“Looks like you get the eccentrics”

This was the polite way that I was told that I had drawn the short straw when I worked for the printers. In actual fact I did not mind in the least. I got the clients that no-one else wanted, or would prefer not to deal with. In the ten years that I worked at the print company my cartoon work was mainly on hold, but I collected more inspiration there than in many previous years.

The gentleman had a slight midlands ‘brummie’ burr to his voice and he asked me if we could do Christmas cards and could I come and see him. ” Where are you?” I asked not unreasonably. “Straight down the M5, not far, he responded”. When I got there the gentleman lived in what used to be a cottage hospital. For a hospital it was small, for a private house it was huge, and there was only him living there. I was invited in and we sat around the dining table in the kitchen. As I recall he was pretty clear on exactly what he wanted on the card and we did a pretty good job for him, but for an eighty quid job it was a lot of time and trouble. “Sprat to catch a mackerel” I hoped. I was not wrong.

We’d got on quite well and he was more than happy with his cards. “I’m going into antiques and I’d like you to come down and discuss doing a book for me” was my next call from him. ” I’ll get on to the M5 then” I said,”milk no sugar please”.

Since my last visit he’d had the place renovated even more than the previous time and it was full of antiques of all sorts. He’d had it all photographed professionally and wanted the whole thing made into a full colour book. The place looked amazing, it was like walking into a film set with him as the star turn.The mackerel had landed. He was again very pleased with the result and we did indeed do a great job on his book.

The thing about eccentrics, especially the wealthy ones, is that they flit from one thing to another in very short order. Within a year he’s given up on the antiques, got rid of them I know not how, and his next project was to become the lead singer in an African Band and to start a new African Record Label. He’s had a trip to Africa and he’s hoovered up new inspiration, he even claimed to be a Masai chief and had the outfit to prove it.

The house was still in relatively good order but he’d ploughed up the brand new driveway by driving a mechanical digger across it to make a pond in the back garden in the shape of a map of Peru. ” Why Peru?” I asked, ” because I like Peru Paul” he responded. He’d been there as well as to Africa but it was in Africa where he met a bunch of musicians and was convincing them to record with him as lead singer.

This was about where our relationship petered out. He wanted us to do work on the look and style of his new record label and he was very particular. He expected us to understand everything that he wanted and when things went even slightly wrong he expected me to sack the person responsible, without understanding that I had no power to do that and would not have done even if I had that power. I was politely shown the door from this cottage hospital house, with it’s Peruvian garden pond, as yet unfilled, and his collection of all sorts of artefacts, including a large collection of old packaging, these two pictured here are two of my favourites. He allowed me to photograph them in the days when we were on better speaking terms.

So here was my departure from one of the greatest eccentrics that I had to deal with. ” People call me eccentric Paul” he said to me once ” but I don’t mind, as I think eccentric means free spirited”. I was not going to argue with him.

I hope his spirit wanders free and that he’s out there making great African music.

Incidentally Leichter Blending Powder is Theatrical Make up, how very apt.