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


It’s Time …

When Mum died, I inherited the family home.

Despite having not lived there for 20 years, it was still very important place to me.

Not just because Mum left it to me.

Not because my Mum still lived there.

But because it’s where I lived for all of my life – until I moved to Australia – and so the memories in those 4 walls were full of everything important to me from my first 25 years of life.

I have to be honest, the first reaction I had was to hire a security guard and keep things exactly as they were because the thought of selling it was just not going to happen.

Slowly I came round to the idea that a security guard was a bit extreme so I started – slowly – thinking about renting it out.

The thing was, when we had estate agents come check it out, they highlighted that having not been renovated for over 40 years, it needed some major work.

This was really hard for me because by saying it needed renovating, I heard it as ‘the house is not good enough’ … which I then interpreted as ‘the house my Mum loved and lived in, wasn’t good enough for others’.

Of course that’s not what they meant, but my emotions – and need to protect my Mum’s legacy – were very high at that point..

And if that was challenging for me, it got even harder when it got to clearing the house.

We spent a couple of weeks going through photos and possessions so we could identify everything we wanted to give to charity.

While Mum didn’t have expensive things, there were some lovely items which is why the worst thing – almost as bad as losing my Mum – was when I saw the charity people come by with bins and throw everything into them … no care, no consideration, no nothing.

And when I heard them literally smash my Mum and Dad’s wardrobes to smithereens – the things that had held their cliothes for 40 years – I had to leave the house as it was all too much.

But out of this darkness came an idea … an idea that I felt would honour my Mum in terms of the life she lived and the values she believed in.

We found a fantastic set of builders and had the house refurbished from top to bottom.

Removed all the wallpaper.
Plastering all the walls.
New paint everywhere.
New Kitchen.
New Bathroom.
New flooring.
New carpets.
New front door.
Some structural change in the house.

At the end, it was basically a new house and yet with the warmth and love of the old, as exemplified by this note that I wrote in the garage …

But that was only part of paying homage to Mum…

The next step was to find a young family who would love to live there, but couldn’t afford it.

You see our plan was to subsidize the rent – and maintain the gardens my parents loved so much – so a young family would have a chance to raise their kids in the beautiful environment my family gave me.

Of course, when my family bought the house – back in 1970 – the area was very different to what it is today, but zoom forward 40 years and it’s seen as very desirable. Not because it’s posh, but because it’s safe, has a strong community and great schools for all.

To this day, I’m so grateful my Mum and Dad were able to find £100 more than the other buyer or who knows where I would have ended up.

Anyway, by pure chance, we found a family who were sort-of connected to someone Mum once worked with. That was perfect, as it felt even more connected to her.

But what was even better was the mother of this family was Italian, like my Mum.

For the past 4 years we have had this arrangement and everyone has been happy.

But now it is time for a bit of a change.

Not because I want to become a bastard landlord, but because I’m now living in the UK and things are different.

You see part of the reason I wanted to keep the house – apart from the obvious – was that it gave me roots here. It meant I was still connected to where I grew up. That I mattered.

It’s kind-of similar to why we bought a bench for Otis at his school in LA.

Having spent the last 24 years out of England, the house represented a connection to my heritage and that was important.

But now I’m back … and while I don’t know how long for, I see it in terms of long-term rather than short.

On the day before Mum died, she told me she was sorry she wasn’t going to be able to leave me much.

I told her not to think like that and reminded her the love she and Dad gave me made me rich beyond my dreams.

But on top of that, I reminded her she was generously going to leave me her house … a house in a wonderful area … so she could relax knowing she had given her son more than he could ever have imagined.

And that’s why I am ready to let the house go.

Not – as you may think – because I am ready to move forward.

The truth is, I will always miss her and want her in my life.

The reason is because I see a way to use the house to reinforce the role my parents had – and have – in my life.

You see the one thing my parents would have loved to do is help me have a home of my own.

While I have been incredibly fortunate to do this without their assistance, I know that their dream would have been to contribute to that.

Of course they did with the love and support they gave me in life, but to them, providing some cash to do it would have made them feel so happy.

So that’s what they are going to do.

While we are happy in London, the truth is my wife and son need to be surrounded by nature.

Nothing reinforced this than our trip to the farm recently.

So we want to find a home a bit outside of London.

A home Otis can truly settle in.

A home that is our home.

Of course we don’t want to unsettle the tenants and will do all I can to help them – as well as give them as much time as they need to work out what’s next – but selling the house allows us to use that money to help my parents fulfill their dream.

We are incredibly fortunate to be in this position.

We are incredibly grateful to be in this position.

But the idea to have a place that is – for want of a better phrase – our forever home, is hugely enticing.

