Monday, 29 October 2007


Here in the UK we still haven't got a handle on Hallowe'en. For example: our local branch of the food market Fresh & Wild has pumpkins painted on its window with the bizarre slogan:



Meanwhile, regular Sibley-blog Comment-leaver, SUZANNE, e-mailed me recently from Rebecq in Belgium:

Following up on your unseasonal blog [about Hot Cross Buns being on sale alongside Christmas goodies]: one evening, last week, I went to collect my daughter in Braine-le-Comte, the town just down the road from the village where I live. On my drive through the town, I saw several Halloween processions -- and this is only October 19th!

There must have been a nest somewhere because they were all over town, and our half-term doesn't start for another week and everybody here gets 1st November off anyway.

My first reaction was a typical Peanuts'
"GOOD GRIEF", but as they began to multiply, I started planning revenge: turning off the doorbell in case it spread to my village and they came to trick or treat; having jugs of water at the ready for when they do turn up! I was ranting so much that I started vociferously looking for the Easter Bunny - I don't know what I would have done to him, but I don't think it would have involved carrots!

Dear, oh dear, Suzanne! It sounds HORRIFIC! All things considered, it's probably best if you don't read today's - albeit brief - blog celebrating Pumpkin-time...

The feast of Hallowe'en once more
Comes trick-or-treating to our door.

The living and dead stand cheek by jowl
And smile at the children's banshee howl.


No blogs for a couple of days as we will be in Amsterdam with our good friends, ROB and MANDY helping to celebrate Rob's 60th birthday!

Images: Pumpkins © Brian Sibley 2007; Rob & Mandy © Andrew Eborn (using Brian's camera!) 2007

Sunday, 28 October 2007


I love animation in all its forms and am always fascinated by the skills of the animator who has to think both as an artist and as a camera.

The work of my friend ELLIOT COWAN has been featured on this blog before and among the links in the side-bar you'll find one to his blog-site entitled...

Now, from time to time, in Elliot's sandwichbag, you'll encounter two wonderfully subversive little characters, BOXHEAD & ROUNDHEAD, who are, I believe, deserving of national (and, indeed, international) fame!

So, to mark the day on which all of us in the UK have put the clocks back (you did all remember, didn't you?) and winter time with its attendant nightshades descends upon our land, here is one of Boxhead & Roundhead's Stressful Adventures...

In the Dark

You'll find more of Boxhead & Roundhead's delightfully dotty exploits and Elliot's animation if you follow the links on YouTube.

Saturday, 27 October 2007


It must be something to do with this time of year (or too many recent dealings with hospitals!) but I came across a quote the other day by Robert Alton Harris, who wrote:

You can be a king or a street sweeper,
But everybody dances with the Grim Reaper.

This reminded me of an exchange I once had with Discworld author, TERRY PRATCHETT, during an interview for a BBC book programme.

We were talking about DEATH, who appears as a character in many of the Discworld novels and who - contrary to expectations - has a butler (Albert), an adopted daughter (Ysabell), an assistant (Mort), a pale horse (Binky) and lives in a black-and-white, suburban villa with a golf course and a pond containing a skeletal trout!

"Just supposing," I said to Pratchett, "that the door to this studio was to suddenly whisper open and DEATH was to come in and lay his bony hand on your shoulder, what would you do?"

"Well," replied Pratchett, "there's nothing I could do! But that wouldn't matter, because I long ago learned to take life as it comes!"

He paused and then, with a wry smile, added: "Which, of course, when you think about it, is exactly what DEATH does: takes life as it comes!"

Friday, 26 October 2007


(As recently advertised on Qenny's Virtual Gob)

Image: Hell at Sainsburys by Bob Elliott FRPS EFIAP of Southampton Camera Club.

Thursday, 25 October 2007


Today's Guest Blogger is NICK CLARK (aka Boll Weavil) whose post was prompted by yesterday's autumnal thoughts...

Funny isn't it, that we enjoy the beauty of the Earth in summer and then celebrate the death of those very things we admired so much in their prime!

Cue: a poem of mine -
Traitors - from about ten years ago...

You who laughed and sang
Like running streams
Through whole valleys of long-day dreams,
Whilst clear, still skies overhead
Glittered and gleamed.

