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


A Parents Love Is Never Black And White …
June 13, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Advertising, Authenticity, Comment, Family, Love, Parents

I had a lovely birthday.

Despite not receiving your presents. Tight asses.

Anyway, I digress …

I want to write a post about being a parent.

Put simply, it’s amazing.

Better than I ever could have imagined.

But what is interesting is how parenting is often portrayed in advertising.

It’s either unicorns or hurricanes.

Soft focus or extreme disaster.

But the reality is in most cases, that’s just not true. It’s somewhere in the middle … where the love is always there, even though it sometimes manifests itself in ways that seem to suggest otherwise.

Years ago I asked Ros – who was a member of my team at Wieden – to go interview teenagers about something they remember their parents said or did to them that was hurtful, even though they know it wasn’t meant that way.

Everyone had one.

It may have been something really innocuous … something their parents can’t even remember saying or doing … but it was cemented in their feelings or memories.

Maybe an offhand comment.
Or a misplaced judgement.
Or a small disagreement.

Nothing major. For some, forgotten in a second. For others … remembered for a lifetime, even if the pain of it has long passed.

We made a cool little film about it called, ‘Parents Fuck You Up’ … I’ll try find it, because even though it’s in Mandarin, it’s something I’m sure we all relate to. I know I do.

I wrote years ago about the revelation I’d had of why I might like Birkenstocks so much.

When I was a kid, my Mum was trying to teach me how to tie my shoelaces. I just couldn’t get it. And she got so frustrated that she lost her shit with me.

It was the only time she was ever like that with me – and she felt bad about it her whole life, when she absolutely shouldn’t have – but that moment is seared in my brain, which may explain why I ended up loving shoes that have no laces.

Maybe.

I say this because I recently watched a repeat of an episode of Gogglebox. It was an episode that when I watched it the first time – back when I was in England – it made me laugh so much I had an asthma attack.

It’s not even that funny. But having a parent says this to their daughter is … because it’s far more reflective of our family relationships than advertising will ever capture honestly.

Enjoy. Have a great weekend.

And remember your kids remember stuff better than elephants



To My Darling Jill …
May 13, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: Comment, Jill, Otis, Parents

There’s no post on Monday.

Which is good, because after you read this, you’ll either be sick or shocked and it will give you a little more time to get over it.

Ready? Well here we go …

Being married to me is hard.

Not just for the obvious countless reasons, but because we keep moving countries.

In fact, in the last 6 years, we have lived in four countries.

FOUR.

Add some more years to that total and the number of countries we’ve lived in goes up again.

And again.

And again.

But that aside, the reality is we’ve kept moving countries predominantly for me.

And every time, Jill has been nothing but supportive and encouraging – even though it has meant she’s had to leave her friends, passions – and in the case of Shanghai – her successful cake business, Stir.

OK, so after dragging Jill around the world for nearly 2 decades, coming to NZ was as much about getting her closer to her Mum as it was about me joining Colenso … but even with the added benefit of family proximity, Jill had to start her life all over again.

I’ve never been in this position.

When you move for a job, you are given an instant network.

You’re in an office. With people. Who you get to connect with, talk to, meet.

You also have a ready made job … with things to do and things to change.

In almost no time at all, you feel part of the place with people who can help you overcome any question or obstacle you face.

But not Jill.

When she moves, she starts from zero.

She has no support network except her husband and son.

And given I’m at work and Otis is at school, that means she doesn’t even get us easily.

I am under no illusion how hard this is on her.

I am also under no illusion how much she has sacrificed to allow me to live this life.

It is more than I could ever expect or hope for and yet, despite all the challenges it places her under, she has never complained or stopped us exploring adventure.

She could have.

There are times she probably wanted to.

But she has done it over and over again because of us. Or should I say, me.

My wife is the most compassionate, considerate and caring person I know.

Always looking out for us.
Always ensuring we are settled as quickly as possible.
Always protecting the family.

I say all this because Jill has started taking some tentative steps into exploring a career again.

When Otis was born, she made the decision she wanted to be a full-time Mum. We were in the very fortunate position that we could make that happen and she loved every second. But now Otis is 7 … he has independence and is at school … so Jill wants to use the time she has got back in new ways.

But starting something new when you’ve been away for a while is daunting.

And for all the talent and experiences and achievements my wife has earned in the past, she is doubting herself.

