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


I’m A Low-Rent Oprah …

There’s a lot of talk about the ‘great resignation’, but as I’ve written in the past, when you spend time talking to the people doing it – or hoping to do it – you learn the correct term for it should be ‘the great reset’ or, in some cases, ‘the last hope’.

The reality is the situation isn’t new.

People have felt trapped in their jobs for decades. Centuries even.

But the basic premise was ‘if you want to earn increasing amounts of money, you have to stay on the path you have chosen’.

It kind of makes sense, until you factor in the economic value of happiness and fulfilment.

Add in companies increasing lack of loyalty towards their employees and you realise the younger generation are both smarter and braver than most of my peers.

I say most because there’s people like my best friend Paul.

I’ve written about Paul’s journey from printer to Frothy Coffee Man but the more I think about it, the more amazing it is.

Because while leaving a paying job to do the same job for yourself is an act of self-belief – acknowledging it still requires a huge amount of effort if you want to continue growing, rather than just stay where you are – leaving a job you’ve done for decades to do something totally different is an act of hope.

Well, that’s what it may seem …

The reality is carrying on doing something you aren’t enjoying is the most sensible thing you can do.

What stops us is the risk of it failing.

The worry that instead of taking a step forward, we end up going backwards.

And then that idea fucks with your head and you end up carrying on as you were.

Miserable is your arrested development of life.

But Paul didn’t do that.

He decided to do something about it …

Now becoming Frothy Coffee Man wasn’t all a punt in the dark.

While he hadn’t done it before, he loved the idea of being self-employed. He loved the idea of dealing with people. He wasn’t frightened of hard work. He was realistic about what he needed and wanted out of it. He loved being outdoors. And his fucking wonderful personality was made to build relationships with strangers.

He also had an incredibly supportive wife who encouraged him.

As well as a best mate who did the same. ie: Me.

So he went for it. And it has been the best decision of his life … first emotionally and then pretty soon afterwards, financially.

I’ve written a lot about how my parents drilled into me the importance of fulfilment over contentment.

To be honest it took me a long time to realise what they truly meant.

But in essence it was this.

Always choose the bigger life.

I’m so glad Paul did it. I’m so glad I was taught it. I hope more people find theirs.

Because as hard as it may seem, it’s only one considered decision away.

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Chased By The Black Dog …
July 22, 2022, 8:00 am
Filed under: Dad, Emotion, Empathy, Family, Health, Jill, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad, Otis, Paul

So this week has been a rollercoaster of posts hasn’t it.

Some daft … some attempting to be useful and far too many about postboxes.

So as the final post of the week, I’m going to leave you with something serious.

Suicide.

Specifically mine.

Just to be clear, I’m good. But something happened recently that reminded me of a time when I wasn’t.

A couple of weeks ago I was driving home pretty late when the song Nights In White Satin came on the radio.

Within seconds, I was transported back 37 years.

At my desk.

In my bedroom.

In my family home.

The reading lamp to my right hand side, shining brightly against the yellow curtains that were closed against the dark night sky.

That song playing in the background.

Deciding if I was going to kill myself.

I don’t mean that in the dramatic fashion of a 15 year old kid who is having a bad day. I mean it exactly as it is written.

I had never told a soul about this – no one – until I talked to my wife two days ago.

In some ways, I’d kind-of forgotten about it – or I’d convinced myself I had – except the moment I heard that song, it all came back. Tumbling out of me like an uncontrollable mass of messy feelings, memories and emotions.

Where every detail was so clear, I could almost smell it, let alone touch it.

The thing is, it was not even a particularly hard time in my life. I was to experience much more challenging stuff in the next 5 years, and yet I never considered ending my life then.

I distinctly remember thinking how Mum and Dad would feel if they found my dead body. Wondering if they’d understand it was nothing to do with them. Hoping they wouldn’t blame themselves. Then wondering how I’d get on with doing it.

My Mum and Dad were downstairs in the lounge. Literally beneath my feet so I knew I had to choose a method that wouldn’t attract their attention.

Obviously I didn’t go through with it.

