This morning, we mostly made cakes. Fairy cakes, that is, iced with pale pink icing (as I didn’t have any green food colouring) and decorated with sugar sprinkles, as I have to learn to call them, silver balls, glace cherries and white chocolate drops. This afternoon, we mostly ate them.
I was thinking about my stepfather just now. He was a ship designer, a very fine one. He and my mother married six years after my father died and he died just shy of their tenth wedding anniversary. My mother never got over the unluckiness of being widowed twice, she couldn’t bear it when a woman didn’t appreciate the good qualities of her husband or carped about him, when she was lucky enough to still have one alive. Good friends of hers couldn’t steel themselves, out of love, to tell her of their divorce, not for a couple of years, and they and their sons played happy families for her benefit when they visited until the family home was sold and there was no option.
Anyway, Wilf’s company in Oulton Broad used to pitch for contracts all over the world. And, the design having been completed, he used to go off to put forward his case. It was not unusual for a client to change his mind after the design was completed, once he could see the plans. I remember a particular occasion, when word came through that the length of the ship had to be extended by x feet. Of course, you can’t just do that. Everything has to be checked because the proportions have changed. So, everyone flew back home and returned to their design team for a redesign.
Except Wilf. He stayed in his hotel room and set to work to redesign the whole ship himself. Because he’d started from the bottom and worked up, in a way that simply isn’t done now. Once as a young man, he was caught smoking where he shouldn’t and was sent to work in the foundry as a punishment. So he understood the casting of propellors and was able to redesign those too.
His company won that particular contract, not surprisingly. He didn’t get a bonus or anything though. It was normal, back in those days, and considered part of your job to do the best you could. Once he retired, he was replaced by several other people.