A Tribute to Graham Roberts

Graham Roberts and Co-conspirators, 1975

Graham Roberts and Co-conspirators, 1975

“I’m not a Yorkshireman, but I play one on the radio.” For several decades, that could have been the motto of actor Graham Roberts, shown on the left in the 1975 photo above. Continuing the Yorkshire theme of my previous post, I’m taking the opportunity to pay a small tribute to one of the most amiable men I ever met. My friendship with Graham also had a significant, if perhaps unanticipated, influence on the direction of my own life.

The photo was taken by my father during a visit to Graham’s home in Leeds. Yes, that’s me to the right of Graham, with full 1970s “mop” haircut! To the far right is Graham’s wife, singer Yvonne Robert.

For an astonishing 31 years (1973-2004), Graham played the character of George Barford on the BBC radio soap opera The Archers. That show was first broadcast on radio in 1950—initially as a way for the Ministry of Agriculture to educate farmers, it seems!—and is still running today.

Graham was born in Chester, and studied in Manchester, but he had an excellent ear for accents and dialects, so he probably had little difficulty picking up the Yorkshire accent he needed for his role in the Archers. Living in Leeds, he heard it all around him every day.

During the 1970s, vocal impersonations were a popular form of comedy (bringing fame to Mike Yarwood and featuring on TV shows such as “The Impressionists”), so Graham and I spent much of our time inventing silly names and speaking to each other in a variety of outlandish voices!

A Day that Shaped the Rest of my Life

I met Graham during the 1970s, when, in addition to his Archers role, he had a regular job as a Continuity Announcer for Yorkshire Television. In those days, it was deemed necessary for each TV channel to have a live announcer, who would welcome viewers and announce programs. The announcer was also expected to handle occasional technical emergencies that could occur during broadcasting. I’m sure that Graham found that job quite mundane, but it was regular and reliable employment, which is a relatively unusual benefit for those in the acting profession. Graham is listed as one of the station’s “Former Announcers” on the Wikipedia page.

One day, Graham took me with him to his announcer job at Yorkshire Television’s studios in Leeds. For me, this was an introduction to a whole new world, which had seemed completely inaccessible until then.

Some years later, that one day’s experience would lead (via a contorted path that I’ll describe in other posts) to my decision to try to become a video engineer. To that end, I obtained an electronics degree, and eventually secured a broadcast engineering job at the BBC. I doubt that I would ever have embarked on that career path, had it not been for Graham’s perhaps unintended prompt.

The Unrecognized Celebrity

Strangely, although Graham’s voice was heard on the airwaves of Britain for many decades, both on TV and on radio, he rarely appeared in vision, so he usually went unrecognized in public. This gave him the advantage of being able to go about his life without being pestered by the autograph-seekers and celebrity-followers who would otherwise no doubt have hounded him.

Outstanding Empathy

For me, Graham’s most remarkable quality was his outstanding empathy for others. It seemed that, whatever you were interested in, Graham could take an interest in it too.

It was all quite genuine and I don’t think Graham could have faked that ability. I’m sure we all know that, if you’re not interested in something, it’s very difficult to give the consistent impression that you are.

Were it not for Graham’s influence, I almost certainly would not be doing what I do today, nor probably living where I live today. I feel very fortunate to have met him and been able to spend some enjoyable times with him.

Sadly, Graham passed away in 2004, and there were many fascinating obituaries, of which two can be read here and here.

Moggies Cartoon: Independence Day

Moggies: Independence Day

Moggies: Independence Day

This was the first “Moggies” cartoon that I created for display at the Sonoma County Fair. It seems like an appropriate time of year to post this episode!

I already posted the other two Moggies cartoons (Pure Water and Royal Blood). As you’ll have noticed, this first example was not in color. When I began producing comic illustrations about 30 years ago (long before this cartoon, of course), monochrome artwork was still very common, due to limitations of the printing processes. Now, however, there’s rarely a need to print only in monochrome, even in newspapers.

 

Architectural Redevelopment: Vandalism or Progress?

St. Pancras International Station, London, 2010

St. Pancras International Station, London, 2010

In 2010, I visited a spectacularly transformed St. Pancras Station in London, for the first time since I had lived in the city. In the photograph (below) taken during a 1981 visit, St. Pancras was a dowdy, run-down relic, the only possible future for which seemed to be closure and demolition.

