Rust and Dust

I’ve been listening to The Bedsit Poets; they seem to have spent far too long (if such a thing were possible) listening to Pink Floyd, Jacques Brel, John Martyn, Roy Harper and Lou Reed; fuzzy soundscapes dotted with the poignant ruins of success.
For some people an overgrown path is perfect, no steel structure is fully complete until it has been colonised by rust, and a hardback book found in a junkshop – sans covers and titles page – is unbearably romantic. Which reminds me; I recently finished writing a report for work about the progress of salt-spray corrosion on an electrical enclosure. Various bits of the structure had started to develop red rust; but I wasn’t allowed to use the ‘R’-word. Instead I had to adopt the phrase ‘red ferrous corrosion’, which is accurate but lacks drama and so is less precise. Or vice versa.
Rust never sleeps. The compelling triumph of entropy.
Back in 1981 I bought a copy of ‘Bedsitter’ on 12-inch vinyl, one of the highlights of Soft Cell’s brief output. This duo had a nice line in bleak lyrics matched to jaunty tunes, and manages to depict the boredom of living in a bedsit flat. Back then one would not have expected Marc Almond to still be around thirty years later, recording and performing torch songs; he has always been infatuated with the music of Jacques Brel, and I recently went to see a band called ‘Dead Belgian’ who perform only that writer’s songs. ‘In the port of Amsterdam / There’s a sailor who drinks / And he drinks / And he –‘
But alas, I never learned what he did next because I had to dash away to catch the last tram home. I bet the trams in Amsterdam continue running well after midnight, in order to let people enjoy their cafe culture. Here in Manchester we are grimly protestant, and the city’s nightlife is recognised as being a vital part of the local economy – but the idea of actual enjoyment is seen as vulgar and sinful.
It’s grim up North; the compelling triumph of pessimism.
Perhaps everyone should try living in a bedsit for a couple of years during their twenties – it’s a good way to decide which of your treasured possessions are really vital, ‘cos you won’t have room to keep everything.

Journal Entry, Sun 4 Aug ’96:
Well, it’s about ten years since I left Leicester Poly with a degree in Chemistry and a few belongings. And now here I am in a rented bedsit, working in a paint factory for a salary below the bottom tenth in the RSC survey.
Called in at the Energy Shop (cookers, fridges etc) to ask about having electricity reconnected. The woman behind the counter said ’you’ll have to see the Elec Board’. I asked for their number and was told she didn’t have it. I ask you!
Tonight went to Freddie’s Bar and was reading the small ads in Boyz one of which was for a hirsute ‘tasched Asian guy. Then two blokes matching this description walked in together.
Young Steve (CAMRA) came in wearing a lime green shirt (oh, you fashion victim!), ordered half a bitter, took three sips and walked out again.
Robbie is supposed to have written to me with his new address and phone number but haven’t yet received his letter.

Journal Entry, Sun 1 Sep ‘96
Robbie – fool – had sent me a letter addressed to No.1 Macklin St, so the Post Office had opened it (No.1 had been demolished in the seventies) before tracking me down. It read: “Dear Mavis, At Last!!! I’ve moved I’ve moved I’ve moved I’ve moved I’ve moved! This is it, Never Again!!! Love, HRH LK, The La in Laphroiagh.”

Journal Entry, Sun 19 Oct ‘97
Thursday night stayed late at work to make sure two batches of white paint were finished and I could leave at lunchtime on Fri with a Kleer Konscience.
Went to Telford, stopped at Asda to buy decent shoes, carried on to Much Wenlock. Found myself on the correct B-road (wonders will never cease) and ended up at Wilderhope Manor.
Fri night ate and drank, went to pub, came back in moonlight (how did those cattle grids get there?)
Sat morn woke up, dense fog everywhere, couldn’t go on run (everyone else doing eighty-plus) so made my own way to pub. A5 to North Wales, a one-horse town with 40 screaming queens and huge bikes.
Sat nite disco, had t-shirt pulled off. ‘There were nine topless men on the dancefloor’ said I. ‘Yes, and you’ said Robbie.
All in all, the best weekend ever.

Journal Entry, Sun 15 May ‘05
Went to Astle Park for NABD Rally. Tony had already arrived by 12.00 and erected the yellow marquee. We did a brisk trade in enquiries and membership forms. Bands – Beers Monsters, superb, wandered into crowd and handed guitar over to players in audience.
Rick introduced the strippers (both female) and made some comments about the ‘sad faggots’ who weren’t watching them.
MCN gave the event big promotion and even mentioned that a mobile lap-dancing bar would be on-site (which probably explains why there were 2000 punters at the event and why we ran out of beer).
Perhaps ‘Minus one Raver’ should produce an LP called ‘Square Route’, the path through life taken by orthodox individuals who deliberately cultivate a stable career avoiding any contact with people from different backgrounds.
Mister Average. ‘Making Plans for Nigel’.

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Strategy equals Tragedy

We never did Shakespeare at school;
I never got to play King Lear, although apparently
I never missed a chance to act the fool. We didn’t
Have to learn the Balcony Scene because
My group was not considered bright enough
To master all that dense psycho-dramatic stuff
That old Will smuggled into all his lines,
The hot words waiting
To reveal their microscopic landscape
Of meaning, where the pause between two words
Denotes the violent battle waiting twenty pages on.

He watches as she pauses for a passing car; the drama unfolds
And though she doesn’t know it, she’s a star.

