2012 winding down….

This has been a funny year. When I say “funny” I’m not exactly meaning funny hahaha though at times life has seemed more like a comedy of errors than a box of chocolates.

I returned to the UK (Yorkshire in fact) at the end of 2011 after a challenging four years in New Zealand.

New Zealand had been challenging on all fronts – personal and professional. As a professional business commercialization consultant I had found it hard appreciating the completely different culture despite the common language and ambitions. Personally – well nothing was the same – marital trouble and strife, a teenager pushing boundaries, an expat existence and then to cap it all – a number of earthquakes and aftershocks that destroyed everything we had worked for, for the last decade and a half. Challenging to say the least.

2012 though has been different. Don’t get me wrong its still been awfully challenging but in part that’s because of the insurance battle we find ourselves embroiled in rather than any “settling in” period here.

I think its fair to say that as a family we were all completely relieved to have our feet firmly back on British soil. Everyone we meet says “Oh my god! I can’t believe you’ve come back HERE from New Zealand”. As a nation, we have SUCH a poor opinion of our country and our own ability. We assume (quite wrongly in fact) that we’re the world’s worst at everything from engineering to innovation to capital raising, and having experience of other countries with regard to certainly innovation and capital raising (Australia, New Zealand, North America and some parts of Europe), I really believe we’re not. We’re actually very good at what we do.

Our economy is in poor shape, unemployment is high, our financial institutions have been rewarded for failure – there are umpteen reasons to be down in the mouth and perhaps I have the luxury of being able to look through the eyes of a prodigal returned – we’ve had a great year as a nation – the Jubilee, the Olympics, renewed national pride that we shouldn’t allow to fade away.

Here’s a list of my “good stuff” this year. We came back broken – physically, financially and emotionally, however in 12 months;

1. The earth HASN’T moved for me. Not once. This is great!
2. We’ve managed to make a home – its rented admittedly and I can’t see us owning a home again for sometime, but we do have a roof over our heads and it’s a nice one.
3. We have an income. I’m lucky enough to be working on a couple of projects with Oxford Innovation who are a really great company with a perfect structure for running successful innovation centres – they’ve separated the facilities management and “added value” business support stuff which isn’t rocket science but does make all the difference. The team is fabulous and I’m enjoying the supportive, ambitious and forward thinking environment.
4. My husband has been able to set up a new business – with seriously limited funds this really wouldn’t be possible in some other areas of the world. It has a way to go but is at least breaking even. He’s working hard and mentally it’s given him the focus he needed.
5. Both my husband and daughter were diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2011 but thanks to the support and kindness we’ve received from family, friends, school, doctors, health workers – both are in a much better place emotionally now.
6. We have a FABULOUS dog. She is one of the best decisions we’ve made since coming home and she has really helped us all to heal. I understand from a good friend though that she is a canine version of me – bit bonkers, only 2 gears (fast and stop) and she shifts from terribly intelligent to utterly stupid with lightening speed.
7. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some really great entrepreneurs with fabulous business ideas. Some of whom I’ve been able to help in a tangible way, others I hope I’ve helped by just being a sounding board or by encouragement.

Coming home has allowed me to re-connect with people and “things” I hadn’t necessarily realised were important to me. I actually missed the British weather – today is a beautiful winters day, frosty and cold with a silvery sun shining. I live a two minutes from a pretty market town complete with riverside walks and nice cafes. I had missed the architecture, access to decent sized cities, our history, our drive and ambition – I guess what makes Brits British.

We live in a beautiful country, its one of the few countries in the world where you can come from nothing but achieve everything and yet sometimes, most of the time if fact, we don’t appreciate what we have until we no longer have it – until negative change enables us to measure what we had previously. I have that ability now – perhaps that was the lesson.

I am blessed. I lost everything my husband and I had worked for but I didn’t lose the people I care about – we weren’t permanently damaged. My heart does go out to those who really did lose. The families who suffered the loss of a loved one in the earthquakes/aftershocks and those that have had relatives and friends take their lives as a result of the huge amount of constant stress since. My son has lost two teenage friends as a direct result of the Christchurch earthquakes though not actually in the earthquakes – there has been a staggering amount of tragedy related to it that most people are completely unaware of.

I am however optimistic about 2013.

Professionally, I’m now re-engaged with the regional and national innovation community and am keen to get more involved – with UKBI maybe. I’m looking forward to bigger more audacious projects, with assisting Oxford Innovation to grow in this region and to helping grow some great new businesses and entrepreneurs.

Personally, it would be great to get a positive resolution with regard to our earthquake insurance claims (and for others also), though if I’m honest I’m not hugely hopeful. Insurance is big business, not fair business and perhaps that’s a lesson the UK Government needs to consider before it agrees to underwrite the flood risk here.

The lesson from New Zealand is that it doesn’t matter if the Government underwrites the risk – the insurance companies will still hike premiums and make claiming harder. Their business is to keep their profits not pay them out regardless of how that impacts upon a person’s life – its not about ethics or morals or even honouring contracts – its about paying shareholder dividends and Board bonuses.

On a final note though – I am optimistic with regard to a positive and fruitful 2013. Don’t hold that 13 against it – I’m hoping that it will be a lucky year for everyone. I’m looking forward to having some fun, enjoying the company of friends and acquaintances alike and adding value in some way where ever I can.

Wishing you love, luck, health and happiness in 2013!

Amanda