July 2006

Journal Entry, 3 Jul 2006: Well, England are out of this year’s World Cup after losing to Portugal on Saturday. Wayne Rooney (petulant teenage star player) had a red card for stamping on an opponent’s goolies. This should make an interesting chapter in his five-volume autobiography.

4 Jul: Yesterday Mike Allen gave me a sample of Chinese yellow 74 to test. The colour was miles out, so I showed him, and it turned out that we had got samples of both yellow 74 and yellow 83 which had been mislabelled. If only I had been told this originally…

Tonight on Radio Three they’re playing that Chopin Nocturne – the one I first heard back in 82, after reading a brief biography in a compendium.
At work, Ann was reading the ‘Sun’ newspaper website and found an item about some bloke who had sexually molested 17 rabbits and a guinea-pig. Naturally I waved in glee and cried ‘Bring me another one, this one’s split!’


It’s June; I wear my Polaroids to work
And as my visor falls the air grows rich
With oil-slick rainbows, dragon-wild
The cars and houses swarm with coloured
Electricity, dancing like a twisted hologram
That makes each journey seem a magic trip.

And then one day my Polaroids
Brought into focus – so it seemed –
A million ghosts, who sad not angry
Wanted only to be heard. ‘Be gentle
With our memories’, they said;
‘You are our sons and we your heritage.’

10 Jul: Well, we were asked to go to a buffet lunch with Steve S today – Tech Service and Sales.  I was expecting us to be given a brief talk about his impending purchase of all the company shares.
But no…we just ate the buffet, chatted about the footie and other TV shows, then SS made some remark about “Well, it’s important that I get together with you from time to time..” and that was it. We just went back to work.

11 Jul: Today at work we were discussing ladies’ underwear and I said ‘Have you ever heard ‘Arnold Layne’?’ & Adam said ‘No’.
Later on it was announced that Syd Barrett has died. How weird is that?

31 Oct: I’ve bought a couple of low-energy lightbulbs for the flat, so in the morning when I turn them on the lounge is filled with a feeble speckled grey light which steadily gains strength.
Sunday afternoon went to see ‘Departed’, an undercover cop thriller movie. Scorsese, di Caprio, Nicholson – it had everything except subtlety. Odd soundtrack, a bit intrusive.

15 Nov: Finished typing MAG minutes and sent off to Tony, Paul, Thomas & Bill for approval.
Today Adrian told us that  Steve Smith is to amalgamate the Magruder product range into EC.
Had my appraisal review document back: my job title is Senior Application Paint Lab Technician. Although the review includes a reference to my self-funded Management Course, neither Steve nor Alan has mentioned it.

16 Nov: Comment from Alan D, written in my appraisal review: “Tim’s experience with pigments will be valued elsewhere.”
(Note: when I examined my personnel file, it turned out that Alan had stuck a strip of paper over Adrian’s original comment in order to post this remark.)

17 Dec: Last night went with Brett and Helen (and the staff at the salon) to the Chinese Buffet restaurant.  We gorged on rich food and some SA red wine.
Then to Napoleon’s and had more red wine. Brett got a bit unsteady and we left, then headed to taxi office – B collapsed and we ended up being taken to the Infirmary. (Thanks to whoever in the queue had the sense to call 999)
Got back to Monton at 5 a.m.
(Note: a few days later, B- ran into one of the girls who had been with us in the restaurant, but not joined us later on. She asked if he had been okay on the night. ‘Why, how did you know about that?’ he asked. It turned out that the entire party had gone down with food poisoning after the meal)

01 Jan 2007: The fireworks at midnight went on for about 40 minutes. While I was looking out for them, I spotted two lads in black hoodies lurking around the motorbike in next-door’s laundry area. Put bedroom light on and yelled at them, and they disappeared.
Didn’t bother listening to Big Ben; instead I put on my CD of ‘Drops of Jupiter’ by Train.

Tears of Lucifer

And just like sixteen years ago
I find myself on platform three
At Truro station; it’s raining
Now as hard as it did then
And the sky is tessellated from
The same grey seagull-wings.