Journal Entry, 11 Oct 2012:
Yesterday I travelled into Manchester for my final exam, ‘Making Sense of Strategy’. Since I was early, I decided to have a coffee and sit outside enjoying the bright morning. Before me, in all directions passed a varied throng; office workers, jobless wannabes, and I found myself recalling the day in 1982 when I came here for an interview at Manchester Poly. I walked down from the station to Piccadilly Gardens. Back then there were no tram-lines, no costly coffee-shops, no mobile phones, no internet, no MP3 players and no buildings on Picc Gards, just the imposing statue of Victoria.
And, then, as now I watched the busy city come to life and the world all seems to shimmer with possibilities. One day it will be pleasant to remember these things…

Journal Entry, 15 Jun 2011:
This morning went over to Salford Uni for my B203 (Business Functions in Context) exam. Seemed to go OK – I did the HR and Marketing questions.
Then sauntered round town, had a sarnie at E.A.T and a glass of Shiraz at The Waterhouse, then went to see ‘Kaboom’ at Cornerhouse Cinema.
Deranged movie full of sex and nudity, with some elements of ‘American Beauty’ and ‘Twin Peaks’. Stooooopid ending, though…

Journal Entry, 24 Jul 2011:
Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of my starting work at Sterling Tech, when I very first moved to M’cr, so Brett and I went to dinner at Swing Bridge.
Watching ‘Anchors Aweigh!’ on BBC2, I noticed that some woman was singing a romantic ballad based on Tchaikovsky’s Serenade.
In the news: bombings and shootings in Norway, some right-wing Christian fanatic.
Just been reading the Hollinghurst interview in Attitude magazine where it is mentioned that Rupert Brooke died at the age of 15.
Is this right? I wondered, so instead of trying to find my Bloomsbury Guide to Eng Lit, I looked on Google and found that RB actually died in 1915.

Journal Entry, 9 Sep 2011:
On the Telegraph website forum, someone made a point which I have tried to articulate in the past – years ago people left skool and went into a job. Even if they couldn’t read or write there would always be a need for unskilled labour and once they were in a job it provided a support environment with options of mentoring and the work ethic.

At work young Chris was telling us about his hobby – building model ships and planes. He’s currently working on The Titanic, and he mentioned that some enthusiasts actually create models of that ship as it is now, with damaged hulls and ruined interiors.
I mentioned about John Soane, and his imaginary drawings for the ruin of the Bank of England – a way of showing off his design for the layout of the various chambers.

Get a Witness…

When I went down to Ye Olde Laundromat yesterday I found that the local Jehovah’s Witnesses had left a copy of their vile rag ‘The Watchtower’ for me to read.
This inspiring pamphlet carried an assortment of wholesome articles, one of which was about the importance of marrying only within your own religion. Another item gave brief case histories of people whose lives had been mired in degenerate squalor until the JWs had rescued them. One of these sad individuals was a woman who had spent many years as a slave to alcohol and drugs; the Witnesses rescued her, restored her self-esteem and helped her to raise a healthy family.
The other case featured a man who had been a karate enthusiast and keen cyclist. He imagined that his frequent bouts of exercise were building his health and discipline, but fortunately he fell in with a couple of JWs who showed him the error of his ways, and he was persuaded to abandon physical activities and devote every minute of every day to serving The Lord.
After reading this I wondered how the competitors who ran and jumped and swam and fought during this year’s Paralympic games in London would feel at being told that their achievements were the result of misguided arrogance and selfish pride. For I am a jealous God, saith the Lord; and I will not have deformed blokes with carbon-fibre limbs thinking they can be proper athletes.
Surely it would be better if the Witnesses and their fellow fanatics could regard physical and intellectual prowess as being a divine gift; instead of forcing someone to give up karate, invite them to search for a spiritual dimension in their pastime…

A couple of years ago I studied an Open Uni course entitled ‘Business Functions in Context’, which explained the five basic elements of business in traditional Western capitalism. Very interesting and fairly easy to grasp, the material from this course came to mind when I watched major news stories; for instance, when it was announced that a no-fly zone was to be imposed over the Libyan border, I asked myself about the operations, personnel, funding and information aspects of this campaign. However, I am now studying ‘Strategy: B301’ with the OU, a far more confusing and nebulous course. Any one of a dozen conflicting viewpoints could be harnessed to analyse business strategy, making it difficult to pin down the ideas we are meant to be learning. The difficulty of actually implementing strategy is perfectly illustrated by Abu Hamza, the radical Muslim ‘cleric’ whose extradition to the US has finally taken place after years of legal wrangling and delay.
However, Hamza’s departure now leaves us looking for a new hate-figure to serve as public enemy number one…

Meanwhile, in today’s Times, we find that children’s efforts at reading are miraculously helped by the presence of a dog. Mind you, when they do start reading in earnest, some of the available books are a bit challenging; Murchamore’s Cherub series and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. These two are mentioned in an anxious piece by Clover Stroud, headed ‘Should I let my son read violent books?’ The Times helpfully provides a pull-out-and-keep guide to King Lear, which could easily end up being part of her lad’s English curriculum in a couple of years.
Also in Ye Times, a huge police hunt is underway for the body of April Jones, who disappeared while playing near her home in Machynlleth. The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has declared his support for a reduction in the legal time limit for abortions from 24 to 12 weeks, claiming that his views come from a careful study of the evidence. However, it is more likely that he is anticipating the arrival in the White House of Mitt Romney, devout Mormon, Republican candidate and rabid right-winger. By announcing their anti-abortion credentials like this, Tory party could receive hefty moral and financial support from the US Republicans in the run-up to the next UK General Election.