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


Till Next Year …

So this is the final post of the year.

It’s been a big year for me and the family.

Then again, it was a big year for the family last year too.

However, whereas 2017 saw us leave Shanghai and Wieden+Kennedy – something that was truly emotional for all of us – 2018 has seen us go from sunny LA, working at Deutsch, living in a house by the beach and driving a custom made Audi to being citizens of cold and rainy London, living in a much smaller house in Fulham, working at R/GA [with some sprinkles of Metallica madness in-between] and traveling by tube to and from everywhere.

And we haven’t been this happy in ages.

Don’t get me wrong, there are things we definitely miss from our life in the US – people, the weather, Otis’ school, free soda refills and bacon mainly – but this move was right for us for a whole host of reasons, personal and professional, and we enter 2019 with the full expectation we’ll still be here when 2020 comes around.

I hope.

It’s funny, when I read the final post I wrote for last year, it is apparent that change was in our minds. We didn’t think that openly, but it seems it was there.

Of course, moving to a country and then leaving in just over a year is not the best thing.

It’s financial stupidity for one.

But these things happen and we are very happy for the amazing experience, though I must admit I’m even happier my wife, son and cat are still talking to me.

Fools.

But while our environment has changed, some things have stayed exactly the same.

Your ability to trash everything I write on here, for one.

And to you all, I say a huge thank you.

Sure, being told I’m a bad dressing, musically ignorant, gadget tosser every-single-day can get a bit tiring, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Because amongst the insults, there’s often pearls of gold in there.

Stuff that makes me think about things a different way.

Stuff that influences how I think about things I never thought about.

Stuff that just keeps me on my toes and interested about stuff.

And I love it.

I love that people come here and share a bit of their time and opinion with me.

Yes, I appreciate moving to the UK and still posting at 6am is screwing up the flow of the comments given the East Coast of America is asleep and can’t insult/join-in until much later … but the fact so many people still write makes me feel very fortunate.

While I have loved the ability to move countries and cultures so many times – and hope to continue doing it, just not for a bit – the reality is that is makes your friendship network difficult.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very fortunate we have technology to keep me in touch with the wonderful people I’ve met in every country we’ve lived [whether they like it or not] and this year I got to catch up with people I’ve not seen in years – from Freddie to Paula – but there is something about having a level of constancy that makes you feel settled.

Bizarrely, this blog has provided me with a bit of that.

Even with people I have still yet to meet.

[Though I met Marcus and Neil Perkin this year and that made me so happy]

While I would never suggest I am your friend, you have been to me – in many ways and at many times, both at moments of darkness and happiness – and I want to take this opportunity to say thank you.

To all of you.

Even you Andy.

When I started this blog way back in May 2006, I never expected anyone to read it, let alone comment so the fact some of you still are – regardless that many Police officers would call it abuse – I’m grateful.

I’m excited about next year.

It will be big.

Not because we’ll be moving … or I’ll changing job … but new things will be entering my life.

From my beloved Otis starting proper school – which literally is screwing with my head – to the much-talked-about-but-not-much-actually-done Weigel/Campbell officially doing its thing in addition to the exciting adventures and exploits my wonderfully beautiful family, my bloody amazing friends and fantastic new planning team will get up to that will make me feel even luckier than I do already.

Being back in England has had a much bigger effect on me than I ever imagined it would.

I am grateful for it.

I am grateful for all I have.

I hope this holiday season and 2019 is one that is wonderful for you all too.

See you in a few weeks. [Yeah, don’t think you get so lucky to not have me come back]

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Here We Go …

So here we are, the last month of 2018, and what a year it has been for me.

Started out in the sunny life that is Los Angeles and end it in the rainy life that is London.

From Deutsch to R/GA.

From Audi’s to the Tube.

From LA Din Tai Fung to the new London Din Tai Fung.

[Let’s be honest, I’d never of come if they weren’t here]

But I’m happy – very happy.

Sure, there’s a bunch of things I miss, but apart from the fact many of them will remain in my life for ever, the rest I can look back on as experiences I am fortunate to have had so I’m grateful I got to have them rather than sad I’ve lost them.

I know, who am I?

But all that is for a an even more boring post sometime in the next few weeks, so I’ll end this far-too-positive post with one of my new favorite songs, ‘Love Can Only Heal’, by Altered Bridge and the Slash band, Myles Kennedy.

