The story of my life, one year at a time: 2012

I started this last year with 2011 so I’d better continue. It was not a great year for photography and, despite my travels, the record is a little thin at times.

From a personal perspective 2012 was very much a continuation of 2011. I was very busy with all my work involvements continuing and an uptick in my commitment to Macsa where I did an interim job through the summer. This enabled me to travel once again to places I never imagined visiting again. Rather surprisingly it seems to have been a quiet year politically although I guess that was to change with 2013 being an election year.

There were momentous events in the world outside. Malala, the Pakistani advocate for teenage education was shot and thrust into global view, we all celebrated the Queen’s diamond jubilee and enjoyed the 2012 London Olympics and rejoiced when Barak Obama was re-elected US president.

January: my role at Gransden Packaging Line Products allowed me to get out and visit customers and one such was flour miller Marriages in Chelmsford. I remember it was a bitterly cold day and I made the call in the morning before getting an early evening flight down to Barcelona.

Gransden was the UK distributor of Lock ‘n Pop which manufactures specialty adhesives which stabilise bags on pallets as an alternative to shrink-wrap. They are products which should have lots of potential but it’s sadly difficult to make the case for them. This wasn’t helped by a very unimaginative principal which didn’t seem to know much about distributor management.

I acquired my shareholding in Gransden free of charge and was able to sell it on at a nice profit. I seem to remember a sum of about £17K.

February: I don’t know how I picked on this opportunity but this month we went to Costa Rica. We were two of just four Brits in a 40+ group of US and Canadian tourists and we had a super time with an absolutely first class guide who knew everything a good guide should and rose to the occasion when Juni had her medical emergency.

Our tour started in the capital and stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast with all the variations of geography in between. We saw lots of birds, enjoyed walking in the jungle canopy, hot springs and zip-wiring.

March: with Alex and Clare living near Leeds, and before our grandchildren came along, it was always easy to stay over for a day or two and enjoy what Yorkshire’s got to offer.

Because it’s 150 plus miles north of us in Cambridge it’s seasons come a little bit later so the display of daffodils at Breary Marsh was much in evidence towards the end of the month.

April: I’m not sure I should be so public about this, it undermines my green credentials, but I went to the Barcelona grand prix track and drove a formula 3000 car at a rather high speed. It was a corporate day and after a little instruction we got two sessions on the track and it wasn’t until the second one that I realised that I had to forget all my standards of good driving and simply drive at full speed with my foot hard down on the accelerator and to only slow for corners at the last minute making deliberate use of the brake.

My second memory is of the group photo at the end where I found myself in the front row and needing to squat down. My knees really didn’t like that.

May: my new role with Macsa, I was rather grandly titled ‘vice president and international sales director’, gave me travel opportunities which I never imagined would see again and the first of these was to Moscow.

It was my second visit and couldn’t have been more different than the first. That was in the winter and it still felt like the old Russia. This time in springtime it was a real pleasure although there were reminders of the old days, no wine at the hotel restaurant on the first night and again when we ate out on the second. This was down to the standoff between Russia and Georgia.

I was visiting Macsa’s distributor Forintek which was owned by one of the gentlemen in the business: Dr Alexander Shelepen. He trained as a scientist in the old regime but then took the opportunity to set up as a distributor of Videojet inkjet printers in Russia. He added Macsa’s lasers as he sought to expand his product range.

Click here for a more complete account of that trip.

June: I continued travelling in June and enjoyed one memorable trip including Shanghai, Tokyo and Bangkok. It was my second visit to Shanghai. On my first when I was taken out one evening I was asked if there was anything I’d like to see. I’d heard of the Bund so that’s where we went. Problem was it was winter and foggy so there was nothing to see. This time I was luckier and saw the bright lights and emerging capitalist behaviour that China now struggles with.

There were six of us to enjoy dinner: myself, Andreu Antonel (Macsa’s finance director) and Jordi Pinot (its owner and president), David Lim (our area manager, based in Singapore) and the owner and sales director of Ming Yu (Macsa’s distributor, based in Guangzhou). In those days there was a plan for Macsa to set up a manufacturing facility in China in partnership with Ming Yu but that idea slowly petered out.

Click here for a more complete account of that trip.

July: of course July is the start of the summer fete season on the UK when you’ve seemingly got a 50/50 chance of being rained off.

In Histon our fete is a part of the Histon Feast. which lasts a week and includes evening events, a sports day and the closure of the High Street on the last day (every other year). There used to be a parade but that’s no more but there’s nonetheless lots of entertainment. All the village, we call ourselves a village even though we’re not one, societies have stalls, there are lots of craft stalls as well, the pubs and restaurants all run take away food operations and there’s music from brass bands to choirs to folk and rock. This year there was no rain.

August: I was able to renew my acquaintance with Tercio Christiani in Sao Paulo when I made yet another long haul trip with Macsa. I’d know Tercio since 1997 when I first visited Brazil during my Linx days.

This time I was looking for an industrial distributor for Macsa and Tercio didn’t just facilitate several meetings but also drove us around and made sure that we were suitably well fed and watered. Of course Tercio is a businessman himself and every new business contact was a business opportunity for him.

Click here for a more complete account of that trip.


September: we took a week’s holiday in Provence travelling there and back by train with a bus when we got there. We stayed in Avignon and although the weather was mixed we got the full Provencal experience with lots of sights of lavender, a visit to the Pont du Gard and a view of the bridge at Avignon (in the rain) and some superb food.

One morning we visited the commune of Rousillon where this cat seemed to do a good job of blending in with the local stone.

October: there are two big trade shows for the packaging industry viz InterPack in Dusseldorf every three years and PackExpo in Chicago every two. The former has a focus on Europe and the latter the Americas.

The Americans like tradeshows. Potential buyers stay for several days and diligently walk the aisles whilst exhibitors rotate their sales people to spare them the agony of too much time stood on threadbare carpets doing their best to appear welcoming to visitors and potential customers.

This was my fourth visit, I’ve also been twice to the smaller PackExpo Las Vegas including the one which coincided with the 9/11 twin towers tragedy, and was reminded again of the basic difference between it and InterPack. Whereas InterPack has a strong weighting towards technology and engineering as befits a trade show in Germany PackExpo is simply about selling and that gives it a brashness. It’s somehow less serious.

November: there’s a bunch of Churchill alumni of a similar vintage who meet every couple of months or so for lunch. They’re good occasions because we’re all mindful of our limitations where lunchtime drinking is concerned and since we’re all past the time when we need to exhibit alpha male behaviour the conversation is more about humour and experience than about the important jobs we’ve done.

This is a photo of one of the first lunches, we don’t go to the Galleria any more, but many who were there were at the recent lunched we had at the Margherita. Meredith Lloyd-Evans (back left) and I started the lunches off. Richard Newbery (second left), we played snooker together earlier this month, is a regular as is Eddie Powell (back right). That’s me third right.

December: I got involved with an organisation called Enhanced Hydrocarbon Technology (EHT) earlier in the year. I was invited to do so by an old contact at Willett who fingered me as the potential sales and marketing director. Just about the first meeting I attended in that role was at the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in London.

Although EHT appeared to be a great opportunity it seemed to attract a bunch of charlatans who seemed to think that you could make millions without serious investing and although it went through a number of refreshes it has never been able to capitalise one what to me seemed to be a really exciting technology. Last I heard of it was that a couple of the key people had died and the latest incarnation of the company had shifted focus to a me-too technology with a completely new set of people.

I invested £10K in EHT and sadly that’s money I won’t see again.

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