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


Fathers Pride …
August 23, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Dad, Daddyhood, Emotion, Family, Mum & Dad

Dave Grohl.

One of the founders of Nirvana.

Founder of The Foo Fighters.

Drummer. Guitarist. Singer.

He’s the rock star everyone likes even if they don’t like his songs.

Permanently positive, continually upbeat with a dollop of mischievousness thrown in for good measure.

He cares deeply about his fans … whether that’s playing a festival in Italy after someone sent him a video of a bunch of musicians playing ne of his songs or just inviting people on stage to play with the band.

But there’s something not everyone knows and that’s how good a dad he is.

For example, come rain or snow, Dave Grohl takes his kids to school and picks them up again.

Every single day.

In his family wagon.

No glitz, no glamour, just as normal a family life that an international rock star can give his kids.

Of course, there’s the odd exception.

When his kids school was having a fundraiser, he played a private concert there with Paul Stanley of KISS and Sammy Hagar, ex-Van Halen.

However recently, he has started to introduce his kids to the wider World.

Not in some fame hungry way, but in terms of letting them express their own musical talent.

At a recent concert in Oakland, Los Angeles, he played back-up musician to Violet – his 12 year old daughter – as she sang Adele’s ‘When We Were Young’.

Putting aside her incredible voice, it’s the various looks of utter pride he has on his face as he witnesses his daughter invigorate a crowd with her flawless vocals.

I love how he doesn’t try to take the spotlight.

I love how he has a huge grin on his face when she hits the high notes perfectly.

I love how he knows her voice is better than his and he’s so proud of that fact.

I imagine it’s similar to how Robert Plant felt when he watched Heart perform Stairway To Heaven at the Kennedy Centre and realised he had done something that would outlive him.

I have to admit, it brought tears to my eyes.

I look at my precious boy – Otis – and wonder if that will ever happen to me.

Where I get to witness him express his passion, in some way. Whatever it is.

I hope so.

I don’t say that because I worry he might not have a passion, I say it because I worry I may go before he discovers it.

Being an older Dad brings with it a whole bunch of worries and insecurities.

I don’t regret it because I wasn’t ready for it before, but being 48 years old and having a father who died at 60, there is a nagging worry that I may only have 12 more years left.

Of course I know the age of my Dad does not mean that will be the age I die, but I worry …

I want to see Otis grow up.

Sure, there’s a big part of me that thinks he’s doing that too quickly already, but I long to see him do things that he is passionate about. I long to experience that uncontrollable smile as I witness my little boy do things he loves.

And that’s why the video of Dave Grohl and his daughter really hit me.

Because I know that whatever success he has achieved in his life as a rockstar, it won’t be as amazing as him seeing his daughter live her truth.

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Never Apologise For Your Emotions …

I cry.

I cry a lot.

I cry at films.

I cry at memories.

I cry at just how much I love Otis.

Now I appreciate that’s not the sort of thing you should admit, but that’s what I want to change.

I get why it happens.

From the moment we are kids, we are told not to cry.

To be fair, it’s less to do with any sense of parental embarrassment and more to do with parents hating seeing their precious child being upset, but in my opinion, it’s still wrong.

But it gets worse.

Especially for little boys.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard a Dad tell their little man who has fallen over …

“Big boys don’t cry”.

I totally appreciate they’re not saying it to be mean, but I can’t help but worry for what we are teaching the men of tomorrow.

Especially in America.

I was lucky, I was brought up in a household that didn’t try to hide emotions.

I was taught it was healthy and was encouraged to express how I felt.

Now I know that was pretty rare, but fortunately for everyone else, there was the local pub.

The pub was more than a place for drinking, it was a place for men to express their feelings.

Sure, they did it through banter and jokes, but it was where you could reveal your feelings and fears to other men in an environment that was, ironically, none threatening and none judgemental.

I have no idea if that’s still the case but I know in America it’s not.

Here, you don’t go to a bar to talk, you go to a bar to sit with other men and watch sports.

There appears little outlet for men to express their feelings which means either the pressure of situations add up to unbelievable levels or the response to situations is disproportionate or overly aggressive and confrontational.

OK, so not everyone is like that, but until we teach our children – and especially our little boys – that crying is actually the act of someone strong rather than weak, then we are going to continue stopping people knowing how to navigate the challenges and frustrations that fill our lives. Or said another way, we’ll be stopping our kids from being able to be as good as they can be … which is a crime no parent wants to ever be accused of doing.

Which is another thing we could all learn from the values taught at Otis’ school.




The Heartbreaking Beauty Of How Kids See The World …

I’ve written a lot about how amazing I am finding fatherhood.

It is beyond my expectations in every sense of the word.

Of course, a big part of that is my son is a wonderful, kind, considerate and caring little boy.

But there’s something more … and that’s witnessing his development at every stage.

As much as I want him to stay my little boy forever, each stage of his growth reveals new and wonderful traits … which helps me deal with the fact he is growing up way too fast.

