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


The Future Has Different Rules …

As I’ve written before, I didn’t go to University. I knew pretty early on that I didn’t want to continue my formal education.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t/don’t like to learn, it just means I find it far more powerful when it’s not in an academic environment.

I still remember telling my parents my decision and being slightly scared.

They desperately wanted me to go so I was worried they would see this as a slight on them – which is absolutely not what it was meant to be.

They asked for my reasons and when I told them, they said that they would support my decision as long as I applied in case I changed my mind.

So I did.

And I got accepted.

But I was still sure not going was the right thing for me, so my parents – while obviously disappointed – supported my decision and never brought it up again.

Looking back now, I feel that must have been very hard for them.

At that point, going to university was the fast track to a career and yet – as another act of their love and confidence in me – they pushed me to follow the things that genuinely interested and excited me and hoped it would all work out.

I’d say it did.

But now I’m a dad and while Otis is only 3, the thought of education looms large.

Would I do the same thing as him?

Of course I want to help equip my son in the best way possible for the life he wants to lead and one of those ways is to provide him with a good education. But the fact is I’m vehemently opposed to private education and while general access schools can be very good, the reality is private tends to offer better opportunities simply because of the funding and the facilities … which leads to an interesting conflict.

What’s best for my son versus what’s true to me?

Given Otis is so young right now, the decision will ultimately be mine and his Mum’s, but once he’s older, what do I do if he chooses a path I feel is not in his best interests.

Sure, it worked out for me, but the World was different back then and then I saw the ‘god’ instagram above – a sentiment that was absolutely reinforced by our recent America In The Raw research – and realised that by the time he has to make some choices, he will be far more aware of what he needs to do to increase his odds of success than his Mum or me.

But then I realised something else …

It’s not just about acknowledging their view of their World will be better than yours, it’s also backing your parenting.

When my Mum and Dad supported my decision, they were ultimately supporting how they raised me.

They believed the values and smarts they’d instilled in me were the right ones to enable me to make the right choices … and while I know they would have been there if it all fell down, that sense of confidence and belief probably enabled me to go to places I might otherwise not have done. Places I might not otherwise have felt I deserved to be.

And that’s why backing your team is everything.

Of course you have to instill values and standards into them, but once that’s done, you have to back them including what they think is right – even if you don’t – because if that doesn’t happen, you’re literally stopping their potential rather than liberating it.

Thank you Mum and Dad. Again.

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Favourite Days …

Can you remember some of your greatest days?

I don’t just mean the big ones, but the ones that should have been a ‘normal 24 hours’ but somehow turned into something different.

Better.

Seminal.

Jill recently sent me a photo that captures one of those days.

Yes, that’s me watching TV.

More specifically, watching Forest.

Live.

Playing Arsenal.

In the FA Cup.

Fallen giants versus FA Cup holders.

Championship team versus Premiership establishment.

Managerless versus longest serving manager.

And we won.

4-2.

FOUR BLOODY TWO.

More than that, we won in style … so much so that a blind Arsenal fan, who was at the game, expressed that he had finally found a positive to being blind because he didn’t have to see how much Forest bossed Arsenal on the pitch, but only hear it.

But as much as that is most definitely a big and memorable event, that’s not what made it seminal for me.

It’s that little head resting against my body on the sofa.

Yep, that’s Otis.

Watching the game with me.

His first ever football match.

Where his Dad’s beloved Nottingham Forest, won.

Now I appreciate this isn’t the same as when I was a kid and started watching Forest.

Back then, they were not just winning against the champions, they were the champions.

First of the league, then of Europe and beyond.

Their success cemented my love of the reds … taking it beyond just geographic loyalty and into more personal identity.

And even though they have fallen so far from those heady days – where they have had 26 different managers in the time Arsene Wegner has been boss of the gunners – I still love them and hope this match, where Forest secured an unlikely yet thoroughly deserved victory in front of a 3 year old living in Manhattan Beach, means he will love them too.

Maybe I’m being massively unfair on Otis.

Maybe I’m setting him up for a lifetime of disappointment.

But then, when you hear stories like this that come out of matches like that, it does teach you that the events of the past don’t have to dictate the events of the future if you commit to always doing your best.



