The Die is Cast Part 8
Chapter 8. A joint venture in Thailand.
After a pleasant flight from the UK, Alan and Rose arrived at Bangkok airport to find Rose’s father Edward and her mother Kanita waiting to ferry them back to their family home. Edward explained they lived halfway between the airport and the outskirts of Bangkok and would be home within 20 minutes. They pulled up in a built-up area to a modern single storied detached house in a walled estate. All the family were there to greet them. Alan was especially pleased to see her uncle Joe as he had developed a special friendship with him. Alan knew Joe had a smaller house near to his brother in laws property but also had a convenient apartment in Bangkok that he used during the week.
Hugs and kisses were exchanged with everyone. Rose excitedly told her mother, Aunt Khae, cousin Kwan and grandmother about her time with Alan in England whilst Alan bought Edward and Joe up to date with his business plans. Whenever more than two Thais are together, food is involved, and a veritable feast welcomed them.
Alan felt a little embarrassed about the sleeping arrangements but her mother Kanita explained she and Edward had the master bedroom, her mother had the second bedroom and she was happy that Alan and Rose share the third small bedroom. Alan came from an English background replete with the repressive Victorian idea of morality. He never failed to be amazed at the Thai’s more pragmatic attitude to natural human sexuality which he considered far healthier.
The next day Edward dropped Alan off at a local BTS Station on the new line from the airport to take the sky train to Asoke in Bangkok to meet the lawyer Wannaporn at his office. Wannaporn was a very westernised Thai who had been educated in England, Alan had been recommended to him by an English solicitor so felt relaxed. Wannaporn suggested Alan set up a separate company here in Thailand for the joint venture. Alan knew a company in Thailand required the majority shareholding be held by Thai nationals. Alan asked Wannaporn if he would be co-director initially but would like Rose to be named as a director sometime soon.
Wannaporn agreed and promised to have the papers drawn up by the week’s end. He suggested it be registered as Artemis (Thailand) Ltd for simplicity. He had also drafted the two separate agreements between the new company and Makota for the purchase of his shares and with Woody to formalise the terms of their joint venture. They arranged to meet the next week at the Siam Chonburi foundry in Amata Nakhon to sign the contracts.
Alan mentioned he was interested in finding a good patternmaker to develop his tooling capability in the kingdom. Wannaporn explained he had a client that ran a casting operation in North East Thailand who used a patternmaker in Chonburi city owned by a German his client spoke highly off. This suited Alan as it was near to the foundry in Amata Nakhon. He took the contact details and phoned Andreas the German owner arranging a meeting for later next week.
The next day they hired a small Toyota Yaris and Rose drove down to Amata Nakhon to see Woody who gave them a warm welcome. Woody’s English was still developing so again Rose acted as interpreter. Woody enquired about Rose’s uncle Joe and she assured him he would visit later in the week. Woody surprised them that he had cleared an office next to his and allocated it for Alan and Rose to use whenever they visited.
Alan showed Woody the castings and assemblies he had made for the oil cooler and promised a further batch of 100 would be delivered from the UK the following week. They talked about the plans for this project and the time schedule they would have to achieve. They were not unduly concerned, they now had enough sand cast parts on the way from Artemis to satisfy the preproduction requirements for the next two months. The first production requirements would not be scheduled for six months so they had time to get the die tooling equipment made and developed.
Alan and Rose booked into the local small hotel they had previously stayed and enjoyed a quiet dinner in a nearby restaurant. The next morning, they returned to the works. It was a good feeling for Alan on seeing the foundry again. Rose rigged herself in safety clothing and they took a walk into the plant. Alan knew that well-run factories had an obvious tempo and he was pleased to see this rhythm apparent in Woody’s factory since Osama’s technicians had been ejected. He was particularly pleased at the tilt die station to watch Somchai now casting the intercooler caps from their previous adventure to a steady cycle. On seeing Alan, Somchai gave him a wave and the greeting “Sawadti Khrap Khun Carrot”, a reference to Alans use of sliced carrots to introduce gas into the castings, rather than his noticeable red hair. Alan went over and shook his hand taking care not to disturb his practiced tempo.
He spotted Rose chatting with the technician Phanon who was waving him over, so made his way towards them. Phanon gave Alan a respectful Wai as Rose explained he had assembled and tested five of the oil coolers. Through Rose he described how he had taken them apart and reassembled them with the missing heat exchanger unit and they had subsequently passed the pressure test with ease. He had also packed them into individual cartons to complete the presentation. Alan asked Rose to pass his sincere thanks on to Phanon, who blushed at the compliment. Now they had something to submit to the customer, they left the factory and took the short drive to the Hirota plant.
At the Hirota corporation they were welcomed by Makota the plant director and a Japanese fellow Alan had not seen before who Makota introduced as Asahi his new Engineering manager. Again, Rose acted as interpreter as the usual formal pleasantries were exchanged. Alan gave the Engineering manager’s business card the due attention demanded by Japanese business etiquette and gave him a deep bow. The Japanese engineer reciprocated the respect to Alans business card, ensuring adequate face was maintained. Makota apologised that Alan’s friend Takashi was not there to meet him but explained that with the panic of the intercooler parts now addressed he had returned to the Hirota plant in the UK.
Alan handed over the cartons containing the five prototypes for the oil cooler which Makota immediately passed to his Engineering manager commanding him to get them inspected without delay. Once alone with Alan and Rose, Makota relaxed and explained this new engineering manager had been imposed upon him by the Hirota Corporation in Japan after the embarrassing debacle with Osama earlier in the year.
