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


We Are All Complicit If We Don’t Rise Together …

Given tomorrow is the 4th July – a day America celebrates – I feel this post is particularly appropriate.

The photo above is of Otis, in the park next to where we live.

He was born in Shanghai.

He moved to Los Angeles.

And now, he lives in London.

All within 5 years of his life.

When you ask him which he loves the most, he says he loves them all.

And he does, because he embraced them all.

The similarities and the differences.

Not seeing one as better than the other but worthy of the same love.

With what’s happening right now, not just in America but everywhere, I have more hope with my sons generation than my own.

However, as his father, I owe him … and all the other 5 year old kids around the world … to ensure I am a militant irritant towards any white [male] elitist who strives to prosper through the oppression or double standards of anyone who doesn’t look, speak or act like them.

Silence is violence.

#BlackLivesMatter

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When Creativity Was Used To Tell A Story Not Just Demonstrate A Product Feature …

Look at that ad.

Look at it.

Isn’t it marvellous?

Simple. Clear. Charming. Engaging.

Sells the product feature through a human benefit.

A simple story that works for kids and parents alike.

The photo and the headline do all the heavy lifting, namely because the photo isn’t a stock image and the headline isn’t a piece of generic twaddle. And yet it’s not like it has high production values, it is just a good piece of advertising.

It’s also from a bygone age.

Not just because this ad ran years ago, but because advertising has become about selling features rather than benefits.

Explaining rather than communicating.

Describing rather than imagining.

Telling rather than inspiring.

It’s not advertising … it’s a product brochure designed to please the board of directors rather than actual human beings.

Despite my music and clothes taste, I hate looking backwards … but maybe the industry needs to do that. Not because we should aim to replicate what has gone before, but because we seem to need to remember it was stories, ideas, creativity and craft that once made us so valuable, not being able to churn out cultural landfill at the lowest price per execution.



Grow Old Stupid …

So this is it.

Today I’m 50.

I’m also on holiday.

Well, I say holiday, but I’m just going to be hanging out with the family for the next 10 days.

Yep, I’m going to be doing exactly the same as I have for the last couple of months thanks to quarantine.

Christ, this is the weirdest holiday I’ve ever had.

Literally doing more of the same, albeit without the zoom calls.

But I’m happy – as I know you will be given there won’t be any blog posts for all that time.

OK, as I wrote last week, I’m not exactly ecstatic about reaching my half century … but the fact is, I know I have little to complain about.

The life I have is one that is totally different to the one I imagined. Even aspired for.

When I look back at what my ‘goals’ were when I was in my late teens, it’s unbelievable how mundane they were.

How unambitious.

There are some reasons for that which reflect the times my family were going through – but even so, they’re pretty beige.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong for that, but when I compare it to the life I’ve had and the life I intend to have … they’re about as different as you can get.

That’s not meant to sound some ‘bigging up’ of myself, simply a reminder that your ambitions are a reflection of the World you live in which is why I will be forever grateful to my parents that they were so supportive of me going on an adventure when they could have so easily encouraged me to stay … especially as Dad had his stroke just as I was about to leave and basically the entire family was thrown into disarray.

Dad couldn’t talk or walk.

Mum had to leave her job immediately.

She didn’t drive and so for months, she had to catch the bus to the hospital.

And then, when he did come home, she had to do the majority of the care on her own.

In fact, when Dad got ill, I immediately said I was staying but Mum and Dad insisted I go, because as much as they loved me and would miss me, they were worried if I didn’t take this opportunity after months of planning, I may never go.

And they were right. I wouldn’t.

I’d have stayed in England forever.

Possibly never even left Nottingham.

And while there would be absolutely nothing wrong with that, they knew exploring the World would help me discover who I am.

To encourage that at the very worst time of their life is the definition of unconditional love and I hope if I am ever in that situation with Otis, I would do the same.

To be honest, it’s their encouragement to go explore and discover that became my biggest driver in life.

Basically, if I was going to go away – leave my family to deal with the terrible hardship of Dad’s illness – then the least I could do was embrace the opportunity they gave me. To never take it for granted and chase down the things that interested, challenged, intrigued and inspired me.

I’d like to think I did that and do that but I know I went through a lot of soul searching when came I back to England after they had died. I kept asking myself why did I do it then when I could have come back when they were still here.

Of course there’s many reasons for that – and there’s a good chance we won’t be in England forever – but I know for a fact that as proud as Mum was about all the places I lived [Dad only knew I was going to Australia and he would have be blown away if he knew all the places I’d lived and seen] she would be so happy I was back. For however long that may be.

From seeing others turn this age, it appears this is the moment where they tend to evaluate where they’ve been and where they’re going.

