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


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.

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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.



The Heartbreaking Beauty Of How Kids See The World …

I’ve written a lot about how amazing I am finding fatherhood.

It is beyond my expectations in every sense of the word.

Of course, a big part of that is my son is a wonderful, kind, considerate and caring little boy.

But there’s something more … and that’s witnessing his development at every stage.

As much as I want him to stay my little boy forever, each stage of his growth reveals new and wonderful traits … which helps me deal with the fact he is growing up way too fast.

One of the big changes is his vocabulary.

I remember how much I loved it when he could only use sounds to communicate.

It was so pure and innocent and yet he could convey so much of his feelings through those little sounds.

Then came the words.

At first they were a hybrid of mumble and language … but over time, he could say Dada and Mama and it melted our hearts.

But now, his language is developing at a rapid rate and while so much of what he says is his brain connecting what he communicate with the context he [so far] understands, it leads to expressions of such beauty – and sadness – that you are left breathless for hearing it.

Don’t believe me?

Look at this SMS I got from Jill a while back …

Sure, when he say’s, “the drips of my sadness” he is being literal with what they are, in the context of the words he knows … but my god, the emotions those words ignite is incredible.

Maybe we are educating the emotional expression out of children like Sir Ken Robinson said we are doing with creativity.

Either way, I love that kid more and more.



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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The Happiest Place On Earth …

Following on from yesterday’s post, I’ve taken today off so I can take Otis for his first visit to Disneyland.

I can tell you right now he is going to absolutely bloody love it … and I have to tell you I’m glad he will because it has cost the equivalent of the GDP of a medium sized European nation and I’d be devastated to have to sell a kidney for something he won’t enjoy.

As much as I can be rather skeptical about Disney, I have to say they know how to capture kids imagination.

I still remember taking Otis to a hospital in Shanghai and – as soon as he clapped eyes on the TV showing Frozen – his pain and tears disappeared to be replaced with a hypnotic state.

So that’s where I’ll be today and then I’ll spend the weekend trying to recover from it as well as hope my beloved Nottingham Forest end the season on a high, which – given the position they were in last season – already feels like they’re playing in football Disneyland.

Now I know finishing mid-table in the Championship may not seem the sort of thing anyone should celebrate, but when you’ve had the turmoil we’ve had over the last 20 years – and especially the last 5 – it’s feels really good to have a team that is occasionally in the news for the way they’re playing football rather the way the terrible ex-CEO was playing with the club and it’s finances.

So in a way to honor Nottingham Forest being slightly less shit than they were last year [when they were super shit] I hereby reproduce my ‘everything for a £1’ shop version of one of my favourite Nike/Wieden ads ever.

Horrific isn’t it?

Especially compared to the original.

Putting aside the fact I’m wearing something ‘Adidas’, it’s a bit like comparing a pair of Hi-Tec trainers to a pair of NIKE’s, but then that’s like comparing the current Forest side to the team that dominated Europe in the early 80’s.

Or – said another way – how it feels to be a Forest fan for the last couple of decades.

So now I’ve ruined your weekend, I’m off … see you Monday.



Kids Today Are Different To Kids Yesterday …

I’ve written in the past how Otis has taken after his dad in terms of loving tech.

An iPad encouraged him crawl at 10 months old.

He uses Alexa to interact with the house.

Youtube is his preferred entertainment channel, which he is incredibly proficient at working his way around … which, given the way they are running things, means we have to pay even closer attention to what he’s doing than ever.

He doesn’t understand why things like the television don’t respond to the same hand gestures as Daddy’s iPhone.

It’s amazing.

But what really blew me away was when a few weeks ago, he called me over to show me this:

Yes, it is a better looking version of me, but the reason I was blown away was he did it.

All of it.

From finding a photo of his Dad … uploading it to an app on his iPad … to editing, creating and playing with the image.

And he’s only three years old.

THREE!

Now I appreciate the technology is more available than in the past and the programs are more user-friendly than in the past … but it still astounds me how much kids can embrace and engage the unknown.

Sure it’s been designed with them in mind – which is testimony to the people behind the app – but for a 3 year old to be able to manipulate photographs astounds me and, with a bit of luck, means the future of the World might be in better hands than those in the present.

Here’s hoping.



Favourite Days …

Can you remember some of your greatest days?

I don’t just mean the big ones, but the ones that should have been a ‘normal 24 hours’ but somehow turned into something different.

Better.

Seminal.

Jill recently sent me a photo that captures one of those days.

Yes, that’s me watching TV.

More specifically, watching Forest.

Live.

Playing Arsenal.

In the FA Cup.

Fallen giants versus FA Cup holders.

Championship team versus Premiership establishment.

Managerless versus longest serving manager.

And we won.

4-2.

FOUR BLOODY TWO.

More than that, we won in style … so much so that a blind Arsenal fan, who was at the game, expressed that he had finally found a positive to being blind because he didn’t have to see how much Forest bossed Arsenal on the pitch, but only hear it.

But as much as that is most definitely a big and memorable event, that’s not what made it seminal for me.

It’s that little head resting against my body on the sofa.

Yep, that’s Otis.

Watching the game with me.

His first ever football match.

Where his Dad’s beloved Nottingham Forest, won.

Now I appreciate this isn’t the same as when I was a kid and started watching Forest.

Back then, they were not just winning against the champions, they were the champions.

First of the league, then of Europe and beyond.

Their success cemented my love of the reds … taking it beyond just geographic loyalty and into more personal identity.

And even though they have fallen so far from those heady days – where they have had 26 different managers in the time Arsene Wegner has been boss of the gunners – I still love them and hope this match, where Forest secured an unlikely yet thoroughly deserved victory in front of a 3 year old living in Manhattan Beach, means he will love them too.

Maybe I’m being massively unfair on Otis.

Maybe I’m setting him up for a lifetime of disappointment.

But then, when you hear stories like this that come out of matches like that, it does teach you that the events of the past don’t have to dictate the events of the future if you commit to always doing your best.