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

Nothing Shows Love That Supporting Something You Don’t Agree With …

So on Sunday, my beloved Dad would have been 85.

Given he died at 60 – and I’m 53 – that means he has been gone for almost half of my life.

And in some ways it feels it.

Memories made up of different moments from the distant past.

But when anniversaries approach … the context changes.

Backgrounds become foregrounds … and despite all the years I’ve had to come to terms with things, they still have the power to take me on an incredibly emotional rollercoaster.

Part of that is because of our history … the other part is because of what I wish I could share and discuss.

He always had questions.

Not for judgement but connection.

OK, mainly for connection – hahaha.

And with so many things having happened in my life since he passed, I can only imagine all the things he’d want to know about.

God I’d love that.

I’d love to watch his eyes as he met my wife, my son …

Saw the life we live, have lived and plan to live.

Feel I’d made him proud.

Because so many of the decisions in my life have been driven by my desire to do just that. To feel my actions and behaviours would be things that made him feel a sense of pride.

Of course I’ve done stuff that would not come anywhere close to gaining that reaction, but in the main I think he would believe I’ve made him proud more times than I’ve disappointed him … but then my Dad, like my Mum, saw their role as encouraging me to always chase fullfilment rather than choose conformity or contentment.

And they did.

Sure, there were some gulps when I told them I didn’t want to go to university …
And when I was going to spend 10 years of savings all in one go on guitar amps …
But once they knew why I was making those decisions, they supported me.
Proper support. Encouragement. Interest. Help.

It was only when I was older that I realised how lucky I was, how this was not ‘normal’ parent behaviour.

So on what would be my Dad’s 85th birthday, I’d like to talk about a story of this encouragement.

I’ve written it before, but – to me – it’s a moment where his [and Mum’s] reaction changed the course of my life in a good way.

I was alright at school.

I was one of the cleverest in the thick bunch and one of the thickest in the clever bunch.

So basically bang in the middle.

But I worked hard. I put in effort. And the teachers knew I really tried.

However when it came to exams, I was a disaster.

Didn’t matter how hard I revised, the moment I was in a situation where I felt ‘everything came down to that moment’… I fell apart. While my parents did all they could to help – including getting me extra lessons – I now realise it was probably driven by anxiety … however in 1986, anxiety didn’t exist so while my school work continued to be good, exams still continued to be a major problem for me.

Nothing highlighted this more than when I was sent to the local careers advisor.

I told them I wanted to be a lawyer or a journalist [more on that in a minute] but the moment they looked at my projected qualifications – despite my solid schoolwork – they said:

“Have you considered a career in catering management”.

Now there is nothing wrong with catering management. I have some friends that work in that industry who love it. But even then I knew absolutely that it wasn’t for me. And at that moment, that careers advisor stamped all over the hopes and dreams I had for the future.

Aged just 16.

Of course I sort-of understand. They said what they saw from the ‘data’ in front of them … however while I appreciate they couldn’t give me any false hope, pointing me in a direction I had no interest in was equally as bad. Despite this all happening 37 years ago, I still remember the lack of interest he showed in understanding me. I was just another kid he was contractually obliged to see. Another kid he had to ‘tick off’ his register.

I left that building in a bit of a daze.

I caught the 45 bus back to Mum and Dad’s.

I remember the day because it was the day Andrew and Fergie got married.

It was sunny. Except in my head and heart.

Frankly I was devastated. I had – in my mind – been told the most I should aspire for was what I imagined at the time, a ‘mediocre’ life.

(I appreciate this would not be necessarily the case, but I was young and at the time, I just had my hopes crushed and so I only saw stuff in black and white)

When I got home, I found Dad in his chair watching the pomp and ceremony.

He loved the history of the Royal Family, but didn’t really love the Royals … so when he saw me, he could tell something was up. I tried to fake it at first. Put on a smile. Not just because I was trying to process what had just happened … but I didn’t want to disappoint him. But my Mum and Dad knew me well and so slowly I let things out.

I remember he listened intently. Taking it all in. And when I got to the point of ‘catering management’ he asked what I thought of that. And I probably cried … because it was absolultely not what I wanted to do.

