Monday 31 October 2011



...and, since 31 October is, by custom, a time for trick-or-treating, here is a little tricky-treat from me to you: a piece of vintage Sibley radio, first broadcast on BBC Radio 3 thirty-two years ago on Halloween night 1979.

Talk of the Devil is an anthology of prose and poetry which I compiled in commemoration of the life and times (and heinous works) of Lucifer, Prince of Darkness.

The readers were Judy Parfitt, Robert Eddison (both of whom later appeared in my first Gormenghast dramatisation) and Brian Carroll and the programme was produced by veteran drama director, Graham Gauld...

Images of His Infernalness by Goya and Dore

Saturday 29 October 2011


As if you hadn't read enough about my recent radio dramatisations, The History of Titus Groan, based on the novels of Mervyn Peake, here I am mentioning it again, although only because those nice people at BBC Radio4Extra are repeating it in two three-hour chunks today and tomorrow as part of a pre-Halloween Gothic weekend.

I would argue that Peake isn't really Gothic, but I am, nevertheless, intrigued to know how it plays at length and with an overnight pause half-way through the second book...

Anyway, here's the schedule of broadcasts...

The first episode is preceded (at 19:30 tonight) by the superb documentary, 100 Years of Mervyn Peake, presented by Sebastian Peake with contributions from his siblings, Fabian and Clare as well as the wonderful Joanna Harris and myself.

If you're looking for Radio4Extra (formerly known as Radio 7), this is where you can find it:
Frequency DAB: 12B / Freeview: 708 / Freesat: 708 / Sky: 0131 / Virgin Media: 910 / TalkTalk TV: 633 / UPC Ireland: 929

Thursday 27 October 2011


To travel from Wellington in New Zealand to London involves twenty-four hours flying-time, plus several more in check-ins, departures, transfers and arrivals. Door-to-door for me, this time, it totalled-out at thirty-two hours which is, frankly, pretty tiring even without the chronic disruption to the body-clock.

What I, and my fellow passengers on yesterday's Air New Zealand flight NZ4, didn't need was what befell us on our arrival in Los Angeles...

At the start of our journey we had passed through security: we and our bags and baggage had been x-rayed and checked. The normal procedure when the plane arrives in LA is for passengers travelling on to another destination to be held in a transit lounge where they are checked by US security (by scanning retinas and fingers-and-thumbs profiles) and where they then remain for the, roughly, one hour it takes to clean, refuel and re-crew the plane.

Not so this trip...

Because NZ4 was an addition to the usual Air New Zealand flying schedule (necessitated by the number of returning Rugby World Cup spectators) it seemingly triggered some security alarm bell with the US air control. This is, frankly, weird since no flights can begin without their arrival being approved by the destination airport.

Anyway, five minutes before landing the air crew were notified that the transit lounge would not be used and we would all have to pass through security and customs and the re-enter as newly departing travellers.

For the next two hours we queued to be processed as arrivals (along, of course, with all the passengers who really were actually arriving in LA as opposed to just passing through) and then forced to leave the airport and then re-enter at departures and, of course, undergo the full check-in procedure with all those waiting to depart on various flights.

I smiled wryly at the notice assuring me that the US welcomed me and promised to treat me with dignity and respect as we "tired, poor, huddled masses" were herded along like recalcitrant cattle, scrutinised like potential terrorists, had our bodies x-rayed and searched and our carry-on luggage gone through item by item before we were allowed to, finally, re-board our plane for London.

Sadly, not everyone made it back in time and at least two passengers who got snarled up somewhere in LA's security bottleneck had their cases unloaded and were left behind.

I understand, endorse and applaud the need for rigorous security and vigilance – why would I not? I want to know that I am travelling in safety – but this was nothing short of petty-fogging bureaucracy that made unnecessary work for rafts of, doubtless overworked, officials and caused unwarranted discomfort and delay for at least one 707-load of passengers.

We were held up by a further 30-minutes due to Air Force One arriving or taking off (no aircraft can share immediate airspace with the Presidential plane) and whilst I didn't notice Mr Obama in the security queue, it is probably just as well because – despite the 'special relationship' – I'd have, undoubtedly, given him a piece of my mind...

Saturday 22 October 2011


My final (for now) posting on some of Wellington's public artworks - as photographed during one of my earlier visits to this unique city.


An anonymous street mural...

Street Mural (2)

Paul Dibble's 'Fruits of the Garden' overlooking the Harbour...

Fruits (8)

Part of the 'City to Sea' bridge by Paratene Matchitt, Rewi Thompson and John Grey...

City to Sea (1)

'Shells' by Jeff Thomson, which stands on the corner off Hunter Street and Lambton Quay...


And lastly, Phil Price's kinetic sculpture, 'Protoplasm', which is constantly oscillating – like a fleet of miniature UFOs – above the corner of Hunter Street and Lambton Quay...

Protoplasm (4)

Protoplasm (1)

Protoplasm (3)

Thursday 20 October 2011


Here's another of Wellington's public art works: it's by May Louise Brown and is called 'Seven Steps to Heaven'...

Seven Steps

Sunday 16 October 2011


Unable to use iPad to upload any of the many photos I've (not) taken, I thought I'd post a few very old photos, from my first-ever visit to New Zealand in 2001, showing examples of Wellington's wonderful public artworks, beginning with Neil Dawson's impressive, yet amazingly delicate, 'Ferns': a 3.4 metre diameter sphere suspended 14 metres above Civic Square in central Wellington.

Exquisite AND quirky! Brilliant!