Makota admitted Asahi was a decent fellow who would not give him any problems if he could prove he had kept his nose clean. Addressing Rose, he described how it was increasingly vital that Alan buy his embarrassing 10% shareholding in Siam Chonburi with some immediacy. Rose conveyed Makota’s urgency to Alan who told her to convey to him that he understood his discomfort and would keep his agreement to give him £30,000 for the shares by the end of the week if Makota honoured their unspoken agreement to confirm the contract for the tooling and prototypes for the Oil cooler project and give him the production order for the initial 96,000 requirements at their target price of £35 per unit.
Alan also requested that he give Artemis the first look at the next intercooler project the Thailand Hirota plant had programmed for the following year. Alan felt he was pushing his luck but thought it worth a punt. When Rose presented Alans reply he noticed Makota gave an involuntary smile, so he considered his proposal had been accepted. This was despite the long inscrutable delay Makota made before finally giving his agreement… pending approval of the parts Alan had submitted.
With the giving of Makota’s word Alan relaxed and was pleased Rose took up the mantle and amused Makota with a description of the time she has spent with Alan in the UK. Like any red-blooded male Makota was enchanted with Rose’s attention and account and remained so until Asahi returned to inform them the oil coolers had passed their inspection and the project could proceed. With the official orders in their possession, Alan and Rose left reminding Makota to attend the meeting scheduled at Woody’s office the following Tuesday.
Alan was pleased with the day’s results and suggested they celebrate by visiting Pattaya for a couple of days. Rose agreed, especially as Alan proposed they spend it in the delightful Marriot Hotel. That evening Rose drove the short journey depositing the hire vehicle in the Marriot car park. They checked in and made their way to the adjacent Royal Garden Plaza to enjoy a steak in the Sizzler restaurant.
Alan felt the urge to extend Rose’s education and jokingly suggested they visit a few girly bars. To his surprise Rose thought it a great idea so they walked to the beach road exit of the Plaza and jumped on a baht bus to Walking Street. The last time they had visited this salubrious Soi, Rose had taken him to the expensive Lucifer and Tony’s bar which Alan had hated. This time he would show Rose some of the bars he had discovered on his last visit which he thought she would enjoy. He would certainly not show her the ping-pong ball shows or the sordid displays certain bars like the Windmill had, but had a couple of suitable bars in mind.
They went into the legendary Baccara bar and took a seat near the stage. Rose was immediately fascinated by the young pale girls who dominated the stage thinking they would be of interest to all the Japanese boys she knew, whilst Alan reflected that his Rose could have taken the place of any of the girls there without feeling too out-of-place, but then again, he was somewhat prejudiced by his love for her.
After one drink they made their way to the Sapphire bar, which was probably the best Go-go bar in Pattaya. Rose was mesmerised by the number and variety of girls on display, from skinny light-skinned Thai pretties to dark full-bodied sultry Issan beauties. At this Rose had a minor epiphany and reflected that although she and many of her fellow Hi So (high society) Thai princesses felt their pussies were gold lined, in truth they faced real competition especially if they wanted the attention of western men, which she did.
By this time Alan felt he had shown Rose enough of her competition so they made their way to the Secrets bar which was a laid-back western owned establishment with a pleasant ambience. Rose was comfortable in this bar, so they enjoyed a couple of drinks and the friendly attention of the capable staff. Alan suggested they finish the evening with a visit to the ZAB bar near the entrance to the salubrious soi they had ended up at on their last visit to Walking Street.
They entered the ZAB bar to see it was not the showband on stage they had seen on the previous occasion, this time it was a full-on Issan band. The ethnic rhythms and haunting voices of the two girl singers drew them in. As before they watched as a succession of dark-skinned girls walked in with western men on their arms. Rose recalled on their previous visit she had remarked that this bar was clearly the final venue for western men to bring their Issan companions for the evening before going back to their hotels. Although Rose had no affiliation with the North-eastern region of Thailand she appreciated the lure of these country girls to the music of their homeland whilst they were in effective exile in the city of sin.
They decided the next day they would be lazy and spend their time around the environs of the Marriot enjoying the impressive pool and other facilities. The following day Alan had arranged to make a visit to the patternmaker in Chonburi which was on their way back to their hotel in Amata Nakhon. They checked out of the Marriot, Rose collected their hire car from the car park and began the short journey north.
They were greeted by Andreas the German proprietor who took the occasion to show them his comprehensive facilities which Alan was very impressed with. When they returned to Andrea’s office, over a cup of coffee Alan described his own business and his plans for the joint venture with Siam Chonburi. He showed Andreas the drawings of the oil cooler and an example of the castings he had already made.
With Andreas’s excellent English, Rose’s language skills were not needed so she sat back and enjoyed listening to Alan describing the gravity tilt die process they employed at both Artemis and Siam Chonburi.
Alan explained the advantage of the concept. They employed a cassette system in a standard machine compared with the traditional gravity die (that the Americans call permanent molds) which effectively required building a bespoke machine or rig to operate the die for every component. Once he had the dimensions of the standard cassette the die assembly and ejection system could be made of standard stock the only variation between each part being the steel block insert for the specific component. This could be cut from standard tool steel using a CAM (computer aided programme) to generate the tool cutter paths. Alan explained his experience with the technique was that Lead times (and costs) could be considerably reduced giving a distinct competitive advantage.
Andreas understood immediately and was enthusiastic to hear Alans description, he had come across a similar concept when he did his apprenticeship back in Germany many years ago despite permanent mould/gravity die not being particularly popular or common in Germany.
The German attitude in producing high volume Automotive parts (that design, or material limitations precluded production by the High pressure die casting route of choice) would always be to invest in, and employ Automated greensand plants instead of permanent mould or no-bake moulding systems, a philosophy which Alan greatly admired and knew had resulted in a continued German hegemony in world casting technology that almost negated the effects of globalisation.
