Author Archives: AJT

MY LAST FEW DAYS…

Is there a k in knackered?

IMG_5111A week in the life of a cartoonist. Ready?

Last Friday I spent working on a storyboard for one of my speed draw film thingies (about 130 so far) in a bit of a flap because the following week was going to be hectic. And I don’t do hectic as well as I used to.

Got the storyboard done, although I didn’t understand what is was all about. Something to do with software. But not understanding my subject is nothing new, in fact in can be a great help because I write the first script too, and if I understand vaguely what I’m banging on about, anyone will.

So time for the weekend, and to take Jamie to a football tournament. I’m looking out of the window now, because it seems that every time I mention the words football tournament it immediately pisses with rain. Strange. Not today. It’s wall to wall sunshine. Anyway, I stood watching my little hero, fresh from his Players Player of the Year Award, as he scored a fab goal and showed the opponents that he and the team were not to be messed with. All this to a backdrop of black angry clouds, continuous rain, and nothing more than the occasional cup of sulky coffee to cheer me up. When we drove home we couldn’t have been any wetter if we’d jumped into the local pool on the way.

And so to Monday, where I totally forgot to go to the school for my Comic Club workshop session, because I was building up to an evening conference cartoon gig in Birmingham. Birmingham? I thought, oh no (or words to that effect) but journey, evening, giving client satisfaction, and returning to the fold tired but happy all worked out well. I will include a cartoon from this jolly evening in this write-up if I remember…

Tuesday was a free day, with time to finish my incredibly complicated cartoon to promote the Thame Music Festival. Got a bit carried away, with an aerial view of Thame and hundreds of happy punters swarming around the lovely streets. Musicians stood 50ft high over this throng – but if you want to see this masterpiece you’ll just have to go along and support this great event on 8th July. That’s if we haven’t all left the country exactly a month earlier…

A gentle evening with my proud beauty (that’s Cathy in case you’re wondering what I meant) and it was up at 4.15am to be ready to meet star videographers Alan and Ben to get to our very own exhibition stand at the Excel by 7am. That business about best laid plans applies here, so the M25 let us down. Possibly the first time this fine carriageway has done that to anyone. In spite of a delay which kept us still for over three quarters of an hour, we were parked under the dreaded venue by 7.45, only to be told that the exhibition hall didn’t open until 8am. So there was nothing for it, and it was a tough call, but we just had to have coffee and bacon sandwiches while we waited. Huh.

IMG_5140Cut to 7pm. I’ve done my stint but the boys have to come back tomorrow. We’ve had a great day, largely thanks to an enormous tv we hired, showing the film that Alan and Ben put together, showing the wonders of speed drawing films. Other stands seemed to be rather quiet, but we were packed out all day – and not just because we were giving away cute DVDs of aforementioned film. Mind you, I looked a bit grotty on big screen. Think we’ll use Doris Day style soft focus next time…

I travelled across London in the rain (and not a football tournament in sight. Maybe it’s me…) settled into a little hotel near Bishopsgate and suddenly realised how hungry I was. The effect of the bacon sandwich had obviously worn off. Directly over the road was an eatery called Absurd – so macaroni cheese, coleslaw, chicken wings and a mega glass of Sauvignon seemed to work. It was the sort of thing that people have to do…

Next day it was all about conference cartoons. In case you haven’t been attending, or haven’t bothered to print out earlier blogs on the subject and kept them close to your heart ready to enjoy in quiet moments, this is where I sit at the back and knock out about 25 mono cartoons inspired by the topics of the day. Occasionally this is done on a 10ft board, where passers-by make their own witty suggestions. Other times I draw a bit more publicly, with a large video camera stuck over my shoulder. So no pressure.

This time a truly terrifying woman got me drawing on an 80″ tv screen in front of an assembly of about 400. Luckily she’s paid me so she won’t have to see my terrifying side…

Home again, with the prospect of having a debrief (as we laughingly called it) with Alan and Ben, and then sending wise and witty emails to the numerous people who had found our speed drawing films just a bit brilliant.

Busy now, but we can still handle more.

