24April 2011:
So anyway, according to the posters (A2 size, framed in luxury Perspex) on the lab wall, we have Integrity- and – Teamwork – and – Innovation – and – Performance! Huge bold Century Gothic letters against a very dark grey background which was probably decided upon after half-a-dozen board meetings with design consultants and workspace psychology facilitators…

But we don’t do anything properly!
Slight exaggeration, that; but it appears that we quoted kA Testing for a job, thinking that a single piece of lab equipment would be able to carry out (in sequence) both the humidity exposure and salt-spray testing needed.

Rally Report: Fri morning got up and tidied flat in readiness for Brett’s business meeting with Kim, new girl who is taking over the salon.
Set off to rally and on M’way met up with Andy and Reina – he has a new ZZR-1200. Pitched tent, started drinking. Excalibur mob and John and Mary and Pikey Pete and Lou Lou arrived, he got smashed on Tesco Value Vodka.

Fri night band was a sort of Jam lookalike, and Sat night band were Xhibit A, who I don’t think are as good as they were years ago. Decided to come home today rather than stop over. Last night tremendous thunderstorms and hail and brief downpour about 10.30.
Glorious sunny weather all weekend, too hot to move.

It’s Easter Sunday; I’m listening to Berlioz’ Faust cantata and drinking Italian Red. Did a small amount of work on my TMA05 – inserted a new chart of the information flow at Sterling Tech, which I have renamed as ‘Topaz Industrial Coatings’ in honour of McGonogall, the only person whose handling of English could do justice to their clumsy, fraudulent behaviour.

And am reading ‘The Savage Garden’ by Mark Mills, which reminds me of ‘Party in San Niccolo’.

For this weekend I managed to skweeeeze into my thirty-inch jeans from many years ago with all the bleach stains and random scissor-cuts, and a tight black leather jacket carrying just three badges – Farmyard 99, H-of-E 98 and the Beertown 98. Some bikers favour a huge assortment of shrapnel, but my select tokens give a more precise recollection of the happiest years of my life.

26 Apr 2011: Well, my laptop had a jammed key so I clobbered it and now it’s dead. Fortunately my dongle carries a reasonably complete copy of my TMA for Block 6.
Yesterday went to see ‘Little White Lies’ (Les Petitis Mouchoirs), a totally wonderful French movie – poignant, funny and tense.

Today at work – Danny working out the volume solids using an ISO spec which I had proved was incorrect.
But the film (‘LPM’) ends with a funky, jazzed-up version of ‘My Way’, sung in English – but I thought the original was in French anyway?

17 May 2011: Terry came into the canteen today to ask Barry about getting access to a piece of workshop equipment. While he was in there his cordless phone went off – a dreadful simpering Chopin prelude. Tommy looked up from his newspaper with a puzzled expression and said, ‘What’s that?’

When Terry pulled the phone from his pocket, Tommy gave a scowl of dismay and exclaimed loudly ‘Oh that is just so fucking gay!’, realising too late that Terry had already taken the call and was speaking.
God, it was funny.

22 May 2011: Tonight went to Cornerhouse to see Julia’s Eyes, a Spanish horror film by G del Toro. Fairly good but rather muddled, with some sentimental bits to appease the big studios.
One drink in Via (God, it was quiet) and one in Paddy’s (some dishy blokes).
12 March 2018: Yesterday went to the Odeon to see ‘The Shape of Water’, the latest (Oscar-winning) film from Guillermo del Toro. Beauty and the Beast meets the Creature from the Black Lagoon written by the X-Files team, a charming fantasy.

23 May 2011: Well it has been disclosed that Ryan Giggs is the premiership footie player who has taken out a superinjunction and tried to sue all the online members of Twitter for mentioning his affair with a Big Brother (reality-TV show) trollop.
President Obama has visited Ireland. Another volcano has erupted in Iceland. Joplin, Missouri hit by tornado.


Dioxin Dreams


We’re Just Commuters

Five bold colours of rampaging death;
Five chapters of dioxin dialogues.

All I want for Xmas is a Spice Girl;
There’s five of them to choose from,
And any one will do. Mother always
Told me to find myself a nice girl
But that turned out to be a futile escapade.

The young and pouting
Blonde one, in see-thru baby blue.
From high above, she scans
The city with her cacodylic eye. And

In the pop-tarts interview
She said to us ‘We see it as a job, we’re just
Commuters carried off by train
To carry out the usual dull and uniform activities.’

The angry one with blazing hair
She doesn’t care if you refer to her
As Agent Orange any more. And then

The Nature-Goddess, Agent Green
Has the cutest little smile
And always wears a pendant made of
Laminated arsenic, to remind her
Of the sister who she’s never seen.

