We speak to Keith Oliver about his passions outside work
It must have been the TVR 3000M parked locally that I lusted after from the age of 12. I used to spend hours simply gazing at it and once dragged my father out to see it. The MG Midget acquired from the heavily pregnant sister of my best friend at the age of 18 then replaced by a yellow Spitfire 1300 and then a Java green 1500 eventually gave way to more exotic fruit commencing with my Alfa GT Veloce acquired with the benefit of a £1,000 loan from Natwest repaid at £10 per week from my £2,250 commencing salary as an articled clerk in 1978. The joy of the open road is a cliché but there are few pleasures greater in life than an open sports car on a slightly damp but clear spring morning heading out to get the Sunday papers and probably milk. Cars have always been a driving passion – perhaps in my next life I shall have a classic car garage. That said, I shall probably be insolvent as I will never wish to sell any of them.
A £99 last minute Spring trip to Livigno in the mid-1980s (it required a feisty six hour coach trip from Milan) provoked a life moment five days in, gazing over the Italian Alps in glorious sunshine at 3,000 metres. My inevitable impatience with the group lessons had required me, essentially, to teach myself to ski – hence almost 30 years later the frequent observation from accompanying skiers that I have no style – a tutor two years ago commented that it was far too late to take me back to basics and I was a lost cause. A football injury caused by an out of control associate at a well-known City firm in a barristers 7 a side tournament three years ago (perhaps still actionable) briefly threatened a premature end to a passion to die for, but happily I recovered. 90kmh on a straight fast red with the wind in my hair draws me to the Alps most weekends. A life without skiing would be the end of my days.
My father (sadly deceased many years ago) – a huge influence over me in so many ways – and I used to watch Match of the Day, in black and white, in those days every Saturday night. He had been a passionate West Ham fan and had stood on the terraces at Upton Park in the 1930s. He used to shout “£500 a week and he can’t kick a ball straight”. I learned it was not about winning, it was about style and flamboyance and in George Best in 1967/8 my hero was found. The holy trinity of Best, Law and Charlton drew me to the Stretford End of Old Trafford most weekends in my teens on the old London supporters’ trains, that is when I was not playing first XI football for Highgate where I obtained my colours. I am as passionate about football as I have ever been and I am lucky that my girlfriend tolerates what many people would regard as a complete obsession. It is a sad fact that my social life revolves around the Champions League … and the Premiership.
Favourite lines … “come with me if you want to live” (Terminator 2). “I love you pumpkin. I love you honey bunny. You’ve lost your LA privileges” (Pulp Fiction). “I have to go now, Duane, because I'm due back on the planet Earth” (Annie Hall). “We’ve sold 29,000% of Springtime for Hitler” (The Producers) and best of all “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist” (Verbal Kint/Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects). Thrilling, compelling, ingenious, witty but above all the ability of the screenplay writer to entertain, stimulate, provoke and make one laugh. I adore the cinema, a passion that started with Mutiny on the Bounty starring Marlon Brando when I was six years old and continued with late night Friday cinema in Leicester Square throughout my teenage years.
I am an appalling creature of habit. 15 visits to Le Sport/the Body Holiday in St Lucia may seem excessive to some but early morning bike rides to Pigeon Island followed by beach boot camp (very occasionally), tennis and six hours of water-skiing interspersed with beach football and then a rose fuelled sunset watching the Caribbean with a large TV football screen close by is a serious panacea. But there are other amazing places too numerous to mention whether in the mountains of France, Italy, Colorado or Japan or the stunning hospitality and warmth of the Balinese. One place stands out perhaps – the savage beauty of the Sinai Desert sitting in Dahab watching the sunrise or set with terrain (and geology) similar to that of the moon. An extraordinary pleasure about collective road travel that I experienced (and plan to repeat for many years with friends) stems from the 12 person rally to the IBA in Vienna in 2015 and the 15 person Pacific Highway trip after the IBA Litigation Conference in San Francisco in 2016. Roll on the rally to Rome for the IBA in 2018 – we hope to have at least 30 cars. But no diesels or people carriers – Jeremy Clarkson eat your heart out.
The thing is it’s not just about livelihood. It is a driving passion – not so much from an intellectual viewpoint (none of my friends or contemporaries would regard me as a black letter lawyer in that sense) but I am truly fortunate that even after 37 years from qualification, I still enjoy my day job and cannot see myself ever having wished to do anything else. My own personal strapline on my business cards “law.crisis.resolution” was an attempt to encapsulate my love for what I do. I still have the same energy and enthusiasm for my chosen career and profession. My only regret is that we seem to have lost a degree of courtesy and gentlemanly conduct towards opponents that characterised my training and the early years of my career.
And the most important...
My gorgeous daughters Charlotte and Alex who are respectively 27 and 24. My commitment to courtesy (ingrained from an early age) that one should always walk on the outside of the pavement was from a relevant age challenged by Charlotte’s “stop engaging in male positional role play” mantra; Alex is sometimes so chilled and calm I wonder whom she takes after. I am incredibly proud of them and they have given me (and continue to do so) as much pleasure as anything in life, particularly in the relationship between the two of them. In my own way I have contributed to their passions – Charlotte who is a journalist loves the cinema and writing; Alex is fanatical about skiing and has a level one instruction certificate.