Monday, 28 December 2015

The local solicitor, darts & school

I've nicked/borrowed/finagled a chair. No idea if it will be comfortable enough to keep me writing until I sort out a proper replacement but I'm giving it a try.

Apropos of nothing, I noticed via Twitter that a local solicitor sponsors a darts 'star' as well as a charity run in the name of a local rugby player. I know nothing about either. I live in an area dominated by darts and rugby but especially the latter. To the south we have Warrington, to the north lies Wigan, and to the west is St Helens; all three powerhouses in the world of big men running into each other nostril first. I've never seen the appeal. I hated rugby at school where I lost a few too many nails grabbing the shirts of louts barrelling past on a cold winter morning on a field frozen into a solid bed of iron slag. My school celebrated sporting achievement over anything else, which perhaps explains why it was one of the worst places for academic development. I only ever started to perform half decently at exams once I got away and had the time and space to teach myself about the world.

My school was one of the worst in the country when I was there and a few years later was bulldozed because the local education authority thought it was simply better to start again. Oddly enough, my school was around the corner from that local dart-supporting solicitor and I would have passed them every day. I now rarely venture into that corner of the town, possibly because it reminds me of bad academia and rugby, both of which holding a special place in my hatred. The school is now an academy that claims it is 'Working together to inspire excellence guided by Christian values'. Christian values... They never learn.

It's apparently a 'good school' but that's according to Offsted, which means it's misleading. Offsted changed the goalposts recently and with a classic piece of Orwellian trickery, they renamed the lowest acceptable grade 'good'. So, when you see a school claiming to be 'good', you should know that it means 'acceptable' or one step above requiring improvement.

But I digress...

My lack of rugby knowledge makes me reflect on how the culture of the local area is largely non-existent. No book shops but a dozen tattooists. You wouldn't get local firms sponsoring a writer and occasional cartoonist. You wouldn't get them sponsoring a novel or non-fiction book. Would it be snobbish to suggest that both might have more value than the results of obese men throwing darts? Yes I know... Even if it is snobbish, it's important to support the world view you think the best and I think bookish culture is more important than sporting culture. Yet, as a nation, we seem to disagree. The news will report any old tosh that David Beckham spouts yet would ignore more meaningful contributions from experts. Meanwhile I live in a town where I wouldn't get a job reporting on the local free newspaper and have to write a blog instead...

I feel my brain moving into my usual self pitiful areas. Perhaps this chair might be okay...


Boxing day my new chair bust. Six months old and the seat has cracked and the bolts affixing it to the stand has fallen out. On close inspection, I see the seat was made from cheapo plywood. For an £80 chair, it's depressing but also depressingly familiar. My chair is the single most important part of my writing. If I'm uncomfortable, I can't get drift away into my mental zone. I can't get into my zone, I can't write. If I can't write, the blog doesn't get filled.

Not that anybody will miss me but it means I won't be writing anything until Amazon come and pick up the old chair, issue a refund, and I can buy a replacement. No idea how long all that will take but the chair I'm currently sitting on makes my back hurt after five minutes so I'm typing this and heading off.

In the meantime, recent words largely ignored over Christmas. Here I moan about an archbishop acting like a politician and here I moan about a politician acting like an archbishop. Here I jibber on about panto.

Finally, here I expend a serious amount of effort into explaining the Trump shrug.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Merry Christmas!

Unpublishing the popular

Is it okay to unpublish a blog post you wrote years ago when you were feeling pretty down?

I personally don't think it is. I largely write this blog (when I remember and/or have time) because it's a place where I can be open about my feelings. Yet, sometimes, I think I come across as looking bitter or cynical. I'm not, or, at least, I'm not always bitter and cynical but I have both qualities within me like I expect everybody has it within themselves to rage against the world on occasion.

The blog post I wish I could unpublish is one I wrote about Private Eye. I've not bothered sending cartoons to Private Eye in a very long time but I feel slightly embarrassed that people (often successful cartoonists) leave comments having read some invective I wrote when in some particularly dismal frame of mind.

A second blog post I'd like to unpublish is about sand dogs. Last week, the story was picked up by a website which was itself picked off by a few local newspapers, who seemed to adapt the story word for word. Last night the hits peaked again. That story has now been picked up by the Daily Mail who even quote me. I am now an authority on sand dogs based on one very casually written blog post I thought nobody would care to read.

