Up Creek No Paddle

Drama, drama, drama!

Back in 2013, David Cameron launched an election campaign which included a promise to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.
Last Thursday we had the national vote, and initial results suggested that a small majority of voters were in favour of staying put. However, later during the night it became apparent that the vote had swung the other way and on Friday morning we woke up to discover that the UK had decided to leave Europe.

David Cameron announced his resignation, and said that his replacement should be in place at Number Ten in time for the Tory party conference in October.
Stock markets plunged; the Bank of England declared that it would use up to 250 billion pounds to maintain financial stability.
The EU President said that if the UK wants to leave, then it should start immediately severing all links with the European bloc, rather than waiting two years. However, someone has set up an online petition as a precaution in case the result wasn’t satisfactory, and this is now being used to challenge the referendum since there wasn’t a clear 60:40 majority.
And Jeremy Corbin has sacked Hilary Benn, prompting resignations from eight other members of the shadow cabinet.

A lot of news coverage recently has involved flying cars and driverless cars, expensive high-tech marvels of technology being developed by firms such as Google and Honda.
I am always reminded of that occasion when I had to drive to work in November 1995. We had suffered a few days of bitterly cold weather, and I woke up to find a 7-mm thick layer of hard ice on the windscreen. I spent ten minutes with a wooden spoon carefully breaking this carapace before gingerly setting off to work.
The nine-mile journey to work took me about two hours; when I arrived there, I found that none of the delivery wagons had been able to make it on the icy roads, so we were unable to take in raw materials or send out the finished goods which had been made over the previous two days.

We love journeys, and travel, and vehicles…but we never stop to think about the significance of our journey. I wonder how many people spend two hours each day driving when all along, there are other people (who could do the same job) living just a couple of miles from work.
On that cold November day it would have been just as useful for me to stay at home in front of the television, drinking soup, instead of spending four hours on the road simply in order to check the viscosity of a two-litre sample of paint.

Here in Manchester we have lots of impressive architecture. A few years ago we had a splendid sculpture called ‘B-of-the-Bang’ which was erected (two years over schedule) next to the Manchester City Etihad football stadium. This magnificent spectacle appears in a large coffee-table book called ‘Making’, which features all the major works of Thomas Heatherwick. The three-page section devoted to ‘B-o-t-B’ ends with a modest paragraph saying “It was devastating when the project developed a technical problem and was taken down in 2009, four years after its completion, by Manchester City Council.”

This bland statement overlooks the issue of the cost of the project (£1.7m) and the fact that large metal spikes began falling to the ground, posing a certain degree of danger to the passing public.

Journal entry, 25 April 2020: Donald Trump – the US President – regularly gives rambling, incoherent press briefings in which he reminds us how wonderful he is and how much better the American economy is faring under his expert guidance.

A couple of days ago he treated us to an absolute corker of a conference – he had been made aware of recent research showing that the novel coronavirus-19 could be deactivated by contact with UV light or disinfectant solutions.

He then said something like; ‘Perhaps we should look at whether this can be applied inside the body’ which prompted a torrent of sarcastic comment. He didn’t actually say that people should rush out and start drinking bleach for breakfast; but it is hard to think of any other possible way to interpret his throwaway remark.

Back in 2016 the UK voted to leave the EU, and there were furious debates in Parliament – we decided to leave in March 2018, then in March 2019, then in July 2019, then in October 2019, and finally at the end of January 2020.

To commemorate this splendid achievement, I went to buy a copy of the papers. The Independent carried a couple of pages about the recently discovered virus which had caused mayhem in China. They reported that we had so far identified two cases in the UK, and quoted a leading virology professor who said that it was unlikely that there would be a widespread problem of transmission here, since we had a testing and tracing process in place.

Yesterday there were another 768 deaths reported, bringing the UK total to 19506.

A few months ago we all enjoyed concocting wild, ambitious plans for what we would do if we ever won four million pounds on the lottery jackpot. Nowadays we imagine what we will do if we are ever allowed to leave the house and go shopping in town.

