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


Just Bung It In The Oven …

Hello there.

I hope you all had a wonderful festive season.

I hope 2022 rewards us with all the opportunities and possibilities that the past 2 years took away.

I hope we can see our friends.

See our families.

Be healthy.

Be happy.

Live with hope and optimism.

Now I said this blog wasn’t going to be back until Jan 31st … and it isn’t.

And frankly, after the December I had – which included the death of a dear friend, an unexpected hospital visit for me and an emergency operation for Otis [who is fully recovered, thank god] – I need all the time I can get to recuperate.

However on Sunday, it is 23 years since my Dad died.

In just 6 years time, he will be gone as long as he was in my life.

And in 9 years time, I will be the age he was when he died.

They will be two very significant moments in my life and – if I’m being honest – I’m nervous of one and scared of the other.

Nervous because it just seems impossible he will have been out of my life more than he was in it.

Of course he is still in my life, but you know what I mean.

Scared because the reality of death comes ever nearer.

Now I know no one knows when someone is going to die – but the idea that it could be when I’m 60 – like he was – is an irrational thought that just sits there. Coming out when I least expect it.

And when it’s quiet, another ridiculous idea enters my mind.

Because Mum died at 83 and Dad died at 60 … I can also convince myself I’ll die between those 2 ages.

So 72.

Now I get 72 is quite a way a way, but it feels a fuckload closer when you’re 51 and your son is only 7.

But all this could be the melancholy of this being Dad’s anniversary, because the reality is I’m happier in my life than I’ve been for a long time.

Not that I was unhappy, but there were moments … but right now, I am in a truly good place and my parents would be so happy to know that.

Which is why I want this post to be about something that would make Dad smile.

A few weeks ago, Jill and I were talking about books that made us laugh to the point of pain.

While we both had a few, her major one was Catch 22 and mine was the first Adrian Mole book – The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 ¾.

Adrian Mole’s ‘diary’ came out in 1982 but I got it in the summer of 1983 … which means I read it at the same age as Adrian was.

I loved it. It was hilarious, poignant, tragic and uplifting.

It covered so many issues so many kids were going through.

Family. Friendship, Girls. Sex. Arguments. Parent and Grandparent arguments.

It was, in some ways, the diary of every kids aged 13.

I loved it and still love it when I revisit it every 5 years or so.

But the reason I’m telling you this is because of when my Dad read it.

I think Mum had told him how much I enjoyed it so he decided to check it out.

Anyway, one morning I came downstairs and Mum asked me to ask Dad about what happened in the night.

She said it with a smile, so I knew it wasn’t bad.

I went in the lounge and he was there in his favourite rocking chair.

“Mum told me to ask you what happened last night”

As soon as I said it, he looked at me. His face lit up, a big smile came on his face that allowed his gorgeous dimples to come into the spotlight.

“Oh Robert …” he said, “I was reading your book last night and the bit about the Christmas turkey not being defrosted made me howl with laughter.”

“It was 2am and I had to come downstairs to try and calm down”.

“The bit where they’re trying to thaw the turkey under the hot tap in the bath …” to which he he burst out laughing again with tears in his eyes.

Of course, seeing my Dad like this made me laugh too and then I heard Mum laughing from the kitchen at the state of both of us.

While I never really understood why that bit tickled him so much, I have an idea.

Whether it was the time Mum invited a really miserable elderly couple to our Christmas dinner but only announced it a few days before Christmas and we already had a house full booked … to Dad’s terrible first ever experience with a microwave that literally carbonised sausages … to drunk family members causing scenes … to buying a turkey so big it didn’t even fit in our over … to a not-very-funny-but-very-funny episode with a glass of water when his Mum came to visit.

Who knows. Maybe it was some of that, maybe it was none of it.

But regardless of the reason, I will always remember how that paragraph revealed the child in my Dad and that is why I will always love that book.

It might also explain why I love the Plenty Christmas ad from a couple of years ago. Because watching it again, it’s basically that scene made as a commercial.

I miss my Dad.

I miss him so much.

I would give anything to be able to talk to him and discuss what I’ve done in the last 23 years.

Introduce him to his daughter in law and grandson.

