The Icarus problem

The one thing about me that used to drive Dee nuts, (no doubt amongst others), was my propensity to develop new ideas and immediately shift focus from the other ones. This is a major failing. I have to admit  my latest creative interest was always the one that got my primary attention. Still is! By way of illustration, today I should be travelling down south in Wester-Ross selling my greetings cards etc or ordering new stocks of them - important to the money-in department. Or I might be working on my new blockbuster(!) novel; 81,000 words in the can and about 20,000 to go but in which direction?. Or I could be taking up my paint brushes again. I know what I have wanted to paint since Dee departed but my easel still stands forlorn. Or I could be working on a Cinderella pantomine script as requested by Ullapool Rotary. Or creating the long narrative poem about life in Wester-Ross that will hopefully form the basis, with my friend the photographer and my friend the musician, of an audio visual production this coming Autumn.I always seem to want to be master of all trades! Not very intelligent, I know. But instead of those things, here I am writing another episode of my personal memoirs. Why? Because this is my latest venture, therefore the one that captivates me the most here and now, this morning!

This was very much my position in macrocosm in year 2000. Things were going well for my consultancy, Bibs-industry now based in Bahrain. In fact I had a twenty four carat clientele covering most of the Middle East. In addition our labelling factory Sleeves Arabia was up and running, supplying good product to several major dairies and soft drinks bottlers. At that point in comes an enquiry from a British friend of a friend of a friend: a huge tobacco company would like me to find out why Saudi Arabia has no cigarette factory. More importantly, could they (said tobacco company) create one?

Everybody knows the Arab male is a universal smoker of cigarettes imported by the multi-billion from the USA, Britain, France and Japan. My sponsor, Faisal, tells me he could have the necessary contacts. I hurry to Imperial Tobacco in Bristol, England. To say they are interested is an understatement. Together we proceed to the City of London and a major merchant bank. What prospects for raising the two hundred million dollar finance for such a cigarette plant? Every prospect.What kind of a deal for Bryan Islip's Bibs-industry? Twenty thousand sterling for the initial introduction plus five percent of the investment for masterminding the project. (Not actually doing anything, I hasten to add!) I am very quickly on a fully paid up first class flight with my new Imperial Tobacco friends to Bahrain, there to meet a couple of Arabs high in wealth and politics (possibly something else).The whole entourage of us moves on to Dubai, which is one of the United Arab Emirates. Another of the Emirates, the remote Fujairah is our final destination. This is where, agrees the local Emir, we can build the cigarette factory that is going to make me rich! It is a free of charge gateway into Saudi Arabia and the whole Middle East. Also for export because Fujairah in under mega development as the end point of an oil pipeline that will enable the tankers (and freighters) to load up without having to sail round into the Gulf itself. (take a look at the map!)

We all fly back to Britain together; in-flight champagne all round. I receive my twenty grand. The very next day I also receive a message from my new pal at Imperial. I'm told that, from the company's highest level has descended an edict. 'Forget all about manufacturing cigarettes in the Middle East'. No explanation given or would be given. My bubble is pricked but the explosion is nothing to that of my Arab friends. Feverishly I canvas all other of the world's main cigarette brands. Blank. Nada. It was the beginning of the end for my consulting business relationship with my sponsor, although I did not know it at the time. He wanted to take Imperial to the British High Court even though nothing had been signed on paper. Very reluctantly but at his insistence I obtained expensive legal advice. What advice? Forget it.

Months later I hear through confidential channels the reason for the tobacco industry's top level negativity. It seems that The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's importation of cigarettes has for decades attracted duty - and that duty is of particular interest to the Monarch himself! Local production equals no duty. The message has gone forth!

It was not long before Sleeves-Arabia also came under deliberate attack. More on that next time.

My castle and that of the people who worked for me, not least my son and his family, was beginning to crumble. And I would begin to think about a new life or no life.





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