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Just a little something to think about…

I heard someone say that some sportsperson or other ‘made history’ this week.

I can’t remember who it was or what they did.

But they, apparently, ‘made history’.

Firsts.

As a general rule, people use the term ‘making history’ when people do something for the first time.

But now I have a 2 year old daughter, I think about this saying quite differently.

As I get older I think quite deeply about what I am doing each day, and how I can make Izobel proud. Even though all she wants from me at the moment is cereal (the dinosaur one, not the monkey one), milk and a cuddle.

I can see that every decision I make today and everything that I do, no matter how big, small, significant or insignificant is – quite literally – making history. Because it’s my history and Izobel’s history. She will know about it one day.

And that’s quite a responsibility.

Tomorrow.

So tomorrow, and today as it goes, if you’re feeling tired or overwhelmed or confused or bothered by things – that’s OK.

You’re meant to feel all of those things if you’re really trying.

After all – you’re making history.

When you first meet someone, if it’s in a circumstance that dictates you’re supposed to get to know each other a bit, pretty much the same questions pop out each time. One of them is:

Hi. So; what do you do?

I am almost always underwhelmed by the answer to this question.

Oh. Really.

…I reply.

A Different Question.

So next time, instead of asking someone what they do. Ask this:

Hi. So; what are you for?

It’s a very similar question. So why not ask it?

Well, because it sounds bloody rude. And silly.

At least on planet Earth it does.

Planet Michael

On Planet Michael where I live, aged 50 and more single minded and forthright than ever, all people have a purpose. They all know what they are for. Or they should do.

So it’s a perfectly acceptable question.

Conversation are so much richer on this Planet because the reasons we do what we do are always heartfelt and up front. Everyone is driven.

No one does anything just for a pay check on Planet Michael. Or because it seems like the obvious thing to do. Or because it’s what they learned at college. Or because everyone else does it.

They do it because they are trying to change something.

For the better.

For everyone.

Back To Reality.

But back on planet earth we are once again surrounded by people that are going through the motions. Grumbling about unpaid overtime and feeling unappreciated. Waiting for something to change.

But here’s a secret.

There is a way to be on this other planet, the ‘Planet with a purpose’, if you want to, without actually leaving the planet you’re on now.

Whenever anyone asks you what you do, don’t answer that – tell them what you’re for instead. Answer the other question. Tell them what you are trying to make better, for everyone.

And if there isn’t anything.

Why the heck not?

In 2017, Alex Honnold did something no one had ever done.

He climbed the 3,000m El Capitan vertical rock formation in California’s Yosemite National Park

(A football pitch is about 100 metres long. So he climbed 30 football pitches vertically. Without a rope).

Fear.

At the beginning, Alex feared failing because failure wouldn’t bring ridicule, injury or bankruptcy.

It’d kill him.

So he didn’t tell his mum about it until after he’d done it.

Practice.

Anyhow, Alex practiced.

For 8 years.

He climbed with ropes to learn every inch of the sheer wall so he could conquer the physical part of the 4(ish) hour challenge.

But the mental side was harder because he could actually imagine that failure felt like.

He’d die.

Doubt.

Somehow, when he was ready to climb, he wasn’t scared at all.

This lack of fear was down to being so well prepared that he didn’t doubt he could do it.

And he knew this truth:

Doubt is the precursor to fear.

I like this quote.

I suppose it’s simply saying that if you prepare enough – if you practice enough – doubt disappears. And so too does fear.

Reach.

If this is true, and I think it is, it means that so much more is within our reach.

Any time. Any place. Any age.

All we have to do is want it enough.

One of my first memories of being in a position of power and responsibility was when I worked in Boots the Chemist.

In Derby.

I was 16.

Erasure.

Now this is impressive…

I was allowed to choose whatever tape I wanted, to play in the store.

Over their PA system.

I was a ‘Saturday boy’ and worked on ‘Sound and Vision’.

I could chose any tape in the whole wide world.

As long as it was in the top 30 in the charts of course.

So I did.

For a good while I chose Erasure.

(My gaydar was awful, you know. I didn’t notice any gayness. I’m just as bad these days most of the time).

‘A Little Respect’ is at the foot of this story at the website version. It’s great.

Giggle. 

I am mentioning this to remind me to calm down a bit, about business and about life.

As stakes get higher at Always Wear Red, as we grow a little bit and start to see some good things on the horizon, I can sense that I may get a little more nervous.

And this may make me a little more serious.

If that happens we will lose some of what has gotten us this far.

