Loneliness - Moving On

by Andrew Foote

Chapter 13

I cooked supper!

We didn't need upset tummies on top of all our other problems! Jus doesn't have many shortcomings but being adventurous in the galley is one to be noted.

In other rooms? Oh my God! Adventurous doesn't come close and I love him for it but I digress.

We waited until midnight struck the many clock towers in Oxford then uncorked a bottle of Shiraz, something that still is my all-time favourite wine, then with full glasses we toasted each other.

"Here's my wish for you Alex.

A life of supreme happiness, free from danger and the wickedness of the world.

I love you without reservation."

He raised his glass and drank, then I responded.

"My wish for you Jus.

I hope for an outcome that will put the current troubles to bed never to resurface and for the future? I will continue to love you as I did from the moment I first saw you, the most fantastic person who has ever graced my life.

I too love you without reservation."

I raised my glass and drank but then Jus spoke again.

"I also want, in their absence to think about Kaz, Tim, my Grandparents, my parents in a faraway country and also the guys who work for us and the loyalty they've shown. To all of them, a Happy 1974 and beyond."

We did the bottle between us! Slightly pissed we made our way to bed. What wasn't possible that night we made up for come the morning neither of us leaving the bed until gone eleven o'clock.

I put a light under the kettle then peered out of the window. The snow had all but vanished and the sun was making inroads into the early morning mist.

A nice day to be had.

I looked across towards 'Casio' and I saw two figures one of which was clearly my Mum, the kaftan being a dead giveaway. I made the tea and gave Jus a kick.

"My Mum and Dad are back. I'm going to get dressed and see what's going down okay?"

"Drink your tea first and I'll join you. It'll be great to see them! Seems like a lifetime away doesn't it, normality I mean."

"Yes. It'll return soon enough. We've the Mill to reopen and get back to studying if we're to do our 'A's come the spring.

Normality never seemed so attractive!"

Jus pulled me close to him, the temptation to crawl back into bed was enormous and I made it fairly obvious but he kissed me and pushed me away.

"Later I promise, as if you've not had enough for one day! Come on, let's see if your folks are alright."

I wondered if my appetite for sex was too much for Jus but as he squeezed past me to grab his coat, I could feel his erection pressing into me and that, together with the smirk on his face spoke volumes.

We let the dogs lose and walked over to 'Casio', my Mum was standing on the after deck. She looked at us with that look that generally meant a bollocking.

"So despite everything everyone told you, still you managed to get into trouble!"

"Mum? It wasn't our fault!"

"Okay then.

First you get cut adrift, almost get swept over Caversham weir, then you get chased by someone with a gun through Balmore woods and to top it all for Christ's sake, you head off upstream on a swollen river in the middle of winter, get shot at, a boat gets rammed and nine people have to be rescued and we find you in Oxford.

We told you not to go getting into mischief didn't we?"

"But Mum??"

My Mum burst into tears and hugged the pair of us.

"Thank God you're safe!

I'm sorry, that was my pathetic attempt at pathos.

We know what happened, DCI Lockwood has been a star and much as I don't care for the police, I have to say he's one in a million.

Come on in, I think your father has something to say."

My Dad was standing in the galley and when he saw us, he too seemed on the verge of tears. He beckoned to both of us and gave us a hug.

"What can I say? You've seen more of the nasty side of life in a week than I've seen in a lifetime. You don't seem any the worse for wear but I feel guilty we weren't around to protect you."

I was too choked up to reply but Jus took up the reigns.

"Tim, what happened, happened. If anything it was because of what happened to me at school and it's me who feels guilty for involving Alex, both of you and my Grandparents.

I wonder sometimes if had been better I died up there at the tree, that way none of this would've occurred."

My Dad gave him a cuddle.

"Shut it Justin. I mean it, don't ever let me hear such negativity ever again! You're a beautiful person and no matter what's gone down in the past warrants these events.