I can literally see the arguments she is having in her head.

The fight between curiosity and self judgement.

The worry she may not be good enough.

Of course all women go through this.

The most evil thing men have done is make women believe they have to be perfect before they can try something new.

Which means many don’t, leaving men – who don’t give a shit about perfection because of our deluded self-confidence – to take opportunities that could be better served and expressed by female talent.

I am proud of my wife for many reasons, but for someone so gentle, she is immensely strong … and despite her not really sure where she will end up, she is starting a little design studio focused on digital art.

Not NFT’s … but just different designs that can be used in different ways and places.

She knows it’s hard to get noticed in this field.

She knows it’s a lot of work for not a lot of reward.

She knows she has to build up her portfolio of work.

And while it would be easy to point to the privilege she has in being able to do this when so many don’t even have that option … I am watching a woman seeking a different sort of self-worth. One that goes beyond being an amazing wife and Mum, but an independent person

I have never had to worry about this.
Otis is unlikely to have to worry about this.
And I wish Jill didn’t have to worry about this … but she does and so she should.

Add to that the time she has been out of the workforce – something she did for us to be able to walk forward – and what she’s doing is insanely important.

For her.
For us.
For any woman who faces this situation.

I love this woman.
I’m so proud of her.
I am watching her put so much of herself into this.

Not just in terms of designing … but thinking, considering and questioning.

This is a huge thing for her – far more than just a design project – and I want her to feel excited and proud about what she’s doing.which is why I have a favour to ask.

Not as someone’s wife. Not as someone’s Mum. But for who she is and what she does.

A brilliant, clever, talented, smart, kind human.

Someone willing to put their vulnerabilities on show and on the line in the hope it may lead to something they can’t quite define.

What an amazing person.

I’m such a lucky bugger to be her husband.

Thank you Jill.

I love you.



Why Nothing Says Love Like Forgetfulness …
March 9, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: Dad, Daddyhood, Death, Family, Jill, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad, Otis, Parents

I almost forgot today was your anniversary Mum.

That’s twice that has happened.

Though this time I remembered weeks before the date, which makes me feel a little less guilty than last time. Which was literally a few days. And that was because someone wrote to say they were thinking of me, because they knew your anniversary was close.

But I still feel bad.

I just can’t work out why Jan 16th is so burned in my mind for Dad, but March 9th needs me to actively think about it.

I remember your birthday. I remember your anniversary – in fact I wrote a post about it on the same day I wrote this – but the date of your passing is one that can pass by.

That doesn’t mean I don’t think of you.

I think of you so much. And Dad.

Those memories make me laugh, smile or sometimes, can tip me over the edge into a land of tears without too much effort at all.

Especially when I think about how much I wish I could share things with you. Or discuss things with you. Or just have you as part of my life … and my families.

Now I know you would say, “don’t worry about it”. You’d then back it up with something like, “you have your family to think about and you’re so busy”.

But you’d be wrong.

Because it’s never about ‘making time’ to think about you. You and Dad are always there which is why you’re definitely part of my family, even though you’re not here.

In fact we talk about you all the time.

Otis talks about his Nona, and asks if you ever met him.

He loves hearing you loved him and loved seeing him over FaceTime. He also talks about Dad a bit … and how “he died because his brain had a bleed”.

He doesn’t say it to be mean, he’s fascinated … so it actually helps me feel you are both still around. I mean, you are – in my heart and mind – but you know what I mean.

But forgetting the anniversary of your death does bother me.

I remember every single second of that entire day. And the days after it. You could ask me anything. If I was on Mastermind, it would be one of my specialist subjects. Every single detail is burned in my mind. From the moment I woke up early so I could see you before your operation right through to watching the ticking of the clock and not understanding why you were still in there right up to the moment Paul and Shelly took me back to their house so I wasn’t alone that night.

Hell, I even have it tattoo’d on me.

But maybe I’ve answered the question with this post.

Because when I look at what I’ve written, it reveals I think far more of the life we enjoyed, rather than ‘the’ moment it ended.

It took me 10 years to get to this place with Dad, but with you, it was much quicker.

I was older.
I was married.
I had experienced the tragic sense of loss and despair together.
I had a 3 month old baby – your grandson – to stop me falling too far into the abyss.

So your life is part of my everyday rather than defined by this single day.