St. Pancras Station, 1981

St. Pancras Station, 1981

But, thankfully, it was not to be, partly due to the efforts of one man, and instead, the huge Victorian edifice was not only saved, but was transformed into the impressive, functional St. Pancras International Station. The photograph below shows the beautiful and airy interior of the trainshed of St. Pancras International, on a day when a German ICE train was visiting to promote future usage of the station by DB.

Interior of St. Pancras International Station, 2010

Interior of St. Pancras International Station, 2010

Although the redevelopment of St. Pancras is one of the most internationally famous triumphs of architectural rehabilitation, there have been many other examples of success and failure.

Yesterday, someone posted on the Facebook page of my alma mater, Imperial College, a photograph of the Imperial Institute, which was a predecessor building in South Kensington, the site of which is now occupied by Imperial College. That reminded me of the many heated battles that have occurred during my lifetime over architecture, and the demolition or redevelopment of buildings. In the past, the usual result was demolition, but, during the past twenty years or so, more enlightened thinking has prevailed, resulting in such wonderful renovations as St. Pancras.

During the 1960s (long before I became a university student), the Imperial Institute building was the focus of a heated dispute between those who wanted to demolish the Victorian edifice completely, and those who wanted to preserve it.

The redevelopers of the Imperial College campus wanted to sweep away all the Victorian architecture and replace it with what they considered to be modern and functional structures.

However, an organization called the Victorian Society, led by the poet Sir John Betjeman, fought for the preservation of Victorian architecture, and became particularly involved in the Imperial College plans. Although they were not able to save everything, the Victorian Society won a partial victory in that case, and managed to force the developers to retain the central tower of the Imperial Institute, which, as a freestanding building, was renamed the Queens Tower, as shown in my 1981 photograph below.

Queens Tower, Imperial College, in snow, 1981

Queens Tower, Imperial College, in snow, 1981

Now, whenever anyone needs a general photograph of “Imperial College”, you can be fairly certain that they’ll choose a view that includes the Queen’s Tower. The sad reality is that most of Imperial College’s modern architecture has very little character, and the Queen’s Tower has become a de facto icon of the college. (Incidentally, the tower is not the only pre-1960s architecture remaining on the Imperial College campus. For example, the original City & Guilds College building still survives on Prince Consort Road. However, that structure is relatively undistinguished and squat, as you can see in this current Google Streetview.)

I must admit that, while a student at Imperial College, I myself was responsible for heaping further derision on the Queens Tower. As part of a spoof Felix article about the stationing of US troops within Imperial College, I contributed the illustration below, showing how the Queen’s Tower was to be converted into a launch platform for cruise missiles! (“Felix” was and still is the Imperial College student newspaper, tracing its roots back to the days when H G Wells was a student at the college.)

Queens Tower Missile Installation, 1983

Queens Tower Missile Installation, 1983

Betjeman and the Victorian Society were also instrumental in frustrating plans for the demolition of St. Pancras Station, which preserved the building for its eventual renovation. Appropriately, Betjeman’s contribution has been commemorated with a statue of him on the platform at St. Pancras, as shown below.

Statue of Sir John Betjeman at St. Pancras International Station

Statue of Sir John Betjeman at St. Pancras International Station

Personally, I don’t regard “high Victorian” architecture as being the epitome of good taste, but surely it is preferable to characterless, badly-constructed concrete boxes that replaced so much of it.

In a previous post, I showed how the architecture of Scarborough Central Station was redeveloped from the simple neoclassical design of 1845, to the ornate high-Victorian “wedding cake” that still survives today.

Moggies Cartoon: Pure Water

Moggies: Pure Water

Moggies: Pure Water

Here is the second Moggies cartoon, which I originally produced for display at Sonoma County Fair.

The theme of this strip seemed to ring a bell with many cat owners!

I already posted one of the three Moggies cartoons that I’ve produced to date. The third has an Independence Day theme, so I’ll post that closer to the actual day!

Which David Hodgson is Which?

 

Mystery Escapologist

When it came time for me to select a URL for my personal blog, I had to select the name I would use from whatever was available. There are, of course, many people in the world named “David Hodgson”, so it would be naïve to assume that I’d be the only David Hodgson with an internet presence.

