Monday, 30 June 2008


Ooops!! Thanks to those who have kindly wished me a Happy Birthday but it's not actually my birthday, today... I was writing an advance blog using Blogger's Sheduled Post system which - notionally - permits you to predate your posts.

For some reason, however, Blogger (which is presumably on the blink) decided to post my birthday blog for 14 July a full two weeks early!!

Anyway, your good wishes were, of course, gratefully received and will be kept and opened on the appropriate day!


It was a strange weekend: on Saturday I noticed, splashed across the front page of the Daily Mail, an announcement that the paper - in association with the BBC - was marking the opening of the Walden Films/Disney movie, Prince Caspian with a free copy of an audio-book version of the story for EVERY READER!

"Ooo, that's good!" I thought. Then I realised that the audio-book on offer was --- none other than MY OWN BBC radio dramatisation!

So, nice of the Beeb to tell me about this... Even nicer of them to give away these CDs rather than sell them so that the dramatist and cast could earn a few pennies from the sale!!

Oh well... Needless to say, I've sent for my freebie: grateful to have something since I obviously won't have to bother about checking the next BBC royalty statement!

Do me a favour and make sure you send for your free copy: let's cost the BBC as much as we can!

And do note, won't you, that they're "also giving you the chance to get the other two books in the trilogy - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Voyage of the 'Dawn Treader' - for the exceptional price of just £12.99."

Funny that, I didn't know it was a trilogy - in fact, I always thought there were seven 'Chronicles of Narnia'. Good job the authoritatively researched journalism of the Daily Mail was there to put me right...

Then, on Sunday evening, I was prattling away on the subject of C S Lewis and the books (and films) about Narnia on BBC Radio 4's kid's programme, Go4It, with presenter Barney Harwood and three young Narnia fans.

Happily, since the show was pre-recorded, I didn't know about the great BBC/Daily Mail Give Away and really enjoyed being quizzed by the bright, inquisitive youngsters. All of them - I'm pleased to report - had, at some point, tried to find their own way into Narnia through a wardrobe or, in one case, an airing cupboard!

If you - or your kids - missed the broadcast, you can Listen Again (at least for the next seven days) on the Go4It website.

As for the latest Narnian film: it has Peter-Jackson-Wetaesqaue special effects (battlefields covered with bristling legions of digital warriors and trundling siege machines) and its undeniable kinship with The Lord of the Rings films is enhanced by the stunning New Zealand locations.

When the trailer's narrator tells potential viewers, "Everything you know is about to change", he is not far off the mark since the film invents several new dramatic highlights, including an elaborate nighttime attack on the villain's castle that has no basis in Lewis' book and a spectacular return of the White Witch which is a wild extrapolation of the original text.

Then there are the numerous tweakings of character relationships - tensions between the High King Peter and Prince Caspian, a hint at burgeoning romantic feelings between Susan and the Prince, but there is also an almost breathless sense of excitement, wonder and pure magic that serves C S Lewis' intentions well and which, mercifully, is not totally subjugated to the demands to make what is, essentially, a children's story into a epic fantasy-spectacular for movie-goers of all ages.

Anyway, if you haven't already seen it, you'll get a sense of what's in store from the trailer...

Sunday, 29 June 2008


I was recently tagged by Good Dog as follows:

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now.

Musically speaking, I'm not exactly known for being 'right into' anything - except a lot of very diverse classical music which I've discounted here - but I'm going to have a go!

So, here goes.............

First off is a reasonably contemporary performance (and the only one in my seven!): Jamie Cullum playing and singing the Stanley Adams-Maria Grever number, 'What A Difference A Day Made'.

I was hugely excited when I first heard Cullum's debut album, Twentysomething, and whilst his subsequent albums have rather failed to live up to my expectations, I still love his free-fall piano playing and that incredible voice - youthfully hopeful, smokily mature - which combine to create a mood that is both aspirational and nostalgic...

Next, and inevitably, is a Disney number! I often listen to Disney songs and I once made a BBC radio series about the studio's musical output. I have many favorites including (obviously) 'When You Wish Upon A Star' from Pinocchio and the entire original soundtrack from Mary Poppins which I play whenever I am feeling really depressed because it unfailingly lifts my spirits...

