Osborne Wicker

Journal Entry, Easter 2013:
Our beloved Chancellor, Gideon Osborne, has tried several initiatives, mostly without success, in his efforts to rejuvenate the British economy. Today I had to go to work to transfer some test specimens, and as I walked through the deserted streets of Eccles it suddenly occurred to me: abolish Bank Holidays! The CBI regularly complains that events such as World Cup footie matches, Royal Weddings and Christmas all see a tragic downturn in national productivity. Surely the answer would be to eliminate Christmas, Easter, New Year and May Day; this would prevent UK PLC from losing all those untold billions of pounds. And while we’re at it, we could try reducing the number of weekends; after all, if dustbin collections can be reduced to twice-monthly, then so can weekend breaks. It’s fairly common for managers to moan that they spend a large part of Sunday catching up on works e-mails, so they probably won’t notice the difference. Yeah, so it’s a daft idea; but we’ve tried all the sensible ones, and look where they’ve got us…

Two books, one theme; it’s fascinating to see how different writers shed light on a common body of knowledge, rather like walking past a car and hearing a song on the radio, then realising that it’s a cover version; you recognise the words and the tune, but the voice is unfamiliar. Sometimes it is possible to recall the original version in your head, but occasionally the song is an obscure totem of culture, and you know that you’ve heard this song – or a version of it – elsewhere, and are left feeling vaguely unsettled by the half-remembered tune.
The books are The Conclave, by Michael Bracewell, and Rumours of a Hurricane, by Tim Lott. The first of these relates the adventures of a bright couple who ride the wave of 1980s excess, ruthlessly manipulating technology and intellect to provide themselves with status and comfort. Elegant, and cynical, and very writerly, Conclave describes the establishment of a new social caste and how people become distorted by their efforts to join its members.
Lott’s novel, on the other hand, is more overtly comic, with the main characters – a print worker and his family – responding anxiously to the social changes happening at that time. Lazy writers telling the same story may have been tempted to insert numerous cultural references (pop songs, film stars) to make their narrative more convincing; but these two novels are content to let us focus on the main persons and their unfolding lives.
There are many telling details in Hurricane; Charlie, filled with anxiety, decides to buy his council flat and thus joins the property-owning democracy. His Christmas present to his wife is a microwave oven. He scoffs at the cellular telephone which his brother assures him is the future of business. And he gives his wife a credit card and tells her to ‘go on, treat yourself’…thus are revolutions started.
This era of wild consumerism is often linked with the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, but she was from a Methodist background and viewed luxury with suspicion. She also trained as a Chemist, and would have seen the world in terms of balanced equations and budgets. The Porsche-driving yuppies of 1987 preferred to think in terms of alchemy, using insanely complicated mathematics to create money from thin air. The characters in Hurricane tend to live real lives with real problems; they misunderstand one another and the world around them, cautiously accepting greater levels of wealth and freedom and being vaguely aware that they have left behind a life which, though dull, had much to recommend it…

Journal Entry, 22 Jul 2007:
Thursday morning set off for Newcastle, got lost on their  road network, eventually found Dean St. Parked up, went and had an hour-long chat with Sandra Norman. Then rode over the A69 to Carlisle, and it rained. Severely.
Got to New Abbey just in time to see LK unloading the dogs. We drank and drank…apparently I demanded gin but can’t remember this. Fri morning got up with hangover and honked up down the bog.
Then realised my keyfob bike alarm batteries were fading so bought new ones from Halfords and visited jeweller to get them fitted. Then went off to the Wicker Man.
Couldn’t see all the bands ‘cos they’re on in eleven different music tents. Saw the Glaswegian Samba band, and The Beat, and Skaville UK, and a bit of The Proclaimers, and several bands I couldn’t identify but all v interesting and really talented.
One tent full of UV-lit Sikh and Hindu and Buddhist images, playing relentless gentle afro-asian dub choonz. Sat night we all gathered to watch The Burning; fire jugglers and dancers and people on fiery pushbikes before eventually the real thing was set alight.

Flashback, 31 Dec 2007:
I’m lying there, too tired to relax
And she walks in
Defiantly smoking half a cigarette
I hear her say
“I’m afraid the curtains don’t quite meet.”

It’s true enough;
Cheap shafts of light invade my hotel room
And in another dream
I’m trapped, somewhere below a ruined church
Can’t recall my own address.

