Going Forward – Chapter Thirteen Part Two

Christmas greetings to anyone reading this post, which I’ve published late enough in the UK for it to be read mainly by folks on Christmas Day.

…..Previously

None of this seemed to placate Helen. She said that she liked Susie as a person, but seemed to think that we came across as too close to be ‘just’ colleagues. She told me that I could do as I liked, but that I shouldn’t take her for a fool. She said she’d decided to go to her Mum’s to calm down – and that she might be late. Paul came downstairs once Helen had gone out. He had heard some of what we’d been talking about and accused me of upsetting his Mum. It took me some time to console him. I wondered if I should withdraw from the project. My relationship with Helens was too precious to jeopardise for the sake of an idea which was still at the embryo stage.

Continued…….

Split

Helen hadn’t returned by the time I went to bed. I noticed that she wasn’t in bed with me when I woke up and, when I went downstairs to our Living Room, I could see that she’d slept on the sofa. She was having her breakfast in the Dining Room.  I remarked that I’d gone to bed because she’d been so late and had wondered why she’d not joined me upstairs. Her face was serious. She said that she had something she needed to tell me. I sat opposite her and said, “Okay. Fire away.”

From what she told me, she had been to see her Mum as she had told me, but the reason she’d gone was to tell her Mum that she’d be leaving me and moving in with one of the customers who always used her checkout. She’d asked her Mum to continue to collect Paul from school as she’d be taking him with her. Before she’d gone to her Mum’s she’d phoned the guy she intended to shack-up with, to let him know what she’d arranged. Apparently she’d been out with him several times – most recently when she’d been supposed to be working late.

I was lost for words. I accused her of hypocrisy. It had only been the previous day that she’d been making snide remarks about me fancying Susie – remarks that had no foundation. She answered that it was clear that Susie fancied me and that I’d be free now to do as I wished. She continued, saying that she’d already transferred ‘her’ half of our joint account to a personal account that she’d set up. She wasn’t prepared to risk me wasting it on the half-brained scheme she’d heard us discussing. Finally, she’d be seeking a divorce and I could expect to hear from a solicitor as soon as she could arrange it. Just to cap all that she added that I shouldn’t be surprised by her actions because, to her mind, I’d turned into, “a boring old fart – old before my time.”

She stood, having finished her breakfast, saying that she was going upstairs to pack some things and to take Paul with her. She’d be seeking sole custody and would be registering with the Child Support people for me to pay towards Paul’s upkeep. She’d be returning only to collect the remainder of her things and warned me not to try to stop her.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It had only been a couple of nights since we’d been making love together; celebrating Christmas together; discussing presents and holiday plans together. I just sat at the table dazed. I couldn’t think what to say to her tirade, which had seemed to come out of nowhere. I saw no point in trying to stop her. I was sorry if she felt that continuing her life with me would be intolerable: I just wished that she’d said something earlier – in time that we, or I, could have changed how things were between us. On the other hand, I wouldn’t wish her to remain if she were so unhappy – and, if she wanted to live with someone else, I certainly didn’t want to stand in her way.

My mind kept flipping moods – anger, disbelief, hurt. Who was this other man? What did he have that I didn’t?  Was it looks, money, charm, sex-appeal? How would I manage without her? Why was she doing this without warning or giving me any opportunity to change her mind?

I was still trying to process implications. I didn’t see that she could stop me from seeing Paul. I hadn’t behaved so badly as to be kept from spending time with him. The rush with which she’d grabbed fifty percent of our joint account also stunned me. ‘She’d known that I’d probably be made redundant and that I’d probably be getting a large lump sum. Had she been planning this for weeks – not leaving until the money was in the bank? I suppose that there’s nothing I could do about it. Being logical for a moment – it wasn’t easy – it was called a joint account so that either of us could withdraw funds from it. Perhaps I should be grateful that she hadn’t taken the entire contents’. I realised that I’d have to set up a personal account too, and transfer the balance to it from the joint account – except that I suddenly remembered that all our regular direct debits were charged to the joint account. I’d have to get them transferred too – that would take some time. I’d probably need to set up an appointment with the bank – and to do it before I started my new job. ‘God! What a mess!’ I thought. I’d need to see a solicitor of my own too.

I couldn’t face breakfast, I was too upset – what with shock, sadness, hurt feelings, guilt that I’d become boring, worry about being told when, where and for how long I’d have access to Paul. Then there was a degree of anger – Helen’s deceitfulness, manipulation, adultery and double standards. Her pre-emptive strike on our finances kept coming back to me. I’d heard before, from friends who’d been divorced, just how vicious things could get. I’d got my head around the joint account withdrawal – but now I had to start thinking about the house, my pension fund, child support and custody negotiations. I started to wonder if I should withdraw from my acceptance of the new job. If I were unemployed, Helen could still get her fifty percent, but fifty percent of bugger-all is bugger-all – and she might have to start paying me. I could then fight more easily for joint – or even sole custody – with time on my hands – and she wouldn’t be able to get me kicked out of the house, because I’d need it to look after Paul for the next thirteen years.

