despite the discomfort I was in, I was secretly comforted by the thought that, at least, I wouldn't have to go through the next day's cardiac test.

But medication was provided and I very quickly started recovering and was deemed well enough to go back to the same hospital the following day for my heart to be investigated. So, screwing the courage to the sticking place - I was, I freely admit, totally terrified - I turned up at the Cardiac Catherterization Unit at King's College Hospital prepared (in my most Eeyore-ish state of mind) to find out the Worst...

Even before I arrived at my bed, I passed a door bearing a sign that said it all...

Several anxious hours later, I was lying on my back with a mini-camera crawling through my chest grabbing snaps of my heart that were being televised on a screen above my head. Frankly, I'd have sooner been watching re-runs of the worst-ever TV shows of the 20th Century...

Anyway, with the aid of wonderful sedatives (I wanted to bring a supply home for recreational use, but they weren't having it!) and a fabulous team who talked me through the whole experience rather in the way that those cool, calm and confident Air Traffic Controllers used to talk down failing aircraft in '50s 'B' movies, I --- they, we --- got through it and the Good News - which was like someone vanishing that sword of Damocles that had been hanging over me since Spring 2007 - was that my heart was FINE!

All wasn't entirely plain-sailing: the artery in my groin being deep and difficult to get into - I always knew I had depth! - led to a lot of rather painful prodding and poking. Then, afterwards, the self-dissolving plug which is used to stopper-up the entry point refused to go into the puncture hole which resulted in the doctor having to apply a great deal of pressure for rather a long time to stop the bleeding. By far the worst bit was having to lie perfectly still for four hours while all the other patients in the ward were merrily toddling off home.

But that was a small price to pay for long-needed peace of mind. David fed me chicken mayo sandwiches and sips of tea through straw and when I was finally able to totter round the ward to see if I sprang a leak (thankfully, I didn't) gave me a firm arm to lean on - although, to tell the truth, I'd been leaning on him quite heavily, one way and another, for the past month or more...

Of course, I still have the arthritis and the hernia and the asthma and several other faulty fittings, but the HEART is, as I say, fine! Fine! Nice word, that! I like having a fine heart!

Like undertakers, doctors have a very particular sense of humour. Here's a sample from a note-board in my ward. It used to be said that the way to man's heart was through his stomach, but, apparently, not so...

Images: 'Heart' by Heather Garland; 'Door' and 'Noteboard' by David Weeks

Monday 13 October 2008


While in Brighton on our recent anniversary jaunt, we repeatedly sought refuge from the wind and the rain in our favourite coffee shop, Redroaster, where we consumed probably rather too many cappuccinos than were good for us...

But, look! How could anyone resist?

Of course, most of the time (i.e. when I'm not in Brighton) I'm more a tea than a coffee man, except that I think I'd soon go off my English Breakfast if I had to use this depressing teapot spotted in the Brighton museum...

Tea and sympathy? I don't think so... Just drink up and die!

Images: Brian Sibley © 2008

Sunday 12 October 2008


If anyone has been unsuccessfully attempting to e-mail us and has had their e-mails chucked back at them, this is due to the fact that our service provider, Pipex, having been recently bought by Tiscali, have (without advising customers, naturally!) been 'migating' Pipex accounts to their own. In the process, they've succeeded in screwing up vast numbers of e-mail addresses. We've not received any mail for the past two days, which is bad enough, but now we find that e-mails are being bounced back to the senders.

The websites for Pipex and Tiscali have (as one would expect) say nothing about the chaos that is ensuing, but trawling the internet forums reveal hundreds - probably of thousands - of people in the same leaky boat.

One of the FAQ on the Pipex site is: 'Can I switch from any service provider?' ‘Service provider’? Er… no, I don't think so! And they obviously need a new FAQ: 'Can I switch TO ANOTHER service provider?'

The most priceless piece of lunacy was an automated response to a message requesting information left on the Pipex site: “We will respond to your enquiry with an e-mail…” Well, they’ll be bloody lucky!


An article by Danny Buckland in today's Sunday Express about Kenneth Grahame and The Wind in the Willows ('The tragic life of the man who dreamed of the riverbank') quotes some doubtful authority on the subject referred to as "acclaimed author and playwright Brian Sibley". I won't bore you with what he said - I put it rather better myself on yesterday's blog!

Saturday 11 October 2008


"For every honest reader," wrote Kenneth Grahame, "there exist some half-dozen honest books, which he re-reads at regular intervals of six months or thereabouts. Whatever the demands on him, however alarming the arrears that gibber and grin in menacing row, for these he somehow generally manages to find time..."

And the man who wrote those words, himself wrote one of those 'honest books' to which 'honest readers' (like myself and many others) return again and again, and which this week celebrated the 100th anniversary its publication - The Wind in the Willows...

This book is, actually, less of a book and more of a friend - a good friend with whom you simply must keep in touch, whose company always makes you feel a little more content with life, a tad more safe in uncertain times.

