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


To My Darling Jill …
May 13, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: Comment, Jill, Otis, Parents

There’s no post on Monday.

Which is good, because after you read this, you’ll either be sick or shocked and it will give you a little more time to get over it.

Ready? Well here we go …

Being married to me is hard.

Not just for the obvious countless reasons, but because we keep moving countries.

In fact, in the last 6 years, we have lived in four countries.

FOUR.

Add some more years to that total and the number of countries we’ve lived in goes up again.

And again.

And again.

But that aside, the reality is we’ve kept moving countries predominantly for me.

And every time, Jill has been nothing but supportive and encouraging – even though it has meant she’s had to leave her friends, passions – and in the case of Shanghai – her successful cake business, Stir.

OK, so after dragging Jill around the world for nearly 2 decades, coming to NZ was as much about getting her closer to her Mum as it was about me joining Colenso … but even with the added benefit of family proximity, Jill had to start her life all over again.

I’ve never been in this position.

When you move for a job, you are given an instant network.

You’re in an office. With people. Who you get to connect with, talk to, meet.

You also have a ready made job … with things to do and things to change.

In almost no time at all, you feel part of the place with people who can help you overcome any question or obstacle you face.

But not Jill.

When she moves, she starts from zero.

She has no support network except her husband and son.

And given I’m at work and Otis is at school, that means she doesn’t even get us easily.

I am under no illusion how hard this is on her.

I am also under no illusion how much she has sacrificed to allow me to live this life.

It is more than I could ever expect or hope for and yet, despite all the challenges it places her under, she has never complained or stopped us exploring adventure.

She could have.

There are times she probably wanted to.

But she has done it over and over again because of us. Or should I say, me.

My wife is the most compassionate, considerate and caring person I know.

Always looking out for us.
Always ensuring we are settled as quickly as possible.
Always protecting the family.

I say all this because Jill has started taking some tentative steps into exploring a career again.

When Otis was born, she made the decision she wanted to be a full-time Mum. We were in the very fortunate position that we could make that happen and she loved every second. But now Otis is 7 … he has independence and is at school … so Jill wants to use the time she has got back in new ways.

But starting something new when you’ve been away for a while is daunting.

And for all the talent and experiences and achievements my wife has earned in the past, she is doubting herself.

I can literally see the arguments she is having in her head.

The fight between curiosity and self judgement.

The worry she may not be good enough.

Of course all women go through this.

The most evil thing men have done is make women believe they have to be perfect before they can try something new.

Which means many don’t, leaving men – who don’t give a shit about perfection because of our deluded self-confidence – to take opportunities that could be better served and expressed by female talent.

I am proud of my wife for many reasons, but for someone so gentle, she is immensely strong … and despite her not really sure where she will end up, she is starting a little design studio focused on digital art.

Not NFT’s … but just different designs that can be used in different ways and places.

She knows it’s hard to get noticed in this field.

She knows it’s a lot of work for not a lot of reward.

She knows she has to build up her portfolio of work.

And while it would be easy to point to the privilege she has in being able to do this when so many don’t even have that option … I am watching a woman seeking a different sort of self-worth. One that goes beyond being an amazing wife and Mum, but an independent person

I have never had to worry about this.
Otis is unlikely to have to worry about this.
And I wish Jill didn’t have to worry about this … but she does and so she should.

Add to that the time she has been out of the workforce – something she did for us to be able to walk forward – and what she’s doing is insanely important.

For her.
For us.
For any woman who faces this situation.

I love this woman.
I’m so proud of her.
I am watching her put so much of herself into this.

Not just in terms of designing … but thinking, considering and questioning.

This is a huge thing for her – far more than just a design project – which is why I have a favour to ask.

Could I ask you to like/follow her new company insta.

Not because I want give her ‘false hope’, but because I want her to feel she counts.

Not as someone’s wife. Not as someone’s Mum. But for who she is.

A brilliant, clever, talented, smart, kind human.

Someone willing to put their vulnerabilities on show and on the line in the hope it may lead to something they can’t quite define.

What an amazing person.

I’m such a lucky bugger to be her husband.

Thank you Jill.

I love you.



Beware. Looks Can Be Deceiving …

A few weeks ago, I walked into our lounge to see Jill watching the very first edition of The Golden Girls. For those of you too young to know what it is, have a look at this ‘best bits’ compilation.

After a couple of minutes, Jill asked me to guess how old the main characters were supposed to be in the show.

Given the name of the program and the style of fashion they were wearing, I suggested in their early to late 60’s.

I was wrong.

Jill told me that the ages were 47,53 and 55.

Or said another way, I was older than one and just a few years behind the others.

Then she hit me with this …

The characters were supposed to be the same age as the women in the reboot of Sex And The City.

To help explain why this news impacted me, have a look at this.

