Jack’s plans for the Family Business involve bringing in outside help but there’s something he doesn’t know about his new appointment.
Subject: The axeman cometh!
Date: 12 January
Well that was uncomfortable! You’ll have guessed I’m still in the office, so in an effort to be discreet, am emailing my report on this morning’s bloody board meeting.
So, when dad discussed his plans for the firm with you, he didn’t mention a little thing like getting in a business consultant to analyze where cuts need to be made? Or an even littler thing like who that consultant might be? No? I guess you’ll be surprised to hear that it’s none other than Flora’s girlfriend Brenda! Apparently she still does some consultancy work to keep her hand in. I’d forgotten that she worked in the City before she inherited the Country Club. She must find pandering to the good burghers of Berkhamstead rather too dull for her amusement.
Dad made it pretty clear that the firm would not be paying salaries for everyone in perpetuity. It’s Brenda’s job to decide just where the hatchet should fall… So that explains Flora’s secret little chats with dad at every opportunity; and bears out our hunch that she’s getting really serious about Edge’s Garden Furniture for the first time ever. Firstly, she slots Charlie into place, then her ally comes in to tell us who needs the chop. Charlie’s obviously safe, but I think the rest of us have been stitched up like a kipper. I’ve got a good mind to tell dad just how friendly Flora and Brenda really are – he’d be almost as horrified as mum to discover he’d let Flora’s lesbian lover into the Family Business.
After dropping that bombsell, dad hit us with the the financial picture. You weren’t kidding. It’s really grim. Even before Brenda’s had a chance to give us her verdict, he’s going to take some remedial action. He’s decided mum needs to sell her share in Lazy Susan and he’s told Massimo he needs to move out and stand on his own two feet. He’s stopping his allowance! Massimo has to support himself on his salary!! I never thought dad would treat him like a grown up, but he’s not indulging our baby brother any more – and while mum is still so cross with M over Poppy, she’s actually not standing in his way. Dad actually said to Massimo that if he hadn’t brought in enough business over the next 3 months, he’d be out of a job!
He threatened Carla too – saying that if the Herb commercial didn’t pay for itself this coming season, she’d be joining Massimo. Trout and dad had a real set-to. She accused him of being a dinosaur who didn’t understand modern marketing and social media; he accused her of being a Old Trout who was just interested in buying herself a C-lister boyfriend. Of course they are both right! At this point, Lorenzo waded in to defend his wife’s honour but everyone just ignored him until dad said, he couldn’t understand why Lorenzo could possibly want to see his bitch of a wife in the office as well as at home. Didn’t he recognize a bolt hole when one was offered? All was rather frosty for a few minutes until Carla manufactured an urgent text and said she had to rush off to a meeting with Herb’s agent.
It was interesting to see mum take a major role in one of these things – I don’t think she’d been to more than a handful of board meetings in her life before dad ‘disappeared’. Anyhow, she was looking really furious. Dad kept talking over her and trying to belittle her opinions, but it is clear that it’s his wild spending that’s got the firm into trouble – not mum’s business acumen. Ok, so she splashed the cash while dad was away, and that did put a bit of a strain on finances, but all in all, she kept things on a more even keel than they had been previously. He doesn’t really like her taking on such an active role, but she’s sure as hell not going to slope off back to the golf course. The (second) honeymoon period is definitely over. They’re fighting just like the old days and this time, Frank’s in the wings, arming her with all the financial know-how.
It’s all been rather too exhausting. Sometimes I really wish I worked in a normal firm where no one was related to anyone else and people could talk about this stuff without getting ridiculously worked up. Either that, or we had Alex Polizzi fixing us!
Love from Laura x
Subject: Fall out
Date: 15 January
Sometimes I’m terribly grateful for the 200 odd miles that keeps me from attending Edge’s excruciating board meetings. Funnily enough, it’s always enough of a reason for the rest of the family to get in touch and I’ve already had a phone call from Flora, plus an impromptu lunch with Lorenzo. I see what you mean about his new look – I kept thinking of David Attenborough programmes – all those wild animals with red coats and white fluffy underbellies. It isn’t very youth enhancing, is it? Do you think he’s dying his eyebrows too? There was something decidedly odd about his expression.
You’re right, our big brother is feeling very paranoid. He’s suspicious of Flora’s motivation, doesn’t trust Charlie as far as he can throw him and thinks they’ve cooked up this scheme with Brenda to oust him and leave the path clear for Charlie. He actually thinks Brenda’s coming in to sort things out so mum and dad can retire from the business, and that they’ll use this as an excuse to restructure, basically chucking the rest of you out on your ears.
