Journal Entry, 13 Aug 2016:
Agent orange and agent green and agent pink and agent blue and agent purple: perhaps we should construct a new form of rainbow flag to demonstrate our eternal pride in the art of organic chemistry which has given us such tremendously efficient plant control systems. By ‘control’ of course I mean death. Death is good for plants, and good for the animals that eat those plants, and good for the people that eat those animals.
During the Victorian era, arsenic pigments were commonly used to impart colour to household and industrial paints.
About three years ago (give-or-take 24 hours) I started work in Leeds. It was a mixed bag – some aspects of the work were delightful, others were hideous. And now I find myself unemployed, wandering the streets like a ghost. A gleaming canopy of overlapping stories, each an unfinished failure, makes up my life so far.
I look down at the thousands of yellow street lights, marking out the places where other real people live and work and talk to their families.
I left the pub on time and hurried across town to catch my bus. A crowd of other passengers was waiting; the bus was meant to arrive at nine minutes past, but it had obviously been cancelled and so we had to wait for the next one, at thirty-nine minutes past. This was delayed, and didn’t turn up until quarter-to-ten. Various young people were gathered on the pavement, in groups of two or three. A taxi pulled up; one young man detached from a group of friends and got in. Before the driver could pull away another young lad stood in the car headlights and dropped his trousers to show his rusty bullet-hole.
Two police officers, in the chunky body-armour common to Manchester, leapt into their souped-up Hyundai and roared away to catch somebody doing something.
The bus turns a corner, and a yellow constellation skates across the windows. One chap is having a long and tedious conversation on his mobile phone, talking about a train journey and discussing the technical problems with the engine, in a detailed patient manner. Perhaps there was nobody on the other end of the line.
Two blokes got on at Eccles and resumed a drunken dialogue. This involved a lot of swearing: “So I said to her I said yer can take that fuckin’ kid out of here ‘cos I’m not fuckin’ lookin after it and she just said it was none of my business and she wouldn’t go back to ‘im cos he used to fuckin’ knock her about and I said –“
To which the other replied by interspersing an occasional flurry of “Yeah-yeah-you’re right-yeah I know-yeah-yeah-I know…”
During the conversation, one or the other would make a random comment about one of the other passengers and the pair of them would be overcome with hoarse laughter. “I said to ‘er, I said nobody’s gonna go with you now, and the cheeky bitch said that Kenny was still after her. Fuckin Kenny? I said, what’s Kenny got, I’ll tell yer what he’s got, he’s fuckin’ got piles cos I heard him tellin’ that bloke in the pub and I said to him, I said I’ll get yer a bunch of grapes but yours might be purple instead of green – “
“Yeah, yeah-yeah-I know-yeah-ha-ha-ha-you’re right, yeah-I know-ha-ha-ha-yeah-yeah-you’re right – “
Silent streets are spread out around us, long steady lines of yellow lights reflected twice from bus windows that have seen it all before.
Earlier that day I had called in at a tea shop that was used as a gallery by local artists. Hand-embroidered panels sat next to ornate photographic prints. All the work on display was for sale, each work bearing a price tag made from music manuscript and typewriter ribbon; the prices were all a random selection of numbers between four and seven hundred.
I asked: she replied – “We’ve tried to incorporate prime numbers into the pricing system, and we avoid round numbers so that they can be traced in company accounts. Financial people are quite good at smuggling the odd thousand pounds into the books when they see miscellaneous artworks listed.”
Apparently Queen Victoria paid Salford a visit in 1851, and a crowd of eighty thousand people turned out to welcome her. Would she be horrified or amused if she heard the coarse narrative being unfolded upstairs on the bus? She might have thought the world had become a vortex of disease, corruption and madness.
“An’ I tell yer another fuckin’ thing, she ain’t getting a fuckin’ penny if she walks out cos I’ve had it up to – hang on a minute, what the fuck’s this?”
One of the drunken blokes paused as he noticed an envelope pushed down the side of the seat; he pulled it out eagerly. “Might be money in here” he said to his companion, “Come on, I might be fuckin’ rich!”
I’m sure that every other passenger winced slightly on hearing this, because the normal thing to have said would be “Come on, we might be fuckin’ rich.”
He opened the envelope; as he began to unfold the sheet of paper, a small amount of white powder spilled from it. His slow sense of puzzlement gave way to fear and anger, and within seconds he was scrambling to get out of his seat, frantically brushing the front of his jeans and yelling that he had been poisoned with anthrax.
