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


Identity …

I was born in 1970 in Nottingham.

For 25 years, I lived there, worked there, socialised there.

Sure, I also worked in London … but I always came home to NG2.

Every. Bloody. Night.

But in 1995, I left.

I went to Australia and started an adventure all over the place. And while I back to the UK after 24 years – I never went back to living in Nottingham.

And yet, despite having now spent more time away from Nottingham than living in it, it’s still what I regard as ‘home’.

Sure it’s where my formative years were spent.
Sure it’s where my parents ashes have been spread.
Sure it’s where my beloved Paul still lives.
Sure it’s where my football team resides.
Sure it’s where I spent the longest period of my life in.

But still …

What is also interesting is that when I go back, while I feel a sense of familiarity, I also feel disconnected. Of course, that’s to be expected when you’ve been away for so long … but it means when I think – or am in – Nottingham, I feel displaced and comforted at the same time.

It’s a weird feeling, caught between 2 emotional poles …

A stranger in where you believe you come from.

Of course, I go through similar feelings when I visit previous places I once lived – especially Shanghai, which is the place I probably felt the most connected to – but Nottingham is where I have roots [or where I used to have them] and so while I am far away, I am increasingly surrounding myself with stuff that reminds me of the place.

But I don’t want to go back.

It is my past rather than my future.

And that’s where it all gets complicated because I want Otis to have a place where he can build roots like I did with Nottingham, but I don’t know if that’s possible or where that is.

He’s 8 and lived in 4 countries already.

More than that, at some point we’ll be leaving here.

Don’t get me wrong, we love NZ.

We adore our home.

But we feel our life still has other places to go.

It won’t happen in the short term …

We are happy here, Otis absolutely adores it, we want him to be in a place longer than the 2 year periods he’s experienced so far in his life and I haven’t yet repaid the generosity the country has shown us … but it will eventually happen and so I wonder what Otis will regard as his ‘identity’.

If you ask him now, he’ll say, “China”.

I love that, but it’s also more because of where he was born rather than where he was raised.

So we shall see.

Of course we could just stay here and remove the issue … and while there’s a big part of us that would like to do that, we also would like to be closer to the people who matter most to us.

At some point.

This may all sound like a reason to never move country and if that’s how it comes across then that would be wrong.

It’s dead easy to think about what you will miss by moving away but you need to think about what you will gain. And in my case, apart from Paul and Shelly in Nottingham … every single thing in my life is because I took that leap.

Everything.

My wife.
My son.
My cat.
My home.
My career.
My life.

So while identity is increasingly important to me, I’m not going to devalue the utter privilege of the adventure we’ve had – and will hopefully keep having. Especially given nationalism is increasingly acting as a barrier towards the understanding and acceptance of others… rather than a way for people to identify, share and grow.

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When You Realise The Best Of You Isn’t You …

The above photo was taken back in 2020.

We were living in Fulham.

Everyone was working from home.

And we suspected Otis may have had COVID.

As it turned out, he didn’t – thankfully.

But I love that photo.

The closeness.

The intimacy.

The caring Mum and the curious kid.

A shared moment ruined by me coming in and taking a pic – as usual, hahaha.

But who can blame me? Those two are everything to me.

And the older I get, the more I realise how much time I didn’t spend with them.

That realisation started with COVID.

While the pandemic was so devastating to so many – it was very good to me.

I got to be with my family for longer than I’d ever been in our time together.

Waking up together.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner together.

Putting Otis to bed and then going to bed with Jill at the same time.

EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

Now I know for so many that’s a regular thing but for me it wasn’t and the experience was wonderful and confronting.

Wonderful for how it made me feel. Confronting for how I had allowed that to happen.

Don’t get me wrong … I love work. Or should I say I love parts of work.

And as much as it may not be cool to say anymore, but I loved the travel.

Not being on a plane for the COVID years – bar, moving to NZ – felt like a genuine loss.