Even as I sat there, lost in thought, I heard Helen and Paul coming downstairs. I was relieved that at least Paul would be having his breakfast with me before he left. He didn’t seem aware that anything was different, so I assumed that she hadn’t told him yet. I thought that it would be better if that news came from her. I could hear the sounds of her making trips between the bedroom and the car, presumably to load it up with as many things as she could. ‘Where would she be drawing the fifty percent mark with regard to our belongings?’ I wondered.

I tried to be as normal as possible, chatting to Paul as he ate. He was dressed ready for school. He just chatted normally about things that he’d been doing on his Playstation. Before long, Helen came in to ask him to get his coat on. She was carrying his school bag. I asked her whether his lunch and water were inside. If looks could kill, it would have been too late for me to call for an ambulance. Her, “Yes, of course it is,” was hissed at me.

I lifted Paul up and kissed him.

“Have a good day at school, chubby chops,” I said.

“Love you, Daddy,” was his reply as he ran to his Mum to put on his coat.

Seconds later, the door had slammed behind Helen as she took Paul to the car. No kiss. No words of, ‘Goodbye love,’ or, ‘See you later,’ today. I returned to the kitchen and made myself a drink. It looked as if I’d have a busy day ahead of me.

Featured Photo

Today, being Christmas Day, I interrupt my series of Christmassy shots in black and white with a few seasonal full colour shots. My main Featured Photo today was taken of an illuminated Christmas tree outside the John Lewis store Liverpool One. The other two are of an illuminated reindeer, taken as I walked towards the John Lewis store from he Royal Albert Dock; the second of a bar at the Christmas continental market on St George’s Plateau opposite Lime Street Station, Liverpool. I’ll resume the black and white shots tomorrow.

The EXIF Data for the featured photo are as follows: Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera with a 35 mm mm f/2 lens at 35 mm and f/2 The shutter speed was 1/100 secs and the ISO was 250. The camera was handheld and the post-processing was in Lightroom. The reindeer was shot with the same camera and lens at f/4, 1/250 secs and ISO 1600. The bar was photographed a year earlier with my Pentax K50 and a 35mm f/2.4 lens at f/6.3 1/40 secs and ISO 800.

Going Forward – Chapter Twelve – Part One

……Previously

Helen was late. She said that the Christmas queues had been crazy and her boss had pleaded with her to stay for a bit so that she could keep as many tills open as possible. She said that her Mum had texted her to say how great it had been to see Paul in his school play. After tea, once Paul was in bed, we sat and talked for a while. I told her about the phone call I’d received that morning from the Printing Company. Helen said that, since the three month’s lieu pay and the redundancy pay were guaranteed, it might be worth while taking the risk. She argued that, even  if I were only to stay in the job for one month, if nothing else, that month’s extra income would put the cost of the Playstation back in our bank. She went on to point out that, if we went ahead with the cooperative scheme, it would, in any case, be unlikely to bring in any real cash for a few months at best. From that point of view, it would help to fund our scheme if I didn’t need to worry about our mortgage and living costs while we established ourselves. The third point she made was that any prospective employers would be able to see that I hadn’t just sat on my backside waiting for State benefits.

I saw no reason to argue, so if I did get the letter offering me the post in writing, and if the salary and conditions looked okay, I’d accept the offer.

Continued…….

C HAPTER TWELVE

The week before Christmas

The following Monday I received the offer letter together with the information I’d asked for when Mrs Wilson had phoned last Friday.  The starting date would be Tuesday 4th January. They were offering £2,000 a year more than I’d been earning in my old post. The notice conditions were interesting – one week either side for the first month, one month for the next five months, then three months.  Those terms suited me down to the ground. The four weeks annual holiday would apply only after six month’s service, but would be plus bank and statutory holidays applied from Day One; so I’d get the coming Easter weekend and the May holidays. I texted Helen to let her know. During her lunchbreak she answered, and agreed that I should go ahead. Paul was playing a game on his tablet computer, so I replied to accept the offer.

During the week, Christmas cards continued to arrive – including one from my fellow members of the group. I’d spoken to Helen about her suggestion that I host a meeting with them in the first week of January to give everyone time to recover from Christmas. I sent a round-robin text inviting everyone to come on the afternoon of Tuesday the 5th.

The other postal arrival was Paul’s Playstation and accessories. He’d been in his bedroom when the courier rang the bell – playing on his tablet again – but he poked his head around the staircase newel post on the landing upstairs to see what had come. I told him that the parcels were for his Mum. He went back to his room. I decided to get the wrapping of all our Christmas gifts completed after he’d gone to bed. For the time being, the latest arrivals would go in the boot of the car to keep them hidden from his curious eyes. Having done that, I called him downstairs to take him to the park for some exercise and fresh air.

