It is customary for me to scribble some thoughts at this time each year and to also use the opportunity to say a very grateful and heartfelt thanks to all those clients, contacts and friends who have supported the business over the preceding years, of which there are now nine (years, that is, not friends!). It is, perhaps, a cliché but no less true to say that, without you, the firm wouldn’t be approaching double figures. It is worth remembering that in October, 2007 the Dow Jones closed at a record, all-time high and when you take into account adjustments for inflation, it took until the end of 2013 for it to reach the same level. The Chinese curse of living in interesting times doesn’t really seem to do justice to the last nine years; and then, just when you thought that it was safe to go back in the water …!
Apparently, pottery and willow are the traditional gifts for a ninth anniversary. Having just returned from Barcelona, I can tell you that celebrating with an item of pottery would have been no problem, but I’m not sure that willow was all that abundant. Even if it was, the exchange rate would probably have indicated that a choice would have to be made – and that leads me on to the subject at hand and, as I said, “interesting times”.
I have been watching with some amusement how both sides of the Brexit campaign have rowed back on both their claims for the benefits of their respective positions and their criticisms of the likely effects of their opponents’ positions. That said, there is still some justification for quoting Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. If you will forgive me, however, it is also worth considering more of the passage from which this famous phrase is taken. It continues:
“it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way”
It seems to me that this passage resonates with what we have gone through in the UK over the last six months. The ever-increasing hyperbole of the opposite camps spiralled ever further into the realms of the surreal – how could one set of circumstances be seen in such diametrically opposite terms? Bizarrely (or should I be more forceful than that?) the passage that I have quoted (which was written by Dickens in 1859) concludes as follows:
“in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
Given what we are now seeing in the US, you can’t help feeling that Charles Dickens was writing the opening of The Tale of Two Cities in America, now, and looking back over the previous six months in the UK for his comparison. Perhaps “bizarre” was the wrong word; are we now seeing in politics what we have experienced in the economic world over the past seven years? In both macro- and micro-economic terms, the old order, the old certainties, the accepted norms have all been overthrown. Are we now seeing the winds of change blowing through the political sphere?
I have previously commented upon the “new normal” (that there isn’t one and there never was an “old normal”) but this upheaval in politics the world over seems to support the contention that whilst politics, economics and, in fact, every human endeavour, have periods of calm and subtle change (which is not necessarily a good thing), these are always interspersed with periods of more radical change and upheaval (which are not always a bad thing). Evolution is not a straight-line graph and just because the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, that is almost never the path that is trod.
I think that it is fair to say that in several generations (and nothing less than that time frame) people may look back on the current upheavals (both economic and political) as cathartic and a “good thing”. Living through the last eight years and who knows how many years to come, it is perhaps less obvious to spot the benefits! Let’s hope that the depth and appalling effect of the economic travails of the past eight years are not reflected in the outcome of the current political upheavals, either this side of the Atlantic or the other. Time (and only a couple of weeks, in the case of the US) will tell.
Whatever transpires, however, “upwards and onwards” is always the appropriate response and the one best suited to navigating your way through life’s little rollercoaster (whether it is in evolutionary or revolutionary mode).
I hope that I haven’t detained you over-long with this ramble, we are all busy people but I do like to try and step back from the hubbub and try and get some perspective on life, particularly on the anniversary of the firm’s creation.
As Winston Churchill once said: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”. Let’s not get bogged down in our living and enjoy the life we can and should lead. Hopefully next year I won’t need to refer to the Chinese curse!