This is the title song from The Three Caballeros (1944) written by Ernesto Cortázar, Manuel Esperón and Ray Gilbert and featuring the Dinning Sisters, Ethel Smith at her famous electric organ (yep, you read that correctly) and the voice talents of Clarence Nash as Donald Duck, José Oliviera as José Carioca (he's the Brazilian, cigar-smoking parrot) and Joaquin Garay as the Mexican rooster, Panchito.

It's a memorable song filled with infectious energy and I can never hear it without smiling and seeing, in my mind's eye, those exhaustingly mad-cap visuals...

Now a duet between two of my favourite vocalists and musical legends: Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand.

Performed on The Judy Garland Show in 1963, Judy (aged 41) sings 'Get Happy', counterpointed by Barbra (then just 21) singing 'Happy Days Are Here Again'. Pure and enduring magic!

Well maybe just a tidge...

Let's get macho for a moment! Here's the cheese-grater voice of Tom Waits with a 1999 performance of 'Innocent When You Dream'.

I first heard this song when it was used in the 1995 Wayne Wang/Paul Auster film, Smoke, starring Harvey Keitel, William Hurt and Forest Whitaker. I bought the film soundtrack, played this one number to distraction and then set off in search of some more idiosyncratic numbers by Tom Waits.

The song is from his 1989 album, Frank's Wild Years and is called 'Innocent When You Dream' or 'Barroom'.

Some people probably find Tom too downbeat, melancholic -- OK, let's admit it, depressing! -- but I love that growling voice and the caustic sense of tragedy that runs through all his songs...

Now, in total contrast, here's a song by a performer I've 'discovered' only comparatively recently - the American singer and pianist, Blossom Dearie.

I love the languid, laid-back, late-night-café feel to her singing. This song, written specially for her by Michael Preston Barr and Dion McGregor, is from Ms Dearie's 1958 album Give Him the Ooh-La-La and was featured in the 2003 film My Life Without Me.

It is called, 'Try Your Wings'...

I have a passion for musicals (ancient and modern) and I could easily just have picked seven show songs including just about anything by Cole Porter, Rogers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Lowe, Jerry Herman or several dozen others - but, if I'm honest, probably nothing by Andrew Lloyd Webber!

Anyway, what I have picked is a song from one of my top-listed musicals (though there are those who argue that it is a modern opera): Stephen Sondheim's masterpiece, Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Recently Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter played Todd and his accomplice, Mrs Lovett, in Tim Burton's film version, but as much as I enjoyed it (which was a lot) the movie and the soundtrack album have sent me back to the original 1979 cast recording by Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou.

Here (from the 1982 National Tour of the show) is the wonderful Angela, here with George Hearn, singing my favourite song from the musical - the brilliant closing number to Act One: 'A Little Priest'...

For my last song, we stay with opera (or, more precisely, operetta): I frequently listen to recordings of songs by Gilbert and Sullivan - as opposed to Gilbert O'Sullivan - which have been part of my life since childhood. I was in school productions of The Pirates of Penzance (Third Policeman from the Left) and H M S Pinafore (Captain Corcoran) and, having a courtesy 'aunt' who was a member of the Kentish Opera Group, got to see a number of other Savoyard operas including The Gondoliers and The Mikado.

Among my first EPs were selections of songs from these operas and I learned several of the 'patter songs' by heart and have never forgotten them. In fact, if you'll pardon the name-dropping, I once performed this next song as a duet - albeit in private! - with Magnus Magnuson!

I love Gilbert's witty tongue-twisting lyrics and Sullivan's incomparable melodies, but as I wanted to end up with something that was pure FUN, here's a slightly abbreviated version of Ko-Ko's song, 'Tit Willow', from The Mikado --- as performed on The Muppet Show by Rowlf and Sam the Eagle...

So that's seven favourites and now I have to tag some others...

Who shall it be? Hmmm...

Well it'll have to be those with blogsites - although you really don't have to add all those YouTube links: the songs and singers will suffice - so here goes:Bentos (Bentos Animation); Ryan (Holy Embers of Dreams); Doug (Dog Rat); Bela (Slap of the Day); Andy (Andy's Animation)

And if any 'blogless' readers would like to tell me what they're listening to, I'll happily pass on your play lists and offerings can be checked out under More Thoughts below...

I can't find a currently available version of the Muppet Show version of 'Tit Willow', but the song was on Muppet Hits Take 2, so look out for it in charity shops and at boot fairs!

Saturday, 28 June 2008


Just heard on BBC Radio 4:

"You're listening to Saturday Live: the essential plankton in the food-chain that is public service broadcasting..."