In January I'll have blogged for 10 years and I'm known for only three things: how to unblock Rotring pens, a moaning blog post about my inability to get cartoons into Private Eye, and a post about sand dogs. Not one of these I would consider my 'best moment'. Sadly, all my 'best moments are largely unread, including my book.


Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Republicans, Star Wars & Biscuits

Over at TW&TW I'm talking about the Republican debate.  It's also why I'm struggling to work. It's only six o'clock and I usually work until 7, have a few hours rest and then write into the early hours. Feels like I could go to bed now. Staying up until 4am was not the sensible way of watching the debate but there's something about live political events that I can't resist.

I have written and polished about 2000 words today, the article I've just linked to and something for elsewhere (I hope). Next I'm tempted to write about Cameron and Corbyn at PMQs today. Seemed a nasty little session and there's much I'd like to write. However, dimly aware of Christmas looming. I've not done a thing about it and I've not even drawn a card this year. Not sure if I will. I've managed to de-Christmas myself more and more each year and this year I just look on it as a normal week, albeit when nobody will be in contact. I could get lots written. Perhaps I should put it to some good use and write something long. I don't know... I'm tired. I can only manage vague thoughts tonight.

Writing long pieces every day, either for TW&TW why or elsewhere, is such fun but it feels utterly rotten when you know that nobody else seems to care what you've written. Sometimes I feel like I'm just too prolific but I find it hard not to write. I like feedback, emails from strangers. So rare it happens. I think it's a sign of people's essential indifference to anything and everything. Only when I was writing as Dick Madeley did they really care what I said. I could have written anything and they'd have crawled over glass to speak to me. As myself, even my best is rarely good enough. An odd thing about people, once you realise it, or perhaps just an odd thing with Richard Madeley fans.

I'd love to see the new Star Wars movie, mainly to avoid some bugger spoiling it for me. I suspect some prat like Jonathan Ross will pop up on TV and give the game away. Not sure I'll be able to last until it appears on DVD but, at the same time, not sure about the cinema. I understand it's damn pricey.

Part of always doesn't want to see the new Star Wars movie. I feel like I'm being sold something I don't want to buy. I guess I'm just suspicious of Disney. This is nostalgia harvesting and I'm sure I don't want to be part of it.

Then I see Harrison Ford interviewed on Sky News. Maybe I do want to see it. I want to see the new Blade Runner too, though I doubt if Scott could pull it off again. Part of Blade Runner's brilliance is that it is flawed and the technical difficulties make it what it is. I suppose it's a bit like Jaws, in that the lousy mechanical shark made the film better because Spielberg had to adapt...

Hmm... I enjoy writing like this straight into the blog. The pleasure of the ramble...

The women in Tesco were wearing antlers today. Not sure if I consider that a perk of the job or a public humiliation. I was tempted to say something like, 'you want to have a doctor look at that' but I expect they hear that all day long. Like that episode of the Simpsons when he visits a car show and says to the model standing there 'do you come with the car' and she laughs like she's never heard it before. Then somebody else walks up and asks the same thing and she laughs identically to before...

The family across the road have decorated their house with white fairy lights. They have them blinking at something like 10hz. Every time I open the curtains or step outside I feel like it's enough to induce a fit. Why do people do that? It's not as though they can see it themselves? Not sure it's not an aggressive act and I shouldn't respond.

Why do people only eat tiny cheeses at Christmas? I love tiny cheeses and would love to eat them all year around.

I did buy a Christmas box of biscuits today but realised only too late that they're normal biscuits but in a tin. I think I've been tricked into buying a large tin.


Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The Hitch and America

A new piece written today to commemorate the death of Christopher Hitchens and what he might have thought about the sad spectacle of the Zadroga Act in the US.

I suppose because I've been writing more serious pieces than comedy this year, my tendency to pick up Hitchens' writings has been more pronounced. I've always loved his work and have done so since I realised that he has good tastes . Yet until Hitchens made his move to the right in politics, I was always doubtful about him as I am about ideologues of any kind. It was important for me that he changed his mind about a great many things and, if we're honest about this, at the expense of much ridicule. The willingness to adapt his thinking to new information was stronger than any of his arguments, even those where I found myself in agreement. I suppose he followed in the footsteps of his great hero, Orwell, another great English essayist who died too early from his addiction to tobacco.