In fact I didn’t go further than running the edge of the blade up and down the inside of my arm. But hearing that song reminded me how focused I was about it. How much I was considering it. How much I wondered if it would set me free me from the pain I was in.

And yet no one knew or would know how I was feeling.

To most people, I was happy and full of life. And I was … but there were times where I felt darkness would just turn up to fuck with me.

An all-consuming blackness that would envelop me in the blink of an eye. Set off by the smallest of triggers. Sometimes so small, I didn’t even realise it.

Then gone just as fast.

Something I’d put down to ‘getting out of bed the wrong side’ … when it was most likely depression.

Never diagnosed, but probably that.

It’s why the recent CALM campaign – where they showed the last photo of people who then chose to die by suicide – is so powerful.

None of the people look like they’re in pain.

None look like they’re struggling.

And maybe at that second they weren’t. Or maybe they were but had found a way to compartmentalise it. Or maybe they just didn’t want the people they were with to suspect – for reasons of compassion or to ensure nothing could stop their plan. I don’t know. Everyone is different. But whatever the reason, I think I get it … which is why this campaign is so powerful and so important.

The thing I don’t really understand is why some situations lead you to the absolute edge and some don’t. Why some cross that line and some don’t. Or can’t. I’m sure there’s professionals who can explain the reason, but all I know is I’ve faced a number of moments in my life that were of incredible pain and sadness and yet none of them came close to how I felt that day when I was a kid at home. Except once. Where I found myself in the same place. Wanting to rub myself out. Literally rub myself out. Like a stain. Over and over again. Believing – and hoping – that was the only way the pain could stop. Except in that case, I knew what had caused it and was able to talk to people before the idea took on a greater life of its own.

Fortunately those are the only occasions in my 52 years of life where I have gone to the edge. Where my thoughts were about how I’d do it rather than if I would. And while I still don’t really know what interrupted the path I was going down, I’ve learnt to not just recognise the signs when things may be going dark, but how openness and communication always lets in the light.

At least for me.

I have no problem saying I sought out professional help.

And there have been other occasions where I’ve gone for advice on things I’m trying to work out or seem to have a disproportionate hold on me.

I distinctly remember the first time I told my parents I’d been to see a councillor and they were shocked.

Shocked I felt I needed it.
Shocked I hadn’t gone to them first.
Shocked they hadn’t recognised where my head was at.

But it was good because it opened a conversation we would never have had. One that opened up understanding and support. And when I say understanding and support … I mean it in the sense they realised there were occasions when I felt talking to an outsider would be better for me than an insider. Not because they’d done anything wrong – because frankly, my parents gave me a level of love and encouragement that was breath-taking and unconditional – but it just was better for me.

A chance to talk to someone I didn’t care about.

No history.
No worry of upsetting.
No need to choose my words carefully.

I know my parents probably felt some sort of pain, sadness and guilt about me not turning to them … but they were also incredibly supportive knowing it was helping me … which is why I was able to talk to them openly about it afterwards.

And while I’ve never been in as dark a place as those two occasions – even when my parents passed – I know the circumstances for its emergence can be wide and varied.

Which is why I get very frustrated when people minimise the reality of mental health. That it’s a symbol of weakness. That it’s a ‘woke’ attitude. I also get upset when it is narrowed down to being ignited by a particular set of behaviours or situations.

Sure there are likely some common factors, but in my experience the trigger and the effect is personal not universal. To suggest otherwise not only minimises the impact but ignores the individual.

I was blessed to be born into a family that encouraged showing and sharing their emotions. Maybe if that wasn’t the case I may have ended up in a worse place. But it’s also why we place great importance on creating an environment for Otis that normalises it.

That doesn’t tell him, “boys don’t cry” or pushes him to play sport when he doesn’t want to play sport or discounts his feelings simply because he’s 7.

I’m not saying this will stop him having mental health issues in the future … but hopefully it will help him feel it’s normal. And let him know that with help – whether that is talking about it or getting professional help for it – he can better manage it.

And you can.