You love the golden-death throes
Of this same Earth
As she lies beneath the damp smoke,
That sweeping sheet of mist
From hidden heights
That swirls and jokes
From well-remembered hills
Over all our fripperies and frills.

Stoke up the fire!
Bar the door!
And remember in patterns
Of yellow flame
What lies beyond the clammy dripping woodland,
For what was once
Will soon refrain.

Poem © Nick Clark 2007; Images © Brian Sibley 2007

Wednesday, 24 October 2007


One of the most enticing opening passages of any novel in the library is that with which RAY BRADBURY begins his classic, Something Wicked This Way Comes...
First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys. Not that all months aren't rare. But there be good and bad, as the pirates say. Take September, a bad month: school begins. Consider August, a good month: school hasn't begun yet. July, well, July's really fine: there's no chance in the world for school. June, no doubting it, June's best of all, for the school doors spring wide and September's a billion years away.

But you take October, now. School's been on a month and you're riding easier in the reins, jogging along. You got time to think of the garbage you'll dump on old man Prickett's porch, or the hairy ape costume you'll wear to the YMCA on the last night of the month. And if it's around October twentieth and everything smoky-smelling and the sky orange and ash gray at twilight, it seems Halloween will never come in a fall of broomsticks and a soft flap of bedsheets around corners...

And here are some more words and pictures in praise of the season of autumn and, in particular, this rare month that has already amost blown away with the fallen leaves...

Bittersweet October. The mellow, messy, leaf-kicking, perfect pause between the opposing miseries of summer and winter.

- Carol Bishop Hipps

There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October.

- Nathaniel Hawthorne

You ought to know that October is the first Spring month.

- Karel Capek

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.

- George Eliot

It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life.

- P D James

Images: © Brian Sibley, 2007

Tuesday, 23 October 2007


Here's an Ostrich that we happened to encounter at a farm shop in Cambridge the other day...

Click on image to enlarge

Which prompts me to offer my readers a second chance to relish a salutary tale of mine about...


There was an Ostrich who was, perhaps, the most nervous creature of its kind. At the least provocation, the merest hint of alarm and the flimsiest cause for concern, he would thrust his head into the sand and stay there until he was sure, beyond any doubt that the coast was clear and the danger past.

He could often be seen - his neck, body and legs very much in evidence, but his head well and truly out of sight - long after the wildebeest stampede had galloped away in a cloud of dust or the big game hunters’ jeep had rattled off into the distance.

“Why do wait so long before showing your face?” asked one of the other ostriches.

“Well,” said the Ostrich who kept his head down, “one really cannot be too careful…”

But---” began the Other Ostrich and then stopped short on hearing a low snarly-roar that suggested that a large predator was lurking nearby.

Instantly, the Other Ostrich made a dash for safety, knowing that, with a head start, he could out-run anything on four paws.

The Ostrich who kept his head down, on the other hand, poked his head in the sand and pretended that, since he could see nothing, he could not be seen.

The Jaguar, for that is who was doing the stalking, sat for some time washing his paws and looking at the exposed haunches of the Ostrich. Eventually, however, he decided that, without the chase, the kill would be boring, so he wandered off to look for an antelope or two.

The Ostrich who kept his head down, kept his head down for several hours, congratulating himself on having eluded certain death.

As a result, he failed to notice great banks of black storm clouds rolling in across the veldt or hear the rumble of approaching thunder. In fact, he knew nothing about anything until - with a single dazzlingly searing flash - he was struck by lightning and fried to a crisp.

MORAL: The person who said, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you,” was another idiot who got struck by lightning.

Images: Brian Sibley & David Weeks, © 2007

You will find other, similarly disturbing tales (for which I am inexplicably unable to find a publisher!), on my blog-site, Likely Stories.



Yesterday's hospital visit turned out to be a bit of a fiasco since they didn't succeed in getting the catheter in through the wrist... Two doctors tried valiantly, but the artery kept going into spasms and they ultimately failed. It was a bit traumatic and really very painful and, after eight hours in King's Hospital, I'm unfortunately no further advanced --- other than having a bruised and aching arm...

Also, I now have to reschedule the procedure and next time they will attempt to go in through the groin... :-(

However, thanks for all the various expressions of concern and good wishes - I'll let you know when you can express then again!! :-)

Monday, 22 October 2007



...absolutely nothing's happening of any consequence...




