Loneliness - Moving On

by Andrew Foote

Chapter 18

By the end of the following week Matt brought our newly sign-written truck up to the Mill.

Resplendent in its British Racing Green livery and red and gold lettering she really did look the business.

"All ready to go just as soon as you blokes give me the okay."

"Alright then!! We'll get you a desk and find some space in the main office where you can do your paperwork, you liaise with Kirstin who has a better handle on what orders are ready to ship and the rest is your baby."

Jus handed him a slip of paper.

"This what we came up with regarding your salary but we'll review it next month depending on your hours worked plus we'll give you a tax-free subsistence allowance of £3 per day increased to £7 if you're out overnight.

Is that okay?"

"That's more than my Dad's drivers get for an overnight. They only get a fiver and the salary?

A lot more than I had expected!"

"So we're generous! We've got a good guy in you and we don't mean to lose you."

Two weeks later the planning application had been approved without any objections, helped in no small part by Sir George and Lady Eleanor lobbying the villagers so my Dad was on the case to find a suitable developer but following various quotes we went with the same local company that had refurbished the toilet block and installed the wheelchair ramp. They'd been fast and efficient, the standard of workmanship was very good so it seemed right to support another small local business.

Progress was swift and by early May the majority of it was complete with the exception of the wooden shuttering and tidying up the site so it could be landscaped.

Dad, with the help of Joe and another lad Joe knew installed all the electrics and plumbing.

Heating for the first floor was provided by one of Dad's ideas.

Injection Moulders generate a lot of heat so he devised a way of venting it off and feeding it up through the floor above so saving us money on heating oil but the bit that I liked was that on the gable end furthest from the original Mill was a dovecot, really in keeping with old traditions and it set the entire building off on the right note.

By early June we were moving in.

Wheelchair access to the first floor had been installed and work benches bought. We'd also ordered the new Moulder and as part of the deal we insisted that the same engineer who had done all the work with Old Contemptible was responsible for the installation, commissioning and operator training of the new machine.

I don't think they were best pleased about being dictated to but hell, we're paying a lot of dosh here!

The end of June and finally things were on an even keel. The building was finished including doves in the dovecot, we had significantly increased the staffing levels and new products were coming on line mostly thanks to the ideas box. One afternoon Jus and I took a stroll around the gardens where we found my Mum and Lady Eleanor planting out a new rose bed. Mum paused and looked at us.

"You two look all done in."

"It's been a frantic six months what with everything but it's funny really. Even though we've almost doubled production, taken on loads of new people making administration more complicated, things are running smoother than they've ever done."

"That's because you've got good staff and department managers who know what they're doing and that you trust so now might be the time to think about taking that holiday."

"I don't know about that Mum. We're needed here and we haven't the time to go messing about on the boat."

Lady Eleanor stood up and dusted off her hands.

"I know if George had heard you say that he'd tell you this Alex.

Y'see the art of good management is delegation and what Kaz just said is true. You cannot possibly be in control of the day to day running of a company the size of which you boys have created. You have a very able management team who are more than capable of doing that on your behalf.

If as you say, you have trust in their judgement then demonstrate it to them and take a well-deserved rest. What sort of message would you be sending if you were seen to be waiting around the corner just in case there was a problem? Give them their heads so they can show you just how good they are and in return they'll see how much confidence you have in their abilities.

Go on, take that holiday!"

The following morning we gathered all our departmental managers and team leaders together in the canteen. I let Jus do the talking.

"First off we both want to thank everyone for all the dedication and hard work that's been put in over the last six months and beyond. The way in which both you as managers and all the guys on the shop floor have rallied around, worked your socks off to get us where we are right now is simply amazing and I can't find words adequate enough to express Alex' and my deep appreciation.

Ever since that afternoon on Balmore Hill when we messed around with an idea that led to the Strong Arm, both of us have been at it non-stop. The Company, studying for our exams and all the horrible things we've been subjected to over the months have taken their toll and we need a break so as of next weekend we're going to escape on Spook for a month and recharge our batteries but we're confident that we're leaving things in very capable hands.

