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


Hidden In Plain Sight …

A week or so ago, Otis was telling me about a magic trick he saw at school.

He was amazed by it.

Apparently some magicians came in to assembly and showed the school a book that was in black and white and then – at the flick of a wand – turned into colour.

So I said to him, was it something like this …

He watched transfixed before shouting with sheer joy …

“Yes Daddy, that’s it. THAT’S IT!”

So I said to him …

“Well if you like that, you may like this from a long time ago” …

He laughed and laughed and laughed, then asked me what it was.

So I told him that years ago, in 2007 in fact, a group of people did this thing called iPod Singing, which was the latest wonderfully bonkers ideas from Marcus Brown.

He looked at me for a second and said,

“Were those videos Marcus Brown?”

“No” …” I replied, “… they were of me”.

Silence.

Bit more silence.

Look of confusion and amazement on his face.

“But it didn’t look like you or sound like you Daddy”.

I looked at Jill.

“Well your voice has changed over they years”, she said.

Jesus Christ …

And while I would like to think this means I could be James Bond, the reality is I now understand why tax departments in every country I’ve lived give me shit. Because every year, it appears they think the person who has to pay their bill isn’t the person who is stood in front of them saying, “I’ve paid, I’ve paid”.

So thank you Marcus for revealing how my son only recognises me from 2014 … which is handy given all the shit I want him not to see when he’s older.



Love Is Lazy …

I found this photo recently.

It’s a few years old, when we lived in London … but there’s something about it that just warms my heart.

Not just because it features my son – though that helps – but because it in a period of pandemic chaos, it shows how love can make everything OK.

Covid had just taken hold.

We were all confined to home.

No one was offering any clarity.

People were dying at unprecedented numbers.

And Otis desperately needed his hair washing.

However …

… he was also playing a video game he absolutely didn’t want to stop playing so – because his world had been turned completely upside down – his wonderful, kind, considerate Mum found a way for him to keep playing while she could do some hair washing.

Obviously it is an utterly ridiculous way to do things, but it’s my ridiculous.

A moment of twisted normality at a time where nothing felt normal whatsoever.

And while I appreciate this is an utterly indulgent photograph, I love the way he seems oblivious to his surroundings. His little legs stretched out to the tip of his toes. And a kitchen that has been rapidly turned into a school, a playroom and a hairdressers all at the same time.

While we were painfully aware of the privileged position we were in – from having an income to having a teeny garden to escape in – the fear of COVID was starting to take a hold which is why, as I look at that photo today, I realise how much my ridiculously beautifully family let me feel we were strong together at a point where everything was feeling like it was falling apart.



What Sort Of Sick Bastard Comes Up With Stuff Like This?
August 17, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Childhood, Comment, Cunning, Dad, Daddyhood, Fatherhood, Jill, Mum & Dad, Otis, Parents

When I was a kid, the Rubik’s Cube came out and a nation was transfixed.

My Dad bet me 5 pounds I couldn’t do 2 sides and 50 pounds I couldn’t do it all.

Now back then, this was big money … and given we didn’t have that sort of money to throw about, I can only assume he suggested it because he knew I wouldn’t be able to do it.

He was right.

So I took it apart and put it back together arguing he hadn’t specified how I solve it.

He admired my attempt to win on a technicality, but still didn’t pay up.

Over the years, the Rubik’s Cube has made a number of comebacks, and while I loved watching the documentary on ‘cubers’, I never engaged with any of them again.

Till now.

Otis has become OBSESSED with them.

But unlike the relatively simple 3×3 I had back then, there are literally hundreds of different combinations.

From cubes that transform into different shapes which means everything gets even more insane … to different shapes that have more sides/combinations to solve that ever before … to cubes where each square is split into two colours to make things even more maddening … to cubes that go up to 33 x 33, which surely is basically some form of modern torture!!!

And while Otis doesn’t have all of them and can’t solve any of them fully – yet – he is transfixed.

Constantly playing, trying, exploring, learning, solving [2 sides] and I have to say I find it amazing.

Amazing for what he is doing and amazing that technology has become so much part of his normal life, that cubes … CUBES … offer a tempting distraction.

Of course I still can’t do any of them.

And of course Jill can do most of them.

Which all goes to prove the person who said ‘practice makes perfect’ either didn’t know what they were talking about or – as I fear – I am just really, really pathetic.