For me that friendship began when I was nine years old and my parents gave me a thin, pocket-sized edition with small print and none of those wonderful E H Shepard pictures that were not the first, but certainly the definitive illustrations. In fact, the only decoration to my copy was a line drawing - stamped on the pale green cover - of two gnarled willow trees bending in the wind.

Nevertheless, as an only, sickly child, I read the book in one day and claimed the characters - gentle-natured Mole, good-hearted Ratty, no-nonsense Badger and the one-and-only, never-to be-forgotten, utterly outrageous, Mr Toad - for an extended family.

I fell under the the spell of the chattering, babbling river so beloved of the Water Rat: "It's my world, and I don't want any other. What is it hasn't got is not worth having, and what it doesn't know is not worth knowing..."

And, of course, I was captivated by the roar and rattle of Toad's errant motor car as it thundered down the open, dusty, highway ever in search of someplace new: "Here to-day - in next week to-morrow! Villages skipped, towns and cities jumped - always somebody else's horizon! O bliss! O poop-poop! O my! O my!"

The Wind in the Willows became one of the best-loved books on my childhood bookshelf. Some of the volumes that stood alongside it in those far off days have long been discarded and forgotten; others are still respected, still capable of evoking affectionate memories, but now seldom read. The Wind in the Willows, on the other hand, has remained a constant companion across the changing years.

So, what was it about the book that captured my youthful imagination and still captures the fancy of the older, more worldly-wise adult? What I adored, when young, was Kenneth Grahame's ability to spin a yarn full of lovable characters and comic escapades: Toad the daredevil adventurer, stealing cars, escaping from gaol, commandeering railway engines.

What intrigues me now is the daring with which the storyteller interweaves the fun and frolic with episodes of rare and mysterious beauty: Mole yearning for his little, abandoned home; Rat listening to tales of the wide world from an old seafaring rat and the mystical encounter with the great god Pan in that curious chapter entitled 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn'.

The resulting mix oughtn't to work - indeed when the book was first published, a lot of very grown-up people (critics and the like) said that it didn't work. The humorous magazine Punch (with singular lack of humour) described it as "a sort of irresponsible holiday story in which the chief characters are woodland animals, who are represented as enjoying most of the advantages of civilization."

Even more glorious is the pompous pronouncement in The Times Literary Supplement that "as a contribution to natural history the work is negligible" before going on to point out that a water rat would "never use a boat to navigate a stream" and pondered on the subject of a mole doing whitewashing: "no doubt moles like their abodes to be clean; but whitewashing? Are we very stupid or is this joke really inferior?"

The answer to which, of course - we now know - is obvious: yes, the critic of the TLS was indeed very stupid!

Young readers, of course, knew better: they made the book their own and then persuaded the adults to change their minds. As Grahame wrote, years afterwards: "It is the special charm of the child's point of view, that the dual nature of these characters does not present the slightest difficulty to them. It is only the old fogies who are apt to begin 'Well, but...' and so on. To the child it is all entirely natural and as it should be."

And - child or adult - we will return again and again to this miraculous book because woven through its entire length is an overwhelmingly reassuring sense of security and cosiness: of summer picnics on the river bank, walks across country fields in the frosty air of winter and afternoon tea snuggled around the fire...

Like the ancient willow trees that grow along the banks of the Thames and which gave the book its title, The Wind in the Willows has a time-enduring quality: it remains one of the most haunting evocative, boisterously funny and endlessly enchanting book ever written...

And if my recommendation won't suffice, let me leave you with the words of another admirer of The Wind in the Willows - and the man who dramatised the book and made it into what was, for many years, one of London' annual theatrical treats, Toad of Toad Hall - A A Milne:

For the last ten or twelve years I have been recommending it. Usually I speak about at my first meeting with a stranger. It is my opening remark, just as yours is something futile about the weather. If I don't get it in at the beginning, I squeeze it in at the end. The stranger has got to have it sometime.

Should I ever find myself in the dock, and one never knows, my answer to the question whether I have anything to say would be, 'Well, my lord, if I might just recommend a book to the jury before leaving...'

Happy Birthday,
Toady, Ratty, Moley and Badger!

And may you live for at least another hundred years!

Images: © Estate of Ernest H Shepard

Thursday 9 October 2008


We went to see the Hadrian exhibition at the British Museum where an exquisite bust of Hadrian's Greek male lover, Antinous, provided a stunning centerpiece...

Details of Antinous' relationship with Hadrian are sketchy: according to one account Hadrian encountered Antinous when he and his entourage were accompanied him on his many journeys through the empire. A somewhat more romatic version tells how Hadrian (who was, incidentally married to Vibia Sabina, the grand-niece of his predecessor, Trajan) had the empire searched for the most beautiful youth, and chose Antinous.

The circumstances of Antinous' death during an imperial visit to Egypt are also vague: in October 130, according to Hadrian, "Antinous was drowned in the Nilus," but it is not known whether his death was the result of accident, suicide, murder or some kind of religious sacrifice. Whatever the truth, Hadrian was inconsolable and his grief for the loss of his lover and subsequently approved his deification.