At a nearby table in the café
Another diner breaks with hungry force
A crab-claw; the sound
Reminds me that our friend Saddam
Was due to hang as punishment
For doing what we wanted him to do.

2 May 2006: Last week Dave Tench turned up at work to go over his new QC test method with me. Among his detailed instructions was a technical drawing of the round spice-rack to hold jars for dispersing pigment on the Red Devil shaker.
The measurements were mistakenly given in centimetres rather than millimetres (think ‘Spinal Tap’) so we would have had to buy a new Red Devil about four feet in diameter!


April 2009

Journal Entry, April 2009: Anyway, today went to jobcentre to sign on. One girl (Angie) processed my claim, going through the details from my phone interview and correcting errors.
Then she handed me over to Gail who processed me yet further and took details of what I do to look for work. I spotted a vacancy on their listing for a ‘Team Leader’ and rang the agency (Proactive) who decided to forward my details to Revolymer and Bitrez.

Then I got back here and rang Lyndsey Maloney, they want me to attend a preliminary interview tomorrow at Interfloor. Her e-mail said ‘Please bring with you photo ID, ideas of your aspirations, and details of current and past job applications.’ Wot, I thought, all 350 pages of rejection letters?
I sent her an Excel Spreadsheet which ran to about 160 entries including speculative and agency applications.

Went to Central Library to look for jobs in the trade journal Chemistry in Britain. Futile really. But I did find an article about some artist called Aoife van Linden Tol, who creates pictures by detonating tiny bombs over sheets of copper or paper. Not unlike Senor Dali firing his ink-filled snail shells (from an antique blunderbuss) at litho printing plates.
And in the journal ‘Science’ they mention how the EPSRC now has a policy of ignoring any papers submitted by ‘repeatedly unsuccessful applicants’. What, like me, you mean?

Not Being Wordsworth

We live in a country where
Farmers pollute their land with a
Mixture of Nitrates
And Phosphates and Rebates galore

Harvesting the fictitious crops
To satisfy the quota yield
Imposed by departmental bureaucrats
Who never walked across a muddy field. 

Local police recently arrested a dozen men (Pakistani students) in a hastily-arranged series of anti-terror raids. Apparently they had been plotting to blow up the Arndale Centre, the Birdcage, and the Trafford Centre. So yesterday I went with Andy to the TC, to wallow in the stupendous vulgarity of it all. While it’s still there.

Journal Entry, 19 April 2009: Lovely sunny morning – yesterday I went to Leeds by train, wandered round shops, looked at Civic Centre, watched some rugby on TV in real ale bar.

Well, on Friday morning went to sign on and sign off again. I rushed to get there on time and was kept waiting for 30 mins before being seen.

Then I went to the Trafford Borough Council offices to sort out my housing benefit. I took a numbered slip and sat there for two-and-a-half hours before being seen. The staff in that place are hopeless and type one-fingered instructions. While I was sitting there, a big screen showed an endless loop of subtitled Public Information Films some of which were just awful.
For instance:  a dizzy bint goes into a pub and proceeds to knock back an entire bottle of scotch before collapsing on the floor (in double vision) with the baffling slogan “Drugs – Don’t Risk It”.

Yesterday afternoon Brett and I had brekky in Mozza’s, then I went to the cinema to see ‘Crank 2’ an absurdly violent shoot-em-up thriller about a guy (Jason Statham) trying to retrieve his heart from a gangster. To keep the artificial one powered up, he has to keep giving himself electric shocks. The film also starred David Carradine who died by auto-erotic hanging.

Journal Entry, May 2009: On Saturday bought some bike waterproofs from On Ya Byke. Today I flounced into the accounts department and said ‘Beware of the Green Flash – fighting crime in day-glo lime!’

We get lots of phone calls for Alan Dobson and Mike Allen; numerous contacts outside the firm aren’t aware of our demise.
Today, Michael Martin, Speaker of the Commons resigned after two weeks of outrageous press revelations concerning MPs’ expenses – operating ‘within the rules’ they have indulged in a frenzy of purchasing decadent luxuries, living in two houses at once and claiming tax relief and furnishing expenses like a quantum dot.

