Previous Part: Opportunity
I’ve never been keen on exercise. Don’t get me wrong here, what I mean is the expenditure of energy for no return. Now, going for a walk in the countryside doesn’t come under that heading, exercise and the return is enjoyment of the sound of birds and the sights of whatever, and the same goes for a bike ride, enjoyable, particularly off road and down hill. No, what I mean is lifting weights or running on a treadmill, that sort of thing. Pointless. You get the people who drive to the gym, do whatever exercises and then drive home. If you walked, or better ran, to the gym then you’d have no need to go inside. Of course that is completely wrong because then you wouldn’t meet Ruth or Diana and that would be a loss. To their bank account if nothing else. But whilst walking or cycling do a general job of exercise, you sometimes need something targeted, which I did because of Charles. The big problem, and it was big with Charles, was that he provided food to die for, and if I kept on eating it as I was that was becoming a distinct possibility. The dying bit that is. So I had to go and visit my two lovely and loving slaves at the gym for some targeted fat removal around the centre of my once lithe and svelt person. In other words I was becoming a fat glutton.
Charles was the latest addition to our household, and was a trained chef. He didn’t look like it, he looked like an ex con, big bloke, shaven head, tattoos, which was fair enough because that was exactly what he was. I’m not too sure what he did to get detained in the Windsor hotel chain, but it had to do with inflicting harm upon somebody who had upset his then boss, but whilst there he had been lucky enough to be in one of the facilities that offered hospitality training, and in Charles’ case it meant becoming a chef. There was no doubt that he had a flair for this, hence my expanding middle. He also organised the rest of running the household, cleaning and everything else that was required to keep us all on track with a couple of ladies who came in part time. And having found Charles I was determined to keep him on track too, he was on parole and I didn’t want to lose him, and neither did the ladies, all of whom had quickly taken to him, even Annie was calling in for supper quite often.
We had also taken on a nanny. Glenda was a lady in her forties who demonstrated a great ability to look after and take care of the children. She was a lovely lady and I could see that she and Charles very quickly built up a rapport. So with domestic things taken care of we were all able to concentrate on getting on with the various businesses. Me, I was enjoying being a farmer. Well, okay, I wasn’t really farming, and I certainly wasn’t about to pick up a shovel, or whatever farmer’s use for ... farming, but with Jennifer running things and a consultant giving me a check to make sure all was well, I was able to bask in a little reflected glory. I suppose if I’m honest I was a bit like the MD of an engineering company of my acquaintance. He could talk knowledgeably about lathes and mills and other machine tools, but had no actual idea of what they really did, he had people who took care of that while he ran the business. So I knew that milk came from cows, rather than the supermarket, but I didn’t really know what happened in between cow and bottle. But I was learning.
Kevin and Amanda had moved into their cottage, and I had had to divert some labour to make sure the house could accommodate the family otherwise Amanda was going to get very upset and that would mean that I would be going without from that direction. And she was developing some remarkable abilities with her new found muscles. On this occasion she’d popped over to see me because she said she had some information for me, and one thing lead to another as they will. It wasn’t until afterwards that I asked her what information she had.
“I’m pregnant,” she told me.
“Oh!” well, the thing is that since she’d told me that Kevin took no further interest in her it couldn’t be his, and therefore, unless she strayed in other directions there was only one person who could be responsible. And you’ll get no prizes for guessing who that could be.
“Well, you could at least say congratulations or something.”
“I’m sorry, I just wondered what Kevin thought. But I’m kind of delighted.”
“Well, I’m worried about what might happen when Kevin works it out.”
“Oh he won’t worry. He’s got himself a girl friend that helps him with his beloved vegetables.”
“Anyone I know?”
“Some little tart off the council estate. April something or other.”
Which was a bit rich in view of the fact that that was precisely where Amanda had just come from, but I guess fairly typical for the ‘wronged’ wife’s reaction to her replacement. Even if she’d already found something else she preferred.
“So what are you going to do?”
“Have it of course,” somewhat shocked.
“That was not what I meant, you’ve got four children now, but they’re Kevin’s ... aren’t they?
“Of course. Oh, I see what you mean. Wait and see I suppose.” She looked thoughtful for a moment and then grinned. “Ready to go again?”
Well why not.
I would often pop in to see how everyone was doing, Julia with her smithing, Sarah making furniture, Wendy of course, and Madeline, making sure that their contract to supply the retailer with outlets in London and major provincial cities, and their own new collection of clothing, and of course Jennifer to see how the farm was doing. In between this I had coffee with Annie and looked after the alterations to The Gables which was coming along nicely.
So one morning I was with Jennifer leaning on the railing around a pen watching a bull that she had hired getting down to doing what bulls do best.
“Are men jealous of that equipment?” she asked.
“Not really,” I replied. “I should think you’d frighten ladies off if you had something like that. Besides, I don’t have a bone in mine.”
“That’s not what I’ve heard.” she said.
Somewhat taken aback I asked. “Who on earth could have told you that?”
“Just about every woman around here. Even Annie had a grin on her face when I mentioned it to her.”
“So I got to wondering what was wrong with me, because I seem to be the only woman around here that you’re not shagging.”
“No no, absolutely nothing wrong with you what so ever, but you do have a big brother who would protect you I sure, and your dad looks pretty handy with a shotgun, and I’m a natural coward.”
“Wrong in all respects there. I don’t believe for one moment you’re afraid of anyone...”
