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 ?

July Blog

By the time you read this we’ll either be still in the European Union or not. What “not” means, I dread to think.  Those with the biggest megaphones in the Leave campaign, i.e., Gove, Johnson and Farage seem to have a vision of brave little England sailing off into the blue yonder unencumbered by responsibilities for migrants whilst not having to deal with European foreigners either.

The other issue here is the fact that Boris would like very much to be Prime Minister – 70-odd years too late. The time for Churchillian oratory is over, Boris. As for Gove and Farage, like Boris, from a cartoonist’s point of view, they’re both a bit odd-looking, and presumably would be content to be swept along on the Johnson coat-tails to Downing Street. Well, maybe not Farage. Nobody seems to know what to do with him. Including himself.

Meanwhile, human depravity knows no bounds. The pathetically cruel American dentist who killed a lion last year in the name of sport was bad enough, but people [mainly men] who “give” fox cubs to their hunting dogs to torment and kill are beneath contempt. The hunting of foxes with dogs is illegal. Full stop. I suppose people who go “big game” hunting do it to prove how tough and superior they are. What does giving baby foxes to dogs prove ? Absolutely nothing beyond the fact that the men who do this fall into the same disgusting category as the slaughterhouse workers who tormented animals which were about to die.

OK, that serious bit over and time to concentrate on a different serious bit. My pc has recently been overhauled. Since then, many of its functions don’t work. It won’t scan and send – which is vital – and Computerman can’t come and fix it [he did the overhaul] until next Monday. Groan.

June Blog

Well, has life been dominated by great leaps forwards on the creative front in the last month ? No, it has not. My printer/scanner died. So I bought a new one. Could I make it work ? No, I could not. Now, even though I depend on a computer for emails and scanning and sending drawings, I do not love them. Even the linguistic changes they have wrought, like “power down” instead of “switch off” irritate me. As for “boot up”. Huh.

Doubtless some would say that this is an age thing. It probably is. I dislike gadgets. However, in my frustration to get my new printer to do what it says on the tin, and having consulted the yard- square instruction sheet AND the online guidance and got precisely nowhere, I sought help from a very knowledgeable, computer-savvy and kind neighbour. No joy – and this guy understands Quantum Theory, for heaven’s sake !

So in the end, I had to call an engineer who does little else but rescue ignorant folk like me. He did, but it took him nearly an hour. If it took him that long, what chance did I have ? If computers were cars, we’d never go anywhere.

Really ? What about driverless cars ? I hate the idea and always have a snigger when one crashes. But that’s the age thing again, isn’t it ?. I like driving, but I can understand why lorry-followers in sensible cars on motorways – you know, 55mph, inside lane, 10 feet behind an artic bound for Glossop – might like the idea. If you don’t mind going to Glossop.

So now its back to 2018 calendar cartoons. After a couple of dozen you do get a bit tired, but I’m nearly there now.

Then – reason to be cheerful – the “NOT the Royal Academy Summer Show” cartoon exhibition PV on the 7th of June at the Chris Beetle’s Gallery in posh St James’s, which I banged on about last month, and more immediately, a visit from a heating engineer because our boiler’s just gone phut. I bet it’s the computer.

May Blog

Greetings from Lemsipland. I’ve had ‘flu. I say “had” – actually its still hanging on, but better than it has been. Its my own fault. As an elderly person, I can have a free anti-‘flu jab. Despite reminders, I didn’t have it done. I’ll be first in line next year. ‘Flu is horrid.

Meanwhile, in Cartoonland, things are pretty good. Its one of those really busy periods – the sort you wish for when things go quiet – which is nice, but also a bit daunting.

I shall be off down to London on June 7th for the private view of an exhibition of cartoons called “NOT the Royal Academy Summer Show” at Chris Beetles’ Gallery in St James’s. Featured work is all by members of the Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation. PCO’s an organisation which tries its damndest to present good cartooning as an Art form whereas the official face of Art [Arts Council etc.] tends to think that no matter how well a cartoon is drawn, if it makes you laugh, its not Art. Well, Chris Beetles doesn’t think like that and his rather posh gallery is just round the corner from The Royal Academy. Could be an interesting coming-together.

Victoria Wood. What to say ? Well its mostly been said now, but she proved more than most that humour is essential in allowing us to accept – understand even – life’s vicissitudes. And laugh at the same time. Sixty-two. Huh. Somebody up there got it wrong.

April Blog

This could be simply a tragic extension of last month’s blog which banged on about isolationist types who would like to leave Europe. Given the Brussels bomb attacks, they’ll probably be all the more intent on pulling up Britannia’s drawbridge at the forthcoming referendum. Out of Europe, out of danger ?

No. What they fail to see is that IS wants to kill or maim anybody who is not like it, just as the Nazis and lots of other Nationalists did before them. IS doesn’t recognize “Europe”. It sees itself as being perfect. A fourth Reich. Like allegedly patriotic Nazism, Islamic Statism is ultimately extreme. It is skilled in brutal social engineering. It produces brain-washed humans who are quite prepared to die whilst flying ‘planes into skyscrapers, slaughtering cartoonists, murdering pop music fans or blowing themselves and lots of innocents to bits in airports. And, as far as they’re concerned, they have God’s blessing. But the people who do these things do not control IS.

Do IS supremos have an ultimate objective ? Might that be to secure control of Middle Eastern oil ? Cut off supplies to everyone except themselves and thereby rule the world ? Instigate a mass-conversion to the IS brand of Islam ? Well, probably not the latter because the IS brand of Islam is no more representative of true Islam than is Nazism.

The West’s record in the Middle East is lamentable; from the siege of Acre and self –righteous Crusaders murdering anybody who wasn’t Christian down the centuries to both recent Gulf Wars.

Many European cities have marginalized Muslim populations with little to lose. Except their lives.

Can it go on ? Well yes it can, especially if an ignorant racist fool like Donald Trump gets his thumb anywhere near the Red Button.

Of course, these are the questions of someone not privy to the knowledge of GCHQ or MI6. An optimist might believe that there are channels open between IS and the west; that through dialogue and compromise there might come a day when petty criminals turned martyrs or bombmakers are no longer needed.

It happened in Northern Ireland – far from perfectly – Catholics and Protestants still hate each other- but it happened, and in recent years far fewer innocent people have been murdered and maimed.

Watch this space. Probably for quite a long time.