Tell him that Paul and I are still inseparable and mischievous.

Show him all the places I’ve visited and lived and then tell him about all the things I’ve done and still want to do and try.

Watch him try to take it all in and then hear all his questions.

But as I can’t, I’ll honour him by sharing the paragraph that made him roar [which is at the very bottom of this post] and say this:

Dad. I love you.

I think about you all the time.

I am almost overwhelmed with the things I want to say and share.

I hope you’d like [most] of the decisions I’ve made. I know a few would raise eyebrows, but hopefully not too many.

All I’ve ever wanted to do is make you and Mum proud.

I hope I’m doing that overall.

A kiss to you and Mum.

And a lifetime of my love.

To the rest of you, give your loved ones a hug and see you on the 31st.

_________________________________________________________________

The Secret Life Of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend

Friday December 25th (1981)

I went up to the bathroom and found my mother crying and running the turkey under the hot tap.

She said, “The bloody thing won’t thaw out, Adrian. What am I going to do?”

I said, “Just bung it in the oven.” So she did.

‘We went down to eat Christmas dinner four hours late. By then my father was too drunk to eat anything.’



Money Over Morals …
December 2, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: Apathy, Culture, Death, New Zealand, Youth

A couple of days ago, a New Zealand research company – one used by a huge array of big business here – gave a speech to a broad marketing audience and said the concept of ‘tall poppy’ was dead.

They had the audacity to say this the day after Jake Millar committed suicide. The arrogance to say this when they reside in a country that continues to have one of the worst – if not the worst – youth suicide rates per capita on earth.

There are many reasons that contribute to the terrible suicide rate, but ‘tall poppy’ is, without doubt, one of them.

A significant one of them.

The biggest open – yet oppressed – secret in the country.

So to that company, I want to say this.

You are not just complicit to the problem, you are playing an active role in it.

By making statements like that, you’re placing all the blame on the people who felt they had no other choice. You’re telling parents their kids situation & context didn’t exist. You’re telling NZ, they can continue to look the other way. You’re telling the friends, family and colleagues of 26 year old Jake Millar, pictured at the top of this post, that the media who revelled in getting the nation to celebrate his business failure – and then attached all manner of additional negative personal narratives to his name = are blameless.

Do you realise what you’ve done?

Do you understand the implications of your actions?

You’ve just told the nation they can carry on as they are. That their perpetual and persistent judgement and abuse is simply ‘banter’.

How fucking malicious of you.

Be grateful I’m not calling out your name because what you did is shameless.

But let me reassure you, we will be chatting and I’ll be reminding you of your responsibility to the truth, not to making money from reinforcing a cultural narrative of denial.



Countdown To Hope …


I can’t believe we have hit December.

DECEMBER!

More than that, I can’t believe we’ve hit December and I’m still in lockdown … albeit in a totally different country to the one I was in last year.

Madness.

Given the last 365 days have basically been Groundhog Day, I’m amazed how quick this year has gone.

You’d expect it to have felt slow … but far from it.

For us, it’s been a huge year filled with huge changes – and I’ll be writing a huge post all about it in the next few weeks [don’t roll your eyes, ha] – but before that, we have Otis’ 7th birthday to celebrate and we need to find a way where he can feel the love and attention of his friends and family, as this will be the second year he’ll be experiencing it on his own.

I remember when birthdays were such a big thing.

A sign of growth … independence … power.

Of course, when you’re my age, you tend to look at them as indicators of getting old, irrelevance and impending death [hahahaha!] which leads me to something I read recently from Tom Goodwin.

It was this:

I have to say, it stopped me in my tracks.

Yes, it’s obvious, but when you see it written like that, you tend to re-evaluate what you’ve done and what you still want to do.

I am increasingly becoming aware of my mortality.

I’ve written about it before … but while I am not in a depth of depression, there is a part of me that acknowledges I am approaching the final 1/3rd of my race, despite having the hunger, energy and ambition to go a lot further.

It’s quite unnerving.

You look at everything with fresh eyes.

You ask yourself if you’ve done enough or are doing enough.

I don’t mean in terms of career – though there is a bit of that – I mean in life in general.

