Uncertain Surfactant


The Adventures of 2001: A Camp Odyssey
Journal Entry, 2 May 2001: God, what a hideous cosmodemonic day, a psycho tag filled with bukrah-fil-mish-mish and inverse collapsed nus-nus.
Got up early, walked to town, got the 7.29 to Peterborough, tried to buy a BT phonecard and almost got a Cellnet card instead.
Got train to Huntingdon. Some little old lady asked me to look after her bag while she went to spend a penny. I was panic-stricken, thinking of Foucault’s Pendulum and The Ministry of Fear. Anyway, she came back and I heaved a sigh of relief, ‘Thank God she’s not a Russian spy.’
And from her bag she pulled a glossy programme for a Bolshoi Ballet concert. Argh!

Then got train to Huntingdon (didn’t see John Major) and got cab to Linx.
Technical questionnaire: chemical formula, project management, stainless steel, and ‘what do you know about Buckminsterfullerene?’
To which I replied C-60 or C-70, balls or tubes, metal complexes, conductivity, mechanical strength, and Leonardo’s dodecahedron sketch in the Ambrosian museum in Milan.
Showing off as usual.  They didn’t offer to pay any of my travel expenses. Nor did they ask anything about why I was made redundant.
Rang Harco in Grimsby, cancelled interview tomorrow – transport problems.

Got back to Tamworth, went to the Jazz Club – it was Terry’s birthday, so they played a bossa nova version of ‘Happy Birthday to You’.
And Tuesday night was the AGM for Derby MAG. I arrived early, chatted to Kate, then Liz turned up at 25 past 8. She looked stunned, gesturing at the empty room: ‘Is this it?’
Anyway, within the next 10 mins everyone turned up including Tony S (whose business is thriving) and a new couple – Andy and Angie.
We had loads of discussion about rally. AGM itself was short and sweet; unanimous appointment of committee.

3 May 2001: Mail – letter from Sci-Temps about my forthcoming interview at Acordis including idiotic advice for interviewees.
Rang Perry at Listgrove: thrashed out a list of 15 companies to whom he wants to send my details on-spec.
Rang David Keen: Vantico have decided to focus on experienced epoxy synthetic chemists so I’m out of the running. Gave me some highly encouraging advice – sell myself more at interviews.

Fri 9 Mar 01:
Rang Austin M: he asked if I was still interested in a job with Spencer in Aberdeen, I said yeah, so he said they would arrange a flight for me.
Wed 21 Mar 01: Snowing fairly hard outside.
Mail: letter from Britannia about interest rates, rejection letter from BIP, and a note about my Nat Savings Certs.
A few weeks ago a couple of brothers who own (‘mismanage’) a pig farm decided to save money by not boiling the leftover swill they fed to their animals. This saved a bit of money and time, but also possibly led to the current epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease.

On train to Sheffield, some girl had a mobile ringtone of the ‘Mission Impossible’ theme. Of course her conversation wasn’t as thrilling or riddled with espionage as it should have been.
British Telecom – not so long ago, they attracted hostile comment because their profits were measured in pounds per second. Now they’re in debt, share price slumped over past year.
Rang Austin M: any news on my possible interview in Aberdeen? He said he’d call back next Weds with arrangements.
26 Mar 01: This morning on way to town I saw a heron standing in the river eating a big silver fish. Then near Ramsbury saw a lorry painted with “Mister Blair Just Be Glad Livestock Can’t Vote” on a farm whose stock of healthy pigs had been slaughtered cos their neighbour had F-and-M.

