Of new beginnings

On the 10th of October 1996 Dee and I were married. We deemed it too soon after Joan's death to make a big production out of it so invited no family, only our two friends, the recently married Jonathan and Dorothy. They acted as the necessary witnesses in a Brighton Registry Office somewhat reminiscent of a public urinal Afterwards the four of us we went out to a very nice Italian restaurant for dinner during which I drank copious amounts of Bardelino Classico, thus pretty much wasting the Grand Hotel's finest four posted bedroom suite. One other trivia comes to mind; over the road outside that restaurant was a public telephone kiosk in which a young man was busily jemmying open the cash box. We reported this criminality to the restaurant owner who simply shrugged his Italian shoulders and muttered they're always doing it.

The following day we drove along the south coast to my father's apartment, there to impart the news. Dad did not seem unduly surprised or much impressed although he had always been very fond of my new wife.  That day he spent the time whilst I was out buying a fish & chip lunch in showing her compromising pictures of himself and his 'chiropodist' lady friend! I must explain that my father, long since retired on a cost of living indexed civil service pension, had about him a certain unworldly quality. Thus he was happily living, for those last ten years of his life, on his own in his elevated sea-front apartment. Here in good weather he would  sit out on his balcony armed with binoculars watching the girls go by on the promenade and, bikini-clad, sunbathing on the beach. 

On the occasion of which I now write, when I asked him where I could go get some fish and chips for our lunch he looked in the telephone book and dialled something called, I seem to remember The Chippy Plaice. When they answered the phone he made the following enquiry; "Do you supply fish and chips please?". They put the phone down on what was obviously a joke call. 

After that lunch Dee and I went on to Dover and across to France on the ferryboat, for we had been invited to another - one might say a 'proper' wedding with all the bells and whistles in Montdidier - in fact Margaret and Jean-Claude Vandevoorde's lovely young daughter Celine to her fiancee Thierry Dedonnink. We had become good friends with the family and by then Bibs-industry had been appointed Middle East sales agent for the special kind of labelling machinery invented by Jean-Claude and engineered in their 'PDC' factory. That wedding really was a splendid affair with many people in attendance including Margaret's Scottish family, some of the males clad in kilts of the Rangers FC tartan, I recall. There was much live and good music before, during and after the ceremony and a magnificent wedding feast unfortunately marred by some kind of a falling out between in-laws, (long since repaired, thank goodness.)

We had enough time in the days after the wedding to pursue Dee's deeply held, long-time interest in World War one. Montdidier is a small town close to the Somme that had been utterly destroyed in the cataclysm and subsequently rebuilt stone on stone. In particular Delia wanted to locate the burial place of the WW1 poet Roland Leighton. We found him in a tiny war grave cemetary called Louvencourt. Later, on my return to business in Saudi Arabia, sitting in the evening in my Riyadh hotel room I composed a collection of verses under the one title; IN WOUNDED FIELDS. Each of the six stanzas was addressed to a deceased poet of the so-called Great War ... the one following is to Lieutenant Leighton, who had been expected to marry his long term fiancee, the writer Vera Brittan  ... There is some unresolved mystery about that poet's latterday life and the facts surrounding his death on the battlefield ...

To Roland Aubrey Leighton: March 1895 - December 1915
We searched the lanes, found you in Louvencourt’s
Small cemetary amidst a company
Of stones standing straight-rowed to attention,
Smart white in a slow rain, near where you died;
‘Lieutenant R A Leighton 7th Worcesters,’
Says your monument; said that telegram.
“I walk alone although the way is long,”
You said, in private lines in your black book,
“And with gaunt briars and nettles overgrown;”
What pain you meant by this we’ll never know.
Just such a light so bright as yours aligns
The many-splendoured ones on which it shines.

She capitalised your ‘Him’ as godheads do
Whenever afterwards she wrote of you.

Yes, “Life is love and love is you, dear, you”
You wrote, prize scholar bursting sweating out
Of your illicit wet night dreams of she,
Who’d written to herself ; 'Impressive, he,
Of powerful frame, pale face and stiff thick hair.’
Would you we know had she not loved you so?
Dee likes to know you in those violets,
Pressed brown and withered, desiccated now,
You sent to Vee from shattered 'Plug Street' Wood,
Picked from red sticky ground around the head,
The horrid face and splintered skull that she
Must never see... What, she, Vera of the V A D?

Who, from your sceptic pact with her enticed
Your secret taking of Rome’s hand of Christ?
And I, not knowing of you very much,
Looked in that brass bound book at Louvencourt
Read this year’s batch of private messages
To you, young friend, mostly from those unborn
When that one, shiv’ring in his field grey,
Unsurprised to see you that cold night, glad
Of the Christmas gift, squeezed the steel trigger,
Exploding pain into your youthful frame...
From far and wide they’d come to speak their grief,
So many words to you who wrote so few.
Why stood you there, why dare the guns, Roland?
‘Hinc illae lacrimae;’ your code...                               Hence those tears’ ....   (Terence)
I still don’t understand....  

Jean-Claude's PDC machinery requires a kind of polyethylene film with precisely inbuilt stretch qualities. The machine cuts and applies it at high speed to milk bottles and the like as a form of labelling. I had located a small company in Leicester called EPS, owned by Bob Barratt, which could convert printed quantities of this special material into sleeving ready to export into Saudi for use on Almarai's PDC's. I had become agent for both both the machinery and the material. I am talking millions of pounds sterling here of which I, as agent, was happy to collect ten percent.  

By now well set in our new Bahrain environment and enjoying the very expensive services of five employees instead of previously only Robin, I came up with my next Big Idea! Rather than carry on importing the printed sleeving material into Saudi Arabia why not set up a local factory to convert it from printed sheet? I spoke about 'Sleeves-Arabia' to my sponsor Faisal and to Bob Barratt, getting clear the green light for GO. To make maximum financial sense out of converting material into sleeving I really needed a local plastic extruding company with the right skills to supply my Sleeves-Arabia with extruded and printed polyethylene reelstock. With Faisal's help I located and rented an empty factory in Al-Khobar then made a partnership deal with Bob to supply the converting machinery along with a young Leicester employee of his as supervisor. Regrettably I cannot recall his name. Anyway this fellow agreed to come out. He began by recruiting two Philipino production workers, (who proved to be excellent.) By then I had found a suitable materials supplier in Dubai (call the company 'Al-Shark'. That was not its actual name but events three years down the line would prove to make it sound quite appropriate!) Al-Shark was at the time managed by an English expat named Darryl. A thoroughly reliable and technically perfect source - or so I thought!

I had the ideal lead-off customer for our stretch-sleeving in Almarai dairy. My Middle East house of cards was now almost complete.

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