At work, Dave Earnshaw found a key labelled ‘Eileen’s Middle Door’ which sent us all into hysterics.





The Sound of Music 

They’re with me still; I carried them from place to place
At each address I’d set them up, in dignified array
And on a winter evening or a Christmas day spent all alone
Would listen to my old black vinyl tunes. 

The needle scrapes along the spiral groove, releasing
Tunes that rise like perfumed smoke
To fill the room with unseen vaults of happiness. 

The violins, and rock guitars, and nimble fingers dancing on the keys
Evoked a world of complicated joy;
But gradually the high notes disappeared from view
And the thing that I had never feared before came true. 

They’re with me still; you might say ‘What’s the point?’
A muffled roar is all my ears convey; but still
They conjure up a thousand memories, and
Just glancing at the covers makes my heart fill
Once again with melodies recalled.


Transtar Choke Disaster

The great Transtar fiasco: Journal entry, 24 Feb 2004.

Last night went with B to see part three of ‘Lord of the Rings’. Two-and-a-half hours of action and drama followed by fifteen minutes of excruciatingly sentimental poo.
Today, problems at work – Sean M popped his head round door and said ‘Has Paul W been to see you about Transtar?’
So later on I went up to the lab to see Paul & he said that the tank at Transtar had gelled and it happened because I never sent them the tank sample report. (It was in my memo file)
I thought Gill H was supposed to send all the tank sample reports. Haven’t yet had our angry meeting with Rob.
But if so, why have they not complained before? And why didn’t Paul W contact me?

26 Feb 2004: Jean’s birthday.
Strange day at work: I was expecting to get hauled into Rob’s office and shouted at about the Transtar fiasco.
But nothing yet. And it turns out that Norman and Paul Osman are to go to New York (Lincolnshire) to visit the firm.
Why did Gill give me a letter to sign, allegedly from the Section Leader, EPD?
B- said it sounds as if she knew it was going to gel and was keen to let me take the blame.

27 Feb 2004: Very strange day at work.
No approach from Rob or SP regarding the Transtar gelled tank. I recall the letter Gill gave me to sign as a covering note for the tank report.
It was signed ‘Section Leader, EPD Qual Control’ and began ‘Dear Mr.R.Brooks’ with no spaces after the full stops. And the wording was excruciatingly archaic: ‘herewith’, etc etc.

When testing the tank sample it could not be restored to specification – thin down and the solids content goes.
No written procedures available to explain:
–         How far from spec the parameters are allowed to drift
–         How much styrene or inhibitor can be added, and in what order
–         Optimum polymer/styrene ratio.

You know, it is always possible that Rob neglected to send my tank sample report onto Transtar, which would explain why nothing has been said to me at work.
And everyone at work – except moi – has been issued with a new telephone handset, very smart black-and-silver items.

3 Mar 2004: Last night to Stockport with B. Claire was there on her new ZRX 400. We signed up to partake in their new Fantasy Superbike Competition.
Today at work – MR for Brush red oxide.
Letter from Gill explaining how tank sample reports should be put through the system. But DRP told me ages ago that I was to be shifted onto development work and all the QC work would be transferred over to the main lab.

4 Mar 2004: Today a new tank sample from Transtar. Paul O said it was a mixture, and Transtar don’t keep a log of the additions they make.

5 Mar 2004: Wandered into the Sales Office and had a bijou nebette in the Transtar file – it doesn’t even have its own file. There are several tank sample reports in there signed by Gill H even though I produced them and wasn’t absent from work.
At one encounter in the lab (Paul W telling me that the tank had gelled) I said that I thought it was Gill’s job to send tank sample reports to Rob (25 Feb?).
She turned bright red and said ‘No, I always put them in your pigeonhole to sign!’

