Sunday, 27 March 2011


Browsing the shelves of Oxfam the other lunchtime I saw, and immediately snapped up, a copy of I, Flook. On the face of it an autobiography of the eponymous star of the long running cartoon strip in the dreaded Daily Mail, though (as I knew), really written by the always interesting George Melly. I've never read any of the actual strips (albums of which go for about £30 each when they're available). Flook is a funny little creature from the Stone Age, possibly a woolly mammoth, but it's not clear. He (I think he's a he) has lots of skills and attributes that you wouldn't normally attribute to a mammoth, and he gets into lots of quite amusing adventures.

Anyway, my curiosity was aroused by the fact that this book was written by Melly during the period of his life covered in the first part of his autobiography, one of the most enjoyable books I've ever read. In common with that book it also has excellent illustrations by the cartoonist Trog. Having read Owning Up to death a bit I thought I, Flook might provide some further scraps of insight into the great Melly's life. This view was encouraged when I saw that pictures of a character named Scoop were blatantly based on Melly (see below, and what nice shoes!).

As I scanned the pages a description of bleary eyed gamblers stumbling into the dawn to see Albert Bridge gilded by the morning sun jumped out at me. "Aha", I thought,"clearly informed by the years the author spent living in Margarette Terrace", and felt quite pleased with myself. At one point Flook refers with fondness to the decor of his flat, a feature of which is a phrenologists' head - while over in Owning Up George recounts his own joy at turning up just such an object at a junk shop in Grimsby.

Perhaps not staggering revelations, but little pieces of a puzzle nonetheless. As it happens the author takes up three pages in Owning Up on Flook, admitting that his lifestyle was all grist to the mill or, as he puts it, "Flook meat".


  1. It's a jazzer thing. A lot of the story lines were written by Humphrey Lyttelton and it was drawn by Wally Faulkes, aka Trog.

  2. Saw George Melly doing an 'in conversation' with Robert Elms a few years ago. Dear old George demolished half a bottle of Scotch while he was chatting. Still managed to sign an autograph for my mum afterwards, though. Overused word, 'legend' but he really was one.

  3. John - Yes, though I can't say I'm mad on jazz I love the world described in Owning Up - I sometimes think about going and looking for traces of it, like the Mandrake Club.

    TIW - one of my aunties accosted him at Eyam jazz festival a few years ago and got him to sign one of the posters for me, I've got it rolled up in a tube somewhere (I hope).

  4. Interesting post! I too love "Owning Up" ('specially the Trog illustrations), and have often wondered how the work of such flagrant jazzbo hipsters could end up being a regular feature in the Mail, of all places... would you say the Flook stuff is actually worth reading?

  5. Cheers Ben. I neglected to mention the quality of writing didn't I? But yes, I, Flook is as amusingly urbane as Owning Up.

    As for the strips, I dunno - the few examples I've seen on the internet seem pretty good, but I'd want a much better look before shelling out. I might pop into Marchpane Books next time I'm passing.