[Images © Brian Sibley 2007]

Sunday, 21 October 2007


One of top best-sellers last Christmas for those seeking something to go into the stocking of men of a certain age was Tom Cutler's 211 Things a Bright Boy Can Do.

This excellent manual was packed with useless facts and useful fun of the kind we have been so cruelly deprived of since the demise of those bumper books of things to try - and usually fail! - to make-and-do that proliferated in the days of our youth...

Well, a year has now rolled by and the season of present-buying looms once more, so it is good to see that, spurred on by Tom Cutler's efforts, Bunty Cutler (who is not Tom's formally estranged twin-sister) has published a companion volume: 211 Things a Bright Girl Can Do.

I can do no better than invite my sister, BRENDA SIBLEY, to review this worthy tome...

Arguably, of course, this ought to have been called 212 Things a Bright Girl Can Do, since everyone knows that any girl is bright enough to think of at least one thing (and usually a great many more) than even the brightest boy is capable of coming up with...

Howsoever, I have huge respect for the labours of Ms Cutler, whom I remember with giddy schoolgirl affection from my days in the Chalet School when she was our revered Vice-Captain.

No one, I can assure you, was better suited to that particular post than Bunty as, indeed, is ably shown by the contents of the concluding section of her book -- How to Be Bad: All you need to know to be a very naughty girl -- which contains such invaluable wrinkles as
'How to slide down a fireman's pole' (this is hot stuff, I tell you!), 'Complete whipcaft' (ah, the memories!), 'How to hide a file in a perfect Victoria sponge' (which I could certainly have done with knowing back in those days when I was dating Reggie - or was it Ronnie? - Kray) and 'How to strangle a man with your bare thighs' (which ditto) a procedure which can be accomplished in 11 easy stages although, as Bunty sagely advises, "better practise a bit first on a friend."

Lest anyone run a away with the idea that Bunty Cutler's book is solely devoted to such sensational topics - although, girls, I would personally recommend that you read page 233 ('How to pull off a man's shirt in a twinkling') before accepting any Christmas party invitations where 'turns' might be called for - there are oodles of really useful and truly indispensable KNOWLEDGE with a capital 'K'... Well, actually, as you can see, I used all capitals!

The book contains sections on cuisine (when haven't we all wanted to know 'How to make yogurt in a thermos flask'?), home-making (this Christmas many of my friends will be receiving my efforts after reading up on 'How to make a Mateus Rosé shell lamp'); hostess-craft which embraces all manner of sound advice for she with ambitions to be the "mostest", ranging from 'How to descend a staircase in high heels' and
(on a related problem) 'How to dance with a man shorter than yourself', plus discreet information on 'How to fart with grace and charm at the ambassador's do' which, again, brings back memories of the aftermath of those midnight feasts in dorm 3B at Chalet School!

The section How to be Completely Gorgeous is, naturally, a must for busy girls and the regime for losing six pounds in six hours is a miracle of determined thinking, while 'How to make a little black dress out of a bin liner' could be a life-saver for many -- though do, please, observe Bunty's warning not to iron!

Powder-Puff Mechanics will help you escape a vicious swarm of bees ("cover your face with whatever you have to hand - not golden syrup or Ribena, obviously..."), get rid of a spider from the bath, meet your ex's new girlfriend (always a test of a bright girl's stamina) and 'How to pack for a holiday without using more than five large suitcases': essential reading for
Victoria Beckham and, incidentally, my brother, Brian!

Bunty Cutler was always a whiz at games, so I knew that I could implicity trust the advice in the section amusingly entitled Jolly Hockysticks! which not only gives full instructions (with diagrams) on how to do a cartwheel, jump hopscotch and water-ski but will also save you acres of potential embarrassment at house parties by telling you 'How to throw overarm'!

More in the vein of hobbies than sports, there's all that you need to know about reading tea-leaves and identifying British wildflowers and - though it is scarcely anyone's pastime of choice - no fewer than 12 helpful hints on 'How to worm a cat', such as:
"Wrap cat in large bath towel, head just visible. Ask man to lie on cat and put pill in drinking straw. Force cat's mouth open with pencil and blow pill down cat's throat." Why, oh why, has no one put it quite so simply before?