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Update: Since I wrote this post, Otis has got more cubes and can now do a 3×3 on his own. Me? I remain proudly consistent in my cube performance abilities.



The Wall Is Your Friend …

Many years ago, we were working on a NIKE project about inspiration for China.

China and sport had a weird relationship because it was either seen as a distraction to academic success or a ruthless and relentless act to achieve a pre-determined goal.

I still remember spending hours looking for any photo where we saw a parent or a teacher or a coach encouraging a kid doing a sport … but it was hard. Not because adults didn’t care about the kids in their charge, but because there was this attitude that encouragement encouraged laziness.

Tough love indeed.

But when we talked to kids who loved sport for no other reason than loving sport, the thing we found fascinating was how one of their great inspirations was a wall … or a court … or a park somewhere near where they lived.

This would be where they could kick, throw, hit, head or play against hour after hour … day after day.

This was where they could play without judgement or expectation … but with plenty of competition.

Because walls don’t get tired.

They don’t show sympathy.

They’re always ready to play.

We all have a wall.

They may look like others.

But there is one that is yours and yours alone.

For me, it was the wall of a Church opposite Erika’s sweet shop at the Top Shop.

It was up the road from my childhood home.

I would go up there every night over summer.

Sometimes by myself. Sometimes with friends.

And that would be the arena and the competition for all manner of games.

From playing footie with empty cans … playing cricket by throwing tennis balls as hard against the wall as we can to just practicing our skills of tennis or keepie-uppie. And then on a Friday evening – after school – a bunch of the kids from where I lived would gather by the field next to the church and play a massive game that drew all the girls from school to watch us.

That wall was a major part of my childhood. Of my love of sport. It helped me connect to where I lived, to the people who lived there and just what I wanted to do.

Sport was deeply entrenched in the place I grew up.

Not in terms of a formal team – though we had that and we also had Nottingham Forest doing well at the time – I mean as an outlet for kids to do shit.

Now I’m not sure if that is still the case.

We live in gentrified times.

Where noise is challenged with authority.

Where parks are placed on the outskirts of towns, not the centre,

Where sport is becoming more about the quest for fame rather than enjoyment.

It’s one of the biggest thrills of living in New Zealand.

It’s still an outdoor culture.

Otis has done more running around and visited more parks here than he ever did in the UK. Which has helped him meet more friends than he could ever have hoped to in his time here.

Given the year he had in lockdown, the impact on him has been huge.

And that’s why we should encourage sport to be played as much on the streets as in the parks and schools. Because sport adds to communities in ways that makes communities.

Let the wall be culture’s best inspiration and competitor.



The Birthdays Covid Took Away …
June 10, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Birthday, Jill, New Zealand, Otis, Paul

So I’m not here today.

Or tomorrow.

Or Monday.

Or Tuesday.

Or even Wednesday.

I know … I’ve been at Colenso 5 minutes, and I’m already taking some time off. But you see, it’s my birthday Saturday. Then Jill’s on Tuesday and Paul’s on Wednesday and I want to put in the energy into them that Covid took away.

My birthday last year was a weird one.

The good bit was that I got to be with my beloved family – and Paul and Shelly made a surprise visit [that I know absolutely won’t be happening this year] – and my old, wonderful team at R/GA got me a goat for a present [really!] … but it still was very different to what had been planned.

We were planning on all going to Spain.

Having a party by the sea.

And while what I ended up having was lovely and special … it wasn’t in Spain or by the sea.

What also made my birthday reality even more different to the original plan was when I received an SMS from a couple of the senior management at work asking me to immediately deal with a pretty shitty situation.

Despite knowing I was on holiday and knowing it was my birthday, they still asked me to deal with something of their own making that – to make matters worse – could have been dealt with weeks earlier or days later.

But even that couldn’t ruin the day and given it’s been a year since that happened – and only good has occurred since then – I want to make sure this birthday is one where we celebrate it with all the attention, compassion and focus we wished for that original day.

Of course it won’t be exactly the same – especially as we’re now living in NZ whereas Paul is in the UK – but it is going to be one where we get to celebrate all being in a happier, healthier, more enjoyable and fulfilling place and as birthday presents go, that’s almost as good as getting a video from ‘the Hoff’.

So to me. My wonderful, brilliant, beautiful wife. And my best, best friend in the whole wide world. Happy, happy birthday.

Here’s to us and to you.

You make every moment and every birthday worthwhile.

I hope we will all be together again soon.

Love you all.