Stickman Readers' Submissions September 10th, 2014

The Die Is Cast Part 4

Part 4 Miss Rose

On Sunday morning Alan woke refreshed in good spirits and took a late breakfast alone. He returned to his room put on his swim shorts and checked himself in the mirror. He still cut a reasonable figure for his age, toned from physical activity with no pot belly and he still had a decent head of sandy (ok ginger) hair. Satisfied he made his way to the hotels impressive pool area. He spotted Joe and the family in a prime spot with sun loungers corralled around them. Joe was sat at a table on the edge of their encampment and on seeing Alan beckoned him to join them.

He Clinic Bangkok

As he took a seat next to Joe he could see Edward in the water playing with Rose and Joe’s daughter Kwan. The sisters were seated in sun loungers with their aged mother under a screen of orange sun brollies. Alan gave the ladies a wave and as he got settled Joe gave him a conspiratorial wink “ I think our plan worked, Rose was in a permanent sulk at your absence from our bowling evening until her mother told her she had only herself to blame. So you may see a slightly repentant Rose today”.

As if on cue Rose noticed Alan, gave him a little wave and began to swim towards him. Alan watched her climb out of the water and admired her neat little body clad only in a brief white bikini which the water had made transparent. Grabbing a thick white towel she dried herself and took a seat between Alan and her uncle. Giving Alan a little pout she said “I missed you last night at the bowling”. Alan loved the sound of her voice; her gentle mid Atlantic accent with a soft Asian tone was like a sweet melody to his ears. Before Rose could continue Alan noticed Joe raise an eyebrow as if in instruction to her at which she turned to Alan lowered her head and declared “Alan I am sorry for the way I acted with you on Friday night I was being silly and I hope you will forgive me”.

Alan was surprised at this unexpected act of contrition and replied “I will forgive you if you will have dinner with me tonight…..and we can hear some music later but at a place of my choosing” He continued “I am too old for those noisy places you like” Rose lifted her head slightly and gave Alan a small nod and a shy smile. With a surge of boyish enthusiasm he smiled at Rose and said “But I am not too old to beat you in a race swimming to the end of the pool and back” With that he sauntered towards the pool and with a “ready steady go” entered the water and began swimming towards the opposite end of the pool. With a shriek of delight Rose followed him in.

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Rose quickly caught up with Alan and soon overtook him. As they approached the opposite side Alan stopped and let Rose make her turn. As she swam past him Alan playfully grabbed her leg to halt her progress and swam away towards their imaginary winning post. Despite his best efforts she soon overtook him again and touched the side of the pool several yards ahead of him. She turned and shrieked “I win, I win”. As Alan finally arrived at the poolside Rose laughed” even though you cheat I am the winner… so what is my prize?” Alan teasingly replied “Maybe I will show you tonight” Rose gave his arm a playful slap and with a grin climbed out of the pool. She wrapped a towel around her and sauntered into the family encampment to sit with her cousin Kwan.

The race concluded Alan climbed out of the water. Edward was now sitting at the table with Joe. Alan began drying himself and joined them. Alan observed “I had been told Thai girls were like cats and didn’t like water” Edward laughed “don’t forget she is half American and we Yanks win all the swimming medals at the Olympics” Alan grinned “I can see you are still jealous about the bronze we Brits won in the equestrian dressage once” he continued “if you are not careful I will explain the rules of cricket to you”. Edward laughed and remarked “I lived in the UK for a couple of years so I appreciate a little of the strange ways of you Brits although I admit I never got to understand the offside rule in your soccer no matter how many times it was explained to me” Alan laughed and admitted although he was a football fan he had never fully understood it himself.

The friendly banter continued for a time until Rose came over and sat on her fathers lap informing them she and Kwan were going to the hotel’s spa for a massage. Alan looked at Rose and said “Well in case if I do not see you later I will meet you in the reception area at 6.30”. With that Alan took his leave and made his way to change into his day clothes. He also had plans to take a massage but his destination was in Pattayaland in a slightly less salubrious establishment than the hotel spa.


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That evening Alan met Rose in the lobby. She looked delicious in a short blue dress and Alan’s heart gave a little leap when he saw her. She gave him a big smile put her arm in his and led him out of the hotel. They walked through the plaza and took a baht bus to Walking Street. A gentle stroll saw them at the entrance to the King seafood restaurant. They entered and took seats at a table on the jetty overlooking the sea.

