By David Walker, Barrowford
I suppose every story has to begin somewhere and this one begins in the sales office of the Lincolnshire Specialist Sugars Company.
I had been working there since I finished my national service 18 months earlier. I enjoyed my work and had settled in well so when the managing director’s Secretary, Mrs Allsop, told me to present myself at his office at two o’clock prompt that afternoon, I was more than a bit worried.
Jobs were not thick on the ground in that part of the world, and on the strength of passing my probationary period I had got engaged and taken out a mortgage on a cottage.
Over my lunchtime sandwich, which I will admit I had lost any appetite for, I racked my brains wondering what I might have done wrong over the past few months.
I had worked hard, never been late or off sick, and I got on well with colleagues and customers.
To my knowledge neither had I given Mr Pemberton, the office manager, any cause to complain although I had noticed more than once recently that he seemed to have been watching me more closely than usual. So, the burning question was, why did the MD want to see me?
“Ah, come in Robert,” Mr Sinclair said, when at 2pm precisely Mrs Allsop ushered me into his office. “Please take a seat.” It was an offer I was only too pleased to accept because my legs felt like jelly. “You have no doubt been wondering why I wanted to see you.” I tried to say yes but my mouth was as dry as the proverbial limekiln, so I just nodded.
“Well the fact is that some time ago I asked Mr Pemberton to give me weekly reports on your progress.”
He held up several closely typed sheets of foolscap. “And having read them, I have concluded that the sales office is not the right place for you. (This is it, I thought. Goodbye job, goodbye cottage and hello dole queue.)
“However Robert, what I am sure about is that you would make an ideal replacement for Arthur Tindall, our sales representative. Arthur retires in one months’ time and it is important that we find a replacement without delay. “It will mean that you will have to spend a few days away from home each month, but obviously there will be a substantial increase in your salary, plus a company car and out of pocket expenses. Naturally, if you would like some time to consider my offer I will quite understand.”
Half a second was all the time I needed to say yes which is why at this minute I am sitting in my Morris Minor outside the premises of J. Simpkin and Son Ltd, preparing for my ten o’clock appointment.
Looking up at the huge notice emblazoned over the factory gate I could not help but give a wry smile. It read ‘J Simpkin and Son Ltd. Rock and Novelty Confectionery Makers. Often licked, but never beaten.’
Over the past month Arthur and I had spent hours together preparing for the handover and I had been introduced to nearly all of his customers. The few we had not visited together had been discussed in great detail. Simpkins was one of the latter.
The company, Arthur told me, had been started by Jemima Simpkin in 1915 after her husband Walter had been killed on the Somme.