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31 December 2015
My final Blog of the year does not come from an interim bureau, nor from 35,000 feet. It comes from home in London but it comes also with affection, for your support and your readership throughout a compelling, often tumultuous year.
We launched this Blog way back in September 2006, 24 September to be precise. Since then we have published no fewer than 1,306 Blogs. Welcome to number, 1307 with which I shall close out 2015, which as I write has 45 minutes left to run.
Tonight, like many of you have been doing progressively over the past few hours, I am signing off one year and welcoming in another.
Tonight, like many of you, I’ll reach out to those who I care about deeply via the words of the perennially poignant Robbie Burns classic Auld Lang Syne:
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o’ lang syne!
For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne!
Like all of you I’ll reflect fondly, poignantly and sometimes sadly on years (and people) gone by, and muse on the days that lie ahead.
Today, 31 December, my first-born child, Sinead (below), turned 31. I remember this precise day all those years ago when she entered the world so very, very well. Back then I was still resident in my native New Zealand, with no idea of the life that lay ahead of me in a foreign land. Indeed I thought I would never leave those shores. Three decades on it is highly unlikely that I will ever return to them, much as I love the country, its people and its collective national persona – like no other on earth. Godzone as us Kiwis like to call our blessed land.
Today Sinead works alongside me (albeit ‘virtually’ from her Pontardawe, Wales base) as does my next-born, Declan. Heck, maybe a career at The Moodie Report also beckons for my two younger ones, Ali (15) and Samira (14 on January 3)? Who knows, but what a beautiful thought it is to contemplate owning a true family company – one now shared in ownership terms with the Davitt family, my wonderful long-term associate Dermot, his wife Michelle and their two beautiful daughters.
Dermot became a shareholder this year after I parted company after four “eventful” years with Switzerland-Texas businessman John Harlan Wampler and his daughter Jaclyn in May and brought The Moodie Report back to its roots. All things happen for a reason. I learned much about life and business from Mr Wampler but since ‘Bringing it all back Home’ in the immortal words of Bob Dylan it is fair to say the business has never been in better shape.
The ‘family’ nature of the company also includes those incredible team members who have stuck by me through thick and thin and who never jumped ship when the going got tough – as indeed it sometimes did. They know who they are and when we gathered in December for our annual Christmas party it was an especially warm occasion.
Tonight I am celebrating the advent of the New Year by broaching a bottle of Journey’s End ‘The Cape Doctor’ Shiraz (pictured above) from South Africa, given to me at Christmas by my remarkable head of sales and events, Sarah Genest (pictured below with our mutual colleague Dermot Davitt).
Sarah is typical of our team, a complex, resilient, street-wise, tough but deeply humane individual with a heart carved entirely out of 24-carat gold. The wine, as she knows better than anyone, has history. It is the second bottle she has given me. The first was at the tail end of 2010 as I was coming to the end of my prolonged chemotherapy treatment for the stomach cancer that had ravaged me for months. What a choice of wine it was back then and it’s similarly appropriate now. This time around though it’s a stage of a corporate rather than health journey that has come to an end and – with the change of ownership – a new one is beginning.
We have such exciting plans for the future but I will save those for another year – heck, it’s only minutes away. Instead I would like to close out 2015 by thanking our many supporters around the globe for their readership and belief in what we do. And I would like to toast those fellow survivors who stared the bully that is cancer full square in the face and then thumped it full square on the nose.
[Toasting survival: Martin Moodie and Stuart Bull]
This very day I received a long note from industry veteran Stuart Bull (above) who this time last year was facing the prospect of gruelling surgery and chemotherapy having been diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus.
Stuart, I know, will not mind me quoting from his most poignant of notes: “Cancer is a lonely disease; news of it makes you feel alone, scared and worried about the future. I know I could not have gone through it so easily without [my wife] Clare. I never, for one moment, doubted that I would survive but a lot of that bravado was because I knew she was there with me.”
I wept when I read Stuart’s note. It brought back so much that I realise still lies, buried by choice, within me. Memories of fear, not so much for oneself but for those you might leave behind. I suspect Stuart finds catharsis in writing about the experience, just as I did in my Blog during my own death-confronting, death-defying, life-affirming months.
Others sought, but did not find shelter from the storm (another apt Dylan lyric) over recent years. Farewell brave Marc Gentzbourger, farewell Jo Raskin, farewell Lori Watson, farewell Janina Loshek, farewell Evelyn Lauder, farewell Paul Pasternak, farewell Sylvie Fiers, farewell Linda Hopkins, farewell my most special friend Patrick Moran, farewell Bill Harris, farewell my great Scottish ally in the cancer trenches, Fraser Dunlop, and many others.
[Four cancer warriors: Paul and Lois Pasternak; myself; and Harry Diehl. The damned disease claimed Paul but the other three pictured defied it]
[Beautiful Beverly Johansson: Winning the fight]
And others again are still battling the storm, notably the innately wonderful Beverly Johansson (who had breast reconstruction surgery earlier this week having come to the end of her prolonged chemo treatment recently; and by the way today 31 December is also the anniversary of her wedding to her and our much mourned Lars); the bravest of young boys called Ollie (nephew of Sara Stevens, HR & Training Manager for The Nuance Group/Dufry (UK); the lovely Dad of one my team members; and two well-known retailers who prefer to have their condition remain private for now but who are very special to me and who are now battling the bully – battles I know they will win. And too many others.
[Ollie: His battle continues in 2016]
[Farewell Marc Gentzbourger, the loveliest of young men]
[Fraser Dunlop, who inspired me and many others to beat cancer]
It’s not just about cancer. A most special friend of mine just lost her Dad, not to the disease but to a sudden heart attack. My great Kiwi friend and Moodie Report colleague, Rhodes-based Colleen Morgan, is still coping with the oh so premature death of her sister Pat back in New Zealand. We all know many others who are experiencing feelings not of celebration tonight but of loss, of yearning, of grief.
This Blog is my tribute to all of them and indeed to all those whom we have lost or who are battling disease and illness as we step forward into the bright, gleaming, hopeful lights of the New Year and, in the immortal words of F.Scott Fitzgerald, ‘Beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.’
Thank you for your readership, your support and, in so many cases, your love during a strange and challenging year. See you in 2016.