Book review: Fun in the great outdoors with Norman Thelwell

If you’re fishing around for Christmas gifts this year, then the wry humour of cartoon genius Norman Thelwell could be the perfect catch.

Friday, 7th November 2014, 9:00 am
Fun in the great outdoors with Norman Thelwell
Fun in the great outdoors with Norman Thelwell

Thelwell, the Cheshire-born artist who was rarely seen without a pencil and sketchbook, was regarded as the unofficial artist of the British countryside and one of the nation’s most popular and much-loved cartoonists in the decades after the Second World War.

Best known for his endearing illustrations of fat little girls and their fat little ponies, Thelwell was a keen observer of the foibles of the British at work and play, and his unique style is still instantly recognisable to many.

Thelwell, who contributed more than 1,600 cartoons to Punch magazine, died aged 80 in 2004 and now his nostalgic and quintessentially English cartoon gems have been republished in four beautifully packaged books which take a tongue-in-cheek look at angling, golf, gardening and sailing.

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These quirky cartoon books are superb stocking fillers, offering a trip down memory lane for Thelwell’s long-established fans and a breath of fresh air for a new generation of outdoor pursuit lovers.

Why not splash out for your keen angler with Compleat Tangler, ideal for any man who appreciates the primitive thrill of hunting wild creatures, the hours spent studying minute aquatic flies and the art of manipulating his tackle.

With the help of Thelwell, we can all discover what fishermen really get up to when they abandon a warm bed before the crack of dawn, stuff a haversack with tins of assorted maggots, half a hundredweight of pulped bread and a folding campstool, and disappear into the drizzle.

Keep fanatical golfers on the ball with Play It As It Lies, a guaranteed round of laughs for any golfer who has experienced the horrors of sporting the wrong attire on course, lost his ball or been wronged by unforgivable gamesmanship.

Three Sheets In The Wind will take sailors on all-too-familiar waters as Thelwell reveals that arriving on a summer weekend at any stretch of water without one’s own craft behind the car or swaying proudly at its moorings is like attending a dance with a broken leg. The horrors of damaging one’s social status are all too obvious in this rib-tickling manual of sailing instructions.

And last but not least, take addicted amateur gardeners Up The Garden Path as Thelwell covers all aspects of this much-loved hobby, whether it’s making a hole in the frozen fish pond or getting get your mower out of the shed.

So get ready to reel with laughter, enjoy a howl in one, have a luff a minute and achieve instant grassification with the remarkable artist who made Britishness a lovable, laughing matter.

(Allison & Busby, hardback, all priced £9.99)