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FOOTBALL CRAZY

Jamie Duncan is sick with the sport…

Jamie football

That’s him, middle row, fourth from right…

Now my hordes of fans know me for a lot of things – advertising cartoons, speed drawing films, conference cartoons and occasional forays into the pen being mightier than the sword, but I can’t help thinking they wouldn’t immediately associate me with sport in general, and football in particular.

So it may come as a bit of a surprise to hear that my number one son is totally committed to this mystifying game. He lives it and breathes it, to the extent that when he’s not kicking balls into a pop-up goal in the family room (and knocking leaves off a precious plant that started off life as a seed on a Barbados beach) he is playing FIFA 15 on an X Box or something in that very same room. And when he’s not doing that he is collecting cards which feature famous players such as Messi from Barcelona and Rooney from somewhere else. The other day I refused to buy him any more so he said “No problem, Grandad will…” What have we spawned?

But that’s not it. Last weekend I got up early on Saturday to make the Full English for everyone (very popular move) and by 10am I was booted, scarfed and standing on a muddy touch line watching the Crendon Corinthians going through their rigorous training regimen. If we were in that trans-Atlantic place called America they would probably be called the Little League – but here they are just a bunch of seven year olds (boys and girls) who are getting excitingly good at a sport that has them running and jumping back and forth for about an hour and a half as us highly witty parents try to stave off the cold by commentating, cheering and shouting advice to the poor little mutts who are trying to score those elusive goals. We always know when training is nearly over because it stops drizzling horizontally and the sun comes out.

And talking about shouting advice (oh attend for heaven’s sake) I am getting rather good at shouting wise comments at the unfortunate children. I’m on a learning curve, and am picking up tips from the assembled mothers and fathers. “Get rid of it!” I shout because nobody has told me not to, and last week I yelled “Watch your marker!” I don’t know why…

When Jamie scores I normally tell the others that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree – which promotes answers like “It’s landed in the next county.” People can be very hurtful.

So training was a success. I wasn’t totally soaked through, and the only cloud on my horizon was that there was to be an actual match, with opponents and everything, at Wendover the next morning. Kick-off 9.30. Hardly encouraged by the fact that the Crendon Corinthians lost to them last time, in four small matches, 3 to 30 – we all turned up with what can only be described as a pessimistic air. But we got off to such a cracking start that the evil cold wind was forgotten. In Jamie’s first match the CC boys won 2-1 with Jamie taking a carefully considered shot from beyond the half way line, over everyone’s heads, into the back of the net. Game on. They equalised their second game 2-2 much to the delight of the touch line team of advisers. The other team didn’t do quite as well, with a small but respectable loss, but broadly the day was ours. Wonderful coach Richard couldn’t have been more proud of his young discoveries. Everyone shook hands and we were back in the car heading for home and major roast lunch.

And since we’re on a football theme, our weekend was completed with a …footballing party! Three of the Crendon Corinthians had their birthdays around the same time and their wise parents decided to have a football themed party at Thame Football Club on Sunday afternoon. Intensive training followed on that hallowed turf (another chance for the long suffering spectators to get freezing cold) and tea was served.

Home again, and into a football-free zone.

Well nearly. Long Crendon’s answer to David Beckham carried on with his pop-up goal until he was sent to bed to study his football card collection.

Maybe he’ll take up darts soon. Or table tennis. Anything that doesn’t involve freezing cold feet, horizontal rain, and barking out sideline orders I don’t understand.

Bless him. Perhaps he’ll earn £200,000 a week and keep me in the style to which I’d like to become accustomed. Mine’s a Bentley Continental please son…

YUK SCHOOL!

Robert Duncan remembers his glory filled public school days…

Robert-Duncan-when-youngSome complete twat said that school days are the best days of your life. This is totally untrue, at least in my case. After a dubious start at a prep school in Northwood, where I was boarding from age eight onwards (how could my parents survive without me? Me and my whoosh of white curly hair, savagely teased into a voluminous lump?) And how could they set me free to wander amongst footballers with runny noses, teachers who couldn’t wait to beat me for no apparent reason, and older boys who wanted to show their shining manhood to anyone available? Beats me….

Onwards to a curious school near Wisborough Green in Sussex. We were all allowed to wear home clothes, roller skate a lot and cause havoc at Christmas parties. The one that comes to mind was organised by the headmaster out of the kindness of his heart, and turned into the finest food fight I’ve ever witnessed. One of the hard working students took over the Christmas cake, and carefully cut off slices before he threw them. I’ll never forget the patient look on the headmaster’s face as a slice flew past him and ended up sliding down the dusty portrait of the founder.

