September 1983

Good Comart development month still leaves me busy as turmoil develops in the micro-industry but the boating season ends and family problems are an issue all in a troubled and turbulent world made worse by Thatcher

An end to September with the Business doing well at this stage of the year. Plenty of personnel problems and the volume of work burgeoning but a great improvement on previous years with the summer trend reversed. The key appointments of Peter King and Carlton Lowe only (!) leaves me with the roles of Comart MD, Group Chairman, Company Secretary, Personnel and Quality Directors – which is at least bearable. Much turmoil in the industry with micro companies going down, new entries to the field and IBM dominating the US market and penetrating elsewhere. I have plans to segment the group and separate the identification and risks.

The fine summer has ended and The Lady left moored and lonely at the landing stage. The ducklings are full grown but not yet laying as the adults still moult. The family problems include a frightening coughing fit for Debbie last night, pain for my mother with her condition, and many of Diana’s family members in trouble – Divorce for Sue, breast lumps for Norma and a miscarriage for Chris and Chas in the last month alone!

A turbulent and troubled world as Reagan and Thatcher hot up the cold war with Andrapar, an uneasy ceasefire in Lebanon, and the IMF troubled over a possible default by Brazil.


Friday 30th September 1983

Affectionate time with Debbie and Daniel and then in to Comart to unload and tour the company before personnel and management meetings on a damp and drizzly day as Thatcher deepens the cold war, cuts the health service and closes Chatham Docks whilst trouble brews in the coal industry.

I awake to much affection and interest from Debbie who notices my absence away and now makes a fuss wanting to hold my towel and pass things for me in the bathroom. and she has a frightening coughing fit later, which was worrying. Daniel looked taller, even though I had only been away a day, I do not think I had noticed his size.

On time to the office and first to unload the car of exhibition equipment brought down from Manchester. I notice the increased respect and regard that my people hold me in, now I am getting more remote from them on a day-to-day basis. I am sure that my name is often quoted in vain and my presence is often a bit too much of a good thing! I sort out one or two latecomers and parking errants and then settle for the first of two second interviews for June’s assistant. A series of meetings today with David Fear on appraisals and recruitment plans; Ian Nickson on the arrangements for the second interviews for the Software Development Manager, June on progress on personnel matters generally and brief encounters with Derek’s Morgan, Weatherby and Carleton Lowe.

News today of over 5000 jobs (Health Service) to be lost by next March and these being the first direct cuts in the history of the health service. The coal board has offered the miners a 5.2% increase which Arthur Scargill rejects as unacceptable. Vauxhall workers are on strike over pay as well as fears about jobs. Moscow react to Mrs Thatcher’s speech of yesterday to a right wing US audience as the cold war of words continues. They accuse her of ‘rabid anticommunism’. Four bombs were set off by the IRA in Dungannon today whilst security operations continued to recapture the IRA prisoners. The Chatham dockyard closed today after 400 years of ship repairs for the navy.

A rather damp and drizzly day today and variable weather forecast for tomorrow. All rather depressing news and weather at the end of tiring week.


Thursday 29th September 1983

Manchester meetings with Microsystems centres, NCC, the DTI and Byte Shop in critical appraisal of the former and capital approvals and staff recruitment for the latter before home with John Lamb

A reasonable night’s sleep in a strange bed and awake early to get my briefcase and prepare papers for the day. A breakfast of cereal and coffee with the young King family and then in Peter’s car to the office via the Microsystems Centres for a sight of similarity. To the Manchester Byte Shop and there to the people before getting a lift from Hamid Pourmand to the vicinity of the N.C.C. for a meeting of the Advisory Committee of the Federation of Microsystems Centres. I made critical input on the failure to protect their name, on their choice of computer systems for the centres and on the neutral emphasis given to the software directory – originally intended as a British Initiative. I got them to search for another name and at least get the country of origin on the directory which was in itself a battle. I conclude with Tom Fitzpatrick that if this is to be the direction of the Federation we are better off supporting other initiatives. A pleasant buffet lunch as always and courteous conversation with the NCC on DTI officials including Director, David Fairbairn, and Federation Manager  John Turnball.

