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


Perfect Days In My Mind …
November 3, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: Dad, Daddyhood, Family, Fatherhood, Jill, Mum, Mum & Dad, Otis, Parents

Today would have been my Mum’s 85th birthday.

Eighty Five.

I would have flown in to see her. Probably, surprise her.

I did that a couple of times.

Once when I was living in Australia and once when I was in Singapore.

And on both occasions – when she went outside supposedly to help my best friend Paul bring something into her house, and when I hid behind a huge bouquet of birthday flowers – the surprise on her face was utterly adorable.

And because of those occasions, I know what would have happened if I surprised her today.

First she would have stopped dead in her tracks … trying to work out how I was in front of her when she thought I was on the other side of the planet.

Then she would have had a huge smile on her face as she walked towards me to give me a huge hug and a big kiss on the cheeks.

Finally she would tell me how happy and surprised she was, before saying she had to go and make up my bed immediately.

And even though it would be her special day, she would want the focus to be on me and we would have a little back-and-forth as I would insist I was there to celebrate her, not the other way round.

And I would win – not because she liked having a fuss being made of her, in fact she hated it – but because she knew I was happy when she let me make a fuss over her and me being happy made her happy too.

Just to be clear, her version of what ‘a fuss’ was, wasn’t a fuss at all.

I’m talking about having dinner together and talking and just enjoying each others company.

And while Mum would love it, I know she’d be thinking she was taking me away from other things I could be doing so I’d have to remind her I was there for her and we would laugh and hold hands and say how lovely it was to be together.

I would give anything to have that happen today.

Especially as this time, I would have Jill and Otis with me.

And that would make her think it was her best birthday ever.

Because she would get to watch Otis run and laugh around her little garden.

And get to hold his little hand while she went around telling him what all the flowers were.

And get to hear him say “thank you” after he’d wolfed down the pasta she would have lovingly made for him.

And while this all happened, I’d see her radiate with energy and love.

Filled with a spirit that only meeting your grandson for the first time can give.

And while she would desperately try to stop herself kissing Otis’ cheeks over and over again for fear of making him uncomfortable, every interaction would provide her with a joy she would not have felt for a very long time.

I wish this was how today played out.

I wish this was not just happening in my mind.

But it is and while I’d prefer the real thing, I am happy I can picture this in such detail.

It makes me still feel close to my beloved Mum.

The kindest, most generous and considerate person I’ve ever met.

And while I know she can not read this, a little part of me wishes she could.

Because I want her to know the love I have for her is as strong as it ever was.

And this is a small way of showing her that.

As will be the little thing I’ll be doing at work today in her honour.

Happy birthday my dearest Mum.

I miss you, love you and hope Dad is giving you an extra hug today.

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We Are All The Same. We Are All Different.

So for the past 2 days I’ve been writing a lot about equality.

It’s a subject very close to my heart.

To be honest, it always has been but being a Father has raised it’s importance.

In some ways, having Otis grow up in China made things easier as it meant he was exposed to different cultures from day 1 but I didn’t want to take that for granted, so when we knew we were going to move to the US, I spoke to a friend of mine – a Brit, who is black and lives in the US – about the [thankfully small] issues his kids faced being in the US and what he thought parents should teach their kids to stop that happening.

His response was phenomenal.

In essence there were 2 parts.

The first was the obvious one – treat every person from every culture the same way – with respect, appreciation and consideration.

So far so good … but it was the next bit that really made an impact.

Don’t tell Otis different cultures are all the same.

Don’t ‘whitewash’ our differences, acknowledge them … enrich Otis with understanding about different cultures history, struggles and values.

Or said another way … celebrate the differences but treat everyone the same.

Brilliant.

Absolutely brilliant.

In a World where so much hate is built simply on ‘being different’, helping break down those walls through knowledge and understanding is even more powerful than just saying ‘don’t see the colour, see the person’.

Of course it’s vital to treat people the same, but understanding the background isn’t just a mark of respect – it’s a way to celebrate strengths and understand behaviours that you may otherwise judge for no other reason than your own in-built prejudices.

