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


A Year Like No Other …

So this is it. The final post of 2020.

Congratulations on making it to here. Especially after a year like this one.

I have to say it feels kind-of bitter sweet for me, because as I’ve written before – this year has been pretty special for me and my family.

Sure I turned 50.

Sure, Forest still fucked up the promotion hopes they’d held onto all season in the last 15 minutes of the last game of the whole season.

And sure I lost my job

But even though they’re all pains in the arse, compared to what others have – and are – suffering, it was nothing. Hell, even turning 50 gave me the chance to do this.

When I originally wrote this post, I’d listed all the things that had happened to me this year.

It was a very, very long list.

And while I am super grateful for each and every one of those things – from new jobs to new houses to family happiness to Paul doing Frothy Coffee full time – it just felt wrong.

Not just because there’s a whole host of people going through a terribly shit time right now. Nor the fact I’m a over the self-promoting, self-congratulatory, soapbox shouting by people on social media. Or even because the brilliant Mr Weigel wrote it better than I ever could achieve [as usual] … but because of something I read in The Guardian Newspaper a few weeks ago.

Specifically the very first sentence.

Which was – utterly bizarrely – about me.

No seriously, and it went like this.

On a sunny Tuesday afternoon in July, Rob Campbell, 50, received a Zoom call from his boss at the advertising firm where he worked as a head of strategy.

When I read it, the number 50 stood out.

Like it was 50 stories high.

It confused and confronted me.

Part of it was because I don’t think I am that age.

Part of it is knowing I am.

And maybe it was at that point I realised just how lucky I am.

Not that I was naive to it before, but it became more apparent.

Because losing your job at 50 is shit.

It doesn’t mean it’s all over, but it’s unusual to have so many good things happen and frankly, it all made me feel a bit embarrassed which is why I deleted the list of stuff.

It happened. I just don’t need to share it because I lived it.

And while it would only have been there to act as a reminder of all that happened should I – or Otis, later in his life – wanted to jog our memory about it, the spirit of this post and those before it say all that needs to be said.

So instead, I want to use the rest of this post to say thank you.

There’s so many people I am grateful to have in my life.

So many people who made the worst year, in many respects, one of my best.

People on here.
People in the industry – some I knew, some I didn’t.
People who just read my instagram and got in touch.

You may not realise it, but it made a huge difference to how I saw the future.

Then there is my amazing family. Their unconditional belief and support meant I never had to panic. I never had to worry. I mean, I did have moments of it – but that was all because of me, never them. Jill never expressed concern. She gave me confidence by simply being confident in me so the whole experience never felt scary – which is incredible when you think about it. Then there’s Otis. God, I love that kid. Seeing him come home from his new teeny-tiny school in the country filled with stories and giggles meant the house never had a chance to feel bad.

My mates were ace. A check-in here, a word of advice there, a dollop of pisstaking and a whole lot of love. They ensured I never felt alone, and while I was perfectly fine with the situation I found myself in, they made sure I stayed perfectly fine with the situation I found myself in.

Of course I can’t forget my old colleagues. Not just from R/GA … but also Deutsch, Wieden+Kennedy and Cynic. So many got in touch. Offered to help. Made me laugh. They didn’t have to do that – especially the way I had treated them when we worked together, hahaha – but they did and it meant more to me than they may ever know.

I want to give a particular shout out to Blake Harrop.

Not only is he the most handsome, clever man in the whole universe but he is also the MD of Wieden Amsterdam.

When he heard what had happened, he sent me an absolutely epic note. I’ve always regarded him as a special man, but this just took it to another level and I will keep that note forever.

And then my clients.

Past. Sort-of present. And now, future.

Fuck me … what an impact they had on my confidence.

Not just in their kind words, but in their actions. Signing long-term contracts, introducing me to others and – in the case of two in particular – collaborating with me to start Uncorporated. As I’ve noted in other posts, the work it has let me be a part of is unprecedented and I cannot say thank you to them enough.

Finally to the wonderful folk at Colenso.

To have one of the agencies I’ave always loved reach out and ask me to join them was simply the icing on the cake. They were open, warm, encouraging and honest throughout the process before topping it off with most well written job offer letter I’ve received in my life. Seriously, it was a work of art and if there was an award show for this sort of thing, it would be a Black Pencil winner for sure. I can’t thank Scott and the team enough for the opportunity to play with them and I can’t wait to be there in March and cause some trouble.

What all this means is that I have been surrounded by wonderful people.

