Bike Test Blues

Journal Entries, Sun 1 Jun 97: Yesterday had refund from Eagle Star Insurance. Paid into my savings account and arranged for my TESSA to be topped up by 50 a month.
Bought ‘Propagation’ and ‘Songs For Swingin’ Lovers’.

Lady K rang: apparently all his neighbours have decided to have a barbecue in his back garden as a chance to get to know one another.
They turned up on his doorstep and announced this. They also want to have copies of his house keys ‘in case anything happens’. Dread to think what Eagle Star would make of that!

Last night to Fred’s, Vine, and Curzon’s. Woke up with splitting headache, weird dreams about a garden full of blue gravel, escaped onto a wet beach.
Today caught bus down to Raynesway to check out where bike lessons tomorrow. Goods Vehicle Test Centre, next door to Rolls Royce Associates, huge place swathed in razor-wire fences.

Thur 5 Jun 97: listening to Frankie singing ‘You Make Me Feel…’

Have had four exhilarating days tazzing round Derby and Nott’m and bits of Leicestershire on a Kwak GPZ500.
Monday: turned up at test centre about 10 past 8. Eventually Mark (assistant instructor) turned up and explained that Rob had been injured the previous day. I went out on an old CG125, did some theory work about how to signal at junctions etc.
Tuesday: rode round playground on a big red Kawa 500, tried to come to a sudden stop and landed the thing on its side.
Weds: did ring road, slip roads, dual carriageways, freshly concrete-chipped roads. Got told off for not getting up to speed and not exploiting lane choices correctly. Went back to Mark’s place for coffee to meet his missus and Nomad, the sweetest baby dog.
Thurs: rode a Honda CB500 instead of the Kwak. Much better – superb mirrors, nicer gearbox. Did some U-turns and emergency stops. Dropped the bike.
Tomorrow: test at 2:45, get to centre for 12:30, remember licence and passport (and cancel signals). Patrick’s Wedding Reception. Sod the test, the learning has been fun.

Sun 8 Jun 97: Friday afternoon got to centre, Mark and Paul (other learner) arrived 1:00 exactly.
Went out on CB, not very good control. Car reversing towards me but with no white lights showing.
Turning round in the road – walking and riding. Tried turning on a hill and dropped the bike. Got v flustered, humid hot day.
Went to café near test centre and only then did I remember I’d left my passport and licence at the training hut. Mark raced off to get them, returned, we were about 5 mins late starting test. Almost failed the eyesight test, mistakenly reading a ‘W’ as an ‘M’.
Wobbled round roads, did emergency stop, turned bike round on foot, was about to do a U-turn when the examiner noticed that my tax disc had expired and decided to terminate the test.

Came back, shrugged off leathers, donned suit and minced off to B’ham for Patsy’s Wedding Reception. Hotel was a dump – battered furniture, peeling wallpaper, showers not working, no late drinks until non-residents gone. Riaz blew his top and the manager gave us a £15 discount. Morning after – breakfast served by Mrs Overall (two sweet white-haired grannies called Phyllis and Violet). Then the next day we went to Riaz’ place and met Les, Les M, Alison and Hayley.

9 Jun 97: Today at work told everyone about Friday’s disaster. Stu managed to hold back for a couple of hours but eventually said ‘So, it was a waste of time you taking the week off’.
Tried making blue paint using computer-predicted formulation. Hopeless!

Signed up for a three-year saving scheme with Yorkshire Building Society, put away thirty a month and get the option to buy McLeod Russell shares at today’s price, which may be above or below the price in July 2000.
[Note: share price £1.30 when I joined, 42 pence five years later]

Rang PT with the news about the bike test fiasco; apparently Carrs – sorry, DuPont industries – is worse than ever, with bad atmosphere, production down, tedious administration.

Sat 28 Oct 95: Last week went to see ‘Species’ and ‘Apollo 13’ at the flix.

Weds night went to see Simon Rattle conduct Beethoven 8 and 9 at Symphony Hall – magnifico! [Note: back in 1982 my introduction to classical music began when I recorded three pieces from Rad 3 onto an orange BASF C90 compact cassette – DSCH five, Beethoven eight and Sibelius seven]

Manda and Betty came to Route 66 on Weds night to meet me and Andy and Lady K and Peter – turns out Peter and Betty know each other, but don’t know how?
Been invited to Biker Party on Dec 16.

Work is mad – hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of stock been destroyed. [Note: twice a year we carried out stocktaking, putting dated stickers on dozens of five-litre tins of high-grade pearlescent mica metallic scarlet paint. Nobody had agreed to purchase this stuff so it just sat there under the dank arches for five years before being loaded onto pallets and dumped]

Got an interview next Thurs – Houghton Vaughan lubricants.
Last night to Antelope for Bears’ Night with Lady K – all the usual punters there.

24 Feb 95: Well, it’s all been happening at work this week: Keith from QC lab was suspended for allegedly forging acceptance notes for batches of material.
Lee was sacked for stealing clearcoat from the works.
The gatehouse man (security guard) was also sacked for letting him into the building and out again with the material.

Bob handed his notice in, panic stations in the lab.

I mentioned to Stuart that I had arranged a job interview elsewhere and he gave me a stiff talking-to in the main office. I explained that I hadn’t been given any technical guidance and I felt that I wasn’t really using my knowledge to its full potential.
He replied that they had big plans for me and wanted to provide me with tech data and eventually promote me to Chief Chemist. He also remarked; “There’s no point in you looking for work anywhere else, because people are the same everywhere and you’ll have the same problems.”
What problems, I wondered.

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Remedial Hypercosmology

Job Hunting Memoirs – Part III 

I was delighted to hear about a forthcoming jobs fair in Manchester, and asked my Work Coach for advice on how to approach the event.
 She told me that there was a training forum arranged for a week before the jobs fair; if I was lucky she might be able to squeeze me in as a late entrant for this session. I assured her that I would really appreciate the chance to attend the two events, and I travelled home in a buoyant frame of mind, eager to take up this exciting opportunity.

Journal Entry, 14 Sep 2016: On 1 Sep I went to Trafford Town Hall for a training session run by Alan Bennett from the National Careers Service -this was to provide us with guidance for a forthcoming Jobs Fair at the Hotel Football.
So I went along (there were only three of us there, not the expected fifteen) and was told all about how to write a CV and when to look for jobs. We were also asked to specify the 1-hour appointment slot during which we were planning to attend the fair.
And they said, ‘Take copies of your CV, and make sure you wear a suit and tie.’

So Paul and I had a frantic tidying-up session, borrowing an iron from the next-door neighbour so that I would look crisp and professional.
When we got there, it was the usual mediocre collection of trade stands for the NHS, Army, Trafford Centre, Fire Brigade, and various social care work volunteer agencies. Most of the attendees wre casually (if not scruffily) dressed.

Anyway, yesterday went up to Middleton using my free bus pass – and forgot to take my wallet so I couldn’t even treat myself to a coffee. Then on the way home we had the mother of all thunderstorms, and the bus journey took 90 minutes instead of the usual 50.

29 Jul 2016: Yesterday went along to St James House in Salford for an assessment with the Big Life Workskills Agency. They’re part of the Manchester Growth Company and the UK Government Skills Funding Agency and the EU European Social Fund.
I went to a few sessions over the following three months and was given basic instructions and online tests covering the use of English and Maths.

22 Sep 2016: On Tuesday night had a text from Danny at The Big Life, saying that he wasn’t going to be available for my scheduled meeting on Weds. So yesterday morning I set off for the ‘Tech-and-Tea’ session in Prestwich (I had earlier told them that I couldn’t attend this because of my prior commitment to the Big Life meeting).

