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


Oh China …

I am spending a lot of time in China at the moment for work.

I won’t lie, this makes me very, very happy.

And while it is in Beijing more than my ‘home’ of Shanghai, it still gives me a very warm feeling.

That said, on a recent trip to Beijing, I had a classic #OhChina moment that made me smile.

#OhChina moments are – for people who have ever lived there – an experience where you cannot imagine it happening anywhere else in the World.

It is almost without question something slightly frustrating … created either because of cultural differences, a loss in translation or someone being a bit cheeky, lazy or shit.

In our time there, we had it all …

From hiring a painter who turned up with no paint or brushes because he said he was there to paint [and nothing else] to my mate discovering his cleaner was earning some money on the side by letting workmen cool off in the summer sun, by either sitting in his air conditioned apartment or – for a bigger fee – have a shower.

As I said, it’s frustrating and sometimes even annoying, but within an hour, you find yourself smiling and muttering, “Oh China”.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I was in my hotel and went to get my laptop and passport that I had left in the room safe.

China has low crime – especially towards foreigners – but I put them in there as I was out most of the day and didn’t have a bag with me to keep them in.

So I go to the safe and the passcode doesn’t work.

Nothing.

I knew it was the right code and it registered as the right code but it did nothing.

So I rang down to reception to ask them to come check it out.

To be honest, this thing has happened to me before.

Once in Shanghai, the safe failed and they opened it by welding the doors off.

I still remember the feeling of confusion as I saw them come in and cover the smoke alarms … but they did it and I made my flight.

So back to Beijing …

The hotel sent up 3 people.

An engineer, a duty manager and some other person.

They kept trying to reprogram the safe but it wasn’t working.

Worse, the safe was built into the wardrobe and it was a ‘top-down’ model, so it was much harder to get to it.

So what were they going to do?

This …

Yes, that is the sound of them drilling.

Not the hinges, I should add … the bloody middle of the safe.

With a long drill bit.

So long it could go through the safe and my passport and laptop.

I asked them what would happen if they damaged my goods and they said, “we don’t know”.

Hahahahahaha.

But despite the potential for absolute tragedy, they not only succeeded, they did it with no damage whatsoever.

OK, so the safe was fucked …

… but my stuff was fine.

My favourite bit was when the manager worriedly asked if I’d taken any photos because he didn’t want anyone to think this was normal. Of course, the fact this has happened to me before meant it is pretty normal but the reality is the staff were very nice and apologetic and – frankly – it made me miss this country even more because it’s this sort of ridiculous that makes this country so infectious. At least for me.

Oh China …



If A Lot Can Happen In 24 Hours, Imagine What Can Happen In A Year …

So it’s September.

SEPTEMBER.

What the hell …

That means, in a few days, it’s been a year since I moved back to England.

And in a month, a year since I joined R/GA.

A YEAR!

I have to be honest, I find it amazing how quick that time has passed.

New job.

New house.

New car.

New life.

It has been a lot and I am so happy and grateful for it.

It’s pretty obvious I didn’t really enjoy my time in LA.

I liked an incredible amount of people there and Manhattan Beach will – without doubt – be the most beautiful place I’ll ever live, but there was stuff there I found challenging, stuff that went against who I am. That said, I’m very glad I did it and incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have done it, but I must admit I’m a happier person now I’m out of it.

That said, England still doesn’t feel like ‘home’.

It feels familiar … it feels nice … but having lived in so many countries over so many years, home for me is ultimately where Jill, Otis and Rosie are as opposed to a particular place, city or country.

In fact, I would say if I was made to choose a place where I feel I most ‘belong’, I would say Shanghai, that’s how much I love and loved that place.

That said, I’m incredibly excited we have just bought our first proper family home and I love being so close to my best friend – and Otis’ odd parents – Paul and Shelly, so while the country is acting in ways that are downright madness, I can honestly say I am in a happier, healthier place than I was a year ago and for that, I am grateful to everyone and everything that got me here.

Happy Monday.



Home Away From Home …

So I’m back.

I survived and no one died.

I have to say that while I love China, Beijing is not my favourite place in the World.

It’s also one of the most user-unfriendly … with everything located miles apart and the heat being utterly oppressive.

But that country still has my heart.

Every time I go there, I leave with an ache.

It will forever be a very special place to me.

Not just because Otis was born there.

Or that – in some ways – it changed my career forever.

Or my wife found a group of people that gave her a greater sense of community than she’d had in decades.

Nor even the fact I was there at one of the pivotal times in its modern history.

It’s just because in all the crazy of the country, I felt I found my spiritual home.

I appreciate that sounds mental.

Even my Chinese friends can’t work out why I love it so much.

But I do.

The people are warm, fascinating and interesting.

The culture is rich with history, modernity, complexity and beauty.

The hunger and ambition is unparalleled with anywhere I’ve been to prior or since.

I love the sense of connection and isolation that China makes me feel about myself.

That sense of returning to a place I truly felt was home for 7 wonderful years while also realizing that period might as well have been 10,000 years ago given how quick the country has changed.

And while I acknowledge there are some very questionable decisions being made by the leaders right now – decisions that undermine the potential of millions – the people within the country have been nothing but kind and compassionate to me and my family and for that, they will always have my heart.

Wherever my family are will always be the definition of home for me.

But China is the one place where that rule has some flexibility in it.

