I now live in the hippest part of London, Shoreditch. It must be Tony Blair’s idea of heaven, a multicultural mix of hugely rich and up-and-coming young things of every nationality, huge high-rise blocks of £5 million duplexes, old Victorian buildings ripped apart to make way for young men with beards working on searing new technology, hordes of young beautiful women striding around looking very much in charge. But amazingly something has escaped developers. The pubs, of which there are many. There is a wonderful example on the corner of my alley, the Eagle, a finer example of a Victorian pub than you’ll ever see. It was once the locale of music hall artist Marie Lloyd, famous for singing ‘She sits among the cabbages and peas’. You can often see me running around singing ‘Up and down the City Road in and out of the Eagle…’ It’s chock full of salt-of-the-earth Cockneys shouting ‘Hello, me old china!’ Oh, and young men with beards.
City Road. Wow! Coming out of my flat first thing in the morning with my dachshund, Charlie, is quite an ordeal. My dear, the people, the noise! Heads down, we make our way to Moorgate tube. We’re against the tide of thousands of city workers coming the other way. Nobody speaks to anyone else except on their phones. No ‘Hello, me old china’ here. We could be in Fritz Lang’s great silent movie Metropolis. Just the sound of blind architects (©Barry Humphries) directing the construction of some boring sacrifice to Mammon. If ever you meet an architect, hit him smack in the face, said Auberon Waugh. Greed dot com.
I was once a commuter on the train gang. 7.30a.m. up from Brighton, 7p.m. down from Victoria in the evening. Same seat, same people, same newspaper — and in those days a bar! Many drank going up, and got off sloshed, ready to start the day. Then they drank all the way back. Several of them had double lives, with a family in Brighton and one in London. God knows how they did it — it must have been hell at Christmas. Of course it couldn’t happen now, not when everyone keeps track of everyone else on their mobiles. There’s nothing like leaving someone every day to keep love afloat.
All my hair dyeing, teeth whitening and chin lifting has paid off. I am now officially cool. A few months ago cartoon of mine appeared in Private Eye, of a girl with a Hokusai wave hairdo, and someone saying ‘Awesome’. Then a couple of weeks later, I got a call from a band called Alt J, who seemed to think the cartoon was about them and wanted to use it on promotional material. At the Spectator office we puzzled away for a long time before it dawned that their album was called An Awesome Wave. So the UK’s hippest group has lifted my drawing to use on T-shirts. How awesome is that, Shoreditch workers? I’ve arrived.
I love my dog, and take him everywhere. Well, not everywhere. He’s barred from most shops, many pubs (though you should see the people they let in!), art galleries, museums, hotels, all restaurants, some parks… Even some minicabs charge extra for him, while others shout ‘Unclean!’ and back off.
How are you with your DAB radio? Could you work it when you first acquired it? Can you now lean out of bed, hit the right button, and pick up Evan Davis on Today? If you can, I assume you took a course at the Peter Jones school of how to use DAB radios. I’m used to turning a knob and getting ‘Hello, children. This is Uncle Mac speaking,’ loud and clear. DAB is not clear, and the radios are far too complex. Stick to FM, comrades.
The things I find most difficult to draw are the cards I’m often asked to do for friends. ‘It won’t take you a minute’ — dread sentence. ‘Could you do a drawing for my uncle?’ they say. ‘He’s just come out of hospital after having his leg off, and his wife has just died. Oh, and he’s mad about golf. Of course he can’t play it now… Do something funny! Should be right up your street.’
Michael Heath is The Spectator’s cartoon editor.