Er... Right... OK...

Friday, 27 June 2008



to my friend


Kathryn has the distinction of being the only voice-artist to speak and sing for two of Walt Disney's animated heroines.

She was Alice in the 1950 film adaptation of Alice in Wonderland and Wendy in Disney's 1953 movie version of Peter Pan.

I first met Kathryn, some years ago when I was making a BBC radio series entitled Disney's Women and - I'm very happy to say - we became excellent friends.

Anyway, to those films that were to ensure Kathryn of immortality...

Like all much-loved movies with which we have grown up and know practically by heart, it can come as something of a surprise to find that they might easily have been very different to the way we know them now.

Many films go through a process of refinement during the filmmaking process, but this is never more true than in the case of animation, where a film can be in production for years - sometimes even decades.

Take Alice: at various times from 1932 onwards, Disney was toying with making a feature length film of Lewis Carroll's book and for a while was thinking of having a live-action Alice in an animated Wonderland.

Among those considered, over the years, for the role of Carroll's dream child were the already mature Mary Pickford and Ginger Rogers and young Luana Patten who had recently appeared in Disney's Fun and Fancy Free and Song of the South.

As it turned out, it ended up as a fully animated film, and with the twelve-year-old British-born Kathryn providing the voice for Alice alongside such celebrated vaudevillians as Ed Wynn, Jerry Colonna and Richard Hayden.

What is less well known is that Alice was originally to have featured a song that is now totally associated with a later Disney film based on J M Barrie's play Peter Pan...

I'll let Kathy explain...

I rather like the original plan but then we'd never have had that haunting song about the magical conceit that the Second Star to the Right is the way to Neverland...

You can read more about Kathryn on this well-illustrated fan-site.


Wednesday, 25 June 2008


Jacques Yves Cousteau once said...
No aquarium, no tank in a marine land, however spacious it may be, can begin to duplicate the conditions of the sea. And no dolphin who inhabits one of those aquariums or one of those marine lands can be considered normal.
And that must, I guess, also apply to a fountain - even if it is decorated with - er - dolphins...

Image: © Brian Sibley, 2008

Monday, 23 June 2008


Overheard recently in the showroom of a gallery specialising in exquisite (and exquisitely expensive) glass sculpture:

WOMAN (to Salesperson):
Yes, yes... it
is very beautiful... But, you see, the trouble is, our cleaning lady is something of a one-woman demolition squad!

Sculpture (not the one under discussion, but exquisite nonetheless): 'Wave of Spheres' by J D C Roman at Luna Angelica

Sunday, 22 June 2008


Now that Hilary Clinton has finally bowed out of the race for the Democratic candidacy in this year's US Presidential Election, I can reveal that America does still have a choice other than Barack Obama or John McCain.

This recent telecast will explain...

Thanks to my Campaign Manager, Mandy Davis, aka Diva of Deception.

Friday, 20 June 2008


Where else but in BRIGHTON would you find a shop called...

So, that's where Julian and Sandy finally ended up!

For those of you too young to understand this cryptic comment...

'Julian and Sandy', played by Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Williams (left), were regular characters in the BBC radio comedy show Round the Horne.

Said to have been named after Julian Slade and Sandy Wilson (respectively authors of the '50s shows, Salad Days and The Boyfriend), this outrageous duo were originally conceived as a pair of "luvvie" actors doing housework for the show's star, Kenneth Horne until their next theatrical engagement came along.

When it was decided that these characters were too sadly pathetic to be really funny, script writers Barry Took and Marty Feldman turned them into swishily camp 'chorus boy types' who began most of their appearances with the line:

"Hello, I'm Julian and this is my friend, Sandy..."

Jules and Sandy conversed in 'Polari', that was the secret language of gay subculture in Britain at a time when homosexuality was illegal.

The origin of Polari is complex: a combination of Romany, corrupted words from Italian, backslang ('riah' for 'hair'), rhyming slang, sailor slang, and thieves' cant with the addition of a few words of Yiddish.

One of the primary sources for Polari was 'Palare', a secret language of carnival folk (from the Italian word for 'to talk') that is still used in the circus and on the fairground - though without the gay over(or under)tones. Its adoption by gays may have started amongst theatrical homosexuals and date back to a time when the world of theatre was closer to that of the circus.