The school was self-sufficient, so even employed its own team of builders. A memory that will never be removed until I leave this mortal coil is seeing a nearly completed staff house fall to the ground, with the builders jumping off the roof for their lives.

My old friend John Cleaver, sadly no longer with us, was there. He always wore enormous sweaters and could be depended upon to produce a jam sandwich from the woolly folds to slake your early teenage hunger. Happy times.

And onwards, to a single term as a day boy at a local school (I don’t think my alma mater was quite ready for me) where the headmaster was removed rapidly for gross indecency, and I starred as Robin Hood in a school play. This piece of natural casting was spoilt on the first night, when my wooden sword was broken in half and apparently I just stood and stared at it. How the bastards in the audience laughed at my first dramatic role.

And so to Sutton Valence in Kent, where my father and my brother had both distinguished themselves, on and off the sports field. Within days I realised that, no matter how stupid and thick you were, you would always be a superstar to your peers if you could run about with a ball tucked under your arm. (Sorry, that was a sporting reference. Not something that went on in the showers.)

Our poor little curly haired hero just wanted to be an artist, but I hardly dared to say that, apart from to Mr Simmons, who was the art teacher and encouraged me into a feast and famine career that has lasted sixty years since then.

Now for the good bit – and don’t forget we’re talking 1950s here, not 1850s. The horny, rugged, prosperous seventeen year old prefects were allowed to beat the younger boys with canes. Yes proper canes. The wrong doer would lie in his bed after lights out, waiting for the dorm doors to open, and the familiar voice of whichever bullying prefect would yell your name. Into the shower rooms to receive six strokes with only your pyjamas for protection. Lifeless, holding back sobs, wishing for mummy, bleeding, the offender returned to his bed for some troubled sleep and the promise of more delights on the following day.

So it went on. A useless barbaric waste of time and my father’s hard earned money, apparently to make a man of me. Even today I never miss an opportunity to bad mouth the evil place, memorably during a Radio Oxford interview with Bill Heine. He found the whole tale hard to believe. I just hope and pray that said prefects went on to be small fish in big ponds, failed, and never found a more satisfying way of quelling their sexual desires.

I might have been a wet. I may have missed my mum and my sister, but my life has been fulfilling, I’ve had many moments of glory, and I don’t thank Sutton Valence for one of them.

I went back a couple of years ago and met up with a few old friends. There are girls there now, which would have changed the dynamics so forcibly in those black and white days that a female prefect giving out beatings would have had the male prefects forming an orderly queue all the way to the shower rooms.

The head girl showed me round and told me how gentle everything is now. She was terrified of leaving and going out into the big wide world. Big changes.

For years afterwards my worst nightmares were being back there. I’d wake up in a cold sweat waiting for the door of the dorm to open…

Bloody dump.

ROUND ROBINS

Robert Duncan reflects on a year to remember…

Round-Robins-redsYou know those typewritten sheets of rhubarb you find in Christmas cards from people you at best hardly know, or at worst met at a seaside bed and breakfast somewhere. Round robins.

Are they just boring because you remember the people involved, or just boring in their own right (or write)? My theory is that they are boring mainly because the less someone does in a year, the more they’re likely to write about it. The old empty vessels syndrome.

Mind you it is super that young Eric has had his buck teeth fixed. And Simon’s rash is now under control. Or Doris now wears glasses. Or Arnold has run off with a barmaid after declaring his love to her publicly on a local radio phone-in. Actually that sounds quite interesting. Do we really have to wait a year to hear that Arnold has come home, his tail (or something) between his legs, and has announced it was all a mistake and she hadn’t enjoyed his accordion music after all. Oh well.

So here’s mine for 2015:

“January found us starting an avalanche in Zermatt. We couldn’t help laughing when Sam did his customary yodel in his newly attained deep teenage voice and they’re still looking for the picture postcard chalet we had rented. Was Cathy mad – she told him off enormously until she burst into helpless giggles and slapped her older son heartily on the back. The resulting noise nearly took care of the rest of Zermatt. The little town went very quiet after that. Even the reindeer weren’t talking to us!

Home again to wile away the tiring days of February by opening Valentine cards from everyone from Brad Pitt to Madonna, Idris Elba to Michelle Pfeiffer, and a touching declaration of love from Keira Knightley. As I sit here, pen poised, in December, I am beginning to wish she would leave me alone. Cathy says she can have you – serve her right. She can be very hurtful.

