Oblique towards the Sea

Confusing Job Advert

I recently found a job advert online which ran to 250 words but managed to say absolutely nothing about what sort of work would be involved, or what kind of person they were seeking. I think this job advert is actually a brilliant piece of neo-modern post-ironic brutalist poetry and should be submitted for next year’s Turner Prize.

The advert says:

“The scope of the job will include:-

To ensure the effective operation of manufacturing processes that fall under the span of control. To ensure that all process operating methods are clearly documented and maintained up to date. To ensure that the manufacturing processes under your control are continually developed / improved to ensure that technological advancements can be realised.

Main Responsibilities:

To support the manufacturing operation by reacting to and solving process issues in a timely manner when they arise.

To initiate corrective actions, training plans and process improvements where necessary to ensure that the processes under your control operate at their optimum level.

Ensure all processes, operation instructions and procedures are fully documented and that all company quality procedures & documentation is rigidly adhered to.

Ensure process controls and measures are identified, implemented and monitored for all processes within areas of your responsibility.

To review departmental process controls and identify improvements on an ongoing basis.

To identify manufacturing capacities for processes under your control. Liase (sic) with Team-leaders to ensure these capacities are understood and utilised.

Liase (sic) with the Pre-Production Engineering department to ensure that CAM & Planning practices reflect current manufacturing capabilities & methods.

To continually monitor and reduce scrap levels within areas of responsibility.

Actively participate within / drive the Company Quality Improvement Program, ensuring any corrective actions required are closed down within the relevant time scales.

Active member of the wet area team the candidate must have a can do and proactive character.”

(Apologies for the unauthorised reproduction; if you’re really that bothered, go ahead and sue.)



Many years ago I bought an LP record of ‘Vexations’ by Eric Satie (or at least about as many iterations of its theme as can be fitted onto two sides of vinyl…)

The response from my friends was amused, puzzled, and scathing. ‘You actually paid good money for this?’ was the typical refrain.

I no longer have the album, since I gave away most of my records (David Bowie, Barry White, Schubert, Laibach, Nana Mouskouri, Thompson Twins etc.) when I moved house two years ago…but I was reminded of the piece when I started reading Yasmina Reza’s play Art, a dainty three-hander filled with bold ideas and arguments, centred around a totally white abstract painting.

One message board commentator remarked that this piece was very funny and interesting, but it showed an intellectual dimension completely missing from British culture. Only in continental Europe, said he, would you find people so engaged with modern (postmodern?) art.

The play has been performed by stars, by unknowns, by female actors, possibly even by black actors (with a canvas to match – I have no idea). The play was broadcast on BBC Radio Three (ironic, huh?) to celebrate the award of the first Turner Prize. Since we have recently had Hollywood movies featuring one or two actors (Cast Away, All is Lost, Gravity) it is only a matter of time before some huge Director brings out a glorious big-screen version of the play where the end credits run for two hours and feature an army of wardrobe consultants, lighting coordinators, and stunt doubles.

‘Oblique towards the Sea’

The mask of a white painting
Is as much about the viewer as it is about the art
A nebulous poem where nothing happens
Like a job advert that fails to specify a
Single trait to solidly confirm
How able you might be
To do the job. I found myself lost and
Dreaming in a foreign tongue, unable
To say how scared I was; instead, I
Managed to say out loud ‘rejoice’, and felt
Once more as calm as anyone
Arriving home from a lengthy voyage. 

Last Thursday saw the announcement of this year’s ‘A’ Level results, when slender blonde girls hugged each other on sunlit lawns while clutching A4 pages glowing with achievement. We certainly didn’t behave like that back in 1982, instead trooping along to the school reception area where a type-written list of grades was pinned casually to a notice-board. If one of my teachers had said to me ‘Well done! And where do you think you’ll be in thirty-five years’ time?’ I might have said ‘Oh, probably managing ICI.’ Instead of which, I’m working as a section leader in a paint factory, being insulted and ignored by the other staff (‘my insubordinates’), living in a rented flat with a TV but no aerial and no hi-fi and no car and no motorbike and reading library books (Yasmina Reza and Joan Baez) and a head full of knowledge about coatings technology acquired over the past 23 years.


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