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  • Writer's pictureAlan Dale

Two Shakespearean Titles To End A Project Nightmare?

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Needing one quip to exit convincingly from a near disaster comes with the territory. A requirement for two strongly suggests a horribly near miss.

The day began quite well. It wasn’t even such a bad journey to site – only Egham to Reading, harmless weather, average traffic on the motorway and plenty of time. The loan of one of the less recalcitrant pool cars also helped. True, leaving the office for any length of time, however apparently insignificant, meant returning to whatever trouble had accumulated in one’s absence. Even this dial on the terror assessment dashboard was barely off the stop on this occasion.

All I had to do was attend site, to supervise the unloading and fitting of a large chuck to a correspondingly colossal lathe. This required a chuck adaptor, (a cylindrical coupling with internal and external threads), that I had designed and ordered from our machining sub-contractor.

I arrived, parked and allowed myself the initial, albeit small relaxation warranted by these two achievements.

“Your adaptor’s here – no sign of the chuck yet, though.” The machine shop foreman’s friendly Berkshire burr betrayed no hint of panic or annoyance.

There was my adaptor, still in its cardboard box, a relatively insignificant little (approximately six inch) cube, sitting somewhat forlornly on a pallet.

“Any idea when the chuck should be here?” asked the foreman. Time to fess up.

“It should have arrived yesterday, or first thing this morning, latest,” I told him.

Time to hit the phone, Jack.

“Right, it should be here around ten,” I was able to advise him, a few minutes later, having called the carrier.

Sure enough, not long after ten, one of their lorries turned up. A large package, heralded by both driver and advice note as the missing chuck, was duly conveyed to the waiting lathe.

Now, during these initial celebrations of the workforce, I found myself assailed by an increasingly buttock-clenching level of doubt. Even allowing for the vagaries of particular packaging materials, parcels containing solid objects usually conform, if only approximately, to the overall shape of their contents. Chucks, being cylindrical, therefore tend to travel encased in boxes or crates, whose dimensions reflect the chuck’s axial length and outside diameter. The package now borne triumphantly aloft by the forklift looked ominously thin and improbably high and wide.

The foreman, clearly a well-mannered and open-minded citizen, said nothing. A crowbar was brought. One man steadied while another levered. Strapping and planks split asunder. An intricately machined disc was revealed.

That’s not it, that’s the adaptor plate for the vertical,” said the foreman. “Let’s have another look at their paperwork. Well, it says chuck, right enough...”

I resumed phoning. “They can’t trace the chuck,” I said. I’ll have to let you know when it’ll get here, then come back when they fit it.”

“Yes, no point your staying on for now.” he said. “Comedy of errors, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” I said, “and there was I, hoping it would be Much Ado About Nothing.”

The chuck surfaced, the following day, in Darlington. All's well that...yeah, but it didn't feel like that at the time.

My first novel, Theta Double Dot, a thriller, has been published by Austin Macauley and may be purchased from them, Waterstones or Amazon.

Click on the links below, for the Austin Macauley or Amazon website page. I hope you really enjoy it – if you do, please leave a review on Amazon. Many thanks!

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