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


Argos Is Christmas …

When I was younger, I discovered the ‘Argos’ catalogue.

It was at my Grandparents house and it was a bloody revelation.

For those who don’t know what Argos is, imagine Amazon.com before Amazon.

A place where you can buy a huge array of products, all of which were featured in an annual catalogue which you could take home and peruse at your leisure.

[It’s also famous for little pens – now pencils – that you would have to use to fill in the forms to get the products when you went into the store. Pens/pencils that I would say everyone in England has ended up keeping at some point in their lives]

But for me, it only had 2 uses …

1. To get a glimpse at the future of technology.

2. To choose what I really, really wanted for my birthday/christmas.

Every time I visited my grandparents, I would run to where they kept the Argos catalogue and spend hours going through all the pages, gazing lovingly at digital watches, calculators, the emergence of hand held ‘electronic’ games and – eventually – computers.

Every year the catalogue came out, I would be see the advances of tech in front of my eyes.

But more than that, for the right money – I could have it.

Of course I – nor my parents – had the right money except maybe at Christmas, but a boy could dream … and boy did I.

I still remember the excitement the first time I saw Astro Wars … a handheld version of the video game Galaxian

It was like the impossible dream.

A full sized video game shrunk into a small box.

What sort of weird wizardry was this???

I still remember how a bunch of us at school saw it at the same time and we all knew it was the ‘must have’ present for the year.

I was incredibly lucky to get it that year … and while it was a bit crap, I still utterly loved it because to me, that was cutting edge tech.

[As an aside, I just discovered it cost £28 in 1980 – the equivalent of £100 today, so I am utterly gobsmacked I got it given my parents would have had to have saved up for months to afford that. So thank you Mum and Dad, I never realized it was that pricey]

Anyway, the reason I say all this is that Argos have recently digitized all their old catalogues.

And while you may ask yourself, “why?” and “why would anyone care?” you’d be wrong … because if you’re a person of a certain age, the Argos catalogue was not a book of products available for purchase, it was a place of imagination and possibilities and while the stuff inside the late 70’s/early 80’s catalogues are full of the sort of tat even a ‘Everything for £1’ store, would turn their noses up at, looking through them all again, I can honestly say it ignited the excitement I had back then.

Truly.

And yes, that means I really have spent hours trawling through them all.

Again.

And what’s more, I don’t care how sad that makes me.

It was a magical journey down nostalgia lane.

More specifically, nostalgia that was specific to my life, not just everyone else’s.

America may have had Disneyland.

But us kids in Britain had the Argos catalogue.

You can explore the history of 40+ English imaginations, here and you can see why I think the Argos Christmas campaign – which links to the nostalgia theme of the old catalogues – is already the winner of 2019, below.



Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?

So a few weeks ago, in a Starbucks in Epping, I saw this man …

For those who don’t know who he is, it’s music icon Rod Stewart.

I appreciate his best days as a singer are over but the fact he’s 74, still has hit albums and sold out concerts and looks pretty much like he did 40 years ago, means he can look back on his life as pretty bloody successful.

There’s lots of stories about Mr Stewart.

His love life.

His happy feud/rivalry with Elton John.

His tightness.

But what isn’t talked about much is his love of his family.

I saw it when he walked into Starbucks.

In came his wife and a bunch of his kids – young and old – and they all sat together, chatting … laughing and sharing coffee and croissants.

I know this is something we see everyday, all around the World, but there was something lovely in seeing an international Rock Star act like the doting father and husband he obviously is.

I’m not denying he has made some pretty shit mistakes in the past … but without wishing to defend that … sometimes good people make bad mistakes and whatever happened in the past, at least he seems to remember what is truly important.

Nothing says this more than an interview he gave this year …

I don’t know about you, but I think this is wonderful.

It’s also weird his brothers and sisters are NINETY YEARS OLD.

But what I love most is that it is apparent for all his wealth, he feels his family is what truly makes him rich.