And it has emerged that Dominic Cummings, the sinister puppeteer behind Bojo and his conservative cabinet, has been allowed to attend science policy meetings – a few years ago he published a few blog entries describing the mayhem that would be caused by an epidemic of flu

June 2007

Journal Entry, 20 Jun 2007: Today at work we had an e-mail from Eileen with the new (80-page) Company Manual – guidance on internet usage, flexitime, equal ops policy, holiday allowance etc.
MPs have interviewed senior figures from Private Equity firms. These are organisations which borrow money, use it to buy companies, then sell of the assets. Allegedly.
Analogue TV being phased out as digital broadcast takes over.
And in the company handbook it says that ‘the annual performance appraisal is not a pay review; changes to your pay package are due to increases in responsibilities and skills…’
So no cost-of-living increase?
Solsperse – we tried using hyperdispersant on its own and with added synergist. On some pigments – PY83, PO34 – the synergist produces a fabulous increase in gloss.

21 Jun 2007: At work I looked on the PPCJ website and found that Holliday Pigments are to close their Hall site. Where I think I was due to attend an interview a few years ago but didn’t bother.
Robbie’s birfday.
Today they had a New Prod Dev meeting at work which started late and went on late so we don’t know if The End Is Nigh!Tomorrow need to take all my MAG stuff ready for Sunday’s meeting: minutes of previous meetings, reports of Manchester congestion charging.

24 Jun 2007: Thursday night went to Traf Ctr and bought 3 CDs – Roxy Music, Guillemots and Camera Obscura. Fri morn went to work and looked up my course results on the OU website – I passed exam with 47 percent.
Set off for rally, it started raining so I pulled in at services, saw a car piled on the grass embankment.
Met John (the guy with the ER-5 from Wirral) and some girls called Sue and Liz and Vee. Got chatting to Sue – who suffers from osteoarthritis – and found out she’s been to see Parsifal on stage in Vienna.
Saw the whole of Smoking Monkey set and last bit of Insanity Beach set.

I thought we were going to have the local reps meeting on Sunday after the rally but nobody showed up. And I scratched the pannier cowl with my camp bed when loading luggage.
Sue also remarked that the location of the Super Casino should have been decided by throwing a dice. And at one point we were sat outside drinking Aussie Red when four young lads ran naked from the band room – having been made ex-rally virgins.

27 Jun 2007: Last night to the Trafford Centre to watch ‘Captivity’ a pretty ghastly film about some model who ends up a hostage in a strange house where she is subjected to all sorts of (fake?) tortures.
People in cinema chatting away on their mobiles throughout movie. Big trailer for Die Hard 4 – carries all the best stunts from the movie, about 90 seconds long.

Found a message on my ansafone from Sandra N at PES: apparently I had sent them an application for a job as a Graduate Polymer Technologist and they want me for an interview. Rang her back on Thurs and she said she was in Nott’m next Thurs and would I be available and I said No! Tis the OCCA AGM!

28 Jun 2007: Spent today looking after Rebecca (Garry B-‘s daughter) who is at our place on her work experience. Apparently she’s just done her GCSEs and is looking forward to sixth form. I asked whether she was definitely going to sixth form; ‘Oh yes, mum and dad would be disappointed if I didn’t, after all it is a private school’.

30 Jun 2007: Yesterday was John F’s birfday so I rang and left message. They’re probably away in Holland.
We had a talk yesterday about the new ‘flexi-time’ system. Eileen explained all about how you lose fifteen minutes for being late by even 1 min, and Alan reminded us that we could not accrue hours just in order to take Friday afternoon off. When he said this Jemma looked despondent and ready to burst into tears and went off on a litany of complaint about how unfair it was to penalise us for being just 1 min late.
Also at work Andrew wants me to liaise with our PFR suppliers and find out what standard batches they actually use. Tenchy is going to Xplode when he finds out.

