Monthly Archives: December 2014

‘TIS THE SEASON TO BE JOLLY

Memories of simpler Christmas times…

Rupert at ChristmasIn those monotone post-war years of long ago, the colour button was turned up as soon as my darling first family got together for the Christmas break. Boarding schools were forgotten, decorations relocated, gigantic woolly stockings retrieved, and Woolworths down the bottom of our high street ready to be visited. This was possibly the best bit. Loads of vibrantly coloured tat that was the very spirit of Christmas – paper chains, flat things that creaked open to form paper bells, silver covered Santas and reindeer to hang on the tree, and candles shaped like little singing choirboys, which took on a very different look when they were lit.

The Christmas feeling started there and then. Maybe it was snowing. Maybe happy couples scurried past with wide grins and Christmas trees over their shoulders. Maybe Santa stood outside the International Stores ringing his bell. Maybe we got home to the smell of baking, with an invitation to stir the pudding mix. If anyone could bottle that feeling, and sell it to every child in the land, they would make a fortune.

Christmas morning – and the mighty stockings at the ends of our beds had been filled by Santa, and the deal was to sit on Mummy and Daddy’s bed to open them. Red and white striped sweetie walking sticks. A magic trick or two. A tin racing car with made in China printed on it, and a warning from my Mum that the edges were sharp and dangerous. And an orange at the end to help keep the stocking shape.

Downstairs to the strains of Uncle Mac on the Light Programme, to start preparing nibbles for our Christmas morning party – gherkins and cheese, biscuits with patė or a circle of sliced cheese, carefully cut out with a serviette ring, and finished with a caper. Superb.

After the eighty odd people had drunk us out of house and home and left for their own celebrations, and Peter the barman had said his goodbyes for another year, Mother and Berry started to prepare the gigantic Dickensian lunch for the fifteen lucky people still hanging around. Turkey was applauded, sprouts were avoided, pud was ignited, crackers were pulled (and girls in later years) and drunken speeches were made.

Then out of the dining room and into the lounge for present time. A great big pile of brashly coloured parcels, promising new games, gadgets, puzzles and hopefully not handkerchiefs and socks.

At this stage Mummy would have a well deserved drink, Dad would fall asleep, my sister would take a walk with her latest thoroughly unsuitable bloke, and my brother and I would take on the latest Disney jigsaw.

Cake, tea, biscuits from the brand new tin with the coaching scene on it. And then bed, with a promise that I wouldn’t spend more than ten minutes on my new Rupert annual, and save the paper folding model always in there for the following morning.

All wonderful. But Boxing Day came, and was like someone pulled the plug on all the colour, and the nineteen forties world went back into black and white again.

SPEECHES

Part two…

And Finally 560My Mummy told me never to break a promise, so here is the second part of my drunken ramblings about great speeches I have made. I did one at my brother’s sixtieth, God bless him, which was a great success. I did it all as a poem, and I can’t remember much about it, but I do recollect a memorable stanza about him first meeting his wife. “It was warm. It was soft. It was free…”

Many of his discerning friends appreciated that one.

And when I announced that he was involved in the world’s oldest profession, estate agency, you would have thought Tommy Cooper had been hired for the gig.

So, several other fast and funny, long and boring speeches have followed, memorably the one on the day I married my lovely Cathy. They needed one of those hook things to get me off that time…

So, to last Friday, when a printers society had agreed to actually pay me for talking about my dubious career as a cartoonist, as long as I drew them a Christmas card while I was there.

About a hundred jeering wine filled printing types greeted me when I got up, and appreciated my comments on the chairman’s suit. Being Black Friday (whatever the hell that is) I said his heavily striped apparel was still too expensive, so he bought the barcode instead. Much amusement. I was in.

Cut to ten minutes later, when I had probably bored everyone in the room with my tales of London trendiness in the sixties, and dropping cider all over my first attempt at animating the Jumblies (see my award winning recent attempt by clicking this link: http://goo.gl/yqq5RV ) and had my Cluedo play touring round the country, I decided enough was enough, so I made a few tasteless jokes and got off before the pud arrived – which the printing glitterati were obviously more interested in.

I made my excuses and left, feeling thoroughly fed up that my unique blend of wit and wisdom had failed to ignite these exponents of the classic print world one-liner.

I had to stand up on the train back to my home patch, realising that my ‘sure to succeed’ speech system may just not be what my next one, opening the Thame Art Show, were looking for.

I shouldn’t have worried. The art show went like a dream – love and laughter abounded, and some of my legendary confidence (which is a myth) came slowly draining back.

Thinking about the whole thing, I remembered that, in the early seventies, I had an interest in a printing company, and whenever I made an off colour remark to my first wife she would ask “Have you been with the printers again?”

Give me the art show lot any time…

SPEECHES

an article in two halves…

Dress-down Friday

my part of the Battle of the Cartoonists mural a couple of years ago

Part one. If you were to go on my wonderful website www.duncancartoons.com you could find a little film of me and celebrity chef Lotte Duncan drawing in Trafalgar Square. This was the first of a few gigs for the international Campaign for Drawing, which has spent the last few years encouraging millions of kids (and adults) to draw for the total pleasure of it. Since its early days, before it spread across dozens of scribbling countries, the campaign has been masterminded and run by the true superstar Sue Grayson Ford – a lady who shows the sort of commitment that made Britain great.

Several times after my debut in Trafalgar Square I have appeared in public to show off my dubious cartooning skills in front of hundreds of people. A cartoon workshop at Paddington Station. A Battle of the Cartoonists at some cool place in the city, where we pitted our Pentel wits against the Guardian, the Independent and Private Eye – a bunch of cartoonists producing an 8ft cartoon banner in about three hours. Something I can’t quite remember at Somerset House. And a really good cartoon workshop at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where several of my long suffering friends turned up to cheer me on…

All great fun, but on one occasion I made the mistake of showing the lovely Sue that I was quite adept at (and enjoyed) doing microphone commentaries.

She phoned me last Saturday and, complimenting my deep, confident deep brown voice, said someone else had dropped out and would I like to present and do a running commentary on this year’s Battle of the Cartoonists. It was to be the following day, Sunday, and after obtaining permission from head office I was on my way in the rain to a far flung venue in Docklands.

What a place! Originally obviously a seedy nineteenth century warehouse, the space boasted old brick walls, creaky steps, a welcoming glass of wine, the ever effervescent Sue, and a microphone.

Plenty of punters had braved the rain to watch our jolly band of cartoonists in action, and the time flew by. I amused myself by occasionally grabbing the roving microphone and saying things like, “Don’t worry. I’ll stop talking before you get fed up with me… So goodbye.” Wit and wisdom like that. After promising an in-depth interview with a famous cartoonist I asked him how he was. He said “Fine,” and I thanked him for putting his life and career on line like that.

I also did that old one when I asked a member of the public where he came from. He said “Clapham.” I said “Sorry?” And he said Clapham again. I said “I said I was sorry.” Classic stuff I think you’ll agree…

I told an Andy Capp joke wrong and threatened to tell it again until I got it right. Too many mumbles of disagreement from my fellow cartoonists eventually made me give up the idea..

After a lovely interview with a little girl, and a few more incredibly witty and inciteful comments I counted down to the end and called “Stop cooking.”

The Independent won, with a marvellous interpretation of ‘what Britain is like now’ by five of that country’s best, and we all had a glass of wine, loads of cartoony chat, and left in the pouring rain for our dismal garrets, where artwork is the thing, and we carry on being creative until we bleed. Or something like that…

Part two is after this Friday, when I am telling the Printers Federation lunch my life story. I’ve got five minutes. Sounds rather a lot for my life…