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


A Half Century Of Beautifully Ridiculous …
June 16, 2020, 5:15 am
Filed under: Anniversary, Birthday, Comment, Daddyhood, Emotion, Family, Friendship, Jill, Love, Loyalty, Otis, Paul, Shelly

I know I’m on holiday and there should be no posts this week, but today – like yesterday – is a moment that needs to be celebrated, even if I’m not around.

June.

1970.

2 amazing things happened.

The first was I was born … hahahaha.

But the second occurred 4 days later, when Paul Hill popped out.

Though some of you in Nottingham will know him as the Frothy Coffee Man.

Since that day, we’ve basically been inseparable.

From discovering we lived on the same street – at least initially – to going through every school class together, every drama and hardship together and every exciting adventure together.

From kindergarten to college … divorce to death … mortgage to marriage … we’ve always been together.

Always.

And now my parents have passed away, he is the person I’ve known – and who has known me – the longest my life and that might be part of the reason why I genuinely regard him as family.

Hell, I haven’t bought a full page ad in a newspaper for anybody else … and that includes my wife and son!

I don’t know what it was, but we just clicked from the second we met.

A bond that has remained to this day.

And I genuinely mean a bond.

Even when I spent 25 years away from the UK, Paul was always my best mate.

We could go a month without talking – or a year without seeing each other – but the moment we were back together, whether in the flesh or on the phone, it was there.

The bond.

Solid as all fuck.

Like no time had been between us.

Now if you ask my wife, there is one thing that defines this … our immaturity.

You see, while life has changed for both of us, when we’re together, we return to being cheeky, mischievous 10 year olds.

OK, some of that is because Paul has done some momentously stupid things that makes me cry with laughter … and some of it might be that we have a lifetime of memories and experiences we’ve built up … but generally, when we’re together, we get younger.

Or more precisely, act younger.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am that our wives put up with it.

Just like I can’t tell you how happy I am our wives adore each other.

But there’s something even better than that, and that’s how Otis talks about his odd-parents.

Having my son see my oldest friend and his wife as part of his family is such an amazing feeling.

Maybe part of this is because Paul and Shelly don’t have kids of their own …

Maybe part of this is because Otis has spent so much time with them …

Maybe part of this is because Paul acts younger than Otis …

But whatever the reason, I am so happy he see’s ‘Uncle Paul and Auntie Shelly’ as being important in his life because I want all of them to know how important they are in ours.

To reach 50 with my best friend is a wonderful thing.

I would love to just sit down and talk about all the things we can remember together.

And while I could do that today – when I go to see him – it would take a long time.

But there are some things that stand out to me …

From him ALWAYS picking me as the ‘dog’ in the song ‘Old McDonald’ … so all the kids in kindergarten would smack me on the head.

To the time he came back from a family trip to Hong Kong with the first digital watch I’d ever seen with a calculator in it.

When we bumped into each other in LAX, not knowing our wives had spent 6 months secretly planning a trip for us all to go to Vegas and renew our vows with an Elvis impersonator.

That year he came back from the school 6 week holidays about 10 feet taller than when he left.

When we stayed up all night in Sheffield so we could get to the front of the stadium to see Queen – only to learn they weren’t coming and we got Five Star instead.

To Mr One Eye, Round Table Christmas Tree, shoes on the wrong feet, the girls at Glens, BMX petition, the ‘Jessops’ mirror, Duchess, the ‘Denmark’ incident, wheelie competitions, a coach reversing up his parents driveway at midnight, Rock City on Friday night, Bangkok Shakes tours, sawing my finger off, his insanely large appendage, Passport to Pornland …. he has been involved or connected to every single event in my life.

Good. Bad. Happy. Sad. Big. Small. Fun. Stupid.

And yet in all this time together, we have only ever had one falling out.

One!

And all I can remember is that it was about a local radio DJ who had committed murder.

God knows what we disagreed on but all I know is we were waiting for the number 45 bus to take us into town from Greythorn Drive … we had an argument … and I walked off in a huff.

