The Die is Cast the final chapters (Part 7)
The original idea for this story was prompted a few years ago by some of my students studying casting technology. For some time, they had given me the somewhat spurious excuse they didn’t read books because no one had ever written a novel with a Foundryman as the central character. There are countless stories where the hero was a lawyer, archaeologist or a university professor and I am informed there is even a story concerning a bespectacled young wizard, although I doubt that idea will catch on.
David Lodge’s “Nice work” alluded to an iron foundry and the character of a foundry owner did appear in the excellent BBC dramatization made in the 1980’s which stared Warren Clarke and Haydn Gwynne. However, the central character remained the female Birmingham University lecturer.
The next closest was Ayn Rand’s classic “Atlas Shrugged” although it featured Hank Reardon who was actually a Steel maker rather than a foundryman.
I knew my students were “pissing up my leg” but always up for a challenge and to call their bluff, I tendered a couple of series, initially to the Stickman submissions site in previous years to rectify this omission in the literary annals. I must admit to receiving inspiration from Goldratt’s tome “The Goal “which was the first business book to be presented in the form of a novel.
The first of my stories was originally named “the Mongering philanthropist” but was later published elsewhere as “Breaking the mould” which was unexpectedly well received.
I will acknowledge that I left the second story “The Die is Cast” somewhat incomplete mainly due to comments from some Stickman readers that they disliked my attempts at fiction. I believe this may be due to the amount of detailed technical descriptions of foundry processes which I intentionally included. This may be a little pretentious but although my primary aim was to entertain, my secondary objective was to educate the students who were ultimately my intended audience.
However, in the intervening years I have received a greater number of positive comments from many sources, so I now take the opportunity to conclude the story.
I am hoping to publish these foundry related stories with a commercial organisation for technical education within my industry. However, I thought I would share the conclusion with my friends on the Stickman site first.
I do acknowledge my fiction is not to everyone’s taste with many readers preferring my factual accounts, but with little else happening on the Stickman site, as a harmless piece of fantasy I felt it would be a good place to conclude the sequence. I do appreciate it is a bit meandering but as many of you know I continue writing my interminable ramblings merely to stave off impending dementia so hope you will all indulge me a little.
My old friend and international foundry guru Professor John Campbell enjoyed them and suggested when complete, this novelette and its companion piece “Breaking the mould” should become prescribed reading for all students of casting technology…. we shall see.
The story so far (see the “Die is Cast” parts 1 to 6)
Alan owned a foundry in England and felt aggrieved when he was coerced into a consulting assignment with a Japanese operation in Thailand. His attempts at solving the problems of producing a critical automotive casting component were thwarted at every turn by Osama an alleged member of the Japanese mafia, until he met Rose a multi lingual American Thai girl who helped address his problems, which were mainly of communication.
Osama made two attempts at violence towards the couple that were frustrated by the influence of Rose’s uncle. Uncle Joe was an enigmatic Thai with contacts in the intelligence community. Alan finally solved the technical problems for the Operation and created a business opportunity. More importantly he began to win the heart of the fair Rose.
In the last episode we left the couple poised for a visit to the UK.
Chapter 7: Rose in Blighty
Alan and Rose arrived at Heathrow at 8.30 pm effectively 6 hours after they had left Bangkok despite a 12-hour flight such are the peculiarities of flying west. They had enjoyed a comfortable first-class flight on Thai air and embarked relaxed and energised. At passport control Rose, as a US citizen had to take a different channel to Alan with her US passport, but the delay was minimal, and they were soon through customs and out of the terminal building,
Alan recovered his Jaguar from the car park for an exorbitant fee and after the M25, took the M40 motorway back to his home in the midlands. The smell of leather was welcoming and Roses numerous questions about his life and what she could expect kept Alan awake on the journey.
It was almost midnight when they pulled up on the drive of his manor house in the Shropshire countryside on the outskirts of the West Midlands conurbation. Rose was amazed by its size and its rustic charm. Alan explained it had once been the home of a member of the local gentry until his grandfather bought it just before World war two. “During the war it had been used as a hospital which was where he met my grandmother who worked as a nurse here”. Alan continued “My parents inherited it and my brother Peter, my sister Cynthia and I were all born here”.
They entered the large reception area which wholly dark wood panelling. On a small table at the foot of a circular staircase was a note from his housekeeper informing him there was fresh milk and a few sandwiches in the larder. They dropped their bags and made their way to the kitchen. The kitchen was large with an old-fashioned wood burning Aga cooker and a huge oak table dominating the space. Rose thought she had entered a time warp. Alan filled a kettle and made a pot of tea whilst Rose retrieved the sandwiches from the larder which sat on a plate under a silver salver. There was a selection of meats and cheese sandwiches which they ate sat on stools at the huge kitchen table.
