White Spirit

Journal Entry, Tue 4 Mar 2003: Rang Angela at Kelly Sci Resources: she said she only had my old details. ‘So how come you’ve got my Manchester phone number?’
She asked about my salary details. Wants to put me forward for a job in Widnes.
At work, had two batches of identical black paint for QC test, one for 300 litres, the other for ten litres.

Weds 5 Mar 2003: White primer for Perkins – slower drying required. Vil 259 being withdrawn so we can move to Synolac 78 perhaps.
The usual – I rejected a batch for being low gloss, and back it came, improved, but no additions recorded on the batch card.
[Note: we made the primer using lots of white spirit instead of the recommended xylene, because xylene is more expensive and reduces the viscosity more effectively. The resin is incompatible with WS, so the drying process gives an apparently matt film before all the solvent lost]

Fascinating evening at Poynton Bike Club: Tev and I were sitting on stage with club chairman, having given a short talk about MAG membership, when they went on to discuss other agenda items. At one point they were discussing their website having links to other clubs and someone (jokingly) mentioned GBMCC. ‘Well we could…’ said the chairman, ‘what do you lot think?’
There was a lot of murmured disapproval with some of the girls looking extremely hostile. [Note: it was interesting to be present in front of all these people and yet be invisible, as they had no idea I was gay, and they displayed an immediate negative response]

Tue 15 Apr 2003: At work, one of the main products contains about 0.3 percent of Thorcat, a phenyl mercury compound, but no mention is made of this being toxic on the works order form.

Fri 31 Mar 2017: Recent news events – following last year’s referendum, Theresa May has signed Article 50 and sent official notice to the President of the EU that Great Britain wishes to sever all financial and political connections with the EU. Mrs May is also very keen on Grammar Schools, and thinks that she can restore the UK to a state of grey uniform bliss, filled with typewriter ribbons, shiny bog roll and bowler hats, just like 1957.
A new design for the one-pound coin has been launched, featuring a host of subtle security devices to prevent forgery. Many years ago, one pound was a great deal of money. Today, it will buy about 930 cc of unleaded petrol, or one-third of a pint of beer. Or a daily newspaper. Or a large white loaf.
Celebrated buy-to-let champion landlord Fergus Wilson has hit the headlines after sending a list of instructions to the letting firm which manages his vast portfolio of houses in Kent. He instructs them that he is not prepared to accept certain classes of people as tenants, including battered wives, housing benefit claimants, smokers, single people, zero-hours contract workers and plumbers. He also made an unfortunate, deeply offensive remark about not accepting ‘coloureds’ as tenants since the smell of curry is very difficult to remove after they leave the property.
Does he imagine that ordinary white tenants aren’t keen on showing off their authentic Madhur Jaffrey kitchen skills?
Meanwhile, a grand civil engineering project called HS2 is in trouble. This high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham will reduce journey times by about three minutes and will create between twenty and eighty thousand new jobs, depending on which newspaper you happen to be reading. The contractors CH2M have withdrawn from stage 2b of the project, shortly after being awarded the contract worth 200 million pounds. Presumably newly-minted pounds, at that…
According to the Daily Fail, “American-based firm CH2M has been involved with HS2 Ltd since 2012 and has been awarded a £350 million deal to develop Phase 1 of the line from London to Birmingham. Mark Thurston, HS2 Ltd’s new chief executive, is a former CH2M employee, as was his temporary predecessor Roy Hill.”

As they say, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

30 Nov 2011: Back to work today after travelling to Cornwall for Xmas. As usual, Ryan was gruff and determined to avoid eye contact. Chris also v subdues. Danny hasn’t yet given me a rundown of Monday’s meeting about our revised hours of work. Today was a massive strike by public sector workers – schools closed, airports shut, and operations cancelled – because the Gov’t has imposed new pension agreements on them.

1 Dec 2011: Danny still hasn’t mentioned anything about Monday’s meeting with JC and the rest of lab. I asked if I could leave early next Monday to attend the OCCA c’ttee meeting, and he said ‘Yes, I suppose so, but you’ll have to make up the time by working over.’
Me: ‘Since when has this been a requirement?’ To which he replied that it’s always been the case. He also remarked that ‘we need to consider whether you’re attending these meetings as an ambassador for Exova or if it’s for your own personal benefit.’

1 Mar 2012: Last week Lynda sent us all an e-mail message saying that John C was going to give a presentation about our new three-year strategy and everyone was expected to attend.
JC is famous for altering the date of his meetings – the last one was changed five times in total – and of course tomorrow’s show has been postponed until next Tuesday, and moved down the road to The Lighthouse.



Santa Phailure

Journal Entry, 14 Dec 98: What a Santastic Weekend!

1.       A young boy in ASDA had to ask one of the store assistants to wake their snoozing Father Xmas.
2.      A huge gathering of Santas failed to make the record books when only two people turned up.
3.      Half-time entertainment at the Villa ground was a skydiving Santa. Alas, he missed the pitch and landed on the roof, breaking both legs.

Today at work sat in on managers’ meeting. Not that exciting.

Last Friday – in my absence – a huge list of short term projects (some not so short) was issued with a demand for deadlines.

16 Dec 98: Last night went to MAG meeting where two newcomers turned up, Paul and Matt; an ex-con who chatted drunkenly to me.

Today at work; Mike came into lab with an Xmas card for us all to sign, for Sherwin-Williams.

Overtime at work, shifting warehouse stuff. Eleven pounds an hour. I told them I would be in Cornwall but they still seemed annoyed when I said no.

Blagden’s have noticed lumps in our 630-line paint (made at Stokes); we have no retain samples because I was booted off the team. 


Farewell, Peter

Does anybody here remember
Stanley Moon?
Remember ‘How’ he said,
And ‘Where’ and ‘When’ and ‘Why’
Some sunny day?

Does anybody here
Want to forget Bill Gates?
Erase deliberately once or twice again
An avalanche of microstates
We label ‘Who’ and ‘How’ and ‘When’.

