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


It Seems I Am The Fine Line Between Famous And Infamous …

How is your 2018 going so far?

I know it’s still early days – but is it looking good or bad?

Well, if it’s looking positive, I’m about to ruin it for you and if it is looking dodgy, I’m going to help you solidify your opinion.

Why?

Well, a few weeks ago, a nice guy called Paul McEnany asked if he could interview me about my career.

While I’m sure his reasoning for his request was to help planners learn what not to do, my ego said yes even before my mouth did … and while the end result is the bastard love child of rambling randomness and base-level swearing, it’s the perfect way to justify your pessimism for 2018 or to ensure your optimism for the new year doesn’t get too high.

So go here and errrrrm, enjoy [if that’s the right word for it, which it isn’t] and after you’ve heard my crap, listen to the brilliant interviews with people like Gareth Kay, Russell Davies, Richard Huntingdon, Martin Weigel and the amazing Chris Riley because apart from being hugely interesting and inspiring, you’ll get the added bonus of [1] undeniable proof I’m a massive imposter and [2] the knowledge that if I can have some sort of semi-successful career in advertising, you certainly can.

You’re welcome.

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If You Read This Post, It’s The Equivalent Of Winning Survivor. Kinda.

So this is it, the last post of the year.And what a year it has been.

The biggest thing was obviously leaving a company I loved in a country I loved to move my family to the other side of the World to start a new adventure.

The impact of that move has been bigger than we thought or expected.

For me personally, it has revealed a bunch of insecurities and self-doubt that I thought I had kidded myself into believing I’d kept locked away for good.

I was wrong.

However 6 months in, not only do we feel settled and confident about where we are, what we’re doing and what we want to do … we are reminded of the reasons we made such a major move on an almost daily basis.

Put simply, Otis has literally blossomed living a healthier, outdoor life and while we will always miss many of the parts of the life we enjoyed in China, his happiness and well-being makes the move worth while.

Of course that won’t be enough to make us stay here forever …

If truth be told, we’re wanderers so the idea of staying in one place forever freaks us out. Or at least me.

Don’t get me wrong, we are loving our life in America and are incredibly grateful to be here, but the reality is it’s probably not our long, long-term home so in the time we are here, our goal is to enjoy the opportunity, get as much out of the opportunity and make as much of a difference because of the opportunity as we can.

[For the record, I reserve the right to delete the above sentence because if moving countries again ever becomes a real possibility, I imagine the idea of leaving a house next to the beach – see photo at the top of this post, a photo I took on my way to work – to go some place in the middle of nowhere will suddenly feel a lot less appealing]

And one of those opportunities that has presented itself is having my best friend come to visit us over Christmas.

In all the time I’ve known Paul – 47 years – he has not once spent Christmas with me.

Or me with him.

Sure we have met up on Christmas day for a drink or to swap presents, but we have never spent the whole holidays together.

More than that, in my 7 years living in China, he didn’t visit us once.

NOT ONCE.

His wonderful wife did – twice in fact – but not Paul, but now we’re in LA – where even in winter it’s sunny and beautiful – he’s on the first fucking plane over here.

And despite that showing me he’s a ‘using little prince’, I’m happy.

Ridiculously happy.

As is Otis …

For us, having Otis ‘odd parents’ [we’re not religious and they’re definitely odd] come stay is the perfect way to end a particularly interesting year.Ever since my Dad died in January ’99, Christmas lost its power.

Sure, I still looked forward to it, but it was always underpinned by the feeling it was when my Dad fell ill for the final time.

However since Otis came on the scene, that darkness has been broken and I fully expect this year – in a proper house with my family and the people who feel like family even though they’re not – to be the one where that spirit of the holiday truly comes back into force.

I’m grateful for that too.

As I am for everyone who has looked out for me, my wonderful wife, my epic Son and even my pampered princess of a cat, Rosie.

Whether it was in comments on this blog or conversations over the year.

Which is why I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and – even more importantly – a wonderful year ahead.

For a boy from Nottingham who wasn’t very good at school, I do feel I hit the jackpot and while there are many reasons for that, a big part is the community I feel a part of which has been formed – in part – through the insults thrown at me on this blog.

Long may they continue. [I know they will]

With that, I leave you with a family photo we recently took to commemorate our ‘LA life’.

All was good until we discovered that every shot clearly highlighted my poor choice of t-shirt.

Shit! Literally.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Happy New Year.

See you in January.

PS: To my darling Clare Pickens, I know today is your last day at Wieden Amsterdam. I can tell you, it will be as emotional to everyone there – and beyond – as it is to you. You’re an absolute legend and I’m so, so glad you’re in my life. And have put up with me. See you soon. Love ya.



America Is Modern History …

So I’ve already written how much I’m enjoying LA.

That doesn’t mean it’s better than China, just different.

I say that because there’s a huge amount of things about China I miss.