Helen didn’t get home until turned ten o’clock. She had warned me over the weekend that she’d be late every night until Christmas Eve.  She was exhausted. Customers were stripping the shelves before there was time to re-stock them fully. Fresh supplies from the storage area – ‘backstage’ as they called it – were almost impossible to get through the crowds of customers jostling to fill their trolleys. When, on the Wednesday night we had a major row, about not being able to have a holiday abroad until July at the earliest, I put it down to her being stressed-out because of the built-up exhaustion.

On Christmas Eve, getting Paul to go to sleep was murder. He was so excited, wanting to know whether Santa had been able to get enough money out of his magic money tree to pay for a PlayStation. Other than that, there was the routine of leaving a glass of wine for Santa, plus reindeer food for Rudolph and his team. It was lovely to see that he was still so innocent but we still felt guilty at caving into societal pressure to conform by telling lies to him.

Featured Photo

Today I continue my series of Christmassy shots in black and white. My Featured Photo today was taken in Williamson Square, one of two Christmas Tree shots I took that evening. I’ll post the other nearer Christmas – but I may break with the black and white theme on Christmas Day to post it then.

The EXIF Data for the featured photo are as follows: Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera with a 35 mm mm f/2.4 lens at 35 mm and f/4. The shutter speed was 1/200 secs and the ISO was 1600. The camera was handheld and the post-processing was in Lightroom.

Going Forward – Chapter Eleven

……Previously

Susie raised the idea of providing seminars where we could choose a topic, provisionally book a venue, agree a price, and advertise it. Someone, or more than one of us, could lead the seminar – or we could recruit someone to do it for a fee. She suggested that fifteen to twenty clients at £300 a throw could upwards of £4,500 – more than enough to cover venue, refreshment and tutor costs. Alternatively, she proposed that we could design online seminars and sell them. All that would need would be someone with expertise, a suitable personality and an online channel. This was also a popular choice.

Both of them could see the possibilities in the ideas that had been suggested, but Beverly had noticed that the meeting had taken longer than she’d expected and she’d need to leave soon. We agreed to call it a day, but convened another meeting in the New Year.

Continued…….

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Decision time

As luck would have it, Mrs Wilson, the Printing Company’s General Administration Manager, phoned me the following morning to offer me the position. She asked me for a decision there and then. I pointed out that we hadn’t yet discussed issues such as the terms and conditions relating to the job. She agreed but suggested that we could discuss those when I started. I told her that I felt that would be unusual, and that I felt that I was being pressurised. I asked her to send me a written job offer; to attach the Ts and Cs; and to suggest a starting date, preferably in the New Year. She agreed, but I felt that she had done so reluctantly. I was now definitely getting a bad feeling about the post.

I wasn’t in the mood for any more thinking about my future, so I spent the remainder of the day doing some shopping from a list that Helen had prepared and then did a bit of cleaning around the house until it was time to collect Paul on his last day of term before Christmas. That afternoon, I went with both my parents and Helen’s to the school to watch Paul in the Nativity play. Helen couldn’t manage to get time off work. Paul had been a shepherd, so he hadn’t had any lines to say, but he’d looked as excited as any of the others when he came onstage. His grandparents clapped and shouted every time he appeared. They made a real fuss of him afterwards as we walked to the car park, where they waved is off before they left.

I couldn’t help but think how weird it was that even the children of Muslim parents were taking part in a play that celebrated this Christian fable. I couldn’t remember any corresponding activities that had celebrated Islamic festivals – perhaps they would have been seen as blasphemous. When he got into the car he asked me why his Mum hadn’t been there, then started telling me about the things that they had been making in class – hats, cards and festive decorations. He’d brought those that he’d made home in the bag that he’d given me at the school door. Once we were in the house and he’d changed out of his school uniform, he showed me what he’d done. It brought back lots of memories for me. He wanted to put the decorations up but I persuaded him to wait until his Mum came home.

Helen was late. She said that the Christmas queues had been crazy and her boss had pleaded with her to stay for a bit so that she could keep as many tills open as possible. She said that her Mum had texted her to say how great it had been to see Paul in his school play. After tea, once Paul was in bed, we sat and talked for a while. I told her about the phone call I’d received that morning from the Printing Company. Helen said that, since the three month’s lieu pay and the redundancy pay were guaranteed, it might be worth while taking the risk. She argued that, even  if I were only to stay in the job for one month, if nothing else, that month’s extra income would put the cost of the Playstation back in our bank. She went on to point out that, if we went ahead with the cooperative scheme, it would, in any case, be unlikely to bring in any real cash for a few months at best. From that point of view, it would help to fund our scheme if I didn’t need to worry about our mortgage and living costs while we established ourselves. The third point she made was that any other employers would be able to see that I hadn’t just sat on my backside waiting for State benefits.

I saw no reason to argue, so if I did get the letter offering me the post in writing, and if the salary and conditions looked okay, I’d accept the offer.

Featured Photo

Today I continue my series of Christmassy shots in black and white. My Featured Photo today was taken while walking from the Royal Albert Docks at Liverpool towards the Liverpool One Shopping Area.

