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


Happy Birthday Mum …

Yesterday would have been my Mum’s birthday.

My Mum’s 87th birthday.

That means she has been gone 4 years and frankly, that seems incredible.

So much has happened in that time …

From moving countries twice.

To changing jobs twice.

To selling our family home to buy a new one.

And while I am in a much better place than I was after the tragic days that she died, I still am prone to being hit by moments where her loss is almost overwhelming for me.

I wish she could have met Otis for real.

I still remember her words when I called her minutes after he was born.

I was incredibly emotional and she was so tender towards me.

Making sure I was OK, Jill was OK and Otis.

Asking if the baby crying in the background was her grandson.

Telling me how happy she was and how happy she was for us.

How she loved the name Otis.

And while she was alone in her home in Nottingham – wishing madly that she was with us – she still told me to go and be with Jill and my son because she was the most compassionate, thoughtful person I have ever known.

While Mum saw Otis on video chat, sent me countless emails/SMS’s about him and – for a brief while – was in the same room together [though sadly it was after she had passed away] … the fact is they never were together in the flesh and I would have loved to have seen that happen.

To see her face as he called her Nona.

To watch her smile he wrapped his arms around you and gave her a big hug and kiss.

To look at my Mum reading her first grandchild a story or walking him through the gardens and explaining the flowers or just watching him run around like a tsunami and then look at me with that look in her eye that tells me everything.

How he’s perfect.

How she loves him so much.

How she is so proud of me and Jill.

How happy she is right at that very moment.

That would be the best present for her – not to mention for me – and while none of those things will be able to happen for real, I will think about them tonight when I’m home and giving Otis a big hug and kiss, because while there are many things I can do a whole lot better at, my Mum [and Dad] taught me one thing I am very good at.

How to love.

Happy birthday Mum, I miss you so much.

Hope you and Dad are laughing and holding hands.

Rx



School Should Never Be A Place For Fear For Anyone …

So this is the last post until next Thursday as I’m traveling for work.

I know you all think this means I’m going on a ‘free holiday’, but I am going to take the high road.Ahem.

Yesterday I wrote a post about media helping kids grow up too fast in ways that drives complicity and pressure not independence and individuality.

It’s a subject close to my heart now I have Otis.

Protecting your child is a weird thing.

You know you want to, but you know there’s only so much you can do.

That’s part of the reason I never felt comfortable living in America.

Despite having our house in an incredibly privileged area – the reality that gun crime is everywhere there – never made me comfortable. I would feel uncomfortable going to the cinema. I would look for exists every time I went to the shopping malls. And while you may think I was being over-the-top, the reality is these things happen … in fact, the week after we left LA, there was a shooting at the mall we used to go.

Anywhere where you get a leaflet through the door warning you about violence and guns in schools needs to take a long hard look at itself in terms of what it values more than a life … which is why this video from the Sandy Hook Promise organization makes sure everyone knows that the best way yo protect your child in America is teaching them how to deal with the environment that surrounds them.



Society Is Growing Kids Faster Than Battery Hens …

One of the things that is a beautiful nightmare for parents is watching the speed of their children grow up.

At each stage of their development, you think they have reached ‘peak perfect’ and you want them to stay that way forever … but you can deal with their growth because they bring an even more delightful element into their behaviour and, as a byproduct, your relationship.

It’s utterly, utterly magical.

That said, it still doesn’t stop the fact it all happens in the blink of an eye, so while you want to always encourage their development, you just wish it would slow down a little.

The reason I say this is that I recently read about a graphic designer was so appalled at the cover of a young girls magazine, that they decided to release what they thought it should be.

Now I must admit, my first impression to this story was that the graphic designer was probably a self-righteous individual who wanted kids to grow up in the same conditions as they did.

That was until I saw this …

The original cover of the magazine is on the left, their version is on the right.

I’m going to ignore their cover – because you can read how it came about and the story behind their idea, here – however the magazine they redesigned is a real magazine and, according to their own website, supposedly stands for:

Girls’ Life (GL) magazine was founded in August 1994 (yes, we’re ancient, we know) by Karen Bokram. Since then, GL has grown from a 23-year-old’s pipe dream project to a best-selling and award-winning platform for tween and teen girls.

