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August 2019

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Last weekend.

In Jesmond.

In Newcastle.

I came across this: https://www.50odd.co.uk/nice-2/.

Bookhouse.

It’s a nice thing.

It’s a little wooden house.

On the edge of a green.

Containing books.

And written on this little.

Err.

‘Bookhouse’.

It instructs:

Take a book.

Leave a book.

Nice. 

My Izobel.

Aged 3.

Took a book.

And next week we will leave a book.

But the nicest little thing about this nice little thing.

Is the nice conversation that I then had with Izobel.

Because, as we didn’t buy the little dinosaur book she chose.

Izobel learned about generosity.

And it made her want to leave one of her books there too.

Two things. 

I left this experience thinking two things.

First.

Niceness breeds niceness.

Second.

Someone has to start.

And that got me thinking of a third and fourth thing.

Third.

That I can start a nice thing.

(I’m thinking).

Fourth.

So can you.

(Please think too).

I have a three word answer to questions like this.

Michael, why are you trying to create the best hand knitted jumpers in the world?

Michael, why are you trying to create the most talked about daily blog in the world?

Michael, why are you trying to create one of the first Brand Communication agencies that only works with businesses wanting to make a contribution?

(As opposed to working with brands that just want ANGELFYSH help them to flog as much stuff as they can.

To as many people as they can.

Whether the customer can afford it or not).

Three words.

My three word answer is always the same.

It’s:

Someone has to.

I don’t know what else to say, really.

There were 11 seasons of Cheers.

My favourite sitcom.

The sitcom that I watch all 257 episodes of.

Each and every year.

Remembering.

This is a short story about remembering.

Remembering who or what helped you to get where you are today.

Remembering the good people.

And the important people.

Coach. 

Coach.

Or Ernie Pantusso.

Played by a fine man called Nicholas Colasanto.

Was only in the first 3 series of Cheers.

Because he died before the making of Series 4.

However.

(And I like this).

Coach was remembered in every single season ever made.

The first 3 season because he starred in them.

And the last 8 seasons because of the photograph of Geronimo at the back of the bar.

Just across from where Cliff and Norm sit.

Geronimo. 

This photograph hung in Nicholas Colasanto’s dressing room during the first 3 seasons of the show.

And from the fourth season to the last season.

It hung in the bar.

It was always there.

Because the cast and the crew wanted coach to be remembered.

So much so that.

At the end of the final episode.

Aired May 20th 1993.

Just after Sam Malone says the final words ever to be said on Cheers:

Sorry. We’re closed.

He then wanders slowly over to Nick Colasanto’s photograph.

And gently straightens it.

Remembering.

This is a short story about remembering.

Remembering who or what helped you to get where you are today.

Remembering the good people.

And the important people.

Here’s the clip: https://www.50odd.co.uk/sorry-were-closed/

 

I don’t know if Michael Jackson was a goodie or a baddie.

I really have no idea.

Awkward.

But so much of his story, to be honest, makes me feel funny.

Awkward.

And it has affected his legacy.

For me.

I know this because, when I was looking for a great live version of my favourite Michael Jackson song this week.

I stopped looking.

Because I felt better about a studio version.

With no video.

Which is unusual for me.

To not want see a live performance.

What a strange feeling!

Human Nature.

But I’ve always really loved ‘Human Nature’ from his 1983, Thriller album.

And I still do.

I don’t think much else sounds like this.

Before or since.

So here it is: https://www.50odd.co.uk/human/.

Born in 1802, Victor Hugo was a French poet, novelist and dramatist of the Romantic movement.

Hugo is one of the greatest and best-known French writers.

Born in 1939, Greggs is a Newcastle upon Tyne based bakery with 1,950 stores at time of writing.

Greggs is the largest bakery in the UK and makes very lovely sausage rolls.

Victor Hugo and Sausage Rolls.

It was Victor Hugo that once said:

Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come.

And it was Greggs that once said:

The wait is over… 3.1.19 #vegansausageroll.

Northern Pride.

I am really proud of Greggs.

A brand whose time has come.

I am a guy living in the North East of England.

A place I really like.

