Loneliness - Moving On

by Andrew Foote

Chapter 16

The nights are too short, the dawn always seemingly arriving way too soon and especially since Jus and I had lived on 'Spook'. There was nothing more I needed but to wrap myself up in his arms and spend the day in bed but we'd unwittingly catapulted ourselves into a world of adulthood and with deadlines to meet and studying to be done, we had to rouse ourselves and face the day.

It was just at that moment I understood the wisdom of my Mum's words when suggesting a break or rather the easing off of the workload.

It seemed as if last summer was a million light years away. Those happy and carefree days just messing around were gone as we now had a business to run aside from anything else.

Our childhood had been stolen from us somehow, not by our venture but rather by the thugs that were on a mission to silence Jus. Everything seemed to weigh heavily that morning and so it was very reluctantly that I left our bed to make a pot of tea and kick the stove into life.

Jus followed just as the kettle boiled, he too looked like shit!

"Morning Alex. Can we go back to bed please?"

"I want but we can't. I'm knackered just like you but we've stuff to do already. Go and take a leak cos tea is ready."

We walked up to the Mill with the dogs and as we approached I heard the sound of machinery then saw Joe cutting the long grass that was the garden.

The mower was an old 'Oxford' two stroke scissor-type machine that looked as if it had been around for a while but Joe seemed happy enough giving us the thumbs-up as he worked.

I was intrigued!

What on earth was he doing cutting grass at eight in the morning? My question was soon answered.

"The girls want to make a start on the borders but complained that the grass was in a shit-state and it had to be cut back so here I am!"

"Well, what can I say except thanks. Just be sure to book your hours, okay?"

"What hours? I'm salaried remember and anyway, I wanted to do it so it's my choice!"

"Okay but what's with the mower?"

"Oh this? It's been at home stuck in the shed for as long as I can remember so I decided to see if I could get it to run. Obviously I did and my old chap said we could have it, - wanted it out of the way anyhow. My next task is to see if I can get our old cultivator to start. Now that would be a God send when it comes to turning over the soil given the amount of ground we've got to play with."

Jus pulled a face.

"You're not wrong Joe! It didn't look that big until you started to cut the grass but now? Fucking huge! Just remember though, keep receipts for anything you have to buy such as parts or fuel and take it out of petty-cash. Don't go being out of pocket."

Leaving Joe to his mowing we made our way into the factory and did our usual rounds, talking to everyone in turn then headed into the office.

"Everything under control Gill?"

"Yep. We've no real issues to contend with. We're on top of production which is surprising given the state of the order book but all our new starts have settled in really well which helps.

Just one thing, we've had a telex from a company, something to do with marketing and the up-coming Cruft's Dog Show. I think they want us to exhibit there. Want to take a look?"

"Cruft's? That would set us back a fortune Alex! It isn't just a case of setting up a table and parking a selection of our products on it, we'd have to have a proper stand, you know, specially made to show us off in the best light. Megga-money and even if we managed to get orders sufficient to cover the cost, how would we cope with the increased production? I recon it's somewhat out of our league."

"You're probably right but there's no harm in investigating the possibilities. Let's leave it until my Dad gets in and see what he thinks."

In the event, Dad also thought it was a bad idea.

"The cost of doing something along those lines would be huge. My vote has to be against the idea. Anyway we could spend that money better by buying another injection moulder."

"No way could we afford to do that Tim? Not right now anyway."

"You're right but it won't be long before we are Jus. I've been doing my utmost to pay your Granddad back plus the interest as agreed and give it a few months and he'll be fully recompensed.

I needed to do this because he outlaid a lot of money on what was at the time a dream. He could've lost the lot but he had faith in you so it's important that we repay that faith. Not only that, he's willing to reinvest in the company giving you a very healthy deposit on a new system. I was going to suggest we had a board meeting so we could discuss it but then…… all the events of the last couple of months meant I took my eye off the ball somewhat."