Not just the ones I know, but people who just reached out to see if they could help.

I don’t know what I have done to deserve it all to be honest [it must be Jill and Otis] but I totally get why people say it’s better to be lucky than rich.

So to each and every one of you, I want to say thank you.

Jill, Otis, Paul, Michelle, Mr Weigel, Mercedes, Paula Bloodworth, David Lin, Carina, Winson and Wanshi, Nils, my wonderful old planning team at R/GA London, Lesley Cheng, Ryan and Sam, Mike and Sam, Trudie, Matt Tanter, Group Think, Scott and Levi and all at Colenso, Blake Harrop, Karrelle Dixon, John Rowe, Mr Ji, Richard Green, everyone at Q-Prime, Metallica, RHCP, Richard David James, Paul Colman, Flash, Rodion, Charinee, Debbie, Leon, Jorge Calleja, George, Andy, Baz, Lee Hill, Simon Pestridge, Steve Tsoi and PT Black, Patrick the Dirty Ram fan, Michael Roberts, Ben Major, Holly Day, Lindsey Evans, Dan Hill, Rach Mercer, Donn the grandpa jumper wearer, Ben Perreira, Maya, Chelsea, Bree, James Thorpe, Lani, Tarik at Onroad, Leigh, Nic Owen, Bassot, Judd Caraway, Gareth Kay, Pickens, Wes, Hoala, Brixton Finishing School, Mark Lester, Ros and Hiro, Lea Walker, Phil Jacobson, Maria Correa, Sam Clohesy, Ian Preston, Doddsy, Lee Hill, the inspirational Murray Calder, Wendy Clark and every single person who has insulted, laughed or ridiculed me on here.

While I am sure I’ve forgotten some names, I assure you I haven’t forgotten your kindness.

To be able to have all this at 50, in one of the worst years the World has seen is insane. I definitely feel some guilt over it so I hope that in 2021, everyone out there gets lucky … and if I can do anything to help that, give me a shout – because it COVID has reminded me of one thing, we’re better together than separate.

May you all have an amazing holiday season. Or as amazing as it can be.

I send you thanks, love and best wishes.

And I leave you with the 3 ads that gave me hope that creativity still is a more powerful and deadly weapon than all the frameworks, funnels and optimisation put together.

See you on the other side. Specifically on the 11th.



Happy Birthday To The Best Thing I’ve Ever Had A Little Bit To Do With …
December 11, 2020, 7:30 am
Filed under: Childhood, Dad, Daddyhood, Family, Fatherhood, Jill, Love, My Fatherhood, Otis, Parents

My dearest Otis.

I loved you before I even met you.

I love you more than you will ever comprehend.

And while you can get a teensy-bit exasperated with me, when I tell you that every single day, the fact remains I will continue to tell you. Every single day.

I can't help it.

I couldn't stop even if I tried.

But I don't want to try, I love every single thing about you.

Your kindness. Your cheekiness. Your ideas. Your laughter. Your mischief. Your curiosity. Your heart. Your emotions. Your love.

It’s breath taking for me to see and I am so proud of the boy you are and the boy you will be.

Actually it’s more than that.

I’m proud I’m your dad, full-stop.

So to my wonderful boy, happy 6th birthday.

I know it is a strange one this year with all that has happened in the past months, but I want you to know that spending so much time with you has been one of the greatest experiences in my whole life.

Keep being exactly as you are.

To your Mum and me, you are perfect.

Love you,

Rx



Big Week For A Little Kid: Day/Year 4 to [Almost] 6 …
December 10, 2020, 7:30 am
Filed under: Comment, Dad, Daddyhood, Fatherhood, Jill, London, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad, My Fatherhood, Otis, Paul, Rosie, Shelly

I love the photo above.

We took it while we were still living in London.

I love it because it’s like a perfect encapsulation of Otis.

Bursting with energy.

Throwing himself into things.

Absolutely loving the element of mischief.

When we were expecting him, a friend of mine sent me a plaque that said …

Boys: Noise with dirt on them.

Well, it’s pretty true. At least in Otis’ case.

And I love that.

I love seeing his curiosity coming more to the fold.

Not just in terms of everyday exploring and discovering … but pushing boundaries.

Seeing what happens.

Hearing the questions he has after he’d done something new.

Good or bad … or just confused when something didn’t turn out as he imagined.

These last couple of year have really seen this side of him ramp-up.

Maybe it’s because previously, he was using his curiosity to help him adapt to his new surroundings … but not any more.

