I concluded by saying that how the company advertised and sold its products would need to be guided by an information-based strategy which I’d need to develop to advise him. I got the feeling that the MD wouldn’t be keen for anyone other than himself and his financial director have access to the kind of information that I’d be needing. It seemed to me that the traditional accountant in him would be reluctant to consider value-added based marginal cost pricing.
The interview ended on a cordial note and I was told that they would let me know either way. I wasn’t going to hold my breath.
Post-interview family discussion
It was just after my normal lunchtime when I left the company’s offices following the interview. My mind was still buzzing as I considered how it had gone. I realised that I’d be in plenty time to collect Paul from school. I phoned Jayne to let her know. She asked whether I’d eaten yet and I told her that I’d intended making myself a sandwich when I got home. She invited me to call in for something to eat at their house – I could go for Paul from there, and in the meantime we could have a natter about all that had been happening over the past couple of weeks. That seemed like a fair exchange, more than fair really considering how much she and Charlie, Helen’s dad, did for us. We never really had a chance to talk much – it was usually a daily handover to us of Paul from school, after which she knew that we’d have a lot to do after work. My being redundant was an opportunity to remedy that situation for the time being.
Jayne and Charlie lived in a 1960s three-bed semi on the outskirts of Codmanton – about a mile from Paul’s school and two miles from our house. When I arrived, Charlie was in the garden, up a ladder, clearing his front gutters of the late autumn’s debris ready for the onslaught of winter. I asked him if he would like me to foot the ladder for him but he shouted down for me to just let myself in. he was fine up there and he’d be down shortly.
Jayne was putting some bacon under the grill when I walked into the kitchen through the back door. She pecked me on the cheek and told me to sit in the living room for a minute: she’d bring me a sandwich shortly. Tigger, their cat, took the opportunity to park himself on my lap, poking me to let me know that I was to stroke him. When Jayne came in she told me to put him down as, otherwise, I’d have cat hairs over my interview suit and I’d never get rid of them. She went out again to make me a cup of tea. As she returned, we were soon joined by Charlie, just as I finished my sandwich.
It was Charlie who asked me how I’d got on at the interview. I confessed that I didn’t really know – that they’d promised to get in touch. I still didn’t know whether they were interviewing other candidates or if they just wanted time to think. I said that, either way, I wasn’t that bothered. I hadn’t been too impressed with the set-up or with the Managing Director. Even if they offered me the job, I’d have to do some more thinking about what they were offering. Jayne – always more level-headed than I am – advised me to take the job if it were offered. My three-months’ payment -in-lieu of notice would go quicker than I realised. Having a salary to tide me over would pay the bills while I looked for something more suitable if I weren’t happy there. I hadn’t thought of that.
Charlie seemed less sure. He told me that a former workmate of his had moved, some time ago, to the neighbourhood where the factory I’d visited was located. When he’d heard where my interview was, he’d phoned his friend to ask whether he knew anything about the place. From what he’d heard, the company had a bit of a reputation for high staff turnover. No-one seemed to stay there for long.
I told him that I wasn’t that surprised. I said that I’d noticed, as I’d walked around the three factories, that there wasn’t much banter going on. There were no family photos or other things on the walls to add personality. They just hadn’t seemed happy places to work.
She asked me what Helen had said about the redundancy, so I let her know that Helen seemed okay, all things considered: she hadn’t seemed unduly worried. I asked them about what they’d been doing with themselves now that they were retired. Both of them were keen gardeners but, since mid-November, there hadn’t been much to do once the leaves had fallen and been collected. The grass wasn’t growing and there were few flowers to keep deadheading. Charlie had already done as much as he could with the weeds. Both of them seemed happy and in good health. Charlie had been talking about joining a crown-green bowls club where some former colleagues were members. Jayne joked that it would keep him from being under her feet.
When I made to leave to collect Paul, thanking them for lunch, Jayne said that I could bring him back there; she’d text Helen and invite her round so that we could all have our tea together. She’d cooked a joint that morning and it would be nice to share it, she said.
Paul was out of school early and delighted to be going to his Nan’s for tea. Persistent as ever, he wanted to know whether Father Christmas had replied to my letter. I explained that he’d be very busy at this time of year and was usually too busy making sure that the elves were getting everything ready for Christmas Eve. How can we expect our children to tell the truth when we tell them so many lies? Whoever started this annual Christmas gift-fest can never have foreseen what it would lead to.
When Helen arrived, Paul rushed to greet her and wrapped his arms around her legs while she was taking off her coat. They came into the living room together, hand-in-hand as Paul was telling her about his day at school. Charlie went to brew a cup of tea for Helen, leaving her and her Mum to catch up on each other’s news. There wasn’t much for me to add so I watched Paul playing a game on my phone.
Over our meal, Helen had a chance to ask me about the interview. I filled her in on what I’d told her Mum and Dad and what they’d said. Helen agreed with her Mum about me taking the job if it were offered. My only concern was that, if I didn’t like the job and wanted to apply for another job within a short space of time, it might not look good on my cv; it might be difficult to explain at interview; and I’d be unlikely to get a decent reference. We all agreed that, since I hadn’t been offered the position, I should just keep looking and see if something better turned up in the meantime.
That night in bed, after we’d made love, we lay in each other’s arms talking, and the subject turned to Christmas and to Paul’s obvious desperation for Father Christmas to bring him a PlayStation. Helen asked whether we might now be able to afford to buy him one – she reminded me that when Paul had asked initially, I’d only reckoned on the three months of payment in lieu, but now we knew that there’d be a sizeable amount of redundancy money.
I switched on my tablet and did an internet search to check the price and availability. The new basic PlayStation was now in stock in a couple of places but there were accessories that he’d need if he were to be able to play virtual games with teammates – thing like a second controller, headphones and a special camera. It seemed like a lot of money – redundancy pay or otherwise, and we’d already bought the mobile phone which had been our first idea of a present for him. We talked it through: would we be spoiling him? Would it set a precedent? Would it make it impossible to afford a proper holiday next year? By now, we were wide awake, but we decided to order the complete set of things he’d need as a package. I clicked to put the items into my online basket, clicked on the Checkout icon and placed the order. We looked at each other, still wondering if we’d done the right thing, then Helen put her arms around my neck and kissed me. “Thank you,” she said.
It was a while before either of us managed to sleep.
Today I continue my series of Christmassy shots in black and white. My Featured Photo today is an image of the interior of the Hays Galeria Arcade in London. This arcade is located on the South Bank of the River Thames, almost directly opposite the moored ship ‘HMS Belfast’. I took this photo in early January 2020.
The EXIF Data for the featured photo are as follows: Pentax K-1, 36MP full frame camera with a 15-30 mm f/2.8 lens at 30 mm and f/11. The shutter speed was 13 secs and the ISO was 100. The camera was tripod-mounted and the post-processing was in Lightroom.