But a place that is still all-too-often characterised by Jimmy Nail, Sting, Cheryl Whatevershescalledthesedays’ arse-tattoo, where the shipyards used to be, where Newcastle Brown used to be made, where silly football clubs have self-destruct buttons and that place the Northern Powerhouse forgot.

I see Greggs as a genuine local hero.

A retail success story.

A brand with a sense of now-ness.

It knows what it is for.

And why it works now.

A strong, fun ‘brand-of-the-people’ that we can watch, enjoy and admire.

Quality.

Greggs is a decent quality, clever, patient, steady monster of a business.

A smartly run and smartly marketed monster.

Quietly going about its business and achieving, for the the first time in 2018, a turnover of one billion pounds.

Employing 22,000 people.

And still the home of the Festive Bake.

Togetherness.

Greggs seems to bring people together too, I think.

With little bragging or bluster.

It makes me feel nostalgic.

It’s simple and straight forward so that I understand it.

It’s built on common sense.

It’s fun.

And, business-wise, it is probably the best thing about the NE for me since I arrived here in 1987.

I love Greggs.

And if you love Greggs too, here’s a canny little Greggs Locator.

Just for you.

Be ambitious.

Honestly.

Just be ambitious.

Because no matter how high you get.

You acclimatise.

You really do get used to the altitude.

Altitude. 

I’ve paid annual rent of £3,600 and annual rent of £57,000.

I’ve employed 1 person and I’ve employed 30 people.

I’ve paid a total wage bill of £12,000 and I’ve paid a total wage bill of £750,000.

And, honestly, when you’re busy in the day-to-day.

And all other variables around you are adjusted accordingly.

It feels OK.

Ambitious. 

So whatever it is you are thinking of doing.

Go for it.

Be ambitious.

Because no matter how high you get.

You acclimatise.

You really do get used to the altitude.

My advice to you.

If you are a business leader or an aspiring business leader.

Is to every now and then.

Just stand there.

Watching.

McDonald’s

I managed McDonald’s restaurants in my very early 20’s.

A business not without flaws.

But one thing they got me to do.

As a restaurant manager.

That was really good.

Was to regularly stand in the dining area of the restaurant.

Watching.

Watching the crew.

The customers.

The counter.

The stock levels.

The cleanliness.

The eye contact.

The smiles.

The body language.

The hustle.

Watching everything.

It’s amazing what I learned doing that.

Mostly about how we made our visitors feel.

1992.

I first did this kind of ‘watching’ in 1992.

And I did it again last week.

But not in a McDonald’s restaurant.

I practiced my ‘watching’ whilst renewing my passport in the Passport Office in Durham.

First Impressions.

I watched the long, greasy hair of a tall, skinny man swing to-and-fro.

As he laughed and chatted with his much shorter, much rounder but just as grubby work colleague.

On the front desk.

The shorter and rounder grubby man’s job, I think, was to stare at me and point me silently to the tall grubby man as I approached.

The tall grubby man’s job was to wave a metal-detector wand over my body for just under 2 seconds before silently waving me past him.

To stand at the end of a different cordoned off area.

About 6 feet away.

Where I watched a lady behind the counter say:

Next.

Before asking me why I was here.

I replied:

To renew my passport.

She asked to see my old one.

That I’d lost.

So she corrected me and said (something like):

If you have lost your passport.

Then you are not here to renew your passport

You are here to replace your passport.

This mini-conversation took place without her smiling or looking up once.

Until I asked what difference a renewal versus a replacement made to what was about to happen next.

At which point she did actually look up at me.

And after a couple of seconds.

Said:

Nothing.

Skill.

It is quite a skill.

To make another person feel so inadequate.

So quickly.

And with so few words.

Waiting.

She pointed me to a large waiting area where I sat.

With 2 other people.

For 15 minutes.

I had been 5 minutes early.

So this 15 minute wait meant that they were now 10 minutes late for me.

Watching Some More.

I watched some more.

A large, tired looking security man.

With an impressively large tummy.

So large in fact that it refused to allow the front of his shirt to tuck into his trousers.

Instead creating two little white shirt-curtains as he leant forward.

Balancing his forearms on the back of a chair.

Chatting to a colleague about beer.

Waiting Some More. 

Eventually, an automated voice invited me to window 9.

10 minutes late.

The chap didn’t apologise of course.

