There’s something extremely comforting about seeing Billy Connolly back on TV.
His recent show, It’s Been a Pleasure, is named as such to mark his retirement from the stand-up comedy circuit.
No Billy, the pleasure is entirely ours, and I dearly hope you’ll continue from a sedentary position.
Sir Billy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, a disease that attacks the nervous system and affects movement, in 2013.
It’s a disease of “can’ts” and for Billy that started with no longer being able to play the banjo. Now it’s his ability to rise from his chair.
One thing he can still do in abundance is make us laugh.
I once passed Billy Connolly at the top end of Sauchiehall Street when I was in my late teens.
In my naive youth, I had nothing better to say to him than “There’s Billy Connolly!”
He loudly bellowed “Hello” with the widest smile imaginable, as he kept on walking.
I was utterly starstruck and left with a clear sense of his incredible zest for life.
Billy Connolly has given us a lifetime of laughter
Like so many Scots, I grew up with Billy on the telly.
I remember being allowed to watch Billy Connolly’s World Tour of Scotland when it first came out on VHS.
I was just 13, it was a 15, and it felt very daring.
Some of those one liners have remained in my head for 25 years.
“Aberdeen has a beach because it has sand, that’s where the comparison ends.” Oh how this Aberdonian by birth howled.
Why you don’t need public transport in Shetland – because it’s so windy you can just pull your jacket over your head and hand glide down the high street.
The one about Fanny Craddock’s donuts?
Michael Parkinson, the murder and the bike rack.
And on it goes.
He makes me laugh out loud every single time I think about him.
How many comedians or light entertainers can you say that about it?
Eight decades of not giving a monkey’s
I’ve just read his book over the Christmas break and what a joy that is, despite the biography covering a childhood full of abuse and neglect.
Entitled Windswept and Interesting, it charts eight decades of largely not giving a monkey’s about what other people think of you.
Finding love, laughter and creating your own sense of happiness. It’s a wonderful prescription for life from someone who has lived his so well.
He’s got me thinking about age and ageing more generally too.
Perhaps it’s the time of year when we all reflect on the last 12 months.
The big moments of our lives and how different things are from a year ago.
It’s perhaps particularly stark this year because we find ourselves in largely the same position. In the midst of a global health pandemic, with limitations on some of our basic liberties, despite not one but three vaccines in the past 12 months.
As I write this, the First Minister is taking to her feet to update the nation on the latest restrictions – it all feels very 2020. Life stands still, with just a few more grey hairs to show for it.
And just like that – another ageing institution
Another cultural institution that appears to have aged less well is the TV series Sex and the City.
It left our screens in 2003 and has returned with three quarters of its cast 20 years later under the new title And Just Like That.
I loved this show and I for one am delighted to see its return. Particularly as there’s been little attempt to hide the ageing of the characters in the script.
A prominent character dies of a heart attack in the first episode, after a particularly rigorous exercise bike regime. That’s put me clean off any ambitious New Year fitness plans, I can tell you.
Other couples remain in very comfortable, if not very happy, marriages.
Times have changed and so has this show
A lot has been made of the show’s attempt to drag itself into the righteous and progressive side of the cultural wars of the 2020s.
Issues around gender and sexuality are explored sensitively – viewed as spectrums rather than binary constructs of gay/straight, male/female.
Gone are the crass caricatures of femininity and campness.
The show also addresses racial diversity, or lack of it, from its past six series but somehow continues to say nothing about the fact that everyone is still absolutely minted and wants for nothing.
That critique aside,it still glides over you like the finest silk and some of the writing is as sharp as it’s ever been, the thread of that perpetual hunt for love and happiness hemming it all in beautifully.
As time stands still for many of us, it’s worth pondering whether we should seek to remember people, moments, programmes as they were at their peak, their very best.
Or actually, whether it’s just as nice to let them age and grow old with us.
I for one want to see Carrie Bradshaw’s grey hair, as much I want to hear Billy laugh.
Their stories are part of the fabric of mine, and I’m more than happy for us all to age nicely together.