Speaking of Orwell, I foolishly had a thought the other day and wondered how much a complete set of Orwell would cost. I thought, perhaps less than £50. Now I've done my research I realise that the complete set runs to 20 volumes and a single hardback volume costs £50. That's £1000 for the complete writings of a man who spoke most eloquently about inequality and the British poor. Such a grim irony about that.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Cameron's Christmas Card

Over at TW&TW I've written a piece about the rhetoric of evil. Meanwhile here, I thought I'd make David Cameron's Christmas card look a little more festive.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Sand Dogs Revisited

A quick blog post in my current fashion of writing quickly and straight into the browser window. Apologies for typos.

As is usual, I have three articles open in my word processor at the moment and I'm trying not to lose my thread in any of them. However, I wanted to quickly revisit the sand dog controversy. Brief catchup: I wrote this blog post a year or so ago. I think I might well have been the first person to raise the issue of sand dogs and whether they are fake. That post is one of those that have brought most hits to the site, having been linked to countless times over the years. Indeed, a few months ago, realizing that this was 'an exclusive' I tried to pitch this very story to various news outlets and nobody was interested. Typical. Now it's been picked up by the mainstream media and this blog is getting hundreds of hits by the hour. I'm being cited as the chief cynic as to the veracity of the sand dogs.

What makes this particularly ironic is that in Liverpool the other day, I watched a guy carving a sand dog and I watched as he definitely 'cut'into part of the sculpt to pull away sand. That's not to say there isn't a scam going on but the examples shown in this Quirker and this  Metro piece are, to my eye, real sculpts. They also look infinitely better than the examples I've seen dotted across the North West. You'd have to be really cynical to believe that the guy who also added the puppies to the dog was anything less than an artist. The guys I see working the local market are no artists.

Not that I'm really bothered one way or another. I've long since realised that there are more interesting things to talk about. And on that score, I recommend you head over and read my George Galloway article.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Galloway, Twitter & Christopher Hitchens

Over at CapX, I'm removing my gloves and laying into George Galloway and his habit of blocking anybody who disagrees with him. Here is the graphic I doodled whilst writing the piece.

On Waiting, Tim Kreider & Ralph Steadman

Well, my newest disappeared down the email chute a few minutes ago and I now have the nervous wait for judgement. Normally when I finish an article, I feel little except the excitement of what I'll write next. The article I've just sent away is different. It's something I must have been mulling over writing for a long time. When it emerged, it came out better than I hoped.

I am a lousy judge of my own work. The things I like, usually others ignore. The things I write quickly and very throwaway, usually attract attention. This article might attract attention because it has an edge and is partially a defence, homage, commemoration of Christopher Hitchens who dies almost four years ago, 15th December 2011. It might go unremarked but I'd put it up in the top 5% of things I've ever written. To have it rejected would, I think, make me go 'ouch'.

I also drew a cartoon for it or an illustration, depending on how lofty you view the difference between the two. And the illustration was also one of my better efforts. I've always worked well when I have confidence. When I'm down, I can barely punctuate clearly. The illustration will probably go unused and I'll end up posting it here. I was told this week by a reader over at TW&TW that they find the combination of writing and cartoon too much. Not sure why it should be the case. What difference does it make if a writer is also the illustrator. Perhaps it's just because it's such a rare conjunction. Now I think about it, I can only think of Tolkien (not a great illustrator, in The Hobbit, but always sad to see his line drawings replaces in special editions), Mervyn Peake (whose wonderful illustrations for Gormenghast are as dark and twisted as his prose), and then the brilliant essayist and cartoonist, much under-appreciated and, I guess, little known here in the UK, Tim Kreider.

[Scratches head. Opens browser. Hits links to Amazon. Types in 'Twilight of the Assholes' and clicks purchase.]

How stream of consciousness is this? Anyway, it's going to arrive in three days. I had a £10 voucher from my birthday sitting there for two months and I never had any idea what to buy until that moment I thought about Kreider whose website I used to visit daily. I always intended on buying his book but, as is life, simply forgot. Great cartoonist and fine writer. He did, if I recall correctly, a really close analysis of a Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, which is worth a read if, like me, your a bit of  Kurbrick obsessive and think people really never understood the brilliance of that film. I remember sitting in our university common room trying to explain my theory about the use of colour whilst people looked at me like I was crazy trying to rationalise a film with so much female nudity. I am, of course, crazy but that's another story...

