The Factory Girls – Episode 05

“Hey, Jonathan, you holding on to that handrail?”Jonathan Darrow jumped at Dana’s strident call and almost missed his footing on the concrete steps to the second floor. The elaborately marked- out yellow edges and bright signs warning employees to use the handrails had been installed at his instigation after a Health and Safety course last month, and he’d been rather proud of his efforts. He’d soon realised, however, that they were something of a joke to everyone else at Cardill’s. With an effort, he forced himself to turn back and smile.“Certainly am, Dana. Wouldn’t want to fall on you.”It was a good try but no match for Dana.“Fall for me, Jonathan? I thought you already had!”The girls cackled madly as he crushed himself against the wall to let them past. Dana was at their head, hips swinging in her skin-tight jeans. He shook his head as the girls poured up to their seats and wondered, yet again, what on earth he was doing in this little factory. Carol was an amazing manager, but working here had been a bit of a shock after the sheltered world of university. He was adjusting fast, though. He loved the lively town and the beautiful rolling countryside. He loved the spirit of the factory girls, too, even if he could never work out what to say back to them until too late. Especially Dana Tims. He hadn’t met girls like her before! Dana and her mates were so confident, so brash. They were more laddish than the lads he’d hung out with at college lads who were now working in “nice offices” (his mum’s words) being “sensible” (his dad’s word) lawyers and accountants.“There’s no future in manufacturing, Jonathan,” his parents had told him when he’d announced his career plans. But Jonathan had paid no attention. His imagination had been caught by a school trip to a cereal factory when he was thirteen and he’d wanted to work at making things ever since. True, a cut-and-sew unit in Lancashire wasn’t quite the cutting-edge technology he’d dreamed of, but he still loved the vibrancy of the funny little factory and longed to prove himself here. Today was an important day and he was determined that both Cardill’s and himself were well thought of by the Xion management.

* * * *

Jonathan wasn’t the only one feeling that way. Everyone worked hard all morning, sweeping, clearing and organising until the factory seemed to gleam. At the 10 o’clock break Jonathan joined the supervisors as they collapsed gratefully on to the soft chairs in Carol’s friendly little office. They met at this time every day to discuss any production issues over piles of Ina’s hot buttered toast. But today there was only one topic on their lips.“How many of them are coming?” Brenda, Carol’s deputy manager, wanted to know. She was a large woman, with a fondness for bright colours.“I believe there are four,” Carol said, “including Frank.”Frank Morgan was the Xion executive in charge of Textiles, and was a regular visitor to the factory. It had been noted, mind you, that his visits almost always coincided with the appearance of the toast and indeed, even now, the big old doorbell was ringing!“That’ll be him,” Carol said with a smile. “Go and let him in, will you, Jonathan?”Jonathan leaped up and ran to open the giant oak door. Frank was his mentor on the Xion graduate training scheme and he considered himself lucky to have the bluff but astute northerner to guide him.“Morning, Jonathan,” Frank said now. “All well? Ready for the big visit?”A large, forthright man, Frank always looked just a little out of place in a smart suit, but today he seemed more uneasy than usual. His shoulders were hunched beneath his tailored jacket.“We’re ready,” Jonathan said confidently, waving an arm around the lower floor of the little factory.Frank glanced round but didn’t really seem to take it in. “Carol’s in her office,” Jonathan said, adding, “and the toast’s just arrived.”That, at least, seemed to perk Frank up a bit and he strode forward to join the others in the little room.


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