The Indomitable British Spirit

People dressed in warm clothing sit at tables with their drinks outside a cafe on a snowy day.
Come what may, we’re eating outside today.

Now that non-essential shops have reopened the desperate public have been unleashed onto pubs, restaurants and cafes en masse. It’s like we’ve all been doing a long stretch in prison and are finally tasting sweet, sweet freedom in the sunshine.

Well, I say sunshine but even with the thing gleaming away it still seems to be unrelentingly cold at the moment. Did you see the snow falling the other week? Eating outside is a joyous experience… in the south of France or Spain for example, but in the cold, wet and windy island of the UK it’s a battle of wills between diner and the elements of nature themselves.

You end up being stuck in that rather unfortunate situation where you want to make the most of a rare opportunity to eat out, but at the same time you’re also inhaling your lunch at break-neck speed before it goes completely stone cold. Still, if that’s what we’ve got to do then by jove we’ll do it with gusto!


Lights, Camera, Lancaster!


In this week’s Lancaster Guardian, an article about a new Netflix series starring James Nesbitt being filmed in Morecambe. This is separate to the filming of the TV series The Bay and also Peaky Blinders being filmed up at the park, plus let’s not forget Paddington 2 and Get Santa were filmed at the castle and there’s been a few antiques and ghost things filmed at The Judges’ Lodgings too. Oh, and there was the Prunella Scales documentary along the canal. Gosh… Seems to be film makers are swarming all over the place round here. I’m surprised you don’t need to join Equity just to go fetch the milk in.

Film Crews in the Lancaster and Morecambe Area


“Apparently in the Lancaster and Morecambe area, you’re never more than six feet away from a film crew.”

Whilst possibly a *slight* exaggeration to suggest that film crews are as plentiful as all that, it’s certainly true that there seem to be an increasing number of them in the area lately.

Whilst up at Williamson Park they’re filming scenes for Peaky Blinders, down on the shore they’re filming for a TV series called The Bay as well as a new Netflix original series starring James Nesbitt and featuring, amongst other notable names, Eddie Izzard.

In the city itself they’ve played host to film crews from Most Haunted, the Antiques Roadshow, a documentary on castles, Paddington 2, Get Santa, a documentary about the slave trade and a documentary about canals. I seem to recall there was also something with Rupert Grint in it, but goodness knows what it was.

There was one notable occasion when I bumped into Gordon Ramsey in a nightclub that has since been knocked down (probably for unrelated reasons). He was as unashamedly offensively vocal as you would expect him to be, particularly after a few drinks, in front of a small audience of his friends/colleagues on a night out after filming. Ah… memories.

Bocote Fountain Pen

How much does a pen cost? Exactly 500 words.

Press Releases

As an illustrator I buy a lot of pens and I use a lot of pens. Even with my professional association discounts and the like they still can cost a fair bit, and to me “a fair bit” means anything more than £5. So imagine my surprise when I discovered the website* yesterday. It’s a website featuring some of the worlds most expensive pens, pens made of solid gold, pens encrusted with diamonds, the kind of pens you would NOT want to let anyone borrow. Some of these beauties cost tens of thousands of pounds, can you even imagine owning something that costs more than a car and yet can be dropped down a drain or lost down the back of a sofa cushion? Petrifying. One of the pens there costs just over $65,000, it’s called Montegrappa Chaos 18k and was designed by none other than “Expendables” star Sylvester Stallone.

Why was I looking at Penaficionado though? Well not just because I like pens, which I do…a lot – but it was actually because I was writing a press release for a company that hand crafts pens and had been featured on that site in the past. They’re called Treasured Pens and we’re both members of SBS (Small Business Sunday), a group which was founded by former TV Dragon’s Den investor, Theo Paphitis, as a way of recognising small businesses and their potential whilst simultaneously putting a stop to the barrage of tweets he was getting from entrepreneurs every day of the week on Twitter.

So, Treasured Pens asked if anyone would be interested in helping them out with a press release in exchange for one of their gorgeous fountain pens.

