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


Thinking Of You Dad …

Today is the 21st anniversary of Dad dying.

That blows my mind as I remember how that day unfolded so clearly, it could have been yesterday.

The only good thing about all the years that have passed is that I can now remember the good times with him – when he was healthy – rather than just focus on the 3 years he was deeply affected by his stroke.

And because of that, I want to talk about a time I remember vividly with him.

I had done well at school and Mum and Dad said that I could have a toy for all my hard work.

I was pretty good at school but at exam time, I would freak out and basically become paralyzed with fear.

Anyway, Dad took me to Broadmarsh Centre in Nottingham.

Broadmarsh was – and still is – the inferior shopping centre in Nottingham, but it had a dedicated toyshop so off we went.

I was so excited.

I loved going on trips with Dad and to get a gift as well was mind-blowing.

I remember him telling me to look around and see if there was something I liked.

The problem was I liked EVERYTHING, but I knew we didn’t have a lot of money so I tried to choose wisely.

I remember there was a Dinky Toy, Bell Helicopter I liked.

It was orange but the cabin was blue and it looked cool.

I showed it Dad.

“Do you like it?” he asked.

I nodded in wild agreement.

“Well we can get that then …”

And just as we were about to go to the till, my eyes spotted a die-cast Rolls Royce.

This was not a Matchbox car, this was something else.

A ‘to scale’ model of a Roller with doors that opened, a boot and bonnet that opened and a steering wheel that actually turned the wheels.

It was AMAZING.

It was also expensive … I think about £5, which back in the late seventies, was a big amount.

Dad saw me playing with it and asked, “Do you like that more?”

I nodded but felt guilty as I knew it was expensive and didn’t want Dad to spend so much money on me.

I remember him looking at me with his beautiful blue eyes and warm face.

He smiled.

“Well …,” he said, “… you’re looking at me with those moo-cow eyes, and you have done so well at school that maybe we can do it just this once”.

I was flabbergasted.

I was going to get the coolest car I’d ever seen.

I remember being so happy and showing Mum when we got home.

I remember hearing Dad explain to her I’d looked at him with these big ‘moo-cow’ eyes and he couldn’t resist.

I remember how happy they were for making me so happy.

And while it would be easy for them to think getting me a new toy was the reason for my joy – and it certainly contributed to it – the reality is I was happy because my parents were always caring, loving, supporting and encouraging.

The things they sacrificed for me is unbelievable.

Of course I didn’t realize it at the time, but what they did without so I could live with is amazing.

I hope they know that I worked this out.

I hope I told them when they were around.

My childhood was a blueprint for great childhoods.

I never wanted for their love or support.

I never felt they didn’t care or weren’t engaged.

My Mum and Dad were amazing to me … as teachers, carers, providers and inspirers.

Sure we had our moments – often caused by me being a cheeky or mischievous little shit – but even then, I never doubted they cared.

Never doubted they wanted the best for me.

And while Mum and Dad would have preferred it if I’d followed a career in law or medicine or a formal music education … they believed it was more important I lived a life of fulfillment rather than contentment.

It is a lesson I hope to pass on to my son one day.

Their grandson.

Oh how I wish they could have met him.

I don’t have many regrets but that is one of them.

So what I do instead is instill their lessons and love into his life.

So that while he may never meet them, he will always feel their presence.

Dad, I miss you.

I miss you so much.

I would love to tell you and show you so many things.

To see your reaction. To hear your questions.

You may have been gone from my physical life for 21 years, but you are still so deeply entrenched in my life.

It gives me strength when I face challenges.

Support when I feel alone.

Perspective when I get consumed by small things pretending to be big.

I love you.

Give Mum a kiss from me as you hold her hand.

Comments Off on Thinking Of You Dad …


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.



Happy Birthday Mum …

Yesterday would have been my Mum’s birthday.

My Mum’s 87th birthday.

That means she has been gone 4 years and frankly, that seems incredible.

So much has happened in that time …

From moving countries twice.

To changing jobs twice.

To selling our family home to buy a new one.

And while I am in a much better place than I was after the tragic days that she died, I still am prone to being hit by moments where her loss is almost overwhelming for me.

I wish she could have met Otis for real.

I still remember her words when I called her minutes after he was born.

I was incredibly emotional and she was so tender towards me.

Making sure I was OK, Jill was OK and Otis.

Asking if the baby crying in the background was her grandson.

Telling me how happy she was and how happy she was for us.

How she loved the name Otis.

And while she was alone in her home in Nottingham – wishing madly that she was with us – she still told me to go and be with Jill and my son because she was the most compassionate, thoughtful person I have ever known.