‘Cos somewhere floating round about
Are words that bring to life this tune
They wait for time to desiccate
And fall upon the ground like snow
To celebrate the life of Stanley Moon


Deer Dear Salixburg


Journal Entry, 22 March 2017

We decided to take a journey; a landscape of potential configurations lay before us, alternately tempting and daring to forbid. It was not clear whether our currency would be accepted in these streets, these towns; we could not agree on whether the streets and boulevards were made up of buildings or merely occupied by these.

To prepare for the evening walk, we had each made separate trips to look at the buildings, and to consider the unseen history of ideas that lay fossilised in their elaborate masonry. Even the plainest wall or doorway speaks to us; the absence of decoration is itself a form of decoration. He is awake who knows himself asleep.

Last night I was at work in the supermarket, replenishing the shelves with breakfast cereals. How strange that we should have adopted a particular type of foodstuff to eat early in the morning but at no other time. And how curious that the shelves are laden with numerous variations on a common theme; milled oats combined with flakes of wheat and corn and spelt and flax and barley. Sometimes with raisins and or sultanas and or cranberries and or almonds and or hazelnuts and or golden syrup (the use of the word ‘sugar’ is strictly forbidden in any foodstuff aimed at children, it is the essence of wickedness, it is the elixir of doom, it is the rancid semen from the jockstrap of Beelzebub, despite being an essential part of digestive biochemistry) or honey or cinnamon or chocolate or bananas.

I find myself humming Prince (‘Cinnamon Girl’ or ‘Raspberry Beret’) when I encounter these flavours on the shelf. It’s the Banana Splits Show! Twang the sharp Mandarin! I just wanna play around my baby’s tangerine… Sometimes I find that customers have carefully taken packets from the rear of the display area, perhaps due to some paranoid obsession with the number of packets on display or the fear that the front packets have been handled and touched and polluted by human contact with the flesh of the unbelievers. And sometimes I find that customers have taken perishable items – chilled lasagne, steak pie, chicken Kiev – and concealed them behind the wall of cereal boxes, ready to go stale and mouldy and swarming with unseen tormenters.

Sometimes I would find that packets had been removed from the display to leave a jagged arrangement of rectangles, like the built-up skyline of the town where we planned to hold our evening walk. The buildings had been there for many years; but their surroundings had flowed in and out of fashion, with the neo-brutalist paradigm coming to rest on a star of bleak forgetfulness. As we move closer to the buildings, different hierarchies of detail emerge and then disappear.

“It was on a Tuesday night in eighty-five that someone with a shotgun made their way up to the Valette suite. They had tried to assassinate the Lord Mayor once before, convinced that he was selling the entire city to his friends in the Department of Obscurity; to fully appreciate the beauty of this frontage, let us view it like so – “

And he handed us each a disc of coloured glass, a faint amber shade. “This is the new differential polariser, which helps to cut out interference from the future. You may find that it works a little better over the left eye than the right.”

We held aloft the smoked windows and looked at the office building. A slight improvement in detail was immediately apparent, and the surrounding tower blocks became gently unfocused and vague. The office looked as though it was breathing, an endless one-way cycle, sinking gently into itself, becoming more and more authentic.

“Rumour has it,” remarked Kashmir Five, “that some people look at buildings with the naked eye. They either don’t know about the lens of Orpelia, or they haven’t been told how to use it properly.”

We all looked serious, not too patronising, not too indulgent. Awareness is a gift and a burden. The individual can spend years carefully selecting the tinted lens that reveals to them the underlying truth.

Last night I was also working on the aisle given over to toilet rolls. In some parts of the world, they do not use any form of paper to wipe the posterior gateway after discharge. But here, we have an abundance of choice – budget tissue, recycled tissue, bog rolls with aloe vera, with shea butter, with coconut oil, quilted three-layer assemblies of diaphanous cellulose membranes. Oddly enough, I noticed that all the material was supplied either in white or a pale cream colour – the old blue and green and pink had been abandoned. Perhaps somebody has realised that, in defiance of the marketing mantra, there is such a thing as having too much choice.

Any task becomes noble when performed in a spirit of devotion.

Journal entry, 22 Mar 2005: Went over to the QC Lab to ask Gill if I could book some holiday time off.

‘Do what you like’ she said, not bothering to look at me. So I’ve sent my form to Rob with about twelve days booked. Aaron has volunteered to act as my assistant for the Employee Survey Presentation. It was only today that we learned that we were supposed to work in pairs.

At work I discovered that the production dept is using sodium nitrate instead of sodium nitrite as a component in WB paint – it acts to prevent flash-rusting on steel substrates. Had to quarantine the bag of raw material.

Journal entry, 13 April 2005: Rode down to Salisbury on Fri night – arrived before sundown, put up tent, campsite landlady hadn’t been warned about our arrival.

Pub for dinner – Sicilian Lamb.
Went down to Cattle Market for the meeting (MAG Ann Gen Conference) and heard that Mike C had been knocked off his bike on the way down, so I went to visit him in his guest house.
Then back to the Campsite to get the minibus to the evening do at the Cattle Market. We waited so long that when it eventually arrived we crammed 27 people on board.

[Note: after the AGC, on Sunday afternoon, I was riding home and had just left the outskirts of Salisbury on an A-road with no pavement. Up ahead of me I saw a dark shape suddenly fly out from a hedge on the right-hand side. I thought it was a bird, but it turned out to be a deer, which smacked into an oncoming MG sports car and ripped the bumper off. I had nowhere to stop so I rode carefully past this injured creature lying in the road. It was only several years later that I realised that if I had been riding slightly faster, then I might have been hit by this animal. And possibly injured. Or killed.]

Paranoid Cannabinoid

I’m lurking in the corner of the room
Gazing down at ruined words
And sentences that lie in coloured piles
Evoking paisley phosphorescent seas
Weightless and restless in equal domain
Like photons who run against the grain
Of space and all its possibilities.