I know you will think it’s bollocks – but apart from the fact that means you’re all a bunch of musical heathens who can’t appreciate the brilliance of a melancholy melody that’s orchestrated with a slowly building pulse of drama – you’re forgetting the alternative would be suggesting you listen to Queen.

Suddenly not so bad it is?

And it gets better … because for reasons that make no sense whatsoever, I’m going to be on my way to the US again by the time you read this. Which means you’re free from my blog rubbish till Thursday and given the following week is the final week of blog posts from me for 2018, you are exactly 7 posts away from ending the year on a positive.

If that doesn’t make you enjoy today, then nothing will.

Happy Monday.



Making Sure They Know They Matter Even When You Leave …

Yes I know today is the day where all the ghosts and ghouls are supposed to come out and play, but I thought I’d inject a bit of love and positivity into the World.

I know … who the hell am I?

Unsurprisingly, this new side of me is connected to my past life in LA.

While we are absolutely loving being in England and London, there are things about LA we miss.

One of them is Otis’ amazing preschool.

As I have written before, it’s an amazing, creative, inclusive place of learning and we were so happy he was there.

But leaving was always going to be hard – especially given we were leaving the country – so we asked the school if we could buy a piece of furniture for them on behalf of Otis.

Not just because it’s a school where the lessons are conducted outdoors but because we wanted Otis to know that while he was in America for a short time, his presence mattered to the community and the community mattered to Otis.

I’m so grateful they said yes which is why, while we’re thousands of miles away in the cold of England, there is a bench in sunny Manhattan Beach that allows Otis to always be in a place he loved while also letting his friends – and future students – always enjoy being in the environment they find themselves in.

The point of this post also relates to the people I’ve been lucky enough to call colleagues around the World, but that’s a post for another day [and does not relate to leaving stickers and badges around the place] so with that, I just want to say a huge thank you to Manhattan Beach Nursery School, the kids and parents who go there and LA as a whole.

Take that Halloween.



Happy At Home …

So it’s 2 months since we’ve been back in England and I have to say it’s been great.

Sure, the weather isn’t like LA.

Sure, finding a home and unpacking was a pain-in-the arse.

Sure, catching the tube is not like driving my beloved Audi to work.

Sure, I’m shocked at how bad the service is in restaurants and how many people smoke.

But all that aside, things are great.

There’s a bunch of reasons for that …

The first is my family are all together and well. Even Rosie, the moaning cat.

Seeing how brilliant Otis has adapted to his new environment [again] is inspiring, even though it has highlighted how much of an American twang he picked up in our time in the US.

To move home is a traumatic experience for anyone.

To move countries is often too much for people to even contemplate.

So to have moved home and country, 3 times when you’re only 3 years of age – and still be happy, positive and curious – is an incredible achievement and one that makes me even prouder of my wonderful little boy.

That said, we’re very mindful he is still trying to find where he belongs … find other kids he can form a connection with … so our job in these early months is to help him feel as settled and secure as we can, but so far, he’s handling it far better than we could ever hope, even though he did exactly the same when we landed in LA after Shanghai.

What a kid.

Another reason we’re enjoying things in England is that there’s an incredible familiarity to how things work.

Sure I’ve not lived here for 24 years and Jill is Australian … but we both have spent a huge amount of time here over the years so there’s a comfort in knowing how to make things happen. It’s allowed us to acclimatise to the new environment far quicker than we have in other nations while still feeling the buzz of excitement of being somewhere new.

Sure, there’s nervousness about some things we’ve never/rarely had to deal with before.

The school system and how insane that is here.

The inability to be confident a tradesman will turn up as promised.

The high price of public transport [which is still low, but comparatively high to say, China]

But all that is offset with the incredible culture that surrounds us, the friendliness of the people we’ve met and just being in a place where we can see ourselves for a good length of time.

Oh, and chips, mushy peas and gravy.

God, that’s magic right there.

But one other thing that has made things so great is work.

I’m really enjoying myself.

I have an incredible team full of smarts and opinions.

I have a huge array of colleagues full of creativity and provocation.

I have a bunch of clients full of fascinating challenges and ambitions.

I’m learning.

