THE CORNISH BAKERY

My latest speed draw film…

CornishProbably about number 120, I am devoting one of my precious blogs to this little film because it was such fun to do and, according to the illustrious client, pretty damn good. In fact this is what Lucy said. “You’ve made our day! It’s absolutely delightful and a truly innovative way to show the information…”

Can’t think why I should have repeated that…

Because a very special person called Tony Thornby manages to get me high on the ratings on Google, i get calls from all over the place. This one was from the girls at The Cornish Bakery – a chain of really good ‘pasty and a whole lot more’ cafés.

By the time we got chatting they had seen some of my speed draw films on http://www.duncancartoons.com/speed-drawing-films and thought it could be a fairly up way to get their message over to potential Cornish Bakery staff. I went to Bristol to discuss the whole thing, and ended up submitting a script that was changed a bit but still retained the spirit of my bon mots. A storyboard followed, voiceover artist found, and before I knew it I was drawing away under Alan Fenemore’s prying camera. Lovely result –

I love doing these things – they give me an unique opportunity to show off what I can do, and delivered so fast that any mistakes are soon covered over. I have another six speed drawing films on the go at the moment – long may it continue.

In the light of all this excitement I have just spent the morning with my friend Stuart who singlehandedly updated my website to include (a) loads of new speed draw films to replace the rather tired old ones, and (b) my very own online shop, where eager punters can get Duncan cartoons printed beautifully on T-shirts, phone cases, hoodies, canvases, tote bags, mugs and cushions. While I’m in the mood to reproduce website links of every description, a quick way to get to this treasure trove is to go to RobertDuncan.redbubble.com

Try it. You know you want to…

NEXT STOP BEMBRIDGE!

Robert Duncan and family head for the sun…

Regular readers of this drivel will know that I have a great and historical love of the Isle of Wight. This was our holiday destination of the forties and fifties, where we had fishing nets instead of Xboxes, dirty postcards instead of emails and beach cricket instead of mobile phones. Ah happy times – there we were for three or four weeks in August, meeting up with old mates, watching the lifeboat go out, sailing our little dinghy, and chatting up Jenny Southwell for so many years that I probably clocked up about two years of residency. But before those regular readers start going ‘Not again…’ Or words to that effect, this pithy article is about last weekend, and purely uses the old Bembridge motif as a backdrop to the main thrust.

For reasons I won’t discuss here, in case anyone under eighteen is reading this before the watershed, I wasn’t allowed to go back to this English Eden during the term of my first marriage. So (once again, as I’ve said before) my gorgeous Cathy not only indulged me by letting us visit this nostalgic retreat, but actually got into it to the extent she can’t get enough of it. (The Isle of Wight that is).

So to cut a long story short if it’s not too late, Cathy, Jamie and I left for the 12 o’clock car ferry from Southampton on Friday morning. After returning home twice for forgotten things (coats, teddy) we made good time and were on the ferry with at least four minutes to spare. Pretty drive across the island, soaking in the extraordinary lighting and atmosphere you only find in the home of the English micro-climate, we arrived in Bembridge to examine the lifeboat in detail, reminisce about beach huts, fishing boats, lobster pots and ice cream sodas, and walk along the sea wall. On occasions like this Cathy is always fascinated by what we all got up to, how we spent our time, where we walked, and how we survived without technology. I have just decided to illustrate this article with a good gag we found near the end of the sea wall walk. Weather stoneOver to Shanklin where we were staying in a super little beach front hotel, with alfresco dining overlooking the sea. Glasses of Prosecco, simple but effective food, and Jamie turning out his current speciality – drawings of very fat people with small hats wearing very loud ties. Tired but happy we went to our room etc…

Saturday was all about visiting a dodgy arcade where they charged 20p for the loo because it had been vandalised so often, several highly competitive rounds of crazy golf (where in spite of getting two holes in one Cathy still beat me) and on to a mega walk along the cliffs in Ventnor, ending up in a rocky splashy bay with a rather nice bar in it. Wine for us, ice cream for Jamie.

Back to the hotel to prepare ourselves for the imminent arrival of dear friends Mary and Graham – who gave up his Pinner roots to live the dream and become an islander. ( A resident, not the famous plane). Graham and I go all the way back to prep school, and all the way through our dodgy teenage years (don’t ask) and to our marriages, which happened within a few weeks of each other. His peripatetic ways have taken him and the lovely Mary to places as far flung as Putney, St Albans and Kent, where they owned a wonderful orchard. Graham retired early, I think he was about twelve, and they have been living the simple idyll ever since. Constant. Never changing. Always great fun, with a daft sense of humour that hasn’t changed, and the years haven’t dulled. Bless them.