And while I’ve done a little bit in this post, the fact is I do it on a daily basis.

It’s as much about what pushes me towards the unknown as it is that keeps me focused on what matters to me.

Hence the title of this post …

Because when you don’t look for security in everything, you remain open to anything.

So now it’s time to wrap this post up.

You will be relieved to hear I am going to resist the urge to be overly nostalgic and sentimental, so will leave with this:

While they will be in my heart and mind throughout the day, I don’t mind admitting that I wish Mum and Dad were here to celebrate with me.

That said, I am so happy my beautiful wife and son are here to share my special day with me.

And I genuinely feel so lucky that the most important person from my earliest days – Paul – is still the most important friend in my life today.

As I said, overall, it’s been a pretty fucking amazing run so far – and while I have worked hard for it [contrary to what many will say] I’ve also been bloody lucky along the way too … and I intend to keep that run going – at least in terms of adventure and exploration. I still owe that to my Mum and Dad.

So happy birthday to me and I’ll see you in 10 days …

Older, but not wiser.

Exactly as I like it.

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What Happiness Looks Like …

Tomorrow I’m on holiday.

For over a week.

I am also turning 50.

Both of these pieces of news are no doubt going to fill you with happiness.

[Though there is a post tomorrow, so don’t get too excited]

Well, that is good, because this post is about just that.

Happiness.

One of the best things that has ever happened to me is Otis.

I loved the idea of kids – and at 18, I actually tried to adopt, hahaha – but after that, the idea was put on the back burner because frankly, I always thought I was too young.

I swear part of that is because Paul, my best mate, also didn’t have kids … so I was in some form of arrested development.

Anyway, one day Jill – who had been very patient – pointed out I wasn’t getting any younger so we decided to go for it.

Of course we then discovered the only we would pull this off is if we had IVF.

ARGH!

But then we got 2 pieces of luck.

First was being able to have the treatment in Australia. This was important because the process in Shanghai was so unbelievably weird, complicated and confusing, that we’re not sure we would have ever stood a chance there.

Secondly, the treatment worked first time. We are under no illusion how fortunate we were … though there was some sort of cosmic comedy karma in the fact we discovered Jill was pregnant on April 1.

Now I don’t regret being late to the Dad party.

The reality is I didn’t feel ready before.

OK, so I don’t know if men ever feel ready, but that’s probably less to do with being a Dad and more to do with the fear of the responsibilities associated with being a Dad.

And even though we are 5 years down the road, I still feel that.

Sure, maybe we could have had a brother or sister for him if we’d done it sooner. Sure, there’s a part of me that would have loved to do that. But apart from the fact I worry I may not get to see him grow old given my age, I can live with the fact I am soon to be 50 and I have a 5 year old bundle of beautiful mischief.

And what a bundle of beautiful mischief he is.

Kind. Compassionate. Emotional. Creative. Curious. Imaginative. Cheeky. Full of energy.

He is a loving son who wants to see the best in everything.

Part of me worries a bit about that.

I’ve already seen how some kids try to take advantage of that generosity, but in the end – all we can do is prepare him for how to deal with things that are sadly going to happen in his life and he is generally handling those tougher situations pretty well.

The main thing for me is for him to be able to enjoy his childhood.

I get that’s an incredibly privileged way to live … but I also think that’s something every parent would want for their children.

The fact is life passes so fast, we want to try and ensure he is given the chance to enjoy the present.

Be silly.

Try different things.

Resist placing pressure on him to do things he doesn’t like.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love him to like playing football as much as he likes doing acting, but he knows to support Nottingham Forest, so I’m OK with it.

Which leads back to the point of this post.

Happiness.

When we lived in LA, we bought Otis a trampoline for his birthday

As you can see, he was very happy to get one.

In fact, he was so happy, he would want to do it all the time. Including at night, where he would go into the garage with a torch [where the trampoline was kept] and just bounce up and down.

For hours.

And hours.

And hours.

When we left America, I wanted to sell the trampoline and get another when we worked out where we were going to live. But Jill had other ideas. And as usual, she was right.

Because while the weather in London is not the same as the weather in LA, that trampoline was a guarantee of happiness for Otis.

Not just because it was a treasured possession from another place, but because he still loves to bounce on it.

For hours.

And hours.

And hours.

Which is a very long winded way to get to the point of this post.

As the weather is nicer, Otis likes nothing more than bouncing on his trampoline while being sprayed with water.

Yes, I know this sounds like the sort of torture the US government subjected inmates at Guantanemo Bay to, but he adores it.

Recently we captured a photo while he was doing it that, for me, sums up what happiness is.

