‘The meeting is in the hotel’s boardroom and we are waiting in the lounge just beyond the lobby,’ Eileen said to Anjali, who was standing at the entrance, the hotel’s revolving door still turning slowly behind her. ‘I have set everything up as you asked, but you will want to look it over I have no doubt. The embroidered design on the sleeve of the jackets is reflected across the presentation, and the colours are graded as you wanted.’
Eileen led Anjali through to the hotel’s lounge.
‘They are running late as they always are. We have to wait; and everyone tends to stare down at the coffee table. This is standard procedure from the meetings I have supported so far.’
The Factory Manager and his Finance Manager – whom Anjali knew only by sight – were sitting down, leaning over a table between their low chairs and studying figures from the pages of a cardboard file with an ivy-green cover. They rose as Anjali approached. The coordinated cut and pattern, and the crisp colours of their jackets and shirts, everything started talking to Anjali before the two men ever did.
‘This looks right,’ she thought. ‘This is clothing designed with a fashioned edge.’
The Factory Manager returned the ivy-green file to his Finance Manager as Anjali sat down alongside him. The short moment of silence that followed allowed the echoing concerns from the previous evening with Panya to begin pressing down on Anjali.
‘What happens if this plan is accepted?’ she asked.
‘What will happen next if this proposal is accepted?’
‘You will be a part of it, you have my assurance on that. Focus on making sure that we carry the sense of assurance with us today. We can talk about what comes next when we know what next is.’
He paused for a moment and then added, ‘We cannot force the Board of Directors to accept a change to their plans just by repeating promising figures. We need to understand what they need to believe, and then give them reason to find the answers to their needs in our proposals. This is far better achieved by the clues they stumble across for themselves than the facts that we underline.’
He waved his hand indicating the vases of flowers, the polished woodwork, the crystal lights of the hotel.
‘Look at this hotel lobby. The quality of service which is yet to come is impossible to know; so the hotel lobby is designed to give you subtle clues that you choose to accept. If the Board stumbles across the look and feel that we have so carefully sewn into the appearance, believing it to be their own discovery, then we will win the day. The Board will believe what they stumble across, and ignore what they are presented with. That is human nature.’
‘Good,’ thought Anjali, ‘he has understood at last.’
Perhaps picking up something from Anjali, or perhaps it was just the run of the cotton, but he continued with, ‘It is their human nature that will be cut through by your designs. And believe me, Anjali, we are grateful for that.’
There was another pause whilst they both studied the coffee table.
Anjali waited, hoping that he would answer the next question that was pressing on her thoughts. The wait went on.
‘Is this proposal the best thing to do for the employees, for the town?’ she asked eventually.
‘I don’t know if this is the best thing to do. I know that this is what we can do. I know this is all that they will accept.’
‘It is true that many people have worked in the Wetledale valley’s weaving industry for generations. But it is also true that it is not our fault when things come to an end. If the proposal is accepted, well, we have some significant alterations to make.’
A grey cloud of concern crossed his face.
‘Next year will not be an easy time. Making changes in such an established business never is. Things will be unstable for a period. After that, you will help us design the look of the future.’
He took a notebook and pen from his pocket and began making notes. There was another job to be done. There was another day to get through. He wanted to get on with it; but all he could do for now was make another note.
‘Once we are in the new offices,’ he said as he was still scribbling in his notebook, ‘we will have the time to give colour to everything and the freedom to worry about the detail.’