Escape from Chetwynd


They can’t both be right; but they could both be wrong…

18 Sep 2010: ‘Ratzinger’ is not an item from the KFC menu, but rather the surname of our new Pope, Benedict XVI, who is visiting the UK to save us from our wretched heathen ways. According to an interview in the Times, he is quoted as saying that ‘Sex, drugs and alcohol don’t bring happiness.’
Perhaps he’s not doing them properly…

30 Dec 1992: Got up early-ish, went to laundryette-o-mat. Later helped Mr D transport light furniture to our new flat, Firs Farm Drive.
On our second visit to the flat, he suggested that we put the gas fire on to warm ourselves up. We lit the fire, which burned feebly, and went to collect some more furniture from the van. When we came back into the flat we noticed a very strong smell of gas, which we thought was smoke. It turned out that the main feed pipe in the kitchen had been severed but not blocked, and we might very well have been blown away in swirling clouds of orange light blazing in the skies above Castle Bromwich.

Tonight went to new pub – The Inn Place, or something like that. Saw Bob and Alan in the Fountain, got chatting to some Victorian looking clone who works at the Cinema. Have arranged to go to Steve H tomorrow, thence to Mark and Wendy’s for NY Eve.

29 Nov 2010: Today 20th anniversary of passing driving test in Oxford. Yesterday to pictures to see ‘London Boulevard’, an incredibly violent movie starring Colin Farrell and Ray Winstone.
In the news: Wikileaks has broadcast a load of incriminating documents – offensive remarks from the US about Sarkozy and everybody else. Prince Andrew slagging off the SFO and journalists for probing an arms deal.
Heavy snow in Scotland.

20 Dec 2010: Snow, ice, chaos. Heathrow and Gatwick shut down, major delays and cancellations.
On Friday night B- and I drove down to Chorlton for dinner with Luke and Shelley. While we were eating, the snow came down really heavy.  Drove back through 4-inch deep snow.
Then Saturday night went to the Manchester conference Centre for the Exova works do. We had a carvery meal, about 88 booked but only 60 turned up.

Then at 11.20 I left them all to it and went over the road to Sound Control to meet up with Steve R and Kim. He recognised me straight away – ‘Wow, that wasn’t an old picture on FB after all!’ Lots of throbbing, gurgling music from Meat Katie, Krafty Kuts and Dylan Rhymes.
Been at work for 8 months now, but still no mention of works medical or pension.

1 Jan 1993: Rang Abbey National to ask about my non-existent cheque card and it turns out that because I haven’t been using the account for six months continuously they don’t send me one.
Last night to Mark and Wendy’s for stuffed peppers, chocolate praline seashells, stilton and twiglets. Then we watched TV and while Clive James was giving the countdown to midnight I tried to open a bottle of fizz but managed to break the cork off. So there we were at 11.59, using a corkscrew to open a bottle of champagne and watching the fireworks in a nearby garden.

9 Jan 1993: Well, we moved – at one point we wanted to move the van closer to the house and asked Graham (neighbour) to move his car. He started yelling ‘no!’ and accused Aidan of being a misery ever since he’s moved there – ‘You’re nothing but a bunch of poofters!’

[Note: Graham’s wife had grown up in the house they now occupied, and she was v angry when it turned out that Aidan had sold the neighbouring property to an Asian couple]
Anyway, we got in here on Sunday night and spent the week in a rubble of plastic bags and cardboard boxes.
Last night went to collect some furniture from Ivan and ran out of petrol. Ivan came out to rescue us, bringing a petrol can – actually an oil can with a short spout. Eventually bought a plastic can from the garage, left the van at Dunlop and walked back through Castle Bromwich.
And we went to collect Sid from Chetwynd Road and as we were pulling away a car burst into flames behind us.

12 Jan 2011: Yesterday was the first anniversary of me starting work at Kernow Coatings. I remember arriving at factory on a snowy morning to meet Phil B in the car park. He didn’t seem very pleased to see me.
This afternoon had staff meeting – the Big Boss (Tim Cornes) has plans for huge expansion of the Coatings Dept. Lots of opportunities for staff who want to make career progress.

3 Mar 2011: Yesterday would have been Dad’s birthday so I went off to the Swinging Bridge for a slap-up dinner – pâté and Cajun salmon. And this time I didn’t lose consciousness over the profiteroles like I did with Jean and Manda last year.

So far I’ve done tiny bits of work on block 5 – Human Resources.
Lots of bleating in the news about vocational courses and apprenticeships.  No mention of the idea that apprenticeships are reserved for the offspring of existing workers.

6 Mar 2011: This time last year I was living in Penryn, renting a tiny spare room from a landlady called Debbie who kept her small house spotless – soulless, even. No shoes allowed indoors.
One of the big black marble floor tiles in the kitchen had cracked.
Bathroom had colour-changing, low-voltage lights in the ceiling and white spotlights set in the floor.
Wonderful views of fields and woodland from the kitchen window.
This house about three minutes’ walk from my workplace, Kernow Coatings (‘Sensitisers’)

Tomorrow is the Manchester OCCA seminar at the Salford Innovation Forum – must take CDs, dongle and wall-signs.
Wednesday is our state visit from the new CEO, Ian El-Mokadem.

