Olley was struggling to be jolly … now he’s smiling as the 10-millionth Briton to get his jab!

It may have been a sharp prick that made him say “ouch”, but Westside business leader Mike Olley’s vaccination has transformed him from near misery to the heights of optimism.

Over the years I have struggled to explain my work in a simple sentence.

As a business leader who heads up the Westside Business Improvement District (BID), I have used many a term or what I hoped was a well-crafted sentence. For example, I have tried the line: “a bit like a shop steward, but for a host of businesses.” My favourite, but not necessarily a winner, is: “I seek to project and protect our geographical area.”

David Bell, the late and great former municipal editor of the Birmingham Mail, christened me the “Baron of Broad Street”. Dear old David, who sadly passed on last year, did have a way of describing things whilst importing humour, with a hint of belittlement, yet still getting the message across.

I mention this because I’m now considering a new turn of phrase: “We jolly things along,” and this said with a big smile, of course. I’m not suggesting it’s a winner, but emotionally to me it sort of describes the role of a BID manager. The fly in the ointment is that you don’t always feel that jolly inside.

Last Sunday, we hosted a great live event called the Wonders of Westside, or more commonly known as the WOWs Awards. This was our 16th year of holding this event, albeit we had to do everything virtually this year, of course. And it went down a storm, as you can see for yourself here: https://youtu.be/c0u7yOyqHNY

Also, a couple of weeks ago we celebrated the relaunch of Black Sabbath’s heavy metal bench, welcoming it back onto the Black Sabbath Bridge on Broad Street, and again this event proved extremely popular, as you can see here:

This a recent explosion of the great, good and fun things should be enough for me to occupy my time “jollying things along”, you’d have thought, keeping me happy and full of jovial spirits. And yet:

  • the pandemic continues
  • few, so very few people, are at work on Westside
  • midweek in Brindleyplace and in our own Broad Street office block is more reminiscent of an early Sunday morning, and
  • I know of at least two people who are currently sadly inflicted by COVID-19.

I wish them well, but this whole pandemic has such a numbing, depressing effect on my soul, especially when I know that there are a lot of people in far, far worse positions.

What I’m trying to say is that I can’t begin to explain how difficult it is being “jolly” all the while, and how disheartening it can be forlornly searching for any sign of good news.

Now please, don’t rush to send me cards, gifts, flowers, best wishes and so on, because I have, in fact, now jollied up immeasurably. Indeed, I could probably even give Larry Grayson a run for his money. Because I have now become the ten millionth person (or thereabouts) to have received a vaccine – the Oxford one.

And it’s given me a new positive dimension on life. Many who know me might have expected me to have been jabbed towards the end of 2021, December maybe. After all, my levels of fitness, good looks and apparent age would surely make me one of the last groups of people needing the jab.

But joking aside, I have an underlying chronic illness, plus I’m a few years older than I look. And this rendered me fortunate, or quick fingers enough, to pick up one of the overspill vaccines. This dose would probably have gone to waste if it were not for the excellent processes and procedures that our local health services have put in place.

This will come to us all soon and once it does the world will be a different place. The future is indeed brighter and as we roll out these wonderful vaccines this grey, dirty, horrid mess we are all suffering will gently start to ebb away.

My message to everyone is therefore a sincere but bright one from my old jolly self: stay safe, be sensible and life will be jolly again. It will soon be beers, good food, theatre visits, concerts, live events, leisure activities and much, much more.

Before you know it, we will all be out with family and friends again … (or at least when prime minister Johnson tells us we can!).

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