September Blog

Several weeks ago, I got a letter from the DVLA people saying that because I’d had a stroke [13 months previously !], I had to take another driving test. I’d been driving quite safely in the meantime, but like HM Revenue and Customs, the DVLA is not a body to be ignored. They’d already confiscated my licence and they told me that unless I undertook and passed a new test, I wouldn’t be insured. Hmm.

Anyway, Sheila drove me to the appointed meeting place where we met a very pleasant chap in a little Renault. I absolutely hated my first driving test – which I failed – and the second which I passed. But that was 50+ years ago.

Now, I like driving – especially my Jaguar XK8 – which is a beast – refined, but still a beast. The little Renault turned out to be very easy to handle, and after a much longer and pickier test than the original, the pleasant chap passed me ! I was and still am very relieved. First thing I did when I got home was to go for a blast around country lanes. The Jag’s twenty years old now but it’ll still do 0 to 60 in around 6 seconds AND it passed its looming MOT.

Sheila’s been hugely supportive throughout as has daughter Dr Jen. So has son Nik [immobile presently because of a knackered knee] and daughter Kate, from 12,000 miles away in Oz.
Cartoon – wise, its calendar time – a huge job. All gags are chosen by committee – from around 100 roughs – and there’s a really complicated A3 cover to do as well.

Dog Wilma is still up at Dr Jen’s near Hull because she’s seen as a calming influence on her dog Kes who is a completely loopy border collie. But she’ll be back soon. Out here in the sticks, there isn’t really a Covid 19 effect, but we’ve all got lots of masks.

Right – back to the calendar cover.

February Blog

Since my stroke last March, I’ve got back some sort of cartooning equilibrium. I was very lucky inasmuch as the stroke was left-sided, so hasn’t affected my ability to draw because I’m right-handed. I use a stick to walk with now, and happily, driving is not affected.I’ve been very busy with 2022 cartoons for Rose [of Colchester] calendars and am just about to send them roughs for 2023. Its quite a demanding job in terms of the number of roughs needed, but I get on well with the company, so that’s OK.

My elderly Jaguar XK8 continues to run well whilst our second car, a Mazda estate, recently fell foul of electrical problems whereby the battery wouldn’t charge. But Des from my local garage came and spoke severely to it and it seems ok now.Wilma the dog remains my constant companion. If she’s not asleep on the bed, she’s here in the studio, lying on my foot. Sheila’s down here for a couple of days. She brought with her Loopy Kes, her daughter’s border collie. He and Wilma get on well and whilst he likes to be the boss and can be a bit uppity, Wilma, who is very four-square and much stronger, just shoves him over.

Off to hospital later today to see a surgeon about my painful left shoulder. If he suggests surgery, I think I’ll refuse because a few years ago when I was in hospital having a new metal left hip fitted, I met a couple of blokes who’d had replacement shoulder surgery and its a long job. No driving for ages. And I live out in the sticks, so that won’t do. Pain killers. That’s the answer.

This coming May, I’ll be 77. How the hell did I get to be that old ? Recently, one of my favourite cartoonist colleagues, Noel Ford, died. He was three years older than me and a really good bloke. He’ll be greatly missed.    Little Man, my elderly cockatiel’s into his seventeenth year now but remains a wonderful whistler, if a bit fierce if you are silly enough to wave fingers at him.    Right. Off to see the medics !

November Blog

Back in March this year, I had a stroke – not an experience I can recommend. One minute upright, the next, face down on the kitchen floor. With the help of some vigorous swearing and much licking from Wilma the dog, I got up and contacted need to know folk. Sheila’s doctor daughter, Jen sent for an ambulance and I was carted off to hospital, where I met other stroke victims far worse off than I was. Some couldn’t speak or walk and quite a few were very angry.

