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


Goodbye 2022. Hello Peace And Quiet …

So this is it, the last post of 2022.

Again, I want to say a big thank you to everyone and anyone who has read or commented on my ranting rubbish.

I have to say, I miss the comments.

I know it was my choice to stop them, but I do miss them – so maybe I’ll have to bring them back, even though I’ve become waaaaaaay more productive since they’ve been turned off as I don’t have to spend vast amounts of my time checking what insults have been written to me and about me, hahaha.

But lack of comments aside, it’s been a big year … mainly because it has been the first year in a couple of years without any lock-down. And yet I still find it bizarre seeing people not wearing masks and being able to get on a plane again.

To think of the isolation, suffering and pain so many people suffered, the speed of the bounce-back has taken my breath away. Of course there are still people enduring tough times … but given the horror of the pandemic has seemingly been replaced by the threat of nuclear war and economic collapse, maybe COVID wasn’t so bad after all.

That said, I’m so grateful for the ability to travel again as it meant I was able to go on a trip that I’ll never, ever forget.

A trip where I got to see my beloved Martin getting married in Portugal.
A trip where I got to see my beloved Nottingham Forest getting promoted at Wembley.
A trip where I got to see my beloved Queen in concert with a ticket I bought 2 years earlier.
A trip where I got to see my beloved Paul, after the longest time we’ve been apart in 52 years.

It was, without exaggeration, one of the most special times in my life … with stuff I thought I may never see – or see again – so you will understand why I still feel so grateful to be able to have experienced it.

But beyond that, there were many other things that made this year memorable.

We did some fun work including Beyond Binary, Rick and Morty, Phone It In and Give Up On Humans. Our agency Christmas gift was interesting too. I say interesting, but I mean ridiculous, especially compared to last years more sophisticated Restraining Order, haha.
I wrote a pretty decent April Fools post that conned a few people.
And then, more seriously, I wrote some posts about my dalliance with depression, fulfilment, prejudice and respect that seemed to mean something to people, which made me feel happy it helped in some way.
I worked with Metallica, Miley Cyrus, Muse and Journey, to different degrees of success and enjoyment, hahaha.
We produced Dream Small … which I’m not only very proud of, but has led to conversations and change I never imagined we could have.
The way Otis – and his school – dealt with his dysgraphia diagnosis.
I celebrated my Mum’s 90th.
I got to see the wonderful Maya and Bree again, after years.
I was somehow featured in a book.
My Bohemian Catsody office mural … featuring Rosie amongst others.
I laughed myself stupid about Gi’s shit explosion while also being proud as punch of my wonderful team with our WARC/Cannes Global Grand Prix for effectiveness … followed up with us winning the same achievement at the NZ Effies … followed up by us winning the Global Grand Effie a few weeks later.
Renovating the old Colenso table to give it – and the irrepressible, unmistakeable Kate Maitland – the respect and recognition they deserve.
Lizzie and Amy’s news.
And Paula’s wonderful ray of sunshine.
Then finding the brilliant Briar and Shelly … with Martin and Meg arriving in Jan. [Which in Meg’s case, is almost 2 years in the waiting]
And last – but certainly not least – seeing Boris get pushed out quickly [literally and figuratively] by Liz Truss, even though the evil Tories somehow remain in power.

Of course there was some sad and disappointing stuff.

The loss of the irreplaceable and wonderful Dan Wieden.
Queenie … which hit me far more than I ever imagined it would.
Ben. Who left us too soon.
Mike’s motorcycle accident.
Henry, Liam and Robin left the team.
My first dalliance with COVID. And Jill too.
The bullshit that Simon P was forced to deal with and face.
Not to mention the horrible situation one of our clients was exposed to by the worst of society.
And then too many terrible global events, with the situations in Ukraine and Iran being possibly the worst of them all. What makes these last two even more disturbing is how the media only pay lip service to them. As if they don’t deem the horrors ‘relevant’ enough for their viewers and readers so they hide it on pages 5 and 6 … behind articles on energy bills, political scandal and sports scores.

I know it’s Christmas, but instead of having that one extra drink or buying that one shitty pressie, donating that money to organisations who offer support and help would be amazing. Two of them are this for Ukraine and this for Iran.

