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.