Blimey, I’m going on a bit. Better stop before you get bored (I heard that).

Anyway, Sunday morning was all about a long walk along the front at Shanklin, another game of crazy golf that Jamie won for heavens sake, and it was all about loading the car with all the unnecessary coats, luggage, souvenirs from Monkey World which I forgot to mention, and a quick drink in the relentless sunshine before sailing back to Southampton.

Sitting on deck watching the yachts go by it was almost as if this little paradise hasn’t bothered to change since those black and white fifties days.

Long may it be so…

BURGER V THE SUNSHINE SUPERMAN

Sadly the burger won…

donovan-xlarge_trans++eo_i_u9APj8RuoebjoAHt0k9u7HhRJvuo-ZLenGRumAMy oldest and dearest friend Duncan is a bloke who was so utterly daft in the sixties (as was I) that it’s hard to believe he could have found employment at all, let alone hold down an impressive international position, advising local government in Ukraine, and writing worthy books on the subject. Not like the tosh I churn out occasionally. And before you ask, he had nothing to do with the fact that Ukraine won Eurovision this year.

So far, dear reader, you are asking yourself (or discussing it at length in a crowded smoky coffee house) what has the Duncan character got to do with the title of this pithy article. That’s pithy. Well the answer is this. When I heard that Donovan of Catch the Wind (1966) fame was doing a seventieth birthday gig at the London Palladium, I naturally thought of inviting the Ukraine connection along, instead of dragging poor long suffering Cathy to the event. Then she said she’d like to go – it could be as unexpectedly good as the Kinks musical Sunny Afternoon.

So it was all fixed. Said lady came back from school early (she’s a teacher there – she’s not that young) and we left to make the incredibly early 7pm start. On the way we established that the spectacular, with its inevitable Mellow Yellow, Sunshine Superman, Jennifer Juniper playlist was to actually start at 7.30. All parked up, quick taxi ride to the venue, and we were standing outside the theatre just before seven.

“Just time for a burger” said Cathy, with her usual knack of saying totally the right thing at the right time.

Commercial break now. Five Guys is simply the best burger joint we have ever been to. Maybe a little expensive, but when you see the size of this double burger with its melted cheese, heavenly crispy bacon, wide choice of add-ons, and chips that must have shared the bacon’s bus ride from heaven, you know. You just know.

We polished off these masterpieces quicker than they deserved and dashed to the Palladium, only to be told the show didn’t start until 8pm. Regretting the fact that we had rushed those prime examples of the burger master’s art, we repaired to the bar. Oh well, we still had Donovan to regale us with his beautiful pure voice.

Not so. We got in and were told by a miffed fan that the man wouldn’t be on until nine. A stupid girl bounced on stage doing a totally indifferent rap about Donovan’s life and seedy past, which made me regret Cathy’s presence. More deep regrets were to follow. A classical guitarist came on and played for ages, followed by a poet who read some Dylan Thomas for some unknown reason. Presumably because he was Welsh and Donovan’s Scottish. Daft girl bounced on again and introduced an antique poet who spouted out such utter drivel, annotated with wailing noises on a kazoo, that we once more repaired to the bar. We weren’t alone. Soon there were more people in the bar than the theatre. Someone said it was like a school concert.

The word soon got round that Donovan wasn’t coming on until ten past nine.

Could we stay awake?

You know that business when you aren’t expecting too much and it turns out to be wonderful? Well it wasn’t like that. The man sung most of his songs in a turgid tuneless manner, reminding me of other superstars who should have been told to quit ages ago – like Paul McCartney. Nothing was added to those lovely old sixties songs. Loads was taken away by bad singing, boring name dropping stories and, I suspect, a total lack of interest. Sad evening. Albums going to be put on the naughty step when I got home. Not even a programme to buy. Hmmm…

Home for a midnight drink and an Eastenders catch-up. Wot’s goin on?

