Friday 26 January 2024


"Our doubts are traitors, 
And make us lose the good we oft might win, 
By fearing to attempt."
– William Shakespeare 
Measure for Measure 
(Lucio to Isabella, Act I, Scene IV)
The Final of The Traitors (UK, Season 2): I'm not sure whether I was more depressed by the Traitor's ruthless brutality or the Faithful's sadly misplaced trust. 
Brilliant TV, no question... but, ultimately, painful for its savage uncloaking of the worst aspects of human nature.

Wednesday 24 January 2024

Today, my American friends are celebrating National Peanut Butter Day!


I became hooked on this sticky, nutty, product when I was, maybe, six or seven years old and I pestered my mother into letting me try it solely because the jars from Sun-Pat then being sold in the UK came with a picture of this Walt Disney icon on the lid and a label carrying the sing-song mantra: SUN-PAT DONALD DUCK CRUNCHY PEANUT BUTTER.


Surprisingly, I succeeded in getting it added to the regular grocery shopping-list – remembering my Mother, I'm not sure how I did that! – and it became a much-loved breakfast spread long before I discovered the additional pleasure derived from a second topping of jelly – or, as we say, jam.


Mind you, if I'm honest, I'm no longer certain whether, back then, I actually really LIKED peanut butter that much, or whether it was totally down to the compelling marketing powers of the Disney Duck! I suspect the latter and, of course, I was – then and now – a 'Walt-nut'!

Anyway, I really wish I'd kept the empty jars: those selling on eBay (all of them with bashed, battered and rusty old lids) change hands for surprisingly toothsome prices.




Wednesday 17 January 2024


I am very honoured to be among recipients of letters included in Remembrance: Selected Correspondence of Ray Bradbury, edited by Jonathan R. Eller; recipients such as Grahame Greene, Arthur C. Clark, Federico Fellini, Gore Vidal, Carl Sandburg, Francois Truffaut and Bertrand Russell.
I first exchanged letters with Ray in 1974 and we continued to write to one another and, later meet up in London and L.A., until his death 38 years later. That first letter of Ray's, in response to an enquiry from a supremely confident 25-year-old admirer, was a small but exquisite masterpiece: a fireworks display of words, thoughts and images: an explosion of stimulating ideas, questions and challenges. Over twice my age and an international literary superstar, he replied as if to an equal with such vigorous engagement and indulgent charm that, however unlikely it seems to me now, could only ever be read as an invitation to begin a friendship...
What I couldn't have known was that it would be a friendship would bring me, across nearly four decades, letters, notes, postcards and doodles, an annual Christmas poem (and, no surprise, zany Halloween greetings); articles, cuttings and clippings; play-scripts and hand-bills; signed books and an endorsement for the cover one of my books – and an opportunity to dramatise The Illustrated Man and more than half-a-dozen of his short stories for radio.
The letter itself and two of my mine to Ray (which I hadn't seen since I wrote them!) are chiefly concerned with a conversation about Walt Disney's use in his theme-parks of 'Audio-Animatronic' technology – or, to put it in non-Disney speak, 'robots'! It seems that, half-a-century ago, we were already debating the pros and cons of what we would now refer to as 'AI': Ray, obviously and unashamedly 'pro'; me anxiously, 'con'. 
In a few months time it will be fifty years since that wonderful letter arrived and almost twelve years since Ray's death and yet I remain as moved and eternally grateful to have received it, not just for the content, but for all the memories of which it was but the first...

Friday 12 January 2024


Goodness only knows what took me so long! Only 37 years after its release, I finally watched (and loved) Rob Reiner's 1987 film of William Goldman's book, The Princess Bride


Well, there it is: life is a successions of possible discoveries: some are made early on, others made rather later than we might have wished and, of course, quite a few get missed altogether. So, I'm never ashamed about making discoveries that fall into the 'Better Late Than Never' category.

And what's not to enjoy about this magical film? As (probably) most people reading this will know, it features Robin Wright and Cary Elwes as the pretty young lovers – the latter also demonstrating a formidable talent for swashbuckling Errol Flynn-Doug Fairbanks-style swordsmanship in that exhilarating sequence in which he and his well-matched duelist, Mandy Patinkin, demonstrate their fencing skills – right-handed and left-handed! A truly heroic episode.

On the 'Boo-Hiss' side of things there's an delightfully odious Prince-portrayal by Chris Sarandon and succulent, sneering villainy from Christopher Guest that is reminiscent of Basil Rathbone as Sir Guy of Gisbourne in The Adventures of Robin Hood or the Lord Ravenhurst in The Court Jester.  

Then there are glorious Pythonesque comic turns from Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, Mel Smith and Peter Cook; and we really mustn't forget the (literally) larger than life presence of Andre the Giant (French-born wrestler, André René Roussimoff, popularly known at the time as 'The Eighth Wonder of the World') playing... well... the Giant... Nor can we overlook the smaller, more intimate companionship of Peter Falk, whose endearing and reassuring performance as the storytelling grandfather holds the whole narrative together and, in so doing, 'sells' the film. Oh, yes... and there's also a lively medieval-cum-'Eighties score by Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler! 

How can I have I denied myself all these rare and fine pleasures for so many years? Never mind, now (time willing) I will be able to enjoy them some... several... possible many times more!

Thursday 11 January 2024


Thursday 9:00 am:
Early morning winter sunlight through the kitchen window-blind...


