1990s >> 1994 >> no-1073-january-1994

Short story: Planning – a cautionary tale

His mind mulled the words tangibly, “Frank is wrong! He is wrong and I can prove it from my own experience!” He said: “I’m not wrong, Nigel: I said capitalism is a system of economic anarchy and that it could not be planned. Obviously, I did not mean that all the plans made within capitalism were doomed to failure”.


He felt silly carrying on a conversation with himself and, yet, as his mind flicked over the arguments that had passed between himself and his brother he was surprised at how fluent he had become in Frank’s arguments. As he tossed the papers into his briefcase he said audibly to an absent judge: “He’s shifting the goal posts, now that I have proven him wrong!”


“Goodnight, Mr Wynn”, said Grogan, rattling his keys pointedly. It was nearly eight; he wasn’t particularly late tonight but he knew Grogan secretly cursed him for always being the last out. Sometimes, if Nigel arrived before eight in the morning, he had to wait in his car for the man to arrive, despite the fact that he had four hours off in the middle of each day. Only last week, Nigel had mentioned to Personnel that he thought Grogan wasn’t worth the seventy pounds a week he was paid.


The BMW purred its way gently through the traffic. He drove more slowly than usual, enjoying his thoughts – his supreme triumph! The letter of confirmation had arrived from Sir James that morning. His mind had rioted and it was all he could do to suppress his excitement in front of his secretary. Later, Mr Deasy had phoned him to see if there was any news and, as he thought now about it, he marvelled at the adroit, matter of fact tone he had managed to maintain as he told his managing director that Harrington’s had accepted their tender for building the plant.


Deasy could not restrain his excitement: “Which tender? Did we get more than one?” He seemed close on the phone. Nigel could hear his breathing. “Oh, all three tenders, the entire plant and the auxiliary service area!” He was enjoying this; it was his prize. “Jesus! Bloody great! You did a cracking job, Nigel. Look . . .  I have to say this . . .”  “Sorry, Mr Deasy, what was that?” Let the bastard repeat it; he had resisted Nigel’s plans every step of the way!


“Nigel”, there was real contrition in the voice and Nigel waited expectantly, ”I know I gave you a hard time. You worked so hard on this bloody thing. It was your baby, your scheme; it was all your planning. And you’ve won through! I can tell you, Nigel, I was terrified . . .  all the new plant, the premises – Jesus, the work on the drawings, even, cost a fortune! We were in away over our head – you know, of course that, had it gone the other way. we were down the tube. I can tell you that I have not been sleeping too well lately! But congratulations. You’ve pulled it off. Fantastic!”


He smiled quietly to himself in the comfort of the BMW. He knew they were all terrified but he was supremely confident because he had planned cautiously and carefully. He had compiled information on every aspect of the scheme and, though he was excited with the outcome, it had not really come as a surprise. He thought absently about Sir James. It was pretty obvious that he had made a personal hit with the chairman of Harrington’s. Maybe …?


As he turned into Oulton Road he turned on the radio. He might get Alice to go with him over to Frank’s tonight. He thought of all the lost arguments with his brother –  sometimes he thought bloody schoolmasters had nothing to do all day but read books that contributed nothing to real knowledge. It was easy for Frank, he had a retentive memory and could rime off facts and figures that supported his arguments in favour of Socialism. But this time I have him, thought Nigel. What the hell did Frank know about real capitalist planning?


“City new’s . . .”, his hand reached out in the dark to increase the volume of the radio. “In the City this afternoon, dealings in Harrington’s shares were suspended when, following the collapse of its European subsidiary, twenty two million pounds were knocked off the value of the company. Our financial correspondent says that the European subsidiary, Girard and Brock, had run into cash flow problems arising from the failure of the Mexican government to meet payments on the giant Arana project. A spokesperson for the Company said . . . “


Richard Montague