So, my verdict on Bunty's
book? Absolutely topping: whether you are wanting to know how to make 'Flapjacks without fuss' or 'How to get out of a car without flashing your knickers', this is the book for you. As for me, I'm off to revise what I've learned from Bunty's comprehensive guide to 'Belly Dancing for the Complete Novice', after which I really must brush up on the old whipcraft... Altogether now: "Oh! The Deadwood Stage is a-headin' over the hills!"

Thanks, Brenda! And Bunty's book 211 Things a Bright Girl Can Do, published by HarperCollins at £10.99 is available from all good (and probably quite a few mediocre) bookshops or you can order copies of on-line together with (for any boys who missed out) the original male-designated volume as a double whammy...

Saturday, 20 October 2007


Every now again, somebody tells you something that suddenly puts your own woes and sorrows into perpective and you say, "Well, at least I'm not as badly off as X!" or, in my case, at least I'm not as badly off as my Guest Blogger today, Glasgow-based journalist and writer, SHARON MAIL, who recounts a tale with, unfortunately, a bit of bite in it...


"Britain is in the grip of a record outbreak of ticks and fleas – and the wet summer and recent mild weather is to blame." Metro, Sunday Oct 14, 2007

IT'S NICE TO BE POPULAR and I generally get on well with people. However, my popularity has reached epidemic proportions and I’m far from happy with it.

A few weeks ago, following a working visit to Auschwitz, I got what I thought was a cluster of midge bites on my leg. The following week, another small group on an arm. Two weeks later, they were still itching and suddenly I found myself with a couple of dozen new ones on my legs. The next morning, about the same number again appeared on the top half of my body and many of the ones on my legs had turned to blisters. "Go to the doctor," everyone said.

So I did. And what did the locum medic say? "Gosh, I know it’s not much help to you, but this looks really interesting." After much humming and hawing he ruled out bites or shingles (because of the volume and spread) and chickenpox – which I’ve already had twice, thanks very much. His gut feeling was that they were the manifestation of a viral infection.

That night, after clocking the latest crop of red blotches to appear, I saw a tiny black speck – shaped like a grain of rice – on the white blouse I’d just taken off. Suddenly it started to move …. and then it hopped! I lost it – and then found it elsewhere on the blouse – or perhaps it was another of the blessed little blighters. I grabbed a tissue and squeezed for dear life – it kept moving. I squeezed harder – it tried to escape. I managed to flush it down the loo.
The truth had at last dawned on me – I wasn’t suffering from some peculiar manifestation of an infection. No, I had fleabitis!

I’ve bunged the bed linen on a high temperature wash and hoovered and sprayed my bedroom. Let us spray that I’ve exterminated the little sods – but somehow I doubt it.

I don’t know where they came from – we’ve got a chinchilla, but they don’t get fleas. Perhaps it was when I was in London recently at the Gielgud Theatre watching the Scottish play. When Banquo uttered his last words, "Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly, fly!" some little darlings may have misheard and - thinking the instruction was "Fly, good fleas and fly, fly, fly!" - managed to hop onto me!

All I would like is for them to stop treating me like a gourmet meal (I must now be listed in the Fleagon Ronay Guide) but I’ve no desire to enter The Guinness Book of Records for flea bites and blisters obtained!

Rotten luck, Sharon! And, from latest news received, I gather the search and the struggle go on... Keep up the fight and may cleanliness ultimately prevail! Any helpful hints from readers will doubtless be appreciated...

Meanwhile, Sharon will just have to take comfort from the fact that many others have suffered before her - including at least one of our great poets...

John Donne

MARK but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deniest me is;
It suck'd me first, and now sucks thee,

And in this flea our two bloods mingled be.

Thou know'st that this cannot be said

A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead;

Yet this enjoys before it woo,

And pamper'd swells with one blood made of two;

And this, alas! is more than we would do.

O stay, three lives in one flea spare,

Where we almost, yea, more than married are.

This flea is you and I, and this

Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is.

Though parents grudge, and you, we're met,

And cloister'd in these living walls of jet.

Though use make you apt to kill me,

Let not to that self-murder added be,

And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.

Cruel and sudden, hast thou since

Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence?

