The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

For the record …
November 19, 2010, 9:32 pm
Filed under: Comment

I am very sad today.

Actually, I’ve been sad ever since last week when I met Heather LeFevre in Amsterdam and found out that in all likelihood, a guy I thought very highly of, was ill … very, very ill.

I’m not talking about any physical ailment – though apparently that is being claimed at the moment – I’m talking about a potential string of lies that has ended up hurting, humiliating and damaging a whole host of innocent people all around the globe.

The guy I am talking about is Sam Ismail.

As I’ve said, I liked Sam. Hell, in some way I still do.

He’s smart, bright, charismatic, mishcievious and full of energy … and because of that, I introduced him to a dear friend of mine – who is a headhunter – when he said he was moving to Australia.

Because of his cleverness and charm – and maybe a pinch of my pseudo-endorsement – he ended up getting a job with another friend of mine at their agency.

I was happy … everyone was going to win … and I was looking forward to seeing how things developed.

Then a couple of weeks later I got a phonecall.

A terrible, horrible, heart-wrenching phonecall.

It was from my headhunter friend telling me Sam’s parents had been involved in a terrible car crash and he’d had to fly to the US immediately. I was devastated for him and emailed him offering my condolences to which he responded and said thanks and that it was a tragic situation.

A few days later she rang again and asked if I knew which hospital his parents were in because his girlfriend was looking for him and was finding it impossible to make contact.

I didn’t.

Obviously I thought it was strange his girlfriend didn’t know where he was, but I know from personal experience that when these things happen, weird things can happen so I just assumed it was another tragic outcome stemming from a tragic outcome.

A few weeks later my friends at the agency he worked at, got in touch.

“Do you know where Sam is?”

Again I didn’t … and when I asked why, they told me he had not been in touch with them except for when he told them [via my headhunting friend] he had to leave the country to be at his parents side. I must admit I found that strange and it bothered me – he’d even deleted his Facebook and Twitter accounts – however not only was it none of my business, I again knew from personal experience that you can end up doing some very weird things during times of tragedy and crisis.

Anyway, apart from when I called my headhunter friend to say hello, he didn’t really enter my mind until a few months later, when I noticed Sam back on the social media scene.

I immediately got in contact asked how he was.

Despite all that had happened, I was genuinely concerned – afterall, I had no real reason not to be – so I was happy when he told me that after such a terrible time, he was getting stronger. Of course I had to ask about Australia and he openly admitted that there were issues there that resulted in him having to stay away, which he felt very bad about because he knew he had hurt/upset others.

As far as I was concerned, that was that …

Anyway, over the subsequent months I heard the odd whisper about Sam from various people, but I always said they should shut up because there was no evidence of any wrong doing and this industry was already full of backbiting and bitchiness.

Then I met Heather.

I was in Amsterdam for a meeting and was really excited that I was also going to be able to meet this person that I’d conversed with, but had never met.

I knew she had just got this big gig with Strawberry Frog and that she’d been looking for planners [as she’d asked me for recommendations] so within minutes of meeting, I asked her how it was all going.

She looked disappointed because she said she’d hired this great guy called Sam Ismail but sadly, the day before he was to start, he’d SMS’d her to say his sister had been involved in a car accident and he had to fly and be by her side.

My face went white.

For the first time I had undeniable evidence that there was something that didn’t quite add up with Sam.

Here I was in Amsterdam – meeting someone I’d never met before – listening to a situation involving a person standing 2 feet in front of me, that was almost a word-for-word account of what my friends said had happened to them in Australia.


Even then I didn’t want to admit my concerns, so I explained calmly that the situation she was describing sounded very similar to a set of circumstances some friends of mine had gone through with Sam a few months earlier.

And from that casual conversation over coffee in Amsterdam, things escalated …

There is a chance Sam and his family are one of the unluckiest families on Earth, but the likelihood is – especially when you read the other stuff Heather’s subsequently found out – that they’re not, and whilst that is good news it also means there’s a real possibility Sam has lied and manipulated people for his own personal gain.

