Ralph Steadman: 'As a satirist with a bus pass, I wish to travel free as the air'

From a speech by the cartoonist and illustrator on accepting an Honorary Fellowship from the University of the Arts, London
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The Independent Online

It is time to take stock, and I need to make some calculations - assess my achievements, clear my decks, and pick up some pieces. I am, after all, approaching my three score and ten. Here are some calculations:

It is time to take stock, and I need to make some calculations - assess my achievements, clear my decks, and pick up some pieces. I am, after all, approaching my three score and ten. Here are some calculations:

In the last 40 years, I have used sufficient paper to cover an area four times the size of Wales. If I joined together every line I have ever drawn, it would go around the world three and a half times. The amount of Indian ink used to achieve this would fill an oil tanker, orturn the waters of Cardigan Bay black for a month.

I have worn out enough brushes to condemn the lives of 1,423 furry animals, and I have plundered the feathers of more birds for quills than it would take to dress what's left of the Navajo nation for a festival weekend in Santa Fe. I have scratched away, or bent, enough steel nibs to make bongo sheets sufficient to keep Rolf Harris singing "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport", 24 hours a day, for 79 years.

These assessments serve to demonstrate that I am, at heart, a man of quantity. I would like to apologise for the waste, take back all that I may have said, and hope that, in future, if I have anything worthwhile to add, I will type in into a computer, read it to myself, and then delete it.

As for drawing, I have made a pact with myself - as a savage satirist with a bus pass, and as a leader of the OAP freedom fighters who wish to travel free as the air, unshackled by as little restraint as physically possible, beyond the boundaries of our personal capabilities, we shall pour our scorn on the liberated and the foolishly misled.

That is, I will draw, for no good reason at all, anything I like and see fit to create, and make of whatever emerges, images that can mean whatever I want them to mean. Our patron saint will be Humpty Dumpty, and all the Queen's horses and all the Queen's men, and women, will be unable to reconstruct the nature of our being. That is our secret weapon, that is our cause.

To become elderly, in my world, is to become a revolutionary and take back from the young all that we thought we knew at that age. And we did know everything.

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