Normally I don’t put myself forward as a copy-writer. I’ve met several copy-writers at networking events whose sole purpose in their career is their elegance with word-craft and I’ve never wanted to confuse people by adding too many skills to my own repertoire. Thus, I’ve chosen to stick with just promoting my illustration services. However, when I saw that a hand turned, finely crafted, luscious fountain pen was up for grabs in exchange for a 500 word press release I jumped at the chance.

I think, if I had to, I could write 500 words on any subject. Even a boring subject, (it was exactly the sort of thing I was asked to do at university on an alarmingly regular basis – bleurgh) thankfully pens aren’t boring, not to me anyway. So I typed up exactly 500 words about Treasured Pens, their beautiful writing instruments and their growing success over the last two years in business and had it with them within 24 hours.

They loved it, I’m thrilled and now I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of The Suffolk King Bocote Fountain pen! Bocote is a beautiful honey brown South American wood laced with darker bands and the pen comes with ornate gold rings at each end plated in 14ct gold with a Swarovski crystal set in the clip.

Bocote Fountain Pen

This image is from the Treasured Pens website.

* Update

The Pen aficionado website doesn’t appear to be there any more I’m afraid. Still, there are plenty of expensive pens still scattered about the interwebs. The Chaos pen designed by Sylvester Stallone for example, that’s still available. Despite being a limited edition of just 100 pieces too. At the low, low price of £40,500 it’s a wonder they haven’t all been snapped up by keen pen enthusiasts (!).

The body of the pen is made of black pearlised celluloid with overlays in sterling silver or solid 18K gold. Overlays are finished by hand by Montegrappa’s skilled craftsmen and feature an antiqued finish with accents in translucent enamel, in reds and yellows the colors of fire.

The design is characterized by the juxtaposition of life and death; the former represented by the early forms of life on Earth: reptiles (such as snakes and lizards), the latter by the skull. And though it is not as mighty as the pen itself, the ultimate defining detail, bearing both a fist and a skull, is the pen’s clip in the form of a sword.

– Montegrappe website

Perhaps it might make more sense if you see the thing…

Visit their website here to see this pen and even more mind bogglingly expensive writing instruments.

Finalist in The BIBAs for 2nd Year in a row!

Important Announcements

BIBA Finalist Logo

Well colour me magenta! I’m even more thrilled about being in the finals of the Be Inspired Business Awards this year than I was last year. Now I’ve been to the award ceremony and seen what goes on, I know what to expect and I’m really quite excited.
Last year was awesome! Marred slightly by my being full of cold, but with a bit of luck this year I’ll be healthy and able to enjoy the evening properly. It was fab’, and even though I didn’t win it was still a wonderful night. Very much like a holiday for me too because of how rarely I get out of Lancaster. Travelling all the way to Blackpool and staying in a hotel overnight was like a week in the Costa Del Sol for me!
So I’m a finalist for “Best Use of Creativity in A Business” and I’m pleased as punch. There are of course seven other businesses also vying for the same title who have their fingers crossed too but hey – either way I’m still going to get a lovely certificate and plenty of complimentary champagne along the way so I feel like I’ve already won to be honest with you. 🙂

One of my lifetime ambitions has been realised!

Newspaper Cartoons

Queen Victoria on the phone to Lancaster Castle.

Queen Victoria on the phone to Lancaster Castle.

