Monday 31 January 2011


Talking of Lewis Carroll: while in Oxford the other day to celebrate the birthday of the discoverer of Wonderland and Looking-glass World, we came across these...

Eat Me!

...although I am puzzled why the Wonderland authorities would mint commemorative coins featuring someone whose visit caused so much upheaval and trauma to everyone from rabbits to royalty!

Anyway, if you'll excuse me, I need to comply with the inscription!

You get your own EAT ME treats (and much else besides) at Alice's Shop - Lewis Carroll's The Old Sheep Shop

Thursday 27 January 2011




The creator of Wonderland, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (sometimes known as Lewis Carroll) was born 179 years ago today and, in celebration, here are a couple of renditions of his most famous nonsense verse, which Alice discovered in a book on the other side of the looking-glass. I refer, of course, to...


You'll recognise Sir John Tenniel's depiction of the Jabberwock whiffling through the Tulgey Wood when you watch the following enactment of this curious saga...

And here's the Tenniel illustration that inspired the Muppets' slithy toves, borogoves and mome raths...

And in case you've ever wondered what the words in the poem's opening and closing verses mean, here's Humpty Dumpty's explanation...

"...'Brillig' means four o'clock in the afternoon--the time when you begin broiling things for dinner."

"That'll do very well," said Alice: "and

"Well, 'slithy' means 'lithe and slimy.' 'Lithe' is the same as 'active.' You see it's like a portmanteau – there are two meanings packed up into one word."

"I see it now," Alice remarked thoughtfully: "and what are

'toves' are something like badgers – they're something like lizards – and they're something like corkscrews."

"They must be very curious-looking creatures."

"They are that," said Humpty Dumpty: "also they make their nests under sun-dials – also they live on cheese."

"And what's to
'gyre' and to 'gimble'?"

"To 'gyre' is to go round and round like a gyroscope. To 'gimble' is to make holes like a gimlet."

'the wabe' is the grass-plot round a sun-dial, I suppose?" said Alice, surprised at her own ingenuity.

"Of course it is. It's called
'wabe' you know, because it goes a long way before it, and a long way behind it––"

"And a long way beyond it on each side," Alice added.

"Exactly so. Well, then, 'mimsy' is 'flimsy and miserable' (there's another portmanteau for you). And a 'borogove' is a thin shabby-looking bird with its feathers sticking out all round – something like a live mop."

"And then
'mome raths'?" said Alice. "I'm afraid I'm giving you a great deal of trouble."

"Well, a
'raths' is a sort of green pig: but 'mome' I'm not certain about. I think it's short for 'from home' – meaning that they'd lost their way, you know."

"And what does 'outgrabe' mean?"

'outgrabing' is something between bellowing and whistling, with a kind of sneeze in the middle: however, you'll hear it done, maybe – down in the wood yonder – and when you've once heard it you'll be quite content..."

Sunday 23 January 2011


When we first visited Venice, I – like most people – only had eyes for the place. The more we have re-visited, the more interested I have become in the people: not the tourists with their cameras, back-packs and pull-along cases, but the residents: the people for whom La Serenissima is home.

People-watching in Venice is not easy: there are very few places (other than outside the caffes) to sit and watch the world go by. The best observation-points are at vaporetto (water-bus) stops and on the boats themselves because, while the tourists are outside snapping the gondolas and the palazzi of the Grand Canal, the people who live and work in the city (especially in the winter) sit inside!

Here are a few of those Venetians (waiting for and on vaporetti) observed during recent visits...


Click on any image to view larger version via flickr



Venetians 1

Venetians 2



Winter fur

Not Amused
Here's a brace of Venetian couples on the streets where they live...


And one woman and her dog in what I still think of as one of my best photos: the sunlight and shadows, the pigeons in flight – almost, but not quite perfect! If only that man behind the woman wasn't there so she made a clearer silhouette...


And not forgetting this occasional resident...

David in hat

Images: Brian Sibley & David Weeks © 2008-2011

You can view more of our Venice photographs on my flickr Photostream

Tuesday 18 January 2011


Sometime (no one seems to know when), someone (no one seems to know who) decreed that today should be annually marked and celebrated as Winnie-the-Pooh Day.

The date is actually the birthday of A[lan] A[lexander] Milne, (born 129 years ago), creator of the the Bear of Very Little Brain and his friends in the 100 Aker Wood.

Personally, I'd have chosen 14 October and for two reasons: firstly, because that was the original publication date of the book, Winnie-the-Pooh; and, secondly, because poor Mr Milne suffered enough from having his reputation as a playwright and essayist overshadowed by Pooh without muddling up his birthday with that of a much-loved, but fictional, character.

However - to use the ironic title of Milne's autobiography - "It's Too Late Now..."

So, in compensation I would like to draw your attention to the splendid recordings of the complete Pooh stories (Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner) along with the Christopher Robin verses from When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six, read – well, performed, really – by my late (very good and dear friend) the actor, Peter Dennis.