Alan knew he operated in a merciless market and to survive he had to find opportunities in the cracks and niches left alone by the volume producers and big corporations. Alan was a great believer in capitalism but was saddened that the globalist elite in the form of multinational corporations and financial buccaneers had hijacked capitalism destroying its concepts and the benefits it had imparted to the world for 30 years after World War Two.
In the subsequent 30 years with the assistance of corrupt politicians this wicked elite had replaced true capitalism with corporatism through a cynical policy of globalisation, moving western jobs to cheap wage economies that had devastated the productive middle and skilled working classes in the USA and UK.
And all this was for the infinite avarice of a tiny privileged elite who cared only of their own self-interest and nothing for the rest of humanity. Although Alan detested what he saw of globalism he was a pragmatist and accepted he must continue to grab at all opportunities before these rapacious rats finally destroyed civilisation as we knew it.
Alan asked Andreas to prepare a budget cost for producing a die for the Oil cooler casting. He left the drawing and promised to send the CAD model and the specification for his die cassette system within the next few days.
When Alan and Rose left, Andreas was excited at this opportunity. He had a thriving business and many customers he produced wood, resin and metal patterns for sand foundries locally and in Ayutthaya and Rayong but although he had the equipment and capability had never broken into producing metal dies for the high production sector. He also could not fail to notice the graceful charm of Alan’s young companion and hoped she would visit again.
Alan and Rose returned to their hotel, took a shower together and eventually dressed and went down to take dinner. They were pleasantly surprised to see uncle Joe waiting in the lobby to meet them. Joe explained having some time to spare he was inquisitive to see everything went well with the intended transfer and if they didn’t mind he would like to attend tomorrow’s meeting. Rose was delighted to see her Uncle Joe at any time and Alan was pleased at his new friend’s interest and immediately agreed.
They took a stroll to the nearby restaurant and were further surprised to see the lawyer Wannaporn sitting at a table near the rear of the restaurant. He summoned them to join him and explained he had decided to drive down early and had booked into the same hotel that they used hoping to catch them before the meeting. He told them he intended to be at the meeting early to gain a tactical advantage and requested that Rose act as interpreter for the day. He suggested that this may also require her to act as chairman for the meeting.
He confessed although his Thai was exceptional and his English good, his Japanese was non-existent. He continued, that because Rose was a young and pretty Thai woman the Japanese and Thai men would consider her inconsequential and trust her translations without question. So, when he needed an edge he would guide Rose using whichever language gave them an advantage. Alan was slightly shocked (but unsurprised) at this unscrupulous suggestion whilst Joe applauded his fellow Thai for his wonderful insight and initiative. Alan wondered if he would ever get used to the innate duplicity of the Asian nature but kept his own counsel.
That morning the meeting was held in Woody’s office. When Alan, Rose and Joe arrived Wannaporn, Makota, his lawyer and Woody with his lawyer were already seated around the conference table enjoying the coffee and delicacies Woody’s secretary was administering to them. On seeing Joe, the secretary fell over herself to welcome him and offer him her hospitality. Alan was amused to see this as he knew that she perceived Joe as a member of the Thai military elite which was almost royalty to the feudal mentality of the Thais. Woody himself was quietly pleased as having any contact with Joe’s prestige gave him considerable face in his community.
Everyone took their seats and Rose called the meeting to order. The first item was the confirmation of Alans new company Artemis (Thailand) the papers of which were handed to the other two lawyers for validation. They perused the articles returning them to Wannaporn confirming everything was in order.
The second item was the transfer of Makota’s 10% shareholding to Alan (on behalf of Artemis Thailand). Makota’s lawyer gave the documents careful deliberation and asked a few questions which Rose translated. It was clear the Japanese lawyer was merely prevaricating to justify his fee.
Makota was keen to be rid of the embarrassment of this shareholding (and to pocket the £30k) so suggested to his brief that if he could see no problems they should sign with all good speed. The Japanese lawyer gave a barely perceivable nod of his head and Makota signed the document with a sigh of relief. Wannaporn handed him a banker’s draft for the agreed sum. Makota gave a rare smile, passed him the share certificates and quickly pocketed the banker’s draft.
Alan now owned 10% of Woody’s company, not enough for control but enough to influence things.
The third and final item was the joint venture agreement. The verbal agreement was that Siam Chonburi would pay Artemis a commission of 3% of the turnover on any order received from them. This was incumbent on Artemis having produced the sand prototypes, preproduction batches and delivered developed die equipment for Siam Chonburi to produce the customers volume requirements. Woody was quite explicit that all costs (and risk) up to that point be the responsibility of Artemis.
Alan could understand Woody’s stance and was unconcerned. For example, the 3% commission on the turnover for the oil cooler project alone could yield Artemis £8k a month without hardly having to lift a finger. Admittedly he had the risk of negotiating the initial contracts with the customers, developing the part and funding the tooling but that was the business he was in, the margins were healthy, and he was good at it. So, Alan agreed to Woody’s caveat without argument. The lower costs of operation and labour in Thailand was a distinct inducement to his strategy.
Woody’s second requirement was that Alan procure a further 10% shareholding at the agreed price of £60k as a commitment to the venture. Woody stated he needed this influx of capital to invest in plant and building improvements. Again, Alan acquiesced to this condition but expressed he would defer the payment for a year to see how things went. If all went well he would purchase the additional shares on the anniversary of this agreement, but …. would expect a seat on the board of Woody’s company when he did so.
