I like the thought that 'by adding something that requires care and concentration we are nourished'.
That's so important in a world that's all about now, instant gratification and disposability.
I guess that's the point of making tea in the pot, or cooking properly rather than zapping something in a microwave.
It's also the point of swimming everyday. I can't find a better word that 'realness', 'being present'.
Anyway, funny how stuff that slows you down actually makes you better. That's why i reject computer mind-maps and planning as a linear process.
There's something about the squeak of marker on a letraset, or scratching away on a Moleskin that just works better. Maybe it's arranging post it notes on a board, but an organic, slightly chaotic process requires organic tools. And don't pretend planning isn't chaotic and hit and miss please, you know process is only there to justify fees and create the illusion of predictability....
Once perpetual mistake I make is when I leave the pot to brew, manfully resisting the urge to stir and hurry it up, which would force tannins our and make it bitter. The curse of the absent minded means I start pottering on something and forget the pot. This can result in slightly tepid, over-stewed tea, which is mildly annoying. On the other hand, it's amazing what you can find yourself doing in the few minutes you wait, time you didn't think you had.
What tea means to me is this.
The ritual, the slowness, the rules, the attention to detail, the bubbles on the surface of the freshly brewed cup, the lovely comforting rich taste. It's a moment of slowness. In a world that seems to be always on, always something to think about, somewhere to be, tea is way of pressing pause button. That first cup doesn't just gird your loins for the day, it provides a last reminder of what really matters before the headlong rush into the 21st century re-commences (and the effect is amplified if the first cup is before 7am as someone has observed).
For me it inhabits the same world making my own pesto rather than the jar stuff, getting on the bike outside rather than in the gymn, writing a letter rather than an email or occasionally switching off the telly and just chatting. None of this stuff really matters, but at the same time it matters more than anything else in the world. Every day should have a good dose of realness, ritual and chance for reflection.
I'm in the middle of reading Andre Agassi's 'Open'. As you might expect. Apparently he wrote it himself and if so, that's amazing. It's a beautiful, tautly written book. Sport is so much more than the performance, it's a freakish, lonely life. This book captures that.
Anyway, at the heart of the book is a contradiction. He hated tennis but couldn't stop. 'I want this to be over' 'I'm not ready for this to be over'. I think this captures a truth that isn't just about sport, but about anything that's worth doing. It's conflicted and un-simple.
In George Orwell's 1984 we have double think. The idea of holding two contradictory arguments in your head at the same time. I think there's power in conflict and contradiction. There's real power in tension. Not the resolution of tension or conflict, as much of advertising tries to work to, but a fuzzy spot in the middle of both.
In sport, proper sport that requires pain and sacrifice, athletes at once love it and hate it. Pain brings joy, joy in effort etc. You want the pain to stop, but rejoice in forcing yourself to carry on. Every single training session is redemption and escape from your own personal limits. There is no joy without pain. They are two sides of the same coin and need to be allowed to co-exist.
This is true of so much in life. Most people in agencies for example at once hate it and love it. They hate the hours, the constant grind, the stress, the unpredictability. But they also love that stress, it makes them feel alive. It's addictive. And the effort and trial and tribulation make the end result so much sweeter. Even that's bitter sweet, there's nothing at once euphoric and sad as coming to the end of a book and having to start again. Much of agency life is like that, much of LIFE is like that.
Anyone that tells you that a having a baby is simple joy is offering falsehood. It's hard, stressful and restrictive. But there's an intense joy in that effort, doing something for someone else, at the mercy of your own instinctive need to care for your own flesh and blood. And amidst all that is the first smile, the first giggle and the holding him in your arms and just loving him.
Yep, there's power in contradiction, not necessarily in its resolution, sometimes (mostly) in NOt resolving it.
I went to see some of my friends play in a band this week. I've known some of them since school.
I'm pleased to say they were very, very good. But that's not what made me happy.
They're in their thirties, they are Dads, employees, boyfriends, husbands. But for an hour or so, they were five men totally lost in what they were doing. They were alive, present in the moment, released, not one of the ordinary people, empowered, confident, euphoric. To be honest, they were teenagers with a dream again.
That's what made me happy. It doesn't matter what it is, it doesn't even matter if you're good. Find your passion and never stop doing it. That's what it means to be truly alive.