So I do need to remember to have fun.

Because as well as building a team of world-beaters, I need the young blood too.

The newbies.

The up-and-comers.

Those that will love to get the important day-to-day tasks done. They won’t be choosing the new items to invest in in our collection. Or how many to order. Or whether to accept investment from this person or that person.

That’s my job.

They may do these things the future of course but, for now, I must remember to let them have a giggle.

And to feel the almighty rush of adrenaline that comes from choosing the music in the studio.

Here’s Erasure.

Merry Christmas.

When I was a child I once wandered into a police station, up to the counter, and peered over.

I was about 14.

I was tall enough that my eyes were above the counter top. But my nose wasn’t.

A policewoman looked down at me and raised an eyebrow. Her hands were in her pockets.

I’d been waiting outside for an hour or so.

I’d never been in a police station. And this was before ‘The Bill’ so I didn’t really know what to expect.

I’d only seen ‘The Sweeney’.

Hello.

I said.

Can I report something that hasn’t happened yet?

I asked.

I mean; I’m pretty sure that something bad is going to happen but it hasn’t happened yet.

The policewoman asked me to explain.

My stepdad beats my mum up a lot.

I said.

I think that one night he’ll kill her. I hear them most nights. The crying and the bumping about downstairs. Choking sometimes. I stand on the landing. Listening.

This went on for a bit and it felt good to say the words.

But the world wasn’t ready for this conversation.

It wasn’t that the policewoman seemed too busy. She just didn’t know what to do with me. Without speaking to my mum. And I didn’t want that. It might make things worse.

So whilst the policewoman was mildly sympathetic she, albeit politely I seem to remember, offered nothing.

Childline.

There are loads of causes I care about.

In 2006 I set up an alliance inside one of my little businesses with Childline.

Every time a client renewed their website hosting, we’d donate £8, or two phone calls, to Childline.

It was easy, fast, was a personal thing for me, and paid for a few hundreds of phone calls.

All good.

As my current business Always Wear Red develops I will link it to something I care about. Once we start to make money.

I am not sure what yet.

But what I do know is that I’ll do it quietly.

I’ll whisper.

Just enough bluster so people understand and can get involved if they want.

But it won’t headline our brand communications.

I don’t really like brands that (for example) paint their stores in colourful stripes for one week a year. It feels too commercial to me. Gay people are marginalised and misunderstood by stupid people every week. Not just this one week.

So yes.

When I do it again.

I’ll whisper.

We switched ‘Sky’ off last week. 

It’s spend we don’t need and we have apple TV anyway.

That’s (mostly) free.

I thought I might miss some of the shows.

And the choice.

And I do.

But the thing that took me most by surprise was how non-Sky TV viewing exposes my bad concentration.

When I watch a show I am on my phone, chatting to Izobel, interacting with Colin the collie, checking how dinner is cooking and listening to Lisa.

And because non-Sky TV doesn’t rewind, I’m knackered.

Concentrate.

I’m going to have to concentrate.

The audience laugh. I’ve missed the punchline. ‘Nothing I can do.

Is there such a thing as a pause button for life?

So I can watch ‘Would I Lie To You’ without interruption?

Let me know.

Has anything like this ever happened to you?

When Izobel was just 1 year old, I was very often quite busy. Nurturing Always Wear Red.

One weekend, I was surprised by the sudden sadness I felt when my 1 year old daughter held out a hand to offer me a shiny green apple.

Daddy,

she said.

Apple.

I thanked her and hugging her of course.

But inside I was sad.

There were no more bapples.

No More Bapples

For Izzy Willow, apples were always bapples.

But she’d grown past that.

I hadn’t noticed.

There are no more bapples for Izobel – and no more bapples for me.

Slow Down.

It was a little reminder to me.

To slow down.

Things are always changing at Always Wear Red and it’s my job to make change happen and to manage it.

However, as I was reminded, it is also my job to notice important change at home, too.

Bapple Crumble for tea. Just one more time.

I said to someone earlier this week, when they were talking slowly and waffling a bit:

Bloody hell, hurry up. Get to the point, will you. The pips have gone!

They just stared at me. They were in their 20’s.

Pips.

I vaguely remember pips. Do you? If you are 50 like me you probably will.

And I also remember going to a telephone box with 2p to make a call.

10p was quite a serious call.

2p was quite often more than enough.

As you will know if you are a similar age to me, as one approached the end of a paid for telephone call in a telephone box, ‘the pips went’ (beep, beep, beep…). To tell you to end your conversation.

