It's not often that I can summon kind words about solicitors, but Macalister Todd Phillips of Queenstown, New Zealand, were certainly exceptional in their efforts to help me.
Way back in 1991 I had fulfilled a lifetime's ambition to make an extended visit to New Zealand. Its scenic variety and pristine beauty had for many years drawn me like a magnet, so I made the chance to go, with savings to support me, but with no definite plan. It proved to be a most uplifting adventure, the memories of which remain vivid even today.
I became enmeshed in its culture and made numerous good friends along the way, participating in local events, helping out on farms, and exploring its vast, delightful wildernesses.
I also purchased and digested Michael Porter's 1990 work, Upgrading New Zealand's Competitive Advantage, which came to be known as "The Porter Project". It was, in my view, an important and in some ways seminal - and in others prophetic - work in which much had been invested by the government and academic institutions, but which had, perversely, been largely ignored by the business community and government alike. Its attention to the principle of building sustainable clusters of industry around available and developable resources was too superficial, in my view, and needed further exploration in both empirical and imaginative terms. As New Zealand is blessed with a magnificent diversity of climates and terrain, it seemed to me that it was ideally placed to become a global bank for rapidly diminishing gene and seed stock for the world's species. In common with most visions, however, the notion was Martian to most.
As with all holidays, however, this one had to come to an end, but I was so loathe to leave upon the imminent expiry of my visitor's permit as I had found several opportunities for making a new life away from the moribund England that had begun to weary me so much. England, with its ancient traditions, class system and "Old Boy" and "Old School Tie" or regimental-style ways of running things had, to my mind, little or no validity in a modern world that it still seemed so reluctant to embrace. Britain has never been invaded since 1066, you see, so it's had plenty of time to become so stultifyingly institutionalised that it verges on intrinsic corruption, almost automating a "tall poppy" culture wherein individuality is routinely trampled.
Anxious to remain on the right side of New Zealand laws I took the candid approach when applying for an extension to my permit, retaining a firm of solicitors to assist me, surrendering my UK passport as a gesture of good faith. The solicitors were most diligent, and a copy of their final letter to me can be viewed by clicking this link.
I did, of course, have to return to England, doing so in 1992 but harbouring all manner of thoughts about returning to New Zealand in the near future, which I was allowed to do as a result of my solicitors' best efforts. I was at this time intrigued by the potential for the emerging computer and Internet technologies, which many people in those days poo-poo'd as being a mere passing fad. I set about learning as much as I could, possibly being able to take such skills back to New Zealand one day. I even wrote a novel set in a near-future New Zealand, but which I did not have time to hone as something very nasty subsequently got in the way.
Returning to ghastly little England, it turned out, was the biggest mistake of my life. Being eternally curious and adventurous, fit and reasonably bright, I also harboured a residual faith in the laws and legal professions in England. This is why I trusted them when approached with a business proposition that was ostensibly to be overseen by solicitors, regulated by the Law Society in investment business.
The whole thing turned out to be a scheme for crooked solicitors and their crooked clients, who subsequently and insidiously but persuasively orchestrated my utter financial ruin. To this day the law society and the courts could not care less.
Updated June 2006.