While Agent Pink wears an expression
That makes you think ‘It’s true,
An oyster can’t be opened more than once.’

You might be scared to find
That Agent Purple isn’t really
As refined as she makes out, inverted
Like sugar, corrupted like

The dream of Agents pink and green,
Purple, orange and blue.

 30 Nov 1996: Yesterday at work I was asked to weigh out 1385 grams of material, so I just casually half-filled a tin and it turned out to contain exactly the required amount. Shouted, banged the table, danced round lab.
Got home from work to find the door locked. Apparently the odd couple (renting four flats, three garages and in arrears by 20 grand) have sent their son to clear out their belongings. He managed to find a way to deadlock the door behind him so we had to wait for Sean to come and break in.

Also at work have been given self-appraisal forms to fill in. What am I good at, what am I bad at, where will I be in five years’ time etc.
Meeting Di tomorrow at Bowling Centre. 

Biker Boy 1986

These scattered songs are not reminders
Of the past; they are the past itself,
A time when you and I moved onward
Searching for a new forgotten song.

These scattered memories are only songs
We once enjoyed, but now they leave me cold
And even the sadness tires me when
The same old words come rushing back again.

I almost see and hear you, late evenings
When I’m quiet and alone. This long
Neglect shames me, and your songs deserve
Their moment in the setting sun…

Perspex Zombie G2.X

Sat 14 Aug 2010:
Jean and Terry are hopefully enjoying Status Quo, Rick Wakeman and Fairport Convention at this year’s Cropredy Folk Festival.

On Thursday, Moira asked me and Danny to help her move some furniture in one of the offices. It turned out that this display cabinet -gorgeous mahogany – was due to be thrown in the skip, so Lynda snaffled it for the department office.
As I was carefully trudging down the corridor, holding one of the heavy glass doors, I remembered the bit on Carol Shields’ book’ Unless’, where she says happiness is like a pane of glass you carry round; one day it gets broken, and you can’t ever repair it.

Now I’m listening to ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ (piano suite transcribed for organ) which goes well with my CD of ‘Ad Nos…’ (organ pieces by Liszt transcribed for piano) but it’s a shame the organist appears in shirt sleeves on the cover; he should have worn 1850s Russian costume.

Perhaps I should create a fictitious history of the two pictures Brett has installed in my flat:
One is a print on faintly textured paper showing four figures (just vertical blobs) against an horizon, yellow earth, eau-de-nil grey sky.
Two is a real painting, abstract, perhaps architectural, red and yellow buildings, a scrubby ochre granite background.

As well as my Mussorgsky organ CD, I bought Paula Cole and Bach from the BHF charity shop. Brett put blue highlights in my hair after cutting it this morning.
Apparently, yesterday’s edition of ‘The Weakest Link’ featured a bevy of drag queens, of whom one looked exactly like me and was called Timbolina.

What were the items I gave away/threw away/left behind when I moved out of my rented flat in Stretford in January this year? Dressing gowns, Yes Minister, Memoirs of Montgomery, Dorian Gray, Iron, clothes rail, coffee-table book of Vienna from Rembrandtin, dozens of BSH and Fighting Arts magazines, management coursework notes, de luxe bike shampoo, dozens of compact cassettes and piles of notes about career development issues.

Perspex Zombie

A dry and poignant blues begins
To smoke a borrowed joint, and then
It tells you all about the nightmare
Into which you will tonight descend

The grand expensive shadow of a car
Sails down your B-flat minor avenue
As a lonely widow wishes on a star
Whose light conceals the superstrings from view

What could be more vivid; how extreme
Does the song of your desire need
To become before I now myself betray?
What sort of cloud indeed will set me free?


In an attempt to lose a bit of weight I have decided to start using the stairs instead of the lift. My office is up on the seventh floor; the first two flights of stairs are easy, but the next two require more effort. By the time I reach seven, my legs ache and I am completely out of breath. I pause for a few minutes to recover, so that my colleagues do not become alarmed at the sight of me wearily panting.

No-one seems to use the stairs, even for short journeys; the carpet is immaculate, and the silence is crushing. There are no pictures on the walls to admire. I remember once working at a place in Stockport where we had a huge, abstract watercolour painting (which I disliked intensely) on the stairs. No attempt had been made to create any visual context or depth or structure in this splash of random, feeble colours.

It helps if I listen to music on the journey up to floor seven; my MP3 player has an assortment of music and speech tracks to entertain me. This morning I listened to ‘Nouvelette’ by Lutoslawski. The jagged chords that open the first movement make me think of a murder scene in an old-fashioned play; The Duchess of Malfi, perhaps, or The Tragedy of Edward the Second.

