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.

March Blog

I know people who are excited by the prospect of the approaching Referendum. I also know people who actually like Ant and Dec. Are those two things linked ? Well, in a way they are. Ant and Dec have down – home appeal. So does the idea of being able to tell loads of foreigners to sod off, via a referendum. Somehow, the notion that the United [for how much longer ?] Kingdom can stand alone appeals. OK, it did once, back in 1940, during our Darkest Hour, but that was then. Now, the countries of Europe have managed, despite their differences, to work together.

The trouble is, we’re all a bit tribal. “Well, he’s not from round here”. “Round here” refers to three or four streets. French, German and Bulgarian folk are not from round here either. So let’s not put up with their driving on the wrong side of the road, their dreadful sausage, and their love of garlic. Let’s leave and go back to Brown Sauce and The Flying Scotsman.

Boris says we should. And Boris is funny. Like Ant and Dec. And he’s got daft hair.  Dave isn’t funny. His hair is serious. When was the last time you saw HIM shoot down a zip-wire? So, given that I’m no fan of the Tories, what’s the alternative ? Well that’s called Jeremy Corbyn, a man of dry wit and moral justification who wouldn’t be seen dead on a zip-wire. Shock, horror ! We can’t possibly elect Corbyn. He wants to ditch Trident [which is American]. He wants to stay in Europe. He wants to cosy up to foreigners who aren’t from round here and who dictate what shape our bananas should be.

February Blog

Whilst I remain firmly of the opinion that Church and State should remain separate to look after the secular and spiritual issues facing us, I am more than aware how our ever- increasing communications abilities are blurring hitherto clear divisions.

Recently I became aware of an extremely rich American person called Donald Trump. Apparently Mr.Trump would like to be President of the United States. He has already stated that he would, given the power, ban Muslims from entering the U.S. and, presumably, because he is a Republican, he supports an odious organization called The National Rifle Association, once the favourite club of Charlton Heston – he of the cold dead hand – and star of several Hollywood versions of the nature of God.

Mr Trump tends to appear in public with a youthful female person who I had assumed was his grandddaughter. I am assured that this person is his wife.  I found this quite touching – that such a young woman should want to sacrifice her youth in order to help a far older man to achieve his lofty ambition. Then it was suggested to me  that this was not the case and that she was “in it for the money”, which I found profoundly disappointing.

In the unlikely event of Mr Trump becoming President, he will hold sway over things secular and spiritual. Worse than that, young people might even start to copy his hairstyle which appears to stem from an exceptionally low crown beginning at the base of his neck.

Things follicle remind me of the passing of Sir Terry Wogan – the great communicator and champion of toupee wearers everywhere. Sir Terry’s hairpiece really did not matter. Whether sporting it whilst ridiculing Eurovision nit-wits or helping to raise millions for Children in Need, it was simply a perfectly acceptable part of who he was. Oh how I wish there might have been an interview between said Trump person and Sir Terry. A gentle demolition of greedy, narrow-minded pomposity. Sadly though, Mr Trump would not have understood the jokes.