Come on, let's have a proper drink and celebrate your bravery."

We sat at the table, Dad with his beer, Mum with a glass of Rose wine, Jus and I each with a glass of red.

We walked them through the event leading up to us getting to Oxford, leaving out some bits we thought were unnecessary and once they were up to speed, we let them speak, Mum being the first.

"Someone could write a novel detailing this and nobody would believe that it could actually happen but it did!"

Jus was still feeling a bit tender.

"Yes it did and I'm sorry about it."

My Dad scolded him.

"Hey Justin? What did I tell you? Cut the negative vibes man why don't you?"

I cut in.

"So where do we go from here Dad?"

"Well we have the thumbs up to go back to Mapledurham. George and Eleanor will need to be collected from Wales and the house opened up all though Mrs Morris will probably sort all that out but you lads will have to stay put for a while longer but I understand you have transport to and fro the Mill?"

"Yeah. Peter Baines has got it sorted but if you're taking the boat back to Mapledurham, how are you getting the car back?"

"Ahh! Your man Matthew! He has a drivers licence and he's coming up by train in the morning. He'll take the Bentley back while we bring the boat."

" Matthew? He can like, drive??"

"Never judge a book by its cover son. Matthew is not all stupid. He's the youngest person in the country to hold a heavy goods vehicle licence. Quite a talent if you ask me."

"I thought you had to be twenty-one before you could do that."

"Under normal circumstances you do but if you're in the armed services the normal rules don't apply, you can take your HGV test when you're eighteen.

He signed up for the Territorials, someone noticed that he had a natural aptitude behind the wheel and put him through the examination."

Jus looked thoughtful.

"We might be able to put that talent to good use, buy a van and make our own deliveries."

"Actually that was a conversation I was going to have with you.

Looking at the books, your biggest overhead apart from wages is shipping and it won't get any cheaper. Doing the figures, it would be much more cost effective to buy a seven and a half ton truck and do the job yourselves, likewise the collection of raw materials."

"Seven and a half ton? Could Matt handle something that big?"

"He's got a class one licence. He can and has driven forty-five ton articulated waggons so I hardly think a seven and a half tonner is likely to faze him."

"Oh, cool. Must remember to have a chat with him when we're back."

"I would do if I was you Justin but now on to heavier matters.

We're off in the morning what with everything that has to be done. We feel really bad about everything and it passed through my mind to give you both the biggest bollocking of your lives but I sat down and thought it through and in retrospect, you did what you had to do. You had no way of knowing how big the threat was, how much it was important for someone to see you……"

"Dead Dad? That's how it played out?"

"Yes okay, dead but I still can't believe it!

I better settle down or it will be me getting in the neck from your Mother!


I've no problem in you boys bringing the boat back down to Mapledurham on your own, you've proved your worth on the water but we'll see you on Monday anyway…… we love both of you very much. Keep that in mind alright?"

Jus stood up and gave my Dad a hug.

"Alex keeps telling me that none of this is any of my doing but I want to thank you for loving me despite everything and me knowing that it has everything to do with me."

"The why's and wherefores aren't up for discussion Justin. It's probably fair to say that the events at school were the trigger but no one and I mean no one should be subjected to the sort of treatment meted out to both of you.

This will blow over, you lives will return to normal, just give it time."

I turned to my Dad.

"What are you doing about supper tonight? Why don't you and Mum come over to us and eat? It would be nice to have some company."

"Hey thanks! We've got so much to do in order for us to leave tomorrow, I don't think your Mother has had a chance to think about today's catering.

Nice one Alexis! What time do you need us to be over?"

"I'll be done by around seven but come over whenever you're ready. We've still got plenty of Christmas wine on board as we didn't have much to celebrate."

"Now you're speaking my language son!

See you later."

The remainder of the day shot past as we did a joint operation on tidying the boat, vacuuming and polishing the place until it looked the business.