The only time we all use the stairs is when there is a fire alarm, and we are not allowed to travel in the lifts. Just two months ago the alarm went off, and we thought it was a test; but no, after the warning sirens continued for over a minute, the tannoy system announced that we should all evacuate the building and assemble in the car park until the fire wardens had inspected the building.

One day I started counting the steps – one, two, three- but I grew bored with this and instead started counting backwards, or using the integers of pi as far as I could remember them. Perhaps we should have a series of framed prints at the end of each flight, like the stations of the cross, a propaganda narrative. Or one of Allington’s drawings, dissected into a series of overlapping elements each depicted separately. Or a series of LP covers running from 1972 to 1988.

I reach the top of the stairs and wait for the dizziness to pass. The walls in their uniform anonymous beige wash seem to crawl with patches of darkness like an evolving sense of texture. In a few minutes I shall be seated at my desk wearing a stereo headset through which I chat to my customers. They tell me about their home-schooled brats, teenage tearaways with names like Cadenza and Perseus.

Hair Metal Voice

It’s cold and dark on the station platform; there is a small shelter but no café, no toilets, no telephone. The dozen or so commuters stand silent, waiting to go home. A disembodied voice (female, neutral, faintly flat vowels) says ‘We are sorry that the – nineteen forty-six – to Preston is delayed by approximately – seven – minutes – Northern Rail apologise for the delay and any inconvenience caused.’
The woman’s voice is a digital recording, and the phrases have been skilfully knitted together, giving the impression that a caring, informed individual is keeping an eye out for the expectant passengers.

I wonder who she is, this woman who tells us over and over again that she is sorry for the delay and any inconvenience caused. Hyacinth, perhaps, or Dierdre. Or Pauline; yes, she does sound a bit like a Pauline.
Because it is a digital recording, the message will repeat unchanged forever without becoming distorted or degraded. If it had been an old-fashioned tape, a slender ribbon of rusty polyester, it would have gradually been stretched, the announcements taking on a languid air, the mysterious Pauline gradually changing into Paul, the gradual onset of wow and flutter making her sound like a cross between Margaret Thatcher and Donald Sinden.

The woman who originally recorded these voice segments was a trained speech therapist called Vanessa Minton; she had been the Head of Art at a well-known school in the North-East for several years until a reported found out that her ‘Lozenge Tapestry’ contained a dark secret. The tapestry depicted the Periodic Table, but with the names of the elements replaced by an assortment of famous murderers, and the local press mocked her for being trite and provocative. The opening night at the gallery was a suitably dramatic occasion, with civil rights campaigners urging people to boycott the exhibition.

Vanessa was chatting to a couple of students – Swedish performance artists – who wanted her to endorse their arts council grant application for a conceptual work in which railway station announcements would include recital of scientific principles in between the actual train times and delays – and one of them asked her how she had decided which particular criminals to include in her artwork.
She peered for a moment at the red wine (her fourth glass, now almost empty) and said ‘Well, we had to find some that were household names but some who were now obscure…give it some historical perspective, that killers have always been part of the fabric (an elegant gesture invited them once more to admire her handiwork) of human society.’

‘But did you exclude certain characters because they are still alive? Or because the families of their victims might be upset?’

‘No, no’ (she noticed that the wine bottles were now almost all finished and started to experience a delicious flurry of panic) ‘They have all protested about my work, and I have assured them that it is a commentary on society at large. Do they want the press to stop reporting murders, eh?’

The young man behind her drifted over to the tables and returned with a full glass. ‘I hope you don’t mind, but you looked as if you needed a top-up.’ Her eyes lit up; ‘Most kind!’ as he walked away with her empty glass. The two students had now begun talking to someone else, so she wandered around nodding to acquaintances and ex-colleagues.
A few minutes later she noticed the young man – her impromptu wine-waiter – looking steadily at her display piece.

‘A lot of hard work.’
‘Yes.’ She glanced at her watch, ready to escape this dull creature. ‘I have a team of five assistants who provide ideas and energy. And slave labour.’ They both grinned.

‘There’s a couple of character who you would expect to find in a piece like this, but I can’t see them. I could understand not including Myra Hindley, because the families – ‘
‘Oh, but she’s there’ said Vanessa quietly. He turned back to inspect the tapestry, frowning. ‘One of the prison guard managed to get me some of her hair, so I used it to embroider the letter ‘M’ over there’ – and she pointed to a cell near the centre of the piece.
This discovery left him faintly stunned, and a few days later he rang the local paper to tell them about the latest art display, even offering to get a photo of a school party looking at the work in question.

