February Blog

After the sad death of our long time companion, Maggie the Dog in December last year, the house just didn’t feel right. No sound of paws padding around, no soulful staring at mealtimes, no avid wildlife programme viewing on TV, no growling at the window cleaner – and all the other aspects of the canine/human bond dog owners will recognise.

So, after looking at lots of dog re-homing sites we came across Wilma. Why “Wilma”? No idea. All we know about her is that she’s around eight and had spent at least six years as a stray on the streets of Dublin. Doubtless, because of that, Wilma’s scared of everything. Its taking time and patience to gain her trust. But we’re getting there. She’s only been with us eight days but now she’ll hop up on to the settee and look for a stroke. She follows me everywhere and as I type, is curled up on my right foot. She is a delightful animal. Why she was an abused stray for so long is anybody’s guess. What IS certain is that there are people out there who are cruel to animals. Sometimes the cruelty is organised, like fox-hunting – which still goes on, despite the ban – and secret dog – fighting. Badger- baiting, organised and carried out by really damaged people still happens. Why ? Why do humans do these despicable things ? Psychiatry might give us all manner of reasons. Socialisation, upbringing ,inherited psychoses etc., etc. Whilst I do try to understand why humans do bad things to animals and each other, my gut reaction, if I caught someone playing football with a hedgehog [Oh yes – that does happen] would be to take the humans aside and give them a good seeing – to. Some would say that would make me no better than the hedgehog abusers. I’m not so sure. If human animal abusers got a good thump every time they abused an animal, they’d soon stop.

There’s a phrase – a cliché almost which says, “Its only a dog”. I pity people who think like that. Gaining an abused dog’s trust is very rewarding and demonstrates that mysterious bond between two different species. Dogs know a lot more about us than we do about them.

Meanwhile, back in Cartoonworld, its not getting any easier finding new work. All the old faithfuls still need work and soon it’ll be 2020 calendar time. Twelve full – colour spreads and an A3 cover ! That’ll keep me busy for ages.

January Blog

A dog cartoon as Gag of the Month this time because I think dogs can be
very funny. The bonds and understanding between humans and canines – two
entirely different species – is amazing.

Early in December 2017, Maggie the Dog, my constant companion for 13 years
died. She’d been ill with heart and breathing problems. She’s stopped eating
and whilst its a cliché, I think she’d lost the will to live. And after she
went to sleep for the last time, the visiting vet said as much. People say
kind things like “Well, she had a good innings.” And she did, but that’s not
the point. She’s left a huge hole in our lives. She was a kind, funny dog
with a taste for TV wildlife programmes; was scared of our two hens, but big
friends with our cockatiel. Should we get another dog ? Don’t know. We’ve
looked at lots of dog re-homing sites and the trouble with them is the
featured dogs all look SO needy. But that said, its very strange not hearing
a dog about the place, or having one come and visit me up here in the studio
– just for visiting’s sake.

But life goes on, and those arrogant Australians have won the Ashes. Huh.
Worse than that, Boringbrexit continues not to grip the nation’s
imagination, whilst the Prince Harry/Megan Markle thing does. Actually, he
seems like a good egg – undertaking all manner of good works. Can’t really
say much about Miss Markle except that she sounds a bit like a TV detective
and has strange hats.

Every year around this time, REALLY snowy places around the world laugh at
the UK where 4cms of the stuff make headlines. True, its no fun battering up
the M62 if its snowing, but compared to Canada or New York, we’re nowhere.

I don’t vote Tory, but I am worried about our present government. What
with Mrs May’s conference cough and slogans falling off the wall behind her,
to the sacking of a prominent minister for having naughty pictures on his
computer, quite apart from the continued backing of the horrendously
expensive HS2 and the drip-feed starvation of the NHS, we now have a
super-expensive aircraft-carrier which leaks. I think its time for a
change.

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.

April Blog

Mrs May’s been and gone and done it. She’s signed somethingorother which triggers Article 50 which in turn will lead the UK out of the European community of Nations and start a monumental scramble of re-negotiated trade deals. This will keep civil servants and international trade “experts” busy for years. I put “experts” in inverted commas because the UK’s relatively recent referendum made “experts “ of us all.

