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


Driving With The Brakes On …

When I first started working in London – just as I was starting out in this industry – I commuted about 5 hours a day.

A DAY!

To be fair, that was of my own making because the company thought I lived in London because I’d given them my aunts address when I applied and got hird.

When they eventually found out I lived with my parents in Nottingham, they were livid.

And they had every right to be.

But as they were giving me the first of my long history of written warnings, I asked the question: “would you have hired me if you knew I lived in Nottingham?” … and didn’t hear a word back.

And while I knew I deserved it, what pissed me off was that I generally was always the first person in and last out. Driving up and down the M1 in my shitty Ford Fiesta with one wing mirror and a radio that couldn’t drown out the sound of my engine. But the fact was, I was a bloody idiot and as much as they probably wouldn’t have hired me if I’d be honest with them from the start, I was fortunate not to be kicked out of an industry I still love.

Well. Most of the time.

And while I was young and having a car felt amazing … even then I knew 5 hours a day – 25 hours a week on a good week – was too much.

Winter was the worst.

Bad weather meant it could take almost double the time to get there and back and many a time I slept on a friends couch or a motorway service station, in my car under a mountain of coats and blankets I kept in the boot ‘just in case’.

My parents were not happy about it, but I think because my Dad’s brother-in-law was travelling 8 hours per day [he was head of traffic control at Gatwick airport] it somehow made them feel a bit better about it.

What’s interesting is that after that job, I vowed never to be more than 30 minutes from work.

And I wasn’t.

Until, of course, I came back to London.

Even though I was in a much better position personally and professionally than I was the last time I worked – and eventually lived there – no one drives into Central London anymore. And while I genuinely enjoyed catching the tube or the bus – helped by the fact that the stations I got on at meant I generally always got a seat – it still was a 80+ minute journey each way, each day.

Given our house was only 7 miles from work, that made my old 2+ hour journey over 120 miles, look positively effective.

And this was life for me.

Out the house before the family woke up.

Back at home as the family – or at least Otis – was going to bed.

And while we made it work and weekends were sacrosanct, the fact I was spending a minimum of 13+ hours a week going to and from work was – and is – ridiculous.

So when COVID started and we all started working from home, I was – for the first time in my life – able to have breakfasts, lunches and dinners every day with my family and I can honestly say I found it pretty confronting.

You see I loved it.

Absolutely loved it.

It was – and still is – one of the most wonderful times of my life.

And while I enjoy working, I started to question what the hell I was doing spending so much time away from them just to get to and from work.

Then R/GA did the nicest thing they could do for me.

They made me redundant.

And while there are things I could say about how they did it and why they did it, the fact is, I’ll always be grateful to them for the opportunity they gave me to come back to England, develop the team I got to work with and then – at the end – hand me my redundancy so I could rediscover and reclaim my priorities, passion and creativity.

Right now, I feel more fulfilled and excited than I have in a long time.

I’m spending more time with my family than ever before while working on a range of global projects that are some of the most creative I’ve ever been involved with.

Mad, mental stuff – from ads to products to art installations – which involve some of the most talented creative people in their field … from an icon of dance/electronic music to the most notorious developers in the gaming category and a bunch in-between.

Then, of course, I have the brilliant excitement of NZ and Colenso to look forward to, too.

It’s all simply amazing.

While I appreciate I am in an exceptionally lucky and privileged position, I can’t help thinking about this quote:

“The problem with life is we sacrifice what we really want to do with what is available right now.”

We all do it.

We might have different reasons causing it, but we all do it.

And while there are many considerations, situations and expectations that push us down these paths, I hope if anything comes out of the craziness of 2020, it’s that we think why we’re doing it rather than just blindly following it.

Because it’s only when we question our choices can we start seeing where we’re going.

And then we have a little more control. Or choice. Or even peace. We all deserve that.



Big Week For A Little Kid: Day/Year 3 to 4 …

In many ways, this was a big year for Otis.

While he had moved from Shanghai to Los Angeles, he was so young that he probably didn’t take it all in.

But by the time we left Los Angeles for London, he had made some deep connections.

His friend Jack.

His love Elodie.

His school mates and adventurous life in the sun.

And yet he took it all in his stride.

Sad to say goodbye, but happy to explore somewhere new, boosted by the fact he would get to see his ‘Oddparents’ – Paul and Shelly – a lot more often.

And within days, he was a Londoner.

Sure he had a strange American accent.

Sure he kept talk about dollars rather than pounds.

But for all the upheaval he was going through, he embraced it all.

New home.

New school.

New friends.

New way of living.

It was here he started to identify what he loved.

We wanted him to experience a range of things so he could discover what he liked.

And while he liked being a ‘ninja’, he didn’t want to do martial arts.

And while he enjoyed watching football with his dad, he didn’t like organised sport.

Instead he loved acting.

LOVED IT.

Watching him practice his lines was a bloody delight … the focus, the commitment.

And while he would get a bit shy at the point of performance, you could see how much his whole being lit up when he was doing it.

I have no idea if he will continue to love acting or performance.

Right now, he’s into video games in a big way.

But whatever path he chooses in the future … as much as I don’t want him to have a life of struggle, the thing I want most for him is fulfilment.

Not comfort.

Not content.

But fulfilment … as my parents always drilled into me.

To be honest, I didn’t really understood the difference between fulfilment and contentment till I was in my 30’s. But now I realise it has a totally different imputes when you go from the ‘receiver’ of that intent to the ‘giver’.