The EXIF Data for the featured photo are as follows: Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera with a 35 mm mm f/2.4 lens at 35 mm and f/3.5. The shutter speed was 1/800 secs and the ISO was 400. The camera was handheld and the post-processing was in Lightroom.

Going Forward – Chapter Ten

Apology

To anyone who has been following this story from the beginning: You may remember that the character narrating the story gave his name as David Jonathan Pearce. In retrospect, the name makes him sound more like a right-wing member of Parliament than a redundant ex-marketing manager. Please forgive me if I rename him retrospectively as Paddy Davenport.

……Previously

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.

Continued…….

CHAPTER TEN

A second seminar – preparing

The seminar was at the same Manchester hotel as last time. Even Beverly turned up – which I hadn’t really expected. Given her experience in HR, I’d have thought that she’d have known all there was to know about interviews from the other side of the table. All of our little enterprise group were early, so we all sat together in the Reception area awaiting our summons to enter the training room. They were all surprised to hear that I’d already had an interview. I was sorry that I’d said anything, in case it made those who hadn’t heard anything back from their applications feel bad. Beverly was interested in what I’d said about my impressions of it being an unhappy workplace, and in what Charlie had heard. She too thought that I should be careful. She’d heard of CEOs who regarded showing a willingness to sack employees as a good quality. She’d also heard of employers who doctored employees’ personnel records to suggest justifications for dismissing staff in case of someone daring to appeal.

During the lunchbreak we agreed to have a short meeting after the end of the seminar to discuss progress since our last meeting. The morning session had started with tips on applying for jobs – badly prepared applications would obviously be less likely to lead to interview offers. The second morning session had focused on things such as making sure to read job adverts thoroughly for clues as to what we might be asked about. This was all useful stuff, well-presented, but I’d have thought that, for people such as those present, it was a bit like grandma and the eggs.

The afternoon session was more useful, looking at different questioning techniques we could be faced with. This segment tied in with what had been said earlier about reading the paperwork that was available, and doing desk-research where it was possible. There was some syndicate work and some role playing too. I was quite impressed by how much we’d learned.

Afterwards, when our group assembled, it was clear that what I’d said last time had struck home. I was asked what my idea had been. I told them that it would be a rubbish idea for any kind of cooperative. I’d only mentioned it to bring out some harsh realities. My idea had been something that I could progress as an individual, but that a more successful idea for a cooperative would depend on something such as a community artisan bakery or a workshop refurbishing secondhand furniture. Something like that could begin locally, somewhere we could see a need, and where we could establish a reputation quickly. Ideally it would be something where the product could also attract online interest – where we could establish a brand name and logo. With something like that, our individual contributions could be linked more readily to joint success rather than by recharging our respective time contributions.

To start the ball rolling, I suggested a website design company or a computer services agency – there appeared to be a dearth of these in my area of Codmanton – though I couldn’t speak for elsewhere. I asked Susie and Ben what they thought of the idea. Both of them thought that it sounded interesting – though Ben thought that it was more in Susie’s line of work. I could see where he was coming from, which was why I’d mentioned computer services which could include website design in its repertoire.

They asked how I’d see that going forward. I told them that I’d see the project as depending on home based working initially, perhaps as a part-time adjunct to any full-time jobs we might have. We could share ideas and files via virtual conferencing such as ‘Zoom’ or Microsoft’s ‘Teams’. I felt that if the idea took off we’d probably require to hire time on a third-party fileserver. As regards the idea of computer services, I suggested that we could look at developing or managing systems for small companies. That could range from hosting third-party payroll systems and/or providing online personnel systems, such as screen-based job application systems, integrated with ways of managing recruitment information services. I looked at Jason and Beverly and asked them whether they could see the cooperative equivalent of a local bakery in what I was suggesting.

Susie raised the idea of providing seminars where we could choose a topic, provisionally book a venue, agree a price, and advertise it. Someone, or more than one of us, could lead the seminar – or we could recruit someone to do it for a fee. She suggested that fifteen to twenty clients at £300 a throw could upwards of £4,500 – more than enough to cover venue, refreshment and tutor costs. Alternatively, she proposed that we could design online seminars and sell them. All that would need would be someone with expertise, a suitable personality and an online channel. This was also a popular choice.

Both of them could see the possibilities in the ideas that had been suggested, but Beverly had noticed that the meeting had taken longer than she’d expected and she’d need to leave soon. We agreed to call it a day, but convened another meeting in the New Year.

Featured Photo

Today I continue my series of Christmassy shots in black and white. My Featured Photo today is an image of St Paul’s Cathedral as seen from the One New Change shopping arcade in London. This arcade is located just higher up than the Millennium Bridge on the North side of the River Thames. I took this photo in early January 2020.

The EXIF Data for the featured photo are as follows: Pentax K-1 36MP full camera with a 15-30 mm f/2.8 lens at 29 mm and f/11. The shutter speed was 13/10 secs and the ISO was 100. The camera was tripod-mounted and the post-processing was in Lightroom.

Going Forward – Chapter Nine

……Previously

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.

Continued…..