That was the week that was, in the words of Millicent Martin…

FLORENCE…AGAIN

Robert Duncan visits as lyricist, and 35 years later as cartoonist…

Florence-Conference-2000Back in the day (which is a cool way of saying way back when, years ago, when I was younger, time was… etc) I was working with darling teenage friends Gordon Waller (Peter and Gordon, number one with World Without Love, April 1964) and Robin Box (lead guitar with White Plains, Julie Do Ya Love Me, When You Are A King, 1970s) on a musical about Leonardo. I’m not saying we were teenagers then – we left that privileged position in the mid-sixties.

But dear friends we were, and if Gordon had managed to stay with us, change that to ‘are’.

It was the most exciting of times. We produced what we still consider to be a vastly underrated musical which, unlike today, didn’t have a naff song in it, and had several solid gold showstoppers. Thanks to sound man Bari Watts, genius director Peter Wheeler, and the Thame Players, we rocked the town to the extent that we predicted that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stranglehold on the West End musical was over. We took Leonardo into London for a brief and appallingly unsuccessful run, and returned home to lick our wounds. In my case, the wounds were mainly on my wallet. I lost the value of a small house.

But I digress (again, I hear you say). During the time I was deep into writing the book and lyrics for this masterpiece, I thought a trip to Florence would be in order. So off we went, finding time to visit the Uffizi, try out the local bars, and take a train to Vinci. A beautiful friendly place – giving me the line ‘Vinci, little town of inspiration’ which worked in well with Gordon and Robin’s riff or whatever they called it.

Cut to 2017, and I got a call in my capacity as conference cartoonist – where I turn up, listen to the topics of the day, and draw mono cartoons about them. I say to these wonderful clients that I will do at least 25 in the day, and on this occasion I managed 36. Lovely people, lots of ‘I wish I could do that’ and ‘you’re amazing’ which drives me on for some reason, and the day was done. After a business-like gin and tonic we all went to a delightful and historic restaurant, and everyone was totally chuffed with (a) how the day had gone, and (b) me.

Tired but happy as the saying goes, I returned to the hotel with Hilary, the client, and we both enjoyed another business-like gin and tonic as a nightcap. Breakfast was arranged and I suggested we should go up to the Piazzale Michelangelo, which I had remembered word-perfect from my eighties visit. A panoramic view of this beautiful city, with the River Arno meandering through it, and the Ponte Vecchio, with its curio shops, a bit like the old London Bridge we’ve all read about, crossing it in fine style.

Photos taken, grinning in front of the view to spoil it, it was time to get off to the airport.

Leaving this lovely place again. I took a photo of the plane and got a bollocking from ground staff. But there we are. This part of Italy hasn’t changed much for hundreds of years, but sadly security has.

‘Beastly Madness’ as Leonardo said, referring to war. Great title for a song. Thank goodness I used it back in the day…

THE QUEST TO BECOME THE WORLD’S MOST PERFECTLY DEVELOPED MAN

Robert Duncan is dragged kicking and screaming…

Running-ManAs dozen upon dozen of nubile young women can testify, I have a fine manly figure. So Cathy’s suggestion that maybe we should join the gym came as a bit of a shock, and took a mean side swipe at my delicate ego.

But anyone knows that trying to disagree with women is a hopeless cause (e.g. Spanish apartment, new small dog etc…) so I concurred.

Early discussions dismissed the local leisure centre because the pool is always too crowded, and the local stately home is too far away (and too expensive).

We settled on an outing to the Oxfordshire, a beautiful golf course which nestles seductively, curvaceous under soft green sheets, only minutes away from our gorgeous country home. As we drove up the long drive Cathy mentioned that it looked as delightful as a safari lodge in the Savanna or somewhere. I didn’t know what she was talking about, but it was obviously going to be a day when learning curves were going to be bent beyond recognition, so I concurred (concurred again. I might change my name to William and become William the Concurrer…).

We met up with a fit young man who grinned with about two hundred teeth, and bounded off towards the torture chamber.

Now at this moment I should digress, and tell you that I have a small failing. Oh shhh. I tend to press buttons if they are there. Like when I was with Lotte in an x-ray room and I pressed a button because it was all red and pressy. An enormous x-ray unit came hurtling towards us, and if it hadn’t been for Lotte yelling at me it would probably still be moving… and would be due to pass our house by next Tuesday. Anyway, it stopped. It must have responded to the timbre of her voice. Digressing further, my son, who has inherited some of my genes (the stone wash flares) stopped the London Eye, and got us a good telling off from the man on the loudspeaker.