March – and we’re off for six glorious months in a time machine, so I will finish this round robin as soon as I return. Oh we’re back. That was quick. And if you don’t believe me, come round and meet our dinosaur Porky. Aptly named after what he did, somewhat embarrassingly, to a pig at a local farm we visited with an intention to buy.

Jamie’s violin is coming on a pace, so it was lovely to go to Les Miserables again and hear him leading the orchestra. Cathy watched the whole thing through a veil of tears until a rude (and probably jealous) woman in the next row told her to bloody well shut up. I wonder if she’s had those opera glasses removed yet…

April, and our home is abuzz with preparations for our family entry in the Eurovision Song Contest. Modesty prevents me from telling you that I actually wrote our song. Oh, I’ve told you. Well never mind. The middle eight nearly caused me to have a nervous breakdown – finding a suitable rhyme for ‘Fits like a glove, love’ made me lose sleep and swallow boxes of paracetamol without even opening them.

May arrived, and so did Eurovision – and I am still convinced we would have won if the organisers had told us the right city. We questioned whether Juneau in Alaska was correct but they insisted our song Ping went the String of my Thing had a real chance of success there. The Europeans don’t like us.

When June arrived we got a gigantic load of publicity from saying ‘Where does the time go?’ This staggeringly original line has now gone into the public parlance and we can hardly walk down the street without people running up for signed copies. One young girl even had it tattooed on her chest, and an older woman did the same but at least she had the decency to tuck the message under her belt for propriety if the occasion didn’t lend itself to such outlandish behaviour. Funds were short so I had half a haircut, thereby starting an instant fashion that had me fast tracked to the covers of Vogue, Men Only and Woman’s Weekly.

Exciting times and I’m not exaggerating when I say that we all thought July couldn’t better June for sheer delight. But, you’ve guessed it, something turned up to stop this round robin from being mind numbingly boring. This appeared totally out of the blue one Saturday night right after my birthday, when there was little else to do apart from writing to the Duke of Edinburgh to thank him for his kind words and the generous portion of Windsor Castle. There was a tap on the door (so we had it relocated to the bathroom) and Daffy Duck was standing there. Cathy sent him off for pancakes and the rest of the evening looked after itself. July had proved to be as superb as we had hoped.

It couldn’t last forever and in August disaster struck when Jamie’s first novel failed to reach the Sunday Times Top Ten Books list and Duncancartoons.com missed the Times hundred best companies because the turnover was £3 short. Well you can imagine what that did to the mood of the family. Cathy repaired to her bed, Sam retired to his room with a Star Wars movie and 27 slices of toast, and Jamie and I passed the time by re-enacting Othello. Sad times indeed.

September wasn’t much better. Cheered briefly by a visit to war torn Chinnor, a pleasant trip to Richard Branson’s island in the Caribbean (he wouldn’t leave us alone) and a game of Monopoly that lasted three weeks. Unhappy times.

October starts on a high. Jamie is accepted by Manchester United and (isn’t it always the way?) gets seventeen goals against Everton. “Don’t peak too early” I wisely told him, but he had the nerve to say shut up and bought me a Bentley Continental to say sorry. Kids!

November is best forgotten. Suffice to say the firework was safely removed and I’m walking again.

And here we are in December! Those bloody Norwegians have sent us their usual Christmas tree, so it’s time to remove the flap from the floor of Jamie’s room and make the great thing fit somehow. It looks good, but the local dogs are making a real mess of the base, and they don’t have the good grace to aim only for the waterproof presents. The Albert Hall has insisted on staging Sam’s one man show for a further three nights so I suppose I’ll have to drop him off at the stage door as usual. This year we are due to perform the family dance routine as a finale, but to tell you the truth I can’t be bothered. Who wants that? Apart from that queue of some two thousand people waiting in the snow, and singing my Eurovision hit?

I must put my pen down now. The family is eager for my rendition of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol (the entire thing) before I carve the ostrich whilst singing Silent Night at full volume in my pleasing light baritone.

So Happy Christmas! And here’s to 2016!

I hope I’ll be able to report a less boring year next time.”

Round robins. Don’t you love ‘em?

100 THINGS TO DO WITH AN EMPTY BABY FOOD JAR

Robert Duncan celebrates his silliest most fun job for ages…

Duncancartoons.com had an email from Danone, the yogurt lot. Would I be interested in doing a project for an exhibition in Dubai? Course I would…

The idea they had was the title of this exciting article – I was to think of loads of things you could do with an empty baby food jar, and this was to be the challenge for all the adventurous punters who visited the show.