Tue 10 Apr 01: Well well well; just as I’m about to start signing on, I get a phone call (9.30 a.m.) from Nick Dubbels at Spencer Coatings in Aberdeen saying they want to offer me a six-month contract.
[Note: as I recall, the conversation went like this:
Hello, is that Tim N? This is Nick D. I’m just calling to offer you a job.
Great! When would you like me to start?
Well, we would need to arrange an interview first…
Great! When would you like me to come up for the meeting?
Well, we’re not sure when the MD is available because he’ll need to be involved…
Great! Can I get in touch with the Jobcentre and tell them that I’ve been offered a job?
Well, it’s only going to be a temporary six month contract…
Great! When do you want me to start?
Well, we need to sort out an interview first, and you need to make sure that you would be happy working here….
Great! I spoke to Austin M a few weeks ago, and he told me that I had just the kind of technical skills you were looking for; he said he had interrogated my ex-colleagues who had assured him that I was a good worker who would have no difficulty fitting in with your team at Spencer’s. So when would you like me to start?
Well, we need to check when the MD gets back from an overseas meeting and we’ll arrange an interview….]

Thu 19 Apr 01: Rang Nick D at Spencer Coatings – he made some excuse about himself and Austin M arranging to recruit me without firstly getting approval from the MD who has been away and now reappeared.

Mon 23 Apr 01: Rang Steve Turvey at Crosbie Coatings – they’ve made no decision yet, following my interview on 9 Apr.

Thu 31 May 01: seven teenagers (between 13 and 16) from Tyneside are in hospital after taking amphetamines and cannabis and getting wildly drunk.  Meanwhile, two 19-year old girls in America have been charged with attempting to buy beer in a restaurant. Daughters of George W Bush.

Tue 5 Jun 01: Rejection letter from Spencer Coatings. ‘Dear Sir’ not ‘Dear Tim’ or ‘Dear Dr Norris’, signed by Phil Buck no less. This after Kevin Phelan said ‘You’ll be coming up to Scotland with us, then?’ back in March.

Document 46B – 219 – K77

Approved by the NOVA-848 Committee for Technical and Cultural Elevation of the Faithful: A Fictitious and Frivolous Account of Events, People and Places, Seeking to Preserve That Which Might Be Forgotten.
Edited transcript of meeting held at the Magnolia Chapel Children’s Home, Selly Oak.

Present: Simon Wilkins, Social Worker assigned to Child Y
 Ethel Cardewson, House Mother at Magnolia Chapel.
Father Trevor McKillip, Priest at St Joseph’s Church.

While waiting to be admitted to the Senior House Mother’s office, Simon began reading the list of rules pinned to the wall near the main door to the building. Beneath a splendidly engraved heading, which read “Conditional Indulgence and the Dimensions of Sin; Instructions to residents at the Magnolia Chapel Care Home”, he found the following strictures:

The staff members are responsible for all cooking and cleaning duties, but the children must do the washing up after each meal.
Smoking and drinking are not permitted on the premises.
No door keys are to be issued to anyone except approved members of staff.
Attendance at Sunday Mass is compulsory unless in cases of genuine illness.
Children must be advised to attend confession once a month. The total number of sins should be between four and eight; the required contrition should be at least five Ave Marias, but no more than three full Rosary sequences.
When using the bathroom, children must wash their own underwear and place on the drying rack. Each child shall be allowed to use four spoonfuls of detergent powder to do their washing.
When using the sink, always add the hot water after the sink is quarter-full of cold water to prevent burns.
Any homework must be inspected by the House Mother before being taken to school. No confidential information about the Home or the members of staff shall be disclosed.
Ashtrays must be washed in cold water only; the use of hot water imparts an unpleasant odour.
Taps must be turned on using the left hand, and turned off using the right hand. This prevents the accumulation of sin on the metal surface.
There are six orders of demons who govern the attack on the human senses – sight, touch, hearing, smell, taste and thought.  At the start of every hour, we should become aware of any sinful temptations which approach from these various aspects.  

He was about to ask someone about these remarks when the door opened and he was ushered into the office. Minutes of the meeting are briefly recorded below:

SW: When did you first meet (Child Y)
TM: About two or three months ago. The house mother was concerned that his spiritual development was being neglected and that he might fall in with a bad crowd, so she invited me to give some after-school tuition.