Where was I? Oh, yes. Kreider and other writer/illustrators.

No doubt there are more but those are the three that immediately spring to mind.

There is a fourth, of course, but to list him would be to cheat a little. Ralph Steadman is a pretty fine writer and it's easy to overlook the wonderful texts that accompany his drawings. My favourite of his books is his Freud and I'd be hard convinced to say that he has ever done anything better. Hmm... Perhaps his Da Vinci book.

Speaking of Steadman, I was in Waterstones in Liverpool the other day and saw his new book 'Nextinction'. I hate to say it but I find it a little bit depressing every time I see one of his pictures of a 'boid'. Not that they aren't wonderful but... Well, I wish he'd do something else. This is now two huge books of boids and, I'll be honest, I couldn't like the first enough to buy it (plus they are both hugely expensive and usually far outside my finances). I know the environment is something we should care about but if only he'd get back to drawing humans in all our ugly glory.

Ah, in the space it's taken me to write this (straight into the browser, unedited as usual), my article has been accepted for publication, possibly this weekend. Hoo-rah! I'll now take a deep breath and start the next, though knowing my chances of writing anything better (in my eyes, at least) is very slim. But we live in hope...

Thursday, 10 December 2015

How not to conduct a debate about Donald Trump

Wednesday felt like a long day. In various ways, it felt like I was having the same conversation over and over again. It was a conversation about freedom of speech and people seems incapable of grasping the simplest point: that people have the right to their opinions and, so long as they fall within the law, nobody has the right to silence them. What's so difficult about that?

Well, I'll tell you what's wrong with that. People is what's wrong with that...


People: Donald Trump is an idiot and needs to be silenced.

Me: Donald Trump is an idiot but he has the right to say what he likes so long as it is within the limits set by the law.

People: But he's an idiot.

Me: Indeed he is.

People: And he shouldn't be allowed to say what he did.

Me: No, he should be allowed to say what he did. It's just that you disagree with what he said which is to your credit because he's clearly an idiot.

People: So why are you trying to censor me?

Me: Sorry?

People: You're trying to censor my right to tell him to shut up.

Me: No, I'm protecting your right to tell him to shut up but also protecting his right to keep talking.

People: This makes me so angry. We need to ban him from the country!

Me: Justin Timberlake makes me very angry. Can we ban him from the country as well?

People: You can't compare the two.

Me: Are you now banning me from comparing the two?

People: You admit that Trump is an idiot and I say he makes me angry so why can't we ban him?

Me: Because he has a right to speak unless he has broken a law.

People: You're clearly a fascist.

Me: I don't know how you reach that conclusion...

People: Because you agree with Donald Trump.

Me: I don't agree with Donald Trump. I think he's an idiot.

People: So why don't you agree to banning him?

Me: Because if we banned people who are idiots, most of us wouldn't get back into the country every time we went on holiday, got horrendously drunk, and woke up wearing somebody else's underwear.

People: Look. I've drawn a Hitler moustache on Donald Trump.

Me: Why?

People: Because he's like Hitler.

Me: You mean he's killed millions of people?

People: No.

Me: Started a war?

People: No.

Me: Implemented a program of genocide?

People: No.

Me: Then why is he like Hitler?

People: Because he wants to ban Muslims from America.

Me: Hitler never banned Muslims from America.

People: But he wants to do something very similar.

Me: Well, there you have a point...

People: I win!

Me: .. but not quite. Trump actually wants to ban terrorists from entering the USA.

People: But he specifically said all Muslims.

Me: No, he said all Muslims until the government can figure the problem out.

People: You're splitting hairs.

Me: I'm trying to accurately describe Trump's stupidity so we don't misrepresent something that is already a very controversial issue.

People: Look, nobody likes what he said. Why would you want to defend him?

Me: Because I don't like bullies of any kind. I don't like bullies who wish to persecute Muslims but I equally don't like bullies who wish to ban everything that they happen to disagree with.

People: Look, I don't have time to debate this now. I suggest you go look at the petition.

Me: I don't want to look at the petition and I never asked to debate this...


A few minutes then pass and then my Twitter following drops by one.


Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Two about Trump

Two new articles over at The What & The Why. The first, written Monday midnight, was a response to Donald Trump's nonsense and, for the record, was then republished over at Capx. The second was a response (and cartoon) to people's response to Donald Trump's nonsense.

