Thursday, 26 January 2012


It’s a spooky week in this week’s sizzling, soaraway Westmorland Gazette.
The demolition of a house in Kendal was interrupted when a builder spotted a face at one of the windows. A picture was taken and examined. It was the image of a previous owner, long since dead. The builders had spotted a ghost! (The fact that said building was being demolished to make way for a commercial property which might benefit from a bit of free publicity in no way diminishes the paranormal nature of this claim.)
Elsewhere, two ladies out jogging (or women out jogging, I’m never sure which word I’m supposed to use to avoid getting into trouble) on Scout Scar one evening (I hope you haven’t lost the thread of this sentence) spotted two eyes glowing in the dark. They turned their head torches on it and yes! - It was the fabled Big Cat. It swished it’s tail at them and, rather than investigate further, they ran away.
Now, this Big Cat has been lurking round South Lakeland for a while now. Either some farmer is keeping very quiet about his insurance claims for missing sheep or a supermarket is doing a roaring trade in Whiskas. I am roundly sceptical and really should go on a diet, but until I see this Big Cat for myself, in daylight, standing next to a rules, I will remain sceptical.
However, ghosts and Giant Moggies do enliven newspaper cartoon day, so I’m always grateful when they appear. Next week I want goblins (although not these goblins) In the meantime, below are the sketches I sent to my esteemed editor. You’ll be able to see which one made the front page by tuning into my website on Friday morning.

“These stories about a mystery giant cat are a gross exaggeration.”

“I’d say that’s incontrovertible evidence there’s a Big Cat round here.”

“At least they haven’t found out about the Yeti’s holiday home in Ambleside.”

“I’m the Gazette’s new spooky sightings reporter.”

Monday, 23 January 2012


There were a variety of cartoon candidates amongst this week’s Westmorland Gazette stories. Two in particular exerted a strange, cartoony pull.
In the first, it has been announced that the law has been modified, allowing personal locator beacons (PLBs) to be carried by walkers. Previously restricted for use by those at sea or in the air, this opens up exciting possibilities. Chief amongst them is yet more call outs for Mountain Rescue Teams who have to go recover hapless dolts who have set out into the mountains in shorts and flipflops but who bought a PLB as the latest must-have gadget touted by the outdoor magazines. They already think a battery-operated GPS and mobile phone is a valid substitute for a map and a brain, so I can’t see PLBs improving the situation.
The second story is about a family. No ordinary family but one which is about to appear in a TV documentary. Even that is ordinary these days but this family is appearing in a documentary about big families; they have 15 children. Clearly someone gave them a book entitled the Birds and the Swarm at an early stage in their marriage. Laudably, they are taking part in the documentary to correct the standard Daily Mail impression that all large families are on welfare benefits. 
During the course of the afternoon’s cartooning, I sketched away at ideas but always had one particular drawing in the back of my mind. Unfortunately I didn’t have a caption for it. A few generous souls on Twitter offered to crowd source a caption, which was noble but impractical; it would have meant revealing the story on Twitter where it could be snatched away by the Gazette’s perfidious rivals.
I left the drawing until last and, as is often the case, the act of drawing it caused a caption to happen. You can see all the sketches below and click here to discover which one won the prized position on the front page of the Gazette.

“Being the youngest of 15 means all the hand-me-downs have disintegrated by the time I get them.”

“It’s disgraceful, the way these TV companies sponge off large families.”

“It’s a personal locator beacon, so my wife can find me in the supermarket.”

“Mountain rescue? Can you send someone to find my personal locator beacon?”

“We liked the idea of David Cameron’s Big Society so much we decided to start our own.”

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Clocking on

After last week's rather heavy Westmorland Gazette front page, it was a relief to turn to something lighter this week. 6,000 new homes are to be built in the South Lakes area.

Anything involving building work in a national park is guaranteed to have people hopping about in indignation.The requirement for more homes, doubly so (especially as there is a large pool of predominantly unoccupied second homes in the region).

In other news: 

Tourism chiefs (as opposed to tourism squaws) want the clocks to go forward to allow people to enjoy more daylight hours in the Lake District (i.e. spend more).

A burglar broke into a house, made some toast and fell asleep on the sofa, where the police found him the following morning (a classic case of story-funnier-than-any-cartoon)

And there's a campaign to remove A-boards from the street as they are a hazard to pedestrians. 

View the sketches , pick the one you think should be on the front page and then stroll over to my website to see if the editor agreed …

“Will you stop going on about the economic benefits of moving the clocks forward.”

“I’m all for it as long as they don’t build any near my holiday home.”

“Fortunately we found out about the 6000 new houses just in time and bought a 2nd home in France instead.”

Hold the front page

For an unfortunate few in the Lake District, 2012 started in the worst possible way.
Over the Christmas holidays, two students got caught out on England’s highest mountain in blizzard conditions. Scafell Pike is not an easy climb on the best of days. This was the worst of days and only one of the nineteen year-old climbers got down alive. On New Year’s Day, a 41-year old woman died whilst canoeing on Hobdale Beck, near Sedbergh.
From the point of view of the regional press, these are major stories and quite rightly featured on the front page of The Westmorland Gazette. A heavy diet of news for the start of the year and one which presents a problem when your job is to come up with a joke to lighten the page.
On occasions like this, I have to resort to stories from inside the paper. There were a few good candidates; the weather, the sighting of another Big Cat and a man who had panned Scottish rivers to glean enough gold to make a ring for his fiancé.
I get three hours to work on the cartoon, from first sight of the stories to submitting finished artwork. On the way, I show the editor sketches of my ideas and he selects the one to go on the front page. Last week he went for number 4, below. I drew it up and sent it off, just inside the three hours. 
Then Phil the Sub spotted that the cartoon didn't sit well alongside the canoe story. 
It’s a fine line but whereas I feel humour has no boundaries if handled correctly, I don’t propose to upset the recently bereaved. 
So… hold the front page! I swiftly drew, scanned and emailed a second piece of artwork and it was on the page by 5.15.
You can see the sketches, false starts and finished cartoon below and the colour version is on my website.

"Unfortunately I only found this old tyre."

"That Big Cat must be wild - no sensible domestic cat would be out in this weather."

"As the garden is a sea of mud, we thought we'd capitalise on it."

"My fiance´made me a ring made of material he found in a river."

"My fiancé made me a ring from stuff he found in a river."

"The mystery Big Cat must be wild - no sane domestic cat would be out in this."