Peculiar Goings on by Dave Walker. Are there any cartoonists in the world who do church better than Walker? This fourth collection must be his strongest yet.

Peculiar Goings On
Author: Dave Walker
Canterbury Press
Paperback, 90pp.

Good cartooning is not so much about drawing as having a witty sense of humour that communicates something to its readers. Dave Walker’s (no relation) characters are only a stage or two removed from stick men, but his observational comedy is very finely drawn.

This is the fourth collection of his weekly content for the Church Times and there can be very few with the skills to create so many consistently funny vignettes of church life. Some of his laughs come from simple things, like the contents of the church office cupboard, with its nativity stables and boxes of centenary mugs, but the best jokes are several layers deeper.

Take, for example, his Periodic Table of Churchgoers, which organises 46 types of churchgoer into a chart that mimics the scientific table. There are laughs at the placing of churchgoing ‘elements’ (the flower ladies are next to the curate and vicar – probably a comment on their fabled disproportionate power); the key (the ‘NC Non-chanting Priest’ is “low mass” and ‘IB Insensitive Busybody’ is “quite dense,” while the ‘CR Christian rock fan’ is a “heavy metal”); and the symbols (‘OH’ is a visitor who turned up by accident).

It may be that Walker has a scientific background. His cartoons are certainly ordered, laid out almost in chart form and full of arrows pointing to things from “Coins (collection plates incident of 1821)” in the cartoon titled Archaeology – What We Found When We Dug Down to “Barrier (using altar rail technology)” in The Church – How to Defend It from Non-churchgoers. The latter shows both Walker’s flair for surrealism and his understated references to church politics.

His gentle surrealism, which often comes from exaggerating details in church life, is almost everywhere, from The Chair Straighteners – You May Have Seen Them at the Cathedral to the delightful overstatement of The Seven Wonders of the Deanery.

Aided by the innocence of his style, Walker freely adds provocative content to his cartoons, such as in Sunday School – This Month’s Curriculum, where, whatever the bible story, the main lessons are to be nice to people and tidy your bedroom. Poignant, as well as provocative, his Untapped Talent shows how much talent is lost to unwelcoming churches.

In a less barbed side to his observation, Walker even notes the “special reversing manoeuvre” when leaving the pew for communion, depicts the annual airing of the hymnbooks and spots several unspoken features of Going on a Retreat.

Cartoons I found particularly funny included one on the uses for old OHP acetates and one warning of the dangers of alienating sidespersons.

It may be a little early to talk of Christmas, but a batch of these books, with Walker’s trademark blend of puns, acute observation and a twist of laugh-out-loud wit, will lighten your present-buying task hugely. It may also earn you some life-long friends.


Derek Walker

{module Possibly Related Articles - Also search our Legacy Site}