As is usual, I'm writing my own blog straight to the screen. I need to get other things written today and can't spend too much time phrasing things well here.

What I will say about the Donald Trump outrage is how poorly liberals have emerged. In the past, I've been accused of being a liberal myself and, in some senses, I'm happy with the label. I'm all for gun control in the US and I'm critical of austerity here in the UK. I'm also opposed to Trump, though I try to look on him without allowing my emotions to cloud the issue. He is wrong on so many things but the best way to respond isn't to demand that he be banned from the UK or that honorary degrees be stripped from him. For want of a better word, that all seems so damn childish.

I got into a protracted Twitter conversation today in which I probably didn't make myself clear. I worry that people see my defence of freedom of speech as being a defence of Trump. Of course, it must be that to some degree because it is his speech that would be restricted if the bans came into force. Yet I am no defender of Trump's ideas, merely his right to express his point of view. Some people seem to find that difficult to understand.

Monday, 7 December 2015

New Week, Old Problems

Writing is rarely my problem. Drawing isn't either, so long as I have the time and energy. Some days I might struggle to come up with a decent joke but that too is usually linked to tiredness and not thinking about the joke early enough in the day.

My main problem is simply finding places to send my work. I am not a great networker and, what's worse, I am plagued by insecurities. The combination is bad in the sense that I read all manner of rebuke in a failed email. It's the lonely side of the business, though writing is always a lonely line of work. You write to communicate and, hopefully, have communication back but it rarely ever happens. Most days it feels like yelling into a very deep and bleakly black hole. You're lucky to hear an echo.

I have three essays written and one good cartoon but I expect they'll go the way of most: disappear into my 'Essays' folder, never to again see the light of day. I could blog them but, really, it's the ultimate admission of failure. Perhaps it's the weather that drives me to this mood. It's been dark for weeks and I should, in truth, bang on the SAD lamp. I think it works when I do but until I do I doubt if it can be anything as simple as that. Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Why is Johnny Depp allowed to torture on the NHS?

A few years ago, a relative underwent major surgery. It was a bad time but eventually came the moment when we could visit. 'So,' I said, once the greetings were done and tears shed, 'is there anything I can do?'

'Yes,' replied my relative, 'you can turn that [flipping] TV off!'

A monitor on an arm positioned above her bed was looping a video of Andrew Lansley saying how much he cared.

'It's been hell,' she confided. 'That [fool] has been driving me crazy and the nurses say that they're not sure if they're allowed to turn that [rearward facing cavity] off!'

I was shocked and angry but, like many people at the better end of  a period of anxiety, happy not to make too much of a fuss once my relative returned home.

Fast forward a few years. Fast forward, in fact, to a few weeks ago when another of my nearest and dearest found themselves in hospital undergoing major surgery. An anxious week ended on the Friday when I could finally visit.

I found said N&D sitting in a corner of a completely empty white room but the view from the window was spectacular, with the hills of North Wales visible in the distance, the spires of Liverpool's twin cathedrals away to our distant right. However, her chair had been pushed into a corner with no view at all. After the usual greetings were done and tears shed, I said something dumb like 'so how's it been?'

'Waking after the operation was hell,' she replied. 'I could barely move or speak. I had tubes down my throat and I was in pain. But the absolute worst part of it was having that [blooming] TV screen looping the trailer for a Johnny Depp movie all night long.'

I was intrigued. 'Which movie was it?'

Her face soured. 'Mortdecai.'

Ye gods! I thought. Then this truly is a case of state-sanctioned torture.

My N&D proceeded to explain how she'd tried all ways to avoid looking at the screen. Around 4am, she'd even tried to turn over, hardly advised after major organ removal. Finally, after about twelve hours, she found the strength and lucidity to ask a nurse to turn the screen off which they thankfully did.

I don't suppose there's much coincidence about these two anecdotes. I expect it's a common experience of patients subjected to bedside TV screens that endlessly loop the banal punctuated by the brash until they break a person's will and force them to pay for an exorbitantly expensive service. Personally, I don't hold Johnny Depp culpable but neither do I claim he's entirely innocent. He and the NHS are complicit in the wilful torture of patients. Overstatement, you say? Well, how do you think the CIA breaks the will of terrorists? They force them to watch the most toxic kind of TV played on a loop and, I don't care who you are, everybody eventually breaks if they're forced to watch Mortdecai. It's also wilful because it would take such little effort for the hospital authorities to make it obligatory that screens are turned off until a patient requests that they be turned on.

