The Suitable Candidate


This is my late friend Gordon when we were walking the Red Stripe. I went to his wake just the other day and just before I set off I found this image of him taken in the 70s. It’s taken from a 35mm slide found in the corner with a load of other unrelated pictures. I suspect this was taken just before his feet got too blistered to carry on, which in the circumstances was not really surprising as the rucksack in the foreground was what I was carrying and the one next to him was his load.

In true Gordon tradition, as the erstwhile King of Sheddism, his wake was in the pub near to where he lived with his family. I’m told that he had his own seat in the place. Known locally as the Low House it was a throwback to what pubs are really like, but with some improvement on the food, no sight here of the pickled eggs of the 70s, or the plastic pork pie covers with internal resident fly. Located in a little village in the middle of Suffolk in a landscape as flat as a pancake one of our mutual friends mused: ” Why do they call it the Low House”? It was obvious to the rest of us, “Well it’s about six feet lower than the other pub in the village”. Hardly at the bottom of the hill as they don’t do that sort of thing in this area.

Our mutual friend Richard, a man who made me redundant in the 1970s and who is still a good friends. We drove across country. Me driving and Richard giving me the odd instruction from my phone sat nav as the lady therein seems to be lost for words when the engine starts. We’d worked with Gordon in those pre -redundancy days, he wrote the words and we tried to do the pictures. In the main we were involved in trying to get people to apply for work in a range of jobs, from Bus and Train Drivers to headier management posts. Here Gordon spent much of his time persuading clients not to use such phrases as “…the suitable candidate will” and we would often hear him muttering: “what about the ****ing unsuitable candidate for crying out loud?”

During our stay at the pub, some of Gordon’s old school friends gave us all some stories about the man himself and what led him to sheddism. It’s when people you don’t know talk about people you do, that you discover that there was always more to them than meets the eye. This was nowhere truer than with Gordon. As one friend said, although he had this outer rough Yorkshire carapace, he had a very soft centre, bit like a Belgian truffle, I laugh at the comparison as he would be naturally outraged.

My companion on the trip Richard was supposed to give a short address, but was not aware of it, so demurred, but has had time to put his own thoughts on paper and spread the word about one of our closest friends. Here’s what Richard would have said:

“Gordon and I met around 1969 when he arrived at the advertising agency where I worked. We hit it off straight away: two working-class lads who didn’t come from London, both with similarly liberal views, an anarchic sense of fun and a love of the odd pint. The people who come up with the ideas – they’re called creatives these day (he would have winced) – combine writing skills with artistic ones. Gordon and I became one of those teams.

We worked together and socialised together and after my marriage went toxic Gordon invited me to join him in a flat he shared with Jim Hannen (who can’t be with us today, much to his regret) and so we ended up living together as well.

In fact, I am partly responsible for Gordon and Sue moving to East Anglia. The flat also holidayed together and one Easter we laid a map on the table and someone pointed to the Suffolk coast and said, ‘let’s go there instead of the West Country’. And so it was that we descended on a little town called Southwold. Which had its own brewery. Result.

Something that hasn’t been mentioned is Gordon’s love of games. Mainly the sort that his imagination created. This is something I wrote in my autobiography a few years ago. Apologies to all Scots present:

We seem to have worked very hard – I recall lots of praise being heaped upon us – but all I really remember is having a riot of a time. We spent lunchtimes in the pub next to the office, played office cricket with a plastic ruler and a rolled-up ball of paper, made up a complicated game involving rolled-up balls of paper (again) and plastic cups. It was called ‘Sleicht it doon the Glen’ (no idea how to spell it) and had a Scottish flavour and arcane rules; you could score with a ‘Tannockbrae’ and a no-ball was indicated by shouting ‘nae bimble!’ We were tolerated partly because we were ‘creative’ but mainly because we delivered the goods.

Eventually, we both moved on but have always stayed in touch. He will always be over my shoulder checking my grammar. Only last September – the last time I saw him – he tutted about my use of an exclamation mark. And there will always be that explosive snort of laughter. Never to be forgotten”

Richard Shiner, 25th March 2019


This is an image I found taken in the 70s of most of the team who inhabited those offices in London and where the odd game took place. Norman, the man in the middle, was the chief typographer and helped me greatly in those times. I think the bloke that I have forgotten was another copywriter working with Gordon, but his name escapes me now.

Happy times.





Put the kettle on!

Teabreak4pIn a crisis everyone knows that the answer is to put the kettle on. I did this drawing in the 70s when we forget that we had loads of crises, and much tea was drunk.

So get the kettle on, milk no sugar, industrial strength. Does Teresa want one?

I see my grandsons staring back at me.


