Thursday, January 20, 2011

Battle lines

It was around 2004 that my lines increasingly became those which form letters and, in turn, words - printed words which constituted articles about issues that needed to be discussed in the press. While working as a sub-editor on the Herald in PE, I would often print out the leader page as it was being assembled to read the letters - occasionally my own, and sometimes longer feature pieces I had written. On many of these A3 pages I did my routine subliminal drawings. Here are some of them, juxtaposed with writings which reflect those troubled times.

I rather enjoy the sculptural quality of this figure, drawn in the space where the editorial comment will come. Alongside is an article by Dave Dalling, once a proud member of the official opposition Democratic Party (previously Progressive Federal Party, for which I worked in the early 1980s). But then he crossed over to the ANC, and became an apologist for a party which, let's face it, messed up badly under Thabo Mbeki - on Aids, Zimbabwe and just about everything else. Note the reaction to one of my letters next to the picture.

Not since the late 1970s, when I was a regular letter writer to the Daily Dispatch in East London (with apartheid my target), have I been as prolific a newspaper correspondent as I was for a few years in the early 2000s. I was sickened by all the anti-American propaganda, so in this case I attempted to put the other side. The drawing on the left was probably a subconscious rendering of Saddam Hussein.

Sometimes I enjoyed drawing on photographs of people, as in this case. The doodles around the margins were probably done with my left hand - a device which sometimes gives interesting line quality.

This face was drawn alongside a photocopy of a slip we'd send up with print-outs of pictures we needed scanning. The pictures, from AP at the time, would have to be "picked" into one of the drives, from which the scanners would work their magic before dropping it into a basket for our use on the page.

Another flight of fancy.

And another.

I rather enjoy how easy it is to deflate egos. Look at the Blairs. With the addition of a few lines - and the bent fellow below them, they have become objects of ridicule. Interestingly, the page was proofed before the picture had been cropped and placed in its final spot.

Another odd drawing beside a comment on the issues of the day.

Again, almost certainly done with my left hand, this guy seems to sum up the sense of powerlessness one feels in the face of earth's ineluctable progress.

Another juxtaposition of picture and text.

Cute creature.

This note from the chief sub of the night tells me to pull a story and replace it. Dig the roller skates.

Another picture sticker, with image.

Inane grinner.



Honda is Japanese, and so what is this creature?

Here is a short feature I wrote soon after SA was awarded the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

A doodle on an envelope.

A meandering one.

I wrote a book of short historical conversations and had it self published. This was the bearded Mike Oettle's take on it.

Another figure where the editorial soon will be.

Zimbabwe became a key issue for me in the early 2000s, probably because I had family still living there and had visited it in my youth. But, as noted in the previous post, Michael Hartnack and other journalists were documenting the demise day by day - yet still Mbeki turned a blind eye.

What will fill this space?

Herald political editor Patrick Cull, regrettably, failed to criticise the Mbeki regime's stance on Zim, thus helping to perpetuate the problem - though this article was about something else.

With the World Cup imminent, I latched onto an old hobby-horse.

Another jaded face as the new millennium doled out its baleful surprises.

I did get a fair amount of support for my letters and articles.

But then, first, an end was put to the letters. I had, probably, got a little too much up the noses of the ANC, as this draft of a letter, sent back to me with a note on top by deputy editor Robert Ball, reveals. It would be interesting to know what led to this clamp-down on a custom - letters by subs - which had long existed on the paper.

As the doors closed to me on the paper - increasingly my articles were also being rejected - I found an outlet in another self-published book - this time a novel, reviewed here in the Weekend Post by John Harvey. You can read the entire thing on line at

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