Back in July 2010 I sent Eileen an e-mail message, saying that I remember going to my EC Pigments interview in July 2005. If anyone had asked me ‘And where do you see yourself in five years’ time?’ I probably wouldn’t have said ‘Temping in Salford and planning a reunion drink with all my friends from this place.’

Journal Entry, 25 Feb 08:  Yesterday went to town, bought a 1 GB dongle and a copy of ‘Ariel’ by Kate Bush, down from £14 to a fiver. Went to cinema to watch ‘Rambo’.

Then today we all went to visit the packaging firm Rexam in Wakefield. Strange occurrence: I was sitting in the back of Andrew’s car with Adrian, and we were waiting for Bruce. When B- turned up, he went to get in the back.
‘Oh, hang on’ said he, ‘I need to sit in the front ‘cos I get travel sick’, thus forcing young Adam to move. But it was only when he noticed that I was there that he remembered he was carsick.

And then we had an e-mail from Rose at Fall River to announce that John White had been terminated. Of course she ends her message ‘Have a nice day’.

24 Mar 09: Easter Monday: We went to pictures yesterday afternoon to see ‘10000 Years BC’. Dear oh dear – it was like a bunch of American High School students at a caveman fancy-dress party. Although it would have been better with some naked Neanderthals running around hitting each other with clubs. And as for the idea of dragging the Great Pyramid into this mess…

24 Apr 07: Yesterday went to Viaton for my Chemist interview with Howard Beedle. Got lost in Peak District and arrived late. Got absolutely soaked on way home. Detailed discussion of my PhD and why it had taken so long to finish, so I explained about having to de-register as a student in order to claim housing benefit.

26 Apr 07: Yesterday e-mailed OCCA to ask whether they had received payment for me going to Sheffield conference.
(I registered for this, but they sent the invoice to work where it was opened and passed on to Adrian who denied all knowledge when I asked. Then I asked again at the sales office and was told that no payments had been processed)

14 Jan 07: On Friday went down to Derby for Masons reunion. The usual gang appeared – but no Hannah, no Mike H, no Dave Redfern, no Andy Fearn.
Everybody looked faintly unaltered. Towards the end of the night, Ian asked me ‘Did you ever get round to finishing your PhD?’ so I said that I had already done so by the time I joined the firm in ‘96.


Boerlioxz Lush

Journal Entry, 29 Jul 08: Yesterday had another session with DT and George. Following DT’s instructions, we had purchased a large sheet of aluminium and cut it up into coupons for weathering exposure.
When I showed these to DT he said wearily ‘Oh, they’ll do, I suppose.’ Then he said he would look at purchasing real chromated Q-Panels, for us to test all our high-performance pigments at FS, 1/3 and 1/50 reductions.
And all this vast sprawling tedious project has come about because one of Kevin’s customers asked for 1000 hours QUV testing on two specific products.

Bought a new Yale lock for the front door. Again.
In the news: Weston Super Mare pier destroyed by fire. Lots of suicide bombers in Iraq.

Went to cinema to see ‘Donkey Punch’, the film that puts the vile into violence. Sex, drugs, gore and a trashy plot – wafer-thin caricatures and a puerile script. And the actual perversion itself is nothing special.

31 July 08: And at work, a breakthrough – I used Solsperse in a red 112  grind, and the subsequent tint panels turned out to be  the same colour as standard, instead of being horribly strong (which is the problem we have with red 170 development grades)
Bruce took my pink panels to show Bob Christie and asked me about how much Solsperse had been used. But why not just invite me to join the meeting? [Note: Bob Christie was our academic consultant who would come along to R and D progress meetings. Of course, as a humble Tech Service bod, I don’t get invited to meet the professor or attend the meeting.]

Journal entry, 2 Sep 92: Last night had a quiet evening in, not much sleep. Then today went to work with my new haircut; a number 2. The entire factory floor was buzzing with comment – we had a fire alarm at 10.00 and Trevor didn’t even recognise me.
Then just before breakfast one of the blokes (Brent) came up to the lab and asked me who I was trying to look like. After some trivial conversation about Alien 3 he then began asking me (anxiously dithering) if…well….you know what I’m going to say…and some of the lads on the works are talking about you…
Well, as far as I know I didn’t say yes and I didn’t say no. [I actually said ‘Yes, I know what you’re trying to ask me, and no, I’m not going to tell you’]
In the QC lab Porky pointed at my skinhead cut and said ‘Did they give you a pair of knickers to wear on your head?’
Me: ‘No, why?’  PP: ‘Because you look like a right cunt.’ And so on, thick and fast.

16 May 08: Listening to the track ‘Home’ by Rod Argent; it reminds me of a West End musical showtune. Perhaps he should have placed it at the end of side two…

The world has gone mad – cyclone in Burma and earthquake in China. Burmese authorities rejecting offer of aid from the UN. Steadily rising death tolls.