I hope I can help Otis understand it.

But more than that, I hope I can witness Otis embracing it.

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A Conversation About Living. And Failing.

A few weeks ago, my friend – Philippa White, the founder of TIE – spoke to me about my life.

While many would say that is the single worst idea anyone could have, Philippa – for reasons that still escape me – thought differently.

TIE – or The International Exchange – is an amazing thing.

They link people from the commercial world [from big organisations to people from BBH and W+K] with social initiatives around the world, providing unique opportunities that will transform the lives of both parties.

It’s an absolutely amazing organisation and the people who have done it talk about how it has had a profound affect on their lives – for the experience they had, the realisation that their skills can benefit people in different ways that they ever imagined and the lessons they learnt about what they’re good at, what they want to be good at and the future they can now envision for themselves.

I have not done TIE, but Philippa and I bonded when we met over the power of overseas experiences and learning and for some reason she wanted to talk about my journey.

We cover a whole lot of topics, from family to friendship to failure and while it may only be interesting to those looking for a cure for insomnia, if you’re looking for development, growth and having more meaning and value from your life … I can assure you TIE is definitely going to be of interest to you.

Thank you Philippa. Thank you TIE.

You can be disappointed by it here.



Nature’s Prozac …

When I was growing up, our back garden was a disaster.

Overgrown.

Tall grass.

Brambles.

Bushes.

Beautiful mayhem.

As a kid, I thought it was amazing.

Me and Paul would run in there and it felt like we were in the jungle.

From playing hide and seek to pretending we were soldiers, it could all happen there.

Then around the age of 5, Mum and Dad had an extension put onto the house and because the loan they took out for it was a bit more than they needed to have it built, they spent the rest on the garden.

Oh how they loved it.

They spent hours there.

Creating it. Cultivating it. Nurturing it. Admiring it.

My god, the way my dad treated his ‘sweet peas’ was enough to make me think he loved them more than me sometimes.

And while I still could play softball tennis with Mum on the patio, I always felt I had had something robbed from me – despite the fact there was a massive park down the road and huge fields of nothingness around the house.

So from there on in, while I could appreciate a nice garden, I always saw them as something that pushed me away rather than welcomed me in.

Until now.

I readily admit I had nothing to do with the garden we have in the home we have just bought.

I readily admit part of its appeal is that it’s mature, so feels natural rather than contrived.

And I readily admit I am still as shit and unenthusiastic about gardening as I ever was.

But my god, I am shocked at how much I love it.

I can stare at it for hours.

Sit in it for days.

Doing nothing but looking at it’s beautiful vibrancy and shades.

Seeing Rosie the cat stretch out on the deck like she has just hit ‘peak cat life’.

Watching Otis play on the swing hanging from the tree then looking at Jill picking up all the apples that have fallen from Otis’ adventure. Turning them into pies that we scoff or give to the neighbours in an blatant attempt to mitigate the mayhem we’ve caused in the first few months of living here with huge moving trucks blocking the road and electrical blackouts that we absolutely, definitely did not cause.

The idea of all this is about as foreign to me as you could get.

I’m a city person.

I like noise and bustle not nature and quiet.

Yet … yet … this is something very special.

Something I feel a real privilege to experience, which I acknowledge is only possible because of the privileged position I am in.

And while all these feelings could all be because of my age or because this house is our family home – regardless of the incoming NZ adventure – the impact of a simple garden has been far more than I ever imagined.

Which makes me think it could also have something to do with making me feel closer to Mum and Dad.

You see while our little garden at home was nothing like this, it was incredibly special to them.

Sure it was beautiful. Sure it was the fruits of their hard work and care. But it seemed to be a place that let them feel everything was going to be OK, regardless of the challenges.

And over the years, our wonderful little family faced many – but that garden always gave them comfort and joy.

A little piece of heaven.

Blossoming into radiant beauty and colour even after the harshest of winters.

Reminding them that the darkest times will always welcome a new spring.

And while as a kid I didn’t really like how that garden had robbed me of my jungle, I grew to appreciate it.

I saw what it did for my parents.

I still remember how my Dad stared in wonder at it after his stroke.

He’d been in hospital for months and was finally allowed home.

And while he needed a lot of care from Mum, that garden was like medicine for him. Helping him forget the pain he was in. Helping him forget the turmoil he was going through.

No longer able to talk.

No longer able to walk properly.

But here, facing the fruits of his love and labour, all was forgotten.

He was safe.

He felt nourished.

He was connected to something his body was not able to let him enjoy anymore.

He and Mum could transport themselves to a time and place where everything was OK.

And while I hope I never face the tragedy my Father suffered – and acknowledge this garden is from the toil of others hands – I feel I get what nature was able to do for Mum and Dad.

Because it isn’t just what grows in the garden, but what it helps blossom within yourself.



Proof Comedy Is All About Timing …

Just as the UK Government announced the second wave of COVID rules – ie: work from home and stay at home, despite the fact a couple of weeks earlier, they had announced go to your offices and go out and eat and drink with people – I saw this ‘ad’ on Twitter.

Comic timing genius.

Maybe I’m wrong.

Maybe it’s not ridiculous after all.

Maybe it’s designed to inspire Brits to visit their country when the Government do their next u-turn on thinking again.

Or maybe it’s an example of the brilliant ‘direct to consumer’ targeting we hear so many companies go on about.

But if that’s the case, I would suggest they made a mistake targeting me, because surely the individual they should be talking to is Dominic ‘I visit castles’ Cummings?