High corners of this room
Watch me as I drift away
Borne aloft by mushroom parachute unseen
Tempered by the agile curves of chardonnay.

I lurk in one remaining corner of infinity
Left over from the moment of release
When ten dimensions rapidly succumbed
To the temptation of the trinity
While the burden of space upon us fell
Just so the march of time would never cease.

Journal Entry, 14 Oct 2010: This morning I arrived at work to find a huge van parked outside reception. On the side, professionally signwritten, it said: “f p & p, manufacturer’s of fume extraction systems and hoods”.
Then I found an e-mail message from John Carter asking Terry to pass on some water absorbance enquiry to me, including the phrase “Cause Tim is the worlds leading expert on this.”
So I e-mailed him back with a photo of this van, and said “I think your missing apostrophe has taken up residence on the side of this vehicle.”

16 Oct 2010: This morning I was listening to Radio 2 – The Who had just given way to James Brown and the Famous Flames – when there was an almighty rumbling noise without.

I looked out window and saw a wrecked Volvo, with a guy climbing out of the driver’s side window. [Note: even though a few seconds had elapsed, there were already several people taking photos with their smartphones of the incident. Monton Road runs East-West, so in the morning you get blinding sunlight straight in the eyes].
Then a hunky young man with nothing on appeared in the window of the flat opposite.

23 Mar 2017: Yesterday I went for some beauty sleep before going to work, and was woken by the alarm at 5.00 pm, to hear from the radio that a terrorist attack had taken place in London, where a lone person had driven a car along the pavement on Westminster Bridge, causing injury to forty people before then using a knife to murder a policeman.

2 Oct 2010: It’s raining hard, and has been doing so for about three hours. Have started ploughing through the Open Uni course book 1. Can’t find the ‘Register’ button on the Operations Management textbook website.
Posted a reply on the B203 Tutor Group Forum.

Breakfast – Cornish Wafers with rhubarb-and-ginger marmalade and crème fraiche, a sort of neomodern post-ironic take on the classic cream tea.
Went to town to buy a two man tent for next weekend, but couldn’t.
Went to pictures to see ‘Devil’ £8.25 at Odeon. A nice little film, eighty minutes long, felt like a very well-made episode of the Twilight Zone.
Had a drink in Via, came home and got off the bus in Monton to be accosted by a group of scruffy urchins asking ‘Penny for the Guy please’ but with no guy in sight.

Sat 17 Sep 2011: This morning I was down at the laundryette in Swinton, the one with psychedelic wallpaper, dusty net curtains and dead wasps everywhere; and in an elderly copy of ‘Chat’ magazine found a story about a girl who had been invited out by her friends for a drink on the night before her wedding, and had got smashed and overslept leaving her fiancé stranded in grief.
And I couldn’t help thinking that her ‘friends’ had carefully set this up to embarrass her because they were fed up with hearing about how she was having a white RR and a £2000 wedding dress and a lavish reception banquet because mommy and daddy had been saving up for this big day since she was born.
And also while in the washeteria the radio played ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’ which reminded me of the time I went to see ‘Cinderella’ at the Seven Stars pub in Penryn. Boris Johnson Prince Charming, with his sidekick Bald Eric – Gok Wan makeover – and the Sheila’s Wheels parody, ‘Never Let a Fairy Drive’.

13 Mar 2013: Visit today from Nick H (kA testing); he inspected their two tested items and was completely happy, i.e. no rust! Carl and I decided to transfer this hefty monstrosity (55kg) down in the lift, since the gantry was already occupied and there was no-one available to drive an FLT.

Of course, Matt McRae just happened to walk down the corridor in time to see us manoeuvring the pump-truck into the lift.
Naturally, he sent out an e-mail later on to remind everyone that the lift is only for use with people or light goods. I reckon there are one or two people at Exova who weigh more than eighty kilos.
But if we had told Nick ‘Oh, you’ll have to wait two hours before the gantry is going to be free’ we would have been told off for not creating ‘wow’. Sorry, ‘WOW!’
And Dean C, close friend and ex-colleague of Danny, Lynda and Geoff, has started wearing a tie to work (not supposed to wear a tie if operating the pillar drill, nobody else wears one) and when I remarked on this, he said ‘It doesn’t do to be too relaxed’.

8 Feb 2013: Today I was showing Dean C how to carry out ash content. As instructed by Danny (against my advice) we pre-heated the oven to 600 degrees before loading the samples. After closing the door we heard a muffled bang and a burst of yellow flame could be seen at the edge of the door as it was blown slightly open.
I also discovered that one of our standard 100-ml volumetric flasks is actually 104 ml, which is why Sue was getting SG values of 1.44 and 1.65 for two samples of the same powder coating.

At lunchtime we do the Daily Mail quiz: I read out a question to John Lee, ‘Which subatomic particles come in varieties known as flavours?’ He looked baffled, then said hopefully: ‘Nucleus?’ at which Moira looked up with a shocked expression. ‘What’s’ that about a uterus?’ she demanded.
We all laughed and I gave her a bonus point.

Mister Tangerine Man

Hey mister Tangerine Man
Please don’t Tweet to me
I’m not easy with the
Changes that we’re going through.

I’m tired of your bigotry, the hatred and the bile
That you churn out with a smile
And that seven-hundred mile
Barrier of concrete, steel and ignorance.

I’ve had it with your Twitter feed, it fills me with despair
And your yellow plastic hair
Makes me wonder if you care
About the nation that you claim to be a saviour to.

Hey mister Tangerine Man
It’s clear that you don’t see
And this blindness is the reason
I’m not following you.

Fred and Homer


Fred Flintstone is really Homer Simpson’s Dad…

Journal Entry, 30 Jan 2004: At work we’ve got half-a-dozen pallets of Uretech stuff – all the out-of-date material – brought into the paint shop.
All these various (black, white, grey) batches are being cut open and scraped into a couple of huge pans ready to be mixed and decanted and relabelled.
And rumour has it that all the Epoxylite stuff is to be moved down into the paint shop.

