December Blog

Less than a month to go to Christmas. Hmm. I have to admit that Christmas doesn’t have me jumping up and down with excitement. If you’ve only got a small family – I have – and what few there are are spread far and wide, all those cosy candlelit television ads showing a dozen or so folk attacking huge Christmas dinners are a bit annoying. “Scrooge!”, I hear you cry. Not really. I quite like buying presents. And I like some Christmas music. A good choir giving “Hark the Herald Angels” the beans certainly lifts the spirits and reminds me of childhood.

But at this time of year, television ads are relentless – from laptops to foot spas –from hand-crafted crisps to incontinence knickers- they’re all at it, and so many of them are very shouty too. What the hell is a hand-crafted crisp ? I don’t think any of us actually like television ads. If they’re not banal, they’re shouty – with a few exceptions like Marks and Spencer. Yes, yes, I know that advertising revenue pays for programmes, but so many of the ads are badly made and deeply irritating.

I’m fed up with Brexit. Just think, if 3% had voted the other way, we wouldn’t be taking this huge step into the unknown. Three percent ! I bet the Leavers are horrified at the mess we’re in.

Cartooning’s taken a very welcome- if temporary- upswing. It always does at this time of year, with companies and individuals needing Christmas card cartoons. But cartoon publishing generally is still very poor. Looking back over a long career in cartooning, I think my generation’s had the best of it.

I’m coming to the end of my time as Chair of the Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation. I will have done four years. During that time, thanks to the excellent PCO Committee, PCO has made a difference. For example, on Nov 21st, I went to Westminster Reference Library in London for the Private View of a cartoon exhibition called “Gagged” – in support of cartoonists across the world who are persecuted by repressive governments. Getting a London exhibition at a decent venue is very difficult. But thanks again to the PCO Committee, we managed it.

London was a very long [17 hours] day so it was midnight when I finally got home to Maggie the Dog who isn’t very well. She has to take lots of pills for heart and breathing problems and is very clever at finding them buried in food – and spitting them out. But I persevere. Maggie’s elderly and on the last lap now. I can’t imagine life without her.

I heard bits of a debate recently about whether animals have feelings or not. What a stupid, ignorant question. Of course they have. And those who are cruel to animals should be shot. Whilst I know we can’t do that, lifetime bans and longer spells in jail should be the order of the day for those who are cruel to animals – including fox hunters.

End of rant.

And so – back to Christmas card cartoons – and I’m running out of red.

October Blog

Another Rant…………

Its difficult to argue against electric cars without sounding like Jeremy Clarkson. Mind you, quite apart from punching the odd producer, he did make some interesting observations about these short- range, expensive vehicles some time ago.

Yes, electric cars in themselves are greener than petrol and certainly diesel cars. They have nice, touchy-feely names like “Leaf” [Nissan]. However, the environmental cost of the mining the essentials – like lithium – for car batteries is huge, and environmentally very dirty, apparently.

I wonder if the Smuggs at No 37 [they have solar panels too] ever think about that as they set off on a necessarily fairly short journey [range is around 230 miles] No, they probably don’t. But at 199 miles they’ll be desperately trying to find a re-charging point, which are few and far between and take ages. A full charge requires an overnight stay.

I suppose the half and half hybrid cars represent a solution of sorts, but their batteries are dirty to produce as well.

Of course, as technology advances, electric cars will eventually become the norm with increased ranges and, who knows, much speedier recharging points on every street corner. But we’re a long way from that right now and Volvo’s declaration that they will be making only electric cars by 2030 seems very optimistic.

But I’m getting off track here. My Main Rant is against Driverless Cars. What on earth is wrong with people who like the idea ? Don’t they LIKE driving ? Don’t they like the way their car feels and sounds and handles ?

Well maybe not if they’ve got one of those apologetic little things like the Suzuki Wagon R, or God forbid, a Yaris. If you’re ever held up at 30mph in a 60mph area, it’ll be by a Yaris. I know, I know, none of that matters if you’re stuck in an M6 tailback.

One of the alleged advantages of driverless cars is that freed from the business of actually controlling the vehicle, you’d be able to get on with work. Really ? Wouldn’t you have to be on instant stand-by to regain manual control just in case the Artificial Intelligence element threw a wobbler ?