The journey was fraught, missed buses and wrong stops and the Prestwich care home wasn’t easily accessible. So I was in a bad mood.
But then I found a voicemail message from Antz Junction telling me that I was being offered a place on the training course at the Marriott Hotel, so I e-mailed Rob and Jim to let them know that I was not going to be able to help with the OCCA events.

I had told the Big Life people that I had landed a job and no longer needed to attend their remedial maths and English lessons; so they posted my certificates of achievement to me – a City and Guilds Certificate in Employability Skills.

Toy Run 1997

In 1997 I took my motorbike test on a cold December day. The ‘L’ plate on my front fork was cracked due to the constant flexing as I rode along; possibly this showed that I had actually spent enough time on the road, and gained sufficient experience, to pass my test. The first thing I did the next day was to remove my ‘L’ plates and take part in the Nottingham Toy Run.

Heather looked up from her skinny latte;
‘Good grief’ she said, ‘They make a lot of noise.’
Four hundred motorbikes roared past, in fancy dress
Or tinselled up, all going to deliver toys 

Past cheering crowds, along deserted roads
To the Lord Mayor’s Christmas Charity appeal
Each gift a message to convince a lonely child
For just one day that Santa Claus is real

Forty Thousand Text Messages

 ‘Well, you know what they say; no smoke without fire’. She would trot this phrase out at regular intervals, glancing smugly round the canteen table, daring anybody to challenge her. And I would cite the case of Christopher Jeffries, who was wrongly accused of killing Joanna Yeates.

A recent news story concerned a young man who had been accused of rape. The girl in question was demure, respectable and deeply traumatised by her sexual encounter with this lad. He was kept on bail for two years and eventually summoned to appear in court.
At which point, the girl’s mobile phone records – which should have been disclosed two years earlier – were passed to the defence team, who found an immense catalogue of text messages sent to her alleged rapist. The messages (sent after the date of the assault) invited him to enjoy her company again and again, taking her roughly from behind in a variety of locations including public parks-graveyards-libraries-hospital toilets, and the locker room at her local sports club where he would merely be the warm-up act before a main performance by a gang of lust-crazed sophisticates…
According to the news reports, her phone contained forty thousand text messages – this is longer than some popular novels – and we have to wonder if a career as an author (perhaps the agony aunt for Back Street Heroes) beckons…

Journal Entry, 14 Jul ’09: L’day de Bastille! Didn’t I attend a job interview at Crown Paints on this day in 1990?
Sent a finely-crafted letter and CV, gorgeously printed on shiny magazine paper, to Prisma Colours, addressed to Tim Johnson. After all, they are about to advertise for a dispersions manager.

Rang CPP to cancel my identity theft cover.

Listening to my secondhand compact cassette tape of Jon and Vangelis ‘Short Stories’ which I bought four years ago from a charity shop in Stockport. It’s almost like a song cycle by Schubert or Berlioz. [Note from 2017: ‘Yes’ are on tour next year to celebrate fifty years in music, but they are not taking Jon Anderson with them]
Today at work the police and dogs came to look at the factory – Dave E reckons there was somebody on the site when he went to look round.

15 Jul ’09: Sent a letter and CV to Keith Middleton at Eastman Chemicals, asking if they had any customers in the West Midlands who might be using PP primers as part of the AWM Thermoplastics Composites project.
And if so, would he forward my details onto them?

Coming down from the stars with a flask
Of zeta-point calibrated sand; or are you
Coming to terms with the system of seven? We
Decided that every product would be made up by blending
Just seven ingredients. An expert chemist
Descending the stairs armed with a laboratory book
About to cook the dish that drives the tyrant mad
A
gain. Notes fall in a chain of silver

Draped around a theme, auxiliary thoughts
Condensed like beads of wax around the face
Of the main idea. Notes composed twenty years ago still
Fascinate the casual observer; why did
He put this aspect here, and why does it make
All things perform with unexpected zeal?

The dispersing agent forms a lattice of cold light
Around the bouncing comets and drifting slates
And knuckles bright of quartz in the polyester slime
That will protect your organ pipes
From rusting in the seven years ahead. 

Commentary A: When the hotel bar reopened, they had replaced their collection of pictures with variations on a theme. Instead of the sepia pictures of half-undressed women, we now had a set of paintings and photographs, all based on Sims’ picture “What are these to me and you who deeply drink of wine”.
Most of the pictures were straightforward copies, where groups of students had dressed themselves exactly as the original characters, adopting the same staged positions, although one of them took the original image and replaced the background with Wall Street-type skyscrapers.

 

Know, It’s Xmas!

Do They Think It’s Christmas?

Although it wasn’t snowing yet, the sky was cold
And grey. I hurried on, my mind elsewhere
As Mondeo Man and his Lovely Wife set off
Armed only with an eager Visa card
To do battle with the problems encountered by
The affluent around this time of year.

Somewhere in the distance they can hear
A choir, or perhaps the Sally Army band, but still
They hurry on; the perfect gift is waiting
For them somewhere in a shop like this.
You’d never guess that long ago a child
Was born into a cold and hostile world
But quick! They join the shoppers

Fighting In the air conditioned mall and I wonder;
Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

 Fri 12 Nov ’04: Sent cheque to Otto’s Outings for his rally. Sent cheque to Southern Electric. At work, rang Allan H to ask about him being a sponsor for my OCCA membership. Ended up talking to his answering machine, and sent fax later asking whether he or Keith A would be willing.

14 Nov ’04: The government is to set up a pension scheme rescue fund of 400 million to help all those workers whose pensions were destroyed by company failures. T and N Limited has a deficit of about 800 million and 65000 people have lost their pensions. 

Slouching Towards Mecca

Another steel behemoth appeared at work today;
Brought down from its wagon by tender cranes
It waits there in the yard, still half concealed
Beneath thin ropes and thick blue plastic
I almost want to hear the news
That war has been declared, and
To know this factory will from tonight
Be left abandoned while the metal hulk
Sleeps on, surrounded by neglect.

I remember how I saw you once
Standing on the corner of Radium Street
That November evening. You were
Hungry for something like meat as I recall.
Behind you an expensive poster showed
An ugly warehouse whose grey exactly matched

Your leather skirt and gloves.
And somewhere now, I see you (with a stranger
In a coffee shop) pretend to be amused
While your spirit slowly rots away
Beneath the blue tarpaulin of despair.

11 May 05: Tested the sample of choke paint form Dr Beck; Rob asked me to isolate the resin by centrifuge and get an IR spec. But we’re not going to be making choke paint from the end of this year – are we?

Carried out the QC test on VA42 red oxide varnish, SG turned out v low – 1.00 instead of 1.07. Paul W said take no notice of this. Then had a call from Rob asking me about the VOC level on one of our other VA, so I took him the results and mentioned the anomalous SG.

Dr Beck choke paint stays clean and white after stoving whereas our goes yellowish. Is ours made using TOFA and theirs not?

12 May 05: Went to Whitworth, interesting mix of works, contemporary textiles, William Blake, Durer, Picasso, Bacon and Freud, filled out questionnaire afterwards.

In the news: Several suicide bombers every day caused chaos in Baghdad; a gang of men raped and tortured two teenage girls, killing one of them; Malcolm Glaser has purchased over half the shares in Man U, to dismay of fans; Prince Harry’s ‘A’ level art paintings and essays were allegedly produced by his tutors.

28 Jul 05: Yesterday booked a  day off to go to interview in Stockport; it went v well, I think. Returned to work today to find that Gill had left the hotplate turned on all night right next to a five-litre tin of solvent.

Today a 3-minute tornado hit Moseley and Kings heath causing massive traffic disruption and uprooting trees.
SMCC moving to ‘The Magnet’ cos the Whistlin Jig boarded up.

Rang Dave H about float – he says he thought we were having chains and car tyres on board. I’m sure Roger R said no, he would sort it all out…
They were very encouraging at the interview, saying ‘We should be in touch by phone in the next few days.’ Rather like Carrs turning me down after making a job offer.