Now we are talking about ‘character age’ not real age … plus the ‘backgrounds’ of each show are about as different as you can get … but still.

Then a few days later, this was posted featuring Dorothy from the Golden Girls and Lisa Rinna from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Again, one is in character and the other is … OK, probably also in character … but the shift in age perception – or presentation of it – is startling.

On one hand there’s something awesome about it.

While I – and society – absolutely don’t want to see me sashaying down the street wearing designer clothes and botox lips … the idea that people in their 50’s don’t have to hide themselves away and can feel they are an active member and contributor to society is awesome.

However by the same token, the thought you may need to match the look and behaviour of people much younger than you, just so you can be ‘validated’ is terrifying.

Now of course women have been facing this situation for centuries, which is why the older I get, the more I realise what a brilliant role model I had in my Mum.

You see she always believed age didn’t defy you, your interest in what was happening in culture did.

It’s why she followed emerging artists in film, music, art, literature and politics.
It’s why she would go to a classical concert as well as watch new comedians.
It’s why she viewed ‘growing old gracefully’ as being interested in what others are interested in rather than extracting yourself from modern life because ‘it was easier that way’.

Now this didn’t mean she always like what she saw and learned – and she most certainly wasn’t going to dress in the latest trends and fashions – but she wanted to contribute to life rather than criticise it simply because it was continually evolving.

Which helps explain why I found the Golden Girls/Sex And The City comparison so amazing.

Because dramatic shift in terms of fashion and looks aside, the reality is ageing – especially for women – hasn’t really evolved at all.

Sure, you may not have to ‘hide yourself away’ as much as you used to, but looks are still the foundation of validity and fashion is still the criteria for relevance.

How utterly fucked is that?

For all the talk of modernity, the reality is not much has changed. In fact, it’s arguably even worse now as there is the illusion it’s actually better.

But it’s not.

White men are still born with inherent advantage.

As a 51 year old, badly dressed man, I still receive incredible benefits.

So don’t let the exposure of older, female actresses sway you from the reality.

Sexism and ageism is alive and well.

It’s something perpetuated by the media and championed by society the world over.

In simple terms, if you have to ‘look’ the part to be seen by others, something is fucked up.

And women have to do that more than men. Fact.

Growing old is enough of a pain in the arse without having to deal with that shit.

Which is why it would be so much better if we valued interest rather than image.

Another thing I need to thank my Mum for.



Time Machines Suck …

I’ve written this blog consistently for 15 years.

FIFTEEN!!!

My god …

But it gets worse.

Because bar a few weeks of holiday, it is something that has been written every single Monday to Friday.

That means there has been over 3,900 posts of utter gibberish for over 780 weeks.

And as tragic as that all sounds, there’s an awful lot of people who comment on here who have been here pretty much all that time.

LOSERS!!!

Now, I have to say there are some lovely benefits to long term blog writing.

In some ways it’s like a diary … capturing what I was thinking or doing at any given time.

It also is a lovely way to see how my opinions and thoughts have evolved over time.

Plus there’s the hope that when I’m gone, Otis will still feel his Dad is close.

OK … OK … there are some posts I definitely DON’T want him to read, but there’s others I’d be glad for him to keep going back to.

Putting aside I basically write the same 3 or 4 posts over and over again … there is a lot of my life contained in these pages.

From getting married to losing my Mum to having my son.

Proper life-changing stuff … and that doesn’t even cover the moves to different countries, jobs and homes.

The best and worst of my life is detailed here which is why – despite all these big life events being sandwiched between endless amounts of shit – I still like it.

Occasionally I randomly click on a date and just see what I wrote.

Recently I did this and was reminded what a little shit I was.

OK, can be.

It’s this.

Yep, it’s the time I tried to auction off Martin Sorrell’s business card so people could send him stupid messages or texts.

On the plus side, I was offering to give any money to charity.

On the negative, I was working for WPP at the time.

If you think that’s stupid, there was the time I wrote a post featuring a photo of Sir Martin with a picture of Toad of Toad Hall under the caption ‘Spot The Difference’.

And the weird thing is that while I don’t agree with his approach to creativity, I do respect him. I have met him on a number of occasions and he was very, very impressive.

Though it’s fair to say that respect was only one way, Especially when there was an agency Q&A and I asked him ‘what do you spend all your money on?’

So Sir Martin … even though I know you would never read this blog [more proof you’re clever] I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for my stupidity. It was ridiculous … but if it’s any consolation, at least it wasn’t as bad as this.

I know … I know … this was a terrible post even by my standards.

So celebrate in the fact that tomorrow is Good Friday so I’m off till next Tuesday and you’re not going have to deal with any more of this shit till then.

I don’t know about you … but it’s the sort of news that makes you almost believe in God, doesn’t it.

Happy Easter, enjoy the sugar rush.