And despite my family all being incredible lawyers, he asked, “why aren’t you looking at music?”

This was a revelation for a whole host of reasons.

One … the idea of a career in music was so far outside my frame-of-reference that it sounded even more crazy than me saying I wanted to become a lawyer.

Two … while I had been playing the guitar – and done some gigs for a few years – I always assumed my parents saw it as a hobby. Or worse, an educational distraction.

And if that wasn’t amazing enough, then he said something that changed my life.

He told me he loved me.
He told me exam results don’t define the future of me.
He told me a person who only spent 15 minutes with me knows nothing about me.
He told me history was littered with people who achieved more than others said they would.
He told me he wants me to chase what I’m passionate about, not what others want me to be passionate about.
He told me he sees how hard I work and how much I can – and have – achieved because of that hard work.
He told me he and Mum will always do what that can to support me.
He told me he was proud of me.

This is all I needed to hear. Because all I wanted was to be seen. Recognised for my effort and interests not just my school results. Actually that’s wrong, just seen for my exam results.

Of course I knew whatever I did wouldn’t be easy … but I never expected it to be. But here was my Dad – followed by my Mum when she came home from work – telling me he loved me and believed in me, despite what some careers officer thought … and that changed everything.

Within a few years, I got the 3rd highest mark in law across the country.
Within a few years I became a session guitarist for a bunch of 80’s popstars.
Within a few years I was in a band that signed a record deal with Virgin.
Within a few years I started a career in an industry that has helped me experience a life beyond my wildest dreams.

My Dad did that.
My Mum did that.
And in later life … my wife did that.

I’m not saying I didn’t work hard for it … I’m not saying I didn’t have many twists and turns along the way … but they were the reason I was able to go for it.

A belief in me that is probably more than the belief I have in me.

Never blind and blinkered … but also never dismissive or undermining.

What a gift.

What a Dad.

Happy birthday. I love you and miss you so much.

A kiss to you and Mum.


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It’s Not Your Fault Your Perspective Is Small. It Is Your Fault You Do Nothing About It …

OK … so yesterday I said the posts this week were all superficial shite, but that was until I read an article that has pissed me off.

Have a look at this headline:

On one side, it’s from the Daily Mail – so this sort of divisive headline is to be expected – but what made me especially angry is the daughter in question is not ‘rebellious’, she has dysgraphia and dyscalculia … so she finds writing, reading and maths incredibly difficult.

NOT because she isn’t smart or capable, but because she has a neurological condition so she learns in a different way to the one the education system is set up to teach.

To be fair to the school in this article, it sounds they tried to help … but it also sounds they were so stretched that the way they approached it was more about giving them time off school rather than adapting their approach to schooling.

I’ve written about this in the past given Otis has dysgraphia and his school has been active in trying to adapt to help. Even then it’s not been easy – or perfect – but at least Otis knows he’s seen, heard and valued … which is more than the woman in this article probably feels.

Imagine being neurodivergent and having a national newspaper refer to you as rebellious and having your own Mum be OK with that.

Worse, the Mum makes it all about her and ‘her struggles’.

Yes, it can be hard … and yes, it can be stressful … but it’s a fuck-of-a-lot worse for kids going through this sort of thing. They feel stupid. They feel left behind. They feel discarded and useless. So the last thing they need is a parent – and an education system – labelling them rebellious or lazy when what they’re dealing with is neurological. To make matters worse, this neurological challenge doesn’t impact their capacity to learn, just the way they do learn … so they have huge amounts of potential but with too few people wanting to see it, recognise it and liberate it.

This article could have been about the need to relook at how we educate. It could have been about the importance of needs rather than standardisation. It could have been about progress rather than judgement. Instead this ‘newspaper’ decided to write a piece that shows they view compassion and encouragement as weakness and unfairness.

Shame on them.

Shame on the mother for allowing this headline.

Shame on the people who commented negatively without understanding.

You have to be pretty fucking vile to be jealous some kids need special attention from their schools.

It’s not elitism you pricks, it’s dealing with an issue not of their making and helping them stand a chance of having a life that is bigger than the one people like you want for them.