I made a start on supper, nothing too grand, melon in a reduced Port sauce, an all- time favourite of my Mum's followed by braised steak and onions, dumplings, roast potatoes and fresh vegetables. Meantime Jus volunteered to 'water-up' the boat and once everything was in the oven, we walked the dogs around the base.

Something had really got in to Jus, he chased around with the hounds and sang to himself the entire time, something I loved him doing as his voice, unlike mine, was pitch-perfect.

"What's with you? You seem happier than I've seen you in an age!"

"That's because I am!

That chat with your Dad really gave me a lift you know?"

"How come? He didn't say that much?"

"Oh yes he did Alex.

That's the first time anyone has told it as it is, including you. Everyone keeps muttering platitudes telling me that nothing is my fault but your Dad recognised the fact that actually I am partly to blame but doesn't hold me accountable. It's hard to explain but that's like such a relief knowing that he sees that and agrees with me. A real burden has been taken off my shoulders."

"Well long may it continue. I love the happy you!"

We walked back to our boat, checked on supper then at six-fifteen my Mum and Dad arrived.

Even I have to admit I'd excelled myself and once we'd cleared away the washing-up and were relaxing with our wine, Mum turned to me.

"That, son of mine, was delicious! Your culinary skills are improving beyond measure or did you cook Justin?"

Jus spluttered over his drink.

"Me? Cook? Hey I just eat! I leave all the tricky stuff to Alex! I can do toast…..and sometimes it isn't even burnt but I don't go beyond that."

Mum laughed.

"You sound like Tim when we first got together. He could burn water!"

Dad looked at her with mock indignity.

"Hey? I do a pretty mean breakfast?"

"And how many years has it taken to get that far then?"

"Rather a lot.

Okay, I give in. Pass that bottle Justin. I know when it's not a good idea to argue against the bloody obvious!"

It was well past midnight when my Mum and Dad weaved their way arm in arm back to 'Casio'.

It had been a great evening and as we sat back down having locked up for the night, Jus eyed the half bottle of wine that was on the table.

"What do you think? Finish it?"

"Might just as well. This will most likely be our last chance to properly relax until we're back at Mapledurham what with seven day working, studying and the journey back and forth."

"There's tomorrow but going into work with a hangover isn't my idea of fun!

Talking of work, who's going to have a chat with Matthew about the van thing?"

"I had thought we could both have a talk to him tomorrow when he comes to get the car but I doubt he'd be allowed on the base."

"Your Dad's going to have to hand over the keys so why don't we go with him?"

"Good plan but I don't know when they intend to leave."

"When you were dishing up earlier, he mentioned wanting to be on the water by eleven so if we get over to 'Casio' for around nine, we should catch him before he leaves, if not it'll have to wait 'til Monday."

"Okay, we'll do that but if we miss him and it has to be done Monday, can you talk to him? Every time I go to talk to him, he thinks I'm going to tell him off for something!"

"The Big Boss syndrome! He's got it into his head that the Managing Director only talks to an employee if there's an issue over something."

"Can't see why? I like the guy plus he's a good worker. He should understand his worth to the company rather than thinking I'm breathing down his neck all the time. I really do wish he didn't think that way."

"I'll have a quiet word with him, put him at ease. If he accepts the driving job maybe we should bump up his hourly rate? More work, more responsibility?

It makes sense don't you think?"

"Yes. Offer him another ten bob an hour. That will bring him in line with Kirstin.

I'm a bit pissed Jus! I hope I don't regret all this wine come the morning!"

"Come to bed then. Let's work some of it off!"

The following morning we boarded 'Casio', the smell of grilled bacon was almost intoxicating! Much to my surprise Matt was there as well.

"Hey Matt! Happy New Year! Did you have a good Christmas?"

"Thanks Alexis. Happy New Year to you too and to you Justin. Yeah Christmas was good but it's over too quickly.

Oh damn! I didn't mean it to sound as if I don't want to go back to work? I'm sorry!"

