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

End The Week On A Low …
June 30, 2023, 8:00 am
Filed under: Birthday, Comment, Rosie

It’s Friday.

Even though I no one reads them, I appreciate this has been a week of very loooooong posts.

Worse, they’ve been extra self-indulgent … so with that, I thought I’d give you a gift of [1] a very short post and [2] a photo that gives you additional ammunition against me … even though from my perspective, it shows a level of self-awareness we should applaud.

But then I would say that wouldn’t I.

Oh, and before I go, a big happy 16th birthday to Rosie for tomorrow.

Yes, I know I wrote a long post to her yesterday, but she’s 80 in human years and if that doesn’t deserve a double mention, I don’t know what does.

I bloody love that Singaporean, street cat. – even though she’s most definitely now a princess – and while she’s definitely slower than she was before – when she gets frisks, she could beat Usain Bolt. Plus she’s still as loud and complainy as ever … which makes me bizarrely happy. So happy birthday to you Rosie and happy weekend to the rest of you.

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Sometimes The Best Things In Life Are Hairy And Cranky …

So on Saturday, it will be our cat – Rosie’s – 16th birthday.

Sixteen. For a street cat from Singapore, that’s amazing.

What’s also amazing is that she’s still in pretty good nick.

Yes, you can tell she’s getting old.

She’s slower … less mobile and definitely sleeps more.

But by the same token she remains cranky, vocal and remains as demanding as ever.

And if another cat comes anywhere near our house, she goes full gangster mode … hissing, growling and acting like she’s ready to fight despite the fact she’s behind a glass door.

Like those TikTok videos that show men loving family dogs they didn’t originally want their family to have … I was in a similar situation.

I didn’t really want us to have a pet.

Not because I’m a bastard, but because Jill and I were living in Singapore and I didn’t know how long we’d be there and I just was worried about the hassle of bringing it with us.

But Jill had always had pets and I wanted her to be happy, so while she originally wanted a dog, we settled on getting a cat.

She threw herself into the search.

It wasn’t just about getting any cat, she had to feel a connection to it … so after visiting various pet shops with their over-priced, pure-bred snooty moggies, she came across a little street cat that had been found by a family and was wondering if anyone wanted to adopt.

Jill went to see it and it is here that street cat did the best move of their life.

As Jill lifted her up to her face, Rosie moved her head forward so their noses touched.

Despite the fact Rosie would not show such love and tenderness for about 6 years, that ensured the deal was done and we were now a cat family.

I still remember sitting in a cab outside the apartment as Jill went to pick her up.

I was a bit anxious and nervous and eventually the door opened and there she was, in her little cat bag, where we both wondered what the fuck we had in store for each other.

And while there have been some annoying, painful and scary moments … it’s been generally nothing but joy.

Put it simply, I bloody love that cat.

There’s things I’ve done for her that I wouldn’t do for anyone. Literally anyone.

What things? Well how about some of this …

In HK we paid someone to pat her so she didn’t feel lonely. I did a project for an airline on the condition they flew her in the crew quarters rather than the cargo hold. We built ‘penthouses’ for her to hang out in. I gave an entire presentation about what a client can learn from her and her ways. I even got my office painted with her – and some of my colleagues moggies. And that’s just the tip of the sad-cat-bastard iceberg.

That said, every year I worry this is the year … the one where we have to say goodbye.

And while I know that will happen eventually, she’s doing OK.

Yes she needs some blood pressure medication, but apart from that, she’s in pretty good nick.

That said, I remember when we were moving to NZ I was worried that would be it.

Despite having flown from Singapore to HK … HK to Shanghai … Shanghai to LA and LA to London … London to Auckland is a whole different beast.

But bizarrely it wasn’t just the distance that worried me, it was that there was a stopover in Singapore – and given she was originally from there, my nihilistic side told me it was written in the stars that if there was any place she would reach the end, it would be where she started, like some fucked-up circle of life. Which – to be fair to me – is kinda what happened when Otis was born and my wonderful Mum died a few months later. Which – given I knew she was ill – was something my nihilistic side had also started to feed into my head.