“I not too sure about that, have you met Annie’s daughters yet? Very scary,” I butted in.
“Yes, and they go all soft and giggly when you’re mentioned, quite remarkable really. So that’s wrong too. And as far as my brother and dad are concerned they couldn’t give a damn. As you’ve noticed I’m not a boy, so in my family that means having no value. I was sent here to fail.”
“Umm, sorry, I didn’t mean it quite like that. What I meant was that whatever I do is expected to fail, and organic farming is just regarded as a passing fad which has no value. So anything to get me out of their hair and stop bothering them is a good thing, even if it’s a waste of time. When I was at college I was a bit wild, and when I turned up with the 4x4 my mothers comment was that she always thought I was a tart, though she was sure I didn’t get it from her side of the family, and now I was getting paid for it. So they all think that I’m shagging you anyway. And I’m determined to make a success of this, to show them and to repay you for your kindness.”
She looked as though she was going to burst into tears. I was having some difficulty in coping with the idea that any child should be regarded like this.
“And you are still living there?” I asked.
“I sleep there. I’m looking for somewhere, but I need to be close to here.”
“Hmm...” I looked around for a moment whilst I thought. “How about we put a mobile home in behind the new barn? Would that suit you?”
She laughed. “Mother would just love that, my daughter, trailer trash. Not, to be honest that she’d know what that meant, but the thought would be the same. But yes, it would suit me very well, but they’re expensive and you can’t just keep on spending money, we’ve had no income yet.”
“No reason why it should cost too much, we’ll go and have a look.”
“Okay, but I’ve got half an hour’s tidying up to do and then I’ll be with you.”
I left her to it.
She picked me up from Annie’s almost exactly half and hour later. My conversation with Annie had been interesting, she had apparently picked up on some of the problems that Jennifer had.
“Just treat her gently,” she told me. “She’s a strong girl in most ways, but a bit fragile on relationships.”
I directed Jennifer out onto the main road and followed that with the necessary directions to our destination.
“How come I drive this because it gives the right image, and you drive an old Landrover?” she asked me
“I cultivate an aura of eccentricity. The Landy suits it. Or more likely I just like it.”
“But you don’t drive it all the time.”
“Heavens no, much too uncomfortable to go any distance.”
“I’ve been doing this sales and marketing course,” she started another topic. “Interesting, but I’m not sure how to apply it to the farm.”
“Lets take marketing. You wanted to run a farm organically and since it is the ‘in’ thing you thought people would beat a path to your door and buy what you produce.”
“I suppose, yes.” she agreed, somewhat reluctantly.
“Not going to happen unless you are very lucky, and believe me when I say that I don’t run businesses on luck. If things do come together serendipitously then that’s great, but don’t rely on it. No, I did some market research before agreeing to your proposals, and it looked okay. I knew you could produce it, and I knew there was a market for it because the big dairies will buy milk and grain can go to millers or use for your own cattle. So there you have the first two of marketings three ‘P’s, ‘Product’ and ‘Place’ to sell to. Now the third one is ‘Price’, and that is trickier. Most businesses can control their costs but amongst other things you are weather dependent. And the buyer has a much stronger position, milk for instance, the big dairies’ll tell you how much you’ll be paid, not the other way around. So you might look at ‘Place’ again, and decide to sell direct to the public, or to specialist outlets, and that is where the salesman comes in.
We drove down a lane and then turned into a large yard. The yard contained a vast assortment of machinery from earth moving to transport of various types, tractor units, 40 foot trailers, low loaders and some flat beds with hydraulic lifts that could obviously handle great loads. We got out and from a Portakabin a tall spare man with a shock of white hair emerged.
“Hey, Georgie boy, hows it going?”
“Well, thank you Aaron. Yourself?”
“No complaints, no complaints. Organic farming eh? I heard you were becoming a gentleman farmer. Good is it?”
“Needed a tax loss, Aaron.”
Aaron laughed, “that’s something I know you don’t need. Now, I know the young lady is Eddie Groves daughter, Jennifer isn’t it?”
They shook hands.
“You didn’t come here just to see an old friend now, did you? Even if you’ve brought a bit of colour to an old man’s life. So what can I do for you?”
“We want a mobile home, say 35x12, have you got something like that?”
“I’ve got just the thing for you Georgie, follow me.”
I’d first met Aaron some years ago when there was a problem over some ‘scrap’ which wasn’t really and shouldn’t have ended up in his possession. Someone had nicked the stuff and dumped it on Aaron who wasn’t aware of what it was. I was at that time working for the aerospace company from which the ‘scrap’ came, and although it wasn’t really my job I nevertheless took took on the investigation to find out what had really happened, and who was responsible. Although Aaron wasn’t exactly squeaky clean my work saved him from a lengthy spell at Her Majesty’s pleasure. The point being that what was stolen wasn’t scrap but a top secret part. Since that time he had considered himself in my debt, although I was at pains not to exploit that.
We went round behind a couple of 40 foot curtain sided trailers and through a gate where there was a field full of caravans. On his way he picked up a rusty metal step.
Aaron stopped by the van he had in mind, placed the step in front of the door and opened it. He waved Jennifer inside. I followed and Aaron came in behind me.
“Two bedrooms, shower room, here’s the kitchen, diner opposite and...”
“For heaven’s sake Aaron, it looks like a brothel.” I exclaimed, occasioning a guffaw of laughter from Jennifer.