Colin Cross had been extremely happy at the result of the EU Referendum, he had hoped for a leave vote, even believed that it could be achieved but had been as surprised as nearly everyone else, on either side, when the votes had been counted and declared.
The immediate aftermath had been something no one could have predicted, the UK’s two main political parties in turmoil and fragile Remainiacs actually marching in the streets condemning Leave voters as worse than murderers.
One of the things that had piqued Colin’s interest since the referendum had been the strange posturing and manoeuvrings of certain politicians who claimed, somewhat bafflingly, that since such and such a region (London was one) had voted to remain then the vote could be overturned. More bizarre even than that were those members of the political establishment who had fully bought into the highly discredited Project Fear and were now hysterically claiming the vote was too close, re-run it, leave voters were thick and had been duped, re-run it, Nigel Farage is a racist, re-run it and the most deeply cynical of all, re-run it, it’s what Jo would have wanted. The common thread running through all this was the qualities of the most vocal of these people, qualities which they all shared.
They were all left leaning to a greater or lesser extent.
They knew better than ordinary people.
They were arrogant.
They oozed self belief but showed little or no self awareness.
They were incapable of being wrong.
They had ideas that were way above their station.
They cared little for the people of their country but greatly for their own advancement.
For a couple of years in the early 2000’s Colin had worked as a regional manager for a company that ran holiday parks. He was particularly involved in maximising “second spend” revenue. This meant that he was charged with providing ways to relieve holiday makers of as much cash as was humanly possible during their stay on one of the 20 or so parks that the company owned.
A big part of a park holiday is the onsite social club, mostly comprising of 2 or 3 bars, play areas, cafes and takeaways and always a good mix of slot machines, hungry for cash and programmed to make maximum profit.
Colin was often away from home for days at a time and consequently stayed in one of the better holiday homes, when available. Being on site had its advantages, he could observe both customers and staff and learn how money was spent during the evenings and later into the night, analysing spending patterns and reacting quickly could increase profit and Colin’s potential bonus.
Each park obviously had its own management team, general manager, entertainment manager, bars manager, sales manager etc. These were generally nice people, they put in long hours, worked weekends and knew how to let their hair down when given the opportunity, but, as in all walks of life there were a couple with ideas far above their station:
Colin makes a Site Visit
After a full day of driving and visiting a couple of parks Colin arrived at Blackwater Holiday Park in the late afternoon of a lovely summer’s day. He had called ahead to make sure there was somewhere for him to stay, he picked up his key from reception and decided to eat and shower before visiting the clubhouse. A meeting was scheduled with the bars and entertainment managers for the next day and he fully expected to see the GM, Natalie, in the bar at some time during the evening. Natalie, an attractive divorcee in her late 30’s, had come to park management more by using her skill at fellatio than by a more conventional route. She was arrogant, self important, supremely confident in her ability to control what she saw as her “fiefdom” and believed that she had the charm and guile to best anyone who dared to challenge her style of management. It helped that the companies National Sales Director, a scot called Alan, was a great champion of Natalie and it was generally felt that he was “the power behind the throne”, so to speak.
Colin walked through the arcade at the front of the club; he noticed there were a couple of machines off so he approached the attendant. “Hello Liz, how’s it been going” he asked “Fine Colin” she replied, “Im expecting the engineer to come out to these machines, he might not make it till tomorrow though”. “Fair enough” said Colin and he wandered into the main bar area. The bar was packed, all 3 pool tables were being free played and both jackpot club machines were switched off. Colin could see Natalie at the bar, vodka and tonic in hand, surrounded by a gaggle of admirers. “Evening Natalie, any chance of a quick word in the office” said Colin. Natalie turned slowly and said “I’m busy just now, can’t it wait”? “Not really” said Colin, “I need to know if you’ve reported both club machines being out of action”. “Oh, they’re not out of order; we decided to switch them off, we’re having a pool competition and they were distracting people”. This was patently bullshit, the likeliest reason for switching machines off was because they had been heavily played without paying out and someone was going to take a chance when the club closed.
Colin was, at least in matters of second spend income, considered by the company directors to have overall responsibility for maximising revenues. Being ever the diplomat he decided to try to get to the bottom of things without too much fuss. He ordered a pint, got a large V&T for Natalie and guided her towards the bar managers office. “Dave, give me and Nat 15 minutes will you”? He asked. “Sure” said Dave, “no problem” and he got up from behind his desk and left the room.
“Nat, what made you think that you could have 5 pieces of equipment either on free play or switched off, you know how important it is to maximise income at this time of year”. Natalie smiled, thinned her lips and replied “Look Colin, this is my park, I have to listen to the large percentage who want to hold pool competitions, they spend a lot of money behind the bar and that’s where my priorities lie”.
Colin didn’t want to assert his authority but felt he had no other option. “Nat, this whole business isn’t about one park and its customer base, I know you guys think you’re somehow special, we’ve pumped more money into this one small park than it really warrants and all the thanks we seem to get are demands for more of the same”. Natalie visibly bristled at this, “Look Colin, if you don’t start to see things my way I’m going to have to go down to head office and talk to someone in a more senior position, Alan was here last night and he supports me in everything I do”.
“I’ll bet he does”, Colin thought, but carried on regardless. “Alan may well be a director, but where second spend is concerned he’s just a small fish in a big pond. The new MD has clearly said that company policy is company policy. Park managers turning up at head office attempting to get concessions for single parks, especially the smaller ones, isn’t going to wash anymore. It’s no good approaching Donald either, he may still be chairman but he now has nothing to do with the day to day operation of the business”.
Colin could read Natalie like a book, she didn’t want a fight and she didn’t want to open herself up to too much ridicule with the new board of directors so she changed tack. Fixing him with what she considered to be her sexiest smile she said “Are you staying over tonight, we could have a couple of drinks after the punters have gone, try the club machines out and then see what happens later”.
Colin hadn’t fallen for this approach in the past and he wasn’t about to this time either. Looking Natalie square in the eye he said “Natalie, don’t try that approach with me, it won’t wash, everybody in the company knows how you’ve ended up where you have and nobody would be fool enough to let you try to run anything without keeping a good eye on you. You might well have the owners here on side but things can change quickly in the caravan game. If I were you I’d count my blessings, do the job you’ve been asked to do and don’t think that you can stir it up with the big players. Holiday Parks UK is bigger than a single park and will continue to go from strength to strength so long as everybody buys into the future”.
Natalie went to reply but Colin got his parting shot in. “I’m giving fair warning Nat, stop trying to do things your own way to the detriment of the business, you might have an ally in head office but unless you make sure revenue streams remain buoyant and policies are followed no amount of late night cock-sucking will protect your job. Blackwater had a manager before you arrived on the scene and it wouldn’t be too difficult to replace you if we wanted to”.
With that Colin left the office, and went to bed. The next day he held his meetings, asked Dave to give him a call if any machines were put out of use and carried on to the next site visit. Natalie lasted a couple more seasons but her behaviour became increasingly more eccentric, Alan stopped staying over and she was eventually replaced.
Nearly 20 years after this incident it was still fresh in Colin’s mind. Natalie, like a certain current female politician, had a friend in a high place, ideas way above her station and an ego to match. Unfortunately for her not everybody was fooled by it.