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I’m looking for London subjects for an exhibition opening in October exploring the relationship people living with long-term invisible conditions (both physical and emotional) have with their…

Source: Portrait Subjects Wanted! – Curses and Riots

FROM THE ARCHIVE 28th February 2013 – And I still haven’t done any more drawing!

The Lady in the Big Hat #1 Personalized Announcements by FirstNightDesign I am delighted to tell you that I have just sold one hundred invitations of  The Lady in the Big Hat. I often used to draw …

Source: The Lady in the Big Hat Invites You… | First Night Design

Take care and keep laughing!



I’m not well at the moment, hence my lack of blog posts and comment answers.

Take care and keep laughing!


The Queen and the Hookah

When I created the above design two or three years ago, I knew that Queen Victoria had smoked opium.  I liked to imagine that cannabis was included in her medical arsenal and so it proves!  I may well have known this, or certainly assumed it, but memory plays funny tricks and I thought it might simply have been fanciful thinking.

An article in yesterday’s edition of the New Statesman gives the evidence in its review of Drugged: The Science and Culture Behind Psychotropic Drugs by Richard J Miller (OUP).

“Even Queen Victoria was prescribed tincture of cannabis. It is believed she was amused (perhaps very amused).” The world now may be inching its way back to a more sensible view, given the legalisation of cannabis by Uruguay in December, and the growing movement for decriminalisation in many American states.”

A London opium den in the 1870s, by Gustav Doré Image: Hulton Archive/Getty

A London opium den in the 1870s, by Gustav Doré Image: Hulton Archive/Getty

Some years ago, I read a fascinating account of the moral panic about drugs in the early 20th century chiefly engendered by the powers-that-be using false statistics and exaggerated or ‘beefed up’ horror stories. Dope Girls: The Birth of the British Drug Underground by Marek Kohn opened my eyes to our inherited perception of drugs and its culture and the way the Establishment characterises it.

The blurb makes it sound like a rip-roaring thriller:

A drug panic. Murder. Terrifying and mysterious black and Chinese immigrants. Dope Kings. Jazz. War. An actress dead of an overdose. “Dope Girls” is about the transformation of drug use into a national menace. It revolves around the death in 1918, in the last furious stages of World War I, of Billie Carleton, a West End musical actress. Its cast of characters includes Brilliant Chang, a Chinese restaurant proprietor, and Edgar Manning, a jazz drummer from Jamaica. Around them in the streets off Shaftesbury Avenue and in Chinatown swirled a raffish group of seedy and rebellious hedonists. The drug problem was born, amid a gush of exotic tabloid detail.

The reviews paint a much clearer picture:

  • “A fascinating look at cocaine and opium use in Britain after the first world war” Sarah Waters, Sunday Times
  • ‘The best, most perceptive and most authoritative account of the British drug scene ever. This book is essential reading for doctors, legislators and law enforcers – indeed anyone who seeks to understand the impact that the illegal status of drugs has had on our society and culture” Will Self

It may be, as the New Statesman article suggests, that the tide is turning and that a more ‘sensible view’ will permeate the globe.  I do hope so. The medical benefits are huge while the associated crime gets ever worse.

If I were to make a contemporary analogy, I’d compare it to the moral panic being cultivated by the UK Coalition, not to mention the right-wing media that do their bidding daily. Stirring up hatred against so-called ‘scroungers and skivers’ when actual facts and statistics show that fraud is minuscule and that the most vulnerable in our society are being eliminated every week by ferocious cuts, is criminal in the extreme. Hate crime against the disabled, for instance, has risen dramatically since David Cameron and Nick Clegg came to power.  Visit disabled performer and activist Liz Crowe to read (and tweet) the reality — In Actual Fact.

Related articles

Take care and keep laughing!


The Lady in the Big Hat #1 Personalized Announcements
The Lady in the Big Hat #1 Personalized Announcements by FirstNightDesign

I am delighted to tell you that I have just sold one hundred invitations of  The Lady in the Big Hat.

I often used to draw but over the years, it had became increasingly difficult  because of the way  Limited Cutaneous Systemic Sclerosis (LcSSc) affects dexterity.  I’m certainly not suggesting I was an extraordinarily talented illustrator but I could get by and I enjoyed it enormously.

A couple of years ago I discovered LiveBrush software from Adobe and realised I could start drawing once more and without the associated pain.  I was over the moon.  The problem is that my first attempt was The Lady in the Big Hat and it felt like an utter fluke, that I would never be able to create anything comparable.

I have let this stupid lack of confidence stop me in my tracks when I should simply dismiss it with a snap of the fingers – a painful activity! — and just keep ‘doing’ it, keep drawing, no matter what.

Saying is one thing and doing it another.  But this weekend I’m going to give myself a good talking to, lift up my LiveBrush ‘pen’ or ‘pencil’ and go for it.  Life is too short.  Carpe Diem!

Here’s wishing you all a joyous and productive March.

Take care and keep laughing!



*February is Raynaud’s Awareness Month

Need some advice on a cure for the Christmas hangover? Try this advice and make sure you put bananas on your holiday shopping list!


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