I look back on what I’ve done – and I acknowledge, I’ve done a bunch – and sometimes wonder if it was all a dream.

So much of it seems like it belongs to another person’s life.

Or another version of mine.

China. America. Singapore. Australia. Japan. Hong Kong. London.

So many places over such a long period of time.

Each one filled with experiences, stories and memories that defined who I am.

You’d be amazed how often I have to remind myself these happened to me. Seriously.,

The life I’ve lived is beyond anything I could ever have wished for … and while I appreciate my privilege, seeing that quote from Tom made me think about what I’m going to do with what I have left. What I want to do with what I have left.

On one hand I don’t want to sit back … I want to chase after the things that intrigue me with even greater speed and determination. But on the other, I want to make sure I am making time to enjoy and embrace all that’s going on. I don’t know if I’ve been as good at that second bit as I should have.

The problem is, the more you do, the more things you discover you want to do and – as has been the case with me – you find yourself on a track, travelling 100mph without having the ability to really enjoy the journey and the experiences you’ve had because you’ve seen something else you want to investigate.

I guess I’m living proof it’s not just millennials with short attention spans, ha.

That said, I’ve got a lot of expectations for 2022.

I did for 2021, but apart from NZ, that did not work out that way at all.

But now – with vaccinations and a world opening up – there’s a chance things could really change. A chance to embrace and explore what the world has to offer.

And I must admit I can’t wait.

Having been on only one plane in the last 18 months – to get us to NZ – has been very strange. I love travelling and exploring and have spent the last 25 years doing a ton of it. Hell, I did 100 flights in 2019 alone.

So as we enter the last month of 2021, I can look at next year with a different sense of optimism than I’ve had in a long time. A year where I want to learn how to balance ambition with enjoyment … because nothing makes you value the possibilities of the future like the acknowledgement you don’t have as much of it left as you probably would like.



When You Destroy Their Hope, You Destroy Their Will To Keep Trying …
November 30, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: Apathy, Colenso, Culture, Death, New Zealand, Youth

A 26 year old Kiwi killed himself yesterday.

That’s him in the photo at the top of this post.

His name is Jake Millar.

Of course the press refer to Jake’s death by saying ‘he died’ … due to some twisted logic about not wanting to encourage more people to die by suicide when that strategy has obviously failed given NZ continues to have one of the highest death by suicide rates for youth per capita in the world.

And what was the probable cause of Jake’s terribly sad decision?

The joyous pile-on the press did on him for having his second business fail.

They accused him of terrible things.

Theft. Arrogance. Exploitation. Purposefully ignoring – or devaluing – the amazing success this young man had achieved prior to this situation.

Hell, he felt he had to move to Kenya to be able to get away from the judgement and sniggers.

And even that wasn’t far enough away for him.

NZ is in danger of robbing kids of their right to try. To fail. To explore. To dream.

The ramifications on the future of NZ for acting this way is huge. But not as much as it is on the youth of the country.

For a nation that loves to talk about being ‘pioneers’, we are openly and actively oppressing that spirit under the guise of ‘staying humble’. It is nothing of the sort. It’s control and fear.

New Zealand is a brilliant, amazing, beautiful country.

I feel truly honoured and grateful to be able to live here with my family.

But this continual situation, is nothing short of a national disgrace.

In March, Colenso bring out a book about the lack of hope youth feel living here, following interviews with kids all across NZ.

It’s utterly terrifying … scarier than pretty much all the places I’ve lived before and done this work before.

But what makes it even worse is it won’t come to a surprise to anyone.

Not really. Not if they’re honest, rather than being culturally complicit.

I’ve been in this country 8 months and it has been as clear as day to me.

A lot of people don’t like me saying that. They think I should shut up and be grateful to be here. In fact I’ve faced a bunch of abuse for talking about it.

Yep … rather than be angry at this terrible, on-going reality, some have chosen to be angry at me for talking about a situation everyone knows but few talk about. Especially in public.

I’ve been told I should keep quiet. That I don’t know enough about the situation. That I am unaware of all the things contributing to the situation or the ways the country is trying to change the situation.

And they’re right, I don’t know enough.

I’m trying to learn as fast as I can, but I don’t know enough.

