Monday, 30 November 2009


What gift Jim Henson bequeathed to us all! The Muppets are - and always will be - totally and indispensably part of our lives.

Back in 1977, Kermit the Frog's nephew, Robin, sang 'Halfway Down the Stairs' (Words from A A Milne's When We Were Very Young, set to music by H Fraser-Simpson) which, incredibly, made it into the British Top 10 and earned an appearance on the BBC TV show Top of the Pops...

And just last week, the Muppets demonstrated their staying power with their hilarious rendition of the Queen anthem, 'Bohemian Rhapsody', which is, at the same time, a witty pastiche of the original Queen video.

Supposing you have never, hitherto, contemplated the similarities between Freddy Mercury and Rowlf, now's the time to do so!

If you missed this gem, here it is; and if you didn't (and with 3.5 million hits in two days that would hardly be surprising) here it is again...


Saturday, 28 November 2009


Sorting through the effects of our late friend, Ali Bongo, we came across a curious find: a winkle shell filled with wax and a membership card of the Hastings Winkle Club.

Click on the image below to enlarge and read the hilarious club rules...

After we'd finished laughing, we consulted Professor Google and discovered that, 109 years on, the Hastings Winkle Club is still going strong.

In fact, it turns out to be an internationally famous charitable organisation originally formed by Hastings fishermen to help the under-privileged families of Hastings Old Town.

The club's headquarters, opened in 1882, is located at the Fishermen's Club: a building given in trust for the use of Hastings Fishermen and initially used for the making and repairing of nets.

Winkle Club members have included some illustrious personalities such as HMs the Queen and the Queen Mother, Lord Montgomery, Sir Winston Churchill, the Duke of Windsor and a number of showbiz personalities of which Ali was obviously one.

Each Winkle Club Member (or 'Winkler') carries a winkle shell which they must produce when challenged to 'Winkle Up'. Failure to do so results in a fine which goes towards local charities.

You can read more about the history and work of The Hastings Winkle Club here.

Time, now, to lower the tone (if that is possible!) and remind you of that saucy old music hall number -- all together now -- I Can't Get My Winkle Out!

Take it away, Paul Carr! And, please, everyone, feel free to join in and sing along...

Thursday, 26 November 2009


For my friends on the other side of the Atlantic, today is, of course, Thanksgiving Day and if you'd like to know a bit more about this festival observed by Britain's former colonists, you can read more about its origins on former post.

Not for the first time on this blog, I am reproducing the following iconic image of the American family thanksgiving by the great Norman Rockwell...

I love Rockwell's wonderful composition – back-lit from the window with the light bouncing off the white tablecloth and crockery – and, in particular, the way in which the senior couple are focused on the placing of the turkey and maintaining the order and ritual of the table.

I also enjoy the way in which the family circle is so intimate and tightly knit that the rest of the diners are only partially glimpsed. it is genius on Rockwell's part that they are are all learning forward in animated conversation with one another – with the one exception of the guy in the bottom right hand corner who is looking directly at the artist and, therefore, the viewer, and so makes us a guest at the table.

It also gives me an excuse to blog a delightful pastiche of Rockwell's painting by a gifted Disney artist and illustrator, Charles Boyer, whom I had the pleasure of meeting some years ago...

Like Rockwell's original, Boyer's Disney painting is, of course, kitsch - but it is, surely, down-home-honest-to-goodness kitsch! And - on a day like today - I don't really need any excuse for juxtaposing the work of two of America's greatest popular artists.

And staying with Disney, here, for your amusement, is that comic triumvirate of Mickey, Donald and Goofy on the trail of the Thanksgiving turkey...


Sunday, 22 November 2009


It occurred to me the other day that it's been a long time - too long - since we had a---


So, to rectify that situation, here's a picture that is crying out for some words....

What I want you to tell me is either who's saying what and to whom (and, possibly, why) or just a line that sums up or explains this highly improbable situation!

Entries via the comments option below. Closing date: 30 November.

Thursday, 19 November 2009


Sibley-blog-regular, Roger the Librarian has just pointed me in the direction of a fascinating - though essentially pointless - enterprise.

Yes, it does look like a lot of coffee cups...

But, as Rolf used to say, can you see what it is, yet?

Good heavens! It's dear old Mona in her cups, as it were! Arguably the world's most famous painting recreated with 3,604 cups of coffee - and 564 pints of milk!

Measuring 20 feet x 13 feet, the image took eight people just three hours to complete - which, when you think about it, is not that much longer than the average wait in a boutique coffee shop!

The drinkable version of Da Vinci's masterpiece was created for The Rocks Aroma Festival in Sydney, Australia, where it was seen by 130,000 people attending a one-day coffee-lovers event.

Each cup of black coffee was topped-up with varying amounts of milk - none, a little or a lot - which gave the different sepia shades required to create the 'painting'.

You can read a full account of the story in The Daily Telegraph.

