Miiss iinformed…

I’m – glowing – down, down, down
To Radium Street
Where the stained-glass pavement
Sticks to your feet
And the alpha-phlavoured particles
Betray a long-forgotten sacrament
Yeah – yeah – yeah…

We’re gonna dive – dive – dive
Into cloud chamber park
Where the photons of mercy
Remember the dark
And the asymmetric cavities
Declare it just another lovely day
Yeah – yeah – yeah….

And when the street succumbs
To glorious decay
We can carry off the relics
In a scarlet beret
And leave them in the rain
For future generations to excavate
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah?

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Curriculum Vitae’s

 

 

This path of life is as crazy as they come. None of that orderly procession of success, the languid stroll from one distinguished seat of learning to the next, along the way managing to cultivate the most gifted and influential friends and lovers to render the next few years as exciting and easy as possible.
Some people went to a great University and sailed forth on a calm sea, heading confidently towards remote islands where glorious riches waited to be found.

Me? I remember running up the steps at the railway station in 1982. And then walking to town, past the cattle market; the muted lowing sounded like the relics of a dream. Me? I remember being in the revolving doors at a supermarket when a couple of toddlers pushed the panel, forcing the mechanism to halt. Trapped in a triangular glass cage they ran back and forth, yelling incoherently.

cvitaes

Life must be lived forward but understood backwards.
Me? I remember watching the opening of ‘Repo Girl’ and recognising the statue of Salammbo in the foyer of the Lady Lever Art Gallery at Port Sunlight. Yes, it really sounds like something dreamed up by C S Lewis rather than a real place. But Port Sunlight is real, real, too too real.

This is my life; what can I do?

Back in 1987 the world was a different place; we had just discovered AIDS in the UK, and it was confidently predicted that all gay men were doomed to suffer a short, lonely life, followed by an undignified, disease-ridden demise alone in a polythene tent while their loved ones (suitably protected by gloves and masks and gowns) watched from a safe distance.

So in 1987 I began keeping a diary as a sort of back-up disc (although in those days we didn’t have discs of any kind) for my life, to reassure people that I was actually conscious and alert. I was expecting to perish at the age of thirty, with no great achievements to leave behind; no scientific discoveries, no novels or string quartets, no design plans for radical new school buildings, no elaborate systems to channel the wealth of property speculators into imaginary offshore companies out of reach of the taxman.
How odd it would be if, in 1987, somebody had told us that the Princess of Wales would die ten years later in a car accident together with her lover Dodi Fayed, son of Mohammed Al-Fayed, who  for a time was the owner of a small department store called Harrods.
Meanwhile, here in 2017, we have just enjoyed a total solar eclipse which passed across the US; if an eclipse had occurred twenty years ago it would have provoked widespread hysteria and brought about the collapse of the British economy.

 

Cobbled again…

Here in the call centre we spend some of our time working on phone calls and some of our time holding webchat discussions with our customers. I occasionally wonder what it would be like if we kept a transcript of our spoken conversations:

“Hello this is the amalgamated coordination advisory sector, how may we help you?”

Instead of a polite and orderly response I am greeted by what sounds like two people having an angry conversation while their children scream with laughter. A cheap electronic musical toy (which I imagine to be made of brightly-coloured plastic) emits a raucous version of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” making it almost impossible for me to hear what the father is trying to tell me. Even without all these distractions, it would be impossible for me to grasp what he was saying since their cordless phone has got a nasty fifty-three hertz buzz that drones and drones like a space-age hornet.

“Hello, I’m-I’m-I’m calling about my nephew – you see, the thing is, it’s like he was going out with this girl see and she walked out on him but they had only been together about – well, you know, you know, like, her uncle was-he-was-like the local grocer and he knew about some of his customers who had been fiddling the dole because their son had moved out but they said he was still living with them.