2 Jul 2007: Weather – rain, rain, severe floods in Sheffield and the Midlands.

On Friday night, police officers and members of the public discovered two cars packed with canisters of gas, nails and petrol cans.
Saturday evening a burning car was driven into an advertising hoarding at Glasgow airport. The drivers – two qualified hospital doctors – have been arrested. Saturday was also the Pride March in London. And here at Urmston Lane, we have a wasps’ nest in the wall above my bathroom.
Also in the news, a local council leader has proposed a third ring of steel to charge motorists for driving into town.
One of the C-of-E bishops has said that recent floods are God’s punishment for immoral behaviour. Sheffield must be a terribly wicked place…

9 Aug 2007: on Thurs night rode up to Cramlington and got lost again. Weds went to interview at Cova: saw Colin T (technical manager) and Doug R (HR manager) and the CEO (Derek?) and two of them asked if I was married or not, and all of them asked why I had changed jobs so frequently.
They’re looking for a replacement for Ray, who’s been there for about forty years and knows all about pigments and ink. (Note: this last section appears elsewhere on this blog, but it may be worth pointing out that if Ray was due for retirement, they have had plenty of time to organise a replacement and handover period. And technically it is illegal to ask if a job applicant is married, since this invites discrimination. And I have learned that Kernow Coatings are still looking for a senior technical person to replace Richard, who was due to retire in 2010, and they have had plenty of time to recruit his replacement. And Kernow was given an EU grant of 380,000 pounds to take on new employees a few years back….)


Paint Chemist Rainbow Flag

Did Goethe really believe that every object had a skin of whirling pyramids, the speed of which gave rise to different colours? By shaving off the tips of these, their energy is drained away and the colour drifts towards black. Hollow pyramids are throbbing with the possibility of night, Novalis told me in a letter that I had to burn.

Walking along the high road
I see the buildings trailing coloured beams
Reflected on designer watches, Ray-Ban shades
And splashed from last night’s rain
As cars go by.  A Polish tourist glances up
Not knowing what the colours signify
But settled that the polyester nylon flag
Is something modern, trite and empty of ideas.

If Goethe wandered past today
He would be shocked to see the cars
And motorbikes in vivid red
The shade from which (or so he claimed to think)
Are all the other colours made. And then
Observing all the
many-coloured sheets
Would wonder how much scattered energy
Emerges from each rainbow trapped in silk.

He wouldn’t realise that the
Writhing chains of quinacridone and
Phthalocyanine take random turns to
Both soak up and bat away selected highlights from
The steady hail of helium’s despair. Nor
Would he know that pink is really
Minus Green, a floating concept that

Relies on the magic of the space between
Magenta’s bold twin peaks.

Since I don’t have access to DTP or ChemDraw, I haven’t been able to construct the type of exhibition poster I had in mind; something tall and imposing, with six bands of colour using a mixture of paint, feather boas, and sequins with ball-and-stick models turning gently in the breeze.
The point I wished to make was that colour chemistry is a serious branch of science, and if you don’t understand the significance of molecular structure you end up with slight problems – like 17,000 seats having to be replaced at Wembley Stadium (May 2007) because they weren’t light-fast…
Here’s my attempt at a whimsical poster showing some of the many, many options for pigment structures. And any good chemist will point out that the precursors to these pigments are also used in pharmaceutical and agrochemical manufacture, so there is always competition for raw materials.
Hopefully some dynamic youngster can run with this idea and produce a more glamorous wall-chart suitable for display at a conference – the 2019 LGBT STEMinar, for instance? 




Anti-gay attacks

If you have asked me about Orlando twenty years ago – or even two years, or maybe four days – I would have said ‘Yeah, film with Tilda Swinton, directed by Sally Potter, based on a book by Virginia Woolf.’ Orlando was a young nobleman who becomes a woman and lives for centuries, engaged in an epic quest for love.

But now, following the events of two days ago, the name Orlando will always be associated with a vicious assault when Omar Mateen killed and injured dozens of people at a gay nightclub called Pulse, one of the most popular venues in Florida. Armed with two lawfully-purchased weapons, Meteen opened fire and killed fifty clubbers after having called 911 to pledge allegiance to ISIL. (Correction: actually 49 victims. Mateen was shot dead by police during the siege)

And about seventeen years ago, we had a similar outrage in the UK, when a gay pub in London’s Soho was targeted by a right-wing fanatic.

Looking back through my journal, I find only a couple of brief entries concerning the Admiral Duncan pub bombing in April 1999. Perhaps I felt that this event would be covered in detail by the press, and there was no need for it to be carefully recorded in my diaries. Or did I feel uncomfortable and superstitious, unwilling to recognise the extreme impact of this dreadful attack?