I should point out here that I don’t hate Sam, I’m worried about him.

I – as I am sure is the same for Heather – don’t want this to be a witch hunt or to put him in a corner he feels he can’t get out of … I want to help him.

I take no joy writing this whatsoever, none at all … in fact you may have noticed that at no point in this post have I come out and categorically said he has lied or cheated – I’ve simply explained the situation that I personally encountered – because I am hoping there’s a chance, however small, that this whole sorry situation is just a series of terrible, horrible, ugly coincidences.

I don’t know where Sam is but I know he’s read Heather’s post … so wherever you are, I hope you’re getting the help you need because you’re a guy with so much to offer, but you’re probably fucking yourself up and that’s as tragic to witness as the mess you’re being alleged to have left behind.

It can change.

You can change.

So if there’s a way to prove the things being said are wrong – do it – because I believed in you and nothing would make me happier to know I was right to do that.

Comments Off on For the record …

Are The Chinese The Most Demanding Customers On Earth?
November 19, 2010, 6:39 am
Filed under: Comment

So I was walking through a shopping centre in Shanghai when I came across this …

No, it’s not a man dead in a reclining massage chair [at least I hope it isn’t] but it is a man asleep in a reclining massage chair.

Now on first impressions, you might think he’s a cheeky bastard grabbing a couple of minutes shut eye … but I personally think he is an astute shopper.

Those chairs cost a fucking fortune and so surely the one thing you want to do before you part with your hard earned cash, is make sure it does what you want it to do.

Like I wrote about back before the internet was invented, I can’t work out why so many shops are against people trying out products in store because let’s face it, the chances of them then making a purchase goes up radically once they’ve experienced it.

OK … OK … so this attitude might be better for some products than others, but even if Mr Snoozehead doesn’t end up buying the chair, he’s going to talk pretty positively about it … afterall, it managed to let him get some shut eye in the middle of a shopping centre in one of the busiest cities in the World and if that’s not a shining endorsement of it’s relaxation qualities, I don’t know what is.

Beware Of The Initials …
November 18, 2010, 6:23 am
Filed under: Comment

I’m not big on things like ‘naming strategy’ – at least not in the approach certain brand consultancies endorse.

Sure, you want to make sure it doesn’t translate into “Granny Fucker” in Spanish or something, but having been mind-raped by Landor and their ‘proprietary naming process’ [which seemed awfully like putting words into a thesaurus and printing off whatever came out] I can’t help but feel a lot of what is often put forward is nothing more than an excuse in money making.

Saying that, I’ve recently seen something that highlighted that naming fuck ups can be much more than just how it translates into a foreign language – though by the same token, it could also be the greatest pisstake in corporate history.

So I was flicking through a magazine last week when I came across an ad for the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons.

Basically it was an ad advocating that women who wish to undergo cosmetic treatment should do so with a surgeon registered with the organisation.

So far so good – but then I realised the initials of the body were BAAPS, which is – albeit wrongly spelt – slang for women who have these …

Now I don’t know if that was intentional or not – I would assume given its the medical industry and they don’t do humour, it wasn’t – but I think it’s genius and hope to god they start doing ads that say:

Hey ladies, it you want some perky tits, make sure you have a good look at BAAPS.

Mind you, the Shanghai International Trust is giving them a run for their money with their brilliant acronym of S. H. I. T.

So it’s time to forget such theories as truth in advertising, it would appear the future is all about truth in acronym – which should make Landor happy, as I’m sure there’s a proprietary tool they can create to make an obscene amount of cash out of.

Relevance Is In The Eye Of The Beholder …
November 17, 2010, 6:02 am
Filed under: Comment

One of the things that annoys the crap out of me is when a brand wants to spend a shitload of cash on an idea that reflects what the company wish their audience thought/did, rather than what they actually do.