Things-to-do-with-a-jar

Well, as client ideas go, this had to be right up there near the top, probably right at the top. Within minutes I had drawn the pot (which I did only once) and simply added silly drawings to it. The cool client said he was in Holland most of the time so we could either meet there or at a hotel in Oxford. With regret I decided that the Oxford alternative was probably more sensible, and I started to do a drawing or two to prove I could do all that was expected of me. The drawing or two soon turned into about fifteen – I got carried away dear. It was so easy, and so much fun. The ideas just rolled out as fast as I could draw them, and they were all looking wonderful. Well I thought so. A small vase of flowers. A place to keep paint brushes. Smartie storage. Save Lego bits. Collect small family photos. Then it began to get a bit more silly. Grow mustard and cress. Keep fish. Make a ship in a jar. Then broad stupidity broke through. Conceal elephants. Play roll the jar. Catch spiders.

I was having a ball – and to cut a long story short (if it’s not too late) I’d practically finished the job when I met up with my humorous lively likeable client. He loved it all, went along with everything, and we ended up arranging to give the exhibition visitors a baby food jar each, containing a tiny booklet of the best ideas, and an entry form they could fill in with their own thoughts, and leave in the entry box provided. There would be posters promoting the whole thing, and a speed draw film running constantly on the stand. Perfection!

This whole thing has underlined what I love about my job. I sit there, being as silly as possible, and the clients either buy into it or look at me in a weird sideways fashion. Adrian from Danone had an idea, found the right bloke to bring it to life (he said modestly) and had the courage to leave said bloke to it. And under those circumstances I deliver. One hundred percent. I have loved doing the project and it shows in every casually drawn nicely executed line.

If only more people could read me as a chap who knows vaguely what he’s doing, and could leave me to it. Great ideas, great surprises come from a relaxed approach, where the artist (in this case me) feels he can get daft, funny and excited about what he’s doing, safe in the knowledge that he is hitting that little humour spot that the brief demands.

Unlike a conference I was at a week before when a lady scribbled out the caption of one of my cartoons and replaced it with her own idea, demanding I should redraw it. I felt like telling her to go forth and multiply. Or words to that effect.

Love you Danone. You’ve made an old cartoonist very happy…

CONFERENCE CARTOONS

Robert Duncan gets drawing…

it can be as simple as this. I turn up at your conference, listen and absorb what’s going on and draw about twenty five mono cartoons taking the subjects of the day as inspiration. These are yours to keep forever more, for websites, emailings and YouTube. I have been asked along to loads of these days all over the UK and Europe, by such luminaries as Coutts, Sky, LG Insurance, World Wildlife, BBC, Peaugot, EDF, Investor Relations Society, BAFTA and Volkswagen.

Conference-Cartoon-Book-1

But sometimes it can get a little more complicated. The aforementioned Volkswagen was a two day event at Silverstone and I drew cartoons with a video camera over my shoulder, immediately streamed to a 20ft screen for the delegates to see live. So no pressure…

Volkswagen proved to be a hit. After the event they took forty of my cartoons and made them into booklets to send to all the delegates as a reminder of the event.

At a cyber security conference in Munich I drew an 8ft cartoon featuring all the ideas I gleaned from the presentations, and other thoughts supplied by passing delegates. The large result is still gracing the client’s office wall.

Massive-Conference-Cartoon-1

The same basic notion for a chain of legal firms. Everyone was invited to suggest elements of their business which were successful, or needed work. At an early meeting modes of transport were discussed, since the theme of the event was a journey. I suggested a Mississippi River boat, because the open construction allowed for loads of spaces for cartoon scenarios. In a hectic day (where I missed lunch) a 6ft long drawing was produced, encompassing every idea the many delegates had.

And there was the time (he went on) when I sat on stage in a tux drawing live to camera, while the diners and potential award winners had a pre-presentation dinner. Twenty wise and witty cartoons in an evening. Not bad.

And before this article hits the shredder, The Investor Relations Society, who became particular friends, had me sitting on an exhibition stand, and every few minutes a techy guy would appear and transfer my meanderings to a big tv screen. Later they put several of my drawings on
a double page spread in their magazine.

The future is this. I have recently been scanning my cartoons as I do them on my phone, and sending them via Bluetooth to the control centre of the conference. These can then be projected to the delegates immediately, or put out on Facebook to show the world what fun they’re having.