Note: the Admiral Duncan pub bombing was carried out by an engineer called David Copeland, who wanted to stir up race hate by planting nail bombs in Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho, all within a period of two weeks.
The Soho nail bomb injured thirty, and killed three people – Andrea Dykes (who was four months pregnant), Nik Moore and John Light.

Journal Entry, 27 Apr ’99: Today’s paper full of obits for Jill Dando – awesomely pretty, wholesome and popular TV presenter – who was murdered by a contract killer outside her home yesterday.
Possible connection with the ‘Crimewatch’ programme.
At work, heard that Jayne B (one of our dim sales reps) has phoned the office saying that the paint is crap. It turned out that she has been telling customers that C12 is water-thinnable – which it’s not.
Recent racist attacks in London – nail bombs in Brixton and Brick Lane.

Journal Entry, 29 Mar ’19: Today is the day we leave the EU in a process called ‘Brexit’ following a referendum three years ago. Except that MPs are unable to agree the details of our departure and huge protest marches have been held in London, one asking us to cancel the exit, the other calling for an immediate divorce.
Twenty years after the murder of Jill Dando, it has been announced that her killer is unlikely to be caught. Hamish Campbell told the BBC that over two thousand people had been named as suspects. Barry George was convicted and jailed for eight years, based on a particle of gunshot residue.

29 Apr ’99: Last night went to Fred’s, saw the lovely Kev going off with bald beardy guy. Got chatting to Mick – Levellers t-shirt, into rock and folk and Chumbawumba. Then got chatting to Ian who goes to Peasmouldia.
Will told me that he had witnessed a high-speed crash on the A38, roadworks filtered. Some woman ploughed into the back of a lorry.
Chris (MAG) had a letter published in BSH.

30 Apr ’99: All this week, rumours have been flying round that something was due to happen at work today. Today speculation reached fever pitch; Sheila was called into the office with Mike and emerged later saying that it was bad news.
Anyway, at 3.00 Andy F was called into the office and 30 mins later appeared, telling us that he had been made redundant. Other casualties this afternoon: Ron Tooth, Phil Gratton, Geoff turner, Carol Lindley, John Mellors and Mike Shaw.
Mr Hannah pointed out that he had originally been ordered to dismiss two members of staff but I had pre-empted him by leaving. We were given a letter explaining about the effect of UK recession, industry consolidation and environmental concerns.
Tonight on the news: a bomb has gone off in a gay pub in Soho (Compton St). Thirty-odd injured.

01 May ’99: Last night tightened up the chain on my 125 death-trap, today rode it down to Hinckley – very pleasant journey, no rain, not cold, not hot, not sunny. Sold bike for 400 – dead rip-off, but at least I’m rid of it.
News coverage of last night’s bomb (Admiral Duncan in Compton St): the radio four presenter said “…a pub frequented by homosexuals.” So much for brisk reportage.

02 May ’99: Tamworth by train – lots of delays, hours late, found biker pub Jailhouse, bars, Sky TV, topless barmaids. Bought Herald.

03 May ’99: Sorted out tapes and threw a load out – Boulez, Schumann, Beethoven, JMJ etc. Police have arrested a bloke in connection with Friday night bomb attack in Soho. Three people dead, six critically ill, thirty injured. One of the dead was a young newlywed girl.

04 May ’99: Last night went to Flowerpot for a drink, got chatting to four youngsters (students?) who were saying that “Derby was full of pissheads, poofs, and Pakis.” ‘Oh’, said I, ‘and which are you?’
Today at work (everyone thought I had left on Friday) Mike had a meeting with everyone to discuss yet another lab restructuring. People changing teams, QC being devolved between departments, Tech Service and R&D being merged. And in reference to last Friday’s dismissals he said ‘Last Friday several members of staff were invited to meetings alerted to the possibility that their positions may be threatened with redundancy.’

Wow…talk about milk of human kindness!

He Just Needs To Find His People, Then He’ll Be Safe

Very distressing…our thoughts are with you.

Raising My Rainbow

FullSizeRender(14)Growing up, I instinctively knew that I had to worry about my brother’s safety because he was slightly effeminate when young, people assumed he was gay as a teen, then he came out shortly after high school. All of those things made him a target for bullying, harassment, victimization and violence.

