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


That Was The Year That Was …

So this is it, the last post of 2019.

Congratulations, you made it.

Yes, I know it’s early given there is still a couple of weeks to go in the year – including the inaugural R/GA London Planner Pie-Off – but despite what you may all think, I’ve had a big year and quite frankly, I need a rest from here as much as you do.

When I look at 2019, it’s been pretty good.

Of course there have been a few sad events – my dear Aunt Silvana dying and Justin’s wonderful wife, Ella – but overall, things have been positive.

Even the Beijing Hotel incident was amusing.

But most of all, the fact my family are good, healthy and happy makes it a good year, especially when you think of all the changes that have happened in our lives.

For Otis in particular, he has embraced all of it like a champion and watching him have his first day at ‘proper school’ made me feel incredibly emotional and very, very proud.

Quite frankly, the fact we have managed to stay in the same country for over 12 months is something we feel like celebrating – but not as much as my bank managers is doing – and we’re super excited that we have bought our first family home, even if we’ve not yet moved into it and it meant saying goodbye to the home I spent the first 25 years of my life in.

In fact ‘settling in’ has been a great plus of 2019.

We have a house, cars, some friends and finally feel part of a community … I’ve got to be honest, it’s a lovely feeling … and while I know there will be other changes in our life at some point in the future, this is a time I’m eternally grateful for.

There’s other stuff I’m grateful for too …

Without doubt, doing the Warc talk at Cannes with Martin was a wonderful highlight.

We were quite nervous about it but it seemed to have gone down well and I will always remember it and for that, we owe a debt to the wonderful Mercedes – Martin’s fiancé – who told us to get on with doing our school because she was sick to death of hearing us talk about doing more things together.

Love you Mercedes! And Martin. But more Mercedes.

Another thing – which is a bit weird, but seems to have helped some people – is when I wrote my post about being bullied at work. The response was phenomenal which led to Corporate Gaslighting. And while the amount of stories people are sending in – or agreeing to have published – on there has reduced, I know it has helped some people and I am happy I did it and will continue to do it.

Then there’s the fact I’ve been able to spend a bunch of time visiting China.

I love that place. In fact I would regard it as my ‘home’, despite having left there over 2 years ago.

To be able to spend so much time there and be energized by the city while connecting to new – and old – clients, has been magnificent.

Talking of returning to old things, having Otis’ beloved Elodie visit from LA was awesome.

Seeing them fall into their old, caring friendship was wonderful.

As I have said previously, taking him away from her was one of the hardest things about leaving LA – and while I know distance makes things harder, technology has obviously allowed their friendship to continue, which is the best ad for tech I can think of.

While I understand being emotional about Otis and Elodie being back together, I was surprised how emotional I felt when I went back to LA – especially when I visited Otis’ old kindergarten – but I suppose even the shortest time living in a place, leaves its mark on you.

There’s a bunch of other stuff I’m grateful for this year …

Nottingham Forest … for actually making me start to believe again.

I know it will end in tears, but it’s a nice feeling all the same.

There there’s the Brian May Guitar I bought after only 35 years of waiting.

Seeing Rod Stewart and Concorde were nice, as was getting a comment from Queen producer, Mack, and his son on the post I wrote about Freddie Mercury going to a birthday party dressed in the outfit he wore for the ‘It’s A Hard Life’ video.

That the gods of metal, Metallica, decided to extend the project that I’m doing for them for another THREE YEARS was a major plus. To be honest, I’m still not sure what I’m doing for them or if they like what I’m doing for them, but it keeps Otis in free Metallica t-shirts, so it’s worth doing.

I also got a bunch of new people in my life that I did not know previously.

From the brilliant students at the Brixton Finishing School, to the talented – but totally bonkers – creatives of Dayoung, Mike and Sam and not forgetting the wonderful Joel, Erika, Amar, Megan, Ed and Hannah who all stupidly decided to become members of the delightfully talented gang of planners at R/GA.

Before I end this utterly boring – but important [for me] post, I just want to say thank you to 3 more people.

First is the wonderful Paula Bloodworth not only got engaged – to a man from Nottingham no less [hahahaha] but she got asked to move to Portland to run strategy for NIKE globally at Wieden.

She will be brilliant.

More than people know – and they already know she will be brilliant.

