Wednesday, 24 October 2007

And what is the Whisky for? Forever!

A selection of his cartoons. Click on them for a bigger image.

Mornington Crescent, of course, from the game he invented on Radio 4.
Portrait as a young man.
And as an older man.

'The Nativity of the Blessed Margaret' (Thatcher, of course).

Ten years ago, I was living in London, happily waddling round Soho from the Coach and Horses to the French House, when I heard the awful news that Willie Rushton was dead. It had been a bad year or so as Peter Cook the great satirist had died and Jeffrey Bernard (who was famously unwell, generally in the Coach and Horses) had also passed away, or was passing away, I forget which (and so, I assume, has he). But this was a bit different, I knew Willie, you see, and was so upset as he was not as old as the other two and was still hysterically funny. Peter Cook still echoes in my ear as his alter ego 'Sven from Swiss Cottage' discussing the Swedish fish industry (you probably had to be there) and Jeffrey Bernard is still visible in the corner of my eye sitting on a bar stool being rude and writing columns for the Spectator but Willie Rushton brings back memories of laughter in a pub in Kensington, the name of which I am afraid I have forgotten.
He was, of course, one of the founders of the Private Eye magazine and a great cartoonist and author. I still dip into 'Superpig' occasionally for a laugh, hence the title of this post, when, in a brilliant moment of pre-Delia Smith gastro education he sketched the contents of the ideal kitchen store cupboard, with labels on everything as to their use, the whisky of course, was labelled 'forever' and there was a suggestion to put some in baked beans as a morning heart starter. Don't bother, I already have for you and I can promise that it is not good. Here was a man who railed against the system with joy and good manners and, it has to be said, a not inconsiderable amount of drink. Part of what is rapidly becoming another world, before smoking bans and puritan governments, before the internet and spy cameras everywhere. Before traffic wardens dressed as militia and when the Routemaster still toddled it's stately way through London, allowing me to fall off by Sloane Square and find my way to the Antelope.
So why this post? To encourage people to read Superpig, to encourage people to pray for his soul because even great comics sin (probably) and to encourage people to live simply. We are too close to a snooping society, to litigation over everything, to sterility, to everyone wearing these ridiculous romper suits or track suits or whatever they are called. People sometimes say 'Oh, you can get away with it, of course, because you're an individual' What rot. We are all individuals, put here by God not to moan our lives here on earth, but to get on with it. We are not all called to be great saints and apostles, we are not all called to be Bishops and Kings, but we all, each of us, are called to live our Christian vocation with gentleness, humour and compassion for each other. And to stand up when things are wrong and say 'enough'. Virtues which, in my opinion, were summed up in the life of Willie Rushton.
Give rest, O Christ, to thy servant with thy saints:
Where sorrow and pain are no more,
Neither sighing, but life everlasting.
Thou only art immortal, the creator and maker of man:
And we are mortal, formed of the earth,
And unto earth shall we return.
For so thou didst ordain when thou createdst me, saying:
‘Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return.’
All we go down to the dust, And weeping o’er the grave, we make our song:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Give rest, O Christ, to thy servant with thy saints:
Where sorrow and pain are no more,
Neither sighing, but life everlasting.
''He saith among the trumpets, Ha Ha, and he smelleth the battle far off, the thunder of the Captains and the shouting''. (Job 39, 25.) This book is dedicated to US! (from the frontispiece of Superpig).