Started reading ‘Cleopatra’, a history by Lucy Hughes-Hallett.  She mentions Berlioz’ “throbbingly lush setting” of Vieillard’s poem on Le Mort de Cleopatre. And, let’s face it, we all need a bit of throbbing lushness from time to time.

18 May 08: You couldn’t make it up!

Following the filmed disclosure that Max Moseley (head of F1 motor-racing) was involved in a 5-hour long Nazi sex orgy, it turns out that a member of MI5 has been made to resign cos one of the participants was his wife. [Note: it wasn’t a Nazi event, an allegation for which News of the World had to pay handsomely after the court case]

10 Sept 03: Crack Baby Crack!

Mt Fleming always props his office door open with a tin of paint. When leaving, he kicks the tin away and lets the door fall shut with a slam. Consequently there is a large crack in the plaster around the door frame.
And attached to the same wall is our phone junction box. Is this why our digital phone line failed?

Inconsistent colours – we make several different grades of paint all in a range of colours. Signal Red is produced in about five systems, each one using a different blend of pigments.

Our aluminium paint contains 16 percent metal flake pigment, while the Eckhart handbook recommends between 2 and 4 percent. [Note: I did point this out to the boss, after I had noticed Andy shovelling the metal paste into a vat of white spirit under high-speed stir. But we’ve always done it this way, said both of them]

And I rejected a batch of golden yellow paint for shade, so Kev ended up putting in about 30 litres of stainer. This addition was not recorded on the works order form, even though it now contains lead chromate and will have a significantly higher SG than previously approved batches.

31 Oct 03: Black Hares!

Well, two days ago Iain Duncan Smith failed to get his vote of confidence as leader of the Tory party and promptly resigned.
Now all the papers are full of Michael Howard as new party leader, and various senior party members have agrees not to stand for election.
An election with only one candidate is the sort of thing we associate with Saddam Hussein or Robert Mugabe.

Many years ago I bought a record of Schubert Nine – one of the ancient reissued recordings made by Szell – and I hated it. Boring boring boring! But in time it grew on me, and now I love the idea of those strict rhythms.

Library book: ‘The Lure’ By Bill Napier. Entertaining rhapsody on the concept of DNA.

At work – I was checking the QC properties of a batch of choke paint, and the additions had all been ticked, including the cobalt drier. However, the gel time was very long. And it only came back into spec when we had added the same amount of cobalt as originally listed. Odd, that…
Some hopeless formulations in the SCD files: we are currently making a couple of two-pack epoxy products, both made using high-speed dispersion as the main mixing process. One contains Alum paste pigment, which is destroyed by HSD; the other contains carbon black, which can’t be effectively dispersed by HSD.

And on Monday we have the ISO 9000 audit.

27 April 03: Last night watched ‘Mothman Prophecies’ on video; today went to cinema for ‘Welcome to Collinwood’. Yesterday Bury: bought a snazzy C&A shirt and a copy of Achilles. Mail: TV Licensing (again!).
Today in HMV discovered that a load of Grateful Dead albums have been reissued in high-definition CD with bonus tracks.
Drew a picture of my sitting room and fantasised about faxing it back in time to me at the age of eighteen to say what lay in store. And now I should draw another of where I want to be in five years’ time.

Vexalta Blues, Hepworth

20 Nov 2001: Vienna. Set off in cab Mon morn, plane to Amsterdam then to Vienna. Met at airport by taxi driver, had long conversation half German, half English. Got to Crowne Plaza, typical hotel, wonderful restaurant. Collected by Herr Seidler in morning, whisked off to factory for a tour and meeting with Hubert Culik. HS shakes hands with all staff on meeting them in morning.
21 Nov 2001: Rob and Steve both visited me in office to ask how it went over there. I was very positive about it all.
Rob was okay, but SP commented ‘Well, we’re not sure that water-based tower paints will work outdoors.’ Damned with faint praise indeed. I mentioned that in Austria, they apply the paint to galvanised steel members in a factory before transporting them into a field for assembly. ‘No, no’ said SP ‘You must have misheard them. They don’t do that at all.’

Journal Entry, 16 Sep 2002: Curious day at work: Rob P asked if we could have a ‘get together’ so I duly went to his office at ten-thirty.
We went through my latest monthly report – he complained that all my projects were ongoing, and I never seemed to bring any of them to a satisfactory conclusion. He remarked that I didn’t contribute any dynamic, always waiting for him or Phil to initiate projects.
‘I don’t expect that sort of performance from a paint expert, and you either are or you aren’t’, adding ‘I’d expect it from a lab assistant but I want ideas from you. I don’t need you to tell me we have problems, I want answers to them.’

I maintained an enigmatic silence; no mention of my dreadful salary, or my lack of a company logo labcoat, or no appraisal meetings, or no petrol expenses from my trip to Perkins. And no acknowledgment that the reason I have been given one of these tasks is that our firm is defrauding the customer by supplying non-conforming products.