Except with Rosie, it thankfully didn’t happen. [Fuck you, nihilism brain]

Better yet, we knew it hadn’t happened at the time because we had paid for a service that ensured at every stage she was checked and photographed.

Hell, even when we ended up in MIQ in NZ – where we spent longer in quarantine than she did – we got bombarded with pics of her and she looked to be having the time of her life.

Jetlagged … but happy, thanks to brushes and treats that I had already got sent to the quarantine place before our arrival.

But if you think this proves how much she means to me, you’re only partially right.

You see, at her age – which is 80 in human years – my attitude is she’s earned the right to do whatever she wants to do.

Which is why I’ll get up at 3am if she decides she wants a treat at 3am.
Which is why I’ll give her my chair if she decides she wants to be under the aircon.
Which is why I’ll buy her an extortionately expensive outdoor beanbag because she loves sitting outside in summer.

If we were her servants before, we’re her slaves now and I’m OK with that.

NZ is good for her.
She has a lovely, comfortable peaceful life.
Lots of places to go hang out, a big deck to sit and watch the birds and loads of food and water. And treats.

And where in the past you always felt she was disappointed in you, now you feel her gratefulness.

A cuddle here. A lick there. Meows, headrubs and sleeping on your hip.

Hell, she’s even totally chill that Sky – Otis’ budgie – is in the house.

It’s a lovely feeling.
A family feeling.
And while we give her so much, she’s given us – and me – more.

Happy Birthday my dear Rosie. Keep proving the critics wrong and us on our toes.

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New Doesn’t Last Forever …

For reasons not worth discussing, I recently saw this …

Yes, it’s from a very, very long time ago … but it’s still a bit bizarre to see ‘Electronic Mail’ being touted like it is the cutting edge of tech.

But of course, once upon a time, it was.

A dawn of a new future with new possibilities.

Where – according to an Apple ad of the time – mail would travel at the equivalent of 670,000,000mph to anyone and anywhere in the World.

Even now, that sounds impressive … but back then, it was revolutionary.

Prior to email, if you wanted to send a card … a letter … a document or whatever, the only way was to trust the competence of the mail service.

And if you were writing to someone in another country, then it would take weeks before you had any chance of it being received.

We call it ‘snail mail’ now … but back then, it was just mail.

The reason I’m writing this is that time always creates change.

We might not like where it takes us.
We might find it hard to adapt or embrace.
We might not like the time-frame it’s working to.
But whether it’s good or bad, the thing you can be sure of is things will change.

The reason I’m saying this is because I recently read something on The Athletic.

Not only was it about my beloved Nottingham Forest, it was written by someone who is also living in NZ. That means there’s 2 of us here – which is the same amount of fans as there were when I lived in Shanghai and Los Angeles, haha.

Anyway, they wrote this:

“The past two seasons need putting in a box marked “Vintage”. It’s only so often in football fandom that circumstances gel to give you a gift like this period. Dramatic, successful, joyous but mainly the sense of togetherness and belonging. All praise to Steve for being the key man that’s made it happen and in particular the way it’s felt.

History suggests it won’t stay this way, maybe another year or two if we’re lucky, because expectations get in the way and start twisting the behaviour and attitudes of all parties. Sad but hey it’s all part of the cycle.

The positive point I’m making is that this has been as good as it gets really, outside of unexpectedly rising to the absolute top (e.g. Forest 78-80; Leicester winning the league), so let’s be sure to savour it while we’re in the moment! And hopefully the moment has another couple of years to run.”

I loved it.

Not just because that’s exactly how following Forest over these past 2 years have felt, but because life often follows a similar path.

The reality is we often never realise we’re living in a golden period of our life.

Often, we only realise it as we sense it passing us by.

And then we panic … trying desperately to hold on to something that is only partially – if we’re lucky – in our control and likely already has left the station.