Back to the plot. Mr Fit showed us round the machines and explained everything. Strangely he seemed to be addressing Cathy most of the time. I translated this as evidence that he thought I was fit enough already.

I got on surprisingly well on the bike thingy, mastered the cross trainer (didn’t make it any more cross) and approached the running machine with trepidation.

“Start off gently” Superman said, “and build up gradually.” Well, it all seemed very simple. I was strolling along at a speed I could have coped with for at least three minutes when I noticed three buttons marked 2mph, 4mph and 6mph.

Not wanting to show Charles Atlas (that’s for the older readers) that I was a weakling and could easily have sand kicked in my face, I hit the 6mph button. The thing took off at high speed and, in spite of hanging on to the handles they provide, I flew off the end and landed badly a few feet back from the machine from hell. Everyone stopped running, pedalling, straining, and looked at me. People were saying “are you ok?” and other bloody pointless remarks, to the extent that I could admit to bruising of my pride as well as my sore knees. I limped out looking a bit like Mo Farah. A bit…

I have probably mentioned in the past how fabulous, and just plain gorgeous, my Cathy is. And on this occasion she didn’t disappoint. After the merest hand over the mouth to staunch a giggle she suggested we should repair to the bar. Love her. Don’t know why…

Here we are a few weeks later, and I have been to the gym virtually every day. Waving at said fit bloke I stride in, plug in the earphones, and listen to half an hour of Hancock, the Goons, Dad’s Army or Just a Minute. Anything to take away from the infinite boredom of exercise. How these marathon runners cope I’ll never know.

Perhaps they don’t think.

No, that’s mean.

No it isn’t…

MY LATEST CONFERENCE CALL

Off to Scotland to draw some wee piccies. Aye…

InnovationI left Luton on a wing and a prayer last Tuesday, heading for Glasgow to do one of my conference cartoon gigs. In case you haven’t been attending, I am invited to go to conferences and sit around listening to the speakers (on any subject, from satellite TV to colostomy care) and produce up to 25 wise and witty cartoon gags in a day. These are then used for websites, emailings, newsletters, or in very extreme cases (like Volkswagen) turned into little booklets to send to the delegates as a souvenir of the day.

But the whole thing has become more complicated, and consequently more fun. Very often the imaginative and ground breaking client will supply an 8 ft board for me to create a mighty cartoon featuring the topics of the day. On one occasion I trundled a large roll of paper to Munich to do this very thing – and they loved it so much it is now in pride of place in their boardroom. And I have drawn cartoons live on my iPad Pro so the happy punters can see them developing on the big screen. Or I scan the A4 pictures on a sensational app on my phone and transfer them via Bluetooth to the AV desk for immediate projection to the pre-mentioned big screen.

Good eh?

Anyway, enough of that short and very snappy commercial. To get back to the plot I was flying into Glasgow for a conference hosted by a well known computer company. I stayed in a hotel in the Gorbals, which used to be incredibly seedy, and you had to be a mean machine to even enter its dodgy streets. But it’s ok now, and a lovely well maintained area, without a flick knife in sight. I must say I was grabbed by the Gorbals.

Still with me after that? I arrived at the venue at 7.30am and was made very welcome by everybody. Soon I was churning out some fab cartoons which were immediately transferred to the walls of the venue, a fantastic old brewery which has recently been taken over and is well worth a visit. Not that I tried any of the product you understand. 26 cartoons and a happy client later I was enjoying a glass of wine with all the jolly delegates, who incidentally were asked to wear Scottish attire and responded in varying degrees of keenness, some wearing a tartan tie, others looking like they could give Rob Roy a run for his money.

That evening I had that lovely feeling that I’d delivered what I was being paid for, had come up with some highly original ideas, and had delivered my own peculiar way of making a living pretty well.

So there was only one way to celebrate. Another glass of wine in the hotel bar, and a gammon and chips with a fried egg! Boy, I know how to live…

My plane didn’t leave until 3pm the next day, so I spent the morning (a) having a major breakfast, (b) watching two episodes of Frasier which were totally brilliant, and (c) writing some bon mots a bit like this on my iPad for eventual publication to my adoring fans (how are you sis?)