I saw him find his people and it eased my worry. The first time he took me to a gay club, I remember thinking, “He’s found his people. He’s safe here.”

The first time I visited his new place in West Hollywood, I remember thinking, “He’s found his people. He’s safe here.”

My youngest son started showing signs of gender nonconformity at age three, started describing himself as gender nonconforming at five, self identified as a member of the LGBTQ community at eight.

Little did I know that the worry I’ve always had for my LGBTQ brother’s safety had…

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Antimatter Blues

Acid Gallery of Antimatter Blues

In angular waves the street enters the house
Determined to inflict another’s
Dramatic turmoil upon my three-score dull and ten.

We have seen
And I’m seeing, begin to believe
That crueller are the young, for they
Shall inherit cynical streets.

Don’t flap your corridors, but only
Sing to me from the book of shadows
Where the circular laughter of the snake
Is heard. Dancing smoke will bring you to despair
Surrounded by the masks you call your friends.

Ye Seraphim have wings in six dimensions
And overlap their own
Divine impossibilities. We could not ask
For any more, black swans, white noise
In the epic vault of betrayal by design.

Extracted from my brain
Lecithin is but the juice of the mind
A swift elixir too cool for any cauldron
To decorate or just enslave my street.

From my window square I see
Lorries build a cubist parade
Roofs carved neatly into upward bands
And half a world away some light descends.

You can overdose on syncopation, you know; any
World whose heartbeat staggered in this way
Would surely fall apart, after just
Three lopsided quarters of a day.


White Choke Paint Blues

Journal Entry, 14 Jan 2002: This morning got to work, found 8 batches waiting to be QC tested.
Had meeting with Rob P – progress update. ‘How are you finding the job?’ he asked. I said that I was settled and preparing to buy property. ‘Where?’ ‘Oh, in Eccles’ said moi.
So maybe now he thinks my half-day hol on Thursday is for an interview at Akcros.
In the news: Prince Harry has apparently owned up to under-age drinking and smoking cannabis. Which, as any fule kno, inevitably leads to life as a junkie and squalid death in bedsit-land.
Steve M still v keen on using misleading language rather than straightforward technology for tower vinyl paint. Prepared a brochure of potential resins which can be blended with vinyl.
When returned home found a book from Rob Gay – the Pevsner guide to Manchester.
‘I’ve been on the News of the World diet. It’s a very fast way to lose weight’ (Jerry Hayes, MP, quoted in Giles Brandreth memoirs)
Rang RG to say thanks for book. He’s had a Mohican. Was utterly horrified when I told him my salary.

16 Jan ’02: Tore up my copy of Streitweiser and Heathcock. Seems pointless keeping it since my current job requires only the ability to keep an eye on paint flowing through a hole.
In the news: Labour Gov’t planning to break up and sell off NHS.
Stephen Downing’s murder conviction overturned after 27 years in prison.
Norway Finance Minister has married his boyfriend.

18 Jan’02: Hurrah! Pay rise (not announced, just appeared) to 20200. Had credit card application form from Halifax.
During our tech sales meeting, Norman mentioned that we were expecting Rembrandtin over in Feb.
Carried out a few steps from the Helvar test regime (salt spray/freezer/oven/humid).

21 Jan ’02: Manda rang to say that she would be coming up Sat not Fri. Must see if Mongolian Barbecue open at lunchtime.
Last night dreamed that the kitchen was full of snow. Weather gone really mild – storms predicted.
At work one project has been to develop WB stoving white for Helvar (fluorescent light chokes).

22 Jan ’02: Well, I’ve done it. White panels (mild steel) survived long exposure in salt-spray/freezer/oven/humidity. Also dipped a choke, stoved for 2 hours at 170 deg C, stayed clean white.
Showed Rob, and of course he complained about poor coverage and opcity.
We are paying 2.30 a kilo for VIL WB polyester – mind you, it is 75 percent solids, unlike DSM or Worlee.
Today in the canteen Sean M snapped: ‘Honestly, some people go mad, eating Belgian choclates as if they’re having group sex with ninety thousand people!’
‘Depends on the people’ said I.

28 Jan ’02: Still no news from work about pension. Simon W has handed in his notice, so the sales dept will be accountantless and the Tech dept will be sec-less without Corrie. Had phone call from someone at RBH asking about a sample of driers they had sent for Dave Waring. Today’s weather – furious gales.