Its use by gays was twofold, as one internet source advises...
On one hand, it would be used as a means of cover, to allow gay subjects to be discussed aloud without being understood; on the other hand, it was also used by some, particularly the most visibly camp and effeminate, as a further way of asserting their identity.
And, according to h2g2 the BBC's 'unconventional guide to life, the universe and everything':
Even within the relatively small Polari-speaking gay community in London there were different 'dialects'.

The 'West End Queens' spoke a version of the language which contained a lot of theatre-speak and they regarded both themselves and their slang as much more upmarket than the East End version which was heavily influenced by canal language and criminal slang. Whichever version you spoke, however, you could be sure that you wouldn't be understood by the uninitiated.
Polari formed part of Julian and Sandy's weekly banter as a couple of omi-palones (gay men) as in the use of phrases like: "How bona to vada your dolly old eek!"

'Bona' was 'good' (a corruption of the Italian 'buona'), 'vada' meant 'see' (from the Italian 'vedere'), 'dolly' was pleasant, and 'eek' was 'face' (an abbreviation of the backslang word 'ecaf').

Other common words used in the show were 'lallies' (for 'legs'), 'luppers' ('fingers') and 'zhoosh' meaning to fluff up your 'riah' or, generally, to tart yourself up!

Although Polari has now largely fallen into disuse, doubtless as a result of the decriminalisation of homosexuality, accompanied by a relaxation of public attitudes and an understandable gay repudiation of an essentially ghettoising language.

Nevertheless, many words of Polari are now in every day use such as naff, bevvy, camp, drag, queen, scarper, dishy, mincing, butch and bitch. And, in 1990, Morrissey released an album called Bona Drag ('drag' was palare for clothes) featuring the hit 'Picadilly Palare' which included the lyric:

So bona to vada, with your lovely eek and your lovely riah.

As for Julian and Sandy, they had various employments during the run of Round the Horne, working, at one time, for a firm of solicitors called Bona Law (a joke on the post-WWI Prime Minister, Andrew Bonar Law) which provided them with a predictable double entendre...

: Will you take my case?

JULIAN: Well, it depends on what it is. We've got a criminal practice that takes up most of our time.

HORNE: Yes, but apart from that — I need legal advice.

SANDY: Ooh, isn't he bold?

Now it seems they've opened a food shop in Brighton - a bone fide one, at that! - which, to my mind is completely dolly and zhooshy!

Wednesday, 18 June 2008


Talking about magic...

I was leafing through Theatre: A Book of Words by Martin Harrison the other day, when I happened upon an entry devoted to the subject of 'conjuring'.

The editor discusses the origins of a word that began - surprisingly - as meaning "to publically swear an oath", but which has since come to mean, as the Oxford English Dictionary defines it:

The art of performing entertaining magic tricks based on legerdemain, juggling, prestidigitation and the like...

Of the word's darker, witchcraft/demonology associations, Mr Harrison says:

Conjuring devils and spirits has gone out of fashion except in limited circles...

Dear, oh, dear! All those poor devils and spirits ignored -- except in limited (magic?) circles -- simply because they are just so unfashionable!

Monday, 16 June 2008


We went to a party the other day where David was performing magic and I took this photo of him in action...

No wonder I can never work out how he does those tricks!

Anyway... Time for a bit of puzzlement.

Several of you enjoyed my recent posting of an 'experiment' by Professor Richard Wiseman.

Well, now you've had a lesson in observation, you're probably ready for this one...

Saturday, 14 June 2008


There are only two more days in which to look into the Telectroscope...

Click to enlarge

We went yesterday: I think it was that blog about art that sent me in search of Paul St George's 'installation'; that, and knowing that it was being stage managed by Artichoke - who, two years ago, brought us the wondrous Sultan's Elephant - in association with Tiscali.

The important thing is, if you're anywhere near Tower Bridge or Brooklyn Bridge before 11.00 pm London time or 6 pm New York time tomorrow (Sunday 15 June) then make sure you stop by and take a peep.

If you've missed hearing about this fascinating event then here's a quick recap...
Some years ago an artist by the name of Paul St George happened upon a packet of dusty papers in a trunk in his grandmother’s attic. On further inspection he discovered that they had been the property of his great-grandfather, an eccentric Victorian engineer, Alexander Stanhope St George.

Click to enlarge

Paul began to read through the papers and discovered a veritable treasure trove: diaries, diagrams, correspondence, scribbled calculations, and even one or two photographs. [Among these was this picture of him - albeit damaged - with Isambard Kingdom Brunel for whom he worked as a boy. Ed.]