I reached Luton Airport in a white-out snowstorm and spent the next two hours attempting to drive home, thanks to my kindly satnav’s choice of skinny ice covered c road short cut, where my car made up it’s mind to slide around exactly as it wanted, ignoring any driving instructions and tweaks that this seasoned driver attempted to add to the mix.

Tired but happy, as the expression goes, I got home to complete Jamie’s part of a Scrabble contest, because he’d totally lost interest. My seven letters were UTUFLCK to be added to the word ON.

Next day? Crisis speed draw job for a certain oil company – storyboard by 6pm, finished film by 4pm tomorrow.

I like being a cartoonist…

DRAWING CARTOONS

That’s what Robert Duncan seems to be doing constantly…

babyBefore all you sweetiepies say “we know that” or “tell us some news” or more likely “here he goes again” I thought I would expand (and expound) on my chosen way of making a living.

I think I may have mentioned in the past that I first hit on the wonderful idea of becoming a cartoonist when I was about six. I was soppy, curly hair shoved mercilessly into a voluminous powder puff blob on the top of my head, wheezy, and with a lisp that my mother thought was cute and nobody else did. And I was no good at sport. Result? I was in danger – so I decided that I would attempt to amuse everybody. That was in the late forties (oh stop it, I know I don’t look it) and still largely applies today.

An occasion I often repeat (so my ardent followers will have heard it before) was when my father, a tall distinguished golfing sort of Knightsbridge estate agent sort of chap, strode into my bedroom when I was sitting up reading the Beano (I was 28. No I wasn’t) and said “Robbie my dear boy. You must give up these pretensions of being an artist, you will work in the office like Michael (my brother – a tall, distinguished golfing sort of Knightsbridge estate agent sort of chap.)” At that very moment I decided that I would not follow this bit of fatherly advice, and would become a famous artist. I would go to art school, study under Peter Blake among others, leave after a year and till my own furrow or whatever the expression is. Of course I didn’t think of this at the time, I just decided to turn down the potential multi-million offer and do what I loved. After all, I would have turned out the most frustrated and dissatisfied tall, distinguished golfing sort of Knightsbridge estate agent sort of chap in the history of distinguished golfing sort of Knightsbridge estate agent sort of chaps.

Enough of that.

Suffice to say my darling Dad ended up being very proud of me, and at least I have a job that brings the response “Do you really do that for a living?” It is constantly fun and has given me a silly outlook on life that colours my entire world, from the way I go on at dinner parties, to the chat I constantly give to my long suffering wife, to the jokes and half baked advice I offer my little son and heir.

And in reply to your next eager question, this week I have done a speed drawing cartoon under camera about the pound perishing on a Guy Fawkes bonfire, completed 34 cartoons for a technical book which is now going to be funny, and done a series of quarter page cartoon ads for a fab vodka co (including the typography) to appear in The Week. Order your copy now to avoid disappointment.

Waiting in the wings is my alphabet book, AlphaBetty, which is good, and could be possibly half as successful as I think it ought to be.

No point in hiding your light under a bushel, so to speak. That’s what I do – and unlike some pop stars I could mention, I seem to get better at it all the time.

Compare that with retirement, playing golf in Bermuda, and wandering around looking distinguished. I don’t think so…

CONFERENCE CARTOONING?

You’ve got to get up early to beat Robert Duncan…

mobile-receptionSo the alarm went off at 4am, reminding me in it’s subtle way that I would be cartooning in about five hours…. in Frankfurt. Gulp…

I got a sleepy kiss from my gorgeous Cathy ( which kind of made me want to stay) and left the house under the cloak of darkness. We’re a dramatic lot, us cartoonists.

I have a wonderful client called Purple Parking for whom I do a weekly cartoon (grammar) who has parking facilities at virtually every airport in Europe. Remember that place? Anyway, they always let me park free – and the barrier went up the moment I arrived, obviously because it recognised my number plate. A guy who was way too cheery for 5.30 in the morning took my keys and said leave it to him, and when I got back the car would be waiting – without even having to make a call. Brilliant.

At 7am I was taking off. At 8.30 I was in a hotel courtesy bus and at 9.30 I was drawing wise and witty cartoons inspired by the speeches and topics of the conference. By 6pm that evening this slightly jaded cartoonist had produced twenty five funny and relevant gags, had made line scans on my fantastic phone, and had blue toothed them to the AV desk to bung on the big screen. The joys of technology.