Over a seafood platter that would have fed a small village they exchanged tales about their respective lives. Rose told him she had lived most of her life on the Kadena Airbase in Okinawa which she said was like a miniature city with almost 18,000 inhabitants. She had studied modern languages at the international school on the base. “I loved living there I could practice my Japanese with friends, my father helped with my English and my mother made sure I did not forget my Thai”. She explained how in her early 20s her father had been transferred to Fairford in the UK for two years. “We lived in a little village in the Gloucestershire countryside”. She gave Alan a little smile “I had a boyfriend who was a local farmer, he taught me about English pubs, rugby clubs and how to do farmyard impressions” by way of explanation she declared “Gert orf moi land” in a fair imitation of a Gloucestershire accent. Alan laughed out loud at her gift of mimicry.

She continued her account “I loved England but after two years Father was transferred to Pittsburgh in the USA and we lived in a small town near the base”. I got a job teaching languages in the local Community college and I was happy for a few years but just as I got settled Father finally retired. A couple of years ago we returned to Bangkok so my mother could be near my auntie and her family and I got a job as a clerk in a law firm in the city.” She paused for a moment before continuing “I must confess I hated working for a Thai boss after the freedom I had in England and America, so a month ago I quit, much to the annoyance of my mother.” She continued “I have not worked since and I am not sure what I want to do”This gave Alan the opportunity to discuss the temporary job as his interpreter.

He explained what the job would involve and the tasks she would be expected to do. Alan was careful to explain he would book a separate room at the hotel and pay for all her meals. When he mentioned a weekly wage of 4,000 baht Rose gave a smile and explained that it was a lot more than she was earning at the Law office.

With Rose apparently happy with the arrangements Alan relaxed and enjoyed the soft sea breezes and the ambiance of a leisurely meal in delightful company.

After dinner they took a relaxing stroll and popped their heads into a couple of bars that had music playing. They ended up in the DAB bar where the large impressive show band was in full swing. They watched as a succession of dark skinned girls walked in with western men on their arms. Rose teased Alan that this bar was clearly the final venue the western men bring their companion for the evening before going back to their hotels. Alan gave a grin and said “well we had better go ourselves then” Rose smiled and once again gave him a playful slap on his arm.

They took a leisurely saunter back to the hotel chatting about friends and nothing in particular just happy in each others company. At the door of her bedroom Alan said his polite goodnight when Rose grabbed his head and gave him a “hawm gaem” or sniff kiss on his cheek. With a gentle touch of her lips on his cheek she gave a sniff. Alan felt his very soul being drawn through that sniff; it was the most intimate exotic thing he had ever experienced. Rose then planted a conventional kiss on his cheek and slipped into her room. As he made his way back to his own room Alan felt considerably happier than at the end of their last date.


On Monday morning Joe was waiting in his Mercedes outside the hotel. Rose sat in the rear wearing a grey business suit and spectacles which Alan had not seen her wear before. She looked delectable, just what is it about Asian women and spectacles he thought. On the drive Rose excitedly told Joe that Alan was paying her 4000 baht per week for the two weeks and she would have a 4000 bonus if the project was a success. Alan thought £65 a week was a bit mean but Rose seemed happy so he went along with it.

Alan again explained the background to his situation with the Hirota plant. Joe and Rose listened attentively and had a fair understanding by the time they reached their destination. Alan helped Joe navigate the vast industrial estate of Amata Nakorn and they pulled up outside the Siam Chonburi offices.

They entered the reception area and Joe presented his card to the receptionist asking to see the owner. Alan was not sure why on seeing Joe’s card she jumped like a scalded cat and ran into her boss’s office. The owner practically fled out of his office and gave Joe the deepest Wai he had seen in Thailand. He nodded to Alan and Rose then invited them all into his office. The owner’s office was small but nicely furnished with a modest sized desk in the corner. In the middle were four comfortable chairs around a coffee table which the owner invited them to sit in whilst he ordered drinks.

Joe and the owner exchanged a few words in a very polite calm manner then Joe turned to Alan and commented “Mr Thanawooth has a long unpronounceable first name so asks that you call him Woody” Alan leaned forward and they shook hands. Alan put Woody in his late 40s with an air of mild panic about him. Coffee was bought in by the receptionist and once she had left Woody began relating an account to Joe. As the conversation was in Thai Alan could not understand it but noticed Roses eyebrows rise a couple of times during its telling.

After a while Joe turned to Alan and explained “My friend it would appear you have walked into a veritable hornets nest. From what our friend Woody here has said you are in the middle of a fascinating and complicated situation”. He took a sip of his drink then continued “it would appear that Makota the director at Hirota has an interest in Woody’s company and when he awarded him the order for the new project your mutual friend Takashi borrowed your layouts and they reproduced it here”. Joe gave a grin and continued “Woody would like to apologise to you for that. However they still can not successfully make the unit which remains a source of great embarrassment to all concerned”.

