Simon Carr: The Kitchen Capitalist

They're sorry? I just don't want to hear about it
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The Independent Online

You thought to find me in a pool of my own fluids, probably. You have a nerve reading this chronicle. I mean that admiringly. You deserve compensation. You feel some post-traumatic stress coming on? I don't feel anything at all.

Last week, we parted at the end of the road. Wales had examined the samples sent by China, the final prototypes that they had built to show they were capable of building my brilliant product themselves. Hitherto, we'd been supplying them with our First World circuitry and they'd been gluing it all together. This was their first fully functioning effort.

To my eye, they looked fine, the samples. Terrific. Elegant. Charming, even. And their intricate innards produced the right sounds in the right sequence at the right bit-rate and with the right speaker quality.

But then they went off to Wales, and Wales came back with shattering news. China hadn't made the samples at all. They had simply gutted previous samples and poured the guts into a new casing.

I went to the lino and didn't get up. Some gargling. Spasms. Waves of reality (that was the worst part). Incoherent self-loathing. They just can't do it. They're not up to it. I've got all the bits and parts and design and they can't put it together. Why had I taken this long to find that out? I'd. Trusted. Them.

Two years of yelling into telephones and switching money from one bank account to another, all over the world. Technicians in three continents wielding their soldering irons and sending circuit boards to each other. Tooling made. Steel cut. Components ordered in Germany programmed in Britain, freighted to China. The ever-sinking cash balances. And my house, of course, which paid for it all. I liked that house, leading down to the canal, with its cosy shed and the willows...

It's not the money - though of course it's the money - but a future has closed down. That future with the sales humming and the factory throbbing and business-class trips to America.

The BlackBerry "birred" on the lino and Wales's e-mail came up. It was an apology. But people don't apologise any more except to prove that nothing is their fault. So I stopped reading it. When I went back to it, I found it was a new sort of apology. Wales was very sorry and was sincerely apologising because China had made the final sample after all. Wales had been checking the wrong one. They're fine. We're fine. It's fine.

I suppose I should be bouncing off the floor and clapping girlishly. But ... checking the wrong sample? And after all those consequential things I'd said to China? This is cursed, this enterprise. But anyway. The road has opened up again.