Worse, we can end up putting all our effort trying to recreate something we had, rather than create what can be next.

That doesn’t mean our focus should be blindly running forward and ignoring – or not valuing – what is happening around us, but it does mean we should appreciate we can’t stop time … because as ‘electronic mail’ has shown, even the most exciting times of our life can end up becoming the most mundane.

Life is hard.

It’s not fair.

Sure, for some, it way harder than for others and effort doesn’t always translate to achievement or progress, which is cruel as fuck. But as I have got older, I’ve learnt to appreciate something my parents used to say to me when I was young.

“The more interested you are in life, the more chance you have of enjoying a good one”.

First of all, note they said ‘chance’.

No blind promises, more an attitude to life.

Secondly, when they said ‘interested’, they meant ‘invested’.

Not just in terms of being curious about what’s going on, but committing to being in it.

Trying stuff.
Exploring stuff.
Appreciating what you learn from it – good, bad or indifferent.

And finally, their version of a ‘good life’ was – as I’ve said many times – a life of fulfilment rather than contentment.

Where you go after the stuff that makes you feel alive, rather than what makes life comfortable and easy.

It’s why I adore they said ‘enjoy’ rather than ‘have’.

Not just because it acknowledged time will continually challenge and change our contexts and beliefs … but because it means you recognise, embrace and value the good moments while not letting yourself get so lost in them that you are removing yourself from the possibilities of the future.

Nottingham Forest spent too long being lost in the past.

Always judging themselves by it, which meant never being able to live up to it.

An invisible hammer continually bashing everyone down.

But Steve Cooper has changed that …

Sure, he’s not achieved a fraction of what Clough did, but apart from the fact he’s only 4 years into his managerial career, he has done stuff even Clough wasn’t able to achieve.

For example, the togetherness between fan, club and manager is – even in the eyes of ex-Clough players – better than it ever was at our European peak.

In essence, he took the values of the club to liberate the future of it … enabling a new generation of fan to take the club to somewhere new and exciting. Something that represents their future, not just a recreation of another generations past.

It’s so exciting to see it.
It’s so exciting to share it.
It’s so exciting to be a part of it.

Now I know what some of you will be thinking, I’m reframing achievement to set lower expectations. But that’s the point …

When you try and hold on to things already past, you’re stuck in limbo.

It’s why I’m revelling in what Forest are doing right now.

I know it won’t last forever, but to experience something so magical is more than I ever dared to dream.

Sure, it’s not the same as last time.
But that doesn’t mean it’s any less wonderful.
Even more so that it is happening in the present not in my memory.

When Forest won the playoff final to get back into the Premiership after 23 long and painful years, some genius played the track ‘Freed From Desire’ by Gala. It wasn’t just the perfect choice of song for us, it conveys one of the most valuable lessons for life.

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You Only Know How Bad You’ve Had It When You No Longer Have It …
June 27, 2023, 8:15 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, England, Football, Nottingham, Nottingham Forest, Paul

I know with a headline like that, you think I’m going to announce some major revelation to do with health.

Or happiness.

Well, in some ways I am … just not what you may think.

This is about football … and while it’s a good few weeks since the Premiership ended, it’s taken me this long to calm down.

As you all likely know, my beloved Nottingham Forest got promoted last year to the Premiership after 23 painful years away. More than that, they got promoted after being at the bottom of the Championship after 7 games – where they only had one point – before our manager, Steve Cooper, joined and took us on a fairytale that no one could have imagined.

Of course we knew it would be hard to compete – especially with our team being made up of 5 loan signings – which is why I convinced myself that as long as they were enjoying themselves, I’d be happy with whatever happened.

Now I know I was utterly lying to myself.

It was a tremendously hard season. We had – in the end – over 30 new players join us [which was needed given we didn’t have a proper starting 11] so it was no surprise we were whipping boys for all the teams we faced in the first few weeks.

3-0. 4-0. 5-0. 6-0.

Then we had a couple of wins.

