Archive

October 2018

Browsing

So, Lisa gets back from the supermarket and texts to let me know she’s OK.

She’s got some ‘treats’ for Izobel (she’s 2) and some ‘treats’ for me too.

Treats.

I pause before texting back to ask what my treats are.

I like Brewdog.

And really adventurous pizzas.

And really great coffee. Maybe Lisa has found some really ‘treaty’ coffee that I can grind and release the flavours from, as I do with my Extract Coffee subscription each month.

Or wine. A £10 bottle of red wine is a treat for us. Especially if it was reduced from £15. We look out for those.

Anyhow, I texted back eventually to ask what my treats were.

I didn’t get a text.

I got a picture. It’s attached to this story at 50odd.co.uk.

Is this really what ‘treats’ look like in your 50’s?

I said thank you.

Then quietly got on with my day.

About 5 years ago, we had the house done. 

Walls knocked down. Extreme stuff. Everything was bashed, moved about, re-skimmed and made right again.

We spent a lot of money.

Pans. 

Towards the end, we had this new space above the cooker. I wanted a very precisely made rail that could be screwed to the wall in 6 places. So it was held firmly. And it had to have 20 S-shaped cast iron hooks too, to hold many pans.

Google helped me to find a small cast iron forger chap. He quoted £150. Away we went.

Money.

The house refurbishment took longer. Cost more. Stressed us more. They always do.

We had to cut back on a few things. But with something like this, once you’re in – you’re in!

Anyhow, pretty much on time and looking pretty good, the pan rail thing arrived. It was wrapped in old newspapers covered in big, back, carbon fingerprints. It was a charming thing. A hand written invoice for £150 clung around the ironwork too.

There was a wooden plinth waiting for it and it fitted.

The Test.

Two days later, I received a text message. It was the iron chap. He asked, in a short and misspelled text message, if we had received the ironwork. And when he’d be paid.

“Two days.” I thought. “It’s only been two fucking days.”

I was being asked similar questions by plasterers, joiners, plumbers, painters and decorators.

I was looking for ways to save money not spend money.

Too busy to send a text back, I hit ‘call’.

A quietly spoken man answered and I thanked him for the rail. He didn’t mention the request for payment but did apologise for the noise in the background.

Cows mooing.

He explained that he was a farmer and that he did a bit of what he had loved to do years before every now and then. Metal forging. To make a bit of extra money for the family.

He then said, unprompted, that if £150 was too much, I could pay him less if I wanted. And he suggested (I think) “something like £100”.

Excellent! I’d been trying to save money right left and centre.

So I thought about this guy, miles away, that I didn’t even know, that I’d never even meet, that had just given me the opportunity to save money. And I had a really excellent rail that was hand made, worked perfectly and was worth £200 at least!

This guy really didn’t understand business. Underpricing product, exposing his vulnerability as a businessman and as a family also.

I seized the opportunity to do what was best for me as a man and my family.

And sent him £200.

Apparently, when groups of children are asked to respond to this, very few put their hand up.

Put your hand up if you like yourself.

What a shame.

And I’d bet if groups of adults were asked the same question, there’d be a similar response. Maybe a few more people would put their hands up. But certainly not everyone.

I wonder why?

For me, it could be guilt.

Guilt

Not walking the dogs enough.

Or being with Lisa enough.

Or being with Izobel enough.

Or doing enough for good causes.

Or working hard enough so I become better.

Or being good enough so I don’t have to work so hard.

Or something else I can just pluck from thin air at a moment’s notice.

Or if not guilt, then comparing.

Comparing

I am not rich enough.

Or successful enough.

Or fit enough.

Or tall enough.

Or good looking enough.

Or a good enough partner.

Or a good enough dad.

Or trendy enough.

Or consistent enough.

Or reliable enough.

Or adventurous enough.

Hands

I wouldn’t put my hand up if asked to think about this.

I think it’s because I am aware, more than anyone, of my shortcomings.

And, for some reason, I’d think about them first if asked to consider this.

So I suppose to fix this situation, and put my hand up, all I have to do is to celebrate the good things about me.

I’d have to not worry about what people thought of me too. Because admitting you like yourself is weird isn’t it?

