Babette Cole 10.9.49 – 15.1.16

January 17, 2017

Author and illustrator Babette Cole has died.

. . . Among her bestsellers were the Princess Smartypants series, which reimagined the traditional fairytale heroine as a motorbiking Ms; books about Dr Dog, a family pet who dispenses medical advice, which were turned into an animated cartoon series; and The Trouble With Mum and its sequels.

Never conventional in appearance, conversation or lifestyle, in person Babette was a highly entertaining companion, a brilliant raconteur of stories true or fanciful, told in a breathy voice and with theatrical manner. Her life as she relayed it seemed to be a series of entertainingly optimistic plans combined with disasters or near-disasters; and her picture books had a similar sense of high-octane drama underpinned by an anarchic sense of humour.

Despite the fun, Babette was no lightweight. She created books on the kinds of disgusting topics that children love and adults mostly do not, and then, emboldened by their success, she went on to more controversial subjects, partly because she liked to shock and partly because she felt she had a duty to make sure children were properly informed. . . 

The Trouble with Mum is a delightful book.

The trouble with Mum is that she’s different. She wears funny hats, makes funny cakes and the other parents don’t like her. This makes her sad. Then one day the school goes on fire and Mum, who is different because she’s a witch, magics up some rain and saves the day.

One of the lines I remember from the book is Mum was sad.

Shortly after one of the many re-readings of the book when my daughter was about two,  she found me in tears, gave me a hug and asked, why Mummy sad? I explained I was reading a sad book and was grateful for the story which had taught her to recognise the feeling.

You can listen to the The Trouble with Mum here (though it uses Mom not Mum) and Princess Smartypants here.


Peter Sarstedt 10.12.41 – 8.1.17

January 11, 2017

Singer-songwriter Peter Sarstedt has died.

He died peacefully after a six-year battle with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, a family statement said. . . 

Born into a musical family in India, Sarstedt was one of three brothers who all enjoyed success in the UK singles chart. . . 

Sarstedt’s music reached new audiences when Where Do You Go To (My Lovely) was included in the Wes Anderson films Hotel Chevalier and The Darjeeling Limited, which were both released in 2007. . . 


Debbie Reynolds 1.4.32 – 28.12.16

December 30, 2016

Debbie Reynolds has died, a day after her daughter Carrie Fisher.

Actress and singer Debbie Reynolds was born Mary Frances Reynolds on April 1, 1932, in El Paso, Texas. Reynolds, who got her start in beauty pageants before being discovered by a Warner Bros. film scout, made her cinematic debut in a modest part in 1948’s June Bride, followed by a more noticeable role in musical The Daughter of Rosie O’Grady (1950).

Signing with MGM later that year, she showcased her flair for impersonation in Three Little Words, in which she portrayed 1920s vocalist Helen Kane. Reynolds co-starred in the film with comedian Red Skelton and dance icon Fred Astaire, whom she would later call out as being supremely kind and helpful sharing his tips about dancing. . .

I don’t remember going to the film, but I”ve always liked this song.:


Betty Gleadle/ Liz Smith 11.12.21 -24.12.16

December 28, 2016

Betty Gleadle, who was known by her stage name Liz Smith, has died:

Liz Smith found fame as an actress at an age when most people are considering retirement.
It was a long road to eventual stardom, during which she struggled to raise a family after a broken marriage.
She became best-known for her roles in The Vicar of Dibley and The Royle Family but her talents encompassed serious drama too.
And while she made something of a name playing slightly dotty old ladies, the real Liz Smith was far removed from these on-screen personas.
She was born Betty Gleadle in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, on 11 December 1921. . . 


Bunny Walters 31.5.53 – 14.12.16

December 14, 2016

Bunny Walters, one of the 1970’s iconic New Zealand singers has died:

. . .  A descendant of Ngāi Te Rangi, Mātaatua waka, Walters was 63-years-old.

Walters was best known for his hits Nearest thing to Heaven, Take the money and run and Brandy. . . 


Ray Columbus 1942 – 2016

November 29, 2016

New Zealand pop legend Ray Columbus has died.

The Christchurch-born and raised entertainer will be remembered for his stylish dress, his unique dancing style and a string of hit records.

The single ‘She’s a Mod’ in 1964 cemented Ray Columbus and the Invaders a place in New Zealand music history, when it reached the top of the charts in Australia. . . .

I remember him on the TV programme C’Mon and going dewey-eyed over this song:


Death of a despot

November 28, 2016

Fidel Castro’s death has been met with a mixed response.

Some praise him for overthrowing the dictator Fulgencio Batista and improvements in health and education in Cuba.

Others, like Carlos Eire (Professor of History and Religious Studies at Yale University, condemn him:

If this were a just world, 13 facts would be etched on Castro’s tombstone and highlighted in every obituary, as bullet points — a fitting metaphor for someone who used firing squads to murder thousands of his own people.

●He turned Cuba into a colony of the Soviet Union and nearly caused a nuclear holocaust.

●He sponsored terrorism wherever he could and allied himself with many of the worst dictators on earth.

●He was responsible for so many thousands of executions and disappearances in Cuba that a precise number is hard to reckon.

●He brooked no dissent and built concentration camps and prisons at an unprecedented rate, filling them to capacity, incarcerating a higher percentage of his own people than most other modern dictators, including Stalin.

●He condoned and encouraged torture and extrajudicial killings.

●He forced nearly 20 percent of his people into exile, and prompted thousands to meet their deaths at sea, unseen and uncounted, while fleeing from him in crude vessels.

●He claimed all property for himself and his henchmen, strangled food production and impoverished the vast majority of his people.

●He outlawed private enterprise and labor unions, wiped out Cuba’s large middle class and turned Cubans into slaves of the state.

●He persecuted gay people and tried to eradicate religion.

●He censored all means of expression and communication.

●He established a fraudulent school system that provided indoctrination rather than education, and created a two-tier health-care system, with inferior medical care for the majority of Cubans and superior care for himself and his oligarchy, and then claimed that all his repressive measures were absolutely necessary to ensure the survival of these two ostensibly “free” social welfare projects.

●He turned Cuba into a labyrinth of ruins and established an apartheid society in which millions of foreign visitors enjoyed rights and privileges forbidden to his people.

●He never apologized for any of his crimes and never stood trial for them.

There might be diplomatic reasons for world leaders to couch their words about Castro in a way that keeps the door to Cuba open.

But when a despot dies it is more than acceptable for the rest of us to speak ill of the dead.

Hat tip: AE Ideas.


%d bloggers like this: