Monthly Archives: June 2014

TEENAGERS TRANSLATED…

Teenagers? I could write a book about them. Well, draw cartoons about them anyway…

Two very bright ladies, Janey Downshire and Naella Grew, approached me a couple of years ago to commission some Duncan cartoonery. I did a couple of quick sketches at the time, one of which was a puzzled parent staring into the brain of a stroppy teenage lad as far as I remember. And that was it. The cartoon visuals disappeared into my computer under the title Teenagers or some other imaginative title, and I got on with other world saving pursuits, probably drawing elephants in shorts or something. Maybe elephants drinking shorts – I get confused.

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Anyway, all forgotten until a few months ago, when a publisher got in touch to ask me if I would do some cartoons on the subject of… teenagers. Bells range in that dormant cell I keep on top of my head and, within minutes I was looking in wonder at my archive material. No surprise then when I heard that the writers of this tome were the self same Janey and Naella. ‘I know them!’ I cried before I had time to turn my interestingly cool and indifferent tap on.

So it was arranged. We all had a good laugh about the budget, and I put pen to paper. I met up with Janey at a service area (because I know how to treat a woman) and got a lovely reaction to my efforts. Suddenly I decided the budget didn’t matter anymore, in the words of Buddy Holly, and a new book with my name in it (there have been quite a few) was underway.

Result? A fab parcel arrived with two copies of Teenagers Translated in it. Check the spelling of my name. Check the reproduction of the cartoons. Check when the launch party is.

It was last Tuesday. The ladies were delighted that I turned up – in Notting Hill, at one of the most beautiful bookshops I had ever seen – and I was delighted that the place was cram full of punters, all itching to get their hands on a signed copy (or maybe itching to be away from their teenagers for a few minutes). I even signed a few copies.

Happy time. I bought some Winnie the Witch books to complete my little boy’s collection (illustrated by the truly brilliant Korky Paul, who I had lunch with recently) and took my leave, wishing I could stay longer and get stuck into the white wine instead of being stuck on the A40.

Good book. Great ideas and tips for parents of these strange pubescent creatures, and some stunning cartoons. I drew them. Did I mention that?

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FRIDAYS…

Best day of the week…

Friday-275wWhen I started working at home about thirty years ago I imagined that the ‘weekend feeling’ would be a thing of the past – since I was at home anyway. Not so. I still look forward to the weekend, although it is a mix of Tesco (thinks… there’s a blog subject) driving the boys around, and generally helping out in my inimitable way.

But then I realised – Saturday is too late! It’s Friday that matters, and the weekend has begun to fade slightly by Saturday. And Sunday? Huh…

But Fridays! Ahhh Fridays! prospects of a gentle winding down. Nobody grumbles if you finish a bit early. Especially if a cool glass of Sauvignon beckons, followed by maybe a visit to the local Indian (restaurant, not a bloke…) or the Dinner Man as my little son rather patronisingly calls it. Home for EastEnders, if that hasn’t ruined the idyll, and if I’m very very lucky, Have I got News For You – ideally with Brian Blessed or someone equally daft in the chair.

And tomorrow morning? Lazing around in bed, with no one shouting about school buses and missing gym kit, and just the prospect of the full English.

Ok, I’m cooking it – but nothing’s perfect.

Bottle bank time, when if we meet someone we know we pretend it has taken a month to collect this lot, or we say gay (in the old sense of the word) witticisms about ‘ This was just last night’s!’

Monday seems ages away, and we may even be facing the prospect of dinner out with friends (are you going to wear that?) ( does my bum look big in this? Why wouldn’t it?) and chatting up the in laws for babysitting reasons. Bless ‘em, best ever.

Anyway, I digress. No change there. Friday has a warm jolly feeling, and today the sun is shining, I had an alfresco lunch with my beloved, and I’m whiling away the hours before the fun begins. Well the weekend anyway…

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MY OLDEST CLIENT…

Commitment to his invention has kept him free from boredom for 50 years…

Keen-3-275wJust a lad myself, bright young designer dressed in what I thought was a snappy light beige suit, I drove in my MGB GT to Hayes to meet a man who had invented a lighter refill system that was on the verge, literally, of taking over the lighter refill world. And before you say ‘limited market’ or other silly comments like that, it is worth bearing in mind that this was the mid-sixties, and everyone in the world smoked – and couldn’t wait to get their hands on these new-fangled gas lighter things.

His invention was the development of a gas aerosol, with six adaptors stored in the patent can cap, that could literally fill every lighter in the world.

We got on well immediately. I had a hand in redesigning the original can and its cap – and have spent my life producing imaginative and fun ways to promote this world beating product ever since. He was a man of many parts, and these parts included a near complete understanding of aerosol technology and, more than that, a total understanding of the world marketing scene.

Result? The product has now been selling in huge quantities all over the world for fifty years, it is recognised as the undisputed leader in its field, and still sports a can design which is mine. On top of that, I once suggested a crenulated cap to hold the precision made adaptors, which is now thought of as the trademark of this billion selling product.

He sells his lighter refill in virtually every country in the world, has beaten off any competition, and it is recognised as the benchmark for impurity free butane. Pure enough to power any butane powered gadget you can think of.

Wow! A wonderful business, a wonderful life, based on a simple idea at a garden party fifty years ago.

Now in his mid-nineties, with sight and hearing problems, he dresses sharply, attacks every new day with great vigour – making sure his beloved product, Newport, is bang up to date, and ready for every new marketing challenge.

I always tell him he should write a book – to inspire all those people who have great ideas, and then decide to forget it at the first hurdle.

He is, as they say, an inspiration to us all.

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WONDERFUL TENBY…

Where the sun always shines! (Well it did last Monday…)

This isn’t going to be a travelogue, well it may be a bit, but I just want to put on record to my enormous following who hang on my every word, that Tenby is one of the hidden delights of our fair land.

Jamie-300WAttached is a fab photo of my son cavorting in the briny.

After a drive from hell which lasted five hours in the pissing rain from beginning to end, with only two stops for Costa and various biscuits, including shortbread and those waffle things which are sticky in the middle, we arrived at the sort of seaside hotel that reminds everyone of past seaside holidays. I gratefully took a couple of glasses of wine, uttering the sort of ‘it doesn’t get any better than this’ kind of remark. we walked for five minutes, and took to the mean streets of Tenby.

And how lovely it was – I have never seen beaches like it, and the town was buzzing with an innocent gift shops/sweetie emporiums/ cosy restaurants kind of atmosphere. We settled on a pub that would serve the boys’ taste in evening fare – chips mainly, and prepared to enjoy. Five minutes later I was outside for fresh air, ten minutes later I had collapsed and woken up with a crowd around me. If I ever had any doubts about Cathy’s love they were dispelled at that moment. She held my head and hugged me in the emerging rain as we waited for a paramedic to arrive. He was wonderful. The pub’s strong arms were wonderful in spite of the fact that I told them they must be used to knocking people down instead of picking them up. And the police were wonderful. (Didn’t I cause a stir?) And the ambulance guys were wonderful as they drove me to the truly wonderful Haverford west Hospital. Result? I’m ok. Loads of blood tests (negative.) Wired for sound all over the place (negative.)

Back to the hotel by taxi – a sadder but wiser man.

Next day, and here comes the travelogue bit, sheer delight visiting the locale as if nothing had happened, a boat trip to an island where monks make chocolate (wise monks) and sing chants. My little man made a sandcastle and swum in the sea. I sat there thinking how wonderful…

Tenby. Go there. It’s lovely. Just don’t keel over outside the pub…
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EASTENDERS…

Proof of how much I love my wife…

Am I alone in not caring a damn that Shirley has drunk a bottle of vodka and has now passed out? Or that Billy’s wife is off to Canada after he hasn’t seen her for years anyway? Or that Jack had gone missing and luckily turned up on Strictly? Or David has stopped being a doctor on Holby or something and has been chucked out by Carol? Or that everybody spends their life in the Queen Vic instead of doing any work?

When I first got together with my darling wife (in whom I am well pleased) two things were made clear – I would become a fan of Milton Keynes, and no wry comments about concrete cows, and I would have to learn to love EastEnders. After that, all the wonders that is womanhood would be mine. So I did.

eastenders_275wThe EastEnders lot must be the only people who never talk about EastEnders.

Phil smiled the other night which is a sure sign that something ghastly will happen to him soon – probably with a groan of ‘Wass goinon?’ Shirley has made a miraculous recovery from the vodka, and her family don’t seem to mind at all, and a new chemist seems to have appeared from nowhere. Doom doom doom doom doom…

My attempts to say that Coronation Street was great in the early sixties, when it wasn’t called Corrie, and Ken Barlow went to University not uni, are shouted down with what I can only construe as ageist comments. And all because she wasn’t born then, and me… well I was about the same age as I am now. I know we’ll never bring back Ena Sharples and Martha Longhurst, and especially Mr Swindley – played to perfection by the wonderful Arthur Lowe. It’s difficult to imagine him saying ‘Wass goinon?’ when Miss Nugent comes fluttering in.

It isn’t what it used to be. And what about pop music nowadays? Don’t get me started…

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POLITICAL GRUMBLE…

A bit of ranting now so I can leave the subject forever. After all I haven’t a clue what I’m talking about…

I saw a Twitter message once that said ‘What’s a Miliband?’ I don’t know why I thought that was funny, but I did.

And on the subject of strange people who have appeared from nowhere, why have we had Nick Clegg foisted on us? Ok, he’s Cameron’s type and they look quite a tidy couple – the sort the Americans would vote for in droves, waving their banners and sporting white Stetsons. But why is he there? As far as I remember, Cameron brought him in to make up the numbers and, ignoring the telephone box-full of smarmed down grinning Liberals that voted for him, no one else seems to want to know. And there he is, banging on as if he really is deputy prime minister, and even beginning to disagree with the leader who put him there in the first place.

But what do I know?

Train CartoonAnd while I’m thumping on the table in reactionary disgust, what about this bloody train? I live in a part of England, a beautiful part, which could do without a painful looking scar down its backbone. So yes, I’m a NIMBY. But my theory is that if you want to get to Birmingham ten minutes earlier, get up ten minutes earlier. Or don’t go at all – stay at home and draw instead.

And apparently they have put aside what will be about £100 billion to spend on it, presumably to show the French that we can play trains too – admittedly a quarter of a century after they did. But we don’t seem to have money for anything else, leaving poor people to trudge around marathon routes for good causes such as finding a cure for cancer, which should have been aggressively dealt with years ago. The government will tell you the funds come out of a different pot, a bit like me deciding to buy a new iPad instead of paying the mortgage. With any luck they’ll see sense and abandon the whole stupid idea. But I doubt it…

Hey, ranting about politics is fun! I’ll probably do it again after all…

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