23 Apr 2004: St George’s Day. ISO 9000 inspection at work – good job I’m not there.

Derek B left a couple of ‘Tales of the City’ paperbacks in the canteen so I read these, and annoyed everyone by laughing out loud. The plot involves some loopy Californians performing cannibal transubstantiation.
After reading ‘Tales of the City’, I borrowed ‘The Night Listener’ from the library, which may be about a woman pretending to be a sick child but who gives herself away by mentioning Thomas Pynchon.
And then I started reading ‘Mason and Dixon’ by Thomas P, a pretty deranged literary fantasia which at one point involves a discussion of the nature of communion and cannibal transubstantiation.

5 Jun 2004: Today rang Liz and Colin; they had a fab time in Sweden, and on the way over kept bumping into Ivan and Debbie. During the conversation, Ivan mentioned that they lived in Burton-on-Trent.
Liz mistakenly thought that I had moved there when I left Derby and mentioned me to them. ‘Oh yeah’ they exclaimed, ‘We know Tim!’
Today went to see ‘The Day After Tomorrow’, environmental disaster movie. A bit too corny and sentimental, and with the hero’s wife played by Michael Jackson.

14 Jul 2004: At work today Rob gave me a booklet he’s printed in which I am to record the in-and out-times of QC batches. Apparently it’s taking too long to get production out the door and it’s all my fault. Late on he asked me about eliminating the lead driers – again – from everything.
And he’s complained about the shambolic dirty undisciplined chaos of the Surface Coatings division, with tubs of peroxide sitting around doing nothing.
So I filled in this log and we went through it, and he said ‘This is just naïve’ – meaning that I should just record the actual hours spent per job. And then he said ‘How come Gill manages to finish QC jobs more quickly even though she’s got her own jobs to do?’

[Note: Gill would simply write the required values on the QC batch card without performing any tests; I once came back to work early after a half-day holiday and found that she had entered the drying times on the sheet – 6 hours – even though the batches had been made just two hours earlier. Rumour has it that she had been offered the Lab Manager’s post, but then when I turned up the offer was withdrawn and she had to stay in the EPD lab]

4 Aug 2004: Today went to see Rob: ‘I’ve done this new formulation and don’t know how to put it on the system.’ Of course he was exasperated – ‘You should have been shown how to do this yourself instead of relying on others!’
Went through my monthly report – ‘what’s all this works assistance?’, and pointed out that I had not understood how to fill in the time log. ‘Gill is faster than you at doing QC batches and she has other things to do so why are you so slow?’
And he’s also on the warpath about lead driers – Andy pointed out that EPD is still using them, and it turns out that it’s a 25 year-old formulation over there.

9 Aug 2004: At work, Kev has tinted a batch of golden yellow marking paint with lead chromate stainer, increasing the cost by about £1.40 a litre. But the cost increase and heavy metal content are not officially logged anywhere.

3 Sep 2003: at work was testing a batch of WB stoving choke paint, originally formulated by D Waring who specified a DIN 4 rather than BS 4 flowcup, but for no good reason.

Also testing a batch of weldable etch primer, based on Mowital and Beckopox resins. Contains a lot of xylene (not really a suitable thinner) but no zinc phos or snowcal, so why only 35 percent gloss level?
Had a go at doing my monthly report using Gill’s template document. The template itself is about 360 kB, so I can’t get it on a floppy disc.

[Note: to prepare my monthly report I would walk over to the QC lab, since there was no computer in my office. I would use a small floppy disc to type out my report. During my interview for the job I was repeatedly told that the firm really needed someone with excellent IT skills, and that computers were a vital part of the job. Even though I funded my own ECDL at the local library, I didn’t get a PC in my office until three years later – and even then, I had no internet access or e-mail account]

Mon 29 Sep 2003: returned to work to find a note from (presumably) Gill H – one of her personalities had scrawled ‘Tidy Up This Shit Heap’ in untidy block capitals.

6 Oct 2003: Today at work Gill H came into lab and started looking at the Hegman gauges. ‘Have we got one that runs from one to seven?’ she asked. I was utterly baffled. [Note: the Hegman gauge runs from 0 to 8 units, or from 4 to 8, where 8 represents particles of zero microns]