My iPad Pro will easily transfer the process of my live drawings to the big screen, so people can watch the cartoon in progress without seeing my hand.

That’s my conference cartooning at this time. Good eh?

HOLA!

Robert Duncan and his boss have a few days at their Spanish retreat…

Cathy on balconySo the secret is out – we have a bolt hole of our very own in sun soaked Murcia. And talking of bolt holes, that is precisely what I was involved with most of the time. Not for me (apparently) sitting around in the sun and drinking the sort of gin and tonics that the Spaniards serve in bowls. No, we were on our way in a v small car to IKEA where you buy lots of flat pack things with bolt holes. (so that’s what he meant).

Sunday morning at 4am, and we are on our way along deserted roads to Gatwick. Flight fine. Rental car collected from Firefly for only €8 for three days, plus petrol. Apartment all cleaned to perfection by superstars Mel and Jayne (or Mel and Kim as I call them because I’m so hilarious). Long long long list produced for visits to supermarket, Chinese discount store (hundreds of them in Spain, and brilliant) and… IKEA. Gulp.

Alfresco dinner in the lovely Sucina town square, where in the summer we joined the merry throng for their festival, and I bought the T-shirt, not realising that if I wear it under a jacket it says I love Suc.

Up early for a quick breakfast and the journey to the only address we had – IKEA Murcia. Now considering that Murcia is (a) forty minutes away and (b) a very large town, this wasn’t enough information – and the v small car obviously didn’t have sat-nav. So you know what? You know what? I opened Google Maps on my iPhone, entered IKEA Murcia and a voice came on saying ‘turn left in 300 yards. Proceed for 2 miles. Take third exit at roundabout….’ And we were there. Technology. Honestly.

I should have spotted the warning signs when my gorgeousness chose the largest wheely basket. We followed the arrows, as every IKEA fan knows well, and bought more nicknacks than you could throw a stick at. (Sorry about that last sentence). In no particular order I will announce the things that will go on to dance next week, and more importantly, be sent home: Wine glasses. Picture frames. Colander. Kitchen roll holder. Cushions. Handy candle holders. Bottle opener. Can opener. Storage boxes. Cuddly toy. (A new and cleaner version of Jamie’s existing panda. Named Panda rather than what I suggested – Monium. Think about it…)

Oh yes. Errrr… two flat pack kitchen cabinets. Now the phrase flat pack is something that is an anathema to me. We got home all right, and it was made pretty clear pretty quickly that going out to dinner wasn’t on the cards until I’d built at least one of the flat packs from hell.

And so we reach the crux of this searching article. I unwrapped all the pieces, carefully separated all the nuts and bolts (to fit the bolt holes, for those who haven’t got the joke yet) and laid everything out ready. Cathy is a very considerate person, which is about .05% of why I love her, and brought in some coffee accompanied by gentle music on her iPod. Soon the outer frame of the cabinet existed, and I attached the back, wondering at the absolute perfection of the IKEA product. Anyone who is old enough to remember MFI and their scruffy drilling, missing pieces and burred holes, will be amazed by how this Swedish genius has got his act together. Or had – I don’t know. All I know is that, in spite of the fact the names he chose for his products were all on account of his dyslexia, Fahrt for instance (probably some sort of shelf) he managed to get totally amazing products at totally amazing prices.

You can tell by the up mood of that last paragraph that I succeeded with honours, and the result is standing proudly in our new kitchen. As I was (oh please…)

Dinner was earned and we had wonderful garlic prawns and an exceptional spaghetti carbonara at the gorgeous Hacienda, which is actually on our golf course site. Gin and tonics were in evidence and, if we hadn’t missed our boys a bit, life looked perfect.

I’ve gone on too much, so I will gloss over the last day, with its visit to the outdoor furniture place (wicker. maroon cushions) the truly brilliant tapas lunch overlooking a deserted town and a glassy misty sunlit sea, and a forty minute walk we took without leaving the Hacinda Requelme site.

Airport. Drive home from Gatwick at 11.30 Tuesday night. Home. Jamie woke up to greet us and fell asleep again with a smile on his face. We had those too. Good times.