People. [Or at least some of them]
Clients. [Or at least some of them]
Culture. [Nearly all of it]

But there’s one thing I miss in its entirety and that’s how China deals with money.

More specifically, how China has embraced technology to enable people to transact their cash.

Of course, part of this is because China LOVES getting people to spend money and so the easier they make it, the easier it will be to get people to do it but then America – a land the Middle Kingdom copied in terms of capitalistic tendencies – is supposed to be a ‘spend society’ so I’m absolutely shocked how backwards they are in terms of embracing technology for finance.

Everywhere I go … everything I buy … can only be obtained with a credit card or a cheque.

A fucking cheque.

Seriously.

Oh yes, there’s the odd ‘Apple Pay’ option, but as we all know, that’s a piece of crap – especially compared to WeChat – so basically I’m in a situation where for the first time in literally 20 years, I am using cheque books.

At first, I thought they were joking, then I opened my bank account and they sent me 6 cheque books “to get me started”.

Six!!! Hahahahaha.

Thank God I was a pre-existing AMEX customer so I could get a local card otherwise – given the way America only offers you credit if you’re wildly in debt – I’d have to buy a bloody newspaper with a cheque.

The World may laugh at QR codes, but China has shown how they can be used to change the way people behave and transact with money forever. If America wants to be great again, modernizing their approach to money might be a good first step.



The Final Countdown …

So I feel this week is where I start walking across the bridge from where my life has been to where my life will be.

In the next 3 weeks, my life is going to change quite a bit.

On Wednesday, I stop working at a place I have loved.

Less than a week later, I stop living in a home, in a city, in a country that I have loved.

A place where my son was born and where – in many ways – my life changed forever.

Then thanks to timezone madness, later that same day, my entire family – wife, son, cat – arrive in Los Angeles.

A place that feels a trillion miles away from where we have been.

A place that we will be calling home.

While I don’t start work for another 2 weeks, there will be so much to sort out.

Bank accounts … phones … cars … a home … while ensuring we create the time to explore and discover our new surroundings as a family.

And then, just 3 weeks later, I officially start my totally new and exciting adventure.

Wow, that’s a lot of change in a very short time … but apart from the fact we’ve done this sort of move countless times before [albeit without a child in tow] it feels exciting.

OK, so there’s also a bunch of headaches we have to contend with … and the reality is we won’t be able to truly feel ‘settled’ until we have a home, with all our furniture inside and a basic understanding of how everything operates in LA … but as I mentioned before, to have this opportunity at my age is one I feel truly fortunate to have, so as long as we’re together and happy, we can deal with most things.

But I’ll tell you something that didn’t make me happy.

HSBC.

Yes … I know I’ve written about them many, many times before and if I was sane, I would have stopped working with all their offices rather than just the ones in China and Australia … but I didn’t, so I accept some blame for what I am about to whine about.

So when you move to the US, one of the biggest obstacles to settling there is that you need a good credit rating.

Everything – and I mean everything – is dependent on you being seen as ‘financially credible’.

Without a good credit rating, you will find it hard to get a place to live, a car, a credit card … you name it, you’re screwed.

This issue is only magnified if you are new to the country because not only do you start with zero, it takes a hell of a long time to earn it.

But then I got told HSBC – the World’s local bank – could set you up with a US bank account and the credit history you had earned in one country, could be transposed to America.

Result.

So I call up HSBC in Hong Kong and ask them if they can do it.

“Of course we can sir, it only takes about 10 days”.

I was so thrilled that I didn’t quite hear what they said next.

“… you just have to come into the branch to discuss it”.

I quickly woke up and enquired if they meant ‘any HSBC branch’.

“Oh no sir, you have to come to the branch you opened the account”.

I told them that might be difficult as I lived in Shanghai so was there any alternative – like going to a Shanghai branch instead.

“No”.

That was their response. No.

I asked if they could check and call me back and they said they would.

They didn’t call back.

I went through the whole thing again.

Same answer.

Could you check and call me back?

They said they would. They didn’t.

In the end, I had to fly to HK to get them to do it.

Yep, I had to buy a ticket so I could get on a plane and fly 2 hours just so I could go to the brand and hear them me “Why do you want to open an account in the US?”

How I restrained myself from saying “Because I want to launder all my ill-gotten gains and apparently you’re good at that, I do not know …

OK, so it wasn’t as bad as the time ANZ Bank in Australia made me fly from Singapore to Sydney so I could given them a cheque to buy a bloody house, but it’s up there.

Was it worth it?

Who the hell knows … I guess we’ll find out in a week, but for a bank that has continually acted illegally, I find it laughable they’re such sticklers for protocol on relatively small matters, but not nearly as laughable as their claims that they’re the ‘World’s Local Bank’.

Look at that, I haven’t even moved to the US yet and I’m bitching.

There’s hope for this blog yet …