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Bathroom-break with Old Father Williams

CBC radio personality, Bill Richardson, fills latest book with facts, anecdotes and doodles



What: Launch of “Old Father William’s Well-Ordered Universe” with author

When: Saturday, Nov. 22, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Whistler Public Library, Fireplace Lounge         

Admission: Free

Did you know that it took Sylvester Stallone only three days to write the screenplay that became “Rocky”?

Yeah, most people probably wouldn’t have heard about that strange incident. But it’s just one of many strange, but true tidbits contained within the pages of “Old Father William’s Well-Ordered Universe: a generally reliable compendium of facts, figures and formulae, specifically intended for the bathroom-bound.”

The author of the toilet-side tome is none other than the illustrious author and radio personality, Bill Richardson, who is perhaps best known to Canadians as the voice of CBC’s Richardson’s Roundup, and the current host of Saturday Afternoon at the Opera and Sunday Afternoon in Concert.

Aside from his on-air quips and commentary, Richardson has published over 12 books, including “The Bachelor Brothers’ Bed and Breakfast,” for which he snagged the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour.

To most, it would seem that Richardson wears two distinct hats – that of an author and a radio host. But he finds the two aren’t necessarily distinct.

In the past, his radio work gave him plenty of fodder for his writing, but now that his focus is almost strictly on opera and the performing arts, Richardson doesn’t find there is as much crossover.

“It’s very music-driven, so my job, my responsibility on the radio, is very much one of making a palatable presentation of the music that we’re dealing with each week, so it doesn’t really have very much to do with writing,” he pointed out, “Although, that said, every now and then when I was working on ‘Old Father William,’ I’d be dealing with something that was operatic and it would find its way into the book.”

While not all of Richardson’s literary leanings are comedic – he’s published serious books for young adults – this latest work is clearly intended to make the reader chuckle.

“In the case of this book, it never would have occurred to me that what the world needed was another bathroom book,” Richardson said, “It was a commission that came from the publisher.”

Richardson decided that a good approach to a bathroom book would be a compilation of unique lists, and created the character of Old Father William’s to be the narrative voice within.

“It should serve to open it up randomly and just find something that you can take in at the moment,” he explained, “But I also wanted it to be a book, if you were to read it from … start to finish, you would see that everything kind of connects.”

Filled with random facts compiled by Richardson through extensively random research at local libraries, broken up into categories and headings, such as “A Highly Selective Survey of Pre-Decapitory Utterances,” there are also a number of “Instructions on Better Living” pages scattered throughout.  

These include “how-to’s” complete with diagrams on a wide range of topics: fighting a duel in Russia, avoid being killed by a bear, sharpen a razor, use napkins, sit gracefully, and, of course, get potable water while lost at sea in a small boat.