Joe’s expression became more serious “To compound the issue it is alleged that Osamu’s family has interests in their competitor Nippon Nakorn. It is also alleged that Osamu’s family have connections with the criminal underworld and the Japanese community are terrified of them. Apparently Osamu is hoping Siam Chonburi will fail so he can bring shame upon Makota and take his place as plant director. He can then transfer the project to Nippon Nakorn”. Joe raised an eyebrow before continuing” it would appear Woody’s sister in law works as a cleaner at the Nippon Nakorn offices and has also overheard conversations to this effect”.

Alan decided to remain focused on the issue in hand and not be deflected by these revelations. Alan asked to see the schedules from the car plant and Hirota. Woody had them on his desk so passed them to him. Alan considered the situation, the schedule from the Car plant called for 1000 units a month for the first 3 months but stepped up to 4000 per month by the 4th month. The 3000 parts Alan had made would cover the build programme whilst the Thai foundry built up production. Hirota had issued their own schedule to Woody; they were currently at week 7 of the programme which was well into the 2nd month. Woody’s plant had to deliver 1500 units next week but had only 500 ready. They also needed to have 4000 units ready before week 12. This figure was mirrored in the arrears column.

Alan suspected the 4000 units was not a real demand but a function of what the automotive industry call “front end loading”. This was a technique employed by car plant schedulers where if a supplier was falling behind or suspected had a problem they would increase the arrears on the schedules to put extra pressure on them to react. It was an unproductive and mindless tactic to cover ones ass that did nothing to help the situation but focused attention and increased the stress levels of all concerned. Hirota’s schedulers had merely passed down the front end increase to Siam Chonburi with pavlovian predictability.

Knowing this tactic from his own experience Alan assumed if they could deliver 1500 units next week the large arrears figure would disappear. If they could then deliver 2000 units before the beginning of month 4, at say week 10 they would satisfy the actual demand. This was only 3 weeks away and the process at Siam Chonburi was still not producing with any consistency. However even this was academic as they had the more immediate problem of delivering 1500 units next week.

Alan thought for a moment and speculated they must have about 800 charge air cooler units that had been rejected by Hirota. Although the end castings were leaking the heat exchanger cores were usable. He was sure to have some good castings back in the UK. If he could get them here they could dismantle the units and replace the suspect end castings with the castings from the UK. Alan explained his thoughts to Joe and Rose. This time Rose decided to step up to the plate and relay the translation to Woody. He saw Joe smile in amusement at Rose’s comfortable acceptance of responsibility.

Alan asked if he could use the phone and contacted his assistant back in the UK. He told him the situation and asked if they still had any castings from the Hirota project and if not, could he cast a few more Back in the UK David replied without checking his computer that he knew they had almost a 1000 sets of castings machined but not assembled, he explained he knew so because he had just given a rollicking to his foundry manager for the embarrassing over make. When Alan asked if he could get them to Thailand, David said he could probably get them there by air freight on Saturday but it would cost over two thousand pounds. Alan knew the castings themselves had not cost more than few quid each to make, he considered the stakes and made a decision. He gave David the address of the Siam Chonburi foundry and instructed him to send as many as he could airfreight. He ended the call knowing David was a capable chap who would get the job done.

Alan told Rose what he had arranged which she relayed to Woody. On hearing the plan Woody’s face cracked a smile and he exclaimed that he was delighted and that he would happily pay for the air freight and the cost of the castings. Alan took a deep breath and carefully explained the next part of his plan to Joe and Rose who together conveyed it to Woody. Woody’s smile grew wider and wider as the scheme was outlined to him. With the plan of action agreed handshakes were exchanged and Alan, Rose and Joe departed. They drove to Alan’s hotel and after they had booked Rose into a room next to his they repaired to the dining room for an early lunch.

Over lunch they reflected on the morning’s activity. Joe asked how he felt about Rose’s performance as an interpreter. Alan declared for the first time since arriving he felt progress had been made. He commented that now a plan was in place to reclaim the 800 reject units using his castings, next week Woody could deliver almost 1500 parts which would remove the immediate pressure. Alan explained how he could now focus on developing the foundry process to make consistently good castings. He assured them he was confident he knew how to. He told them he was especially confident now he had the cooperation of Woody the owner of the foundry and Rose to help him with the issue of communication. As they ate Joe seemed preoccupied with Osamu’s role in the proceedings and his apparent duplicity. After lunch Joe made his farewells and returned to Pattaya promising to see them the following weekend. Alan thanked him profusely for his help.

