Proof that loveable Great British eccentrics are still very much among us.
My mate Ollie is an unusual sort of chap.
Sixty years old and recently retired from a career designing magazines, he’s a spiky-haired punk rocker and a horror and sci-fi devotee. Living by himself in south-west England, he enjoys his life of pubbing, TV, concerts and general loafing. He has a number of amusing eccentricities…
The vast majority of space in his fridge and freezer, neither of which are large, is taken up by products that are over 30 years old. They include Batman soft drinks, Batman and Superman candy sticks, and Superman, Batman and The Flash ‘water ice block mix’ sticks. There are Spider-Man fairy cakes and milk chocolate shapes. There are four Captain Scarlet yoghurts that went out of date last century. There is a pack of Batman pork and chicken sausage cured & cooked (use by date of 06.03.99) and Batman Of The Future finely blended pork and turkey slices cured and cooked (‘use by 13 Mar’, year unknown). Defrosting and eating them would possibly bring instant death.
He also has scores of boxes of breakfast cereal from around the same time, featuring, say, Spider-Man on Sugar Puffs (with a model inside) and Cinnamon Grahams (with a free web shooter inside). They are all unopened. Presumably, the cereal has disintegrated into dust, or worse. There are Spider-Man Easter eggs from 30 years ago too, and Spider-Man Pringles. In most of the kitchen cupboards that house these items, there’s literally no room for any new food. But then Ollie eats very, very little.
He used to have some cans of baked beans with Michael Keaton as Batman on them, but disappointingly, they collapsed in on themselves. “I thought they would have lasted forever,” he bemoans. “I couldn’t sleep after they collapsed, I was so upset.” Some Thunderbirds and non-Keaton Batman tins do remain, though.
There was a power cut once and his Spider-Man strawberry lolly melted, although he keeps the packet for posterity.
Why do you hang on to these things, I ask him. “I just like them…”
The bathroom offers no escape from the memorabilia: this includes Batmobile shower gel, a Captain Scarlet toothbrush and holder, Spider-Man eau de toilette, Ultimate Spider-Man plasters and Superman bubble bath – all completely unused. “The bubble bath Batman is great – his arms rotate in a punching motion,” he says. But he’s never used it at all? “No. Well, I never have a bath.” (I should add that Ollie does have showers.)
Batman is certainly one of Ollie’s favourites, he’s everywhere about the house. Plus, “I used to have a Batmobile phone – it really worked as a phone!”
Elsewhere there are thousands more bits of memorabilia, including innumerable comics and magazines, toys and collectables, cassettes, badges, DVDs, CDs and VHS videos, although Ollie bemoans the day when he bought a box off a friend expecting it to be full of rare pre-certs like The Beast In Heat, only to find they were mainly second-generation copies of nasties, or mainstream flicks like Conan The Barbarian.
Ollie will also regularly buy copies of old newspapers off eBay, on the off-chance that a copy of, say, The Sun from 1977 will feature an item on someone like the Sex Pistols. But his most impressive newspaper hoarding has to be his collection of obituaries, which he has been collecting since the early 1980s. Now, when anyone dies that he has heard of or had affection for he will buy a copy of a newspaper with their obituary in, and often buy several different papers – when Bernard Cribbins recently died, he bought all the main ones. Sometimes the whole paper is kept, sometimes just the relevant pages – largely in piles of years and decades. Some years ago a friend built him a six-foot-long coffin to fit them in, but it soon proved to be not large enough and was eventually dismantled.
He has lots of original movie posters from the 1970s and 1980s, and has just spent a fair sum getting Confessions Of A Pop Performer properly mounted and framed. He got a lot of them for 25p when he was a teenager, thanks to the manager of the Bristol Odeon who let him and a friend look through the selection in the cinema’s basement.
Not the most technically adept of people, Ollie can’t work out where TV programmes are ‘going’ when he hits record on his Sky box, so he doesn’t record stuff. This means that when he wants to watch a programme he has to watch it live – and it doesn’t matter to him what time of day it is. He’s a great devotee of Talking Pictures TV and will regularly watch their movies at 2 in the morning or 4 in the morning, whenever. He has turned the sofa into a bed and will often spend his nights there.
“Don’t the ad breaks annoy you?” I ask him.
“Not really, I just pick up a book and read.”
He has a good collection of books to choose from. He has many hundreds of books on punk and tons of old novelisations of old films (Konga and Gorgo to name but two). He also loves old annuals, such as Batman (natch), Danger Man and most Gerry Anderson shows, and his collection of Tarzan annuals only has one missing.
“I admit, I occasionally think ‘What is the point of this rubbish I keep?’” he concedes.
Back on the Talking Pictures TV front, he is a fan of Cellar Club with Caroline Munro, but since he can’t record anything, if he’s out he misses it. And on Friday night he is often out at his pal Glam Rock Tim’s, where they and a few other close friends will watch 1970s variety show The Wheeltappers And Shunters Social Club and 1970s drama series The Brothers, while sipping a few ales. (Glam Rock Tim’s house apparently has vastly more stuff – magazines, records, videos, books etc – and he has a band that does Wings covers, called Bingo Wings.)
One last funny thing is that Ollie isn’t actually his real name, and I didn’t realise that for the first decade I knew him. It’s another name, which he dislikes, and he doesn’t want anyone to know it (I found out thanks to a slip of his tongue).
Ollie’s quite content to keep living his life as he does for the remainder of his days, and he’s not overly concerned about when that might be. But he is determined to get some more good, solid shelves put up first, though. He certainly needs them.
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