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 ?

January Blog

At this time of year, there’s a temptation to review the past twelve
months. I’m not going to even try to do that, but there are certain
unavoidable lumps in the duvet which can’t be ignored. The Cameron
referendum clanger’s one, ridding Leavers as it did of parliamentary
responsibility, and enabling them to pitch the UK into deepening
uncertainty. Donald Trump’s another. He’s about to pitch the whole world
into utter uncertainty. Or maybe not. He’s recently done quite a few U turns
on pre-election pronouncements. Perhaps he’ll do more and turn out to be
just another run of the mill Republican. A sort of Bushtrump.

Just now, the UK media’s very big on what to do about all our very
expensive old people. At one end of the scale are thousands of young people
who can’t afford a house whilst at the other there are thousands of old folk
who DID own their own homes, but for whom, those homes disappear to pay for
geriatric care. I suppose I’m an interested party here. Officially, I’m an
old folk. I’m a baby-boomer and reaped – as analysts tell me – all the
benefits of post – war economic advantage. Can’t stop you getting old
though, can it ?

Again, the media tells us that whilst people [baby boomers] are living
longer, they’re unfit, too fat and drink too much. Well, this fat
baby-boomer’s addressing the fitness thing. I’ve got an exercise bike – an
early Christmas present. Its got a computer on it which tells you how far
you’ve pedalled, how fast you pedalled, and what you can’t have for your
tea.

All this talk of mortality reminds me that quite a lot of famous folk –
some not very old – have died in the past year, prompting the media [again]
to panic and ask how many celebrity deaths there were in 2016. Perhaps a
better question might be, “how many celebrities have been CREATED by the
media ?” Social media does that too. I don’t do social media, so my
knowledge of celebrities is thankfully limited.

Time now for this old folk to go and draw a couple of gags before kind
people from Valhalla House come and take me away…………. “

December Blog

Well here we go. Brace yourself. The telly says its nearly Christmas. Hooray ! Aargh ! [Please underline appropriate word.] But never mind, there are still those out there who really like Christmas, so hopefully they’ll cancel out old humbugs like me. But I’m not a complete humbug. I quite like buying presents even when the recipients say, “Oh that’s great !”, whilst thinking, “What the hell IS it?” And the carols. I like them – especially Hark the Herald Angels – a real belter.

Meanwhile, the monster that is Brexit blunders on and on. It was always completely obvious that leaving the European Union would mean an economic downturn for the UK. That’s begun. I listened to a programme recorded in the U.S. the other day, during one family’s Thanksgiving dinner. At least four of the dozen or so friends and relatives foregathered, when asked how they felt about Trump becoming President said that despite some of his bizarre utterances, “it will be good to get our country back” Where from ? Who from? Sadly, UK Leavers think like that. I simply do not understand them.

I’m afraid Cartoonland’s not very cheery either, with more stupid publishers dropping cartoons. Despite the fact that the public love cartoons and despite Ian Hislop of Private Eye saying that P Eye’s significantly increased circulation is down to the inclusion of MORE cartoons, The Guardian’s dropping cartoonists. Saga magazine high – ups [the faceless ones] have decided that they won’t use cartoons any more. Why ? I honestly don’t know, beyond a vague feeling that this humour disconnect is because a whole bunch of humourless publishers have, chronologically speaking, reached boardroom level. Let’s hope they all get headhunted by REALLY humourless outfits like HMRC or DVLC. Soon.

Right. Time to wrap presents. Including the Dog’s. She loves Christmas presents and chews them into small bits in no time at all. Happy Christmas !

November Blog

I’m getting just a bit weary of Brexit. No, I’ll rephrase that. I’m sick of
Brexit ; sick of Brexit experts and utterly tired of Brexit commentators. If
a TV Channel were to advertise hour long films of drying paint with
absolutely no Brexit content, ratings would go through the roof. Or hour
long films of people baking cakes even. That would do it too. After all
cookery programmes are T.V’s fall back shows, aren’t they ? In the dear dead
days beyond recall when there was only ONE TV channel, there was ONE cookery
programme – run either by a heavily made up lady called Fanny, or by the
cheerily avuncular Philip Harben. Easily avoided. You just turned the telly
off.

Not so now. Lots of channels = lots of cookery programmes. Don’t get me
wrong – I like food, but I don’t want it ramming down my throat[ he he he –
see what I did there ?]

Anyway, the Hastings event was excellent – some great 1066 cartoons and
a chance to see a town I’ve never been to before. Its very hilly, and
creeping with cold germs. Its also very arty in the best possible sense.
Loads of interested and interesting people, many really struggling to make a
living from their Art. That made quite a few of us who do feel appropriately
humble.

Mind you, the professional scene took a blow this week with the
announcement from Saga magazine that said organ is being “refreshed”. Part
of that refreshment is that as of November the magazine will no longer be
using cartoons. Impossible to find out which refresher made that decision.
And there’s absolutely nothing freelancers can do about it. And all of that
at the same time as Ian Hislop’s claim that the inclusion of more cartoons
in Private Eye has boosted his magazine’s sales. Huh.
Got to go blow my hooter.

