Did I really start last year’s message with: “Dare I suggest that, this year, I can be reasonably confident that next year will be better than its predecessor?”?

Yes, I have to admit that I did, and I have, rather regularly, thought about what lead me to utter such a hostage to fortune!

After a year when a lettuce out-lasted (and possibly contained more intelligence than) a Prime Minister and a Chancellor, the bar set for next year is so low that I could possibly risk uttering the same phrase, but I shall resist the temptation.

In all seriousness, however, we do seem to be weathering a number of storms, both globally and more locally. Whilst Covid hasn’t been defeated (China is again showing the world how not to handle the problem), it has dropped down the list of most pressing issues for the rest of the world: a global energy crisis; war in Europe; recession rearing its ugly head; inflation and strikes affecting the day-to-day lives of most people.

Whether you are an advocate of “globalisation” or whether you favour shortening supply chains and “home shoring”, there is no doubt that macro economic events have a direct effect at a micro economic level. As with the environment, with climate change and so many other issues, we all share the same rock, hurtling through space.

The “inter-connectedness” of everything is undeniable, but how each person, community, country or trading bloc reacts to the effects can be very different, and that is how we can each, individually and collectively (however large that “collective” may be), make a difference.

It may be at the very extreme end of this spectrum of reactions to adversity, but the response of the people of Ukraine to the daily slaughter of their fellow citizens, the almost apocalyptic destruction of their country and the heinous hypocrisy of the Russian government and those who choose not to condemn it, is a shining example to all of us.

It would be wrong to suggest that the suffering in Ukraine should make us all count our blessings; the fact that a crime is being committed against a group of innocent people is not a reason to dismiss a lesser tragedy being suffered by others. In the face of diabolical evil, we should not lessen our response to other wrongs. This is where the action of the individual is so important – we can each help to make a difference, however small, to our own local community.

On a personal note, I have, once again, as an alternative to sending Christmas cards, made a donation to St Vincent’s Hospice which I would ask you (after a break, last year, to support a charity supported by my daughter), if you are able, to also support (the donation page on their website can be found by clicking on this link: https://cafdonate.cafonline.org/13463#!/DonationDetails).

On a business note, Kepstorn has, after the very quiet “Covid years”, had an exceptionally busy year which is, hopefully, a sign of a return to the commercial activity that is necessary to power the economic engine of the country. The very positive aspect of this, from my point of view, is that it has been the corporate growth areas of the business (mergers and acquisitions, re-financing and market listing work) that has performed particularly strongly. I don’t doubt that the insolvency, recovery and restructuring work will also continue to grow, but it is nice to see both sides of the business thriving in the current economic climate.

Finally, I would like to finish my annual musings with a heartfelt wish that you and all those that you love and hold dear have a peaceful and joyful Christmas and a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year. With the return of travel as an option (despite train and airport turmoil), I do hope to meet more of my friends, this year. There is nothing like a face-to-face meeting and greeting, no matter how convenient Zoom, Teams, et al may be.