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May 2019

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Here’s a Facebook post.

I popped it out there a couple of days ago.

Having founded and now running Always Wear Red is a weird journey.

The downs are hard.

The zigging and the zagging.

The learning is constant.

The bruising – when things don’t go to plan – can be brutal.

Wanting to be absolute best… designing bravely… wanting to make a real difference… wanting to build relationships with the best makers in the world takes a lot of time and money.

Creating a brand that I love.

And that I want others to love too.

It drains me.

But then.

If you stick at it.

And ask the hard questions.

And do the hard things – well.

The good comes.

And it lifts you.

It lifts you high.

Here is a word-for-word message I just received.

After I’d asked to meet up with this person.

A person whose work I adore.

I wanted to chat about Always Wear Red.

Her message to me just now:

“Yes darling… once I get off “the road”. I’ll make time for myself and go exploring. Loving your designs, BTW. Cheers”

Well, I don’t know that this will mean something to all of you.

But it meant a lot to me.

The message was from Alison Moyet.

It’s just a nice feeling.

That the things I love today, are allowing me to revisit the things I loved when I was younger.

The message for you?

If things get tricky… keep going.

There are lovely things just around the corner.

I don’t know which corner of course.

And neither do you.

But they are there.

‘Night.

Alison Moyet.

Here’s Alison singing ‘Only You’ in 2016.

At The Burberry Show.

If you’ve not seen Alison Moyet for a few years.

You’re in for a surprise.

A number of people played Sting songs.

In front of Sting.

At the Polar Music Prize ceremony in 2017.

Sting. 

The camera flicks between the performer and Sting.

As he sits in the audience with his wife Trudie Styler.

The cameras capture his reaction.

And Trudie’s.

Gregory and José

Gregory Porter covers ‘It’s Probably Me’.

And it’s pretty good.

José Feliciano covers perhaps Sting and the Police’s greatest tune, ‘Every Breath You Take’.

And it’s a bit shit.

Honestly.

It’s not good.

Reaction.

Anyhow, take a look if you have 10 minutes.

And by ‘look’ I mean look at Mr. Sumner’s face.

As he takes in both versions of his creations.

Sometimes, it’s tricky to hide how you really feel.

(Go to https://www.50odd.co.uk/sting/ if you’re reading this in your email).

 

 

Today.

I am fishing.

Fishing. 

I am fishing for feedback.

Please.

I want to know what you think about 50odd.co.uk.

What I write.

How I write.

What you think there could be more of.

What you think there could be less of.

And maybe even (because I am genuinely not sure) what 50odd.co.uk actually is.

To you.

Me. 

All of that said.

I will continue to write for me.

50odd is, and will remain, a creative outlet for me.

‘Writing Tourettes’.

If there is such a thing.

And an extension of me.

In the same way that, I suppose, the best bands write music for themselves.

Think Nirvana.

Not Milli Vanilli.

And you’ll get where I’m coming from.

Thank you.

So thank you in advance.

I am interested.

In the good.

And the bad.

Comment below.

Or please email michael@50odd.co.uk.

Always Wear Red is getting narrower.

We’re focusing down on doing just one thing.

Really, really well.

And that’s jumpers.

Narrower. 

Great brands are almost always narrowly focused.

Duracell know what they do.

Batteries.

And they know what they stand for.

Lasting longer.

Yet as they have the greatest global market share of around 24%.

Common sense might suggest that such wonderful brand awareness means they are a perfectly positioned platform from which to launch other products.

Not so.

One of the reasons they are so dominant in the batteries category.

Is because batteries is all they do.

Always Wear Red

For 3 years I have ignored my own advice.

(I know!)

And I’ve explored.

I’ve mastered how to create, using Britain’s best makers and the world’s best materials, superb caps.

And scarves.

And hats.

And ties.

And pocket squares.

And socks.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do.

I didn’t know where my true love lay.

So I skipped about.

Learning my trade.

As I grew the offering.

Brand.

The Always Wear Red brand has never changed, mind.

It has always been about creating confidence.

And it always will be.

Making the wearer feel amazing.

So they do amazing.

But the offering was too broad, really.

Until now.

Jumpers. 

So jumpers it is.

And in the same way that Hiut Denim are on the or way to creating the best jeans in the world.

And McNair Shirts are creating the best merino wool shirts in the world.

Always Wear Red is creating the best 100% merino wool jumpers in the world.

Heavyweights.

And Lightweights.

They will be ready later this year.

Time.

It’s taken time.

And care.

And patience.

And money.

(And more money).

And a lot of love too.

