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


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



It’s Not Just Phil Collins Who Survived Against All Odds …

A year ago today, Jill, Otis, Rosie and I left our beautiful family home – that we only had bought and moved into 6 months earlier – to get on a plane for the first time in over a year and fly to the other side of the planet to start a new life in New Zealand.

Now of course, because Kiwiland is so fucking far away from everywhere, it took us 2 days to get here which means we’ve not officially been here a year … but if you will excuse the early anniversary, it still something I wish to celebrate.

Despite having moved countries more times than anyone should be allowed to … the build up to this move was the most stressful we’d ever had.

Of course, the reason for that was bloody COVID … but with changing rules, changing flights and changing timelines, it felt like an impossible dream when we boarded the plane 12 months ago today.

Then there was the 2 weeks of quarantine we had in Hamilton.

While it was restrictive, it was actually an amazing way to settle in a country because whether we liked it or not, we were not allowed to do anything.

Normally when we land in a country, it’s mayhem trying to learn the areas, find a house, buy a car. But this time it was easy, mainly because – in a moment of madness – we had bought a house and a car when we were in England.

While that might sound mad, the car was easy because it was simply the latest version of the car I bought in the UK. Which was the same as I bought in the US. Even down to the colour.

As for the house … OK, that was bonkers, but sadly for our bank manager, that wasn’t the first time we’d done it.

But it all worked out.

Not just in terms of house and car, but life.

We’re settled.

Otis loves his school.
Jill loves we live in the trees.
Rosie loves she can watch birds all day.
I love the talented mob I get to work with each day.

Colenso has done some lovely stuff – but it’s only the start – but we’ve won some global business, awards and a bunch of friends [not to mention the odd bitter enemy] but even more importantly, is that I’ve lucked in with the people I get to work with each day.

What a top bunch they are … with a special mention for my wonderful team who are a bunch of beautifully opinionated, creative and interesting assholes.

Just as I like them. [Most of the time, hahaha]

In fact the only thing that has been horrible has been the timezone … which means when I’m doing my Metallica duty or Gentle Monster duty, it ends up being so early or late I could cry.

Actually, for the first few weeks I probably did in shock … but now it’s second nature and they’ve all been ace. Hell, even the 4+ months of lockdown didn’t dampen our spirit.

Sure, we had travelled half way around the World to end up back where we started … but COVID here was very different to COVID in the UK.

Here there was a plan with clarity and communication.

And while people here say there’s a bunch of stuff the government could have done better – which, in some cases, is fair – compared to what we experienced in the UK, it’s all A+.

While we know we won’t be in NZ forever, we do love it here.

We are so appreciative of the chance we have been given … even more so when so many Kiwi’s have found it so hard to come back. NZ has been generous, supportive, open and encouraging. Hell, not only did they let me meet Noel Edmonds, James Cameron and brilliant Jacinda, they even looked after us when we all individually found ourselves having to go into hospital. In terms of ensuring you can deal with the sadness of not seeing friends and loved ones, NZ did it with absolute bloody panache.

I hope in our time here, we are seen as contributing to the nation. We want to do that so much. Celebrate it. Honour it. And – where possible – help it. Not just so we can learn and know more about this special place, but so we can say thank you for letting us be here.

Happy [almost] anniversary NZ.

You might wish it hadn’t happened, but we’re glad it did.



A Year Like No Other …

So this is it. The final post of 2020.

Congratulations on making it to here. Especially after a year like this one.

I have to say it feels kind-of bitter sweet for me, because as I’ve written before – this year has been pretty special for me and my family.

Sure I turned 50.

Sure, Forest still fucked up the promotion hopes they’d held onto all season in the last 15 minutes of the last game of the whole season.

And sure I lost my job

But even though they’re all pains in the arse, compared to what others have – and are – suffering, it was nothing. Hell, even turning 50 gave me the chance to do this.

When I originally wrote this post, I’d listed all the things that had happened to me this year.

It was a very, very long list.

And while I am super grateful for each and every one of those things – from new jobs to new houses to family happiness to Paul doing Frothy Coffee full time – it just felt wrong.

Not just because there’s a whole host of people going through a terribly shit time right now. Nor the fact I’m a over the self-promoting, self-congratulatory, soapbox shouting by people on social media. Or even because the brilliant Mr Weigel wrote it better than I ever could achieve [as usual] … but because of something I read in The Guardian Newspaper a few weeks ago.

Specifically the very first sentence.

Which was – utterly bizarrely – about me.

No seriously, and it went like this.

On a sunny Tuesday afternoon in July, Rob Campbell, 50, received a Zoom call from his boss at the advertising firm where he worked as a head of strategy.

When I read it, the number 50 stood out.

Like it was 50 stories high.

It confused and confronted me.

Part of it was because I don’t think I am that age.

Part of it is knowing I am.

And maybe it was at that point I realised just how lucky I am.

Not that I was naive to it before, but it became more apparent.

Because losing your job at 50 is shit.

It doesn’t mean it’s all over, but it’s unusual to have so many good things happen and frankly, it all made me feel a bit embarrassed which is why I deleted the list of stuff.

