Spirit Walk for Sue

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Day Two 5:30am Greensand Ridge above Bedford

I haven’t a religious bone in my body, but do believe in the power of the spirit. So when a friend of mine began her long and arduous battle against breast cancer, a Spirit Walk seemed the one thing I could do for her that her support group of family and friends maybe wouldn’t think of.

The idea was simple enough, to go to the site of her wellspring, to the hospital in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, where she was born, and walk home to Nottingham where she was now fighting the enemy within, scooping up and accumulating strength along the way to lay at her doorstep.

Aside from whether I was physically up to it, my only fear was being accused of an embarrassing case of Schadenfreude. I kept the plan anonymous and shared the idea with only a couple of people I knew could be trusted to stay shtum. The plan was to post her a letter from Hitchin as I set off, explaining my intent and purpose, emphasizing that, aside from being aware of the walk, I and it demanded nothing of her.

I plotted a route that weaved between conurbations and managed to stay on bridleways, foot and tow paths for 90% of the way. I slept rough and ate frugally but regularly, mostly munching my own version of trail mix and squeezy cheese on oatcakes. I didn’t expect to find any village shops and there was every chance the pubs marked on the map had mutated into bijou restaurants, open maybe four evenings a week.

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A place of contemplation

The story of the Spirit Walk for Sue deserves telling, except this isn’t the place for something so deeply personal. I surprised myself by having no problem at all keeping her struggle in heart and mind, particularly when I too was gritting my teeth against stabbing pains in my shoulders and hips. I just ain’t as young as I used to be!

The fight to progress along many of the rights of way was to be expected in a country where ROW officers are now an endangered species, but the difficulty of sourcing water took me by surprise. Farms I identified as oases on days of flogging from one field to another were no more than equipment depots for the combines that had gobbled them up. On the up side, I equally didn’t expect to have so many thrilling close encounters with wildlife.

How many can boast being woken in the morning by a beautiful bushy-tailed fox nudging my bivvy bag, and I was convinced the female kite that seemed to trail me for eight miles was in fact Sue watching over me.

 Basic stats: approx. 190k total, five days, shortest day 26k, longest day 51k.

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19th Century Graphic Satire Conference Report

DIAMFqwW0AENULQNow and again it is good to dip a toe in the deep still waters of the academic world to see what they’re up to, particularly when the topic under consideration is graphic satire, a subject I get the impression is still quite new to the ivory tower’s canon of research. And this conference promised and delivered some fascinating brain fodder. If it’s still up, the full programme can be read here, and I was certainly absorbed by papers presented on the Scottish caricaturist, William Charles, on Harry Furniss, the powerhouse behind many of the stunning images in the 1880s Punch, and on the story behind the German satirical magazine, Simplicissimus, of the First World War (sorry, 19th Century!?). It is wonderful that intellectuals are doing this work but, dear me, there are problems with this whole field of study, if these presentations are anything to go by.

Don’t get me wrong, the rarely-seen images were fabulous to study (though poorly and briefly displayed, as if we weren’t actually meant to study them at all) and when it came to contextualising the cartoons, the brains trust were on the nose with their history. But the collective knowledge and understanding of the means of production, style and form, the commissioning process, the position (even life, in some cases) of the artists in that society, and their terminology fell so badly short. Nobody seemed too clear what a caricature was, such that cartoons were called caricatures, whether or not they contained a caricature. ‘Comic image’ was used for single panel cartoons and plates that had nothing to do with comics, and when I raised the point it was thought I was talking about comedians. Nobody seemed aware of comics from the period, let alone medieval comics, and there appeared a total lack of understanding that editorial cartoonists (“What’s an editorial cartoonist?”) working during times of war agree not rock the boat or take swipes at national politics for the duration. Suddenly Gillray’s social satires were being talked about as propaganda!

Accepting that the last thing these honourable and cosy (lots of back-slapping and quoting of each other) academics needed in the audience was a know-all cartoonist asking embarrassing questions, it is fair to say that some were actually delighted to have somebody from the trade challenging assumptions and sloppiness, and quietly told me so. Probably I was too loud, but this was a conference opened by ‘The V.C.’ (varsity speak in hallowed tones for Vice Chancellor) that attracted academics from Berlin, Krakow, Dublin, Belfast, Australia and distant cities in Britain. For an audience of around twenty, half of whom were presenting papers or organising the event, the money spent was outrageous.

What Nottingham Does Comics could have done with a tenth of their budget!

 

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Nottingham Does Comics in September

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8th June 2017

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Poster on corner of Huntingdon Street & Mansfield Road, Nottingham

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Nottingham Does Comics in June

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East of Aleppo: Bread, Bombs and Video Clips

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On it’s way to the printers is my latest comics effort, a short story triggered by an unexpected discovery while trying to get my head round what the hell was going on in Syria. Unlike my previous work, this is very much a drama-documentary, low on humour but high on the fog of war. It is being published by a new imprint of the large independent publishers Five Leaves, imaginatively called Five Leaves Graphic, and will be available from the end of next month (June), available through bookshops on 1st September. Price, just a fiver to y’all.

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Five Leaves Graphic’s second publication will be a critical review of UK women comics creators, past and present, currently being completed by Selina Lock, the thrust behind the seminal Girly Comic. Price yet to be decided.

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Nottingham Does Comics in April

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East of Aleppo – the comic

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Just completed the 26 page story East of Aleppo: Bread, Bombs and Video Clips. It’s been a bit of a battle, not just because the possibly true story has been harvested from a number of loose threads I stumbled on in alternatives to our mainstream press, but also because I’ve had to hold my tendency to go for humour in check to tell this documentary story. Then there was the pain of getting the art close as possible to the actual (not easy for a cartoonist) and the tricky bit of having three different locations that, on the surface, look and do pretty much the same thing.

I have no particular publisher in mind and might just go for self-publishing. We’ll see.

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Just a couple o’ toons…

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Two of ten toons recently produced for Irish development agency 80:20 and published in their excellent Development in an Unequal World, co-sponsored by New Internationalist.

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BRICKzits

Minutes.web Knighthood.web Eeyore.web Don’t forget, the BRICKzit series is free and delivered once a week (at most) to your Inbox to provide you with a wry smile while civilisation as you thought you knew it crumbles around your ears.

Hit the email button if you’re missing out!

And here’s the back catalogue.

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