Thanks IKEA for not being MFI. x

NEW PHONE

You need a password to read this…

phoneAh technology! The very word makes me get hot and bothered as my mum used to say. To start with, my illustrious friends Stuart and Keith attempted the impossible, and tried to introduce me to the wonders of technology. Up until then I could understand the workings of a coat hanger and just about record something on a video machine. Well sometimes. The first lucky girl to become my wife had a great admiration for the gritty perfectly acted intelligently scripted mind shatteringly complex plotting and general state of the art entertainment that was Home and Away- and I would join her every evening at 6.30, glass of wine in hand, to catch up with the doings in Summer Bay. On one occasion we were off to Barbados for three weeks, safe in the knowledge that I had set up the video thingy to record every earth shattering moment of this intense drama. Sadly I hadn’t taken British summertime into consideration, and we came back to fifteen episodes of – oh I don’t know – something else. This tragedy still brings a lump to my throat.

But I digress. Let’s now cut to my early adventures with computers and puzzling over (as I still do) how they work, and why should they work at all. Stuart chose my first laptop for me, and soon had me sending emails and staring at my early website, with its handful of cartoons and a choice of only about three typefaces to make it look nice.

Then Keith took over. A genius I still see frequently, who is always there if I have a problem (of the computer sort I mean. He can’t cure rashes as far as I know.) he can even sort things remotely, which blows me away.

And when he’s not available, and something goes tits up as the saying goes, I get irritable, hot, and on the verge of hurling the bloody thing out of the window. Teddy being thrown out of the pram. I finally find him and within minutes I am in charge of my technological life again.

Onwards. I changed my cuddly little iPhone 5 for an iPhone 6S the other day. Now if you have a mobile phone, and I’ve heard that a lot of people do, it’s no longer a case of keeping it charged and making phone calls. It’s taking a degree in electronics, and being expected to understand every instructive reference. Loads of different codes, reference numbers and email addresses come up, with the phone refusing to do anything until all questions are answered to this little swine of a machine’s full satisfaction. Aaaaaaaaaaaagh! (Sorry, I felt the dialogue needed one of those there.)

The very kind, friendly and capable guys at the O2 shop helped me (all right they did it) to transfer all my ‘data’ from my sweet little old phone to the scary new one. All fine apart from half a dozen things, all of which involved … wait for it… passwords.

Life used to be so simple then (or has time rewritten every line) when you had a password. Mine was a special date. Now I have a two page printout of them, all cunningly disguised so the bad people can’t infiltrate my photos, phone numbers and trite writings. And this list is also on my iPad (don’t start me on that) so I have to have that with me to access what I need on my phone – because if I leave the thing I’m trying to do, the chances are I won’t find it again. Know what I mean?

So I have about 2000 passwords if you include all the variables, and if my new phone asks politely what my password is before I can get on to YouTube for example, I have to get irritable and do that getting hot thing (or ring Keith) before I can solve it.

The phone has a fantastic camera which is handy when my own fantastic camera is in a drawer somewhere at the very moment I want to take yet another photo of Jamie in a sports kit. And those photos can easily be transferred to someone else’s phone if you press AirDrop properly. We were having dinner in Spain once and Sam realised he could send a picture to a lady who was sitting a few tables away. I suggested he should go to the loo, take a photo of his bum, and AirDrop it to her. He declined because he’s more sensible than me.

Anyway, everything is working on my new glitzy phone, all is in order and, guess what…it does everything the old one does. Apart from the fact that I now have a tendency to polish its screen whenever I look at it. That will pass, as the novelty of a new gadget always does, and I will get another new one, which will probably have a batch of fab new features like – sending out a high pitched electronic beep that will shatter my wine glass when it thinks I’ve had enough, or fly up to my roof to take panoramic shots of our lovely home, or leap out of my hand in hot pursuit of a burglar who’s tried to pinch it, stunning him long enough for me to catch up, press the built-in panic button, and summon the police to the scene of the crime. After that it will call on its new app to award itself a medal for bravery. Or it could produce a sunny day for whenever the village fete happens to be on. By this time the nice people at Apple will have totally forgotten that first and foremost it was meant to be a phone, and leave that facility out completely.

So there we are. I could have just said “I’ve got a new phone” but that sort of brevity has never been my style. Ask anybody.

THE SEA. THE SEA

Robert Duncan rolls along on the crest of a wave…

Slapstick-CruiseAnd now for something completely different. I agreed to go on a comedy cruise to Tenerife to do a series of workshops about cartooning. I got permission from head office and found myself on a train out of Oxford hurtling towards Southampton with the heaviest suitcase I had ever attempted to carry – full of copies of my new book Stuff and Nonsense, and cartoon kits for all my eager students to buy.

