In my late twenties I had an opportunity to spend a long weekend with British Journalist Keith Waterhouse. I sought him out after Grandad introduced me to Waterhouse’s Whistle Down the Wind and Billy Liar. He told me, in a rather fierce manner, that he didn’t fear death.

I really liked that about him… He was fierce, and he did not fear death.

Such words and demeanor are impressive to a young man – especially in light of what I was facing in the months and a few short years to follow.

In any event, he can now put that truly to the test. This past Friday, let’s mark it as September 4th, 2009, Mr. Waterhouse passed away in his London flat from, as yet, unknown causes. But, I am sure, it was a body failed after many a year of heroic drinking, something he referred to as “lunch”.

Cheers, Mr. Waterhouse, a prudent and optimistic fellow, nonetheless. And, in your passing, I submit Mr. Nick Milne’s recent Poetic Interlude.

I tried to keep tabs on Waterhouse over the years. He often repeated, as a theme in his writing, and in many an interview, that he felt ambiguous about death:

“There’s always tomorrow,” he often said. “At least there has been so far.”

keith waterhouseA visit to Wikipedia will tell you that Keith Waterhouse was Born February 6, 1929 into working-class family in the industrial northern English city of Leeds, Waterhouse was a teenage clerk in an undertaker’s office and served in the Royal Air Force before getting a job as a reporter on the Yorkshire Evening Post, and then on the Daily Mirror in London.

And, you can research him via google, I suppose, and learn a thing-or-two more about Waterhouse the writer. However, your best time is spent seeking out things he wrote, such as a variety of novels, plays – and, even some efforts for television – perhaps most notably for David Frost (oh… Don’t you let me get started on that Mr. Frost).

I can tell you some things most other’s probably don’t know…

Waterhouse was possessed of an unruly wit. It wasn’t simply British with it’s dry or dark nature. Waterhouse had an urbane disdain for disorderly things. And, he seemed sharper between the eyes. So, his sense of humor had a glint of edgy metal behind it – a sharpness. And he plied it over the head, often, seeking to make a point one had to reach for. He was a raconteur’s raconteur.

What did I like most about Keith Waterhouse?

Three things:

1.  Few American knew of him and his work;

2.  The aforementioned fierce wit; and,

3.  Waterhouse railed against what he saw as political correctness and declining standards of English. He wrote a journalism text book, “Waterhouse On Newspaper Style,” and founded the Association for the Abolition of the Aberrant Apostrophe, which attacked poor punctuation on shopkeepers’ signs.

He was a fellow ‘Ol Man Society member. And, he will remain an Optimistic Gentleman.

Adieu my Prudent Fellow, and fiercely, I say it.

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork

Advertisements