I simply do not understand the attraction of driverless cars. I love driving. I wouldn’t love driving if I had a Leaf or a Wagon R or a Yaris. In fact the way many human drivers behave in those dreadful vehicles, suggests that they should be compulsorily driverless. You often see cars like the Yaris on motorways in the inside lane following lorries.  Lorry Followers. I sometimes wonder if they go all the way to the depot behind Bradshaw’s Grommets of Doncaster.

If I had a driverless car, what would I DO ? Gaze out of the window at certain parts of Birkenhead ? Read a book ? Have a nod ? But I don’t want to do any of those things. I want to DRIVE. I want to gauge braking distances, anticipate gaps [in front of a Yaris], press the loud pedal and feel and hear the response.

I can’t do that in a driverless or an electric car, although a certain Mr Musk does offer an electric one at enormous cost which will do 0-60 in three seconds. Then it runs out of juice.

I think I just have to face it. I’m an automotive dinosaur. I’ve got a 17 year old 4litre Jaguar which drinks petrol but goes like stink. Its beautifully made, very well balanced, responsive and a pleasure to drive. If it was driverless, it would still be very nice to sit in, but I’d be bored silly after a few miles.

To be fair though, when I’m driving my 4 litre beast, especially on motorways at 70mph plus [and a bit more in all honesty], I am very aware of what dangerous places motorways are; lumps of metal with very soft bits inside zooming along at approach speeds of 140mph at least, and of how many thoughtless, inadequate and stupid drivers there are out there. BMW drivers have been overtaken by Audi drivers in the arrogance stakes. Then there are the nitwits who don’t know what mirrors are for and blithely change lanes without signalling. Whilst texting.

So logic suggests that taking responsibility out of the human’s hands and passing it to a robot would make driving safer. I have to admit that it probably would. It would also make car travel a whole lot slower. Driverless cars would make Suzuki Wagon R drivers of us all. We’d all become Yarisites.  Everything would be safe. Risk would be eliminated and human judgment redundant.

Because I’m a dinosaur, I simply cannot imagine a motoring world where there are no Jaguars, Maseratis, Alfas, Astons, Bentleys  etc., etc…..the list goes on. They’d all disappear to be replaced by anonymous wheeled boxes which would be differentiated in price by whether they had an on-board Jacuzzi or not.

What is life without risk ? What is life without control ? Human control.

Dull. That’s what it would be. Risk helps you feel alive. Risk helps keep your brain active. Having to assess risk certainly does that.

I know I’m on the losing side of this argument though and I’m grateful that I’m old enough never to be part of a world where I’d climb into my driverless car and read War and Peace  on the way to Swanage. Or Goole. [Thinks ; Are the residents of Goole called Goolies ?]

Ends

September Blog

Wouldn’t it be excellent to be able to turn the clock back to a time just before David Cameron announced the Referendum and arrange for him to sustain a blow to the back of the head causing memory loss ? I mean nothing serious, but just enough to ensure that all referendum-type thoughts disappeared.

I’d bet good money that the Leavers never dreamed that the process of actually leaving the European Union would be so complex and, let’s face it, so utterly boring.

I’d also bet that a large proportion of Leavers thought [and still think] in terms of Us and Them. Leavers don’t like foreigners. Consequently, they don’t like immigrants. Of course, they didn’t invent these dislikes. Over centuries, we’ve never liked the French much. Crecy and Napoleon had a lot to do with that. And the Germans ! Aargh, the Germans ! And what about those over-emotional Italians who can’t fight…………….

And yet, and yet……….. those countries and quite a few others are managing to get along like grown-ups within the Union to enjoy the fruits thereof.  But, it’s not THAT long since the Germans occupied Paris, is it ?

It’d be very revealing to run another referendum in the light of the utterly chaotic shemozzle we now find ourselves in, wouldn’t it ? Would it be a big turn out ? Damn right it would and we’d vote to stop all the current fannying about [I think its called “negotiating”] and to stay in the Union. I wish.

Meanwhile, the Tories continue to totter along in government, supporting the rich against the poor, not caring overmuch about elderly poor people, whilst at the same time proposing yet more High Speed rail links costing many billions. Oh, and aircraft carriers sans planes.

Closer to home, UK publishers continue to drop cartoons. The Faceless Ones – not always accountants – who do this are killing an art form the UK’s particularly good at. Why ? I don’t know. Don’t they have a sense of humour anymore ?

Maybe I don’t understand because I’m an old geezer. Maybe its like pop music. For example, I simply do not understand Rap. Its non-melodic, repetitive, arrogant, irritating, tribal, on-beat rubbish.