At first, Paul felt a detached interest in this first hand account of social and cultural history. But as he read on, he became more and more absorbed, until, with a sudden thrill, he realised that these papers could have a greater significance than was at first apparent.

Click to enlarge

The notebooks were full of intricate drawings and passages of writing describing a strange machine. This device looked like an enormous telescope with a strange bee-hive shaped cowl at one end containing a complex configuration of mirrors and lenses.

Click to enlarge

Alexander seemed to be suggesting that this invention, which he called a Telectroscope, would act as a visual amplifier, allowing people to see through a tunnel of immense length… a tunnel, the drawings implied, stretching from one side of the world to the other.

The idea of the Telectroscope seemed too outlandish to be possible and yet there was something in the scribbled notes that had the ring of truth about it. Despite the many gaps and inconsistencies, Paul began to piece together his ancestor’s remarkable story…
As a result, a few weeks ago, this seemingly fictional fantasy began to become a reality when London and New York saw the emergence of gigantic drill bits that proved to be a prelude to the installation of the St George Telectroscope...

The Telectroscope is described as a “device for the suppression of absence”: a gloriously arcane phrase but a truly delicious notion!

That device, which is currently embedded in the ground adjacent to London's City Hall, has the appearance of something devised by Monsieur Jules Verne in association with Mr H G Wells: a two way telescope in brass and iron that allows Londoners and New Yorkers to peer at one another through what - we are invited to believe - is a tunnel running beneath the Atlantic.

Like all installation art and every 'happening', you really have to be there, but Bryan Appleyard's analysis of the Telectroscope in a recent article in The Times is as good an explanation of its impact and effectiveness:
What is truly brilliant about the Telectroscope is that what it does is, in fact, nothing special. We can all “video conference” through our laptops from Starbucks. And that’s all the tube is, a broadband link – a very good one, incidentally; the image is superb. Yet what St George brings to the party is the power of metaphor and the restoration of wonder. The undersea tube is a metaphor for our new connectivity, and the Victorian styling – deliberately clunky – evokes a time when technology was wondrous and physically heavy, a muscular rather than merely a mental effort.

It certainly works. People were dancing in the lashing rain at 10am on Monday, and, amazingly, at 5am in New York, too – there was one guy in a baseball cap and one in a beanie just standing there and occasionally waving. Beanie eventually held up an enigmatic message on a whiteboard, something about Columbia. We couldn’t ask what he meant, though, because our whiteboard and felt-tips were soaked and unusable.

Later, a queue has built up, waiting amiably in the rain in a spirit-of-the-Blitz kind of way. Why are they there? “Amazing”, “wonderful”, “a community feeling”, “had to see it”.

Of course, the buzz word would be “interactivity”. The Telectroscope can be just looked through, but it only really works if you do something – wave, dance. It is a thing to do, not just to visit...
That's true: we waved quite a bit; we stared and peered, took photos and beckoned a hesitant New Yorker to come closer and got him to mime what it was o'clock...

And then --- David did what a member of staff later said was the most creative thing anyone had done for the Trans-Atlantic audience - he performed a magic trick for the people of Brooklyn!

And here's David's long-range appreciative audience...

To discover more, visit the official website of The Telectroscope.

Friday, 13 June 2008


The Royal Academy Summer Show 2008 is on the wall - and in your face!

Crossing the courtyard we got a glimpse of Sir Joshua Reynolds, wearing his usual floral garland, but rather fenced-in and by Sir Anthony Caro's sculptural installation, 'Promenade'.

Apparently, Sir Anthony finds Sir Joshua a bit a nuisance: "Reynolds," he says, "is too prominent in the courtyard – I wish they’d push him away onto the steps for a while!"

Anyway, what's inside? Well, the newspapers have already covered the shock-horror factor of the room under the curatorship of Ms Tracy Emin with its video of a naked women demonstrating how to use a barbed-wire hoola-hoop and the two-dimensional tableau of sexual congress between a woman and a zebra (which is capable of being operated from behind by a crank handle - but was strangely un-animated during our visit.)

As for the rest, there's lot of mediocrity and plenty of silliness and I confess that, on balance, I prefer the silly to the worthless - since, at least it fulfills a function by raising a smile!