I have had – and have – the great privilege of being able to call Paula a friend. I’ve worked with her, argued with her, laughed with her and caused havoc with her and through it all, her talent and humanity has shone through.

Wieden are very lucky to have her. Nike are very lucky to have her. I am very lucky to be able to call her a friend.

Second is the brilliant Severine Bavon.

Sev has been a part of my team from the beginning and this month she leaves us to strike out on her own.

Not as a freelancer … but to start a company that offers a new model for creativity and strategy for agencies and clients.

I’ve said many times that everyone should start their own company at some point and I am incredibly thrilled and proud that she is going to do just that.

Of course I’m going to miss her.

She’s brilliant, tenacious, smart and a million things I am not.

But I believe a bosses job is to help their people go on to bigger and better things. Bigger and better things they may never have imagined. Bigger and better things where they are chosen for who they are not just what they do.

And while I don’t think I did anything specific to help Sev make this decision, I have a vested interest in watching her do her thing and cheering her as she does it.

Which she will.

Sev, thank you for everything … believe in your talent, follow your gut, burn everything down that stands in your way.

So that leaves the final person … and as usual, it’s anyone and everyone who has written or visited this blog.

Ranting. Arguing. Swearing. Complaining. Caring. Debating.

It’s all meant a lot to me and after this length of time of writing basically the same 5 posts over and over again, I don’t take it for granted that you pop by and pass on your wisdom/insults.

I hope you all have a great festive season and may 2020 be epic.

Hopefully not as epic as I hope mine will be, but epic all the same.

I’m off to Australia for some sun and warmth and I’ll see you on Jan 6th cold, miserable and wondering how the holiday season passed by so fast.

Ta-ra.



The Parents Worse Nightmare …

Being a parent is – for me at least – one of the most wonderful and rewarding experiences I’ve had in my life.

That said, it comes with pressure.

Not just in terms of ensuring your kid has a happy and healthy environment to grow up in, but that you balance your parenting time with also being an active and engaged employee in whatever job you do.

We are incredibly fortunate that Jill chose – and was able – to stay at home throughout Otis’ infancy and only now – as he has started school – is she contemplating going back to work. I am absolutely in no doubt this has enabled me to manage my Dad and work commitments in a way that – hopefully – has not let anyone down.

But as I said, we are lucky because frankly, I don’t know how single parents do it.

In a World where employers expect more and more from their employees – the ability to perform at a any level and still be a functioning, loving, caring parent is amazing.

I have nothing but utter admiration for single parents and the children – who adapt to the situation in ways that are remarkable – because I am unsure whether I would ever be able to achieve the same thing.

The reason I am writing this post is that I recently read the lyrics to the song ‘Cats In The Cradle’.

It’s an old song, resurrected in popularity by Ugly Kid Joe in the 90’s, but it could easily pass as a story about parenting … a horror story about parenting.

I don’t mean this because it features death or ghosts or the afterlife, but because it warns you about what can happen if you let your priorities get screwed up.

Have a read [but if you start, you have to read it all] … because while it was written in 1974, if you’re a working parent, it’s as relevant today as it ever was.

You have been warned.

My child arrived just the other day;
Came to the world in the usually way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay.
He learned to walk while I was away.
He was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it.
And as he grew he said,
“I’m gonna be like you, Dad.
You know I’m gonna be like you.”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man on the moon.
“When you comin’ home ?”
“Son, I don’t know when.
We’ll get together then.
You know we’ll have a good time then.”

Well, my son turned ten just the other day.
He said , “Thanks for the ball, Dad. Come on, let’s play.
Could you teach me to throw ?” I said, “Not today.
I got a lot to do.” He said, “That’s okay.”
And he walked away and he smiled and he said,
“You know, I’m gonna be like him, yeah.
You know I’m gonna be like him.”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man on the moon.
“When you comin’ home ?”
“Son, I don’t know when.
We’ll get together then.
You know we’ll have a good time then.”

Well, he came from college just the other day,
So much like a man I just had to say,
“I’m proud of you. Could you sit for a while ?”
He shook his head and he said with a smile,
“What I’d really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys.
See you later. Can I have them please ?”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man on the moon.
“When you comin’ home ?”
“Son, I don’t know when.
We’ll get together then.
You know we’ll have a good time then.”

