Last year’s accounts have arrived, and, to my great surprise, they’re moderately respectable. They could be a lot more respectable, of course, if only my machinery buying policy wasn’t a complete shambles.
I’d then know exactly how to buy and sell at the right time to maximise something or other and minimise something else. But no; I keep on buying and selling at the wrong time, and I blame Chris.
I met Chris during my first week at uni. We shared the same block in the halls of residence, both came from family farms, and were doing agriculture-related courses. We ended up sharing a front row, the occasional shandy, and a keen interest in cars.
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Chris, being a posh Wiltshire farmer, brought his red Spitfire 1500 to university, and we joined the Motor Club for some rallying.
We were very successful as a team (“Crusher Chris and Nasty Charlie”); my navigational skills were excellent, and Chris could thread the Spit through the narrowest of bridges over the Tyne with ease, although there’s a red-flecked one south-east of Hexham which might disagree.
We were very good at shortening rallies (even though they weren’t timed races, and so we drove very slowly, of course, oh yes) by using farm tracks. There must be Northumberland farmers still wondering what the hell went past their windows 40 years ago.
In November 1981, the Lombard RAC rally came to the Kielder Forest, and volunteers were needed to marshal the night stages.
I was reluctant to sign up, but Chris was dead keen that we do it, and so it was that I found myself standing on the inside of a bend of a forest track on a freezing night, gobsmacked as Hannu Mikkola heel-and-toed his way past in a fire-breathing Audi Quattro.
I adjourned to the outside of the bend for a couple of cars, until a boulder flew past me in the dark, inches from my head. “So that’s why no one stands there!” I thought, as I returned to my original position. Some marshal I was.
We both survived, found each other in the dark (without mobile phones – how did we do it in those days?) and it was well through the night when the weary Spitfire (fan belt disconnected to gain another couple of horsepower) headed home down the A69.
It was too late to sleep, so after a couple of hours of deep and meaningful student debate we had breakfast and headed off to lectures. I was a model student, and I wasn’t going to let a sleepless night ruin a 100% attendance record.
Unfortunately, the lecture theatre in the Newcastle Agric building was warm and comfy, and the lecturer – as senior as he was – was not known for his flaming and inspiring delivery. It was more a case of 60 minutes of well-worn acetates on an overhead projector. I fell asleep.
I’d like to say that my fellow students (including the future Mrs Flindt) made sure I was awake at lecture’s end to save me from embarrassment – but they bloody didn’t.
What woke me was a furious harrumphing and a kick of my feet by the senior lecturer as he passed on his way out of a by-now deserted lecture theatre. The shame of it – and me a model student.
With every passing year – and set of accounts – I realise that the topic for the lecture that fateful day must have been “Utilising machinery purchasing to facilitate tax efficiency”.
It’s the only explanation. And who’s obviously to blame? Crusher Chris, of course.