Last week I went to the funeral of Philip Thompson, who created cartoons for the letters and agony pages of Artists & Illustrators magazine throughout my time as editor there from 2001-2004. Cartoons is perhaps not quite the word - they were drawings with a kind of spontaneity that sprang off the page, belying the experience, knowledge, sense of humour and humanity through which they had percolated.
After several years, I met Philip with Roger Bates, the writer of the agony page (and of an obituary for Philip in the Independent), for lunch in a Soho restaurant. They got on well immediately - we all did - and Philip's rich past as an artist, illustrator, designer, lecturer and author was gradually revealed, as was even more of Roger's extraordinary artistic knowledge, wit and insight. Their conversation was an education to me. That they both usually tended to spurn such social occasions made it particularly miraculous they met and were able to develop this friendship.
The highlight each month during my time at Artists & Illustrators was to receive Roger's singular, knowledgeable and hilarious responses to readers' queries and then Philip's cartoon to illustrate them. It was a marvel they would work for us within our meagre budget. They worked together on this page for more than 12 years, until a few months ago when Philip became too ill to work. A relaunch for the magazine, now under new owners, means that Roger's wit and wisdom will now also be lost to its pages.
The two worked on a book of their work together, and despite Philip's distinguished publishing past, they were unable to find someone to take it on. "I've written to scores of publishers but they don't bother to reply," Philip wrote to me. "I spent my early years as a designer in the fifties doing book jackets for every publisher in London but all my contacts are either dead, doing time or in homes for the terminally incontinent. It's like starting all over again with 12-year-old editors and art editors."
I will most remember Philip's quiet voice as he answered the phone each month, the beauty even of the envelopes in which he would send his drawings, the visual splendour of his invoices and the ever-present threat of his Lyme Regis home being covered in a landslide. We left his coffin to the sounds of Miles Davis, retired to a nearby pub, and laughed in his memory.