When Rose conveyed Alans reply Woody conferred with his brief then declared he needed the influx of capital in the coming year rather than the subsequent year. Alan thought for a few moments. He knew Woody’s company was busy and profitable with the intercooler project (he had sorted for them) but could appreciate he would maybe need to buy at least one new tilt die machine and a core blower for the new oil cooler business. He let them stew for a few minutes before proposing he would phase his acquisition releasing £30k in six months’ time and £30k on the anniversary of the agreement.
Woody knew he had enough profitability in his business to fund the incoming business, but the injection of capital was destined for his own personal resources and debt he had. He considered this proposal was probably the best deal he was going to screw from Alan so with a huge sigh of feigned resignation, he agreed.
At this point handshakes were made, documents exchanged and signed by the parties. Alan performed the first act of the new enterprise by handing an official order to Woody for volume production of the new oil cooler part for Hirota. This signalled it was time to break for lunch. Woody proposed everyone repair to the nearby restaurant where he had booked tables. Once everyone was seated a veritable feast was served, speeches made, toasts given, much to the pleasure of all concerned.
Alan reflected that as the only westerner present there was no doubt who would be picking up the bill but mai pen rai (never mind), such was the white man’s burden. He also reflected on the deal he had just made. Although Siam Chonburi was a much smaller operation than his family business, there was a good synergy between the operations and a great potential. Thailand was becoming a powerhouse for the global automotive industry, already making more pick-up trucks than Japan or the USA. He knew with his cost base in the UK he couldn’t have made the oil cooler part for £35 so it would have been business he would have missed out on. Yes, he could see great opportunities ahead but first he had to apply his British technology to supply a working die for the oil cooler to Woody within the next few months.
Later that evening Alan and Rose went for dinner with Joe in their usual venue. Joe declared “Well today was a success and your journey can now begin”. Alan didn’t understand the point his enigmatic friend was making and gave him a quizzical frown.” If you mean I now have an excuse to spend more time in Thailand and possibly make a few quid I cannot fail to agree”. Joe smiled “if that’s what you think I mean then that’s ok”.
Not wishing to descend into one of his friend’s philosophical rabbit holes he changed the subject and stated his plans for the next few weeks. He needed to get the die equipment sorted, get volume production started and make sure Woody honoured his agreement and paid him. Joe became serious for a moment “What about your life outside of work? “Alan seeing Joes point took a deep breath,” I appreciate we cannot live in hotels forever, so we need to look for something more permanent for the greater time we are going to live here”. Joe declared … you are beginning to understand I will now get my wife and her sister looking for potential properties in the area”.
That night Alan and Rose decided to return to her parent’s home the following day. However, the next morning whilst Rose was still asleep he made a visit to the adjacent Royal Garden mall on a personal errand. He was back before Rose awoke and they went for breakfast together. When Rose collected the hire car from the car park they made a detour to see Andreas on their way home.
Andreas had received the CAD model and presented a quotation for the oil cooler parts, he proposed a two-impression tilt die for the cooler body (which should be duplicated once demand increased), and a six impression die for the smaller end caps. He also proposed metal core boxes for the body core, inlet and outlet cores which would facilitate production by either the hot box or the resin shell process. Andreas showed the general arrangement of the equipment on his computer screen.
This was exactly what Alan wanted but was a little disappointed that the price quoted was almost what he could have had made in the UK. Alan took a deep breath and reflected this was a new venture and new technology for Andreas which would involve a serious learning curve for him and his Thai patternmakers which they would desire to cover the risk. Alan thought carefully and acknowledged he needed to think longer term with any relationship he was to develop with suppliers in Thailand. He made the pragmatic (if somewhat chauvinistic) decision he was probably safer throwing his hat in the ring with a German rather than an Asian supplier.
He told Andreas he thought his quote expensive for the Asian market but appreciated why it was. Alan explained he hoped Andreas would trim his price a little in the spirit of potential future business but was willing to accept this price in the knowledge that quotes for future parts would reflect his growing experience in the cassette die concept and be priced accordingly. Andreas completely understood Alans stance and promised he would phone him the next day.
Alan and Rose returned to her parent’s home that evening and were warmly greeted by the family as if they had been away for months rather than a few days. As usual they were welcomed to a huge feast, and after dinner as they all sat around the large dining table Alan feeling comfortably satiated suddenly felt an irresistible urge to declare his feelings.
He cleared his throat to get the family’s attention before announcing “I have realised that my whole adventure since coming to Thailand has revolved around this girl sitting by my side and I appreciate I would be nothing without her help.” He then turned to Rose “I employed you on a temporary contract as an interpreter, but I would like to offer you a more permanent employment”.
Seeing the family had gone quiet (a rare occurrence) he continued, “I would like you to become a director of my new company with specific responsibility for sales to the Thai and Japanese companies and you can draw a proper salary” Pre-empting her obvious question how much? Alan continued” we can discuss the figure later, but I promise you will not be disappointed ….it will keep you in shoes and handbags for a while” Rose gave him a playful slap on the arm as her mother Kanita squealed with joy, even her father cracked a smile.
Alan got to his feet and pulled his chair away, so he could get on one knee before Rose, not an easy task for a man of his advancing years. Pulling a small box from his pocket as he handed her the engagement ring he had bought that morning and he plighted his troth by stating, “Rose now you are a lady of means and can support me in the manner I have been accustomed…will you please marry me?”. Rose was surprised but obviously delighted and without delay slipped the ring on her finger and declared, Yes Alan, for sure I will marry you”.
With this pronouncement all the females of the family shrieked with delight and surrounded her with the attention to the engagement ring that was demanded. It was a simple gold band with a solitaire diamond inset. Whilst the ladies were occupied her father and uncle Joe gave Alan warm handshakes and affectionate pats on the back confirming their approval. A bottle of good scotch whisky appeared, and the men toasted the association.
