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


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

Today would be my Mum’s 89th birthday.

EIGHTY NINE.

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.

Rx



Happy Birthday Dad …

Today would be my Dad’s 83rd birthday.

The age Mum died.

That means he has been gone 23 years.

Twenty three!

That’s almost unfeasible for me to comprehend.

And while I am now 51 … married … and a father … I still feel his little boy, a kid who needs and wants his Dad.

But as today would be his birthday, it would be my turn to look after him.

Make sure he felt spoilt and loved.

And for me, that would mean getting him something that was a ridiculous enjoyment, because he – and Mum – taught me a gift is something you want but could never justify in getting.

Of course they never followed their own advice, because when I would ask them what they wanted, they’d either say, “nothing, but a card” or something insanely practical.

I never listened to them.

And while my kid version of ridiculous enjoyment was limited by price – and imagination – right now, I would get him something that would push the boundaries of his wildest expectations.

Which would be a canary yellow, 1970’s Rolls Royce Corniche convertible with white-wall wheels.

I have no idea why he loved that car so much.

He sure as hell never drove one.

I don’t even know if he ever sat in one.

But throughout my childhood that would be the car he would constantly talk about and point to.

He even had a terrible Dad joke about them which he would tell me on an almost weekly basis.

Which is why I would do all I could to get him one today.

It might be a bit knackered.

It might not be able to go long distances.

He might only be able to afford one tank of fuel.

But to see his face as I led him outside to see his present, would be magical.

Of course, Dad isn’t here …

I can’t celebrate his birthday with him.

So instead, I ordered this on eBay …

It might not be the real thing.

It might not be a convertible.

And it might not have white wall wheels.

But it is my way of letting my Dad know he’s still with me, even though he’s not.

Not to mention, he’d probably love receiving it nearly as much as he would a real one.

Happy birthday Dad, I hope Mum is spoiling you rotten.

Love you.

Rx



Drummers Are Animals …
July 26, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Anniversary, Birthday, Cars, Comment, Creativity, Queen

In rock bands, the drummer is always seen as the crazy one.

The one who would throw a television out of a hotel window.
The one who would be the first to throw their head into drugs.
The one who would blow all their cash on fast cars and stupid houses.

And is it a stereotype?

Yep …

OK, so there were some high profile drummers who lived this life – Keith Moon of The Who, John Bonham of Led Zeppelin and Steven Adler of Guns n’ Roses to name but three – but the reality is this idea of ‘drummer crazy’ likely got burned in people’s consciousness thanks to Animal from the Muppets, the stories of the numerous drummers in the brilliant rockumentary, Spinal Tap and the fact drummers smack the shit out of things for hours on end as their form of musical expression.

But there is one drummer who seems to have a brilliant middle ground between crazy and cool and that’s Queen drummer Roger Taylor.

Not to be mistaken with the drummer of Duran Duran drummer who has the same name … Roger was always the most ‘rock star’ of the band.

Not just because he played the drums – though he did play drum solo’s in the early 80’s featuring timpani drums and a bloody enormous gong – but because he has a long history of buying and crashing exceedingly fast cars and big houses – not to mention having a vast number of relationships with a cavalcade of beautiful and intelligent women.

Hell, he even once wrote a song called, I’m in love with my car.

But while that might represent the wild side of rock n’ roll, the cool side is he’s a batchelor of science, a devoted father of 5 [of which one, Rory, was my doctor in England] a well regarded music producer and composer, passionately committed to preserving the legacy of Freddie, creator of a range of Taylored By London merchandise and still touring the globe playing sold out stadiums as the drummer of Queen.

He turns 72 today.

SEVENTY BLOODY TWO.

And while my loyalty will always be more towards Brian than Rog … the fact he is the drummer of my favourite band, has the same name as my wonderful Dad and is still cooler as a 72 year old than many ‘stars’ who are a 1/3rd of his age, he gets my best wishes and thanks.

Happy birthday Mr Taylor.

To celebrate, here are 3 videos that show the best of him.

The first is the insane drum solo he did when Queen were at their musical and performance peak. The second is him singing I’m In Love With My Car in concert. And the last is the drum solo battle he had with his son – Rufus – on the last Queen + Adam Lambert tour.