Wherein could this flea guilty be,

Except in that drop which it suck'd from thee?

Yet thou triumph'st, and say'st that thou

Find'st not thyself nor me the weaker now.
'Tis true; then learn how false fears be;

Just so much honour, when thou yield'st to me,

Will waste, as this flea's death took life from thee.
And if, dear reader, you still not feling even slightly ITCHY, then maybe you should read my tale of The Ambitious Flea.

Friday, 19 October 2007


More on Greek cats --- well tangentially, anyway...

Our Guest Blogger today, ANDY STOKES, who was once a regular holiday-visitor to the island of Kalymnos and who now lives there with his partner, animal artist (and cat-fancier) Sue Eisenhauer, sends us this report of their latest experience of Living the Greek Life...
The other day, I bought a pack of playing cards at a souvenir shop in Elies Square. I picked them as a present for Sue because each card has a picture of a Greek Pussycat. The box they came in stated quite clearly that these were "The Best Greek Souvenir", so I had no reason to question their quality.

We started playing a card game but after a few minutes it became clear that all was not well. We arranged them into suits, fanned them on the table... To me they began to look like the sort of deck David might have already 'got at' before saying those immortal words: "Here is a perfectly ordinary deck of cards..."

It does beg the question: if these are The Best, what the not-so-good ones are like?

Clearly the Trades Description Act -- along with other pieces of legislation like Health and Safety, Not Smoking in Public Places Act etc etc -- have yet to arrive at these shores!
Shocking news, Andy!

Leaving aside the question of whether or not a magician of David's calibre (I mean, Member of the Inner Magic Circle!) would ever use a deck of cards that have been 'got at' (whatever THAT means!), I do agree that it is decidedly unfair that whilst Andy and Sue clearly have a seriously deficient pack, there's probably someone else out there on Kalymnos or one of those other idyllic little chunks of paradise happily using a deck that - though lacking a Six of Hearts - does have the decided advantage of possibly containing up to as many as seven Kings!

MORAL: Never play poker in Greece - especially if anyone's using playing cards with cats on them!

Thursday, 18 October 2007


When I blogged, the other day, about cats (in Greece and elsewhere), EUDORA posted a comment to say that her cat, Blimunda, is "the embodiment of stillness".

And, later, Eudora sent me a photo of the said Blimunda - perfectly and serenely embodying stillness...

Thank you, she is beautiful...

Eudora's comment set me thinking about this particular quality possessed by the denizens of catdom: from the sentinels guarding mummified pharaohs to the modern-day suburban moggy.

We look at cats - elegantly posed and poised - and see what to us appears to be an unhurried contemplation of life that has the stillness and focused concentration of a nun at prayer...

So, it didn't surprise me to discover that the Internet is crammed with thoughts on the subject, from observations such as this on a site called simply, About Cats...
They will position themselves in graceful stillness, focus on one spot, thing, or you (shudder), and with unblinking, unflinching pose will penetrate whatever (or whomever) it is they stare at.

I have paid close attention to this particular behavior on many an occasion, and can only see not a bored soul just watching the air molecules move about, but a extremely knowing being whose eyes, when you look deeply into them, reveal eras and ages of reincarnated mystique. the kind of metaphysical speculation indulged in by u'da buddha: The Awakened One...
Cats are alert sublime meditation in stillness, action and interaction with total satisfaction. Gliding effortlessly through life entirely at ease, moving as slow fast as they please. Relaxed, in neutral, if something catches their attention they can shift in an instant into high or even warp speed. Playful, without excessive exertion or tension, expending only the amount of vitality that is necessary. Friendly and affectionate only when they want to be. Security purring ecstasy, congruent being in spiritual integrity...

We can learn from our feline friends to be in each moment, aware in our bodies, alive to our senses. To celebrate every touch, taste, sound, smell and see that we are continually surrounded by beauty. To be sensitive to breathing, movement, posture and our relationship to the earth. Not to get caught in excessive thought and activity. To rest, sleep and regenerate when our bodies tell us to.

To stop, be still, and realize that the game of life is the eternal impermanent play and interplay of form. To be conscious of our catlike nature; non-attached, less dependent, present and independent. To rediscover that we are and have always been light, enlightened, fully free, with the awareness and power to constantly appropriately authentically be.
Yes, well...

