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


A Half Century Of Beautifully Ridiculous …
June 16, 2020, 5:15 am
Filed under: Anniversary, Birthday, Comment, Daddyhood, Emotion, Family, Friendship, Jill, Love, Loyalty, Otis, Paul, Shelly

I know I’m on holiday and there should be no posts this week, but today – like yesterday – is a moment that needs to be celebrated, even if I’m not around.

June.

1970.

2 amazing things happened.

The first was I was born … hahahaha.

But the second occurred 4 days later, when Paul Hill popped out.

Though some of you in Nottingham will know him as the Frothy Coffee Man.

Since that day, we’ve basically been inseparable.

From discovering we lived on the same street – at least initially – to going through every school class together, every drama and hardship together and every exciting adventure together.

From kindergarten to college … divorce to death … mortgage to marriage … we’ve always been together.

Always.

And now my parents have passed away, he is the person I’ve known – and who has known me – the longest my life and that might be part of the reason why I genuinely regard him as family.

Hell, I haven’t bought a full page ad in a newspaper for anybody else … and that includes my wife and son!

I don’t know what it was, but we just clicked from the second we met.

A bond that has remained to this day.

And I genuinely mean a bond.

Even when I spent 25 years away from the UK, Paul was always my best mate.

We could go a month without talking – or a year without seeing each other – but the moment we were back together, whether in the flesh or on the phone, it was there.

The bond.

Solid as all fuck.

Like no time had been between us.

Now if you ask my wife, there is one thing that defines this … our immaturity.

You see, while life has changed for both of us, when we’re together, we return to being cheeky, mischievous 10 year olds.

OK, some of that is because Paul has done some momentously stupid things that makes me cry with laughter … and some of it might be that we have a lifetime of memories and experiences we’ve built up … but generally, when we’re together, we get younger.

Or more precisely, act younger.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am that our wives put up with it.

Just like I can’t tell you how happy I am our wives adore each other.

But there’s something even better than that, and that’s how Otis talks about his odd-parents.

Having my son see my oldest friend and his wife as part of his family is such an amazing feeling.

Maybe part of this is because Paul and Shelly don’t have kids of their own …

Maybe part of this is because Otis has spent so much time with them …

Maybe part of this is because Paul acts younger than Otis …

But whatever the reason, I am so happy he see’s ‘Uncle Paul and Auntie Shelly’ as being important in his life because I want all of them to know how important they are in ours.

To reach 50 with my best friend is a wonderful thing.

I would love to just sit down and talk about all the things we can remember together.

And while I could do that today – when I go to see him – it would take a long time.

But there are some things that stand out to me …

From him ALWAYS picking me as the ‘dog’ in the song ‘Old McDonald’ … so all the kids in kindergarten would smack me on the head.

To the time he came back from a family trip to Hong Kong with the first digital watch I’d ever seen with a calculator in it.

When we bumped into each other in LAX, not knowing our wives had spent 6 months secretly planning a trip for us all to go to Vegas and renew our vows with an Elvis impersonator.

That year he came back from the school 6 week holidays about 10 feet taller than when he left.

When we stayed up all night in Sheffield so we could get to the front of the stadium to see Queen – only to learn they weren’t coming and we got Five Star instead.

To Mr One Eye, Round Table Christmas Tree, shoes on the wrong feet, the girls at Glens, BMX petition, the ‘Jessops’ mirror, Duchess, the ‘Denmark’ incident, wheelie competitions, a coach reversing up his parents driveway at midnight, Rock City on Friday night, Bangkok Shakes tours, sawing my finger off, his insanely large appendage, Passport to Pornland …. he has been involved or connected to every single event in my life.

Good. Bad. Happy. Sad. Big. Small. Fun. Stupid.

And yet in all this time together, we have only ever had one falling out.

One!

And all I can remember is that it was about a local radio DJ who had committed murder.

God knows what we disagreed on but all I know is we were waiting for the number 45 bus to take us into town from Greythorn Drive … we had an argument … and I walked off in a huff.

I think I rang him the next day in tears to apologise and he was like, “what are you apologising for?”.

And that’s him.

Kind. Generous. Stupid. Lovely.

The reality is, Paul and I have a friendship based on enjoying life rather than worrying about it.

That doesn’t mean we are immune from pressure, troubles and hardship.

