Cambridge Drawing Society

Well, it’s that time of year again, and my partner, Gill is getting her pictures ready to submit to the Cambridge Drawing Society open exhibition. She paints lovely watercolours, and gets voted the favourite in the show quite often. This sort of thing. . .


A portrait of my daughter Isobel

Good huh?

For my part, I have never indulged, mainly because I draw directly onto my computer for work purposes these days and computer prints are not allowed. Also, I have never been that sure if my stuff would fit in with the ethos of the show seeing as it’s work from my imagination and is humorous in style and content. But there is nothing in the guidelines that says that submitted work has to be drawn from life or be deadly serious, so this year I thought,’Well, why not?’ and sent in my entry form just in time. Which left me about five days to come up with four actual physically-drawn-on-paper type pictures that I had hurriedly called on the entry form, ‘Cat 1’, ‘Cat 2’, ‘Cat 3’, and ‘Cat 4’.

Well, I’ve managed that, for better or worse, and found that I actually enjoyed the process. What the ‘art loving public’ will make of these daft fat cats I don’t know. They may not even get accepted in the first place. Still, Ronald Searle was the honorary president, so daft fat cats may resonate 😉

Here they are.

cat1 cat2 cat3

cat4I think I may have priced myself out of the market at £120 a go, but I had to think of a figure off the top of my head and subtract the CDS’s 40% not to mention framing costs. . .

The exhibition is at Cambridge Guild Hall and is on from Saturday 13th to Saturday the 20th April. Pop in and have a look if you are in the area.


Six free copies in Danish. . .


This may or may not be Danish. . .

It may seem churlish to moan, but moaning is what illustrators do, apart from illustrating, obviously. (My illustrator friend John says that the collective noun for illustrators should be a ‘Moan’, I can see where he’s coming from there. . .)

So, in churlish moaning mode, and carrying on from the title of this post, just what am I supposed to do with six copies of ‘I’m Not Cute!’ or whatever, in Danish? Or in French, or Finnish, or Japanese, or Spanish, or, or, or. . .


Almost certainly not Danish. . .

You see, every time a book is translated and published in another country I get my contractually agreed three or more copies of it in said language. Of course, it’s nice to get foreign editions and be read in other countries, and I am grateful and pleased etc, and getting copies is good, but the trouble is, these copies tend to end up in a box in the loft, along with the English copies I didn’t give away to friends or didn’t get round to donating to a local school or something. I get six of them, and a further six in paperback if there is one. I feel they deserve a better fate really.


Verging on the Danish perhaps?. . .

Don’t get me wrong, I am not presenting this as an awful problem, deserving of your sympathy. I suppose I’m just pointing out an unintended side effect of being a children’s author/illustrator that you are probably unaware of. My silly dilemma.

I do give copies to local schools from time to time but with all the sorting out of copies, finding a box to put them in, driving to the school, remembering to alert them beforehand and getting round to do any of the above when I don’t really have to and would rather be doing something else, means it doesn’t happen very often. . . Me being me and all. . .


Unlikely to be Danish. . .

I used to distribute them to friends and family , but now their kids are all grown up or in their late teens, that outlet has long since dried up. So even if I do manage to get round to shifting a few English language copies that still leaves the foreign language editions festering in their cardboard box. I know someone in France with a five year old so that’s one copy sorted, but that’s about it.


Danish? Look, don’t ask me . .

I mention all this because, today, for some reason, I had a burst of Resolve, which sounds like some kind of air freshener or something but no, this Resolve was the steely kind that Gets Things Done!

Today I narrowed my eyes, took a deep breath, unfolded the ladder, and boldly ventured into the loft. . .

There were a stack of about five of those supermarket veg boxes, heaving with my out of sight, out of mind books, eying me resentfully, little knowing that my only concern was their eventual freedom. Oh, Foolish books! Mind you, some of them had about twenty years worth of resentment to discharge. . .


Well, who knows? Could be Danish. . .

So anyway, I grasped the nettle and sorted them all out, keeping two copies of every English language edition and one of each foreign edition. The rest I heaved downstairs and sorted into piles according to language. I made a bunch of gift boxes for the nearest four or so primary schools out of most of the English language ones, which I will deliver in the next few days. The foreign language editions still glowered at me from their respective piles, but I had a plan! The local freecycle network! Maybe, I thought, if I stick them on there, someone would be glad to take them off my hands. We shall see.


 Not even close to Danish. . .

Tune in next time folks. . . Dan Dan Daaaaah! (whoever he is. .)

World Rights Boxer Books.




It was a horrible drive up the A14/M6 in fog that didn’t lift all day, but once I got to the NEC, I knew it was worth the effort. Crufts didn’t let me down. It was fascinating. I wandered around, people watching and dog watching with my camera pretty much glued to my eye.

It was Toy and Utility Day and in every aisle, driven, determined, steely eyed , set jawed women in clothes you probably only see at dog shows and weddings grimly brushed, blow dried and primped small, placidly accepting dogs of the small, fluffy or hairy kind. Driven, determined, steely eyed, set jawed gay and straight, but I would tentatively say mostly gay men did likewise. Husbands, partners and various family members hovered, or sat, idling on their mobiles.

Visitors and exhibitors milled around, exchanging Dog Talk and show gossip, every now and then pausing to do the arms length squint that camera and phone makers force us to do since viewfinders fell out of favour. (My camera has a viewfinder thank God).

In their respective aisle Bulldogs lay slumped in their cages, half asleep, pendulous jowls spreading like melting candle wax as the poor overbred creatures snorted and snored, oblivious to the permanently tragic gaze of pop-eyed Pugs and forlorn French Bulldogs. In other aisles Pomeranians yapped, Yorkies yelped, Italian Greyhounds quivered  in anorexic paroxisms while dandylion headed Bischon Frises sat looking slightly self conscious as one of the living, breathing exercises in surreal topiary that constitutes a Standard Poodle, perched on its special grooming table nearby, got it’s quiff sorted. It’s a dog’s life.

Partly owing to the dullest of dull foggy days outside, not much daylight permeated the vast hanger like halls. the artificial lights were OK but for photographic purposes it was tricky. I really didn’t want to use flash as I felt it would be intrusive and off putting for the dog groomers, not to mention the dogs. So I had to up the ISO on my X100 to uncomfortable levels (the higher you go the lower the light you can operate in but the more noisy/grainy the result) hence the only average technical quality of these shots.

Still, technical quality aside, I think you get an idea of what it’s like wandering the halls at the NEC when Crufts is on. I am going for a sort of cumulative documentary effect, but from the veiwpoint of an amused/bemused outside observer, enjoying the absurdity of the event without judging it too hard.

p.s. – I dunno if it was by choice because of the lurid green flooring, but I have never seen so many people wearing orange. Unless I just gravitated towards them when picking photographic subjects. . .

All shots taken with an Fuji X100 with a Nikon WC-E68 wide angle adaptor at ISO 6400 trying to keep at f5.6 or above and the shutter speed above 1/30. So motion blur and underexposure was a constant worry. Oh well, next time it might be sunny outside. . .