One of the big changes is his vocabulary.

I remember how much I loved it when he could only use sounds to communicate.

It was so pure and innocent and yet he could convey so much of his feelings through those little sounds.

Then came the words.

At first they were a hybrid of mumble and language … but over time, he could say Dada and Mama and it melted our hearts.

But now, his language is developing at a rapid rate and while so much of what he says is his brain connecting what he communicate with the context he [so far] understands, it leads to expressions of such beauty – and sadness – that you are left breathless for hearing it.

Don’t believe me?

Look at this SMS I got from Jill a while back …

Sure, when he say’s, “the drips of my sadness” he is being literal with what they are, in the context of the words he knows … but my god, the emotions those words ignite is incredible.

Maybe we are educating the emotional expression out of children like Sir Ken Robinson said we are doing with creativity.

Either way, I love that kid more and more.



The Magic Of The Past …

Recently I bought Otis a Viewmaster.Yes, the old-school, red plastic, binocular thing where circular slides transport you to different places and Worlds.

When I was a kid, I bloody loved it.

I remember traveling around the World via Viewmaster.

The first time I saw the Taj Mahal was on there.

The first time I visited America was on there.

The first time I watched wild animals in their natural habitat was on there.

Of course this was a very long time ago, so it was probably more because of nostalgia than anything else that I wanted Otis to have one.

And you know what … he loved it.

Despite being a fully fledged member of the digital age, that piece of old school – with no virtual reality, moving pictures or interactivity – captured his imagination.

He told me stories about all the fish he went swimming with.

Who all the dinosaurs were and what they were doing.

And how all the wild animals were friends and liked playing in dirt.

Don’t get me wrong, the technology of today is an amazing thing to help kids learn and explore, but the beauty of Viewmaster – like the beauty of all great igniters of imagination, from books to even the odd ad – is that it allows people to impose their own will on the images and stories they see and hear … allowing them to go to places only they could ever imagine.

In essence, igniting others imagination allows them to ignite possibilities in things that are all around us and for me, that’s super exciting and why I’m so glad a toy created in 1942 still has a valuable role the lives of kids in 2018.



The Best Thing To Happen To America Since The Invention Of The Hamburger. Probably.

For all the shit America is going through and – let’s not forget – creating for itself, it’s still a pretty awesome country.

The warmth we have receieved from people has been amazing.

Kindness. Consideration. Welcoming.

To be honest, it’s more than we’ve experienced in any of the other countries we’ve lived in – at least in terms of the speed we got it – and so once I got over my initial skepticism, I really started to embrace it.

Of course there’s some things I’ll never get used to.

Not using a ‘u’ in so many of their words.

Calling it soccer instead of football.

Actually using the word “Y’all”.

High-Fiving.

But in most cases I’ve been able to get past it mainly because I’ve chosen to ignore it.

A big part of my ability to do that has been due to the amazing lifestyle LA has given my family.

I have to say, living near the beach, with almost daily sun and cleanish air is an amazing thing to have.

It’s probably as close to paradise as you can get.

However there is one thing I can’t deal with.

One thing I cannot ignore.

That’s right, it’s Otis developing an American accent.

Worse, a Californian accent.

Saying “Mom” will never be acceptable.

Ending the alphabet with “zee” can never be tolerated.

Which is why at the end of August I’ll be leaving Deutsch and on the 5th September, we will be leaving America to go and start a new life in London.

No, that is not a joke.

OK, blaming it on Otis’ American twang is, but the reality of our impending move is not.

It’s definitely not been an easy decision …

The thought of taking my family away from paradise so soon after we got here is horrible.

The thought of moving Otis away from his beloved Elodie breaks my heart.

The thought of saying goodbye to so many people who I now regard as friends, is horrible.

But, for a whole host of reasons, it’s the right thing to do.

More than that, it’s something we’re looking forward to doing.

OK, I admit, when we were thinking about the idea, there were a few moments where I went through a range of emotions I didn’t know were there.

Or said another way, a whole range of emotions I’d obviously been doing a good job of keeping hidden deep down inside for years and years.

Part of it was a sense of guilt about moving ‘home’ after my parents had passed away.

I kept thinking that if I was going to go back, why didn’t I do it when they were alive?

Of course there were many reasons for it – reasons my parents both knew and encouraged – but underpinning them all was this belief I was never going to move back to the UK.

Except I am.

And while it’s been over 24 years since I last lived there – so it will probably feel like a totally new place – I’m excited about it, even though insane stuff like brexit is [allegedly] just around the corner.

Part of this is that I’ll be living in London for the first time in my life. [As opposed to just commuting there]

Part of this is because I’ll be physically closer to my beloved Paul and Shelly than I’ve been in over 2 decades.

Part of it is because it is another chapter of adventure for my wife, son and cat.

Part of it is because I will be closer to my Mum’s sister – my Aunt – in Italy.

And part of it is for what I’m going to be doing, which I’ll talk about another time.

