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.’



Would You Travel Through Time And Space To Go Back To Where You Came From/
August 18, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Context, Corona Virus, England, Health, New Zealand

Yesterday, my life consisted of the 2 movies above.

Why?

Because despite moving 12,000 miles to NZ to get away from covid, we found only ourselves back where we started.

In lockdown.

OK, it’s only for 7 days [for now] … but the feeling of it happening was so familiar.

The gathering of your work stuff.

The dark humour between colleagues tinged with truth.

The sense of things closing in and taking over beyond your control.

You’d think having had well over a year of lockdown, I’d be OK with it, but it still felt uncomfortable, even though I am fortunate to have already had one of my vaccinations.

But there was one big difference between yesterday and March, Friday 13th, 2020.

And that was the way the Government handled it.

Where in the UK we had chaos and confusion … here we had incredibly valuable detail, clarity and calmness.

In addition, the schools not only sent out an immediate message that detailed how online lessons would be handled, the note also said the following:

Given how badly the UK government handled providing parents the tools to teach from home – not to mention the additional pressure they placed on parents to keep up with the curriculums – it was amazing to see them acknowledge the importance of providing reassurance rather than just demand adherence.

It’s a weird time, even if it’s just for a week, but the way it has been handled is light years away from what we experienced not that long ago.

Not only that, the fact the patient and doctor identified and reported their case immediately – and this was followed up with not just track and trace info, but down to individual locations and destinations – is also another reason to be hopeful that if anyone can deal with this situation effectively, it’s NZ.

We’ll see. But regardless of the outcome, thank you to the patient, the doctor, the government and the people of NZ.

If it wasn’t certain before, I can categorically say Jacinda is miles better than Boris.



Why Are You Here?
July 12, 2021, 7:34 am
Filed under: England, Football

For fucks sake, the Euro’s final is on.

With both my nationalities playing in the final.

And England scored in the first 2 minutes.

Go there instead …

Or come to Colenso where we have pies.

See you tomorrow.



After Winter, Life Grows Again. ( ‘A Year After Redundancy’)

A year ago tomorrow, I was made redundant.

Well, I was told the week before, but tomorrow marks a year since my last day at R/GA.

While I wrote a long post at the time about how positive I was about the whole thing – especially that it was happening to me rather than a junior or a woman or a Person of Colour who normally get impacted by these sorts of decisions – it still blows my mind how well things have turned out for me and my family.

Part of the reason I was so optimistic was because I knew I was going to shout about my redundancy from the rooftops. Hell, even the Guardian wrote about me doing it.

Despite what some on here may think, this was not because I wanted to appear in a national newspaper … oh no, it was for far more practical reasons.

The first was that the more people knew I was available, the more chances I’d have of being considered for work. I mean … come on. I work in advertising, what else was I going to do?

However the second – and possibly more important reason – was I hated how many people felt some sort of shame for finding themselves in this situation.

Shit happens – especially during a global pandemic – so to carry that burden in addition to all the other stuff they have to deal with must make the pressure they’re dealing with unbelievably destructive. I would not wish that on anyone … no one at all. And while I was treated fairly, what makes these situations even worse is that some companies actively encourage people they’ve let go to feel this way … simply because it encourages them to stay silent about what’s happened which lets the company act to clients and the market that everything is fine and dandy when it obviously isn’t.

So my thinking was that by owning my situation publicly, it may help burst this corporately induced shame and reinforce there is nothing to be embarrassed about … especially as the situation ultimately has nothing to do with you – and everything to do with them – even if some companies try to suggest otherwise.

But there was also another reason for my optimism.

Potentially a stupid one.

And that was the last time this situation happened to me, it led to one of the most fruitful and creative periods of my career and I wondered/hoped/mused if lighting could strike twice.

Despite turning 50 [rather than the last time, where I was 35] it amazingly did.

Now I absolutely appreciate how lucky I am.

I also appreciate there are a lot of factors that contributed to this luck.

From the openness of my family to move countries for the 4th time in 4 years … to the wide range of contacts I’d gained thanks to having lived all around the World … to the fact I’m a white male so ‘unfair advantage’ was baked into my career DNA from the very beginning.

But even with all that, the life I now live is in many ways – or at least in many parts – unrecognisable to the one I had when I was let go from R/GA a year ago

From the work I’ve done and do.
To the clients/bands/billionaires I’ve done it for and do it for.
To the immensely talented people I’ve worked with and work with.
To the country I now call home.

Hell, I even managed to get hired and fired by the Red Hot Chili Peppers in that time.

It’s bonkers.

And while I enjoyed my time at R/GA and am grateful for the experience, I’m happier now.

They probably are too … hahaha.

That said, I miss my gang.

Lachlan, Nic, Rach, Anna, Joel, Amar, Erika, Laureen, Bassot, Ed, Hannah, Megan, Nicole, Divya, Arda, Amelia, Severine, Marissa, Insa, Toby, Ben … and the others who helped make my time – and the gang – so much fun, including Anne, Valia, Eduardo and Michael.

What a wonderful bunch of beautifully talented misfits they were/are.

Always demanding … debating … provoking … and making me smarter because of it.