2022 has reminded me how privileged and comfortable my life is.

While compared to many, I have only experienced that sort of life, there have been times that have challenged me.

1999 was horrid.
As was 2015.
And last December was arguably, the worst month I’ve ever faced.

But this year, from a purely personal perspective, has generally been pretty special for me and one of the biggest reasons for that is my family.

I know we’re all supposed to say that, but it’s true.

Not just for who they are, but because for some reason, I feel we got even closer.

Emotionally.
Supportively.
Connectively.

To be honest, I thought we were already as close as you can be, but I discovered there’s actually no limit to the level of connection you can feel with loved ones and that has left me feeling a bit overwhelmed.

Maybe it’s because NZ is so far from everyone, we feel closer to each other. Maybe it’s because we don’t see the people we love so often, we have become more reliant on each other. Maybe it’s because we just have gone through some stuff that it reinforced how special we are to each other. Maybe it’s for reasons I’ve not wanted to admit before because it challenges the priorities I’ve lived by before.

Who knows, but what I can say is I love my ramshackle collection of Campbell’s.

Including Rosie, of course.

They’re not perfect.
They can drive me nuts.
But they’re mine and I adore every bit of them.

Which is why I want to sign off by saying to them – and to the rest of you – that whatever you do over this period, I hope it gives you all you want and all you need. I am grateful for everything every one of you put in my life and I hope 2023 – as scary as many are suggesting it will be – will surprise us all with its happiness and fulfilment.

Just as long as mine is happier and more fulfilling than yours.

Hey, I may be getting more tolerant in my old age, but I’m still as only-child demanding as ever.

Have a great one. Back Feb 1. I hope to see you in 2023.

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Happy Birthday Sunshine …
December 9, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: America, Birthday, China, Dad, Daddyhood, England, Family, Jill, Love, New Zealand, Otis

So on Sunday, it’s Otis’ 8th birthday.

Eight.

He is basically growing up way too fast.

So fast, I wish the police would come and tell him to slow down.

It seems like only yesterday I took this ridiculous photo of him, mere minutes old …

… but here he is, 8 years later, full of life, love and joy.

He is such a wonderful boy.

Of course I’d say that, but he is.

Kind, considerate and always trying his hardest.

If anything, I wish he pushed the rules a bit more – but even his teachers say what a good kid he is. And given the challenge of recently being diagnosed with disgraphia, that’s even more wonderful to hear.

That he had started to suffer anxiety because he thought he wasn’t good enough because he couldn’t keep up with the other kids in class with writing – breaks my heart. But fortunately his teachers noticed quickly, designed a different way for him to express and contribute in class and now he’s growing back in confidence which makes me so proud.

Both of him and his teachers.

But then, where he’s concerned, he has consistently revealed his compassion and resiliance.

From moving country so many times to choosing to cutting his long hair to help ‘kids with cancer’ to being a tough little cookie when he got rushed into hospital for an emergency operation within a week of turning 7 … he’s a phenomenal human.

And now he turns 8.

EIGHT.

While there’s many thing I could wish for him this year, I think the main thing would be to continue with what he’s got.

Stability.

A safe, calm home environment.

His network of buddies and mates.

Outlets for his energy, interests and cheekiness.

A range of people who support his individual needs personally, accadmically and emotionally.

Of course he may want different things … of which I assume Superman and Transformers would feature heavily … but having a place he can continue to be connected to and enjoy is one he may – in time – also appreciate.

We’ve always known this.

And wanted this for him.

So to be able to give him it – and see how much he has blossomed because of it – is a dream.

And while we know we won’t be here forever, like all parents, what we do want is for him to be happy and fulfilled.

To not fear the unknown.
To embrace his interests and curiosity.
To feel safe in being able to express who he is and how he feels.

Maybe that’s a pipe-dream … after all, the world can be a challenging and tough place.

But NZ does offer – at least until kids are 11 or 12 – an environment where this way of life is more possible than anywhere else we’ve lived.

And he deserves that.

He deserves to be in place where he feels he can belong.

Not that he didn’t have that in other places, but he was either too young to realise its importance or we were not there long enough for him to feel it.

And that’s something I still regret.

I have a photo of him saying goodbye to his friend on our last day in America that still breaks my heart.