We were too mean to buy a catalogue, so I can't tell you any of the artists and titles but this tangled heap of phalli which - when subjected to a projection of light - throws a two-faced shadowed profile onto the wall is very probably called 'Dick Head'...

While this doubtlessly goes by the title of 'Woman at Work'...

Or else is supposed to represent Mary Poppins getting ready to fly away...

I've absolutely no idea what this is called, but it's certainly an attractively-shaped box in which to keep your used J-clothes, for, yes, that is what they are...

Click to enlarge

The trouble is, it's not always wise to laugh at art because, for all you know, it may very well be laughing at us - behind our back!

What we enjoyed most was sitting sipping an over-priced glass of Pimm's and looking at people looking at art! The amateur Brian Sewell in full flight, is awesome to listen to!

Not everything merits the title of this blog and the pick of the show for me was a work by Jeff Koons (an artist I recognised): a lovely blue egg that is simply entrancing...

I was also rather keen on a pictorial pastiche of René Magritte's 1935 painting, 'Time Transfixed'....

...reworked with a guest appearance by Henry the Green Engine!

Click to enlarge

I liked this enough to buy a post card, so I can tell you it's by Julian Brain and is called 'Paradigms Regained (Peep-Peep)'... But I'm sure you guessed that!

For a corner of another exhibit - Anthony Caro's model for rebuilding a church in Bourbourg, France - see Window Gazing

Wednesday, 11 June 2008


The results are just in from our Toscadies Competition!

As I mentioned recently, we had a bumper crop of entries with several people attempting to spoil the same movie, book or play. Titanic was not surprisingly a favorite subject since as SUZANNE remarked, "the title in itself is a 'Toscadies'!"

Another target was Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap. After all, as ANDY wrote:

You could spoil just about any murder mystery by saying, "You see that guy at the back, the one who has virtually no lines to say but keeps appearing throughout this film.............well........"

Anyway, back to results...

Editor's picks include: 'Bill is Gerald', 'He never comes' and 'It was Dad all the time...' but JON and AKIKO, having waded through the forty-five submissions, have chosen the following winners...



They all chip in and raise enough money to pay off the loans

It's a Wonderful Life




Poor Bruce! Killed off in the first scene

The Sixth Sense


At which point - in order to help the tension mounting, I must tell you that IRASCIBLE IAN recalls being Toscadied over this very film:

I was watching the trailer for The Sixth Sense where Bruce Willis is visiting Haley Joel Osment in hospital.

Haley Joel Osment: “I see dead people.”

My 'friend': “Yeah. And he’s seeing one right now.”

Oh dear...

And so we come to (Ta-da!) ----



Jane Rochester

Jane Eyre

Well done to the winners! And grateful thanks to everyone who entered and especially to Jon and Akiko who started this and did the judging!

(By the way, I have to tell you that Akiko says that she only told Jonathan that "Tosca dies", because he asked what the opera was about! Typical man! Asks a question and then complains when he's told the answer!)

The solutions to all the runner-up entries are listed below...

Rocky wins Rocky 1-27 (!)

Er… the butler did it The Mousetrap
(The butler didn't do it, but we've told not to tell anyone how it ends!)

He gets off with her Romeo and Juliet

It sinks Titanic

He finds it Indiana Jones 1-4

Cosette ends up an orphan... but happy Les Misérables

FU gets the bullet House of Cards: To Play the King

Jack sinks without trace Titanic

I think the monolith wins 2001: A Space Odyssey

The deer's mother gets killed Bambi

The bear doesn't really die The Jungle Book

The elephant flies Dumbo

She spots it's a Wolf and not her Granny Little Red Riding Hood

‘Rosebud’ is the name of boyhood sledge Citizen Kane

…and on the third day he rises from the dead. Then later he ascends into heaven
The Gospels/The Greatest Story Ever Told etc

Tiny Tim survives A Christmas Carol

He kills the king and then dies too Hamlet

He thinks she's a dead, she think he's dead - they both die anyway Romeo and Juliet

One Mac born via Cesarean section so he kills the other Mac Mac... I mean, The Scottish Play

It was dad all the time! Star Wars

Wanted more, got more - got more than he bargained for! Then got what he wanted and lived happily ever after Oliver Twist/Oliver!

They wed, they wed, they wed, he dies, they wed.... Four Weddings and a Funeral

R.I.P. the young ones Romeo and Juliet

He never comes Waiting for Godot

He’s dead, too The Sixth Sense (once more)

The copper did it (Sorry, we really can't tell you this one!)

