Wikipedia: Bulzip – mentioned in the Doomsday book as Bollstep, possibly after the low cliffs to the north which erode by regular strata to appear to be giant steps. Small natural harbour was used by Vikings during their incursions and then settled by them. Norman conquest came late because of the inaccessibility over the fells or along the rugged coast. Granite quarries supplied medium to poor quality roofing slates locally. Railway and the mine provided brief development from small rural settlement. See Castle Galshot, The Many-legged Fellman myth.
Heather sighed and looked in the mirror as she dressed. There were too many wobbly bits, she knew that. Her old dresses didn’t fit and she’d had to buy some in the next size up. She wasn’t unattractive, she was just unfit, overweight, and getting older. Looking round at her uninterested husband, getting ready for his part-time job as a trolley collector at the supermarket, she shrugged. What the fuck did it matter? She went to work.
The story went round the office faster than a re-tweet. The Axeman was coming to them! That could mean one of two things, neither were good. Downsizing or closure. The business had been a family concern until nine years ago. The Smythe family – grandpere - had started it as a market stall; his son had moved to a shop, then two, three and four shops, and finally a small manufactury; in turn the new son (only the one boy to inherit each time – that had helped) had taken the buisness national, sold off the factory and bought in from abroad, rationalised, harmonised, merged and then died at 85; much mourned by a company that revered his hands-on and interested approach. The children who inherited it sold it to a management buyout, who brought in venture capital, who sold the lot five years later to Impact Foresight, who started on a policy of maximising their investment – which as always meant chopping off bits until there was nothing worth keeping and then selling the rump. Business analysts probably would sell their own dicks as hidden assets (which in many cases of the overweight, overfed parasites, they were).
The Axeman was not in that mould; at least not the overweight part. Gareth Kilpatrick was 30-ish, handsome, always immaculately dressed, always polite, and always ruthless; hence his nickname in the company, he was a consultant from Brooks-Hymen-Dayglo and Partners (BHDP) and specialised in ‘business transformation’ which always meant slashing out the unprofitable and driving up directors’ bonuses. He was good at it.
He’d been a success at Smeckties where their three factories in Corby, Derby and Istanbul had been harmonised into one site in The Philippines. The factory workers had all been offered laughable transfer deals, including a ‘rice allowance’. They all left. The factory ran at 20% of the wage cost of the factories in the UK (and 40% of the cost in Istanbul), it produced the same products at 50% of the quality. Smeckties lost 15% market share, so on paper they came out ahead. They also went bust 3 years later, but of course that was nothing to do with shoddy goods, shoddy employment or poor investment.
At Impact Foresight Imacculate (the subsidiary they were in); he’d closed the Basingstoke office and transferred all the responsibilities to Woking. Only one job had transferred over – Suzy Q (her real name was lost in the mists of time, she’d turned up for work on day 1 dressed like Suzy Quattro on a bad day and the nickname stuck, she’d toned down her appearance since) – and what she had to do to keep her job was legendary. No, that wasn’t fair on Gareth, it was what she had offered to do, not what he had asked for. She had spent the night with him in his hotel, that much was known. And she kept her job, that was also known. It doesn’t take an A-level in maths to see how that adds up.
Southampton had been reduced to a third of its size with no loss of sales. You might say that shows he was good at his job, but then the number of senior managers never reduced even with the reduction in staff elsewhere; and the amount of time off for stress had increased, as had staff turnover. Experienced people moved to where they were appreciated, if they could; it was probably only a matter of time before the loss of experience showed through, but by then Gareth would have moved on. Some places didn’t have alternative employment of course.
