Bringing it all back home, again

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It’s not the first time that I’ve used the title of one of Bob Dylan’s greatest albums to start this Blog but never has it seemed more appropriate.

Welcome to The Moodie Davitt Report Interim Self-Quarantine Bureau. Yes I’m back where it all began 18 years ago, looking out over my garden at (no longer from) my original ‘Worldwide Headquarters’ (dubbed, not without cause it must be said, by then-Abu Dhabi Duty Free boss Mohamed Mounib as ‘the garden shed’).

Back to the future…. where it all began

Like many readers of this Blog, I am in lockdown in my own space. Moodie Davitt HQ in Brentford, just outside West London, is closed (it’s a 16-storey 14,400sq m office complex, packed with non-Moodie Davitt people and I owe my team more than to expect them to risk being in such a place).

We’re no different to countless travel retail workforces all around the globe who are hunkering down in their apartments or houses, relying on the wonders of the internet (please god do not now give us a global cyberattack now) and valiantly trying to do their jobs while watching what is currently a whole business sector in freefall.

I could be in worse places. I have acres of parkland behind my house, my garden ready to burst into its new spring garb, and a  supply of decent vino under my floorboards, including an appropriate house white (pictured).

The Moodie Davitt virtual office team starts each day with a group skype call (either voice or in writing depending on the circumstances) and it’s interesting that we’ve drawn closer despite the isolation. Everyone is looking out for everyone else (members of my team let me know who is most worried about their job and so on). Sometime collective decisions need to be made on an ‘all for one, one for all’ basis and it’s both interesting and inspirational to see the unity.

We’re among the lucky ones. There are countless dispossessed, poor, war-torn men, women and children who are suffering far greater hardship than the novelty of having to work from home. Despite my low immunity (caused by saying farewell to my spleen during a stomach cancer operation ten years ago), as long as I stay close to the original Worldwide HQ, I am safe. Many people on this planet right now cannot say that.

Countless souvenir mugs and T-shirts here promote the tagline ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ – one of the most recognisable slogans in British history. It was coined by the shadow Ministry of Information in 1939 on the eve of World War II and produced as part of a series of three posters that would be issued in the event of war (the others read ‘Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory’ and ‘Freedom is in Peril; Defend it with all Your Might’). While I usually hate falling back on any kind of cliché, it’s actually not bad advice. In fact, it’s just about the only advice. The hideous alternative is a downward spiral of negativity.

A few moments ago I penned my Chairman’s comment for our March edition of The Moodie Davitt Magazine (Digital and Print) that would have appeared at the Summit of the Americas show in Orlando but will now simply be distributed to our mailing list around the world and via a much bigger one digitally. All but one of our advertising partners stayed with us (we do not believe in the debatable practice of insisting bookings are retained – instead we try to convince with added value in times of crisis), a show of loyalty that reflects, I believe, the quality and immediacy of the around-the-clock and complimentary service we are providing during these stark times.

I thank all our partners, big and small for their belief in us and their unprecedented levels of readership over recent weeks. It is a time for increased collaboration and support between all stakeholders and it is important that we not only seek it but give it in terms of added value and commitment to resource and quality reporting. One major business partner today (I won’t embarrass the company by naming it) even asked us to raise a Purchase Order for a whole year ahead. “We know tough times and want to show you our support,” the executive responsible told me. You know who you are and I will never forget the gesture.

Another old adage, this time a biblical one… ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. We’ve stepped in to help as best we can a couple of fledgling and start-up businesses that find themselves in peril simply because of unlucky timing. One of these entrepreneurs, who has a great skincare product and more energy than a nuclear plant, even contracted COVID-19 in the midst of the turmoil (she is recovering, I am delighted to say). We are all in this together.

My faith in both the human spirit and our industry tells me that better days and many of them lie ahead. As we look ahead and crave relief from what Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte called last week “this f***ing virus!” I’ll revert to another of my song-writing idol Bob Dylan’s many great lyrics

I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail
Poisoned in the bushes an’ blown out on the trail
Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn
Come in, she said
I’ll give ya shelter from the storm.

We all feel a bit like the song’s narrator, I suspect. But shelter will be found and fairer weather will come.