He just looked at the paperwork that I handed to him.

Asked me to sign something.

And a little under 5 minutes later.

I left.

The Passport Office At Durham.

When I stood in the dining area of my McDonald’s Restaurant in 1992.

Watching.

It was because my manager cared about what happened there.

And he wanted me to care about what happened in my restaurant, too.

To care about how our visitors felt.

And I did.

The Passport Office at Durham is staffed by people that don’t care about how I feel.

Managed by people that don’t care that they don’t care about how I feel.

And that’s why.

I suppose.

That the Passport Office at Durham is so utterly, utterly shite.

You’ll have thought about it.

Maybe not to the point of actually writing something down.

Or drawing something.

Like I have.

But you’ll have considered it.

I am talking about what will be written on your gravestone.

Death. 

I am not sure if I’ll be burned or buried.

Burned probably.

You know.

Just to make sure.

And my gravestone?

Yes.

I know what I want.

Here.

Take a look: https://www.50odd.co.uk/gravestone/.

Nuisance. 

Death.

What a bloody nuisance that is.

I’ll be right pissed off when it happens.

If you like George, please go here: https://www.50odd.co.uk/intimate/.

Please watch this full screen.

With the sound up high.

When you have 4 uninterrupted minutes.

Intimate.

This is an intimate, wobbly, amateur IPhone recording of George Michael on the 17th of September 2012.

Singing live in Birmingham.

It is one single shot.

With no snazzy visual or audio post production.

And I love how you see George telling one of the stories he wrote so beautifully.

So sincerely.

And so well.

With the conductor’s hand at George’s side.

Rawness.

I think that the intimacy comes from being raw, vulnerable and true.

Something that I will strive to achieve when I restart my Always Wear Red storytelling in September.

I prefer real.

And so do consumers.

And that’s why I prefer this George Michael film to the rather more polished and better edited official SYMPHONICA version.

I love how we see George here.

George.

George Michael.

To me, a genius.

Sadly.

Died alone.

In 2016.

On Christmas Day.

 

I’ve drawn a diagram to go with this short story, here: https://www.50odd.co.uk/lifeshapes/.

Lifeshapes.

Over the last few years.

Deep down.

Hidden away from everyone around me.

Even those closest to me.

I had been visualising my life as the wrong lifeshape.

I had been visualising my life as a Flat Diamond.

And that really isn’t good.

So I’ve changed it.

To a Drunk Isosceles.

And you know what?

I feel much, much better.

Lifeshapes.

A Flat Diamond shaped life is not good.

It made me sad.

Because the left half of the Flat Diamond represents life’s acceleration.

Life’s learning.

Life’s improvement.

Life’s growth.

Life’s expansion.

Life’s successes.

The widest part of the Flat Diamond is called ‘The Peak’.

And the right hand half of the Flat Diamond is called.

Well.

I suppose.

Decline.

You see; I started to believe that I’d peaked.

In about 2013.

At the age of about 45.

And as a consequence I’d labelled everything to the right of the widest part of the Flat Diamond.

Everything i was doing ‘now’.

As decline.

Change.

I had to change something.

My perspective was all wrong.

This silly Flat Diamond lifeshape story that I was telling myself was hurting me.

First of all mentally.

And then it was hurting me in how I was performing and making decisions as well.

So I chose a different shape.

I chose the Drunk Isosceles.

So these days, an isosceles triangle lying down – drunk – on its side.

Is my brand new lifeshape.

And I LOVE it.

It basically means that I have chosen to go on learning, improving, growing, expanding and succeeding.

And just at the point that I peak.

When I am at maximum power.

When I am having an absolute fucking ball.

Riding higher than ever before.

I die.

Perfect!

(I’ve not sorted out ‘not dying’ yet.

I’ll keep you posted).

Lifeshapes.

A Drunk Isosceles shaped life is a good life.

But I also learned a hard lesson by choosing a Flat Diamond shaped life.

I learned that, basically, the only way to be sure if you have peaked.

The only way to be 100% sure that you have moved completely through acceleration, learning, improving, growing, expanding and succeeding – on past Peak and into Decline.

Is if that is what you choose to believe.

In summary, because I chose to believe that I’d peaked.

I had.