In the third week of January, things started to happen quite rapidly. I received an email from my solicitor with a copy of a letter that he’d received from her solicitor attached. Also attached was a letter from my solicitor containing details of his costs. The letter from her solicitor included the reason she’d provided for the separation – including ‘unreasonable behaviour’, plus I was boring, inattentive and, more recently I had been making unreasonable plans that threatened family finances. My solicitor’s letter asked me whether I wanted him to write to hers about a full financial disclosure. It spoke of negotiation and mediation (an information pamphlet was also attached). He advised me to draw up a new will, and to transfer to it funds from our joint bank account. He offered to write to Helen’s solicitor regarding my concerns about custody and childcare. Merely reading the letter gave me a headache and I had to do an internet search to learn more about some of the issues he mentioned. I still wasn’t much better off having read everything that seemed relevant and up to date, but I wrote to authorise the solicitor to do whatever was necessary. My main concern now was to keep the legal costs down and to avoid losing the house. I’d need it for Paul’s visits more than anything else.
Life goes on
By the end of the third week in January I’d completed my draft report to discuss with York. I left it with him on the Friday afternoon to read over the weekend and had arranged for him to let me know his thoughts on the following Monday.
I’d written a comprehensive analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the group together with suggestions about under-exploited opportunities and market vulnerabilities. I’d supported my findings with a series of appendices – tables, graphs and detailed textual analyses.
I’d qualified my conclusions and recommendations, because of the way he’d valued some assets and used management charges to transfer funds from the production subsidiaries to the holding company. The methods employed clearly had no basis in performance but was a device to hide the profitability of those companies from nosy competitors. While this seemed reasonable from that point of view, from what I’d seen as I’d made my enquiries, the large box company was short of working capital and had a narrow customer base making it vulnerable in a competitive market. In the company providing customer-facing displays the existing cost-plus pricing policy was producing lower profits than could be available otherwise.
I commended the company’s recent use of social media and online selling, but I recommended changes to its design. It was slow to load, clumsy to navigate and had low visibility. I also felt that the system was insecure and, regarding current data protection laws, potentially illegal.
I made recommendations about the design of the company’s current advertising, and its other promotional material.
Finally, I touched on the low morale that I’d encountered in the production units, and the company’s vulnerability that resulted from York’s unwillingness to delegate. No decisions were allowed without his personal agreement. That meant that managers took few risks with their proposals to avoid criticism. I pointed out that if he were ill, or needed to be away from the company for a protracted period, his managers would be badly prepared to make effective decisions or to delegate well. At shop-floor level, I’d encountered poor motivation despite the company paying premium rates. The wages appeared to be seen by many as golden handcuffs – merely a reason for turning up and clocking in. Few workers felt that their contribution was valued. They seldom received positive feedback and widely perceived that there was little job-security, poor attention to health and safety, and few opportunities for training towards personal growth. On the Monday morning, when York walked into my office his face was grim. He had read my report and his initial reaction had been to dismiss me as insubordinate. He’d mellowed in retrospect having re-read and thought about it. I was right, he said, that what I’d done was probably exactly what an external consultant would have concluded. He didn’t agree with everything I’d written (I hadn’t expected him to do so).
Today’s photo is another that I took in January 2020 when I enjoyed a weekend of photography in London. This shot was another I took from the South Bank of the Thames, while walking towards London Bridge, shortly after dawn on my second day.
The Exif data are as follows: Pentax K-1 36 MP full-frame camera with a 15-30 mm f/2.8 lens at 30 mm and f/16. The shutter speed was 4/5 secs and the ISO 100. The shot was tripod mounted, without filters and post processing in Lightroom Classic.