Fuck you. All of you.

You’re welcome.

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Rubble With A Cause …

Recently I came across this photo of the old Wembley being demolished …

And while I know the new stadium is better – albeit with terrible wifi/phone signal access, which is ironic given it’s sponsored by O2 – there was something about that photo that made me sad.

Of course it’s because I’m a sentimental fart.

Because despite seeing my beloved Nottingham Forest gain promotion in the new stadium, that old one has even more significant memories for me.

Live Aid.
Seeing Queen there.
And the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert.
Not to mention Bruce Springsteen, Madonna and countless other bands and singers.
Then there’s watching Brian Clough lead Nottingham Forest out for their various cup finals.

There was something magical about that old stadium when I was growing up.

It was the pinnacle. Where World Cups and Legends were celebrated and made.

And while there were other venues around the World that could lay claim to a similar standing … this was mine. In England. In our capital. A way to reinforce that for all the Madison Square Gardens and Giant Stadiums out there, we had ours. We still mattered. A bit.

Now I should point out I’m not saying this from a xenophobic ‘ENG-GER-LAND’ perspective … I mean it more in the same way I viewed Raleigh Bikes in Nottingham.

And while we replaced Wembley with a new and improved version – which is far more than Raleigh managed to do – there’s something about that photo that still hurts.

Not because I don’t love change – because even though I’m a sentimental, old fart, I do – but maybe because the replacement feels a bit soulless. Designed to look the part without ever really demonstrating they understand what it takes to be the part. Efficiency over character. Optimisation over soul. Money over memory.

I get this is probably only felt by people of a certain age.

I get the times have changed and so Wembley is not as unique as it once was.

But what shapes our identity is often the weird, the inconvenient and the personal symbols of possibility … and somewhere along the line, we’ve been made to think these aren’t as important as efficiency and complicity. Of course the irony of this thinking is that this is the sort of shit that is keeping us down rather than lifting us up.

Or maybe that’s exactly what some people intend it to do.

Jesus, I’ve become a conspiracy theorist now. That’s all we need.

See you tomorrow. Unless the FBI pick me up before then.

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New Doesn’t Last Forever …

For reasons not worth discussing, I recently saw this …

Yes, it’s from a very, very long time ago … but it’s still a bit bizarre to see ‘Electronic Mail’ being touted like it is the cutting edge of tech.

But of course, once upon a time, it was.

A dawn of a new future with new possibilities.

Where – according to an Apple ad of the time – mail would travel at the equivalent of 670,000,000mph to anyone and anywhere in the World.

Even now, that sounds impressive … but back then, it was revolutionary.

Prior to email, if you wanted to send a card … a letter … a document or whatever, the only way was to trust the competence of the mail service.

And if you were writing to someone in another country, then it would take weeks before you had any chance of it being received.

We call it ‘snail mail’ now … but back then, it was just mail.

The reason I’m writing this is that time always creates change.

We might not like where it takes us.
We might find it hard to adapt or embrace.
We might not like the time-frame it’s working to.
But whether it’s good or bad, the thing you can be sure of is things will change.

The reason I’m saying this is because I recently read something on The Athletic.

Not only was it about my beloved Nottingham Forest, it was written by someone who is also living in NZ. That means there’s 2 of us here – which is the same amount of fans as there were when I lived in Shanghai and Los Angeles, haha.

Anyway, they wrote this:

“The past two seasons need putting in a box marked “Vintage”. It’s only so often in football fandom that circumstances gel to give you a gift like this period. Dramatic, successful, joyous but mainly the sense of togetherness and belonging. All praise to Steve for being the key man that’s made it happen and in particular the way it’s felt.

History suggests it won’t stay this way, maybe another year or two if we’re lucky, because expectations get in the way and start twisting the behaviour and attitudes of all parties. Sad but hey it’s all part of the cycle.

The positive point I’m making is that this has been as good as it gets really, outside of unexpectedly rising to the absolute top (e.g. Forest 78-80; Leicester winning the league), so let’s be sure to savour it while we’re in the moment! And hopefully the moment has another couple of years to run.”