That said, I appreciate the privilege I have being able to talk openly about this. I am an old white man and so the ramifications on me being open about what I’ve gone through is far less than if I was a woman, a person of colour, non-binary, a member of the LGBTQ+ community or just younger in age.

And that’s kind-of why I am, because that’s fucked. Mental health can affect everyone … and while the triggers may be varied, the devastation of its impact can be the same.

To have people feel they can’t acknowledge or discuss their situation doesn’t make it go away. It makes it worse. Much, much worse. And for all the supposed claims from companies saying they are compassionate to those experiencing mental health challenges, many have found it’s either true until the company needs something from them or they just can’t risk any possible financial implications by speaking out.

[Which sounds awfully similar to how companies manage the redundancy process doesn’t it?]

Which is why if anyone out there feels they’re in a situation where they don’t know how or who to talk to … drop me a line. I am not qualified to help. But I would be very happy to listen.



We All Need A Partner In Mischief …
June 16, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: Comment, Family, Love, Paul

So today is my beloved Paul’s birthday.

While I wish I was able to celebrate his special day with him, knowing we were together so recently helps minimise the disappointment that I can’t be today.

Especially as we got to experience two incredible events together in the space of a week.

Watching Forest win promotion to the Premiership and seeing Queen in concert at the O2.

It was like it was arranged by a higher power. It was amazing.

And as I wrote a few weeks ago, I needed it.

I don’t mean the experiences – though they were amazing – I mean spending time with him.

I’d not seen Paul for almost 2 years and that may be the longest we’ve ever gone apart.

That would be significant for me at any time – but with my parents gone, Paul is the person who has been in my life the longest and so not being near him takes on added significance.

He has always been my best friend, but now he’s even more than that.

Put simply, I love him.

Every single thing about him.

From his infectious immaturity to his evolution into Frothy Coffee Man.

And even though every bit of trouble I’ve ever got into my life can be traced back to him … he is so important and special to me and I hope he knows it.

One day we’ll live close to each other again, but till then – happy birthday Paul. I hope you have an absolutely immense day and are spoilt like buggery by Shelly … and I look forward to the time we can celebrate together again.

Love ya.



Some Weeks Last A Lifetime …

So I was supposed to be back today, but the gods had other plans.

I got covid.

After avoiding it for 2 years.

After moving to the other side of the planet in the middle of the pandemic.

They decided now was the optimum time to give it to me.

And maybe they were right.

Because this trip has – so far – been filled with nothing but miracles and love.

I got to see the wonderful Martin and Mercedes get married in Portugal, surrounded by old friends who I’d not seen in an age.

Including the brilliant Clare Pickens who I love enormously.

Not to mention Nusara and her husband … who I discovered actually exists.

Now it’s fare to say all weddings are special, but this was magnificent.

There’s many reasons for that – from the people, the venue, the moment – but it was something more than that. As I said on the speech I was asked to give at the last minute, we needed this. All of us. Not just Martin and Mercedes … but every person who was – and continues to be – affected by the devastation of COVID. Which means every person in the World because whether it has been small or big challenges, we’ve all had to deal with them.

And from there, I then got to see my beloved Nottingham Forest pull off the miracle.

From bottom of the league with the worst start in 108 years to playing at Wembley after 30 years and getting promoted to the Premiership after 23 years away.

And to be able to do that with my beloved Paul – who I’d not seen for almost 2 years – by my side, was just even more special.

I don’t mind telling you I cried when I saw him.

When he got out his car and gave me one of his massive hugs hello, I clung on and cried. God I’ve missed him.

Don’t get me wrong, I love NZ, but it is the first place I’ve ever lived that genuinely feels ‘far from everything’ … so with that and all that has gone on in the past 2 years – not to mention the fact this is the longest I’ve not seen him in my entire life – I realised how much I’ve missed and needed him around in my life.

So to have that and then watch our beloved Forest get back into the promise land together was – well, just unbelievably special.

Now if you remember the post I wrote when I was setting off on this adventure, you will note I have not mentioned seeing Paula and her baby yet and that’s because of the COVID gods. But they’re still being nice to me …

Because not only has COVID not been too bad for me – especially compared to what some people have suffered – it meant I had to move my flights as NZ travel rules meant they wouldn’t let me catch my plane. And even this set back has a silver lining.