As expected the celebrations continued until the early hours of the morning.
Later that night whilst everyone was sleeping Rose opened her lap top and sent an email to her oldest friend Mitsuki who lived in Okinawa in Japan. Mitsuki had been her best pal in the many years she lived on the Kadena air force base there. Rose regularly composed letters to her friend as doing so in Japanese, helped her to frame her thoughts even though she did not always actually send them.
“Hi Mitsi, a lot has happened since I last wrote to tell you about Alan the English gentleman I met. I said how courteous he was, and I would probably have to take the initiative with him. Well although I feel a brazen hussy (an English expression) for doing so he finally responded.
Oh, Mitsi, he is lovely, he is firm with me (which I know I need) but is also kind and attentive and always makes me feel loved and cherished.
He took me back to the UK to meet his friends and family where he owns a big engineering company and he lives in a cold but beautiful old manor house in the English countryside.
Any way …. he has given me a job as his sales director at a salary you would not believe and tonight he has asked me to MARRY HIM.
Oh, Mitsi it is all so wonderful, the engagement ring is small but beautiful, my Mom and Dad adore him and even my Uncle Joe likes him.
I will sign off now and contact you when we make plans for the wedding which will be in England and of course, you will be Maid of honour.
Love Rose x.”
As this evening events were quite significant she did send this missive to her friend.
The next day Alan phoned Andreas who had reduced his price by 10%. Alan knew it was merely a gesture, but he was willing to accept it so informed him he would place an order with him in the next day or so but as he was returning to the UK, would leave him alone and see him in four weeks’ time
On their return to the UK Alan felt he had to make living in England attractive to Rose which would be a challenge (a bit like making this submission interesting …Editor).
He recognised she had loved the buzz and atmosphere of London, but he was reluctant to live there, it was too far away, too expensive, impractical and even visiting every weekend would be prohibitive. He knew he needed to introduce her to more local delights such as in Birmingham or even Wolverhampton (ok that was being silly). There were other interesting and underrated nearby cities like Bristol, Warwick or Stratford-on-Avon to visit to keep her interest.
In truth, he need not have worried, Rose was a rational girl, she had lived in England before and was just happy to be with Alan and didn’t need his efforts at entertaining her. She knew she just had to let him know she was perfectly content with things as they were…. Her dream was that they could afford to share their time evenly between Thailand and the UK.
Alan advised her now she was director of his Thailand company she should learn a little about their business and suggested she shadow Ray, his sales manager for a few weeks. Rose could see Alans intentions and was perfectly willing to comply but had some ideas of her own. She had genuinely wanted to contribute to their joint income and had an idea to set up a language school or even a course for business etiquette. Her target was initially for Japanese managers and engineers coming to the UK to teach them a little of British culture but felt it could also be appropriate for western business men going east to deal with Japanese or Thai culture. Alan was fascinated with her idea and decided to indulge her in her ambitions.
Alan attended the monthly board meeting but was beginning to see that the company was coping (too well) without him. So, he suggested in future they continue to have a monthly management meeting for operational matters chaired by David, but the full board would only meet quarterly to discuss strategic issues under his chairmanship. This would give Alan a degree of objectivity for his new role and free his time for the new venture in Thailand. His sister Cynthia would certainly have objected a few months ago as she looked forward to the meetings as an excuse to see David who she adored from afar but now she had had begun to develop a relationship with him since the works dance, she was unconcerned and agreed with Alans proposal.
For two weeks Rose shadowed Ray visiting their customers and became friends with Rebecca who ran the sales office. Whilst on a visit to the Hirota UK Telford plant, Rose, in the hiatus over lunch proposed her ideas for an Asian business etiquette course to Alan’s friend Takashi who ran the Hirota operations in the UK. In deference to his friendship with Alan he decided to support her initiative and elected to send four of his younger English sales employees when she was ready.
Rose arranged her first course and despite Alan’s reservations decided to hold it at the manor house. She converted the library into a lecture room procuring a projector, screen and whiteboard. She elicited the help of Alans housekeeper Mrs Brown to prepare the spare bedrooms and arrange the catering. She proposed a three-day course and tendered some dates which Takashi confirmed.
Unfortunately, these dates coincided with an institute conference in Scotland Alan had a long-made commitment to attend so would not be there to support her, but he had great faith in her and knew his Sales manager Ray and the redoubtable Mrs Brown would be there to support her. As it happened Ray had a golf tournament that week so could not attend but Alan did not know this at the time.
The next week involved Rose in a frenzy of activity preparing the library as a lecture area and the one lounge as a breakout room. She had considerable teaching experience and good training materials but still burned the midnight oil honing her presentation.
On the day her students arrived she realised she hadn’t thought the venture through and neither had Takisha in his choice of the four candidates. She expected experienced executives but received young men in their early 20s. They were all ostensibly pleasant young fellows but being of the entitled snowflake generation immediately took issue with the arrangements at the manor house. They were content with having their own bedrooms but where unhappy with having to share a bathroom. Being from the Asian culture Rose could not understand this preciousness but used her innate diplomacy to appease their sensitivities.
The first day of the course was a success the content was excellent, Rose was a very good lecturer having had experience of teaching in the USA and Japan. In the morning session she covered the areas of universal business etiquette, dress codes, acceptable behaviour, the importance of body language with a brief introduction to the concepts of Neuro Linguistic Programming.
