Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Saturday, 5 September 2009

In memoriam

Sad news this morning, of the death of Keith Waterhouse, best known for Billy Liar, who also wrote various other unjustly forgotten novels (Office Life, Thinks, Mrs Pooter's Diary), and newspaper column after newspaper column. In the last couple of decades he was writing for the Daily Mail (boo), but once upon a time, he was in the Daily Mirror and wrote its style guide (when it was still a newspaper). I have an old copy of some of his columns from those days - you could read it as a blog before its time, full of incidental items of nostalgia and comic rant.

Take this, for instance:

I have been listening to the wireless again. Not the radio. Not that transistorised plastic matchbox which sings and burps and prattles all day long like a drunken mynah bird, but a real wireless set.

It's a mahogany cabinet the size of a small wardrobe, its loudspeaker is framed by a fretwork fleur-de-lis, and it has strange stations on the dial like Daventry, Hilversum, Zagreb and Paris (Eiffel Tower).


A somewhat bohemian character of my acquaintance was plucked out of his garret in deepest Soho and hurried to the suburban bedside of his father, who was gravely ill.

As he tiptoed into the sick-room the old man opened his eyes, beckoned his son closer, uttered these immortal last words:
'When are you going to get your bleeding hair cut?'

Then he sank back into the pillows and quietly expired. It was, my friend reports, a most moving farewell.

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