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


Ooooooh Ahhhhhh
November 5, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Comment, England, Family

No, the title of this post is not some homage to Porn Hub, it’s because today its bonfire night and I get to introduce Jill and Otis to it for the first times in their lives.

I know this shouldn’t excite me, but it does.

OK, I know they’ve seen fireworks before – and sadly, the last time Otis hated them – but this is one of those days where I know I’m truly back in England and I’m happy to share how England does fireworks with my family.

Mind you, now I come to think of it, a dodgy Catherine Wheel, a sparkler that will burn someone and an unsatisfactory hotdog doesn’t really hold up to the extravaganza’s we had in Sydney, Shanghai and Manhattan Beach. Oh god, what have I done …

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Making Sure They Know They Matter Even When You Leave …

Yes I know today is the day where all the ghosts and ghouls are supposed to come out and play, but I thought I’d inject a bit of love and positivity into the World.

I know … who the hell am I?

Unsurprisingly, this new side of me is connected to my past life in LA.

While we are absolutely loving being in England and London, there are things about LA we miss.

One of them is Otis’ amazing preschool.

As I have written before, it’s an amazing, creative, inclusive place of learning and we were so happy he was there.

But leaving was always going to be hard – especially given we were leaving the country – so we asked the school if we could buy a piece of furniture for them on behalf of Otis.

Not just because it’s a school where the lessons are conducted outdoors but because we wanted Otis to know that while he was in America for a short time, his presence mattered to the community and the community mattered to Otis.

I’m so grateful they said yes which is why, while we’re thousands of miles away in the cold of England, there is a bench in sunny Manhattan Beach that allows Otis to always be in a place he loved while also letting his friends – and future students – always enjoy being in the environment they find themselves in.

The point of this post also relates to the people I’ve been lucky enough to call colleagues around the World, but that’s a post for another day [and does not relate to leaving stickers and badges around the place] so with that, I just want to say a huge thank you to Manhattan Beach Nursery School, the kids and parents who go there and LA as a whole.

Take that Halloween.



Happy At Home …

So it’s 2 months since we’ve been back in England and I have to say it’s been great.

Sure, the weather isn’t like LA.

Sure, finding a home and unpacking was a pain-in-the arse.

Sure, catching the tube is not like driving my beloved Audi to work.

Sure, I’m shocked at how bad the service is in restaurants and how many people smoke.

But all that aside, things are great.

There’s a bunch of reasons for that …

The first is my family are all together and well. Even Rosie, the moaning cat.

Seeing how brilliant Otis has adapted to his new environment [again] is inspiring, even though it has highlighted how much of an American twang he picked up in our time in the US.

To move home is a traumatic experience for anyone.

To move countries is often too much for people to even contemplate.

So to have moved home and country, 3 times when you’re only 3 years of age – and still be happy, positive and curious – is an incredible achievement and one that makes me even prouder of my wonderful little boy.

That said, we’re very mindful he is still trying to find where he belongs … find other kids he can form a connection with … so our job in these early months is to help him feel as settled and secure as we can, but so far, he’s handling it far better than we could ever hope, even though he did exactly the same when we landed in LA after Shanghai.

What a kid.

Another reason we’re enjoying things in England is that there’s an incredible familiarity to how things work.

Sure I’ve not lived here for 24 years and Jill is Australian … but we both have spent a huge amount of time here over the years so there’s a comfort in knowing how to make things happen. It’s allowed us to acclimatise to the new environment far quicker than we have in other nations while still feeling the buzz of excitement of being somewhere new.

Sure, there’s nervousness about some things we’ve never/rarely had to deal with before.

The school system and how insane that is here.

The inability to be confident a tradesman will turn up as promised.

The high price of public transport [which is still low, but comparatively high to say, China]

But all that is offset with the incredible culture that surrounds us, the friendliness of the people we’ve met and just being in a place where we can see ourselves for a good length of time.

Oh, and chips, mushy peas and gravy.

God, that’s magic right there.

But one other thing that has made things so great is work.

I’m really enjoying myself.

I have an incredible team full of smarts and opinions.

I have a huge array of colleagues full of creativity and provocation.

I have a bunch of clients full of fascinating challenges and ambitions.

I’m learning.

I’m being challenged.

I’m [hopefully] contributing.

There were a bunch of reasons why we moved countries – both personal and professional – and while no place will ever be perfect, I’m pretty shocked at how much I am enjoying being back in England given I never thought I’d ever move back.

I still wish I could nip up to Nottingham to see Mum and Dad.

I still wish Paul and Shelly lived down the street not 2 hours away.

But as much as I’ll always be a cynical bastard, I’m pretty happy right now and I’m sure that is as shocking to you as it is to me.

So on this bombshell of positivity, I wish you a good weekend and let you know that the APSOTW results will finally be out next week.

Ta-ra.



The NHS Put The Great In Great Britain …

The NHS is 70 years old this year.

While that is a remarkable age, it blows my mind there was a time when it didn’t exist.

The story of its foundation is a remarkable one … one filled with foresight, fight and a governments desire to raise the standards, dreams and potential of an entire nation.

Whether we will ever see something of such audacious good from a government anywhere in the World is debatable.

Obamacare may have come close, but thanks to America’s blinkered fear of socialism [despite having one FBI for example], it means its potential has been destroyed by that criminal, also known as The President of the United States of America.