The excellent buffet lunch prepared by Mrs Brown (with the help of her friends in the Mothers Union) was well received. After lunch in the afternoon she covered the subject of the protocol and peculiarities specific to interaction with Asian culture. It was all going well. The next day she intended to cover the etiquette of introductions in a business or social environment and discuss the complexities of societal interactions. Fancy words for how humans relate to each other.
However, Rose had noticed that although two of her students from the local Hirota plant in Telford were very receptive and respectful the other two were a little more difficult. The one lad was from the same operation but was cocky, vain and disposed to making smart arse remarks. The other lad never missed the opportunity to inform everyone he was from a certain large county in the north of England. He was rude brash and opiniated. He made it clear that because of this heritage no one could teach him anything.
Rose had no knowledge of people from this legendary location and if she had asked she would have been informed the attitude of men from this county was a state of mind based on a self-delusion and bullshit which everyone else in the UK ignored as a joke, she would have been less concerned.
However, without this experience she felt slightly intimidated by his uncouth behaviour which seemed out-of-place in what was a training course but was still essentially a business environment. Rose knew she was passing on knowledge that could be useful if they wished to progress their careers so was bemused by their attitude. She had failed to understand the effect of excessive testosterone and the sense of entitlement in certain young men of the millennium generation.
That evening Rose took them all down to the local pub for dinner…. it did not go well. Despite Roses efforts at being the convivial host she began to comprehend just how arrogant and obnoxious this gruesome twosome was. Before and during the meal they had been drinking somewhat to excess and, incapable of handling it, were overly boisterous.
After the meal Rose went to the bar with the two polite midland lads. Just as she had gotten them a drink, the loathsome duo joined them. Their conversation was at best inappropriate and although Rose initially dismissed their suggestive and banal comments about Asian women she began to feel unsettled if not actually threatened. When they proposed she engage in a split roast on their return to the manor house she knew they had passed a line.
Fortunately (or unfortunately dependant on your view of subsequent events) two of Alans oldest friends Sam and Mick were standing at the bar and noticed Rose’s obvious distress. They approached Rose enquiring if everything was ok. The two young punks with a confidence pumped up by hours in the gym seeing two old geezers in their 40’s and clearly 3 inches shorter than them laughed and told them to mind their own business adding…. push off granddad.
What these vain youngsters did not know was that Sam had spent his formative years as a serious football hooligan and had considerable experience as an accomplished street fighter. Mick had served ten years in a British infantry battalion which although not a specialist or glamorous regiment had taught him far more about unarmed combat that anyone should need to know.
The subsequent brawl lasted only seconds and saw the two youths semi-conscious and needing hospital treatment that include blackened eyes, loosened teeth and bloodied noses. Rose had contacted David who had been entertaining Cynthia in his house nearby. He arrived before the police just as the paramedics were loading the injured students into an ambulance. Rose was terrified what Alans reaction would be on his return, but David assured her he would explain everything.
He described the proceedings to the police who took witness statements from Rose and the other two students. They arrested Sam and Mick, but the Police sergeant who knew David from their Rugby playing days assured him there would probably be no further repercussions other than a night in their cells. It would not be the first time Sam and Mick had spent an evening at her majesty’s pleasure, so it was no great hardship.
Rose was clearly shaken up, so David and Cynthia accompanied her back to the manor house. David explained to the remaining two students that the course was cancelled, and they could go home now or stay the night and go in the morning. He added he would contact their employer and explain.
When Alan returned home midday from his conference in Scotland David detailed the situation to him adding that the two miscreants had been discharged from hospital with no lasting harm and Mick and Sam had been released from custody. Alan immediately phoned Takeshi apologising for the evenings events and having to cancel the course. He offered to refund the costs of the course but seriously admonished his friend for his poor selection of candidates. Knowing the Japanese culture, he recognised this gentle reprimand to his friend was far more seriously received than an abusive tirade would have been.
Alan comforted Rose but insisted she rethink her ideas for a business school and for the moment concentrate on learning about her role in sales for the Artemis company. To her credit Rose appreciated her naivety and decided she would do as she was told but rethink her business model and probably dismiss her ideas for using the manor house as a base. Alan suggested the cost to convert the bedrooms for each to have an en-suit bathroom could not be justified but advised she could work up a partnership with a local college and some nearby hotels for her courses.
Alan had no problem with her idea for using their house if she was happy but if she agreed it was not viable it would give him an excuse to sell the monstrosity. He would prefer to live in a much more modest residence nearer the Artemis plant in the more socially convivial conurbation and use the money to buy a property in Thailand, but kept his own counsel for the moment.
The next week they returned to Thailand once again staying at the family house. Alan loved the family but having spent the weekend with them was feeling bored and needed a little stimulation. Rose was taking her grandmother and cousin to visit relatives in Bangkok for a couple of days so thought an evening or so in Pattaya was in order whilst she was away. He told Rose he would visit Andreas’ workshop then stay the night in Pattaya and would meet her at Woody’s plant on Wednesday morning to which Rose agreed without argument.
He took a taxi down to Andreas’s pattern shop to progress the die equipment he was producing. On arrival he paid off the taxi and as he entered the workshop he noticed Andreas talking with a grey-headed western man. From his dress and deportment Alan suspected he was a fellow Englishman a few years older than himself. On seeing Alan, Andreas called him over and introduced his companion as Paul an Englishman and fellow Midlander who owned a bronze foundry in Udon Thani in the Issan.
As they shook hands Andrea’s explained to Paul that he was learning about aluminium die casting from Alan. Paul stated he had been teaching Andreas about greensand machine moulding for a few years but declared that Andreas’s patternmaking skills had contributed to his success.
He explained that he was down with his partner to see the erection of a bronze statue to an infamous guy named Sloany who had been the proprietor of a resort in Bang Suray just south of Pattaya. That evening he was meeting the author Guy Lilburne who was financing and organising the project.
