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Working with Woddis

Roger Woddis was a one-off. A satirical poet who delivered his verses week in, week out, one for Punch, one for Radio Times and one for New Statesman. . ‘They are called deadlines’, he said, ‘because death is the only excuse for missing them’.

The final NS issue of the year was always a fortnighter, with extra space allotted to the fun-merchants – cartoonists, gamesters and parodists. For several seasons Roger and I had a double spread together.

Of course we did Alice:

And Dracula, featuring the baleful Norman Tebbit:

Dr van Footling hammers home the stake that will pierce the vampire’s heart. Yet he is not dead. His eyes open, he smiles: ‘What heart?’

God’s Worried

The NS set a weekend competition: it was a tradition. One week the task was to come up with anagrams for the names of regular contributors. I don’t remember anyone finding my name particularly anagram-friendly, but the winner scored with God’s Worried as an apt tag for Roger. He used it as a title for his anthology and I drew from William Blake for the cover:

Here’s one of the spreads: Roger’s socialist soul could not stomach the SDP centrists. Shirley Williams is his target (‘Twas shirlig’) and Tony Benn is the Labourleft. I love the ‘gaitscal sword‘ and the Slaveypress that cries ‘Quelle noblesse!’

Another Carrollian satire. Roger’s disillusionment with what he saw as a sell-out of socialist principles by Michael Foot is expressed with real feeling. Parliamentary Labour opposition to the Falklands War was negligible, but Roger remembers the younger Foot as a heroic figure.