29 Jan ’02: Left monthly report on Rob’s desk – no comment. Called into Sue’s office and asked about pension scheme – she gave me a form for the insurance thingy (‘Groupama’) which asks four questions – three short ones about tobacco, alcohol and sports, then one long one that ran “Have you undergone any blood test or received any personal medical advice in connection with AIDS or AIDS-related conditions or had any reason to believe that there may have been any exposure to risks of contracting AIDS?”

03 Feb ’02: Yesterday took my rent cheques and asked about purchasing a flat in six months’ time.
Corrie pub crawl; Abercrombie, Down Under, Monkey etc. Brett accompanied me to the first one, they were all very intrigued.

04 Feb ’02: At work had fax from Helmuth at Rembrandtin asking if we had had any discussions about wagon finishes here at Sterling.
(Note: I was using a fax machine because I was never issued with an e-mail account at Sterling Tech, even though the MD insisted during my interview that they needed someone with great IT skills. ‘Helmuth’ was Helmuth Seidler, CEO of the paint firm Rembrandtin Lack, based in Vienna, and one of our sister firms in the Altana family. The ‘wagon finishes’ were a set of two-pack coatings made by Rermbrandtin and sold successfully into the light railway market in Singapore, so we could try to get the contract for trams or tube trains)

10 Feb ’02: Have just returned from birthday/new job/Xmas weekend at The Hotel Anastasia.
Arrived Fri night, Andy picked me up and we went shopping, enough food for about twelve meals. Watched a DVD of ‘Star Trek – Insurrection’.
LK and Bob arrived Sat afternoon and we all went to Lytham so the pile of food originally meant for lunch served as the hors d’oeuvres in evening.
Dinner in evening – Malc and Andy engrossed in huge conflict between Pop Idols Will and Gareth. Watched three episodes of ‘Brothers’. Went to bed, got up, was violently sick, strawberry trifle and red wine.
While preparing dinner, Andy posed with a French stick, and LK said ‘If anyone came near you with a dick that size you’d run a mile!’ ‘Two feet, maybe’, said I.
And Andy tried to tell a joke about some girl called Fanny Green, well he was crying with laughter as he neared the punchline, which set us all off.

12 Feb ’02: Rob P (tech director) has taken a week off to go to Tunisia but never mentioned anything to oi. He takes no notice of my monthly report (handwritten cos I’ve got no training on the computer).
It’s a year since we headed off to Butlin’s for our seventies weekend and my rune pendant.
Mail – letter from Jean with a collection of photos – me thru the years with various hairstyles – Eynsham, Cornwall, Paris, Rome.
At work, having problems with WB white – pigment flocculation.
Change in the law – companies are now obliged to disclose their files to employees for a fee of ten pounds.

14 Feb ’02: Finished work 12.30, rode home, went to Eccles for eye test. Talk about thorough – red lines, white dots, glaucoma test etc.
Then went to B-‘s shop and he gave me a Valentine’s card – a large box containing two teddy bears and a pair of handcuffs. Gave him a card – ‘to my favourite one-armed bandit’.
Down Westinghouse Road they’re demolishing a very fine redbrick building, possibly an office block. Bonfire. Sacrilege.
Two nights ago as I was leaving work a black swan passed above the factory all alone.


In Memory of Foucault – Anthem Z over π

Holding aloft a strand of meaning
You invite us to remain confused by all
The twisting names that hide the truth
And after five years together, our love
Comes to its beginning. You harmonise my chord
Upon the beach where someone
Scribbled their lies to desecrate
The phantom purity of just another youth.

Hearing once again a tune from
The song of your own life, you see
A stranger; it seemed so simple
At the time, the heavy years ahead would sing
The anthem of your effortless success, and
Falling like a leaf upon so many more the same
Would make you grand, and leave you vain.


Everybody Loves String…

Journal entry, 14 Feb 1988: Today on Radio 3 – Desperately Seeking Superstrings, Cambridge University Press. Violin string vibrates, different overtones, different sounds. Loop superstring vibrates, different harmonics, different particles. Quantum mechanics incompatible with general relativity. In The Beginning: two dimensions, 1 space, 1 time. Phase change up to ten dimensions, then phase change down to four – three space, one time. Ultrahigh energy; unimaginably minute distances.

