Tuesday 21 April 2015


Nine years ago, I blogged the following post on the topic of puppets and vent acts and one in particular featuring a Big Cat...

I was perhaps seven or eight years old and - rare event - had been given some money as a Christmas present!

So, what to spend it on? Well, in my mind there was no question! It was sitting there in the toyshop window and I been eyeing it up for weeks!

It was -- and you must promise NOT to laugh -- a Lenny the Lion glove puppet!

There! I’ve said it!

I was hooked on puppets and ventriloquial acts (my favourite radio show was Educating Archie with Peter Brough and Archie Andrews) and on television Lenny the Lion made a HUGE impact by being one of the first - if not the first - vent doll to be a character other than a child or an old man…

Lenny’s partner was Terry Hall who had the ability to operate the lion’s right arm (paw) in addition to the usual facial movements and this greatly increased the sense of animation.

I was an avid fan of Lenny’s television shows (one of which featured an early appearance by The Beatles), his weekly appearance in TV Comic as well as various spin-off books and annuals, not to mention records (he and Terry memorably recorded the seasonal hit I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas); and, I suppose, that what I really loved about Lenny was his personality that was - well, frankly - CAMP!

Lenny (or Terry) had considerable trouble with his “r’s” which meant that the character had a bit of a lisp! He was also very easily embarrassed which frequently resulted in a gesture - which all TV-Oldies will recall in which Lenny would fling a paw across his eyes and say: “Oh, Tewwy, don’t embawwass me!”

So the truth of the matter is that Lenny was very probably my first gay icon!

Anyway, back to the subject in hand - or to be precise the puppet in (or on) hand…

I really, REALLY wanted it and very, VERY nearly got it...

But (not for the last time in my life) sensible adults put a great deal of sensible pressure on the wayward child and finally convinced him that, instead, he should buy ---- a WRISTWATCH.

Useful, admittedly, but boring… So, I got the Junior Timex and waved goodbye to a life with the Lion.

To be brutally honest, I'ver never quite got over making what was obviously a very stupid mistake and one which, in all likelihood, accounts for the fact that I now only ever wear Mickey Mouse or Snoopy watches and explains why I’m still scanning eBay in the hope of - one day - finding a Lenny the Lion glove puppet…

So, that's what I wrote back in 2006, and Somebody Out There must have remembered my love for Lenny because a parcel has just turned up containing a copy of...

There's no indication who bought it and had it sent to me, but whoever who was responsible for gifting me this delightful relic of my childhood, I send a huge and appreciative 'Thank you'!

Sunday 5 April 2015


Remember Jesus of Nazareth, staggering on broken feet out of the tomb toward the Resurrection, bearing on his body the proud insignia of the defeat which is victory, the magnificent defeat of the human soul at the hands of God.
– Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat

Photo: 12th century mosaics in Basilica San Marco, Venice; Brian Sibley © 2015

Friday 3 April 2015


The Rood [Cross] of Christ speaks:
“It was long past – I still remember it – That I was cut down at the copse’s end,
Moved from my root. Strong enemies there took me,
Told me to hold aloft their criminals,
Made me a spectacle. Men carried me
Upon their shoulders, set me on a hill,
A host of enemies there fastened me.
“And then I saw the Lord of all mankind
Hasten with eager zeal that He might mount
Upon me. I durst not against God’s word
Bend down or break, when I saw tremble all
The surface of the earth. Although I might
Have struck down all the foes, yet stood I fast.
“Then the young hero (who was God almighty)
Got ready, resolute and strong in heart.
He climbed onto the lofty gallows-tree,
Bold in the sight of many watching men,
When He intended to redeem mankind.
I trembled as the warrior embraced me.
But still I dared not bend down to the earth,
Fall to the ground. Upright I had to stand.
“A rood I was raised up; and I held high
The noble King, the Lord of heaven above.
I dared not stoop. They pierced me with dark nails;
The scars can still be clearly seen on me,

The open wounds of malice. Yet might I
Not harm them. They reviled us both together.
I was made wet all over with the blood
Which poured out from his side, after He had
Sent forth His spirit. And I underwent
Full many a dire experience on that hill.
I saw the God of hosts stretched grimly out.
Darkness covered the Ruler’s corpse with clouds
His shining beauty; shadows passed across,
Black in the darkness. All creation wept,
Bewailed the King’s death; Christ was on the cross….
“Now you may understand, dear warrior,
That I have suffered deeds of wicked men
And grievous sorrows. Now the time has come
That far and wide on earth men honor me,
And all this great and glorious creation,
And to this beacon offers prayers. On me
The Son of God once suffered; therefore now
I tower mighty underneath the heavens,
And I may heal all those in awe of me.
Once I became the cruelest of tortures,
Most hateful to all nations, till the time
I opened the right way of life for men.”

From The Dream of the Rood
Translated by Richard Hammer (1970) from the 8th century Anglo-Saxon, this is the earliest Christian poem in English
Photo: 12th century mosaics in Basilica San Marco, Venice; Brian Sibley © 2015

Wednesday 1 April 2015


I'm sure readers of this blog are far too worldly wise to be caught by any April Fool's Day pranks, but just in case, here's a few facts (or fancies) about the origins of this strange festivity...

The custom of setting aside a day for the playing of harmless pranks upon one's neighbor is universally recognised. Precursors of April Fools' Day include the Roman festival of Hilaria (celebrated on the venal equinox to honor Cybele), the Holi festival of India (also known as the Festival of Colours) and the Medieval Feast of Fools. 
In 1561, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote a comical poem about a nobleman who sent his servant on foolish errands on 1 April supposedly to help prepare for a wedding feast. In the closing line of each stanza, the servant says (translated) "I am afraid... that you are trying to make me run a fool's errand."
The first British reference appears in 1686 in the writings of diarist, John Aubrey whose Remains of Gentilism and Judaism mentions, "Fooles holy day. We observe it on ye first of April. And so it is kept in Germany everywhere."
The April 2, 1698 edition of the British newspaper Dawks's News-Letter reported that "Yesterday being the first of April, several persons were sent to the Tower Ditch to see the Lions washed."

Sending gullible victims to the menagerie at Tower of London to see the non-existent ceremony of "washing of the lions" was a popular April 1st prank and examples of it being played went on into the 19th Century as can be seen from this 'ticket' for just such an event advertised as taking place in 1857...

A number of vintage cartoons show the popularity of April Fools Day pranks – often at the expense of the elderly or those susceptible to being sent up...

In Italy, France, Belgium, and French-speaking areas of Switzerland and Canada, 1 April tradition is often known as "April fish" (poissons d'avril in French or pesce d'aprile in Italian). This involves attempting to attach a paper fish to the victim's back without being noticed. Such fish feature prominently on many late 19th and early 20th-century French April Fools' Day postcards...

And if you do happen to do anything foolish today or succumb to someone else's prank, always remember...