Simon Carr: The Kitchen Capitalist

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Enterprise is a therapeutic tool (why can't I get the NHS to fund my project?). This is how it went last week when I opened my inbox. "I am so very sorry to inform you," Warren wrote from Taiwan. Those few words put me into an altered state. I saw the whole e-mail in one large snap, like taking in a photograph. A buzzing started in my ears. "I feel so terrible on the way they deal things in China". And "We gave them such long notice". And "Our supplier phoned this morning to say they won't be delivering".

I had a surprising reaction to this. I thought I was beyond surprise. What I immediately felt in a direct, unmediated way, was pleasure. Quite a deep part of me was relieved. It was there in the pit of the stomach, in the sump, where our deepest feelings reside while we're not using them. This is a therapeutic discovery you could pay a lot of money to find. Failure is more reassuring than success.

It's an old-time English thing. It's the amateur spirit. Not the winning but the taking part. Winning is so far from the point it's poor form. It's true, I always feared winning when I was young. When you're out in front there's no one to gauge your performance by. Chess was a particular problem. Knowing how crushing it was to lose I found it very hard to inflict the complete psychological destruction on my opponent by beating him. I hated winning but I hated losing just a little bit more.

Maybe this time it's the other way round: maybe this relief I feel is less illustrative of my fine, filigreed, moral sense. Maybe it's just funk. Production means producing the wretched things in a marketplace. What if no one wants them? What if they don't cause a sensation? What if I put adverts out and get... 12 orders? What if two years of shouting into telephones at bewildered Asians produces landfill? Wouldn't it be better to be left with the possibility of success rather than the certainty of proven failure?

It's not as bad as I thought, when I read it properly. Warren says the printed circuit boards haven't arrived and that the manufacture of the production prototypes will be delayed by a few days. A week, perhaps. My sense of an easy exit evaporates.

He is marvellously apologetic. You can sense how earlier generations of Warren would have lain on the floor to deliver this news. And look, he's being let down by suppliers! It's enjoyable, this. Someone else is suffering as I suffered. It's very comforting.

We have to plough on. There's some old principle about finishing. Starting's easy. The more real it gets, the less we like it. The glowing, tantalising possibilities collapse at every step we take towards reality. It's all so like life.

NB: One of my devoted female relatives is worried about the trip to China. She is concerned I'll have my kidneys stolen. I tell her, "If I keep moving I'll be all right."