[Note: but I did provide answers to the problems. I pointed out that you can’t use white spirit to thin certain grades of phenolic alkyd resins. SM said ‘but we need to do that, cos it keeps the cost down. It’s uneconomical to use xylene.’ And so we ended up with forty tins of paint being returned cos they had turned to jelly in storage, all having to be cut open and reworked. And I told him that Prestolite Blue showed no colour stability problems if you disperse the pigment correctly]

11 July 2002: Today gave Gill H my tank sample report to type up, and she rang back with a barrage of questions.
Apparently my job is to measure the viscosity, SG etc on the tank sample supplied, record it, then measure it again after making the required additions of styrene or whatever. Whereas I – having been given no verbal or written instructions – just followed Waring’s example and recorded the values, with some advice on styrene etc.

Wouldn’t it be a good idea, said I, if we could have all these instructions written down?
‘But they are’ said Gill, indignant; ‘You should have a copy of the Company Operating Procedures upstairs.’
[Note: when I arrived at STL I discovered that Gill was a close friend of the Production foreman, and that she had been expecting to get the job running the coatings lab after Dave Waring’s departure. My arrival provoked severe annoyance. I gradually noticed that there were nebulous channels of communication to which I wasn’t privy]

12 July 2002: Well, at 12.00 we gathered in the canteen and were addressed by SP who told us that Altana had taken the remaining shares in Sterling Technology and so become complete owners.
Lots more work from the other subsidiaries. And the chance to buy shares at a discount; unfortunate bit of timing that, what with the FTSE at a five-year low.

Typed out my progress report on Vinyl Tower Paint explaining the problems we encountered getting C-and-P visc, Rion visc and sag resistance all correct. The test spec supplied by National Grid Company says that the Rion viscosity should be 40 to 60 Poise using Spindle number 2. But the No.2 spindle has a range of 100 – 4000 Poise, going up in steps of 50 Poise.

Thu 18 July 2002: Today sent fax (ha!) to Rembrandtin asking for copies of reports on the track record of Aqua-Lac. [Note: everybody else in the company had an e-mail account, but not me, even though at my interview I was told that computer literacy was very very important.] Gave SJM a potted breakdown of drum paint technology. Paul Osman asked if we were doing much in the Tower Paint field.
‘What’, I asked ‘You mean all that stuff that’s been out in the yard since June fifth?’ [Sixteen drums, 200 litres each]

10 May 2002: During our meeting the other day, Rob said that ‘We need to talk to Rembrandtin to see if their WB tower paint is actually used out-of-doors, we need them to tell us whether or not it’s crap.’ He really doesn’t believe in this stuff.

Today had rear brake fixed at Motorcycle City. Pads not need replacing. Caliper/bearing broken.
Was in at 7.40 this morning to finish off the Perkins White Primer – in the end we never carried out our airless spray trial.
Train crash at Potters Bar. Six dead so far.

30 Dec 2002:                             Nearly There

Just one day remains, shedding fragments
As it spins out of control
Like a Spanish dancer high on drugs, or a
Tree caught in one of April’s storms, this day
Pretending to be just another day, a
Banquet of unexpected thrills.

31 Dec 2002: Posted letters to Sheila and Dave and Heather and Mark. And cheque to Cred Card.
In the news: Donald Rumsfeld (US Defense Secretary) has been outed as one of the key suppliers of plutonium, anthrax, electronics etc to some guy called Saddam Hussein. (‘Well, he seemed such a nice man…’)
Cases of syphilis, gonorrhoea and chlamydia in Manchester up by 200 percent on last year. Halifax Bank says that house prices in the NW will show a 16 percent rise during 2003.

While tidying up and chucking out, I came across that 1990 photo of me holding my newly-acquired driving licence. A quiet night in, listening to Radio 2, white wine, chorizo, olives, fromage, salad, and reading John Brunner.
There are seventy flood warnings throughout the UK – tonight’s forecast rain and snow.

Soapy Mugs Ahoy!


I suppose that, if Architecture really is Frozen Music, then this splendid corner of St Ann’s Square in Manchester represents somebody accidentally flicking their radio dial and being treated to a five-second blast of The Creation instead of the Nolans which they had just been enjoying…

Soapy Mugs Ahoy!

Sun 13 May 2007: This weekend was NABD Rally which for some reason clashed with the Thundersprint. I didn’t do rally, rode down to Northwich today to help with the MAG stall.

Had a rejection e-mail from Scapa adhesion tapes. So much for my brilliant interview technique.
Next Fri off to Viaton for second interview – car booked with Avis.
Listening to Nympholept.
Last night B- came over and we watched ‘American Psycho 2’ which turned out to be a rather witty film, very different from the first one.

Mon 14 May: In Portugal, a three-year-old girl has been abducted from her holiday chalet, where she had been left alone while her parents went out to dinner. This is the main news story, and a £2.5 million reward is on offer. Everyone frantic with worry.