I think I rang him the next day in tears to apologise and he was like, “what are you apologising for?”.

And that’s him.

Kind. Generous. Stupid. Lovely.

The reality is, Paul and I have a friendship based on enjoying life rather than worrying about it.

That doesn’t mean we are immune from pressure, troubles and hardship.

We both have had – and will have – situations that have been challenging and devastating to us. And when they happen, we are there for each other. But when I think of my relationship with Paul, I think of happiness.

That I still think that 50 years down the line is both incredible and testimony to his character.

I am proud of who he is.

I am proud of what he’s doing..

I am proud I get to call him my best mate.

Happy birthday beautiful.

Can’t wait to see you.

Here’s to the next 10.

Rx

_________________________________________________________________________________

Oh hang on, I’ve forgotten the best part.

As you know I’m a sentimental fart.

When Paul turned 40, I wanted to get him something that would show him how much I adored him and so – as I mentioned earlier in this post – I bought a full page ad in the Nottingham Evening Post newspaper.

The ad is the picture showing Paul at different stages of his ‘development’.

What’s funny is the paper then interviewed me to find out more about my ridiculousness gift and for some reason, they kept referring to Shelly – his wife – as ‘second wife, Shelly’.

They even printed it!

Fortunately she took it in good humour, which is handy as I then bought her mugs and tea towels with it proudly emblazoned on them.

But 50 is a whole different age …

So while I wanted to get Paul something that celebrated his birthday milestone and showed how much I love him … I wanted it to be more subtle, more respectable, more in keeping with people of our age.

So I got him this … I hope he like it, it took me an age to edit it all together

Happy birthday big fella.

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Grow Old Stupid …

So this is it.

Today I’m 50.

I’m also on holiday.

Well, I say holiday, but I’m just going to be hanging out with the family for the next 10 days.

Yep, I’m going to be doing exactly the same as I have for the last couple of months thanks to quarantine.

Christ, this is the weirdest holiday I’ve ever had.

Literally doing more of the same, albeit without the zoom calls.

But I’m happy – as I know you will be given there won’t be any blog posts for all that time.

OK, as I wrote last week, I’m not exactly ecstatic about reaching my half century … but the fact is, I know I have little to complain about.

The life I have is one that is totally different to the one I imagined. Even aspired for.

When I look back at what my ‘goals’ were when I was in my late teens, it’s unbelievable how mundane they were.

How unambitious.

There are some reasons for that which reflect the times my family were going through – but even so, they’re pretty beige.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong for that, but when I compare it to the life I’ve had and the life I intend to have … they’re about as different as you can get.

That’s not meant to sound some ‘bigging up’ of myself, simply a reminder that your ambitions are a reflection of the World you live in which is why I will be forever grateful to my parents that they were so supportive of me going on an adventure when they could have so easily encouraged me to stay … especially as Dad had his stroke just as I was about to leave and basically the entire family was thrown into disarray.

Dad couldn’t talk or walk.

Mum had to leave her job immediately.

She didn’t drive and so for months, she had to catch the bus to the hospital.

And then, when he did come home, she had to do the majority of the care on her own.

In fact, when Dad got ill, I immediately said I was staying but Mum and Dad insisted I go, because as much as they loved me and would miss me, they were worried if I didn’t take this opportunity after months of planning, I may never go.

And they were right. I wouldn’t.

I’d have stayed in England forever.

Possibly never even left Nottingham.

And while there would be absolutely nothing wrong with that, they knew exploring the World would help me discover who I am.

To encourage that at the very worst time of their life is the definition of unconditional love and I hope if I am ever in that situation with Otis, I would do the same.

To be honest, it’s their encouragement to go explore and discover that became my biggest driver in life.

Basically, if I was going to go away – leave my family to deal with the terrible hardship of Dad’s illness – then the least I could do was embrace the opportunity they gave me. To never take it for granted and chase down the things that interested, challenged, intrigued and inspired me.