Tweens and teens.

An incredibly impressionable age.

Now look at that cover.

Look at those story headlines.

Now I appreciate I am an old, white male … but they seem to place huge subliminal pressure and expectations on young women.

Wake Up Pretty.

Dream Hair.

Fashion you need to own.

Boyfriends.

If young women want to explore any of those things, then that is wonderful, but I wonder how much of it is because they are being made to feel that way rather than being something they are naturally interested in. Of course, there is something wonderful about learning to develop and grow … but this seems less about personal growth and more about playing to stereotypes – and advertising dollars – so that they can then be judged by broader society.

Of course parents have a big role to play in managing the environment their children play in, but at a time where the World is finally waking up to fighting the prejudice, oppression and stereotypes women have had to face for centuries, it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve this when the World they are surrounded by continues to push an agenda of compliance … especially when they’re titles supposedly designed for the betterment of young women.

Of course this is not limited to content for young women, young boys also have stereotypes of behaviour and aspiration shoved down their throats that are unrealistic and add incredible pressure to their development.

I get children will always grow up too fast for parents, but it is scary how even that isn’t fast enough for media outlets.

What makes it worse is so many of them say their ‘purpose‘ is to inspire brilliance in their readership.

Girls Life specifically say their role is ‘dedicated to informing, inspiring and entertaining girls around the globe—and that includes everything from starting your business (we LOVE spotlighting smart, successful teens) to putting up with periods to styling a personal look you’ll love’.

Which is why I look at the Graphic Designer who screwed with their cover and say ‘well done’ … because I now realise what they did was not act like a judgmental parent, but simply show Girls Life how their cover should look if they are serious about what they claim they represent.



And So It Begins …

It seems literally a few months ago, since I wrote this post announcing Otis had come into the World, but this week, my little man starts school.

I’m not talking kindergarten – that he did in China, America and London – I mean proper school.

Reading … Writing … Arithmetic …

A journey that, in many ways, shapes and defines the future he is going to have.

I can’t believe it …

How did that happen so fast?

I’ve written it before, but seeing your kid grow up is both a blessing and a curse.

It’s a curse because they’re moments in their development where you just want them to stay exactly as they are.

When they are totally reliant on your love.

When they start using sounds to express how they’re feeling.

When you see them experience proper food for the first time.

When they start crawling and edge their way towards you.

Those first few words.

The first conversation.

The first steps.

At every stage, you want that moment to last forever but let it go because as they enter a new phase, there are even more new wonderful things you encounter.

It’s a fast moving train you both want to stop and to keep going exactly as it is.

And this week, the train finds another gear as Otis enters formal education.

I’ve written a lot about my views on this and how I am vehemently opposed to private education.

I don’t believe it should be a profit centre.

I do believe governments should be funding it because ultimately, it’s the foundation for the countries strength and health.

And while I know the school Otis starts tomorrow won’t be the school he finishes in – as we have bought our family home in a totally different area – I do know we intend to let him finally have a place he can feel settled in … a place where he can truly belong … because his Mum and I would like nothing more than him to meet friends that will be there throughout his life.

Like his Dad had with Paul, who are the kids in the picture at the top of this post.

So all that leaves me to say is this …

Enjoy your new adventure Otis.

Your Mum and Dad are so proud for the little boy you are.

And so excited for who you will become.

Love you.



Growing Old Stupidly …

When I was in my late teens, I would go to Rock City, every Friday night.

Rock City was a mecca for heavy rock music fans.

From 9 till 2am, it would play none-stop tunes at eardrum-busting volume.

There would be the classic songs by the classic bands – Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Queen, Whitesnake – but the best bit was when they would play something that was just breaking over in the US.

It was at Rock City I first heard Guns n’ Roses, Cinderella, Love/Hate, Badlands and countless others.

Eventually, Rock City gained an international reputation and so bands would not only send them copies of their new album before they were released, but they would ensure they visited and played at the venue as part of their World Tour.

I went to that smelly, sweaty, cramped and pulsating venue for absolute years.

Starting at the Tap and Tumbler pub round the corner before queuing up for entry in the sort of clothes a stripper would balk at before hanging around the edges of the club to say hello to the friends and acquaintances you knew before finally working your way through the heaving, throbbing masses to get into the middle of the dance floor so you could be swept up and pushed around by the intense energy of hundreds of people all loving the same thing at the exact same moment.