CHAPTER NINE

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.

Featured Photo

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.

Going Forward – Chapter Eight

……Previously

The accounts weren’t really detailed enough in themselves to give a clue as to the firm’s solvency or other key data, but I decided that I’d attend the interview and decide whether I was interested.

I fired off a few more applications then realised that I’d have time to collect Paul from school. I phoned Jayne and asked whether she’d mind if I did that in case she’d started doing something special for his tea. I don’t know how we’d have managed without her and it seemed unfair to give her a break while I was able to do the school run for the time being. She was fine about it and it meant that Paul would have to play with his toys, have his tea at home, and be there to greet his Mum as soon as she got home from working at the shop.

Continued…..

CHAPTER EIGHT

An interview

I parked in one of the bays provided for  visitors. The company was housed in a series of single storey buildings on a small industrial estate in South Manchester. I’d noticed on my way in that the estate was quite close to a Metrolink tram stop. That would be handy if I got the job for whenever I didn’t want to have to drive to work.

The place seemed to be fenced off securely and all visitors had to report to the Main Reception office which was close to where I was parked. I had to press a button to gain admittance, which I did and was told to push the door and wait to be met. I was glad that I was now standing inside because it was pouring with rain outside.

I was now in  a small, windowless area where  three chairs against a wall were the only furniture. Several faded posters provided only the barest information about the company.

A young woman opened a door in one of the walls, got me to confirm my name, then led me to a waiting area where I was to sit until called. There were no other candidates waiting. There were some more examples of posters advertising the company’s subsidiaries. I wasn’t impressed. Within just a few minutes, one of the office doors opened and a middle-aged woman invited me to enter.

The room wasn’t particularly large – perhaps four metres by six – and I was asked to sit in a chair facing a large desk behind which the woman and a man in his sixties were sitting.  Behind them there was a large window overlooking the car park. The man introduced himself as Andrew York, giving his title as Managing Director. He stood to shake my hand.

He asked me what I knew about the company and I told him what I had read. He asked whether I had heard of the company before applying and I said that I hadn’t. The woman, a Mrs Wilson, who said that she was the General Administration Manager, asked what I thought I could do to improve the company’s marketing efforts. I asked her to tell me first what she understood by marketing and what the company was doing at present.  She was taken aback – apparently assuming that I was turning the tables and trying to interview her.  Nevertheless, it transpired that she saw marketing as a mixture of advertising and direct selling. I said that I’d also need to know more about what  the company produced before I could indicate what I’d advise improving.

She offered to show me around and before we reconvened the interview. The MD agreed.

The production areas were what I’d expected of such factories. The differences between them were mainly related to the size and nature of their output. In the first building, printed information was being applied to sturdy packaging boxes.  The boxes were supplied by the customers for filling and dispatch. The print quality was adequate for the purpose – briefly describing the contents and providing information such as weight and a QR code.  In the second factory, smaller packaging was being printed – mainly to contain pharmaceutical items that would sit on the shelves of pharmacies ready for dispensing. The packages were made of lighter material and the quality of printing was superior. It was clear that the design – logo and information – was dictated by the suppliers’ marketing departments. The third company produced point-of-sale material to contain items for use on retailers’ shelves and tills. The quality here was high and included blister packs.

From what I could gather, pricing was done as a mark-up on cost – the same percentage across the three companies and dictated by the MD – whom it transpired was an accountant rather than a printer. He’d bought the group as an investment. When the interview resumed I was offered a cup of coffee and biscuits. I was asked for my impressions.

I gave her and her boss a basic summary of how the Four Ps – product, promotion, price and place-  fit into a marketing strategy and how they need to be integrated. I suggested that I’d need to know more about the contribution  each  company’s annual output made to the overall product segmentation in terms of turnover and profitability.  I asked the Managing Director for his view of  the beneficial product of each product area and how he related it to the company’s pricing policy.  He asked what I meant.

I suggested that, from what I’d seen – and in crude terms – the first company was selling a cost, the second information and the third was selling revenue generation; that the product of the first company was being purchased by cost clerks who had little discretion and were merely buying the cheapest product from among many potential suppliers. The cartons printed by the second firm might be being bought by someone with more discretion who was more concerned with quality. I suggested that the third type of product was most probably bought by  marketing executives with greater purchasing discretion as part of a product promotion/ revenue generation budget. Whereas the other companies were driven by cost or product differentiation concerns, those of the third company would be ‘shouting’, “Buy me, Buy me,” directly to retail customers. Given the discretion differences between end purchasers, it would be reasonable to assume that a standard cost-based pricing policy was probably inappropriate.

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.

Featured Photo

Today I continue my series of Christmassy shots in black and white. My Featured Photo today is an image of the Burlington Arcade in London. This arcade is located on Piccadilly, almost directly opposite the Piccadilly Arcade whose image I featured yesterday. I took this photo in early January 2020.