Reading ‘The Confessor’ by Jack Curtis and drinking Californian red and eating cappuccino truffles dipped in whipped cream.

9 Feb 2004: Today at work – five batches of choke paint to QC. Totally dull.

Also spotted a pallet with three bags of Lubestine extender pigment on it (which I think is a 50:50 blend of talc and dolomite). So why not use up some of my 975 kg spare dolomite wot I sent out a memo regarding?

[Note: upstairs in the paint dept was a pallet containing 39 bags of dolomite powder. This lot had been there for years before I arrived, presumably brought in for use in a new production line. Lots of dust settled on top. I sent a memo asking of we could work it off in something but had no reply]

24 Mar 2004: A few years ago the Stereophonics released a version of ‘Handbags and Gladrags’ which is very lyrical and gets played on a regular basis all over the radio, not to mention pounding from Andy’s office on auto-repeat for hours on end.

This song open ‘Ever seen a blind man cross the road…’ and it was only today that I heard this line and realised that, yes, I regularly see some middle-aged bloke holding a white stick (with red bands on it) striding purposefully across the A56 at quarter-to-eight every morning.

1 Apr 2004: A few weeks ago we had a new Eiger Torrance mixer installed at work. Me, to A Foll: ‘Yes, but is it Art?’
And this thing has a capacity of 2500 litres so would be ideal for many of our jobs. However, according to Andy it is meant exclusively for Uretech HFS base, while Paul W says it is meant for Epoxylite potting compounds.


If I were a ghost, who would I haunt?
Would I drift through languid spirals
Trapped for all time in my black vinyl vaults
Or perhaps in a page from the Waverley set.

Would I hang round, unseen in the Rembrandt Hotel
Some people have made a career out of that;
To recall how an amateur singer gave forth
Gray’s ‘Babylon’ on the night we first met.

Or the muted whisper of second-hand shirts
With nothing subdued in their hue or design
I bought them and wore them and washed them again
But, like everything else, they’re not mine.

Like a ghost I remain on the platform, about
To embark on a journey I’m going to dread
The train pulls away and I’m left all alone
With lurking confusion ahead…

12 Aug 1998: Today had lunch with Chris Steel. Steve Moor complained bitterly about everything. David Lawson (Production Manager) was sacked today. Still no call from Kev. Still no new pay structure at work – as promised by Mike H.

17 Aug 98: Today between 2-00 and 2-30 I rode to Sainsbury’s at Kingsway and came off the bike when I hit a large diesel spill on the entrance to the car park. Minor injury to hip; both left-hand indicators damaged. Immediately went to service station, asked them to put sand down to prevent further accidents.

13 Sep 1998: Scarborough MAG National AGC. Friday night we met up at Heather’s and set off (me, Heather, Paul, Liz and Janice) for the Old Schoolhouse at Low Marshes. Got to campsite fairly late, putting tent up in dark, neglected to put block of wood under side stand and it toppled over into the mud.
Went and had burgers and cider and danced and drank. Staggered back to bed. Woke up 8.00, paracetamol and coffee.
Rain, rain, set off for Spa Centre at Scarborough, got there late and missed opening address. Lot of morning given over to Chairman’s proposal regarding patch clubs. Magna Carta cancellation.

At lunch we wandered round, had fish and chips on the beach and some of Michael Winner’s favourite ice-cream. Back to campsite – bagels, olives, Danish blue, red wine, Scotch eggs. I went bed about 10.00, music (Spice Girls) carried on til 4.00 in morning.

14 Sep 1998: Today started moving into new lab – looks like set of a sci-fi movie with extraction hoses, steel worktops etc.
Unventilated locker room – rancid feet.
On Friday little Rob had a seizure and fell down stairs at work. Might have to lose driving licence on medical grounds.

17 Sep 1998: At work, people in canteen discussing a paedophile – a female scout mistress who has been shagging a 14-year old boy. Everyone seems to think this is great and she shouldn’t be treated as a criminal.

Fred and Homer

The Dome is just a fatal flaw
And stares out of a coma at the moon
I think it was your shirt I saw dancing
In its metal cave, identical to mine.

We need a temple made of squares
That greets tomorrow like an angry fist
Bold Crimson! Our new capital declares
That God itself is now a Futurist.

The Windows of Perception

Seeing a you that exceeds your own reality;
More vividly condensed upon the silicate
Your hair is fields, the face a city
Where the humble die while trying to be great.

Posing as your wife, I hover there
In the background, holding the boys, smiling the names
Keen to please a master forever unaware
Of my devotion to the church of dying flames.

25 Mar 2002: Consignia (wot used to be called The Post Office) has decided to get rid of 15000 workers to save money. Losing over a million a day. Three thousand PO branches to close.
Royal Naval dockyards going to close and shed jobs.
At work: memo from Steve M, he and Phil went to visit Air Prods who are totally happy with their current supplier so we have no chance of getting contract.

Last night’s Oscars Ceremony – Best Actor and Actress awards both went to Persons of Color (Halle Berry and Denzel Washington).
Railtrack shareholders to be bailed out with 300 million of taxpayers’ money.

e-mails: Cleo (former schoolmate) sent me a joke about some Irish chap diagnosed with cancer who tells all his friends at their farewell drink that he has AIDS – in order to stop anybody else going to bed with his wife.

Overlapping Symphony 

It’s Friday night in Birmingham; the
Late bus home describes an arc
I recall the roundabout, my own
Reflected face and swarms of city lights
Swept back from half-black windows, and
Disappearing to the street below – ‘There’s so
Much more to life than I’ll ever know.’

Against hard wind I ride a motorbike
Here on a bleak forgotten road; it’s hours
Since I’ve seen another car or heard the engine notes
From empty lorries full of moving noise.
Colliding protons find themselves already in tomorrow
‘The only thing I ever got from you was sorrow.’

