"You'll have to stop telling all these lies, Billy," my mother used to say, all those years ago. Yes mother, it's just that I am a slow learner."
I suppose it was inevitable that the late, great Keith Waterhouse's Billy Liar would end up in Public Relations. In the 1975 sequel, Billy Liar on the Moon, disgraced undertaker's clerk William Fisher, 33, is eight years into an undistinguished career with Shepford Council, somewhere in an equally undistiguished part of Midlands suburbia, presently working in Information and Publicity.
And it is pretty grim, 1970s stuff - Life on Mars without the action, but with plenty of casual sexism, drink-driving and a general feeling that modernism is making everything worse. Although Ambrosia is behind him, Billy is still prone to flights of fantasy, but mainly confined to adding colourful flourishes to a celebratory guidebook he is writing, Pageantry with Progress: "Shepford leads the way, ta-ra! Exports up by eight point five percent on some figures we have just made up."
He is half-heartedly plotting to 'step into the gin-soaked shoes' of his boss RVO 'Reggie' Rainbell - known as Pisspot - and become Information Officer and Director of Publicity. Tellingly his main rival is Purchase, a crushingly dull man who works in Finance and shaves his 'nasal organ'.
Pisspot drinks, he calls Billy 'Arsehole'. He is of his time: "...a pipe repaired with insulating tape smouldering in one tweedy pocket and a copy of the Guardian, looking as if it had recently wrapped lettuce, in the other."
Are you a rotten director of publicity Pisspot, or a very good one? I suspected he was a better one than I would ever have been... a better one, anyway, than the town deserved. If he didn't give a toss, it was only because there was not much in Shepford worth giving a toss about, but he had a kind of exasperated, exasperating integrity that I admired, and looked in vain for in myself.
Eventually, Billy is co-opted on to the Council's Festival committee.
They had all got copies of some balls Pisspot and I had slung together, largely concerned with fictitious plans to flood the world media with invitations and press passes. In reality we had long ago stopped bothering, for no-one ever came. A man from one of the Birmingham papers had arrived one year but only, it turned out after we had givem him lunch, to visit his sister.
Billy's moment of glory as a publicist comes when he suggests holding a children's dog show, offering prizes for the ugliest mongrel and spottiest spotted dog. Naturally, it ends in disaster.
And he had been warned. As Pisspot said:
"Don't fool yourself that this is a plum job, Bill. It's not a plum, it's a gooseberry. If you had any sense you would turn it down. This is not, repeat not a town with a future, and if you ever fall for that expanding Shepford crap I will kick you up and down this opffice until your arse turns blue - its a glass and concrete excavated ruin we're living in and if I were your age I'd be out of it on the next train."
Ther trouble was, that from Waterhouse's mid-1970s perspective, wherever in England he got off the train, it would be just as bad.