Tue 15 May: Started reading ‘Why We Die’ and after one paragraph burst out laughing with admiring envy. Like Waugh, Tartt, Hardy.
Tomorrow have meeting with Khalid from Noveon. The lovely Tench has decided not to attend.
Text from Luke – he’s passed all his exams so now he can plumb.

Wed 16 May: A particular bounce and sparkle was evident in today’s banter among the QC and Tech Service staff.
Ann was saying that her husband used to be an altar boy – I misheard, and said ‘What, still?’ Then she mentioned that she had taken the kids to church on Sunday, leaving Paul at home to D-I-Y.
To which I pointed out that ‘D-I-Y’ was a common euphemism for masturbation. And Adam, who had only been half-listening to this conversation, remarked ‘I can’t remember the last time I went to church’ but we were all expecting him to say something VERY different, and Bernard, Ann and myself all burst out laughing.

Thu 17 May: An eeeenteresting day….
Went to Avis, picked up my car – a brand new Peugeot 307. Drove home, went out for a spin, drove to Altrincham to go shopping at Tesco.
On the way back a couple of police vans came out of a side road with sirens screaming, so I pulled over to let them pass and ended up scraping my alloy wheels. So that could be another £300 to pay.

Fri 18 May: Scratched the car paintwork this morning on a wheelie-bin as I was hastily leaving. Interview went okay. Firm seems very keen on commercial customer contact.
Questions from Howard and Greg: ‘How do you deal with urgent requests for work from the production department and customer complaints at the same time?’

Questions from Craig: ‘What sort of person are you? What would someone say about you who wasn’t supportive? Run me through your CV, let me get an idea of the logical progression of your career.’ He also asked me how I would establish a rapport with colleagues – presumably a cue for me to say ‘Oh, my wife and I always invite people round to our place for barbecue parties in summer…’

Tue 22 May: And of course Ann was right when she said that Alan would pump me for info during our trip to Nuremberg – presumably why we went from Stanstead, to make sure we spent plenty of time together – cos I was gently interrogated, a constant stream of questions about my time at University and in Industry. But: nothing personal – he carefully avoided any mention of home life or relationships.

Thu 24 May: No-one turned up at MAG last night.

Today at work Adrian had appraisal meetings with Ann, Adam and Jemma. So I’m the only one left out. Again.
When I do have my performance review meeting, I should ask:
Why my job title was changed from Senior Tech Service Chemist to Lab Technician;
Why my pay rise never appeared in 2006;
Why both Adrian and Alan refused to get back to me over my Open Uni course fee; and although the OCCA seminar fee was paid, neither of them could tell me when or why.

9 Jul 2007: Tonight Radio Four is having an interview with Leonard Cohen, discussing poetry and songs.
Had letter from Sci-Tech asking if I wanted to remain on their books. So I said yes.

At work I’ve been given a big job – carry out a comparison of blends 8, 9 and 10 of yellow GPC with the standard. But these three blends have been on sale to customers for a long time now, so why do we need to assert consistency?

Latest news on the Manchester Congestion Charge; the transport group sent round a huge colour leaflet, called ‘Our Future Transport’ with profiles of typical road users and how much they would be charged. Turns out these pictures had all been lifted from the website of a US model agency.

10 Jul: Today at work I e-mailed my 1957 OCCA journal article to Chris Pacey-Day for inclusion in SCI magazine. Also e-mailed Ted and Gisela Hill to say how nice to meet them last week.
In the kitchen at work I was going to make everybody a cuppa, but Adam insisted on taking his mug from me and washing it under lots and lots of hot soapy water.

Mon 5 Nov: How civilised – didn’t get up ‘til 7.45 today. It’s the combined OCCA / BCF meeting at the Manufacturing Institute.
Yesterday went to cinema to see ‘Elizabeth: The Golden Age’ which I think was riddled with historical errors – and a bit slow. Lots of scenes on board sailing ships, cannon firing etc – which made me want to giggle cos they were so keenly reminiscent of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’.

Mushroom Skin Cadenza I

Journal entry, 9 Dec 2008: Set out this morning at 8.50 to get tram. Arrived at Stretford, 9.05 to find a huge crowd. Each arriving Metro was so crowded that no-one could get on. Eventually a double-length tram arrived at 9.40 and we all piled on for Bury. Hopped off at St Peter’s Square to transfer.
Got a Piccadilly tram and arrived at main statin, sprinted up escalators and along concourse, spotted my train and jumped on board with about fifteen seconds to go before departure.
Got to Carrs Paints by cab and had a long friendly chat with Steve Earles; “We’ve never met, but I feel as though I know you ‘cos we still make use of your old lab notebooks.”

Chatted briefly to Roger Shepherd – rang Lilian, came back to Manchester and dined at Bella Pasta (just like I did on way home from Ferro Alloys in Glossop all those years ago), then got home to find glitter-filled card from Mary and John.

During our chat, SE asked me about my experience in problem-solving and lean management – none, really said I. He said they would continue interviewing people and they’d let me know at the end of Jan, which is a fairly discreet way of saying ‘we’re not that interested.’

