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


Is The Internet Sponsored By Pornhub?
April 6, 2020, 6:15 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Dad, Daddyhood, Embarrassing Moments, Family, Jill, Otis, Parents

A while back it was ‘Book Day’ at Otis’ school.

I’d never heard of it before … but apparently it’s a day where the kids dress up as a character from their favourite book.

Of course, what it really is, is the commercialisation of yet another event … a chance for companies to get even more money out of people, but as it’s for books and for kids – all parents nod and hand over their cash.

For the record, Otis went from the dinosaur from ‘Dinosaurs Don’t Eat Tacos’.

Anyway, in an apparent prestigious move, Jill was invited to go and read a book to the class … so wanting to get in the spirit she looked for a book character outfit to wear.

Below proves the evil geniuses of the internet …



Remember, Newton’s 3rd Law Relates To Emotions, Not Just Actions …

OK, so now we have got over the fun and frolics of yesterdays April Fool post, I want to bring it back to something serious.

Recently we decided we would have a day where Otis could make all the decisions.

He immediately went for it big time by asking to go to a local builders cafe for breakfast, where he ordered chips, drank a Coke Zero and watched Paw Patrol on his iPad.

You can see him in the photo at the top of this post.

Living the dream.

Anyway, I mentioned this on Facebook when someone I’ve not met but vaguely know wrote:

“We practice ‘good choices’ day, you should try it”.

Now while I was sure it had come out more condescending than intended – this person does have form in being judgemental from their self-appointed pedestal – and Jill decided to inform him of this.

She replied:

“You don’t know me or my son.

Your comment comes across as judgmental and condescending and makes me uncomfortable because it implies my son was making ‘bad’ decisions.

Perhaps if you did know us you would understand our parenting style more and that we aim not to use words like ‘good’ or ‘bad’ because of their unfortunate side effect of creating shame.

Decisions are just decisions, and I believe that kids need space to make a whole variety… nobody makes ‘good’ decisions all the time and I want him to grow up knowing that that’s ok, normal and part of life.

Perhaps your comment really was just about sharing what you see as a fun idea, but your way of expressing it missed the mark…”

As I am sure you will all agree, that was a pretty awesome response.

But more importantly, it highlights how we are attempting to bring up Otis.

Coming back to England has been wonderful, but the one thing that has surprised us is the pretty draconian approach to instilling certain qualities into our kids.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate it’s being done for good reason, but the overt shame/reward approach bothers us. A lot.

There are many reasons for it – and of course, each to their own – but this poster sums up the one we fear the most.

This situation applies to all.

Not just kids … but family members, friends and colleagues.

What’s worse is this tends to stick with people.

It is one of the elements that has driven so many of the Corporate Gaslighting stories.

I get situations can make us angry.

I get people can do stupid things.

But when your approach to correction is shame, you’re trying to improve the outcome of one thing through the destruction of another.

You might not mean it.

You might not want it.

But you are doing it.



Memories From The Past …
March 10, 2020, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment, Dad, Family, Mum, Mum & Dad

The building above is called The Chateau.

But this wasn’t in rural France – oh no – it was in deepest West Bridgford, Nottingham.

It was also a Berni Inn.

For those not of a certain age, a Berni Inn was a restaurant where you could get a steak main with a strawberry and cream dessert for £4.99

Sounds cheap doesn’t it?

Well it was, but they still made it feel like it was posh.

Hence restaurant names like, ‘The Chateau’.

We didn’t go there much.

In fact we didn’t go out for dinner anywhere really – except for the odd birthday.

But that’s not the reason I am writing about it.

It’s because it’s also the last place I ever went out for lunch with Mum and Dad.

I was living in Australia, but had flown back for Mum’s birthday.

Dad had had a stroke, but even though he couldn’t talk well, he was still able to walk – albeit with a wobble and a stick.

To be honest, I don’t remember much about the lunch, but I do remember it was lovely.

