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.

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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.’



The Best Thing About Me Is Seven Years Old …

Tomorrow my dear Otis turns 7.

Seven!

In some ways it seems impossible it has been that long …

Hell, it only seems like yesterday Jill went into labour and we walked to the hospital from our apartment in Shanghai.

But it can’t be because since that day, so much has happened.

We’ve lived in 3 new countries, started 3 new jobs – not to mention started 2 new companies – seen my wonderful mum pass away, get made redundant, gone through a global pandemic and turned 50.

Even for 7 years, that quite a lot.

And yet, trying to remember my life without him in it, seems almost impossible.

Sure, I can remember certain parts if I try really hard …

The travel.
The dinners.
The concerts.
The ability to go wherever we wanted whenever we wanted … without having to spend 2 hours ‘preparing’ for the trip.

But while that was all very nice … and, to be fair, I still get to do a version of it all at times … it’s so much better now.

Being a Dad has had a huge effect on my life.

What I care about, what I value, what I aspire to achieve.

That doesn’t mean I’ve lost all sense of personal ambition, drive and selfishness [hahaha] – it’s just I view achievement in a different way.

Whereas once it was very much about where I get to in my career, it’s now much more focused on what I can change.

More specifically, what I can change that enables others to win.

I know that sounds the sort of pandering statement you used to hear spouted from a Ms World contestant, but it’s true.

I’ll talk more about that in another post, but while I hope I’ve always been a compassionate person, Otis has made me more so.

But more than that, he’s also impacted the decisions I make.

There’s been situations I’ve faced where the decision I made was the total opposite of what I would have done prior to him being around.

Hell, even moving to NZ has more to do with him – and his Mum – than anything I’d have thought of doing previously, even with the temptation of the lovely Colenso.

Having Otis made me think about what my decisions would teach him about all manner of things.

Life. Money. Career. Happiness.

And because of that, it’s had the effect of teaching me what is really of importance to me now.

I was pretty old becoming a Dad – 44 – and yet, when Jill was pregnant, the issues that affect many soon-to-be Dad’s were affecting me.

Mainly money.

Would we have enough to give him a good home?

Would we earn enough to give him what he needs?

It was ridiculous, especially given the immense privilege we were enjoying in our life, but it was there and it was real.

Then he was born and everything changed.

Suddenly money was not the focus, instead it was about doing things that would make him proud of who his parents were. Helping him have a life of excitement, enjoyment and fulfilment. Exposing him to situations and circumstances that would help equip him with how to deal with things in life.

And while there have been stuff-ups along the way – predominantly by me – the joy of this adventure has been incredible and infectious.

It even made me feel grateful for COVID … because while I would not wish the suffering people have had to endure on anyone, it has been an utter privilege to basically be together 24/7 for almost 2 years.

See him wake up.
Have breakfast together.
Take him to school [when we could]
Have lunch together. [when we couldn’t]
Have dinner together.
Chat, laugh, play.
Put him to bed.

Before that I didn’t really get to do much of this. Maybe at weekends … otherwise it was a hotchpotch of a bit of this and a bit of that … and doing it all the time is much, much better.

And while he is growing up far too quickly for my liking – resulting in me getting obsessed with random lookalikes in the Guardian Newspaper – I have to admire the evil genius of how parenthood works.

From the moment you have a kid, you want them to stay exactly as they are.

Everything they do is just perfect and you revel in getting more of who they are.

The sounds. The squirms. The way they look. The way they react to things.

But you can’t stop evolution and bit by bit, more and morenew things happen.

Now while that should be annoying because the things you love get overtaken by the new … you deal with it, because those new things become a whole new set of wonderful features and quirks you fall in love with.

And this keeps going and going.

Each step of evolution takes you to somewhere even more adorable.

Until you’re here.

At seven.

Which forces me to write this:

_______________________________________________________________________

My dear boy.

Oh how I love you.

I can’t put into words how wonderful I think you are.

I’ve loved watching every second of you exploring, experimenting and discovering the world you’re in.

I’ve laughed at your good-natured cheekiness

Felt pride at the way you’ve embraced the challenges and changes I’ve forced on your life.

Been overwhelmed by your level of compassion, consideration and kindness.

And been in awe with your ability to learn and absorb … even when that has meant seeing you beat me at certain video games and horrify me with your use of Roblox slang such as, “call those muscles, look at these guns”.

To me and your Mum – and maybe even Rosie – you are perfect.

It’s an honour to be your Dad.

I still can’t believe I could have something to do with creating someone so wonderful. Sure, your Mum has the most to do with it, but I’m in there too.

I hope the next year is even better than this.

I don’t simply mean in terms of you being able to go out and enjoy life without restrictions and limitations … I mean in the adventures you have and the friends you create mischief with.