But it will be worth it.

I am sitting in silence. 

Apart from the click and the clack of my keyboard.

Hiss.

When I pause from typing, I can hear a dull hiss.

Deep in my ears.

But nothing else.

Music. 

My mind drifts to what music I should put on.

On my phone.

But instead of popping to YouTube, I do something I so rarely do.

Something quite different.

Something that makes me feel a little insecure, actually.

I turn my phone off.

(I paused when I got to the screen that prompted me to ‘slide right’, actually.

Just for a second.

But then.

Slid I did.

And the phone went cold).

Isolated. 

I feel.

Well.

Isolated.

Frank the dog snoozes to my right.

Boats bob on the River Tyne to my left.

And this, the 295th daily 50odd story, is written.

Silence. 

Silence breeds silence.

And that’s a good thing.

Silence in the mind makes room.

For new things.

New things. 

In the silence, my consciousness drifted.

Looking for new things to fill the space.

But I didn’t find any new things at all.

Not one.

I found something far, far better.

I found old things.

Old Things.

My senses were heightened.

All of them.

And, somehow, I tuned in to old things.

Things that have almost always been there.

In the background.

I heard Mickey Chips (our cat) meow just then.

As he chattered at a bird.

Goading him from a boat’s mast.

Out of range.

Then, I looked down into my coffee cup as I sipped.

Noting the coffee’s beautiful, even deep brown hue.

It was such a lovely colour that I inhaled deeply.

Smelling it.

Coffee is such a lovely smell.

And I also noticed that when Frank looked up at me.

He looks, well, a little lonely (see photo: https://www.50odd.co.uk/old-things/).

So I cuddled him.

Frank.

I was reminded that Frank is always there for me.

And that I am not always there for Frank.

Sometimes because it is impossible.

And sometimes because I am doing something pointless.

Looking at utter, utter shit.

On my phone.

Off.

Life is better with your phone off.

Really.

Not because you discover new things.

But because you remember the old things.

I’ve recently discovered a whole new set of things you can do with eggs.

I have had to.

Lisa.

Lisa likes a bargain.

I think that, in supermarkets, she follows anyone holding a pricing gun.

To see where they land.

And to see if they are going to mark something down.

This is one of Lisa’s hobbies.

Eggs. 

I received a particularly excited text recently.

(Excited texts contain capitals and exclamation marks, in case you were wondering).

Because Lisa had discovered some mark-down eggs.

15 eggs per box.

4 boxes.

For 10p per box.

So 40p for 60 eggs.

Two-thirds of a pence.

Per egg.

5 days.

All good.

Apart from the fact that we had 5 days to eat them.

All 60 eggs.

Between two of us.

And a 2 year old.

Still, it made me explore egg-based recipes.

And we probably only spent about an extra £20 on gas and electric to make them.

Bargain!

Here’s a photo: https://www.50odd.co.uk/bargain/ 

Some people.

They’re grabbers.

LinkedIn.

I quite like LinkedIn these days.

Now I have worked out what it is.

It’s actually a really great way of connecting to a new tribe.

People you can help.

By sharing your ups and your downs and useful little things that may just make their lives better.

Downside. 

On the downside, LinkedIn is for the moaners.

And the chest-beaters.

It’s OK.

We can sidestep them.

But it is also home to The Grabbers.

The Grabbers.

Grabbers on LinkedIn appear quite nice at first.

They do come in with a ‘can you help me’ quite quickly, I find.

But that’s OK.

I like to help.

They are not so hot at coming forward to help you, mind.

When you ask for a wee bit of support.

But that’s OK too I guess.

We all get busy.

But over time, the grabbers say:

Ooh. Can I have one?

And:

Hey. That thing I saw you talking about the other day. Can you dig it out for me again. The one about brand. And pop it through to me.

And I tend to find that they don’t actually say:

Thank you.

Instead, they say:

Cheers!

Because, I suppose, it is quicker.

For them.

Linkedin and Car Drivers.

The problem with LinkedIn is the same problem I observe with some car drivers.

Car drivers, for some reason, seem to think that when people are in their way, they can shout things like:

You bastard!

Or:

What the fucking fuck?!

Blurted from the most aggressive and nasty face they can muster.

If they were in the street of course.

They’d not do this.

Because the car-shouters tend to be quite cowardly when face-to-face I find.

And if they chose the same approach as the adopted from the safety of their cars.

They’d have their nose bloodied.

And quite right too.

It’s similar with LinkedIn.

If I were face-to-face with any reasonable businesswoman or man I’d expect (something like):

Hello. How are you?