Suitably recharged Alan took Rose on a quick tour of the house which boasted two lounges, a library, dining room and a massive utility room attached to the kitchen which Alan sheepishly explained were once the servant’s quarters before his family bought it. They climbed the ornate staircase to explore the six bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Alan dropped their suitcases in the corner of the master bedroom which was replete with a four-poster bed. When he asked Rose what she thought of the house she flung her arms around him declaring it was wonderful but added it is also very cold Although Rose had lived in the west before the cold and damp English weather still came as an unpleasant shock. Alan smiled and said, “The house is difficult to keep warm and is far too big for me really; I do tend to rattle around the place”
With a wicked grin Rose suggested a way they could keep warm and within the twinkling of an eye were naked and entwined together between the sheets of the palatial bed. They were soon warm and comfortable. As it was a Sunday morning they anticipated their carnal explorations would be long and leisurely but soon fell asleep.
They woke early and returned to their affectionate cuddling. They had hardly got into their stride when their peace was disturbed by the sound of the front door being opened and an annoyingly cheerful voice announcing, “Yoo-hoo it is only me” followed by noisy stomping around downstairs. Rose’s first thought was Oh dear Alan is married, and he never said. Then she heard footsteps clomping up the stairs. “Mr Alan, I hope you are you decent I am coming up”.
The bedroom door flew open to reveal a large rotund woman in her 70’s with a shock of frizzy grey hair carrying a pile of towels in her arms. The woman’s jaw dropped as she saw the head of a young oriental female above the duvet and exclaimed “Oh Mr Alan I never realised you had company” but made no effort to move.
Alan smiled to himself and putting his head and shoulders above the duvet explained “Mrs Brown, this is Rose she is staying with me for a few weeks “. The older woman replied, “delighted I’m sure” and with a practiced sniff finally moved away declaring she was cooking eggs and bacon for a late breakfast. She added “I hope your guest can eat that sort of thing”.
Rose remained open-mouthed until Alan explained “that is Mrs Brown she was housekeeper for my mom and dad and when they died I sort of inherited her along with the house” He continued “She is a bit bossy but has a heart of gold, she takes pity on me being an old bachelor and looks after me”
As Alan dressed Rose saw the opportunity for a little gentle mischief. She put on a very short black dress she found in her suitcase and followed Alan down the stairs. They were greeted by the smell of hot coffee and bacon being cooked. Seeing the housekeepers disapproving look Rose sashayed into the kitchen and in her best nasal Thai addressed the housekeeper “Sawadti Kha, Miz Bow, Khun Alan, kind man, good heart. He saves me from bad man in bar and say when it is my number 16 birthday he will pay for my sex change operation”.
Seeing the open-mouthed shock, she ran back upstairs to change into a more respectable jeans and T-shirt. As she descended the stairs again she heard Alan frantically explaining that Rose was teasing her. “She is from a very respectable family; her father was a colonel in the US Air force and her uncle Joe is the head of the Thai equivalent of our MI5, a bit like Judi Dench…. but male ”.
As Rose re-entered the kitchen she approached the housekeeper and said, “I apologise for teasing you Mrs Brown, but your look of disapproval was just too good to resist”. Mrs Brown was from that generation that sometimes took themselves far too seriously but realised it and seeing the cheerful expression on Roses face and the look of joy when Alan looked at her she thought it churlish to remain disapproving so joined in their amusement.
They all tucked into the eggs and bacon as Alan related the adventures and misadventures of his Thailand visit and the key role Rose had played in assisting him. He thought his housekeeper was about to have a heart attack when he related the story of Joe and the three assailants and was sure she almost peed herself when he described how Joe had calmly drawn his revolver and shot the leader of the ruffians.
Mrs Brown was in truth beside herself with pleasure when she thought of how she would tell the story to the old biddies at evensong service that evening and her friends at Mothers Union on Monday. When Rose helped her clear the table and unbidden, began assisting her to wash up Mrs Brown began to warm to this oriental girl and asked that she call her Gladys instead of Mrs Brown. Alan was impressed; in all the years he had known her, the formidable Mrs Brown had never offered him that familiarity. After one last cup of coffee Mrs Brown declared she must leave them to make sure her husband was not wasting his time as she had a list of chores for him to do that day. Rose imagined a henpecked husband cowering with fear at his wife’s every word.
Alan later told Rose that Mrs Browns husband Bert had worked for his father for 20 years until he retired 10 years ago and was still a mountain of a man who tolerated his wife’s bossiness because he knew she thoroughly idolised him.
