ISSUE 1 ARCHIVES - THE GEEZER BEHIND SLYMEGRIPE - Glynn Gomersall
Having studied art ourselves, and been involved in the drawings for 'In Pursuit', interviewing Glynn was a real pleasure and a bit of a geek out on the drawing side of things. That said, there's no doubt some of the cartoons from In Pursuit have become almost as iconic and memorable as the book itself.. Back in 2012 we headed up to Yateley to interview Glynn, and what a pleasure it was. A proper character and one that has translated that into something tangible for us all to enjoy. Here's the original interview, and some extra imagery we dug up.
Growing up in the wilds of Hampshire and hotbed of gravel pits that is Yateley, you must get to see a fair few things over the course of 47 years angling … so I guess it’s no surprise that Glynn’s drawings ring ever so true, and tap into our psyches so well.
Under the humour lies some home truths. Acquired through Glynn’s observations and experiences, they are the unexplainable, or the unspeakable, but therein lies the age-old power of the cartoon; the ability to say something about the sublime or ridiculous by making a joke of it.
In a world dominated by the rather serious, the ‘quick fix’ and the instantly consumable, it is nice to see people still working with, and believing in a craft that runs at a polar opposite to all that. For Glynn, this is simply a labour of love, nothing else, using a forgotten craft as a tool to remind us to not take things too seriously, and with a wry smile and a wink, to remind us to take it all with a pinch of salt and that we're only fishing for big fat old carp for fun, after all …
Sub: Most people will know you from the drawings and cartoons you did for Tel in ‘In Pursuit’, but what is your background in the arts, Glynn? How did you get involved in drawing in the first place?
GG: I suppose I’ve just always been one of those people who could draw naturally. It was always for pleasure more than anything else really, just something I’ve always done.
Sub: Was it something you pursued at school?
GG: As is the way, as soon as you show a bit of talent you become the teachers pet because they know you will just crack on with it. I dabbled with the other usual school art forms, pottery and sculpture, but I think what I liked about drawing was that it was immediate, you could get ideas down quickly. After I left school I became a commercial artist and went to work as a studio junior in a place in Hartley Wintney, it was all grandiose schemes and dreams at the interview but basically, I spent three years filling up the ink wells of the properly paid artists, sharpening their pencils, making sure they had paper and materials to hand, running back and forth to London with proofs and back with briefs.
'what I liked about drawing was that it was immediate, you could get ideas down quickly'
Sub: A good insight into the commercial art world though, I guess?
GG: Well, kind of, but it was difficult to develop and shine. It was clear that it was going to take a long time to get anywhere. One of my jobs was putting a photo on a light-box, tracing it and then handing it over to the artist to colour. It was fun for a while, but by God, did that get boring quickly!
Sub: So where did you go from there?
GG: Well, it all got a bit hard from there on, to be honest. The studio went bust and I went to work for a screen printing company in Reading. I suppose, in hindsight, I should have changed paths and gone into digital art, because that was obviously where the future was going, but that’s hindsight for you! From then on I just kept the art as a hobby.
Sub: So where did ‘Geezer’ come from? When did you draw the first incarnation?
GG: It’s funny. A lot of people have asked me where he came from, and there’s been endless speculation about who it’s based on. Some people thought it was based on Ritchie MacDonald but to be honest, he’s a bit of everyone in some ways. If there’s one thing you can say about Geezer, it’s that he is a real bloke. He’s a bit of a mess, you know, scruffy and like a real carp angler? The idea was just to create something with a bit more punch to it, and someone that was one of the lads.
'Some people thought it was based on Ritchie MacDonald but to be honest, he’s a bit of everyone in some ways. If there’s one thing you can say about Geezer, it’s that he is a real bloke. He’s a bit of a mess, you know, scruffy and like a real carp angler?'
Sub: When did he make his first appearance?
GG: He started off just in single cartoons in 92 that I was doing for Rob (Maylin), so the character was already there. Rob was living in Bazil’s Bush at the time, literally. It was originally just going to be a three-part series, but it ended up growing beyond that.