There have been many readings of these books: some will be familiar with those by Stephen Fry or Alan Bennett; older readers will recall Willie Rushton, Bernard Cribbins and Lionel Jeffries; Americans will remember having records narrated by Maurice Evans and Carol Channing and those who fall into the 'Now We Are Sixty' category may even have a trace memory of BBC Radio's original voice of Pooh, Norman Shelley.

Peter Dennis, however, is in a class of his own and listening to him is to meet the inhabitants of Christopher Robin's nursery (and A A Milne's imagination) anew as he becomes, by turn, slow but dependable Pooh, nervous Piglet, gloomy Eeyore, enthusiastic Tigger, bossy Rabbit, pompous Owl, motherly Kanga and excitable Roo.

Peter developed a close friendship with the grown-up Christopher Milne, who wrote two superbly-crafted volumes of autobiography – The Enchanted Places and The Path Through the Trees – recalling his life with his father and the Best Bear in All the World and his experiences beyond the world of Pooh...

During the last year of Peter's life, he recorded these two books as a promised gift for Christopher’s daughter, Clare, and the first volume of this exceptional rendition is now available.

I remember, on first reading The Enchanted Places, I rather rashly told Christopher Milne that the book showed him to be his father's son.

He was terribly polite, but I guess his heart must have sunk rather, since his life was (in some senses) almost as badly blighted by the popularity of Pooh as his father's had been.

I had meant it, however, as a compliment since I rated (and still rate) A A Milne as one of the 20th Century's truly great, albeit largely forgotten, humorous writers: a master of elegant, effortless prose and verse and because the ability to turn a good phrase was a gift inherited by his son.

Christopher's reminiscences, a joy to read, are now also a joy to listen to in Peter's delightful recordings that not only capture Milne-the-Younger's sometimes wry, sometimes poignant, always charmingly self-effacing way with words but are also a testament to the affection that existed between author and actor.

"If you want to meet the real Pooh," Christopher Milne once wrote, "the bear I knew, the bear my father wrote about, listen to Peter..." I would add, if you want to meet Christopher, the boy and the man and the friend of bears – listen to Peter!

Finally, just to add to the jollity of nations, here's me, wittering about Pooh as Chris Evans' 'Mystery Guest' on BBC Radio 2, yesterday morning...


Monday 10 January 2011


Deadlines are pressing and the gentle art of blogging is going to have to be put (more or less) on hold for a few weeks...

Every now and again, just to keep things ticking over, I'll be sharing a few photos from our recent visit to Venice (and a couple from earlier pilgrimages) beginning today with some images celebrating the leonine companion of the city's patronal guardian, Saint Mark.

I really love lions (probably because of my childhood obsession with Narnia's Aslan) and winged lions are obviously in a very special cat-egory all their own!

There are a great many lions in Venezia, these are but a few...

Chimera II

Domes and Flag



Angry Lion

Doge and Lion

Lion and Book



Knocker 1

Lion Doors
And finally...

Lion Biscuits

Images: Brian Sibley & David Weeks © 2009-2011

You can view more of our Venice photographs on my flickr Photostream

Wednesday 5 January 2011


The end of our fifteenth sojourn in la Serenissima...

As has lately been the case when leaving, we are unsure when, or if, we will return. The Queen of the Adriatic says, "Si!", but my aging joints say, "Non sono sicuro!"

Sunset in Venice 1
So we hope...

But, whatever the answer, this exquisite city will remain in my heart for ever!

Image: Brian Sibley
© 2010

Monday 3 January 2011


Just before Christmas, I wrote about the Disney studio's plans for a projected Fantasia 2006 which was to have included the sequence featuring Hans Christian Andersen's story of The Little Match Girl.

The comments to that post noted the other planned sequences for the film, but in case you missed that exchange, here is one of them, appropriately enough, One by One, performed by LeboM.

The lyrics begin...

"Ibabeni njalo bakithi, Ninga Dinwa..."
"Hold on tight my people, don't get weary..."

At what is still the beginning of a New Year, this little film is filled with things we can all do with just now: sun, warmth, laughter - and hope!

...and may whatever you wish yourself
be yours in 2011

You can read a translation of the lyrics to One by One here.

Sunday 2 January 2011


Thanks to eagle-eyed Radio Times reader, Sheila, I can tell you that another Sibley programme is getting a BBC Radio 7 repeat today...

The Northern Irish Man in C S Lewis
(not the snappiest title in the history of radio-writing, I admit!) tells the story – or, at least, my version of the story – of the Belfast childhood of children's writer and Christian apologist, C S (for Clive Staples) Lewis, and of the influence that the landscape, legends and people of Northern Ireland had on the creation and depiction of the Land of Narnia.

C S Lewis is played by Geoffrey Palmer and the programme can be heard at 10:15 this morning and, after that, via BBC iPlayer for the next seven days.

If you are a frequent traveller (in your imagination) to those lands that lie between the Lamp-post and the Great Castle at Cair Paravel, you might just enjoy this exploration...

Saturday 1 January 2011


(...or, if you're not in Italy)


Buon Anno
And here is the finale of the firework display, just after midnight, over the Venice lagoon marking Capodanno 2011 - the first day of the new year...