I loved it.

Not just because that’s exactly how following Forest over these past 2 years have felt, but because life often follows a similar path.

The reality is we often never realise we’re living in a golden period of our life.

Often, we only realise it as we sense it passing us by.

And then we panic … trying desperately to hold on to something that is only partially – if we’re lucky – in our control and likely already has left the station.

Worse, we can end up putting all our effort trying to recreate something we had, rather than create what can be next.

That doesn’t mean our focus should be blindly running forward and ignoring – or not valuing – what is happening around us, but it does mean we should appreciate we can’t stop time … because as ‘electronic mail’ has shown, even the most exciting times of our life can end up becoming the most mundane.

Life is hard.

It’s not fair.

Sure, for some, it way harder than for others and effort doesn’t always translate to achievement or progress, which is cruel as fuck. But as I have got older, I’ve learnt to appreciate something my parents used to say to me when I was young.

“The more interested you are in life, the more chance you have of enjoying a good one”.

First of all, note they said ‘chance’.

No blind promises, more an attitude to life.

Secondly, when they said ‘interested’, they meant ‘invested’.

Not just in terms of being curious about what’s going on, but committing to being in it.

Trying stuff.
Exploring stuff.
Appreciating what you learn from it – good, bad or indifferent.

And finally, their version of a ‘good life’ was – as I’ve said many times – a life of fulfilment rather than contentment.

Where you go after the stuff that makes you feel alive, rather than what makes life comfortable and easy.

It’s why I adore they said ‘enjoy’ rather than ‘have’.

Not just because it acknowledged time will continually challenge and change our contexts and beliefs … but because it means you recognise, embrace and value the good moments while not letting yourself get so lost in them that you are removing yourself from the possibilities of the future.

Nottingham Forest spent too long being lost in the past.

Always judging themselves by it, which meant never being able to live up to it.

An invisible hammer continually bashing everyone down.

But Steve Cooper has changed that …

Sure, he’s not achieved a fraction of what Clough did, but apart from the fact he’s only 4 years into his managerial career, he has done stuff even Clough wasn’t able to achieve.

For example, the togetherness between fan, club and manager is – even in the eyes of ex-Clough players – better than it ever was at our European peak.

In essence, he took the values of the club to liberate the future of it … enabling a new generation of fan to take the club to somewhere new and exciting. Something that represents their future, not just a recreation of another generations past.

It’s so exciting to see it.
It’s so exciting to share it.
It’s so exciting to be a part of it.

Now I know what some of you will be thinking, I’m reframing achievement to set lower expectations. But that’s the point …

When you try and hold on to things already past, you’re stuck in limbo.

It’s why I’m revelling in what Forest are doing right now.

I know it won’t last forever, but to experience something so magical is more than I ever dared to dream.

Sure, it’s not the same as last time.
But that doesn’t mean it’s any less wonderful.
Even more so that it is happening in the present not in my memory.

When Forest won the playoff final to get back into the Premiership after 23 long and painful years, some genius played the track ‘Freed From Desire’ by Gala. It wasn’t just the perfect choice of song for us, it conveys one of the most valuable lessons for life.

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You Only Know How Bad You’ve Had It When You No Longer Have It …
June 27, 2023, 8:15 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, England, Football, Nottingham, Nottingham Forest, Paul

I know with a headline like that, you think I’m going to announce some major revelation to do with health.

Or happiness.

Well, in some ways I am … just not what you may think.

This is about football … and while it’s a good few weeks since the Premiership ended, it’s taken me this long to calm down.

As you all likely know, my beloved Nottingham Forest got promoted last year to the Premiership after 23 painful years away. More than that, they got promoted after being at the bottom of the Championship after 7 games – where they only had one point – before our manager, Steve Cooper, joined and took us on a fairytale that no one could have imagined.

Of course we knew it would be hard to compete – especially with our team being made up of 5 loan signings – which is why I convinced myself that as long as they were enjoying themselves, I’d be happy with whatever happened.

Now I know I was utterly lying to myself.

