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


When Your Colleagues Tell You What They Really Think Of You …

I’m back.

I survived.

Though as you will see from this post, the evil genius of China has followed me home.

When I worked at Wieden+Kennedy, I had a brilliant planner in my team called Charinee.

She was one of the best natural presenters I’ve ever seen … using her smarts, charm and charisma to basically win over the fiercest of audience.

I really liked Charinee, I even wrote her a nice ‘goodbye’ when she pissed off to live in NYC.

Recently I got to see what she thought of me.

I was a dick. An annoying, giant dick. As demonstrated by this …

But the joke is on you CC, because I already knew you thought that about me …

Cue: Evil Laugh even if this is not an achievement I wish I had achieved.



Signing Off One Of The Worst Years Of My Life With One Of The Best Things That’s Ever Happened To Me …

So this is the last post of this year.

Yes, I know it’s only the 11th December, but frankly, I can’t wait to see the back of 2015 and I need to spend a few weeks letting out all the angst of the past 12 months so I can start 2016 as I mean to go on.

It’s no exaggeration to say this has been one of the worst years of my life.

Of course, the main reason for that is my wonderful mum passed away.

Having a parent die is always going to be tough … but when that parent is so full of life and – after her operation – expected to blossom, it makes it especially hard.

Alas, things didn’t work out the way they were supposed to and the events of that day on March 9th, still haunt me.

The high hopes.

The precious time together.

The slow, almost torturous, delay in being told any news.

The creeping fear of what may be happening.

The battle between hope and devastation.

The realisation of tragedy.

The hell of loss.

That 5 weeks in England seems like another time. Involving other people.

Recently, I was sent a new credit card from my bank in Australia.

When I opened the envelope, there were 2 cards.

One with my name on it. One with my Mum’s.

I’d forgotten I had given her a supplementary card. Not that she ever used it – getting her to take anything from me was always a struggle – but there it was, with her name embossed on the front.

It affected me deeply.

It was something precious and sad all at the same time.

Despite having organised so many things following her death … things that honoured her legacy, respected her beliefs and gave me a sense of peace for the future … I still feel I haven’t truly grieved.

I need to. I want to. But I’m also scared to.

It took me 10 years to come to terms with my Dad’s loss.

He – nor my Mum – would not want me to experience that duration of pain again, but I feel haunted by her loss … reinforced by the numerous beautiful things my son does that I wish she could see, experience and share. But the fact is she died this year and it casts a dark shadow on how I will look at 2015 for the rest of my life.

But there is a but.

Despite living each day carrying a burden of loss and sadness, there have been moments of sunshine pushing through the clouds.

I find it amazing how the human spirit can still move forwards when you feel everything around you is collapsing.

At first, I almost felt guilty when there were things that I found filled me with joy – as if I was dishonouring my Mum – but I knew in my heart of hearts, it would be something she would want for me.

Despite the utter tragic reasons for it, one of the things I treasure from this year is that I got to spend 5 uninterrupted weeks with my wife and son and my best friend and his wife.

To have that period of time to spend with the most important people in your life is always a gift … to have it at your greatest time of need is almost divine intervention.

To be together – just hanging out – sharing, talking and being an active part of each others lives was something I will always treasure.

By having it … by feeling connected to it … it highlighted how much I miss that interaction. Don’t get me wrong, I utterly love my life and the fact I have lived around the World … but being able to just drive over to my best friends house with my family and just hang was something I feel I’ve not had for 20 years. I felt I belonged. That I was home. That I had come full circle.

And maybe that is why another of my favourite things from 2015 is when Shelly, Paul’s utterly awesome wife – and Otis’ “oddmother” [because we are not religious] – came to visit us in Shanghai.

She was only with us for 2 days, but being together reinforced how much I love her and Paul being close.

It’s brought up a lot of questions for me, things I don’t have the answers to yet … but I feel so lucky that they are in my life.

Talking of ‘in my life’ … another thing my Mum’s passing did was reconnect me to her family.

We were always a relatively ‘independent group’ … my Mum, Dad and me.

That doesn’t mean we had issues with the broader family, just we loved our independence.

But Mum’s passing brought them all into my life again, especially her Italian family … and reconnecting created a connection we have all embraced and nurtured and it feels good.