Late to the Portland Hotel by taxi for a Byte Shop Board Meeting. The sewers are collapsing in central Manchester and works are resulting in confusing traffic diversions. At this meeting, we reviewed sales and finances which are proceeding effectively and decided on how to manage our branch administration for the future – as a two-person function. A time to review personnel plans with some 16 vacancies and then to conclude with a whole host of capital approvals for service and admin use. The Byte Shop has cleared £20K profit for the second month running and as a group profits of £67K for July/August are nearly £10K ahead of plan. A “Spud-U-like” franchised potato with John Lamb and then home at speed and late.

Today Diana called in the Pest Control offices to poison the rats around our shed for the duck food. Strident public words from Margaret Thatcher against the Russian threat fall easily on the right-wing United States ears and the UK unemployed up yet again to 3.17 million. Britain expel another Soviet ‘spy’. Fine but dull weather, a little warm for indoor meetings.


Wednesday 28th September 1983

Monitoring Comart’s manufacturing reorganisation before driving to the Manchester branch on a dull and drizzly day and dining and staying overnight with Peter and Jane King

On time to the office and first an hour with Carlton Lowe and Derek Morgan briefing them on the conclusions of the Board Meeting. The Directors do want to see a proposal within the month for reorganising the factory area for flow of production and also modular manufacture using a piece part store. The rejected and faulty £30,000 + worth of tandem drives can go back now that Teac’s are fully available. Carlton is planning a considerable tightening up of the working areas including the exclusion of food and drink and seeks the agreement of Service and Stores in this respect.

Then to review the mail and after meetings with John Lamb and Derek Weatherby to discuss Product Support tasks and the organisation of our group finance personnel. Before lunch to sign the payroll until Geoff Lynch arrives from Southampton to discuss Xitan’s personnel situation and plans. I brief Geoff on my plans to protect group trademarks and trading styles and reorganise the group company structure and he quite likes the ”Group Micro” name. Early afternoon to gather papers together for my two meetings tomorrow and a panic to leave for Manchester on time. I drop home to change and collect my suitcase, leave at 4.00pm and arrive after a trouble free journey at 6.45pm.

The weather today was fine and warm in St Neots. As I journeyed up the A1 the cloud and drizzle got thicker until crossing the Pennines it was positively dark and wet. Driving into Manchester and down the hills it became fine and sunnier again which shows what a dramatic variance of weather we can get in the country.

News today of the uneasy ceasefire holding in Lebanon with truce talks held under British forces protection in the neutral zone. The ground search for IRA escapees goes on and a mounting clamour from the health service unions builds the controversy over the government’s insensitive cutbacks in the DHSS. Thatcher is visiting Canada and receives a mixed reception. A useful evening undertaking training for Manchester’s new manager, Robin Pimlott in personnel matters and then to Peter King’s house for a pleasant meal with his wife Jane and there to stay overnight in their spare bedroom.


Tuesday 27th September 1983

Satisfactory if exhausting Comart Board meeting and then late back writing up my company administration and minutes

A warm humid day but a light drizzle falls as I make my way to work on time. A hurried hour of preparation prior to the board meeting with many matters cleared out of the way and then in to the conference room for an all-day meeting examining in depth all aspects of the Comart performance. A satisfactory status with significant plans in every department and discipline but frustrating as a meeting with discussion extending under Ian’s prompting until policies he was supporting gained acceptance through exhaustion as much as argument! A late evening at the office clearing the days papers, completing company administration, writing up the minutes and preparing a post-meeting briefing for tomorrow to provide information for my two departmental managers (who are not Directors) Carlton Lowe and Derek Morgan.

Problems tonight in getting my evening meal with Diana disappointed at my late return. News today of more IRA prisoners re-captured following the largest security operation yet. Pictures of the presentation ceremony of the America’s Cup to Australia II and much pleasure therein after 24 unsuccessful attempts. The much publicised keel was revealed for the first time. To bed tired at the day’s exertions and keen on a good night’s sleep.