"But even so Dad? With the balls taking off and no let-up in the Strong-Arm orders, the collars finally getting lots of interest, we're pushed for space as it is so where on earth would we put another moulder?"

"Get your coats on and let's go for a walk."

We left the Mill and took a stroll round the back of the building. My Dad gestured to a large patch of waste land.

"There. That's where you put it."

"But we don't own that land Tim!"

"That's what I thought but as we own the freehold, we have the title deeds so I went to our solicitors and took a look at them. This piece of land is owned by the company. It's all part of the Mill property so if we could secure planning permission, we could extend out here. We'd have to design it in such a way that it was in keeping with the original Mill but actually that would make our building costs less than they might otherwise would be.

I had wondered about local opinion but the villagers love having a thriving young business on their doorstep and especially as we've saved their beloved Mill from completely falling into disrepair to the point where it's once again a working Mill even though it no longer mills grain.

The gardens I thought was a bad idea at first but come the spring? They'll look beautiful and absolutely in keeping with the surrounding village so I don't see many objections to us turning what is a scruffy bit of waste land into something that'll enhance the landscape rather than detract from it like it is at the moment.

What do you think?"

"Dad it's still got to be paid for. Do we have the necessary funds?"

"Yes. I've done the figures and you know me well enough to know I've always had to be careful with money so if I'm confident it'll work, rest assured it'll be okay but we must all sit down and discuss it as directors before making any decisions."

Jus, ever the optimist had his input.

"It makes perfect sense. What are the alternatives? If we're to grow as a business then we'd have to move premises or at the very least split production over two sites and the way I see it, that's unworkable. We own the land so develop it and keep the family-run thing going."

"Those were my thoughts Justin.

Just think how it might look. We keep the façade exactly the same as the original Mill, keep some nice gardens for the locals to enjoy, you could even open them up for coffee mornings, afternoon teas come the summer like a talking shop for some of the elderly residents who find it difficult to get into Caversham. We make the new extension two-story which would also fit in with the height of the original space that is difficult for us to use effectively, put the new moulder on the ground floor and the bench work on the first. Install a wheelchair lift for our disabled employees and its job done."

"But it's all moving too fast Dad. I take your point that we're stuffed for space but……"


To succeed you have to go with the moment. Have some faith in your business. Invest in its future or otherwise someone else will beat you to it.

Also this isn't all about you anymore, you have your very loyal staff to think of. All those who have been with you from the beginning, even those who just pitched in when you were desperate for help expect you to move forward, give them the chance of promotion so as the business grows, they are major players in what I suspect will eventually be a very substantial organisation."

"I don't know about being a substantial organisation. It all began as a bit of a laugh but now we're talking mega-money."

"Look son. You've started to roll a snowball and there's only two ways it can go. Keep on getting ever bigger as it goes or do nothing and watch from a distance as it melts away. Which way do you want to play it?"

Jus gave me a hug.

"Remember what you told me when I was so fucked up about going back to Downs? We talked about options such as home schooling and how determined you were for it to happen for me?

Okay it wasn't easy but we did it so where has all that fire inside of you gone? If Tim is okay with our finances then he has my backing but if you want to see the state of how we're fixed then fine but don't just dismiss it out of hand."

"Okay. When can I see the paperwork Dad?"

"I'll have interim profit and loss accounts, income and expenditure and bank accounts ready for Friday. I'll also try and put together best and worst case growth forecasts and we can look them over when we have our fish and chip supper up at the house. Can Gill do shorthand do you know?"

"Yes, why?"

"See if she's free to join us. Make it a board meeting so we'll need a report of everything we discuss."

"Okay. Leave it with me and I'll talk to her tomorrow."

Gillian was fine. She had intended to meet her boyfriend at the cinema but he had wandering eyes and actually doubted he'd turn up anyway which I thought was a rather an uncaring thing to do. Why not just say something like 'it was nice but it's time to move on' or something? Anyhow, his loss, our gain so after we'd shut up shop on Friday evening we all met at the house.