And when I think of it by that, today suddenly is filled with optimism and love rather than darkness and despair.

And I know how happy that would make you, which would make me happy too.

So here’s to more anniversaries of pain that I remember late.

Because nothing shows how much I love and miss you than thinking about you every day of the year rather than just this one, tragic day.

Rx



If You Think The Young Are Entitled, You Should See The Old …
March 1, 2022, 8:00 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Context, Culture, Parents

I don’t drink.

I haven’t had a touch of alcohol since I was 15 – so a very long time ago.

Fortunately my mates accepted my decision quickly and easily – probably because it meant I would be happy to drive when we went on our visits to the pub etc – however there have been a few people in my time who tried to make me feel bad for my personal choice.

Luckily for me, I can be a stubborn bastard – especially when people try to push their agenda on me – but I don’t mind admitting it has left me feeling pretty horrible at times.

I still remember meeting a senior client at an agency party.

I was relatively early in my career and going to an event was a big thing for me.

Anyway, a client I’d met a few times saw me and asked why I wasn’t drinking.

When I told them the reason, they said:

“I don’t trust people who don’t drink”.

It wasn’t said in jest, they absolutely meant it.

I was shocked, but not as shocked as they were when I replied:

“I don’t trust people who don’t trust people who don’t drink”.

They actually complained about ‘my attitude’ but fortunately my boss told them to think about what they were complaining about and they came to their senses and the issue was quickly – and quietly – dropped, but the possible ramifications on my career were huge.

I say all this because I recently read this:

Seriously, what the fuck is this person doing?

Thinking about it is bad enough … saying it out loud is outrageous … but then having your selfish, hurtful and judgemental view printed in a national ‘newspaper’ is one of the most disgraceful things I’ve ever seen.

What makes it even worse is the persons daughter gave up alcohol because they had a drinking problem.

Here is someone who found the strength to beat a terribly dangerous addiction so they could have a chance at a better, healthier life … and their Mum is pissed it’s messed with the spirit of their family Christmas.

Fuck them.

Seriously, fuck them.

What a horrible, selfish, evil individual.

Can you imagine how the daughter must feel?

Parents are supposed to be there to protect, support and encourage their kids. To help them be strong … to let them dream big … to help them overcome barriers and challenges. But this woman thinks it’s fine to make her daughter feel guilty for overcoming her addiction because it slightly affects a superficial part of the Christmas period.

Boo fucking hoo.

Society loves to talk about the entitlement of youth, but in my mind – what they want is perfectly fair. All they want is a chance for the same sort of future their predecessors have been able to enjoy and that they were promised throughout their education.

That’s nothing like the entitlement of this woman and the millions of people like her – who, for conveniences sake, I’ll call ‘Mail Readers’ – because what they want is to STOP others from having what they enjoy. From possessions, experiences and interruptions.

It’s why I have far more faith in the future of the planet with the young than the old and why I think democracy would be better served if the voting age was limited from 16 to 65.

Not just because it would mean the needs of the young have an increased chance of being seen, heard and acted upon, but also because it creates a fairer pool of opinions so politicians can’t simply play to the needs of the greater – and richer – over-65’s audience.

Though I must admit another motivation for this is it could stop people like Jane Gordon forcing their offensive, twisted, pathetic views on people trying to do something positive with their lives, despite the obstacles and judgement from members of older generations.



Just Bung It In The Oven …

Hello there.

I hope you all had a wonderful festive season.

I hope 2022 rewards us with all the opportunities and possibilities that the past 2 years took away.

I hope we can see our friends.

See our families.

Be healthy.

Be happy.

Live with hope and optimism.

Now I said this blog wasn’t going to be back until Jan 31st … and it isn’t.

And frankly, after the December I had – which included the death of a dear friend, an unexpected hospital visit for me and an emergency operation for Otis [who is fully recovered, thank god] – I need all the time I can get to recuperate.

However on Sunday, it is 23 years since my Dad died.

In just 6 years time, he will be gone as long as he was in my life.

And in 9 years time, I will be the age he was when he died.

They will be two very significant moments in my life and – if I’m being honest – I’m nervous of one and scared of the other.

Nervous because it just seems impossible he will have been out of my life more than he was in it.

Of course he is still in my life, but you know what I mean.

Scared because the reality of death comes ever nearer.