As a feeling.

As a look.

As a parent.

As my son.

Which is why I hope this is one thing that never changes as he gets older.

Not just because I doubt it can be topped – regardless what he does – but because, for me, it is the definition of perfect.

Stay happy Otis.

You make your old man giggle with pride and delight.




The Last Month Of 4.0 …

So today is June 1.

In 11 days, I wave goodbye to my forties and enter a decade that seems impossible for me to fathom.

50.

FIFTY.

Seriously, how did this happen?

I still remember sitting on the hill outside Erica’s newsagent with my best mate Paul around 1978, when we worked out that in the year 2000, we would be turning 30.

But here we are, 11 days from 50.

[Though it’s 15 days for Paul, who will LOVE those 4 days where he can bang on about how he is a decade younger than me … though he will also moan that my present for him isn’t like the full page newspaper ad I got him when he was 40, but a Forest shirt signed by all the members of the 1980 European Cup team. Asshole. He knows about this present as I bought it for him years ago so I’m not ruining anything for him. But I still have a surprise for him. Oh yes.]

Turning 30 bothered me a bit.

I was totally fine with becoming 40.

But 50!

I’m both bricking it and utterly casual about it.

And while there are some practical reasons for the shitting myself part – health, work, life in general – the fact of the matter is the older I get, the better my life has become.

I totally get the privilege of that statement, I don’t take it for granted at all, but it is definitely true.

Personally, professionally, emotionally …

Sure there have been some bumps along the way – some terribly hard and emotionally destructive ones – but looking at the big picture, the reality is my life has generally been on an upward trajectory.

Now even I know that it can’t keep going like that forever … but it doesn’t mean I have to stop trying.

The fact is, the older you get, the more you discover …

From what you like, what you don’t … to what you didn’t know and what you want to know.

And what makes it even more amazing – and annoying – is that every step you take, in whatever direction, reveals a whole host of other possibilities you would like to explore and investigate.

The problem is time is now officially, not on your side … so there’s a point where you have to accept you won’t get to try, play, experiment with all you want to do, so while that might put some people off, it kind of makes me want to try and pack more in.

And I am … because on top of work, Metallica, the school with Martin, I’ve already agreed to do a couple more projects that are intriguing and – frankly – ridiculous.

But there’s another reason for this attitude and it’s because my Dad died at 60.

Death is something I’ve talked a lot about over the years – mainly due to both my parents passing away.

I’ve talked a lot about the importance of taking about it, but I must admit, I’m scared of it.

I’m in generally good health, but fifty is still 50 and my Dad still died just 10 years on from this age.

Now of course it doesn’t mean I will … and I’ve come to this completely unscientific view that I should live till I’m at least 71 because if you take away my Dad’s age of dying [60]from my Mum’s [83] … that leave 23 years. Halve that … add it to Dad’s age … and voila, I will live till at least 71.

But then that means I only have 21 years left.

TWENTY ONE.

That’s nowhere near enough.

My wonderful little boy is only 5 for fucks sake. 26 is way too young to lose your Dad … hell, that’s even younger than I was when I lost mine.

Years ago, an old boss I looked upto said that if you can’t feasibly double your age, that is when you know you are – at best – middle aged or – at worst – the last stage of your life.

Well I suppose I can still feasibly double my age – even if it’s against the average age of death for a man in the UK [79.2] – but the reality is where I’m going is shorter than where I’ve been.

But shorter doesn’t mean less interesting.

And arguably, I have more exciting things in my life now – both personally and professionally – than I have ever had.

It also helps I am insanely immature with a desire for mischief, experimentation, creativity and adventure.

And I intend to fill it up with even more.

Fortunately I get that from a number of sources.

My wife.

My son.

My job.

My other jobs.

My friends.

My mind.

A while back, Pete said something I found pretty profound.

He said the narrative of strategy tended to focus on the importance of curiosity when discovery is far more valuable for driving the standard of the work you create and the adventure you go on.

Now I’ve written a lot about how I hate when planners talk about curiosity – as if they’re the only people who have it – but I really, really like that idea of the hunger for discovery.

I absolutely have that.

I owe so much of what I have to that.

The countries I’ve lived in. The people I’ve worked with. And most importantly, the family I am fortunate to have.

So while I enter a new decade, I will continue to live like it’s the old one.

Not in terms of dressing like I’m younger than I am – mainly because I have always dressed like I live in 1986 – but with the hunger, ambition and desire I’ve always had.

I genuinely believe my best work is still ahead of me.

Truly believe that.

And the goal of this decade is to achieve some of that while discovering new things that make me believe even better work can still lie in my future.