West Ham and – amazingly – Liverpool.

We had faith. And then the bad results kept coming and the media increasingly wrote us off.

Then we had major injuries to key players that were going to last for months.

Worse, we were hearing our beloved Steve Cooper – the man who had achieved what over 20+ managers couldn’t – was going to get fired. Other managers were being sounded out. The old dark days were coming back with a vengeance.

I don’t mind admitting, I couldn’t read about the team.

Everything was bleak and negative and it actually was affecting my health.

I was getting down. Weekends were getting ruined. The feel-good factor was done.

I tried to convince myself that football just doesn’t matter.

The only positive was the Forest owners kept faith with Steve.

Sure, part of it was because they couldn’t find a better alternative, but at a time where clubs chopped and changed managers like people change their clothes – it was a little bright spot in an otherwise dark situation.

That said, I wouldn’t have blamed them if they had.

Yes we had terrible injuries but we couldn’t win an away game if we bribed the officials.

Then we had a little run of positive results and it was amazing how I felt my entire body change. Mentally and physically. I felt excited to read articles about them – and how they played – again. Sure, there were still some negative stuff, but when we reached the highs of 13th in the table [even though 13th-20th was separated by a few points] it felt good.

Then bad times came back.


In the relegation zone.

Pundits revelling in our downfall.

But somehow we put ourselves in a position to get out and with 2 games left, we were in 16th, two places above relegation. Of course, being Forest, we only needed to slip up once and have a team below us win – and we would literally swap places with them.

Worse, if any of the teams below us ended up on the same points, we’d still go down because those early games gave us a goal difference that was one of the worst in the league.

If that wasn’t hard enough, our next game was Arsenal.

2nd in the league … and the teams around us had easier games.

Sure, if we lost it wouldn’t be 100% relegation and sure, it was at home … but given our final match was away, the chances of us pulling off a miracle were low.

But against all odds, we took the lead on 19 minutes.

The Forest ground was utter pandemonium … WE WERE WINNING … but we also knew we had the worst record of losing from a winning position and Arsenal had the best record of winning from a losing position.

But we got to half time still up … which meant we would guarantee safety which meant we would still be in the Premiership for another year.

Then the second half started.

And unlike other matches, we kept doing pretty well.

The team wanted this. They wanted to play their final game at the City Ground in a way that would honour the fans unwavering support over the past 9 months.

And to be honest, so they should … because even fans of all other teams have said what an amazing atmosphere our fans create at the City Ground.

But I’d seen us fuck up too many times so with 12 minutes to go, I went on to instagram and zoomed through reels to take my mind off things. I knew the game would be over at 6:32am NZ time and my intention was to not look till my iPad said it was that time.

Did I manage to do that?

Nope … but I did manage to last a few minutes at a time.

And then at 6:31am I couldn’t hold back any longer and flicked over to the BBC where I saw the letters FT under the score, signifying full time.

Signifying we had won. WE HAD WON.

And, in a surprise to myself, I burst into tears.

Massive tears. Tears of relief, pride, happiness, shock and calm.

What made this even more surreal was that while this was all going on, I was lying in Otis’ bed as he was in ours with a bad head cold.

So there I was a 52 year old bloke … in an 8 year olds bed … crying at a football result and that’s when I truly knew how invested I was in that team.

How they represent more than just kicking a ball around a pitch, but my identity … my cities identity … our hopes, belief and values.

I was a mix of elation and exhaustion … resulting in me spending the whole day watching interviews of the footballers and fans revelling in their joy.

Joy for defying the odds.

Joy for proving the pundits wrong.

Joy for my great club earning the chance to keep getting better.

I love them. I love them so so much …

The team. The manager. The owners. The fans. The city they represent and belong to.

As the legendary Liverpool manager – Bill Shankly – once said:

Football isn’t a matter of life and death. It’s more important than that.

He wasn’t wrong.

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Filled By Friendship …

So I’m back.

Did you miss me?

Nope?! Don’t blame you to be honest.