Personally, I think we envy cats because they are able to "authentically be", as The Awakened One puts it, without the tiresome burden of having to try and work out what that actually means --- let alone trying to discover a way to do it!

Image: © Sacra Cantero Mancebo, 2007

Wednesday, 17 October 2007


Hands up everyone who remembers Look and Learn?

I must begin by explaining my passion: every week, from the age of 8 or 9, I received a copy of The Children's Newspaper (on my parents insistence - as an antidote to my comic of choice: Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Weekly) and although TCN was crammed with articles and features of, as they say, 'interest'; it was, frankly, all a bit worthy.

I suppose I must have read four or five year's-worth of editions of TCN, but can't now recall to mind a single story or image! And yet I can conjour page after page of the Look and Learns that I used to pore over in the school library from its first magical appearance in January 1962.

Every now and again I'd poke my nose into a copy of Knowledge which were also in the library, but I always thought this rival publication, launched a year earlier than L&L, was really a bit on the stuffy side - certainly in comparison with L&L which was a magazine that lived up to its stated aim of providing "a treasure house of exciting articles, stories and pictures" and which positively exploded with vibrant, dynamic illustrations that grabbed the eye and hooked the imagination!

Click on images to enlarge

L&L had the all visual appeal of the comic but with a content - incredibly diverse, sometimes astonishing esoteric - that won the approval of educators and, most importantly, mums and dads!

Small wonder it launched with sales of a million copies and eventually settled down to a highly respectable 300,000 copies a week and, two years after its fist appearance of the news-stands, took over the aforementioned The Children's Newspaper.

Look at what was shoe-horned into the 24 pages of the first issue --- and all for the outlay of just ONE SHILLING:
A photograph of the young Prince of Wales, Charles, dominated the first cover, alongside a painting of the first Charles, Prince of Wales from 300 years earlier...

Elsewhere in this first issue, colour photographs and colour illustrations helped tell the history of Rome and reveal the wonders of nature; you could learn about Vincent van Gogh, the Grand Canyon, how Japanese children celebrated the festival of Shichi go san or how to keep a Basset hound.

Other articles probed the depths of space for life amongst the stars and below the ground for oil; the story of Parliament was magnificently illustrated across the centre pages; equally superb was the first leg of a trip exploring the history of towns and villages along the road from London to Dover; and for those readers who enjoyed stories as well as history, nature, science and art, there was a feature on Sindbad and the famous author and explorer who had translated his adventures plus the opening chapters of The Children’s Crusade by Henry Treece, and Jerome K Jerome’s famous Three Men in a Boat.

- Steve Holland, Archivist, Look and Learn
During its twenty-years and over 1000 issues, the role call of talent working on L&L - though, as kids we didn't know it - was impressive to say the least: historians Leonard Cottrell, John Prebble, Robert Erskine and Alfred Duggan; novelist and traveller Bruce Graeme; zoologist Maurice Burton and naturalist Maxwell Knight; and, yet to establish his career as an award-winning novelist, Michael Moorcock.

The artists represented the cream of the book illustration at the time and included such graphic artists - to name but a few - as Peter Jackson, C L Doughty, Ron Embleton, Don Lawrence, Angus McBride, Jesus Blasco and (below) Oliver Frey... .

Every single issue lived up to its title: we looked and we learned --- about so many things... About the natural world as it is and, as very dinosaur-loving kid knew, it once was...

About the lives and careers of statesmen, scientists and explorers...

About countries, cities and buildings...

About triumphant deeds and tragic events...

There were all manner of excitements and amazements: from flights of fancy...

To modern-day realities...

And future possibilities...

As well as, again and again, all those enticing windows into some of the greatest books, plays and poetry of the world: some of which I already knew and loved and others that, thanks to L&L, I went on to discover...

I probably skipped launch-editor David Stone's editorial description of L&L when, as thirteen year old I was excitedly racing through its colour-filled pages, but it seems to me, now, to pretty much sum up what the magazine was to its devoted readers:
Look and Learn is not a comic, or a dusty old encyclopaedia pretending to be an entertaining weekly paper. It is really like one of those fabulous caravans that used to set off to strange and unknown places and return laden with all sorts of wonderful things. In our pages is all the excitement, the wonder, the tragedy and the heroism of the magnificent age we live in, and of the ages which make up the traditions which shape all our lives.
I can't overstate the influence of L&L on my formative years - it bred in me an inquisitive fascination with facts, words and books which still lingers to this day and, I think, even informs some of the topics that turn up on this daily blog!