As promised, Dad had pulled together all the accounts, moneys in and out of the business right down to petty cash and how much we spent on tea, coffee and milk! Profit and loss accounts and a current balance sheet completed the picture.

None of this was difficult for me to understand given my interest in mathematics but I think Jus struggled a bit but Dad simplified everything for him.

"So just to sum up, what we have here is a business that's cash and asset rich so even if the worst were to happen and the bottom fell out of the market, there's more than enough money on the accounts to cover all outstanding debts, redundancy payments, corporation tax and business rates but that isn't about to happen.

A couple of nights ago I borrowed Gill and between us we went through our order history and worked out a projection for future sales and to say it's looking very healthy is an understatement. That's a really good position to find ourselves in but with it comes problems and by that I mean production, it is absolutely essential that we stay one step ahead of the game.

What might happen if our trusty moulder hit problems Alexis?"

"Production would grind to a halt until we managed to get it fixed."

"Yes plus you would end up disappointing your customers due to late deliveries, your workforce sculling around with little or nothing to do and no money coming in.

The way I see it is you must give some serious thought to investing in plant and equipment so we can ramp up production when we're busy, allow for downtime and essential maintenance and so on when we're quiet.

You rightly pointed out that you're tight for space as it is and so our only solution is either to move premises which would further disrupt production or capitalise on what we already own and by that I mean extend the Mill out onto the ground at the back. George asked a friend of his, a retired architect to draw up plans and create an artist's impression of how it might look once completed so I'd like you to take a look at these."

Dad passed around the plans and sketches which I have to say were really impressive but still I had doubts.

"It's very nice Dad but it still has to be paid for!"

"Of course it does but the money's there to cover it and still leave you with a surplus. Where's the point in having money in the bank if it's not working for you? The only people getting fat on it is the bank! Use it to drive forward son!"

"But what if everything went belly-up. What then?"

"Okay. Not that it's likely to happen but if there was a major catastrophe and you had to close the business, you still have more than enough equity in the infrastructure to cover everything.

What you have to remember, the company owns the freehold on the Mill, no mortgage, no outstanding charges on it, no loans to pay off and given where it is located in one of the prettiest villages in one of the most expensive areas in Berkshire, it's worth a bloody fortune!"

"Alright. Why have a Financial Director if you're not prepared to follow his expert advice but I'm not used to playing around with such a huge amount of money."

Sir George, who had remained pretty much silent throughout, decided to speak up.

"I fully understand Alex and actually it isn't a bad thing to be cautious but I didn't get to be living here because of my salary as an army officer nor indeed due to my army pension.

I also have run very successful businesses and I promise you, there's little point in farting around at the periphery, you either intend to be a major player in business and invest wisely or you might just as well pack up and go home.

There can be no half-way house my boy, not if you wish to succeed.

There's one other point that hasn't been mentioned thus far and that is, you now have a responsibility towards your staff. It isn't just about you and Justin anymore. You have a loyal workforce that are depending on you for their livelihood, for you to take difficult but informed decisions in order that the business expands and grows thus ensuring their future.

You're not playing a game here Alex, this is for real."

I think it was those few words from Sir George that made me finally grow up.

Yes I do think up until that point I still looked upon our venture as a bit of a game never thinking about the fact that people relied on us for their livelihood.

I had been persuaded.

"Okay so unless anyone had something else to add, can we have a show of hands in support of extending the Mill, investing in a new injection-moulder and an increase in staff?"

Four in favour, none against.

"Right. We go with it then but before we call it a day, I know Mum, Lady Eleanor and you Gill don't have voting rights but I'd still like to hear what your take on this is.

Do you believe we're doing the right thing?"

All three nodded their heads in agreement then Lady Eleanor spoke for them.

"Both Tim and George are absolutely right Alex. You boys have a terrific little business that will one day be a terrific big business.

I think this calls for Champagne George, don't you?"

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