It happened. I just don’t need to share it because I lived it.

And while it would only have been there to act as a reminder of all that happened should I – or Otis, later in his life – wanted to jog our memory about it, the spirit of this post and those before it say all that needs to be said.

So instead, I want to use the rest of this post to say thank you.

There’s so many people I am grateful to have in my life.

So many people who made the worst year, in many respects, one of my best.

People on here.
People in the industry – some I knew, some I didn’t.
People who just read my instagram and got in touch.

You may not realise it, but it made a huge difference to how I saw the future.

Then there is my amazing family. Their unconditional belief and support meant I never had to panic. I never had to worry. I mean, I did have moments of it – but that was all because of me, never them. Jill never expressed concern. She gave me confidence by simply being confident in me so the whole experience never felt scary – which is incredible when you think about it. Then there’s Otis. God, I love that kid. Seeing him come home from his new teeny-tiny school in the country filled with stories and giggles meant the house never had a chance to feel bad.

My mates were ace. A check-in here, a word of advice there, a dollop of pisstaking and a whole lot of love. They ensured I never felt alone, and while I was perfectly fine with the situation I found myself in, they made sure I stayed perfectly fine with the situation I found myself in.

Of course I can’t forget my old colleagues. Not just from R/GA … but also Deutsch, Wieden+Kennedy and Cynic. So many got in touch. Offered to help. Made me laugh. They didn’t have to do that – especially the way I had treated them when we worked together, hahaha – but they did and it meant more to me than they may ever know.

I want to give a particular shout out to Blake Harrop.

Not only is he the most handsome, clever man in the whole universe but he is also the MD of Wieden Amsterdam.

When he heard what had happened, he sent me an absolutely epic note. I’ve always regarded him as a special man, but this just took it to another level and I will keep that note forever.

And then my clients.

Past. Sort-of present. And now, future.

Fuck me … what an impact they had on my confidence.

Not just in their kind words, but in their actions. Signing long-term contracts, introducing me to others and – in the case of two in particular – collaborating with me to start Uncorporated. As I’ve noted in other posts, the work it has let me be a part of is unprecedented and I cannot say thank you to them enough.

Finally to the wonderful folk at Colenso.

To have one of the agencies I’ave always loved reach out and ask me to join them was simply the icing on the cake. They were open, warm, encouraging and honest throughout the process before topping it off with most well written job offer letter I’ve received in my life. Seriously, it was a work of art and if there was an award show for this sort of thing, it would be a Black Pencil winner for sure. I can’t thank Scott and the team enough for the opportunity to play with them and I can’t wait to be there in March and cause some trouble.

What all this means is that I have been surrounded by wonderful people.

Not just the ones I know, but people who just reached out to see if they could help.

I don’t know what I have done to deserve it all to be honest [it must be Jill and Otis] but I totally get why people say it’s better to be lucky than rich.

So to each and every one of you, I want to say thank you.

Jill, Otis, Paul, Michelle, Mr Weigel, Mercedes, Paula Bloodworth, David Lin, Carina, Winson and Wanshi, Nils, my wonderful old planning team at R/GA London, Lesley Cheng, Ryan and Sam, Mike and Sam, Trudie, Matt Tanter, Group Think, Scott and Levi and all at Colenso, Blake Harrop, Karrelle Dixon, John Rowe, Mr Ji, Richard Green, everyone at Q-Prime, Metallica, RHCP, Richard David James, Paul Colman, Flash, Rodion, Charinee, Debbie, Leon, Jorge Calleja, George, Andy, Baz, Lee Hill, Simon Pestridge, Steve Tsoi and PT Black, Patrick the Dirty Ram fan, Michael Roberts, Ben Major, Holly Day, Lindsey Evans, Dan Hill, Rach Mercer, Donn the grandpa jumper wearer, Ben Perreira, Maya, Chelsea, Bree, James Thorpe, Lani, Tarik at Onroad, Leigh, Nic Owen, Bassot, Judd Caraway, Gareth Kay, Pickens, Wes, Hoala, Brixton Finishing School, Mark Lester, Ros and Hiro, Lea Walker, Phil Jacobson, Maria Correa, Sam Clohesy, Ian Preston, Doddsy, Lee Hill, the inspirational Murray Calder, Wendy Clark and every single person who has insulted, laughed or ridiculed me on here.

While I am sure I’ve forgotten some names, I assure you I haven’t forgotten your kindness.

To be able to have all this at 50, in one of the worst years the World has seen is insane. I definitely feel some guilt over it so I hope that in 2021, everyone out there gets lucky … and if I can do anything to help that, give me a shout – because it COVID has reminded me of one thing, we’re better together than separate.

May you all have an amazing holiday season. Or as amazing as it can be.

I send you thanks, love and best wishes.

And I leave you with the 3 ads that gave me hope that creativity still is a more powerful and deadly weapon than all the frameworks, funnels and optimisation put together.

See you on the other side. Specifically on the 11th.



Big Week For A Little Kid: Day/Year 4 to [Almost] 6 …
December 10, 2020, 7:30 am
Filed under: Comment, Dad, Daddyhood, Fatherhood, Jill, London, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad, My Fatherhood, Otis, Paul, Rosie, Shelly

I love the photo above.