There he is, in his socks and on our drive – after running out the front door of our house – giving Jack a big hug after he realised he may not see him again.

The guilt I still feel about that is one I don’t know I’ll ever get over.

Which is probably what I deserve, given I was the reason for it.

I just hope Otis knows I never want to hurt him … never want to rob him of the people who mean so much to him. Which is why I’m so glad Elodie is still in his life, despite it now being filled with what seems a 1000 new friends from his school and community.

Watching that develop and evolve is one of the most beautiful and special things I’ve ever witnessed.

Sure, there’s the odd drama, but generally it’s a really happy and healthy group. Kids who look out for each other. Supportive, encouraging and just kind. They’re a better example to society than my generation … which is why I hope we don’t fuck the world entirely before they can come in and fix it.

Not that they should have to take on that burden, but that’s the generosity of that generation.

A desire to help everyone prosper, not just the usual suspects.

Of of which my son is one of them … reaffirmed by the goals, ambitions and hopes he tells us he has for his life.

Which is why I want to leave this post with this message to him.

Otis.

My wonderful, beautiful, brilliant Otis.

I love you.

Not a day goes by where I am not proud to be your Dad. Where you make me laugh at your observations of what’s happening in life. Where you blow me away with your passion and enthusiasm for life … from watching endless Kids Youtube, to your love of all things Marvel through to the way you literally transform into this powerful, confident, graceful human fish the moment you enter water.

And every little thing in-between.

You’re brilliant Otis. Proper brilliant.

Not just for what you do, but who you are.

I am so proud of you …

Proud for how you embrace life.

Proud for how you embrace challenges.

Proud for just being a kind, compassionate, considerate kid.

And as much as I wish you weren’t growing up so fast, it’s offset by the joy of seeing who you are becoming. Go forth in life with courage and optimism. It’s very easy to just be seized by the cynicism and darkness of the world … but people like you give it light.

You give it to me.

You light up my whole world.

Happy birthday Otis … you make your Mum and Dad the happiest parents in the World.

Rx

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Fame Gains Attention. Legends Are Always Remembered …
September 5, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: Anniversary, Birthday, Freddie, Queen

Today would be Freddie Mercury’s 76th birthday.

How bizarre.

Except it shouldn’t be because Brian May and Roger Taylor are similar ages and they’re still playing.

Though recently I saw a photo of Brian May coming off stage from their last concert of this current tour and he was in tears … and you sense there’s a chance that’s it. That he knows, even though it hasn’t been said.

I can’t imagine what that must feel like.

I mean, the idea of me no longer being able to do whatever it is I do freaks me out, so to be a global rockstar who knows they can’t keep performing as they have been – even though the fanbase is there – must be a whole other level of confrontation.

But if they are bowing out, doing it on a high is the only way to go and they would be doing it if they announce it now.

Which also means I’m extra thrilled I was able to see them in London.

With my best friend Paul.

Which, for me, would be the perfect sign-off.

But the thing that’s interesting is that when you think of Freddie, you don’t think of the old man version of him. You don’t see the ‘grand damme’ looking anything other than he was in 1986 … fit, flamboyant and fantastic.

Yellow jacket.
Big moustache.
Prancing around the stage like a highly-sexed panther.

Yes, I know he died 31 years ago and that was the last ‘high profile’ image of him. But given 50% of the band are still touring, the idea we still see Freddie in his prime – rather than comparing him to his band mates – is interesting.

That said, that 1986 image is not my favourite version of him.

Queen had ‘evolved’ from rock stars to entertainers by then and I have to be honest and say I prefer when they are in full blitzkrieg rock n’ roll stars.

Which is why I wish Freddie a happy birthday and leave you with a concert they did in 1981.

Even if you hate the band you will be unable to dismiss the power of their performance. This is them at their peak … literally years before they created musical immortality with Live Aid.

Don’t get me wrong, I will always love them, but I miss this version of them most.

Happy birthday Fred.

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The Beginning Of The End Or The End Of The Beginning?

I cannot believe it is the end of June.

How did that happen so fast?

The problem with the year going so quickly is that so is my mortality.

When you’re in your thirties or forties … hearing someone has died at 73 seems centuries away, but when you’ve just turned 52, it seems like a week.

