I regularly take part in what has become known as the "Caption Competition" over on the Cartoonists.co.uk forum , mostly populated by cartoonists and cartoon enthusiasts, and where every week a bunch of us (any member can take part, and it's simple to join) all come up with a cartoon to fit either a given caption or theme. We then post our cartoons between noon on Saturday and noon on Sunday, after which all forum members are free to vote for their favourites. The winner gets to choose the caption or theme (themed cartoons are captionless) for the following week.
It started as a suggested one-off experiment from one of the members, and has proved such a hit with the regulars of the site, that next week's competition will be our 50th, and the winners, for the first time, will be awarded actual prizes!
It was all supposed to be a bit of fun, and so it remains, but the standard of entries has been hugely impressive, and seems to get better with each passing week. We have introduced a formal structure to it, with a set of rules designed to make it run smoothly, and so it seems to do.
Entrants are a true mix of experience, with seasoned veteran pros competing in the same arena as aspiring young cartoonists, and with the former by no means dominating the leader boards. It all adds up to a weekly challenge that has caught the imagination of a good number of us, and so far the turnout week on week has been consistently high, and shows no sign of abating. Naturally, some fall away when other commitments take priority, but most will return to play another day.
All of which brings me to the cartoon above, which was my entry for this week's competition, and the caption, "It's Showtime!". I was really struggling for time and ideas this week, with my attention being diverted by both the World Cup and Wimbledon. So in the end, I decided to just try to fit the caption round a caricature of Britain's Number 1 tennis player, Andy Murray, who I really fancied trying to capture on 'paper' (or graphics tablet, if you will).
I started the drawing before he started his semi-final with Nadal, and my hope was that I could ultimately depict him charging onto Centre Court for the final on Sunday. Sadly, it wasn't to be, and I had to hastily change the backdrop to show him exiting this year's Wimbers, one stage too early. He played well, but Nadal was awesome - no doubt even more motivated than the young Scot by the early elimination of Federer. The winner of this game would be easy favourite in the final.
Murray seems to divide opinion within the UK, not always helped by his occasionally brusque manner, and fervent Scottish pride which can come across sometimes as anti-Englishness. But his time will come, and I think he is a quite remarkable young man. Not only for his masterful ability on a tennis court, but also for his single-minded determination and strength of spirit, which puts him above so many of his peers in the game. Remarkable for many reasons.
My eldest daughter is three years older than Andy Murray. Today she is a science teacher in the same secondary school that Murray attended in Dunblane, Perthshire. Fourteen years ago, Andy Murray was a nine-year-old pupil at Dunblane Primary School when gunman Thomas Hamilton shot dead sixteen of his fellow pupils and one teacher, on one of the darkest days in modern Scottish history. The scars of that day run deep throughout the nation and beyond. I can only imagine the depth they reached for those who were attending the school that day. For most, just coming to terms with life beyond that day is a remarkable achievement. To then find it within yourself to become one of the best tennis players in the world is truly staggering.
The Grand Slam titles will come. No hurry!