Even his ex-wife, Rachel Hunter, doesn’t really have a bad word to say about him.

Their divorce wasn’t because of infidelity, it was because she was young and after 13 years of him being a doting husband, she felt she wanted to go out and live more.

And even then, she – and he – made sure everything was both amicable and respectful.

The reason I’m saying this is because work/life balance is under greater pressure than ever.

Sure companies are talking about it more than ever before, but in the main, what they really mean is ‘it’s important to have a home life but make sure you do your work first’.

I also accept, it’s much easier to have work/life balance when you’re a multi, multi millionaire because when Mr Stewart was starting out, he was so in debt, his manager and record company pushed him to go out on tour so he missed a lot of his oldest kids early years.

But here’s the thing.

If we all appreciate that work/life balance is important [even if that is simply because it makes you more effective at work] and mental health has become an issue that has been accepted as a real issue, how come this isn’t included in any procurement demands from clients or agencies?

Maybe it is, but I haven’t heard about any.

I have heard of contracts that demand female representation.

And I have heard of contracts that demand people of color inclusion.

But nothing on mental health or work/life balance.

Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that issues of gender and background are being forced into contracts [but I’m so sad this is what it took to have it happen] but what about making sure these people are looked after once they are there?

Why isn’t that part of the deal?

Why is that not a key criteria of what we are all talking about?

Why is that something shareholders don’t demand of the companies they invest in?

I think we can all guess, but if you’re still not sure, head over to Corporate Gaslighting and read what some people have discovered are some of the reasons why.



Growing Old Stupidly …

When I was in my late teens, I would go to Rock City, every Friday night.

Rock City was a mecca for heavy rock music fans.

From 9 till 2am, it would play none-stop tunes at eardrum-busting volume.

There would be the classic songs by the classic bands – Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Queen, Whitesnake – but the best bit was when they would play something that was just breaking over in the US.

It was at Rock City I first heard Guns n’ Roses, Cinderella, Love/Hate, Badlands and countless others.

Eventually, Rock City gained an international reputation and so bands would not only send them copies of their new album before they were released, but they would ensure they visited and played at the venue as part of their World Tour.

I went to that smelly, sweaty, cramped and pulsating venue for absolute years.

Starting at the Tap and Tumbler pub round the corner before queuing up for entry in the sort of clothes a stripper would balk at before hanging around the edges of the club to say hello to the friends and acquaintances you knew before finally working your way through the heaving, throbbing masses to get into the middle of the dance floor so you could be swept up and pushed around by the intense energy of hundreds of people all loving the same thing at the exact same moment.

They were, quite frankly, some of the best times of my life.

I made friends.

It forged and influenced my love of music.

I discovered what being part of a community was really like.

It pushed me to experience and experiment with things I may never have done.

Which is all my way of justifying why – when I heard they were changing the floor after
40 years and were selling the old one off in pieces – I happily paid them £40 so I could own a piece of my history forever. [See pic at the top of this post]

Yes, it’s tragic.

Yes, it’s pathetic.

But as mid-life crises go, it’s less expensive than a Porsche.

Or an affair.



They’re Always Close To You …
February 22, 2019, 6:16 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Emotion, Empathy, Family, Happiness, Home, Love, Mum

A few days ago, I received this.

I say ‘I’, but it was addressed to my Mum.

It was an election notice from the Italian Government.

Now I know it’s a bit weird that they are sending something to my Mum, to her old house in England, when she died almost 4 years ago, but it feels so lovely to get it.

Especially given the terribly sad situation regarding my Mum’s sister that occurred this week.

While I’m not a huge believer in ‘signs’, I can’t help but think this is a sign …

Thanks for reminding me you’re always watching out for me Mum.

I’m glad you and your sister can be together again.

Love you. Miss you.



Childhood Happiness …

My son.

My cat.

A semi-tidy/messy bedroom.

Colour. Toys. Posters and Paintings.

Books to Dolls houses to Magnetic Blocks.

This photo makes me so very, very happy.

