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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Don’t Let Your Job Title Fool You Into Thinking You Have Respect …

One of the best pieces of advice I was taught was ‘always earn your right to be trusted’.

By that, they meant …

+ Lead by example.
+ Open doors for others to walk through.
+ Be fierce with maintaining standards.
+ Always protect, defend and grow your team.
+ Be transparent in your actions and interactions.
+ Encourage debate and independent thinking.
+ Create the conditions for everyones success.
+ Recognise the individual, not just the group.

That seems a lot of things doesn’t it, but that’s what real leadership is.

Or what I was taught it is.

Now whether I’m good at any of that is open to debate, but it definitely shaped my approach to things – even when I get it terribly wrong.

But my worry is a lot of people entering management today don’t get any advice whatsoever.

They’re plucked from being good in their job and told they now lead a team. Which basically sends out the message ‘do whatever it takes for the company to succeed, regardless of the cost’.

We’ve read the damage of this attitude in Corporate Gaslighting and yet it doesn’t have to be that way.

Of course a manager/leaders job is to do things for the benefit of the company they work for. But if they create an environment where the individual and the team can also succeed – not just financially, but in terms of growth, opportunity and possibility – it’s amazing how much everyone benefits.

But to do that well requires more that authority, but trust.

Trust you will lead them to somewhere better.
Trust you will look out for them not just yourself.
Trust in their opinion, not just your own.

The older I get, the less I see of this.

Instead of trust, companies put in hierarchy.

Where the expectation is to blindly follow what the more senior person demands.

I saw that when I lived in America … the most hierarchal place I’ve ever worked.

And while it may appear to work, it doesn’t really.

It either creates an echo-chamber of blinkered opinion – which is reframed as ‘company culture’ – or it relies on people who are in the terrible position of not having the choice to get out of where they are, with ease.

Which is why the other piece of advice I got – from my Dad – compliments what I said at the top of this post. Because if the goal of a manager or leader is to always earn trust from their team … then the role of the team is to “only respect authority that has been earned over time … not given, bought or provided by privilege or misinformation”.

It’s a lovely thought …

Proof not expectation.
Earned not just given.
Consistent not occasional.

It also explains why I must have been an absolute nightmare to the bosses I had who expected my loyalty rather than earned it. There weren’t many – thank god – but there were a few. And while I’m sure they were good people [probably], they definitely made the fatal error of thinking their job title demanded trustworthiness, when literally the opposite is true.

And with that, I’ll sign off with a link to an article I wrote for Little Black Book that sums this all up. It was – and remains so – one of the most valuable lessons and mistakes, I’ve ever had.

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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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Welcome To Lord Of The Flies …
October 14, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Culture, England, Mum, Mum & Dad, Social Divide

I’ve talked a lot over the years about a lesson my Mum drilled into me – ‘care about what others care about’.

Looking back, that lesson has played a huge part in my life.

It’s influenced how I do my job.
It’s shaped how I work with others.
It’s encouraged me where I have chosen to live.

I say this because recently I saw a photo that stopped me in my tracks.

It was this …

For me, that sums up everything wrong with society right now.

Selfishness over selflessness.

Of course it’s always been that way, but right now the division within society is insane.

In the past people at least pretended to care about others, but not any more.

We hear so many talk about the loss of community but witness more and more only caring about things that directly affect them.

Or said another way, acting in a way that is the absolute opposite of community.

Of course, a big part of this is because of how many governments behave and act.

Creating policies that actively divide a population.

Forcing an attitude of selfish survival.

Right now, the UK government has to be one of the worst at doing this.

Pandemics.

Poverty.

Wars.

Unemployment.

Energy prices out of control.

Inflation at levels not seen in 40 years.

Schools underfunded and uncared for.

Youth with less opportunities and hope in generations.

And yet, if you watch their reactions and responses, it seem their attitude is to either turn a blind eye or blame everyone else for what is going on.

That’s right, the people who are supposed to represent us, prefer to divide us.

Of course times are tough.

I appreciate there is no silver bullet to sort it.

But cultivating an attitude that if it doesn’t happen to you it either doesn’t happen to anyone or the people it is happening to, somehow deserve it … is utterly destructive.

Humanity is stronger and able to deal with more when it is united and compassionate.

A nation is stronger when everyone feels they are seen, heard, valued and educated.

That we continue to think the structures that got us in this mess will get us out of it, is mad.

Which is why the older I get, the more grateful I am to my Mum … because when you care about what others care about, you don’t just gain understanding, you build community.

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