Simon Carr: The Kitchen Capitalist

The slowboat from China simply has to deliver
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The Independent Online

The production prototype arrived. I tore open the packaging. All hope, courage and optimism was dashed. It was true: they'd made it Chinese Blue. It was never meant to be stupid blue! It was never chintzy, plastic, willow-pattern blue, it had always been glamorous, sophisticated, Empire black. Why had they done this to me! I did what you'd do, what anyone would do. I fell to my knees issuing gargling cries, tearing at my hair and scrabbling at my chest.

The production prototype arrived. I tore open the packaging. All hope, courage and optimism was dashed. It was true: they'd made it Chinese Blue. It was never meant to be stupid blue! It was never chintzy, plastic, willow-pattern blue, it had always been glamorous, sophisticated, Empire black. Why had they done this to me! I did what you'd do, what anyone would do. I fell to my knees issuing gargling cries, tearing at my hair and scrabbling at my chest.

I didn't even ask why they made it blue in the end. You get worn down. But they'll have to do it again and the production schedule is tight. Yes, Christmas is six months away (but very recently it was nine months away and time was tight even then). If it's not out by Christmas what's the point? I wave a tuft of bloody hair at the uncomprehending fridge.

Putting these executive reflections to one side, I snap into action with two full days of grieving and moaning. Then, refreshed, I turn the unit on. That is the point, after all (the invention speaks). I'd hired a beautiful bass, chocolate voice in Paris, far too good for a prototype. The Miltonic sonorities in his complex organ come out as a chipmunk. I've got a chipmunk on helium. My blue unit has Pinky inside it, or possibly Perky. "Oh, that's very simple to fix," the electrical engineer says from Wales. "That's the wrong crystal. It's a two-minute job."

The wrong crystal, eh? The engineer has a confident, practical, matter-of-fact tone in his voice. He's hiding something. "Why did they put the wrong crystal in it?" I muse. There's no response. "Did that happen over there, do you think, or over here?"

There's a slightly awkward pause. "Over here, I think. It'll take two minutes to fix." Two minutes? But there's the postal time to Wales, a bank holiday, the postal time back, and an all-day meeting in the middle he has to prepare for, and then the all-day meeting. It'll be a week. Two minutes is a week. Just as "Thursday" means "Monday". As in: "I think we can get that to you by Thursday", means you won't get it for the weekend.

He's a very fine fellow, my electrical engineer. Though I hope he doesn't read The Independent. But he's lucky on this crystal business because the Chinese factory has put in extra resistors and some odd wiring and three of the four functions don't work. It would have to be sent to Wales anyway. So China isn't to blame for the delay (they were sent the wrong crystal by Wales). And Wales isn't too blame (because he has to fix up the Chinese wiring). And then it all has to go over to Cambridge to be painted in a variety of blacks and to have its bezel re-ground (the technical terms are one of the few simple pleasures of this gruesome business).

Does this mean I'll miss my slot in Japan to have the chips programmed? The slot you have to book four months in advance? I can hardly wait to find out.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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