Simon Carr: The Kitchen Capitalist

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The Independent Online

The story so far: the author has sold his house to finance a manufacturing project in the hope of making a small fortune to finance his old age...

"That which doesn't kill you makes you strong." It's the sort of thing we liked to believe when we really were strong. Ah, we were young then, and full of promise. But the real world, the world of the middle-aged, is full of enervating, enfeebling things that depress, demoralise and lay waste our powers without in themselves ever being fatal.

That's a depressing way to start - let's have another go. The last components have arrived in Hong Kong. Exclamation mark. Fireworks. A band. It's a fiesta! Let's enjoy the streamers for a moment. Have a daiquiri.

This has been a long time coming. The detours we've made; the false starts we've suffered. We really should have been at this stage a year ago. But I took my foot very subtly off the accelerator thinking nobody would notice. Of course, everything stopped immediately.

The last components have arrived in Hong Kong (I'm just savouring the words). They were on a two-month lead time (not as bad as the voice chips, which take five months to arrive). They went from the American factory to the German distributor and from there to Irish programmers, then to Wales for a reason I never uncovered, and from there to Hong Kong en route to Guangdong.

Then suddenly in Hong Kong everything shuddered to a halt and the e-mails started. It's customs. Getting the kit through customs is a glimpse of the way the world used to be. This doesn't kill me, nor does it make me strong. Warren writes about these Integrated Circuits (ICs): "Can you provide us the IC's Country of Origin proof and Non-wooden Material declaration letter. Where does it made from? Please use the attached declaration sheet to modify accordingly with correct information."

The non-wooden declaration? Humorists would enjoy the opportunity to make non-wooden declarations but I just want to lie down. "Where does it made from?" I don't know. Even if I did know, I wouldn't know. And I'm not leaving his text unedited to laugh at Warren. Very far from it. His English is infinitely superior to my Mandarin. But the globalised English adds to this sense of a parallel world where we neither strengthen nor die, we just float, drained of purpose.

I can hardly read these words without the darkness descending. "We urgently need to know the exact weight of each individual ICs Net Weight/Gross Weight to apply for the custom clearance. Customs need to know how much it weight (approximately for each IC kind). If you can give me individual Ic's net weight or total IC kind's net weight will be fine."

They also want the original invoice, and something called the "packing list" for both ICs. The packing list! What's a packing list! Why would you want to know what a "packing list" is? Has it come to this? Can't they mind their own damned business!

If this thing makes any money I shall have earned every last red cent.