Which is the greatest compliment I could ever give a country, though if I still dislike Beijing.



A Great Week …
July 29, 2019, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, China

… because as you read this, I’ll be flying to China for pretty much the whole week.

Which means no more posts for this week.

Peace. Silence. Calmness.

How about that for a great Monday!

Oh, and to my friends in Shanghai who are now fearing for their lives now they’ve heard about my impending trip – don’t worry, I’m not going to ruin your Monday – I’m going to be in Beijing, so you’re entirely safe.

You’re welcome.

See you next week, I’ll leave you with this:

Comments Off on A Great Week …


A Love Letter To China’s Wonderful, Beautiful, Brilliant Chaos …

Of all the places I’ve lived, China is the one that has left the strongest mark.

Frankly I absolutely and utterly loved my time there.

Sure part of that was because of Wieden – I loved and will always love them – but it was more than just that.

It was the people, the madness, the history, the chaos, the energy, the values …

Yes there were some things that bothered me immensely, but overall, I was intoxicated with the place and will always be that way.

I believe you can tell how much a place gets into your soul by how you react when it’s under attack. Not by guns, but by media and politicians.

If I look back on my 7 years there, I was very quick to jump to its defense when Western media decided to take an isolated incident and claim it represented the beliefs, behaviors and values of over a billion people.

Were there some shit things that happened there when I was there?

Absolutely.

Were there moments of madness and sadness that will never leave my memory?

100%

Are there some terrible restrictions on people lives and opinions there?

Sure.

But these are not isolated to China … every country has bad people doing horrific things, every country is creating an increasing division between rich and poor and in terms of government, countries either are doing their own version of ‘inflicting their will on the people’ or wishing they could get away with the stuff the Chinese government get away with.

I’m looking at you UK, Australia and the land of ‘the free’.

And that’s why I can still truly love the place and feel privileged for the experience it gave me.

I have absolute pride my son was born there.

Whatever happens in his life, he was born in China and for me, that means our links to the country will always be strong.

And while I will always be passionate in the pursuit of changing Westerners perceptions about the Middle Kingdom, there are some things that I just stand back and accept will just reinforce certain prejudices.

Some – like Uncle Martian – are terrible, especially as it was a conscious decision.

Some – like this, below – are perfection, especially as they were done in innocence.

[And if not, that’s even more genius]

China, I love you.

Lose the bullshit but please never lose your beautiful madness.



Chapters Help Us Move Forward. Books Change Our Direction.

I left Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai 2 years ago this month.

I have very special memories of my time there and these two people – Leon and Carina [both circled in the photo above, which was a gift from my planning team when I left W+K, even though they forgot to put Debi in there] – played a big part in that.

Sure they were pains in the ass and opinionated as all fuck [though Carina did it in a much nicer way than Leon ever could] but it was – and still is – an honour to be able to say they were on “our team”.

Now – by pure coincidence – they’re both moving onto their next adventure and that will mean there will be no more of my mob infecting the place [though I did find Chris, even if he got away with never having to work with me] so I just want to say thank you to them for all they did for me, the team and – most importantly – the work.

Their loss is a big one for everyone but no one could be anything but excited and happy for the bigger and better things they’re about to do.

So to Leon and Carina, go have a shitload of fun … but please make sure you hide stickers throughout the office before you leave.



The Most Selfish Generation In History …

Hello … I’m back.

It was amazing.

OK, it was more for being with the family than the physical place … but that’s because I’m not a ‘stay-down-on-the-farm’ kind of person, though I appreciate some of you may suggest it’s more because I’m not a ‘pay-for-my-own-holidays’ kind of person.

Pah.

Anyway, I wanted to return with a post that matters a lot to me.

To be honest, all of them matter to me … but as of late, I’ve been writing stuff that matters more than most.

Things like female leadership, prejudice and when work tries to kill you

Well, while this isn’t connected to the industry I work in, it is about an issue very dear to me.

Living overseas is one of the greatest privileges you can have.

Sure, there are things you give up and miss – but what you gain more than compensates for it.

Case in point. I recently had dinner with Rodi and David in San Francisco.

The photo from the evening is at the top of this post.

None of us live here. None of us work here. None of us are from here.

In fact all of us live in totally different countries and come from different parts of the world.

Rodi is Australian/Ukrainian, David is Taiwanese and I’m British/Italian.

To make matters even more random, we all met in China.

Yet despite having all moved on from our time at Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai, we remain connected … not because of the company we worked at, but because of the generosity of the country we experienced.

This dinner represents what England has voted entire generations never to have.

It’s an act of utter selfishness.

Utter, utter selfishness.

So many in society like to bestow that label on the youth of the UK, but it’s not them.

It’s the Daily Mail reading, over 55’s who have enjoyed good fortune in their life but don’t want anyone else to have it. Who don’t want anyone else to evolve and grow because they don’t want to be left behind and feel less important.

Selfish, egotistical, bigoted and blinkered pricks.

The reality is my ability to live around the World has made my life unquestionably bigger, better and fuller.

Almost everything I have and treasure is because of my life outside of England.

That is not in any way meant to say life in England is bad – far from it – but anyone who thinks there is greater value staying isolated versus expanding the possibilities of life through adventures, experiences and friends that exist beyond the borders of our shores has either never done it or is frightened of it.

May I have dinners with friends in countries none of us come from for many years to come.