Beware of the Small Print

Beware of the small print, secrets hidden in plain sight;
Christmas is coming again, you will entertain your kids
By juggling tangerines and scraping lemons into cream;
But the lovely sour citrus fruits carry on their skins
An unseen crust of sharply jagged javelins;
Dainty pyrimethanil, propiconazole and imazalil to keep at bay
The spiny mould and dancing worms
As well as thiabendazol, laying down the crystal terms
That death and sickness come fast upon
Your highly recommended five-a-day. 

Beware of the small print; pages from seven sacred books
Sliced into pale ribbons and woven round
A painful red maypole of salami? I can’t recall
Before the tender varnish sealed in place
The lyric fragments, a cynical re-enactment
Of the ritual that even Crowley couldn’t bear to face. At least
With all those fungicides on guard, the realignment
Of painful politics can proceed without delay. 

Journal Entries, October 2010: Went to Excalibur rally: Liz and Donna helped me put tent up on the nettles (only to find that one of the holes is missing).Met up again with Geordie Kay, with whom I got smashed on Newky Brown back at the Ukrainian Centre ten years ago.

Arranged to visit Mary and John start of Dec. Got dressed up last night and some girl wandered off with my (actually Brett’s) electric-green feather boa. I didn’t want to get into an undignified tug-of-war while wearing high-heels on a crowded dancefloor…

12 Oct: At work I was convinced I’d made a blunder by stating in a report that our WVT data showed that there was no need to perform buoyancy compensation measurements.
Then today I ran through the figures and found that I’d been right all along.

Started wrapping up panels for Maurice (desperately average guy who blames our lab equipment for his faulty results) and realised that we hadn’t logged his Thermotron data.

Anyway, I looked at the ‘data’ file on the Thermotron and a huge list of readings – dating back to July – sprang into view.  Terry had previously assured me that every time you start a new test it wipes the memory from the machine. Not the first time he’s been obstructive.

22 Nov 2010: Irish economy in deep trouble – boom and bust – EU bailout, riots in Dublin.
30 Sep 2010: Irish economy on brink of collapse – budget deficit 32 percent of GDP.

Frustrating day at work – cobbled together my 17 reports for Flowserve with loads of pictures. Then I found that the official company header and footers had not been transferred.

19 Jan 2011: A dreary little man turned up today to pick holes in our Flowserve reports; he had previously requested (demanded?) that the senior technical managers travel down to his firm’s offices to explain the results of our tests. Since he spent all day inspecting the actuators and making detailed notes, it would have been a waste of time them going down there.

21 Jan 2011: Emperor Tony has been dragged once again before the Chilcott enquiry, and Alan Johnson has resigned as Shadow Chancellor cos his wife was carrying on with their police bodyguard.
At work, am doing pull-off adhesion tests on powder epoxy finish. They want a bond strength of 2000 psi, but we are getting failure between the dolly rather than in the topcoat. Danny has been giving me basic advice about adhesive testing as though I’m a hopeless youngster.

26 Jan 2011: We’ve had a pay rise at work, 1.2 percent – so I’m still earning less than I was nine years ago.

Brush Electrical

March 2003:   At work reformulated our 135-line gasoline-resistant finish: Vilkyd 259 being withdrawn so moved onto cheapo Synolac 78W instead.
Slightly poor drying behaviour.

My conceptual art work: the chunks of axle-section steel (coated with 2-pack 2-coat epoxy) are to be described as depleted uranium shell casings and placed on a film of black gloss paint to represent crude oil.
Each chunk should have a single word – ‘Peace’, ‘Conflict’, ‘Napalm’, ‘Vietnam’ etc scratched into the paint so that when it goes into salt-spray the words begin to bleed.

‘Anthrax’, ‘Ricin’, Plague’.
And the exact weight of each block should be correlated with some aspect of a mythological conflict.