In overall control will be Gill as General Manager together with Joe as production Manager so all queries should be voiced directly to them who will, should the need arise, take them up with Tim or Sir George.

Obviously we're going to find it hard to walk away from our baby so we'll probably phone in once a week but that said, don't wait for those calls. Take action as you see fit, take control and well see you on our return.

Thanks again everyone!"

Jus and I left the canteen and did our customary rounds on the shop floor. Despite the fact we now employed a total of fifty-five people we still managed to remember everyone's names which went down well.

Back in our office I turned to Jus.

"Do you know something? I've never really thought of it up until this morning but if we take Sir George and my Dad out of the equation, the average age of the staff is only a smidge over eighteen, eighteen point one to be precise!"

"Where did you get that little gem from?"

"Okay. We've four at twenty-two, one at twenty-one, five at twenty, ten at nineteen, fifteen at eighteen, ten at seventeen, eight at sixteen, you fifteen and me at fourteen. Add that lot up and divide by fifty-five gives you eighteen point one zero nine!"

"God. A Company run and staffed by people hardly out of nappies! I wonder if there are others with such a young workforce."

"I've heard about some of these school project things that are limited liability but just how many are actually paid employees I don't know. None of them most like what with them being at school and everything.

The reason it occurred to me was because I reckon Liz on the collar stitcher might be pregnant. She's showing all the tell-tale signs?"

"Well she's married, she has that right Alex?"

"Yeah but she's mustard on that machine and we can ill afford to lose her."

"She can always bring baby to work with her? I don't have an issue with that?"

"No I agree and neither do I but over half the staff are girls and give it a few years, lots of them might be thinking of starting a family. We could cope with one or two mother and babies but not shit loads, there's probably some regulation banning it anyway but what if, when the time is right, we start a company nursery? Not free but subsidised."

"That could work well. Just get those who use it to make a small contribution and we get to keep valuable staff.

Nice thinking Alex!"

"I'm going to see if Gill can spare us a moment, run it past her and get a girls perspective on it."

"Yes she is pregnant, about three months in I think.

I love the idea of a crèche! I mean unfortunately that's the risk you take having a young workforce half of which are girls but if they were offered a month maternity leave then to be able to return to work with somewhere they could be close to their new born, perhaps staffed by one or two qualified child minders, how good is that? Something of a burden on resources though?"

"Not the way we see it Gill. How big an upheaval would it be to have to train somebody new? I'd much rather retain good, reliable and proven members of staff long term and sure, we'd lose them for a month or so but that wouldn't be the end of the world but to lose them permanently would cost the business far more than running a crèche. Don't go saying anything for the moment. Give it some thought and we'll bounce it around again when we get back. I've even got an idea where we could put it!

Well I suppose we better get on with something constructive although I'm too excited at the prospect of the holiday."

"So why don't you just piss off back to your boat and start preparing things then?"

I looked at her and grinned.

"Tell you what? I think we'll piss off back to the boat and start preparing things!

You guys will be okay though?"

"Alex? Just get out from underneath our feet why don't you? We'll be fine, honestly! Go and have yourselves some fun for Christ's sake!"

It seemed very strange leaving the Mill with production in full swing. We'd done it on a few occasions but always in the knowledge we'd be back in the morning but I felt as if we were abandoning the ship while it was still perfectly seaworthy.

I turned and took a look at the place.

"Fuck. It really does look very impressive don't you think Jus? Remember when we used to run the dogs up here, that afternoon when we got caught by that little old lady skinny-dipping? It seems a lifetime ago yet it isn't even twelve months."

"Doesn't it and its eleven months and two weeks actually. We've two weeks to go 'til the anniversary of me yelling at you that fateful day!

We've come a long way in a very short space of time haven't we? Not all of it good but we've got each other, loads of really great friends, a great business and a nice holiday to look forward to.

C'mon, let's get back to the boat and get planning!"

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