On another note, one of them has stood his ground in a way I'd like to think I would, but I'm not so sure. He wrote and performed in a band that was good enough to get signed by a major label. But the label wouldn't release the finished album, it wasn't commercial enough. Rather than give in, they refused to release it. He left London and started a family.
But he never gave up.
Thanks to the splintering of the music industry, they're releasing a new album, one they want to share, in small way in Europe. And playing some dates all over the continent.
Go on my son! It's never too late.
That's the other side to the enthusiastic amateur. If you're truly gifted, you should follow it through. There's nothing like the joy of doing something well. Craftsmanship, inspiration, feeling your talent. It's good.
It's been a little cold recently, perfect time for a warming, comforting recipe. This is one for the weekend, or to prepare the night before. Not only is it worth it, for the tender meat falling apart as soon as the fork tickles it, it's no work, the time is dedicated to slow marinading and cooking.
That gives you lots of time to do something else.
This is best eaten with people you like, the telly off and the fire going.
A boneless pork shoulder joint, the best you can find. That usually means sourced locally, ideally from a butcher. Supermarket ones are fine of course, but please try and avoid Dutch pork, they castrate their little piglets without anesthetic.
Four garlic cloves
Plenty of scrubbed, chopped carrots
One large sweet potato sliced into thin discs (skin on)
Two tablespoons of flour
One pint of hot stock, ideally ham stock, or chicken if you prefer. We're all busy, make it from a good quality stock cube
Ideally the night before you want to eat it, take the pork out of its wrapping. Thinly slice two garlic cloves and then crush with a fork, stir into a tablespoon of olive oil. Rub the oily garlic all over the meat and wrap tightly in kitchen foil.
This needs to marinade for at least two hours, in the fridge if you're cooking on the same day.
10 minutes before you want to cook the meat, set the oven at 190 degrees C. Put the meat, still wrapped into a deep roasting tin and then put in the oven.
You want to cook the meat for 35 minutes per half kilogram, with another 35 minutes added on.
You have lots of time then to chop your vegetables. They'll need to be ready for the last 35 minutes of cooking.
At this point, take the tray out, unwrap the meat, pour the juices back into the pan and toss your vegetables in it. Put the meat on top (the fatty, skin side up), and cook for that last 35 minutes. spoon some of the juices over the meat before it goes back in.
When it's ready, take the pan out the oven, remove the meat, wrap in more foil to rest for twenty minutes.
Stir in two tablespoons of flour into the vegetables left in the pan and pour in a pint of stock. Stir it all up and put back in the oven for the twenty minutes the meat is resting. This will create a lovely, thick, tasty sauce and finish off the veg. You might also fancy adding a glass of cider.
When it's all done, carve the meat. Pull the fatty skin off first and, when I say carve, I really mean distribute the soft chunks as it fall apart.
Pile the veg into big bowls, put the chunks of meat on top and pour lots of sauce over it. You want a nice soupy, saucy finish (so serve with lots of good bread to mop up the juices and let everyone have a spoon).
She's a planner in Leeds, but I know here as sporadics coffee shop/relaxing beer conversationalist rather than a work person (or a home person). Nice to see her to her thing, always wondered what she would be like presenting.
As far as I'm concerned, a brand is a collection of feelings and associations built up over time. At their best, there is vision or an idea that helps the brand create the right impressions for whatever they need to do. I thought it looked a little like this..
This means a general direction, vision, promise or whatever you want to call it (would you believe some people I came accross recently call it a 'brand dream' (!)) and communications ideas that cover off immediate objectives, remove certain barriers and help you 'tack' along.
I presented this specific chart a while back. I still think this is mostly right, but there's something wrong I now think. That's the concept of a 'brand idea'. Let me explain.
If you're launching a brand, you need an idea of course. You need to have a strong belief about the role you want to have in people's lives, what problem you are going to help them with, which people. What will it feel like? What will you always do? What will you never do?
This stuff matters. If you took Coke's means of production away, they could still sell their company for billions based on brand value. When Sainsburys was doing badly at the start of this decade (crap distribution) what kept them going was the loyalty of customers who wanted them to do well in a way that only Waitrose could maybe match.
But you SHOULD only have to do this once. And I'm less convinced that a brand IDEA is that important. Abrand is broad church, a collection of feeling and associations, much like a person is. It's at once vague and familiar. You know it's Coke, Nike or Ikea through a vague recognition of atmosphere. Cue the self serving analagy.