On board I was given a very nice cabin with good old fashioned portholes, and since I appeared to have to work for only four hours in the five days on board I thought I’d get ahead with my book of limericks about slimmers – Slimmericks. (More of that in a future blog. Suffice to say I didn’t get many done…)

First job was to meet up with the cruise director Simon and find out what was expected of me, apart from eating all their food and exploring the bar in depth. Turned out all the entertainers were there (if I can count myself in that category) and what a jolly bunch they were. There was Miki, Jon and Don who were comedians. There was Stan and Robbie who were truly brilliant Laurel and Hardy lookalikes, with a great talent for magic which obviously extended their repertoire enormously. (Stan changed his name to Stan, so committed was he to his profession.) There was Jonty and Ian, who were more like Morecambe and Wise than Morecambe and Wise were. And there was Steve Smith whose job it was to give a series of four talks about the history of comic songs, from Marie Lloyd to Benny Hill. Accompanying himself on the guitar, his wit and wisdom captivated us all, and every one of us made sure we were in the theatre for 10am so we didn’t miss a minute. There was also a wonderful duo I had the pleasure of flying home with, who did murder mystery dinners.

So the scene was set. We took off or whatever ships do, and headed overnight towards the dreaded Bay of Biscay. I joined my merry band for dinner before they took it in turns to present their own unique brand of act – Jon, a finalist in last year’s Britain’s Got Talent, did a brilliant 45 minute set without putting a foot wrong. Which was surprising, since the ship was beginning to rock a bit, and sick bags (unused) were available on every stair and every corner. Don, the older comedian (think Les Dawson, via the Comedians TV show of the seventies, and Ken Dodd, who Don supplied gags to) did 45 minutes and left us with the impression that he could have done another eight hours or so if asked to do so.

Trouble was the weather was getting worse, and the Croatian captain kept on asking us to be happy. Jon said our leader should come on stage and sing Don’t Worry be Happy. We could have done with it. By Tuesday the boat was being thrown about like a sponge in a bath or whatever the expression is, and it was getting difficult to walk, let alone draw. I had organised a flip chart for my workshops so I could show my eager students how to draw expressions, speed and what to leave out etc. The fact that I couldn’t even stand up, let alone draw fabulously, didn’t help. I ended up lowering the flip chart and working sitting down.

That night we all had a jolly few drinks while Miki did his sensational stand-up and were horrified by the news that one of the dining rooms had been affected by a freak wave, and people, chairs, people in chairs, chairs on people, bottles, glasses and waiters had gone flying, and the doctor was busy mending arms, fitting neck braces, and plastering generally. On came the captain’s voice “Be happy…”

The next day I was in cartoonist’s paradise – people were limping everywhere, staying in their cabins, or being injected in the bum by the desperately overworked doctor.

And still the swell continued. If you can call 20ft waves a swell. We weren’t allowed out on the grounds that lost passengers and men overboard could only add to the problems, so air conditioning was being breathed for the fourth day running. I survived on a diet of large and fabulous buffets, their delicious rose wine, and industrial quantities of motion sickness pills, that dried me out like an old crisp.

But every night I would be there, cheering on my hearty comrades, and wondering, as I always do, at the talent of these people who can get on stage, make people happy, and deliver.

On the Wednesday night we all took photographs – me with my new best friends Laurel and Hardy, and Jon and Miki – and then got the drinks in as the captain promised fair weather, sunbathing on the deck, and free rum punches for everyone. So his Be Happy motto was beginning to come true.

Thursday night. Big variety show where all the entertainers did a ten minute slot and then repaired to the bar after the inevitable photos. Hugs. Talks about disembarkation plans, chat about when everyone was working next.

Put on a Stan Laurel voice and say this. “Rob, how do you like my tattoo?” Me. “Laurel and Hardy! On your arm! Where did you get that done?” Stan, pointing to his arm. “Right here.” Love ‘em.

Old comedy song singer Steve and I shared a taxi on the way to the airport. We compared notes about such luminaries as Anthony Newley, Stanley Holloway and Tom Lehrer. I saw him again at Gatwick, probably preparing to bring a bit of total joy to his next audience somewhere.

Home to my darling wife and my boys. Lovely time. Lovely to be back. Back from silliness, over the top characters, sick bags. Time out of time…

THE EDINBUGH GIG

The noo the noo the noo. And that’s the end of the noos.