Time for a lie down in a darkened room I think.

July Blog

“Bring me your poor, your hungry……….” and I’ll build a huge wall to keep them out. So says Mr Trump as he comes up with a new brainwave whereby he’s going to fix solar panels to the wall he intends to build between the U.S. and Mexico – to pay for the wall ! Who will pay for the energy created by those solar panels ? How long will it take for the panels to pay for themselves ? The guy gets more like Homer Simpson every day.

I’m fed up with politics and politicians. Some are OK and seem straightforward, capable and honest – like Jeremy Corbyn. But those qualities don’t seem to be quite enough to give him and the Labour Party a chance to govern

Meanwhile, Mrs May & Co totter along, begging for support from the DUP, an Irish branch of the Flat Earth Society.

One of the penalties of being in your 70s is that there’s too much “past”; too many memories. As soon as you start to look a bit whistful and say things like, “I remember when………”, anybody under 40 immediately switches off and resume scanning their phones.

The recent spell of hot weather, which certainly discomfited me, the Dog and the Chickens [did you know that chickens sunbathed ? Well they do. They sit on one side and stretch out one wing] got me thinking about school holidays in the Dear Dead Days Beyond Recall. It was a time when little boys roamed far and wide, doing all the things they knew damned well they shouldn’t do. One of the best places my pals and I used to frequent was a large pond of unspecified dark depth. That was interesting in itself, with frogs and the occasional leech, but the main attraction with this particular body of water was that it had a tank in it. A TANK ! Well, maybe it was just the turret sans gun, but it was a hell of a lot more tank than you’ll see in your local pond these days. And it had huge ball-bearings in it, which, with the help of Danny Belshaw’s Dad’s crowbar, actually came out ! They were huge. At one time, I had four. Like so many other found items, they were currency. We swapped them for other stuff. Marbles, Dinky toys [sans tyres] and on one occasion, an air rifle, which didn’t work but which earned us a huge telling – off from my father who was a Policeman. We also once dammed up the river Calder – well almost – and that went down very badly too.

And there were certain kids you shouldn’t play with. Reasons were never given. One such miscreant once collected all the innards of bonfire night bangers, bunged the stuff into an aluminium cigar tube, made a fuse, stuck the thing into the canal bank, lit it, and blew a big hole in yer actual canal bank. Boy – did we run away ! Oddly this incident was never mentioned in Parentland.

I’m pretty sure little boys don’t get to do things like that any more. Too many terrorists hiding in wheelie-bins these days. Too much traffic. Too many roaming bands of paedophiles. All true, I suppose. Besides, who wants to go messing about with a half-submerged tank when they’ve got a tablet to stare at ?

June Blog

As I type, it’s a beautiful morning up here on the Northern Tundra, with sparrows squabbling in the hedge and rabbits being rabbits in the field opposite. When you live more or less in the sticks, I suppose its easy to forget the wider world.

Not so with the Manchester Arena bombing.

My granddaughter and five of her friends were there when it happened. They all escaped unharmed. Scores of others did not.

The young man who carried out the attack must have been convinced that he was doing the right thing. By whom ? Well, by people in shadowy organizations which believe that our way of life is wicked ; that the West should pay for all its perceived wrongdoings in the Middle East, and also because they CAN.  Photos and profiles of Salman Abeydi suggest – entirely subjectively – that he wasn’t the sharpest knife in the box and let’s face it, the movers and shakers in ISIS or any other terrorist organization aren’t going to blow THEMSELVES to bits are they ? No, they’re going to choose easily influenced stooges to do it instead.

Meanwhile, back in Cartoonland, stuff is OK without coming close to being “outstanding”. But that’s the way it is when you’re freelance. Good job I enjoy it.

A source of worry has been Maggie, my now elderly dog. She’s about twelve and has a cough, caused – in a complicated veterinary way by the fact that she has an enlarged heart. Its quite common in old dogs apparently. But after x-rays, a course of antibiotics and various other potions, she’s now back to her funny, personable self. She’ll always have a slight cough, but otherwise everything’s working as it should. Presently she’s staring at me and soon she’ll hit my knee because she wants more breakfast.

Those humans who don’t have a dog, or who don’t like dogs will probably never understand the bond between human and canine. Two completely different species which understand and depend on each other. In fact, I’d say that Maggie understands more about me than I do about her. She reads body language and listens to tone of voice and knows when no more breakfast will appear, so slinks off to have a sulk at the top of the stairs.