SW: How often did you see (Child Y)? Did the meetings take place at the church?
TM: No, he did attend one of the youth club meetings at the church, but then I would call in to visit Magnolia. Usually once a week, but sometimes twice.

SW: And what form did the tuition take? Did you supply teaching materials, or did he just ask for help with normal schoolwork?
TM: Usually he would bring his school exercise book and I would go through some of the questions with him.

SW: And do you have any teaching qualifications related to any of the subjects that (Child Y) was then studying? Or any expert knowledge that would improve his chances of getting a good mark in an exam, for instance?
TM: Well, I can’t say I’m a teacher; but his welfare was being neglected and I was asked to provide guidance.
EC: Trevor is a very wise man, and this is what is lacking in (Child Y)’s education.

SW: Can you tell me about the aspects of human biology you discussed with (Child Y) during these lessons?
TM: No, not really. We just went over the stuff that his teacher had asked them to study using the standard handouts.
SW: Did you comment on the lack of moral guidance in these handouts?
TM:  Well, I might have said that the physical aspects of human relationships are only a part of the picture, and it might be worth considering the emotional and spiritual elements which the teacher seemed to completely ignore.

SW: We understand that you told (Child Y) that sex outside marriage is wrong.
TM: No, it is God’s instruction that sex outside marriage is wrong. I was just pointing out what the Church tell us is an acceptable model of behaviour.

SW: And did you comment that – quote – when two people get married, the sperm cells become strong and healthy and suitable for creating children, while unmarried men have badly deformed sperm which can lead to the production of handicapped children – unquote?
TM: I don’t think so, I may have said that in some deprived areas there is a high level of childhood disease caused by neglect, which is directly caused by the lack of a stable marital home.

SW: And did you tell (Child Y) that ‘Odd numbers are God numbers, but Even numbers are Evil numbers’? Why is he so anxious about writing any piece of schoolwork which runs to an even number of lines?
TM: The number of the beast. You must recognise that God’s authority prevails in all things. I simply encourage him to become aware of the unseen hazards of everyday life which may lead him to commit sins.

SW: We have also been told that you engaged (Child Y) in a discussion of the chemical structure of Holy Water. He claims that you told him that medical solutions prepared using Holy Water show a greater effectiveness in treating disease than identical solutions using water that has not been officially blessed. Is this correct?
TM: I was just outlining a few recent reports published by the church, when we sent some very ill children to a Catholic Hospital. They showed remarkably quick recovery, and the nurses said that this was entirely due to the use of Sanctified Saline Dispersion (SSD).

Eyes With Minds and Lies 

Well, you told the unseen audience
It doesn’t really matter if you win or if you lose
But you know that isn’t so today
Cos you’re waiting for the after-Dylan blues.

We chase the money and divide the space
To keep the wicked relatives at bay; we
Couldn’t choose a better time to live, my friend
As we listen to the after-Dylan blues.

Can you remember anything about that time?
When eyes with minds and lies oblivious
Became entangled, and you and I were free again
Discovered by the after-Dylan blues. 

Journal entry, Wed 17 Oct 2001: During our tea-breaks at work, the conversation always turns to the current conflict in Afghanistan, and this afternoon Sean M made a comment about anti-war protesters.
‘Bloody hippies’ he said, ‘they probably go home, and put on high heels and fishnet tights.’
Quite a hostile outburst – and this from someone who works in the lab and wears cufflinks.

Journal entry, 10 Apr 2017: It’s Monday morning, and I’m eating some leftover cucumber – it reminds me of that weekend in 1992 when Dave Flint called down from Oxford. Patrick was away for the weekend so I slept in his room and allowed David and Paul to have my bed. The following day I made myself a ham salad for breakfast, with ornate rings of cucumber and tomato and boiled eggs and dark rye crispbread.









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