And-if-and-if you can just tell-me-tell-me-tell-me like what it is like that I should be getting next week-I-=mean-I-know-the-money-should go up a bit cos five of me kids are now getting severe disability allowance-it’s-great-I-mean-we-couldn’t-manage-without-=that-money-it’s-gonna-cause-real-hardship-if-you-don’t-pay-us-on-time-oh-and-have-you-got-down-that-me-daughter-is-staying-on-at-school-for-an-extra-year-she’s-ever-so-bright-is-our- Fifi Dawn Laroche Cadenza.

“What d’you mean? How dare you talk to me like that! Of course she qualifies properly for the disability element at higher rate, I mean she can’t walk or even see properly, she needs a carer to come in three times a day and make sure she gets all her medication properly you know…and so what if she did win a disco dancing competition on holiday in Faliraki? She’s entitled to go on holiday like everybody else, isn’t she? Tell me, do you take your kids on holiday? Go on, tell me? Anyway, they said that it was a miracle recovery, we actually got a face flannel that had actually been used by Wayne Rooney himself, and when she was able to hold this against her legs she suddenly found that the extreme pain began to subside and she could actually walk again I-mean-that-guy-is-such-a-saint-he-does-so-much-good-for-people. One of our friends, he actually used to work in a hotel where the players used to go after matches, and some of the parties and things they used to get up to, well, they just keep a special laundry bin for the players, and everything that goes in there is sent off to the boiler room to be incinerated, no questions asked. Can’t be too careful nowadays.

Anyway, I don’t care what it says on your silly little computer, there’s obviously been some kind of mistake, we never earned that kind of money during the last three years. Don’t be silly, just let me talk to a manager and see if they can sort it out.  Look, I want to speak to a manager. Yes there is. Every office has a manager. If you don’t put me on to a manager now I shall make a formal complaint about your behaviour, you obviously don’t know who you’re dealing with here.

And why haven’t you got my correct work details – I’m doing eight and a quarter hours every three weeks, then I’m doing nine and a half hours every fourth week except during the school holidays when I do five hours every two weeks and six and a quarter hours for the other two weeks but I’m due to go full time in a couple of months. No, of course I didn’t notify you cos I thought you lot had all the information anyway from my employer. Fat lot of good you are, if you can’t even keep tabs on the workers.

And the customer becomes even more annoyed when I refuse to accept her fiendishly baroque explanation of why the huge lump sum she received from cashing in the shares she had bought with tax-free savings should not be regarded as income. I wanted so much to call her a miserable greedy cow, but contented myself with a murmured comment of ‘I’m sorry but we are unable to disregard the income which you were lucky enough to get last year…’

Half a Dozen Corners Make a Room

I brought you here to
Admire the still-life: cup, ashtray, crumpled plastic film
The hinge designed to make the door swing shut.
I don’t believe in anything; that’s what makes me good
And on the phone I hear them moan about
An unfair world that wicked rulers hold
So today, a girl complained
That she was on the books of an agency
They didn’t give her any work; does that mean
That she is an employee or not? I am reminded of
A world where half a dozen senior designers
And marketing consultants
Assemble round an expensive table and spend
Two hours discussing the exact shade of plastic gold
That should be used for the tear-off band
On cellophane wrappers from Bolton to Colchester.

Several shades were offered for review, including
A bold bright blue. The chairman said
Our clients don’t want nothing new
They’ve grown accustomed to the gold
And don’t like being told what to do. Next

On the agenda, the width of the plastic strip; the
Two choices each received an equal vote, so
In a fine display of leadership the chairman
Came down on the side of the wider band. The difference
Was minute, but the arguments were long and fierce
About the impact of such a change
On sales of cigarettes and sweets and things
That people tear the perfect packet open for themselves.

Meanwhile, hardened missiles make their way to Syria,
Destroying schools and shops and peoples’ lives; and
Children trapped in burning high-rise blocks
Scream for help to a watching TV crew. A man
Is shot. Is this the world we dreamed of? I don’t know.

 

 

 

Diana Park

Off to the Whitworth Gallery, where they had an exhibition of works by Raqib Shaw – some bizarre statues made up of linked human figures or centaurs with the heads of wolves. Behind them, on a deafening patterned wallpaper, were three huge paintings of imaginary marble courtyards, peopled with hideous skeletal creatures. The pictures gleam like enamelled tapestries. In another room we have British landscapes by Cozens and Cozens, charming wash-and-ink pictures.