How exciting, to be able to cross something off your “bucket list”. I’m not one for world travel or high octane death defying persuits, so my bucket list is really rather mundane. Still, that doesn’t make it altogether easy. For example, one of the items that’s been on my life’s to do list since I was very small is to one day meet The Queen. She and I both exist on this planet so as long as we both lived there was a chance, however small, that our paths would one day cross.
Well, it finally happened. Last Friday Her Majesty came up to Lancaster for a whistle stop visit to the castle and luckily I happened to be one of the lucky folk who were invited to attend a reception for her within the castle grounds. Myself and all manner of interesting dignitaries were lined up in the A-Wing of the former prison and I was one of the first people to be introduced to Her Majesty when she arrived at about 11-ish. It was unreal seeing her standing there, a woman who up until then I’d only ever seen on television, stamps and coins. The actual Queen of England, right in front of me!
I told her that it was a great honour to finally get to meet her, and I also told her I was a cartoonist and I’d drawn a picture of Queen Victoria that week in tribute to the fact she was visiting Lancaster. She smiled slightly and nodded, said it was “interesting” in the way one does when one is Queen and has to talk to a million people every year. Then she moved on down the line, occasionally stopping to ask someone what they did and so forth.
I couldn’t stop from staring at her as she went along, it was so very unreal. I’ve actually met and spoken to The Queen. I just wish I could have recorded the moment for posterity, mainly so I could remember in greater detail what happened because frankly it’s all a little hazy with shock and awe.
I do remember that she was wearing a light blue wedding hat, diamond/silver ear studs, a pale wool coat with blue buttons that went down to her knees, a broach, a pearl necklace, sturdy black shoes with stocky heels, a sturdy handbag, also black, and black gloves.
I just wanted to follow her around, get the chance to talk to her some more. But of course, it was not to be. She had a packed schedule and places to be, so she unveiled a plaque and went on her merry way.
Next life goal to accomplish then…be the featured artist of the month in Computer Arts magazine.

The Rocking Horse Is Coming Back!

Newspaper Cartoons

Lancaster Guardian cartoon.

Lancaster Guardian cartoon.

Sometimes it’s the little things, and often they seem to be horse related. First it was the horse shoe from horse shoe corner here in Lancaster that went missing as the building works started on the paving in town. People weren’t sure where it went to, but one day it was restored to the crossroads area between Cheapside and Penny Street and everyone was pleased.
All that remained to be restored was the Rocking Horse from the above 8 New Street. A long time relic of a shop sign, as the plaque nearby says (or something similar at least). It was hanging above Lawsons toy shop when I first arrived in Lancaster in 2004. Then the toy shop closed and the horse remained, hanging above All Fired Up – a ceramics cafe that opened on the spot. Then after that closed, the horse graced the wall above the new Greek taverna The Trojan Horse, which suited it well. Then after that, Enchanted Kids opened selling children’s clothes and toys, which was the closest the site came to returning to it’s bygone days of being a toy shop. Finally, and most recently, the shop is now going to be a burger bar.
In between Enchaned Kids closing down and now however, the horse vanished. There was much to-do and outcry about this, but all is not lost. Apparently the rocking horse had just been taken away to be restored to his former glory before he will be returned to his spec’ above the shop where he’s been for nigh on eighty years or so.
Though the contents of the shop may change and change again – the rocking horse will endure!

As for what he might have been up to whilst he’s finally got a holiday from his job as wall ornament, who can say? Breaking world indoor skiing records perhaps? One can only hazard a guess.

Dog Waste Management or Sporting Activity?

Newspaper Cartoons

Unpublished cartoon for Lancaster Guardian.

Unpublished cartoon for Lancaster Guardian.

I’ve been in a bit of a pickle…well, not so much a pickle as umming and ahhing. Basically, I got the cartoon all done and dusted and off to the newspaper as per usual. Only, this time, the story they were covering fell through and without an accompanying article to explain my lunacy, the cartoon can’t run either.
So…yeah. I guess it’ll just have to sit here and be one of life’s little mysteries. Generations from now people will say “what on earth was Jack going on about this this one?” we just don’t know…

General Election Day!

Newspaper Cartoons

Election candidates for the 2015 general election. Cartoon for Lancaster Guardian newspaper

Election candidates for the 2015 general election. Cartoon for Lancaster Guardian newspaper

It’s general election day 2015! This kind of thing only happens once every five years, so it’s quite exciting. Some people don’t seem to be as excited as I am, which is a shame. I’m one of those wide eyed hopeful people that believes in democracy and wants people to use their vote. You know.
Anyway, I didn’t want to get all “political”, but at the same time I don’t want to ignore the fact that the Lancaster Guardian is coming out on election day. So I thought hum…what kind of voting DO the people of Britain seem to care about?