How To Tell You’re Getting On …
January 19, 2018, 6:14 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Culture, Daddyhood, Fatherhood

In December, I went to more Christmas parties than I have done in years.

That’s not because I’d suddenly become popular – oh no – it’s because you didn’t really have them in China, mainly because the only role for Christmas was to extract cash from expats who were missing home than to celebrate the actual occasion.

Anyway, there was one week where I was out till 3am on two consecutive nights.

I know … I know …

What made it even more amazing is that on both following mornings I had to be up at 5:30am which meant I had a total of 5 hours sleep over 48 hours.

Once upon a time I would have been fine with that.

Well, maybe not fine – but I could have managed. But this time, I felt like I had literally been run over by a truck.

So much so that when I went out for lunch with an old Wieden [NIKE] colleague that weekend, I apparently spent so much of our time telling him how knackered I was, that he sent me this.

Nice huh?

Prick.

Which all goes to explain why the thing I look forward to the most at weekends these days – after doing my fatherly duties of running around an insanely energetic 3 year old for a few hours – is sleeping rather than partying, which also explains why this post from 2014 is even more relevant today than it was then.

Have a great weekend.

Zzzzz Zzzzz …



My Dad Is In The Music …
January 16, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Anniversary, Attitude & Aptitude, Dad, Daddyhood, Death

So today is the 19th anniversary of my Dad passing away.

Every year I write how this time between him passing and now blows my mind because while in some ways, it does feel long ago, in others it feels relatively recent.

I’ve been having a number of conversations with people about death recently.

People who have lost loved ones and are struggling to cope.

And to them all, I tell them it’s OK to feel that way.

It’s normal because the situation is terrible.

I tell them how it took me until the last week of my Dad’s life to come to terms with the fact he was dying and then a subsequent 10 years to come to terms that he had gone.

I don’t say this because I want them to think they will feel this way for years – because there’s a good chance they won’t – I say this to let them know they’re not weird, or wrong or bad for feeling and thinking these things.

And while I wish the reasons for me knowing this didn’t happen, they did and I feel grateful that I’m able to acknowledge my Dad has taught me as much in his death as he did in his life.

That’s quite a gift when you come to think of it.

It means he’s still with me even though he’s been gone for 19 years.

And while I would still do anything to see him and talk to him – especially as so much has happened in the time he has gone that I’d love to hear his perspective on – I’m so, so happy the memories I have of him are now the joyous ones rather than the hardship he went through in his last few years.

One of those memories is from 1984.

I know it was that year because it revolves around the launch of Queen’s ‘The Works’ album.

Oh I was so excited. It had been a couple of years since their last album – the much maligned ‘Hot Space’ – and the reviews said this was a return to form.

Paul – my best mate – and I had been debating what the songs would be like based on the titles we had read in the Fan Club magazine and all we wanted to do was get our hands on that piece of vinyl.

Then some good news … our local radio station, Trent FM, were going to give away the album to the 10th caller on the rock show that night.

I went home and laid out all the albums on the floor in front of me – sure they were going to ask a question relating to one of their songs.

As the time for the competition came, I got more and more excited.

I tuned the stereo to 96.2FM, ready to pounce.

The question was asked, “What year did Queen write Bohemian Rhapsody?”

I knew this. I KNEW THIS.

As the DJ started playing a Queen song, I dialed the number as quickly as I could.

Engaged.

Urged on by my watching parents, I pressed redial [my Dad LOVED telephones so we always had the latest, ha] …

Engaged again.

And then, as the Queen song faded out, I heard the fatal words from the DJ that they had a winner and it obviously wasn’t me.

Gutted. Absolutely gutted.

Zoom forward the next day and I came home from school.

I came into the lounge and was preparing to watch a bit of TV when my Dad asked if he could listen to a song of his.

[The stereo was in the lounge with the TV]

Of course I said yes, and while Dad was playing with the record player, I just faffed about doing something.

But then something strange happened.

Rather than the expected operatic tones coming out the speaker, there was a drum rhythm … a semi-recognizable drum rhythm … THE DRUM RHYTHM THAT FORMED THE START OF RADIO GAGA!!!

I’m guessing the look of confusion on my face forced my Dad to hold up the album cover of Queen, ‘The Works’.

OH. MY. GOD.

Dad – and Mum – had bought it for me.

