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


Kevin Chesters On Who To Waste Your Time On …

Yes, it’s another Kev Chesters influenced post.

However, where yesterday was on the power of eating a Viennetta with a teaspoon, this is a bit more intellectually valuable.

Just.

To be fair, Kev didn’t even write this, but I saw him post it and I thought it was great … albeit I doubt anyone really thinks this intensely about who they classify as a friend. Which might be the reason we get let down by so many of them, ha.

I remember years ago reading a story about the guy Mr Big – from Sex & The City – was based on.

He had been diagnosed with cancer – terminal cancer – and he talked about how, or more specifically, who he chose to spend the limited time left with.

In essence, he drew a giant dart board and placed him at the bullseye. From there, he systematically plotted where all the people in his life were, in relation to the centre.

Anyone outside of the core ring was told that as much as he appreciated them and knew they would like to see him, he was going to spend his remaining time with others – the ones closest to the bullseye.

It might sound harsh but nothing focuses the mind like limitation of time and when you think of the amount of energy we spend/waste on individuals or activities that are really nothing more than ‘playing the game’ rather than being emotionally fulfilling, maybe this is something we should all be thinking about doing.

Which leads to the piece Kev wrote.

I don’t know if I’d ever practice it, but it’s an interesting way to evaluate things …




Why We Should Be Like The Blues Brothers …

Yes, this post really is about the movie The Blues Brothers.

The one where paroled convict Jake — and his blood brother Elwood – set out on a mission from God to save the Catholic orphanage in which they were raised, from foreclosure.

Where to achieve their goal, they not only have to reunite their R&B band and organise a concert so they can try to earn the $5,000 needed to pay the orphanage’s tax bill … but also have to navigate around a homicidal mystery woman, a bunch of Neo-Nazis, an entire police department hellbent on stopping them and a Country & Western band.

And yes, I am really saying we should be like them.

However this is not because I am advocating violence against authority [ahem], or even a return to the true definition of rhythm and blues [versus the sanitised version being flogged by record companies left, right and centre] but because of how Dan Aykroyd – the writer and actor of the movie – ensured the creative value of the artists appearing in the film was rewarded rather than exploited.

Music has a long history of exploiting artists.

Where their talent is used to fund the lifestyles of everyone other than themselves.

It’s been going on for decades and affected everyone – including those who got to ‘the top’ like The Beatles and Elvis Presley [there’s also a great book on how badly Bros got ripped off, which is worth checking out] … however no group of musicians has been as badly affected as black artists.

From not being paid to not being played … black artists has consistently been exploited and abused by white music industry leaders, from record companies to MTV.

To give you an idea of it, here’s a clip of David Bowie challenging MTV about their lack of black artists on the channel …

Bowie, as usual, was right.

Recently I watched a documentary where legendary musician, Herbie Hancock, talked about his iconic Rockit video and how they purposefully created something that didn’t really show his face to ensure MTV would play it in heavy rotation.

THIS IS NOT A LONG TIME AGO!!!

And while you may think the music business is now dominated with black artists, the reality is they are still getting screwed by organisations who want to profit from their talent.

Which leads me back to the Blues Brothers.

You see this movie was dominated by African American musicians – and while many studios would try and underpay them by saying the worldwide exposure they’d gain is commercially valuable to them, Dan Aykroyd did something else.

That’s right, he let them keep their publishing rights.

Which means every time a song or the movie was played, the artists behind the music would get paid.

Not the studio.

Not the writer.

Not the networks.

But the artists.

What’s sick is that 40 years later, this act by Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi is still rare.

Since then, we have consistently seen people of colour have their creativity exploited and profited from by others.

Whether that is through acts of cultural appropriation to corporate intimidation to down right theft.

Frankly, nothing highlights this more than the plight of Dapper Dan and his store in Harlem during the 80’s and 90’s. Here was an individual who created fashion that changed and impacted culture on an almost unprecedented scale … and yet he faced a constant barrage of abuse, exploitation and theft from organisations who appreciated his talent but just didn’t want to pay for it or acknowledge it.

Given black culture is the driving force of almost all youth culture around the World, it is disgusting how little of the money it helps generate ends up in the pockets of the black community … which is why I suggest another way companies can demonstrate their diversity and inclusion ambitions is to follow the approach of the Blues Brothers.

Included.

Represented.

Acknowledged.

Respected.

Paid.

Enabled.

Empowered.



On The Hardest Days, You Give The Greatest Love …
September 11, 2020, 7:30 am
Filed under: Friendship, Love, Loyalty

Today is September 11, a date that will live on in history.

It’s a day I certainly will never forget.

I was living in Australia at the time and just stared at the TV in despair as the horror unfolded.

But for some people in my life, what happened that day was even much more personal and destructive.

One was a wonderful client of mine who lost their sister in the tragedy.

The others were Andy and Dave … my ex-cynic colleagues and regular commentators.

We don’t talk much about what they went – and still are – going through anymore, but I know it tested them in ways few people will, thankfully, never have to experience. However while they have somehow been able to deal with the pain and pick up the pieces to somehow keep moving forwards, I know today will thrust an assortment of memories and questions on them – memories and questions from before that day and memories and questions from that day – so I just want them to know I’m thinking of them, sending them hugs, letting them know I’m so glad they’re in my life.

Even with the insults.

Love you gentlemen. [OK, blokes]

And love to all the families who were – and continue to be – affected on this day.

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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

_________________________________________________________________________________

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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