Lexitronium Unbound

So anyway, the bus pulled up at the stop. I paused for the standing passenger to alight, but it turned out he was chatting to the driver. The bus rumbled away, past the derelict church and the abandoned cars and the storage drums full of concrete, designed to prevent travellers from driving onto the building site.

The man at the front resumed his monologue, holding forth in a balding, middle-aged way about benefits culture and immigrants and daytime television. His whining rant was lavishly adorned with blasphemy; I was going to put in my hearing-aid, but the rattle of the bus windows and the squeal of the brakes would have made it painful.

His face was locked in an unsteady scowl; I couldn’t tell if the man had been drinking, but there was something clumsy and incoherent about his rant, with two or three phrases being repeated over and over again as he leaned on the scratched Perspex screen that kept the driver safe.



 So you want me to teach your kids about Art?
That’s quite a lofty goal; where do
You think I ought to start?

I worry about the element of blasphemy
Implicit in depictions of the person, but
All these paradigms of culture
Keep changing lanes too fast for me.

Consider two forbidden nudes
Trapped in a hard embrace. Although they
Perished in the flames, their bodies
Stayed behind for us to see, immortalised in
Cold grey stone without their names.

Should I show them the earring on its own?
Inanimate delights that cultivate
In popular mythology the essence of a scene
Made up three hundred years ago, when
Unclean brushes smeared the tarnished oil
To render thus an image more obscene. And

Your kids will grow up thinking that
A painting of a shiny blob of chalk
Attracts great hordes of visitors each year
To hit the Hague and wallow in the halls
Of Art, that seem to stretch away eternally.

So when they get to see her, the shock
Will be profound. She’s everywhere; smiling
At me from bus stops and bookshops
And magazine racks. Until your kids have seen the truth,
The context and the setting of that pearl

I don’t think you’ll be able to relax.

Paint for the Ladies?

 According to my copy of the 1987 textbook ‘Japanese in Plain English’ the honorific term San is used to address anybody and takes on the appropriate meaning of Mr, Mrs or Miss. The author points out that “The concept of ‘Ms’ has not penetrated the Japanese language or culture”.

I was reminded of this when I spotted a recent news item concerning Nippon Paint, which has moved into the field of consumer paints. Initially their product range was stagnating, until two of the female employees came up with the idea for ‘Roombloom’.

This was proposed as being ‘A well-designed paint for women’, and included radical ideas such as ‘Repainting your home’s ceiling and walls according to your tastes’ and ‘If the paint cans were cuter, women would also probably buy them.’

Because of the successful advertising campaigns launched by (for instance) Honda and Toyota, we may be in danger of thinking that Japanese consumer and corporate cultures are almost the same as our own. It may be that Japanese home-owners always use professional decorators, and that the idea of painting your own walls is a novelty.

Perhaps Nippon Paint executives are already aware that in Europe and the States, women are not seduced by cute label designs, but instead are making important decisions on technical and commercial aspects of coatings. And women tend to show a much lower incidence of colour-vision defects than men, so it makes perfect sense to employ them in the coatings sector.

Meanwhile, I shall keep a look out for tins marked ‘A well-designed paint for men’ next time I’m pushing a trolley round B-and-Q at Batley….


 Journal Entry, 02 Dec ’98: Last night went to MAG, a purely social evening. Grenville turned up looking well, had details of the Goldwing and Triumph Owners Club parties.

Today at work Mike called a group meeting to explain the R and D Job Evaluation Structures. Clearly based on the RSC responsibility score template. Then we were given individual talks – apparently my own score is minus forty and so I would normally be on a lower salary but they’re not going to change anything.

According to Mike I show poor management skills (but my job doesn’t involve any managerial duties) and I show a lack of involvement, with behaviour alternating between v good and utterly hopeless. He said he didn’t understand what made me tick, but that’s hardly surprising since he – so I’m told – can’t stand me.

In the news – triple murder and suicide in St Austell.

Journal Entry, 08 Dec ’98: Well…where does a girl begin?

Last Friday all the managers were summoned to a mysterious meeting, and it was announced that all finished goods were to be moved to Stretton and we would keep only raw materials here at Derby. Which means that a dozen or so warehouse staff are to be made redundant.

Anyway, this afternoon the works held a Union meeting and went off to see Chris (steel by name, steel by nature) who told them that if the works agreed to go onto shift work, then jobs would be found for the dozen victims. Otherwise it was three-month notices all round.

Atmosphere of terror, muted resentment towards the numerous temps who we have at work.

Journal Entry, 18 Jan ’99: Work of fiasco the…

As part of the FART (Fast Action Response Team) I have been working on a project to do with Corroless Distributors’ formulations. Andy F was originally meant to do this one but has made no progress.

In four days I have managed to get print-outs of many of the Corroless products and identified those for which formulations are not available. And boy, do we have problems…

Mineral oil defoamer – this is being added to the paint at the end, instead of being ground into the pigment stage!

Pigments, fillers, glassflake and aluminium paste all dispersed by high-speed thrashing. We use a leafing additive for the glass but not for the aluminium.

