A big thank you to people I don’t know, and some I do.

It’s not something that one necessarily tells people, what you might like to have been if you started again. My early ambition was to work in advertising and I did, in a way. People were generally just great and I worked among people who had lot of talent and a sense of humour. It was the ‘right time’ in many ways : the 1970s. After a brief time working in an ad agency, I then went ‘freelance’ and started diverting towards just drawing for a living, for the people, unlike me, who had hung on to their jobs within agencies. My business partner and I working from a flat in Shepherd’s Bush on a desk made from flat doors, with the aid of just one phone with a dial. We looked forward to every day and stuck to our self imposed regime of always delivering the work on deadline, it might not have been that good ( we were learning on the job! ) but it was always done on time.

The people we worked for were a varied bunch. Some were from top ad agencies, others from smaller outfits operating out of grubby little offices in the West End. One of our best clients was a branch of J Walter Thompson, at the time and still, one of the biggest names in Adland. We worked for the pharmaceutical division. They created ads for all sorts of drugs that went in the medical press. As their products were drugs, they could say very little about them. They had to be very careful about what claims they made so to make them stand out they spent a lot on the visuals, which is where Graham and I came in. We helped the art directors to put together the presentations of their ads for the clients, and no doubt their lawyers! I recall doing a visual of an Egyptian Temple dog! The ad was for an anti biotic, and told a clever story. Eventually they did a photo shoot from our visual and had to try and find the right dog! A Temple Dog is a little like a greyhound. What did it cost for all this? A lot I’m sure. It was our understanding at the time that Deltakos, this little offshoot of the mighty JWT was more profitable than its more glamorous big brother. Big JWT had its own supermarket back then in the offices in Berkeley Square, so that the employees did not have to worry about their shopping! Other clients were less glamorous and although they had very fancy looking business cards, their offices were at times in the very darker corners of Soho, not glam in those days.

After 4 years in our little business Graham moved back to his beloved homeland: Pembrokeshire, and who could blame him. My beloved homeland of Lancashire did not have the same pull for me, so I stayed in London and had started doing cartoons and illustration, both for visuals and then for print. So I became a cartoonist by accident. Working alone did not suit me well, I liked working with people around me.

I remember in those days doing a small job for a National newspaper, and always took the chance to go in and deliver in person, I liked to see these places. The office was in Kensington as I recall and huge open space, desks everywhere, journalists and designers all over the place. It had a sort of ‘buzz’ to it that’s difficult to convey. Some ad agencies had a similar feel to them, an energy that you could feel. On the other hand others were as dull as ditchwater and once experienced I never went beyond the female guards with the false smiles on reception in those places. These were generally women with full make up, Saatchi’s had a bank of three of them. Ice cold behind the eyes and the phrase : “Take a seat” on repeat. I still shudder to think of them. I recall the tale of one nervous illustrator approaching these border guards and being asked: “Where are you from?” Meaning which company, and replying that he was from Wigan in the North, and did she know it. “Take a seat” she replied icily. 

So if I had my time again I’d like to be someone working for that big newspaper in the 1970s. I’d have started in local news reporting on the inadequacies of the local council to keep their streets clean then would have been head hunted by Harold Evans to work with him on important stuff. I’d be on nodding terms with his lovely wife Tina as well as on friendly terms with Clive James who’d pop in now and again. I’d write the odd column myself where a fine Irish sub editor would correct my spelling and pick up on typos. Id go and see a lot of people and ask them difficult questions. I’d interview slightly lesser politicians and discover that they had the most appealing bad breath ( I did do this once in another capacity, and was reeling from the effect days later, could not recall a word he said as it came in a cloud of halitosis ) I’d have an apartment in one of those mansion blocks in the Kensington area and meander off to smart restaurants , occasionally with the food writer. I’d have met Elizabeth David, and been treated to a breakfast by her, where I could have listened to her impossibly posh voice over coffee. I’d have been given a season ticket to Queens Park Rangers but would not go, who want to go to Shepherd Bush for football for heavens sake? Rodney Marsh would occasionally wander in to see the sports reporter and show off his massive mullet. My own hair would have been what’s called a college cut, incongruous and anonymous so that I could merge. Id go down to Covent Garden, not to the Opera, but to a pub by the market there, where Alfred Hitchcock was making a film. I’d write about it. Id have no car, just taking black taxis wherever I pleased, chatting to every driver looking for a story. “Who’ve you had in your cab then?” …..”Really! What were they like?” I’d then have another story. Unreliable sources have told me…

In reality I did almost none of these things. I spent hours and hours drawing. Not a bad way at all to make a living, no complaints. I did once walk past Clive James when visiting London Weekend Television, but he could n’t stop to chat.

Now I spend some time writing like this and people out there sometimes take the trouble to like what I’ve written. It’s very gratifying. I’d like to thank anyone who has liked my stuff. I get to let my imagination go and at times you bother to say it resonates. Mike always ‘likes’ my stuff as does a bloke in Ireland who is in newspapers. There’s someone in China who looks now and again, and a dear friend in Yorkshire ( Hi Kenny! ) Old college friends drop in now and again and these days all my college friends are old. My relatives pop up occasionally and tell me they’ve read my stuff, which is kind. On the other hand others like my stuff, and I’ve never met them. Thanks, it makes all the difference that I’m not just muttering to myself.

 

6 thoughts on “A big thank you to people I don’t know, and some I do.

  1. Love it! Those four years as half of Rooster were, without doubt, four of the best years of my working life. Lovely work with lots of laughs in the best of company. It honed my skills and built my confidenve for what was to come next…running my own design and advertising business in lovely Pembrokeshire for the next 30 years. To this day I still use many of the old Paul Davies adages and expressions that I was exposed to all those years ago. Thanks for the memory! Big man hug!

    1. And mine Graham…very good times. Memories of all night work keeping awake on Players Number 6 and Nescafe. A heady mix of magic markers, cow gum and nicotine, it’s a miracle we can still breathe. Big man hug for you too…

  2. Loved it and it conjured up many memories of those days! I loved working with you and the other creative people. Those were the days!

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