Friday, 24 January 2014

Walking Through My Subconscious With Stephen Fry

Some days just beg you to cancel everything and punch out for the day. Today has been one of those days.

Last night I dreamed good dreams, full of interesting people and interesting things. In my dreams I often live the life I always wanted to live: productive, artistic, profoundly social. Probably because I’d worked last night to the chatter of ‘QI’ in the background, one of my dreams involved an interesting walk around Chester in the company of Stephen Fry who was being very supportive of my writing as we talked about literature. Strange thing to dream, stranger thing yet to confess... A psychologist might take deep meanings from the tangle of my psychological bramble, not least some latent homosexual leanings I’m completely incapable of seeing in the daylight. I prefer to think the simpler explanation is the wish to find affirmation from somebody with good judgement. I think deep down it’s what all writers ultimately seek.

That wasn’t the end of my dreaming. I had conversations with other people good at conversation and my views seemed to matter to them more than they do in the real world. The wonderful Brian Blessed also made an appearance but that, no doubt, was also linked to last night’s TV. I’d watched a rerun of the Have I Got News For You in which Blessed stole the show. Martin Rowson was also a lurking presence but Rowson’s work is always lurking somewhere in my day. His anger and fury with the world matches my own.

It was a good sleep, unbroken for the most part and I woke up filled with optimism for the day ahead. I’d spent two hours last night drawing my Justin Bieber cartoon so I knew I had ‘something to post’, which is one of those little worries I have every morning and it always makes me feel good when I know there’s an answer to that riddle.

So I posted the cartoon here and to Twitter. I then luxuriated in the five hits that came back. Given the amount of effort I’d expended on the cartoon, it worked out at about 25 minutes work per hit. Each visitor looked at the cartoon and left, clearly unimpressed. Okay, it was an obvious gag on an obvious subject but my real reason for drawing it was part of my month’s goal of drawing a caricature a day. If I can come up with a gag to go with each caricature, that’s even better. I shouldn’t complain and no web traffic is my perennial problem…

So I sipped my morning coffee and started through my numerous inboxes. I have a lot of inboxes. I’ve just counted them and I can hardly believe that in the many years I’ve been blogging, I’ve amassed 49 email addresses. A few are dead accounts, to domain names I no longer own, and a few are Yahoo accounts that get very little traffic. That leaves about 15 accounts that need checking and clearing but, really, only five that are seriously in use and only two that really matter to me. They’re the two accounts where I get emails from friends and (on rare occasions) readers of this blog, so they’re the ones I check with the most anticipation.

The morning had brought nothing but SPAM. Emails from Reese Witherspoon (I wish they were real since I adore her chin), marketing people wanting me to sell my blog for $50 a year (tempted), emailed titled ‘Nothing beats a good stick’ (‘Indeed!’ said in my best Stephen Fry voice), SEO proposals and offers to buy my time for $2.5 million, which I figured were probably fake since real proposals to buy my time for $2.5 millon aren’t going to arrive with a single line: ‘Contact us. We’re willing to pay you $2.5 million for your time.’

I went out. Hit the local town for some shopping. And then I had an uncomfortable encounter. I saw a friend I’ve not spoken to in many years. We occasionally see each other around town and something always stops us from speaking. We walk past, each no doubt feeling as awful as the other. We were once good friends but more of that kind of enforced friendship you get at school when two outsiders stick by each other. We drifted apart when I went back to university to study English, which is where I had overcame my shyness at speaking to girls, which a degree in English pretty much guarantees. The last time we spoke was when we’d gone to a comedy show together and I’d gone in the company of a girl. It was awkward and never to be repeated. I stuck with the girl and drifted apart from my friend who, for all I know, remains drifting.

Seeing him again, all the time between came into focus. I wouldn’t know what to say, how to justify my life and, for his sake, hope he was no longer the wimpish type that he and I suppose I had once been. How would I explain my Ph.D., my brief adventure of having a book published, last year’s Radio 4 interview, and how to describe the otherwise pointless ramble that is my life as well as, I guess, this blog post?

But all that was the thought of half a second. We walked past each other and I ducked into Boots.

I got home and I opened my 49 email accounts. Mostly it was more SPAM but into one dropped three things that made a difference. One was praise for a cartoon, in another a friend had sent me an interesting Youtube link that might help with the book I’m writing, and then, finally, an email from the great Bill Stott. Somebody had liked something I’ve been writing for a website that Bill runs. These things helped, though it would be a lie to say they helped very much, certainly they won’t help at the end of the month and the bills need paying. People can like your work but nothing quite feels the same as getting paid for that work. Money in your bank account is worth every compliment in the world and it even takes away the pain of every insult. It’s where I am this Friday afternoon, feeling like I’m drifting, like I should punch out for the day, the week, perhaps even the month. Yet something makes me linger. One last look at my web traffic and I see I’ve had two more visitors. One came from Poona, Maharashtra, in India and the other from the United Republic of Tanzania. They were both looking for ‘pornography’ but found my lamp cartoon. Is that enough to make me carry on hoping, carry on drawing, carry on writing? Sadly for me, it usually is…



  1. Sorry I didn't see your Bieber post on Twitter but, although I have a twitter account, I've never really caught on to the attraction so I look at it about once a month and think "Meh!". But I did see it on Feedly so that's six hits and down to 20.9 minutes work per hit. Result! as the young people say (or used to say, I lose touch a bit).

    Much as I enjoy the cartoons I have to say that I enjoy the writing more. How about combining the two? I'd love to see a 3 or 4 panel strip featuring your encounters with the management of Tesco's about the seating / Bike rack arrangements. Or the trials and tribulations of a freelance writer / illustrator / cartoonist / real job (IT?). I know it's done elsewhere but plagiarise. Any good idea is worth stealing.

  2. Funny, I was only saying to somebody the other day that I'm not a cartoonist. I'm a writer who enjoys drawing cartoons and there is a difference. My words are more precious to me than the drawings ever are. I love Steadman's art but I love Hunter S. Thompson's prose even more. However, even if I know I'm best when I'm writing, I am also aware that writing is a dying art and easily stolen. Adding graphic elements to my work was my vague attempt to protect it, just a little, from the epirates.

    The other reason I cartoon is because my graphic work on Photoshop involves copyright issues. A friend on a national paper once told me they wanted to use my work but were worried about sourcing the images. So now I pride myself on producing a website which is 100% my own work. Given a choice, I'd write everything but writing takes time, silence, and concentration. I also feel that nobody is interested in reading whereas images can be passed around.

    I suppose what I'm saying is, I guess I think we don't live in a literate age and I'm trying to go with the flow. It's crazy, I know. I hate it more than anybody.

    As for your suggestion: I did try that. I wrote this, which is a bit like you describe. And this is the closest I've come to writing pure autobiography.

    Away from the blog, I do have books on the go. I've just sent the draft of what I think is a very funny book to a friend and I hope he'll give me positive feedback. I also have 90,000 words of a comic historical novel I want to finish but the feeling that I'll never get another book published sometimes wears me down. However, I promise to write more... I want to write more. I wish I could write for a newspaper but the buggers never reply...