It was a tremendously hard season. We had – in the end – over 30 new players join us [which was needed given we didn’t have a proper starting 11] so it was no surprise we were whipping boys for all the teams we faced in the first few weeks.

3-0. 4-0. 5-0. 6-0.

Then we had a couple of wins.

West Ham and – amazingly – Liverpool.

We had faith. And then the bad results kept coming and the media increasingly wrote us off.

Then we had major injuries to key players that were going to last for months.

Worse, we were hearing our beloved Steve Cooper – the man who had achieved what over 20+ managers couldn’t – was going to get fired. Other managers were being sounded out. The old dark days were coming back with a vengeance.

I don’t mind admitting, I couldn’t read about the team.

Everything was bleak and negative and it actually was affecting my health.

I was getting down. Weekends were getting ruined. The feel-good factor was done.

I tried to convince myself that football just doesn’t matter.

The only positive was the Forest owners kept faith with Steve.

Sure, part of it was because they couldn’t find a better alternative, but at a time where clubs chopped and changed managers like people change their clothes – it was a little bright spot in an otherwise dark situation.

That said, I wouldn’t have blamed them if they had.

Yes we had terrible injuries but we couldn’t win an away game if we bribed the officials.

Then we had a little run of positive results and it was amazing how I felt my entire body change. Mentally and physically. I felt excited to read articles about them – and how they played – again. Sure, there were still some negative stuff, but when we reached the highs of 13th in the table [even though 13th-20th was separated by a few points] it felt good.

Then bad times came back.


In the relegation zone.

Pundits revelling in our downfall.

But somehow we put ourselves in a position to get out and with 2 games left, we were in 16th, two places above relegation. Of course, being Forest, we only needed to slip up once and have a team below us win – and we would literally swap places with them.

Worse, if any of the teams below us ended up on the same points, we’d still go down because those early games gave us a goal difference that was one of the worst in the league.

If that wasn’t hard enough, our next game was Arsenal.

2nd in the league … and the teams around us had easier games.

Sure, if we lost it wouldn’t be 100% relegation and sure, it was at home … but given our final match was away, the chances of us pulling off a miracle were low.

But against all odds, we took the lead on 19 minutes.

The Forest ground was utter pandemonium … WE WERE WINNING … but we also knew we had the worst record of losing from a winning position and Arsenal had the best record of winning from a losing position.

But we got to half time still up … which meant we would guarantee safety which meant we would still be in the Premiership for another year.

Then the second half started.

And unlike other matches, we kept doing pretty well.

The team wanted this. They wanted to play their final game at the City Ground in a way that would honour the fans unwavering support over the past 9 months.

And to be honest, so they should … because even fans of all other teams have said what an amazing atmosphere our fans create at the City Ground.

But I’d seen us fuck up too many times so with 12 minutes to go, I went on to instagram and zoomed through reels to take my mind off things. I knew the game would be over at 6:32am NZ time and my intention was to not look till my iPad said it was that time.

Did I manage to do that?

Nope … but I did manage to last a few minutes at a time.

And then at 6:31am I couldn’t hold back any longer and flicked over to the BBC where I saw the letters FT under the score, signifying full time.

Signifying we had won. WE HAD WON.

And, in a surprise to myself, I burst into tears.

Massive tears. Tears of relief, pride, happiness, shock and calm.

What made this even more surreal was that while this was all going on, I was lying in Otis’ bed as he was in ours with a bad head cold.

So there I was a 52 year old bloke … in an 8 year olds bed … crying at a football result and that’s when I truly knew how invested I was in that team.

How they represent more than just kicking a ball around a pitch, but my identity … my cities identity … our hopes, belief and values.

I was a mix of elation and exhaustion … resulting in me spending the whole day watching interviews of the footballers and fans revelling in their joy.

Joy for defying the odds.

Joy for proving the pundits wrong.

Joy for my great club earning the chance to keep getting better.

I love them. I love them so so much …

The team. The manager. The owners. The fans. The city they represent and belong to.

As the legendary Liverpool manager – Bill Shankly – once said:

Football isn’t a matter of life and death. It’s more important than that.

He wasn’t wrong.

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