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.

 

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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 a million pounds to take on new employees a few years back….)

 

Paint Chemist Rainbow Flag

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 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.

I hope some dynamic youngster can run with this idea and produce a more glamorous wall-chart suitable for display at a conference – the 2017 LGBT STEMinar, for instance?

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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.

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.