Saturday 25 June 2016

Manchester Felixstowe Hexham - travels with my art

Socks backstage selfie at Dancehouse in Manchester. When I put it on Facebook, Mum's first question was why the room was empty. She thought we hadn't sold any tickets. It was, of course, before the (sellout) crowd came in. The Socks were on the bill of Chortle's Fast Fringe, doing a three minutes slot, alongside some of the finest comic talents on the circuit. Honoured to be asked.

And look at how honoured we were! Only the joint biggest names on the flaming flyer! How's that? Like we said, honoured and flattered to be asked, and it was a cracking gig. A three minute slot that gets video'd and used to promote our Manchester show in July and our Edinburgh show in August

It was also the highest miles-to-gig-minutes ratio travelling I have ever done. 

Satnav thought, and I was hoping it'd be right, that Manchester was just 3 and a quarter hours away. I've been there a million times, that's about how far it is. Only tonight, a Friday, someone had decided to close a stretch of the M5 and a stretch of the M6. Precisely the two roads I was hoping to use. So it was that it took me 5 hours to get to the gig. And another 5 hours to get home. 10 hours driving, to perform for 3 minutes. Definitely a record.

The following day, Saturday, I then had a day's work caricaturing in the street in Blaenavon, up the Welsh valleys. After which I had to head straight to Felixstowe in order to be ready for a Sunday during which I'd be doing a day of Comic Art Masterclasses. 4 and a half hours there, 4 and a half hours back the next day.

Luckily for me, I'd be getting more of a rest the next day, Monday, when all I had to do was wake up at 4am and set off at 5am, then I could have an hour's snooze on the one hour flight to Newcastle before doing three days of classes in Hexham. I got to the airport at 5.45 to read this message...

Cancelled. Okay, but they were offering me the chance to transfer my flight for free. So when was the next flight to Newcastle..?

8pm Wednesday night? Not so useful. So I cancelled my flights, got a refund of the flights, and the car parking (minus a fiver - they charged me a fiver for not cancelling my parking in advance! I know) and set off on the long drive to Hexham. I arrived in Hexham at 3pm, just in time to have missed my first day of schools. Luckily they were able to reschedule my schools, so I'll be here until Thursday instead. Oh sure, I was looking forward to Thursday being my first day off for a week, but that's okay.

It's not as if I have to go to Romsey in Hampshire for a day of schools on Friday, then to Norwich for schools on Saturday, then Derby for a matinee Socks Preview on Sunday...

Did I mention I arrange these travel schedules single handedly. It's a gift.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres. After a morning or an afternoon every pupil goes away with a photocopied comic containing a strip by every single one of them, and an individual caricature by Kev F. Please email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video  

How Remain Lost

Thinking more* about how Remain lost the referendum, I believe it was very clearly a battle that was won by triers and lost by the weaker fighters. Obviously I believe the Remain cause was just, and backed up by facts, but that's not the point. The Leave Campaign had two campaigns for starters - a Pincer Movement if you will - with  Boris & Gove's team reaching one constituency who overlapped in a Venn diagram with the group reached by Farage's attack from the other flank. 

           So there was already twice the work being done by the Leave side, compared to Remain's defence which lacked a figurehead, a champion, and an "angle." All it had were the facts.   
           And do you know who knows how feeble facts alone are? Journalists. And who were the leaders of the Leave campaign? Two journalists. Gove and Boris are both journalists. They both know how a story works, how to construct a headline, and how a soundbite - even one that's proved wrong every time it's said - becomes the thing you believe if it's repeated often enough.  

           Gove & Boris, and Farage, got out there. In person. In a big red bus with a memorable headline on the side. (No point arguing that it was factually incorrect - "Print the legend"). They went into peoples territories, giving people the real impression they were being listened to. And, most importantly, they had friends - their fellow journalists - who could ensure everyone was singing from the same songsheet.

            What did Remain have? Cameron, who was already the natural enemy of half the electorate, and...? Well Jeremy Corbyn was despicably conspicuous by his absence. And one of the few interviews I saw him make about the referendum was The Last Leg where he was avowedly disinterested in the whole thing. He was needed, and he let the side down big time. 
            There were other good campaigners for Remain, from the Greens to the luvvies. But whether they were denied access to the TV, by broadcasters who find Farage more camera-friendly than  Cumberbatch and Beckham, or just weren't sharp-elbowed enough, one thing was sure, they weren't united. And there was no clear message.

        Leave had: I want my country back. 
        Remain only had: You already have your country, what do you mean?
        Leave had: £350m a week goes to Brussels
        Remain only had: No it doesn't, what are you talking about?
        Leave had: No more immigrants
        Remain only had: I say, wait a minute, you can't say that...