The EXIF Data for the featured photo are as follows: Pentax K-1 36MP cropped sensor camera with a 15-30 mm f/2.8 lens at 15 mm and f/3.5. The shutter speed was 1/80 secs and the ISO was 800. The camera was tripod-mounted and the post-processing was in Lightroom.

Going Forward – Chapter Seven

……Previously

It was only then that she started to ask what we’d been discussing, but at that point, Jayne, her Mum arrived with Paul. Once Helen and her Mum had a natter about their respective days, and I’d persuaded Paul to have a bath and let me have his clothes for the washer, Helen suggested that we invite the group round to our house soon and at a time when she could be there to be hostess. I had a feeling that this was less than altruism and more a ploy to have a close look at the women in the group.

Continued…..

CHAPTER SEVEN

Invitation to an interview

Later that night, once Paul was in bed, homework completed, we sat down in front of the television. Helen had asked me how the meeting had gone. She was pleased that I’d asked such pointed questions. She wasn’t keen on us risking the redundancy money on any flimsily thought-through ideas.  Afterwards she started watching a home improvement programme while I had a look at the interview invitation.

It was from a medium sized printing company – 300+ employees – that was looking for a marketing specialist. From what I could see it was a private limited company – I decided that I’d do some checking before I committed myself. The letter said that I’d been short-listed, so there’d obviously be some competition, but the interview wouldn’t be for a fortnight.

Priorities

The following morning, I started by thinking about what I should do first – and I decided that I’d write the Christmas cards. That would please Helen since I normally left that job to her.  We hadn’t bought any cards yet, so I made a trip to the shops – first to the local charity shops to get some sets of ten cards with nice designs and a reasonable seasonal message, then to the supermarket to get cards for Helen, the family and some special relatives. While I was in town, I went into the library to see what I could find out about the printing company. I had some information copied by the library staff then I left for home.

By the time I got back, most of  the morning had gone, so before I made a start on the cards, I checked on some food ingredients.  We had enough pasta, there was a packet of the necessary sauce mix – and I’d taken some steak mince out of the freezer earlier – as I intended to do my interpretation of Spaghetti Bolognese ready for when Helen got home that night. I made myself a sandwich and a hot drink, then settled myself at the dining table with the cards I’d bought and our spreadsheet printout of addresses.

I suppose that I should have realised from previous Christmases how many people we usually sent cards to. It’s a good job that I’d bought plenty cards and had the addresses list to work with. It was getting on for teatime before I’d finished. So much for good intentions. I’d really need to discipline myself tomorrow if I were to make progress with checking on this printing company in addition to sending more applications off.

Desk Research

I sat with the interview invitation letter in front of me, together with my notes from yesterday. For completeness, I had a look online at the company website and at the little information I could find about the accounts. It appears that I was right about it being a private limited company. There only seemed to be a couple of shareholders but, more interestingly to me at least, was that what I was looking at was the details of a holding company with three subsidiaries. It wouldn’t be possible from the public information to gather any details about the profitability of the subsidiary companies. It looked to me as if the holding company were using management charges to hide the worth of these outliers. A bit more digging indicated that each of the units had a different product line: they all printed boxes or cartons, but for different purposes and markets. That was useful. It provided me with some key areas to ask questions about.

The accounts weren’t really detailed enough in themselves to give a clue as to the firm’s solvency or other key data, but I decided that I’d attend the interview and decide whether I was interested.

I fired off a few more applications then realised that I’d have time to collect Paul from school. I phoned Jayne and asked whether she’d mind if I did that in case she’d started doing something special for his tea. I don’t know how we’d have managed without her and it seemed unfair to give her a break while I was able to do the school run for the time being. She was fine about it and it meant that Paul would have to play with his toys, have his tea at home, and be there to greet his Mum as soon as she got home from working at the shop.

Featured Photo

Today I continue my series of Christmassy shots in black and white. My Featured Photo today is an image of the Piccadilly Arcade in London. I took this photo in early January 2020. I photographed five arcades on my weekend in London, and four were dressed for Christmas to some extent or other. This is the first of these.

The EXIF Data for the featured photo are as follows: Pentax K-1 36MP cropped sensor camera with a 15-30 mm f/2.8 lens at 30 mm and f/3.5. The shutter speed was 1/100 secs and the ISO was 800. The camera was tripod-mounted and the post-processing was in Lightroom.

Going Forward – Chapter Six

……Previously

Ben joined in by asking what these types of model were. I handed out some photocopies of internet articles that I’d looked at. I suggested that we should all read the contents before our next meeting.  I stressed that I wasn’t trying to rubbish the idea, but the different models of cooperative businesses had different types of ownership and control and different ideas about how profits were distributed. In principle, coops appeared to differ from limited companies and partnerships in terms of their aims. As an example, I mentioned those types were the customers were all members and the aim was to benefit the community as much as the members. One example could be a local farm shop or bakery. I asked whether anyone had come up with a similar idea for a community benefit project. No one had so we agreed to read my handouts and think about what our next step would be.

We thanked Beverly for hosting the meeting and agreed that we’d continue the discussion after the next seminar.

Continued…..