It will let us put down roots.

Connect to the community in ways we have never done previously.

Build rather than live.

This might sound dramatic and I am not saying we have had it tough in any of the other places we’ve lived or houses we’ve had … but we have also never been in a place where we saw ourselves for the long-term.

Because of that, we have always been looking to what’s next rather than maybe enjoying the moment as much as we could or should.

Of course this isn’t going to happen overnight, but to come to this point of decision represents a landmark for my family and for my grief which is why I am so happy to be home and so happy to look forwards with more security, regardless what the future may bring.

Given my birthday is tomorrow, that’s possibly the best present anyone could have.

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Where You Leave Your Heart Is Never Up To You …

I recently was in LA for work.

Being a sentimental sod, I couldn’t help find the time to go visit some of the places that became so important to me – and us – when we lived there.

Hell, I even went to the house of the man who bought my car just so I could see it again.

But of all the places I’ve revisited in LA, visiting Otis’ preschool is the one that made me the most emotional.

This is a place he loved.

Where he met his beloved Elodie.

Where his Mum connected to people who will be life long friends.

Where they were both made to feel they mattered from the second they arrived.

Leaving LA was hard. Not for professional reasons, but for personal.

Yes I was sad to leave people I’d met who had grown to become very important to me, but hardest was taking my wife and son away from a place they had thrived in.

Even though we were only there for approx 18 months, we wanted Otis to always know there was a time this was his home … that leaving didn’t mean he’d disappeared. So we wanted to do a few things for the school of which one of them was ask if we could donate a park bench in Otis’ name, so generations of future kids could play on it and – in some way – get to know the little boy who loved that place so much over 2017/18.

By pure chance, when I was driving past the school – it was a Saturday – I saw they had an event on, so being a cheeky sod, I went in hoping they’d let me see the bench we made.

They welcomed me with absolute open arms and as they let me see the seat we left for Otis, I realized – for the first time – that I’d also left a bit of myself here as well.



We’re All Going On A [Almost] Summer Holiday …

Well this is the last post for another week except this time I’m not going away for business, I’m going away with the family for a holiday.

Believe it or not, this is the first family holiday we’ve had in almost 3 years.

Part of that is because we have moved countries twice in the last 3 years … the other part is that when we lived in Manhattan Beach, it felt like we were on holiday whenever we were together.

So this weekend we all go – including Rosie the cat – to a farm for a week.

If I’m honest, I never ever dreamed of going to stay at a farm for a holiday.

Only staying in a tent would be worse.

But whether it’s because I’ve been on a plane so much over the past 6 months or whether it’s because I’m a Dad to a kid who absolutely loves animals … I’m genuinely looking forward to it.

Evolving opinions are a wonderful thing.

While we might think our points of view on life remain fairly static, I love that they can grow or shift.

One of the reasons I’ve kept this blog up for so long is that it’s a reference point for how I have looked at the World over time. Looking back at some old posts reveal how much my opinion on certain subjects has changed.

I love that.

It means an old dog can be taught some new tricks.

Maybe this is because having lived in so many different countries, I’ve always had to be open to how things work … but whatever the reason, I’m happy I’m going to be spending a week feeding cows even if a version of me from the past would rather be a Derby County supporter.

See you in a week.



They’re Always Close To You …
February 22, 2019, 6:16 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Emotion, Empathy, Family, Happiness, Home, Love, Mum

A few days ago, I received this.

I say ‘I’, but it was addressed to my Mum.

It was an election notice from the Italian Government.

Now I know it’s a bit weird that they are sending something to my Mum, to her old house in England, when she died almost 4 years ago, but it feels so lovely to get it.

Especially given the terribly sad situation regarding my Mum’s sister that occurred this week.

While I’m not a huge believer in ‘signs’, I can’t help but think this is a sign …

Thanks for reminding me you’re always watching out for me Mum.

I’m glad you and your sister can be together again.

Love you. Miss you.



For Auntie Silvana …
February 19, 2019, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment, Dad, Family, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad, Silvana

Outside of my Mum and Dad and my best friend Paul, Auntie Silvana has been involved my life the longest.

From my earliest age, I remember her always being there – whether that was arguing with my dad about politics or showing us around London on one of our frequent trips to visit her.

Despite facing many challenges in her life, Auntie Silvana – like her sister – was a fiercely independent woman. She never wanted to rely on someone else for help which is why she could be incredibly stubborn if she disagreed with something someone was trying to make her do. But when I think of her, the memories that flood my mind are of an incredibly kind, incredibly considerate, humble yet generous person.

She only ever wanted the best for others. She would encourage you every step of the way. And when you achieved something – however small – she would celebrate it with genuine happiness and celebration … never wanting or expecting anything in return.