Look! They’re both fighting left-handed! The Princess Bride

Messalamashed Ben Hur

The Monster Makes Out Young Frankenstein

Rodrighost El Cid

Edward G joins the food chain Soylent Green

You know it's just a remake of Jekyll and Hyde? Fight Club

At least the Amish admit there is an outside world The Village

The voice-over has a sting in its tail Kind Hearts and Coronets

Even the conservative dad ends up in a frock! La Cage Au Folles

‘Rosebud’ is the sled Citizen Kane (again!)

Bill is Gerald Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy ('Gerald' was the code name for the mole)

Mattie gets chucked The House of Cards

Carmen croaks Carmen (Obviously!)

Fosco is foiled The Woman in White

Will’s Dad is crusty Pirates of the Caribbean II

Almost all of them are dead The Others

Monday, 9 June 2008


The thing about having a head for heights is that you either do or else... Oh, God, No! Please! I can't look down... I can't look DOWN!!

Some folk have a head for heights. I DON'T!

I used to be embarrassed about this fact, but not any more. Embarrassment about vertigo only leads to the most appalling tortures - such as being frozen with fear in the ball on the top of St Paul's Cathedral with several hundred tourists waiting for you to come down so they can go up.

My only excuse for such stupidity was that, at the time, I was courting a young lady and didn't want to appear un-macho. Had I not been a closet gay, I'd have probably gone there with a boyfriend and told him I'd hold his shoulder bag while he went up!

That said, I did - voluntarily - get into an external glass elevator at the Arche de la Défense in Paris (right) because I knew that David wanted to go up and see the view. I thought I could cope with the 110 meter ascent, but became almost hysterical - even with my eyes closed - and totally incapable of contemplating the subsequent descent.

After much haggling in schoolboy French (by David) a grumpy French security man conducted me through a series of security doors to the French President's personal lift that was was inside the building, but which dropped like a stone and was, therefore, almost as scary as the external elevator!

Anyway, apart from that little incident, I am now very wary and avoid anything with a height factor in excess of a standard kitchen chair.

Rollercoasters? If you don't mind, I'll just sit here and have another bag of popcorn while you scream your way through climbs, drops and corkscrews. True, I did once go on Space Mountain at Disneyland but that was at 1:30 in the morning and I only went because Carol Thatcher dragged me on to it -- but that's another story...

All that said, I do take a vicarious pleasure in looking at images and even films of vertiginous locations such as El Caminito del Rey (or El Camino del Rey, 'The King's Pathway') the via ferrata - or walkway - now much fallen into disrepair that is pinned - and none too securely - along the steep walls of a narrow gorge in El Chorro, near Álora in Málaga, Spain.

It is one meter (3 feet) in width, and is over 200 meters (700 feet) above the river. It's that line running round the side of the gorge shown on the left. Gulp!!

Having gone many years without any maintenance the pathway is in a highly deteriorated and dangerous state.

In 2006, the regional government of Andalusia budgeted for a restoration plan estimated at € 7 million - I guess now it's down to whether they can find a builder willing to take on the job! You can just hear them: the sucking in of air through the teeth, the shaking of the head: "Ah... Not sure about that, guv, tricky, I'd say... "

Most of the path has no handrail and some parts have completely collapsed so that all that remains is the steel beam originally in place to hold it up (above) and a wire that follows most the path and which one can latch onto in order to avoid falling, Nevertheless, many people have lost their lives on the walkway in recent years and after four people died in two accidents in 1999 and 2000, the local government closed the entrances. Undaunted, adventurous (i.e. mad) tourists still find their way into the walkway.

To save yourself the bother, you can now watch from the comparative safety of your own home...

Saturday, 7 June 2008


More earth-shattering revelations from the world of Disney!

Until now, we've always supposed that Mickey and Minnie Mouse were boy-and-girlfriend. Indeed, this year marks the 80th year of their relationship.

So it may come as a bit of a shock to discover that as long ago as 1935, these two squeaky clean American icons were blessed with offspring - as witnessed by the publication of a song by Eddie Lisbona and Tommie Connor - recorded by no less a pillar of '30s society than the BBC's Henry Hall and his Orchestra...


Click to enlarge

Fortunately, as you'll see from the lyrics, the mouselings did at least have a decent Christian baptism!
A million million people
Are happy, bright and gay,
The bells are ringing the steeple,
It’s a public holiday.

