Off The Beaten Track in Aotearoa

Fame and Recognition in a Small Town

Alert: Read on at my peril – because, my friends, once you’ve read this confession you may wish to unfriend/unfollow and generally unknow me.

It all happened one day last week. I was striding purposefully through town, to work. One sentence written and here’s the first confession: I had cut it a bit fine, I didn’t have time to dally.


It was mid afternoon, raining, the end of the tourist season – town was quiet. Very quiet.

Along the entire block there were only two others. A man and a woman at the far end. He had long white hair and a beard.

He’s not from here, I think. Nobody I know, I think. On the basis of this one glance I decide they’re tourists, a father and his daughter travelling together. Confession number two: I make snap judgements based on minimal information.

I get closer, think, That’s Billy Connelly; look a bit more carefully; think, Nah, can’t be – hair’s too long, and he’s not wearing motorbike leathers! I have seen him before … on the tele.

Just so you know celebrities do visit our town from time to time. Last year Barry Gibb wandered into a local bookshop. And once I saw Leo Sayer at the airport. The All Blacks feature, too, which is not that surprising; some are home grown.

The afternoon in question, I continue walking along the footpath. So do the two visitors. I tell myself, Don’t look again, that’d be rude. So what if he’s a Billy Connelly look-alike, it takes all sorts in this world.

We reach the point where footpath etiquette is required. The moment to decide who should give way. They’re ambling. I’m striding, remember; obviously, I have things to do. They’re visitors. I, however, belong. And, gulp, this takes courage to confess, I think, My town, my footpath. Yep, there it is, right there: another deadly sin.

I barge on between them. They each step aside. She looks into a shop window. He looks at me. I look at him. His eyes twinkle. He says, Hello, in a not-a-look-a-like voice at all; in the oh-so recognisable-Scottish voice of the man himself. I squeak, Hello as I realise he’s realised I’ve recognised him.

Dignity at all costs people, that’s my maxim. So, I do not look back. I do not break my stride. Not until I make it around the corner. Then, and only then, I scrabble in my handbag for my phone. I have to text my sister!

Days go by, I tell my nearest and dearest about this brief encounter. My sister laughs gleefully, and says you know he’s really good at making a story out of nothing much. She tells me he’s touring the country. I do not find this reassuring. My husband wants to know what Billy was wearing. I don’t know, I tell him. Not his leathers, I say. But I was wearing that awful old red raincoat. Unmissible red, mortifyingly, memorable red.

And then as the encounter is fading from memory, one of my nearest and dearest texts to tell me Billy is on the tele. With a press of the remote, he’s chortling away in my lounge. The tone of the interviewer is oddly sympathetic. Come on, crank it up a bit, I think. This is Billy Connelly. And then out it comes, Billy is unwell. Irrevocably so!

Yep, I barged passed an ill man, forcing him to step aside, practically into the gutter. Sorry about that, Billy.

12 replies »

  1. Ah good ‘ol Billy. In 1990 we made his acquaintance in LA when we went to watch one of his TV shows being produced, it was a freebie. During takes he would wander over to chat to the audience and we were in the front row, he came over to us, and finding we came from NZ he said, in his lovely Scottish burr ” You would know my wife, she comes from NZ” then when the director called him back to the set, he said “I’ll be a minute I’m talking to my friends” Wow!!!!!

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    • If you do ever find yourself on a footpath in my town, I think you’ll be okay … unless you happen to be a Billy Connelly look-a-like!
      So glad you enjoyed it, heavenhappens. 🙂

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  2. Sometimes we regret about our improper behavior in the past! But then it’s always the case that sooner or later we become conscious about it! To err is quite a human thing, I guess! What’s important is that we learn from it!

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