Happy Anniversary Mum And Dad …

Today would have been my parents 58th wedding anniversary.

Amazing.

And while the reality is Dad died 23 years ago and Mum 7, they had a good marriage.

Yes there were some hard times along the way.

Some that still hurt deeply when I think of them.

As is often the case, they were brought on by stress triggered by a lack of money, health issues and/or family bullshit they were pulled into.

But while there are some moments that I wish could be erased forever, I was brought up in a house of love and support.

Love for each other.
Love for me.
Love for us.

As I said at both my parents funerals, I never wanted for their support or compassion and it was only as I grew older that I realised how lucky I am for that.

The photo above was taken at the Nottingham Registry Office where they got married.

They’d been living in London but came to Nottingham to be closer to my Dad’s family.

They were only supposed to be there for a few years – but you know how it is.

I always thought that must have been hard for my Mum.

Don’t get me wrong, she liked Nottingham … but she was Italian, had moved to London for adventure but met Dad, fell in love and then found herself in the Midlands, even further away from her family.

I think when I came along, it may have helped because she wouldn’t have wanted to raise me in central London and so Nottingham probably became quite a good place then.

She stayed there for a long time.

A lot longer than she had lived in Italy.

We had talked – prior to her death – if she wanted to move back to Italy.

It was a real consideration.

Dad had died. Long term neighbours had died or moved away. Her sister was alone in the family home back in Guardiagrele.

But it didn’t happen and now her ashes, like Dad’s, are scattered over their beloved garden. The garden that was my family home and always will be, despite eventually selling the house.

I’ve written about how hard that decision was.

How conflicted I was when it suddenly became mine.

But I think they would be happy how I handled it. Plus I have a beautiful jar of soil from that house with me. And by selling the incredibly generous gift of their inheritance, I was able to buy our family home in the UK. A home with a garden my parents would absolutely approve of.

I still remember the bizarre moment Mum and I went to register Dad’s death and we realised it was in the same place as where they got married.

It had a weird closed circle to it.

Similar to the fact Mum died in the same hospital where I was born.

I miss them. I regret that I didn’t really talk to them about these things.

Part of that was because I thought I’d have more time to do it but alas, Dad fell ill when I was just 24. And then I kept moving countries.

But I’m very glad they got married 58 years ago today.

Because they gave me a childhood and a family that was as special as they were.

Happy Anniversary Mum and Dad. I hope you’re holding hands and laughing at the silliness and joy your son and his family get up to.

Rx



There When They’re Not …
March 25, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Comment, Dad, Death, Family, Fatherhood, Home, Jill, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad, Nottingham, Otis

A few weeks ago, I saw a tweet by the comedian, David Baddiel.

It was this.


It was late, but there was something about it that really touched me.

Of course, hearing a parent has died is always sad. And over the years, my stance on Mr Baddiel has gone from ‘annoying’ to ‘wonderful’. But I think it was the sight of the worn chair that got me. A reminder of a parent who preferred comfort over new. A father who saw the chair worn in rather than worn out. An extention of the parent rather than just another piece of furniture in the home.

I definitely related to that.

I still remember going into Mum’s bedroom after she died – the bedroom that my shared my entire childhood – and saw it was a bit worn out. Needed some care, some attention, some updating. But what’s interesting is that while I’d been in that room a million times, it was only then that I the condition. Because when my parents were in that room … in that bed … the whole room radiated love and life and all the worn paint and old carpet disappeared from view.

But I also know how important it is to hold on to some of that.

Getting rid of your parents belongings is devastating.

I definitely remember genuinely considering hiring a security guard to just sit outside the house so I could keep it exactly the way it was. Hell, I even tried to buy the home phone number from British Telecom, or whatever they’re called these days – so I would have a connection to my past … to my parents … forever.

Jill gently convinced me that wasn’t the best way to move forward. Reminded me that wouldn’t be what my parents would want. But she also knew I needed to keep a physical connection to them and that house … so she came up with a brilliant idea that I thought may help a man I don’t know, get through a terribly painful situation I do know all too well.

So I responded to him with this and went to sleep.

The next morning I woke up to my phone screen full of twitter notifications and saw this.

Thousands of likes.
Hundreds of comments.
A mass of retweets.

I couldn’t quite believe it.

And when I read the comments, every single one was positive.

No snark. No pisstaking. Just a mass of lovely, considerate, words. Which was more wonderful than I could ever have imagined, because as much as it’s nice to have something you said/did liked by so many, what made the biggest impact was so many people saying they now had a way to take their family and home with them, when their family and home are no longer there.

A bit of calm in the worst of storms.

And since I wrote this post, the number of people who liked it and commented on how this can help them deal with their grief has increased more and more.

So thank you Jill.

You helped not just make one of my hardest times, less dark, you have helped others see a way out of their darkest moment.