In short, it was an offensive game with a pitiful defence, and now it needs those of us on both left and centre to get our act together to stop the winners doing the things they might get away with if we continue being so ineffective.

*(I drove for 10 hours yesterday and 6 hours today, I've had a lot of thinking time)

Thursday 23 June 2016

My Brexit Facebook Diary

The last week has been a horrible and mesmerising time. Not least on Facebook, where rabid discussions, arguments, passive aggression, and bitterness has mingled with bad gags, and voices crying in the wilderness. It was the week of Brexit and I couldn't tear myself away from Facebook. Here are some of the things I posted, shared and joined in with.
I updated my avatars for a day or so. To no avail.


Julia Morris's photo.

Most frustrating thing about the Brexit debate? Not getting the chance to say face-to-face to a Brexiteer the stuff that you've rehearsed 100 times in your head. Eg: "Oh yes? Tell me again which bit of Europe you think Syrians, Afghans, Somalis and Nigerians come from." That sort of smart-arsed thing.‪#‎Bremain‬

"Not all Brexiteers are racist, but all racists will vote Brexit" - Billy Bragg

Chris Weston's photo.

"When I hear the word intellectual I reach for my revolver". Sadly this turns out to be a mis-quote, and not even said by a real Nazi. (Such a shame, because it sounds so much like a Michael Gove expression, doesn't it?) Here's its origin: ‪#‎VoteRemain‬ It's: "When I hear the word culture ..., I release the safety on my Browning" read on...

Confirmation Bias, thy name is Facebook. Since, obviously, almost everyone I know thinks like me, I'm reduced to picking petty fights with the few "friends-of-friends" who are Brexiteers. Pathetic. If I'm a real man, why don't I go out into a proper pub full of baldy blokes and shout "I'm for Remain - anyone got a problem with that?" (Then engage in constructive debate).

Yes, but you can prove anything with facts, and the people have had enough of experts...

There are untruths, half-truths, and statistics.

Sockdolager: the decisive, winning point in an argument or debate. Also known as a recumbentibus (a knockout punch). Morning. (Thanks to @Susie_Dent on Twitter, I now know this)

Attack Of The Rainbow Pig - comics by kids in Bethnal Green, Backwell & Wiltshire

In the last month it's been hard to find a group of Year 6 pupils who didn't want to call their comic something to do with Donald Trump, but at last here were two of them. Entirely Trump-free, these are the ideas of the pupils at Preshute Primary in Wiltshire (a school I've been going to for years, I first visited them back in 2004, as one of the very first schools I taught at). Let's hope that's the last we've seen of Donald Trump, eh?

And there he is, right back on the front cover, in a suggestion from (you guessed it) year 6s at Bonner Primary in Bethnal Green. Due to a last-minute confirmation for this school visit, I had to drive to London rather than taking the train (which, at a day's notice, is impossibly expensive). So it was that I ended up driving 8 hours, to teach for 4.

As well as the pupils at Backwell school, on the left, we have here a comic I did for a 13th birthday party. I'm always surprised when people want a Comic Art Masterclass for their party - everyone turns up to eat cake, and I sit them down and force them to draw. They seemed to enjoy it though, and it's a novelty. As was the example you'll see in the middle of the montage below, where I had to stay a little bit longer at a school (Albert Bradbeer in Birmingham, now you ask) to draw (on top of having drawn 60 pupils in the two classes that day) every single member of staff. 40 of them in all. It's nice to be popular.

The celebrities these six classes chose for my demonstration strip were Donald Trump, Stevie Wonder, The Queen (twice), Simon Cowell, and Selena Gomez.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres. After a morning or an afternoon every pupil goes away with a photocopied comic containing a strip by every single one of them, and an individual caricature by Kev F. Please email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video  

Saturday 18 June 2016

Hev in Hospital

This was as close as I came to taking a photo of Hev in hospital, she wasn't feeling very photogenic. What a very different weekend this was. When Hev went to the MAU.

For me the sick weekend began with me getting food poisoning at a school in Ealing on Wednesday. I blame the veggie burger at the school lunch (though I'm assured no-one else was ill). I threw up in the toilets before I left. Then, half an hour down the road at the next services, I parked up and could get no further than getting out of my car before I'd thrown up, quite copiously, all over the car park. Not pleasant. I made it home via a couple of snooze rests. But that was that for my little illness.

