GET ON THE TRAIN

I can’t remember how long it is since I watched Billy Liar. It was sold to me as a must watch by a school friend sometime in the early seventies. I may have watched it again in the late seventies depending whether it was repeated on BBC2. That was the only channel (out of three available in Britain) that would have bothered repeating something which passed for an arty, niche piece in the world dominated by the likes of James Bond, The Great Escape and similar blockbuster style films that made it on to BBC1 and ITV.

Be that as it may, if people mentioned it in conversation since then (not a frequent occurrence, but more often than you would think for a black and white British film about someone who daydreams a whole country but doesn’t leave home), I would smile in recognition, but there would be an uneasy feeling, squirming away at the back of my mind.

Then I read a piece in the Guardian some time ago that made me remember where my uneasy feelings about it came from. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/nov/10/billy-liar-my-most-over-rated-film

If you haven’t watched it and don’t want to know the ending – spoiler coming along – look away NOW!

Billy has his chance to leave and doesn’t take it. More foolishly he has the opportunity to leave the North of England head for London to try and make his future, with Julie Christie.

He gets off the train and ‘misses’ it, marching back home to failure with his imaginary army trudging behind and Julie Christie on the way to London.

It is a paean of praise to lost opportunity.

I remember being very afraid that Billy was me. I played wargames with toy soldiers (still do) so ‘imaginary army’? Check. Dead end northern town existence? Check. Dreamer with pretensions of writing? Check. The only thing I was missing was Julie Christie – maybe that was the problem.

To be fair, I like and liked Macclesfield, not such a terrible existence. But I found a way out, having had a kick up the backside from reading, a few years on from seeing the film, the sequel: ‘Billy Liar on the Moon’. Still in the town, now a council official, he breaks a corruption scandal. But he is stuck there making the best fist he can of a bad job.

So I left.

So why drag all this up now? Well I have unfulfilled ambitions and I was looking online for something else entirely and came across this review again and almost immediately afterwards on the name of someone I used to work with. He worked in another organisation and I thought he was a good bloke, but a bit fly. Vey fly it seems as he is now a big wheel in the privatised bit of the world we used to inhabit for the Public Sector. Looking at his business social media led me to another couple of names I know, both of whom I worked with and thought were okay but frankly nothing that special and certainly no better than me at what we did.

I took another path and now I wonder if I missed a train somewhere?

The Julie Christie reference didn’t help either, because although I am happily married with two lovely children, I remembered a huge missed signal from someone I was madly in love with at the time. The combination of being head over heels and ASD made me miss a rather large hint and opportunity. I am squirming with embarrassment as I write this that I didn’t see it at the time.

Of course my life might have been very different or very much the same, we never know where the untravelled road might have led us. I’m very happy with my family and although remembering that incident makes me cringe, I wouldn’t not have my family. But realising I definitely cocked up recognising an opportunity in one field of life has made me wonder what else I might have missed in fields I would have liked to have gone differently?

A medical friend who dealt with many injured soldiers in recovery and rehabilitation used to say ‘we start from where we are, not where we would like to be’. Wise words. So whatever I may have missed the thing to remember is don’t miss things now, don’t dwell on what might have been.

I’ll get on the next train.

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