I searched through web sites mentioning “David Hodgson”, and I was enlightened, amused and even appalled by what I found. I found several artists, a vicar, and even a murderer. Some of these sites are blogs, but some are not. I’m listing these URLs here in the hope that it will help you to avoid confusing me with all these other David Hodgsons!

All the URLs listed here are real web sites, and I am not in any way responsible for their content. So, if you want to complain, then please don’t “shoot the messenger”!

The following David Hodgsons are definitely not me

The fact that it’s now quite easy to set up a blog, and that it can be done free of charge, means that inevitably you will encounter some bad blogs. A similar situation occurred back in the 1980s when “desktop publishing” was the new fad; at that time I saw flyers that used twenty or more different typefaces on the same page! Nonetheless, the bad examples eventually fell by the wayside, and desktop publishing is now well-established. In the end, desktop publishing didn’t fail just because some of its early adoptees didn’t know what they were doing. I suspect that the same will be true for blogging, and indeed for ePublishing in general.

One of the features of blogs that you notice when you start examining them is that some people seem to start a blog with unbounded enthusiasm, then realize only later that they don’t really have much to say. My advice is to be realistic; if you’re not already someone who posts regularly on social media and elsewhere, then you almost certainly don’t need a blog, because you’ll never actually post to it.

Then there are those sites that seem to be “their own worst enemy”. I received a communication from one blogger whose site is titled “Five Experts”, and which seems to offer advice to fellow bloggers as to how to attract more followers. Unfortunately, though, I was not inspired by the content. For example, here’s a description of the site:

“We are five profitionels, we creat a small business. a parte of owr work is to help you creat your’s”

Erm… no thanks. Anyway, I already creat mine’s…

David Hodgson: the Previous Incarnation

https://artuk.org/discover/artists/hodgson-david-17981864

You really do learn something new every day! I had never previously realized that there was a British artist named David Hodgson, who lived in East Anglia from 1798-1864. He seems to be best known for his paintings of the Norwich area.

David Hodgson: the Vicar of Wokingham

www.davidhodgson.com (aliases to: https://dphodgson.wordpress.com/)

This is the blog of a vicar in Wokingham, UK. Coincidentally, Wokingham is where I worked for about a year before emigrating to California, but I assure you that there’s no other connection between us.

Most of the posts seem to be just links to other church business postings. However, towards the end of last year, the Reverend apparently received inspiration to start posting for Advent. He explained, “My blog for each day in Advent will celebrate examples of action in the world inspired by hope and the desire to bring closer God’s kingdom of love, peace and justice.”

Unfortunately, he stopped posting after 7 days (on 3rd December), without offering any reason. It seems that the Holy Spirit gave up the ghost at that point.

David Hodgson: the Invisible Insolvency Expert

http://www.davidhodgson.net/

This site does not seem to be stable, and is currently not accessible. When it was accessible, it claimed to be the web site of “David G Hodgson, Insolvency and credit management consultant, Leeds, UK”.

Perhaps insolvency expert David G Hodgson didn’t pay his web hosting bill?

David Hodgson: the Word-Salad Maestro

https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidhodgson/

I must admit that this David Hodgson is the one that perhaps could be most easily confused with me, given that we apparently both graduated from the same university, and both worked for Sony at some time.

I was trying to find a word or phrase to summarize what David does. Based on his own descriptions, I can’t, although I must admit that I’m impressed with his “word salad”. If he wants to add more of the same, then perhaps the Deepak Chopra Quote Generator would be helpful?

David is the CEO of Hummingbird Labs, but the web site of that business consists of nothing but a nice picture of a tree in a field: http://www.hummingbirdlabs.co/. The page used to include a logo of a hummingbird with its beak missing, but that’s gone now.

David Hodgson: the Model

http://www.modelmayhem.com/DavidHodgson

I’ve drawn many models over the years, but I was never a model myself.

David Hodgson: the US Graphic Designer

https://www.behance.net/davidhodgson

No problems here; it’s simply a competently-presented gallery of his graphics work.

David Hodgson: the Blogger Who’s Cutting through the Crap

http://dhodgson.com/

In October 2013, this David Hodgson felt called upon to start a blog to tell the world his opinions of “Magnetic Water Softeners”.

He ended his first post by describing an experiment he was conducting, stating, “I will post with the results in about 30 days and let you know what I have found out.”

But he never did post those results, and apparently that first post was all he had to say. About anything. Ever.