So among Otis’ books on animals and dinosaurs and Peppa fucking Pig, he has books that explore the cultures associated with Africa [‘Africa Is Not A Country’ & ‘Sundiata’], Mexico [‘Tequila Worm’] and the Middle East [‘My Fathers Shop’].

Now I appreciate some people may think we are going a bit over-the-top with this.

After all, Otis is only 2 and a half.

But, as I have written before, I’ve learnt not to care what others think.

I’ve learnt people often mistake being a parent with being an ‘expert’ on kids.

I’ve also learnt kids develop so many of their behaviours by being masters of mimicking how their parents behave.

[Jill hopes she can stop him fall victim to ironic t-shirts and Birkenstocks]

At the end of the day, we believe we have a responsibility to him – and society as a whole – to encourage the values and beliefs that can enable him to be a good human being … someone who doesn’t just contribute to society in terms of what he achieves, but in terms of what he helps others achieve.

Of course we know he will face challenges.

Peer pressure. Unexpected circumstances. The allure of mischief.

And while we can’t dictate how he handles those things, we hope we can prepare him to deal with them in a way where he can hold his head high … which is why on top of being loving, supporting parents, we will buy him books on understanding different cultures, give him dolls to play with and encourage him to play with his beloved pink kitchen.

Being a Father is one of the most amazing things that has happened in my life.

I feel embarrassed to admit I had no idea how good it would be … and while being a good parent is basically a matter of trying things with good intent, I want to say a big thank you to Karrelle Dixon … because he may not realise it, but he made a big difference to how my little boy will grow up. Not in terms of respect, but in terms of understanding … and when you think about it, that’s one of the most wonderful gifts you can give anyone.

I hope my parents would think we’re doing good with their grandson.

I think they would.



To My Beloved Otis. Always Run Towards Happiness ….

Following on from yesterday’s post, I want to talk about the dismay I feel about the Australian government asking for a referendum on whether gay marriage is acceptable.

What offends me even more than the fact this shouldn’t even be an issue is that when there are issues that should have input from the nation – from immigration to military intervention – the decisions are made without any level of consultation.

It makes absolutely no sense, unless the government think gay marriage is more dangerous than defending Australia’s shores.

Actually, they probably think it is.

One of the reasons this issue bothers me is that on top of everything else, my son Otis has an Australian passport.

OK, he also has a British and Canadian one … but should he wish to settle in Australia when he’s older, I want him to have all the rights heterosexuals have, which is why I hope, should he ever need reassurance, he see’s this message that I wrote about marriage equality a while back and knows his Mum and Dad love him and will always support him in his quest for happiness and fulfillment.



Finally …
September 18, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Daddyhood, Family, Fatherhood, Insight

3 days after I arrived in the US, I ordered a new car.

This was momentous for a bunch of reasons.

1. It was only the 2nd car I’d ever bought.
2. It was the first car I was going to have after 15 years.

Of course, because I’m a sad bastard, I wanted all the gadgets in it which meant I’ve had to sit on my hands for 4 months while the bloody thing was built for me.

That might not sound much, but for an only child, that is like being sent to Guantanamo Bay.

Well, after driving Jill mad with continual ‘Youtube video car review’ watching [hey, what can I say, I was really excited about getting it], it’s finally arrived.

Actually, to be specific, it arrived earlier last week but typical of karma getting her own back on me, I was away so couldn’t get to it.

I cannot tell you how hard that was for me. Yeah, I know, it’s a first world problem but it was still bloody painful.

Well, not I’ve got it, I am beside myself with joy.

Every time I look at it I smile a massive smile.

Part of that is because I can’t believe it is mine mainly because I don’t think I deserve it.

OK, so you probably feel I don’t deserve it either, but what I actually mean is that deep down, I don’t feel I should ever be in a position to own such a car. I’m not trying to act humble or anything, it’s just that when I think of my parents – both of whom were smarter and better humans than me – they could never of had such a thing so the fact I can reinforces both how lucky I am and how unfair things are for others.

To be honest, this feeling is one of the reasons I insisted we get Jill a new, new car.