I wasn’t angry – more bemused than anything. But then my speech and thinking ability weren’t really affected. My mobility was, and even now, because of a weak left leg, I can’t walk very far, even with the aid of a stick [which is v useful for poking passing peasants]. The NHS hospital staff were brilliant and had me up and walking PDQ. I’m very grateful that the stroke hasn’t affected my drawing ability and I’ve just finished the 2022 calendar range of cartoons which is a real slog of a job, but the customer’s a good prompt payer, so that’s OK.

On the car front, my beloved Jag XK8 conked out recently and made some very expensive noises. But Sheila managed to contact my garage and a low-loader brought us home. The fault lay with the throttle body. But that’s now been fixed by the ever-reliable Des at my local garage [Bowers of Lach Dennis] and the car’s now running as sweetly as ever.  All domestic animals are fine. Wilma, whose hobbies are eating and sleeping is presently flaked out on the bed, and the fish are OK too. “Little Man”, our fierce little cockatiel will be 17 later this year, and remains erm, fierce. But he’s a superb whistler. Anyway, its back to work now…………

December Blog

So……Gatwick airport’s had to be closed because some unidentified nitwit chose to fly his/her drone in Gatwick’s airspace.  Before anybody is allowed to buy a drone, they should be examined to see if they’ve got a brain. Then they ought to be compelled to pass a droning test. Mind you, we’ve had a car driving test for ages and that doesn’t filter out  nitwits, does it ? We all make mistakes whilst driving a car – wrong lane/too fast/too slow –but hopefully at the very least, we acknowledge those mistakes. Not so the rogue droners. They choose to fly their irritating/dangerous machines in potentially fatal places.  Its the choice bit which fascinates me. In another news item, we’re told that increasing numbers of people trek to erupting volcanos. Why ? To get a better view ? To put the lives of rescue agencies at risk ? Dunno. Maybe its because humans like risk, especially when the risk is to someone else. How many times have you seen drivers rubbernecking when passing road accidents ?

Meanwhile, in other news……………..We managed to get down to London a couple of weeks ago to attend a Carol Concert at the Royal Albert Hall. I’ve never been to the RAH before. It was stunning. There was a full orchestra and choir and they finished the evening with “Hark the Herald Angels !” .Gave it the beans, they did.

All of that compensated for having to tolerate London itself. What was it Samuel Johnson said ? “He who tires of London is tired of life “ There must be some pretty knackered people down there. I have some good cartoonist friends who would probably call themselves Londoners, and that’s fine. Its just that London seems to see itself as utterly desirable. In my book, its not.

So it was pretty good to get back up here, which we did eventually despite our train being delayed because Hull Trains had a fire. On a train, surprisingly. In fact all hands had to climb into taxis to reach our final destination. Then for me it was a 120 mile trip down the M62 to get back to Lostock Green, where there are fields, trees, birdies and such. Wilma the dog was delighted to be home and rushed out into the garden to pee on most of it.

Then it was off to various hospitals see consultants [who go, “Hmm” a lot]  about my eternal bad back. I was dreading the prospect of an operation, but thankfully, that wasn’t immediately recommended. I think physiotherapy and hydrotherapy might be on the cards. I’ve had hydrotherapy before, and it certainly helped. You get to stroll up and down a nice warm pool for a while, chatting to the similarly afflicted. And thanks to the wonderful NHS – its all free !

Speaking of drones, Brexit continues it march to God knows where. Who is to blame ? David Cameron is. ‘Twas he who instituted a Referendum. We have a Parliament which gave our links with the rest of Europe the thumbs up. Then after the Referendum, we find that two percent wanted out. Two percent ! Huh ! And why did they want out ? Well I can’t help thinking that thoughts of Britain Ruling the Waves had something to do with it. AND we’ve now got the biggest aircraft carrier. So there, Johnny foreigner ! Its a bit like having our own Trump. Aaargh ! 