And now - joy of joys - there's a newly published Bumper Book of Look and Learn and 24- or 48-issue serial publications of the best of the original Look and Learns, "printed to have the same look and feel as the original..."

Full details can be found on the Look and Learn web-site which is as jam-packed with stuff as the original mag and where you can also read the full, fascinating history of the magazine and - fabulous time-waster this - browse the picture library of 19,073 images which can be downloaded or sent as e-cards...

So quit this page and start wallowing in a bit of pure, unadulterated nostalgia; and - look! - you never know, you might actually learn something!

Images: © 2007 Look and Learn

Tuesday, 16 October 2007


The other day I was being a tad Eeyore-ish about being too far into my 'fifties and SUZANNE thoughtfully sent me the following thoughts on hitting (or, in my case, almost passing) 50 which had been sent to her and she kindly decided to share...


* Kidnappers are not very interested in you.

* In a hostage situation you are likely to be released first.

* No one expects you to run--anywhere.

* People call at 9 pm and ask, "Did I wake you?"

* People no longer view you as a hypochondriac.

* There is nothing left to learn the hard way.

* Things you buy now won't wear out.

* You can eat supper at 4 pm.

* You can live without sex but not your glasses.

* You get into heated arguments about pension plans.

* You no longer think of speed limits as a challenge.

* You quit trying to hold your stomach in no matter who walks into the room.

* You sing along with elevator music.

* Your eyes won't get much worse.

* Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off.

* Your joints are more accurate meteorologists than the national weather service.

* Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can't remember them either.

* Your supply of brain cells is finally down to manageable size.

Suzanne pointed out that she didn't necessarily agree with every one of these 'perks' and nor do I, but there are some - just one or two, of course - that are pretty accurately noted ---- or, at least, I seem to remember thinking they were...

Though quite when that was, of course, or what they were, I'm not now altogether sure...

Monday, 15 October 2007


Now... I have to explain how it with me and cats: I am - and have always been - allergic to felines. I only had my childhood pet, Tiddles (yes, I know!), for a week before the recurrent asthma attacks dictated that T------ had to go away to live with Auntie Margaret and Uncle Harry...

Since then, cats and I tend to keep a healthy distance from each other - except, of course, for those malicious ones who sense the opportunity of causing an allergic reaction and make a determined bee-line for me as soon as I enter a room!

Even our friend Sophie's new cats, Dylan and (below) Zebedee, who I only ever encounter after taking reasonable dosages of antihistamine, largely ignore me - other than posing for photographs, that is...

It's rather sad really, because I do like cats - it's just that I can't exactly ENJOY THEM...

When we were in Greece we saw a great many cats, but it was only since coming home that I ran across the following...
It is a little known fact that the untimely demise of the Ancient Greek civilisation is attributable to the lack of esteem in which they held their cats.

Compare them with the ancient Romans, who, whilst they still had a way to go before they were properly tamed, achieved the level of civilisation where they were able to have mutually beneficial feline relationships.

Modern Greeks however, are very different to their forbears - everyone likes cats in Greece...
Indeed they do, which accounts for the proliferation of Greek Cat Calendars, books, postcards and even graffiti...

So, today, I've chosen a few Greek feline encounters of my own.

There are guardians...




And decidedly sinister-looking characters...

As well as those who insist on taking the chair and making their point...

And insignificant little characters who look as though they wouldn't say "Boo!" to a goose...

...but who will still go a couple of rounds with the local cock-of-the-walk!

As for this photo: it's (obviously) entitled Puss 'n' Boots!

Photographer Hans Sylvester astutely wrote in his book Les Chats du Soleil...
These cats, that are domestic cats, are not abandoned, neither wild, they live for centuries with the humans.

The Greek people of these islands like them without really liking them, they take care of them without really taking care of them; but they accept them totally.

These cats are part of daily life, they've always been here, like the wind, the sun, the sea, the day and the night.

Images: © Brian Sibley, 2007