Without going into too much, she’s had a bunch of hardship in her life [and I don’t just mean being married to me] so being in a position to get her something she never thought she would ever have, gave me incredibly happiness.

Of course the ultimate revenge is the fact that the moment you drive a new car out of a dealership, it is worth a good deal less than you paid for it, but what some fail to realise is buying a new car isn’t about practicality but emotion.

I’m not even talking about it in terms of materialism or status … for me, I’m talking about it in terms of being a proper adult.

Well, as ‘proper an adult’ as I’ll ever be.

I appreciate that sounds wank – and it probably is – but now I have a family, a car lets me feel I’m able to do my bit for them.

To take them on adventures.

To let us be more spontaneous.

To just go out and explore more easily.

I get many of you will think this is all an excuse designed to try and justify my choice of car – and maybe I’m kidding myself and this is simply a case of me wanting to have a car, especially when I’m living in the city of cars – but I really feel this will fundamentally change the life we are living here in a great way and that excites me hugely.

Let’s just hope I don’t crash the bloody thing …



Oh Dad, I Miss You So Much …
September 15, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: Dad, Daddyhood, Death, Family, Fatherhood, Love, Mum & Dad

So on Sunday, it would be my Dad’s 79th birthday.

That means he has been gone 19 years.

NINETEEN.

That blows my mind because in some ways, it only feels like a couple of years since he died.

Obviously I wish he was still here.

Healthy.

Happy.

With Mum by his side.

And if he was, I would be sending them tickets to come to America.

To see their only son.

Their daughter in law.

The beloved grandson.

And we would sit in our back-garden in the evening sun and talk while we looked at Otis running around, doing his ‘missions’.

And at some point, I would stop and look at them all interacting … conscious of how special this moment was, trying to take it all in.

Dad’s kind eyes.

Mum’s beautiful face.

My wife’s happy smile.

My son’s infectious joy.

With a backdrop of laughter and love … all mingling together in a way that made it absolutely perfect.

A perfect I’d want to remember forever because in some ways, it would be everything I had ever wished for and wanted.

Happy birthday for Sunday my dear Dad.

Not a day goes by without me thinking of you.

Rxxx



Speak In A Way Culture Can Hear …

I know this week has been a week of super short, super bad posts – even by my standards – but today I end the week on a longer and more serious note.

A few weeks ago, the country singer Glen Campbell died.

Despite sharing the same surname, I have never shown any interest in this singer/songwriter because basically, I hate country music.

Sure, I knew a couple of his songs, but if you’d asked me who sang them, I would have not been able to tell you in a million years.

So why am I writing about his death?

Well, when he died, a friend of mine – who is a massive music guy – wrote on his Facebook about Glen Campbell’s life and there was one bit that really hit me which was how he dealt with being diagnosed with Alzheimers.

Rather than retire quietly, he stepped up his workload.

Not to capitalize on his illness or end his career on a high … but because music was something he loved and he wanted to enjoy it before he forgot it.

And he was forgetting it.

He needed a teleprompter on stage to help him remember the lyrics to his songs.

He needed to be reminded that some members of his band were his very own children.

But that’s not the thing that hit me, it was the fact that he wrote a song about his illness called, ‘I’m Not Gonna Miss You’.

To be honest, just hearing he had done that reminded me of the poem Clive James wrote about his impending death. A post that was extra significant at the time because I was about to fly to England to be with my Mum for her impending heart operation – an operation that sadly didn’t work.

As many of you know, I’ve written a lot about death.

Not because I particularly like the subject, but because I believe not talking about it can do us far more harm.

It’s never a comfortable topic to discuss, but I know my denial of my Fathers situation led to me experiencing 10 years of pain.

And while my Mum died unexpectedly, she had made sure that it was something we talked about in general terms and then – as an act of love that is almost impossible to comprehend – she quietly made arrangements to ensure that if she did not get through the operation, the legal ramifications of her passing would not add extra burden to my broken heart.

I must admit, I initially found it hard to think that she had done this for me.

