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.