Happy May Day …
July 19, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Birthday, Childhood, Comment, Queen

Today is Brian May of Queen’s birthday.

He will be 74.

SEVENTY FOUR.

Given he recently had a heart attack, it’s amazing he’s alive.

But what’s even more amazing is that he is still touring … still playing massive venues all around the World and still has a career in contemporary culture.

I love Brian May.

Specifically his guitar playing.

In many ways, he was the inspiration for me picking up a guitar in the first place. He’s also the reason I desperately wanted a Gordon Smith guitar one Christmas because it sort-of resembled his Red Special.

When I was in my teens, I was sort-of obsessed with Mr May.

His songs.
His softly spoken voice.
His curly hair and curly guitar lead.
Even the way he held his guitar, let alone played it.

He was my favourite member of Queen – not just because he was the guitarist, but because he was the only one in the band that kept writing rock songs – and while the years have helped me pull back from full stalker status, I still felt a ridiculous thrill when I finally bought a copy of his own handmade guitar.

He is one of the few guitarists out there who truly has a distinctive sound.

And in his youth, he was also one of the most inventive guitar players that ever lived.

He remains ridiculously humble … which is why one of my favourite videos of him is from 1991 – 6 months before Freddie died – where he finds himself in a very small club in New York with the infamous Les Paul [inventor of the guitar that shares his name] playing the blues.

Here he is – one of the world’s most successful, well known and highly regarded guitarists – slightly overwhelmed to be playing with Les and his band.

It’s nice thing to witness, especially knowing that at the time, he was not only facing the challenges of seeing his friend and band mate die, he was entering a bout of depression that he said made him contemplate taking his own life.

Mr May is one of those souls who appears to be quite vulnerable. Having read so much about him, it seems his childhood – while happy – was also one where he was expected to conform to the expectations of the times. Or more specifically, to the times his parents grew up in. His father in particular had very strong views of how his son should behave and was apparently mortified when he heard he had given up the chance to have a career in science to become a rock star.

Fortunately, in the end, he got it.

Apparently it took seeing Queen perform at Madison Square Gardens – after being flown on Concorde – but he got it. Bizarrely, I would imagine that was better for Brian than the fact he was playing Madison Square Gardens in the first place.

So happy birthday Mr May. I hope you have a special day.

You will forever be a special person in my life.



The Birthdays Covid Took Away …
June 10, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Birthday, Jill, New Zealand, Otis, Paul

So I’m not here today.

Or tomorrow.

Or Monday.

Or Tuesday.

Or even Wednesday.

I know … I’ve been at Colenso 5 minutes, and I’m already taking some time off. But you see, it’s my birthday Saturday. Then Jill’s on Tuesday and Paul’s on Wednesday and I want to put in the energy into them that Covid took away.

My birthday last year was a weird one.

The good bit was that I got to be with my beloved family – and Paul and Shelly made a surprise visit [that I know absolutely won’t be happening this year] – and my old, wonderful team at R/GA got me a goat for a present [really!] … but it still was very different to what had been planned.

We were planning on all going to Spain.

Having a party by the sea.

And while what I ended up having was lovely and special … it wasn’t in Spain or by the sea.

What also made my birthday reality even more different to the original plan was when I received an SMS from a couple of the senior management at work asking me to immediately deal with a pretty shitty situation.

Despite knowing I was on holiday and knowing it was my birthday, they still asked me to deal with something of their own making that – to make matters worse – could have been dealt with weeks earlier or days later.

But even that couldn’t ruin the day and given it’s been a year since that happened – and only good has occurred since then – I want to make sure this birthday is one where we celebrate it with all the attention, compassion and focus we wished for that original day.

Of course it won’t be exactly the same – especially as we’re now living in NZ whereas Paul is in the UK – but it is going to be one where we get to celebrate all being in a happier, healthier, more enjoyable and fulfilling place and as birthday presents go, that’s almost as good as getting a video from ‘the Hoff’.

So to me. My wonderful, brilliant, beautiful wife. And my best, best friend in the whole wide world. Happy, happy birthday.

Here’s to us and to you.

You make every moment and every birthday worthwhile.

I hope we will all be together again soon.

Love you all.