Saturday 31 December 2016


Wishing you all you wish yourself for 2017

[Photo: David Weeks © 2016]

Thursday 29 December 2016


Here's an odd-oddity from the Sibley cabinet of curiosities...

It's a pin badge celebrating 'Shore Leave', Episode #15 of the original Star Trek science-fiction television series first broadcast – fifty years ago today – on 29 December 1966.

Repeated on June 8, 1967 'Shore Leave' was scripted by the distinguished science-fiction author, Theodore Sturgeon, and directed by Robert Sparr. 

It is Stardate 3025.3 and the Federation Starship USS Enterprise, under the command of Captain James T Kirk, arrives at a planet in the Omicron Delta system. Scans reveal the planet as congenial, and since the crew is exhausted from three months of continuous operations, Kirk announces shore leave for all off-duty personnel.

Not long after beaming down, the landing parties experience strange occurrences. Chief Medical Officer Dr Leonard McCoy sees a large, anthropomorphic White Rabbit hop by in a hurry followed, a moment later, by Alice from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, who asks McCoy if he's seen a rabbit has pass by.

The story was novelized in the first volume of Star Trek stories published by Bantam Books in 1967, adapted from the original scripts by another sci-fi legend, James Blish, whom I fleetingly met when he was for a short time a member of the Lewis Carroll Society and I was its secretary...

Sunday 25 December 2016


Sometimes, in Venice, it's had to know whether some people are really here or there –– or not...

[Photo: David Weeks]


When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

Nativity, Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, 2015
[Photo: David Weeks]

Saturday 24 December 2016


Christmas lights in the Venetian equivalent of London's Oxford Street (our favourite restaurant, La Caravella, is on the left)...

Thursday 15 December 2016

THE DEATH OF INNOCENCE event I am recalling happened fifty years ago today...

I am getting ready for school and, suddenly, my father is calling up the stairs: "Brian, Walt Disney has died..."

Downstairs, I heard the murmuring drone of radio voices as my father – busy brewing early-morning tea – listens, as he does every day, to the BBC’s morning news programme.

I ought, perhaps, to have dashed downstairs to listen to the reports, absorb the details, gather up the tributes. After all, Walt Disney was my hero. A strange idol for a teenage lad, maybe – but that is what he was.

I collected every book, magazine and trivial snippet that I could find about Disney and his studio. I was forever copying pictures of Disney characters in my sketchbooks – in fact my youthful ambition was to be a Disney artist, to animate those fabulous beings that appeared in his films. I longed to be a part of that mystical process that created characters out of ink and paint and then imbued them with a power to move people to laughter or tears; I was obsessed by the man and his movies.

Later that morning, on my way to school, I would buy the daily newspapers and – in a corner of the playground at morning break – pore over the obituaries; but, at the moment of first hearing the news, I had only one response: I sat on the edge of my bed and wept.

For the first time in my young life I experienced that bizarre phenomenon: a feeling of overwhelming grief at the death of someone whom I did not know. Not only had I never met Walt Disney, I had – rather surprisingly – never even written him a fan letter. Yet, I had been bereaved of someone who held a truly unique place in my affections and the loss felt achingly huge.

During the fifty years since that day, I have continued to study and, occasionally, write about the life and work of Walt Disney and, in the process, had the privilege of meeting many of those who knew, loved and (occasionally) loathed the man. Now, once again, I am working on a book about Disney and am realising that I am passing on a torch to those who will come after who will not have the familiarity of having lived when Disney was still known throughout the world as a flesh-and-blood person as opposed to just a corporate name represented by a copyrighted signature.

That knowledge, as much as anything else, is what fires my enthusiasm, because, whilst my experiences and encounters have brought me very close to feeling that I understand much about the personality and character of Walter Elias Disney, I have never been – and never will be – as close to him as I was on that morning when my father called upstairs to tell me the news that Walt Disney had died.

Wednesday 14 December 2016


Now on at Chris Beetles Gallery in London, an exhibition featuring 194 pieces of original art by one of the great modern illustrators available for sale.

JOHN BURNINGHAM: An illustrator for all ages – from 'Avocado Baby' to 'Granpa' exhibits five decades of original illustrations – all filled with a wonderfully sophisticated naivety – from much-loved children's books across five decades.

You can view all the items for sale here.

The exhibition is catalogued in an 88-page publication containing all the items exhibited accompanied by an excellent appreciation of Burningham's work by David Wootton. The catalogue can be ordered here.

Chris Beetles Gallery
8 & 10 Ryder Street
St James's
Telephone: 020 7839 7551

Gallery Opening Times:

Thursday 24 November 2016


To greet all my American friends (and to amuse those with a taste for the curiosities of past generations) here are some intriguing – often, frankly, bizarre – Thanksgiving greetings from yesteryear...


Sunday 6 November 2016


Today, at 3:00 pm, on BBC Radio 4: the first episode of my two-part dramatisation of Richard Adams' Watership Down...

Monday 31 October 2016


A curious juxtaposition of 90th anniversaries this month: the birth of Winnie-the-Pooh on 14 October and the death of Harry Houdini on Halloween 1926, ninety years ago today. 

Back in 1996, I made a radio programme marking the 70th anniversary of Houdini's passing: twenty years on, it's still quite a good listen...