Great!

Me too.

So what’s happening?

Actually…

You know what.

I was thinking about you just the other day.

I saw this great new book.

I’ll write it down for you.

Here.

I have a pen…

And I’d not expect:

Hey.

I hear you have a discount code.

Can I have one.

Cheers.

Bye.

It may be just me.

But that’s OK.

They are real.

The Grabbers.

And I wish that they weren’t.

Grabbers…

I just don’t like them.

One of the best storytellers I have ever known.

Is my friend Pete Zulu.

Because he can capture a feeling in just a few words.

Interpretation.

This tiny snippet is something that Pete wrote on his Instagram page next to a lovely photograph.

A photograph that Pete had taken.

I must stress that I will almost certainly have interpreted Pete’s words incorrectly.

But, on occasions like this, incorrectly is fine.

Because however Pete told the story, I interpreted it in my own personal way.

And that’s the point, I think.

Candles. 

There’s a photograph of a young child on Pete’s Instagram page.

I can’t remember who it is.

But he looks worried.

Beautiful.

But troubled.

The caption, written (probably quite badly but brilliantly all at the same time – a rare skill) by Pete went like this.

It was a simple question that this worried, 4(ish) year old boy had asked.

It was:

Who will blow out my birthday cake candles if I die?

I have no idea what prompted this question.

And it doesn’t matter.

Because, if you are anything like me you will feel something about this question.

And death.

And childhood.

And innocence.

And fear.

And loneliness.

And how we all germinate ideas and fears – good and bad – whatever our age, inside our heads.

I hope that, like me, you are smiling.

And that you feel affection for this boy.

And for all young people.

And that you remember how lovely it is to engage with innocent minds.

To help them.

And – importantly – to re-learn, from them, how to think beautifully again.

Anyhow.

That’s what I took from this.

And, of course, it was a nice reminder about Pete’s beautiful mind.

Photograph.

Please.

If you are reading this in your email.

Take a look at Pete’s photograph, too: https://www.50odd.co.uk/candles/

I am not sure if I can still do a handstand.

I may be able to.

But I haven’t tried for such a long time.

Fitness. 

I do grown up fitness, though.

With posh, clunking, robust machines in grey, black and red.

With settings that ensure that whatever I lift gets heavier and heavier and increasingly unpleasant to move as-we-go.

And whirring bikes and rowing machines that go nowhere, yet get me somewhere.

Fitter, I think.

Fun.

Grown up fitness is not fun.

That’s why so many people do it in fits-and-starts.

As it happens, I have the nice people from STORM to help me.

So I do enjoy it.

And I stick around.

But the fundamental activities.

Running on the spot.

Cycling to nowhere.

Lifting until you can’t lift any more.

That’s not fun.

Well, not for most people.

Handstands.

How strange it is then that handstands are fun.

And hula-hooping.

And, I imagine, skipping.

And running around trying to catch a frisbee.

There’s a lot to be said for childishness.

Woven into what we grown-ups are supposed to do.

I’d strongly recommend it.

Not just when were are trying to get fit.

But in everything.

To feel good.

And to smile.

Disclaimer:

If you decide to try a handstand.

And land on your head.

It’s not my fault.

OK?

(But do send a picture.

Of the handstand.

Not you landing on your head).

I once ran a business called onebestway.

It was a Creative Agency.

Over 14 years it grew from nothing.

To something.

Growth.

Specifically, it grew from nothing to sales of £1,250,000 over about 8 years.

Then trundled on.

Winning awards and creating jobs over 14 years.

But it wasn’t always steady growth.

Sometimes, there was sharp decline.

Consett.

An example of sharp decline happened one cold early morning early in year two.

Our offices were in Consett.

And I turned up early.

I was always in first.

First to see the cold computers and desks.

First to warm them, and the room, for the others.

Except on this one morning.

Because when I arrived at the office.

I saw something quite different.

Different.

On this one morning all I saw.

Was a brick.

Brick.

One way to enter to an office.

In the middle of the night.

If you have no keys.

Is to use a brick.

Throw it at a window.

(That should do it).

And one way to very, very quickly ‘unplug’ monitors from sockets.

Is to hit the cables with an axe.

So the axe cuts through the cable – and the table top actually – with speed.

I learned both these things on this cold morning in 2002.

Momento.

For years, I kept the brick.

I smiled at it.

It was a momento.

It reminded me, and the thought of it still does, that we bounce back.

The brick incident was a mere blip.

A bump in the road.

The road from nothing.

To £1,250,000 of sales.