An Audience with Bill James

I knock on the door of a very tidy bungalow in Formby, to be greeted by a very well dressed man, in a very clean and tidy home which looks like a perfect film setting for a scene in Life on Mars.
“We’re not having coffee he cheerfully says, we having this”. And on the table alongside 2 small glasses is a bottle of his favourite tipple …..


 He goes on to tell me how he became so fond of this wine – He used to drink neat whiskey but his Doctor advised against it so he educated himself in wine and with the help of a friend who used to own Elton EL in Southport he found a love for Tokaji a Hungarian sweet wine ….. Which doesn’t come cheap – I felt honoured that he was sharing with me … Even though it was a Thursday at 1pm !?!?!  Live a little I thought – so sweet wine it was
I asked Bill lots of questions and he revelled in telling me about his life.
This is what I learnt.
He was born to Dotty And Stanley James in 1935 in a Liverpool Hospital, Bill doesn’t know which one.  His father worked on the docks in Liverpool and Bill had his early years growing up in Penygroes and Talysarn In North Wales.  He enjoyed his childhood very much – his father came to work during the war and returned home at the weekends.  He has fond memories of his parents – 

He believed his parents couldn’t have created another quite as good as him, so they never. He was an only child.

Being an only child gave Bill an exceptional capacity to entertain himself as even in this modern world he does not have a Television! He has the internet but doesn’t really use it – he spends his time reading and listening to his favourite music.
His family moved to Crosby when Bill was 11 and he went on to have a good education getting a chemistry degree at Liverpool Poly- he admits that he was “a bright spark, genius in disguise, a resurrection of Einstein”

His cheeky lack of modesty amuses me – there is nothing pompous about Bill – christened William Stanley – but his sense of humour he says  he’s developed over the years – I get a sense that Bill could have been very naughty As in a cheeky naughty wink wink !
His parents he says “we’re wonderful” but they were disappointed that Bill never married – 

“Did you never meet the right one” I say?

It turns out that he did have a true love but they split up when he was 20 – he was miserable after the split but had the support of good friends to get him through – he never had those deep feeling for any other girl “the magic just never happened, I didn’t want to just marry for the sake of it” 

He is a sociable very amiable person who has an ability to be extremely happy by himself, his home is tidy and his gratitude for his upbringing is immense.  
I wasn’t deprived of anything “I’ve done alright”  at 21 he was given a good  watch and a 2nd hand car – he felt rich.
Bill became a vegetarian at the age of 4 after seeing a nasty thing in a butchers but he’s never grown his own food he admits to having a gardener as he has a “pathological hatred of gardening after a failed attempt to grow mustard and cress at the age of 5 or 6” .  His garden although would not win prizes at Chealsea was neat and tidy with a few mature shrubs just like him.

Bill has had a brilliant career as an Industrial chemist working in Litherland, Zambia companies including English Electric and British Leyland he stayed at places for years but when he became unhappy somewhere he wasn’t afraid to move on – treated leaving as “sage and onion” (stuff it). Sometimes with “barbed wire on it” he chuckles 

During a spell in London he visited restaurants and became fond of “The Minion” who had a fabulous gypsy orchestra after that shut down he frequented the “Gay Hussar” in Greek St in Soho where he enjoyed Hungarian food and became good friends with the owners John and Gizella who remember Bill fondly. (I popped in to take a photo of them for him) here he met friends from Lithuania and tarted his love affair with Tokaji his favourite wine. More locally he loved Tindells in Southport and struck up friendships there too.

Now his favourite stomping ground is “woodwards or Woodies” in Formby as he calls it fondly – “I can get as far as the bus stop” and the staff in there are wonderful – he loves to sit and chat with friends and socialise

It took a massive heart attack to slow Bill down,  he thinks caused buy the overeating of cheese, being a vegetarian he admits to having a love of the stuff”. He now has cut down and makes himself nut roast and veggie burgers and soups – “simple meals on the hob” he says

I am so impressed as I really wouldn’t have a clue how to make a nut roast 

His heart attack was a serious one which left him feeling down, he had a devise fitted which gives him a shock to restart the heart if necessary – this clever devise sends data to Broad Green Hospital every 3 months – it’s incredible –  

Bills tells me of a conversation he had with a woman called Lorraine who listened to him after surgery

“She turned every negative into a positive”  ” I owe my attitude to her”

Manchester University wrote to Bill after his surgery to ask him to participate in an excercise to see how people coped with depression after a heart attack

They wrote back telling him he couldn’t participate because he “wasn’t depressed”. This is a favourite story for Bill, he has a sense of pride that he is adapting to his life changes as and when they occur.

“I do what I can, rather than Focus on what I can’t” 
I ask does he have any regrets – an immediate response “I shouldn’t have quarrelled with the girl, I didn’t make the move to go back”

What’s the moral of that story I ask him

“The moral…..Get immoral” he giggles ” Pride is your worst enemy” 

But as he doesn’t look back with sadness he gets right back to the focus of Now – he tells me he can visit “Church”

He’s actually talking about the local pub The Pinewoods, where he goes to eat with his best pal on a Saturday-  As an Athiest this is the nearest he gets to a Church – his sense of humour makes me chuckle.

he’s telling me now about his love for music

Favourite music is Verdi’s Rossini and Motzart opera’s he has a large collect of CD’s he also loves singers of the 1920’s  and 30’s in particular Ezio Pinza who is an operatic legend he gets up and plays me a track from South Pacific “Some Enchanted Evening”

I listen intently and can’t help hear the words “when you find her never let her go” I feel a sadness for Bill for how his life may have been so different – However he I know is not thinking like this, he’s just enjoying the voice.
He loves funny DVD’s Last of the Summer Wine, Open all hours, Yes Minister the 2 Ronnies and Kenn Dodd – I know his sense of humour has kept him going through this time of huge change

He reads – the library brings books and his all time favourite read is Mist over Pendle by Robert Neal “I was enchanted by it”  I make a note to read this book, but also to listen to more of Bills favourite music pieces 

He loves cats – I tell him to get one – it would be nice company – he chuckles “what if I collapse,what happens to the cat”?   I somehow don’t think that will be a problem

I really enjoy having Bill as a friend, he is a fun character who is charming, intelligent and an inspiration to us all.

Adapting to change can be difficult but Bill has the attitude I would like … focus on “what you can do”
We finish the chat with a look around – I notice this picture his friend knew of his love for this wine and painted a picture for Bill which he had framed …… It’s called 

Sacred Wine


  Bill is an Athiest so please don’t be offended that he worships wine 🙂 

He was born on the 3rd of November he says “2 days before we celebrate the best person to ever go near the Houses of Parliament ”  I see already he has a great sense of humour.

I am grateful for Bill’s chat – I went away with a sense of fun and laughter – and an intention to listen to Opera and watch the film “South Pacific ” again


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