Saturday 22 October 2016


Tonight on BBC Radio 3 (21:30), 'Between the Ears' is presenting Between Ballard's Ears: two of J G Ballard's short stories – both of which have an obsessive fascination with sound.

'Venus Smiles', dramatised by Frank Cottrell Boyce is about a audio sculpture that takes on a life of its own and is preceded – as a sonic curtain-raiser - by my adaptation of Ballard's 'Track 12' starring Anton Lesser and Elliot Levey.

Both plays are recorded in binaural sound, using a Neumann dummy head which is designed to replicate average-sized human head and is equipped with pinnae and ear canals in which small microphones are placed, one in each ear.

The dummy head is designed to record multiple sounds at the same time and the recorded tracks are then listened to through headphones allowing for the listener to hear from the dummy’s perspective.

'Track 12' begins innocently enough but quickly develops into a disturbing duel of words that – we discover – can only have one outcome...

 To read more about Between Ballard's Ears, click here

Here are some photos of Anton Lesser and Elliott Levey during the recording session at the BBC's Maida Vale Studio last month, featuring the Neumann dummy head that will be your head if you listen to the play on stereo headphones...

 Elliot Levey with Keziah Joseph, the voice of the elusive Susan who is the reason for the dramatic confrontation at the heart of Ballard's story...

Here's Anton with producer and director Mark Burman...

And a couple 'head shots'...

Photos: David Weeks

Friday 14 October 2016


So Owl wrote... and this is what he wrote: 


Pooh looked on admiringly. 

"I'm just saying 'A Happy Birthday'," said Owl carelessly. 

"It's a nice long one," said Pooh, very much impressed by it.

And today, is Winnie-the-Pooh's 90th Birthday!

Yes, 90 years ago today, on 14 October 1926, A A Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh was published, introducing not just "The Best Bear in All the World", but also Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit, Owl, Kanga and Baby Roo – Tigger made his debut two years later oin The House at Pooh Corner.

But today also happens to be the 40th anniversary of my first-ever radio programme for the BBC.

Broadcast in 1976, it was presented by the well-known character actor and teddy bear authority Peter Bull (Dr Strangelove, Doctor Dolittle etc) and featured Norman Shelley (radio's original 'Voice of Pooh') and singer, pianist and editor of The Pooh Song Book, Antony Miall.
The programme celebrated (as you will have already worked out for yourself having taken 40 away from 90!) Winnie-the-Pooh's 50th birthday and it was entitled: Three Cheers for Pooh.
And here (if you have a half-an-hour to spare) it is...

Happy Birthday to Us!

Friday 16 September 2016


Rabbit was rushing along through the Hundred Acre Wood in a great hurry.

"Can't stop, Pooh," he said as he hurtled by, "I've got to order my copy of next Sunday's Sunday Telegraph."

Pooh was wondering what a 'Next-Sunday's-Sunday-Telegraph' was, when Eeyore wandered by, stopped and looked gloomily at Pooh. "I don't suppose I'll be in it," he said.

"In what?" asked Pooh.

"What indeed?" echoed Eeyore and shambled away in search of a thistle with which to console himself.

Pooh went to ask Piglet what he thought and then they both went to ask Owl whether he thought they were right and Owl said it was all to do with something called a 'Sequel' that was Coming Very Soon. 

"You see," said Owl, "a sequel is Something That Comes After Something That Went Before and really needs to be the Same but Different, if you see what I mean." 

Unfortunately, they didn't, so they went to ask Christopher Robin What it All it Meant.

Two jars of honey and a plate of haycorns later, Christopher Robin explained that because Pooh was about to celebrate being 90, the nice people at Egmont, who looked after his books for him, had invited four writers – Paul Bright, Jeanne Willis, Kate Saunders and Brian Sibley – to tell four new stories about Pooh and his friends and Mark Burgess to make lots of pictures of them all doing the Sequely things that happen in Sequels.

And when Sunday eventually arrived, Rabbit rushed round to Pooh Corner with a copy of The Sunday Telegraph, which had an interview with Brian in the newsy part, and an article by Brian in what was called the 'Living' part along with a thrilling extract from Brian's story that everybody crowded round and read with great interest and excitement: because, as well as Pooh and Piglet and Eeyore and Rabbit and Owl and Everyone Else, there was Somebody New, called–––––––––

But I really you can't tell you any more than that, because if I do, we will find ourselves being pursued by something called an Embargo, which, as Rabbit has reminded me, is a Very Fierce and Potentially Litigious Creature indeed!

And THAT is why, if you really want to know what this is all about (and Pooh says that You Really Do), you will have to buy The Sunday Telegraph this Sunday...


And, of course, the answer was –– a Penguin...

Inspired by this Milne family photograph... 


Tuesday 5 July 2016


For the past 15 years I've been coming to Kalymnos: the first thing I have done on arrival is stop the battery in my watch so as to be able to live solely by my body clock.

Alas, my time in the place where time stands still has come to an end, so I need to let Jiminy restart the process of calibrating my seconds, minutes and hours...

Farewell, Kalymnos!

Sunday 26 June 2016


Regrettably nowadays (and for a number of years past) I have been unable to take the hill walks I used to enjoy here on Kalymnos. The spirit is still willing – but the joints are weak!

Fortunately, David can still take to the hills and bring me back a few photographic memories...