They used to think an electron was a single particel orbiting around the nucleas of an atom. A simple dot...you could predict where it was and where it was going.
Nowadays, as mad as it sounds, they believe you don't where it is, it can be anywhere within a given space - so you have to assume it is in all those spaces at the same time, a fuzzy cloud.
Really brands are like that, they occupy a fuzzy space, more a smudge than a bullet hard object (or sentence). Sainsburys may well be Try Something New Today right now, but I don't think that's a GENUINE brand idea, it's a bloody good BIG communications idea. Sainsbury's longer, bigger brand story (smudge) is about commitment to good food - a food hero, something like. Nike is something to do with self motivation and hero worship. We, of course, know that Honda is about optimism.
So what I think I'm saying is that a brand is rarely a big consistent idea. Plot the story of great brands over time and you see a series of great ideas that occupy a fuzzy area.
The only time you need a BIG brand idea is when you believe one doesn't exist in people's heads, like with Honda. Even then, the story was there, it was just that not enough people knew the truth about the company culture.
I think this means a lot more freedom for planning campaigns. Doing what is right for right now, dealing with what needs to be dealt with. Sainsburys will always be about great quality food, right now they're getting more out the customers they have and dealing with them having less budget, This will eventually change. But they found their way in the '90s with celebrity recipe ads.. and they're still doing it.
When Apple found its way again in 1997 with'Crazy Ones' and the Imac, it simply rediscovered what it was about. To be honest, the ad is another take on the premise of 1984...Disruption (you'll hate that word if you work at TBWA). And both are part of a wider story/cloud/smudge...simplicity and humanity.
Unless I'm starting from complete scratch with a launch, I'd be talking to lots and lots of people who are involved with the organisation, not looking for words as much as how they feel about the brand. What fuzzy space does it occupy? What it the atmosphere. Find that and you can have lots of ideas within it. They don't have to be the same, maybe not even the same theme, but together thet should create a smudge like and electron.
Thinking like this will help us manage what's going on right now, with the web enabled, Facebooking savvy consumer.
The rules are not that different to 20 years ago, you still have to create something interesting, just more-so now that we can't bludgeon people glued to the telly. The difference is that if you're under 25, you don't want something totally finished, you want to be involved, share and be part of it. I think unfinished areas (and when you think about it a brand is never finished, it just evolves) smudges, areas or subject matter for conversations are far more suited to that.
Yesterday was a day I won't forget in a hurry. It consisted of three major themes. First, I am an idiot (but you already knew that). We've had more than a bit of snow in the last few days, but I decided to set of to work anyway (that's a drive from Leeds to Manchester). It wasn't snowing much in Leeds and anyway, "It'll be fine". It wasn't. Exhausted after a three and half hour drive, when i got to work I simply picked up my laptop and set off home again, to make sure I got there. There's a (not so) fine line between being brave and being stupid,. I crossed it. That's proved by the second theme. Life truly comes down to a matter of seconds. It really is all luck. On the way home, navigating a precarious M60 motorway, I came around the bend, suddenly face to face with two mangled trucks blocking the entire road. The ice and slush meant the hastily applied brakes only just saved my from joining them after a nerve shredding skid. It had only just happened. If I had been 100 yards further down the road, if I had been twiddling the radio station, if I had been daydreaming, if I had been driving a little faster, if I hadn't dropped my phone getting in the car, making me set of 20 seconds later I would most probably be dead. I soon discovered one OK truck driver and one deceased one. Use every single second you have, you really do not know when it will be your last. Life is so much down to chance, anything could happen at any time. Which brings me to the final theme. When I eventually got home the first thing I did was pick up my 10 week old baby boy and hold him very tightly. What else really matters more than the ones you love? if you haven't called your Mum recently, call her. If you haven't told your other half you love them today, do it. And if you're waiting to try something, do something, say something you really want to, you might be afraid, you might be comfortable, I don't know, just bloody have a go (unless it's foolhardy, see theme one)
Supporting Leeds Utd is a little bit similar to liking Prince...years of waiting for him to make a decent album, you get the odd glimps of hope but he always lets you down and makes you feel worse in the end.
Finally, after years of pain, Leeds have made me very happy.