Journal entry, 7 Feb 2009: A couple of weeks back I had an e-mail message from Whitehall saying that Carrs had decided to suspend their recruitment programme in response to the global turndown.
However, I notice that this vacancy – No. 50/8 – is still listed in Whitehall’s JOCCA advert in today’s copy of Surface Coatings International.
Rather like in 1992, when I had an interview with Carrs Paints, and was notified that I would be offered the job, only to learn a few weeks later that they had suspended all recruitment activities.

Journal entry, 26 Jan 2009: Back to work today after four days in Woolwich. They had already held one consultation meeting, and Jemma had taken notes as our rep.

Someone asked SS whether we would be getting a pay rise as part of our deal for transferring Down South, and he said something like –
“You should welcome the challenge of a new workplace and the job satisfaction of being among your colleagues should provide motivation. Pay rates at EC are very competitive and the cost of living is no more down in London than it is here.”

Which is all, in my humble opinion, rubbish.

The production staff at Woolwich manufacture blue and violet dyestuffs, and consequently they end up intensely purple. So when someone asked me ‘How was Woolwich?’ I said ‘Imagine if you invited Prince to direct an episode of Deep Space Nine.’

I was a Qualanoid Zombie

I remember when George Bush Senior was referred to (in a satirical novel) as ‘Vice-President Shrub’. Oh, those were the days!

It was thirty years ago today…
Journal Entry, 10 Feb 1987: This morning sent off an application form to British Industrial Sand. Went to MEB and Gas, phoned Pam to say my housesitting services were available.
Last night on TV: BPI Awards and ‘The Films of David Cronenberg’ – Rabid, Dead Zone, The Fly etc. Must compose the Cronenberg Concerti.
On the news: writs issued against Duncan Campbell for his Zircon reporting, he splendidly defiant, holding aloft a glass trophy for anyone who can demonstrate that he has damaged national security.
I think MI6 more to blame for their pathetic recruitment techniques: only qualifications needed are an Oxbridge Degree, clean collar and cuffs and a gay lover already employed by MoD to provide reference.

11 Feb 1987: This morning in the post: application forms for Halesowen College and Pyrene Chemicals. Answers to be vetted by Paul and Ada. (Note: Paul and Ada were staff at the day care centre where I was doing voluntary work in 1987)

11 Feb 2017: I’m living in a rented two-bed flat, claiming Universal Credit and working part-time as a shelf-filler in Tesco. I don’t own a car, or a motorbike, or a hi-fi.

Journal Entry, 20 May 2013: Yesterday went to Caffé Nero, then to AMC to watch ‘Olympus Has Fallen’, an amazingly crude and violent thriller about a terrorist siege at the White House. Borrowed heavily from Die Hard.
Before this film we have four trailers, one of which was for a movie called ‘White House Down’ which looks as though it might be an amazingly crude and violent thriller about a terrorist siege at the White House.

Journal entry, 3 May 2013: Yesterday had my ‘Skills Training Needs’ meeting with Larry Candler at work. He’s never read my CV and didn’t know I had an interest in bikes. We went through a long list of standard tests – humidity exposure, colorimetry, impact, Buchholz etc – to see how well I knew them and how often they were required.
At one point he asked ‘Have you worked anywhere before you came to us?’ which seemed odd. Perhaps he thinks I’m actually 26 years old, fresh out of college; so I ran through my reverse chronology.

Journal entry, 26 Apr 2013: Last night to AMC to see ‘Side Effects’, an ornate psychological thriller starring Jude Law. At work, Nick H called in to examine the kA testing samples.

In the news: over 200 dead in Bangladesh following the collapse of a sweatshop clothing factory.

Today at work, Dave asked me ‘Do you know what time we’re having this meeting?’ and it turned out that there was a Marine/Ad Hoc lab meeting to which I hadn’t been invited. Mind you, when I do go to meetings they never include anything relevant to me.

James left at the end of Feb: no decision yet made about who is now responsible for calibrating stuff. Ryan left at end of Dec: no decision yet made about who’s in charge of Marine stuff. Had an e-mail from Amy at kA, which began ‘Hi Richard’. It appears that no-one had notified kA that Rick Hayden had left Exova a year ago.

Journal entry, 29 May 2013: This morning we were all summoned to a meeting at very short notice with Mike Pooley, European MD. He waffled on about achieving synergies by transferring technology between different departments, in order to achieve improved efficiency. Mentioned ‘Oil and Gas’ about 15 times.
Said that the restructuring process would take 2 to 3 months, plans announced end of June. There will be five redundant positions among management following this shake-up, consultation process underway.

‘A very exciting period for us all…’

Meanwhile, Dave has tracked down four client reports which had been Authored by Dean and Approved by Danny, but still not Sent to Client, so they’re now 8 weeks overdue. Littered with mistakes, lazy cut-and-paste, overlooked batch numbers etc.