Thus are - or were - gods born...

Talking of Roman emperors: overheard by David in the exhibition:

"You know Jane? Well, she's got Marcus Aurelius
in her conservatory..."


And here's Buttons' (somewhat limited) view of the exhibition.

Tuesday 7 October 2008


After yesterday's vacant seats, here's two more...

This was Friday afternoon on Brighton Pier: far too cold and blowy to be sitting around but fine for a nice, brisk, invigorating, stroll past the one-arm bandits!

And, in the evening, we accidentally happened to be in the right place at the right time to watch a splendid firework display ---- Ooooooh! Ahhhhhh! ---- with great chrysanthemums of colour blossoming over the sea...

As it happened, it was just as well that the fireworks hadn't been scheduled for Saturday or Sunday which turned out to be horrendously cold and wet with driving winds. In fact, it was so windy that the innocent pleasures of the good old helter-skelter...

Were suddenly off-limits...

The gale force winds (I was almost blown off my feet and I am, as you are aware, certainly no light-weight) resulted in some dramatic waves at high tide that can best be described by showing the jetty near the Palace Pier as the waves rolled and rushed ashore...

And the one place where you didn't want to be standing when they hit!

Unfortunately, we had our brolly knicked while we on the pier, so came home sadder and wiser - not to mention damper and severely wind-blasted!

All in all, it was an anniversary to remember!

Images: Brian Sibley © 2008

Now read button's comment.

Monday 6 October 2008


The combined Sibley-Weeks photographic skills -- I spot 'em, he shoots 'em -- resulted in this picture of a trio of empty chairs and their shadows snapped the other evening in a cold, blue floodlit glare on London's South Bank.

For some reason those deserted chairs put me in mind of a poem by Ogden Nash that I first read as a child but which - unlike Nash's usual witty observations of social mores with their delightfully tortuous rhymes - is a simple little ode that, even when young, I realised was laden with a significance that, one day, I would not just instinctively feel, but also understand...


People expect old men to die,
They do not really mourn old men.

Old men are different. People look

At them with eyes that wonder when...

People watch with unshocked eyes;

But the old men know when an old man dies.

- Ogden Nash

Images: David Weeks (with Brian Sibley) © 2008 [Click on image to enlarge]

Saturday 4 October 2008


I will be in Brighton today, celebrating the first anniversary of my Civil Partnership with David...

My health may be a bit dodgy and work and money may be thin on the ground these days , but I'm still - I keep telling myself - a lucky man!

Friday 3 October 2008


Further to my posting the earlier this month on BANANAS, I've found that this curious fruit is - believe it or not - the subject of several blogs - including The Tattooed Banana (yep, you did read that correctly!), where you'll find examples of banana-art... of banana-movie-personalities such as Piratebanana of the Caribbean...


...and Bananastein... well as scenes from everyday banana-life --- including a highly regrettable banana suicide...

Obviously, none of these people's mums taught them NOT TO PLAY WITH THEIR FOOD!

Anyway, make sure you check back through The Tattooed Banana's archives for maximum banana a-peel!!

Wednesday 1 October 2008


After several postings about goats and donkeys in Greece, I thought I'd ask whether you knew - or had noticed - that London's Underground is full of animals? The entire system is literally teeming with them...

"Where?" you ask.

Answer: on the... TUBE MAP!

First designed in 1933 by designed by Harry Beck, the map has a fascinating history and the schematic diagram - mapping the underground routes topographically rather than geographically - have been widely adopted for other network maps around the world.

But what about the animals? Well, for a start there's The Great Bear...

Click to enlarge

An artwork by Simon Patterson, produced in 1992, 'The Great Bear' looks, at first glance, like the London Underground Tube map, but Patterson has replaced the station names on the different lines with the names of people: actors, artists, philosophers, politicians, saints, scientists, explorers, comedians, monarchs and footballers.

'The Great Bear', currently exhibited at Tate Modern, has been described as subverting "the concept of maps and diagrams as authoritative sources, and challenges our assumption that they can be utilised without question by taking this iconic information source and adding [the artist's] own idiosyncratic data to it."

There isn't actually a bear in or on 'The Great Bear', the title is a punning reference to the constellation Ursa Major along with Simon Patterson's own arrangement of ''stars''.

Several years before Patterson's work, Paul Middlewick became the first person to go animal-spotting when, in 1988, he sighted an elephant on the tube while staring at the underground map during his daily journey home from work.

And here it is...

Mr Middlewick really started something! The elephant tuned out to be just the first of a menagerie of creatures artfully created using the lines, stations and junctions on the London Tube map.

Among those taken into captivity are domestic animals such as a cockerel...

To wild creatures like the polar bear...

The rhino...

And the bottlenose whale...

There is also one animal which, unfortunately, has an occasional symbolic relevance to the London underground system - especially during weekend engineering works!

To hunt down your own tube wildlife visit Animals on the Underground.