You have handled the past 12 months with such amazing grace.

Now houses … new schools … new countries … new friends.

It is a huge amount for anyone to deal with – and more than any young boy should – but you have taken it all in your stride. But I do not take that for granted. And I do not forget I have put you through this 4 times in 6 years. But I can assure you I won’t put you though it again for a very long time. So embrace your new home. Enjoy the possibilities of the world you have. You are a delightful kid and the world is better for having you in it.

Happy birthday my dear Otis …

I hope you have an amazing day.

I am so, so proud of the person you are and excited to see the person you become.

Love you.

Rx




If Companies Want To Know About ‘Agile’, Ask My Son …

3 different nationalities.
4 different countries [In 4 different continents]
5 different homes.
4 different schools.
Two major long lockdowns.
All of this in just 6 – but soon to be 7 – short years.

And yet despite all that change … all that waving goodbye and learning to say new hellos … he remains a happy, curious, cheeky and compassionate kid.

And while he loved his life in China, America and the UK … he is blossoming in NZ.

Sure, some of that is because he has been able to get back into some sort of routine, meet new friends and play with other kids his own age – at least until Delta struck and he got locked down with his parents for weeks on end – but it’s more than that …

Outdoor life is a way of life here.

Being outside is no longer a conscious choice.

The line between indoors and outdoors is now very slim.

No need to change clothes. No need to wear shoes. Spontaneity is allowed to flow which – let’s be honest – is exactly how a kid should be able to live their life.

I’ve lived in similar environments before … in Australia and America for example … but whether it’s because I’m older or now live in a bloody treehouse or have a kid of my own, I appreciate it so much more.

Watching him be able to run around outside is a real privilege.

Of course, for people born here, that’s a normality … but I have lived in environments where that’s not the case, which is why even seeing him watch his iPad in the sun is something I don’t take for granted.

We cannot discount the importance of being able to play outside, but sadly many governments and councils seem to.

Viewing it as ‘a favour’ rather than a fundamental right.

Playing outside helps kids in so many ways.

Bond … learn … imagine … express … play … explore … compete … respect.

It’s not a ‘waste of time’, it creates a deeper foundation for life.

An ability to think outside of lines and others definitions.

Giving kids an environments where they can be outside is basically an investment in a countries future.

A nation of curious, interested, healthy people.

But not everyone gets this.

Some actively try to stop this.

Often people of immense privilege who either associate outdoor life as something for either the elite or the rough.

Fortunately NZ does not see it this way.

They revel and celebrate it.

They have the best parks I’ve ever seen in my life.

Parks made to enjoy and encourage kids to push their boundaries.

A new discovery of what you’re capable of with every visit.

And while for most kids it’s about developing, for Otis it’s also about grounding.

A place he can feel is his.

A connection to where he lives in a way he’s not had before.

Because while he is young, I do not underestimate what he has been through.

Fuck, there’s people I have worked with who have literally freaked out when asked to move office desks … and yet here’s my kid, who has moved countries, homes and friends and still embraces the possibilities of every situation.

So much of that is down to his brilliant Mum who has helped that change happen in the most comfortable, seamless way … but it still requires a mindset to look at what you’ll gain rather than just what you lose.

And while I know one day I’ll no doubt be dragging him off for another adventure somewhere else on the planet [but don’t worry, it won’t be for ages. Probably] I want you to know that I love you from tip to toe and let you know I’m so, so proud to be your dad.

Thank you Otis, you’re a little legend.



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



Moments Where Time Never Moves On …
September 10, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: Anniversary, Family, Love, Loyalty

I’ve talked about this in the past.

How when a terrible event happens, everyone rallies around you.

How they give you comfort and love for the worst time of your life.

But the next day, it changes.

Not because they’re mean or unkind or unthoughtful … it’s just they have their own issues and situations to deal with.

But for you, you are alone.

Floating in the wilderness.

More isolated than you were before.

Caught in the no mans land between pain and grief.

Numb and confused.

Yes it gets better. But it doesn’t go away. And on the anniversary, it all comes rushing back.

Nothing captures this like a story I read recently in The Atlantic.

Tragedy. Love. Conspiracy. Hope. Despair. Loneliness.

It had it all, but never expressed with hyperbole or exaggeration. Just raw feelings of confusion, loss and guilt – interspersed with a desire to be angry at someone … anyone … to try and make sense of the impossible.

It’s one of the most powerful things I’ve read about that fateful day on September 11th 2001.

Everyone should read it.

To understand what tens of thousands of people try to understand and deal with every single day.

Which is my way of saying that while tomorrow there will be tens of thousands of people all around the world feeling like the worst memory of their life is being thrust back into their present, I am thinking of you … Dave, David and Andy.

Big hugs. Bigger love.
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No comments please. This is for them.