His smile was big enough to split his young face as he said that it would be great. We agreed that he’d come to the Sports shop with me, once it had opened, so that he could choose some running kit. The trip took most of the remainder of the morning as he made his choices with care. The young woman who had served me last time was helping me again. While Paul was trying on some of the kit in a changing room, she asked me how I’d got on with my purchases. I thanked her for asking and said that I’d followed her advice about pre-using the kit. I suspect that I hadn’t fully answered her question. During the rest of his time with me that day, Paul played virtual games with his friends, but he kept coming down to ask me questions about the run.
I told him about the sleepover arrangement and that I’d see him again on Friday evening
and kept his new kit at my house ready for the Saturday.
One step forward and two steps back
Among the Monday morning post there were two letters that, being in brown envelopes, looked as if they weren’t the usual junk mail. The first one that I opened was from the NHS supplier, inviting me to an interview the following Monday, the eighth of March. It didn’t require a reply, but I put it on one side to diarise and to consider how to prepare for it.
The second was from my solicitor. He wrote that Helen’s solicitor had wanted to know what the estate agents had valued the house at, as well as details from my pension fund.
I emailed him to say that the agents had been round to the house some weeks back; that they’d been paid, and that I’d instructed them to send the valuations to him with a copy to me. I hadn’t heard anything since. I attached a copy of the letter that I’d sent to the Pension Fund and a copy of their reply that they’d be in touch.
I also received an email from Beverly that morning, attaching the minutes of our most recent meeting and reminding me of the dates of the next full meeting and of the earlier working group to be held at Jason’s house on Tuesday the second of March – the following day.
A packed agenda
Everyone had turned up – even Beverly and Tony – so it looked like being a plenary meeting anyway. Jason lived in a newish detached house near a railway line in Stockport. Susie and I were first there – she’d come by train, but Ben arrived only a few minutes later. By that time, Jason had taken our coats and we were admiring his garden from his kitchen window. The air seemed to be full of birds fluttering their wings as they competed for room on his feeders. I’d never seen so many goldfinches.
“Greedy little buggers,” he said about them. I noticed that one of them had used its beak to drag another by the tail off one of the feeder perches in order to take its place.
After Jason had distributed teas and coffees, we settled down in his kitchen/diner, seated on high stools around an island of cupboards and appliances. I was asked to speak first. I explained to Jason and Ben the progress that Susie, Tony and I had made towards developing the website, though we couldn’t make much progress without agreeing the interface with the financial and IT aspects. Our conversation was occasionally interrupted by the sound of passing trains.
Ben wanted to know where I thought IT would come into it. I explained my belief that we should start off as a pilot, just using Susie’s own equipment to prototype customer specified websites, but even then we’d need to consider things like data protection of client data. I asked him what he thought of us using third party Cloud-based backup systems. He said that he’d come back to that when I’d finished outlining the problem. I moved on to asking his thoughts about what systems and equipment we’d need to be able upgrade seamlessly once turnover picked up. Also, I asked if he could advise us about costs. If he had any other thoughts about what we were proposing, I asked him to let us know. We didn’t need immediate feedback. Ben had made some notes at various points.
Susie and I then spoke to Jason about three quite different aspects of finance. We wanted to know how to account for the funding of the work that Susie had already done and was still developing. Susie needed his thoughts about transaction processing – handling card payments, billing, returns, order documentation and so forth. Other than that, we needed to know about accounting for profits, tax and so on.
Both Jason and Ben had seemed to be listening, or so I had thought. When we’d finished saying what we needed, they looked at each other. Ben spoke for both of them and said that, having listened to us, we’d be re-inventing the wheel if we were considering devising custom-built systems. They recommended that we consider third party systems where we’d probably pay per transaction. He didn’t think that there would be much, if any, upfront cost. We should look for sites with good reviews for their range of services and after-sales support.
At this point, it was as if a pit had opened in the floor.
Beverly announced that, before we went any further, we ought to know that she’d got a job with a recruitment consultancy in Manchester and, since she couldn’t see what real contribution she could make to the project – given how it was developing – this would be her final meeting.
That bombshell provided Ben and Jason with an opportunity to toss in two more grenades: both of them had received job offers too. They’d stayed behind after the previous week’s meeting at Jason’s and agreed that there wouldn’t be much point in their continuing with the group, since both the financial and IT services that would be needed could be served better with third party software and assistance. Both of them, on reflection, had decided that they should give their full attention to their new, full-time roles.
Susie and I looked at each other, eyes wide-open in disbelief, as we took in the news
I looked at Tony and asked him how he felt about soldiering on. He’d received an invitation to a job interview the previous Saturday. If he were successful, he’d be working for a large company that produced a well-known range of breakfast cereals. He’d also come to think that he wouldn’t have much to contribute and that Susie and I seemed to have got the development pretty well nailed, even if just the two of us continued.
Today my featured photo was taken in Sefton Park, Liverpool in January 2020 and shows the Palm House.
The Exif data are as follows: Pentax K-1 36 MP full frame camera with a 15-30 mm f/2.8 lens @ 22 mm and f/4. Shutter speed was 1/2000 secs and the ISO 800. The shot was mounted on a tripod and post processed in Lightroom Classic.