I’m glad I spent it with you…

Andy would have been 34 years of age on Monday. For those of you who don’t know, this is the fine fellow who died in a motorbike accident in 2003.

Bruges, 2000

The worst of it is that on that day, the universe was deprived of one of the finest men I ever had the privilege to know.

We met in a bar in Bolton on its opening night. It was absolutely heaving and he and I waited side-by-side at the bar. It was July 4th 1998. He was just 21 and I was 25. I can’t believe I was so young – and he was little more than a child! We got talking. He told me women who talked to men in bars were lunatics. He was kind of right.

He and his friends came back to my house after the bar shut – some of his friends were friends of two guys who lived round the corner from me – who I knew quite well. I can’t remember the first kiss. It’s a shame. I remember lots of my first kisses. I remember my first kiss with the guy I was seeing before him – Mark – the first weasel I had ever known. I remember my first kiss with Phil, my first ‘proper’ boyfriend. I remember my kiss with Pete and with the Dwarf. But I don’t remember my first kiss with Andy, and I hate that. I wish I did.

He didn’t go home that night, or the Sunday. He stayed pretty much all week. We did all the talking young people in the first throws of love do, and we were so into each other.

By August, he’d moved in, permanently.

We had a life which we wanted – our first ‘grown-up’ life – he’d just got a job at a computer firm doing repairs for £9,000. I was still in my first long-term teaching post. I had a new house and a new cat and it was all quite swimmingly grown-up. We didn’t go out. We never went clubbing or to bars. We stayed in or we went to judo or ju-jitsu together. We watched t.v. and went to the movies. We never did anything exciting.

I’d put all youthful dreams of travelling to exotic places out of my thoughts. We went on holiday to Greece, went to bed before midnight and spent much of our time just playing cards and reading. We lay in bed listening to the same karaoke night after night as R Kelly’s ‘I believe I can fly’ was tortured by some idiot. It was never a dramatic or emotional or powerful relationship. It was plain and simple and ordinary. It’s been about the only thing since I was young that was plain and simple and ordinary. He’s my only non-tattooed boyfriend, non-long-haired, conformist, regular boyfriend. We were like an old couple. I liked that. It’s been like no other relationship in my life.

He was perhaps the kindest man I ever met. When my Gramps got his first computer, up in his bedroom at South Avenue, Andy sat with him for hours teaching him how to use it. Now my Gramps was not an easy man to teach anything. And yet Andy never patronised him, never made him feel incompetent with this new technology and never made him feel like he couldn’t do it. I loved that about him.

When he got his next job as a computer tech in a school, I was made up. I think he got forty Valentine’s cards. He was amazed. I love that about him too – he never thought anything particularly of his skills. I got a promotion too, in 2000, and we saw in the Millennium.

Like that first kiss, I can’t even remember what we did. I know we spent a couple of New Year’s Eves having a Chinese banquet with our three closest friends. I guess it was that – Chinese Pavillion in Westhoughton. And I bet one of us drove. We were so sensible! I know we spent one of our last nights together in the Chinese in Bolton. I sang ‘Perfect Day’ with Kev on the karaoke – and it really was. I have a couple of photos from that night – one of my back that Andy took – and one of Andy of himself doing a Dr. Evil pose.

We didn’t have in-jokes, like me and Pete Nesbitt had. We didn’t have arguments and make-ups like me and Phil. We just had this ordinary, quiet life. We went to Bruges the autumn of 2000 and we ate chocolates and went on the canal with lots of middle-aged people. I can’t really remember it – it was so… ordinary. We didn’t take lots of photos because we didn’t do anything exciting or photograph-worthy. We just lived this ordinary, cul-de-sac life in Bolton. He did DIY and I did the garden. We went to judo. We worked. I know I regret having spent so much time at work because I’d get home late, we’d have tea, watch TV, we’d go to the gym together and do judo. And then we’d go to bed. At weekends, we went to people’s weddings, or we cleaned the house and gardened. We had clean cars. We were those quiet, young neighbours who washed the cars and mowed the lawns and went on holiday to ordinary places.

