Friday 29 May 2015


This is Koliva, a special Greek Orthodox food made to commemorate the souls of the departed...

It contains wheat or barley (the seed which is buried in the ground brings for the new life), thrice cleaned, steeped in hot water and then dried on cloths before being mixed with sesame seeds (toasted and ground), cinnamon, nutmeg, honey and, sometimes, pomegranate seeds. The finished dish is then blessed by a priest at a Mass at which the living remember and pray for their loved ones and all souls who have died in faith of the church as part of a tradition dating back to the 12th Century.

The recipe actually predates even Christianity to the ancient Greek culture with particular reference to the Pantheon of deities: the barley or wheat representing Demeter the earth goddess, pomegranate signifying her daughter, Persephone, the queen of the underworld and, when other almonds and raisins were added, Aphrodite and Dionysus to whom those nuts and fruit were sacred.

It was a privilege to be able to share in a moment of Greek (and Eastern Orthodox) culture that is both truly historic and full of spiritual symbolism – especially as tomorrow marks the 15th anniversary of my own mother's death...

You can read all about Koliva here.

Photos © Brian Sibley and David Weeks

Thursday 28 May 2015


Something brewing on the island...

Photo © David Weeks 2015

Monday 4 May 2015


It was June 1939 and the world was teetering on the brink of war.

In the United Kingdom, the Government's Ministry of Information was preparing for what now seemed an inevitability. It was widely predicted that, in the event of war, major cities in Britain could be subjected to German air bombardment deploying poisoned gas. What was needed was a campaign to confront these public fears and boost morale in the face of impending death and disaster.

2,500,000 copies of the Keep Calm and Carry On poster – its slogan surmounted by a Tudor crown – were printed between 23 August 1939 and 3 September 1939 but, despite hostilities beginning on 1 September, it was decided that the poster should be held back for use following the first serious air-raids.

Instead, two other posters were produced for distribution...

However, the campaign was not a success: people criticised it as a waste of money and its slogans as patronising and it was abandoned in October 1939 with the stocks of the Keep Calm and Carry On poster being pulped as part of a paper salvage drive.

It was 2000 that Stuart Manley, co-owner with his wife Mary, of Barter Books Ltd, came across a surviving copy of the poster and displayed over the cash register in their shop. It caught people's imaginations and the Manleys were soon reproducing and selling copies.

This was the beginning of what has developed into a mega-industry in which the poster has been parodied, adapted and hijacked for several thousand alternative versions that have been reproduced on a legion of commercial products (cards, mugs, tea-pots, aprons, t-shirts, cuff-links and iPhone covers) that – depending on your view – have either provided inspiring and amusing comments on contemporary society or have trivialised and bastardised a relic of a momentous event in the history of the twentieth century.

Just when I had begun to think that the 'Keep Calm' joke had really worn more than a trifle thin (despite my own use of it in the sidebar on the right!), along comes a version that really made me LAUGH!

My friend, Sheila Shrigley (incidentally one of the calmest people I know!) spotted this sign on the cage of a Eurasian Griffon Vulture at the International Centre for Birds of Prey in Duncombe, Yorkshire...


Saturday 2 May 2015


Most of the books I've ever written have lived a short spell and then vanished into obscurity for ever. Only two have shown any sense of survival: Shadowlands, that has been periodically resuscitated across a good many years and Cracking Animation that has never been out of print – ironically in that it is one of the few books I have written that wasn't on a royalty agreement!

However, an anniversary this month – seventy years since the publication of The Three Railway Engines, the first in the long-running Railway Series books by the Reverend W Awdry – prompted one of my publishers to pick up a title first published by another publisher thirty years ago...

My biography of Wilbert Awdry, The Thomas the Tank Engine Man was originally published by Heinemann in 1985 alongside Mr Awdry's famous little books, but Heinemann is now Egmont and they were not interested in giving the book a new lease of life. However, Lion Hudson kindly offered to get it back on the rails again for a new generation of readers and – with an updated introduction and epilogue and nice foreword by Gyles Brandreth – will be steaming into bookshops from 15 May...