It's January 11th and I wish you a very happy "Learn Your Name in Morse Code Day". In case you ever need it, here's mine...

-... .-. .. .- -. / ... .. -... .-.. . -.--

If you want to translate your name into Morse Code, CLICK HERE

Monday 8 January 2024


ZORRO – [Part ONE]

Totally stunning red, black and white cover for Zorro: Man of the Dead #1 (J. Albuquerque Variant). If you'll forgive the sloppy critique:  


ZORRO – [Part TWO]

Surprising (if somewhat vacant) off-white cover for Zorro: Man of the Dead #1 (Cover 'I' Blank Sketch Limited Edition) Pre-Order: ONLY 2000 PRINTED
BUT, beware... The website at Forbidden Planet carries the following curious caveat:

Saturday 6 January 2024

DAVID SOUL (1943-2004)


Goodbye, Hutch! 


Ah, dear, sweet David Soul... Here he is, on the left (looking, as ever, cool in black and tan) as we knew and loved him, before he scared the bejesus out of us with Salem's Lot. By his side: trusted fellow crime-fighter, Starsky – co-star in Starsky and Hutch, Paul Michael Glaser, surprisingly hip in a previous year's Christmas jumper.


Thus passes another of my boyhood crushes from those innocent days before they'd invented phrases like 'homoerotic tropes'... 


Mind you, on Instagram, a couple of years ago, Glaser posted this 'other' photo of himself and his chum from a time gone by; "Everyone needs a Hutch to their Starsky," he wrote – so who knows...



TWELFTH NIGHT... And the arrival of the last – or, maybe, the FIRST card of Christmas!


Friday 5 January 2024

GLYNIS JOHNS (1923-2024)




Farewell to Glynis Johns, aged 100: beautiful lady (with amazing eyes) and exceptionally talented actress, equally skilled at playing dramatic, romantic or comedic roles. Daughter of veteran Welsh actor Mervyn Johns (himself a considerable talent), Glynis was at home on stage or in front of the camera, but it was the movies that elevated her career to star status.

Glynis made her film debut in 1938 in South Riding and success was quickly followed with Powell and Pressburger's 1941 war drama 49th Parallel in which stepping into a role vacated by Elisabeth Bergner in a very starry cast (Leslie Howard, Laurence Olivier, Anton Walbrook and Raymond Massey)
and for which she won a National Board of Review Award for Best Acting. In 1948 she had a triumph as the titular mermaid in the screwball comedy, Miranda which also featured David Tomlinson with whom she would later co-star in Mary Poppins as Mrs and Mr Banks.


Other films that followed included The Card second-billed to Alec Guinness and Flesh and Blood co-staring alongside Richard Todd; Walt Disney would subsequently cast Johns and Todd in two historical pictures: The Sword and the Rose and Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue. She provided a glamorous foil to Danny Kaye in his glorious medieval musical-romp, The Court Jester; and co-starred with Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum and Peter Ustinov in The Sundowners, with Dan O'Herlihy in The Cabinet of Caligari and with Peter O'Toole, Burton and Taylor in Under Milk Wood.

On stage, Glynis was the first actress play the role of Desiree Armfeldt in Stephen Sondheim's 1973 Broadway hit, A Little Night Music, in which she introduced – in her hallmark, husky voice – what would become one of Sondheim's most best-loved and enduring songs, 'Send in the Clowns'.  



This performance won Glynis a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical and Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical. Sondheim likened her voice to a "rumpled bed", which is less of an insult than an acknowledgement of her seductive delivery.

The song's construction (now so famously known) was solely dictated by the musical ability of his leading lady. As Sondheim once described the structure:
"Isn't it rich (breathe-breathe),
Are we a pair (breathe-breathe),
Me here at last on the ground (breathe),
You in mid-air (breathe-breathe),
Send in the clowns."

Writing in The New York Times, music critic Anthony Tommasini perceptively said of the song: "Stephen Sondheim composed his most famous song, 'Send In the Clowns,' for an actress with virtually no voice ... and few genuine singers have performed it as effectively." Which is unquestionably true.

Of course, Glynis had already sung a roistering number in Walt Disney's 1964 film triumph, Mary Poppins, delivering 'Sister Suffragette', a militant battle-cry for women's rights in Edwardian England in the role of Jane and Michael's mother Mrs Winifred Banks. As the story goes, Walt invited Glynis to the studio, planning to offer her the role of the mother of the two children, Jane and Michael; however, the actress (already a Disney leading lady) assumed she was going to be offered the film's title role. 

To sell the supporting role and mollify the disappointed star, Walt called Poppins composers, Richard and Robert Sherman, and told them that he was taking Glynis to lunch and, afterwards, would be bringing her to the music room so they could play the new song they had composed for her. The Sherman Brothers, decoding Walt's unexpected call, worked through their own lunchtime and rewrote an abandoned song for Mary Poppins – 'Practically Perfect in every way / In ev'rything I do and in everything I say...' as a suffrage mission statement that now began, 'We're clearly soldiers in petticoats / Dauntless crusaders for women's votes!' The ruse (and the song) worked the necessary magic and Miss Johns accepted the role. 

Monday 1 January 2024


In celebration of the Latest New Year, here is a selection of comic covers marking New Years from 1938-2024, featuring comic-book characters past and present from Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Bugs Bunny through to Batman, Spider-Man and Dare Devil...






So, here we go again...