There are so many things I am thankful to Auntie Silvana for. From giving me my first ever television to taking me to my first theatre show to helping my family when we needed it most.

She was a wonderful, kind, worldly and cultured lady and while I am devastated she has gone, there are 3 things I am grateful for.

1. She was able to continue living an independent life till the end. Given her eye problems, that’s testimony to her tenactity.

2. I am able to be here to let her know how much I loved her and how much my wife, Jill and my 4 year old little boy – Otis (who called her ‘Auntie Nana’) – did as well. I will forever be grateful she got to hold my son given my Mum sadly passed away before she could meet him in real life.

3. I am able to repesent my Mum and Dad – who are no longer here but would absolutely want to be if they were around – so they could share their love for her and say thank you for all you did.

Silvana, you were an amazing Auntie to me.
An amazing sister to my Mum.
And an amazing friend to my Dad.

Words will never be able to capture how much I thought of you and while the pain of your loss will last a long, long time … the memory of you will last far longer.

The World is a little less kind for your loss.

I’m happy you can be reunited with your family.

Say hi to Mum for me and thank you for everything.

Tanti Baci.

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My Dearest Silvana …
February 18, 2019, 6:15 am
Filed under: Family, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad, Silvana

So on Saturday, my Auntie Silvana passed away.

She was an incredibly kind and generous person but – like my Mum, who was her younger sister – she was also fiercely independent.

A few weeks ago she suffered an illness and sadly, while there were some positive signs, she ultimately succumbed to her ailments.

I am devastated for so many reasons.

The main one is obviously that she’s my Aunt.

She loved me and always wanted the best for me, Jill and Otis.

The second is she was incredibly kind to my family, especially Mum – who loved her so much.

During my early years, she was almost like a guardian angel to us when we encountered some tough times.

The final reason is that she is the last of her generation …

The last link to a group of wonderful people who defined so much of who I am.

While I am happy she is no longer in pain or suffering, I am so, so sad that she has gone.

Her loss will be felt for so long but her memory will last a lifetime.

Goodbye Auntie Silvana. Love you.

Rx

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Valentines Day Might Not Be About Love, But That’s No Reason To Not Talk About Love …
February 14, 2019, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Emotion, Empathy, Family, Love, Valentine's Day

Don’t worry, I’m still away.

And there won’t be another post tomorrow.

But I couldn’t let today pass without writing something.

As many of you know, I hate Valentine’s Day.

I’ve written about my hatred of this day for years … because the truth is it’s far more about fear than love.

But this year I’m going to change the narrative.

I still think Valentine’s Day is an act of marketing evil, but as it is supposed to be about love, I’m going to express it.

To my wife.

My wonderful, supportive, kind, clever and beautiful wife.

Since we met, I have taken Jill on a hell of a rollercoaster ride.

While I could argue she should have seen the warning signs when I was rushed into hospital within weeks of us meeting [resulting in her first conversation with my Mum being her saying I was having an emergency operation] … the reality is in the 15+ years we have been together, we have experienced, encountered and enjoyed about as much variety of life as you could get.

Birth.
Death.
Adventures.
Adversities.
New countries.
New languages.
Hopes and dreams.
Disappointment and broken promises.

There’s not many people who would leave their home and family to follow a guy she’d only met 6 weeks earlier.

There’s even less people who would then move to Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Los Angeles and England … with the last 3, all happening in the space of 2 years.

And there’s even less people who would do all that when the guy in question is me.

But through it all … through absolutely everything, including the ridiculous Jillysim blog … Jill has stood by me, supporting me and cheering me on, even during times when she could have rightfully said ‘can we press the pause button?’.

Nothing says this more than our time in LA.

Of all the places we lived, she particularly loved the Californian coast.

Not because of the sun, the beach and the lifestyle – but they helped – but because she had a real and vibrant friend network there.

Taking her away from that broke my heart.

She could have said ‘no’ … but she wanted to do what was best for us, not just for her and she knew I wasn’t enjoying my time in LA as I hoped I would. Because of that – and her commitment to us and our relationship – she swapped sun for rain and has embraced everything that has come her way – stuff that has tested many things that are important to her – with openness and acceptance.

I am a stronger and better person because of my wife.

She cares about me in a way that is both wonderful and unbelievable.

Everything I have achieved in the last 15 years is because of her support, brains and commitment to us.

She’s an amazing, talented woman, mother, daughter and all around person.

And while she knows I loathe valentines day with all my heart, I am happy to use this day to say I love her with all my heart.

I owe her so much and so much more.

I still can’t believe I got this lucky.

I love you Jilly.

Rx

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