PS: you may remember that I have mentioned my award winning animated version of Edward Lear’s The Jumblies a few million times? https://goo.gl/4htAyd

Well I had the idea of following that triumph up with another Lear piece, The Owl and the Pussycat. On the HMS Donovan album is a lovely little musical version of said poem and I thought this would make a great soundtrack for my next adventure. I got in touch and he said he would rather not, as it was about to be the fiftieth anniversary of his launch on Ready Steady Go and there was bound to be a fuss, loads of publicity, and a distinct possibility of an animated Owl and the Pussycat. Any news of that?

And Don, should you happen to read this, I’d still love to do it and my videographer Alan is all keyed up.

That’s when you’ve paid us back for the theatre tickets of course…

I’M GOING TO SPAIN!

No longer a seventies cliché…

On-the-beachI think it was Jess Conrad who recorded a song called that – right after his other classic ‘This pullover.’ (Found a wi-fi signal now. So I was wrong – it was actually Steve Bent in 1976, Sharing Jess’s listing in Kenny Everett’s Bottom Twenty. Tell you about my work with Cuddly Ken sometime.)

Way back then Spain was considered a bit of a joke. It was all absurdly crowded beaches surrounded by terrible high rise hotels and multi storey car parks (hard to tell the difference. I stayed in one once – ended up being towed away, and I didn’t even have a car.) There were English pubs, fish and chip shops and Celtas cigarettes at 6d for twenty. It was embarrassing to admit that you’d been there.

But that was then. The years have been incredibly kind to Spain, and the country has been incredibly kind to itself, and is now wonderful. Natural beauty, a stonking road system and some of the most delightful seafronts in the world. Add a predictable and placid climate, with a lack of humidity that would make the Caribbean jealous, and you have the perfect destination to head for if you have holidaying in mind. Ok, the aforementioned beaches probably still exist, but they no longer have that tired yellowing Kodachrome look that the travel brochures used to wave despairingly in front of our noses.

Today’s Spain is cool. You will always find a café with a warm welcome, tapas and a friendly gin and tonic served in a glass like a bowl with a stem.

And all this is building up to the fact that Spain has become so utterly fabulous since those miserable seventies days, that the Duncan family not only grace the place with our presence, but actually own a little pad down there near Murcia. Swimming pool about twenty yards away, a cute little town called Sucina about five minutes away, and a wide choice of dream destinations around the Mar Minor within spitting distance.

What we do is this. We cram the car with Cathy’s latest taste in curtains, candles, pictures, cooking utensils and new bikinis. Add the boys and us and head down to Portsmouth to pick up the Brittany ferry that will whisk us down to Santander or Bilbao (where there’s a hilarious museum called the Guggenheim, where artists can break the rules by very nearly fooling all the people all the time.) We drive on board and before you know it we have dumped the suitcases in our neat little cabin (where you can have a porthole for a bit extra) and it’s off to the bar for wine, Pringles and watching Portsmouth, with its wonderful Spinnaker Tower, disappear into the romantic sea mist.

The journey takes about 24 hours, by which time we have enjoyed a dinner which is about a hundred times better than it need be, at a lovely table by a window, slept well (unless the Bay of Biscay is playing up) had a fantastic breakfast (unless the Bay of Biscay is playing up) and landed on Spanish soil, rested and ready for the nine hour drive to our gorgeous pad. This we do in bite-size chunks, with plenty of coffee and comfort breaks (as those extraordinary transatlantics say) and arrive, tired but happy, in the underground car park that has a lift that takes us direct to our door.

On our last visit several exciting things happened – I painted a very big picture that now graces our lounge. Cathy remade all the beds and then announced our bed wasn’t big enough so we bought another. Sam (who flew in later because of school commitments) gave the place his wholehearted blessing because the wifi worked so well. Jamie fell into the pool, which was numbingly cold but he came out giggling. We cooked at ‘home’, ate out alfresco, caught up with wonderful friends and stood apprehensively as one of these friends put up some shelves for us.

And it was time to go home. For details of the return journey simply reverse the description a few paragraphs back. The Bay of Biscay was playing up, so small white bags were in evidence – except for Sam who slept through the whole thing.

Lovely wonderful time. Jamie still says he wishes we were back there, which we will be for August, and the rest of us agree.

Spain has really got its act together – like an end of pier comedian who has moved on to Shakespeare, having shaken off the critics who suggested he could never make that gigantic transformation.

I could show you about five hundred carefully composed photos to prove how beautiful this lovely country is, but for this in-depth article I will show you only one.

And it’s not of pop balladeer Steve Bent…

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.

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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.

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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