We took it while we were still living in London.

I love it because it’s like a perfect encapsulation of Otis.

Bursting with energy.

Throwing himself into things.

Absolutely loving the element of mischief.

When we were expecting him, a friend of mine sent me a plaque that said …

Boys: Noise with dirt on them.

Well, it’s pretty true. At least in Otis’ case.

And I love that.

I love seeing his curiosity coming more to the fold.

Not just in terms of everyday exploring and discovering … but pushing boundaries.

Seeing what happens.

Hearing the questions he has after he’d done something new.

Good or bad … or just confused when something didn’t turn out as he imagined.

These last couple of year have really seen this side of him ramp-up.

Maybe it’s because previously, he was using his curiosity to help him adapt to his new surroundings … but not any more.

Now there is a confidence in exploring.

A genuine interest in understanding more.

And while he is very clear on what he does and doesn’t like, one thing he adores is the getting messy in the quest of discovery.

Moving to the country has been a revelation for him.

Oh he loved the city – like his dad – but there are things here he can do he never had before.

From exploring the garden with his Mum to playing with an entire school because there’s only 30 people in the whole place.

Then coming in to tell us what he’s learnt and what he’d like to learn.

From food to history to video games to the joy of being able to run outside till it hurts.

It’s an infectious thing to witness.

It’s an even better thing to talk about, cuddled up on the sofa.

Keep pushing those barriers Otis.

Everything you want to know, learn and become is on the other side of it.

Love you.

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Nature’s Prozac …

When I was growing up, our back garden was a disaster.

Overgrown.

Tall grass.

Brambles.

Bushes.

Beautiful mayhem.

As a kid, I thought it was amazing.

Me and Paul would run in there and it felt like we were in the jungle.

From playing hide and seek to pretending we were soldiers, it could all happen there.

Then around the age of 5, Mum and Dad had an extension put onto the house and because the loan they took out for it was a bit more than they needed to have it built, they spent the rest on the garden.

Oh how they loved it.

They spent hours there.

Creating it. Cultivating it. Nurturing it. Admiring it.

My god, the way my dad treated his ‘sweet peas’ was enough to make me think he loved them more than me sometimes.

And while I still could play softball tennis with Mum on the patio, I always felt I had had something robbed from me – despite the fact there was a massive park down the road and huge fields of nothingness around the house.

So from there on in, while I could appreciate a nice garden, I always saw them as something that pushed me away rather than welcomed me in.

Until now.

I readily admit I had nothing to do with the garden we have in the home we have just bought.

I readily admit part of its appeal is that it’s mature, so feels natural rather than contrived.

And I readily admit I am still as shit and unenthusiastic about gardening as I ever was.

But my god, I am shocked at how much I love it.

I can stare at it for hours.

Sit in it for days.

Doing nothing but looking at it’s beautiful vibrancy and shades.

Seeing Rosie the cat stretch out on the deck like she has just hit ‘peak cat life’.

Watching Otis play on the swing hanging from the tree then looking at Jill picking up all the apples that have fallen from Otis’ adventure. Turning them into pies that we scoff or give to the neighbours in an blatant attempt to mitigate the mayhem we’ve caused in the first few months of living here with huge moving trucks blocking the road and electrical blackouts that we absolutely, definitely did not cause.

The idea of all this is about as foreign to me as you could get.

I’m a city person.

I like noise and bustle not nature and quiet.

Yet … yet … this is something very special.

Something I feel a real privilege to experience, which I acknowledge is only possible because of the privileged position I am in.

And while all these feelings could all be because of my age or because this house is our family home – regardless of the incoming NZ adventure – the impact of a simple garden has been far more than I ever imagined.

Which makes me think it could also have something to do with making me feel closer to Mum and Dad.

You see while our little garden at home was nothing like this, it was incredibly special to them.

Sure it was beautiful. Sure it was the fruits of their hard work and care. But it seemed to be a place that let them feel everything was going to be OK, regardless of the challenges.

And over the years, our wonderful little family faced many – but that garden always gave them comfort and joy.

A little piece of heaven.

Blossoming into radiant beauty and colour even after the harshest of winters.

Reminding them that the darkest times will always welcome a new spring.

And while as a kid I didn’t really like how that garden had robbed me of my jungle, I grew to appreciate it.

I saw what it did for my parents.

I still remember how my Dad stared in wonder at it after his stroke.

He’d been in hospital for months and was finally allowed home.

And while he needed a lot of care from Mum, that garden was like medicine for him. Helping him forget the pain he was in. Helping him forget the turmoil he was going through.

No longer able to talk.

No longer able to walk properly.

But here, facing the fruits of his love and labour, all was forgotten.

He was safe.

He felt nourished.

He was connected to something his body was not able to let him enjoy anymore.

He and Mum could transport themselves to a time and place where everything was OK.

And while I hope I never face the tragedy my Father suffered – and acknowledge this garden is from the toil of others hands – I feel I get what nature was able to do for Mum and Dad.

Because it isn’t just what grows in the garden, but what it helps blossom within yourself.