A gentle time as a family.

All together.

Enjoying a moment that we probably all secretly knew may not happen again.

There’s some things that stick in my mind …

Getting a taxi to the restaurant as we no longer had a car.

The surreal moment where I had to go to the bathroom with Dad to make sure he was OK [he was], which brought home the severity of his illness to me.

Dad managing to utter the word “knickerbocker” to the waiter/waitress when he was asked if he wanted dessert and he absolutely loved it.

For anyone who saw us that day, they would have just viewed a family – like the countless other families around us – having a nice lunch.

But to us, it was so much more.

A moment of normality at a time our lives were in chaos.

A chance to enjoy the privilege of the mundane.

An opportunity to be a typical family once again.

It was the last time it was to happen for us.

I miss it.

I miss them.

I’m so glad I have a photo to remember the day by.




And In The Blink Of An Eye, The Years Pass By …
March 9, 2020, 6:15 am
Filed under: Dad, Death, Family, Jill, Mum, Mum & Dad, Otis, Parents

Oh Mum.

5 years.

It was the worst day of my life.

The hope. The love. The nervousness. The concern. The fear. The confusion. The horror. The prayers. The goodbye.

A lifetime of emotions run over the space of 12 hours.

I remember every minute. Literally.

And while I try not to think about it, I will. I will go back to that place so that I can feel close to the last time I was next to you.

Holding your hand.

Whispering words of love and hope.

Telling you how I would ensure Otis would know you and that I would always honour you when the tragic events of the day played its final act.

Oh how I still wish it ended on a positive.

Everything was set up for that … we had plans, big and exciting ones … but no, a rare condition put paid to that.

I still feel there was some weird circle of life stuff going on – from the conversations we had in our last 6 months together to the fact Otis was born 3 months before your operation [so I’m extra grateful that the doctor agreed to delay the operation to ensure both things didn’t happen at the same time] to the tragic reality that you died in the hospital where I was born.

And while that all fills me with sadness – even now – it also let’s me feel things were done to completion. Where the things we needed to say or show were done right. Where I could say goodbye to you in a way where I have no regrets.

Of course I am sad that we have not been able to share and talk about the adventures of the last 5 years. The moves. The madness. The wonderfulness of your beloved grandson … but given Dad’s situation changed so quickly, leaving us in paralysis and so many things frozen in time, it is a ray of light in an abyss of sadness.

That said, I miss you.

I miss you so much.

I would give anything to have one more chat … one more hug … one more kiss.

I always felt it, but now you’re gone I’m even more thankful you were my mum.

Honoured even.

Everything I am is because of something you – and dad – did for me.

The support and encouragement.

The lessons and the ideals.

The patience and forgiveness.

You were the one that taught me the importance of caring. You were the one who taught me to be open with my feelings and emotions. You were the one who created the foundation for me to build myself upon.

Believing in me in ways – and at times – that seemed madness.

Offering your gentle confidence.

A quiet shelter.

The time, space and attention for me to grow, explore and share.

Nourishing and nurturing me.

I cannot put into words all I am grateful to you for, other than to say my life is filled with memories either created with you, designed by you or encouraged by you and that is the greatest gift anyone could ever receive.

I miss you.

Give dad a kiss while you’re holding hands.

Rx

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Add To Society, Don’t Just Take …

That quote is from my Dad.

I love it.

Not just because it’s from him, but because what it means.

You see he taught me – through his actions and behaviour – that the key to pretty much everything and anything is spending time really getting to know people rather than just focusing your attention on chasing the answers you want from them.

Given my Mum had a similar view means I guess I was always destined to place greater value in the authenticity of subculture than the simplistic, convenience of a focus group.

The reason I’m saying this is that everyone is banging on about the importance of speed, efficiency and optimisation, but are forgetting there’s a huge difference between information and insight … which may explain why society has so much but values so little.

