Sunday, September 06, 2009

Billy Liar, your train is still waiting

We watched the film of "Billy Liar" on Friday night in honour of its creator Keith Waterhouse. It's a terrific film, directed by John Schlesinger and starring the marvellous Tom Courtenay. Whether as a novel, a stage play, a film or as inspiration for artists like Morrissey, the story of Billy Fisher, who dreams of going up to London and making his name in show business, sits in the back of the mind of anyone who was brought up in the north and ached to get away, particularly in the 60s. The fantasies into which he disappears seem dated now, as does the idea of a grammar school boy going straight into a dead end job rather than being "at uni", but for all the fine talk about devolution there is still something about getting on the train for The Smoke that's as powerful as ever.


  1. The opportunity to catch a train departing at 00.05 for anywhere is also unbelievable for modern day rail users.

  2. Paul K9:32 am

    What about Waterhouse the columnist, though? There, surely, is the most significant aspect of his death. For more than a quarter of a century, Waterhouse wrote twice or more a week - brilliantly, perceptively, humorously. I have to wonder whether any newspaper now would sign up someone like Waterhouse, and give them that space, simply because they were a brilliant writer. Put it in a blog, they would say (no criticism intended!). Newspapers, journalism and literature will all be the poorer for the passing, not only of Waterhouse himself, but of his ilk. Sadly I feel that we shall not see his like again, which is a comment not only on his talent, but on our press.

  3. If you're a Londoner (like me) the equivalent is getting on a plane for New York.

  4. The follow up Billy Liar On The Moon - gets unfairly overlooked - but is an absolute cracker. I'd also recommend Jubb another great Waterhouse book, and of course rewatch of Budgie with Adam Faith (almost a template for Minder)