I’m in this picture, but I’m not telling you which one I am. It was taken in the early 50s when I was a pupil at Bamber Bridge Methodists School, which as the name suggests is in Bamber Bridge, Near Preston in Lancashire. I have almost no memory of the others in the picture, apart from my best friend Roger who’s in the back row and a lad called Scott, Surname I think, but he’s one of the ones wearing the NHS specs. Know the sort? The ones that would not slip down the face as they had curly bits around the ear, and wearers tened to mend any broken bits with a bit of sticking plaster. Also present is the well known snake belt, and even a child proudly wearing braces.

We all look reasonably content, because we were told to do so.

I found the print when sorting family stuff and saw my twin grandsons staring back at me, or at least a part of them.

In another envelope a ticket fell out:


The date on the back was Dec 45. There’s no doubt about it being my father’s ticket, but why had he kept it. Was it the last ticket after being de mobbed after the Second World War when he would have been going to see my mother and new born brother in St Helens. I’ll never know for sure.

If anyone out there knows, or recognises anyone from the photo, then I’d love to know. I wonder if any of them are on Facebook? Share it if you like.





One of 43 Unsporting Moments

The following is just one of the chapters from a book by my late friend Gordon Thorburn. The book: 43 Unsporting Moments was illustrated and in parts inspired by myself and at times our joint ventures into sport.This one, was inspired by the man himself who enjoyed his squash and his beer, more the latter than the former. You can apparently get it on Amazon for 39p, or £17-50!

I did do a drawing for the piece, but frankly it really does not need it.The references to Steffi Graf and Bo Derek do rather date it, but it never fails to induce giggling from me.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


Germans are impressive, don’t you think? At least, the young ones are — tall, slim, fit, no self-doubts about their physical impact. And do you know why this is? And the girls? Why all German girls have superb figures, lean and louche, like Steffi Graf without the weight training? It’s because they have mixed sauna baths in Germany. Your correspondent was on a squash tour or, more properly, a trip to a squash team tournament in Hanover, when this discovery was made. His team, from a small English market town, had taken six players, one of whom had never been on tour before. Your correspondent, who had been on several, volunteered to step down from his well established position at Number Five string, nobly permitting his virgin colleague to play and thus sacrificing himself to three days of beer and bratwurst.

The gesture of self abnegation having been made and the first two half litres of Sonntagdonnerschnellmeisterhof having been downed, he had this conversation:-Six foot two, muscle-rippling, 100% fit, blond, blue-eyed, 24-year-old German from paratroop training college in Bonn: “Hello, I hear zat you are not playing for Bungleton, and zat you vould like to play for Bonn, jah?” Five foot nine, flabby, 11% fit, balding, red-eyed, 38-year-old British from smoking room of The Plasterer’s Arms: “Oh no, that’s alright,really. Ha ha.” German: “Unfortunately ve haf to play Klaus at Number Von because he is not happy ozzervise. But you play at Number Two kanst.” British: “Number Two? I was only playing Number Five for Bungleton and we’re just a four-court club, not a bloody squash-demonium like Bonn.” German: “Come on, ve know zat all English are good players.” British: “Well, I’m not.” German: “You English! So modest! Ve play you zen at Number Sree. You are on Court Ten at elefen o’clock.” The Germans are as well mannered as they are fit, which was how your correspondent got a game out of that match. He found himself playing the West Germany (at that time) Under 18 National Champion who, despite his lack of experience, could see that it was not quite the accepted thing to do, to wipe up a fat old visiting English 9-0, 9-0, 9-0, even if he could have done it with a seven pound weight attached to each testicle.

Your correspondent did not regret drinking until 4am that morning. There was no point. Had he led a totally abstemious life from Moment Zero he would still have lost that squash match. He thought it unnecessary for their host, the Hanover number one and an expatriate British, to greet him in the corridor with “Finished already?” That was regrettable, but nothing else was, except possibly the fact that he had another match at one o’clock and yet another at four. The sauna, he felt, would rejuvenate him. It would render him, if not fit, talented and determined, then at least serviceable.

About to enter, he could hear two lovers within, kissing with great enthusiasm and eating half-melted ice lollies at the same time. Then, there emerged two god-shaped and naked young German males whose private equipment would have tied for first prize in the produce tent at the Bungleton Show. Your correspondent hoped that the sauna would now be empty of Germans because his own private equipment was much abashed, more a shrunken violet than a symbol of British might such as Nelson’s Column or Churchill’s cigar.

The sauna was empty, and big enough to seat maybe 30 or more on wooden benches like a steeply-rising amphitheatre around the hot coals. Phew! That was better. He could feel the beer beginning to seep from his pores. Who cared if he was fat and had been humiliated by a German boy at squash? So what? He had other qualities. While he was trying to identify such features of redemption, in came a young Ursula Andress, or it might have been a young Bo Derek. She shrugged off her towel and sat, naked, about two yards away.

Taking care to ensure that the meagreness of some parts and the plenty of others was concealed as far as possible, he tried a sally. “I’m playing in the squash tournament” he said, with unsurpassed brilliance of wit, unparalleled aptness, and timing which even George Burns could not have equalled.

