A victim of the recession, Dr Malcolm Wheatley formerly worked as a management consultant in the Bristol office of Price Waterhouse.
Friday January 4. A memo lands on my desk, announcing the onset of the half-yearly round of appraisal sessions. Already? Didn't they happen in - let's see - March last year?
Monday January 7. I see a note on my boss's secretary's desk: the appraisals are to be on Friday 11. My boss has detailed a particular running order: mine is to be the last. Alarm bells start to ring.
Friday January 11. I am called in just before 4.00 pm. Like a chess player's end-game, the pieces are carefully marshalled and laid out. The current economic situation. The consultancy marketplace. Activity levels. Sales. The skill areas where the firm is currently positioning its selling efforts; the limited overlap between this and my own skill areas. The final pieces are moved into place: check.
But execution is not immediate. There are openings in Europe. Like swordsmen mired in treacle, we fence around, exploring possibilities. Do I speak German? Czech? Polish? I'm finding it difficult enough to speak English, but hear myself volunteering to go anywhere and speak anything if it means I can stay.
So it's check again, and mate. The operation has been clinical, but not unkind. We discuss severance terms, and I find myself back at my desk. I am to leave at the end of the month. I call my wife and drive home.
Saturday January 12. The mounting Gulf crisis pales into insignificance against the more immediate one at home: the sudden gulf between our income and our outgoings. How will we pay the mortgage? Jobs offering £40,000 and a Mercedes are difficult to get; in south-west Devon they must be virtually impossible. Have we spent years working towards our dream Devon farmhouse only to leave it as soon as we are in? We talk round and round and round the options.
A plan starts to emerge. We will gamble. I have often wondered about working on my own; I will try it. If it fails, we will have to move; if it works, we can stay. We will cut our domestic expenditure to the bone, and I will go freelance. Freelance writing, freelance consultancy, freelance anything.
Sunday January 13. It is cold. We have turned off the heating.
Wednesday January 16. Alternating optimism and pessimism. But offers of work are coming in. Not much - not enough - but at least it's a start. Someone tells me about a newspaper report in which the firm denies that it is making people redundant. Hollow laughter: they're all like me, I suppose, eased out with careful circumlocutions to avoid using the dreaded R-word.
Wednesday January 23. Outplacement counselling interview. Very civilised: a chat, a shoulder to cry on, and a pleasant lunch.
Wednesday January 30. Drive to airport and hand over car keys. Fly to Hanover for my last day.
Thursday January 31. Busy day with the client, tying up loose ends. At 5.30 pm UK time I look at my watch. So that's it, then. I'm on my own.