There’s one last journey left for me to make
And one more treasure left for me to steal
But until then I dream of darkened streets where
My young self had yet to realise
The everyone today is chasing fame, and
Through it all, the Song Remains The Same.’

Conversation with Rob P, 26 Jun 2002:
‘Tim, are you going to Surfex?’
‘No, not as far as I know.’
‘Why not?’
‘Well, no-one has said anything about it to me.’

[Notes: in June 2002, a major sporting event called the Fifa World Cup was taking place, with the matches being broadcast on television – whatever that is. My work colleagues were all keen footie fans, and had carefully worked out when the matches featuring the England team were due to be shown, depending on the results from the preceding rounds.
The boss had instructed all the lab staff to attend the Surfex trade show, but they were not happy about this since it meant they would not be able to huddle round a portable TV and watch the England games.
So they identified the day when England would definitely not be playing, and arranged to go en masse, carefully keeping quiet about it when I was in the canteen…]

18 Sep 2002: At work we had a Tech Sales Meeting – I had been given a product costing by Andrea which was miles out. It turned out that she had divided by the SG instead of multiplying.
Phil H made some comment about waterborne drum paints being poor quality, not up to scratch. ‘Excuse ME!’ I cried.

11 Dec 2002: At work, everyone in the company pension scheme has been called to a meeting on Friday.
Last night we went to see The Funky Bananas – terrific! Gerry Rafferty, Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, Focus.
Rang Industrial Copolymers Limited and faxed Siber and Eastman to ask about CPO primers.
[Note: ICL offered to test some materials for me if I sent them substrate polymer. So I did, pointing out that it was PP and needed to be primed with CPO before bonding. So they just used a 2-pack epoxy on its own instead and obtained pitiful results]


SmallWood GrooveKitten

lp bohn

SmallWood GrooveKitten

Journal Entry, 10 Oct 2000: On Friday had a call from Toby Smallwood at Alliance Recruitment saying that Chemence were looking for someone with just my background.
Anyway, yesterday he rang me at work to say they were very keen to interview me immediately. However, he then added that the money on offer was 14k rising to 18k over two years.
Normally in an encounter like this I would become sarcastic and flustered, but I simply said that I couldn’t afford to live on that sort of money so I was no longer interested.

He seemed hurt; explained that I needed to go back before moving forwards, and he kept mentioning my PhD. Later on he rang back to say he’d managed to negotiate with them and that I would be guaranteed weekend overtime to enable me to boost my income.
Still not interested. Am convinced it was a strategy to get me off their books. ‘Well’ I said, ‘if they’re offering that sort of money then they obviously want someone with a lot less experience than me.’

11 Oct 2000: At work, Pete was away again all day. Miss Tovey was bleating on about dope and legalisation etc. I told Martin that I wished dope was legal, cos then Steve could have a joint at teabreak and would spend the rest of the day in silence.

24 Oct 2000: Today at work gave Pete my brilliant green formulation and he then brought it back saying that the opacity was low and could I increase the pigmentation level by 20 percent.
So we’re lowering the cost and then raising it again.
Found some illiterate Peter Hassell memos – ‘Zeneca’ and ‘coalescent’ misspelt, and suggested adding zinc stearate to Haloflex.
Arthur Evans came along for a chat about pigments; made a comment about all the directors at Masons being reduced to managers again.

28 Oct 2000: Today’s mail – letter from Limbs and Things – we are considering all applications and will contact you in the near future.
Went to library and looked in graduate careers book (GET?) where it says starting salaries for Chemists are about 14 grand.

Bizarre experience: listening to Radio 4 where they wre discussing secondary education and how parents would attend half-a-dozen open days armed with league tables and interrogate local residents about what the kids were actually like before deciding on a suitable place for their cherubs –
And then turning over to BRMB where a phone-in listener was saying that homosexuals were perverts and would try to convert all the men in their social circle and how he would gladly kill one who tried it on with him.

30 Oct 2000: The end of the world. Last night strong winds, heavy rain, fallen trees blocking rail lines, leaves blocking drains, roads badly flooded. Snowing in Stoke.

23 Aug 2001: Phone call from Dean Morris: apparently Newtown’s solicitors have offered me a derisory sum as a compromise, and sent a copy of my redundancy scores – which shows me to have less experience than everyone else, poor timekeeping and attendance, low willingness and ability to learn etc.

27 Aug 2001: Fri night rode down to Newark and eventually found rally site. Put up tent in dark, not too bad, field flat and dry. No message from Mary (who I knew was going to be there) but was pleasantly surprised to find that most of the Foxes were there, along with Mike and Scotty, Simon and Vicky, Joan and the Jailers, and Mel. Gary and Ness turned up on a brand new FJR, saw Steve Rhead with a young lady, and Mary and Wink.
Silly games on Sunday. Val (yes, Val was there as well!) persuaded me to have a go at being wrapped in clingfilm and thrown down a wet plastic sheet. Of course I got soaked so I stripped off. At least it wasn’t cold.
Then Vicky lent me her clingy red dress which I wore all night. Does my bum look big in this? Dave (my next-tent trannie from the first PIL rally) won the cross-dressing competition. Bitch!!!!!
Alex climbed a tent pole in the marquee with a length of burning bog-roll hanging out.
Got back here and found stack of mail including paperwork from GMH and the sale contract from Bolloms. But they didn’t include the Compromise Agreement, and the sale is covered by TUPE. Have managed to dissect the score sheets, little bits that weren’t adequately obscured.

21 Oct 2001: Just Group shares – beloved of the staff at Newtown paints – have plunged from 10 pence to one-and-a-half pence.
There have been all-day tailbacks on the M4 motorway, some bloke holding his son hostage.
An elephant keeper was crushed to death at London Zoo.