Andreas’s secretary bought them coffees and recognising kindred spirits Paul and Alan continued to chat as if they had been friends for years. Paul had noticed the cores for Alans oil cooler casting and suggested he may consider the new technology of additive sand printing he was involved in, principally for the freedom of design it offered. Alan immediately recognised the concept which as it printed the sand in layers, removed the limitations of taper and joint lines which had plagued the casting industry for hundreds of years.
When Alan enquired Paul’s estimate of the cost of printing his cores his answer of about £300 amused Alan. Some perspective was established when Alan explained that he only had a total price of £35 for casting, machining, and assembling the product. They both laughed recognising they operated in different worlds but cemented a friendship. They both agreed that much of the wonderous new technology available was in fact an answer awaiting a question.
Alan was satisfied with progress on his die equipment and as Paul stated he was bound for Bang Suray to the south of Pattaya, Alan begged a lift to Pattaya which Paul agreed. The conversation on the journey in Paul’s modest rented Toyota was enjoyable, they had much in common. Paul explained his business involved a greensand machine moulding foundry, but the main operation was a lost wax/investment facility that produced bronze statues and art castings. His Thai partner and friend Chan had an international reputation as a sculptor and gifted artisan who regularly gave artist workshops at their centre just outside Udon Thani. Paul quietly suggested that if he was interested he could read about their adventures in a book he had published called “Breaking the Mould” Alan could see beyond Paul’s innate modesty that he was proud of his friend Chan and their achievements and resolved to look it up at the first opportunity.
For the rest of the journey they exchanged anecdotes about their experiences in the casting industry and the delights and amusing quirks of the enchanting but often infuriating Thai women they had both fallen in love with. Paul dropped Alan off at the small hotel near Soi Beaucow. They swapped business cards and promised to keep in touch.
That evening Alan took a motorcycle taxi to Walking street. With the vagaries of the one-way system a convoluted route ended up travelling along the Pattaya alley 13/3 which is home to a few gay bars. As they did so Alan would swear he saw his past nemesis Osama enter one of the gay establishments. His hair was longer, and he looked slightly dishevelled, but Alan felt certain it was him. He dismissed the thought as his driver made the left turn onto beach road towards Walking Street.
Alan explored a few girly bars he had not visited before around the Soi Diamond area but was disappointed that they all seemed to follow the same format. He finally found his way to the Secrets bar where he felt comfortable. The “no hassle” atmosphere appealed to Alan, but he allowed himself to be drawn into a discussion with Jenni one of the pleasant hostesses who had joined him. She was in her early forties, a little older than the usual bar girls he had encountered in Pattaya, but still very slim and attractive and having very good English offered an interesting conversation. Feeling relaxed he bought her a drink or two and opened up to her gentle inquisition.
Despite his usual reticence he described to her his love for Rose, explained how he had met her and his dilemma in how he could keep a Thai woman over ten-year his junior happy. Jenni laughed and declared she had seen his Rose with him on their previous visit and could see she was besotted with him. Theirs was a perfect age gap and explained he ticked all the boxes for an astute Thai lady. She remarked with a grin although he was not very handsome, he was clean smart polite and had money. Alan took the remark as it was intended as she continued “and most important you take care and let her see her family” She expressed the opinion that his Rose was probably thrilled with their relationship, could not believe her luck and he should stop worrying.
Alan had a minor epiphany at that moment he realised that if he could afford to fund visits between the UK and Thailand at regular intervals so that Rose could see her family she would be happy and everything else he was concerned about was unnecessary. Alan momentarily considered taking Jenni back to his hotel but relented instead giving her a 1000-baht tip for her wisdom and advice.
Alan spent the next day around the pool at his hotel considering his plans. For the first time in his life his natural pessimism was dispelled, and he had a clear vision of his future. He would marry Rose without delay and begin arrangements as soon as they returned to the UK. They would alternate their time between the UK and Thailand spending two or three months in each location. He estimated it could cost around £15k a year to do so but what the hell, he could afford this, Artemis could survive without him and the thought of avoiding British winters had definite appeal. He thought of Rose and the amazing happiness she had given him, and every doubt paled into insignificance.
Whilst in this comfortable glow for some unknown reason his thoughts turned to his viewing of his nemesis Osama in the Boys Town district. He was inquisitive and decided to explore further.
That evening he took a motorbike taxi to Pattayaland 2 and popped his head into several of the gay bars looking for this image of Osama. Alan admitted to himself it was a probably a futile exercise and not without some genuine peril. It was not like the pantomimes offered in the lady boy environment, he was now in serious shirt-lifter territory and he knew the sausage jockeys where not a group to be trifled with.
However, he had a gut feeling about his enterprise. Although he did not consider himself particularly homophobic after visiting a few bars they left him feeling slightly nauseous and he eventually found himself in a large bar that was reputed to be run by the Bulgarian mafia. Alan was tired by his explorations so decided to take a beer and watch whatever was being offered.
Alan could not believe the fluke that a guy who looked suspiciously like Osama was bought on stage totally naked with his arms in hand cuffs. He suspected that the fellow being Japanese rather than Thai was sufficient coincidence. This fellow was then strapped down on a bench with his legs akimbo, his anal orifice exposed. Although Alan felt nauseated he felt a macabre fascination as to what was about to occur.
A huge eastern European guy appeared on stage, he was also naked except for a leather waistcoat adorned with chains. This guy was immense at least six feet three with a physique impelled by years of hormone implants and most of his lifetime working out in the gym. Alan could not fail to notice his imposing moustache and his unfeasibly large erect member at least eight inches long.
