When you picture a chartered accountant, ‘creatively talented’, ‘outdoorsy’ and ‘environmentally conscious’ are not necessarily the first words which are likely to spring to mind, but Heidi Soulsby is Exhibit A in not judging a book by its cover, or in this case, its title.
When I think of Heidi Soulsby, the image of her touting an iconic Guernsey springs to mind, but her relocation to the island was a matter of the good luck of a sunny day, rather than planned. Born to Cornish parents, Heidi had a dramatic entrance into the world.
Pictured: Heidi with her husband, Phil and sons Alex (back) and Dominic.
“My parents are proud Cornish people, and their intention was that I would be born in Cornwall, but everything went very wrong during my birth and my mum had to be rushed by ambulance from North Cornwall down to Plymouth for an emergency c-section, so I was born in Devon on the ‘wrong side’ of the Tamar,” said Heidi.
“My paternal grandad used to call me a ‘Devonshire Dumpling’ and it used to wind my parents up considerably. I would say I’m an honorary Cornish woman.
“Both my mother and I very nearly died during my birth, and I think that’s one of the reasons as to why I was their first and last child. At that time, it was very unusual to be an only child, but I very much enjoyed my own company and still do.”
Heidi grew up in Torbay but said she always knew she wanted to move away.
“I remember my parents took me on holiday to London when I was five; I remember it clearly because it was the first time I had ever seen colour TV when Morecambe and Wise was showing in the hotel lobby,” she said.
“I thought London was so fantastic because it was where everything was: Nelson’s Column, Buckingham Palace, Downing Street. The thing I remember most was the huge pavements. It was so different from the little fishing town where I had grown up.
“I always remembered that experience so, when it came time to choose University, I knew that I wanted to be in London.”
Pictured: Heidi is a lifelong Tottenham Hotspurs fan.
Heidi studied geography at Kings for three years.
“I absolutely loved geography and I still do; I think that’s something that never leaves you once you have a passion for it,” she said.
“I was going to do a master’s degree after that, looking at raised beaches in Fiji and the link to climate change. I had everything organised but then there was a coup in Fiji and no travel was allowed so that plan was curtailed.
“I knew I wanted to attain another qualification, but I didn’t have any money and I didn’t want my parents to spend more money on me, so I ended up training to be a chartered accountant in the city.”
Heidi was placed on an ‘express’ course to attain her qualification, where the previous one-year qualification was condensed into three months.
“I met my now husband, Phil, on that course. I saw him the first day and I thought ‘I know what’s going to happen here’,” she said.
“It was a strange set of circumstances on the first day because I hate being late to anything, I’m usually right on time, but I ended up being late because of problems with the underground. I had to sit at the back, when I usually like to be at the front, and Phil had been placed at the front when he usually liked to be at the back.”
Within a year of meeting, Heidi and Phil were engaged and were married at 23.
“It was love at first sight and he proposed to me in the back of a taxi after we had been to an end-of-audit event,” she said.
“I wasn’t surprised that he proposed, but I didn’t see it coming in that particular scenario. We’re still happily married 33 years later so something must be right.
“I think an important part of marriage is understanding no one is perfect. People think they’ll get married and it’ll all be sweetness and light, but there are bad times as well as good and you have to be able to work through them.
“For me even just having someone around all the time was a big adjustment because I had always been used to being by myself most of my life.”
Pictured: A keen photographer, Heidi took this photo while on a bike ride. She said she would like to explore photography more when time allows.
Heidi and Phil have a common interest in football. Heidi is a Spurs fan, while Phil supports Newcastle.
“I am an avid Spurs fan, but that stemmed from choosing a satchel for school. My dad took me shopping and one of the bags had the Spurs logo so I asked him whether they were a good team and, at that time, they were doing very well, so I happily chose that bag,” she said.
“There are a couple of games a year where it’s best for Phil and I not to talk about the football, but it’s not too bad otherwise.”
Upon qualifying as chartered accountants, Heidi and Phil applied for jobs in Jersey and Guernsey.
“There were no jobs in Devon at the time or in the Northeast, where Phil was from, and we saw an advert in the Times newspaper for chartered accountants in the Channel Islands,” she said.
“We had six interviews in Jersey and just one in Guernsey. We went to Jersey first and we didn’t really connect with the place and didn’t like St Helier very much. Then we took the hydrofoil to Guernsey and the sun was shining, the sea was a mill pond and St Peter Port called to both of us.
“We were both offered jobs with KPMG and it was a no-brainer for us to move here.”
I questioned whether Heidi’s heart was ever in accounting and the short answer was an immediate “no”.
“Accounting was a practical choice for me. Phil is a number’s guy, he loves them, I like numbers but, for me, it was just something to do and a qualification which would be useful. I never wanted to be an accountant. I wanted to be an artist,” she said.
“I love painting, photography, drawing, sculpting, anything creative. My mum had always said to get ‘proper’ quailfications first and do art later.
“I paint and draw in my spare time, I particularly like the coastal landscapes here. I love photography too, when I have more time, I’d love to do more with that.”
Pictured: A "doodle" Heidi drew of the late Roger Perrot. Heidi previously doodled all the States' deputies (in her own time) and is considering doodling the current assembly.
Heidi’s love of art and geography have amalgamated in the unusual hobby of collecting foreign bank notes.
“I love French bank notes because they’re really beautiful and mix politics, history and art together in one,” she said.
“I’m part of the International Bank Note Society and have learned a lot through that and even seen test bank notes featuring Thomas De La Rue.”
Heidi said her family, including her two sons Alex and Dominic are also creative.
“Phil isn’t creative in the artistic sense, but he is very good at creative ideas. I’m the one who will then execute those ideas, so we are a good team,” she said.
