At the edge of a field in southern England two men of similar height and build stood chest-deep in a crop of white-flowered oil-seed rape. One was the slender fair-haired Finn called Markus Koponen.
Koponen wore his signature white Stetson and an open collar. Accompanying him was Palmer, his chief financial officer. As always Palmer was perfectly turned out in a dark pinstripe three-piece, a white Oxford-weave shirt and black brogues. Today he wore a saffron-yellow tie.
Koponen spoke excellent English with a soft Scandinavian lilt: ‘I appreciate we’re spending more than we earn and faster than we planned. The question is, how long can we keep going?’
Palmer quoted a date from his report.
Koponen did straightforward sums in his head. ‘That’s long enough.’
‘It could bankrupt you, Markus.’
‘Nearly, or actually?’
For Palmer numbers had texture, colour, and shape. It made him brilliant. ‘Nearly.’
‘Sisu,’ Koponen said quietly. ‘Whatever it takes.’
His phone rang. He looked down at the screen. ‘Dolores, my sweet.’
Koponen waited until Palmer had moved to a discrete distance away then said, ‘Tell me, how is everything going with the car?’ He listened attentively then said, ‘Speed things up please. Bring it to resolution– How? Use your own judgement.’ He listened again, when he replied his tone was gentle. ‘Yes, of course I will see you tonight.’
The sun shone from a cool blue sky, a warm southerly breeze blew, warmer than usual for this time of year. Warmer, at least, than had been usual when he was a child. Koponen was fifty-eight years old and knew there was still an enormous amount to do. Problems came from nowhere, there was never enough money and always, always delay. Some days he felt time slipping through his fingers like a fistful of sand. Days like today.
And yet there was hope, and there was always the plan.
‘I don’t have a family.’ Koponen spread his arms above the field of white flowers. ‘These are my children.’
To be continued…