"Don't sweat it! I know exactly where you're coming from. We both feel the same way!"

I turned to my Dad.

"So how long before breakfast is ready Dad?"

"Inviting yourselves are you?"

"No, you did last night when you were drunk. I'm pretty sure I remember you inviting us!"

Mum giggled.

"Worm you way out of that one if you can Tim!"

"Did I really invite you?"

"No you didn't but I know it's only because you forgot to mention it!"

"Okay! I'll put some more on but give me fifteen alright?"

"Great, thanks Dad! Time enough to have a chat with Matt. We've got a proposal to put to you mate, one we both hope you'll accept.

Let's go outside for a bit."

We put the offer to him which he readily accepted.

"I'd love to do that!

I have to put in a number of driving hours to keep my licence active anyway and this will allow me to do it without pestering my old man all the time."

"What's your Dad got to do with it?"

"That's his line of business. He runs a Haulage Contractor firm. That's how come I got to like driving trucks. He let me do yard work once I was tall enough to reach the pedals then my Brigade Commander found out about it and put me forward for my HGV test."

"Brilliant! We'll talk more about it on Monday now we officially got us a driver.

Come on, let's get some food inside us."

For the first time I could remember, Matt was animated, chatting away to me in a way he should always have done, not as his boss but as part of the team.

Maybe 1974 was going to be a good year after all.

Once breakfast was finished, Jus and I did the clearing up, Dad and Matt disappeared off to find the Bentley which was being garaged privately somewhere in town while my Mum busied herself filling the water and diesel tanks ready for leaving.

"He's a nice lad, your Matthew. I'm pleased you've managed to find him a role he can call his own rather than just packing stuff. I think that's what he needed to feel accepted somehow."

"Do you think so Mum? He's always held me at arm's length."

"Everyone else has their definitive part to play whereas Matthew just saw himself as a minion, a labourer if you will. Now he has something to get his teeth into, I suspect you'll see a change in attitude."

"I hope so. I'm not pleased with myself for not seeing that even though what he was doing was important, so much so, we'll have to think about taking on someone else to fill his shoes."

"Very possibly but next time give whoever it is a specific title. It means a lot to people to understand that their contribution is of value to the company. That doesn't mean everyone has to be a manager, call the position Despatch and Shipping Controller or something."

Jus needed some input.

"What about Matt? Wouldn't that put his nose out of joint having not gone down that route for him Kaz?"

"It might do if you don't do something similar for him Justin.

Can any of us other than Matthew drive Lorries? No of course we can't.

Do we understand as much as he does when it comes to them? No we don't.

His father owns one of the biggest transport company's in Reading, he's been around trucks all his life so put him in charge of not just driving the damn thing but also the managing of the vehicle, arranging servicing, taxing and so on. Make him your Transport Manager. I think he'd be very good at that.

Remember that first meeting before you set up shop?

Sir George talked about the importance of a decently paid and loyal staff who, even if they were to be offered more money by someone else, wouldn't want to leave purely out of that loyalty? That's what you have to be aiming towards.

Everyone in life is led by example and with luck your business will grow to the extent that you can't be expected to be on first name terms with everyone but if those who have grown up with the company and have become your senior management, they will adopt the same ethos, the one handed down by you blokes and by that I mean, care and consideration towards the staff, fairness in all things, bollockings if really necessary but at all times, praise for a job well done.

That, by the way, is a very long-winded way of saying look after Matthew! I believe he's a real asset to you."

"Food for thought if nothing else but I can't see us getting that big!"

"You haven't been back to the Mill in a while have you?"

"No we haven't, not before Christmas. Why?"

"Your order book. Tim believes you'll be taking on more than Matthew's replacement if you're to cope with demand. He was going to talk to you Wednesday morning once we'd got back but he has to get his arse up to Wales and collect George and Eleanor first. We'd get Matthew to go but he's your man and we hadn't had the opportunity to ask for your permission to release him for a day."