It was a warm, fairly bright day, and I had hoped to find Whitworth Park full of lazy students reclining on the grass, wearing tight shorts and Ray-Ban shades and not much else. However, there were no handsome bodies on display; so I examined the sculptures, one of which reminded me of the far-off days when I prepared the Qualcast Green paint used on lawnmower hoods.

Twenty years ago I woke one morning to discover that Britain had abruptly changed.

Journal Entry, Sun 31 Aug 97:

Yesterday went to Tyre Sales. They don’t remove wheels but managed to find a nearby garage-man to help me. Had new tyre fitted, went through to office, huge glass case full of trophies. Had a go at changing oil and sheared the edges off the bolt.

Got up this morn, put on R3. Mozart wind quintet. Announcer said ‘We have cancelled the following programme as a mark of respect –‘ (and I immediately thought that they were going to announce that HM the Queen Mother had passed away) ‘ – due to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.’
They’ve cancelled footie matches but not the rugby. Hmmm…
Apparently she was in a car smash in Paris, chased by a mob of press photographers. Get the X-Files out.

Yesterday was reading Clive James’ review of ‘The Big Time’ where he mentions Sheena Easton and then, about two mins later on R2 they played ‘For Your Eyes Only’.
[Note: during this period I had no TV set, so I didn’t see any of the news footage of weeping crowds, or the broadcast tribute to Diana by HM the Q, or the vast fields of flowers left around Buckingham Palace. I eventually found them when I went to see ‘The Queen’, Stephen Frears’ movie about how HM copes with the social upheaval triggered by Diana’s demise.

 

Anonymous?

Synthetic Heritage

Off to the Gallery today; I’ve never seen it so busy, there were swarms of Japanese schoolgirls, middle-aged couples, and a few hardcore music fans (also the wrong side of fifty) who had called in to look at the glass case containing a handwritten song by Ian Curtis. Instead of a visitors’ book, the gallery offers people a section of wall on which to post sticky notes; the contributions often run to one or two words with a battalion of exclamation marks – ‘Fascinating!!!!’ One of the small square notes had an ornamental border surrounding a four-line poem:

“There’s something wrong with the canal today; the
Water has forgotten how to breathe
And waves arrive at random intervals, created
By a barge that wandered past two years ago.”

Another exhibition at the gallery consists of photographs of Salford taken in the seventies. We see cobbled streets, women in headscarves, scruffy children sitting on walls and playing with gas-masks. There are ruined houses with exposed wallpaper; very few cars apart from a wreck that children used for playing. How many of these urchins are now working as hedge fund managers, or in prison for murder, or carefully inspecting aviation test panels for SCD (sickness, corrosion and despair)?

 

Britain, 2017

As usual: I work long hours to pay the childminder
Who looks after my kids so I can go out to work
To earn the money
To pay the childminder who….
I work lots of overtime to pay off my Credit Cards;
My kitchen is filled with gleaming electrical toys
A bread maker which is sometimes very good
I have food processors, a device for vacuum-sealing leftovers
And left to my own devices I probably would. I have

A juicer to get the juice from fruits which I then discard
Of course it’s always late when I get home from work

Too tired to start cooking, so I
Pass the time by flicking through my volumes of Nigella and Jamie
And Gino and Delia and Mary and Keith
While I wait for the guy from Deliveroo to bring
My supper. I’ll sit beneath the rack of pots and pans and skillets
Picking at my lonely meal of seahorse and hummingbird fillets
And wondering what colour tie to wear to work.

I love watching tennis on TV; my room is filled
With saturated green from the epic bouts on centre court
And I have a garage filled with expensive fitness gear;
Carbon-fibre racquets, designer shorts
And the latest exfoliating shower gel for men. But

When I stagger home from work
The feeble shot of short-term energy from
My isotonic protein drink allows me to grab the remote
And watch recorded highlights from each game.
If I’m lucky, my kids will ring me
Twice a month; is that too much to ask?