But I tell you what I do know …

This country has a terrible youth suicide rate.
This country has a terrible Maori suicide rate.
This country has a terrible farmer suicide rate.

And for all the solutions in place, they are either not enough or not working well enough.

I’m not speaking out because I want to cause offence.
I’m not speaking out because I think it makes me look smart.
I’m speaking out because I am thankful to this country for the generosity it has shown me and my family and I want to repay that gift by actively trying to help address a situation that cannot continue to be overlooked or brushed under the carpet as some sort of inconvenience.

Thankfully there are a great many people in this country who are speaking up. Who are doing things to try and ensure no kid will feel they have no other choice they can make. Who listen rather than judge.

But we need more.

We need the government to deal with the situation, not be political about the situation..We need the media to write about the situation, not be complicit to hiding it – or worse, igniting it. And we need companies in NZ to stop demanding conformity and encouraging individuality.

That’s not going to solve the issue, but it will likely help it. Because the youth are amazing when they’re backed, encouraged and supported.

Yes they will make mistakes – like we all make mistakes – but they’re not trying to destroy anything or hurt anyone so why the hell are we doing exactly that to them?

It may not be intentional.
It may not always be overt.
But it’s happening. Jake Millar is living proof of that..

There will be a lot of people talking and writing about the tragic loss of Virgil Abloh.

Please don’t let that drown out the name and loss of Jake Millar.

You can read more about him here and I offer nothing but my deepest condolences to Jake’s family, friends and colleagues – past and present.



Lies. Damn Lies. And Publicity Claims From Tobacco Firms …
November 17, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Corporate Evil, Cunning, Death

A few months ago, I wrote about Philip Morris’ alleged ‘transformation’ from being a manufacturer of cancer sticks to a health company.

Well not only are they continuing with this ambition, they are adopting the Trump/Johnson strategy of acceptance.

What that means is this.

1. Drop the word ‘health’ in every conversation.

2. Use language that positions you as ‘the good guys’.

3. Under no circumstances ever acknowledge any mistake from the past.

4. Publicly question the credibility of anyone who challenges your actions.

5. Act like you only care about average people, never the corporate elite, despite you constantly and continually living and flaunting the sort of life no average individual could enjoy.

And why am I saying all this?

Because of this …

What the absolute fuck.

This is a company who purposefully, willingly and cynically spread false information about the benefits of their product over decades … talking about the dangers of companies who spread false information.

Hell, they even add a ‘warning’ that sounds awfully like the government mandated warning that appears on the front of every cigarette packet.

Seriously, this could only be more ironic if it came from Facebook.

Only a company who literally doesn’t give a shit about morals or honesty or other people’s health would do something like this. But let’s be honest, we shouldn’t be surprised.

Their whole history is littered with manipulation, lies and false information.

From making cigarette products labelled ‘lite’ to give the impression they were ‘better for you’ [they weren’t] to that iconic moment of shame, where the CEO’s of the biggest tobacco companies stood up in from of politicians in the House of Representatives, raised their hand and said their product was not dangerous when they already knew it was and it was killing people.

In fact, in this testimony, not only did the CEO of Philip Morris of the time, William Campbell, proclaim:

“I believe nicotine is not addictive” … which was subsequently repeated by the other executives of the biggest tobacco companies in America … one went on to insist that cigarettes were no more addictive than coffee, tea or Twinkies.

Fortunately, Henry Waxman, a democrat politician who was leading the proceedings, fired back: “The difference between cigarettes and Twinkies is death”.

Pretty hard to come back from a statement like that, even though they tried. Not because they had got so used to lying they thought it was true – they were VERY aware of the deceit they were peddling – it was more they were incredulous to anyone questioning what they said.

So given Philip Morris are so passionate about facts, compare what they say in their ‘brand ‘purpose’ with what they say in public.

Don’t know about you, but it appears they’re not as aligned as they should be … because rather than being about health, it’s more about making their product less death.

‘Less’ death.

But for all the cleverly ambiguity they’ve placed in their writing, the overriding impression I am left with is that they don’t actually understand the meaning of the word truth … which is the only thing I may believe from Philip Morris.