What does this also say about the role of the market in the NHS? It hardly makes the case that patients' care take priority over profit. Hospitals charge the sick more for one day's TV than prisoners have to pay for a week's viewing. How expensive can it really be to provide a free but basic service to patients? In this day and age when most of us own a screen in the form of a tablet or phone, it needn't involve huge capital expenditure. The BBC at the very least could be made available via the kind of wi-fi service provided for free in coffee shops and libraries. When a member of the local patient liaison service explained to me how the family of one ill patient had to spend over £50 a week in order that they could have TV and wifi access, it made me wonder quite who this service is meant to serve: patients,  shareholders, or politicians.

However, that is tangential to my point because all of that is about choice. What isn't about choice is when the sick in our hospitals are treated as a captive audience. There is no matter of choice when patients wake up, heavily sedated, often unable to move, their dreams and reality confused and made even more nightmarish by looped drivel serviced by the likes of Hospedia and Patientline. Forget politics and the ideological battle of free market versus state control. Think instead of common humanity. Stop treating serious illness as though it's an advertising opportunity. Patients deserve better and so, incidentally, does Johnny Depp.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Blood, Insomnia, Dreams Part 2

Just to add detail to a day that was already bad... Quick recap: Insomnia due to job worries and then close member of my family had bust her nose, right across the bridge. I'd gone to the rescue, done all I could, clean the wound which looked nasty but not quite stiches-nasty. Then I'd bandaged it and mopping up. Then had to go replace the medical supplies that I'd used up and buy a few that we'd need to help the wound get better.

So I jumped on my bike, cycled across town, and locked up my bike outside the shops. Quick dash around to get what's needed and headed back to my bike.

My bike is a new bike so I lock it with two locks. One goes around the frame and back wheel. Another around the front wheel. The rear lock is one of those U locks. The front one is a chain and padlock.

I take off the back U lock and then reached for the padlock.

I froze.

I stared at the padlock.

That wasn't my padlock.

My mind rushed with confusion. I tried my keys just in case I was mistaken. But no. The lock wasn't my bike padlock.

Then it struck me. To get my bike out, I have to take off the chain that locks the shed. That chain is also fitted with a padlock. And that was this padlock. The padlock whose key I never take out with me.


The only part of this that involves luck is that I knew a friend was due to visit the doctor. I rang her. Yes, she wasn't far. So, run across town, jump into her car, drive home, pick up the keys, drive back up town to unlock my bike so I could then cycle home.

By then, it was dark. The traffic was bad and I was bloody knackered not having eaten a thing all day due to the blood, the insomnia, and the rest. To add insult to injury, when I pulled my bike out of the bike rack at Tesco, it dislodged a trolly which then proceeded to demolish all the other bikes. Took me five minutes to untangle them and get the stood up again.

I swear that I've been cursed.


Blood, Insomnia, Dreams

My morning was entirely consumed by a medical emergency. So much so that it's now 2pm and I've only just put on my socks. A member of the family tripped on the pavement and the impact of her face smashing into a concrete flag caused her glasses to cut the bridge of her nose. It fell to me to patch her up, mop up the blood, and otherwise run around providing help. Don't think it's a cut large enough to need a stitch but, for a time, wasn't sure.

Anyway, by the time that was done, I came to my office to do some work. I'd already been awake since 5am having one of those rare bouts of insomnia caused by the stress of now being without regular income. I need to find a job or sell just one or two articles a month. Sounds easy but the reality of writing (and to a lesser extent cartooning) is that words lack value when the market it over-saturated with dross. Towards that goal, I have realised that I've been going about it all wrong. It's why I couldn't sleep. My mind was filled with new plans. Today was meant to be the start of a new routine except the accident happened, I now need to go out to get some medical supplies and, well, such is life...

I thought I'd take a ten minute gap to blog but, when I sat down to write, emails began flying into my inbox. Overnight there was a SPAM attack on this blog which my SPAM protection had failed to stop. I had to spend give minute deleting emails from Ravi, Cecep, Arran, Carmen, Ninate, Daniel, Jorgel, Maureen, Auxilia, Jennifer, John, Patrick, Yomaire, Nilotpal, Toprak, VCR, Bahdim, Adm, Wanami, Osigwe, Maria and all the rest...