"Beats Jesus in the Marmite lid," says Roger, adding, "Mine's a skinny latte Sistine Chapel, please!"

Thanks Roger, do you happen to know if they make a decaffeinated version?

Monday, 16 November 2009


Last month, I mentioned the genius of mime, illusionist, and quick-change artiste, Arturo Brachetti.

Well, having just seen Brachetti's London show, Change, I cannot recommend it too enthusiastically: it's a 110 minute cavalcade of non-stop magic! Not just magic tricks - though he performed some beautiful examples of the conjurer's art - but the creation of a totally magical experience.

Brachetti's lightning transformations - guardsman into punk into bowler-hatted businessman into cockney pearly queen into Her Majesty QEII into Britannia - are a wonder to behold and the underlying philosophy of accepting the inevitable changes of life is presented with humour and poignancy.

And when it comes to speed in changing gear - no one does it better...

Change is on at the Garrick Theatre, Charing Cross Road until 3 January 2010. I would urge any of my readers who are within reasonable reach of the metropolis to beg, borrow or steal the wherewithal to get a ticket to this extraordinary and unforgettable show.

Friday, 13 November 2009


The following scene was photographed on a Greek island - which, because we are particularly fond of it - must remain anonymous:


The sign reads:


But maybe it means on the other side of the wall!

Image: Brian Sibley © 2009 uploaded by flickr.

Monday, 9 November 2009


Every now and again I look back over my career and wonder how some surprising thing or other ever happened.

As an example, let me refer you to my involvement, back in 1992, with For All Time, a top-selling single (No. 36 in the UK charts no less!) from Catherine Zeta Jones.

Well, almost, but not quite...

My actual involvement was with the 'B' side of that record, performed by - name dropping again - Sir Anthony Hopkins...

It was some time around the end of the 1980s that I had got myself involved with one of my modern musical heroes: Jeff (War of the Worlds) Wayne as a replacement writer on what had already been a long-running project - a concept album based on the historical (as opposed to the filmic) character, Spartacus.

Like the phenomenally successful War of the Worlds album that had starred Richard Burton, Justin Hayward, Phil Lynott, Julie Covington and David Essex, Spartacus was to be a combination of rock music, songs and the spoken word.

It was an exciting and exasperating project: exciting, because I feel instantly in love with the idea and was thrilled to be writing words that would be scored with Jeff Wayne music and read by Hopkins who was so clearly a latter-day Burton; exasperating, because the process gradually degenerated into a nightmare of endless haggling over interminable re-writes.

It was like working on a Hollywood movie! A page of narration that everyone adored when they first read it on Monday morning became the subject of total hatred by Monday evening. Some sequences were required to be re-written so many times that it became almost impossible to find a new way of saying what had to be said and the narrative began to bend, break and disintegrate into a dust of word ends and punctuation marks...

I wrote the script for whole of the first disc and the conclusion of the second, but when the contract came round for renewal (and fearing for my sanity), I bowed out and left the project. John Spurling valiantly took up the task and completed the second disc and the album was eventually released, to sadly mixed reviews, in 1992.

The finished album featured - in addition to Sir Anthony - Alan King as Spartacus; Catherine Zeta Jones as his woman, Palene; Fish as his fellow gladiator, Crixus the Gaul; and Ladysmith Black Mambazo as the chorus (aka Voices of Spartacus' Army).

My name (and John Spurlings) appear in the accompanying booklet in very small print but I also picked up a shared credit with Jeff W on the 'B' side of that single which had Sir Ant reading my opening narrative entitled 'Animal and Man'.

Here, for your entertainment (or, depending on your view of such things, amusement), are the first two parts of this somewhat ill-fated project...

Thursday, 5 November 2009


Not an ideal shop for Long John Silver...

Image: David Weeks

Monday, 2 November 2009


A few months back, I wrote about my love of marmalade - rivaled only by Master Paddington Brown - and my good friend (and occasional blog-post-comment-leaver) JEN sent us a jar of her absolutely excellent home-made Dundee Marmalade.

Someone once said, that "Oxford gave the world marmalade and a manner, Cambridge science and a sausage."

Now, whilst I'm not aware of ever having sampled a Cambridge sausage (though I am prepared to accept that they may be quite exceptional) I do know that Oxford-style marmalade is very good indeed, and has - until now - been my breakfast spread of choice!

However, having now tasted Jen's Dundee variety, I'm prepared to change my allegiance to the marmalade-makers of Scotland who (if Jen's recipe is anything to go by - and I'm sure that it is!) know just about all there is to know about turning out a mean jar of the orange stuff!

Essentially, I think, marmalade (whatever part of the British Isles it hails from) is one of the major comfort foods --- with attitude!

I adore its tongue-tingling combination of the sweet and the sharp and I think I understand what D H Lawrence was getting at when he wrote: "I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It's amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor."

There is, of course, only one caveat and that was expressed so eloquently in A A Milne's ditty about 'The King's Breakfast': "Marmalade is tasty if it's very thickly spread..."