Simon Carr: The Kitchen Capitalist

It's here, it works! What can go wrong now?
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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...

It's very nice up here, in the sunlit uplands. The Promised Land finally delivered. We graze, we browse, we ruminate. We? The entrepreneurial élite. We feel pretty superior of course. It's not the money, it's the sheer sense of success. The sense of quiet, radiant altitude.

To be prosaic for a moment. To descend into your world. The prototype looks terrific, works perfectly; you press buttons and messages play exactly as they should. We're on the very edge of the production schedule. It's true, yes it is undeniably true, that it's louder than it should be. It isn't absolutely production-perfect. The volume is wrong. I accept that. And it is doubly true that this is because they have used a new speaker without telling me - something they swore they would never do after the experience of November (from which we have taken four months to recover).

Nonetheless. We have a product that is, within a Chinese whisker, production-ready. Apart from the volume. And the wrong colour on the face of the thing. But to all intents and purposes, China has proved beyond doubt that it is capable of assembling the circuit boards and wiring them up properly, in short, of making the thing. We are go. The tele-billionaires can go fish. I don't need them, I don't need anyone! I am invincible! (There's quite a lot of striding around the house.)

My BlackBerry vibrates and I open up a message from Wales. Wales! Hee-hee! He must be gnashing his teeth. He's been undermining China ever since we started. Ha ha! I'd like to see what he's got to say now!

No, I wouldn't. He says China has used his circuit boards. He recognises his handiwork. The wires stick out where he left them sticking out. There's a break in the board that he remembers breaking. They've just taken his work, his old circuit board and stuck it into a new box. "Neither have been built by them, neither comply with the Restriction of Hazardous Substances directive, they have merely replaced the relevant chips on two early samples to change the speech out."

It's been months since I lay on the kitchen floor scrabbling at my chest and pulling at my hair. I sink slowly. I paw rather than scrabble; I tug fretfully. I am without the strength even to tear out my own thin hair.

I say terrible things to China. Unforgivable things, really. But then it's all unforgivable. My BlackBerry vibrates. I stare at it dully on the lino. It is Wales. To gloat. I find I can't understand what he's written. Maybe it's in that funny language they speak over there. It's some sort of apology. One of those apologies, a vindictive, accusatory apology that makes you feel much worse. The sunlit uplands are very dark. The herd has moved on. To the slaughterhouse, perhaps.