I’d like to think I did that and do that but I know I went through a lot of soul searching when came I back to England after they had died. I kept asking myself why did I do it then when I could have come back when they were still here.

Of course there’s many reasons for that – and there’s a good chance we won’t be in England forever – but I know for a fact that as proud as Mum was about all the places I lived [Dad only knew I was going to Australia and he would have be blown away if he knew all the places I’d lived and seen] she would be so happy I was back. For however long that may be.

From seeing others turn this age, it appears this is the moment where they tend to evaluate where they’ve been and where they’re going.

And while I’ve done a little bit in this post, the fact is I do it on a daily basis.

It’s as much about what pushes me towards the unknown as it is that keeps me focused on what matters to me.

Hence the title of this post …

Because when you don’t look for security in everything, you remain open to anything.

So now it’s time to wrap this post up.

You will be relieved to hear I am going to resist the urge to be overly nostalgic and sentimental, so will leave with this:

While they will be in my heart and mind throughout the day, I don’t mind admitting that I wish Mum and Dad were here to celebrate with me.

That said, I am so happy my beautiful wife and son are here to share my special day with me.

And I genuinely feel so lucky that the most important person from my earliest days – Paul – is still the most important friend in my life today.

As I said, overall, it’s been a pretty fucking amazing run so far – and while I have worked hard for it [contrary to what many will say] I’ve also been bloody lucky along the way too … and I intend to keep that run going – at least in terms of adventure and exploration. I still owe that to my Mum and Dad.

So happy birthday to me and I’ll see you in 10 days …

Older, but not wiser.

Exactly as I like it.

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What Happiness Looks Like …

Tomorrow I’m on holiday.

For over a week.

I am also turning 50.

Both of these pieces of news are no doubt going to fill you with happiness.

[Though there is a post tomorrow, so don’t get too excited]

Well, that is good, because this post is about just that.

Happiness.

One of the best things that has ever happened to me is Otis.

I loved the idea of kids – and at 18, I actually tried to adopt, hahaha – but after that, the idea was put on the back burner because frankly, I always thought I was too young.

I swear part of that is because Paul, my best mate, also didn’t have kids … so I was in some form of arrested development.

Anyway, one day Jill – who had been very patient – pointed out I wasn’t getting any younger so we decided to go for it.

Of course we then discovered the only we would pull this off is if we had IVF.

ARGH!

But then we got 2 pieces of luck.

First was being able to have the treatment in Australia. This was important because the process in Shanghai was so unbelievably weird, complicated and confusing, that we’re not sure we would have ever stood a chance there.

Secondly, the treatment worked first time. We are under no illusion how fortunate we were … though there was some sort of cosmic comedy karma in the fact we discovered Jill was pregnant on April 1.

Now I don’t regret being late to the Dad party.

The reality is I didn’t feel ready before.

OK, so I don’t know if men ever feel ready, but that’s probably less to do with being a Dad and more to do with the fear of the responsibilities associated with being a Dad.

And even though we are 5 years down the road, I still feel that.

Sure, maybe we could have had a brother or sister for him if we’d done it sooner. Sure, there’s a part of me that would have loved to do that. But apart from the fact I worry I may not get to see him grow old given my age, I can live with the fact I am soon to be 50 and I have a 5 year old bundle of beautiful mischief.

And what a bundle of beautiful mischief he is.

Kind. Compassionate. Emotional. Creative. Curious. Imaginative. Cheeky. Full of energy.

He is a loving son who wants to see the best in everything.

Part of me worries a bit about that.

I’ve already seen how some kids try to take advantage of that generosity, but in the end – all we can do is prepare him for how to deal with things that are sadly going to happen in his life and he is generally handling those tougher situations pretty well.

The main thing for me is for him to be able to enjoy his childhood.

I get that’s an incredibly privileged way to live … but I also think that’s something every parent would want for their children.

The fact is life passes so fast, we want to try and ensure he is given the chance to enjoy the present.

Be silly.

Try different things.