Of course, the trouble with handing power to the people in the way a referendum does, is that quite a lot of the people who voted to leave were fairly clueless about international trade deals. I voted to remain in the E.U., but that doesn’t mean for one minute that I or other remainers have a deep and meaningful understanding of the workings of the E.U. But maybe we voted to stay because whilst we were irritated by Brussels interfering with the shape of our sprouts, or the bendiness of bananas, we thought that the E.U. was bumbling along moderately well. A sort of “better the devil you know” philosophy.

Anyway, now we’re in bed with a devil we certainly do not know, spurred on by a referendum victory which was fuelled by spurious hark – backs to the UK “standing alone” seventy-odd years ago. Actually, we didn’t stand alone. We were propped up by the immense wealth of the U.S.A.

The U.S.A. is quite keen on the UK being part of the E.U. – or at least it was until Trumpton became a White House reality. Now, the U.S. cares not a jot for anything which isn’t North American.

And whilst Mrs May was signing our way – the United Kingdom’s way- towards an uncertain future, the Scots have voted for another referendum , seeking independence from the allegedly “United” Kingdom. The Scots also want to stay in the E.U., whilst in Northern Ireland, border-crossing points are being set up between N.I. and Ireland – just in case. I’m not sure what Wales is going to do but doubtless they’ll tell us about it twice a la their bilingual signposts.

Oh dear. What a mess. A victory for Little Englanders. I know a bloke who has the cross of St George painted on his wheelie bin. Like me, I suspect he’s quite elderly. He’ll be amongst the first to moan when his NHS treatment is delayed or cancelled because of NHS staff shortages caused by called – for curbs on immigration.

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of national pride. I love it when England win the Six Nations rugby, or beat Australia at cricket. But that’s sport. And sport’s a puzzle anyway – especially soccer -where rabid English fans support one team and one team only – a team which just happens to be entirely made up of what Little Englanders call “foreigners”. Weird or what ?

March Blog

In the face of President Trump’s continuing chapter of stupid populist decisions particularly with regard to immigration, cartooning finds itself involved with the Australian government which has certain Trumpish similarities. Its a very right wing set-up and deals with so – called illegal immigrants by dumping them on Manus Island, a nasty sub-tropical island prison manned in the most part by cruel people. Presently on the island is a 25 year old Iranian cartoonist called Eaten Fish who has been regularly sexually and physically abused there. So cartoonists’ organisations the world over are pressuring the Australian government so that it does the right thing and takes this very ill young man to the mainland for treatment.

Now, you could say that his predicament is his own fault. Australia has said repeatedly that anybody turning up on its shores looking for asylum will not be let in. Whether Eaten Fish, on the run from Iran for insulting the government there [that’s really, really easy to do] knew that or not is debatable. Quite possibly his decision to aim for Australia was influenced by the words of the Australian national anthem which does go on a bit about Australia being “the land of the free”. His choices were between his vision of Australia or staying in Iran and being killed. So, the PCO, in concert with other cartoonists’ organisations, including, it has to be said, Australian ones is making a nuisance of itself in order to compel the Australian government to respect Manus Island inmates’ Human Rights. Its a work in progress.

In the meantime, I hear on the news that there are thousands of 12 point plus drivers still whizzing about the place on our roads. One has 62 points! Apparently they’ve all been let off by magistrates who thought that a driving ban constituted unacceptable hardship. These people should try speeding in Iran or on Manus island.

Off tomorrow up the M62 to Yorkshire in the teeth of storm Doris. Doris? What sort of self respecting storm would call itself Doris?

February Blog

Well. Where to start ? The Brexit monster rumbles on, now with a White
Paper by way of clarification, which in effect merely causes more confusion.
The BBC News website is full of “What does Brexit mean to YOU ?” items,
replete with lots of possibilities. But that’s all they are – possibilities.
And there’s a significant number of people in the UK who believe that now
the country is committed to leaving the E.U., everything in the garden will
be rosy and other countries world-wide will be queuing up to buy stuff from
us. Really ? And what about the European subsidies the UK will no longer
receive ?

Personally, I’m bored sick with Brexit, so I’ll change the subject to one
which probably alarms women throughout the land. Our P.M., Mrs May went to
the U.S., for talks with Dreadful Donald and was snapped apparently holding
hands with the Old Groper. Now, whilst I’m no Tory, I do have a certain
amount of sympathy with Mrs May here. I really don’t think she wanted to
hold hands with Mr Trump, but from what I saw, it was obvious that he
reached for her hand, not vice versa. In the eyes of the world’s press she
could not have snatched her hand away whilst growling, “Keep your claws to
yourself, lizard !”, now could she ?