A fairly uproarious party followed, helped on by great canapés, loads of something sparkly, and an amazing honky tonk band that had been imported all the way from Barcelona, purely because they were so spectacular. They played up a storm and when the individuals were not in a number they would spend the time mixing mojitos and lining them up on the piano for us poor innocents to slurp. The lady who had employed me for this gig insisted I should try them, so I thought it would be rude not to…

Early night, which just goes to prove how sensible I’m becoming, and then back to the conference hall by 8am to make sure my projected cartoons were behaving themselves.

During the second day I added considerably to my cartoon collection, to the strains of such encouraging noises as ‘I wish I could draw like that!’ and ‘How did you absorb such a complex subject so quickly?’ And ‘these are much better than I expected!’ Inspiring stuff like that.

Tired but happy, as the Famous Five might have said, I left on a wing and a prayer at about 7.30pm and headed home to my little bunch of sweetie pies. Tired but happy with what I’d done.

The next day I felt knackered and had a shaking fit. Maybe it was the prospect of drawing a load of cartoons under camera for the opening of the Heath Robinson Museum the following day. But that’s another story…

ONCE UPON A WORLD … YET AGAIN

The nearest Robert Duncan got to literary success…

joseph-fullBack in 1976, when the world was young and my distinguished white hair was salt and pepper, I decided to write a children’s book. When I chose my subject a lot of people asked me if I was terribly religious (which I am rather) but I had to tell them that I chose the subject of the Bible for other reasons. One was that I knew it was the world’s best-selling book, and my slimy little marketing brain told me that if I could get a small bit of that action my future would be secure. The other more worthy reason was that the main stories of the good book were full of visual action and adventure, with lots of boats, animals, fiery furnaces and worryingly bad people. The sort of stuff that literary dreams are made of.

In a tiny room at the top of the stairs in my home in Pinner I set to, writing in long hand deep into the night and chuckling to myself because I found humour from an almost entirely untapped source. Add to that the fact that I was getting rather good at cartoons, and my project’s success seemed assured.

My mum, God bless her, was a very good, kind and religious person – so with a certain amount of trepidation I offered her the completed manuscript. I needn’t have worried. She phoned up in tears and said it was one of the most beautiful things she’d ever read. I had arrived.

Her favourite vicar, who had married me to my first wife, agreed to read the good book, and check the accuracy of the detail. This produced an unexpected offer, when he asked me to join him in a special Sunday service where I was to read a few passages of Once Upon A World (for that is what I decided to call it in a divine moment of inspiration). On a cold Sunday night, to a packed congregation, I delivered.

At this stage I hadn’t got a publisher, but I was working a lot and laughing a lot with John Adams of John Adams Toys fame, and his lovely wife Sue, and they had just decided to create a publishing arm to their trendy and successful toy company. I assured them that Once Upon A World would fit in perfectly, and miraculously they agreed.

Exciting times followed. The book was read out constantly on radio (including a near perfect rendition of The Creation by Terry Wogan’s beloved John Marsh) and I submitted to an in-depth interview on LBC by Bob Holness, who agreed to show up at a local book signing. His fame on Blockbusters (can I have a P please Bob) assured record attendances and sales.

W.H.Smith sold quantities of the little paperback, and it was reviewed favourably by almost everyone. Beryl Downing of the Evening News said “One of the most enchanting collections of Bible stories for children.” Other helpful comments came from the Church of England Newspaper ” I had not appreciated what an amusing book the Bible is until I saw it through Robert Duncan’s eyes!” Times Educational Supplement “The book is ideal for bedtime reading.” Book Window “Interesting, amusing and clever. Well worth reading.” Christian Herald “As soon as a child is able to read, this is just the book to place in its hands.” Etc…

I was in Heaven, which curiously was the subject of my slim volume.

A reprint was soon organised, and another one several years later, when a distributor in Kuala Lumpur took 40,000 copies for no apparent reason (so I’m now big in Kuala Lumpur).

