The Factory Girls – Episode 42

“I’m off to the newsagent’s,” Helen told Dana the next morning. “Fingers crossed we get more coverage.”It was just before eight, and Carol had arrived to release Helen home to get the kids to school. If she ran she’d have time to get the papers on the way. Helen could hardly wait. Several reporters had rung the factory yesterday and Carol had asked Helen to give an interview to one of them. A guy from “The Times”, no less! Kevin had been impressed when she’d told him the night before.“My little star,” he’d said, and he’d kissed her, properly kissed her for the first time since his beery night with Miles, his new work colleague. His work seemed to be going well, and he’d brought home a contract of employment naming him as a “consultant constructor”. The salary wasn’t quite as grand as the title, it would seem, but it was better than living on benefits, and Kevin was happy to be employed once more. Helen suspected his attitude about Cardill’s hadn’t changed, but he at least had the sense to keep quiet about it now, and they had been muddling through together. Now, it seemed, she was his “star”. Or she would be, if the papers had printed the interview.She tumbled into the newsagents and grabbed “The Times”. There was nothing on the front. She opened it up and scanned page two. Nothing there, either. But then, on page three, she spotted a headline and her jaw dropped.Xion Leading Way On Community Projects.“What?”“Everything OK there, Helen?” Ron Brown, the newsagent, came out from behind his counter. Helen stared blankly at him as he ambled over and read out the article with Helen.“Cardill’s supervisor, Helen Wright, said that the town of Deveroe needed ‘strong local employment’ and Xion boss Mr Marcus Fanshaw couldn’t agree more. Speaking from the Boosting British Business conference in Brighton, he said, ‘Deveroe is the perfect example of a proud working town. It is very sad that Cardill’s is no longer a viable business there, but Xion are working hard to ensure the beautiful buildings are passed on to another employer who can continue to offer jobs in the area. “‘We can all wax lyrical about manufacturing but the truth is that, as a nation, we are developing beyond simply making things. Britain is, and always has been, a land of innovation and we must move forward, not back. It may be hard for the people of Deveroe to see that at the moment, and I commend their pride in a factory of which we have all been so fond. But as responsible employers we need to guide them to a stronger, more sustainable future.’”“Fond?” Helen spluttered. “They’d not even been here until two weeks ago! And what does he mean by a sustainable future?”In reply, Ron pointed down to a second article, about the proposed retail park. There were architect’s plans and paragraphs containing phrases like “socio-economic growth” and “ecological development”. Helen’s star fizzled out inside her, burning as it died. She was back to being the girl who’d never done very well at school, and she hated it.“Are the papers all the same?” she asked Ron.“Pretty much. The ‘Mail’ is still going with the ‘brave workers’ line but more in a ‘staying on the sinking ship’ way now.”He held up the tabloid and Helen cringed at the picture of the girls, slogans straining across their chests, next to one of Xion executives in smart suits receiving some ridiculous award at the Boosting British Business Conference. The message was clear. “Are you buying those?” Ron asked kindly.Helen swallowed.“I suppose I’d better,” she agreed, “but if you hear screams from Cardill’s in a while don’t blame me.”She paid for the papers and made for home at a trot. Kevin was on the doorstep when she got back.“Helen, thank heavens! Where have you been?”“Newsagent’s. Xion have stitched us up, Kev. Look.”She held up “The Times” but Kevin just leaned over it to throw a kiss at her cheek.“Sorry, love, I’m late. Show me later.” He saw her crestfallen expression, added, “Chin up!” and then left.“Chin up!” Helen growled at his back, but just then Harry careered into the back of her legs on his truck, sending her flying.His little eyes widened in horror and he leaped off his precious vehicle and ran to her.“Sorry, Mummy! I’m sorry.”Helen, however, just sat there on the path, feeling pathetically as if it was exactly where she belonged.


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