Rose began putting her clothes away in the large wardrobe and once had taken over the bathroom with all her female paraphernalia she felt settled. As she descended the stairs she heard Alan on the phone but only caught the final “I am a little tired I must give it a miss”. Alan explained it was his brother Peter inviting them to dinner that evening “I don’t really want to go. I love my brother dearly, but I cannot face his wife Hyacinth just yet”. Rose remarked what a pretty name Hyacinth was, and Alan laughed explaining “that is just my name for her, her real name is Victoria”. Alan explained “there was a TV programme called Keeping up Appearances featuring a character named Hyacinth Bouquet who was a pretentious social climber who made her husband’s life a misery. When you meet her, and see the TV show you will understand”.
The phone rang again, it was his brother’s wife proclaiming, “I really will not take no for an answer I have cooked some Thai food and invited Brian and Petunia along”. God save us thought Alan, Hyacinth AND Petunia, his heart sunk but in the interests of family loyalty replied, “ok we will be there at 7.00”.
Victoria immediately picked up on his slip of the tongue and enquired “did you say WE?” Alan laughed “Never mind …. I will explain it all tonight”
A little later Alan and Rose take a leisurely stroll down to the village to the local pub for Sunday lunch. Rose put on one of Alan’s old fleece jackets and a woolly hat that she had bought with her. The jacket buried her, but it kept her warm. She rolled the sleeve up and put her arm through Alan’s as they walked through the village. They could not fail to notice the inquisitive glances from the locals as they entered the old traditional pub. After a most agreeable roast beef dinner in the pubs restaurant area they took seats in the bar near the TV on the wall ready for when the football came on.
Rose made a visit to the toilet just as Alans assistant David walked in with Sam and Mick two of Alan’s oldest friends. On seeing Alan, David remarked “we heard you were back and assumed we would find you in here to watch the football, so we thought we would come and keep you company”.
David enquired about Alans trip to Thailand which Alan replied was very interesting, initially frustrating but possibly very lucrative in the end. He looked at David and declared “we may have a new joint venture project, but I will tell you about that later”. David was a few years younger than him but in the last few years they had developed a very good working relationship and a firm friendship.
Alan declared “I must tell you chaps I am not on my own today …. I am with a lady”. Sam had seen the shapeless fleece and woolly hat on the chair and guffawed “did Gladys get you fixed up with one of the old dears from her coffee mornings? Mick stroked his beard and interjected “No I bet the bugger has bought back one of them ladyboys from Bangkok”. Alan laughed and countered, “I never got to see Bangkok, but I tell you old Sam here definitely would fall for some of the ladyboys I did see in Pattaya”.
Alan spotted Rose coming out of the toilets; she had earlier divested the shapeless fleece and was clad in a tight blue dress that showed her slim figure and shapely legs off to great effect. “Actually” David exclaimed “here she is now”. The men all turned to see Rose sashay towards them and give Alan her 1000-watt smile.
Bugger me, you are a sly old dog, Jeez Alan she is exquisite, where amongst the exclamations they made. Alan introduced Rose to his friends and suggested they could now close their jaws and pull their eyes in.
Rose settled amongst them and charmed them by giving each one a fair share of her attention. Between them they related the story of the last three weeks in Thailand. The pals were mesmerised particularly at the story of uncle Joe. Boring old Alan had suddenly gained a new image. As Alan and Rose left, David pulled him aside and said, “Alan she is lovely, I am pleased for you and a little jealous”. Alan had a request of his friend “Don’t say too much at work tomorrow, we have the works staff dinner on Friday and I would like to surprise them”.
That evening Alan and Rose took the 30-minute journey to Peter’s house. On the way Alan explained some background to her. “Peter is my younger brother and finance director of our company. His wife Hyacinth …. sorry Victoria hasn’t worked since getting married. Brian is their neighbour and holds a senior position in the local council. It will be interesting to see how quickly he mentions his pension to you. Petunia is a school teacher and fancies herself as a radical intellectual feminist”.
They arrived at the house and drove through an open gateway up a gravel driveway to a Modern 4-bedroom detached house. Alan explained the inside was full of all the modern conveniences and was a temple to consumer goods. Alan wasn’t particularly frugal but detested conspicuous consumption. Although their company was successful his father had taught him to never flaunt his wealth particularly in front of their workers. Alan’s modest self-effacing manner was an anathema to Victoria who constantly paraded her wealth, or more accurately …her husband’s wealth.
They parked on the drive and as they approached the door was opened by Peter.
Rose could see the family resemblance, but male pattern baldness had taken hold and his remaining hair was a little darker than Alans. Peters jaw dropped as his eyes fell on the vision standing alongside his brother. She was dressed in a knee-length dress which although demure did little to conceal her trim figure and shapely pegs.
