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

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.


Why Impatience Is The Best Present You Can Get On Your Birthday …
June 10, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Birthday, Comment

It feels wrong to write about my birthday when I honestly feel I had one of the best presents of my life with my recent trip to Europe, but the reality is, it is my birthday on Sunday and I’ll be 52 whether I like it or not.

And while there’s a bunch of things I don’t like about ageing, the older I get the more I realise it’s your attitude towards it.

Fortunately I have always been blessed with a big dollop of immaturity.

I’ve had people tell me it’s a weakness, but it’s served me pretty well.

It makes sure I don’t get too lost in the seriousness of life.

It helps me love and chase the daft.

It reminds me people are a bundle of emotions, regardless how hard they try to hide it.

But as I’ve got older, another trait has started to reveal itself.


I realised it when I was in a conversation with the wonderful Lee Hill recently.

He asked if I was becoming more patient in my older years and I told him it was the opposite.

I am not prepared to spend my time on things I think are a waste of my time.

Now I get how arrogant that sounds.

I also get that just because I don’t think something is important, doesn’t means someone else does. And that’s cool.

It’s just I’m not able to invest my time in it.

I appreciate there’s implications with that – from work to relationships – but I’m good with that.

The irony is I’ll do any amount of menial tasks if it’s in the quest to take leaps rather than move inches. I’ll work the longest hours if it creates the conditions for change rather than complicity. And I’ll jump through any amount of annoying process hoops if fights for craft and creativity rather than the contrived and confusing.

But age is refusing me to do any of that if it hasn’t got those goals attached.

It’s not being a diva. Or a prick.

Life’s too short for any of us to be doing that stuff.

As I said, I get it’s important to someone … but I can’t help but feel for all the supposed focus on efficiency and effectiveness that the industry is obsessed with, so much of what we do ends up being about looking busy rather than making a real difference.

Or as I wrote a while back …

The whole industry is engaged in creating different forms of remuneration landfill.

Imagine how much impact we would have economically, creatively and culturally if we were evaluated on what we changed rather than what we produced?

On what we encouraged rather than what we controlled.

What we learned rather than optimised.

And that’s why I have come to the realisation that while ageing may have many problems, impatience isn’t one of them.

In fact, it may be the thing that makes the back half of life, at least as exciting as the front.

So happy 52nd to me on Sunday.

Happy Birthday To The Woman Who Isn’t There, But Is Always Around …

Today would be my Mum’s 89th birthday.


My god, that would have been something to celebrate.

I sometimes wonder if we’d have come to NZ if my Mum was still alive.

There’s a chance we would, but it would have been much harder to go, especially with COVID.

I just don’t know how I’d have been able to leave, given all she would have had to deal with in the last 18 months.

There were days – when we were in the UK – where I found myself being relieved she wasn’t here to experience the horror of COVID.

That’s incredibly hard for me to admit, but the idea of my dear Mum being on own and suffering ill health, without me – or anyone – being able to be near to protect, reassure or support her for over a year, literally ignites my anxiety.

Of course, millions of people had to go through just that, which is why I have nothing but admiration and compassion for all they went through. To not be able to see your family is unbelievably painful. To worry that if you do, you may kill them, is a burden that no one should have to deal with.

But if we were here in NZ … and if Mum was still alive … then today would be a day where not being with her would be one of the most painful of them all.

It certainly wouldn’t be for lack of trying, but the reality is if I did find a way to get back to the UK, then there would be no guarantee of when NZ would let me back in the country due to the quarantine situation.

I would feel torn in two.

And I know this because it almost happened in 2014.

Mum was going to have a major heart operation at around the same time Otis was due.

As in literally, a cross-over of time.

The idea I would have to decide whether to be at my son’s birth in China or be at my Mum’s side in England was something I was genuinely terrified of.

Fortunately, I found myself in England about 5 months before Mum’s operation and accompanied her to a meeting with her surgeon.

There she explaining the situation to him to which he said he felt Mum could wait another 3 or 4 months for the operation so she could be in ‘tip-top form’ to meet her grandson.

I am so grateful to him.

Not just for removing an obstacle that no one should have to deal with, but because it gave me 4 more months with my Mum – months that she got to see her grandson via Facetime – because sadly, she died of complications when she ended up having the op.

And as sad as that is, I smile at the thought of being with her today.

Not only can I imagine how it would go, I can even hear her voice.

She’d be saying how she can’t believe she’s 89.

She’d gently brush off my excited, “and next year you hit the big 90”, with a calm explanation that, “you never know what may happen in the future”.

My god I miss her voice.

Her kind, compassionate, warm, curious voice.

How I would love to hear her asking questions about Otis, Jill and Rosie the cat.

I remember the times I flew home to surprise her from Australia or Singapore or HK or China.

I’d knock on the door and then I’d hear her walking towards it – asking “who is it?” before she saw me.

She would look for a second in shock. Amazed her son … her beloved only child … was standing in front of her.

And she would say, “Oh Robert” before giving me a huge hug and then telling she was so surprised and happy.

Then before I knew it, she’d be asking if I’d eaten and say she had to make the bed up for me as there’s no sheets on it … hahaha.

Oh Mum, I wish I could be with you to celebrate.

I wish that day in March 2015 had turned out so differently.

But as I wrote over that week, at least everything had reached some beautiful finale … though you never got to see the new heating Angelo had put in for you, ha.

Mind you, with energy prices so high in the UK at the moment, you’d likely say, “I’ll just put on an extra jumper”.

Oh how I miss you Mum.

You were the best.

I hope Dad is looking after you.

Thank you for everything and happy, happy birthday.

The countdown to 90 now begins.

Love you.