An impromptu present because they knew I loved that band with all my heart and was sad I didn’t win the competition from the night before.

It might have honestly been the first time my Dad had ever bought a popular record, but I ran up to him and gave him a huge hug and a big kiss on the cheek.

“Enjoy it” he said … and with that, he walked out the room, leaving me to bathe in the music of my favorite band.

Now don’t get me wrong, my parents were very kind and generous to me … but we never really had much cash to splash, so while they did all they could to make sure I didn’t go without, the things I got most from them was love, support and encouragement.

But here I was with an album.

And it wasn’t even my birthday.

Talk about feeling like you’ve won the lottery.

I remember that day as if it was yesterday and even now, when I listen to that album, I feel a sense of warmth from it … a sense of togetherness and love.

And it’s for that reason I’ll be listening to the album today, because I want to have that feeling again because while my parents ensured I felt their love to last a lifetime, you can always do with more.

I miss you Dad.

I miss you so, so much.

I would give anything for one day to just talk to you.

Discuss all that has happened. Discuss all that is going on in my head. Introduce you to my family. Take you to your garden.

Hold you hand and kiss your head.

It might be 19 years, but I miss you like it was yesterday.

You were the best and I’m glad Mum is with you so you are no longer alone.

Love you.

Rx

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Lessons From The Past For The Future …

It’s the last day of the first week of blog posts for the new year.Congratulations, you’ve survived.

So I thought I’d end the week on a positive.

No, a real one.

You see there was recently read a Linkedin article asking people what piece of advice they would give to their children.

Obviously this is a big, big question because ultimately, there’s so many things you could say and want to say.

But then I realized the advice I got from my parents is still probably the best advice I could give.

Advice that not only prepares you for the life ahead, but prepares you to get the most out of what is there and who you are – which, when you come to think of it, is probably the best advice of all.

So with that, I pass onto Otis what my beloved parents passed on to me.

+ A life of fulfillment is more enjoyable than a life of contentment.

+ Be interested in what others are interested in.

+ Make your own mistakes not someone else’s.

I might not have managed to do them all, all the time, but those pieces of advice have helped me enjoy a life that – let’s face it – I don’t deserve to have, which might be the one thing I’ve done that my parents would be the happiest about.

So to Mum and Dad – thank you – you might not realize it, but you’ve given your grandson one of the most valuable bits of advice he’ll ever have.

Have a great weekend.



If You Read This Post, It’s The Equivalent Of Winning Survivor. Kinda.

So this is it, the last post of the year.And what a year it has been.

The biggest thing was obviously leaving a company I loved in a country I loved to move my family to the other side of the World to start a new adventure.

The impact of that move has been bigger than we thought or expected.

For me personally, it has revealed a bunch of insecurities and self-doubt that I thought I had kidded myself into believing I’d kept locked away for good.

I was wrong.

However 6 months in, not only do we feel settled and confident about where we are, what we’re doing and what we want to do … we are reminded of the reasons we made such a major move on an almost daily basis.

Put simply, Otis has literally blossomed living a healthier, outdoor life and while we will always miss many of the parts of the life we enjoyed in China, his happiness and well-being makes the move worth while.

Of course that won’t be enough to make us stay here forever …

If truth be told, we’re wanderers so the idea of staying in one place forever freaks us out. Or at least me.

Don’t get me wrong, we are loving our life in America and are incredibly grateful to be here, but the reality is it’s probably not our long, long-term home so in the time we are here, our goal is to enjoy the opportunity, get as much out of the opportunity and make as much of a difference because of the opportunity as we can.

[For the record, I reserve the right to delete the above sentence because if moving countries again ever becomes a real possibility, I imagine the idea of leaving a house next to the beach – see photo at the top of this post, a photo I took on my way to work – to go some place in the middle of nowhere will suddenly feel a lot less appealing]

And one of those opportunities that has presented itself is having my best friend come to visit us over Christmas.

In all the time I’ve known Paul – 47 years – he has not once spent Christmas with me.

Or me with him.

Sure we have met up on Christmas day for a drink or to swap presents, but we have never spent the whole holidays together.

More than that, in my 7 years living in China, he didn’t visit us once.

NOT ONCE.

His wonderful wife did – twice in fact – but not Paul, but now we’re in LA – where even in winter it’s sunny and beautiful – he’s on the first fucking plane over here.