Some include isocyanate hardeners but also butanol as part of the solvent blend.

About fifty product ranges for Corroless, including primers – water and solvent-borne versions, air-drying and two-pack topcoats, etc. But the existing Mason Coatings range includes several products which have almost identical specifications, so why not amalgamate?

Journal Entry, 25 Jan ’99: Today had statement from Yorkshire Building Society concerning my Sharesave Account. About £500 in at the moment.

Last night went to Curzon’s Nightclub with James. Black stripper. VVV well endowed. Fab muscles.

‘Good News’ issue 31 appeared. Four items, plus a page of facilitator items carried out: Tony Cooper is 50; one guy at Beith has been there 25 years; and two of our customers are going to continue using our products.

Van Leer and Blagdens and T & D have all found out about our WB alkyd materials. Ouch!

Meanwhile at the Royal Academy in London an exhibition of the later paintings of M Monet is packing them in. Huge demented symphonies of colour and endless queues and round-the-clock viewings. I remember last time this happened and I saw a couple of Monet pictures at the National Gallery of Wales.



Zircon-PEEK Composite Blues


During my time in Oxford I started keeping a diary (as Wilde remarked, one should always have something exciting to read on the train) and the entries lurch from November 1991 (Terry Waite returns to UK, Freddie Mercury dies, Robert Maxwell falls off his yacht) straight to Feb 1992 with nothing in between.

In Jan ’92 I had a job interview with a firm called Carrs Paints in Birmingham. It seemed to go well; I chatted about my chemistry background and my research project. When I arrived back home my housemates were in a state of wild excitement: ‘Where have you been! The agency keeps ringing up to speak to you – they want to offer you the job!’

So we ran around squealing with delight, and then rushed off to Sainsbury’s to buy some olives and ham and a bottle of wine to celebrate. The next morning I rang the agency, who confirmed that Carrs had been very impressed with my performance and were keen to offer me a job.

However, when I hadn’t heard anything more after ten days I decided to ring the agency for some info. ‘Oh, there’s been a hiccup’ said the nice man; ‘Carrs have just announced a restructuring, and have decided to suspend all their recruitment programmes so they won’t be offering you a place after all.’

So I had to slink back to the Executive Jobclub and inform them that I would not, after all, be leaving to start my new career.

Then in March ’92 I was invited back to Carrs Paints for another interview, this time at their Small Heath site – a cramped factory hemmed in by the canal, the railway line and the main road, and bathed in a fog of butyl acetate fumes.

Again, I chatted about my research project; the interviewers were rather sceptical, and remarked that ‘You don’t really have any practical experience, we don’t need anybody here with an academic background, and we don’t think you would fit in here.’

They also commented (out of the blue) that ‘Your research was funded by Evode, wasn’t it?’ to which I said ‘Yes, along with Permabond, and Hunting Engineering, and Austin Rover, and three other industrial sponsors.’ I had actually approached Evode twice asking about employment opportunities, but they had rejected me on both occasions.

Shortly afterwards, I had a phone call from the agency telling me that Carrs were willing to offer me a job. Back then, the phrase ‘Yeah, whatever’ had not yet been invented, but I would have considered it to be the perfect response; instead, I just said that I was very pleased, but could they possibly send me something in writing before I make a decision?

So they sent me a letter, and I went to start work, and on my first day I was taken to see the chief accountant. ‘Right then, let’s have your P45’ he said.

I told him that I hadn’t been issued with a P45 document, so he asked me where I had come from. When I said I had been in Oxford, he said ‘No, I mean which paint company were you working for?’

Slightly bewildered, I pointed out that I had spent the past few months unemployed, and had never worked in the paint industry before; at this, he fell silent and glared at my boss. Eventually they managed to get me registered on the payroll.

Nine months later, in December 1992, I was offered a formal contract of employment – which included, in very small print, a phrase confirming that I had been issued with the company handbook. Which I actually had not, but the general ambiance was so hostile and bleak that I dared not challenge this, and signed the contract in order to acquire some job security.

Zircon-PEEK Blues

Hang myself when I get enough rope’;
That’s what the man said on TV
Although he wore grey suit expensive tie
I could sense his lizard eyes scanning the ether
Trying to locate my whereabouts.

The stranded crystals on the ocean floor
Took lifetimes to accumulate; they started
Off as gentle things with no idea of what
Intensely rocky future lay ahead.

They found their way as powdered flakes
Into a sort of nylon rope, with insect-wings
Of borazine to hold at bay
The ionising missiles of despair
That left a dozen generations short of breath.

‘Once upon a time our forebears wore no masks’
It said on a forgotten wall. The gentle artificial silk
Is wrapped into a dozen frames of reference
To make a carapace of living stone. The

Feeble twitching that we mistake
For personality fills us at once
With fierce delight and towering despair.
Two beads of light like distant stars
Hover on the surface of a ring, linked
By a slender chord that is
No longer than it needs to be.  Stranded
On the ocean floor and polished
By a restless moon, the crystals wait

To be discovered