10 Feb 1987: This morning sent off an application form to British Industrial Sand. Today went to MEB and Gas. Phoned Pam to say my house-sitting services were available. Last night on TV: BPI awards plus The Films of David Cronenberg, Rabid, Dead Zone, They Came from Within, Videodrome, The Fly. Must compose the Cronenberg Concerti.
On the news: writs issued against Duncan Campbell for his Zircon reporting. He was splendidly defiant, holding aloft a glass trophy for anyone who can demonstrate that he has damaged national security.

10 Mar 1988: Dear diary, still unemployed. Tonight out for drinks avec Julie. In the news: the Queen Mother has expressed dismay at the closure of a hospital ward which she opened barely a year ago.
PER is being sold off. Goethe’s Faust at the Lyric Hammersmith with Simon Callow. Been trying to read ‘Chicot the Jester’ by Dumas. Crime prevention by Neighbourhood Watch groups – launched by Douglas Hurd.

9 May 1987: Great furore in House of Commons as 20 MPs turned up to vote on gay teaching. Jill Knight paranoid about civilisation dying out; following her argument through, it follows from this that people are heterosexual simply because they’re taught to be while at school.

28 Sep 1992: Last Friday we were stocktaking at work and Mick & I were allocated the guncotton stores (‘the rat stores’). We went in with a hand torch and counted the barrels of nitrocellulose – alas, no rats. Note: I should have checked if all these were actually full, cos it caused panic when I reported the quantity I thought was present…
Then on the evening went with Mr D to Nuneaton for Mark and Cheryl’s wedding reception. Self-indulgent DJ played ‘Ebenezer Goode’ three times and didn’t know the names of the bride and groom.


Weightless Grey Poppies

Journal Entries, July 2009

Fri 3: Several weeks ago I sent an e-mail to J Bunce at Stokes asking of they were recruiting – I think one agency even rang me about a post there – and finally today I had a reply saying ‘no thanks’. Am watching ‘Chromophobia’ and drinking dry sherry. Still no response from Indescribable about my CV, except that one muted acknowledgement. Last week I e-mailed SRG with a list of three items.
It is customary nowadays to dispute all decisions; if a child gets a grade ‘B’ at A-level, the parents promptly fire off a letter of complaint – their little treasure was under extreme stress/suffering from hay-fever/faulty biorhythms etc. So perhaps Andy Murray (Scottish tennis player who hates the English) should lodge a protest against his defeat in the semi-final match at Wimbledon. As Jemma would say: ‘It’s not FAIR!’ (In an update from June 2016, Maria Sharapova has been given a two year ban for using prohibited pharmaceutical performance-enhancing substances…naturally, she is going to appeal against this decision)

Sun 5: Yesterday met B- in town: Outpost, Churchill’s, and Paddy’s Goose. Had a takeaway from the Naz – not much meat, v little flavour.

We are in a recession, with thousands of jobs being lost all over the place. Meanwhile the FT Weekend edition carried adverts and articles about how there’s still a lot of money around, with suggestions on ‘How To Spend It’. Rolex – Chanel – Safari Holidays, £10k for 6 nights – YSL Blazer (£1640) – Corum watches and Graff watches and Chopard watches – Sterling Montague boats – seventeenth century paintings (£1.75m) – rollerball pen (£1370) – Grenbel Forsey watch (£335k) – Berandi shirt (£882) – leather sandals (£1174) and so on…

A big project has been announced where Advantage West Midlands is to oversee the formation of a ‘Thermoplastics Cluster of Excellence’.

Mon 6: Today sent e-mail applications to Listgrove and Coventry Uni asking about the new Thermoplastics Cluster. Returned home & found rejection letter form Brothers Robinson (stomp all night) – incredibly clumsy and inept, erratic grammar and punctuation.