"What do you think Alex? Could we spare him? We could pack between us?"

"I reckon. We're not going to get that much production done tomorrow.

Do Sir George and Lady Eleanor know a lad of seventeen is driving their Bentley? They'll freak out if not!"

"We have explained some things to them, not everything otherwise it would've wrecked their holiday but yes, they know about Matthew and are happy enough as we recommended him. They've seen so much innovation from you youngsters that I don't believe anything bothers them anymore!

They're cool."

"Okay, he's all yours for the day. I can't see him complaining either!"

Jus laughed.

"Neither would I although I'd prefer to be behind the wheel of an 'E' Type!"

We waved my Mum and Dad off on the stroke of eleven.

There was quite a crowd on the quayside, SBS guys, Ghurkhas and a number of regular sailors seemed to appear from out of nowhere, all waving their farewells.

Peter Baines joined us.

"Hey lads! I'll bet any money you're bored witless here."

Jus smiled.

"Been to more exciting venues, that's for sure!"

"Well my CO has agreed to let you use our mess. We have a billiard table, a pool table fresh in from America, figure out how that's played and pass it on, and darts. So long as you're gone by ten-thirty in the evening when the serious drinking starts, the place is yours."

"That's very nice of him.

Where is it? We've had a look around and the place seems like we're the only ones here."

"That's what people I supposed to think but there's a lot going on behind the scenes Justin, much more.

Follow me and I'll show you."

He ushered us through a door in what appeared to be a disused shed that backed onto a brick wall but this shed was anything but disused. The walls were painted white and the floor laid in amber tiles, all clean and polished and in the far wall was a door which Peter opened and waved us through.

Off to the left was a corridor, also painted white with identical flooring but at the end we could hear the sound of voices and laughter.

"Welcome to the mess. The only place that rank is almost ignored around here. This place is home to around thirty people so having separate canteens and mess facilities isn't practical so we all get together here."

The place wasn't what you might call sumptuous but it did have a cosy feel about it. A bar at one end, seating and tables scattered around and more comfortable settee's and armchairs added to the mix but what caught my eye was the games area.

Billiard tables, a skittle alley, pool table and two dart boards.

I nudged Jus and nodded towards them but he whispered in my ear.

"Let's get the bullshit out of the way first. Protocol and rubbish like that…… really important."

Peter led us to the bar where two men were sat savouring their drinks. He didn't stand to attention but rather he just waited to one side until he had their acknowledgement.

"Ah Peter! I see you've brought our young friends along."

"Yes sir. I thought it was for the best as there's nothing much for them to do other than walk the dogs."

"Bored shitless most like!

Welcome boys. I'm Group Captain Swan and this is my boss and the base commander Wing Commander Willoughby. Take a pew and I'll organise drinks. LARRY? DRINKS IF YOU PLEASE! WE HAVE GUESTS!"

This was an interesting meet!

Both of the officers seemed to regard the steward, a Leading Seaman Archer as an equal, Peter as a friend and Jus and I as if we had always been around and once introductions had been made we were asked what we'd like to drink.

I studied the chiller cabinets for bottles of coke or the like but couldn't spot any.

Peter spoke to the Wing Commander who, in turn, spoke to Larry the steward who then turned to us.

"Shiraz or Merlot boys? I don't recommend the Cabernet, not the best vintage if I'm any judge."

I was really taken by surprise.

"We are allowed alcohol? I was looking for soft drinks."

"You can have that if you'd prefer but Peter said you had a taste for a good red wine so the choice is yours especially as Her Majesty the Queen will be settling your mess bill!!"

I whisked around with horror, half expecting to see ermine and pearls gliding through the door accompanied by pageboys and flunkies.

Peter tapped me on the shoulder.

"What Larry means is that visitors to our mess drink on an open tab which is shown as an entertainment ticket.