I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away.
I called him up just the other day.
“I’d like to see you, if you don’t mind.”
He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I could find the time.
You see my new job’s a hassle and the kids have the flu,
But it’s sure nice talkin’ to you, Dad.
It’s been sure nice talkin’ to you.”
And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me,
He’d grown up just like me.
My boy was just like me.



School Should Never Be A Place For Fear For Anyone …

So this is the last post until next Thursday as I’m traveling for work.

I know you all think this means I’m going on a ‘free holiday’, but I am going to take the high road.Ahem.

Yesterday I wrote a post about media helping kids grow up too fast in ways that drives complicity and pressure not independence and individuality.

It’s a subject close to my heart now I have Otis.

Protecting your child is a weird thing.

You know you want to, but you know there’s only so much you can do.

That’s part of the reason I never felt comfortable living in America.

Despite having our house in an incredibly privileged area – the reality that gun crime is everywhere there – never made me comfortable. I would feel uncomfortable going to the cinema. I would look for exists every time I went to the shopping malls. And while you may think I was being over-the-top, the reality is these things happen … in fact, the week after we left LA, there was a shooting at the mall we used to go.

Anywhere where you get a leaflet through the door warning you about violence and guns in schools needs to take a long hard look at itself in terms of what it values more than a life … which is why this video from the Sandy Hook Promise organization makes sure everyone knows that the best way yo protect your child in America is teaching them how to deal with the environment that surrounds them.



Society Is Growing Kids Faster Than Battery Hens …

One of the things that is a beautiful nightmare for parents is watching the speed of their children grow up.

At each stage of their development, you think they have reached ‘peak perfect’ and you want them to stay that way forever … but you can deal with their growth because they bring an even more delightful element into their behaviour and, as a byproduct, your relationship.

It’s utterly, utterly magical.

That said, it still doesn’t stop the fact it all happens in the blink of an eye, so while you want to always encourage their development, you just wish it would slow down a little.

The reason I say this is that I recently read about a graphic designer was so appalled at the cover of a young girls magazine, that they decided to release what they thought it should be.

Now I must admit, my first impression to this story was that the graphic designer was probably a self-righteous individual who wanted kids to grow up in the same conditions as they did.

That was until I saw this …

The original cover of the magazine is on the left, their version is on the right.

I’m going to ignore their cover – because you can read how it came about and the story behind their idea, here – however the magazine they redesigned is a real magazine and, according to their own website, supposedly stands for:

Girls’ Life (GL) magazine was founded in August 1994 (yes, we’re ancient, we know) by Karen Bokram. Since then, GL has grown from a 23-year-old’s pipe dream project to a best-selling and award-winning platform for tween and teen girls.

Tweens and teens.

An incredibly impressionable age.

Now look at that cover.

Look at those story headlines.

Now I appreciate I am an old, white male … but they seem to place huge subliminal pressure and expectations on young women.

Wake Up Pretty.

Dream Hair.

Fashion you need to own.

Boyfriends.

If young women want to explore any of those things, then that is wonderful, but I wonder how much of it is because they are being made to feel that way rather than being something they are naturally interested in. Of course, there is something wonderful about learning to develop and grow … but this seems less about personal growth and more about playing to stereotypes – and advertising dollars – so that they can then be judged by broader society.

Of course parents have a big role to play in managing the environment their children play in, but at a time where the World is finally waking up to fighting the prejudice, oppression and stereotypes women have had to face for centuries, it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve this when the World they are surrounded by continues to push an agenda of compliance … especially when they’re titles supposedly designed for the betterment of young women.

Of course this is not limited to content for young women, young boys also have stereotypes of behaviour and aspiration shoved down their throats that are unrealistic and add incredible pressure to their development.

I get children will always grow up too fast for parents, but it is scary how even that isn’t fast enough for media outlets.

What makes it worse is so many of them say their ‘purpose‘ is to inspire brilliance in their readership.

Girls Life specifically say their role is ‘dedicated to informing, inspiring and entertaining girls around the globe—and that includes everything from starting your business (we LOVE spotlighting smart, successful teens) to putting up with periods to styling a personal look you’ll love’.

Which is why I look at the Graphic Designer who screwed with their cover and say ‘well done’ … because I now realise what they did was not act like a judgmental parent, but simply show Girls Life how their cover should look if they are serious about what they claim they represent.