To complete this success, which probably made me insufferable, a great bloke (who became an important friend) called Clive Jacobs picked up on Once Upon A World and featured it on his Sunday morning Radio 4 programme Sunday. Soon he had decided to record it and approached Bernard Cribbins to voice it. He said no (stupid sod) so Tom Baker was approached and turned it down (same applies). Finally Clive’s company went for John Le Mesurier, who they thought would be perfect but he was so involved with Dad’s Army that he probably wasn’t affordable, and he said YES!

Totally delightful recording sessions followed, where John muttered his way through the instructions, and then delivered gold in his gentle and perfect voice.

Bang up to date now. The John Le Mesurier recordings have been re-mastered courtesy of an ex-BBC bloke called Andrew Sewell and are currently available on Amazon.

I have frequently considered re-illustrating the book in my style of today and reissuing it – and I have finally realised that the simple 1970s cartoons have a naive charm, and should be cleaned up a little and saved. So Once Upon A World could be out there again any time for a new generation of eager punters to get their hands on.

After all, Little Charlotte read every word. My then bank manager’s daughter listened to the cassettes every night between the ages of five and thirteen. And Sir Tim Rice used to read it to his daughter when he wasn’t rushing off to produce another musical.

And currently I read it every night to Jamie, because he loves it.

Once Upon A World. It’s a nice little book…

BILBAO PARTYTIME!

The Duncan family gate crash a great event…

WaitingAfter a month of lazing about in and around our Spanish pad, with a load of friends who also enjoy (a) the sun, (b) eating out at any of a dozen alfresco restaurants and (c) putting away a few businesslike gin and tonics, we were just about ready to go home. So after a nine hour drive we finally arrived in Bilbao, ready for a simple dinner and a quick stay-over before we boarded the boat to whisk us back to reality.

The plan was to go to the city centre, have a gentle wander round, and have supper somewhere.

Not to be. We dumped the car and came out onto a street that was hopping. Thousands of people, street theatre, wonderful stalls, bars, dancers, and more people, all jostled around the river and up every square and side street that the lovely Bilbao has to offer.

What was the occasion? Cathy used her enormous knowledge of Spanish to establish that it was a festival that happens over a week every year. Everyone was wearing blue scarves, so we bought one for Jamie, who wore it proudly throughout the evening. After a couple of gin and tonics for medical reasons (clearing the effects of the swirling dusty streets) we found a lovely little bistro that suited all our tastes – a rare thing. We had duck breasts that were so wonderful, and so big, that we decided that Bilbao ducks probably stood about 6ft high and were not worth messing with. A quack from one of those would reverberate deeply, and probably shake glasses off tables.

Still in the mood to show off his new scarf (illustrated) Jamie set off with Sam to chase Pokemon Go or something, and only returned when an enormous bang brought them back to reality. Happily it wasn’t the work of a terrorist bent on ruining everyone’s life, but a gigantic firework. We decided to thread our way through the throng and find our car. We crossed a crowded bridge and edged our way vaguely in the direction of the absurd Guggenheim Museum (the exhibits, not the fab building) when another serious firework went off. A display the like of which I have never seen before followed. It matched the new year wonders around Big Ben that we only see on television – but this time we were seeing it live in all its glory. My love and respect for Sam increased further, if this is possible, when he lifted up Jamie so the little bloke could see better, and held him there for the duration of the show, which was probably twenty minutes. Bless them both.

Apparently the fireworks happen every night of the festival, with local sponsors trying to outdo each other, and spending what must be in the region of €40,000 a pop.

Tired but happy, as the saying goes, we returned to our hotel, all feeling thoroughly chuffed that we had gate crashed someone else’s party in such great style.

Sadly holidays have to have their last day, and you have to return to reality, but a night at the Bilbao festival must be one of the best exit plans ever.

Aloh ! (That’s hola backwards because we’re leaving…)

WE BOUGHT A BOAT!

The Duncan family take to the seas…

Boat1We have dined in Marbella, gazing through the rims of our Bollinger glasses at the beautiful yachts just waiting for us in the harbour. We have watched the sunset over the Bay of Naples as the world’s finest examples of the boat builders craft sail peacefully by. We have been on board the Queen Mary as it made its way to Hamburg. And I always think “What a long way I have travelled since we sailed our own modest little boat in the Isle of Wight all those years ago.”

How times change. Not only do we now own an enviable pad in Spain, but we also have our very own craft.

