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


Why I Am Eternally Grateful For Anthony Hopkins Eyes …

I’m not back.

Not properly.

But today is the 24th anniversary of my Dad passing away and I couldn’t – and wouldn’t – let this pass without mention.

24 years means I’m fast approaching him not being in my life for half my life.

And yet he is always there.

Maybe not always in the spotlight of my life, but always on the stage.

A warm presence.
A secure presence.
And sometimes, a surprising presence.

You see there are times where Dad appears seemingly out of nowhere.

From deep in the shadows to centrestage of the light.

Anything can trigger this.

A song.
A place.
A situation.

But the most common of all is a pair of eyes.

Specifically these pair of eyes …

As the title of this post reveals, those eyes belong to Anthony Hopkins.

And while the life of him and my father could not be further apart in so many ways, his eyes could easily belong to my Dad.

Not just for their shade or shape, but their character.

They are welcoming. They are warm. Caressed by lines around each eye that shows they have seen and they have lived. A journey that has led them through fields of pain, fear, laughter and love. And while you’re left in no doubt they have the power to make you feel fear or guilt with just a glance … that the lines around the eyes curve upwards, reassures you their resting condition is to let you in.

And that’s what my Dad gave me.

The power to always be let in. Even when I disappointed him.

Yes, there were times later in his life – when he was ill – that became a little harder, but even that was just temporary.

Because his main focus was for me to feel his love and support not his fear or wrath.

And his eyes were his way of reinforcing that.

I still remember a moment towards the end …

Dad had had many strokes by that time which had robbed him of his ability to talk and walk.

One day I got a call in Sydney – where I lived – telling me he’d been rushed to hospital and may only have 24 hours left to live.

I caught the first flight home and after a traumatic journey from the other side of the planet, I was with him … relieved he was alive, devastated he may die at any time.

At some point Mum and I were told we should get rest and go home.

Their house was literally 10 minutes from the hospital and they assured us they’d ring if anything happened.

Reluctantly we agreed and as I was saying goodnight, we looked at each other.

A firm, focused gaze into each others eyes.

I can still feel the intensity of that moment.

How the feeling of love was almost breathtaking in its power.

Because I knew exactly what those eyes looking back at me were saying.

What those eyes looking back at me were saying for him.

He loved me.
He was proud of me.
He was so glad I was there.

But it was even more than that …

It was him trying to take in my face.
Every line. Every mark. Every detail.
To ensure he remembered how I looked in case what we both knew was going to happen, happened while we were apart.

I remember how I felt my eyes were overflowing with water as I looked down on him in his hospital bed.

Our hands gripped so tight with me kissing his over and over again.

Holding back the tears in an attempt to express what I wanted to say.

That feeling you’re trying to lift a huge weight in an attempt to not break down.

Massive pauses between words to not let any cracks take hold.

And I managed it.

I told him, “I know … I know … and I love you so, so much my dear Dad”

Then there was a pause as I wondered if I should finish what I wanted to say.

And then I decided I would, just in case …

“And you have to be here tomorrow. You have to be Dad. Please be here”

And as we walked out of that ward, with me constantly turning around to meet his gaze with my eyes, I hoped that was not the last time I would ever see him.

It wasn’t.

Despite us going through a similar rollercoaster 3 months later … a time where he would sadly not be able to find the strength to yet again surprise his Doctors, Nurses, wife and son … he did then.

And I still remember how we knew he was feeling stronger from the moment we walked into that ward.

Because my dad – that wonderful orator – had mastered another skill. This time, the ability to talk … through his eyes.

A million words and emotions passed perfectly through a look from his beautiful, blue, kind, warm eyes.

And while you may think that when I see Anthony Hopkins I get upset, you’d be wrong.

Because when he appears on the screen – even when I’m least expecting it – I am grateful.

Because he doesn’t reinforce the loss, he lets me feel like I’m close to my Dad again.

My wonderful, warm, supportive Dad.

Which after 24 years apart, is a gift.

So thank you Mr Hopkins.

And thank you Dad.

I miss you.

Give Mum a kiss from me.

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Goodbye 2022. Hello Peace And Quiet …

So this is it, the last post of 2022.

Again, I want to say a big thank you to everyone and anyone who has read or commented on my ranting rubbish.

I have to say, I miss the comments.

I know it was my choice to stop them, but I do miss them – so maybe I’ll have to bring them back, even though I’ve become waaaaaaay more productive since they’ve been turned off as I don’t have to spend vast amounts of my time checking what insults have been written to me and about me, hahaha.