Not just because of Otis and Rosie – though obviously that is great – but as childhood photos go, I can’t help but feel this is how it should be.

Now, of course, this ‘look’ – excluding my son and cat – is often the sort of thing you also find inside ad agencies.

I remember an old boss telling me that when he took his kids to the office, they asked where the other kids were, because they thought it was just like their bedrooms.

And while it is easy to write this design approach as superficial or childish – I genuinely believe it can make a difference.

Being surrounded by an environment that celebrates and provokes creativity can only be a good thing, especially if you are paid to think creatively – however, like raising a child, it only works if that extends to what you expect from the people within it.

Frankly, if you create a creative environment you have to let them be creative.

You can’t do that and then create systems and processes that push people to conform to rules.

Creative culture can absolutely be aided by the environment you surround people with, but the reality is it’s ultimately driven by having a culture of freedom and encouragement, which is why it seems to me the nice environments of many agencies are more about the illusion of creativity rather than the celebration, inspiration and ignition of it.

Kinda like what I told Campaign magazine a few years ago …



We Are All The Same Even If We Are Different …

I have written a lot about how we are bringing up Otis.

What we want for him, what we want him to value.

I have also written about the education we want for him.

A none-religious, state school that celebrates creativity as much as the more traditional academic pursuits.

Sadly I know there are many people out there who think we are mad for the choices we make, but as I have also written, my advice to them is to look after their own kids upbringing and leave ours to us.

That said, following these ideals is not easy.

Apart from the simple issue of access, the reality is most schools and kids companies focus on structure, stereotypes and grades because that is what most parents – and Governments – seem to value most of all, so for us to go outside of that takes effort and commitment.

None of this means we don’t want Otis to have a quality education – of course we do – it’s just that when it comes to what we think ‘education’ means, we see it going beyond the importance of reading, writing and maths.

We want his school to help him develop a love of learning.

Give him the ability to practice critical thinking.

An openness and comfort to express himself openly and creatively.

But there’s something more – something we feel very strongly about – which in part is one of the reasons we’re against religious and private schools.

You see we want him to learn that stereotypes limit, control and create prejudice.

That just because you’re a different gender or come from a different heritage or have a different sexual preference doesn’t mean you can’t aspire to – or achieve the same level as – anyone else.

And while it’s a small thing in the big scheme of things, it is the reason why I love that Otis’ school had a black Santa visit them last Christmas.

Of course Otis didn’t care, comment or even probably notice … but for the other little kids who come from different backgrounds, they saw a face that could give them comfort, confidence and courage about who they are, where they come from and what they can achieve and who wouldn’t want a school that teaches kids – all kids – that.

Education is so much more than just grades and while this is not all of the schools responsibility, it is part of their responsibility.



Care, Not Control …

At Christmas, I went to the free Winter Wonderland show in London.

I say ‘free’, but it cost me more money than a West End Show,

But for all that, there was one thing that I saw that I truly loved.

This.

Yes, it is from a long time ago.

Yes, it is a pretty small thing.

But my god, how good is it?

The idea that the government paid for small versions of real cars to help kids with disabilities feel they are part of society – when everything around them tended to, and still does to be honest, say otherwise – is brilliant.

An act that lets minorities feel they belong.

Are seen and heard.

Can contribute and become more than they thought they could be.

And while this sort of behavior seems to be something consigned to history, they are happening.

I have written a post that comes out on Friday that does a similar thing.

Except it was done by Otis’ school rather than any government authority … and that pisses me off, because in my opinion, this is exactly the sort of thing the government is for.

To look after the people it represents.

Their health. Their wellbeing. Their education.

And before everyone starts calling me a hippy or a communist, it’s not just because that is their duty but because by doing this, they are literally making the country better. Richer.

Not just in terms of happier, smarter more confident people, but interns of invention … collaboration … industry.

A nation that is healthy and educated is a nation that builds, grows and attracts and yet it appears nowadays … governments are about control, power and self serving.

How the hell did we come to this?