I don’t know. It’s confusing. It feels weird. Even though I know it shouldn’t.

What Would You Do?

There must be something about timing built into this. Because if today was my dying day, I’d put my hand up.

I’m OK, actually. I do like me.

I’d stocktake ‘me’ differently if I was about to pop my clogs.

Maybe, as I hope I am going to be alive for at least a bit longer, I worry that I am not doing enough?

I’ll work on that…

What would you do?

Would you put your hand up?

Do you like yourself?

OK so I’m 50. Did I mention that?

And something that I have noticed as I have accumulated years and experience is this.

All gaps are steps, not leaps.

You may have to read that twice.

I did.

And I wrote it.

Step.

Anyhow; it’s true.

A ‘gap’ in the context of this story is the space between where you are and where you want to be.

Thinner, fatter, richer, less busy, more busy – whatever.

I have honestly found that when I calm down, stop worrying, think clearly and plan – the gap between where I am and where I want to be is nowhere near as big as I thought.

And it is always a step, not a leap.

I say ‘step’ because it doesn’t require two feet off the ground – a leap – to do anything new.

No matter how significant, it’s always a step, not a leap. Because you always take someone or something with you. It’s never completely new.

Steps are OK. One foot is always rooted where you came from.

So there you go. Whatever it is, give it a go!

Take the step.

The gap between ‘here’ and ‘there’ is always smaller than you think.

This is a small post about a very simple thing. 

First a question,

What do you think it’d feel like if someone saw something in you – today – that you did not see in yourself?

Something good.

And then they told you.

For no other reason than to let you know.

I think it’d feel pretty amazing, for two reasons.

Firstly because that person took the time out of their lives to notice something in yours.

Secondly, it’d be amazing because we’re not that good at seeing the good in ourselves. We tend to concentrate on and be more aware of the broken things.

So I imagine it’s genuinely heartwarming when someone sees something in us that is good. So that we can take a little look at that thing too.

Capitalise on it maybe.

Grow it.

See.

So, if we all agree with the above, we can wait around for someone to see something in us that we don’t see in ourselves, and comment on it. We can wait for that warmth. And it’ll be lovely if and when it comes.

But we can do a second thing too of course.

This second thing is much more controllable and immediate.

We can take the time to look for, and see, something good in someone else – then tell them.

Cool.

Do this today if you like. For no other reason than it’d be a cool thing to do.

I consider myself to be a good(ish) person. But if I am honest, I don’t do this very often.

But today, I will. I’ll take a closer look at someone. Or maybe even everyone.

I will find something brilliant about them, and tell them.

They will feel how you just imagined you would feel. And I will feel good too.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Photo: By me. At Do Lectures, Wales, 2018. A place where lots of people say a lot of nice things to each other. And mean it.

I was at an event on Saturday.

“Her Story” was a series of inspiring, bold, unique and personal talks from a range of women who have succeeded in a world not designed for women’s success.

The event was hosted by Anna Foster, BBC Newcastle Breakfast presenter. Presentations were by Dame Vera Baird DBE QC, Police and Crime Commissioner Northumbria, Julia Austin, Founder of Tyne Bank Brewery, Florence Adepoju, Cosmetic Scientist and Founder of MDM Flow, Debbie Flood, Two-time Olympic Silver Medalist and Athlete, Teleica Kirkland, Founder of Costume Institute of the African Diaspora, Laura Currer, Entrepreneur and Sexual Violence Activist, Kymberlee Jay, Former professional Dancer for Madonna, Nike Athlete and Entrepreneur, Chi Onwurah MP Labour Party and finally,  Francesca Martinez.

All brilliant, I am here going to concentrate on just one lady. Francesca Martinez.

She’s a comedian, speaker, actor and writer.

And she is wobbly.

That’s how Francesca refers to her Cerebral Palsy.

Normal.

I’m going to let you know about a few small things that Francesca Martinez said. Francesca, you will know if you take a look at this link to her website.

Shortly after Francesca was born, around the age of one, her parents were told that Francesca would never lead a normal life. You can probably tell where this is going…

Who the fuck wants to lead a normal life?

I want to live a fucking amazing life!

And so Francesca continued. Swinging from the beautifully insightful:

I rejected the negative framing of my condition.

I loved me.