He invited them into the dining area where Victoria and her guests were already seated around a large mahogany dining table. Victoria was a tall woman in her mid-40s a little older than Peter, with a look of disapproval on her face on seeing Rose. It was noticed by Alan that she seemed to have a permanent smell under her nose, a mannerism adopted by many of the women of his social circle along with the pursed lips that resembled a cat’s arse. “Oh, I will have to lay another table setting” she remarked, although it was Peter who at her command collected the matt and cutlery to lay on the table.
Brian was in his early 40s, but his shaggy beard and unruly greying hair made him look much older. His wife Petunia was fat and frumpy with a poor complexion and frizzy hair but clearly felt she was glamorous. Alan knew she had been told so by one of her colleagues at work. That the colleague in question was a subscriber to “Chubby chasers weekly” and attended Star Wars conventions dressed as a Wookie should have caused Petunia to take his compliment on advisement but she remained deluded.
The Dinner was a disaster. Victoria’s idea of Thai food was bland and unappetising. Victoria’s comment that she had decided to leave the garlic and chillies out was probable cause. During the conversation over dinner Brian told Rose about his job at the council and Rose could hardly suppress a smile when he explained the excellent pension scheme he enjoyed. Peter was inquisitive about this vision of loveliness his boring older brother had bought along and asked where they had met. Rose explained that Alan was being held as a prisoner of war by three Japanese businessmen, so she rescued him.
Alan interjected explaining Rose was in the same restaurant with her family when they had come to funeral of her grandfather and had been invited to join them by the boss of the Hirota plant he was working for.
“Oh, so you didn’t meet in a bar then…. thank goodness for that” exclaimed Victoria. Despite her alleged liberalism Petunia couldn’t resist airing her prejudices “I have heard there is a lot of poverty in Thailand”. Rose gave a smile and countered “We were staying in the Marriott, they don’t often get UN food parcels there”. Undeterred Petunia continued “I was watching a TV programme about sex slaves in Asia which was very enlightening”. Rose was amused and asked if Petunia had ever actually seen any sex slaves or been to Asia. To which Petunia declared “No we take our vacations in Tuscany in the delightful countryside” Rose added “I imagine there are quite a few sex slaves from eastern Europe hidden away there”.
Feeling excluded Victoria exclaimed “I have heard that you Asian females are very subservient and not heard of women’s liberation or know anything of world affairs”
Rose grinned and declared “I do cut Alans hair and fingernails, lay his clothes out for him, put toothpaste on his toothbrush and I soap him down in the bath every evening… because I enjoy doing it. I don’t need your idea of feminism to be empowered”.
Peters mouth opened in amazement, Petunia immediately harrumphed “you will never see me do that will you Brian? Brian murmured “Quite right dear” through gritted teeth.
“As for world affairs and politics” Rose continued “I speak three languages, have lived on three different continents my father has met three presidents and is on first name terms with two vice presidents and eight senators. I was introduced to one of your previous Prime Ministers on my 21st birthday when he visited the base in Gloucestershire a few years ago. But yes, I agree, I don’t know anything about politics”.
Alan smiled to himself.
When the two harridans had run out of banal platitudes, Alan related the story of the last three weeks. Peter was agog at his description of the obstructions from his Japanese hosts and Brian were spellbound by the episode with uncle Joe and their three assailants. Petunia and Victoria were unhappy not to be the centre of attention so feigned headaches. The evening ended early which suited Alan. When they got home, Alan played a DVD of Keeping up appearances and seeing the resemblance with Victoria, Rose laughed uncontrollably.
Monday morning Alan rose early and took the hour drive from the Shropshire countryside into the West midland conurbation. His company Artemis was in a rust belt town that had once been home to two steelworks and a world-famous tube making plant but was now mainly home to despair and hopelessness since the advent of globalisation. He pulled onto the car park entered the reception lobby which had clean dark Oakwood panelling like at his home which gave it the impression of bygone era.
Alan climbed the staircase and walked into his office. He glanced at the clock which told him it was 8.05 as he sat behind his desk. As he did so he was greeted by his secretary Angela, an attractive woman in her late forties. “Did you have a good trip Mr Alan?” she asked. Although she was a little older than Alan she always addressed Alan with this formality. Angela had worked for him for ten years since she returned to work after having her children. She was loyal and very efficient. Alan gave a smile and explained that it was a fascinating trip, described the problems with Hirota corporation but declared they were now sorted without giving much detail. He also omitted any reference to Rose but outlined the potential joint venture. ”it may bring business in but will certainly mean a lot more work for you I am afraid” Angela gave him a smile and replied, “we will cope as we always do”.
She bought him up to date with the business during his absence, but they had all been addressed and nothing was outstanding except to confirm arrangements for Fridays board meeting and the weekends staff dinner dance. It appeared to Alan they had coped admirably without him.
