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Thursday, 8 March, 2001, 13:02 GMT
The British taste for seaside sauce
Saucy postcards are as much a part of the British seaside holiday as fish and chips, stripy deck chairs and rain. Cartoonist Syd Kitching, creator of more than 2,000 of these mini masterpieces, reflects on the artform's uncertain future.

I always wanted to be a cartoonist, ever since I could spell the word. I'd be taken to the seaside by my parents and always have a sneaky look at the saucy postcards. I never dreamed for a moment I'd actually be carrying on the great tradition.

Syd Kitching postcard
Wish you were here
I started as a sign painter at 18, doing everything from pub signs to the crests of Liverpool and Wallasey inside the Mersey Tunnel. That was quite spooky. They'd drop me off in the middle of the tunnel as it was being built then pick me up later in the day.

Bamforth and Co. began publishing seaside postcards as far back as 1902. They set the standard. [The company went bankrupt last year, but was recently rescued by a firm promising to revive the postcards business.]

I felt greatly honoured when they approached me and asked me to enter the world of feeble-minded husbands, over-bearing mothers-in-law and double entendres.

There was a long line of artists before me. I followed on from Charles 'Chas' Grigg - who like me worked on The Dandy and The Beano comics, producing Desperate Dan and Korky the Kat.

Syd Kitching postcard
The cartoonist's train of thought
The very first postcard I produced was about train delays. There's this old station master sitting by a chalk board which reads, 'The next train departs 2015'. When a businessman in a bowler hat asks him about it, he replies: 'That's not the time, mate, that's the year.'

That card seems more appropriate today, what with all the recent rail delays, than it was then.

You try to make sure the cards are timeless, but it's inevitable that things in the news tend to be picked up. If they'd still been producing cards there'd have been a joke about the Millennium Dome.

Syd Kitching cartoon
"And McDonald's will go here"
I used to draw cartoons for a newspaper when President Bush - not George W, but his daddy - was levelling Iraq and planning how he'd rebuild it afterwards.

My cartoon had the president standing in front of a map saying: 'And McDonald's will go just about here.' His aides found out about this and he was over the moon. He asked for the original to be signed and sent off to him.

When Bamforth went under last year I was quite sad. I hope this new company takes up the gauntlet, it would be sad to see the postcards go after such a long run.

I don't think they'll ever reach the heyday of their popularity again, but people do love to see them and send them off. It's a British tradition and I don't think anyone else in the world really understands the seaside postcard.

Syd Kitching postcard
"There's Auntie Bessie ... That's Uncle Harry"
When I wander around the seafront and see people buying cards, I go over to see what they're saying about them. You usually find they're standing at the racks saying: 'There's Auntie Bessie ... that's just like Uncle Harry.'

People relate to them. The jokes have always been double entendres, but it's very rare that anybody's been offended.

A few years ago the cards were frowned upon, they were not considered politically correct. Now you find more and more people saying: 'Oh well, this is just something that's funny.'

Although they're saucy postcards, they are going to be seen by families so they can't be too risqué. Some of the cartoons are quite tame.

Syd Kitching postcard
"They were not considered politically correct"
My ideas would go in front of a committee and if you managed to make them all laugh at the same time you had it made.

Some of the jokes that got through were quite surprising. There was one set in a dating agency. A chap was on the floor - his clothes bedraggled - and a sexy girl was walking away getting dressed and he says: 'Very nice, and what other interests do you have, Miss Goodbody?'


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Syd Kitching
"The jokes have always been double entendres"


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