“Jah, so my husband is” said Ursula-Bo, massaging some skin lotion into her self-levelling bosoms.This was too much for your correspondent who, wrapping a towel around himself while trying to appear as if he wasn’t, went out and climbed up a ladder set against a gigantic wooden barrel full of water. At the top, he jumped in. When he came to the surface again, he wondered how Vorsprung durch technik managed to keep water in a liquid state when it clearly was so many, many degrees below freezing point. Heclimbed out and looked for his towel.

If swimming in the sea at Saltburn can reduce the male appendage to the size of an infant whelk, then surely the plunge barrel at the squash club in Hanover can render it invisible to the naked eye, especially when the eye, brackets, naked, is Ursula-Bo’s, who can climb plunge-barrel ladders astonishingly well.

Your correspondent decided that he would have a sauna after and before each squash match. In this way he could be doubly humiliated by naked German Apollos and Aphrodites alike, then he could be decimated on the squash court, then at about half past four he could say ‘Sod the lot of you’ and get pissed as a rat.

Thus he could show them that whatever they did, they could not grind him down.

He thought of other squash tours where similar things had happened. There was the one in Holland, for example, when out of three fixtures of five matches each, his team won just one game and therefore lost the tour 45-1. It was culture shock, he said to himself. I mean, finding that the Dutch have chips* not with fish, but with peanut sauce and mayonnaise; that one-year-old Gouda is the best cheese in the world and not at all like the stuff exported to Britain; and that the beer, which has the same name as in Britain, is absolutely excellent.

He remembered driving through customs. A zealous-looking officer had been about to open the rear door of the estate car and thus discover any number of bottles of Geneva gin plus vast quantities of contraband Gouda, when it was mentioned that all that sports kit was from a three-day squash tour. The official immediately lost his appetite for exploration and waved them through.

Of course, if we took strong clrink for long periods before and after squash matches, we must expect to lose. And we didn’t care, which was what made us superior. We didn’t care if we lost. Let our opponents care if they wished. Let them go naming and abjure all temptations. Let them do press-ups and trunk curls, while we warm up with pickled herrings and aquavit.

And then it hit him. That’s why all young Germans are physically perfect.

Well. Let them lead monkish lives of abstinence and self discipline just so they look great in the sauna. Huh!

It was half past three. He wrapped a towel around him, went to the bar, bought a beer, and walked with it into the sauna. There were four naked Ursula-Bos in there, and three male equivalents.

He dropped his towel, made sure they all got a look, and sat to drink his beer. Their faces conveyed a strange mixture of horror, contempt and fear.

OK, so you’ve got Hardy Kruger, he thought. Well, we’ve got Hardy Amies.

Damn! He’d left his cigarettes in the changing room. That would have shown them, wouldn’t it?

When I first posted this earlier today, I managed to get a typo in the headline! Mr Thorburn would have been underwhelmed.

Business speak rationalised.


I’ve been working on my new website, or at least faffing about with it. Feel free to drop in there anytime you feel like it :

I have some history with websites! I got rather involved with this print company in London that promised that I could link my sites to their service, so that I could offer prints of my work without a lot of effort. Pah! Anyway to cut a long and boring story short I did eventually managed it but it meant getting a ‘self hosted’ website. This was really like putting me into a porche after my years of experience steering a shopping trolley. I did eventually manage it and got a domain to go with it, which was Don’t try going there now though, it has been retired, something that some people think I should be!

Again, cutting long story short, the print company got themsleves a bit super wrapped up in the technology, and had to change everything around. I sort of sympathised with them, as it’s something I am wont to do with monotonous regularity. I was left with no alternative than to go and get a ‘shopify’ site. So yet another learning curve. The gallery site is now no more and things have been rationalised.

So if you are still awake out there, then go and spend a little time at my new site.

I’d be very grateful for any comments about it. Incidentally, the print company and I are still on good speaking terms and I can recommend them for quality and service any time.


Reading back over the above, this has to be one of my more tedious posts, so to liven things up with yet more business speak, take a look at this:

The italics are exactly what the CEO of a large on-line grocery company said, the bits in between are my translation. I almost lapsed into his business speak with words like rationalised!

“We now have in place a platform for significant and sustainable long-term value creation.”

We are hoping to be still in business next week.

“the leading pure-play digital grocer in the UK, a world-leading provider of end-to-end e-commerce grocery solutions” and added, “our transformation journey is well under way”.

We sell groceries on line, but we are not making any money from it, yet.

He added: “Creating future value now will involve us continuing to scale the business, enhancing our platform, enabling our UK retail business to take advantage of all its opportunities for growth and innovating for the future.”

We’ll fire a few people and use as much automation as possible so that we are still in business next year.



Incidentally, one of this company’s major warehouses burnt down in a huge fire a week after he uttered these words, which is undeniably grim for them and their workers. I wish them well and a speedy recovery from it, perhaps the bosses words caught fire.