All the world is so delighted
And the kids are all excited
‘Cos the stork has brought a son and daughter to Mister and Missus Mickey Mouse.

All the mayors and corporations,
Have declared such jubilations,
‘Cos the stork has brought a son and daughter to Mister and Missus Mickey Mouse.

Pluto’s giving a party and before the fun begins
He’ll present a Gorgonzola to the father of the twins
Mister Preacher’s eyes are glistning,
And he’s fixing up a Christening,
‘Cos the stork has brought a son and daughter to Mister and Missus Mickey Mouse.

The news is quickly spreading,
The Christening day is near,
The town in happiness is heading
To the party of the year.

All the cats and dogs are dancing,
And the ‘ole grey mare is prancing,
‘Cos the stork has brought a son and daughter to Mister and Missus Mickey Mouse.

All the cocks are cock-a-doodling,
All the lovebirds are canoodling,
‘Cos the stork has brought a son and daughter to Mister and Missus Mickey Mouse.

Pluto’s singing a chorus with the tortoise and the hare,
Clarabelle is in the barn dance with a great big grizzly bear,
All the world is so delighted,
Come along, you’re all invited,
‘Cos the stork has brought a son and daughter to Mister and Missus Mickey Mouse.

The official Disney line is that Mickey and Minnie are - and always have been - "just good friends": quite a few songs about Disney characters were written in the 1930s, but whilst such songs were published under Disney license, they were not necessarily authorised by the company, since policing of the franchise was far less thorough than it is today.

Fans of Disney music (of the bone fide variety) may care to check out an excellent book, Mouse Tracks: The Story of Walt Disney Records by Tim Hollis and Greg Ehrbar. Visit the Mouse Tracks web-site or follow the Amazon link below...

Thursday, 5 June 2008


Just heard on Woman's Hour (Radio 4), during a discussion with a Cambridge historian about the background to Monteverdi's opera The Coronation of Poppea which has, as its central character, the second wife of the Emperor Nero:

"Nero got too much too young - it was a kind of Brittany Spears situation."

Whoever said ancient history was dull?!


There was a PHENOMENAL response to the Toscadies competition: FORTY-FIVE entries -- although, to be fair, several of you did make mega-multiple submissions!

While Jonathan and Akiko are judging the competition and selecting the winners, here - purely for your amusement - are those entries.

They are a mix of films, plays and books along with a couple of TV shows. Some are more than a little obscure, others are ambiguous (in that they could ruin more than one film or show!) and if some seem similar to others, that's because they are Tosca-dying the same creative work!

I'll post the answers when you've had a chance to test your wits - and patience!


1 Rocky wins

2 Er… the butler did it

3 He gets off with her

4 It sinks

5 He finds it

From LISAH...

6 Cosette ends up an orphan... but happy

7 FU gets the bullet

8 Jack sinks without trace

9 I think the monolith wins

10 The deer's mother gets killed

11 The bear doesn't really die

12 The elephant flies

13 Messalamashed

14 Bill is Gerald

15 Rodrighost

16 Fosco is foiled

The Monster Makes Out

18 Mattie gets chucked

19 Carmen croaks

20 Edward G joins the food chain

21 Will’s Dad is crusty


22 She spots it is a Wolf and not her Granny

23 Rosebud is the name of boyhood sledge

24 He kills the king and then dies too

25 Tiny Tim survives

26 They all chip in and raise enough money to pay off the loans

27 …and on the third day he rises from the dead. Then later he ascends into heaven

28 He thinks she's a dead, she think he's dead - they both die anyway

29 One Mac born via Caesarean section so he kills the other Mac


30 It was dad all the time!

31 Wanted more, got more - got more than he bargained for! Then got what he wanted and lived happily ever after

32 They wed, they wed, they wed, he dies, they wed....

From GILL...

33 Jane Rochester

34 R.I.P. the young ones

35 He never comes

He’s dead, too

37 The copper did it!

From BENTOS...

38 Look! They're both fighting left-handed!

From QENNY...

39 You know it's just a remake of Jekyll and Hyde?

40 Poor Bruce! Killed off in the first scene

41 At least the Amish admit there's an outside world!

42 The voice over has a sting in its tail

43 Even the conservative dad ends up in a frock

From EUDORA...

44 Almost all of them are dead


45 Rosebud is the sled