Simon Carr: The Kitchen Capitalist

It's time to reflect on a year of frustration
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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 the Chinese New Year! Fireworks! Fiesta! Crawling under the bed with a bottle of gin for a week because they all go on holiday and nothing gets done!

Actually, that's already been the case for a week (because they're tidying up before the holiday), and it will be the case for the week after (when they catch up on what they hadn't done before they went away). It's a month out of the schedule, essentially. Warren, to his credit, seems suicidally ashamed. His voice drops so low it's hard to hear what he's saying. His world has collapsed. It makes me terribly anxious when he says my name like this in his I've-Got-Cancer voice. I find myself thinking, "Are you all right, mate? You're not going to tell me you can't make my clock, are you?"

Reassurance is to be found in last year's diary. "Looking back at the beginning of the year, I think things must be improving," it says. "The rate at which things fail to happen is definitely increasing."

It is very comforting to read of disasters and delays, and to be reassured that this isn't anything sudden, or new, or out of the ordinary. I was dealing with Pogo and Peng in those days, two characters in Japan who were supplying a completely different system (even they couldn't make their own product work). There wasn't Warren in those days, there was Kevin. I see that at the end of January last year, Kevin had failed to send me the development quote for two weeks. I went ballistic on the fifth phone call; he immediately sent me an e-mail with "message attached". A surge of triumph was undercut by the fact that he hadn't attached the attachment. And he'd gone home. And the switchboard had closed. And it was the weekend. I really find that comforting, at this remove.

There's even the first passage of desperate self-pity that you only put in private diaries. "Every way I turn I am blocked. From the most trivial - the tracking number doesn't work; I can't get goods in the post - to the highest strategic level - I can't even establish whether the quality in the chip is high enough to enable the project to proceed! This is all totally incomprehensible. I collapse." I love the first sentence. It makes me feel 17 years old again.

But on the next page I'm offering to "pull off a software writer's head with a pair of nutcrackers and shoot hoops in the yard with the sodden, unbounceable thing"... so that therapy hasn't changed either.

So, I think I can wish Warren a happy New Year, and more or less mean it. He still pretends that the goods will still be finished, manufactured, shipped and landed in Britain by April (and I still pretend to believe him) so we're happy again. And not because it's the New Year, but because there really isn't any alternative.