What I find especially interesting is that these ideas are often only communicated to their agencies once it’s a done deal, possibly because they can place any objective/challenging comment to the “too late to make a difference” pile, even though in their heart-of-hearts they know what’s being said is right – or at the very least – worth considering.

Of course the real reason these things happen is because [1] someone high up liked/pushed the idea &/or [2] it was the easiest way to sell the concept through the system … however it never fails to amaze me how clients can so easily justify fundamentally flawed thinking when they are often so highly critical of well researched, carefully planned ideas.

With adland often being accused of not having their clients best interests at heart, it’s kind of a cruel joke that the biggest culprit are becoming the ones pointing the finger.

Memories That Last A Lifetime …
November 16, 2010, 6:12 am
Filed under: Comment

When I was a little kid, there was a local greengrocers called “Mr James” and next to him was his daughters sweet shop, called Erica’s.

We would go there quite a lot because back then – 1974 – there were no supermarkets near where we lived and it was the only place to get groceries and fresh veg.

Anyway, around 1975, Gem – better known now as Asda – opened down the road and people suddenly stopped going to Mr James & Erica’s and started heading to a place where they offered more choice, cheaper prices and – most importantly for my Mum – anonymity from the small town mentality.

Because of the shift in customers, Mr James & Erica’s sold up in 1976 and went to Keyworth – a village about 7 miles away – and since then, we’ve seen a whole host of retailers take it’s place from other grocery shops through to hairdressers and double glazing showrooms.

I say this because when I was with my Mum on Sunday, I drove past the old shop and suddenly realised that I still referred to it as Mr James & Erica’s even though it’s not been like that for over 30 years.


Why has it got so deep in my consciousness?

Is it because it created a certain frame of reference in my life and if so, what?

Going out with my Mum?

Getting to choose a sweetie?

My first exposure to real community?

Not sure … maybe … but I do find it fascinating that despite many stores taking it’s place over the years – years where I still was part of that community – the name I still refer to is Mr James & Erica’s.

The thing is, it’s more than just a name to me … it means something, something good.

I still remember how upset I was when they moved and how I viewed the new owner with suspicion [well he did have ginger hair!]

Whilst I am sure there’s someone out there who could give me a rationalised reason for why I feel this way, the reality is that despite interacting with thousands of stores over the years, Mr James & Erica’s has a special place in my heart and so anyone who doubts the importance of ‘frames of reference’ and/or ‘first impressions’ is mad.

In these days where brands are seemingly obsessed with the short-term and maximum bang for their buck … it might be worth reminding them that by offering consistent little acts of emotional positivity, they could leave their audience with a more powerful, deeper and lasting mark than the biggest bursts of television advertising activity could ever achieve.

Wherever Mr James and his butch looking daughter Erica are – thanks for the memories.

A Weekend Of Life …
November 15, 2010, 5:15 am
Filed under: Comment

So after a weekend where I “enjoyed” the worst work travel experience I’ve ever had [thanks for that BA, you made an impression] I came home to find two very important and dear people in my life had given birth to two – soon to be very important – children on exactly the same day.

This made me happy.

Very happy.

Not just because having a healthy baby is a thing to celebrate, but because both new Mum’s are wonderful, caring, clever people [and the blokes who played a part in all of this aren’t bad either] and their actions have just made a positive contribution to a happier society.

Unfortunately, given both of them live in other countries, I don’t when I will be able to be introduced to the little ones – I’m still waiting for an intro to Mr Environments bundle of fun – but I hope it’s soon because not only do I want to come face to face with the little sods, but I want to see my friends faces and talk to them about how they feel and how they’ve changed.

NP has been very gracious in humouring me on this topic ever since he delightful son was born, but with Tony [Environment Boy], Juanita & Charlie [the new Mum’s], they are friends I’ve known [and actually met, ha] for a very long time and as such, I have more of an understanding of who they are or who they were so can judge the impact more clearly.