Wed 8: I am a wretched miserable failure. When I was younger I never took the 11-plus (cos neither I nor my parents had heard of it) so I ended up going to a bog-standard comp called Thomas Telford High – although at the time I had no idea that any better option existed…

Yesterday I looked up an auditor’s website about their AAT training programme which requires 8 GCSEs including English and Maths at grade ‘A’. But I only got seven ‘O’ levels, with grades B and C. And now I find myself applying for dozens of lab technician jobs and being turned down cos I haven’t enough experience of management or team-playing or excellent communication skills, whatever they might be.

Mon 13: Today Andrew Foster called in at work to see Katie, and a few minutes later Steve S turned up to begin sorting out his EC PLC stuff. Steve got rid of AF last year, so no love lost. Anyway, S- couldn’t even use his own office cos the Dominion Colour crew were having a meeting in there (with Kev Smith of all people). He started going through the filing cabinet of stuff meant for DCC and found that a load of R and D stuff had been included – which apparently they had no right to keep. Meanwhile, Bruce and Poggy’s old R and D lab books have mysteriously disappeared.
Phone call from Peter Davys – there’s a job going at Prisma colours for a dispersion manager; I went with Andrew F and Mike Allen there last year. And at work we’ve been sent a copy of ‘Entrepreneur’ magazine which carries an article about Escort Agencies. ‘Everybody knows’ said one, ‘that our services are not simply social company.’ But I think that the mag referred to all the clients as being male and all the escorts as being female.

Fri 17: Well, if I get killed tomorrow by a meteorite or a tiger, at least I won’t have to endure another portion of charred, tasteless fish and chips from my local. They were so good years ago – gone downhill.
Today at work had a phone call from Gtr Manchester Fire Service asking if they could make an appointment to inspect our premises for risk assessment. ‘Well’, I said, ‘perhaps you’re already aware that we burned down last September, and the only people in the factory area are the burglars who broke in last week.’

18 Jun: Went to PC World, bought headset, rang Andy P on Skype Tonight Pet Shop Boys are playing Manchester Apollo. Last night Ye Britney of Spears (pop singer who turns men on by wearing the skool uniform of a 12-year old) played the MEN Arena and yelled ‘How ya doing, London!’

November 2007

The drops of rain carved spreading eyes of pain
Upon the half-remembered street.

It’s late at night; I’m standing on the bridge
Ahead of me the street recedes eternally
And just like twenty-something years ago
I wonder when my life is due to start.

The keenly shadowed gaps that interrupt
Remind me of the people, books and things
That meant so much, but now I don’t recall
Exactly why they made me think of you.

Renting one or two blank rooms with curtains frayed…



Bacon, Wilkins, Moray, Boyle and Newton


Writing on the popular website gscene, Mark Govier asserts that several famous natural philosophers (whose work gave rise to the formation of the Royal Society) were all gay. This is highly speculative, relying on the recorded close friendships between these scientists and their male companions.

When I looked online for some nuggets of wisdom about Isaac Newton’s love-life, I came across a New Scientist review (Culturelab, 23 Mar 2012) of ‘The Sensorium of God’, Stuart Clark’s novel about Newton. The review casually mentions ‘…the current controversy over Newton’s sexuality…’ in relation to his friendship with a young Swiss mathematician, Nicolas Fatio de Duillier.

This prompted the following outburst from William F Maddock:

“Any reference to the man’s sexuality is completely and utterly irrelevant and nothing more than pandering to left wing extremists, not to mention very possibly slanderous to a hero of the sciences. Bad form. Extremely bad form. Utterly and completely bad form.”

Would it be fair to say that any reference to the personal life of any scientist is completely and utterly irrelevant? Consider the case of Niels Bohr: ‘…it was not luck, rather deep insight, which led him to find in young years his wife, who, as we all know, had such a decisive role in making his whole scientific and personal activity possible and harmonious…’

(Richard Courant, quoted in ‘Love, Literature and the Quantum Atom’, Aaserud & Heilbron, OUP 2013)

Scientists do not exist in a vacuum; they inhabit a real world filled with influences political, personal and cultural. The presence (or otherwise) of fulfilling personal relationships in Newton’s life may have shaped his approach to scientific problems and enabled him to make some of the legendary contributions to mathematics and physics. We should not be afraid to speculate about the love lives of famous thinkers – to those people who claim that scientists should be remembered for what they achieved, not who they are, I reply: you may as well dismiss the person’s identity completely, and insist on having all research papers published anonymously.