CHAPTER SIX

Back at home

I got back home shortly after Helen. She was in the kitchen putting a supermarket pizza into the oven with some frozen chips. TV chefs presenting healthy eating shows didn’t have to do the shopping and cooking after long days at work and before their children got back home to require attention.

She’d been praised by her manageress because she’d spotted that a customer had switched some price labels and the store security had detained the shopper until the police arrived. It was only last week that she’d received an award for spotting an attempted card fraud. She was buzzing because she was a really conscientious woman and liked her job.

We’d be eating on our knees while we talked before Helen’s Mum brought Paul home, so I didn’t need to lay the table or anything. I grabbed the day’s post and had a quick look through while the food was heating up. The first Christmas cards had arrived – a couple from relatives who lived abroad. Helen reminded me that I’d promised to write our cards and that. now I was among the unemployed, I should set aside some time for doing it. One of the items was an interview invitation. I decided that I’d have a closer read of that later in the evening. Another letter was an invitation from my almost-ex employer inviting me to a seminar in three weeks’ time about interview skills.

As we ate, Helen asked me about my day. I told her about the stuff that I’d started doing at home in the morning and that I’d been to a meeting in the afternoon at Beverly’s house.

“Beverly?” she asked, “Beverley male or Beverly female?”

“Female,” I said, and told her where she lived.

“Okay, tell me more about this Beverly,” she asked, “How old is she? Married, divorced or single? What does she look like?”

I told her that Beverly was married with two children, that I’d guess mid-thirties, about five-foot six to five-foot nine, attractive and smartly dressed. I explained that she was a Personnel Manager. I went on to tell her about the house she lived in.

Helen’s next questions were about the other group members – she wanted more details about Susie than about the males in the group. She was especially interested in her because she was divorced, but I had to explain that it hadn’t been the type of meeting to delve into that sort of detail.

It was only then that she started to ask what we’d been discussing, but at that point, Jayne, her Mum arrived with Paul. Once Helen and her Mum had a natter about their respective days, and I’d persuaded Paul to have a bath and let me have his clothes for the washer, Helen suggested that we invite the group round to our house soon and at a time when she could be there to be hostess. I had a feeling that this was less than altruism and more a ploy to have a close look at the women in the group.

Featured Photo

Today I continue my series of Christmassy shots in black and white. My Featured Photo today is an image of Wayfarers’Arcade in Southport, Sefton, Merseyside. I took this photo in late November, 2019.

The EXIF Data for the featured photo are as follows: Pentax K-1 36MP cropped sensor camera with a 15-30 mm f/2.8 lens at 24 mm and f/13. The shutter speed was 1/5 secs and the ISO was 400. The camera was tripod-mounted and the post-processing was in Lightroom.

Going Forward – Chapter Five Part Three

……Previously

For the initial stage, I said that we’d need the services of an IT whizz to develop an App: I looked at Ben. For my idea of a physical storage product, we’d need the services of a designer with computer aided design skills: I looked at Tony. We could buy-in 3D printing. To promote such products, we’d ideally like some help with website design to get search engine optimisation – high visibility to the target market: this time I looked at Susie. We’d need to get  legal advice on patents and copyright and this would probably need to be outsourced. Perhaps Jason could provide accountancy help us to keep from over trading or similar and, given the costs of paying everyone involved, we’d need to price the products so as to reap an early payback to stay profitable. As an umbrella for all this, as a group we’d probably need HR expertise. I looked at Beverly.

Continued…..

I now had everyone’s interest without needing to describe my product idea yet – and this was what I’d hoped for. What I’d already said had clear ramifications, so I continued.

I confessed that the physical product, to my mind was probably not worth pursuing. There were already suitable off-the-shelf alternatives – so that element could be scrapped. This left the App – which I said I’d come to once some questions of principle had been thought through. 

I’d only mentioned the storage problem to bring out the operational issues. I continued, saying  that it would be great if we had a going-concern in place to launch new products, so that we’d all be earning salaries out of earned profits. As it was, there would be need, for any of our ideas, to finance a period for research and development out of our redundancy pool. I could see disillusion on most faces.  I then raised the question of equitable distribution. Suppose only two of us were to propose ideas, how much should the people whose ideas were accepted be able to recharge to the group. If Ben were to spend time developing and testing an App, should he be able to recharge the same amount, or more, or less? Should his share be charged on a time and materials basis perhaps?  What basis would be fair for rewarding an idea? At what point should it be recharged? How should losses be shared? Would contributors be able to claim immediately or out of earned profits? This type of approach would need to be thought through down the line for all those who contributed.

My presentation – I still hadn’t said what my idea was – raised an immediate storm of questions and discussion.

Beverly was one of the first to come forward. She wanted to know whether I was saying that becoming a cooperative was simply impracticable. I answered her by saying that, without discussing between ourselves what type of coop we wanted to be, we’d be wasting a lot of time. Certainly, the type of idea that I’d been going to propose didn’t lend itself to any of the coop models I’d been reading about. Additionally, all types of model should start with a properly thought-out business plan.