The first one that I considered to be a bit more developed was when Geezer meets the Chris Yates character. Yates bursts out into all this flowery prose, you know - ‘buttery-gold underbelly, ruby-dappled shafts of sunlight’ and Geezer was just like, ‘what the fuck’s this fella on’? At the end of it, the last shot of Yates’s character is him with the Bishop, the big Redmire mirror, saying ‘what a kipper!’ and then the final frame is Geezer back down at his local pit. One of his mates turns up and is like, ‘allright, fella’ and Geezer comes out with, ‘Greetings good fellow. It’s a fine bleedin’ day to catch a carp,’ and launches into this Yates’esque prose, so it all goes full circle.
That was the one that kicked it off really. It actually became a bit of a catchphrase for a while. ‘How’re you doing fella?’ ‘Oh I’m in fine bleedin’ fettle, thank you, chap.’ you know? It was all just good fun.
Sub: I’m guessing that many people will have seen your work in ‘In Pursuit of the Largest’. That book was obviously a huge success and has become a classic of our era. How did it work providing the artwork for that? Was it Tel’s ideas, or did you have a free brief to work with?
GG: Yep, that was great. It was a fun project to work on. Tel came round one evening with the chapters in rough form. He already had a few ideas for things he thought would translate well into drawings, like the Mere scene for example, with the pairs of eyes hiding in the trees, and the Wraysbury one when he crashed his car and the rabbits are giving him the finger. Then I had other ideas and it all just slotted together like that. He was an easy character to draw really. Much easier than Sharpy, anyway. (laughing!)
'He already had a few ideas for things he thought would translate well into drawings, like the Mere scene for example, with the pairs of eyes hiding in the trees'
Sub: How long does the average Geezer strip take you to draw?
GG: They vary quite a bit depending on how complex they are. I find if I’m into the story, I’ll draw almost non-stop for a few days until it’s done; laying-out, inking-in, getting the text right. The more complex strips I’ll script out first; just pencil them out in rough, stick figures and the dialogue.
Sub: Do you ever draw on the bank?
GG: No, I have tried taking a sketchbook with me, but to be honest, I just find it an intrusion. I want to just sit there, absorb the atmosphere and take it all in, I don’t want my head stuck in a sketchbook.
Sub: I guess being alert to what is going on around you, having your eyes open, so to speak, is important for the strips as well. Do your observations form the basis for the humour and story lines?
GG: Yeah, I think having your eyes open and taking it all in is important and often, it’s the little things that are the best. We’ve had a robin down the Match Lake this year, called Spot because he has this really distinctive white spot right on top of his head. He’s a voracious little thing and he’s been such a laugh. Before your rod bag is even off your shoulder, he’s in the swim, and he really hassles you, chirping away, demanding food. He actually woke me up a week or so back, at the crack of dawn, warbling away at full pelt in the doorway of the bivvy. I rolled over, and next thing he’s underneath throwing stuff around, you know? I’ve fed him countless boilies and biscuits, but he managed to get away with a lump of steak last week as well; fit as fuck he is! We were laughing, saying how he’ll be first out of the blocks and all over the ladies come the spring mating season. He’d be a great starting point for a strip, you could have him harassing the swans and coots and that. The stories just evolve really. You start with a basic idea and then fill it out from there.
The one where Geezer’s stove blows up for example, that was based on Maggot Stu’s disaster in the Party swim on the Match. I can just remember his burning stove coming flying out of his bivvy and into the lake, followed swiftly by his sleeping bag - it was hilarious! Stu was a great character. I remember seeing him cinder a chicken burger the first time he used his new Coleman, as well, black on the outside, pink on the inside, proper salmonella job. He used to live like that, though, hard as nails, he was!
'I remember seeing him cinder a chicken burger the first time he used his new Coleman, as well, black on the outside, pink on the inside, proper salmonella job. He used to live like that, though, hard as nails, he was!'
Sub: Wherever you fish you always meet a few characters, don’t you, carp fishing seems to attract them?
GG: Oh yeah, there’s always a few! Having said that I think as the number of anglers has grown, the amount of characters seems to have diminished. If I think back to when me and Sharpy went over to Yateley for the first time, ‘91 I suppose, we wouldn’t even go over to the North side, not even to look. You just didn’t do that until you’d earned your stripes on the other side of the road and people knew who you were. They just wouldn’t have had it, you know.
Sub: I suppose scenarios like that breed characters?