I don't think we're expecting a royal visitation this afternoon so relax!"

I laughed at my own stupidity.

"Sorry but I'll just have a Coke for now. Maybe later I'll go with the wine option as I'm not a master class in holding my liquor!"

"That's fine! What about you Justin?"

"I'll go with the wine offer, Shiraz if possible.

I'm slightly better than Alex in that regard."

"Good enough. Larry will bring them over to you.

Are you going to have a game of something?"

"Alex is gagging to have a go at Snooker. He's never played it before."

"Never Alexis? You do surprise me!"

"Very difficult to fit a table that big into a narrow boat!

I've seen it played in a club Mum and Dad used to go to but I've never had the opportunity to have a go myself."

"Well enjoy yourselves and if you have a problem with the rules, just ask anyone here. Oh and by the way, Izzy will be your driver in the morning as I have to go back to barracks for a meeting but with luck I'll see you both tomorrow night."

Jus swamped me.

I mean I was just so much rubbish at snooker!

The angles being so fine, my colours went all over the place and the balls I did manage to pot went in pockets I wasn't even aiming for and so on three frames to nil, I gave in to his better skills.

I had my revenge on the dart board though!!

Okay, more by luck than talent but none the less I had him 3 / 2 and with that I celebrated with a glass of wine.

We spent the remainder of the evening just chatting between ourselves.

For the life of me I cannot remember what we talked about but with us, that has never been a problem. No matter how much time we spend together, there's always conversation.

Mindful of the time, at nine-forty-five we put our glasses back on the bar together with empty crisp packets, said good night to Larry and wandered back to the boat.

A frost was forming indicating a clear day come the morning and my thoughts turned to my Mum and Dad, hoping they had found a safe mooring for the night.

As always Jus seemed to read my mind.

"They'll be fine Alex.

Stop worrying."

"How…… I mean how did you know I was thinking about them?"

"I don't know. I just sensed it I suppose. It happens quite a lot. It's almost as if I can feel your thoughts sometimes, you know, tune into your head somehow."

"That is so weird Jus! That means I can't have any secrets from you!"

"Maybe not!"

"Okay so what am I thinking about right now then?"

"Modesty forbids me to be specific but if you go and take a shower, I'll join you and we'll take it from there!

Close enough??"

Seven in the morning and we were on our way back to Mapledurham. Christmas and the New Year celebrations, for what they were, were a thing of the past and now the time had come to concentrate on other matters which actually came as something of a relief.

We arrived to find everyone had turned up on time, some early as the stove had been lit and a degree of warmth was penetrating the chill of the old mill.

Joe greeted us and re-boiled the kettle for more tea, the factory would take time to reach an operating temperature but that didn't stop Matt and Kirstin packing what was left over from the pre-Christmas production run but once tea was brewed, we all sat around in the office.

Matthew was the first off the mark.

"You know you were talking about the delivery thing?

My old man has a seven and a half tonner with a sleeper cab he got for a contract that fell through. Only got about five thousand miles on the clock and as it's you blokes, he's up for a reasonable offer. Not only that but because you'll have to have an operator's licence, somewhere to garage and maintain it, he'll throw that in as well. Keep it at his yard in Caversham."

"Bloody hell Matt.

We know nothing about this licencing bit so when my Dad gets back in a day or so I'll get him to talk to your Dad and see if it's doable."

"No problem. I'll bring it up here once he's home and you can take a look for yourselves."

Raised eyebrows prompted Jus to tell the others of our plan to take charge of deliveries.

"It makes perfect sense.

We save a bundle of money, it takes away the uncertainty of Post Office delivery, we can collect our raw materials plus we have a fully qualified driver.

Okay, we'll have to take on another person to fill Matt's shoes on the shop floor but we were expecting to expand in any case, this just pushed the agenda forward a bit."

Joe was quick off the mark as usual.

