Thursday, 27 August 2009

Singular regularity

I like to keep regular.

Like most people, I suppose, I prefer a daily rhythm which is predictable and ordered. Especially important when one works freelance as a jet-setting, international cartoonist, freed from the shackles of the weekday nine to five. So it came as a shock when my usual Thursday job switched to Wednesday.

This is no trivial matter. The Westmorland Gazette has been appearing on the same day of the week for hundreds of years. Thursday has been my newspaper cartoon day for a quarter of a century. True, the time of day has varied as different printing presses and production deadlines have come into play but Thursday itself has remained an immovable object. Holidays have been built around it. Appointments in far flung corners of the globe have been organised to allow me to fax or email cartoons back to the high-tech, super-streamlined newspaper office in a remote corner of England.

Furthermore those around me have undergone 25 years of training to make sure they know that Thursdays, for two or three hours, I cannot be reached by phone, person, email or carrier pigeon for any reason except in the direst of emergencies. (My publishing business partner has now just about got it … I am not sure I will live long enough for him to become programmed to the change of routine.)

The new day has been running two weeks so will take a while to bed in. It does have benefits. Wednesday is market day in Kendal and the town is therefore very exciting, being positively a-throb with life and activity. (I don’t get out much when I am not internationally jet-setting.)

On the subject of which, when I am jet-setting - or at least, train-setting - I can do it on a Thursday, avoiding the transport companies’ predilection to screw their customers at Friday ticket rates. (Note to overseas readers - highway robbery did not die out in the UK, it became a subsidiary of the national rail network.)

On press day itself the cartoon routine remains the same. Read stories, produce a batch of sketches, sulk when the editor choses the wrong one, draw final artwork and scan into computer in three hours prior to press deadline. This has a rhythm all of its own, finely tuned to the hot-house environment of a regional newspaper office, a vibrant news-gathering organism turning a penetrating, incisive scrutiny on the community around it.

Unless it is someone’s birthday. In which case it’s cakes all round.

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