Because of the demand on airlines – and the time it takes for RAT tests to show a negative reading – the earliest flight I could get was next Tuesday. So not only will I have the time to see her before I go, but I also get to see Paul again when we go to the Queen concert we booked back in 2019 that they had to cancel because of COVID.

Seeing Queen with my best friend and his wonderful wife Shelly is like the ultimate gift to end this incredible visit to Europe.

But there’s more …

You see the Queen concert is on the day the UK celebrates the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

I mean the royal one, not the musical one.

The reason this is significant is way back in 1977, my Mum and Dad brought me to London to watch the crowds celebrate her Silver Jubilee. I remember it well, despite being so long ago. So to be back in London – albeit by pure coincidence – on a day where England yet again is celebrating a landmark moment in the Queen’s reign takes me back to that day with my parents and that is a feeling I will really treasure.

What this all means is not only has this trip been more wonderful than I ever imagined, it’s ended up giving me more miracles and love than I ever expected. Miracles and love that I needed more than I ever imagined.

So while I can’t wait to get back to my family – and my team – I can honestly say this has been a couple of weeks that are one of the most important and memorable weeks of my life and for that, I thank everyone who made it possible … from Martin and Mercedes, Paul, Nottingham Forest, Colenso, Q-Prime, NIKE, Paula, Queen, Lee Hill and Virgin Atlantic and my brilliant supportive wife and son right through to, bizarrely, covid.

I don’t know how you did it Mum and Dad, but thank you.

So till next week.

R



Time Machines Suck …

I’ve written this blog consistently for 15 years.

FIFTEEN!!!

My god …

But it gets worse.

Because bar a few weeks of holiday, it is something that has been written every single Monday to Friday.

That means there has been over 3,900 posts of utter gibberish for over 780 weeks.

And as tragic as that all sounds, there’s an awful lot of people who comment on here who have been here pretty much all that time.

LOSERS!!!

Now, I have to say there are some lovely benefits to long term blog writing.

In some ways it’s like a diary … capturing what I was thinking or doing at any given time.

It also is a lovely way to see how my opinions and thoughts have evolved over time.

Plus there’s the hope that when I’m gone, Otis will still feel his Dad is close.

OK … OK … there are some posts I definitely DON’T want him to read, but there’s others I’d be glad for him to keep going back to.

Putting aside I basically write the same 3 or 4 posts over and over again … there is a lot of my life contained in these pages.

From getting married to losing my Mum to having my son.

Proper life-changing stuff … and that doesn’t even cover the moves to different countries, jobs and homes.

The best and worst of my life is detailed here which is why – despite all these big life events being sandwiched between endless amounts of shit – I still like it.

Occasionally I randomly click on a date and just see what I wrote.

Recently I did this and was reminded what a little shit I was.

OK, can be.

It’s this.

Yep, it’s the time I tried to auction off Martin Sorrell’s business card so people could send him stupid messages or texts.

On the plus side, I was offering to give any money to charity.

On the negative, I was working for WPP at the time.

If you think that’s stupid, there was the time I wrote a post featuring a photo of Sir Martin with a picture of Toad of Toad Hall under the caption ‘Spot The Difference’.

And the weird thing is that while I don’t agree with his approach to creativity, I do respect him. I have met him on a number of occasions and he was very, very impressive.

Though it’s fair to say that respect was only one way, Especially when there was an agency Q&A and I asked him ‘what do you spend all your money on?’

So Sir Martin … even though I know you would never read this blog [more proof you’re clever] I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for my stupidity. It was ridiculous … but if it’s any consolation, at least it wasn’t as bad as this.

I know … I know … this was a terrible post even by my standards.

So celebrate in the fact that tomorrow is Good Friday so I’m off till next Tuesday and you’re not going have to deal with any more of this shit till then.

I don’t know about you … but it’s the sort of news that makes you almost believe in God, doesn’t it.

Happy Easter, enjoy the sugar rush.