At work our production manager, Andy, has his CD set on auto-repeat so that as he pops in and out of his office he can hear a song in fragments in full.
Whereas in the lab I hear every repetition. And one of the songs in his collection is by Janet Jackson, based on the melody from one of Satie’s Gymnopedies.
And it intrigued me how the composer of Vexations would be impressed by knowing that one of his tunes was being repeated ad nauseum.

21 Mar 2002: Sean was a very shrewd manager who neatly appropriated other peoples’ ideas and bolstered his own career. In the canteen, he asked how I was, and I said ‘fine…I think I’ve cracked the Air Products problem.’
‘Oh?’ said he.
‘Yeah, I reckon they’ve used a reactive diluent to boost the solids and speed up the drying.’ To which he smoothly replied ‘Yes, that’s what I was thinking…’
So why didn’t he say anything last year when he analysed their sample?

At work got my Membership Certificate from Groupama, which says “This certificate forms part of the Employee Handbook” etc. But I’ve never been shown the Employee Handbook or the Scheme Agreement, nor have I been told that they even exist.

10 Dec 2000: Yesterday got the fast coach down to B’ham and went to Pavilions for brekky. Rang Manda, she said they were off to Evesham shopping.
Went to the Muster Arms Hotel for Les Giles’ birthday party. Decorated with a long series of portraits of Irish authors, Presidents, major curling teams etc.
Went downstairs to the ‘Blue Room’ (beige walls, brown ceiling) saw Mark Sweeney, Les Murray, Frances, loads of the youngsters who are now much taller. Gary L now second Dan, then someone said ‘He’s here!’ (lured in on subterfuge of a quiet drink).

We all grabbed party poppers and fell silent.
Les walked in to be greeted with streamers and cheering. Patrick turned up (two black eyes), Riaz turned up, the Dhaliwal brothers both away at Uni, Alison still running a nursery.

Song for Voctor

Sunday Morning, Stretford

Everywhere looks nicer on a Sunday; you walk
To fetch the papers and the streets are still,
The only sounds a distant aircraft or perhaps
An early train. The pattern of fallen leaves
Makes the wet tarmac into a philosopher’s delight.

But just last night this place was not the same.
Bottle – woolly hat – girl screams – and then
Blue lights locate red blood upon a wall
While young men stagger, killing time
For, like us all, they’ve nowhere left to go.
(22 Oct 2004)

Journal Entry, 22 Oct 2004: On Weds night sent e-mail application to Tetrosyl for job as Technical Manager. Acknowledgement arrived today.
At work noticed a lot of fallen racking, heard that J-P had a drum of resin drop on him – another disaster.
WB tower paint ex-Rembrandtin. Send to EA Technology.
In the news: Deepcut Barracks – lots of trainee soldiers being mysteriously killed by gunshot wounds – and now a PT instructor has been sentenced to four years for sexual assaults on lads.
And the military just shrug and say it’s not a cover-up.

25 Oct 2004: Hot news from Kozmik Koatingz Inkorporated!
Last night got v drunk on S African red and left some gibberish messages on Bikersweb.
Today at work discovered the SCD Presence Recording Log, an in-out book printed up for Andy and Kev, with me being added on week starting 30 July 2001. No mention of Joe.
This document was never shown to me but my name has been ticked in and out for a few months then in October 2001 it just goes blank and was never referred to again.

Still no news about putting new B-lamps in the QUV cabinet for Sean McCabe. My safety shoes have split. [Note: the Surface Coatings Division workshop had pools of xylene and white spirit all over the floor and I regularly had to walk through these]
Have you heard the new song from Sir Michael of Jagger? The theme to the new film version of ‘Alfie’, not really a film-type tune. Don’t like it at all…
Yesterday footie match at Old Trafford – Man U beat Arsenal (first defeat in 49 games)

7 Dec 2004: At work have started compiling a Microsoft Access database of QC test results. They’ve put a PC in my office with Windows 98, but no printer and no internet or e-mail access.
Tonight went to Stockport Bike Club and indulged recklessly in two cranberry-and-orange J2O drinks and a small bowl of chicken supreme with rice.
Had a letter at work from Barbara Knight saying my application was due to be submitted to the OCCA committee for approval.

9 Dec 2004: Nothing happened at work today. Ordered some new lamps for QUV machine. Sent confirmation note back to James M Brown who have been taken over by Heubach. Sent e-mails to Paul and Shailesh saying thanks for approving my OCCA application.
Steve Mayall left me a box from A O Smith – some metal parts, a matt-black coated bit, and a plastic bottle of WB black paint. But when I sprayed it out the panels were full gloss, even when stoved for one hour at 200 degrees.

7 Jan 2005: Mark Jones decided to dispose of some amine by mixing it with epoxy. But it exothermed and stank out the entire factory. All the Epoxylite formulations tend to use neat amine hardeners instead of blending them with solvent and fillers, so you end up with bizarre mixing ratios – 34 to 1 by volume, for example.

6 July 2005: Andrew Keefe breezed into the lab and asked if I had been told about Newage request for better drying. Apparently someone should have left a note for me explaining what the situation is. ‘Go and discuss with Gill H’ said he, ‘she’s the brains behind this project.’ What Gill has actually done is to use a bought-in red oxide dispersion as part of the grind stage. Tried to follow their formulation but it was far too stiff.

10 July 2005: On Friday I was busy making up the red oxide WB for Newage so Gill came over and ‘tested’ the QC batches – no evidence that they had actually been done.
The customer wants faster drying, so Rob  P has instructed me to put iso-propanol into the paint to achieve this. Andrew K was annoyed to learn that I hadn’t carried out this task yet. I didn’t tell him that I thought it might destabilise the emulsion and prevent correct film formation.
11 July 2005: Today at work carried out Rob’s idea of using iso-propanol in WB emulsion paint. Viscosity plummeted and lots of extra thickener required.