October Blog

I suppose one of the perceived problems with the USA is that its so big
and rich and has the biggest guns that it regards itself as The World, with
the rest of us spinning obediently around it like much smaller, less
powerful satellites. The majority of Americans don’t have passports, feeling
perhaps that their country is plenty big enough to satisfy the need for
travel. The U.S. quite likes the UK. There’s a common-ish language and a
shared sense of humour for one thing, and there’s the Royal Family for
another. Americans are fascinated by privilege ;by lineage – even though
that aspect of UK royalty was only invented relatively recently by an
obscure German prince. But then, America is very young, isn’t it ?

But that’s no excuse for one thing that’s happening there at the moment.
American presidential elections are tribal things with much flag-waving and
whooping – all a bit irritating – but what’s so worrying about this one is
the presence of one weird candidate – Mr Trump. I watched the recent
Clinton/Trump debate. Trump is a disaster waiting to happen, and yet
millions of Americans will vote for him. They’ll back him to have sufficient
understanding of the world and its people to be able to deal productively
with Vladimir Putin. I ask you ! The debate also offered ample opportunity
to scrutinize Mr Trump’s hair management arrangements. They becomes stranger
and stranger. In that sense, it probably suits him.

Mrs Clinton is a much safer pair of hands. She understands that “the
world” means more than “the U.S.” Mind you, by that token, we’ve got Boris
Johnson as Foreign Secretary. Strange hair. Hmm.
Meanwhile here, the Turner Prize is causing its usual amount of
harrumphing. If it annoyed you, remember that fibreglass buttocks and
standing arrangements of junk are commercially driven. Rich [and not
over-bright] collectors have been persuaded by very bright agents that
somebody else’s bum is THE thing to have. Then, within your rich closed
circle, in time, you can maybe trade it for some standing junk. And its not
beyond the realms of possibility that in years to come, small
representational watercolours of the Lake District will be the stars of the
Turner Prize. In time, we’d probably get fed up with those too.

September Blog

Well, it seems that life goes on without the Olympics. They certainly made daytime telly a lot more watchable, didn’t they ? I mean, at the touch of a button, instead of Top Gear repeats on Dave, we were amazed at people doing wholly weird things to their bodies. I did get a bit fed up with hearing about “Team GB”. Why that way round ? What’s wrong with “the GB team” ? Its to make it sound grander. Like” Castle Howard” instead of the much more ordinary ”Howard Castle”. But they all did very well, didn’t they ?

And now we’re back to much less thrilling fare like the German deputy boss saying that Brexit [ugh ! hate that term] could spell the end of the E.U. Just another thing the Leave voters didn’t see coming. Or care about.

Meanwhile, in Cartoonland, we’re gearing up to another Cartoon Festival – in Hastings this time – in October – celebrating [if that’s the right word] The Battle of Hastings. Its a good subject, so as Chair of the Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation, its down to me and my super Committee members to urge all our colleagues to send as many 1066 gags to the Hastings organisers. There’ll be all the usual live cartooning too, involving the amazing Big Boards – huge 8 foot by 6 foot coloured cartoons painted publicly. In mid-October[Sat 15th and Sun 16th], this will probably call for fleeces, waterproofs and mittens. We shall see.

These festivals are very popular- except with publishers who after all, are the end-users of cartoons. These idle folk don’t bother coming.

Domestically, things have taken a dramatic turn with our fishpond developing a leak. I keep having to top it up. But on Tuesday, a fishpond fixer will arrive with a new plastic liner and a holding tank for the eight fishy types . Its going to be a messy job, involving the removal of a fair-sized aquatic forest from one end which is home to a small group of frogs. Can’t wait.

August Blog

Presently I’m trying to stay calm and carry on, whilst occasionally chewing
the carpet. The cause of my irritation is, as always, my computer. Recently,
I had it overhauled by a local alleged expert. Since then it won’t do most
of the things I need it to do. Said expert swanned off on holiday, leaving
me with a near-useless pile of electronic plastic. How I hate these things.

But of course, all that pales into insignificance against two youths
slitting the throat of an elderly French priest. These two boys,
marginalised in their own society, sought to make their mark. Given that
there are probably lots of people wandering about the place whose brain
wiring makes them potential killers, these two were claimed by ISIS. I don’t
think that these boys believed in the murderous teachings of ISIS any more
than Trekkies believe in Klingons. But they did see a chance to kill and
become famous, as did the Nice lorry-driver. He had significant mental
health issues too. ISIS likes people like that.

I really do not understand fanatics – from one-club football fans to white
supremacists – you know, those people who believe that if everybody was
white, society would be fine. Hitler believed that. An unproven dislike of
“foreigners” runs through our society. I think that had a lot to do with why
so many people voted to leave the European Union. Now we have a Prime
Minister who didn’t want to leave. Go figure.

Rant over.

Now, I shall go back to shouting at my computer. There’s an increasing
chance of it being thrown out of the window anytime soon. How good would
that feel ?