Of course I recognised it as an act of love but as she had once told me that she was scared of dying alone, I imagined her fears would have become even stronger while she was preparing all these things for me.

I’ve got to be honest, it’s only writing this that has made me realise that regardless the nervousness Mum was feeling, she would also have had a sense of contentment that she was able to do this for me.

That’s a level of love that has literally made me tear up while I am writing this which reinforces why I am so, so glad that she knew I was with her when the worse moment happened.

I write all this because I hope Glen Campbell’s family will one day feel the same sense of love when they read the lyrics to his sons, ‘I’m not gonna miss you’.

I can’t imagine how it must have felt hearing this song for the first time – especially as his Alzheimers had only just been diagnosed – but in time, I truly hope they can see past the pain and feel the love of someone who, at their darkest hour, wanted them to know how much he loved them.

I’m still here, but yet I’m gone
I don’t play guitar or sing my songs
They never defined who I am
The man that loves you ’til the end
You’re the last person I will love
You’re the last face I will recall
And best of all, I’m not gonna miss you
Not gonna miss you
I’m never gonna hold you like I did
Or say I love you to the kids
You’re never gonna see it in my eyes
It’s not gonna hurt me when you cry
I’m never gonna know what you go through
All the things I say or do
All the hurt and all the pain
One thing selfishly remains
I’m not gonna miss you
I’m not gonna miss you

It those lyrics haven’t affected you, then you’re not human.

Which leads to a point I’d like to make about advertising.

No, really …

As you will have worked out by now, I am an emotional bloke.

Of course that doesn’t mean I don’t value intelligence or information or data, it’s just that if our learnings aren’t conveyed in a way that captures how our audience actually feels, it becomes ‘cold’ to me.

Part of this is because I believe our job is to connect to culture, part of this is because I believe creativity should push and provoke … but mostly, it’s because I believe the best work connects to audiences on a much deeper level than the superficial.

Put simply, it feels like it’s come from inside the culture rather than from someone observing it.

And that’s why Glen Campbell’s song is so powerful to me … because even though I hate country music, when I read his lyrics, I was reminded that great work talks in a way you powerfully feel rather than passively rationalize.

Thank you for the lesson Glen.



You Wish Your Child Was Like My Son … Asshole
July 21, 2017, 6:10 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Family, Fatherhood, Love, Otis, Parents

That photo is of my son, Otis.

He is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

He is cheeky, curious, kind, loving, beautiful and absolutely full of energy.

Now I’m sure most parents would describe their child like that, but based on a situation we experienced recently, it seems even other parents would regard Otis’ energy as being at another level.

Maybe it’s because he was restricted from going out in China because of the pollution.

Maybe it’s because he’s just loves being with other kids.

Maybe it’s because he is excited and curious about life.

Whatever it is, he can make the Energizer Bunny look like a sloth – and while we love seeing him run around and laugh – some other parents view this as a fault.

A few weeks ago, he was running around while some other kids were sat on the floor. He wasn’t bothering them, but in his excitement, he accidentally fell onto another child.

The reaction of both this other kid – and their parent – was extreme.

They acted like Otis had attacked them, even though he got up and [remember he’s only 2 1/2] said sorry and patted the child on the arm as a way of apologising. [We did the same … apologise I mean]

Apparently that wasn’t enough, because the parent came right up and ‘suggested’ Otis should be given a 2 minute time-out as punishment.

Fuck you!

Who the hell are you to try and dictate how we deal with our son?

Who the hell are you to try and curb his enthusiasm for life?

It was an accident. If it wasn’t, he would have been reprimanded, but he’s a sweet, caring, happy kid and all he did was fall over because his energy was running faster than his little chubby legs could go.

But as much as this parent fucked me off, it taught me a valuable lesson.

Before, when parents saw Otis running around like a happy lunatic, they would say things like, “He’s got a lot of energy hasn’t he?” and I would respond with a World-weary sigh and say something like, “You have no idea.”

But now I don’t.

Now I look at the person and say, “Yes, isn’t it awesome”.

Because it is.

As is my son.

And I’m not going to help a stranger feel better about their self-declared parental expertise by putting him down.