While Mum saw Otis on video chat, sent me countless emails/SMS’s about him and – for a brief while – was in the same room together [though sadly it was after she had passed away] … the fact is they never were together in the flesh and I would have loved to have seen that happen.

To see her face as he called her Nona.

To watch her smile he wrapped his arms around you and gave her a big hug and kiss.

To look at my Mum reading her first grandchild a story or walking him through the gardens and explaining the flowers or just watching him run around like a tsunami and then look at me with that look in her eye that tells me everything.

How he’s perfect.

How she loves him so much.

How she is so proud of me and Jill.

How happy she is right at that very moment.

That would be the best present for her – not to mention for me – and while none of those things will be able to happen for real, I will think about them tonight when I’m home and giving Otis a big hug and kiss, because while there are many things I can do a whole lot better at, my Mum [and Dad] taught me one thing I am very good at.

How to love.

Happy birthday Mum, I miss you so much.

Hope you and Dad are laughing and holding hands.

Rx



The Parents Worse Nightmare …

Being a parent is – for me at least – one of the most wonderful and rewarding experiences I’ve had in my life.

That said, it comes with pressure.

Not just in terms of ensuring your kid has a happy and healthy environment to grow up in, but that you balance your parenting time with also being an active and engaged employee in whatever job you do.

We are incredibly fortunate that Jill chose – and was able – to stay at home throughout Otis’ infancy and only now – as he has started school – is she contemplating going back to work. I am absolutely in no doubt this has enabled me to manage my Dad and work commitments in a way that – hopefully – has not let anyone down.

But as I said, we are lucky because frankly, I don’t know how single parents do it.

In a World where employers expect more and more from their employees – the ability to perform at a any level and still be a functioning, loving, caring parent is amazing.

I have nothing but utter admiration for single parents and the children – who adapt to the situation in ways that are remarkable – because I am unsure whether I would ever be able to achieve the same thing.

The reason I am writing this post is that I recently read the lyrics to the song ‘Cats In The Cradle’.

It’s an old song, resurrected in popularity by Ugly Kid Joe in the 90’s, but it could easily pass as a story about parenting … a horror story about parenting.

I don’t mean this because it features death or ghosts or the afterlife, but because it warns you about what can happen if you let your priorities get screwed up.

Have a read [but if you start, you have to read it all] … because while it was written in 1974, if you’re a working parent, it’s as relevant today as it ever was.

You have been warned.

My child arrived just the other day;
Came to the world in the usually way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay.
He learned to walk while I was away.
He was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it.
And as he grew he said,
“I’m gonna be like you, Dad.
You know I’m gonna be like you.”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man on the moon.
“When you comin’ home ?”
“Son, I don’t know when.
We’ll get together then.
You know we’ll have a good time then.”

Well, my son turned ten just the other day.
He said , “Thanks for the ball, Dad. Come on, let’s play.
Could you teach me to throw ?” I said, “Not today.
I got a lot to do.” He said, “That’s okay.”
And he walked away and he smiled and he said,
“You know, I’m gonna be like him, yeah.
You know I’m gonna be like him.”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man on the moon.
“When you comin’ home ?”
“Son, I don’t know when.
We’ll get together then.
You know we’ll have a good time then.”

Well, he came from college just the other day,
So much like a man I just had to say,
“I’m proud of you. Could you sit for a while ?”
He shook his head and he said with a smile,
“What I’d really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys.
See you later. Can I have them please ?”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man on the moon.
“When you comin’ home ?”
“Son, I don’t know when.
We’ll get together then.
You know we’ll have a good time then.”

I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away.
I called him up just the other day.
“I’d like to see you, if you don’t mind.”
He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I could find the time.
You see my new job’s a hassle and the kids have the flu,
But it’s sure nice talkin’ to you, Dad.
It’s been sure nice talkin’ to you.”
And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me,
He’d grown up just like me.
My boy was just like me.



Society Is Growing Kids Faster Than Battery Hens …

One of the things that is a beautiful nightmare for parents is watching the speed of their children grow up.

At each stage of their development, you think they have reached ‘peak perfect’ and you want them to stay that way forever … but you can deal with their growth because they bring an even more delightful element into their behaviour and, as a byproduct, your relationship.

It’s utterly, utterly magical.

That said, it still doesn’t stop the fact it all happens in the blink of an eye, so while you want to always encourage their development, you just wish it would slow down a little.

The reason I say this is that I recently read about a graphic designer was so appalled at the cover of a young girls magazine, that they decided to release what they thought it should be.

Now I must admit, my first impression to this story was that the graphic designer was probably a self-righteous individual who wanted kids to grow up in the same conditions as they did.