We both have had – and will have – situations that have been challenging and devastating to us. And when they happen, we are there for each other. But when I think of my relationship with Paul, I think of happiness.

That I still think that 50 years down the line is both incredible and testimony to his character.

I am proud of who he is.

I am proud of what he’s doing..

I am proud I get to call him my best mate.

Happy birthday beautiful.

Can’t wait to see you.

Here’s to the next 10.

Rx

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Oh hang on, I’ve forgotten the best part.

As you know I’m a sentimental fart.

When Paul turned 40, I wanted to get him something that would show him how much I adored him and so – as I mentioned earlier in this post – I bought a full page ad in the Nottingham Evening Post newspaper.

The ad is the picture showing Paul at different stages of his ‘development’.

What’s funny is the paper then interviewed me to find out more about my ridiculousness gift and for some reason, they kept referring to Shelly – his wife – as ‘second wife, Shelly’.

They even printed it!

Fortunately she took it in good humour, which is handy as I then bought her mugs and tea towels with it proudly emblazoned on them.

But 50 is a whole different age …

So while I wanted to get Paul something that celebrated his birthday milestone and showed how much I love him … I wanted it to be more subtle, more respectable, more in keeping with people of our age.

So I got him this … I hope he like it, it took me an age to edit it all together

Happy birthday big fella.

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Grow Old Stupid …

So this is it.

Today I’m 50.

I’m also on holiday.

Well, I say holiday, but I’m just going to be hanging out with the family for the next 10 days.

Yep, I’m going to be doing exactly the same as I have for the last couple of months thanks to quarantine.

Christ, this is the weirdest holiday I’ve ever had.

Literally doing more of the same, albeit without the zoom calls.

But I’m happy – as I know you will be given there won’t be any blog posts for all that time.

OK, as I wrote last week, I’m not exactly ecstatic about reaching my half century … but the fact is, I know I have little to complain about.

The life I have is one that is totally different to the one I imagined. Even aspired for.

When I look back at what my ‘goals’ were when I was in my late teens, it’s unbelievable how mundane they were.

How unambitious.

There are some reasons for that which reflect the times my family were going through – but even so, they’re pretty beige.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong for that, but when I compare it to the life I’ve had and the life I intend to have … they’re about as different as you can get.

That’s not meant to sound some ‘bigging up’ of myself, simply a reminder that your ambitions are a reflection of the World you live in which is why I will be forever grateful to my parents that they were so supportive of me going on an adventure when they could have so easily encouraged me to stay … especially as Dad had his stroke just as I was about to leave and basically the entire family was thrown into disarray.

Dad couldn’t talk or walk.

Mum had to leave her job immediately.

She didn’t drive and so for months, she had to catch the bus to the hospital.

And then, when he did come home, she had to do the majority of the care on her own.

In fact, when Dad got ill, I immediately said I was staying but Mum and Dad insisted I go, because as much as they loved me and would miss me, they were worried if I didn’t take this opportunity after months of planning, I may never go.

And they were right. I wouldn’t.

I’d have stayed in England forever.

Possibly never even left Nottingham.

And while there would be absolutely nothing wrong with that, they knew exploring the World would help me discover who I am.

To encourage that at the very worst time of their life is the definition of unconditional love and I hope if I am ever in that situation with Otis, I would do the same.

To be honest, it’s their encouragement to go explore and discover that became my biggest driver in life.

Basically, if I was going to go away – leave my family to deal with the terrible hardship of Dad’s illness – then the least I could do was embrace the opportunity they gave me. To never take it for granted and chase down the things that interested, challenged, intrigued and inspired me.

I’d like to think I did that and do that but I know I went through a lot of soul searching when came I back to England after they had died. I kept asking myself why did I do it then when I could have come back when they were still here.

Of course there’s many reasons for that – and there’s a good chance we won’t be in England forever – but I know for a fact that as proud as Mum was about all the places I lived [Dad only knew I was going to Australia and he would have be blown away if he knew all the places I’d lived and seen] she would be so happy I was back. For however long that may be.

From seeing others turn this age, it appears this is the moment where they tend to evaluate where they’ve been and where they’re going.

And while I’ve done a little bit in this post, the fact is I do it on a daily basis.

It’s as much about what pushes me towards the unknown as it is that keeps me focused on what matters to me.

Hence the title of this post …

Because when you don’t look for security in everything, you remain open to anything.