GG: In a way. I it was a funny place back then in the 90’s, Yateley. You had lads like Jock and Terry Pethybridge down there fishing. I mean they were renowned for being miserable bastards and wouldn’t talk to you for at least half a year if you were new (laughing!).
Sub: You can get away with saying a lot of things when you present it in a humorous way, which you just couldn’t otherwise. Are there deeper moral meanings hidden within here somewhere?
GG: Oh, for sure. The Geezer strips often have some poignant point to make if you look a bit harder. It’s like the Yatesey one we were talking about, although it takes the mick out of him with the flowery language, there’s the point that there’s still a lot to be learned from the ‘olde worlde’ way of doing things, and it draws attention to the attitude as well. Everyone knows that aside from the flowery prose, Yates’s love and knowledge of the countryside is absolutely second to none. So, yes, there’s often a point to them.
I suppose some are just for laughs, or scenarios that we all relate to, like Geezer walking down the path with his mate telling him about how he’s been pre-baiting this spot for weeks, and when they turn up, there is literally every bird in the lake sitting there. We’ve all done that. Or there are the stupid ones like the matey holding the string like it’s a balloon disappearing out of the top of the shot, saying how he thinks they’ve overdone the pop-up mix.
There are often points of reference, too, like when there were a lot of tackle thefts happening, particularly in the Yateley area, I did the one where there’s a bloke with what is obviously a stolen reel in his hand, with a load of spears going through him pinning him to the tree, and there’s two of the lads going, ‘See? That’s much better than having an alarm wired up to the pod.’ Just stupid things like that, but dealing with reality in a different way.
'There are often points of reference, too, like when there were a lot of tackle thefts happening, particularly in the Yateley area'
Sub: I’m guessing there obviously isn’t a living to made doing this kind of thing?
GG: Oh God, no. I just do it for fun. I roll bait under the name of Three Rivers Rolling, which I’ve been doing full time since ‘06 now. It keeps getting busier as well, much as I’d like it not to (laughing). There are so many people knocking bait out these days, and whilst they’re not all good, if you choose wisely and find someone who uses good-quality ingredients it does give you the option to get something of real quality and fresh, plus there’s the option to have your mix customised which is something I do a lot of for customers.
Sub: How often do you get out yourself these days, with all your work commitments?
GG: As often as I can. I do find it tricky now, probably more down to pressure and the increased activity on the banks, but I find the short sessions don’t really work for me anymore, personally. You can bait little spots and all that but there are always so many other people looking, that the chances of getting back in there can be slim, so I prefer to get a few nights at it and try to hold the fish if they come through.
Sub: Aside from the Geezer strip, what is your take on the current scene and the trends we’re seeing?
GG: One thing I’ve always found with carp fishing, and which was probably why I got into it in the first place, aside from being able to live outside for a few days at a time, is that most people you meet are really funny people, you click with them, and you’re laughing long before the punch line has even come, you know? You’ve all been there and done it, you’ve lived that stuff, you’ve sat there in the rain, soaked; freezing to death knowing you should just go home. We’ve all been bitten, stung, burned and God knows what over the years, blanked for months…it’s all part of it. I think that is missing from lots of people these days. Certainly, at the weekends you see a lot of people around and wonder what their drive is; why are they there?
There seem to be a lot of people missing the point somewhere along the way, these days. I don’t know, though, that’s just my perception from the outside. That’s where Geezer comes in. He can say and do what he wants, and I want him to be a bit of a leveller, I suppose. Not in a nasty way at all, but he’ll always bring someone’s castle down if they’re asking for it!
The bait game is a great example. I remember a time when you would never ask what bait someone was using, that was a massive faux pas, same with rigs and spots, you just didn’t ask back then. Christ, I fished with Nige for years before I knew what bait he was using, and he was a mate! I would just never have asked him, you know, not directly. You just didn’t do that. It was up to you to share that information, if you wanted to. Now, it seems it is the opposite and everyone wants the safety blanket of being on the same bait and tactics as everyone else, and that’s the way the industry wants it, obviously.
Sub: Thinking for yourself has perhaps become a thing of the past on some waters! Anyway, cheers Glynn, and thanks for giving us an insight into the world of Geezer, it’s been a delight, old chap!
GG: Indeed it has. Cheers.
Glynn can be found at Three River Rolling: https://www.threeriversrolling.co.uk