But lack of comments aside, it’s been a big year … mainly because it has been the first year in a couple of years without any lock-down. And yet I still find it bizarre seeing people not wearing masks and being able to get on a plane again.

To think of the isolation, suffering and pain so many people suffered, the speed of the bounce-back has taken my breath away. Of course there are still people enduring tough times … but given the horror of the pandemic has seemingly been replaced by the threat of nuclear war and economic collapse, maybe COVID wasn’t so bad after all.

That said, I’m so grateful for the ability to travel again as it meant I was able to go on a trip that I’ll never, ever forget.

A trip where I got to see my beloved Martin getting married in Portugal.
A trip where I got to see my beloved Nottingham Forest getting promoted at Wembley.
A trip where I got to see my beloved Queen in concert with a ticket I bought 2 years earlier.
A trip where I got to see my beloved Paul, after the longest time we’ve been apart in 52 years.

It was, without exaggeration, one of the most special times in my life … with stuff I thought I may never see – or see again – so you will understand why I still feel so grateful to be able to have experienced it.

But beyond that, there were many other things that made this year memorable.

We did some fun work including Beyond Binary, Rick and Morty, Phone It In and Give Up On Humans. Our agency Christmas gift was interesting too. I say interesting, but I mean ridiculous, especially compared to last years more sophisticated Restraining Order, haha.
I wrote a pretty decent April Fools post that conned a few people.
And then, more seriously, I wrote some posts about my dalliance with depression, fulfilment, prejudice and respect that seemed to mean something to people, which made me feel happy it helped in some way.
I worked with Metallica, Miley Cyrus, Muse and Journey, to different degrees of success and enjoyment, hahaha.
We produced Dream Small … which I’m not only very proud of, but has led to conversations and change I never imagined we could have.
The way Otis – and his school – dealt with his dysgraphia diagnosis.
I celebrated my Mum’s 90th.
I got to see the wonderful Maya and Bree again, after years.
I was somehow featured in a book.
My Bohemian Catsody office mural … featuring Rosie amongst others.
I laughed myself stupid about Gi’s shit explosion while also being proud as punch of my wonderful team with our WARC/Cannes Global Grand Prix for effectiveness … followed up with us winning the same achievement at the NZ Effies … followed up by us winning the Global Grand Effie a few weeks later.
Renovating the old Colenso table to give it – and the irrepressible, unmistakeable Kate Maitland – the respect and recognition they deserve.
Lizzie and Amy’s news.
And Paula’s wonderful ray of sunshine.
Then finding the brilliant Briar and Shelly … with Martin and Meg arriving in Jan. [Which in Meg’s case, is almost 2 years in the waiting]
And last – but certainly not least – seeing Boris get pushed out quickly [literally and figuratively] by Liz Truss, even though the evil Tories somehow remain in power.

Of course there was some sad and disappointing stuff.

The loss of the irreplaceable and wonderful Dan Wieden.
Queenie … which hit me far more than I ever imagined it would.
Ben. Who left us too soon.
Mike’s motorcycle accident.
Henry, Liam and Robin left the team.
My first dalliance with COVID. And Jill too.
The bullshit that Simon P was forced to deal with and face.
Not to mention the horrible situation one of our clients was exposed to by the worst of society.
And then too many terrible global events, with the situations in Ukraine and Iran being possibly the worst of them all. What makes these last two even more disturbing is how the media only pay lip service to them. As if they don’t deem the horrors ‘relevant’ enough for their viewers and readers so they hide it on pages 5 and 6 … behind articles on energy bills, political scandal and sports scores.

I know it’s Christmas, but instead of having that one extra drink or buying that one shitty pressie, donating that money to organisations who offer support and help would be amazing. Two of them are this for Ukraine and this for Iran.

2022 has reminded me how privileged and comfortable my life is.

While compared to many, I have only experienced that sort of life, there have been times that have challenged me.

1999 was horrid.
As was 2015.
And last December was arguably, the worst month I’ve ever faced.

But this year, from a purely personal perspective, has generally been pretty special for me and one of the biggest reasons for that is my family.

I know we’re all supposed to say that, but it’s true.

Not just for who they are, but because for some reason, I feel we got even closer.

Emotionally.
Supportively.
Connectively.

To be honest, I thought we were already as close as you can be, but I discovered there’s actually no limit to the level of connection you can feel with loved ones and that has left me feeling a bit overwhelmed.