This feeling was confirmed when he took a stroll around the works and saw everything functioning well. He stopped and chatted with a few employees on the way to David’s office at the other end of the works. The company boasted some 200 employees spread across the foundries, machine shops, fabrication and assembly operations. The board of directors consisted of Alan as managing director, Peter as finance director and his uncle Arthur a retired banker as chairman. Arthur was his ex-mother’s brother who stepped in when Alans parents died. He acted as mentor to Alan in those critical years, but he was now in his late 70s and eager to retire and pass on the mantle. His sister Cynthia completed the board as a non-executive director who only came up from London for the quarterly management meetings. She would be there at the board meeting due that Friday morning.
David was works manager and ran the operations with the assistance of Jim the machine shop manager, Eddie the Fabrications manager and Chris the foundry manager. David’s protégé Edwin ran the production and logistics planning with an assistant Damien who took care of the technical and design functions. Alan ostensibly ran the Sales and commercial functions with the aid of Ray a curmudgeonly bugger in his 60s with an endless list of contacts who joked he was the golf professional for the company. Fortunately, his able assistant Rebecca controlled the office efficiently in his regular absences.
David went through all the current issues but again Alan was left with the feeling his team had coped admirably in his absence. Back in his own office he quickly completed the minor tasks Angela had laid out for him. By lunchtime he felt surplus to requirements so informed his secretary he was going home and would be late in the next day.
On the way home Alan dropped into a patternmaking shop he had dealt with for some years. Although Alan did not have an official order for the volume production of the oil cooler, he had one for the prototype and preproduction requirements so felt it expedient to begin the process without delay. He showed Phil the owner, the drawing of the oil cooler part he had purloined from the Hirota Corporation in Thailand and requested he quickly produce a split wood pattern and core boxes he could make a sand cast prototype from. Phil said the shop was quiet and promised he would he would get it to him on Thursday morning.
Alan got home to be greeted by Rose who immediately dragged him upstairs. As she drew him a bath she removed his clothes. The bathtub in the master bathroom was a Victorian model which had more than enough room to accommodate two people, so Rose stripped off and joined him in the tub. Eventually they made their way to the village pub for a leisurely dinner.
Over a pleasant traditional steak pie and chips Rose told Alan she loved his house but having lived in the English countryside some years before was concerned she would quickly get bored with having nothing to do. Alan could appreciate this and had already given this some consideration. Alan explained he had a couple of ideas but in the interim, he suggested they go down to London for a couple of days and he could introduce her to his sister Cynthia whilst they were there. Rose was delighted with his suggestion, got from her seat and gave him a big hug much to the amusement of all the locals in the pub. When they got home, all was arranged with a few phone calls.
The next morning, he phoned his secretary Angela to let her know he would be away in London for a couple of days but would be back for the board meeting on Friday and the Staff dinner dance in the evening. He told Rose to travel light and they took the train to Euston and the tube to Park Lane where they booked into a hotel Alan regularly used for business. They spent the afternoon in idle indolence enjoying the facilities of the hotel and each other’s bodies. At 6.30 they went down to the hotel’s restaurant to meet Alans sister Cynthia as arranged.
Cynthia had been a professional dancer in her youth and had appeared in many West end shows over the years. She had performed in a later production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats and regularly appeared on TV as a backing dancer in the Saturday night variety shows that passed for entertainment in those days. She now worked as a theatrical agent and lived in Hampstead where she lived a somewhat bohemian lifestyle.
Rose adored Cynthia the first moment she laid eyes on her graceful beauty. Cynthia had just turned 40 but was still striking with a slim figure and sleek vivid red hair tied back in a long ponytail. The food was superb and the conversation delightful as Alan always found when with his libertarian sister. Rose and Alan related the story of how they met and their misadventures in Thailand. Cynthia was enthralled by their story and was uncharacteristically quiet during their telling of it.
When Rose went to the toilet after finishing their main course Cynthia exclaimed “Oh Alan this girl is exquisite, you must keep this one, she is lovely!” she playfully slapped her brother’s hand and continued “For goodness sake don’t lose her like you did all the others by working too many hours and ignoring them”. In an effort to deflect her Alan told her about the joint venture and the opportunity to spend some time in Thailand. Cynthia became quite animated “Alan I dearly love you, but you are so dull-witted, listen to your loving younger sister for once, forget business and focus on getting that charming creature up the aisle with indecent haste”.
