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


Love Bores You To Death …

So now my life is spent on the tube, I get to look an endless stream of terrible ads.

In the main, the vast majority are basically brochures shoved into a small space.

No thought about the audience.

No interest in capturing the imagination.

Just blatantly taking the piss by ramming down what they want to say regardless of who will be exposed to it.

While the example above for eHarmony.com is not one of the worst, it’s not great.

Putting aside the vast amount of copy on there, I don’t like the idea that their version of love is finding someone who is basically a duplicate of you.

Is that love?

Sure, having things in common is important, but isn’t it the differences that makes things magical?

I know for a fact that Jill has made me a better person simply because she is not me.

Her view of the World.

Her experiences.

Her hopes, dreams and ambitions.

The last person I can think I’d want to be with is another version of me.

OK, so they then end their ad by saying ‘meet that one person you never thought you’d meet’, but even though that gives a nod to your ideal partner having as many differences as commonalities, they’re still selling the idea that there’s only one person in the World right for you … which is not only bollocks, but emotionally manipulative.

But if that’s not bad enough, it’s the fact they say they ask 150 questions for each member.

ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY!

Look, I get love is complex, complicated and deeply personal but 150 questions?

Jesus …

I wouldn’t mind, but according to some, you can make anyone fall in love with you if you just ask them 36 questions.

I know there have been a bunch of relationships that have formed because of eHarmony, but I wonder how many of those occurred simply because 2 people were in the right mindset for a relationship rather than because of the answers of their 150 questions.

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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.



Life Goals …

I’ve written a lot about getting older because – lets face it – I’m old.

OK, I’m not ancient, but by adland standards, I’m practically a dinosaur.

I’ve talked about how stupid the industry is to look at people like that – but when someone old is ranting, it sounds much more like someone trying to keep his career going than something more objective.

Anyway, I’m going off on a tangent because what this post is actually about is an elderly lady – a truly elderly lady of about 75-80 years old – who I saw walk into Starbuck’s a few weeks ago.

Now I appreciate this may not sound interesting, but as you can tell from the picture above, she was wearing a bright pink beanie with the words ‘thug life’ on it.

I don’t know about you, but when I saw that, I knew there was only one thing I could do which was tell her she looks amazing, pay for her breakfast and walk away with a new hero in my life.

Adland might think anyone over 40 is past it.

Thankfully humanity doesn’t think that way.

Here’s to those who are impervious to conformity.



Remember My Name …

So recently I saw that the movie, Fame was 38 years old.

While I didn’t see the film, the memory of the TV show is burned into my mind.

I remember seeing trailers for it on TV earlier that week and wanting to watch it … however when it aired, I was out with my friends playing football – it was summer – so when I finally walked into the house [via the back garden, as I’d gone to talk to my Mum and Dad who were enjoying the late evening sun] the show was half way through the episode.

But I was hooked from the beginning.

The idea of a school that taught creativity in a way that wasn’t stuffy was infectious to me.

Previous to that, I didn’t even know those things could exist but the fact there was a TV show about it, meant it must do. Somewhere.

To be honest, at that point in my life – 1982 – I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but it’s now obvious to me that part of the appeal of the show was because I wanted to go down that path, I just didn’t know it before then.

It might sound a bit of a leap, but the show might be one of the reasons I picked up the guitar about a year later and went on to spend a big chunk of my life between the ages of 17-24 making, earning and traveling because of music.

I always wonder if I’d have tried to get into a school of the arts if there had been one available in the UK at that time.

There were acting schools, but nothing like the one in Fame.

Of course, the school on Fame was fictitious, but the schools it was based on represented a very different feel and place of learning that the UK equivalent.

I personally think these schools are incredibly important.

At a time where education seems universally focused on academic subjects, the value of ‘the arts’ seems to have slipped down in importance.

I get why, but I can tell you, if Otis wanted to go to one when he is older – I’d be thrilled.

Sure, you could argue a degree in dance or music or acting is going to be harder to turn into a good income down the line, but apart from the fact you could say that about most degrees in general these days … the role of education is not just to better the individual, but for that individual to help better the country they live in.

It’s for this reason I’m so vehemently opposed to education-for-profit.

Not just because it has resulted in universities lowering their qualification standards to increase admission, but because a highly educated population adds huge commercial value to a country.

Smart people do smart things.

Whether that is creating things or attracting things, a highly educated workforce creates more opportunities for others … be that people, communities, companies or countries … and it’s for this reason I passionately believe governments should keep standards insanely high but the cost of insanely low.

But sadly few look at it that way – preferring to take the money rather than make the investment – resulting in too many people going to university in the hope of getting a great future but finding out they got sold a great lie.

Education is an amazing thing – regardless what you study – but with degrees fast becoming worth less than the paper they’re written on, I hope if Otis does choose to advance his education, he follows the path that leads him to emotional fulfillment.

I don’t care what that is … art, music, accountancy or tech … but for me the key is he does it for his happiness, not purely for his career because in a World where everyone seems to do stuff to get ahead, there’s something amazing in following a path for the sheer joy that you enjoy it and that’s something I would love for him to do.