Resist placing pressure on him to do things he doesn’t like.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love him to like playing football as much as he likes doing acting, but he knows to support Nottingham Forest, so I’m OK with it.

Which leads back to the point of this post.

Happiness.

When we lived in LA, we bought Otis a trampoline for his birthday

As you can see, he was very happy to get one.

In fact, he was so happy, he would want to do it all the time. Including at night, where he would go into the garage with a torch [where the trampoline was kept] and just bounce up and down.

For hours.

And hours.

And hours.

When we left America, I wanted to sell the trampoline and get another when we worked out where we were going to live. But Jill had other ideas. And as usual, she was right.

Because while the weather in London is not the same as the weather in LA, that trampoline was a guarantee of happiness for Otis.

Not just because it was a treasured possession from another place, but because he still loves to bounce on it.

For hours.

And hours.

And hours.

Which is a very long winded way to get to the point of this post.

As the weather is nicer, Otis likes nothing more than bouncing on his trampoline while being sprayed with water.

Yes, I know this sounds like the sort of torture the US government subjected inmates at Guantanemo Bay to, but he adores it.

Recently we captured a photo while he was doing it that, for me, sums up what happiness is.

As a feeling.

As a look.

As a parent.

As my son.

Which is why I hope this is one thing that never changes as he gets older.

Not just because I doubt it can be topped – regardless what he does – but because, for me, it is the definition of perfect.

Stay happy Otis.

You make your old man giggle with pride and delight.




The Last Month Of 4.0 …

So today is June 1.

In 11 days, I wave goodbye to my forties and enter a decade that seems impossible for me to fathom.

50.

FIFTY.

Seriously, how did this happen?

I still remember sitting on the hill outside Erica’s newsagent with my best mate Paul around 1978, when we worked out that in the year 2000, we would be turning 30.

But here we are, 11 days from 50.

[Though it’s 15 days for Paul, who will LOVE those 4 days where he can bang on about how he is a decade younger than me … though he will also moan that my present for him isn’t like the full page newspaper ad I got him when he was 40, but a Forest shirt signed by all the members of the 1980 European Cup team. Asshole. He knows about this present as I bought it for him years ago so I’m not ruining anything for him. But I still have a surprise for him. Oh yes.]

Turning 30 bothered me a bit.

I was totally fine with becoming 40.

But 50!

I’m both bricking it and utterly casual about it.

And while there are some practical reasons for the shitting myself part – health, work, life in general – the fact of the matter is the older I get, the better my life has become.

I totally get the privilege of that statement, I don’t take it for granted at all, but it is definitely true.

Personally, professionally, emotionally …

Sure there have been some bumps along the way – some terribly hard and emotionally destructive ones – but looking at the big picture, the reality is my life has generally been on an upward trajectory.

Now even I know that it can’t keep going like that forever … but it doesn’t mean I have to stop trying.

The fact is, the older you get, the more you discover …

From what you like, what you don’t … to what you didn’t know and what you want to know.

And what makes it even more amazing – and annoying – is that every step you take, in whatever direction, reveals a whole host of other possibilities you would like to explore and investigate.

The problem is time is now officially, not on your side … so there’s a point where you have to accept you won’t get to try, play, experiment with all you want to do, so while that might put some people off, it kind of makes me want to try and pack more in.

And I am … because on top of work, Metallica, the school with Martin, I’ve already agreed to do a couple more projects that are intriguing and – frankly – ridiculous.

But there’s another reason for this attitude and it’s because my Dad died at 60.

Death is something I’ve talked a lot about over the years – mainly due to both my parents passing away.

I’ve talked a lot about the importance of taking about it, but I must admit, I’m scared of it.

I’m in generally good health, but fifty is still 50 and my Dad still died just 10 years on from this age.

Now of course it doesn’t mean I will … and I’ve come to this completely unscientific view that I should live till I’m at least 71 because if you take away my Dad’s age of dying [60]from my Mum’s [83] … that leave 23 years. Halve that … add it to Dad’s age … and voila, I will live till at least 71.