I cannot tell you how happy I am that Mum’s beloved sister, Silvana, got to hold Otis.

If my Mum tragically didn’t get to do it, I’m so, so glad her sister did.

And then there’s the other stuff that made sure there was a silver lining in a dark year …

Seeing members of my team reach new stages in their life and career … getting one of my colleagues to have a perm … somehow being recognised for being OK at what I do [not to mention, what I don’t do] … finally passing my teacher exams AFTER FIVE BLOODY YEARS … being given a level of support and compassion that reminded me just how special Wieden truly is … meeting old friends, travelling, laughing, feeling loved and cared for by people that stretched much further than I knew or deserved.

And that includes everyone of you who reads or even insults me on this blog.

But there’s 3 people that made sure this year had moments of happiness in them that transcend everyone and everything else.

Rosie my cat.

Jill my wife.

Otis my son.

Without taking anything away from all the people who helped ensure this year was not be as black as it could – or should – have been, those 3 protected, loved and cared for me during every bump in the road.

The big ones and the small.

From the worst moments of my Mum passing … to the hell of the legalities that death forces you to deal with … to the sadness of other situations occurring involving people I care about.

OK, so Rosie did it by being annoying.

Regardless how down I was feeling or sorry for myself, she would miaow as if she was the only one having a hard time.

And while I would never want to tell her this, her selfishness was kind-of lovely. It forced me out of my darkness to sort her out. It gave my brain an excuse to focus on something else.

The other person is my wonderful wife, Jill.

I have no idea – no idea at all – what I have done to deserve her, but I am so glad I managed to convince her I was worth having.

Her compassion, care and love got me through moments where I wonder how I’d cope without her. That may sound dramatic, but it’s true.

She makes me a better person. She makes the darkest days brighter and I can never thank her enough or show my love to her enough for what she means to me.

Thanks Jilly, you’re perfect.

And the last person is of course Otis.

12 months ago today, this little bundle of perfect came into the World.

Yes, my son is a year old.

Today.

A year old. Today.

That is bloody amazing.

[When you’re older Otis, click here for a birthday message]

A year ago, I literally had no idea what to expect … I was a mixture of nerves, fears and anticipation.

Nothing – absolutely nothing – could have prepared me [or should I say, would make me believe] for the joy this little boy has brought into my life.

Watching him grow has been one of the most beautiful and wonderful things I have ever experienced.

He has done far more for me than I have done for him.

He has made me feel a sense of pride and happiness I didn’t know existed.

Literally didn’t know.

He has shown me that the wonderful woman I married, is even more wonderful than I imagined.

He has made Rosie – that selfish, self-centred, pampered moggy – start to be a little bit gracious.

Sure, it’s only to him, but that’s a start.

He gave my Mum an energy and happiness that literally radiated out from her.

She sadly may never have got to meet him in the flesh, but he ensured the last 3 months of her life were filled with joy and pride.

For that alone, I can never thank him enough, but he did even more than that.

At my greatest time of need, he ensured I didn’t fall.

From giving me the most infectious smiles imaginable to the most delightfully inappropriate behaviour at the most inappropriately appropriate times … he made sure I always had hope and love to cling on to.

He has been a revelation.

I am so proud and honoured to be his Dad and I hope I can repay him for everything he has done for me in his first 12 months of life.

[Let’s face it, I probably can and will … especially if he starts developing the same tech tendencies as his old man]

OK … that has been a super long post.

Few – if any – will have probably read all of it, but this was done more for me than any of you, so I don’t care.

All that leaves me to do is say this.

To my beloved son, Otis … happy, happy birthday.

You are perfect in every single way.

Literally, every single way.

I am a better man for having you in my life.

Thank you my darling son, I love you so, so much.

To everyone else … every single one of you who was gracious and kind enough to care and be part of my year this year … I wish you a Happy, Happy Christmas.

Whether you gave me hugs, laughter or just a well-timed message, your actions meant more to me than you could ever imagine and I wish I could see you all in person so I could return the gesture.

I’m so grateful for all you did for me and I wish each and every one of you, nothing but happiness and the hope that 2016 is a stellar year in your life.

We all deserve it and I need it.

Have fun and make sure you tell everyone who needs to know, that you love them.

See you January.



