Resist the urge, even if it is just an itch that needs scratching…


You know how it is that sometimes you have to do something, you have an urge. Those times when you have a need to eat a kebab or the craving for a particular snack is just impossible to resist no matter how absurd it may appear? I admit to having them rather too often and, like an itch, they have to be dealt with. On the whole I’d say these urges are, more often than not, very satisfying. Well one evening, I got an urge, an urge that had to be followed up. Overall it was a stupid one, made even more stupid thanks to the help and encouragement of some equally stupid friends.

That evening we had been out at a countryside pub. The one tucked away down some tight country lanes, lanes lined with bushes and gated entrances to farmers fields, lanes where houses are rare and when found, are usually old, beautiful and expensive. We were driving back into town and having fun driving recklessly with youthful abandon. We took a corner a little too fast and didn’t slow down quick enough for the hump back bridge that followed the corner. I say we were driving fast, but remember, on a single lane winding road, 40mph is too fast, so we weren’t exactly belting it along. Nevertheless, even allowing for sudden braking, we hit the hump-back bridge at maybe 25mph. It was enough to make all of us leave our seats and bash our heads on the roof! The car hit the ground with a jolt and a sound that told us all something had fallen off. We fell about laughing… It was like a fairground ride, only free. We wanted to do it again, but faster this time. Our designated driver was in no mood to repeat things, it being his father’s car and his father would not be happy that his car now had a buckled front bumper and was missing a front indicator. So home we all went. But that evening had left an itch that needed to be scratched.

Over the coming weeks myself and my fellow passengers agreed we needed to return to the hump-back bridge and see how fast we could take it and how far the car would jump. With military precision we began working out the details, each of us taking a role in the operation. One of us was a regularly competitor in banger racing and could source us a car that would not cause any family upset if we broke a few bits, another could then prepare the car so that it would survive what we were sure would be a pretty awesome jump and me, being as mechanical as a bowl of fruit offered to paint the car so it looked good. A week later we have the car, a white, 20 year old Ford something or other, picked up from the local scrap yard for £35. Quite un-roadworthy if you were to look at it with a legal eye, but the engine was good enough, the clutch only slipped between 3rd and 4th gear and the bodywork, rusty in places, would do. Mate number 2 took out the windows, removed the petrol tank and rear seats. A smaller, plastic petrol tank was fixed into the boot, metal bars were welded to give some strength and protection, and finally the seat belts were replaced for cheap second-hand race-harnesses. Then came my turn to add the artistic touch. Although it is fair to say I did paint it, it’s fairer to actually say I just painted the words ‘Super Dave Stunt Team’ down both sides in thick black emulsion paint. That said, after those 5 minutes spent decorating the thing, it looked pretty good. It  was all ready to go, we were all ready to go, it was time to deal with that urge…

The location of the bridge as I mentioned earlier is on a thin country lane. From the opposite direction there is a long downhill run up to it, a length we guessed would allow the car enough room to achieve maybe 50 or 60mph, a speed we were confident would give us good height and laughter filled flight time. We also took into account that the damage suffered to the original car when we first took the bridge would be multiplied at a higher speed. Therefore one of us would have to borrow their parents car and follow us as if the damage was enough to make the ‘jump car’ un-driveable, we’d need an alternative mode of transport to get us to the pub so our night out could go ahead as planned and later we could then tow the ‘jump car’ back on our way home. See, we really had taken our time and knew that preparation is indeed the key to everything.

The weekend came and that evening we got ourselves ready. No special clothing, it was, after all, still just a lads night out, so fireproof race suits were dismissed in favor of figure hugging trousers, funky patterned shirts, some fake tan, a few squirts of cheap smelly stuff and a condom in the wallet just in case. Can’t be disappointing the ladies now can we. The one concession we did make was to use crash helmets, as we knew from experience that hitting the roof without one would hurt. Suitably attired we fired up the old bucket and off we went. Aware of the car being now completely illegal, un-registered, un-taxed and uninsured, we took the route we figured would be the most discreet.

I thought I knew my friends. I had grown up with them, been through years of school with them, showered with them and spent countless hours in their company. They had my trust. I would have been a more cautious driver that night, I would have taken the hill down to the bridge at the speed we had agreed upon, braked a little maybe, shown some caution and a degree of consideration to my passenger. But I wasn’t the driver that night, I was the passenger and my trust was in the hands of the driver. Those years of thinking I knew him were proven wrong. We took the corner before the hill at close to 60mph, by the time we were upon the bridge we were doing 95. We hit the bridge and just took off. The car must have been launched easily 40 foot into the air and our flight distance must have exceeded 100ft, the glide path changed from being us looking up to the stars to us looking down onto the road as the weight of the engine in the front and the laws of gravity pulled the nose down. The whine of the screaming engine was replaced by the crunch and crash of metal hitting tarmac. Bits of car fell around us, the bonnet flew off, the rear door popped open, the bumper shattered and the steering wheel came away from its mounting. The back of the car touched down a few moments later and we began to bounce uncontrollably. Earlier I mentioned how we originally discovered the unique qualities of the bridge, how from the other direction we had taken the corner too fast at 40mph, remember that bit. Well now we were aiming for that said corner at something like 80mph plus, bouncing around like a kangaroo and as we now had no steering wheel, we were both just passengers in the sequence of events that followed.