They were, quite frankly, some of the best times of my life.

I made friends.

It forged and influenced my love of music.

I discovered what being part of a community was really like.

It pushed me to experience and experiment with things I may never have done.

Which is all my way of justifying why – when I heard they were changing the floor after
40 years and were selling the old one off in pieces – I happily paid them £40 so I could own a piece of my history forever. [See pic at the top of this post]

Yes, it’s tragic.

Yes, it’s pathetic.

But as mid-life crises go, it’s less expensive than a Porsche.

Or an affair.



Nouveau Cuisine. Nottingham Style …

Yes, what you’re looking at is a piece of chocolate inside a bread roll.

Also known as my dinner.

Now I appreciate this might make you feel ill – it made Jill actually gag – but I bloody loved it and I don’t mind admitting it.

I have a strange relationship with food.

Basically, my pallet is rubbish … as I find everyday grub far tastier and more enjoyable than the nice stuff I get served when I go to a fancy restaurant for work.

I have a theory behind it …

You see my Mum and Dad ensured I grew up eating healthy, nutritious food.

Given we didn’t have much cash, there was no eating out except for birthdays and a treat was a once-in-a-blue-moon trip to the fish and chip shop.

Then – when I was old enough to go out on my own – I discovered a World of shitty food. A World of choice where I could have anything I wanted as opposed to my World being whatever my Mum and Dad wanted me to have.

In some respects, shitty food was my act of rebellion given I didn’t ever try cigarettes or drugs.

I still remember the look of disappointment my Mum gave me when I bought a can of Heinz Spaghetti Bolognaise from Asda … though on that one, she was well within her Italian rights and I’m grateful she didn’t disown me.

Which leads to how I live …

Asking for economy food on a plane even when I fly at the privlidged pointy end or, as the picture shows, thinking a piece of chocolate in a bread roll has Michelin star potential.

Of course I am not a total lunatic.

I know I can’t live like this all the time.

I’d like to … but I can’t … especially if I want to see my son grow up and set him on a path of healthy eating for the rest of his life.

So while I’ll eat tons of greens and lean meat and vegetables of every description, the reality is that every time I chew, my brain wishes it was a chocolate sandwich.

Christ I’m pathetic.



When Life Becomes Real …

So I’m 49.

By any stretch of the imagination, that’s pretty old.

Sure, I still might have the dress sense of a 15 year old and the immaturity of a 12 year old, but the reality is I’m still 49.

Which leads me to the point of this post.

Recently I read this quote from Confucius:

“We have 2 lives and the second one begins when we realize we only have one”.

That’s one of the best insights I’ve ever read.

It’s brilliant … not just because it’s undeniably true, but when you have just gone through this, it hits you in the chest like a freight train.

While I will never probably act my age, I am now more aware of my situation than I’ve ever been.

That I am more than likely past the half way point of my life.

As well as in the final phases of my career.

Given I have a young child, a wonderful family and a mortgage to pay – that can be quite intimidating. And yet it is also liberating.

It means I don’t let little things at work get in the way of what I need to do to feel I’m being useful to the creative work. It means I ensure my team – who ultimately deliver my success – always feel supported and encouraged. It means I practice tough love with my clients because ultimately, the best demonstration of how much I care about their success is by being honest with them about their situation. And it means I won’t let the family I love with all I’ve got, feel I’m not present and invested in their lives.

In many ways, I’d like to think this is how I’ve always been … but when you realize you truly have one life, it’s amazing in how it focuses the mind.

Separates distraction from action.

Keeps you hungry rather lazy.

Growing old has a lot of negatives … A LOT of negatives … but the great irony is that while many think it means people are past their sell-by date, it tends to be a period where you are more productive than you’ve ever been, albeit in different ways.

Of course being young is amazing.

Sharp.

Open.

Fearless.

Bringing an energy and viewpoint others may never have or never see.

Being young is a wonderful gift that ironically, you only truly appreciate when you are no longer young … but it’s not all doom and gloom because the moment you realize you only have one life, that’s when you actually start living.