Then again … given all but a couple of them have moved to do other interesting, weird, infamous and famous things, it means that even if I was still there, they wouldn’t be.

Or maybe they would. [Cue mischievous laugh. Hahahaha]

But the point of this post is not just to celebrate a year since a weird day in July … it’s a reminder that life is always changing, moving, evolving and progressing.

However bad a situation may be, it does not mean it will always be that way … even if it feels like it is.

And if anyone worries they are the exception, I want you to know I am here to chat.

Not to convince you you’re wrong.

Or try to solve your problems.

But to listen.

Because not everyone has that and not only is that important … sometimes that’s the first step to getting stronger.

Not to self-reflect or gain enlightenment … but to vent, bitch, moan, complain.

The things some people try to make you feel guilty for wanting to express or think, even though the real reason is because it makes them feel uncomfortable rather than it being bad for you.

And it absolutely is not bad for you.

At least in small doses.

Because as we all know, the first thing you do to treat a scrape is to cleanse the wound … so if anyone thinks this would be useful to you, please know I would be happy to give you a safe space to be your worst without judgement or expectation.

Because the worst times don’t last.

They just feel they do.

So thank you R/GA, I will always be grateful for what you did for me.

Especially on July 10th 2020.

You can reach me here.



Polishing A Turd With Words …

Recently I saw this ad for British Leyland cars.

British Leyland was a – surprise, surprise – British car manufacturer formed in the late 60’s.

As you can see, they made a huge array of cars but the joke was they weren’t very well made.

If I remember rightly, there was a joke that said:

“Buy British … they fall apart more quickly so you can buy a proper car”.

I don’t know if that was true – though the way British manufacturing has fallen by the wayside, suggests there could be some truth to it – but I do know I thought the TR7 and MGB, the two cars at the top of the pile, were cool.

But let’s look at that ad for a moment.

Cramming four different models of vehicle on a single page is bad enough. But when it has been art directed to look like they’re all on top of each other – resembling a scene from a scrapyard – is hardly the best way to sell ‘British’.

And they are selling ‘British’ because if you look at the very bottom of the ad, you see it’s got a New Jersey address, which suggests this ad was for the US market.

While I get the reason they would want to do that [the US market was huge and the amount of ‘foreign cars’ available at that time was small] I don’t know if that image would make the average American want to give up their GM or Chrysler … especially when the justification British Leyland have for ownership is ‘their appeal is reflected in their recent sales performance’.

Hahahahahahahahaha.

What makes it worse are those words associated with each model.

Bold.
Lively.
Practical.
Legendary.

It all just smacks of early brand consultant bollocks doesn’t it.

And while I kind of get why they chose those words – though labelling the Jag, ‘a legend’, somehow makes it feel old rather than cool – I can’t help feel sorry for the Marina, tagged ‘practical’.

At least those other models have words that suggest some element of energy and dynamism to them, but ‘practical’ just sounds like they’re trying to say ‘shit’ in a more polite way.

To be fair, they’re right. It was shit.

My Dad had – for a short while – a Marina.

In mustard yellow and brown.

It was utterly horrific.

Even though his was the ‘fastback’ model, I still remember being utterly embarrassed by it.

The colour, The shape. The everything.

I was so glad when he got rid of it, though I have a horrible feeling he changed it for another yellow car – this time a Fiat 128 – but at least that had 4 doors, which made it feel a step up.

But imagine how a Jag owner would feel after spending thousands on their car, only to see that piece of Marina engineering shit was ‘on top’ of their premium priced motor.

British Leyland always seemed to have a knack of fucking things up.

Continually chasing others success with bad interpretations of their own.

It’s a bit like small film studios …. who on seeing another movies success, launch a tsunami of similar themed films, all with names that are derivatives of the original, in the hope people may get confused and see their’s instead.

British Leyland totally adopted this strategy.

The TR7 was the Fiat X/19

The Marina was the Ford Cortina

And in 1980, the Mini Metro was their version of the Mini.

Oh my god, I remember the launch of that car.

It was heralded as the pinnacle of the British car industry and launched with one of the most jingoistic ads you’ll ever see.

Did you see it?

Jesus christ … it’s like it was written by the Far Right.

Or the Daily Mail.

I still remember when it got unveiled and just thinking, “it looks shit”.

Well, while it didn’t end up ‘taking over the world’, it was successful in the UK and even saved British Leyland from bankruptcy – for a while – but what it all ends up reminding me is how many companies forget that just because something is successful in one country doesn’t mean it will work in another.

I’ve seen – and worked in – too many organisations who think they are the best in the World.

That their worst is better than everyone else’s best.

That sort of thinking is a recipe for disaster.

Not just in terms of encouraging laziness, but it’s one thing to think you’re good, but it’s another thing altogether to think everyone else is just a lesser version of you.

The amount of companies I saw crash and burn in China was amazing.

Thinking that by simply being ‘Western’, they would be appealing.

Maybe that worked before, but what they failed to realise is that in a nation where everything said something about you, it quickly became the most brand literate nation on the planet.

The old premise remains.

If you want others to respect you, respect them … and it starts by not just trying to sell something because it convenient to you.

Amazing how few people still seem to understand that.