"If Matt is out most of the time and production continues to escalate then we'll need more bodies than just his replacement, we're struggling as it is. We none of us mind putting in the hours, it's nice to have the extra dosh but it can't continue for ever, everyone needs their down time."

Jus thought about this before replying.

"A good point and one well taken Joe.

We never thought it would take off the way it has. You, Alex and I with help from Alex's Dad and we thought that would be enough but now look at us, there's six of us working more than fulltime but my main point is this.

We have become a team.

We feel free to exchange ideas, not frightened of voicing our concerns or criticisms and that will become more difficult the more people work here.

I think what I'm making a very bad effort to say is yes, we need a bigger workforce but we hand pick who we take on and as Alex and I don't really know anyone around here, perhaps you blokes can come up with names, people who you think would settle in well."

There was a general muttering of approval then Kirstin put her hand up.

"Might I suggest that you post something on the noticeboard indicating what positions are up for grabs? I mean there's no point in taking on someone with a PhD to sweep the shop floor is there?"

Jus giggled.

"No I guess not! We'll sort something out but the hurry is to find Matt's replacement and another thing, we will promote from within the existing ranks rather than buy in skills so as always, keep in mind there are going to be opportunities to move up the ladder, don't be shy in coming forward."

Meeting over and the factory up to temperature, Jus and I together with Gillian's help ploughed through the mountain of post.

We separated everything into three piles, bank statements, orders and other bits and pieces.

Bank statements could wait until my Dad returned especially as they looked pretty healthy, orders had dropped off since Christmas but that didn't come as any big surprise but then Gill spotted something.

"Professor Standish? Do we know him?"

"Yes definitely we do!

Is that a letter from him?"

"Yep. Want me to read it?"


"Okay. I won't do all the niceties but the gist of it is that they've managed to synthesise a chemical compound that's similar in its effect to DDT. He reckon's it's non-toxic to animals but flea's die just by being in close proximity to it so ideal for flea collars.

He goes on to say that it's being tested at a government laboratory for reasons of safety but if it's approved, we're welcome to the patent which he calls a 'belated Christmas gift'.

Make any sense to you?"

I punched the air!


Could be another product Gill! Flea collars for cats, dogs and whatever else. Manufacture the standard collar out of leather or whatever the customer wants, back it with an absorbent material, felt or something, impregnate it with this stuff and there you go! No more de-fleaing!"

"Now we definitely will need more staff Alex! We're pretty well stuffed now let alone if you launch another line."

"I understand but we've a distance to go. It's yet to be tested and hopefully approved. We all know how not in any rush Government departments are so my guess is we have breathing space but the most urgent matter is to get someone to replace Matt on the shop floor and like Jus said earlier, the difficulty might be finding someone who'll blend in to our way of working."

"I know this girl…… no maybe that wouldn't work."

Jus piped up here.

"Go on? What about this girl you know."

"It's only that she's desperate to get into work.

Don't misunderstand me Justin, she's actually very bright but the thing is, she's disabled. She sits at home making envelopes all day and with no interaction she gets very frustrated.

I just wondered as packing is pretty much a sedentary pastime, she might be able enough to do it."

"Okay. How disabled is disabled."

"Thalidomide victim. No legs from just above the knees otherwise she's fine."

"Poor girl but why is it she can't find work?

If as you say she's bright, what's to stop her?"

"Nothing but you know how people are, they mutter platitudes then promptly ignore them. Nobody wants to take on disabled people these days."

"But we might be able to? What do you think Alex?"

"Without having a chat with her, I can't think of any good reason why not, in fact if this business of the collars come to fruition, that would mean bench jobs as well. You're also snowed under and could use an office junior couldn't you?

Hey, this could work!

There's most likely a pool of people gagging to get into jobs that are being side-lined through no fault of their own.

I like your idea Gill. I like it a lot!

Don't go saying anything to her just yet. We'll put it to my Dad once he gets back tomorrow."

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[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead