Saturday, 31 May 2008


Just a reminder that today is the closing date for entries to our current competition.

Inspired by my friend Akiko who somewhat marred her husband, Jonathan's, enjoyment of Tosca by whispering - just as the opera began - "Tosca dies", I'm asking for one-line 'spoilers' guaranteed to wreck someone's enjoyment of a film, play or book

It might be... "The puppet becomes a real boy", "The whale kills the Captain" or "The Snark is a Boojum"; your suggestions by midnight tonight!

Friday, 30 May 2008


One of my personal literary heroes - or, rather, heroines - is Mary Cadogan who has written extensively about children's books and periodicals and the authors and artists who created them and who, today, celebrates her 80th birthday.

Mary and I have been friends now for over thirty years and I am in total admiration of her youthful fascination with life and her indefatigable energy, which keep her writing, talking and broadcasting about subjects on which she has been a passionate advocate now for over three decades.

A literary historian - a term Mary would never use of herself - her books have included the definitive portrait of the creator of that anarchic young man, Master William Brown - Richmal Crompton: The Woman Behind William - as well as a book about the boy himself, Just William Through the Ages

She has also told the story of the prolific writer who gave the world Billy Bunter, the Fat Owl of the Remove, and his fellow pupils at Greyfriars School, Frank Richards: The Chap Behind the Chums and Richards' female counterpart, Angela Brazil, and her contemporaries in You're a Brick, Angela and Chin Up, Chest Out, Jemima!

Other favourite childhood worlds about which Mary has written are those inhabited by Rupert Bear and the numerous characters created by Enid Blyton from Noddy, via the the Famous Five and Secret Seven to the girls of Malory Towers and St Clares.

"Reading has always been a joy," says Mary, "I just love books." And because she does, she can't stop herself from guiding us to the bookshelf, pulling out volume after volume and thrusting them into our eager hands.

Mary Cadogan wears her considerable knowledge lightly and what makes her books on the subject of children's literature and popular fiction so readable and accessible is that she is never the Learned One, dispensing knowledge from some ivory tower of academe; rather, it is as if she were sitting beside the youngster-inside-us-all, head bent over some much-thumbed book or comic reminding us of things that amused us, thrilled us or caught and excited our imaginations.

This underrated talent - an ability to share not just knowledge but, above all, an unashamed, undiminished enthusiasm for authors and their works - is something I prize and, in my own way, have tried to emulate.

In celebration of Mary's birthday, she has compiled a new book Mary Carries On: Reflections on Some Favourite Girls' Stories a collection of essays that follows the fortunes of young literary ladies from Katy Carr (as in What Katy Did) through to Modesty Blaise.

Along the way she discusses Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women (left) and its sequels; L M Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables); Elsie J Oxehnham (The Abbey Girls); Elinor Brent-Dyer (The Chalet School); W E Johns (Worrels of the WAAFS) and, of course, Brazil, Blyton and Crompton.

What great characters there were in these books and in the weekly comics and story papers such as School Friend: 'Belle of the Ballet'; 'Kitty Hawke and her all-girl air crew' (and, rather less inspiring, 'Angela, Air Hostess'); 'Wendy and Jinx', the sleuthing schoolgirls, and that tantalizingly mysterious schoolgirl secret society, 'The Silent Three of St Kit's'...

Click to enlarge

"Gosh!" really is the only word for it!

Writing of her new book, Mary describes it as a "tribute to the many writers who have enriched my childhood and subsequent years. It is not an academic treatise but - I hope - a sharing of pleasures."

Thank you for sharing those pleasures, Mary, and --- many happy returns!

For more information about Mary Carries On, visit the website of the book's publishers, Girls Gone By.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008


Beryl Cook who died earlier today at the age of 81 was a national treasure: the former sea-side landlady who found fame as the "painter of fat ladies", was as quintessentially English as fish and chips, tea and biscuits, panto jokes and saucy postcards.

She began painting by accident because everyone else in Cornwall, where she lived at the time, was doing it. "I expected to paint like Stanley Spencer," she once said, "It was a great disappointment when I realised that I didn't."

What she did, however was paint like... well, like Beryl Cook: jolly, brazen, raucous scenes in clubs and pubs, at the bridge table and the lingerie party; gossipy girls indulging in light-hearted, good-natured fun and frolics.

Beryl painted for the sheer pleasure of "making pictures" and preferred not to know how much her paintings sold for as it made her feel too anxious and pressurized. She never read reviews of her art, which - hopefully - means that she never encountered Brian Sewell's waspishly stinging indictment, that she had mastered a "very successful formula which fools are prepared to buy."

There are those who think that Mr Sewell was the fool in failing to recognize that we loved Beryl's ample ladies - and the occasional sailor, gigolo and hen-night stripper - because their ribald vulgarity was direct, honest and uncomplicated and because their primitive combination of innocence and bawdiness made us smile!

Victoria Wood hit the nail on the head when she described Cook's art as "Rubens with jokes" and Cook herself said of her work: "I see a lot of sad things, but I wouldn't be motivated to paint them. When I feel uneasy, I laugh."

That is a profound lesson in the art of life-survival.

To my mind, the world is poorer for Beryl's passing, but happily her paintings - and the laughs that go with them - are still there for our enjoyment.

10 September 1926 — 28 May 2008

Visit the The Official Beryl Cool Website


It was Sibley-blog-regular, Jen, who sent me details of a video card trick performed by one of my favourite magical people, Professor Richard Wiseman...

As a member of The Magic Circle, I am most certainly not in favour of the exposure of magic tricks because the moment we know how they are done, the 'magic' really does evaporate and that delicious sense of wonder is replaced by disappointment - even annoyance at having been so gullible.

Richard began his career as a magician, but many of his experiments, nowadays, are concerned with the psychology of perception; our ability - or inability - to see and understand things as they really are - not as people tell us they are.

The Professor's lesson can be applied not merely to the world of magic but to politics, religion, media, advertising and any other sphere of life where people seek to influence our view of the ourselves, each other or the world...

So, watch and be vigilant!

Image: Brian Fischbacher

Monday, 26 May 2008


One or two of my regular readers were rather shocked when I recently posted some slightly disconcerting Disney images from the web-site, DeviantArt.

Those pictures took me back over forty years to 1967 and the appearance of a cartoon known as 'The Disneyland Memorial Orgy' in the radical, American counter-culture magazine, The Realist.

This was the age of Oz and other underground mags and even if you didn't get to see these controversial publications, stories from them circulated widely - even wildly! - and cartoons were shamelessly copied and touted.

The famous Disney orgy appeared in the May 1967 issue of The Realist and, at the time, was seen not just an an affront to decency, but as an impertinent slap across the corporate face of Disney, since Walt's famous entourage of cartoon characters were depicted engaging in activities that were considerably more Rabelaisian than Disneyesque!

Click to enlarge

The Disney orgy poster, with its - at the time - incredibly high snigger-factor,was the anonymous work of Wallace ('Wally') Wood (left), a brilliantly gifted comic book artist whose work appeared in Mad and other magazines and whose complex life ended in suicide in 1981.

Within weeks of its appearance, copies of the orgy cartoon were on the streets of just about everywhere - including London's Soho, where I purchased my own copy. It had been appalling photocopied: areas of black ink were bleached out grey and it was on two sheets of paper wonkily pasted together. But its irreverence was - or so it seemed in 1967 - dead cool!

The Realist's assault on the world of Disney was triggered by two events: the death in December 1966, of the man who was universally known as 'Father Goose' and 'The Modern Aesop' and, earlier the same year, a controversial cover article that appeared in Time magazine (right) entitled Is God Dead?

"It occurred to me," says The Realist's editor, Paul Krassner, "that Disney was indeed God to Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy -- the whole crowd -- he had been their creator and had repressed their baser instincts, but now they could shed all their inhibitions and participate in a magnificent mass binge."

To Americans - to the world - the cartoon was an act of extreme iconoclasm (the dollar signs radiating above Sleeping Beauty's castle were a genuine satirical comment - unlike the sexual shenanigans going on in the foreground) and very quickly the Disney Orgy became the stuff of both folk legend and legal fact.

The original art work was stolen from the printers and has never surfaced and, whilst it was generally rumoured that Wally Wood was responsible for the unsigned artwork, he never confessed to its authorship. Asked about it, in the year of his death, Wood responded: "I'd rather not say anything about that! It was the most pirated drawing in history! Everyone was printing copies of that. I understand some people got busted for selling it. I always thought Disney stuff was pretty sexy... Snow White, etc."

But whilst people were indeed 'busted' for selling copies - most famously Sam Ridge, a publisher of psychedelic posters who produced a colourised, bootleg version - Paul Krassner and The Realist were never taken to court by Disney.

Because, under the copyright laws in the United States, it is permissible for original works (in this case the Disney characters) to be partially copied for "satirical or critical goals" while reproductions made purely for commercial purposes (such as the ripped-off poster version) are outlawed.

Sam Ridge, the poster man - who didn't have Paul Krassner's permission to reproduce the image - was sued by Disney and an out of court settlement was reached. Paul Krassner, who (obviously) hadn't had Disney's permission to allow the Disneyites to get involved in such appalling behaviour - was never pursued for so blatantly taking the Mickey...

What's more he's still selling copies (on high-quality paper, digitally colored, 18"x24"; suitable for framing; mailed in a protective tube) for $35 plus shipping and handling!

The trouble is it doesn't seem as radical or daring as it did forty-one years ago, but then maybe that's just because it cannot hope to have the same subversive impact when it's openly available on with Internet!

Click to enlarge

Images: Wally Wood by Wally Wood; Disney Memorial Orgy © Paul Krassner -- from original ideas by the Walt Disney Studio!

Saturday, 24 May 2008


Our friends Jonathan and Akiko have an interesting word in their personal vocabulary - "Toscadies".

It was coined when they went to see a performance of Puccini's opera, Tosca. Jonathan didn't know the story and hadn't read the programme synopsis. He was happy to simply experience and enjoy the drama as it unfolded upon stage.

Then, as the auditorium lights went down and the curtain rose, Akiko whispered to her husband: "Tosca dies..."

Poor Jonathan! The element of surprise was rendered null and void. It was now - like Tosca's leap from the battlements - downhill all the way!

Hence "Toscadies": what the film mags refer to as 'spoilers'; plot revelations that you are far better off not knowing about - until they happen!

Now Jonathan and Akiko's Toscadies has inspired our latest---


I want you to send me your ultimate spoilers: those one-liner revelations that are guaranteed to make sitting through a film, play, opera or any other dramatic entertainment less enjoyable - or, at least, more predictable - than it might otherwise have been! The shorter, snappier and wittier the better.

Jonathan and Akiko will judge the results and all the entries will then be posted on the blog - without solutions! - as a secondary competition: so that everyone can then try their hand at guessing which works have been Toscadied!

The closing date for submissions is a week today: Saturday 31 May.

Go on! Spoil somebody's day! You know you want to!

Thursday, 22 May 2008


A little while ago I mentioned the plight of a young Iranian who was seeking asylum in Britain because his boyfriend had been hanged in Iran for sodomy and he was fearful that returning to his homeland would be a one way ticket to the gallows. He was justified in his anxiety since an estimated 4000 gay men and lesbians are believed to have been hanged in Iran in the last 30 years.

Mercifully, as you may have heard, the Home Office has now reconsidered the man's case and granted him asylum. Here is the story as reported by the BBC. Those of us who grew up in Britain at a time when homosexuality was a crime, will applaud the Home Secretary's decision and hope that a day will come when there will be no countries in the world where homosexuals have to live and love under threat of the death penalty.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008


From childhood, my Mum was mad about elephants!

She adored Disney's Dumbo and, until her death, she had elephant figures, pictures, teapots, clocks and cuddly toys everywhere around the house.