The subtitle of his blog is “Cutting Through the Crap”. Apparently, that David Hodgson cut through so much crap that he left himself with nothing more to say.

David Hodgson: the Other Artist from Leeds

http://artofdavidhodgson.blogspot.com/

David Hodgson: the Video Game Commentator

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/34539/david-hodgson

David Hodgson: the Murderer

I repeat that this is definitely not me!

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/police-ask-murderer-david-hodgson-433240

David Hodgson: the New One-Shot Blogger

http://www.davidkhodgson.com/new-blog/

Apparently this blog is so new that most of its pages have been removed… This David Hodgson also states that he’s a graphic artist, but the web site displays only one example of his work (or at least I assume that it’s his, because it’s not signed).

Hopefully the information above, covering many of the David Hodgsons who are not me, will help you identify the real me in future.

The Salesman and the Programmer: Poem

incompatiblepcsnewMore than twenty years ago now, I had to upgrade one of my PCs from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95. What I’d been promised would be a painless improvement turned out to be a very frustrating experience. However, rather than simmering about it, I was inspired to write the humorous poem below.

I must make it clear that this is intended as a satirical parody. I am not suggesting that the introduction of Windows 95 (or any other operating system) was really a deliberate plot to break anyone’s computer, and I have no evidence to support such a notion!

For product sales, the problem was
Computers were too cheap:
The software was reliable;
The learning curve not steep;
And Windows Three was so well known
Folk used it in their sleep!

The Salesman and the Programmer
Were walking hand in hand.
They were trying to make a new program
To sell throughout the land.
“If we could find a killer app,”
The Salesman said, “That would be grand.”

“We used to make a lot of cash,”
The Salesman said with glee,
“When software was such complex stuff
And our knowledge was the key.
But now it’s all such bug-free fluff,
And Tech Support is free!”

“If we could make them change their files,”
The Programmer began,
“They’d have to learn a new OS —
Oh, what a marv’lous plan!
If we could make it look the same
But so a diff’rent program ran.”

The Programmer, he saw a catch
They’d have to overcome.
“But how could we convince them all?
Who’d ever be so dumb?”
The Salesman smiled, and quietly said,
“Oh — almost everyone.”

And so they built a new OS:
Another type of GUI.
They called it “Windows 95”
And began to spout the hooey.
But who would risk this untried scheme?
Who would be so screwy?

So they showed it off as something great,
To make society better.
They claimed it was a vital tool
For every young go-getter.
They asked us “Where we’d go today”
In papers and newsletters.

For those that were more cautious,
Those that weren’t such mugs,
They told us that it worked just fine,
Between the product plugs.
One million beta testers had been set
To find those minor bugs.

They spent a mound of money
On publicity and display,
And people rushed out lemming-like
To buy it that first day.
What we really should have listened to
Was what they failed to say.

They told us that they’d tested it,
On every kind of system.
They’d questioned all the User Groups
(They’d made a vow to listen.)
Those beta testers found the bugs,
But they didn’t say they’d fixed ‘em!

I didn’t want to buy the thing —
I wasn’t taken in.
My own machine had worked just fine —
It was my main linchpin.
With Windows Three-Point-One, NT,
And lots of RAM therein.

But my client wanted me to try
To change their new software.
“It must be Windows 95!”
They called me to declare.
So I went and bought the CD-ROM,
Which was the start of my nightmare!

And so I ran the setup files,
To install Ninety-five.
My system paused, and beeped, and stopped:
It wouldn’t come alive!
I couldn’t get the thing to run,
No matter how I’d strive.

So I called —

The Salesman and the Programmer:
I asked them what was wrong.
They told me that they’d find a fix —
It wouldn’t take too long.
And until then, I’d work around:
That’s how I got along.

And so, at length, they called me back,
Which brightened my demean’.
The Programmer had checked their code:
He claimed it was pristine —
“There’s nothing wrong with our software:
It must be your machine.”

I told them it had worked for years,
And never had “gone down”,
With every other program known
And all the gear around.
“Well there’s something there that we can’t fix,”
He said, “You break it down.”

The Salesman and the Programmer,
Were happy with their game.
Saw new computers selling fast,
And that had been their aim.
“We’ve stopped your system working now,
And you can take the blame!”

My poem is, of course, a parody of Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter”, but in fact Carroll’s poem was itself an adaptation of an earlier work; “The Dream of Eugene Aram” by Thomas Hood.