The Last Of The Originals …
August 28, 2015, 6:20 am
Filed under: Agency Culture, Charinee, Human Goodness, Planning

So today is a momentous day for me.

A day of both great pride and of great sadness.

You see today is the day the wonderful Charinee leaves Wieden after 6 amazing years to move to NYC.

In her time here, she has gone from being an intern, to creating the infamous Luan Dun to working on a global Michelle Obama initiative to being involved in a whole bunch of work for clients including NIKE, Disney, Tiffany and pretty much everything in-between.

And don’t forget, she managed to do all that while having me as a boss so that proves how smart she is.

But it’s more than that.

You see Charinee is – in many ways – the life and soul of the agency.

On first impression, she looks like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth – but that’s part of her genius – because she’s a mischievous little fuck [in the most magnificent of ways] and brings the best out of people and brings the best people together.

Everyone loves her.

Clients, colleagues, bosses, weirdo’s …

You see Charinee has got that deadly combination of smarts, charm and looks so everyone want to hear her, talk to her, learn from her and just hang out with her so it’s no surprise she’s such a killer presenter and more connected than Linkedin.

But it’s even more than that. At least for me.

Because Charinee is the very last planner of the original mob I inherited when I took the job.

The last one.

It’s weird, but this has made her leaving feel a bit different to when the other guys have left.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as happy and proud of her as I was when everyone else went on to bigger things than they could have imagined [if only for the fact it means that in a small way, I may have contributed to that] … but I have to be honest, I am a bit more emotional that she is leaving, because being the last means she’s the person I’ve had the most history with.

In short, Charinee has been a bloody legend to me and for me.

Not just in the standards of her work … nor just the infectiousness of her spirit and attitude … not just in her overall desire to be better … but in how she has protected, defended, taught and saved me in all manner of situations.

From the time she managed to get my laptop returned to me from a Taxi driver in Xiamen to helping me write presentations that made me look much smarter and informed than I really am to organising a surprise birthday party [even though she accidentally copied me on the email she sent to the agency] to just making me laugh at times where I wanted to cry.

Through thick and thin, she has been there … loyal, curious, passionate and just plain ace.

Mind you, I’ve not been too bad to her.

Sure I’ve sent her on wild goose chases.

Sure I dropped her into mad situations.

Sure I’ve asked her to deal with issues that weren’t hers of the making.

But I didn’t kill her when we reached Manilla airport after a 2 hour taxi ride through the mad streets of Manilla and she announced “I left my passport back at the hotel”.

And don’t get me started on the amounts of times I’ve overlooked her latest ‘great movie reccomendation’ [which turns out to be one of the most depressing things I’ve ever seen] or the numerous occasions she’s told me to hold her plate up while she instagrammed her latest favourite meal or the fact she is the most photogenic fuck in the universe [except when she’s eating – see below] and yet I still will allow myself to be pictured with her despite it making me look even more beastly than usual.

I’ve been a bloody saint to her. Oh yes. It’s not all been one way traffic. No siree.

Cough Cough.

But in all seriousness, I feel honoured to know Charinee and to have worked with her.

She has made a massive difference to my life, the teams, the agency and the clients.

And yet despite all this, she has remained humble, grateful, eager and passionate to improve.

We are very lucky to have had her, especially for 6 years … which in China terms, is a lifetime.

And for all she has given us, what has Wieden give her?

Me and her husband. [No seriously, they met when he was a planner here too]

Poor thing.

In all honesty, Dominic and I got the much better end of the deal, but she seems happy enough so I’m just hugely thankful – and Dom better be as well – that for once, her decision-making ability in terms of who she spends a lot of her time with, deserted her.

So my wonderful Charinee, I still might not be able to pronounce your surname, I still might take the piss out of the Rod Stewartesque outfit you once wore [but never wore again] but I can tell you I’ll miss you hugely and I’m incredibly grateful for all you’ve done in this office and for this office.

Wherever you go, they will be very lucky to have you because I can honestly say I couldn’t have achieved half of what I’ve achieved here without you and I certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed it half as much.

I’m so excited to see where you go and how you grow so enjoy the adventure, say ‘hi’ to Leon and Debi, let every opportunity grow you but not change you and see you in New York.

Au revoir, but not goodbye.

Ciao lovely. It’s been an honour.

Now knock them dead.