Journal entry, 25 Jul 2013: At work the lovely Danielle and Dean were having an e-mail discussion about QUV lamps wearing out – jolly lofty and pretentious. I joined in, asking whether the QUV people had any thoughts on our use of tap water instead of demin for the QUV-Spray system – in breach of ASTM and ISO requirements.

Then Danny sent me a form to laminate including the erroneous NH3SO4, so I replied asking for this to be changed.

Journal entry, 18 Apr 2013: Yesterday we had our marine/ad hoc lab meeting – Danny went through the usual H and S etc. Then he introduced Malcolm and Kelly, both of whom have joined the department ‘for an unspecified period’. Carl looked annoyed at this, since he still hasn’t been given a firm contract. They’re interviewing him and A N Other for his job.

I was again treated as invisible – Dean is now in charge of wet paint testing and will be authorised to train up everybody else – including myself, presumably.
Performance reviews to be carried out early in May. Matt has scheduled a coatings update meeting on 25 April.
Danny gave me a job to start work on; the quotation is six months old (Sep ‘12) and there is no purchase order.

Hurrah for John Carter, for He is the Salvation of us all! Today I sent an enquiry to Lindsay (copied in JC and Danny) about Wask, our new client. I mentioned that they weren’t on LIMS but we had started work.
JC promptly fired me a stiff e-mail message saying we should NOT be starting work if there is no PO or pro-forma. But alas! It was three hunky blokes called Danny, Dean and Carl who hoisted the 60 kilogram units into the salt-spray machine, not moi – cos I was away on hols on Monday!

Journal entry, 26 Jun 2013: Last night rode over to visit Dave and Jess – v enjoyable meal, Toad in Hole. This morning got the 6.45 bus to town then train to Stockport, then taxi to Alphabond. Initial impressions not very good – small building on a drab industrial estate, no receptionist.
I was met by Dylan (son of Nigel) who gave me a standard application form to complete. Employment & educational history. And it asked for work and character references. Talk about insulting.
I sat in their reception area and filled the thing in, then he reappeared and briefly looked over my writings. ‘Have you got any references?’ he asked.

Then I was ushered through to an office and he looked at my CV (as supplied by Whitehall) and he had their internal interview questionnaire and proceeded to ask exactly the same questions – in the same order – that Nigel had asked over the phone last week. What a waste of time. Also said ‘What sort of person are you…are you married, for instance?’

Kept asking me about money – what was I looking for, and would Exova make a counter offer to prevent me leaving. At one point I mentioned that I didn’t know what figure would be appropriate for a PhD with 20 years’ industrial experience, and he immediately said ‘it depends on what value a person brings to the company.’

Journal entry, 11 Jun 2013: A couple of weeks ago Danny sent me a ‘high-importance’ e-mail asking me to prepare a Qualanod SOP (or rather telling me that Matt had requested one) and that we would discuss it over the following week.
So far, nothing. During our marine meeting yesterday, JC said that some Qualanod Testing (and AASS) would be coming in.
And today, of course, our scheduled coatings team meeting – Tuesday afternoon relocated to Tuesday morning relocated to Friday morning – has now been cancelled.

Journal entry, 27 Jun 2013: About 6 weeks ago Danny sent me an e-mail saying that Matt M needed an SOP for Qualanod etching. Today at long last he responded (clumsily) finding fault with the nominated ISO standard spec. (Note: a long story, involving me carrying out Qualanod etching partly outside the fume cupboard because it was occupied by Jon and Gaz. Danny notified Dave Carr who invited me to a disciplinary hearing about breach of safety procedures., rather than ask me directly…)




Pet-Food Paradigm

Pet-Food Paradise

Normally I would be working on jams or cereals (Weetabix, organic Weetabix, banana Weetabix, chocolate Weetabix, high-protein Weetabix, mini Weetabix, golden syrup Weetabix, spiced apple and raisin Weetabix etc) but last night I found myself transferred to a different part of the store, the strange twilight zone called Pet food.

I use my sturdy plastic knife with its concealed blade to slash the polythene cocoon that binds the tempting goodies. And such treats! We have food for kittens, food for senior cats, and food for (presumably) ordinary cats. There are dainty tins containing barely a handful of cat food: pâté, or casserole, or chunks in jelly, all supplied in a bewildering variety of flavours – duck and turkey, rabbit and salmon, ocean fish with spinach, chicken and trout. It becomes impossible to align these options with the labels on the shelf, and I end up angrily hurling the entire contents of the tray so that they roll and tumble in a noisy constellation of despair.

I did from time to time wonder why cat food was never available in those two favourites, field-mouse and hedge-sparrow; but none of my colleagues was able to tell me.

And all the time I am watched by the cats whose pictures appear on every tin or packet; dozens of uniformly spaced feline predators, just waiting to be fed. Some of the retail shelf-trays are empty, so I remove them ready to position a full replacement. The quality of the packaging is impressive. The cardboard is firm and smooth, double-ribbed, designed to withstand the most aggressive brutal treatment either at the warehouse or on the shelf. The images are pin-sharp, with perfectly-groomed cats gazing out from a deep blue glossy background, as shiny and sleek as the paintwork on a Nissan QX.