Maybe it’s because NZ is so far from everyone, we feel closer to each other. Maybe it’s because we don’t see the people we love so often, we have become more reliant on each other. Maybe it’s because we just have gone through some stuff that it reinforced how special we are to each other. Maybe it’s for reasons I’ve not wanted to admit before because it challenges the priorities I’ve lived by before.

Who knows, but what I can say is I love my ramshackle collection of Campbell’s.

Including Rosie, of course.

They’re not perfect.
They can drive me nuts.
But they’re mine and I adore every bit of them.

Which is why I want to sign off by saying to them – and to the rest of you – that whatever you do over this period, I hope it gives you all you want and all you need. I am grateful for everything every one of you put in my life and I hope 2023 – as scary as many are suggesting it will be – will surprise us all with its happiness and fulfilment.

Just as long as mine is happier and more fulfilling than yours.

Hey, I may be getting more tolerant in my old age, but I’m still as only-child demanding as ever.

Have a great one. Back Feb 1. I hope to see you in 2023.

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Happy Birthday Sunshine …
December 9, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: America, Birthday, China, Dad, Daddyhood, England, Family, Jill, Love, New Zealand, Otis

So on Sunday, it’s Otis’ 8th birthday.

Eight.

He is basically growing up way too fast.

So fast, I wish the police would come and tell him to slow down.

It seems like only yesterday I took this ridiculous photo of him, mere minutes old …

… but here he is, 8 years later, full of life, love and joy.

He is such a wonderful boy.

Of course I’d say that, but he is.

Kind, considerate and always trying his hardest.

If anything, I wish he pushed the rules a bit more – but even his teachers say what a good kid he is. And given the challenge of recently being diagnosed with disgraphia, that’s even more wonderful to hear.

That he had started to suffer anxiety because he thought he wasn’t good enough because he couldn’t keep up with the other kids in class with writing – breaks my heart. But fortunately his teachers noticed quickly, designed a different way for him to express and contribute in class and now he’s growing back in confidence which makes me so proud.

Both of him and his teachers.

But then, where he’s concerned, he has consistently revealed his compassion and resiliance.

From moving country so many times to choosing to cutting his long hair to help ‘kids with cancer’ to being a tough little cookie when he got rushed into hospital for an emergency operation within a week of turning 7 … he’s a phenomenal human.

And now he turns 8.

EIGHT.

While there’s many thing I could wish for him this year, I think the main thing would be to continue with what he’s got.

Stability.

A safe, calm home environment.

His network of buddies and mates.

Outlets for his energy, interests and cheekiness.

A range of people who support his individual needs personally, accadmically and emotionally.

Of course he may want different things … of which I assume Superman and Transformers would feature heavily … but having a place he can continue to be connected to and enjoy is one he may – in time – also appreciate.

We’ve always known this.

And wanted this for him.

So to be able to give him it – and see how much he has blossomed because of it – is a dream.

And while we know we won’t be here forever, like all parents, what we do want is for him to be happy and fulfilled.

To not fear the unknown.
To embrace his interests and curiosity.
To feel safe in being able to express who he is and how he feels.

Maybe that’s a pipe-dream … after all, the world can be a challenging and tough place.

But NZ does offer – at least until kids are 11 or 12 – an environment where this way of life is more possible than anywhere else we’ve lived.

And he deserves that.

He deserves to be in place where he feels he can belong.

Not that he didn’t have that in other places, but he was either too young to realise its importance or we were not there long enough for him to feel it.

And that’s something I still regret.

I have a photo of him saying goodbye to his friend on our last day in America that still breaks my heart.

There he is, in his socks and on our drive – after running out the front door of our house – giving Jack a big hug after he realised he may not see him again.

The guilt I still feel about that is one I don’t know I’ll ever get over.

Which is probably what I deserve, given I was the reason for it.

I just hope Otis knows I never want to hurt him … never want to rob him of the people who mean so much to him. Which is why I’m so glad Elodie is still in his life, despite it now being filled with what seems a 1000 new friends from his school and community.

Watching that develop and evolve is one of the most beautiful and special things I’ve ever witnessed.

Sure, there’s the odd drama, but generally it’s a really happy and healthy group. Kids who look out for each other. Supportive, encouraging and just kind. They’re a better example to society than my generation … which is why I hope we don’t fuck the world entirely before they can come in and fix it.

Not that they should have to take on that burden, but that’s the generosity of that generation.

