Thursday, 28 March 2013

Doom Robes and Snow Globes

Last weekend Cumbria was hit by the worst snow storm since 1950. 
There were drifts up to twenty feet deep, 70 motorists were snowed in and had to stay for two nights in the local school, electricity cables came down and there was general chaos, as you can see in these BBC pictures.
The snow has continued all week. In fact, there are flakes falling as I type this. It’s like we’re in a giant snow globe and someone keeps shaking it up.
Or a giant doom robe, as autocorrect insisted on calling it when I tried to tweet that remark this morning. (After some debate, my Twitter followers and I decided that a doom robe was Voldemort’s dressing gown.)
My garden shed decided to put on a particularly fetching display of shedcicles.

No prize for guessing the subject of this week’s front page Westmorland Gazette cartoon. The three ideas below were all pitched to my steamed editor - but which one would YOU have chosen? 
Vote in the comments box below, then put on your skis and swoosh across to my website to see if the editor agreed with you.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Falling Down

A cartoonist’s working life has an uneven rhythm. A fixed point of mine, for twenty-odd years, has been the front page cartoon for The Westmorland Gazette. The afternoon before press day, between 2.00 and 5.00, I know exactly what I’ll be doing - even if I don’t know the stories I’ll be working on until I start.
Within that three hours, there is another set of rhythms. The first hour is looking at stories, exploring ideas, the second is coming up with sketches to pitch to the editor - usually four - and the final hour is finishing the artwork, scanning it, manipulating it in Photoshop and firing it off to the sub-editors in Blackburn.
This week went slightly awry.It doesn’t happen often but when it does, it gets more exciting than usual.
The story I was concentrating on was about mountain rescue, increases in fatal accidents, the unpreparedness of walkers. As a walk book writer, it’s close to my heart and I wanted to comment on it.
First four cartoons (including one on another story) didn’t quite get there. The ‘brain’ cartoon was a bit too pointed given there had been fatalities. The UFO one …well, there had been a group of UFO-spotters rescued but it was buried on page 2 of the paper.
So try again. And numbers 5 and 6 didn’t work either.
By now, my normal, carefully-composed schedule had gone out the window and it was 4.35, with the deadline still fixed at 5.00.
Fired off cartoon 7. Hm … editor runs it past one or two others. Bit of debate as it isn’t, strictly speaking, a joke (newspaper cartoons don’t have to be, they’re allowed to make a point - ask Gerald Scarfe). 
4.50 and number7 it is, giving me … ooh, ten minutes to finish it off. In the event, I was able to do this because it was drawn on the computer and needed little additional work before sending to print.
So, now you know which one got in. You can see it here on my website. And here are the seven candidates in full.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Health Scare

Your health is important. My health is important. I’d argue that my health is more important than your health but I think we’ve established the principle that, generally speaking, health is pretty important.
That’s probably why it appears in the news so often. And because politicians, administrators, managers and other unimaginative fiddlers keep interfering with it.
Morecambe Bay Primary Care University Hospitals Trust (re-arrange those words into whichever order they’re using them this month) has announced that it has a £30m shortfall in its budget. So it has announced economy measures. These include booting patients out at night, employing boy scouts as anesthetists and switching off computers at bedtime (only one of those is invented).
I have a long history of drawing cartoons about the Health Trust for The Westmorland Gazette. I’ve done most of the obvious ones - “it’s condition is critical” - so don’t react with total glee when the Trust features as the front page story. 
But there are always more jokes to be mined and here are seven of them.
You - yes, you, ill or not - can say which you think should have gone on the front page by adding a comment below.
Then take up your crutches and hobble over to my website to see if the Gazette’s editor agreed with you.

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