3 Aug 2005: Well…
Monday v hectic at work, didn’t look at my handy until about 7.00 when I discovered a message from HR manager at EC Pigments. Tried to get in touch with him – no luck.
Tues night found letter waiting for me with an offer of employment. But they require a reference from Sterling Tech. So today I collared Rob P in corridor and said ‘Can you spare a couple of minutes this afternoon?’
‘Why, what’s it about?’
‘I need to discuss something professional.’
‘Oh’ said he.
Rang Eileen Coffey and asked her about this. Turns out my pay review should be 2006 not 2007 like it says in her letter. [Note: I didn’t receive a pay rise in 2006 after all]

6 Aug 2005: Went up to Bolton on bus to visit Art Gallery and see exhibition of early C-20 paintings, British Surrealists, Stanley Spencer, Lowry, David Jones.

Song for Voctor

When a snail hears rain, it sees dull grey swirls
And when it hears birdsong, there are small bright angles of terror
But when the music of human laughter is overheard
The slow dull dance of continents takes place.

17 Jun 1997: Yesterday Mike called us into the office to announce that we six youngsters were going to Durham for a paint conference.
Then he called me into the office for my performance appraisal review. Several sheets of paper with headings: according to him, I was lacking in creativity, unwilling to learn more about the job, and had difficulty expressing myself.
GBMCC application form arrived. Saw landlord and arranged to rent garage.

And during appraisal, MH informed me that alkyds were being put on hold because polyesters were cheaper and performed better. Cheaper?!

18 Jul 1997: At work have been preparing lots of single=pigment dispersions and reducing them in white, in order to set up a predictive database on the colour computer (which is managed by Brian Addenbrooke). One of these sets of panels was missing the lowest concentration variant, and I casually said ‘Well, I didn’t think we needed to include that one’ whereupon Brian said ‘Well, could you try not to think in future.’



isophthalique Blues


Imperial Violets, Isophthalic Blues

I am a Lab Technician
And my future’s looking bleak
I dutifully test about
A hundred samples every week.

They come to me at intervals
Each one more deadly boring than the last
A soul-destroying cavalcade
That makes me wonder why I passed

Those grim exams that marked my teens
“Pin down the facts from which the world is made”
And so I struggled onward
In the hope that I would never feel betrayed
By another Lab Technician with a part-time intellect…

Journal entry, 8 Jun 2002: Last night to Wells Fargo for the EGM of MSCMSC – we had a dozen members present. Brief debate on whether to close the club down. Four in favour, eight against.
So far at work (ten months so far) I haven’t been given training in how to use analytical equipment, or any exposure to the ‘System 6000’ computer system, or been issued with a named labcoat, or been told the keypad number codes for the office doors.

11 Jun 2002: Well, coincidences may as well come along in batches rather than singly; today I pulled up at the traffic lights and found next to me another CB500, slightly newer than mine. ‘Nice bike!’ said I.
Then at work I rang RCL and asked for someone in Technical Department. They put me through to Pascal, who said ‘Ah, Tim – I’ve just been trying to ring you but they said you were on the phone.’
Then I pulled one of our ancient EP books down and it fell open at a formulation for buff primer based on Laroflex MP-35, which is akin to something I’m currently working on.

Journal Entry, 2 Aug 2003:

These organ pipes lie silent now; no more
Will they exhale the colours bright
Through which enchanted tapestry we saw
The diamond-hard blue pastilles of the night.

And now the soft machine is looking for a bet
The wager that he kows he cannot lose
While he prepares to launch his carnal exocet
And celebrate the isophthalic blues.

11 Sep 2003: At work, tried overcoating a red primer with some xylene-thinned paint, which formed long black teardrops and caused wrinkling in the centre of the panel. An irregular mass of harsh highlights. It wold make an excellent abstract picture called ‘Blood over Oil’.
The Torrance mixer in the workshop has been running full blast for over two hours, screaming away, and the whole place stinks of roasting castor oil. We made a batch of SP25-5232, which contains a number of formulation defects – the grind stage is 68 percent resin with 2 percent black pigment and 25 percent barytes.
It contains two different thixotropes and lead driers.
And the barrage of QC tests (for a normal spraying alkyd?) includes Rion visc, Cone and Plate visc, NVC and sag resistance.

14 Jul 2003: At work started doing a tank sample for Transtar; I was trying to complete the report form for Gill H to type up (cos no-one will ever show me how to do this for myself) and I asked what was the difference between Standard Spec and Operating Spec.
She said that one was what we made it to, the other was what the customer wanted. And our data sheet has both at 100 – 150 seconds in a B4 cup. Looking back though the old files I discovered that my predecessor Waring had (unofficially) changed the production spec.

16 Jul 2003: Today at work making a 1-tonne batch of choke paint. We boosted the catalyst level to give a gel time of 26 minutes, but even then a flood-coated panel remained tacky even after an hour at 130 deg C. Turns out that one of the intermediates was used by Flemo without authorisation – a duff batch, made on a faulty reactor, and not my fault. Hurrah!

30 Jul 2003: Today was as fascinating as a perfect spiral of human hair. I was shaking a thermometer and it snapped in mid-air.
Apparently we are due to make a huge batch of choke paint; someone informed Rob that I was rushed off my feet so he sent Gill H down to the lab to relieve me of the QC work. And all she did was to pop into Andy’s office, grab the production batch cards, and fill in the spec data without actually carrying out any of the tests.


If you were to gather an infinite number of postgrad students in an enlarged replica of the Sistine Chapel and equip each of them with an i-Mac, you would still not end up with the complete works of Shakespeare.
For each of these persons would have their own particular angle on reality – a cosmic zombie vision, if you will – and would write only of things that excited or annoyed them.
Old Will S was the product of his age; just as John Wyndham or Martin Amis or John Updike or Fay Weldon or Maggie Hambling are of theirs. A unique view of the world we are granted.

Imperial Violets – 1 January, 2003

Last night a demon brought me a dream
Knowing how I loved to be deceived
And ready to fall for a fable or two
Recite like murmurs to space in between
Our nights together, and our days removed
From a hostile crowd, who blind with strife
Don’t know that energy times speed makes life.