I’m being challenged.

I’m [hopefully] contributing.

There were a bunch of reasons why we moved countries – both personal and professional – and while no place will ever be perfect, I’m pretty shocked at how much I am enjoying being back in England given I never thought I’d ever move back.

I still wish I could nip up to Nottingham to see Mum and Dad.

I still wish Paul and Shelly lived down the street not 2 hours away.

But as much as I’ll always be a cynical bastard, I’m pretty happy right now and I’m sure that is as shocking to you as it is to me.

So on this bombshell of positivity, I wish you a good weekend and let you know that the APSOTW results will finally be out next week.

Ta-ra.



Everything Good Starts At Home …

As I’ve mentioned many, many times, my parents drilled into me the importance of living a life of fulfillment not contentment.

It took me a long time to truly understand what they meant by that, but when I did, it was a revelation.

It is behind so many of the decisions I’ve made in my life.

From moving to so many different countries.

Starting cynic and Sunshine.

Right through to – hopefully – being the father and husband my wife and son thoroughly deserve.

This last one is especially important.

Not just because I love them and want them to know my love, but because at the end of the day – if the things I’m doing away from them doesn’t ultimately benefit them, it’s a waste of time.

When I was a child, my Dad would tell me why it was so important to love the work you did.

His basic premise was that if you’re going to be away from your family so much because of work, you better be doing something you love because nothing would be so insulting than to be away from them doing a job you hated.

That has stuck with me and while I’ve never hated any of the companies I’ve worked for – I’m always aware that once I have more bad days than good [or, in the case of Wieden, more bad polluted Shanghai days, than good] it’s probably time to start exploring what is out there that intrigues me.

Now, through a bunch of luck, these changes have come with greater titles and responsibilities … and I’ve never minded that, but it’s also never been my core motivation. Not because I don’t have ambitions, but I’ve always found the greatest joy being part of something that creates something.

I used to say that if I was to come back again, I’d love to be an architect because that way I could do work that outlived me … then I had my son.

Being a Dad has been one of the most amazing experiences in my life.

I’m ashamed to admit this was not something I was truly aware of, initially.

But now, thanks to the brilliance of my wife, I am able to see that I have helped bring something into the World that will outlive me. Something that can [hopefully] be testimony to the values we value and the things we love but with a life all of its own … a life that can grow and be shaped by the possibilities in the future we may never get to witness.

Which is why as much as I want a career that continues to creatively challenge and excite me at the highest level, my most important ambition is to be a husband and Dad that is present, engaged and full of love and support for the people at home.

It might have taken my wife and son to help me truly appreciate that, but I know my parents would be happy that I finally got there.



Forever England …
November 5, 2015, 6:25 am
Filed under: England, Home

When you have lived away from the UK as long as I have – 20+ years – you’d think you would have got over missing certain things from ‘home’.

Of course missing family and friends will always be there, but I’m talking about the little things … from television shows to food to events.

I remember how shocked I was when I discovered the UK had launched a new – and smaller – 50 pence piece while I was living in Australia.

I know in the big scheme of things, it’s nothing … but it really brought it home to me how long I’d been away.

Now I know that I can watch the television shows thanks to the power of technology and I can get chips, mushy peas and gravy anywhere … but to replicate ‘events’ is much, much harder.

I’m not talking Birthdays or Christmas – even though they will never be the same as they were when I was living in Blighty – I’m talking about the events that are uniquely British, from the Nottingham Riverside Festival to Pancake Day to, as it is tonight, Bonfire Night.

Each of these events have a lasting impression on me.

Yes, I know the Riverside Festival is basically a poor-man’s Goose Fair … and I appreciate I can have Pancakes every day if I so wish … but there’s something about those days that truly connects me to home.

Whether it’s the fact I would always see my friends, past and present, at the Riverside – normally while I’m stuffing an overpriced hotdog that had been heated to the surface area of the sun down my gob – or that Pancake Day would see Mum go into a mild panic as she looked around the house for the ingredients to make them [including orange juice, because I preferred that on my pancakes than Jif Lemon] … they were always very special days.

Which leads me to today. Bonfire Night.

While we never had fireworks at home – maybe a few sprinklers – the fact is we never needed any because we could stand outside our little garden and watch everyone else’s magical displays.

