November 1983

Winter arrives as Diana falls pregnant and I work hard and manage the Comart Group and increasingly lead the computer industry as Missiles are installed at Greenham Common, the PLO’s Arafat fights on against the Syrians in the Lebanon and the Brinks Matt Gold Robbery and NGA printers dispute hits the headlines

This was a very busy and eventful month, in both company and personal terms. Within the family, Debbie started back at  rising fives, Daniel is now settling in and attending regular Saturday mornings at Kimbolton School but the main news was Diana falling pregnant with constant morning sickness and lack of appetite. I have to look after Daniel and Debbie somewhat due to Diana’s indisposition and spend some time playing with Daniel.

I continued special efforts this month to manage the affairs of Comart the company whilst also overviewing the Group activities at Xitan and all of the Byte shop subsidiaries around the UK as we have three stands at Compec 83 in Olympia as the major exhibitor and make our presence felt.  The formal company administration for group structure is complete and I compile an annual report without Auditor qualification. The emphasis is now on quality and service. We take on a PR consultant and get a much higher profile in National and computer press and take over the Vice chair of the CRA as well as retaining the chair of the BMMG. I am invited to meet all manner of government, political and industry figures as part of my continued plans to exert a leadership role which takes me to a PITCOM reception at the House of Lords amongst other things. I make progress in removing Charterhouse charges after their loan is repaid and start negotiating with UEH over removing their option to buy 25% of The Byte Shop which would give me a free hand on my Group’s future plans.

The national news stories were all about the Greenham Common missile deployments, the aftermath of the US invading Grenada as over 400 US casualties are admitted, Government cutbacks on spending, ignoring CBI calls for expansion. PLO leader Yasser Arafat fights on against the Syrians in Tripoli. In the UK the record-breaking Brinks Matt Gold robbery gets the headlines until huge industrial disputes with NGA printers and demonstration at Warrington rear their head later.

Wednesday 30th November 1983

Train journey to London planning the Group 1983 meetings calendar and deadlines and then to the Intercontinental Hotel for Management Incentives seminar after which I skip the afternoon session, eat sausage and chips in Hyde park watching the water birds and walk along historic Whitehall before returning to the office to hear of Derek’s efforts to put off UEH from retaining their Byte Shop purchase option and clear my in-tray

Up on time today and hasty preparations to catch the 8.06 train to London; having let out the eggless ducks and had Diana prepare a toast breakfast. On the train, planned the group calendar for 1984 with payroll and information deadlines and an entire year’s meeting cycle. By tube to Hyde Park Corner and just in time for coffee at the Intercontinental Hotel before the start of a seminar on “Management Incentives.” I stayed for the morning session, and learned a little but soon realised that there was little new to take account of and that each company structure and culture needs its own incentives. Sufficient subject matter, however, to place our plans in the scheme of things and I am not going to propose any changes. A phone call to the office established that Derek had a hard time with UEH yesterday and that, together with some other items needing review, convinced me to stop the afternoon and lunch.

A walk through St James Park and lunch of sausage and chips at the cafeteria within sight of Horse Guards Parade watching the wide variety of water fowl still in evidence. An ideal place, I thought, to bring youngsters to feed the birds. Through the parade ground to see round the Whitehall area including time out to inspect the Banqueting Hall where Charles I left for his execution. Along past Trafalgar Square and Charing Cross Station to the Kingsway Road, Aldwych, where I noted the agency details of some property that interests me. Up Kingsway to Holborn and back to Kings X by tube and home by train to St Neots.

A useful hour in the office with Derek to hear a merry tale of the stories he had been telling UEH to put them off the Byte Shop Option. I will need an Oscar to play the part when I get to meet their Chairman! Back to my own office to find June left but I work my way through my in-tray and pass all paperwork on. A phone call to John to check on the affairs of the day and no word from our US trippers who should have phoned

Tuesday 29th November 1983

Duckly consternation as I write the Group Review and monitor a range of press stories about us in The Times, The Guardian and Computer Weekly and liaise with Industry contacts as a huge confrontation is planned by the NGA at Warrington but the US and USSR resume talks on nuclear missile limitation

On time to the office after the normal palaver of letting out and feeding the ducks. They are still not laying a single egg and are rapidly becoming a principal point of concern.

At the office the first few hours spent writing the Chairman’s Review of the group accounts which is always a difficult task for want of pitching the comments to please all readers. Also to set motion in train to recoup advance years of contract revenue that had been incompletely transferred from Comart to the Byte Shop group companies. A succession of meetings up to lunch and beyond as well as clearing both morning and afternoon mail. This afternoon to approve change notes, and dictate all manner of correspondence; and brief June on producing agenda and notices of meeting for the group AGM’s. The arrangements for group employee participation in the share scheme are also quite involved. Press interview by phone with Microscope on the BMMG and tariff victories should be printed next time. Peter Large of the Guardian interested in our US New York Metropolitan Railway deal but the Dept of Employment are not at all happy with our Computer Weekly story on the YTS scheme.

News today of preparations for the biggest confrontation yet between the NGA and the Warrington Printing Works. The NGA Union Secretary, Joe Wade, is seeking the backing of the TUC tonight but all national newspapers should be printed tomorrow. The Commonwealth Conference of Heads of State has ended in long and compromised statements on arms reduction and Grenada, although Mrs Thatcher was the most discordant note and blocked a plan for a new world economic summit. The Geneva talks between the United States and USSR have resumed on intercontinental missiles.

The weather today cool but fine and frost just being avoided.

Diana is still poorly but gradually resuming her domestic tasks.

The Chairman of Export IT called today and offered time in a seminar for the UK’s trade attaches and also appreciated my intervention on their behalf and would see us take a much more leading role in the future.

Monday 28th November 1983

Diana much better as I can deal with a range of Comart and Group management issues as the European Space laboratory is launched and Fleet Street talks break down

On time to rise and this morning Diana was able both to prepare breakfast and my daily sandwiches. On time to the office and, having got the mail out of the way, pleased to notice the orders and confirmation in today’s post. Meetings with Colin Newbury, in Ian’s absence, to agree change procedures for new brackets to support the Communicator’s Rodime drive assemblies. Also with John on company product policy and marketing priorities. Derek Weatherby agrees the group’s Annual Accounts with a clean Audit Report and to the renewal with Barclays of our group overdraft facility. With Peter King, the present status of Byte Shop recruitment and vacancies.

News today of a break down in the Fleet Street peace talks. The TUC are discussing whether to support the continued strike tonight whilst talks continue between the NGA and ACAS. People were injured in shooting and bombing incidents in Northern Ireland. At long last, the government have decided to end the optician’s monopoly on the sale of glasses and soon other outlets will be able to supply them. The European space lab was launched today in a US Space Shuttle where 6 men have been launched together for the first time.

The weather today has been dry but cooler and the clear starlight sky this evening suggests a colder night with frost a possibility with fog also forecast