A desire to help everyone prosper, not just the usual suspects.

Of of which my son is one of them … reaffirmed by the goals, ambitions and hopes he tells us he has for his life.

Which is why I want to leave this post with this message to him.

Otis.

My wonderful, beautiful, brilliant Otis.

I love you.

Not a day goes by where I am not proud to be your Dad. Where you make me laugh at your observations of what’s happening in life. Where you blow me away with your passion and enthusiasm for life … from watching endless Kids Youtube, to your love of all things Marvel through to the way you literally transform into this powerful, confident, graceful human fish the moment you enter water.

And every little thing in-between.

You’re brilliant Otis. Proper brilliant.

Not just for what you do, but who you are.

I am so proud of you …

Proud for how you embrace life.

Proud for how you embrace challenges.

Proud for just being a kind, compassionate, considerate kid.

And as much as I wish you weren’t growing up so fast, it’s offset by the joy of seeing who you are becoming. Go forth in life with courage and optimism. It’s very easy to just be seized by the cynicism and darkness of the world … but people like you give it light.

You give it to me.

You light up my whole world.

Happy birthday Otis … you make your Mum and Dad the happiest parents in the World.

Rx

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Why Wrong Reveals The Systems Limitations Rather Than The Participants …

I recently saw this piece of brilliance …

Isn’t it awesome?

Of course some people will think it’s cute … but wrong.

Whereas others may think it’s cute … and smart.

Putting aside the fact the responsibility for clarity of communication is with the communicator, not the recipient – which means the exam board have to accept their role in the answer given – it also highlights how one persons ‘normal’ is another persons ‘lateral thinking’.

I know that sounds a big leap for what is a young kids incorrect/correct answer to an exam question … but at a time where the British PM wants to kill the arts and freedom of expression for kids in schools – in favour of even more logical and rational studies – it’s a sign how early we try to destroy/control/devalue the imaginations of the young.

What I find ironic about the British PM’s stance is that he seems to be of the belief that having people study maths for longer will make everything better.

Putting aside the fact that much of the UK’s global influence – ignoring the violent invasions of other countries – has come from the arts, that’s a big call to make.

Even more so when you consider the financial mess the UK is in right now, has come from the hands of the very people he wants to encourage more of.

As a parent this situation is very difficult.

Of course we want our children to be set up to embrace life. But if they’re all being taught the same thing … in the same way … without consideration of what their own personal talents, interests and abilities are … then are you actually preparing them to thrive or simply survive?

Recently Otis got diagnosed with a learning difficulty.

I say difficulty, but really it’s a complication.

It’s called Dysgraphia.

While this doesn’t affect his ability to learn, it does affect how he does it and what he may be able to do because of it.

We are incredibly grateful the school he goes to – Birkenhead Primary – not only embraced this situation by changing the way he could engage and present his schoolwork. They did it by specifically tailoring their classes and approach to ensure Otis could participate in ways that actively played to his strengths while maintaining the pace of everyone’s learning. And if that wasn’t impressive enough … they were the ones who first noticed there may be an area of challenge for him and were proactive in acting on it.

The impact of this approach on Otis has been enormous.

Not just in areas of his schoolwork that were being impacted because of dysgraphia, but in his overall confidence, enjoyment and willingness to participate.

He has always been a kid who tries hard and wants to do the right thing [so definitely more like Jill than me] … but thanks to his teachers, he now feels he can express himself fully rather than having to become a smaller version of himself in an attempt to find a way to get through certain areas of class that challenged him because of his dysgraphia rather than his ability.

Frankly I doubt this would have happened if we were still in the UK.

Not because the teachers aren’t as good, but because the system doesn’t allow the sort of deviation of approach that Otis’ school created for him.

What’s scary is Sunak’s attitude towards education will only make this situation for kids like Otis, even harder.

Either actively leaving them behind or setting them up for a life of anxiety, guilt and feelings of inadequacy. And yet it doesn’t have to be that way.

So many of these complications aren’t barriers to learning capacity, just accessibility.

A bit of flexibility can unlock the full potential of a child, especially with the power of technology these days.

But the schooling system is increasingly about ‘targets’ rather than learning.

Preparing you for exams rather than life.

Systems rather than needs.

And while I totally accept creating an education system that caters to the masses as well as the edges is incredibly difficult, having a one-dimensional system that ‘succeeds’ by forcing compliance and oppression is not the solution either.