OK, so the reality is they were never that impressive – especially when compared to the organised stuff down at Trent Bridge Cricket Ground – but as a young kid, it didn’t really matter, because however bad the neighbours fireworks were, they were colourful and loud and that added something very different to my surroundings which, 99% of the time, would be quieter than a cemetery by 7pm.

Mind you, that lovely image is destroyed by the memory of Steven Stanley firing a huge ‘rocket’ up Greythorn Drive that – to our horror and relief – flew right underneath a car coming down the hill, only for it to explode seconds after passing the vehicle.

To say we got bollocked that night is a vast understatement.

But that aside, Bonfire Night is one of those nights that will be forever England for me which is why I’ll be watching this video and thinking of all of you later.



April 1: Where Life Shows It Has A Dark Sense Of Humour …
April 1, 2015, 8:24 pm
Filed under: Death, Family, Home, Mum, Mum & Dad

The house is now empty.

44 years of life removed in little over 5 hours.

It hasn’t been this exposed since 1971, when my parents bought it to be their family home.

We had a good send off on Monday night by having dinner with Paul and Shelly, but now we have entered the phase between history and future.

As I now walk around the familiar rooms, it seems like another place. From another time. From another life with only the beautiful gardens – that remain intact – reminding me this was a place where so many happy memories were created and cherished.

Soon everything will be renovated. The house will be given an injection of love and life from both the builders we have asked to undertake the project and the family we will be welcoming into the home.

And while that is wonderful and exciting, I can’t help be reminded of why this is all happening.

It’s only 3 weeks since my beloved Mum died and yet the World seems to have moved on at a frantic pace … only applying the brakes when the impossible-to-ignore takes place.

Her death.
Her funeral.
Collecting her ashes.

And even I am being swept along with the progression … consumed by the expectations and needs of the law, the time I have available to do everything and the desire I have to honour my Mum in the best way possible.

But every now and then, moments arrive where I am smashed in the face with the pain and sadness of her loss.

Of course things like her death, her funeral and collecting her ashes are natural spotlights of grief but it’s the other things that really bring home how much you miss her and how much she loved you.

Today, as we walked around the empty house, there were two rooms that reiterated all the love my Mum had for me.

Her bedroom looked tired. Old. In need of some love and care. Sure it has just had new heating which meant it was in need of some decoration and sure, a empty room always reveals the bumps and bruises of the years lived within, but this room felt almost desolate – with only the indentations where my Mum’s bed had once sat … where my Mum had once lay – to remind me it was once one of the most important rooms in my World.

Then I walked into my bedroom.

Sure she had just had it decorated in preparation for her grandsons visit. But even with everything removed, it looked clean. Fresh. Full of life.

The contrast between hers and mine could not have been more distinct and in that moment I saw how my wonderful Mum put me before her.

That is both a beautiful gift and incredibly sad.

Beautiful: because it means she loved me without limit. Sad: because she deserved – and I always wanted to give her – the best.

Today I brought her ashes home.

My beloved Mum now in a relatively small, tubular container.

I’ve been hugging it for ages. I can’t believe it’s her and yet at the same time it’s quietly comforting. Being able to put my arms around her. Being able to kiss it. Being able to just hold it close to me.

I miss her. I miss her so much.

I must admit there is a part of me who still thinks someone will come out soon and tell me it’s all a joke. A mean, horrible joke, but a joke all the same. But with each phase of death, I become more and more aware it’s not a joke, it’s real and the pain hits me all over again.

Of course there is a tragic irony that this is all happening on April Fools Day.

Not just because this is a day where silly jokes are supposed to happen, but it is a year to the day that we found out we were going to have Otis.

A year where so much has changed and happened.

A year where every good and bad thing that could happen, seems to have happened.

But back to the house.

With nothing now in it, we are now staying in a hotel. But I’m still coming in and driving past all the time. Part of that is because I am well aware I won’t be able to pop in or stay here any more. Part of that is because of what it means and represents to me.

This is the house where love lived.

This is the house where happiness resided.

This is the house where the memories and values that guide me were born.

In just 21 days, my World has turned upside down and while I am letting another family start their journey within these 4 beautiful walls, I am glad this house is still mine – still my families – and I’ve ensured that’s the case by writing this in the garage.

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