So what? I’m lost; she walks away, and a line
Of ash is all that’s left behind.

Music and Lies…

Music and Lies…

Panufnik drifting from a nearby room
Charms the stripes of darkness into knots; they
Make me think of Mediaeval signatures.
I sat there waiting on her doorstep like a fool
As all around, I felt the night grow
Steadily more cold…


Journal Entries: list of job applications etc
March 1987: Tufnol, Holden’s Paints, Halesowen College, Kodak, Pyrene Chemicals, Alcan, Bevaloid, May & Baker, Lever Bros, Leavlite, Astleys, F Ball, Alfred Adams, A & W, Autotype, Berger, Cyanamid, Eagle Paints, Reckitt & Colman
Sept 1987: Bostock, Hill & Rigby, Magnesium Elektron, London International Group, Trent Poly, Supra Chemicals, OMI International, Delta Extruded Metals, Mander Inks, Becker Coatings, Resolution Chemicals, Century Oils
Jan 1988: CP Pharmaceuticals, Tate & Lyle, Carello Lighting, Thames Water, Fosroc, Firth Furnishing, Himont-Cole, Shirley Institute, Cuprinol, Aston Uni, Polymer Laboratories, Blythe Colours, J Whelan, Oxford Poly, BMARC, Courtaulds, ECLP, Trace Labs
March 1988: Derwent, Morton Thiokol, Nat Rivers Authority, Crown Berger, Railko
July 1989: Kent Ind Measurement, BTTG, EDRC Capenhurst, Whatman, ICI Paints, English Abrasives, Beta Technology, A&W, Henkel, Alcan, Harco
Jan 1991: Shell, UCB Films, Diversey, T&N Technology, Euromedica, BIP

Journal Entries, June 1991:
Sat 8: Last night went to see Robert de Niro in ‘Guilty by Suspicion’ at George St, Screen 2. Would have been much better on the big screen at Magdalen St. Then went to pub, saw Jamie and Rob and his mate Alastair.
Sun 9: Today went swimming before dinner. Yesterday went to Randolph Hotel for cream tea with Pam, John and Rob H (who picked up his Doctorate) and saw Stephen Hawking trundling around.
Sun 16: Last Mon went swimming early, went to Poly in order to leave at 11.00 for Bradford, only to find that we weren’t leaving ‘til half-one. Went to Bombay Brasserie, Indian Restaurant in a renovated church up a hill. IMAX cinema, Kodak museum, The Sun pub (rather like the DC in Leicester).
Returned home to find messages from ST Recruitment; they have arranged an interview for me with Smith & Nephew.
Thur 20: Phone call yesterday from Best Recruitment, did I want a job as a Tech Service Chemist? Yeah! I cried, then went off to see Mel Gibson in the Zeffirelli movie of ‘Hamlet’. Twin Peaks on Tues night was crazy…
Wed 26: Rain, rain and more rain. Slovenia and Croatia declaring independence from Yugoslavia, bombings and shootings. Went to Smith & Nephew for interview on Monday; very nice Victorian house, wood panelling, suit of armour on the stairs.

Journal Entry, 11 Feb ’92:
Two weeks ago had a letter from Champion Employment saying ‘We have a vacancy – contact us urgently.’ So I rushed along to see them and they told me the job was at Culham Labs, but that I was overqualified. Later that day went into the Jobcentre and spotted the same vacancy on the notice board, so I filled out a numbered slip and handed it to the receptionist who told me to take a seat. Then she called me over and informed me that the vacancy was closed.
Then this morning had a postcard from Paterson Recruitment saying ‘Contact us urgently, etc’ and of course it turned out to be the same job, so I posted them another new CV.
Had a letter-card from Gail McBride. Wrote off to Johnson Matthey for technician job.
Also today had a Restart Interview at the Dole Office, and while I was there I rang Key Personnel in B’ham asking if there had been any news about my Carrs interview (remember, the one which resulted in a ‘phone call telling me the job was mine); Bill Lloyd Smith wasn’t there, but one of the other staff said that no decision had yet been reached.
WLS rang later to say that Carrs were reorganising and had to defer the decision.