What the British PM needs to understand is making kids study maths for longer isn’t going to solve the UK’s economic woes. But maybe designing an education system that enables teachers to help kids learn how to play to their strengths, is.

Or to paraphase Sir Ken Robinson … see creativity and imagination as a strength, not a weakness.

We’re so lucky Otis’ school values potential rather than parity … but I can’t help but wonder how many other clever kids are out there who have been written off simply because the system would not allow for them to be recognised, embraced and helped.

When will certain governments understand an educated generation is a successful nation?

Probably when they understand school should be about learning not teaching and it’s an investment rather than a cost.

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Happy Big Birthday Mum …
November 3, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: Childhood, Comment, Dad, Family, Jill, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad, New Zealand, Otis, Parents

So today would have been my beloved Mum’s 90th birthday.

NINETY!!!

My god, it seems impossible.

What’s bizarre is that while Mum died at age 83, I never considered her old.

She looked very well.

She was active and sharp.

She retained a huge interest in what society was interested in.

But of course, underneath her heart was failing – more specifically one of her valves was.

And yet despite that, I still find the idea of her turning 90 shocking, even though it’s just 7 years on from when I last saw her.

Of course a lot can happen in 7 years.

7 years ago we were living in China.

I was working at Wieden+Kennedy.

And we’d just become parents.

To think in-between then and now we’ve moved country 3 times, I’ve changed jobs 3 times, we’ve called 4 houses home and I’ve entered a world of creativity where I’m interacting with individuals/bands I never would have imagined in a billion years I’d be working with … I guess seven years has a lot of capacity for change.

But despite all that, I remember my time with my Mum clearly.

The good. The not so good. The happy. The devastating.

But underpinning all of that is just what a brilliant human and Mum she was.

From playing tennis with me on our small patio in the back garden through to encouraging me to still go on my life adventure when she so easily could have asked me to stay … my Mum’s selflessness was one of her defining characteristics.

As I wrote when she died, this generosity towards others continued after she passed.

I still remember finding a notebook where she had meticulously detailed all the account numbers, phone numbers and people I should contact now she was gone.

Which means in the lead-up to the operation we hoped would give her a better life, she was preparing for it maybe not to.

That breaks my heart.

The idea of her being alone in the house, writing these things out for me is almost too much to cope with.

That she could deal with her mortality with so much dignity, grace and love for me … that she would put her emotions to one side to make sure life would be easier for me, in my darkest moments … is a definition of love that is overwhelming in its generosity.

She even had found the time to cut out articles on people I knew from my childhood that she wanted me to know better.

Who would do that?

I’ll tell you who … my Mum.

My beautiful, kind, compassionate and loving Mum.

And today she would have been 90.

God I wish she was here to celebrate it.

We’d either all be in the UK or we would have brought her here.

She would love this house. The quiet … the nature … the peacefulness.

And as much as she loved our home, maybe she would have been in the right frame to make a leap. To come live with us.

I don’t know. Mum was fiercely independent so maybe she’d be against it, but I have a feeling there would have been a chance.

Towards the end, we had found a new rhythm to live by. We’d always had a wonderful relationship but over the years a few niggles had entered into our interactions. Nothing much. Likely less than most. But when you have never had it, you notice it more.

However the last few years were different. It’s as if we had finally recognised that the things that irritated one another weren’t being done to annoy one another … they were simply our ways of trying help each other, even if we didn’t understand it. And from that moment, a new peace and acceptance came. It felt good. Conversations that had previously triggered us, were now open and easy. It was lovely and it’s for that reason I think Mum may have said yes to coming to live with us.

Sure, the house we live in doesn’t have the garden of the house she helped us buy, but I think she’d like it just the same.

I hope so.

I know it is a long way from England, but she was up for going to the North Pole to see the Northern Lights when she was 80.

So I’ll be thinking of that today when I celebrate her milestone.

Her, living in the house with her son, her daughter-in-law, her grandson and cat-in law.

Ahem.

Because while I know she’s not on this earth, she remains with me and that is some comfort.

It’s why I have 90 yellow roses being delivered to work today.

So 90 people in the office can take one in her honour.

To give to a loved one to show how much they mean to them.

Something that lets my Mum’s spirit be alive in the World.

Because while I know she wouldn’t like the attention, she would forgive me for the sentiment.

So Happy 90th birthday to you, my dearest Mum.

I love and miss you so much.

Give Dad a big kiss from me.

And know I am so glad you were my Mum.

Rx

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