I had no concept of what I couldn’t do.

To the beautifully funny:

This was a wonderful way to think.

Apart from when I used to play that ringing the doorbell and running away thing with my friends.

They were all miles away before I got out of the fucking garden.

Francesca continued:

You have the power to choose how you view yourself.

I chose my own perception of myself.

I am proud to be wobbly.

I am not merely accepting of it.

I am proud of it.

Two Things

Towards the end of her section, Francesca Martinez said two things that I will always remember.

Here they are.

Comparison is toxic.

The moment I stopped, I started to live my life.

And finally, a tiny thought that should – really – be a call to action for everyone.

A reminder to the thin, the fat, the tall, the short, the bald, the furry, the stereotypically beautiful and the unstereotypically beautiful:

My body is a miracle.

It gives me life.

Francesca is right.

Life.

Let’s make it an amazing one!

I was chatting with Tony Robinson OBE yesterday about – well – everything. We had lunch together in Newcastle.

Tony is a speaker, campaigner, writer, broadcaster and multiple business founder/owner. In amongst many other accolades and recognitions, Tony was presented with an OBE in 2001 by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace, for services to small firms and training.

Alive

Tony is a brilliant man, and brilliant looking too. A real head turner. Take a look at that hat! (And the Always Wear Red 100% Merino Wool Skinny Bandage Scarf of course).

Anyhow, we chatted about how – over the years – Tony has campaigned tirelessly and effectively for causes affecting the smaller business world. I like Tony because he’s generous, clever and a do-er. He has made positive change happen. And he wants to do more.

I also like the fact that Tony is not chest-beating. Nothing about Tony is self-congratulatory. He talks only about the people’s lives he’s helped to make better and the good feeling he gets from making real change and pissing off the odd out-of-touch bureaucrat along the way.

Tony and I have decided that the number one priority for us both, in our quest to make our world and the wider world a better place, is to not die.

Staying alive is important. We agreed on that. So as we (and you) get older – we’re staying fit. Tony is running marathons and I am popping to the gym with the guys from STORM every now and then.

Faster

The other thing we both agreed on is that, as we get older there is absolutely no reason to slow down.

Or indeed to stay at the same pace.

We should get faster.

Sleep less. Bugger about less. Meet more. Affect more. Talk more. Listen more.

Do more.

If for no other reason than – because we can.

Tony travelled from York to see me yesterday. And he insisted on buying coffees and lunch. Such effort, generosity and sincerity is rare. Too rare.

Tony was touched by my STILL story. Whilst we’re Still In The Game – so we can do anything!

And so it is that Tony and I have decided to:

  1. Live forever.
  2. Get faster. Speed up our lives to do as much as we can for as many as we can.

I, and Tony, plan to deliver on at least one of those two.

In the image alongside this short story at www.50odd.co.uk, I’d just eaten the best scrambled eggs I’d ever had. This image was taken last Sunday morning. Take a look.

The scrambled eggs were cooked by a genuinely superb chef, Pete, at his house. And I was eating them with new friends.

Scrambled Eggs

As I put my knife and fork down at the end of breakfast, I paused and glanced across the table.

Pete, who I will now introduce, was sat to my left. Pete has led and innovated at numerous restaurants and was also the lead singer in a band called The Toy Dolls. When I met up with Pete in the pub the night before he was with Dave. Dave played guitar in The Kane Gang and Prefab Sprout. I chatted to Dave’s wife about cats.

Also in the photograph are Geoff and Josh, two American guys from a band called Paris Monster. We’d met them for the first time the night before. Geoff and Josh are part way through a world tour. Out of shot are Christian, Paris Monster’s tour manager, Sarah (Pete’s wife) and Lisa and Izobel – my family.

After breakfast, we all played records from Pete’s collection of about 5,000 records, drank coffee and chased dogs.

