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


P-P-P-Pick Up A Penguin …
December 7, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Death, Empathy, Love, Loyalty, Otis, Sentimentality

This week has seen quite a lot of sentimental posts so far.

Or should I say, has seem more sentimental posts that usual.

The reason is likely because it’s Otis’ 8th birthday on Sunday and I’m building up to it.

I’ll be writing a big post about that – and him – on Friday, but this post continues the sentimental theme.

Except this has nothing to do with me and is just something I couldn’t help be touched by.

A story of love and loss.

Friendship and light at moments of loneliness and darkness.

No, it’s not the storyline for a documentary.

It’s not even about humans.

But it is real. And I do love it. Especially as the world feels more divided and broken than I’ve ever experienced it and so any sign of genuine emotion and love goes a long way.

Have a read of this … though the real impact comes in the form of the photographs.

Those beautiful, gentle, loving photos.

Especially the one with the ‘wing’ around the other.

Who knew that we could all do with being a bit more penguin!

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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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My Them …
October 17, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: Babies, Cats, China, Dad, Daddyhood, Family, Fatherhood, Home, Jill, Love, My Fatherhood, Otis, Rosie, Singapore

Look at that photo.

Look at my kids.

Yes, I appreciate one is a cat, but she isn’t to me.

She’s my demanding, complaining, cranky daughter who – bizarrely – is also a grandmother.

But only in age.

While also being Otis’ ‘kitty sister’.

We had Rosie for 7 years before Otis came around. And when he did, everything changed.

I remember how Rosie couldn’t work out what was happening. Especially how Jill was behaving.

From ruling the roost, she was now playing second fiddle to this screaming object that seemed to be awake at all hours of the day.

Rosie’s way of dealing with it was to sulk.

She would openly shun Jill before blindly following her every move. Blatantly craving the love and focus she had enjoyed for 7 years while pretending she didn’t care.

I felt sorry for her.

I’d talk to her a lot and gave her extra hugs to ‘equalise’ the attention and adoration being given to Otis.

And while you may think this shift in hierarchy could make Rosie hate Otis, she never did.

I’m not saying she loved him, but she put up with him.

However Otis found Rosie fascinating.

He thought she was AMAZING.

But babies don’t know how to treat animals which is why we paid a bloody fortune to have an identical version of her made as a cuddly toy so he could learn how to be gentle with her.

While the identikit cat didn’t achieve the desired result – I would often find him swinging the toy version of Rosie over his head by the tail – he never did anything bad to the real thing.

He loves her. Adores her. Is thrilled every time she pays the slightest bit of notice to him … regardless how small or short.

And I love that.

I love how they have found their own relationship.

Not expecting anything from each other but accepting what each other wants to give.

It may have started as a forced relationship, but it’s definitely a family now.

My family.

I get some people will read this and think I’ve lost the plot.

And maybe I have.

But family is more than blood. It’s understanding.

The good. The bad. The quirks. The demanding.

And when you find the level where you’re able to float with all of that, then you’re doing pretty well. It’s not always easy, but its always worth it.

Which is why I love spending my my time with them – and their Mum – every weekend.

Oh and one last thing.

To Dave …

I’m thinking of you.

I wish I had something I could say that would shield you a little from the emotions you’re facing, but for what it’s worth – know I love you. And love them. Rx

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A Great Big Cup Of Shite …
September 19, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: Colenso, Colleagues, Culture, Jill, Management, Otis

A few weeks ago, Otis told me I was wasting my money.

I asked him if he meant the breakfast I’d just bought him but he said it was everything I spent my money on.

I don’t know what brought on that exclamation – and he was laughing as he said it – but I looked him dead in the eye and told him I was much better than I used to be.

And I am.

Oh my god, the shit I’ve spent my cash on.

From remote control balls and robot dogs – lots of robot dogs – through to … well, stuff that cost a lot more than either of those gadget stupidity.

Even Jill told Otis I was much better, which I consider one of my life’s true achievements.

And that would be the end of the story had my colleague not had the shittest weekend ever recently.

Without going into too much detail, they discovered their toilet plumbing had decided to impersonate a fountain underneath their entire house.

A fountain of shit.

It was so disgusting and deplorable that even the professional shit specialist plumber announced, “For fuck’s sake mate” when he saw the photos sent to him.

I don’t mind admitting that I found this hilarious.

Please don’t mistake my laughter for revenge – I really, really like this colleague – but it was so horrific, that you had to laugh.

And laugh I did … everytime I told someone about it.

My family.

My friends.

They even walked in on me telling a client who had just flown in from Australia.

But I appreciate that while I found it funny … for them, it was no laughing matter.

Which is why I decided to make it up to them by buying them a present.

This …

Yep, they’re very own ‘shit cup’.

Not – as Jill first thought – a cup made from the shit in my colleagues garden [what sort of psychopath does she think I am] but a cup featuring photos of the shit in his garden.

Which is far more hygienic and thoughtful.

But as horrified as my colleague is, I’ve given them an even better gift.

Because the next time they see Otis, they can show him their present and tell him:

“Hey Otis, you’re right. Your Daddy does spends his money on shit. Literally.”

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