The Kindle & Fall Paint Company are having a board meeting.
It was raining outside. Big heavy clouds threatened a colossal monsoon, but this being England, the rain was the fine misty kind. It wasn’t enough to drench you in a hurry, but enough to make you look like you’d just completed the hundred yard dash in that woolly jumper your granny knitted you last Christmas.
Just off Regent Street, in a well-lit, plush boardroom some five stories above the hustle and bustle of London, a crisis meeting was taking place. The two-hundred year old, family owned Kindle & Fall paint company was in serious trouble.
“This simply won’t do” asserted Sir Montgomery Farquarhson III, former MD and now CEO. “This company has been in existence for over two hundred years. It simply can’t fail on my watch. What the devil IS going on, anyway?”
Humphrey Richardson, the group finance director (or CFO, as the Americans called them, in a rather depressing trend that appeared to have firmly gripped The Great British Isles) acknowledged the scale of the problem.
“The simple fact is old boy, we used to sell tons of Magnolia everywhere. Tons of it. You could find it in kitchens, sitting rooms, lounges, breakfast rooms, drawing rooms, libraries, bedrooms, guest rooms, suites. We even made it into bathrooms, and almost into the bath itself, although we were never quite able to displace avocado and salmon pink in the seventies and eighties.”
“Well that is the past Humphrey, the past. I need solutions for the future. Penelope’s getting married to that scrawny scroat Henry next year and she wants a pony. Thing is, I’m getting close to retiring and this is all starting to feel rather draining, financially. We need more money!”
Humphrey looked at Montgomery, then shot a glance towards Reggie, who had travelled all the way in from the factory in Hackney. Reggie was the production manager, although I suppose one could also call him the Product Change, Innovation & Experience Director if one wanted to. Funny how people were being called directors without actually BEING directors anymore these days. Like the number of Vice Presidents in banks. Humphrey could never quite understand how a bank in Canary Wharf could have literally hundreds of VPs. Surely you have a single President and he (or she I suppose, this is the 21st Century) would then have a…
“HUMPHREY! You’re snoring again!” bellowed Montgomery, shaking Humphrey from his slumber.
“Sorry Sir. Yes Sir. Thing is Sir, well, Reggie & I have had an idea see.”
“Well, spit it out man!” replied Montgomery, as another shortbread biscuit crumbled on his lips.
“We’ve come up with a plan. A plan that is as ingeniously cunning as it is simple, Sir.”
“Yes, go on Humphrey, I haven’t all day you know, the Club starts serving lunch at 1130.”
“Well Sir, here it is Sir. IVORY”.
Humphrey let that word sit there, as he sat back in his chair, folded his arms, and nodded slowly and confidently at Montgomery. He looked over at Reggie, sitting on a chair against the wall with his flat cap gripped tightly in his hands. Reggie was also smiling, albeit in a nervous fashion, and also nodding. Humphrey shot him a knowing and, he thought, reassuring wink.
“Ivory?” said Monty.
“Yes Sir. Ivory.”
“IVORY?” repeated Monty, a little louder, with a hint of indignation creeping into his voice.
“Yes Sir…. Ivory” repeated a slightly less self-assured Humphrey. His forehead now assumed the look of someone who had just completed the hundred yard dash. In a woollen jumper probably knitted for him by his granny last Christmas.
“We’re not in bleeding Africa! Have you been smoking your socks again Humphrey! Is this what I pay you for! I have 500 tonnes of Magnolia paint sitting in a storage warehouse and you give me IVORY!” The heavy oak table which dominated the boardroom shook at the force of Monty’s voice.
“Well Sir, here it is Sir” blurted out Humphrey, as he tried to loosen his collar. My wasn’t it hot and stuffy up here, on the fifth floor. Must get that air conditioning seen to, he thought. “We take all that Magnolia paint, and we stick new labels on it. Call it Ivory Sir.”
“They’ll never know. They’ll think it’s a new colour Sir, and they’ll go mad for it Sir”.
In the long, quiet seconds that followed, the slow, relentless tick… tock… of the old wind-up clock on the mantelpiece sliced through the air like a foghorn through thick fog.
“What about our aunt Mable, who still wants Magnolia? She’s not likely to switch. What about her? And her cream-tea and cake-scoffing friends?” asked Monty, in an altogether more reasonable and, Humphrey liked to think, conciliatory tone.
“Well Sir, that’s the best bit Sir. We keep selling the Magnolia alongside the Ivory Sir. Just make sure the label looks slightly different. They’ll never know the difference Sir. Mable gets her Magnolia, we sell the rest of it as Ivory, the warehouseman gets fired thereby saving you money and Penelope gets her pony.”
Monty pondered this suggestion for a minute or so, before that broad, familiar, beaming smile took hold of his face. Humphrey looked across at Reggie. His hat was scrunched up into a ball.
“Well blow me away with a thousand feathers!” trumpeted Monty. “You’ve gone and done it again Humphrey! What an amazingly cunning plan, ingenious as it is simple! Ivory!”
Monty started laughing. “Ivory!” He stood up, waved his hands, muttered “meeting is adjourned” and then walked over to Humphrey. Embracing him, Humphrey was almost certain he could see tears welling up in Monty’s eyes as he said, one final but very emotional time…
“Ivory! Pure genius Humphrey. Genius.”
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