I’ve written how much turning 50 has affected me before.

From looking wistfully at photos of people who look a bit like my son, albeit much older … through to how much I love my wife … to finally appreciating a good garden … to talking about my career.

The reality is, if you’re still in adland at my age – or probably any industry – you definitely feel you’re approaching the end of your journey.

And you are …

That doesn’t mean you don’t have a shit-ton to offer or that you’re not doing exciting work … the reality is the industry has always valued ‘new’ over experience – or even creativity for that matter – so it’s just how it goes.

However from a pure ego perspective, it can still sting a little … especially when many of the people getting the acclaim have not done anything of note, other than play the self-publicity game very, very well.

Repeatedly shouting their reframed arguments, judgement on others work or modern takes on old behaviours and then – just as you’re about to turn into a bitter bastard – you realise that’s probably what the previous generation of adfolk thought about you and your mouth – and suddenly things look very different.

And as much as that revelation is a metaphorical kick in the face brings, it also is pretty liberating.

Because while it’s nice to be noticed – and there’s some people out there doing things that truly deserve to be because they’re trying to take the possibilities of creativity to new places, from POCC to Ivy Huang at Tencent to Mr Hoon Kim at Gentle Monster [and I know I’m biased given he’s a client of mine] to the usual suspects like Nils etc to name but a few – the reality is not being defined by your job or your title or your employer is far better for your health, happiness and creativity … and yet that is the opposite of what the industry promotes.

Your value is based on your title.
Your talent is linked to who you work for.
Your reputation is decided by how well known you are rather than what you’ve done.

I get it. I felt that way for a time. But it’s also a bit insane.
I cannot tell you how differently people listened to what I said when I was at Wieden than when I was at Cynic, despite that on many occasions, I was saying EXACTLY the same thing. It happens now with Metallica. People who wouldn’t give me the time of day before suddenly think what I spout has value because some heavy metal musicians treat me as their cat litter tray. But the reality is success is as much down to good fortune as it is talent – even though talent is still very important – so to play to what you think someone wants you to be rather than who you actually are only ends up undermining you.

You may not realise that till later, but at one point you’ll look in the mirror and know.

Let’s be honest, turning 52 is pretty pants.

Even more so when you find a photo of yourself at 22.

Yep, that’s really me … from my passport photo.

Hair, youth and serial killer stare.

But at 52 you ache.
You look older than god.
And you’re made to feel the industry you’ve pretty much given your working life to, is trying to leave you behind purely based on your age.

And despite me having so much fun and doing so much exciting stuff with bands, I still adore adland.

I may not like where it is going or what it now values, but it’s given – and continues to give me – so much and I’ll always be grateful for that.

And while my time in the industry is different to what it once was, it still gives me so much … with the latest gift being the realisation their issue with older people is their problem not mine.



A Great Thing Happened On This Day …
June 15, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: Birthday, Comment, Jill, Love

I’m a pretty lucky guy.

Contrary to popular opinion, I have worked hard for stuff … but I can’t deny that the life I have is disproportionately good to the life I probably deserve.

And nothing sums this up more than being married to my wife.

She is a beautiful, compassionate, considerate human.

She has supported and encourage me on everything I’ve wanted to do.

From moving countries to jobs to everything in-between.

Any success I have had is definitely with her influence stamped all over it.

Today it’s her birthday.

And while she will enjoy it, she also not want me to make a fuss about it.

Not because she doesn’t like birthdays, but because she doesn’t like being the centre of attention.

When I wrote a post about her a few months ago, she was a bit embarrassed about it.

She likes the quieter life and me talking about her and her achievements made her feel a bit uneasy. And while I don’t want to make her feel that way, it’s very hard for me to dial-down how much I love her because quite frankly, she’s everything to me.

Oh the things I could write.

The things I want to say.

About what you mean to me and how great I think you are.

But I’ll do as I’m told by just saying this.

My dear Jill.

Happy, happy birthday.

You’re the absolute best.

I am so happy and lucky to have you in my life.

You’re an amazing person … mother and wife.

Otis, Rosie and I hope you have an amazing day.

We’ll do our best to make sure you do.

Here’s to many more birthday’s I have to resist celebrating publicly.

Lots of love my love.

Rx