Perhaps one night when we’re alone together
Reflected by the mirror of the moon
A single cell will hold that dream forever
Beneath the arch of Bluebeard’s empty room
And one slow breath becomes an urgent tide
Of promises and memories of that bright day
You came to see me throw the windows wide.

Let’s All Meet Up…

…In the year 2000:

Journal Entry, 16 Aug 2000
Back in the seventies, popular science programme Tomorrow’s World predicted that by the year 2000 we would all be watching wristwatch TVs, wearing silver lycra jumpsuits, and living on protein tablets.
They never said anything about veteran folksters Fairport Convention playing to crowds of thirty thousand, or that Tom Jones would headline an open-air rock concert, or that Tina turner/Cher/Santana would be selling loads of records or that David Bowie would be a dad (again!) or that a gallon of petrol would cost five quid or that a hundred Russian sailors would be trapped in a submarine on the sea bed or that the Labour party would be in power or that (some) football players would be receiving a salary of fifty grand a week and that I would be working in a paint factory where each day at lunchtime my colleagues play cards in the canteen and bark at one another “Oh you fat fucker why have you given me such a fuckin’ hand full of fuckin’ shit” when in fact they have been dealt two aces, three queens etc…dear oh dear.

22 Aug 2000: Phone call from LK: she’s back, sounds really rough and worn out.
Today at work made some WB yellow line-marking paint.

Russian sub has been found flooded, all crew dead. The captain’s salary was about £120 per month. Three days ago it was reported that Norway had detected two large explosions from the site of the stranded submarine.
LK rang back: problems with James, debt-collectors etc. He had an interview with a firm in Scotland but they were very indiscreet and upset his former employers. Rang Anastasia; apparently Alan has been down in Blackpool, messing round with other blokes.

Tomorrow is my appointment with company pensions advisor – I currently have about 70 months savings, about 3500 pounds.

23 Aug 2000: Today app’t with company pension advisor, Clive Firth. We looked at other company schemes – total 15 percent of salary invested, mainly contributed by employer. To achieve similar funds would take 280 pounds per month.
Been reading ‘Whispers in the Dark’ by Aycliffe.

24 Aug 2000: Today’s Herald (local newspaper) had a letter from the BNP about Tamworth and Lichfield race relations officer. And an article by a private landlord complaining about tenants, proposing the creation of a register of bad tenants and saying “The rented sector is infested with lowlifes who turn up with fake references and use their rented premises to continue criminal activity.”

25 Aug 2000: Today’s mail – Mesmen newsletter and electricity bill.
At work – Sonja’s leaving party. She came back at 12.30 and found all of us in the main office surrounded by tons of food – sarnies, cakes, quiche, beer, wine etc. ‘Is all this for me?’ she squeaked.
Kev had clearcoated a slice of burnt toast and fixed it to a plaque with the caption ‘May The Toast Be With You’.
Ricky ate nine chocolate eclairs and some savoury stuff. After work I went up to Tamworth College and signed up for German night school. Fancy applying to Industrial Copolymers for a job, up near Blackpool (Preston) – cheap housing.

26 Aug 2000: Last night Jailhouse – saw Pete and the navvy. Bar staff dressed up in Wild West gear (‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Tamworth’). Phone call from LK last nite – she’s got a new job in Scotland “…which means that you will soon be moving to a new job.” And Andy has been offered new job in Manchester.

10 Sep 2000: Fri night zoomed 11 miles up the road to Caton Hall for the Foxes Rally. Everyone had warned me that this weekend was going to be cold and wet – hurricanes, thunderstorms, frogs etc – so I wore my chunky waterproofs. The entire weekend turned out to be warm and sunny.
Fri night band was C-and-W tinged R&B. Three blokes were dragged up in wigs and bras – Bobetta, Kevetta and Marketta.
Catering v good – big chicken chunks and real handmade curry sauce. Saturday, Pam and John turned up so we went back to theirs, saw neighbour pushing a Honda Shadow. Then back to the campsite: silly games included a tug-of-war on a wet polythene sheet, crossed-hands pushbike obstacle course, and the animal hunt, where blindfolded contestants had to call ‘oink’, ‘baa’ or ‘Llama’ to locate each other and pair up. And towed-bathtub racing.
Sat night – Rebellious Jukebox, pole dancing with Guinness etc. Line surfing. Impromptu line-dancing to Z Z Top. Forming a chain of clothes. I got wrecked on Metz and staggered off to bed.

Police have been carrying out door-to-door enquiries about Heather Tell (local girl recently found murdered) and saying things like ‘She was a very nice looking girl, real tasty bit of stuff, long blonde hair, are you sure you didn’t kill her sir?’

12 Sep 2000: In England, half the petrol stations have run dry; in Wales, figure much higher. Tony Blair just gave a press conference saying ‘we shall not be moved’.

Emergency powers granted by Queen: army and police due to be drafted in to remove blockades. Major disruption hit the London area tonight. Manufacturing industry starting to suffer shortage of raw materials and fuel, supermarkets running low on food.
Millennium Dome no longer to be purchased by Nomura.
At work I spotted that a 50/50 mixture of 12 percent Cobalt and 18 percent Zirconium is a lot cheaper than Cozirc 69. (We currently stock all three items).

11 May 2000: Today’s Herald included an article about a couple who wanted to become tenants of a flat in Lichfield but were refused because one of them is black. Isn’t Staffordshire so groovy and cosmopolitan?

22 May 2000: At work, Pete (customarily oblique and nebulous) came up to me and said “I’ve spoken to Kevin and he’s going to come down and tell you what he needs  and you can show him what you’ve got” before disappearing somewhere.
Meanwhile, one of our contractors has come out as a transvestite. Lots of derogatory remarks as one would expect.
John Gielgud died.
Another 29 million pounds of lottery money thrown at the Millennium Dome.

In the movie version of ‘American Psycho’ the crack about the upside-down painting has been missed out. Which would have been a good draw to ‘Se7en’.