It became clear we were not going to make the corner and I braced for impact as the bushes lining the corner grew closer. We ploughed though the bushes, which it turned out were for a rather well concealed house, a rather elegant one as well. The owners had obviously spent time and money on their garden, the lawn was flat and perfectly stripped by a recent trim, pretty flowers lined the edges and the centre-piece was an ornate little pond with a fountain in the middle, a fountain shaped like a flower with some Greek styled statue of a woman holding an urn from which water was cascading. The pond I imagine would have been a perfect habitat for newts and frogs, possibly hiding some fish as well, who knows, its surface was dotted with large Lilly pads and it was dark. I did know that it was overdue a bit of dredging as, climbing out of the car, my feet sunk into a deep muddy bottom. Completely ruined my shoes it did and the algae stains on my jeans would prove a nightmare to get rid of. In fact, months later, the vigilant would still be able to pick out the slight change of colour where the stains once were.

Behind us, our pathway had been exceptionally well described. The entry into the garden was marked by a car width gap in the bushes, all the plants on the route were flattened and the lawn was churned up where the tyres had twisted and turned their way to the pond where we had finally come to a halt. The statue was in a number of pieces, one piece now being in our car, another embedded into the lawn and one somewhat larger piece, having been brutally flung through one of the greenhouse windows, was now nestled in what looked like some well cared for tomato plants, country show winning specimens they seemed to be, big juicy red things they were, certainly nothing like we’d be able to buy at the local supermarket. How the other half live…The fountain, having its pipe work liberated, was spurting high, raining cold water down upon us and, judging by the security lights that were now lighting up the whole garden and the sound of barking, the owners of the house were aware of their evening being somewhat disturbed. We did what any sensible person would do in a situation like this. We leapt out of the pond and ran.

The back up car, no longer being a rescue vehicle, was now our getaway vehicle and we leapt into it, soaking wet, muddy footed, screaming like the old F1 commentator Murray Walker, “go, go go”. We gave the pub a miss.

The parents of our getaway driver grounded him for a week for bringing the car back so filthy inside. The owners of the house we crashed into managed to get the insurance company to sort them out, how do I know that..? Well for our efforts, we made it into the local newspaper! Front page the following week is a photo of our car. Smashed up, nose stuck in the pond with carnage behind and around it. Clearly shown is my artistic contribution and the headline read… “Just who is Super Dave?”

The urge to see what would happen if we took the bridge a bit faster had been dealt with, it hadn’t gone exactly to plan and we did feel bad about the bushes, plants, lawn, fountain, anything in the pond that didn’t make it and of course those rather superb tomato plants. What it didn’t do was prevent a new urge from forming, a new itch that needed scratching. Thanks to the newspaper headline, we thought it would be fun to get another car, give it the same ‘Super Dave Stunt Team’ livery and see if we couldn’t get ourselves onto the front page just one more time. And funnily enough, we all began wondering if it would be at all possible to jump the local canal that ran through the town centre…

Your printer should be your best friend

Printers are some of my best friends. I just made that up. I mean they are, but they’re obviously not, not in the way best friends are. Truth be known my two best friends would have to be the one who is an undertaker and the other who is an estate agent. Bit odd I know but they are my social best friends, the ones who give me hearty slaps on the back, call me names in jest, encourage me to knock back a few too many Guinness with Vodka depth charges and who a couple of hours later will draw all over my face with indelible ink whilst I am unconscious. They are the ones who still jump at the chance to give me a wedgie if the opportunity arises. Those are my best friends. Thinking about it now, I should maybe start reconsidering their status. However, printers do indeed fall into the ‘best friend’ category on a professional level because I need them to work with me, to listen, react and respond, to be there for me. I need them to figure out some technical issues for me, deal with tight deadlines, do me the odd favour and give me a few days extra to pay them.