Panic not! Of all of them, you’re in the best position since you actually do the admin and someone will always need to do that. It’s Lorenzo, Massimo, Trout, and mum and dad themselves, who could probably all be done away with. I’m only reporting his paranoid ramblings so don’t take it too much to heart. He also confessed that he wanted Ant and Maria to have the opportunity to work for the firm if they don’t go to Uni in 2 years time and that Charlie’s rather queered his pitch. He’s desperate to get some dirt on Charlie so he’s calling up everyone he can think of in Oz to see if there’s anything doing. Watch this space …
Flora called too; really nervy about how the news of Brenda had gone down. She’d had a report from Charlie, but wanted to know if you, Massimo or Lorenzo had been on the blower to me about it. She’s clearly terrified that the truth about her relationship with Brenda is going to come out. Imagine being 52 years old and scared of what your parents might think? Bless her, she fudged around the issue until I put her out of her misery, explaining that you, I, Lorenzo and Massimo had all known and accepted that they were in a relationship years ago. She honestly was surprised that we knew! Not sure it’s going to make mum or dad terrifically happy though …
Interestingly, when I said I didn’t understand why she’d got Brenda involved if she was so anxious about coming out, she said it hadn’t been her doing. Apparently, Charlie and Brenda cooked it up between them and took the plan straight to dad. Charlie’s been driven bonkers by the baggy top-heavy management structure leaching money from the firm (for which read, his inheritance). We’ve all grown up with mum and dad using the garden furniture business as their own personal money pot, and I guess we’ve always understood that the family firm means we’re all involved, but Charlie coming in as an outsider, just sees a load of people doing nothing and draining the resources. He’s been driven mad by Lorenzo’s intransigence when it comes to cast aluminium outdoor furniture as opposed to his own favourite rattan patio sets.
Brenda’s his latest weapon.
Love to all, Rose x
Date: 20 January
It’s begun. Brenda’s started by taking each of us out in turn to the Buck & Fart for a ‘bite to eat’ (which somehow sounds very carnivorous when she snaps it out through her tight little teeth). Haven’t been summoned yet (I’m rather a lowly figure in the scheme of things) but Carla pushed her way to the top of the pile. She’s spent the past 48 hours downloading heaps of management books on audible so her conversation is now peppered with chimps and habits of successful people. I don’t expect it will fool Brenda for five minutes but you have to admire her tenacity.
Massimo’s decided to rely on his personal charm rather than any practical business sense. He’s had his hair cut (he went up to London, no less, for that!) and I caught him buying the whole ‘new season work wear’ edit on Mr Porter, so he really does look the part in charcoal cashmere and muted pinstripe flannel. I think it’s all down to Petra. They are spending a lot of time together and for some reason this seems to have sent dad over the edge. He must mind about Poppy more than I’d realized. Things between him and Massimo are worse than ever. Dad stuck to his word and kicked Massimo out at the weekend.
You might have guessed it; Massimo is now staying with me. I know, I know. Why would I let myself in for it? Well, Paul’s gone off to the States with the Orchestra for a whopping ten week coast-to-coast tour, so I thought I could do it short term. He’s actually round at Hollybush Cottage nearly every night anyway.
I know you’ll think I’m mad…
Subject: Frank & Pearl!
Date: 24 January
You are mad! Don’t come whining to me when you can’t kick the pest out. To change the subject …
Guess who turned up hot foot from the races? Yep, Frank and Pearl. She’s sure put jag-gate to the back of her mind and seems to have seamlessly slipped into ma’s old shoes. She stepped in and bought a share of Lazy Susan when Frank was taking ownership from mum. I don’t think she owns more than half a fetlock, but that doesn’t stop her getting fully involved in the social side of things. Somehow ‘Tiger’s’ pussycat has morphed from mum into Pearl and its smiles all round. They always did seem like a more suitable couple.
You know Pearl, she’s like a terrier with a rat – no way will she let Frank slip through her claws, so she hasn’t wasted any time on taking it to the next level. Looks as if they’re actually moving into one of those flashy (how appropriate) riverside duplexes that mum and Pearl had their eye on before Christmas. How’s mum going to react to having them set up a love nest five minutes away in town? Not sure …
Love from Rosa x