By the time he died, he had just been promoted for the 4th time. He was running the IT centre in Liverpool and was on £60,000. We were pretty driven, in a quiet, non-threatening way. He and I had discussed that motorbike. It was either a motorbike or a dog. I said we couldn’t justify a dog. We worked such long hours and it’d just get lonely.

Now I will always wish I’d said yes to the dog. Not that it’d make a difference, I know.

So he got his lessons, got his first bike – a small Yamaha – then traded it up for a GSX-R 750. In his favour, he was always safe. If anything, he was slightly a petrol-head. Though it wasn’t a big thing for him. I think he’s my only boyfriend who didn’t have a fetish about something geeky or other.

And then he died.

This quiet, non-assuming, sweet man – the kindest of men – who would fall asleep whilst I stroked his arms – this man who was never sad or depressed – this deeply Taurean man – stoic and patient and dependable – this man would be 34. I wonder what kind of man he’d be – probably the same. Maybe a family man. He was deprived of that. He wouldn’t have done great things, created or been newsworthy. My head is always full of maybes and will-never-bes.

It’s no good to feel sad about death. It gets you nowhere.

A very young Andy and a very young Basil

When he was buried, I wore shoes he hated. I knew he’d have laughed. Seeing my ridiculous pink snakeskin Cuban-heeled mules would have made him smile. He and I had this kind of ‘know what you’re thinking’ look – a smile that’s only in the eyes and not on the face – a secret smile.

So here’s the stuff I remember:

  • he always wore shoes unless he was in the gym
  • he never wore t-shirts unless he was at the gym
  • his heroes were the Gracie family
  • he lived for ju-jitsu and judo
  • he wanted to call our dog Pedalo. I don’t know why
  • he sometimes danced naked on the bed to make me laugh and it always did
  • he wore shirts and jumpers, never gym clothes
  • I broke his nose by accident once in a toy fight
  • he had a crush on Britney and would have been very sad by her life now
  • he was as about a typical Taurus man as it’s possible to be
  • he dreamed about Suzuki GSX-Rs for as long as I knew him
  • he used to clean the house on Friday afternoons so when I got back from work I could relax
  • he never snacked or smoked
  • he kept Japanese fighting sticks under our bed just in case we were burgled
  • I have photos of him and photos he took of me, but I haven’t got one single photo of us together that I like. Either he looks weird or I do. It was almost a joke. If he’d have seen My Name is Earl he’d have laughed at Earl always having his eyes shut. That was one or the other of us on photos of us together.
After he died, I did the first daring thing of my adult life – I went to Brazil. He died on Easter Saturday 2003 and by May, I’d decided to do something a little different. I know he’d have loved it. I watched a ju-jitsu tournament and met a couple of minor Gracie family members, who I stayed with a couple of days, and I know he would have smiled. When I went to Japan – I know that would have been his favourite. Cherry blossom will always remind me of him – short-lived yet beautiful. One of the most famous lines that sums up mono-no aware – the bittersweetness of things – is ‘Ii tenki, desu ne?’ – it’s a fine day, isn’t it? – reminds me of that song Kev – Andy’s best friend – and I sang on that last night out together.
So… happy birthday Andy. I’m glad I spent that time with you. You made me forget myself. I thought I was someone else. Someone good.

4 thoughts on “I’m glad I spent it with you…

  1. What a lovely tribute to Andy, LJ…it’s obvious that you loved him, and it sounds like he loved you too!

    One of my first boyfriends died on a motorcycle too…he was probably driving too fast…missed a curve and hit a tree. We were a couple in Grade 9 and 10…he died eight years later, right after I’d married my first husband. I haven’t been on a motorcycle since…


    1. He was a lovely guy. So sad about your boyfriend too… I’d always thought he would have an accident without any intervention – it was almost harder to realise it wasn’t his fault. I can’t count how many times I wished I’d let him get a dog now! Especially when I know how much joy Moll and Tilly bring us.

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