But the past 10 days have been very special for me.

There was a couple of very hard moments, but being able to be there for it, was also special.

Another reminder that while I don’t have many mates, the ones I have are top drawer.

And our presentation appears to have gone down well.

I’m so happy about that … mainly because I got to do it with Paula and Martin and I adored it.

That was a very special feeling. Something I hope we can do a hell of a lot more of, very soon.

It was also so good to catch up with so many old faces I’d not seen in years.

While I actively stay in touch with people, I’m not the most social of humans … so seeing people in the flesh [so to speak] was pretty wonderful.

As I’ve said before, COVID was good to me.

I absolutely loved staying at home with my family and having breakfast, lunch and dinner with them every single day.

Of course, I appreciate we were very privileged in our situation … but that still doesn’t take away the specialness of the times.

At least for me.

But seeing all these people I knew … and hanging out with the people I love … acted a bit like a reset to me.

A reminder of how I feed off the energy of others. That it makes me feel better and happier and hungrier to do good stuff.

To be honest, that was one of the reasons I wanted to come to Colenso.

Yes, part of it was because they are one of the great creative agencies of the times.

And yes, it meant I could finally repay Jill for her generosity in following me around the World by bringing her closer to her Mum after all these years.

But another part was that the idea of being surrounded by a talented team was so enticing.

Put simply, I love it.

I love building a gang.

I love creating our own strategy identify on how we see the world and create for it.

You see after I got made redundant from R/GA, … I was fortunate to be given work that immediately made up the salary I had lost. Better yet, I could do that without having to leave the house as the clients funding me were mainly based in China and America.

I was, as they say, sorted.

But working on your own, is hard.

Even more so when you live in a village surrounded by nothing.

And even more so when you live in a village during COVID so you can’t meet anyone even if you wanted to.

Yes, I get compared to the issues many people face, it’s nothing – but it doesn’t mean it’s not real. At least for me.

Of course I could work on my own if I needed to. The reality is I’ve always done side projects through my career, so there’s been lots of times where I’ve done just that. But moments of working on your own is very different to always working on your own … so when Colenso reached out – knowing I’ve always loved them as I almost joined them in 2016 – the idea of being a member of something was immediately appealing.

Trouble was I loved the projects I was doing … working directly with music, gaming and fashion royalty.

Basically, doing stuff I’d never done before that was incredibly exciting, challenging and creative with people who were incredibly exciting, creative and demanding.

So being a greedy bastard/only child, I asked if they’d be open to me doing both.

And they said yes.

There are many reasons for their decision – from knowing there would never be a conflict with the day-to-day work Colenso do through to knowing the timezones I’d be working in, would require my time at night, not during the day – but I am eternally grateful to them for being so open-minded and encouraging, because right now, I feel I have the best of many worlds.

To be honest that’s been a rare feeling for me.

My life seems to have either been great personally or professionally but rarely both at the same time.

And right now, I’m having that.

This is all coming across like I’m a smug-bastard and that’s the last thing I wanted to do.

It was more a reminder that if you want to do something, you should ask rather than assume and being with people – whether friends, family or colleagues – is a special thing.

Yes, I appreciate that should be obvious, but it wasn’t for me … and this past few weeks, similar to the year before … has reminded me of that.

Of course it highlights what an idiot I must be, but I’ll take that for the lesson it’s just given me.

Which is why I both understand and am confused by those who actively don’t want to work in an office again.

I get it from a balanced life or health perspective – especially if you’re spending a lot of time and money on commuting – but I don’t from the benefits of people and connections.

Of course there are a million reasons that can influence this, but while technology does allow us to be close when we’re not … physical space enables happy accidents and incidental conversations to happen which aren’t just sometimes great for the work, but also the soul.

And mine is full for now.

So thanks to all who helped remind me – and refilled me – over the past couple of weeks.

Let’s see how long it lasts before the grumpiness comes back.

Though, sadly, the long posts are definitely going to remain.

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