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.]
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.