As a child, The Courier's resident cartoonist John Ditchburn spent a lot of time running free in a tropical jungle with monkeys and cobras.
That's right: the jungle. Ditchy was born in Brunei in 1959. He came to Australia as a child, living in Geelong. But he soon adapted to the climate, becoming a railway worker and scuba diver in Queensland.
So he wasn't always a cartoonist.
"I'm not sure where to start: like most things in life it started out as an accident," John says.
"I think of 'career' as something Mulga Bill did as he was going into Dead Man's Creek.
"I had expressed an interest in cartooning; I'd shared a house with some underground cartoonists in Preston in western Melbourne. But I didn't think about cartooning. I had done art, but it didn't occur to me. I was bumming around for the first eight years of my life, working up in Queensland. I was a keen scuba diver, I was working as a diver. And I just went and got a sketch pad and started doodling. I'd done HSC art but I didn't see it as a career."
Born in Seria, Brunei Darussalam where his father worked on oil rigs for Shell, John Ditchburn came to Australia when he was eight and spent his teenage years in Geelong.
"Both my parents were Australian, but I came here not thinking I was Australian or that I belonged here," he says.
"It took me a long while - until my mid-20s - to identify as Australian. I felt more British, because of the British-Dutch connections in those places. We played soccer... we're talking the mid-60s. It did have a hint of the white Raj. My elder brother and sister were born in Nigeria and they had five servants there; we only had one in Brunei. It was a fantastic childhood. Where we lived is all palm-oil plantation now.
"It was west of the Wallace line, so there were cobras, but no marsupials. Lots of monkeys. It was fantastic, like being in the Durrell family on Greece."
The Ditchburns lived in Highton, which was on the outer edges of Geelong in those days.
"I exchanged the jungles for the paddocks, went yabbying. But by the time I was 18 I couldn't wait to get out of the place. Of course I look back now and think it wasn't such a bad place.
"I took a few jobs in Melbourne, worked as a barman and a storeman, a screen printer. I just wanted to travel.
"The three things in my life I really love doing are gardening , cartooning and scuba diving. I was snorkelling and freediving by the time I was six, because we lived near a coral reef in Brunei."
John Ditchburn's first pay cheque went into the purchase of a scuba tank.
"I started madly scuba-diving, and went up to Queensland and got a job with the harbour trust at Shute Island in the Whitsundays," he recalls.
"My job was to sort out the buoys and anchors, so boats wouldn't crash into each other during storms. Sharks never worried me, but the year after I finished the first saltwater crocodile was sighted in the harbour.
"So I proceeded to work my way around. I was involved in railway construction in NSW; I was a chainman, a surveyor, laying out the track, laying the makers for the track. The name 'chainman' of course comes from the chain measurement they once used. That was an interesting experience into the wilder side of life. I worked with some pretty wild characters and kept my head down. There were some wild fights and wild drinking and wild gambling. We were based near Sandy Hollow in the Muswellbrook area.
I was involved in railway construction in NSW; I was a chainman, a surveyor, laying out the track, laying the makers for the track. That was an interesting experience into the wilder side of life. I worked with some pretty wild characters and kept my head down. There were some wild fights and wild drinking and wild gambling.John Ditchburn
"The track was started in the 1930s under a 'susso' project', but was abandoned during the Second World War. It was exclusively a coal line. So it was being redone in the 1980s. There was a song about it called The Sandy Hollow Line about how bloody horrible it was. The record was 13 metal stakes bent trying to know them in with a sledgehammer."
Ditchburn got more serious about cartooning and studied art and design at Box Hill TAFE, where the lecturers encouraged him to follow his desires and pursue a the course.
"But three years at that age seems like a lifetime, so I got a part-time job and just started drawing cartoons," Ditchburn says.
"I was getting them into (The Monash University magazine) Lot's Wife and such, but I just could not make a go of it, so I did recreation work for St Kilda Council."
It was in St Kilda John met his future wife Jan. The couple looked at Ballarat for their future as it was affordable. John sought work again.
"That TV show The Good Life comes to mind. And Jan said, 'You could always try cartooning.' So I put some cartoons into The Courier and within weeks I was on board - although my first editor told me not to give up my day job."
John says it took about five years before he became a full-time cartoonist with the paper. Now, 30 years on, he's still drawing inspiration from what happens in Ballarat.
"I've spoken with other cartoonists about the creative thinking process and we are all different. I think of it as a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, where you toy with things in your mind. Suddenly it clicks into place.
"I can't actually explain it. Cartooning is not just about 'funny'. It can be provocative and thoughtful. It can have pathos. People often say, 'that's not funny'; and sometimes it's not meant to be.' I sometimes draw cartoons and I know that they work - but I've no idea why.
And who has inspired John over the years? He refers to the years when Graham Perkin edited The Age in Melbourne, and admires Michael Leunig, Bruce Petty and the late Ron Tandberg.