That afternoon Alan and Rose returned to the Siam Chonburi plant and got Rose rigged out in a white lab coat, safety specs and a pair of safety shoes. Alan smiled to himself as he thought she still looked delicious even in this garb. They walked into the plant and noticed the Japanese technicians were still swamping the casting station so went to the inspection and metrology office at the other end of the plant.

Woody had visited Hirota during the lunchtime and purloined a charge air cooler with UK castings on. He had removed the castings and placed them on the inspection table. Woody’s technician had them ready for Alan. Rose translated Alan’s request to check in detail the dimensional differences between the UK and the Thai made castings with particular attention to the wall sections. The technician was a middle aged Thai man who seemed delighted to be involved in the resistance against the Japanese interlopers.

The UK castings and those made by Siam Chonburi looked identical but there were very subtle differences. Phanon the technician began measuring them on the Coordinate measuring machine and promised he would have a full report for him by the morning. Alan requested they remove one of the dies from the tilt machines overnight and place it in the tool room for him to inspect tomorrow.

Alan took a stroll to the foundry but watching the senseless activity depressed him so he wandered to the testing and assembly area. Despite Osamu’s opposition Woody had set up their own pressure testing facility to filter out the scrap castings before assembly. The rejection level seemed to be getting worse. The inspector had diligently marked the areas of leakage with a permanent marker. Alan went through the pile of rejects whilst Rose meticulously recorded the areas on a “measles chart” as instructed. This entailed a sketch of the part on which spots were drawn to denote the distribution and pattern of the leak points.

At 4.00 pm Alan phoned Hirota and spoke to Takashi the Japanese friend who had originally coerced him to come to Thailand. He informed him he had returned to Amata Nakorn and would be spending the week at the Siam Chonburi foundry. Without giving any detail he explained he had a plan to assist the foundry to solve their problems. He promised he would report to him on progress by the end of the week. He made it clear that he had no intention of attending any more hostile meetings especially Sunday morning pre golf sermons from Makota which he found particularly disrespectful. He added he would certainly not welcome any further interference from the odious Osamu.

That evening Alan and Rose took a stroll and found a pleasant restaurant near the hotel. Over dinner Alan explained what he intended to do the next day. Although he had established Rose was bright and picked up his ideas quickly he was careful to describe the technical detail in layman’s terms as best he could. “When molten metal is poured into the die cavity, a thin shell of solid metal quickly forms on the die wall. The remaining liquid metal begins to freeze on this shell then progressively solidifies inwards. When aluminium changes from liquid to solid there is a volume difference of around 7%. This can be compensated for if liquid metal can be supplied to the advancing solidification front by what we call the active feed path. But if there is a thinner section or a narrowing off which freezes prematurely it leaves isolated parts of the casting to solidify too early. With no liquid metal to feed it, it contracts leaving a void or shrinkage cavity. I think this is where the castings are leaking”.

“What I am going to do” he said “is establish where there is a narrowing of the wall and open it up. Increasing the section by adding additional material to provide an active feed path is called padding”. Rose asked a couple of questions and Alan was pleased she seemed to understand the principles involved. With the next days plan established he changed the subject and he soon had her smiling at some of his experiences when he was a young student. Rose exchanged anecdotes about her own college days. They eventually made their way back to the hotel. As he left her at her bedroom door she gave him an affectionate kiss on the lips as well as the sniff kiss on his cheek.


The next morning Alan and Rose arrived at the Siam Chonburi plant and true to his word Phanon the Thai technician had a full report on the dimensional differences between the UK and Thai castings and had the two halves of the die set up on a bench in the adjacent tool room. He had even “blued up” the dies to highlight the areas that Alan would want to grind away to increase the casting section and add padding. Alan asked Rose to congratulate him and tell him how grateful he was to meet someone who knew what he was doing. Phanon smiled shyly at the unexpected compliment.

Alan read through the dimensional report and examined the sectioned castings which immediately confirmed his thoughts; there were one or two areas that restricted the feed path. He went to one of the dies on the bench and began carefully grinding the blued up areas with a rotary die grinder.

Within 15 minutes of doing this Osamu walked in on him and began screaming and waving his arms “what are you doing I have not given you permission to do this” Alan lifted his safety specs onto his head pointed his die grinder towards Osamu and calmly told him “listen to me you useless piece of shit …..If you don’t piss off immediately I will take this rotary die grinder and shove it so far up your arse I will be able to carve out your nasal cavities”.

Osamu froze in horror but as Alan stepped towards him the rotary grinder still spinning he ran to the exit. Once out of immediate range he shouted “you haven’t heard the last of this” then departed with undignified haste. Alan laughed at his threat and retorted “I love to hear ducks fart” when Rose translated Alan’s remarks for the Thai technician as “Phed Dort” he laughed uncontrollably.

To be continued

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