It’s cold and dark on the station platform, and Pauline has told us eight times in the last ten minutes that that the 19:46 to Preston is delayed and that she is extremely sorry for any inconvenience caused and that we should listen for further announcements.
From the station I can see a tall hotel, expensive windows overlooking the city. Perhaps if I come here every night for the next twenty years, I will see a range of patterns made up from the rooms where the lights are on; one arrangement of lights may resemble a question mark, or a letter M, or even an upturned version of the periodic table.


Scaffold of Bigotry


First time we kissed I heard
The soft blue chord of peppermint
Along with overtones of mercury, and
Then you told me how your fist
Was the gateway to delights unknown.
You’re waving at me from the photograph,
A permanent rebuke; why did I leave you
To spend three nights alone?
Next time we met
I felt a squeal of amber-coloured pain
Across my legs and through
The great meridian, as though
A weight had been removed.
Last time we met, the radio
In the station bar played ‘I Can’t Stand The Rain’
As if to say come on, it’s time to go. And I
Remembered how you said ‘Just
Focus on the unreal gift of seeing
A city in the fog’.

Journal Entry, 14 Feb 97: Went to T’ai Chi on Weds night – very crowded. Lots of newcomers. Steve explained how all weight is on one foot so that the other can move rapidly without having to rest.
Was thinking about meridians – running through the body from L foot to R hand etc – is this why we lift one foot in karate when performing shuto uke with that hand?
Opening moves of kushanku or naifanchi – is this generation of chi kung?
Training session in Ripley on Sunday?

Finished reading ‘Oscar and Lucinda’ and have started ‘Satanic Verses’. Eight years ago today the fatwa was issued against Salman Rushdie.
At work have found articles in JCT about hydrolysis of alkyds, popping and shear disruption of micelles, all of which might contribute to low-gloss films.

Apparently, Michael Jackson – the luminous-skinned sibling with a penchant for young men – has become a father. “Do you want me to wrap it or will you eat it now?”

16 Feb 97: Today went to Nott’m for bike lesson. Heavy wind, light rain, I wore my Bering waterproofs and they got soaked but I stayed dry.
During our emergency stops one of the students slammed on the brakes and dropped bike on his knee. Ambulance.
The sky was full of birds moving randomly around in the breeze; ran out of petrol on dual carriageway, went onto reserve, rode around and was rescued by Pete.

17 Dec 05: No, I was not draped in a furious array of bling as I travelled up to Blackpool for the MAG Xmas party. Originally I rang the Anchorage Hotel and booked a room; the manager asked me to call him if I changed my mind about going ‘so that I can re-let the room’.

It turned out that there were only about three guests in the entire place.

Train from Stockport to Blackpool, taxi to Hotel, taxi to Cricket Club. Didn’t have chance to eat en route, so I ended up having two bags of peanuts. The band was called ‘Beyond Monsoon’ which makes them sound as though they should wear kaftans and play sitar.
Rick H turned up from NABD.
After the raffle I made my excuses and fled. Taxi to hotel, went to Chinese restaurant and had duck and noodles.

Woke up with hangover; had been told that breakfast was served from nine until ten a.m.
I hung around the deserted dining room until 10.15, nobody appeared so I just left my key in the bedroom and left. Walked to town; the outer bits of Blackpool are really neglected and dirty, utterly depressing. An expensive, frustrating weekend.

6 Apr 06: This morning B- and I were woken by the flat buzzer. It was a scaffolding firm asking if we owned the yellow pick-up truck. After moving it, B- was bombarded with homophobic remarks.
At work, no news about impending redundancies. Went to dentist, had 2 x-rays.
Listening to ‘Larks Tongues in Aspic’ for the first tie in ages. Started reading ‘Undercurrents’ by Frances Fyfield.

David Tench came into my lab yesterday and seemed very surprised to see me, while Paul B gave me a huge list of forthcoming work, possibly in a vain attempt to reassure me.

10 Apr 06: Today went to work to see what was happening on the redundancy front. Last week we had been told that Alan D was going to announce his decision on the 7th. No decision yet made, he’s away on hol and Steve S at Woolwich.

Anyway, about 4.00 Darrell was called over for a meeting with Mike Woodrow.
Then we all assembled in our office at 4.30 and Mike W told us that Darrell had been disposed of and that was it. No more redundancies.
But we were all expecting two departures, and Karen was under the impression that she was for the chop. And no-one can give her firm confirmation before Thursday.

11 Apr 06: So, today we had a meeting with Steve where he went on and on about how the R and D department was losing a number of staff because they hadn’t managed to develop seven new products.
But Darrell – redundant – was part of Tech Service, not R and D. We were all baffled.

Then it turned out that Karen W may or may not have been asked to leave, but we weren’t sure if she was leaving. Today I saw Darrell looking through his redundancy papers – eight pages of stuff with a huge list of numbered items.