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Overheard in GD, February 1970

By Nodge Carnegie 


On Wednesday 11 February 1970, I started work with HMSO as a Casual Temporary Technical Officer in Graphic Design, a stop-gap replacement for a designer who was going to leave soon.

The Graphic Design studio was located in Room E86 in Atlantic House, near Holborn Viaduct. From west to east, the studio staff comprised George Sewell (Illustrator), Caroline White, David Tudor, John Saville, David Challis, Len Lawrance, Philip Marriage, Max Carrena, Alan Stephens, Eric Gristwood, Ken Arnoldi (Illustrator) and Peter Branfield (Leading Illustrator). About half way along the room was Bobbie Westaway, the clerical assistant, across whose desk much in-bound and out-going work passed. In three offices at the west end of the studio were John Westwood (Head of Graphic Design), Reg Vine (Studio Manager) and David Napthine (Senior Typographer). After an introduction from Reg, my new colleagues made me feel welcome.

The studio, I quickly realised, was rarely quiet. With regular visitors from Pubns, P&B, Publicity, government departments, printers and repro houses and with Reg or Bobbie (‘Westie’ to a couple of the designers) handing out work files, it couldn’t be sepulchral. Then, there were the whistling, the singing, and the calls of ‘What about the tea, Westie?’ (to the tune of ‘What’s it all about, Alfie?’). It was astounding how little the work was disrupted!

As with the skill, creativity, professionalism and knowledge, the ad lib, unforced repartee, witticisms and humour were impressive. There was usually a comment or an answer for anything and everything.

Graphic Design Studio, Wednesday 11 February. Philip Marriage had recently seen a new film about U.S. General George Patton’s career during the Second World War. Ken Arnoldi, Peter Branfield and Philip talked about the film.

Ken:  Monty didn’t get on with Patton.
Philip:  Not many people did!
Ken:  You could say he was uncom-PATTON-able.
Peter:  That was his MAJOR contribution to the war.
Ken:  That must RANK as one of the worst jokes of the year!

I had a lot to learn about living and working in London. My new colleagues seemed like founts of knowledge and did not mind sharing with newcomers such as me.

Ken:  Did you know, Nodge, that if all the tickets issued in one year by London Transport were laid end to end, no useful purpose would be served!

Graphic Design Studio, Friday 13 February 1970. This was the last day for one of the designers, Eric Gristwood, who was departing for pastures new. Some of his colleagues were going to take him for a farewell drink at lunch time. David Tudor, a teetotaller (quiet and tolerant with it!), said that he would not be joining them.

Len:  You’re not going to the pub, David? David is an anti-social old bugger. Just because he’s got a £10 telephone bill . . . It’s nothing to what the next one will be! Just wait till the summer comes, when the old sap starts rising and you start chatting more!
Ken:  Think we’ll have a white Christmas?
Caroline (looks out of window at Charterhouse Street): It’s sticking to the ground . . .
Ken:  No it’s not! It might be sticking to the ground out there but it’s certainly not sticking to the ground in here!

Peter returned from a meeting in the National Maritime Museum. He related a conversation between himself and a man from the museum [MftM] about a map Peter had drawn for a new book.

MftM:  Those islands look accidental.
Peter:  Islandsare  accidental.
MftM:  No, what I mean is that those islands look wrong.
Peter:  Which islands are wrong? . . . Those ‘islands’ are Africa!
MftM:  Oh, yes, er . . . Erm, I mean those islands, there. There seem to be too many.
Peter:  I’ll tell you what. You check with an atlas.
MftM (looks in atlas):  Oh, yes. They’re right. But there are rather a lot of them, aren’t there?

Monday 16 February 1970. Peter was doing the artwork for a book about Captain Cook’s voyages. The main image was a detailed map.

Peter:  It’s rotten work sticking these numbers down. I’m bound to put one down wrong!
John (reassuringly):  Of course you will, Peter.
Ken:  Then you’ll be on the map!
Peter:  Some poor sod will be for it, proof-reading this.
Ken:  It looks like Cook’s or somebody doing exploration tours.
Peter:  With salt pork and biscuits . . .
Ken:  And a few lashes to keep it authentic!

Ken:  What do you mean by “the physical side of marriage”? Washing up?
Peter:  Yes — and making beds!

Len:  How long is it since you’ve been back to your ‘native shore’, Ken?
Ken (deliberately):  I will take it, Len, that you mean Italy, despite the fact that my ‘native shore’ is England! However, for your benefit, I will assume that my native shore is  Italy. I’ve been to my ‘native shore’ a couple of times . . .
Peter:  They wouldn’t let him in!
Ken:  If you’re not careful, Peter, you’ll make yourself laugh so much that you’ll have to change your underpants!
Peter:  I wear disposable ones!

Ken:  What are you going to do on your wedding anniversary, Peter?  Take your wife down the library?
Peter:  Yes. It’s warm in there.

Thursday 26 February 1970. John Westwood escorted a visitor round the studio.

Ken:  Who was that? Who was it just came round?
Peter:  John Westwood. That was Westwood.
Ken:  No, I mean who . . .
Peter:  I’ve just told you: Westwood, your section leader.
Len:  Who was with him, though?
Ken:  Don’t know. He must have been passing by in the street and Westwood saw him and thought he looked cold and invited him in. “Come into the warm for a bit. Come in for a warm.”

Ken:  Philip’s just put in for a transfer to ‘Neddy’ [NEDO].
Peter:  Is that the donkey firm?
Ken:  Yes.
Philip:  I’d go if it was called ‘Noddy’ but not ‘Neddy’!

Dave C:  John [Saville] has been promoted to ADP1 today.
Peter:  Oh, has he? How long is that for?
Dave C:  Just for the afternoon!
Peter:  Does John know he’s been promoted for the afternoon?
Dave C:  Not until tomorrow!

Ken:  Alan is definitely shorter today, Peter.
Peter:  Oh, is he?
Ken:  Yes . . . Without being talkative or silly, Alan’s height definitely varies from day to day.
Peter:  Must be his legs . . .
Alan:  No. I’ve got an adjustable torso!

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