It’s here where the problems start though. By fate, I tend to work with an international client base. So I need to get production for clients in their home country, Europe, Middle east… You get the picture. Now in an ideal world, I would prefer no overseas clients. There is no glamour. Sounds like there is but believe me, there really isn’t. No, in an ideal world, all my clients would live in the same street as me and the printer would live on the other side of the park, maybe a five or ten minute walk away. That would save me the horrendous phone bill, the absurd time differences, the language problems, the EasyJet check in desk and importantly, the various overseas printers I have to sort out and deal with.

On a rudimentary level I am asking for just one simple thing, take some ink and stick it on a bit of paper. My son does it all the time, like the potato printing kits of my youth only nowadays they have sponge shapes. He dips it into the ink and stamps it onto his paper, then when I am not looking, he prints it onto the table, the chair, the wall, his sister… It’s at that point the screaming starts and I am made aware of things and need to clean the mess before the good lady comes in and I got chewed to bits. But you get my drift. It’s not rocket science just ink onto paper. Yet until you get the right printer you are always nervous the door will open and the mess will be seen.

My first printer in Dubai printed 15,000 leaflets in blue onto white card when we asked for green onto cream paper. A printer in Spain once printed a 2000 booklets, 30 odd pages, and delivered them to the clients office in Portugal instead of the Barcelona office they should have been going to and then tried to bill me for the courier costs. And it wasn’t a language issue that caused it. In Dubai they speak a lot of English and I speak Spanish.

Thankfully, those days seem long ago, distant memories. Nowadays the problem has moved on, nowadays the problems sit firmly at my feet and the feet of those wonderful clients of mine. Let me explain. I am the one asking for spot Pantone metallic over four process colour, I’m the one who decides I’d like a half accordian fold or a gate fold with a pop-up, It’s me who suggests blind embossing and a UV finish. I set the benchmark. The client then wants it all flashy with fizz, they want to write the equivalent of the Bible but within an A5 8 page booklet, they want it for next to nothing and of course, they want it yesterday or sooner if possible, and don’t consider Saturday or Sunday days of rest. All the printer has to do, like I said, is put the ink onto the paper, finish it off and put it in a box and deliver it for me. So you find yourself a printer who can make sure all the problems get solved, who sits and thinks about what you’ve asked and suggests the best way to achieve them and you have your ‘best friend’.

The issue then is about finding said ‘best friend’.  I must say I have spent years, possibly the best part of a decade, closer to two actually, working with various printers. Some good, many bad. And what I have learnt is that good ones are worth taking care of. I’ve found a  Spanish printer who never returns my calls once we are in print production, never keeps me updated, ever. Yet always delivers on time and never have we had a quality problem. I’ve learnt to always specify stock or else everything comes back to me printed on photocopy paper but apart from that, he is my Spanish best friend. In the states I have found a printer who charges me upfront for everything on my credit card, emails me his useless, uninformative newsletter with military regularity yet delivers anywhere in the country for 30 bucks extra and emails me the delivery note within ten minutes of the arrival of the print. And again, I’ve never had a quality issue. So I forgive him everything, he is after all, my best friend.

In Switzerland I have a printer who was probably around when Caxton first set his presses running, his press certainly was manufactured around that time for sure, he speaks English as good as I speak Japanese and email is a bit too modern for him. However, never has he let me down, never has he given me cause for complaint and never have I needed to reconsider my ‘man in Switzerland’ options.

And so the list goes. Like the randy sailor metaphor, I have one in every port, a printer that is. Unlike a Sailor though, they know each other exists, would probably all get along swimmingly well and, touch wood, we are all very happy and hoping to stay together for a long time to come.

In the UK the story continues. I’ve been working with a printer here since before the arrival of DTP and desktop computers. At that time, artwork was cut and paste, not ‘control C’ and ‘Control V’, I mean the typesetter gave us bromide galley sheets to our specification (column width, font face, font size, leading, kerning and all that..) we then had to physically cut the sheet up and glue it onto board to create the layout then overlay that with print instructions on an onion skin. You who were born with Quark and Photoshop on the shelf have nothing to complain about regarding artwork, ever! Well that just about puts a date stamp on the relationship for you, basically, a long long time. The friendship went as most relationships do. Other printers charmed me and I had a bit of a fling, we had the odd argument, we lost touch every now and again but we always kissed and made up.

Being basically being lazy means I have to put all my trust into overseas printers for overseas clients. I can’t go jumping on a plane to check the colours on 250 business cards, I have to trust them to do the job, trust them to give me the best prices and trust them to respect my client relationships. I expect them to look after the quality side of things, the delivery side of things, expect them to keep me informed and expect them to do my Christmas cards for free each year in lieu of the mandatory bottle of wine when the festive season kicks in. As best friends go, so long as they don’t even begin to consider how funny it would be to give me a wedgie or write ‘I fear change’ in black pen on my forehead, they stand shoulder to shoulder with my undertaker and estate agent.