That was until I saw this …

The original cover of the magazine is on the left, their version is on the right.

I’m going to ignore their cover – because you can read how it came about and the story behind their idea, here – however the magazine they redesigned is a real magazine and, according to their own website, supposedly stands for:

Girls’ Life (GL) magazine was founded in August 1994 (yes, we’re ancient, we know) by Karen Bokram. Since then, GL has grown from a 23-year-old’s pipe dream project to a best-selling and award-winning platform for tween and teen girls.

Tweens and teens.

An incredibly impressionable age.

Now look at that cover.

Look at those story headlines.

Now I appreciate I am an old, white male … but they seem to place huge subliminal pressure and expectations on young women.

Wake Up Pretty.

Dream Hair.

Fashion you need to own.

Boyfriends.

If young women want to explore any of those things, then that is wonderful, but I wonder how much of it is because they are being made to feel that way rather than being something they are naturally interested in. Of course, there is something wonderful about learning to develop and grow … but this seems less about personal growth and more about playing to stereotypes – and advertising dollars – so that they can then be judged by broader society.

Of course parents have a big role to play in managing the environment their children play in, but at a time where the World is finally waking up to fighting the prejudice, oppression and stereotypes women have had to face for centuries, it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve this when the World they are surrounded by continues to push an agenda of compliance … especially when they’re titles supposedly designed for the betterment of young women.

Of course this is not limited to content for young women, young boys also have stereotypes of behaviour and aspiration shoved down their throats that are unrealistic and add incredible pressure to their development.

I get children will always grow up too fast for parents, but it is scary how even that isn’t fast enough for media outlets.

What makes it worse is so many of them say their ‘purpose‘ is to inspire brilliance in their readership.

Girls Life specifically say their role is ‘dedicated to informing, inspiring and entertaining girls around the globe—and that includes everything from starting your business (we LOVE spotlighting smart, successful teens) to putting up with periods to styling a personal look you’ll love’.

Which is why I look at the Graphic Designer who screwed with their cover and say ‘well done’ … because I now realise what they did was not act like a judgmental parent, but simply show Girls Life how their cover should look if they are serious about what they claim they represent.



We Are Family …
September 4, 2019, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Daddyhood, Family, Jill, Mum, Mum & Dad, Otis, Parents

As I wrote yesterday, this is a big week in our household as Otis starts school.

Proper school.

In fact, he starts it in a few hours time.

Yes, today!!!

And while this is going to be a journey that will be filled with excitement and drama … tears and cheers … [and that’s just how his Mum and Dad will be when we wave him off later today] I had a glimpse of what might be in store for him in a way that took my breath away.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how Otis has graduated from preschool.

Well from that day, Otis had this photo taken.

I saw it for the first time recently and I don’t mind telling you it stopped me in my tracks.

Not just because he is in full graduation gear – something his old man didn’t come close to achieving – but because of how much I see traces of my mum and me when we were young.

I wish Mum could see it, she would be chuffed to bits.

Just like I am.



And So It Begins …

It seems literally a few months ago, since I wrote this post announcing Otis had come into the World, but this week, my little man starts school.

I’m not talking kindergarten – that he did in China, America and London – I mean proper school.

Reading … Writing … Arithmetic …

A journey that, in many ways, shapes and defines the future he is going to have.

I can’t believe it …

How did that happen so fast?

I’ve written it before, but seeing your kid grow up is both a blessing and a curse.

It’s a curse because they’re moments in their development where you just want them to stay exactly as they are.

When they are totally reliant on your love.

When they start using sounds to express how they’re feeling.

When you see them experience proper food for the first time.

When they start crawling and edge their way towards you.

Those first few words.

The first conversation.

The first steps.

At every stage, you want that moment to last forever but let it go because as they enter a new phase, there are even more new wonderful things you encounter.

It’s a fast moving train you both want to stop and to keep going exactly as it is.

And this week, the train finds another gear as Otis enters formal education.

I’ve written a lot about my views on this and how I am vehemently opposed to private education.

I don’t believe it should be a profit centre.

I do believe governments should be funding it because ultimately, it’s the foundation for the countries strength and health.

And while I know the school Otis starts tomorrow won’t be the school he finishes in – as we have bought our family home in a totally different area – I do know we intend to let him finally have a place he can feel settled in … a place where he can truly belong … because his Mum and I would like nothing more than him to meet friends that will be there throughout his life.

Like his Dad had with Paul, who are the kids in the picture at the top of this post.

So all that leaves me to say is this …

Enjoy your new adventure Otis.

Your Mum and Dad are so proud for the little boy you are.

And so excited for who you will become.

Love you.