Alan loved his sister to distraction for her usually gentle and laid-back bohemian demeanour and had never known her to admonish him like this before. She continued “Sell that monstrosity of a museum you live in and buy a smaller house and maybe a property in Thailand to live with that delightful girl”
Alan remained silent under this unusual reprimand from his generally passive sister. “And another thing” she continued “You have trained up that splendid fellow David (who, by the way, if he was ever interested in a slightly older woman, I would shag his brains out) so why not promote him to your job, let poor old uncle Arthur retire and you take over as chairman? “
Alan remarked “You have obviously thought about this and I am surprised” Pausing for breath Cynthia stated, “It is the board meeting on Friday and I am going to propose it, I have thought about it for some time but seeing that wonderful girl you have been so lucky to find it confirmed my ideas and you need a kick up the ass to knock your stubborn brain in gear”
As Rose reappeared from the ladies nothing more was said on the subject, but his sister had certainly given him food for thought. The evening continued with Cynthia relating some of the tales from her days as a dancer with some indiscretions about certain famous celebrities from her youth which although shocking they all thoroughly enjoyed.
The next day Alan and Rose took the tour bus around London stopping at regular intervals at the major tourist attractions and taking the next bus as it came along. They had a leisurely dinner at a pleasant bistro near the hotel and spent the night in carnal explorations. The next morning, they checked out and explored the Covent Garden area before taking an afternoon train from Euston back to the West Midlands. Alan could not fail to realise how much Rose had clearly loved the excitement and buzz of London.
In the taxi from Wolverhampton station to their Shropshire home Alan asked Rose if she was happy. Rose declared she would be happy to live anywhere with Alan but was still unsure about spending her life in an old manor house in a sleepy village with nothing to do. If she could find some gainful employment or just some purpose in life she would be happy there.
On Thursday morning Alan went into work. It was almost 10 am before he arrived which was somewhat out of character for him, but he felt reluctant to leave Rose alone despite her protestations she would be ok. He was informed the pattern equipment for the Hirota oil cooler casing had been delivered so he made his way to the sand foundry and collared Chris his foundry manager. Chris was a little older than Alan and had been around the block a few times, but they had a mutual respect.
Chris showed Alan the split wood pattern he had received and told him he would make a couple of moulds himself in a greensand box later that morning. He had already blown a couple of core sets on his cold box blower but expressed some concern. “I had no problem with the body core “he stated “but think the jacket and outlet core are a little too flimsy and I will have problems assembling them, so we may need to rethink the design.”
Alan saw the cores Chris had made and could not fail to agree. Alan explained there was a potential demand for 96,000 parts a year and confessed his ultimate ambition to eventually produce the part in high volumes by a tilt die process in Thailand, but could see the potential problems and acknowledged they would need to develop the part by sand casting initially here in the UK.
Chris was a grizzled old foundryman who had seen it all, he saw every problem as a challenge and nothing seemed to trouble him. He was trained by Alans father but had worked closely with Alan back in the days when Alan was trying to introduce his new ideas at that time he inherited the company on his father’s passing. Chris was Alans most ardent supporter in those troubled times and Alan always appreciated his support and guidance.
Chris declared he would “knife and fork” him a couple of castings in greensand that would basically be just shapes of what he eventually wanted. He felt the part needed to be made in a hard chemically bonded sand to get decent results. Chris suggested Alan get this loose pattern mounted in a frame, so he could make it the following week in a chemically bonded sand. Alan agreed and told Chris that once he had made him a couple of castings from the split pattern he would do as he recommended. He added that at least the greensand casting would give them a part they could see and hold, to prompt discussion. Chris further remarked “I will get our whizz kid Damien to have a look at it, I have found he has often come up with some good ideas despite being just a spotty youth”. Alan laughed but was happy his team seemed to work exceptionally well together.
Back in his office Alan made a few phone calls, one was to his family solicitor and explained his ideas for the joint venture. His solicitor recommended he contact another attorney in the town named Devin Carew who apparently had some contacts in Thailand. Alan made the phone call and as Devin professed to be free that afternoon Alan made his way into the town centre.
At Devin’s office Alan explained his business and his plan for a joint venture. Devin declared he had some experience of this type of endeavour as he had another client who had done something similar. He explained he had contact with a young lawyer in Bangkok who could get the ball in motion. Devin gave an outline of some of the potential pitfalls he could face in dealing with Thailand and entertained Alan with a few anecdotes about his client’s experiences and of his own visit to the Kingdom the previous year.
Alan left the solicitor’s office in a buoyant mood, so he phoned his friend Woody in Chonburi and bought him up to date with the progress made. Woody was pleased to hear from Alan particularly when Alan informed him of his plan to return to Thailand in a few weeks’ time. Alan promised to bring some castings for the Hirota oil cooler but asked Woody to get some of the heat exchangers, so they could try out the assembly.
Alan went home to see Rose had drawn him a bath and was busy preparing dinner. The simple domesticity of living with Rose was becoming increasingly appealing with each passing day.
At the Friday morning board meeting the first item was the proposed joint venture with Siam Chonburi. To Alans surprise his brother Peter declared his unconditional support for the plan, he stated he had examined his brother’s proposal, the company could easily afford to fund it, he considered the risks were within acceptable limits and the opportunities represented completely mitigated the risks.
