WIN a copy of Charlie Haylock’s News Quips book!

Charlie's News Quips - the book!

Charlie's News Quips - the book! - Credit: Archant

If you’ve chuckled at Charlie’s News Quips on Saturdays, you’ll probably love a new book containing more than 50 of those cartoons. STEVEN RUSSELL flicks through the perfect stocking filler

Barrie Appleby, at his drawing board, with cartoon collaborator Charlie Haylock.

Barrie Appleby, at his drawing board, with cartoon collaborator Charlie Haylock. - Credit: Archant

Remember the spat over the lack of loos at the revamped Old Cattle Market bus station in Ipswich, or the time the newly-laid road surface on the A134 at Sicklesmere melted in the heat? They were all given the Charlie Haylock/Barrie Appleby treatment and wrapped in down-to-earth Suffolk humour.

Their weekly cartoons began appearing in Saturday’s EADT at the end of April last year – offering a wry look at something in the news locally. From poor rural phone-signal coverage to solar panels covering the countryside, almost everything has proved fair game.

Now a selection is enjoying a second wind in the shape of a new title from Countryside Books, Charlie’s long-time publisher.

Dreaming up the cartoons has been a labour of love for a man whose grandparents at Edwardstone, near Sudbury, would read the news to each other during the day and then discuss the issues in the evening. “Not only did I read the East Anglian, I listened to it as well!” he says.

A Suffolk mardle: Charlie Haylock puts the world to rights with the two stars of the weekend cartoon

A Suffolk mardle: Charlie Haylock puts the world to rights with the two stars of the weekend cartoons. - Credit: Archant

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There’s never a drought of ideas. “There are so many stories there every week. There really are. Normally it is a wry comment on a political or topical situation. But sometimes we just veer off and do a Suffolk squit (a bit of nonsense). You need them now and again.”

They’re uncluttered cartoons, without subplots in the background. “We’ve kept it simple and to the point, as per Suffolk humour, but the comments we are making do have a deep meaning.”

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Take the one querying the Suffolk seaside as a location for nuclear power stations when its sandy and stony beaches are prey to coastal erosion.

Does he have a favourite cartoon so far? Well, of those in the book he likes the one about BBC political editor Nick Robinson, who tweeted about a cockerel crowing at 5am outside his Suffolk holiday home. The journalist joked that he was “contemplating murder”.

“Why don’t you move back ter London!! … where it’s all noice ‘n’ peaceful ‘n’ quiet!!!” reposts the cockerel in the drawing.

Is “Suffolk humour” unique or does it have cousins around the country?

“Suffolk and Norfolk are very, very similar in their humour. That’s why we can have Suffolk-Norfolk banter. But when I do my one-man shows and go outside those counties – and north Essex – invariably I change it slightly and add lines onto nearly every story before I get a laugh.

“It’s a way of life. I think East Anglia was lumped on the side of England for quite some time, with not many people coming into it – not until the 1950s and ’60s, by which time East Anglia had established itself with its own unique sense of humour.

“It’s very dry, and you must keep a dead-straight face when you do it. The impolite thing to do – and I got told this by my dad – is ‘Never laugh at your own jokes, boy’.”

In some parts of the UK, folk will crack a joke and be laughing before you are.

For Charlie and Beano comic artist Barrie, who both live in the Sudbury area, the book is but the latest stage in an association that started because their sons were friends at school. When Charlie was writing first book Sloightly on th’ Huh, about a decade ago now, his son suggested that “Jason’s Dad, Barrie” be asked to draw some of the cartoons. He did… and became principal cartoonist and illustrator for all the Charlie books that followed: A Rum Owd Dew, Caw’d a Hell, Sloightly on the Sosh, and Don’t Hurry Me… I’m Suffolk.

It was Barrie who suggested they should produce a weekly cartoon for the EADT, using the main characters from the books – a couple of good old boys. We liked the idea, and Charlie’s News Quips was born.

They quickly settled into a routine that takes account of the fact Barrie is very busy with work for DC Thomson & Co. Ltd – for titles such as the Beano and spin-off Dennis and Gnasher’s EPIC Magazine.

Charlie hatches the ideas, after reading the EADT, and often draws a background himself. Over the years he’s amassed a big file of all the cartoon characters used in the books, in all sorts of situations. If some of those fit the bill, he’ll physically cut and paste Barrie’s characters onto the background (using scissors!) and add speech bubbles.