Now I know no one knows when someone is going to die – but the idea that it could be when I’m 60 – like he was – is an irrational thought that just sits there. Coming out when I least expect it.

And when it’s quiet, another ridiculous idea enters my mind.

Because Mum died at 83 and Dad died at 60 … I can also convince myself I’ll die between those 2 ages.

So 72.

Now I get 72 is quite a way a way, but it feels a fuckload closer when you’re 51 and your son is only 7.

But all this could be the melancholy of this being Dad’s anniversary, because the reality is I’m happier in my life than I’ve been for a long time.

Not that I was unhappy, but there were moments … but right now, I am in a truly good place and my parents would be so happy to know that.

Which is why I want this post to be about something that would make Dad smile.

A few weeks ago, Jill and I were talking about books that made us laugh to the point of pain.

While we both had a few, her major one was Catch 22 and mine was the first Adrian Mole book – The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 ¾.

Adrian Mole’s ‘diary’ came out in 1982 but I got it in the summer of 1983 … which means I read it at the same age as Adrian was.

I loved it. It was hilarious, poignant, tragic and uplifting.

It covered so many issues so many kids were going through.

Family. Friendship, Girls. Sex. Arguments. Parent and Grandparent arguments.

It was, in some ways, the diary of every kids aged 13.

I loved it and still love it when I revisit it every 5 years or so.

But the reason I’m telling you this is because of when my Dad read it.

I think Mum had told him how much I enjoyed it so he decided to check it out.

Anyway, one morning I came downstairs and Mum asked me to ask Dad about what happened in the night.

She said it with a smile, so I knew it wasn’t bad.

I went in the lounge and he was there in his favourite rocking chair.

“Mum told me to ask you what happened last night”

As soon as I said it, he looked at me. His face lit up, a big smile came on his face that allowed his gorgeous dimples to come into the spotlight.

“Oh Robert …” he said, “I was reading your book last night and the bit about the Christmas turkey not being defrosted made me howl with laughter.”

“It was 2am and I had to come downstairs to try and calm down”.

“The bit where they’re trying to thaw the turkey under the hot tap in the bath …” to which he he burst out laughing again with tears in his eyes.

Of course, seeing my Dad like this made me laugh too and then I heard Mum laughing from the kitchen at the state of both of us.

While I never really understood why that bit tickled him so much, I have an idea.

Whether it was the time Mum invited a really miserable elderly couple to our Christmas dinner but only announced it a few days before Christmas and we already had a house full booked … to Dad’s terrible first ever experience with a microwave that literally carbonised sausages … to drunk family members causing scenes … to buying a turkey so big it didn’t even fit in our over … to a not-very-funny-but-very-funny episode with a glass of water when his Mum came to visit.

Who knows. Maybe it was some of that, maybe it was none of it.

But regardless of the reason, I will always remember how that paragraph revealed the child in my Dad and that is why I will always love that book.

It might also explain why I love the Plenty Christmas ad from a couple of years ago. Because watching it again, it’s basically that scene made as a commercial.

I miss my Dad.

I miss him so much.

I would give anything to be able to talk to him and discuss what I’ve done in the last 23 years.

Introduce him to his daughter in law and grandson.

Tell him that Paul and I are still inseparable and mischievous.

Show him all the places I’ve visited and lived and then tell him about all the things I’ve done and still want to do and try.

Watch him try to take it all in and then hear all his questions.

But as I can’t, I’ll honour him by sharing the paragraph that made him roar [which is at the very bottom of this post] and say this:

Dad. I love you.

I think about you all the time.

I am almost overwhelmed with the things I want to say and share.

I hope you’d like [most] of the decisions I’ve made. I know a few would raise eyebrows, but hopefully not too many.

All I’ve ever wanted to do is make you and Mum proud.

I hope I’m doing that overall.

A kiss to you and Mum.

And a lifetime of my love.

To the rest of you, give your loved ones a hug and see you on the 31st.

_________________________________________________________________

The Secret Life Of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend

Friday December 25th (1981)

I went up to the bathroom and found my mother crying and running the turkey under the hot tap.

She said, “The bloody thing won’t thaw out, Adrian. What am I going to do?”

I said, “Just bung it in the oven.” So she did.

‘We went down to eat Christmas dinner four hours late. By then my father was too drunk to eat anything.’