“We can easily raise the £30k for the initial investment in the 10% stake you agreed, and I will sort out the transfer before you return to Thailand”. He continued “the subsequent purchase of additional 10% shareholding at £60k you propose in the second year will be covered by the profits from the first year of trading, so I see no issue”.
Alan pointed out that if they received the order for the oil coolers they would have to stand out for an additional investment of possibly £15k for the production tooling until the parts were approved which could seriously affect the company’s cash flow. Peter dismissed Alans observations and assured the board the company had sufficient funds to cover this contingency without seeking additional loans, so they were not to worry.
Alan was surprised at Peters unequivocal support which was unexpected as his brother was usually very cautious, but he acknowledged he was financially astute and had steered the company well in the last ten years. Alan was pleased it went through on the nod. If it hadn’t, he knew he would have had to fund it from his own resources which although possible may have been difficult.
Little did Alan know that his brothers hidden motive was to use the Joint venture as a legitimate excuse to visit Thailand himself in the hope of meeting someone like Alan’s delightful Rose and eventually ridding himself of his soul draining and bloodsucking English spouse Victoria, but Alan was not to know that at the time.
The second item proposed by Cynthia was that Alan step down as managing director, move up to chairman to allow her uncle Arthur to retire. Uncle Arthur was ecstatic at the thought of finally retiring so supported the proposal with indecent enthusiasm.
The three other directors unanimously voted for the proposal and suggested that Alan offer the position of managing director to his protégé David.
Alan felt a little sad to be giving up the day-to-day management of the company but was realistic enough to appreciate he could probably serve the company better in the more strategic role of chairman and let his young and more energetic protégé David handle the day to day operations. He also knew the joint venture with Woody at Siam Chonburi was about to take up his time and attention as would his campaign to win the heart of the delicious Rose. Alan would also pass on his secretary Angela to David knowing her experience would assist him in the transition to executive responsibilities.
As the company was generally well run the other items on the agenda were inconsequential so the remainder of the meeting revolved around the annual staff dinner and dance on the Saturday evening.
Alan left the meeting and called David up to his office. He told him that he was moving up to chairman and offered David his position as Managing Director of the company. David was surprisingly quiet for a time then asked, “do you think I am ready to take over, I am only 35 and don’t know anything yet?” Alan smiled and remarked “everyone jokes you are mini me, but they know you know much more than me already, so you will have no problem taking over.”
Alan continued “that young chap Edwin you have been training can easily take over the Works manager role and you need to give young Damien some more money to ensure we keep him”. David with a tear in his eye shook Alans hand and said, “I am honoured to take the position but hope you will always be at hand to offer me advice and guidance”.
Alan popped over to the foundry to see Chris who had a couple of castings on his desk. On seeing Alan, he smiled” well I have got you a couple of shapes to pass around and fondle but we will need to put some design work to get the part into production”. Chris went on to explain the problems he had assembling the inlet core to the body core but had managed it. They agreed the next phase was to frame the pattern, so it could be made in a box-less chemical bonded sand rather than the soft greensand and putting two impressions in the mould would improve productivity.
Chris explained he had spoken to young Damien who had given him some ideas on how they could change the core printing to give a better location for assembling the cores. Chris continued “he also suggested we need a stronger core and recommended we make the jacket and outlet core in a hot box or resin shell process, but as you know as they use a heat setting process we would need a metal core box which will take a few weeks to make, and won’t be ready before your return to Thailand”. Alan agreed but asked Chris to hold off getting the metal core boxes made as he would get them made in Thailand but would appreciate some sketches of their ideas for the improved core printing. He also teased Chris by reminding him to make the end cap castings that he had forgotten.
The following evening the company dinner dance was held in the function room at a social club in the town. Almost all the 200 employees and their partners had come. It was originally planned as a simple affair but had somewhat expanded. When Alan and Rose arrived at 8.30 the disco was in full swing with some of the younger employees already up dancing. There would be games and spot prizes and later a buffet dinner. It always ended up as a very lively affair. Alan knew most his employees had a healthy thirst so his way of saying thank you for their efforts was to put £1000 behind the bar to get the party started.
Rose was wearing a new dress bought in London the previous week, it was crème in colour, tight knee-length yet still demure enough for a company function. She wore a small gold necklace which set it off and she looked quite beautiful.
As they walked into the room everyone was shocked to see boring old Alan stride in with such a vision. Alan could swear the room went silent with the only sound being of male jaws dropping and female elbows being jabbed into their spouse’s ribs. They did the circuit of the dance area then up to the bar with Alan introducing Rose to his inquisitive staff. His secretary Angela was the first to collar him and admonish him for not telling her about Rose but exclaimed she was thrilled for him.