Not at first – initially it felt amazing, given how regularly I had been travelling – but after 2+ years, I was ready to hear those engines whir into life. Just not so regularly as I had before … because flying internationally at least once a week, every week for years was just plain idiotic.

And while I don’t want to let all of it go, I have been changing big parts of how I am choosing to live and it all came from something my Dad once said to me.

You see, my Dad had quite an eclectic early professional life.

Not just changing jobs, but whole industries.

I remember asking him why he had done it and he said this:

“I love you and your Mum. So if I’m going to be away from you both for most of the day, I better like what I’m doing because nothing would be so disrespectful as being away for something I hate”

Now I appreciate the privilege in that statement.

There are many who don’t have the opportunity to chase after things that interest them.

And for my Dad, that was enabled by the stability of my brilliant Mum – similar to what Jill has done for me in allowing me to uproot us every few years for an adventure in some other far distant part of the world.

But while I’ve generally enjoyed what I have done … as I get older, it’s becoming more and more apparent that I want to ensure my family is given even greater prioritisation in what I do. That doesn’t mean they weren’t before … but I realise they could have been prioritised a fuck load more.

In some ways, it’s a perfect time for this to happen.

I’m approaching a point in life where some decisions will have to be made regarding my future.

What do I want to do?

Who do I want to do it with – and for?

What do I want to explore, experience and achieve?

Where is the best place for us to be located?

What are the conditions we need to protect what we have?

For me, these are revelation questions.

Previously, I just went with whatever excited/scared me/us the most.

And while this doesn’t mean we’re now happy to settle – because let’s face it, I suck at it, thanks to my only-child inspired, competitive, curious and annoyingly ambitious energy – it does mean these questions ensure my/our decisions are focused on ensuring my family get the best of me, not just what is left of me because the one thing covid taught me is nothing is as important as being together.

It’s pathetic I needed a global pandemic to really drive that home.

But to paraphrase my dad, nothing would be as disrespectful to my family than ignoring what became one of the most precious times of my life with my family.

Thanks to Easter, I get to spend the next 4 days with them … hopefully eating chocolate.

So wherever you are and whoever you’re with, I hope you get to spend it with someone that matters.

Even if that’s just yourself.

Happy holiday … and I apologise for the indulgent, happy-clappy post of today.

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Where I Want To Die …
March 30, 2023, 7:45 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Death, Family, Jill

A few weeks ago, Jill and I were chatting about plans when we started talking about where we wanted to end up.

By that, I mean, where we would want to be when we die.

As in location.

Of course, at the moment of death, the primary desire is to be close to each other … but I am talking about after that. When all the tears have gone and life has recommenced.

Sure, I shouldn’t care as I sure-as-hell won’t know … but apart from being a sentimental fuck, the reality is when you have lived in a lot of places, a lot of places become important to you so we just had this surreal conversation about ‘resting place’.

For reasons I’m still not quite sure of, I asked this question on Linkedin.

I presume my driving motivation was that there must be other people who are in similar situations – at least in living in multiple countries – and I wanted to see what they thought.

So I wrote this …

And while I got a lot of people dismissing my viewpoint – saying the only thing I should care about is being with my family [thanks for that folks, even though I literally said that in my post] … one person sent something that was pretty wonderful.

OK, it didn’t actually help answer the question I originally had, but it’s a wonderful way to imagine the final moment.

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The Most Unlikely Beautiful Gift You Can Have …
March 9, 2023, 8:15 am
Filed under: Anniversary, Comment, Dad, Death, Jill, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad, Otis

Today is the 8th anniversary of my Mum passing.

I’ve written a huge amount about how her death affected me.

How I realised that the operation to save her life, had cost her her life.

And yet, unlike Dad’s anniversary – that looms large over me, every year – Mum’s often slips my mind. There has been more than one occasion where the only reason I remembered it was because a friend wrote to send me their love on her anniversary.