And despite that showing me he’s a ‘using little prince’, I’m happy.

Ridiculously happy.

As is Otis …

For us, having Otis ‘odd parents’ [we’re not religious and they’re definitely odd] come stay is the perfect way to end a particularly interesting year.Ever since my Dad died in January ’99, Christmas lost its power.

Sure, I still looked forward to it, but it was always underpinned by the feeling it was when my Dad fell ill for the final time.

However since Otis came on the scene, that darkness has been broken and I fully expect this year – in a proper house with my family and the people who feel like family even though they’re not – to be the one where that spirit of the holiday truly comes back into force.

I’m grateful for that too.

As I am for everyone who has looked out for me, my wonderful wife, my epic Son and even my pampered princess of a cat, Rosie.

Whether it was in comments on this blog or conversations over the year.

Which is why I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and – even more importantly – a wonderful year ahead.

For a boy from Nottingham who wasn’t very good at school, I do feel I hit the jackpot and while there are many reasons for that, a big part is the community I feel a part of which has been formed – in part – through the insults thrown at me on this blog.

Long may they continue. [I know they will]

With that, I leave you with a family photo we recently took to commemorate our ‘LA life’.

All was good until we discovered that every shot clearly highlighted my poor choice of t-shirt.

Shit! Literally.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Happy New Year.

See you in January.

PS: To my darling Clare Pickens, I know today is your last day at Wieden Amsterdam. I can tell you, it will be as emotional to everyone there – and beyond – as it is to you. You’re an absolute legend and I’m so, so glad you’re in my life. And have put up with me. See you soon. Love ya.



Happy Birthday My Wonderful One …
December 11, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: Anniversary, Attitude & Aptitude, Birthday, Comment, Daddyhood, Jill, Mum, My Fatherhood, Otis, Parents

So this is the last week of posts for 2017 so prepare for a bunch of sentimental claptrap as the week continues. Sorry, I mean ‘even more’ sentimental claptrap.But today I am talking about something else.

Something that continues to be one of the best and most amazing parts of my life.

I’m talking about my son Otis, who today hits his 3rd birthday today.

THREE.

How is that possible?

And yet it is and I’m both thrilled and petrified about it.

Thrilled because he is the most wonderful little boy I could ever hope to know and petrified because – as the cliche goes – he is growing up so, so, so fast.

I can remember everything about the day he decided to come out and say hello.

From the moment Jill woke up at 2am feeling ‘funny’ to seeing his face at 6:27pm.

Up until his birth, he was about 7 days past the due date and a part of me that was very happy about that fact.Not because I didn’t want to meet him, but if he was born on the 12th December, our medical insurance would have clicked over for another year and all the costs associated with his delivery would be covered.

Of course he came out 5 hours 33 minutes too early for that to happen … proving that even before he was a minute old, he had the same annoying, cheeky-bastard traits of his father.

And yet, despite having just cost his Mum and Dad thousands of dollars by being born on the 11th, he has only filled our lives with happiness, excitement, joy and love.

And I mean filled.

To the point of overflowing.

This little boy is a delight.

He’s funny, kind, compassionate, curious, mischievous and loving.

He is everything I could ever have hoped to have in a child and a ton more besides.

I am incredibly proud to be his Father and hope he will feel the same way for all his life.

So with that, I want to say something to him that he can look back on whenever he faces trials and tribulations in his life.

My Dearest Otis.

You are the best thing that has ever happened to me and your Mum.

You make everything worth while.

The late nights, the early mornings, the decisions we made focused around your needs.

Everything.

So much has happened in the last 12 months and yet you have taken it all in your stride.

Your Mum and Dad are under no illusion how challenging this must have felt and yet you remained happy and open to all that is around you and we are in awe of the way you have coped with it all.

We will continue to do all we can to equip you with the skills and knowledge to handle whatever life throws at you and all we ask in return is you stay as cheeky, curious and happy as you are. Be safe knowing there are lots of people around the world looking out for you and we will always support you in the things that excite you and move you and will love you, regardless of what trouble you cause us ahead.

But don’t push it too far …

Happy birthday my dearest little boy.

Oh what a treasure you are.

Mummy and Daddy [and Rosie]

xoxoxoxoxoxoxox