He approached the prone Osama look-alike offering his Hampton to the orifice presented and proceeded to ream the unfortunate creature with a violence and a faraway look in his eye that took Alan’s breath away. The scream of pain and anguish from the prostrate victim was too much for Alans sensibilities. He got up to leave but could not fail to recognise a faint look of recognition in the eyes of the unfortunate recipient of this brutal bumming. Bugger me, thought Alan that WAS Osama receiving the cruel reaming.
Alan departed the bar and did not stop running until he reached the Beach road at the intersection with the Gem shop. He struggled to catch his breath and felt his head spinning. He knew he could not go back to his hotel yet and was seriously in need of a stiff drink to settle his thoughts. He made his way to the Secrets bar, took a seat and ordered a double whisky and coke knowing a beer would just not cut it.
He was still shaking when he was joined by Jenni his companion from last night. She could see Alan was troubled and asked what was the matter with him. Alan described what he had seen that evening and explained the background to his dispute with Osama. Despite his animosity to him he was concerned and speculated that Osama had been kidnapped by the Bulgarian mafia as a sex slave.
Jenni could not stop herself laughing at Alans innocence. She explained she had knowledge of these bars having visited them with some of the younger girls over the years. They had gone with the intention of meeting young virile Thai men to give them a serious servicing as an antidote to the old farang men they had to accommodate in their normal occupation. Jenni believed most of the young men employed in these bars were bisexual. She also described that to all these guys it was just a job, they were actors and the anguish shown by Osama at his reaming was part of this act. This information calmed Alan a little. He remained surprised he would never for a moment have guessed Osama was good with colours and of that fraternity that bowled from the pavilion end
Alan returned to his hotel still unsettled but a little more enlightened and slightly less disturbed. The next morning, he took a taxi up to Woody’s plant in Amata Nakon to meet with Rose as promised.
Rose was waiting for him and after giving her an affectionate kiss he explained what he had seen the previous evening and how it had troubled him. Seeing Rose and Alan, Woody entered the office with three cups of coffee and enquired of their conversation. When Rose related Alans description of Osama’s brutal bumming Woody could not disguise a smirk. Woody had also suffered under Osama’s vindictiveness whilst he was employed by Hirota and could not fail to be pleased to hear of this incident and hoped the reaming had caused Osama some real pain.
Alan liked to think he was a man of the world, he clearly was not. He also liked to be considered tolerant and liberal but having witnessed the sights and smells in the sordid dens of bummery he remained uncomfortable. Despite his 42 years he realised he was terribly naïve and knew little of the real world outside his limited experience.
Rose had become friends with Woody’s secretary Praew who took time to explain the workings of the company particularly the commercial and sales processes. They were not due to return to England for three weeks, so Rose used the time to acquaint herself with the workings of the Siam Chonburi operation. She paid particular attention to their current and (prospective) customer lists.
With the knowledge she had received from Rebecca at Artemis in the UK she intended to apply it to developing her own marketing plan for Artemis (Thailand), now she was a director and future spouse of its owner. The thought of soon being married to Alan gave her a warm feeling but she still wanted to show she was independent and could contribute to the enterprise. She went through several trade directories and made a list of companies she thought would use castings. She spent a couple of day’s phoning around establishing those that had a requirement. She quickly eliminated most but had identified a list of manufacturing and engineering enterprises worth exploring. On their next return she would make a schedule of visits. Whilst back in UK she could further hone her sales skills under the tutelage of Ray and Rebecca.
Rose’s mother and her sister had also been busy looking at houses for the couple. They had identified a number of properties in the location specified and arranged viewings that weekend. With any activity concerning Thai people a ritual is involved. Saturday morning the whole family piled into two vehicles and made their way south. The first property they viewed was near the seafront in Bangsaen. Bangsaen was a beach resort with the honour of being the nearest beach option to Bangkok and being very popular with Thais who wanted to avoid the foreigner dominated resorts like Pattaya.
The first property they viewed was far too small. The second was a little too near the sea front and a little too dominated by Thai tourists for Alans taste. The next property had similar disadvantages which Alan vetoed, they reminded him of his youth and holidays spent in guest houses in Blackpool and Torquay. As it was almost lunchtime they all diverged to the northern end of the beach area. Alan imagined that they would have a picnic on the beach, but he was however impressed by the seafood restaurant on the seafront they took him to even though he naturally picked up the bill.
After lunch the tribe made their way north to a property halfway between Bangsaen and Chonburi city. It was quite a way inland from the seafront but was a delightful spacious modern furnished two-storied, three bedroom property with a small swimming pool in a reasonably isolated location. It sat on a slight rise affording a (distant) view of the sea. It was owned by a western guy who had fell upon bad times and desperately needed to sell. Alan immediately fell in love with the property and was amazed at the low price quoted. At a slight stretch he could raise the resources to buy this house without having to sell the manor house back in England or resort to loans.
He googled the location, it was near the Sukhumvit Road. They would only have a 30 minutes’ drive from the foundry in Amata Nakon, 15 minutes to Andrea’s pattern shop and could get to Pattaya or the airport in just under an hour. Alan was sold on the idea and just needed Rose’s approval. Rose liked the house and had worked out that if Alan was content with it would support her objective of living half their time in Thailand, so expressed her delight at the property. Her parents expressed their approval, so Rose knew she would have their support in moving into and furnishing the property.
When they got back to the family home that evening Alan contacted his solicitor Wannaporn requesting he begin proceedings to purchase this property.
Once Alan and Rose departed to the UK they did so in the knowledge they would possibly have a home of their own to enjoy on their next return to Thailand.
to be continued….
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