Now I should point out I utterly love my Mum.

She was an incredible human who continues to influence how I look at the world.

But while her birthday is cemented in my heart and mind, the anniversary of her death isn’t.

Of course the circumstances between Mum and Dad dying were vastly different.

+ Dad died first.
+ I was 29 when Dad died and 44 when Mum did.
+ I was single when Dad died and a married father when Mum did.
+ I had just left home when Dad died and lived in lots of countries when Mum did.
+ When Dad died my Mum was still there to talk to, but when Mum died, I was alone.

I should point out when I say ‘alone’, I don’t mean literally – I had my wonderful Jill, who was amazing – but even that is different to having someone you can talk to about the life of the person who has died because you were both part of it for many years.

If you read this one day Jill, I hope you understand what I mean.

You were a rock to me. You helped me get through one of the worst times of my life without letting it become more terrible. So please don’t think I didn’t appreciate you – I did and I do and I always will.

This is all a bit rambling isn’t it?

The irony is that while I feel guilt about having to consciously remember Mum’s anniversary – despite having a tattoo of it on my arm – Mum would probably be very happy about it.

For her, she would see it as me remembering her birthday more than her final day – and that’s exactly how she would want it.

It took me 10 years to get to that stage for my Dad, but with Mum it was much quicker.

Again, there are probably many reasons for it – including Otis being only 3 months old when Mum died – but when I think of her, I think of her warmth, compassion, curiosity and spirit.

She was a gentle woman but also a determined one.

Actually determined isn’t quite right … she was, but in the pursuit of her independence. By that I mean in terms of her mind, beliefs, interests and life.

The older I get, the more I appreciate how she handled life.

It wasn’t the easiest, but she never complained or wanted help because she always recognised there were people worse off than her.

I can’t tell you how many ‘discussions’ we had about me wanting to give her money to make her life a little easier and her refusing to take it. It took years for us to find a way to make it work for both of us … which was me putting money in her bank account and she not spending a penny of it. Hahaha.

Oh I miss her.

I miss her voice, her face, her eyes, her questions and her love.

I am so glad I was with her when she died.

I knew one of her biggest fears was being alone when it happened … we had talked about it after it had happened to my Aunt – which is why of all the things I could do for her, making sure this didn’t happen is the one that I know she would have appreciated most.

Of course, not everyone is so lucky to know when this could happen – but with both my Mum and Dad, circumstances meant we were together and I’m so grateful for that.

Not that I always felt that way …

When I was much younger, the idea of being with my parents when they died was too overwhelming for me to consider.

I think I may even have told my parents.

How I imagined it would destroy me.

And it did.

But it was also incredibly important.

Because at that moment, everything was about them.

Their comfort. Their peace. Their ability to take that final step.

I’m not saying it was easy … I’m not saying it didn’t hurt … but in my mind, if it helped them, that’s all that really mattered.

And it helped both my parents.

Which means it helped me.

Because when they needed me most, I was there.

And while the pain of them dying will never heal, I know being there means it didn’t go as deep as it could.

When I think of this day, I think of everything that happened over that day.

It still stings.

But as much as I wish none of it happened, I am so glad I was able to be with her – and Dad.

Because I now see it as the most unlikely beautiful gift we could give each other.

I miss you Mum.

Love you.

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It Only Took 8 Years …
March 6, 2023, 8:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Australia, Brand, Jill, My Fatherhood, Otis, Parents, Technology

A few weeks ago I went to pick up Jill and Otis from the airport.

They’d been in Australia to see ‘granny’ and had a lovely time.

Anyway, when I saw Otis, he immediately told me about an “amazing cool giant robot face” he’d seen in Sydney and showed me a photo he’d taken.

As soon as I saw it, I realised it was part of project I did with the founder of Gentle Monster.

Telling him this resulted in Good and Bad news.

Good: I’m now [Finally, if temporarily] cool.

Bad: He wants me to bring it home.

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