The cat food is presented as being elegant and feminine, unlike dog food which arrives in hefty bags like pillowcases filled with gravel. I am briefly reminded of C P Snow, and his remark about science as being determinedly heterosexual and frontier, with nothing of the feline or oblique about it…

Thing with No Name

I decided to call into the Art Gallery last week; there was an exhibition of photographs, taken around the UK by various foreign-born artists. Several of these pictures were ‘Untitled’, with just a year of production to identify them. What’s in a name? We occasionally see pictures called ‘Untitled, 1968’ or whatever in the catalogue of works on display at the Tate. Why not construct a thematic directory – similar to the legendary ‘Beilstein Handbuch der Organischen Chemie’, in which everything – known or yet to be discovered, real or impossible, simple or fiendishly complicated – has its place.

We could, for instance, have material categories: is the artwork a drawing, or a sculpture, or a photograph? Is it landscape or portrait in orientation? Is it black-and-white or in colour, and if so, which particular colours? Is it abstract or representational? We could have ten orders of size: zero for those objects or ideas which would fit neatly into a 1-centimetre square, and ten for those creations larger than 31.415926 square metres.  Does it depict a person, or an animal, or a plant, or a building, or an insect, or a piece of scientific apparatus?

And, having established this conceptual matrix, we could then turn the idea on its head, by using a computer programme to select a category, for which an artwork could be commissioned. Some whimsical creative types would play around with these imposed limits, by making items which rested exactly between two different sizes, or which used iridescent pigments and metameric inks so that the colour of the object underwent a dramatic change in response to different light conditions.

Journal Entry, 15 Mar 2011:

Today at work had discussion with Amy about company policy on staff development. Then Lynda sent me a copy of ‘CV Summary’ which we send to clients as part of the tendering process, in order to impress them. When I returned this document, amended with my details, I also included a copy of my six-page CV with all job histories and wage figures.

Wed 16 Mar 2011: Five months after the car crash in which it was damaged, the lamp-post outside my flat is still wrapped in black-and-yellow warning tape.

In Japan, further explosions and fire at the damaged nuclear facility in Fukushima. White smoke pouring from the reactor; more earthquakes overnight.

Thu 17 Mar 2011: Now the Japanese have to cope with heavy snow, power cuts, fuel shortages, aftershocks, food shortages and radiation leaks. Tens of thousands of homeless people in school halls.

Today went with Lynda and Richard to PIH to discuss briefly my PP bonding research. Gave them a collection of lap-joints; Dave Jackson broke one of the blank samples but the treated PP surface put up more of a fight. (Note: I discovered several weeks later that the supposed PP material I was using was actually a low-m.w. version designed for melt bonding of insulated pipes, and thus has very poor mechanical strength by itself)

Sun 20 Mar: Eccles is just a grey concrete shadow, lined with disappointment.

Last night a bunch of us went out from Wetherspoons in town for a farewell drink for Teresa. She’s not actually leaving the firm, just been transferred down to Dudley where she actually lives. She mentioned that the first record she ever bought was ‘Seventeen’ by the Regents, which I was unable to find on Spotify when I looked last week.

They’re playing Chopin on Rad Three: there’s an ostinato section which nagged at me last week when Stuart Maconie played ‘Lippy Kids’ by Elbow and I couldn’t recall where I’d heard a similar pattern of keyboard work.

I’m watching the news with sound turned down – started launching cruise missile attacks against Col Gaddafi (lovely lovely man who gave oil pipeline contract to BP) and listening to languid French piano music. Perhaps one day I will assemble an artwork by fixing my patterned velour scarf to a plain canvas – by ‘plain’ of course, I mean bearing a subtle design of pearlescent white lines on a dull white ground.

29 Jul 2011: After five months of aerial bombardment, the lovely Col Gaddafi is still alive and well in Libya, while the UK has decided to recognise the rebel forces as an alternative government there.

Wed 23 Mar: Finished my OU assignment and sent copies to Lynda and John. Next week we are having a visit from KCC and we still have a few outstanding tasks on their project. These are: flexibility and porosity tests – but the only person who knows how to carry these out is Terry, who has refused to respond to any of our requests for help on this. His young protégé, Christian, lives in the lab next door and probably had ambitions to become lab manager before my arrival last year.

Weds 8 Jun: Last night, browsing on Spotify, I learned that it was the Nina Simone version of ‘My Way’ which winds up the drama at the end of ‘Petits Mouchoirs’.

Tremendous downpour outside at present; trying to focus on HRM for tonight’s project.

All gone very quiet at work regarding my transfer to Danny’s office and replacing the lovely Xian.

We’re doing a big project of test work for KCC on Rebar epoxy coating. One test involves measuring bond strength in in a concrete block.  We (John C) quoted this particular test as being about £230, when in fact it costs about thirteen grand. So to fulfil the project as correctly specified would take us three months and cost us five thousand pounds.