As my parents taught me, at the end of the day, feeling fulfilled is more important than simply being content.

Wow, this is quite a leap from a 1982 TV show about kids dancing in the streets of NY isn’t it.



One Of The Best Things In The World Was Born This Day In 1976 …

I’m writing this from Berlin where it is already the 15th June.

This is important because today and tomorrow are the birthday’s of 2 of the most important people in my life.

My beloved wife, Jill.

My beloved best mate, Paul.

While I’m sure they’re happy I’m in Europe on their special day, I know I cannot imagine my life with either of them not in it, which is why I want to mark the occasion with this post.

[Which is also cheaper than a present, despite the fact I’m sure being away from them on their birthdays is the best present of all]

Paul has been there since 4 days after I was born.

Causing me trouble, mischief and immense amounts of laughter.

Literally pretty much every memory I have in my life involves him.

Every. Single. One.

From first days at pre-school, school and college.

Concerts, booze and accidents.

Girls, games and gigs.

You name it, we have shared – and been there for each other – at every significant high and low in life.

Whether that’s being a shoulder to cry on or a person to point at and laugh ourselves stupid at.

Plus he is the only other person I knew when I was growing up that had a Philips G7000.

Paul is, quite simply, someone I absolutely and wholeheartedly regard as family.

Truly.

I am a better and happier person for him [and the wonderful Shelly] being in my life.

So to my dear, wonderful idiot of a friend, I wish you an amazingly brilliant and immature birthday tomorrow. May it be filled to the brim with immaturity and stupidity, which – let’s be honest – we both know it will.

And then there’s my Jilly.

My wonderful, kind, considerate, beautiful, funny, smart Jilly.

What she is doing with me is anyone’s guess.

From the moment I met her 14 years ago, she has been the one.

More than that, she has been my support system … holding my hand and giving encouraging words of support as we have embarked on a ridiculous journey together.

Different countries. Different challenges. Different adventures.

She’s never complained.

Never demanded anything.

She’s embraced every situation and made it something we can look back on with happiness.

Even those points where I was convinced I’d led us astray, she has backed us to come out the other side and we have.

She is insanely talented, creative and just plain wonderful.

And while everyone who meets her recognises how special she is, they often misunderstand one thing.

She is strong.

Stronger than most people I know.

Not just because she puts up with me, but because there’s not many people who would move countries to be with someone they had only met a 6 weeks earlier.

But she did.

Because she felt it was worth it.

Which means she felt I was worth it … which is utterly incredible.

I’ve written before about her unbelievable levels of compassion, support and love.

How it took me some time to come to terms with the fact I had met someone who wanted to take away any pain or troubles I had in my life.

Not just say it, but actually want to do it.

And she did and does … whether it’s the way she gently consoled me as I tried to deal with the tragic loss of my Mum or simply being the person I turn to when I feel lost or unsettled.

As much as I always felt my life was pretty great, things became infinitely better when Jill came onto the scene.

Then she raised the game by giving birth to our beloved Otis.

I always knew Jill was going to be an amazing Mum, but she does it in ways that continues to inspire and blow my mind at the same time.

The way she focuses on what he needs not what others say he should need.

The way she is teaching him to be a good person, not just a good boy.

The way she fiercely protects who he is when others are quick to judge.

And the result is an amazing, cheeky, pink-adoring, kind, chinese-speaking, curious, creative, mischievous, broom-sweeping, loving, Bez-dancing little boy who I literally couldn’t love anymore.

Not a single milligram more.

Which ultimately means I couldn’t love Jill anymore.

Not a single bit.

She makes the best days better and the worst days, less dark … whether that’s a well timed moment of love or an act of Jillyism brilliance.

I don’t know what I have done to deserve her.

I don’t know if I will ever be able to describe how much I love her.

I don’t know if I will ever be able to do enough to show how much I adore her.

But I’ll keep trying, because as much as this was an amazing present … she’s the best gift I could ever receive.

Happy birthday my darling Jilly, I love you so much.

Rx


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Connections From History …

I first started being conscious of Brian Clough in 1978 when he took my beloved Nottingham Forest on a magical journey, the likes had never been seen before or since.

While I never spent any time with him, I can honestly say he contributed to a childhood that is bursting with memories and wonder which is why when I saw a letter he wrote from the year my adoration began, I had to get it.

I totally appreciate some might think this is stupid, but to me it’s a connection to my history.

A connection to where I grew up.

A connection to a place that still means so much to me.

When you’re just 8 years old, what Nottingham Forest did was make my formative football-fan years the most exciting, unifying and pride-filled years you could ever hope to have, and while the last 20+ years have been a total nightmare, no one can ever take those amazing memories from me because, as John McGovern, the Forest captain of the time, said …

“We were like one of those comets you see flying across the night sky. We burned brightly, but it was all too brief. But, boy, did we burn brightly for a while.”

So thank you Mr Clough, you were always with me but now you will always be near me.