However, if new drawings are required, Barrie will do a cartoon from scratch.

“If you get a change of situation, like the pigs that were rooting around and found the bomb and ammunition on a farm over in west Suffolk, then obviously it was a case of ‘down the road… Barrie, this is it… farmer chucking out the mash,’ and you’ve got bangers and mash,” explains Charlie. “Then he does the whole cartoon. It works out about 50:50.”

The pair – who learned they shared a passion for the Anglo-Saxon period – are both straight-talkers with a similar sense of fun. They’ve never fallen out over an idea. “If I did something he didn’t think was quite right, he would say so, but I wouldn’t take offence, and vice versa,” says Charlie.

We interrupt Barrie’s drawing of a Roger the Dodger story for The Beano to ask him about the weekly quips from his point of view.

“It’s a nice contrast, actually. The Beano work is very ‘tight’. It’s a strip, so it has to follow through. With the EADT, the line can be freer, bolder. It’s just a one-off, so there’s no follow-through and having to make sure the action works through a series of frames.”

He adds: “All I do is the drawings, which is a very easy part of it. To me, dreaming up ideas, and particularly relating them to news events, I think is enormously difficult. It would be for me, anyway!”

He recalls one from the time of the horse-meat scandal. A butcher assures a customer his meat is local and high quality. “Only lars week ’at came fust! In the 3.30…. at the village point ter point.”

“I would never have thought of that. It’s typical of the things you hear. Charlie listens to people, which is a good trait. All good scriptwriters I know, and I know lots of them, have their ears cocked to what people may say. They might change it a bit, but they pick up funny things around them.

“I spend too much time talking and not listening!”

Barrie’s a Yorkshireman who has called Suffolk home for 34 years now. How does he view the humour of Charlie’s News Quips?

“I do think it’s generic, in that any kind of rural area will have a certain take on things. OK, the Suffolk humour is different, but there are similarities. It’s so much different from urban humour. I’m really convinced of that. My father in law was from Gloucester, from the Forest of Dean, and he had this surreal and dry sense of humour that was not dissimilar to the East Anglian one. It can be very surreal and dry; almost ‘thrown away’ at times.”

Charlie, meanwhile, cherishes his association with the EADT.

“A hundred and 40 years...” he muses of the paper’s history. “What pleases me is that I’ve seen how the paper has changed from my grandfather’s time to what it is today. Some features have been running for a long, long time. To be part of a new one – the cartoon being a new venture – in the 140th year, that’s quite something. I’m quite proud of that.”

n Charlie’s News Quips is published by Countryside Books at £6.95

We’ve got 10 copies of Charlie’s News Quips to give away. Send your name and address to Steven Russell, features desk, East Anglian Daily Times, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN – or email details to (writing “quips” in the subject line). Closing date is noon on Friday, November 7, when 10 winners will be drawn at random.

Charlie Haylock has a string of signing sessions planned. Barrie Appleby will be at some of them – with pens and notebook – and doing some drawings

Thursday, October 30: Wyevale, Woodbridge, 5pm to 9pm

Saturday, November 1: Waterstones, Ipswich, 10am to 2pm

Sunday, November 2: Corncraft, Monk’s Eleigh, 11am to 3pm

Saturday, November 8: Tourist Information Centre, St Stephen’s Church, Ipswich, 11am to 3pm

Saturday, November 15: WH Smith, Ipswich, 11am to 1pm

Friday, November 21: Hollow Trees Farm Shop, Semer, 10am onwards

Saturday, November 22: Wyevale, Bury St Edmunds, 11am to 4pm

Friday, November 28: Waterstones, Bury St Edmunds, 10.30am onwards

Saturday, November 29: WH Smith, Bury St Edmunds, 10am to 2pm

Sunday, November 30: Suffolk Punch Trust, Hollesley Bay; after-lunch talk, followed by signing 2.15pm to 2.45pm

Thursday, December 4: Southwold Book Shop, 11am to 2pm

Saturday, December 6: WH Smith, Sudbury, 11am to 4pm

Sunday, December 7: Woodbridge Bookshop, 10am to 4pm

Tuesday, December 9: Wyevale, Woodbridge, 9am to 4.30pm

Saturday, December 13: Waterstones, Lowestoft, 10am to 3pm

Saturday, December 20: Wyevale, Woodbridge, 9am to 4.30pm

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