Even if we're not quite that pachyderm-obsessive, we all love elephants, don't we? I mean, how can you not? Strong but gentle giants, seemingly so old and wise...

If you haven't already seen this YouTube video, then you are in for a treat...

This particular artist appears to be an elephant called Hong who lives at the Maetaman Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Skeptics may doubt the evidence of their eyes, but thanks to the ever-trusty Hoax-Slayer, I am able to confirm - staggering though it seems - that what you see is totally genuine.

However, to be utterly truthful, I have to add that - as the Asian Elephant Art & Conservation Project reveals - Hong's artwork is the result of training rather than an expression of a natural artistic talent...
Two years ago, Hong began painting with her mahout, Noi Rakchang, and has steadily developed her skills. After learning how to paint flowers, she moved on to more advanced paintings. She now has two specialties. One is an elephant holding flowers with her trunk, and the other is the Thai flag. An elephant with so much control and dexterity is capable of amazing work. Just for clarification, with these realistic figural works, the elephant is still the only one making the marks on the paper but the paintings are learned series of brush strokes not Hong painting a still life on her own.
Nevertheless, as a feat of memory and as an example of remarkable trunk-brush control, I still find this demonstration extraordinary and curiously moving.

You can read the full commentary on this video, with links, on Hoax-Slayer; while on the website of The Elephant Art Gallery you can read about - and purchase - genuine abstract elephant art: paintings that are not created using learned brush strokes, but which are the animals' unaided work - other than the fact that they are handed the brushes loaded with paint...

The example right is by an elephant named SriSiam and is entitled 'Children's Party'. I can think of some human abstract painters for whom SriSiam is a serious rival...

Monday, 19 May 2008


"The Duchess! The Duchess! Oh my dear paws! Oh my fur and whiskers! She'll get me executed, as sure as ferrets are ferrets!"

My anxiety over the Duchess' reaction to today's post (regular readers will know how easily shocked she is) will become rapidly clear; but it cannot be helped: this blog is dedicated to honest reporting and where one of my pet subjects - signage - is concerned, I have to report things as they are...

It was Rich who thoughtfully passed on this sign - if sign it is: it may just be intended as a piece of useful information...

And, on a related topic - here's the perfect addition to your bedroom decor.

The only trouble is that whilst, in Mediterranean countries (and possibly the USA), the lights go ON when a switch is switched UP, in the UK the reverse is usually the case. But, therein, perhaps, lies all you really need to know about British libido!

Saturday, 17 May 2008


I'm not sure how many of you have noticed but, as well as keeping the old blog on the go, I've recently been busily tinkering around on another blog-spot where I've revamped my old website,

It's not (as several of you who've already visited have told me) as elegant or easily negotiated as my old site, but it does make it a lot easier to keep up to date and to be able to post breaking news - should I be lucky enough to have any!

When the new site first went live, my good friend Irascible Ian who had built the original, took good-natured revenge by sending me a message to say that my website was under attack! And, following the link to my site, I saw all my hard work seemingly crumbling beneath a barrage of crashing zeppelins and the music of - yes - Led Zeppelin...

Total paranoia!

Being a bear of very little brain, it took me several hours to discover that it was a just a hoax perpetrated through the evil geniuses at...

For the feeble-minded, such as myself, Netdisaster's disasters are alarming and panic-inducing... As a piece of technological wizardry - playing havoc with the imagery on your website without any lasting damage - they are utterly and maliciously brilliant!

Now and again, whenever time needs wasting, I'll amuse myself by having zapped by Martians...

Bombarded by meteorites...

And nuked by warheads...

Sometimes I throw coffee over it...

Pelt it with custard pies...

Chuck tomatoes at it...

Or fry a few eggs on it...

My website has been flooded...

Overgrown by bouquets of flower-power...

Marched over by militant protesters...

And stomped on by dinosaurs...

To amuse yourself - or to terrorize friends and foes - with these and other animated disasters go to Netdisaster and do your worst!!

And don't forget to visit the disaster-free and let me know what you think...