Most of the staff were very welcoming. Many were quite explicit in considering him a jammy old bugger and curmudgeonly Ray expressed the view he was punching well above his weight, but it was all good-natured and generally well-meant. However, he could imagine some of the other observations which would be made later. Some would make the conjecture he had purchased her as the archetypal Thai bride or that it was clearly only his money that attracted her. He was after all a bit of a boring old fart.
It fell upon Alan to announce the winners of the raffle which this year’s prize was a weekend for two in a London hotel and to see the musical Miss Saigon. The prize was won by a young man who worked in the Fabrication shop. Alan knew he had recently got married but couldn’t afford a honeymoon at the time. Alan expressed his delight that the prize had gone to this pleasant young fellow who could now enjoy a belated honeymoon. Everyone cheered so he figured they all agreed with his sentiment.
Whilst he was on the stage with the microphone in hand he took the opportunity to announce the changes in the company. His first announcement was that his uncle Arthur was retiring, and he was replacing him as chairman to step aside for David to take over as Managing Director. The reception to his announcement was mixed, many of the old hands would be sad not to see Alan daily but the majority were pleased for David who was highly respected for the modern innovations he had introduced. Alan could not fail to feel that compared to David he was a dinosaur.
Alan further announced that the buffet was now open and could also not fail to witness the indecent rush to the buffet tables that ensued. They were like a swarm of locusts. Alan remembered a situation some years ago he had lent across the buffet table and received a fork in his head from an impatient diner.
From the stage he noticed his sister Cynthia rescuing Rose from a group of young studs from the machine shop who were trying to chat her up, Cynthia had put her arm through Rose’s and dragged her to the queue for the buffet,
As he stepped off the stage David thanked him for his announcement and commented on Rose and Cynthia being arm in arm together. He declared to Alan “I hope you don’t mind me making an admission, but as we are good mates I must admit I think your sister Cynthia is stunning, I have fancied her for years but have always been reluctant to talk to her as she is a bit out of my league”.
Alan smiled and said to his friend, “I know for sure she likes you and if you make the effort to chat with her you will be pleasantly surprised by the result”, he continued “let’s join Rose and Cynthia in the buffet queue and see what happens”.
The rest of the evening was a success. Rose and Cynthia had a progression of young men who wanted to dance with them until the slow numbers, then Alan and David reclaimed them. By midnight most of the couples had departed, the younger pissheads engaged in the karaoke the DJ had reverted to for the final hour. Alan and Rose stayed till the end and were both pleased to see David and Cynthia smooching away until they were all thrown out at 2.00pm. Alan and Rose took a short taxi ride to the nearby Premier hotel and were asleep as soon as their heads touched the pillows.
Their four weeks in the UK had passed quickly. Although she had enjoyed the visit Rose was beginning to feel a little homesick for Thailand. In truth Alan having handed over the reins of the company also felt a little restless and had booked a flight to Bangkok for the following week.
Alan however had not been completely unproductive in the time, he had organised some further casting trials and had successfully produced a few functional prototype castings of the Hirota oil cooler using an air set chemically bonded sand (or No bake as the Americans called it).
To explain, the chemically bonded process involves mixing dry graded silica sand with a resin binder and a catalyst in a continuous Archimedean screw type mixer. This sand mix is discharged into a box or frame containing the pattern which the moulder will quickly tuck around the pattern, the mix begins reacting almost immediately and the moulds can be stripped in minutes.
There are many formulations available. The most popular being the Furan process which involves a phenol formaldehyde/furfural alcohol resin mix activated by a phosphoric or sulphonic acid catalyst. It is the most economic no bake system, but the high sulphur content can create an unpleasant working environment.
However, the process employed at Artemins was a more sophisticated (and more expensive) phenolic urethane process which was a three-stage resin system that yielded good results for them. It involved binding the sand with a phenolic resin activated with an isocyanate hardener and a liquid amine catalyst to form a urethane bond. The resultant mix begins to set in a matter of minutes and after 10 minutes is strong enough to strip the mould from the pattern frame. The resultant sand compact is hard enough to handle without a moulding flask and the rigidity offered a stability yielding a dimensional accuracy far superior to manually moulding in a soft greensand clay/water process.
They had made the mould compact with a runner system that allowed it to be cast in a vertical orientation to replicate how they would ultimately make the metal gravity die for subsequent volume production.
Jim had machined the castings and Jerry built a temporary pressure test rig in the machine shop. As the assembled castings had passed the pressure test, they were confident they had the makings of a successful product. Over the next few weeks they would make a prototype batch of about 100 parts to submit to Siam Chonburi and ultimately the Hirota corporation for approval.
With six prototypes in the bag he could present, Alan was quite excited at the thought of returning to Thailand.
To be continued
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