How We Got Here

This is how we got here:

  1. I left a job that dulled me. That weighed heavy. A job that was keeping me from becoming all I could be.
  2. I started a brand I was happy doing (Always Wear Red – clothing brand) but made no money at all and I worried about (just about) everything.
  3. I wanted to do a ‘Kes’ (Ken Loach, 1969) homage fashion photoshoot so tracked down David Bradley, the guy that played Billy Casper in the film ‘Kes’ 50 years ago and did it. And I hosted an event so people could meet this amazing BAFTA winning actor.
  4. Pete Zulu (Toy Dolls chap) was in the audience that day and took my photo and sent it to me. I met Pete. We became friends.
  5. I wanted to learn about fashion from the best so I somehow ended up with a hero of mine, Howies and Huit Jeans Co-founder David Hieatt and his brilliant wife and Co-founder Claire Hieatt at their house in Wales. That’s where I met a guy called Christian, a fan of a band called Paris Monster.
  6. Christian explained how he had called Paris Monster and asked why there was no UK leg to their world tour in 2018. They said they hadn’t really thought about it. Christian offered to organise it. Paris Monster said yes.
  7. Christian told me there was a Newcastle leg on the UK tour. I said they could all stay at my house if they wanted. Christian said yes.
  8. Last Saturday, Pete Zulu and I went to see Paris Monster in Newcastle. Pete invited us all for breakfast the following day. Then Paris Monster (Geoff and Josh) and Christian (UK tour manager) stayed at my house.
  9. The following morning, Pete made scrambled eggs.

It was a great weekend.

And as I popped my knife and fork down and scanned the room, I wondered how all of this happened.

And it was then I remembered.

I did number 1 on the list above.

 

I don’t often share really personal things on here, to do with my relationship and things like that.

But something happened yesterday between Lisa and I that was so significant that I cannot write this blog and not mention it. It’s affecting everything. It’s on my mind.

Basically, Lisa accused me of being a transvestite.

I was absolutely outraged. And upset.

I packed her things and left.

Now, you see, that didn’t happen. It is just me making a funny joke.

We’re fine.

Something that did really happen though, is that my friend bought me a really terrible thesaurus.

It was terrible.

And again you see. That didn’t happen either.

It’s just another joke. Not quite as good as the first one I don’t think. But quite funny.

Funny

And as you enter your day, you can – if you like – tweak these two slightly funny things and pass them off as your own. Weave them into your chatter. Let me know how it goes.

If no one laughs, blame me.

If they laugh (unlikely, I know), just keep them as your own.

Either way, you might make someone smile.

P.S. One last try…

A man in an interrogation room says “I’m not saying a word without my lawyer present.”

Policeman: “You are the lawyer”.

Lawyer: “Exactly, so where’s my present?”

Funny? No?

Sod you, then.

These days that you and I are living right now – these are The Good Old Days. 

They will be one day. So why not today? Every other time that you’ve referred to moments in time as the good old days, at the time they were happening you weren’t so sure.

As I write this it’s 11.50pm on a night that I should be with my family. I am tired and alone in my little office in the middle of Newcastle.

And it’s cold.

The Good Old Days

I have just asked Alexa to play “Don’t Worry Baby” by The Beach Boys and she’s now playing me a version that the Beach Boys recorded with The London Philharmonic Orchestra.

I didn’t know they’d done that.

Thank you!

Next, I am going to ask her for the entire Grace album by Jeff Buckley. And I will ask her to play ‘Lover You Should Have Come Over’ – twice.

I have an excellent coffee to my right, and Lisa is waiting for me at home. I won’t be home until the early hours because I have to get things done for two key meetings tomorrow.

I am lucky to have these two meetings.

These are The Good Old Days. 

Next week I will be talking to a global brand about a collaboration. I’m a tiny brand. And new. I may mess up the meeting. They may laugh.

These are The Good Old Days, for me to have such opportunities.

And I need to work out how to raise profile for my luxury clothing brand with a non-existent budget. No one will appreciate how amazing we are if I don’t tell them now, will they?

The Good Old Days

Whilst pondering how to grow the business, with so much to learn and so little to spend, I am now listening to Jeff Buckley sing:

“Looking out the door
I see the rain fall upon the funeral mourners
Parading in a wake of sad relations
As their shoes fill up with water.”

I can hear what he is singing and actually fecking SEE what he is singing, as well.

Beautiful.

The Good Old Days

Here’s Mr. Buckley (pop to www.50odd.co.uk to listen if you are reading this in your email).

Welcome to the good old days. I hope you can find the amazing in yours, too.

It’s there – if you look for it.