Thursday, 15 May 2008


Next time you settle back on the psychologist's couch and prepare to face the challenge of confronting your Ego and your Super-Ego, enjoy the added comfort afforded by a pair of --- Freudian Slippers...

And if your psychologist pushes you too far and your tortured Id finally rebels, you can always use them to give him a good slippering! After all, as Sigmund himself observed: "Sadism is all right in its place, but it should be directed to proper ends..."

Tuesday, 13 May 2008



The Sibley Blog - weighing in at just a little over 700 posts - is two years old today! This occasion provides an opportunity for the entire editorial team (!) to express its gratitude to everyone who's contributed to keeping this blog going with ideas, photos, jokes, and oddities -- and, of course, all those of you who've regularly (or even occasionally) left comments.

Many Happy Returns to Us All!

Now, as it happens it's not just my blog's birthday, it's also my un-birthday, so I thought I'd give everyone a small un-birthday present...

The term un-birthday was first coined by Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking-glass and What Alice Found There, the 1872 sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

It is Humpty Dumpty who explains to Alice the concept of the un-birthday present as being a "present given when it isn't your birthday..."

Alice considered a little. "I like birthday presents best," she said at last.

"You don't know what you're talking about!" cried Humpty Dumpty. "How many days are there in a year?"

"Three hundred and sixty-five," said Alice.

"And how many birthdays have you?"


"And if you take one from three hundred and sixty-five what remains?"

"Three hundred and sixty-four, of course."

"And that shows that there are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents---"

"Certainly," said Alice.

"And only one for birthday presents, you know. There's glory for you!"

When, in 1951, Walt Disney made his animated film of Alice in Wonderland, Humpty Dumpty didn't make it into the movie; but, instead, the Mad Tea Party became a Mad Un-birthday Party complete with a special song for the occasion.

Whether today is your birthday or your un-birthday, have fun!

Sunday, 11 May 2008

IN THE BEGINNING... Well, last Thursday

At last! --- Sunday!

I don't know about you, but I've had a hell of a week: anxieties and tensions, worries about work and health (or deficiencies thereof), This 'n' That and So-on 'n' So-forth. But Thursday evening turned out to be a wonderful, recuperative oasis, in a desert of despondency.

That was the day of the official launch, at London's Westminster Central Hall, of Lion Hudson's new book, 50 Favourite Bible Stories - an event noted in the pages of The Times and other papers.

The reason for there being fifty such stories is because - with a synchronicity that only the media can achieve - they were chosen and are read, on three accompanying CDs, by Sir Cliff Richard who happens to be currently celebrating exactly that number of years in showbusiness. And if that fact makes any readers feel old, well then that probably means you are (or on the way to being so!) whereas Sir Cliff himself has definitely worn rather better than most of the rest of us...

When I was approached to write - or, rather, retell - the fifty selected stories, the project struck all kinds of chords with me. I had met Cliff on various occasions in the past and, a couple of times, had even shared a stage with him -- or, at least, appeared on the same bill!

But the driving imperative was the indelible memory of my own first collections of Bible stories - especially a pop-up book which showed (in the nearest equivalent to virtual reality as 1950s paper-folding could manage) the animals processing into the Ark, the parting of the Red Sea, David's defeat of Goliath, Daniel in the Lion's Den and, my personal favourite, Jonah stepping out onto the beach from the open mouth of the Whale...

Over the lifetime that has followed, my reading and understanding of the Bible has passed through many phases but, whatever questions I have grappled with, I have always believed that the Bible is a great - arguably the greatest - work of literature. Whether you read it as an orthodox, a fundamentalist, a liberal or, even, an agnostic - it's pages are crammed with unforgettable exploits, monumental dramas, potent imagery and sheer soul-stirringly magnificent poetry.

For several decades now - as the world in general knows - Cliff has been open about his simply-held, strongly-maintained Christian faith and has successfully ridden out the derision and mockery of those who sought to put him down or - because of his beliefs - attempted to denigrate his talents and achievements as one of the most enduringly successful performers in the world of pop and rock. At the press conference on Thursday, he spoke passionately about his wish that people would read what has increasingly become "a closed book".