Getting it down to the coast was simple. Not for us the perilous Bay of Biscay route – we simply loaded it in its box into the car and there it was. Orange, shiny, self-assembly oars, all ready to take the risky tides of the Mar Minor head on.

Cathy, who is rather good at these things, thought she should check the instruction manual, since the briny can be a dangerous enemy. Just ask Christopher Columbus and all those poor people on the Titanic.

Here, word for word, are the notes and warnings supplied, that need to be observed…

Never navigate alone. Beware of offshore winds and currents. Don’t use for white water rafting.

Boat2Be responsible, do not neglect these safety rules. This could jeopardise your life and the lives of others. Do not drink alcohol or take drugs while operating the boat. Maintain passenger sobriety.

At planing speeds, in rough water or during sharp turns, all passengers should position themselves on the floor. No bow riding – this is illegal in most areas and is extremely dangerous. In case of falling, the man overboard is in the way of the propeller. (Propeller?)

Be especially careful when docking. Arms and legs may be injured if they are outside the boat. Keep a sharp lookout especially when operating near beaches and launch sites. Avoid sharp turns at high speeds, you could get ejected from the boat. Do not make changes in direction without advising passengers.

Avoid contact between the buoyancy tubes and sharp objects or aggressive liquids such as acid.

Do not smoke on board.

As you can see from the pictures, Sam and Jamie observed these rules to the letter, and had a safe and pleasant cruise. Poor old Robert Maxwell could have done with these handy tips. I wonder if his yacht cost more than eighteen quid…

GLASTONBURY! WHAT A TIME WE HAD!

(Watching it on TV…)

In years only, my gorgeous wife is far younger than me – and believe it or not we agree on most things. There are exceptions (whether or not to have a dog, why do I always wear black T-shirts, my wine intake) but one that always crops up at about this time of year is ‘I’d like to do Glastonbury just one more time…’

Well I’ve never been a fan of standing knee-deep in mud, listening to the rambling tuneless drug-crazed vocal refrains of the bloke that will be standing next to me until the headline act comes on in twelve hours time, feeling dirty, hungry and in dire need of a comfort break (to use a euphemism), with only a revoltingly uncomfortable night to look forward to. This after sitting in the sort of traffic jams that will one day bring the whole of our fair country to a standstill.

I’m not keen, but maybe the more perceptive among you may have spotted that.

So I sidestep it and, like many other things in my life, hope the whole subject will go away, before that horrifying line comes along ‘you’re just getting past it.’

Not true. I have never been a fan of paying good cartoon drawing money on staying somewhere that is far less comfortable than my own lovely home.

But I love watching Glastonbury from the comfort of my squidgy sofa, with a glass of something and said gorgeous wife for company. This year was no disappointment. ELO delivered, and managed to get through their whole set without introducing us to ‘a new song from our latest album.’ Just all the good stuff I raved about in the seventies (or was it eighties?) Coldplay were OK if you like that sort of thing, and then there was Adele (but not necessarily in that order.)

Adele, you may be surprised to hear this old timer say, is absolutely wonderful. I totally changed my mind about her when I saw Graham Norton’s special about her. She has a rare beauty- a beautiful symmetrical face, expressive hand movements, and an unusual talent for penning clever intelligent lyrics (eat your heart out Gary Barlow).

Cathy and I had a lovely couple of days in our pad in Spain at the beginning of last December and, since we couldn’t understand how the radio worked, and didn’t understand the content once we’d mastered it, we bought Adele’s new album 25 and it became the soundtrack to our adventure.

Anyway, back to Glastonbury and Adele’s brilliant set. She gave us all the right stuff, including Skyfall and the most beautiful rendition of Someone like You that made me cry.

But please tell me why, because I don’t understand, why does she have to use the f word and the s word constantly? She’s worth more than that – or am I just getting past it?

My granddaughter Daisy was there for four fun filled, mud filled, cider filled days, and said Adele’s set was the highlight of an unreal (apparently) time. Daisy and her mum called round to collect the keys for the aforementioned Spanish apartment, for a few days of sun and sangria, and she told me the swearing didn’t matter, and she loved it. To me it spoils the grace that this gigantically successful singer puts out.

But what do I know? I’m probably just getting past it…