Phil Hendry was in today but of course didn’t ask about the WB stoving black for A O Smith.

Crude oil – $33 a barrel, presumably cos of the impending conflict in Iraq – would normally be $25 – thus costing the world at large about $600 million per day.
Steel firm Corus to close another UK plant.
Prime Minister of Serbia been assassinated, two months after ousting Milosevic.

At work Gill brought me a litre tin of red paint from Brush and said ‘Here’s a tank sample for you.’
Mentioned it to Rob and was told it’s not a tank sample, it’s a customer complaint. They’ve found it to be too thick – I reckon the pigment has settled out and blocked their airless pump. So why did Rob hang on to their original e-mail message for 4 days instead of passing it on to me?

In the movie ‘Far From Heaven’, the (un)happy couple are a Magnatech executive and his wife, but their TV is never switched on, cos if it was then it would be showing ‘I Love Lucy’ which would give the game away completely.

This morning Steve M appeared in the corridor outside my office. ‘Just passing’ said he.
‘You can’t be just passing – there’s nowhere to go up here!’ So he asked if he could use my office phone.

Leaving work I noticed a gang of fitters with a crane, installing the new ‘Altana’ sign to replace the old ‘Sterling Tech’ one.
Invasion of Iraq continuing. American helicopter crashed in Kuwait killing 4 US and 12 British soldiers.
The Emperor Tony gave a TV broadcast last night – he was actually at a very frosty EU dinner, avoiding Jacques Chirac.

At Large With The Saint of Paint 

My room is brightly coloured but my soul is all matt black
Tonight my heart’s in love and out on the attack
Well there was something abstract about the way
Your eyes avoided hearing what my hands began to say

Cos we’ve been together now for so long
All our random chords have wrapped themselves into a song
The hole remaining when you walked away from me
As permanent and cruel as a lobotomy

I tried to inhale your virtue and your sin
Greedy for the atoms, cells and quarks that lay within
Behold, my engines, starved of fuel and miles from anywhere
And I shall die and rust away and nobody will care 

Funny how things turn out, isn’t it?

14 Jan 2012: “…and here I am, two years later, reflecting on the way things turned out. Of course my time at Cornwall wasn’t entirely happy; I was feeling isolated, and everywhere seemed a long way off. My friends joked that if I attended any bike rallies, I would always win the ‘long distance’ award. And I had complained at work about the difficulty of living in a place where the shops didn’t remain open until ten p.m. (like the Trafford Centre). At one point I began wondering how practical it would be to fly to London six times a year for wild nights out, since Truro (so I mistakenly thought) had no gay scene.

(I recall once mentioning in the lab that I was going to start looking for a rented flat near Truro; John was nearby, and he seemed quite angry at this, saying ‘no, you’re not going to live in Truro, you must find a flat in St Erth near me and we can go for a drink together.’ He didn’t seem to like his staff to show any signs of independence.)
But when Craig told me that they wanted me to go, I felt a surge of relief; I would be able to start looking for jobs in big cities again, places like Birmingham and Leeds, places with shops and public transport and cinemas and restaurants.
And now, looking back, I recall the time I actually started work: Mon 11 January 2010. I arrived at the lab in a rented black 1.2-litre Corsa at about 8.10 a.m., just in time to meet Craig getting out of his car. ‘Morning’, I said cheerfully. His reply of ‘Oh, hello’ seemed rather subdued and absent, and I remember thinking at the time that this was an odd way to greet someone who had just moved 320 miles in order to join your company.
I also remember my second interview with the firm (the travel costs came from the Dole Office, not Vilnet) when the MD asked me how old I was and whether I was married. Everybody knows that these questions are forbidden during the interview process; I felt sure that he wanted to see if I would squirm with embarrassment at the prospect of further interrogation. Still, it’s all valuable experience. And everything dropped into place in April 2010 when I was offered a temporary post at Exova – the call arrived while I was having breakfast in a café in Blackpool, so I was ready, willing and able. Lebens – Volens – Potens!”