How many pips were there?

How long did the pips go on for?

And how long did you have after the pips before you got cut off, left hearing nothing but a strange whirring/humming noise?

And were there a second set of pips? Or have I imagined that?

Time.

In other important news, I was chatting to a 20 year-old Charlotte at work recently.

A woman was talking in quite a posh, affected voice.

It reminded me of The Speaking Clock:

On the third stroke… it will be 3… 25… and 30 seconds…. beep… beep… beep.

Charlotte though I was taking the piss, as I explained that you could ring 123 and be charged for a telephone call to find out what time it was.

Or to check that your new Timex was right. To the second.

So much is done for us these days.

We worry about quite different things.

Vinyl.

Finally, and sadly I am not making this up, Tommy – a handsome 22 year old artist and model was in the Always Wear Red studio this week.

He’s a big George Michael fan. As am I.

So when he spotted a copy of ‘Faith’ he asked if I’d put it on the record player.

I responded that he should. So he did.

Removing George’s debut solo album from the sleeve went quite well. Not perfect though.

We older guys tend to create strange shapes with our hands when handling vinyl. Sliding the record out so it thuds against the palm of our other hand, before dextrously working out how to make an odd vinyl-edge/palm-of-our-hand sandwich in mid air.

Tommy just plonked his thumb and fingers on the grooves, handling the record itself with exactly the same care and attention as the sleeve it lived in.

Tommy popped the record onto the turntable. Then stopped.

Tommy asked…

Does the needle start at the middle or the edge?

Hmm.

Sorry?

I replied.

Does the needle move from the middle of the record to the outside, or from the outside of the record to the inside?

Said Tommy.

I looked him in the eyes and did a ‘dad’ face.

Then, shaking my head, I skilfully and precisely placed the needle into the silent 3 seconds between the end of ‘Faith’ and the beginning of ‘Father Figure’ (which I prefer).

I think I then strutted away in slow motion, chewing invisible chewing gum and – for the briefest of moments – feeling cooler than Tommy.

It didn’t last.

This is our dog in the photograph. Frank.

The photograph was taken in November 2017.

Frank wore the reindeer antlers only for a few moments.

The reason that Frank was dressed Christmassy as early as November was because he was being paid. Solstock, my friends’ photo library business wanted to take pictures of our family. And Frank was part of the day.

He even had his own release form.

How nice!

Christmas

Anyhow this year, I’ve been playing Christmas songs in the office (well, Alexa has) since 1st October.

And I’ve decided that I want to put the tree up on the 1st of November.

I really love Christmas. So I am making it come early.

If I can have christmassy things going on for three months instead of two weeks or whatever we’re ‘supposed’ to do, I am happier.

Early.

I think I am in a minority here.

Making Christmas appear this early.

I expect that everyone reading this (yes, both of you) may grumble at these extended festivities.

But I do love Christmas.

And firsts.

So please allow me to be the first to say this to you this year:

Merry Christmas x

When I was younger, in my teens, I used to pop out to the Video Shop.

It was normally some kind of a cobbled-together concession inside an off license. Or inside a general dealers.

Then ‘Blockbuster’ came along and it all seemed a little more glamorous.

But it was the same thing really.

I was popping out for a film to watch.

True.

I remember, there was one line of text on a VHS box that always caught my eye. It was:

Based on a true story.

And the slightly less convincing (now I’m older I realise this):

Adapted from a true story.

I’m reminded how irresistible this idea is.

Today.

Now, in October 2018, the world is different. But I still think that, deep down, the magnetism of a true story is real.

Two things:

  1. Social Media allows us all, if we want to, to tell lies. To exaggerate or spin.
  2. Authenticity is as valued as it has ever been in business and in life.

For the first time, about 6 months ago, Instagram noticed more traction on their ‘Stories’ than their ‘Feed’.

It is no coincidence that Stories are much more authentic. And Feeds are much more doctored.

Question.

And so I suppose the question I am left with is, is the story that I am telling about my life:

  1. True.
  2. Based on a true story.
  3. Adapted from a true story.

It is very exposing to tell your true story.

But it is also irresistible to others. Because I want to learn about my life from your life. And the reverse applies, too.

And anyhow, if we lie we are not just lying to them out there are we? We are lying to ourselves, too.

So, and this is especially true as we get older, isn’t it about time we all started telling our true story?

That way, we all might stand a slightly better chance of learning from each other. Helping each other.

And all living happily ever after.