Fern Ball (3)

Fern Ball (2)

Sorry the images aren't centrally aligned (in line with my usually fastidious house style) but – guess what? – iPad doesn't let you make those kind of adjustments...

Later rectified!

Friday 14 October 2011



What a week: I set off last Saturday on what proved to be (with check-in, in-transit and check-out times) a 30+ hour long journey from my London Bag End to the Wellington equivalent of the Lonely Mountain!

Then came the attack of my personal Smaug in the form of a nasty infection of the skin tissue in the left leg (cellulitus) probably triggered by the trauma from a rather nasty fall I took in London before I left...

In between meeting the brilliant artisans of Middle-earth (and encountering a baker's dozen of dwarves) I've been spending time worrying about my painfully swollen while sitting in doctor's surgeries, hospital waiting rooms and late-night pharmacies!

Mega-doses of antibiotics seem to be (to use a leg-orientated simile) 'kicking-in' at last and I am desperate to get myself feeling better, more mobile and focusing on the task of gathering information about the adventures of Mr Bilbo Baggins on his journey through Jacksonland, rather than on my personal status as one of Hobbiton's walking wounded!

So, what can I tell you of the wonders, miracles and delights that I have glimpsed over-hill and under-hill? Sadly, having signed a non-disclosure document – that gives Warner Bros more control over my immortal soul than Mephitopheles had over Dr Faustus –– I can tell you absolutely NOTHING! Other than that it's all looking pretty darn fantastic.

The newly acquired iPad has not (so far) yeilded all its promised potential and I'm incredibly frustrated to find that I can't upload photos to Blogger or flickr which is why this post is, uncharacteristically, lacking in illustrative embellishment!

Never mind, down here, I've two days of taking it easy while my host nation anticipates – with a mixture of elation and anxiety – Sunday's Rugby World Cup semi-final between NZ and Oz. Monday will either be a day of jubilation or deepest mourning!

By the way, I know it says 'Friday' on the top of this post but, down here, it's already Saturday. I could try to work out how to change the Time Zone setting on my Blogger account, but with iPad holding out on me, I'd probably end up losing the post or even deleting the blog!

Friday 7 October 2011


Back in 2001, I had the great good fortune to fly to the Cannes Film Festival to witness the debut screening of the first few minutes of the highly anticipated footage from Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

One of the souvenirs of this event (which recently came to light in our fitfully-conducted clear-and-pack-to-move process) was a clay LOTR pipe and a leather pouch of – now rather dry – pipe-weed: possibly Old Toby but, more likely, Longbottom Leaf...


That was ten years ago; later I made three trips to Wellington, New Zealand, to write about the making of that film and its sequels – along with a life of the Ring-Master, Peter Jackson.

Tomorrow, I will be heading off there again, this time to research the first of two books on the making of the double-film prequel, The Hobbit.

Can't wait to visit Bag End again! Just hope Bilbo's got a couple of bottles of Old Winyards laid down...

Bag End

Thursday 6 October 2011


Possibly the last word on personalised number-plates but then maybe not...

Without doubt the most entertaining examples we have ever come across live (when not driving around the metropolis) outside a house on Chelsea embankment. I can't find my own photos of these Shakespearean plates, so am recycling one from the net because it's a joke that just can't wait!

Yes! That probably is the question the owners ask each other whenever it's time to pop down the shops...

Wednesday 5 October 2011


Still talking about personalised number-plates...

This pair of engaging number-plates turned up on the net the other day and, needless to say, my friend buttons was very keen for us to get the vehicle on the right...

Tuesday 4 October 2011


David and I celebrate the fourth anniversary of our Civil Partnership today – although, in total, we have been together now for 21 years!

I recently stumbled on a numerology-based compatibility test. A bit late to start running tests on a relationship that's been going for over two decades, you might say, but the results were interesting.

Anyone who knows us, will have a view on just how accurate it is...

Compatibility level: 100% - A natural fit that usually produces a very compatible relationship.

David is drawn to Brian, in part, because Brian has great inner strength and the kind of personal power that reveals the possibility of worldly success. Capable and goal-oriented, Brian is a force to be reckoned with.

Brian is attracted to David largely because Brian recognizes in David an emotional and spiritual wealth that may well have remained, at least to some extent, dormant in the life of Brian. David lives and experiences life on many levels. David knows the heart and the power of emotions.

When David and Brian are brought together, individual innate qualities can produce quite a balanced relationship. This is a combination with potential to survive for years and years.

However, an important detail they both must be attentive to is that the relation between them is often based on illusions, and when such illusions fall apart, the relationship may crash.

David sees strength, and thinks it will always be there. Brian sees romance and the subtle powers of the heart, and thinks it will last forever. Neither does, of course. Strength eventually dissipates. The heart slowly loses interest. However, that does not mean this relationship does not stand a chance. It certainly does. And the key to make it a pleasant, long lasting relationship is to recognize each other for what they are, beyond the obvious.

David must learn to love not only Brian's strength and capabilities but also Brian's weaknesses. It is important that David can love Brian as a whole human being. And Brian, in turn, must learn to love not only the romantic presence, the passion of the heart Brian craves in David, but David as a whole human being.

Few combinations tend to give birth to relationships based on illusions as often as do these two. But David and Brian must not forget that they both have many other qualities to be brought to the surface, exercised and explored to their mutual benefit. They just need to keep that in mind, to unite their respective strengths and move on to turn theirs into a most pleasant, rewarding, and long-lasting relationship.
So, watch this space...