Welder, comedian, Hollywood star, celebrated artist… The life story of Billy Connolly has been a real page turner. Here, he talks about love, loss and landing on his feet

A fostered-off schoolboy going nowhere fast, turned apprentice welder on the Clyde. A welder turned regionally popular musician. A musician turned nationally popular comic. A comic turned Hollywood actor and an actor turned New York artist, then a retiree who’s recently been muttering his memoirs into a recording device in the Florida Keys… Billy Connolly has already been through one or two big transitions in his life. Perhaps it’s no surprise that the 78-year-old, who has been ill with Parkinson’s for some time, can face up to the next transition (the last one) with such a playful disposition. If he ever finds himself brooding on death, Connolly confesses, when we chat one autumn morning, he will shake along his wrist a little bracelet made out of small, plastic skulls. He wears the bracelet most days now. And in his mind, Connolly says, the skulls represent death. But (twist!) they have all been cast in bright, jolly colours. “I find that takes the scare away.”

It has just turned 11.30am in the Keys. Connolly says that he wasn’t very long out of bed when he left the home he shares with his wife, Pamela Stephenson, and walked to a neighbouring house belonging to one of their daughters. There, in a quiet and well-lit room that he uses as an art studio, he plugged his hearing aids into a specially equipped computer and logged on to Zoom for our chat. He sits forward in an easy chair now, explaining that it will take some getting out of, this chair, when he’s done. Lots of rocking and jerking, he guesses, until he’s upright. But he’ll face that problem when he gets to it. “What works on a Monday, to get you out of a chair, doesn’t always work by Wednesday. It can be a cruel disease.”

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