Meanwhile Hev had been feeling unwell for some time. She'd been sweating overnight, but then who hadn't (it's been a particularly humid June), and had been throwing up a little. But she seemed to be recovering. My suggestions that she should go to the Doctor were dismissed as she didn't think it was that bad. But by Friday morning she really was clearly getting no better. Still throwing up and unable to keep water down, and with a temperature, I rang up the Doctor to get an emergency appointment (at first the receptionist suggested we could see the Doctor in a week's time, till I pointed out it was more of an emergency than that) and we waited for the Duty Doctor to ring back.

Expecting to come away from the Doctor's appointment at 3-o'clockish in the afternoon with a prescription for some pills and/or potions, imagine our surprise when Hev emerged saying we had to drive straight to A&E in Weston. She had a temperature at a troublingly high level and went through all the tests they had going, from bloods to x-rays to ultrasound, and was in for an overnight stay.

In all she remained in the Medical Assessment Unit for three nights and most of Monday, getting a course of intravenous antibiotics to treat a urinary tract infection, and a saline drip to rehydrate her, the infection having gone to her kidneys, so they'd not been doing their job for a while. By Monday she was stable and able to be discharged.

The great thing about the MAU, as opposed to other wards, is that visitors are able to go in from quite early in the day (10.30) and stay till 8 at night, and fortuitously Hev was in over the weekend, and I'd had a day off the road in Friday, so I was able to stay with her all day, fetching provisions from home and the shops, and generally, I hope, being of some help as a bedside companion.

I really ought to leave it to her to tell you the tales of the other patients in her ward, including Jabba The Hut with the Heather Robinsonesque breathing contraption, and the midnight nurse from hell. I couldn't do justice to these tales told second hand.

When finally we got her home on Monday night, I was at last able to tell the world (we didn't want to worry her Mum & Dad until she was in the clear) and lovely thoughts came back in droves via Facebook:

Steve Noble Poor Heather! Hope you're feeling better!
Jason Manly Get well soon Heather
Peter Crocker Get well soon Hev x
Felicity Harper Oh no! Hope you are feeling better, Hev.
Annette Tweed Get well soon Heather and I appreciated your email yesterday xxx
Owen Niblock So sorry to hear that. Get well soonHeather!
Vince Stadon Sorry to hear! Hope Hev is soon back on her feet.
Dean Powell Feel better soon Heather 👍☕️
Annette Tweed Thank you for looking after her Kevxxx
Jane Johnson · Friends with Annette Tweed
Hope you feel better soon Heather xx
Jude Sutherland Oh no! Hope she's feeling better soon. xxxx
Laura Butler Hope you feel better soon Heather. x
Louisa Gummer Make sure Kev looks after youHeather, and get well soon!
Gillian Carole Nash Sorry to hear you're not well Heather, get well soon x
Wendy Taylor-Eardley Get well soon from us
Sarah Dumphy Some of these I would like to know what they are!

And I hope you mend soon!
Sutherland Corral Glad Kev was around when you were so I'll. Happy you are home to recuperate.
Love, Corral/Mum. Xxx
Simonetta Avossa Carvell Take it easy Heather. I hope that you are feeling better soon. xx
Tamara Winkler Get well soon Heather 💐💐
Jon Pratty Get better soon! X
Mark Ashley Sorry, hope you get better soon
Sian Teague Sorry to hear that. Get well soon, Heather!
Anji Jane Cuttler Get well lovely xxx
Fiona Dorrington · Friends with Felicity Harper
Poor Hev hope you're feeling better soon Fiona
Audrey Tweed Lovely to see all your get well messages,,always in my thoughts Mums xx
David Leach Here's wishing her a speedy recovery, Kev.
Tim Read That sounds really nasty. Get well soonHeather!
Heather Tweed Thank you lovely people for all wishes. Been catching up with old Netfix films in my 'get better nest'! Up & about today, starting to feel human again! Just about to start a book about Art & Money in 19th Century Britain for a little light reading ; ) love Heather xxxxxxx
Davy Francis Get well soon Heather.
Jim Wheelock Best wishes. Get better, Heather.
Mel Farrow · Friends with Toby Reeve and 1 other
Wishing Jude a speedy recovery xx
Jude Sutherland Thanks Mel but it is my Sister in Law who is poorly not me!
Mel Farrow · Friends with Toby Reeve and 1 other
Pat Bissett · 3 mutual friends
,so sorry to hear what a bad time you have had Heather,hope that now you are home you make a speedy recovery, sure your loving husband will give you all the necessary T L C. That you will need. !! Best wishes. Pat (Montrose)
Rob Hughes Best wishes Hev. Get well x
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