All of which is my way of saying: I don't think I'm ever destined to do what I want in life. Write and draw. Don't want to be a millionaire. Don't want a car or holidays or even glory (though a little appreciation goes a long way). I just want to be able to write my articles, the occasional book, and to fill both with my cartoons. Was that really too much to dream? Today it really does feel like I was aiming for the moon.



Wednesday, 2 December 2015

The Syria vote: a little reminder...

Cameron, Erdogan & Gollum

Over at TW&TW, I've written a quick piece about the whole 'terrorist sympathiser' controversy.

As is usual, that piece of writing took some time. Here on my blog, it's brain to fingers time. Excuse the typos.

It's a horrible fact that people tend to prefer two minutes of effort on Photoshop than two hours of effort with a pen and ink. Photoshop is too easy and although the results can look good, the joke is often less cerebral. A good Photoshop gag leads you into the unreality of the situation you've created. A cartoon requires that moment longer for the joke to establish itself. It belongs in a different realm of the imagination than does the Photoshop which is aiming for realism.

All that said, I had to do a quick Erdogan picture. The guy is a menace. Not only does he shoot down Russian aircraft and then try to hide behind the coattails of NATO, he is locking up cartoonists who dare ridicule him. It's chilling to think of how many years in prison I'd probably get for posting this image.

A David Cameron Cartoon

A new cartoon about which I can say very little other than: well, I liked it.

I drew it late last night after hearing Cameron's 'terrorist sympathizers' comment. I'm currently trying to write up my thoughts about that, so I'm not going to repeat them here.

It's a grey day. I'm watching some of the debate but trying to work. One of those days when I really wonder why I bother.  Posted the cartoon to Twitter: not a single retweet or like. I don't have a great number of followers so perhaps it's expected. Perhaps I just don't know the public mood. I can only respond to how feel and I feel that Cameron too often thinks and acts without thinking. Perhaps it's just crap.

I don't know...

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

About ISIS, Christmas and Sprouts

Okay, today I've just posted a new article over at TW&TW asking if there's any way that ISIS can emerge from the current conflict with something resembling a victory. My intention to get anything else finished today flew out the window the moment I realised I had to do some shopping.

All the usual shops are in the Christmas spirit already. I've not been in the Christmas spirit for about ten years. There have been times when I used to mildly look forward to Christmas but that's whenever I've been trapped in some deadend job. Christmas was always an excuse to do my own thing for two weeks. In periods of self-employment, Christmas is just a thing to get in the way of my doing the things I really love to do: writing and cartooning. When working, Christmas was time for the Work's Christmas Meal and I've always tried to avoid those whenever I can. Those I've gone to have been horrible drunken affairs filled with people not very funny when sober but even worse when drunk. Since I don't drink, I tend to sit there feeling unwelcome and utterly bored.

People naturally assume that I'm miserable. I'm not. Most of the time I'm a clown who doesn't need alcohol to warp my reality. I find my reality warped enough. I'm also consistent. I think it would be hypocritical of me to criticise the religions of other people if, at the same time, I was wearing reindeer antlers or celebrating the birth of a guy I don't believe was immaculately conceived and rose from the dead.

What annoys me most of all about Christmas is that I'm not so dim that I can't see what's going on. The shops have computer systems that just rotate the stock on certain days. There's a mechanical indifference about these seasons and it's usually people with the least money that spend the most 'for the children'. It's sad as it is predatory. And though people think I hate Christmas because I'm a 'Scrooge', I actually hate Christmas because I see people made unhappy because of the false illusions of happiness forced to us at Christmas. I despise those John Lewis ads, which have become 'a thing' each year. They are nothing but illusions wrapped around illusions. The food looks good when photographed but, in reality, is probably stone cold, the steam is liquid nitrogen, and the colour of the turkey is probably painted on. I really don't want to live my life by other people's lies.

Lastly, I hate people using Christmas to say how much they hate sprouts. Everybody hates sprouts except for me. I love sprouts. If I could chance Christmas, I'd change it to a sprout festival. And, yes, in case you haven't guesses: I'm still typing this rubbish straight into the browser window and not doing a jot of editing. So if there were any typos in any of the above, I'm sorry. I now need to go write something that might (in theory) make me enough money to eat my favourite vegetable this Sproutmicklemas.