This appeared as an item in the Cartoonists’ Club of Great Britain newsletter, The Jester.
I’VE BEEN DRAWING blimmin’ cartoons since the year dot. Since the year Dot bought me a blimmin’ pencil and paper, see. You know, youngsters are always coming up to me and asking me how I blimmin’ do it. Only the other day, a newcomer to the Club came up to me. Bit like a teddy boy, he was. Dirk Quimby or summin’, I think his name was. Anyway, I said to him, ‘You see, what you gotta bloody do is keep sending the blimmin’ things out. I mean, I just sit at home all day thinking up blimmin’ ideas. I don’t know if any of them are any good until…’ Then Eric interrupted me. ‘I was only going to ask if you’d like a drink, Les.’ Now, there’s a youngster who’ll go far in the Club.
Well, you know, they’re always going on about shrinking markets. I don’t blimmin’ know what they’re going on about. The street market in Uxbridge is as big as it’s ever been, see. And you can get very reasonably-priced liver, there, too. Hmmm! Liver and onions. There’s a tasty breakfast.
No, what I mean is, what you gotta do is to think laterally. Young Terence Whatsisface told me that once. ‘Lateral-thinking, Les’ he said, ‘It’s the dog’s bollocks, mate!’ I never blimmin’ understand a word he says, but apparently if you think laterally you’ll get more work, see. I’ve been lying on my side, thinking, for years now and it hasn’t done me any harm. You see, you not only have the newspapers, you’ve got magazines as well. That’s blimmin’ doubled your market immediately. There’s a piece of valuable advice for nothing. I should run inseminaries on it, or summin’. But I only ever wanted to earn a living from blimmin’ cartoons.
As a founding member of the Club, I feel proud to be able to pass on the benefit of my experience to all these blimmin’ new youngsters.
‘And what are you going to blimmin’ be when you grow up?’ I used to say to Hogarth, patting him on the head and letting him suck my barley twist.
‘I’m going to be a social reformer,’ he would say.
‘Don’t talk nonsense,’ I’d say, ‘Be a cartoonist like me.’ And you know what? He blimmin’ did.
Of course, modern technology in those days was a far cry from what I remember starting out with. It was never quite so easy doing a bit of detailed hatching with your fingers on the blimmin’ wall of a cave. I remember saying to Dot, ‘What we gotta do is invent something out of a stick and a slab of stone or summin’.’ And the rest is history, see. The pad and pen revolutionised the cartooning industry.
During the war (the Second World War, not the Napoleonic ones), they were very careful with us soldiers whenever we were allowed out on the town. They’d give us this tub of disinfectant, see and we had to dip our pencils in before going out doodling.
Modern technology, eh? You know the older I get, the more bewildered I am by the march of progress, or summin’. Did you know, that apparently some people have little black boxes that show moving pictures of other people singing, dancing or doing plays and things? A Telling Vision, I think they blimmin’ call it. Where will it end? That’s what I say. Next thing you know, people will be talking to eachother from miles away without even shouting, see.
They even seem to be using blimmin’ spiders to communicate with these days. Lots of people have summin’ called ‘websites’. Well, Dot and I have been blimmin’ living in one for years now, since we gave up trying to reach the ceiling with our dusters. Ahead of our times, see.
‘You’re only as old as the woman you feel,’ WC Fields once said to me, during a game of Crap. Or I might have said it whilst having a crap in a WC in the fields, I’m not sure. Still, I’ve always had an eye for the blimmin’ fairer sex and, I must say, quite a few have kept their eyes carefully on me when I’m sitting next to them, perspiring and rubbing my hands up and down my trouser legs.
Did you know that they sit in blimmin’ shop windows in Amsterdam? I thought this was so interesting that I took a photo of one of them: a particularly striking and not-very-carefully-dressed black young lady, to show Dot, back home. And you know what happened? She came running out, see, and chased me all the way down to the canal! She probably wanted a copy of the photo for her blimmin’ album. I was puffed out, hiding in the canal, breathing through a reed. Alex Noel Watsissface thought this was hilarious and promptly broadcast it around the Club.
I wish there were more blimmin’ women in the Club. I often go up to ladies in the street (there are quite a few around Bayswater, for some reason) and ask them if they can stipple and cross-hatch. They all seem quite talented as they invariably say ‘I can do anything you like, love, as long as it only takes fifteen minutes.’ I get out my cards and give them one, there and then and offer to enrol them, but they don’t seem interested.
The main female member, for whom we can be grateful, is that blimmin’ Jill Angrame, or summin’. I get the impression she’s on the committee, or summin’. And a blimmin’ good job they do, too, I must say (as advised by this threatening letter I received, this morning).
And then there’s that Ellen Whatserface, Merton, or summin’, she’s a breath of fresh of air, she is. If only she had six sisters as well as brothers, she could bring them all along as well, see.
I don’t know what it is I’ve got that attracts the ladies. The trouble is, neither do they.
Ah yes. At the end of a hard day, lying on the floor of the WC, there’s nothing better than to go down to the blimmin’ Club and lie on the floor of the bar. That, after all, is what blimmin’ cartooning is all about, isn’t it, see?
As told to Simon Ellinas
Pic by Paul Baker