November Blog

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting erm, slightly alarmed. Yes, it’ll
soon be upon us, dragging with it all the festive clichés and thousands of
deeply irritating TV adverts. It will also encourage the Clergy to ask what
the true meaning of Christmas is – a theme followed by lots of Christmas
card designers, and indeed Carol writers….”In the bleak midwinter long
ago, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone. Snow had fallen, snow
upon snow……..” Did it really ? In Israel ? Significant stuff –
especially for Christians. Enter the baby Jesus, who went on to be the
saviour of mankind – well, the Christian bits of mankind. So grateful were
they that they murdered him. Allegedly.

Now, I don’t know if I believe all that. I mean there are no videos
are there ? At best, it’s a mixed message, overly dominated by commerce
which urges us to buy stuff for each other.

Enough of that. A more pressing problem is my pond, which is leaking
and needs constant topping up. I don’t think the fishy types therein are
actually coming to any harm, but it certainly needs fixing. So to that end I
bought a new pond liner. My good friend Simon, who is very good at fixing
things is going to come and install said liner. This will mean netting the
fish and putting them into temporary accommodation. Probably a wheelie bin.

And I’ve bought a new telly. Its much cleverer than me, and can get
loads of channels, some of which are worth watching.
My pc’s just pinged to tell me a job’s come through. I know what it is, so
I’d better knuckle down and do some work.

October Blog

I thought I’d better do this before I get any more pleading emails and
letters – hundreds of them……. [well, two actually]. The truth is that
recently I’ve been beset with technical difficulties, especially with my
shiny new computer. My local computer fettler is calling again tomorrow to
find out why said machine is being targeted by malicious gits who keep
putting what I believe is called “malware” on it. Of course there are
companies out there which, for a mere 500 quid will cleanse your machine.
Maybe its them who put the malware on in the first place. My computer
fettler – let’s call him Denzil [not his real name] is far cheaper than

I’m really not sure if the internet is a blessing or a curse. I like
Google. It tells me all manner of things I didn’t used to know. Really
useful stuff like John Wayne delaying a shoot during the making of “True
Grit” because he needed to pick his nose. And the BBC news is OK too –
especially the Local News – “Bradford woman says Boo to goose” whilst the
main news strives manfully to make Brexit interesting.

My other ongoing problem is to do with my pond. Its losing water. Now I’m
no expert, but I think its because there’s a hole in the liner. I don’t
think its harming the fish because it stops leaking when there’s about two
feet of water left. Besides, as the weather gets colder, pond fish go torpid
and stay very still on the bottom. So, my local pond-fettler is calling
later this week. Doubtless, a new pond liner will be needed. He’s been to do
this before – years ago – and all the fish – six of them – five fat goldfish
and one two foot long ghost koi [ they can live for 50 years]will have to
spend time in his temporary tank. 

Phoebe, my fat Orpington hen’s getting on. She’s about eight and looking
a bit scruffy. That’s partly because she’s moulting. Her egg laying days are
well behind her and eight’s a fair age for a hen.

Little Man, my aged cockatiel – he’s fifteen – is just as chirpy as he’s
ever been and spends quite a lot of time singing to Wilma, our new-ish dog.
After Maggie the Dog died last December, we really didn’t like a dogless
house, so we took ourselves off to Dog Rescue and came home with Wilma.
Wilma’s in her ninth year. She spent six of those years as a stray on the
streets of Dublin. Wilma’s very nervous and scared of everything, but she’s
bonded very well with us and she’s seldom more than ten feet away from
either of us. 

Off to see a neurologist soon. My back’s rubbish and walking’s painful.
If he/she recommends an operation, that’ll mean time in hospital which in
turn will mean sorting out visiting animal husbandry.

On the upside, my elderly Jaguar’s running very well and is still a joy
to drive – as is my workhorse Mazda, in its own way.
Cartooning’s still difficult shrinking market, but I count myself as lucky
inasmuch as I do have work coming in. Not bad at my age, I suppose.

There, that’s it. Oh, and John Wayne’s nose – I made that up.