Now there is a confidence in exploring.

A genuine interest in understanding more.

And while he is very clear on what he does and doesn’t like, one thing he adores is the getting messy in the quest of discovery.

Moving to the country has been a revelation for him.

Oh he loved the city – like his dad – but there are things here he can do he never had before.

From exploring the garden with his Mum to playing with an entire school because there’s only 30 people in the whole place.

Then coming in to tell us what he’s learnt and what he’d like to learn.

From food to history to video games to the joy of being able to run outside till it hurts.

It’s an infectious thing to witness.

It’s an even better thing to talk about, cuddled up on the sofa.

Keep pushing those barriers Otis.

Everything you want to know, learn and become is on the other side of it.

Love you.

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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 Big Week For A Little Kid: Day/Year 2 to 3 …
December 8, 2020, 7:30 am
Filed under: Dad, Daddyhood, Family, Fatherhood, Jill, Love, Mum & Dad, My Fatherhood, Otis, Parents

So as I wrote yesterday, this week is dedicated to Otis because on Friday, he turns 6.

This post is all around this photo.

This was the moment Otis was handed to his Mum after his operation.

We had flown to Australia for this treatment because even though we lived in Shanghai – we were told there was a hospital in Sydney that specialised in the procedure he needed.

We had flown in a couple of days before so he could see his Gran and cousin and all he knew was he was having a whale of a time. This was good as we wanted that more than anything.

The night before he was being admitted, the hospital told us he should not eat and we should try to keep him awake as late as possible. While the evening went well with time spent at the park near our place in Balmain …

… things quickly took a turn for the worse when we had to deny him food.

While we knew it was for his own good, it was so hard – especially as he didn’t take it very well – and it made Jill and I even more anxious than we were already.

We didn’t sleep the whole night and were grateful when 6am rolled by as it meant that was the time we could leave our hotel in the City and drive him to the hospital.

Fortunately Otis was so exhausted he was asleep for the entire journey and that removed some of the tension that was in the air.

The check-in was fine and the doctors told us what they were going to do and then they asked if we could help them administer the general anaesthetic. In essence, they wanted one of us there so Otis would feel calm as they placed a mask over his face.

I couldn’t do it …

I wish I could, but the whole thing triggered the experience I had with Mum a year earlier when she had the operation that so sadly failed, so instead, my wonderful, beautiful, compassionate Jill went in.

She came back very upset and I remember being so worried, but she told me it was all fine – it was just the sight of seeing our son be put to sleep that had deeply affected her.

I can’t imagine how hard that must have been.

To put your child in a position where they are intentionally losing consciousness must be against every instinct a parent can have.

We then spent the next couple of hours trying to be calm while secretly shitting ourselves. Of course, compared to many parents – what we were going through was nothing. When I think back to all the challenges Andy and Maria had to deal with, with Bonnie, I feel embarrassed to admit how worried we were … but we were so you can imagine the relief we felt when Otis was brought back in and placed in his loving mum’s open arms.

Everything was fine.

The operation had been a success.

But nothing made me feel so at peace as when he was back in his Mum’s arms – watching the 2 people I love the most in the World be together. Providing each other with the comfort and love they needed to feel from each other.

I still love that photo, even though it commemorates a time that was very worrying for us.

It kind-of reminds me of the very first time Jill saw Otis.

He’d just been born in the hospital in Shanghai and the way she said, “Oh hello … you’re so beautiful”, when he was placed on her chest is burned in my mind.

Here she was, meeting the wonderful kid she’d been carrying around inside her for 9 months.

A child we had so dearly wanted.

It’s one of the greatest moments of my life and this photo reminds me of it.

The way she looks at him.

Wanting to see him while protecting him.

An instantaneous wave of the most intense love.

A calm voice to soothe him after his adventure.

The beginning of the next.

I always knew a child was a wonderful thing. I have always wanted them – I just wasn’t ready. And while I don’t regret that, I can say the experience is bigger and better than I ever imagined.

And while I am sure most parents feel this way about their kid.

This one is mine.

This is my Otis.

While I appreciate he hasn’t gone through as many challenges as other kids out there, he has faced his own version of them. Less medical and more emotional because his parents keep bloody moving country.

And while we were still living in Shanghai at that point, he gave me a big clue he was destined to take challenges in his stride, because 36 hours after the above photo was taken, he was at his grannies, like nothing had happened.

I love this kid more than I can ever properly convey.

Happy birthday for Friday son.

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