Pictures and Paintings…

Journal Entry, Fri 6 Nov 2009:
Yesterday went to pictures to see ‘Triangle’, one of those weird time-dislocated-multiverse movies…very stylish and puzzling. Wednesday me and Anastasia did Southport and had coffee and cakes and antique shops. This morning I laundryetted, then walked into Chorlton with Brett’s chq and meal booking form.

Journal Entry, 5 April 2013:
Last night I went to the AMC to watch ‘Trance’, the new Danny Boyle film starring the very lovely James McAvoy. An intriguing psychological thriller-cum-heist, this movie vibrates with coarse humour and high art. There were a couple of bum notes; the scene where Simon is unconsciously guided through a virtual gallery of lost masterpieces didn’t really need Elizabeth to recite the artists’ names, and the opening scene (a dummy’s guide to art theft) was a bit too post-ironic and neomodernist. Perhaps the film would have been stronger if the stolen picture had been a work by a fictional painter, rather than the Goya. But on the whole it was a thoroughly entertaining romp, and made me want to rush out immediately and get myself hypnotised – so that I could turn into a Black Belt at Wado, or a Grandmaster chess player, or the next Barenboim…or maybe all three.

In the news: it was announced on Monday that Baroness Thatcher, former prime minister, had died at the age of 87. This has provoked a frenzy of debate, not all of it civilised. Peter Tatchell pointed out that Mrs T was a rabid opponent of communism, and to that end she offered support to a range of foreign dictators including Pinochet and de Klerk, while dismissing Nelson Mandela and the ANC as a bunch of terrorists.
When she was a young gal, Margaret Roberts and her fiancé Denis Thatcher attended the OCCA dinner dance in London. Her interest in technology was puzzling; she opposed the introduction of unleaded petrol, preferring to encourage research into lean-burn engines instead. It might be ironic if, in twenty years or so, the UK coalfields become once more cost-effective to run (after the demise of cheap oil) and we use off-peak energy to condense air, so that the liquid-air turbines, together with oxygen-rich feed allows us to build ultra-clean coal power stations. Kraftwerk, indeed!
Several commentators have linked Thatcher’s policies directly with the collapse of manufacturing and mining in the UK. I am sceptical about anyone having that much influence; more likely the flow of ideas from Europe and the US was transforming business and politics, and Mrs T was an opportunist. The changes which overtook British society would have happened anyway, regardless of who was in government; indeed, Thatcher’s arrival (Grammar school girl with a chemistry degree) created severe discomfort among the traditional elements of the Tory party, who  considered Eton and History to be the beacons that let Britain Rule The World.

Journal Entry, Fri 2 Oct 2009:
This morning had text from Alistair; did I fancy meeting him and Eileen in town for lunch? So we went to Giorgio’s and had the place to ourselves. On a Friday lunchtime – how odd!
Then I went ot Art Gall to look round the ‘Angels of Anarchy’ exhibition, female surrealists. Kay Sage, Leonor Fini etc, all those wonderful paintings from my old Thames & Hudson book.
Some tasty bits of stuff among the other patrons; young guy with short black hair & beard.
Just logged onto Facebook and found ‘Your Friends’ [the network looks for persons who have your e-mail address in their account] which included Luke, Elaba and Russell Bear, which was quite an upsetting experience [I met Russell only once, and heard that he had died about a year later].
Meanwhile, here in Manchester we are hosting the Conservative Party Conference. Their leader, David (“call me Dave”) Cameron is a floppy-haired millionaire public schoolboy, and I can’t imagine any impressionist comedian finding enough personal quirks in him to build a routine from.

Journal Entry, Thur 15 Oct 2009:
Yesterday I applied on-line for a job posted by an agency called ‘Penguin Recruitment’ (surely they would supply waiters?)and also sent written application to some firm in Eccles that does plastics colouration.
Then went to Leeds Art Gall for the British Surrealists Exhibition (free!) which had lost several paintings to the ‘Angels’ show in Manchester.
One room contained dozens of items, and you couldn’t look properly at them. And some didn’t count as ‘surreal’.
Rest of gallery v good, but rather small; Spencers and Sickerts, hung on the stairwell where you couldn’t see them at their best. The Journey, huge semi-abstract photo-collage paintings.
Got back home, let myself in, then found the door wouldn’t close – I e-mailed SMFA last week about this, and rang them on Tuesday. I managed to shut it, but now it can’t open and I’m trapped in the house.