But then that means I only have 21 years left.

TWENTY ONE.

That’s nowhere near enough.

My wonderful little boy is only 5 for fucks sake. 26 is way too young to lose your Dad … hell, that’s even younger than I was when I lost mine.

Years ago, an old boss I looked upto said that if you can’t feasibly double your age, that is when you know you are – at best – middle aged or – at worst – the last stage of your life.

Well I suppose I can still feasibly double my age – even if it’s against the average age of death for a man in the UK [79.2] – but the reality is where I’m going is shorter than where I’ve been.

But shorter doesn’t mean less interesting.

And arguably, I have more exciting things in my life now – both personally and professionally – than I have ever had.

It also helps I am insanely immature with a desire for mischief, experimentation, creativity and adventure.

And I intend to fill it up with even more.

Fortunately I get that from a number of sources.

My wife.

My son.

My job.

My other jobs.

My friends.

My mind.

A while back, Pete said something I found pretty profound.

He said the narrative of strategy tended to focus on the importance of curiosity when discovery is far more valuable for driving the standard of the work you create and the adventure you go on.

Now I’ve written a lot about how I hate when planners talk about curiosity – as if they’re the only people who have it – but I really, really like that idea of the hunger for discovery.

I absolutely have that.

I owe so much of what I have to that.

The countries I’ve lived in. The people I’ve worked with. And most importantly, the family I am fortunate to have.

So while I enter a new decade, I will continue to live like it’s the old one.

Not in terms of dressing like I’m younger than I am – mainly because I have always dressed like I live in 1986 – but with the hunger, ambition and desire I’ve always had.

I genuinely believe my best work is still ahead of me.

Truly believe that.

And the goal of this decade is to achieve some of that while discovering new things that make me believe even better work can still lie in my future.



Nothing Brings You More Down To Earth Than A Naked Bum Dance …

So I’ve been doing this advertising job thing for 30 years.

THIRTY.

And in that time, I've had the huge honour and privilege to work with amazing people around the world and do work that has achieved a certain level of fame and notoriety.

Because of that, I have been invited to speak at conferences all around the World … rubbing shoulders that frankly, I should have no right to.

The point of all this is that I've done quite a lot and achieved quite a lot.

Believe it or not, this is not a humble brag, in fact it's about to be a public humiliation.

You see a few weeks ago, while working from home, I was on video conference with a very senior member of NIKE's global team.

They were talking about some stuff, and realising I didn't have a notepad, I nipped downstairs to get a notepad.

When I came back, my client told me Otis had came in, done an impromptu naked bum dance at the screen, then ran out giggling.

To top it off, they said, “… and your son is still more professional than you”

Fortunately this client has known Otis since he was born so he found it funny – as would anyone really – and the meeting carried on as before.

Anyway, as I found this amusing, I put it on Twitter and LinkedIn as ‘the perils from working from home with a 5 year old’.

Within 3 days … THREE … it had achieved more views and shares than literally any conference, presentation, talk, blog post or tweet I’ve ever written.

In fact, it probably comes second to all of them combined.

ALL. OF. THEM.

Doesn’t matter if a talk of mine had been online for 10 years.

Beaten.

Didn’t matter if I’d written an occasionally topical blog post or tweet.

Beaten.

In 3 days, my sons naked bum dance had trounced all of them.

As of the time of writing, on LinkedIn alone, that single post has been read over 190,000 times, been shared 347 times, had over 3000 people approve it, had 100 comments and ignited over 220 different people – from big CEO/CMO’s to law firms – to ask to join my ‘network’.

Yes, my sons naked bum encouraged people to want to connect to me.

What sort of weird bastards are they?

[Of course I said yes, beggars can’t be choosers]

And while I can use this story at every birthday or celebration that Otis has for the next 30 years, nothing has highlighted how utterly futile my career has been than this.

Parents are said to always want their kids to go further than they have achieved.

Well he’s done it already.

At age 5.

Good job I love you with all my heart Otis.