AmbassadorRonnie Barker said that, in case I’m accused of plagiarism. It has nothing to do whatsoever with the tale I am about to relate to you. Those lovely people at Sky decided that www.duncancartoons.com attending their Edinburgh conference was just what they needed if they were to become a successful company. So they made their first overtures and said I was (a) rather expensive and (b) not Scottish. I said I was a bit, just look at my name, but they said that they naturally presumed I lived in Scotland. Strange.

Anyway, all that aside, we agreed that I should do the whole gig in a day, and they would cover all my travelling expenses. I decided not to walk or go by bus, and by 4am I was in the shower, and, hair tweaked to perfection, on my way to Heathrow by 4.45 to catch what my wife calls (probably because of her international connections) the Redeye. Parking was a joy because the gorgeous pre-mentioned wife had arranged it. As my car rolled up to the gate the gadget thingy read my number plate and I was in. Well fancy that.

Plane on time. Bloke next to me drinking wine, and I was in Edinburgh by 8am, probably before the Queen Mother’s favourite piper had staggered up to the castle battlements to give us some merry ditty or other. A car met me and whisked me off to the venue – a place where strange people insisted on climbing sheer rock faces for no apparent reason, risking life and limb as they carried on in their hearty way. I watched this scenario from a large windowed area on the fifth floor as I enjoyed my first Scottish coffee since I had been to that misty mystical land in the seventies, when I handled the Caithness Glass account single handed. (Thinks…that’s a blog idea…)

I was greeted by the lovely Veena who gave me the sort of welcome that only lacked a red carpet, and had the good grace to laugh at every one of the 25 or so mono cartoon gags I drew throughout the day. She even took my cartoons away at regular intervals, scanned them, and projected them onto the big screen for all the jolly Sky types to enjoy. And her boss gave me a great write-up in his speech too, when he said I had grasped what they were all on about incredibly quickly. Liked him a lot. Can’t think why…

After getting away with the fact that I don’t have a Sky bowl or whatever they call it, I got into the car they had organised to take me back to the airport. I spent a happy few minutes (a) thinking that the whole thing had been a success and what a lovely, if silly, way to earn a living and (b) listening to all the really understandable reasons why the driver had voted NO.

Single glass of Sauvignon at the airport and mighty white bird flew me to our own land. Car easy to rescue. Drive home bearable, and a lovely welcome from my gorgeousness.

Same sort of thing yesterday in York. Munich on Tuesday for a couple of nights. Hope they don’t expect me to speak German (better re-watch that Fawlty Towers episode) and then off to Tenerife on a five day cruise where I will run a few cartoon workshops for those jolly boater and gym shoe cruising types.

Can I bear it? I think I can. Probably…

And if you haven’t got a clue what the hell I’m talking about, go to this now. NOW: http://www.duncancartoons.com/conference-cartoons

SINGLE SPEED DRAWING INSERTS

Now your PowerPoint presentations won’t be boring at all.
Ok, maybe just a bit…

HandI’ve been sitting under photo flood lights so much lately that I’m surprised I’m not getting a tan. The reason I am there is because I have been producing Speed Drawing cartoon films, under videographer Alan Fenemore’s prying camera, for about three years now. Each film last two or three minutes and features my hand drawing about a dozen or so wise and witty cartoons that Alan makes go faster to fit in exactly with our previously recorded soundtrack. Regular readers of this award winning blog series (I often award myself a glass of wine for my troubles) will know that it’s hard to shut me up on this subject, but suffice to say you can see lots of samples on http://www.duncancartoons.com/speed-drawing-films

Now here’s the thing – I had an epiphany (it must have been something I ate) and realised these cartoons could be done as singles, and could breathe life into boring PowerPoint presentations. The client sorts out the scenario with me, and I simply draw the resulting cartoon on camera, and freeze the final frame of the completed cartoon for the speaker or presenter to change at the click of the clicky thing.

No soundtracks to worry about. Minimal editing. All presented to the client in the format of their choice to insert into their programme.

This is how it works: I talk to the client and we sort out how many cartoons are needed. (I have done plenty of single frame drawings for presentations in the past, but never actually showing the process of them being drawn.) I do visuals and the content is decided. I then draw them under Alan’s camera and… job done.

If the cartoon is mono, and not ridiculously complicated, the first would cost a mere £250. Subsequent ones are £125 each.

So for a small budget you can breathe life into your speech, keep everyone awake and maybe even smiling, and go home with praise still ringing in your ears.

Think how jealous the next speaker would be…

Here’s a link to a slightly embarrassing little film I made to promote this exciting development, that could be the most fantastic advance since the launch of the lectern. https://goo.gl/Fgb9uI