What makes this even more frustrating is companies spend billions each year attempting to ‘earn loyalty’ from customers by trying to do things that they think are more personal to them … which is why I would suggest that if they’re serious about resonating with their audience [rather than just being mildly relevent] they could do with being more like my Dad. And Mum.



Thinking Of You Dad …

Today is the 21st anniversary of Dad dying.

That blows my mind as I remember how that day unfolded so clearly, it could have been yesterday.

The only good thing about all the years that have passed is that I can now remember the good times with him – when he was healthy – rather than just focus on the 3 years he was deeply affected by his stroke.

And because of that, I want to talk about a time I remember vividly with him.

I had done well at school and Mum and Dad said that I could have a toy for all my hard work.

I was pretty good at school but at exam time, I would freak out and basically become paralyzed with fear.

Anyway, Dad took me to Broadmarsh Centre in Nottingham.

Broadmarsh was – and still is – the inferior shopping centre in Nottingham, but it had a dedicated toyshop so off we went.

I was so excited.

I loved going on trips with Dad and to get a gift as well was mind-blowing.

I remember him telling me to look around and see if there was something I liked.

The problem was I liked EVERYTHING, but I knew we didn’t have a lot of money so I tried to choose wisely.

I remember there was a Dinky Toy, Bell Helicopter I liked.

It was orange but the cabin was blue and it looked cool.

I showed it Dad.

“Do you like it?” he asked.

I nodded in wild agreement.

“Well we can get that then …”

And just as we were about to go to the till, my eyes spotted a die-cast Rolls Royce.

This was not a Matchbox car, this was something else.

A ‘to scale’ model of a Roller with doors that opened, a boot and bonnet that opened and a steering wheel that actually turned the wheels.

It was AMAZING.

It was also expensive … I think about £5, which back in the late seventies, was a big amount.

Dad saw me playing with it and asked, “Do you like that more?”

I nodded but felt guilty as I knew it was expensive and didn’t want Dad to spend so much money on me.

I remember him looking at me with his beautiful blue eyes and warm face.

He smiled.

“Well …,” he said, “… you’re looking at me with those moo-cow eyes, and you have done so well at school that maybe we can do it just this once”.

I was flabbergasted.

I was going to get the coolest car I’d ever seen.

I remember being so happy and showing Mum when we got home.

I remember hearing Dad explain to her I’d looked at him with these big ‘moo-cow’ eyes and he couldn’t resist.

I remember how happy they were for making me so happy.

And while it would be easy for them to think getting me a new toy was the reason for my joy – and it certainly contributed to it – the reality is I was happy because my parents were always caring, loving, supporting and encouraging.

The things they sacrificed for me is unbelievable.

Of course I didn’t realize it at the time, but what they did without so I could live with is amazing.

I hope they know that I worked this out.

I hope I told them when they were around.

My childhood was a blueprint for great childhoods.

I never wanted for their love or support.

I never felt they didn’t care or weren’t engaged.

My Mum and Dad were amazing to me … as teachers, carers, providers and inspirers.

Sure we had our moments – often caused by me being a cheeky or mischievous little shit – but even then, I never doubted they cared.

Never doubted they wanted the best for me.

And while Mum and Dad would have preferred it if I’d followed a career in law or medicine or a formal music education … they believed it was more important I lived a life of fulfillment rather than contentment.

It is a lesson I hope to pass on to my son one day.

Their grandson.

Oh how I wish they could have met him.

I don’t have many regrets but that is one of them.

So what I do instead is instill their lessons and love into his life.

So that while he may never meet them, he will always feel their presence.

Dad, I miss you.

I miss you so much.

I would love to tell you and show you so many things.

To see your reaction. To hear your questions.

You may have been gone from my physical life for 21 years, but you are still so deeply entrenched in my life.

It gives me strength when I face challenges.

Support when I feel alone.

Perspective when I get consumed by small things pretending to be big.

I love you.

Give Mum a kiss from me as you hold her hand.

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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