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


Memories Of Mothercare …

I know it’s ridiculous to feel sad about a store closing … especially a store I hardly ever went in and when I did, it was obviously catered for women rather than men, but the news Mothercare has closed has made me sad.

I don’t know how many times I entered that store.

I definitely remember walking in the one in Victoria Centre, Nottingham, with my Mum when I was a very small kid … but I probably never entered another store until 40 odd years later when I was going to be a dad.

Ironically that was in Nottingham as well, even though we were living in Shanghai at the time.

But there’s a significant reason why this store means so much to me, because that’s where I found out I was going to be having a baby boy.

We were in the UK on holiday and my kind, wonderful wife wanted my Mum to feel part of the journey. Her idea to do that was to have a scan that would tell us the sex of the baby and have the doctor write it down, put it in an envelope and let my Mum tell us over a nice lunch.

That morning, before the scan, we were having breakfast and trying to come up with names. We were finding it much, much harder than we had anticipated and were pretty happy that if it was a girl, she was going to be named Eden, Edi for short.

Excited, we went off to a non-descript industrial park where Mothercare was. Inside the store was another company that could scan pregnant women and tell them the babies gender.

It was there my Mum saw her grandson for the first time. She was transfixed by what she saw on the screen. Not just because of who it was but because she had never seen a scan like that in her life. When she had me, it was all “find out when they come out” but here she was, sitting in a room with her son and daughter in law, watching her grandchild move around while still inside their Mum’s tum.

It was an incredibly moving moment for all of us and I will always love my wife for having that idea and always treasure that day.

And it’s for this reason I’m sorry to see Mothercare go.

I know there are a ton of reasons for its failure – but it’s also where I got to share a moment with my Mum that I’d never had before and will never have again. A moment that, were she alive, she would remember as clear as day.

A pivotal moment.

A moment where she got to witness the evolving of her family in front of her eyes.

A moment where the legacy of her and dad would forever continue.

But for me it’s something even more than all that. Because while we didn’t know it at the time, it was a moment where my Mum met Otis for the first time. The only time.

And for that, I’ll always be grateful to Mothercare and sad to see it go.



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.