But all that said, I’m incredibly grateful to Deutsch, my [new/old] colleagues and friends and Los Angeles for giving me an experience that has been an honour to experience and enjoy. I’ll write a proper goodbye to them all soon, but what they need to know is they made a huge impact on me and my family.

Both good and bad, hahahaha.

When Jill, Otis, Rosie and I came here, we never imagined we would leave so soon, as demonstrated by the acquisition of houses and cars and a whole host of electronics that will only ever work on US power supplies [the most epic garage sale will be happening soon], but – as we all know – sometimes life gets in the way of our best laid plans and when that happens, it’s better to embrace it than fight it.

So to everyone who has made our time here so memorable, thank you … we will miss you, even if you won’t miss us.

Or – more specifically – me.

London. I’ll see you soon.

Start making your excuses to avoid me now.



Celebrating 11 Years Of Cranky Wonderfulness …
June 29, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Daddyhood, Emotion, Family, Rosie

So on the 1st July, the cat above is 11 years old.

While she can drive the patience of a saint with her demanding ways, I absolutely adore her her madly.

I’d never really had a pet before – unless a goldfish and a cactus counts – and while there were some initial complicated moments, Rosie has given me nothing but utter joy.

I bloody love that cat.

What else would explain me building her a cat penthouse so she can survey her kingdom without having to venture outside [something she’s never done] or buying her a plane seat so she can be with us when we moved to LA.

For a street cat from Singapore, she lives a pretty pampered life.

Not that she thinks that.

Oh no.

I swear if she could talk she would list all the things she believes she’s hard done by.

Not having constant access to Friskies cat treats.

Or not being allowed to go behind the Televisions.

Or not getting brushed 24/7.

And yet – ironically – for all her desire for even more pampering, I swear that she thinks of herself as this …

… because when birds – or another cat – comes into her vision, she reacts like Russia has just invaded another nations airspace, but if she was actually allowed to go and ‘defend’ her land, she’d be utterly rubbish, because underneath it all, she is 100% this.

And I love her even more for that.

Even though it took her 3 years before she sat on our knee.

So to my beloved Rosie, happy birthday you beautiful but cranky purr monster.



Remember My Name …

So recently I saw that the movie, Fame was 38 years old.

While I didn’t see the film, the memory of the TV show is burned into my mind.

I remember seeing trailers for it on TV earlier that week and wanting to watch it … however when it aired, I was out with my friends playing football – it was summer – so when I finally walked into the house [via the back garden, as I’d gone to talk to my Mum and Dad who were enjoying the late evening sun] the show was half way through the episode.

But I was hooked from the beginning.

The idea of a school that taught creativity in a way that wasn’t stuffy was infectious to me.

Previous to that, I didn’t even know those things could exist but the fact there was a TV show about it, meant it must do. Somewhere.

To be honest, at that point in my life – 1982 – I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but it’s now obvious to me that part of the appeal of the show was because I wanted to go down that path, I just didn’t know it before then.

It might sound a bit of a leap, but the show might be one of the reasons I picked up the guitar about a year later and went on to spend a big chunk of my life between the ages of 17-24 making, earning and traveling because of music.

I always wonder if I’d have tried to get into a school of the arts if there had been one available in the UK at that time.

There were acting schools, but nothing like the one in Fame.

Of course, the school on Fame was fictitious, but the schools it was based on represented a very different feel and place of learning that the UK equivalent.

I personally think these schools are incredibly important.

At a time where education seems universally focused on academic subjects, the value of ‘the arts’ seems to have slipped down in importance.

I get why, but I can tell you, if Otis wanted to go to one when he is older – I’d be thrilled.

Sure, you could argue a degree in dance or music or acting is going to be harder to turn into a good income down the line, but apart from the fact you could say that about most degrees in general these days … the role of education is not just to better the individual, but for that individual to help better the country they live in.

It’s for this reason I’m so vehemently opposed to education-for-profit.

Not just because it has resulted in universities lowering their qualification standards to increase admission, but because a highly educated population adds huge commercial value to a country.

Smart people do smart things.

Whether that is creating things or attracting things, a highly educated workforce creates more opportunities for others … be that people, communities, companies or countries … and it’s for this reason I passionately believe governments should keep standards insanely high but the cost of insanely low.

But sadly few look at it that way – preferring to take the money rather than make the investment – resulting in too many people going to university in the hope of getting a great future but finding out they got sold a great lie.

Education is an amazing thing – regardless what you study – but with degrees fast becoming worth less than the paper they’re written on, I hope if Otis does choose to advance his education, he follows the path that leads him to emotional fulfillment.

I don’t care what that is … art, music, accountancy or tech … but for me the key is he does it for his happiness, not purely for his career because in a World where everyone seems to do stuff to get ahead, there’s something amazing in following a path for the sheer joy that you enjoy it and that’s something I would love for him to do.

As my parents taught me, at the end of the day, feeling fulfilled is more important than simply being content.

Wow, this is quite a leap from a 1982 TV show about kids dancing in the streets of NY isn’t it.