I love these 3 friends very much …

In all cases, their friendship, advice, commitment, compassion and companionship have gone way beyond the call of duty – especially Charlie and Tony, who without their help, I may easily have drowned under a sea of some hard, scary & tough periods I had in my life – so I hope they know how much they meant to me, even if truth be known, they’ll never really grasp how much they mean to me.

I know it’s heavily influenced by the age of my friends, however I still find it amazing that 3 of the 5 most important friends in my life have all had healthy children this year – which means regardless of what else has happened in this past 12 months, or what is still to happen in the remaining 6 or 7 weeks – 2010 can go down as a stellar year and that is definitely worth feeling positive about.

I must admit, I do wish I had been able to be there when they had their kids.

To support them before and to celebrate with them after.

OK, so I kinda did, but this is one of those times where ‘virtual’ doesn’t really do it justice.

Yes I know they had oodles of support from people – people who, in the scheme of things, were/are more important and necessary than me – but the fact is, every single thing that’s ever happened to me that mattered over the past 10-15 years has in some way, involved or revolved around them and I just feel I’ve let them down because at possibly the most significant point in their life, I wasn’t there to share.

Maybe I’m being a selfish prick.

Maybe I feel this way because it’s more evidence I’m getting older and that my view of what real friendship is, is as rose-tinted as the one’s featured in the show ‘The Wonder Years’ [a show I cried at when I heard how life turned out for the characters in the final minutes of the final episode] but I hope not, because while I do wish they were all just down the road so we could be more actively involved in eachothers lives [one of the sacrifices of moving so much, though to be fair, I met all these 3 because I moved so much] the real reason for my melancholy is because I’d love to be there to see, share and add to the excitement.

Anyway that’s me being a sentimental old fart again, so to my dearest Charlie & Juanita [though it should be the other way round because I think – thanks to some questionable time difference calculations – Juanita had her baby first] I want to say a huge congrats [and the hubbies] and let you know I am very happy, proud and excited for you all.

Home Is Where The Wife Is …
November 12, 2010, 6:35 am
Filed under: Comment

So after a really great time in Amsterdam – including meeting “virtual friends” like Heather & Matthew in the real World – today [in the China sense of the word] I fly home.

For the first time ever, I have broken the 5 day rule that my wife and I put in place when we first started going out.

Mind you, she broke it first with her trip to Australia, so now we’re even, ha.

Seeing my Mum was very special – as was catching up with my friends – but now I’m ready to go back and be with the person who makes me feel ‘me’.

It’s quite weird because when Jill first started sleeping over, I found her presence in my bed strange.

Not because it was weird a babe was in my bed – oh no, I had millions of them, cough cough splutter splutter – but because I had got used to having tons of space and suddenly there was someone there who was taking up half of it.

Worse, she seemed to really like me so kept coming over to my side to be closer – which might sound very nice – but made me feel a prisoner in my own bed.

Zoom forward 6 or 7 years and I can’t sleep properly without her by my side.

She can do an all out invasion on my side of the bed and yet I still prefer that to her not being there.

The feeling of her there is a wonderful feeling – it makes me feel safe, settled and loved and as we grow older together, I realise so many of the things I like most in my life revolve around her.

My favourite sound in the World is her infectious giggle.

My favourite sight in the World is seeing her by my side when I wake up.

My favourite time in the World is when we just are hanging out together – even if we’re doing nothing.

Even the things she does that annoy the crap out of me, I love.

Well I do when I’ve not seen her for a while.

Her obsession with period dramas … her devil-may-care attitude towards tidiness … her ability to wash 3 dishes and feel good about it, even though there’s loads to do … her love of Elvis … the list goes on and on.

And on.

And on and on.

Anyway, to quote W H Auden, she is my North, South, East & West and though I make sure I tell her every day, I want to say publically that I love you honey and I can’t wait to see you tomorrow.

[You can all be sick now]