So now it’s time to wrap this post up.

You will be relieved to hear I am going to resist the urge to be overly nostalgic and sentimental, so will leave with this:

While they will be in my heart and mind throughout the day, I don’t mind admitting that I wish Mum and Dad were here to celebrate with me.

That said, I am so happy my beautiful wife and son are here to share my special day with me.

And I genuinely feel so lucky that the most important person from my earliest days – Paul – is still the most important friend in my life today.

As I said, overall, it’s been a pretty fucking amazing run so far – and while I have worked hard for it [contrary to what many will say] I’ve also been bloody lucky along the way too … and I intend to keep that run going – at least in terms of adventure and exploration. I still owe that to my Mum and Dad.

So happy birthday to me and I’ll see you in 10 days …

Older, but not wiser.

Exactly as I like it.

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Kids Today …

So a while back, I wrote a post about Martin Bassot.

Martin worked for me at R/GA as a very talented comms/connections planner but then fucked off to Wieden+Kennedy.

Anyway, as part of his leaving present we gave him a jigsaw.

Of himself.

You see as one of his bucket list goals before he turned 30, he wanted to do a big jigsaw.

There’s 2 very big problems with the previous sentence.

1. He was incredibly talented and only TWENTY BLOODY NINE.

2. The other was he wanted to do a jigsaw as a life goal.

Christ!

Anyway, because I’m a bit of a prick, I found the photo of the one time he wore a suit for work [to pick up an award, the bloody corporate crawler] photoshopped it onto a pic of a ‘used car forecourt’ and made that the image of his jigsaw.

Zoom forward a few weeks and we caught up.

I told him it was because I wanted to see how he was doing, but it was really to make sure he was not letting Wieden down, as I still feel a ridiculous sense of loyalty to Dan, given all the mayhem I apparently caused when I was there.

So the call started off interestingly when the Crystal Palace supporting scum came onto the video chat sporting a background specially designed to provoke trouble.

[See photo at the top of this post]

He would have got away with it too had he not later sent me a photo of where he was at with the goodbye jigsaw.

Amateur mistake.

You see, at the time of writing this post, he has been gone from R/GA for 2 months.

THAT’S EIGHT WEEKS.

And not only was he working from home for most of that time, he had 2 weeks off sick …

That means, he had 1,344 possible hours to finish this jigsaw … and how much has he done?

This much …

And to think I thought he was one of the brightest minds I’d met.

Pah.

On the bright side, showing his jigsaw dyslexia to the World [or the 8 sad bastards who visit this blog everyday] is some sort of revenge for the Forest Shit zoom backdrop.

And yet I still like him and miss him.

I’m a saint. A bloody saint.

______________________________________________________________________________________

UPDATE:

Since writing this post, Martin sent me a message saying he had finally completed it.

Worse, he said it with a distinct ‘smugness’ in his tone.

OK, it was an SMS but I could still sense it.

So I sent him a 3000 piece jigsaw of this.

That’ll teach him.

Probably for the next year.

Cue: Evil laugh!



Together Makes Us Stronger ….
April 17, 2020, 6:45 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Corona Virus, Culture, Family, Friendship

It’s been a short week.

And I’m glad about that, because it’s been a tough one.

Sometimes you feel you have this life thing under control and then it just pulls the rug from underneath you.

This COVID-19 thing is a perfect example of this.

Everyone seemed to be excited about 2020.

For whatever reason, people were happy to wave goodbye to 2019 and welcome a new year of possibilities and opportunities.

Well 2020 has been utterly crap so far, hasn’t it?

That said, it has ignited some wonderful acts of humanity and compassion – of which the incredible walk by 99 year old Captain Tom Moore is a perfect example of one of them – but we can’t forget the reason for this is because there are people who are beings severely impacted by all this.

Not just all the amazing essential workers out there, but others around us.

Neighbours. Friends. Colleagues. Peers.

People who are being impacted financially, professionally, emotionally or mentally.

One of the worst feelings in the World is when you think you are on your own.

The pressure that puts you under – and that you place on yourself – is suffocating.

Add to that quarantine, and these feelings can be amplified enormously.

While I know we are all being impacted in some way, checking in on those who are having the hardest time is important.

Because while we will come out of this – as we always do – it’s situations like this that remind us the only thing we really have is each other.

Take care of yourselves.

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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.