In this day and age, it is not uncommon to have friendships with people we have never met, and who we only know through a mutual, virtual, presence on the internet. Years ago, the equivalent was a pen friend, someone often selected at random who you would write to on a regular basis. I’ve made friends both ways, but one of my longest standing friendships came about in a rather different way (no pun intended).
Back in 1993 an innovative new newspaper was launched. It was called The Cartoonist and it came out fortnightly, featuring the past two week’s news in cartoon form. As a long term cartoon addict I was immediately hooked on it. There was a huge range of styles of cartoon and of course the range of topics available was big enough to sustain a full broadsheet newspaper. Even the editorial section was in cartoon form.
For a few months The Cartoonist was a regular treat, read in addition to my other cartoon feasts such as Private Eye. But then it became increasingly hard to find, entailing many fruitless trips to various newsagents in order to secure a copy. Finally, after six months, I could find no more.
After much agonising – I didn’t want to find out the inevitable, that it had gone out of business – I plucked up courage and wrote to the editor, Steve Way. Within days I got a letter back, handwritten on one of his own cartoons, explaining that problems with distribution had indeed sent The Cartoonist under, but offering to help with any back issues that I might need.
I noticed from the address that he was based near a well known football ground, and so when I replied I enquired if he was a fan of that particular team. And so began a correspondence about football, which resulted in my going to see a match with him and thereafter to years of friendship.
Often, we will go for many months without seeing one another. Sometimes Steve spends a lot of time out of the country. And meeting isn’t as easy for either of us as it once was. But it is the kind of friendship which means that when we do meet, it is as if no time has passed at all. It is one of my most cherished relationships and one that I would never want to end.
(If you are interested, you can see some of Steve’s work on his website http://stevewaycartoons.com/)