Geoff Shelton. So many things to so many people. Friend, uncle, brother, husband to his beloved Anne, colleague, comrade at arms, neighbour. And a vibrant storyteller. And a true gentleman.
I was privileged to know Geoff in his later years, and in those years he became a very dear friend. I can’t do him justice in just a few minutes, but let me try. You all have your own memories of Geoff...
Right from the start Geoff had a sense of adventure and was always up for a challenge. His father was the local Boy Scout leader in Staines, Middlesex and Geoff followed in his footsteps. Geoff became a leader in the Scout Pack and often narrated a number of very dangerous escapades where Geoff would lead his troop - including his reluctant younger brothers - into the night for “survival training” in nearby fields and rivers. The war had just begun and this was done against the backdrop of blackouts and the Luftwaffe flying overhead.
As I waited for my meeting counterpart in Moscow recently I had half an hour to spare, so I strolled across the bridge towards Red Square. To my left, the glittering domes of The Kremlin, to my right one of the biggest building projects I have ever seen. The erstwhile site of the infamous Rossiya Hotel, once the biggest hotel in Europe and possibly also the worst. And as I gazed down I saw paving being laid, water pipes emerging where trees would be planted and it all looked huge. But unlike past examples of Russian investment, the growing expanse of paving was being laid with high quality granite.
Despite a myriad of political risks - fears of a growing protectionist agenda in the United States, whether national elections across Europe upset the status quo and Britain's potentially fractious divorce proceedings from the European Union - the Institute’s recent Export Optimism survey showed a strong energy for growth, with 97% of respondents expressing optimism for Global Trade opportunities.
I get it. Russia’s cold. Very cold. In fact, so cold, that your hands would freeze to metal if you touched it without gloves.
However, ladies and gentlemen, here’s the thing:
The first person to complain about a room being cold is always the Russian. No exceptions. Every time. Try it.
And I know why.
A few thoughts about business in Saint Petersburg!
I hope this is useful information for anybody planning a business trip to this beautiful city.
Firstly, St. Petersburg is the polar opposite of Moscow! People live more quietly, somehow more measured! Those who visit Saint Petersburg may feel there are certain similarities between the city and London. Not in appearance, but in the pace of life, and people’s demeanour. Moscow is of course totally different.
And we call it Peter (only colloquially, and probably best not to try this in front of Russians you don’t know very well…It would be like talking about Steve instead of Stevenage….)