Love Hurts For All It’s Wonderfulness …
September 5, 2019, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Comment, Family, Fatherhood, Love

Today is Freddie Mercury’s birthday.

He would have been 73.

SEVENTY THREE!

While I would love to hear what he was creating if he were alive today, maybe it is dying so young that has made him immortal?

Immortality is an interesting one.

Because while it doesn’t exist in physical form, it does in terms of emotions and memories.

Or so I thought …

This post is about a story that came up on my Facebook feed from years ago that had made a huge impression on me when I first encountered it.

It’s the story of a mother who lost her son to a brain tumour and then – by pure chance – met the young man who had been given his heart.

It is beautiful, loving and heartbreakingly sad all at the same time, especially the last 5 words of the story.

You can read it at the bottom of this post.

However, when it first came out, I wasn’t a father and so reading it again as the proud Dad of an energetic 4 year old, meant the effect it had on me has been even more powerful.

I have a better understanding of what Freda Carter must have felt.

How meeting the boy who lived because her son sadly passed, let her once again feel close to her precious son.

No anger … no bitterness or resentment … just a chance to have one last chance with someone who has gone.

Apart from being a deeply emotional story, I think I connected to it deeply because I had lost my parents and even now, would do anything to have one more moment with them.

But now I’m a Dad, well … it gives me anguish just thinking about it.

And that’s why I have even more respect for Andy and his wife.

Without going into too much detail, they faced an unbelievably scary situation when their beautiful daughter Bonnie was very young.

While many would fall apart, they handled everything with utter grace and calm.

No anger.

No blame.

No pity.

Of course they were scared and I know behind the glare of their daughters, doctors, friends and families eyes, there were many tears and fears shared … but they were absolutely focused and resolute on ensuring their daughter was in an environment of love, calmness and compassion and they ensured everyone they knew had to abide by those rules.

At the time I think everyone understood their wishes but were concerned they were adding even more pressure on themselves, however now that time has passed and Bonnie is brilliantly well, I see the strength of character and love that drove them forward.

I hope I am never in the situation they faced.

But if I am, they would be the inspiration for how to best deal with it.

As would Freda Carter.

Ensuring the focus is on loving what is precious, not hating what you can’t control.



Home Is A Place In The Mind …

As I wrote a while back, we are looking to buy a family home.

Well the good news is we have found one – and while we don’t move into it till December – we’re already getting excited about it.

But as I also wrote, to help us buy it, I was going to sell the house I inherited when Mum died.

The house that was my home for my entire childhood and early twenties.

Well, it has been sold and while I know my Mum would be incredibly happy the proceeds have helped her beloved son buy a home for his family, it’s still quite an emotional wrench.

I absolutely think I’ve done the right thing.

The street I grew up on all those years has changed beyond recognition.

Neighbours have gone.

The college at the end of the street has been knocked down.

My connection to the area is no longer what it once was.

But despite that, it will always hold a special place in my heart … a place that represents ‘childhood’ … a place where it was just Mum, Dad and me and I will treasure that forever.

Anyway, one of the things we have been doing while the purchase goes through has been to visit the house.

Part of this is my way of saying goodbye.

Part of this is to take some flowers so we can plant them in our new place and have a bit of my history in my present.

Part of this is just to let Otis feel a connection to a place that was so important to his Dad and – for a period of 3 weeks in 2015 – was where he also lived.

And while just spending a few minutes there every odd weekend may seem very small, I cannot tell you how much it has helped me reclaim some connection to my roots.

The picture at the top of this page, is one of those connections.

Seeing Otis in the garden I used to play in was wonderful.

The garden my parents absolutely treasured and loved.

It brought back all sorts of memories … from hiding under those fern trees playing ‘hide and seek’ through to running through a small gap that existed between the garden and the street [right behind where Otis is standing] that meant I could have a quick getaway when playing British bulldog or simply wanting to get to the ice cream van before anyone else.

That home will always be special to me.

That garden will always remind me of my parents.

The memories created in that house will always be previous.

And while I will soon say goodbye to it [though I have had it written into the contract I can visit it once every 5 years] I will forever be grateful for all it gave me … from a childhood home filled with happiness and love, through to giving me the chance to buy a house where my family can create the sort of memories that will be as precious to Otis as Nottingham was to me.

Thank you Mum and Dad, you keep on taking care of me.



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.