Walking through Bloomsbury in central London last week, I realised I was just round the corner from Black Books. Me and Kevin wrote eight episodes of the sitcom over 2002 and 2003. Although the interior of the Bernard’s shop was a purpose built set in a studio in Teddington, with a studio audience sat on one side (a detail often missing from real bookshops), the exterior was that of a real bookshop: Collinge and Clark, 13 Leigh Street, London, WC 1. I hadn’t walked down that street in years. Time to pay a visit.
I recently read a terrifying fact in the Daily Telegraph: the number of bookshops in the UK has halved since 2006. Halved. As someone who has written sitcom set in a bookshop, and who makes a lot of his living from things sold in bookshops, I’m very attached to the places. Not just little musty ones, but great big ones too. In 2003 we wrote an episode guest starring Simon Pegg as the manager of a super–efficient book retailer, clearly modelled on Borders, which opened right next door to Black Books. Back then, that’s what the future looked like. In 2011 Borders is no more. Was it realistic to hope that Collinge and Clark would survive?
There it was. Still, an’ antiquarian’ bookseller. One glance at the window display reassured me that yes, that just meant second hand. Behind a desk, underneath wood covered walls remarkably similar to the ones we had on the set, a man sat doing nothing in particular except wearing glasses. I tried to enter the shop: the door was locked. Oh well, I thought, and carried on down the road.
Seconds later the man peeped out of the door.
– Oh, you are open then? I said.
– Well, yes…
It was like I had just asked him an open-ended philosophical question.
– You sound unsure, I said.
He pondered for a couple of seconds, then decided.
– Okay, yeah. We are open.
Suspecting by this time that he really didn’t want me there, I went round the corner to Judd Books where the door was definitively 100% open. However, I left Leigh Street greatly heartened. Not only had Collinge and Clark made it into 2011, but they were still carrying on in a highly Black Books way, locking customers out in the middle of a working Monday. Maybe that’s the way bookshops will survive. How can you close down what does not open?
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If you want to visit this great little bookshop, hopefully when it’s open, here’s a link for more information:
the animated film that me and Kevin have been writing for, on and off, for nine years is finally in the cinema. Nice! For years,we have mentioned this film about warring garden gnomes to our friends, who must have thought well, what the hell are they talking about? It’s kind of a weird experience to see it advertised on the telly and on the sides of buses. Mark Kermode, the film critic, hates films being advertised on buses. but I’ve never cared what he thinks. And his rockabilly quiff has receded so far back on his head that it’ll the halfway down his back by next year.
Gnomeo and Juliet has had a cracking first three days at the box office. It was the highest grossing film in the UK over the weekend, and in America it’s come a close third behind Adam Sandler and Justin Bieber, grossing about $25 million so far. A good, good result. The producers have been sweating bullets but I think they can relax a little bit now and enjoy the ride.
Now, how are we going to do a sequel?
don’t forget – the third episode in our initial three episode run of The Great Outdoors is on BBC2 tonight, Thursday 27th of January.
Christine, played by Ruth Jones, brings everything to a head in this episode… And there’s a cameo appearance by me. I play the part of “angry cyclist” who sprints past and shouts “oi!”
And I’ll mention it again… I did all the lettering for the opening titles.
if enough of you watch it the BBC will let us make some more.hurray!
Just another teensy reminder that episode two of The Great Outdoors will be on BBC2 on Thursday 20th January. It’s full of jokes, people start getting off with each other, and I’m sure you’ll love it. I do.
Also – and some of you may have noticed this already – I should say that I did all the lettering for the opening titles, all in my normal scratchy black ink style. You wouldn’t believe how many times I had to write “Ruth Jones” before I got one that I was happy with.
Yes, did I mention that it’s got Ruth Jones in?
Big night tonight…mine and Kevin’s sitcom The Great Outdoors is repeated on BBC2 at 10 PM. It’s only been on BBC four so far, so this is its first outing on one of the terrestrial channels.
It’s about a group of ramblers, centring around a battle of wills for the control of the group between Christine (played by Ruth Jones) and Bob (played by Mark Heap). It’s full of jokes, punch-ups, hate and love.
Also in the cast are Katherine Parkinson, best known as Jen in the IT crowd, Steve Edge who was in Phoenix Nights, Stephen Wight, Gwyneth Keyworth and Joe Tracini. Mark Heap was in Spaced and Green Wing of course, and I probably don’t need to remind you that Ruth Jones was Ness in Gavin and Stacey. It’s quite a cast.
Because it started off as a BBC for thing,there’s just three episodes so far, so it will be on for another two weeks after this. Hopefully, the BBC will letters make some more.
A rabbit does appear in episode one… Not committing suicide, but doing something else… You’ll have to watch and see. It’s one of the best things we’ve ever done; I love it dearly.
Surprised and delighted when the Bunny Suicides got a mention in Peep Show on Friday night. For those outside the UK, it’s a sitcom which has more or less set the standard for the rest of we sitcom writers for last few years. Jeremy (played by Robert Webb) goes to a book group, but it turns out the only two things he’s ever read are Mr. Nice and Bunny Suicides.
I know Sam, Jesse and Simon who write the show – British sitcom writing is not a large world – and apparently they were a bit worried I’d take offence but quite the opposite, I’m honoured.
You can see the episode here if you’re in the UK… not sure if it works abroad. http://www.channel4.com/programmes/4od
Another non-cartoon (click to enlarge). I painted this one in Monument Valley, on the border between Utah and Arizona. I have painted a lot in Ireland where everything is either grey or green so it was great to use some of the hot colours.the buildings give you some idea of the scale… Which, around there, is ridiculously, stupidly big.
I have a few spare copies of dawn of the bunny suicides which I could send it. Tomorrow, let’s have a competition. I will think of a question/fun challenge…
As there has been a lack of fresh cartoons and doodles for the website while my hand heals,… It’s about time I put up a few more paintings. I’ve got hundreds of watercolours of Co Clare in Ireland, where I go on holiday regularly. Most of them are painted just for fun, during a walk, so have never been seen by more than two or three people.
Here’s a dry stone wall. Here is a two for artists; the great thing about painting a dry stone wall is, if you get it slightly wrong and the rock is the wrong shape, nobody will ever know. Unless they go and find that exact bit of wall. And they’re not going to do that. Clouds are good two pounds for the same reason.
Having said that… I did work hard to get all the stones exactly as they were in real life. Why don’t you print this out, walk around County Clare and see if you can find it. If you do your prizes this painting.
You may be walking some time.
I’ll stick another one up tomorrow. It’s great to finally be showing these to somebody. Thanks!
Remember – Dawn Of The Bunny Suicides is in the shops! At least if you’re in the UK, Australia, and a few other places. It’s 160 pages of entirely new bunny deaths. It’ll be out in other languagees and countries during 2011.
Doing that book, plus another two (of which news soon) plus a load of typing in my other job of scriptwriting has strained my right hand though. That’s bad for a cartoonist/writer. So since October i’ve been resting it completely – hence no new doodles on this site, and no typing. It’s very frustrating. Recovery from this kind of RSI thing is never fast. But, slowly, it’s getting better and I hope to be baack drawwing early next year.
In the meantine… here are my new chinese language versions of Great Lies, DIY Dentistry, the first 2 bunny books and the collected bumper book. A proud little display in my living room.
Also; for those with iphones, do check out the Bunnycides app.