Billy by Pamela Stephenson

The biography Billy by Pamela Stephenson was one of the books which my brother gave me during my recent visit to his home in the Netherlands, he is obviously trying to make room for more books, like most of us.

I started reading it on the six hour ferry trip from the Hook of Holland to Harwich and almost got to the end of it when it was time to roll off the ferry.

Pamela Stephenson is of course Billy Connolly’s wife of some 30 odd years and as she is now a clinical psychologist it seems that she is the perfect partner for him. Her profession must certainly be a help with understanding the complex personality which is Billy.

As a Glaswegian myself I recognised a lot of the descriptions and experiences of life in the city. I lived the first five years of my life in a different part of the city but so many of the stories of Billy’s early life brought back memories of back courts where the ‘big’ boys spent their time doing crazy things, jumping over wash house roofs and such, the pre-cursor to those people who participated in that mad building running and jumping craze of a few years ago – what was that called?! I well remember my sister shouting “Mum, Jacky’s dreeping!” – meaning that my brother was risking life and limb by dropping down from very high walls.

This book was first published in 2001 and Stephenson tells of Billy’s life from birth until then. His childhood was incredibly traumatic as he suffered physical and sexual abuse within his family on a daily basis, it’s quite incredible that he survived it and turned into the multi-talented person that he is now.

Billy is the first to admit that there are loads of guys in the west of Scotland with the same snappy ability to make people laugh, it’s just part of the character of the west, and something that I really miss.

Sadly Billy has recently been diagnosed with early Parkinson’s and prostate cancer – both on the same day, how unlucky is that? But he’s not downhearted and seems to be making a fine recovery from the cancer anyway. If you’re a fan of Billy you’ll find the book really interesting, although given the subject matter it’s obviously not a laugh a minute.

Living near Glasgow as I did back then when he was just beginning his career I occasionally saw Billy around the place, sometimes in John Smith’s Bookshop perusing the books, he’s a keen reader, then of course he moved to Drymen when he started to get quite well known within Scotland, again not far from where I lived. My brother rubbed shoulders with him at various things to do with shipbuilding back then in the late 1960s when Billy was doing the folk stuff which kicked off his career at the same time as working as a welder.

The thing which brought him to the notice of the wider public in the rest of Britain was his take off of Tammy Wynette’s song Divorce, in 1975. He was on Top of the Pops with it and his version got higher in the charts than Tammy’s.

He followed that up with a spoof of YMCA in 1976.

Dandy Gilver & a Deadly Measure of Brimstone by Catriona McPherson

It’s 1929 and Dandy’s whole family has been ill with flu, bronchitis, pneumonia and even pleurisy.* She decides to take them all off to the Scottish Border town of Moffat, hoping the Laidlaw Hydropathic Hotel in the town will speed their recovery. Of course there has to be another reason for Dandy to be there – she has had a request from a family to look into the death of their mother/wife. She died at the Laidlaw Hydro and although they’ve been told it was natural causes, they suspect foul play.

Whilst the Gilver family has taken a rented villa in Moffat the menfolks are spending most of their time at the Hydro and seem to be finding it all to their taste, much to their surprise.

The brother and sister who own the Hydro have recently inherited the business from their father and it’s obvious that they have very different ideas on how the place should be run.

It’s another good investigation from Dandy and her sidekick Alec. This was a very satisfying read with Dandy’s husband playing a much bigger part than usual and their relationship proving to be much closer than either of them usually admit.

I suspect this was written in because some reviewers had been put off the series because they claimed that Dandy treated her husband badly. Ahh those critics must have been tender souls – unused to the realities of husbands and marriage in general!

*Wording thanks to the Great Northern Welly Boot Show and Billy Connolly. Obviously Dandy’s family hadn’t got their wellies!

The song is an adaptation of an old folk tune, “The Work of the Weavers.”

Another Place to Visit

What have I been doing recently? Well apart from the boring house stuff I’ve made time to visit Evelyn at Evee’s Blog. I must admit that Evelyn found ‘Pining’ first as she’s interested in Scottish words and that’s how she got to me. I’m so glad that she did as her blog is a beautiful place to visit with gorgeous photos of places she has travelled to and scenes more local to her base in the Scottish border town of Peebles. So if you love things Scottish and photos of plants, gardens, houses and crafts do yourself a favour and hop over to Evee’s Blog.

Otherwise I’ve been watching The Great British Bake Off where the baking tasks are getting fiendishly difficult but already we’re down to the last three contestants so next week is the last one. Janet was my favourite baker and I really hoped she would win but it wasn’t to be, her undercooked pastries let her down. I’m not sure who I want to win now.

Tonight we watched Billy Connolly’s Route 66 Road Trip of America. The third one in the series I think, I like armchair travelling especially when it’s to places that we’re never likely to visit. Tonight he was in Oklahoma, Arizona and Texas where as usual he met interesting locals. The rodeo reminded me of an Annie Proulx short story, those riders are completely nuts. He also visited a barbed wire museum in a place called Mclean, who would have thought there were so many different kinds of wire! It probably beat the pencil museum in Cumbria – or wherever it is. The best scenery was in Monument Valley.

If you have time have a look at some of the first episode.

Billy Connolly – I Wish I was in Glasgow

I’ve been busy reading War and Peace, amongst other things and although there are loads of things that I want to do on ‘Pining’ – I just haven’t got the time at the moment.

So I thought I would have a quick look on You Tube to see what there was of Billy Connolly on it. I didn’t find what I was looking for but as I come from Glasgow, and it’s that very maudlin time of the year – for Scots anyway, I couldn’t resist this wee song.

If you’re homesick for Glasgow try not to greet into your porridge!