Heidi and Phil established the fairtrade shop Mondomundi in 2005.
“Mondomundi was one of Phil’s ideas. He was driving up to Edinburgh to do an MBA and he drove past the G8 conference, which was about cancelling third-world debt. He thought that a not just for-profit business would be a good, practical way to help,” she said.
“It felt like the right time to do something. It was a time where everything was about profits and not thinking about the impact of that. It seemed like things needed to change and it seems that companies have started to embrace that now; some business take it more seriously while for others it’s more box-ticking, but it’s encouraging.
“We don’t have the shops anymore, but we still supply fairtrade products to businesses.
“I believe very strongly in helping people to help themselves. It’s not just about the aid, it about helping people to make their own livings and survive.”
Pictured: Heidi as a child with her mum, Jean, who she said was "endlessly supportive" of her.
Heidi said that she has a strong sense of justice.
“I hate seeing injustice and when things aren’t fair it really gets me. I can almost pinpoint when that first started,” she said.
“I was on a chess team at primary school, and we were winning everything. We visited one school and I was playing a game and I reached over to move a pawn and I brushed the king piece with my sleeve, and it knocked over.
“In chess if the king is knocked over then the game’s over and you’ve resigned. I was in a winning position, there was no doubt about it, but because I’d accidentally knocked the king over, I lost. I’ve always been competitive, and I was so cross; I remember saying how it was completely unfair.”
Chess-related trauma aside, Heidi said that she had a “fantastic” childhood.
“I’m so grateful to my parents for giving me a stable and loving background. I’m very lucky, I really have nothing to complain about,” she said.
“I wish that others could be as lucky as I was to have such a fantastic upbringing. I really feel that we should all be trying to give our children the best start in life.”
Heidi recalls that her mother, who was a teacher, was endlessly supportive of her.
“I remember my mother-in-law being concerned that Phil and I were too young to marry, but my mum said that we were both very intelligent and would be fine, even if she may have been secretly thinking the same,” she said.
“My eldest son is about to turn 23 and I think he would be far too young to be getting married, but it didn’t seem like that to us at the time.”
Heidi’s parents moved to Guernsey when they retired.
“My parents did a lot with La Societe Guernesiaise, particularly with the history and botany sections. They really loved it,” she said.
Heidi’s mum passed away six years ago, but her father is “still going” and will be 90 this year.
“My mum was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and eventually dementia. Phil’s dad, who was still in the UK, also had dementia and both of his parents have passed away,” she said.
Pictured: Heidi said she would like to cycle across America one day.
Heidi continued: “Both Phil and I saw our other parent looking after the one with dementia and they didn’t acknowledge how draining it was for them. I completely understand that you make a marriage vow in sickness and health and it’s very difficult to see when you need to let go.
“The last year for Phil’s dad and for my mum were extremely difficult. Thinking about what it was doing to my dad was very difficult, but the decision was taken away when she was admitted to hospital.
“It was particularly difficult when my mum reverted to being a child and would talk about her mother, who had passed away decades before.
“We have been lucky in terms of health so that was the first time we had experienced linking with services and understanding what it is like for people who have to deal with services.
“It’s hard for everybody in that situation and I feel for anyone who is going through that or has been through it.”
Heidi said that her dad is still learning about history and is “fascinated” by the topic.
“When I was growing up, we went all around the UK seeing stately homes, castles and cathedrals. Looking back, I realise how lucky I was and that I learned so much and that love of learning history has stayed with me,” she said.
“Generally, I can’t go on holiday and just sit still, I always want to be seeing the sites or learning about the history and geography of different places.”
Pictured: Heidi with her father, Gavin Sampson, who will be turning 90 this year.
Heidi said that she is someone who tends to “go with the flow”.
“I have never been one to map out the future, but there are some things I would like to do. I’m a keen cyclist and I would love to cycle across America. It would also be great to cycle from the west coast of France through Europe,” she said.
“One thing that had been on my bucket list was to run the London Marathon, which I did in 2015. I had also planned to do the half-marathon with my cousin in 2020, but that plan was initially derailed when Flybe collapsed and then the pandemic put a complete stop to my cousin being able to come over.
“Mostly I don’t have grand plans, I just love seeing new places and I will always point out the geographical sites wherever we are.”
Heidi explained that, through studying geography, she became particularly interested in climate change.
“The human influence on the environment was something I studied in depth at university thirty-odd years ago,” she said.
“What frustrates me is that people are only just waking up to it, but the science has been around for so long. There are things you can see that prove that humans have a huge influence on the environment.
“I have hooked out my old textbook on environmental change about what will happen and what the science is saying now is even worse. What I am pleased about is that the younger generation really do seem to care about it, and it’s understood to be hugely important."
Pictured: Heidi has completed various sporting challenges including the London Marathon and Saffery Rotary Walk.
Heidi continued: “I don’t think you can push people into changing their habits or learning more about the environment, being dictatorial will never work. It’s about everyone coming together to make things happen.”
Heidi said she is uncertain what the future will hold for her.
“I have always been someone who is easily bored; once I’ve done something I want the next thing to be something different,” she said.
“I don’t feel as though I’m done in business yet and I would like to take another qualification someday if the opportunity arose. I am really fascinated by genealogy so that’s something I would like to find out more about.
“I would like to be able to use my expertise to support people and businesses in helping themselves. I like to help get things done and see plans come into action and I feel that is where my strengths lie.
“I think helping people in a constructive way is something that has always played a part in my life. I always wanted to be a teacher like my mum and I feel strongly that it’s not about doing things for people, but supporting them in reaching their potential.”
Pictured: Heidi said she had a "fantastic" childhood and believes all children should have the best possible start in life.
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