He yelled at the driver, who stopped the bus and allowed them to alight; but then, he realised that they were miles from home, and it was completely dark. A nervous young woman was driving home after an argument with a drunk man in a pub; when the figure loomed out of the darkness she panicked and swerved to avoid him, but a glancing blow threw him into a ditch at the side of the road.
Three days later, a dog-walker found the body. The police arrived in a new Hyundai; they began to take a statement from the shaken man. And the bus-driver slowed down, so that his passengers could enjoy the roadside drama.
And written on the paper they found some lines:
We think of sheep as being just like clouds, anonymous and white; bereft of personality
Red curtains the only cry of colour in a charcoal-grey façade.
No goal has ever been so easy or so hard
The unique frequency of happiness is different from the wavelength of despair
In shape and scale; she used her laugh to scrape the veil of innocence
I’m certain this could only happen to me. Do I really care?
Journal Entry, 8 Oct 2009:
Today is the first anniversary of Dad’s death, so I began the day by digging out my LP of the B-Minor Mass and listening to the Kyrie. What a long year it has been since then; work, and play, and OCCA, and the Open Uni.
On Tuesday night I went to the Inventors’ Group meeting at Central Library to hear Michael Keenan give a talk about his miracle fireproof coating. Fascinating tale of garden-shed chemistry.
e-mailed OCCA and the MIG to ask about having closer regular contact.
Last night went to visit Dave H but forgot to take the trophies & badges over. Had a v nice dinner – chicken stuffed with pesto and mozzarella, wrapt in bacon and roasted.
Birthday pressies off Brett: black and silver wing-tip collar shirt. Orange Shirt. Bike helmet mirrors.
Today’s agenda: rread up on Hume and Rousseau, laundryette, badges and trophies to DH, 3.30 at his work.
Yesterday texted Alastair M – he was in a meeting with Steve S, might pay a visit to Darley Dale on Saturday.
On Radio Two they’re playing The Charlatans – ‘Only One I Know’. When does that date from? 1991? Vaguely remember hearing it on radio when I worked as a mailing clerk. Those were the daze.
Journal Entry, 11 Oct 2009:
Friday morning went off to visit emerge – it’s tucked away in a corner of Smithfield Market. We had a long chat about their various projects. Arranged to call in on them when Peter D was in.
Went to sign on. Maxine carried out her usual security checks – what’s your date of birth? ‘Two days ago’ I said. I briefly let her see my huge lever-arch file of applications. Asked if I could carry out voluntary work & she said yeah, no problems.
The main door lock is jammed downstairs; still works, but not properly.
Went to rally, saw Otto & Tim & Lyn from Foxes, as well as usual crowd. Alas, too many people and not enough toilets. Alastair and Alastair called in and he had a go on bucking bronco.
Liz and Colin and Donna and Benny and Lynda turned up; Donna said she would get me some contacts at Du Pont. Must send CV to her via Liz.
Alastair had interview at lead-acid battery place in Darley Dale, so must send CV to them. Find out who these healthcare (biocides) people are in Chester.
Sat night bands – Exhibit A (who have really improved since I first saw them 4 years ago) and League of Mentalmen. We overheard various people saying that they remembered this band from last year, and they were awful. I’d forgotten that their act was centred around thrash-metal versions of romantic ballads.
Journal Entry, 13 Oct 2009:
Today I went up to Eccles for an eye-test at Sime, and spent £190 (we’re not in euros yet) on the test and new pair of specs.
Met B: we popped up to Leigh and I bought a couple of CDs, a new-age pop thing called City of Tomorrow, and an album by the Lost Prophets – rather Mars Volta / Chili Peppers. Realised I hadn’t paid Liz for my ticket to Excalibur, so posted her a cheque for £12. Done about 600 words on my Mozart essay assignment.
Donna e-mailed me to say she is passing on my CV to du Pont, and also mentioned a rail axle firm in Bury that I should approach.
Journal Entry, 15 Oct 2009:
Yesterday I applied online to a job posted by an agency called Penguin Recruitment (surely they would provide waiters?) and also sent written applic to some firm in Eccles that does plastics coloration.
Then went to Leeds Art Gall for the British Surrealist Exhibition (free!)
There weren’t all that many objects on show, some of the paintings had been sent up to Manchester anyway for the ‘Angels of Anarchy’ exhibition.
One room had dozens of items in it and you couldn’t look properly at them. And they didn’t really count as ‘surreal’.
Rest of gallery good, but rather small: some Spencers and Sickerts, hung on the stairwell where couldn’t really see them at best. Saw ‘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 about this last week and rang them on Tues. Managed to shut it, but now it can’t open and I’m trapped in the house.