Ben joined in by asking what these types of model were. I handed out some photocopies of internet articles that I’d looked at. I suggested that we should all read the contents before our next meeting.  I stressed that I wasn’t trying to rubbish the idea, but the different models had different types of ownership and control and different ideas about how profits were distributed. In principle, coops appeared to differ from limited companies and partnerships in terms of their aims. As an example, I mentioned those types where the customers were all members, and the aim was to benefit the community as much as the members. One example could be a local farm shop or bakery. I asked whether anyone had come up with a similar idea for a community benefit project. No one had, so we agreed to read my handouts and think about what our next step would be. We thanked Beverly for hosting the meeting and agreed that we’d continue the discussion after the next seminar.

Featured Photo

Today I begin with a series of Christmassy shots in black and white. My Featured Photo today is an image of a busy street at night in Singapore complete with seasonal illuminations. This was taken in late November, 2017.

The EXIF Data for the featured photo are as follows: Pentax K50, 16MP cropped sensor camera with a 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at 18 mm and f/8. The shutter speed was 1/100 secs and the ISO was 3200. The camera was handheld and the post-processing was in Lightroom.

Going Forward – Chapter Five Part Two

……Previously

As I was nicely getting into the job-hunting stuff, Beverly phoned me – she’s the one who’s been working in HR. She wanted to know whether I’d be free to join in an ad-hoc brainstorming session at her house that afternoon with some of the others. Tony, Susie and Ben had already agreed. She hadn’t heard back from Jason yet. I agreed and wrote down her address and postcode, but I was a bit miffed that I was the last to be asked. I must ask Helen if my breath smells.

Continued…..

Later – that afternoon at Beverly’s house

Beverly lived in an old, three-storey, imposing semi-detached house on the outskirts of Manchester – Altrincham way. I’d needed to change from train to Metrolink tram, but it was a pleasant journey. I used it to flesh out, in my mind, an idea that I’d been toying with since our meeting after the seminar.

We met in her living room – large with high ceilings that had period covings and details. Her large bay window looked out on a main road. The furnishings spoke of money and taste – the two don’t always go together. Her children were at school and her husband was at work. Her Mum would be picking the children up from school and giving them their tea – a bit like Helen’s Mum does for us. I was second to arrive. But the others had further to travel. Jason was otherwise engaged.

As we waited for the others, we talked about where we were up to with our respective situations. It seemed as if Beverly and I were on the same page. She confirmed what I’d read about how little time recruiters can give to weeding out no-hopers. She said that sometimes there could be as many as a thousand applications for a single post, and there could be half-a-dozen posts being advertised at any one time. She explained the procedure her staff had been following. At least our company seemed to acknowledge all applications – even the rejected ones: few companies seemed to do that these days, she said. For those applications that pass the initial sifting, she described the discussions with interested colleagues; the filing; and the correspondence that usually accompany the shortlisting process.

I asked her on what basis initial applications were rejected. It wasn’t as bad as I’d thought – things like illiteracy, incomplete information, or not being suitably qualified could be quickly spotted. She admitted that, amongst those without the specified qualifications, there would be some who would probably be otherwise suitable, but there were usually too many applications to spend time looking for those exceptions.

When the others arrived, Beverly played hostess and brought in tea, coffee and biscuits. Susie and I lent a hand in her surprisingly large modern kitchen for the age of the house.

Once we were settled, she asked us whether any of us had come up with any thoughts about the cooperative idea. I was the only one who was ready to spin a suggestion, but I said that I could already see some practical snags arising from the whole idea; and that these would need to be discussed and sorted before I could stop job-hunting for the time being.

I told them that my idea involved both software development and an associated physical product.  It would require multi-disciplinary co-operation and, to that extent, would fit in with the idea of a cooperative organisation.  I said, that for my product, I had a theoretical sort of algorithm to use as a basis.

For the initial stage I said that we’d need the services of an IT whizz to develop an App: I looked at Ben. For my idea of a physical storage product, we’d need the services of a designer with computer aided design skills: I looked at Tony. We could buy-in 3D printing. To promote such products, we’d ideally like some help with website design to get search engine optimisation – high visibility to the target market: this time I looked at Susie. We’d need to get  legal advice on patents and copyright and this would probably need to be outsourced. Perhaps Jason could provide accountancy help us to keep from over trading or similar and, given the costs of paying everyone involved we’d need to price the products so as to reap an early payback to stay profitable. As an umbrella for all this, as a group we’d probably need HR expertise. I looked at Beverly.

Featured Photo

Todays’ image is another in a series of photographs of London that I shall be featuring until sometime in January. I took this shot around sunrise from a rooftop of One New Change, a shopping arcade that is across the street from St Paul’s Cathedral. The image is of the skyline looking approximately SSW to SW across the River Thames.

The EXIF Data for the featured photo 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/11 The shutter speed was 1/6 secs and the ISO was 100. The camera was tripod-mounted and the post-processing was in Lightroom.