He is right. Consider, for example, the impact of this book across the centuries: the way in which it has motivated far-reaching social reforms and inspired some of the greatest works of art in the history of civilization - Michaelangelo, Veronese, Handel, Milton, Blake, T S Eliot, the list is endless. If on no other level, the Judeo-Christian narratives that make up this book - or, accurately speaking, this library of books - provide a timeless perspective on human nature: not just in its examples of vision, heroism, courage and sacrifice but also in its catalogue of frailties, failings and foibles.

Anyway, something of all that has, I hope, found its way into the pages of 50 Favourite Bible Stories (25 from the Old Testament and 25 from the New) which has been vividly and vibrantly illustrated by the talented Stephen Waterhouse, whose imaginative interpretations of these well known stories fizz and zing with colour and energy.

Here are Stephen and I with the man who has been rightly described as 'Music's Mr Nice Guy'...

At the top of this post and below are two of Stephen's pictures accompanying the account of Creation in the opening chapters of the book of Genesis...

Click to enlarge

And this is Sir Cliff at Thursday's launch, reading my version of this oft-told tale - and coping with banging doors, passing emergency vehicles other such twenty-first century distractions that God certainly didn't have to put up with...

You'll find lots more examples in Stephen's illustrations on his website's Portfolio; and if you're interested in knowing about the genesis of the Genesis creation story, you'll find a good starting point here on Wikipedia...

Illustrations: © Stephen Waterhouse 2008
Photo: © Anne Rogers
Video: © David Weeks

Friday, 9 May 2008


Knowing how many of you enjoyed the Grand Central Station Freeze staged by Improv Everywhere. Here's another of their missions: sixteen 'agents' infiltrate the food court in Baldwin Hills Mall, Los Angeles, California, and improvise a musical!

The patrons' ability to ignore something they don't understand must, I guess, be one of those traits that separate the human being from other animals!

But the real question, after seeing this, is who needs Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh in order to make a star out of a waitress and a sucker out of everyone else?

Wednesday, 7 May 2008


It's one of those occasions when you have to pinch yourself and ask, "Is this really happening?" I'm sitting in a suite in London's Dorchester Hotel with Julie Andrews - yes, the Julie Andrews - Mary Poppins! Maria Von Trapp! - who is asking, "Shall I be mother?" and pouring me a cup of tea.

"Sugar?" Just a spoonful...

Ten years ago, 1998. Radio producer, Malcolm Prince, and I are finally about to have an interview for which we've waited weeks. It's been on, it's been off and, now, it's back on again...

Julie is in London, rehearsing with the cast of the new musical, Doctor Dolittle, in which she is providing the voice of Polynesia the Parrot, and she's agreed to give us an interview for a radio series we're making on Disney's Women - the real and fictional women in the life and films of Walt Disney.

The evening of the interview eventually arrives. We are on time - well, absurdly early, of course! - but Miss Andrews is delayed. Detained at rehearsals....

An hour passes. Then another... We sit in the Dorchester bar, drinking over-priced orange juice, not daring to risk any alcohol - just in case the interview actually happens! I'm unaccountably nervous. It feels how, I imagine ,it would feel if you were waiting for an audience with the Queen...

I look at my watch. It's getting late. Miss Andrews is now stuck in traffic. The interview will definitely get rescheduled... Then the call to go up to her suite.

If possible, I am now even more anxious: at the end of a long day of rehearsals, she'll be tired, she'll be hungry. She's certainly never going to be able to give us the promised hour of her time...

In the suite we sit and wait some more. So near and yet so far... I hum to myself: "Fa - a long, long way to run..." How true.

Then the door opens and in comes Mary Poppins - spit-spot, hurry up, no dawdling...

She greets us with a big, warm smile and instantly defuses all anxiety. "Gentlemen! I am terribly sorry to be so late and to have kept you waiting!"

We shake our heads. Was she late? Had we been kept waiting? Really? We hadn't noticed!

Malcolm ventures that we'll try not to keep her too long. Again: the reassuring, I-have-confidence-in-sunshine, smile...