And all the Republican sheep.

But back to the NHS.

Despite having not lived in England for 24+ years, it’s been a quiet partner throughout my life.

Helping me deal with some of the best and worst times of my life.

And even though there was a time I grew to despise walking along the corridors of the QMC hospital in Nottingham, I was always grateful for it … because it ensured the people I loved weren’t allowed to fall through the cracks at their greatest hour of need.

The NHS has saved my parents life, saved my sight, looked after my dear Paul when he’s undertaken acts of complete stupidity, taken care of my son when he came down with an illness [despite not yet having a British passport] and ensured my parents were given dignity in their final days … it is the single most important and valuable institution the UK has.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have lived all around the World and while there have been a number of occasions where I have needed the urgent and serious attention of Nurses and Doctors, I’ve paid heavily for that service.

Of course I’m grateful for all they did for me – they were excellent – but I was also in a privileged position where I could afford to pay for it which is why the NHS is so important because the reality is, everyone deserves the right to being looked after, not just those with a healthy bank balance.

Countless UK governments have tried to undermine or strip away the NHS … seemingly ignorant to the fact it’s one of the few things that is the envy of the World and should be treasured, not pillaged.

So to everyone who has ever worked for or fought for the NHS, thank you.

You deserve so much more than just a nations gratitude.



Connections From History …

I first started being conscious of Brian Clough in 1978 when he took my beloved Nottingham Forest on a magical journey, the likes had never been seen before or since.

While I never spent any time with him, I can honestly say he contributed to a childhood that is bursting with memories and wonder which is why when I saw a letter he wrote from the year my adoration began, I had to get it.

I totally appreciate some might think this is stupid, but to me it’s a connection to my history.

A connection to where I grew up.

A connection to a place that still means so much to me.

When you’re just 8 years old, what Nottingham Forest did was make my formative football-fan years the most exciting, unifying and pride-filled years you could ever hope to have, and while the last 20+ years have been a total nightmare, no one can ever take those amazing memories from me because, as John McGovern, the Forest captain of the time, said …

“We were like one of those comets you see flying across the night sky. We burned brightly, but it was all too brief. But, boy, did we burn brightly for a while.”

So thank you Mr Clough, you were always with me but now you will always be near me.



One Nations Tragedy Is Another Nations Humour …
May 9, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, America, Culture, England, History

One of the things that has always done my head in is how many American’s claim some sort of Irish descendency on St Patrick’s Day.

I don’t know why it bothers me so much, but it does.

This inner-boiling point reached new heights for me this year for 2 key reasons …

+ I now live here so get to see it first hand.

+ Trump is President, voted in by people who liked his ‘stop the immigrants’ message.

I’ve got to admit, I found it interesting watching so many people claim they were of Irish descent [when in reality, it was probably about 1/1000th Irish or that they once drank some Jameson’s whiskey] given the likelihood a great deal of them passionately want to stop any immigrants [read: anyone not white] enter the US … but hey, as we’ve seen with the gun laws, when America wants to, they can do crazy like few can do crazy.

Talking of crazy, have a look at this sign I saw outside an Irish pub that day.

Specifically, the last drink on the menu board …

Yeah … let’s all laugh at the drink called ‘car bomb’.

That’s funny isn’t it.

Something that killed so many people is a great way to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.

Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t think American’s would find it funny if a bar in London created a drink called 9/11 to celebrate July 4th, do you?

Yes, you can call it a bad joke. Or just plain ol’ cultural ignorance. But as I wrote years ago when the Borat movie came out, it’s amazing how people can laugh at human unpleasantness when it’s not about them and wrapped up in ‘humour’ to make the bitterness appear less ugly.



Photographic Planning: A Picture Tells A Thousand Presentations …

One of the best things about moving to America was that we were able to bring most of the stuff we had in storage around the World back to one place for the first time in over 15 years.

While opening boxes upon boxes of DVD documentaries was a bit heartbreaking given they are now all available online for free, there was some delight and one of those was getting my hands back on this …

Sign of the Times is a brilliant book by photographer Martin Parr.

Martin Parr is one of Britain’s most significant photographers, best known for his sharp eye and cheeky sense of humour.

Over his 30+ career, he has focused on capturing ordinary people doing ordinary things and because of this, he has become known as a social commentator and recorder of Britain’s finely nuanced class system.

In the 90’s, the BBC aired a documentary called Signs of the Times.

In some respects it was an early version of reality television … a fly-on-the-wall documentary that aimed to document the personal tastes of people in their British homes.

50 people were chosen from 2000 applicants with a real focus on capturing a diverse range of ages, races, genders and social backgrounds.

Anyway, from that show came the book and anyone who grew up in the 90’s in the UK who sees it will resonate with so much of it.

Not just in terms of the aesthetic, but the energy, values and priorities of the times.

I’ve long been fascinated with this approach – we even did a similar type of project at Wieden in Shanghai – because for me, it not only helps communicate who we’re talking to in ways others can truly connect to but – because of the contextual lens – it provides additional insight into how the audience lives and what they value.

It’s why it was so important for me to make a coffee table book of photographs from our recent America In The Raw study, because while some probably saw it as an indulgence – especially given you needed to see the accompanying presentation to truly understand what we found and what we think brands can/should do – my view is that without it, you can’t truly connect to the stories that shaped our thinking and then all we’ll end up with is a deck rather than the influence for change.