Now he was coming to Bulzip. Bulzip had been a village of 200 or so people until 1825 when prestatine had been discovered there. Up to then the mineral had had to be imported at significant cost; essential as it was for an industrial process that was integral to the making of steam engine boiler pressure seals. Bulzip expanded, doubling or trebling in size every ten years until it was a burgeoning town of 20,000. All working in the mine or working in the ancillary industries essential for the mine, or the ancillary businesses essential to the ancillary industries. Bulzip Knee-Defenders was a case in point; using the local hard-wearing wool from Fell sheep, the knee defenders were essential to the miners in their narrow shafts, and then they became famous world-wide. Bulzip was on the up! Large Methodist churches (Weslyan Orthodox vied with Strict Methodist which competed with the ‘God is our Watchword and our Redeemer’ Primitive Methodist) overawed the old Anglican Parish church. And in 1905 the RCs came and stole a march on them all by building ‘Our Lady Star of the Valley’ on the hill just outside the town. Visible for miles it was; now it’s the Wetherspoons of course.
Bulzip had made it! Then came the discovery of the Frisch-Maxitoff process of creating compression joints and the need for prestatine was no more; though it took time since manufacturers were slow to change. The mine limped along for many years yet; a brief respite in WW1 as every ship of the Royal Navy needed their joints resealed for battle. Then diesel did for steam completely and the boom time was over. The ancillary industries survived for a while; but why buy Bulzip Knee-Defenders and ship them round the world if you could make your own? Why order a Bulzip Bicycle when Raleigh could have them made in China for less than a tenth of the cost of the hand-built, crafted perfection of the Bulzip Zippy?
The parish church continues of course, with its ever-dwindling congregation. The Methodists have put their differences aside and moved into the small old Baptist chapel. The three impressive Weslyan churches are now variously a carpet warehouse, derelict, and demolished (even though Edwin Lutyens said it had inspired him).
The downhill slide accelerated in the depression, was slowed in WWII when the harbour was used by three coastal patrol boats and a mine-sweeper (and eight fishing boats who made regular unofficial trips to Ireland for contraband – which the Navy personnel were not to proud to buy as well), then continued. By 1980 it was another post-industrial, unattractive town on the borders of the National Park.
2017 found Bulzip as a depressed urban area where the only coffee chain - Costa Coffee - had given up after three years; and the Penny Pound shop was the main employer on the high street. Woolworths had gone everywhere of course, but Marks and Spencer had shut in 2013, Bertram’s Hardware limped on because the farmers came in for their tools, Caesar’s Pizza Takeaway sold curry, chinese and kebabs – anything to stay above water. Outside the town the Tresco supermarket served all the food needs for the region so the butcher, the baker and the greengrocer all shut. In short, if the office shut, the only option was probably the static nylon tabard of one of the Penny Pound, Poundwish, FiftyPenceOrLess shops or one of the eight charity shops. Only Martha’s – the little cafe run by Martha’s granddaughter and decorated with Edwardian photos that showed when it opened – recalled happier days.
The irony was perhaps that the office was profitable, just. It serviced the whole area, north to Galshot, south and east to Turnmouth. The nearest alternative was two hours away. They weren’t ever going to make the company rich, but they were stable and moderately successful. Of course the problem with having no competition is that there is no competition to take custom from. The office was unlikely to increase its trade in the area. There was no expansion opportunity apparent. There is only so much people want (unless its Apple products, but that’s because Apple products are bought by empty headed god-awful shallow dunderheads).
Every woman – and it was an all woman office – considered their options. The younger ones thought they could try the Suzy Q option, but the brighter ones quickly realised that there would be competition here. One school leaver, four under twenty five year olds, three more under thirty. A quick check confirmed, they all looked good, slim, pretty. Yes, plenty of competition. Hell, even Mandy (thirty three, mother of two) looked hot! Only Angie (forty one), Susan (forty five) and Heather (admits to fifty) would probably be out of that race. And what if he took you up on it? The next office was hours away so they were unlikely to get a transfer. Downsizing? They were all realistic enough to see that was less likely, they hadn’t hit their sales targets since 1998. They were profitable but (from accounting terms) boring. So you could shag your tits off and still be out of work.
And yet ... and yet the possibility of sex preserving their jobs seemed the only possibility. Coffee discussion for the next week carefully hedged around the question; slowly, slowly getting closer to it.
“Did you see that film last year? Where that actress slept with the general to get her hubby off the front line?”
.... There is more of this story ...