I know everyone thinks of me as “Mr Oliver.” Husband of Katie, lovable but somewhat bumbling chap. Forgetter of birthdays (and corkscrews). Killer of spiders.
Well, enough of that. I had my own life before Katie, you know. And quite a different life it was, too.
I called myself Olly then. I was the real deal, with piercings and tattoos, Doc Martens and attitude. I was skinny, with a strip of blue hair that stuck up like the bristles of a broom, shorn on the sides. You’d never have guessed I was a nice, middle-class boy from Fulham.
My band, Die or Be Dead, played every half-assed venue in London. We hauled our equipment with us in an ancient VW van that farted blue smoke. After unloading and setting up, we plugged in and flailed away at our guitars and bass and drums, jumping up and down, flinging droplets of sweat as we screamed out lyrics that no one but us heard over the crunch of second-hand Marshall amps, feedback, and drunken club patrons.
We were pretty good, too.
We had our fans. Female, some of them, and quite ardent. They followed us devotedly from the clubs we played at, to wedding receptions, village fetes, store openings, and obscure (some of them very obscure) festivals.
I fell hard one summer in particular for a girl named Edie Farringdon-Allchurch. Edie was posh, all long legs, short blonde hair, and big brown eyes. We were mad for each other. Her standard festival outfit was a pair of really short shorts, a cropped t-shirt, and bright green Wellies.
She turned her back on her aristocratic family, with their stately pile and their expectations, and threw it all aside to be with me…
…until the end of summer arrived, and daddy threatened to cancel her Barclays card and cut off her access to the family checking account. Edie cried; but she kissed me goodbye and returned to the Farringdon-Allchurch bosom in South Ham posthaste, leaving me to pick up the pieces of my (predictably) broken heart.
Although our band was popular, fame never found us. It not only eluded us; it ran from us, screaming in fear. Eventually, Die or Be Dead fizzled. We drifted off to finish our educations, or took jobs in graphics or IT or, in Danny’s case, drove a taxi. We fell in love; one of us (me) eventually got married.
I washed the blue dye out of my hair and got rid of the Mohawk; I replaced my ripped t-shirts and jeans with a suit and tie, and exchanged the microphone for a briefcase. I put Edie Farringdon-Allchurch firmly out of my mind.
My transformation into a Responsible Adult was complete.
Needless to say, my parents were ecstatic. I’d morphed from a would-be Sid Vicious in big, scary boots and blue hair to a solicitor in a highly respected law firm-
“Darling, would you bring me up a sandwich and a glass of iced tea?” Katie called down the stairs.
I return to the present with a start. “Ham and cheese okay?” I call back.
“Perfect! I’m just writing this week’s blog, I can’t stop…”
“Be just a moment,” I reply, and head for the kitchen. As I assemble the components of a ham and cheddar on wheat, I smile as I remember how we met.
She was an American, a tourist newly arrived in London, struggling to place her lunch order to the counterman. Did she want her ham and cheese on a bap, or granary bread? Salad cream with that? Branston pickle? Ribena, or orange squash?
She was completely and utterly lost.
“He’s asking if you want your sandwich on a roll, or wheat bread,” I explained, “and do you want mayo, or pickle relish.”
She smiled at me then, grateful for the assist, and suddenly the queue behind us, the shouted sandwich orders, the electronic beeping of the till, and the smell of grilling onions – all of it faded into inconsequence.
Now, I’m the occasional maker of sandwiches. The fixer of flat tires. I read Katie’s drafts, offer suggestions, give her a bit of encouragement when she’s losing faith in herself. In exchange, she puts up with my moods and long hours, and forgives me when I misplace the corkscrew in the tackle box.
And, do you know?… I wouldn’t have it any other way.