"I think we said an hour. Let's do it!"

Always the trouper, her on-with-the-show, vaudeville origins coming to the fore.

"But first, I need to freshen up - and then I think we all need a cup of tea!"

She vanishes into the bathroom, an assistant phones room-service and in a twinkling - only Disney magic could have done it quicker - a tray with a silver tea-pot and bone china tea-cups materialises before our eyes.

Then she's back, settling herself beside me on the sofa and asking if she should be mother...

Perfect! In fact, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

The interview - which flows effortlessly and runs for well over an hour- passes in a kind of hazy, pink blur...

Disney's Women was duly broadcast - to considerable acclaim - and, subsequently part of the interview relating to Mary Poppins found its way into an essay I contributed to A Lively Oracle, a book about Poppins' creator, P L Travers - which also published one of Andrews' fascinating (and revealing) letters sent to Travers from the Disney sound stage in Burbank.

When, last year, I wrote (with Michael Lassell) my book Mary Poppins: Anything Can Happen If You Let It I'd planned to include part of what Julie had said about Walt, Mrs Travers and playing the practically perfect nanny. But word came down from on high in the Mouse's Kingdom that the Andrews references and quotes would have to go.

The only reason I supposed that this curious decision had been taken - for Julie's presence in the film was crucial not just to the movie itself, but also to her own future career - was that, for some time she had been reportedly working on her autobiography. Maybe she was anxious that we didn't preempt her own book... Who knows? Anyway, the problematic passages were excised and that was that.

And, once again, I waited for Miss Andrews - or, rather, this time, for her book!

And now it's here. Home: A Memoir of My Early Years is, as you'd expect, a charming read. But it's much more than that, being uncompromisingly honest - whilst remaining, as she would say, "polite and decent".

Home is jam-packed with insightful stories: the benefits and pitfalls of being a born-in-a-trunk child star; singing (aged 13 years) for Queen Elizabeth and Princess Elizabeth at a Royal Command performance on the stage of the London Palladium; appearing on radio with Peter Brough and that other Andrews - Archie; getting the role of Polly Browne in the first Broadway production of Sandy Wilson's The Boy Friend (as a result of a recommendation from fellow Educating Archie regular, Hattie Jacques); and, later, her fairy-tale romance with Tony Walton; playing opposite Richard Burton and Roddy McDowell in Camelot and becoming friends with T H ('Tim') White, the idiosyncratic author of The Once and Future King, the book on which the musical was based.

And, of course, there are the chapters that will doubtless excite most reader-interest - her experiences during the creation of Lerner and Loewe's classic musical, My Fair Lady. Fascinating to learn, incidentally, that they nearly called their show Fanfaroon - a man who blows his own trumpet! All things considered it's probably just as well that they didn't...

Here, Julie reveals the monstrous egocentricities of Rex Harrison, the lovableness of Stanley (Alfred Doolittle) Holloway and Robert (Colonel Pickering) Coote, the utter beastliness of designer, Cecil Beaton and the devoted, nurturing care and attention which director Moss Hart showed towards his inexperienced young star at a point when everyone - and, in particular, the monstrous Rex - considered her a total liability and the show's undoubted ticket to the graveyard of theatrical flops and failures...

"She'll be fine," Hart told his wife after 48 hours of ceaseless coaching, "she has that terrible British strength that makes you wonder how they ever lost India."

Of course, what I was most interested in was what she would say about Poppins? Would it differ in some crucial way from my own interview account? But, no! There it is, virtually word-for-word as it was told to me over the teacups in the Dorchester...

The first volume concludes with Andrews getting the Poppins role, so there's plenty more to come in volume two: The Sound of Music, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Star!, Darling Lili, Hitchcock and Torn Curtain, Blake Edwards, S.O.B. and Victor/Victoria and the story of what happened to that extraordinary voice - not to mention the Shrek and Princess Diaries movies.

Meanwhile, if you'd like to read part of the missing text of my book, you'll find it posted on my Ex Libris blog...