Three Flagpoles Outside the Lowry Hotel
1. April 2017
The air between them tense with possibility
Three flagpoles stand in sentinel array; like aerials
They gather signals from a distant world. From
High above they look like spots of light, a marker
Telling the pilot where he needs to land.
The boys hurl careless stones
At these white spines. They’ve never heard
Of Jabber or Finesse, have no idea
Of what bright future lies in wait. Or, indeed
The grim despair to which this future leads.
2. August 2018
Frozen in a permanent salute
We watch the rich and famous, the wedding-parties,
The footballers and the journalists
The ugly businessmen and pretty girls
Whose destinies will probably collide
When steered by banknotes, flattery and gin.
We watch the builders swarming in hard hats
These apartments once consisted just of noise and dust
And now they seem to fill the sky. We watch
The men discarded by Carillion
Calling in to ask if any work to spare. “Had we
Not lost our jobs”, they say, “we’d look at buying one of these.”
We watch the office workers; once they would
Have been in ties and bowler hats, but now
The Revenue is utterly relaxed. Their yawning
Horizon gradually swallowed up by this towering
Village in the sky.
A middle-aged woman books in; she
Wears a blouse of crimson spider-silk. The tethered
Spinners had been fed on flies which had been fed
On rotting meat with graphene dust to go. The
Garment is absurdly light but
Stronger than you’d think. “I’m an artist, honey’
The woman says, ‘You gonna get me a drink?’
She’s really a financial engineer, and they don’t know
She owns the land on which these flats are built
She owns the firm that makes the windows and the
Doors, and pipework, and the decorating rights.
And now she plans to sell the flats again,
To eager speculators, reassured and terrified
Her victim snaps his briefcase shut; she smiles her spider-
Smile “Shall we go inside?”
3. Three Flagpoles Outside the Marriott Hotel
Journal Entries, 24/10/16 – 11/11/16
I turned up for work experience – the building is an orgy of concrete brutality. Working alongside the maintenance crew, I touch up the paintwork on doors and headboards, a warm dark neutral grey. The paint gets regularly chipped. We use a dainty brush to overcome the spots and scars of bare wood showing through.
We check the rooms, replacing damaged lightbulbs, tightening the hinges on the cupboard doors. The airport crew lounge has the same abstract picture on two adjacent walls.
We cleared up the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse, a tide of debris in the abandoned ballroom (why bother, I wondered – surely some goth music fans would love this place the way it is) where we found dozens of serving dishes and rolls of paper and broken lamps and rat droppings and plastic cups. Over one large door somebody had hung a tarpaulin, white, covered with an array of fascinating grey shapes.
“Oh, that’s from when we repainted all the tables and headboards” said one of the workers. The huge white canvas sheet has overspray patterns where an item has been coated, then moved slightly, then sprayed again leaving behind visual echoes. “They didn’t do a very good job, which is why we have to go round every day touching up the chips in all the rooms.”
“Yeah” I said, “They probably tried to save money by thinning the paint down a bit too much, which is why the coating is so fragile. If I had been here, we could have added some extender pigment and cross-linker to harden the resin and make it scuff resistant.”
They didn’t understand a word of this and were firmly convinced that I was an idiot who really didn’t know anything about industrial coating technology.
After a couple of weeks I moved on to the linen room, where we would hear a faint rumble and then a huge bolt of white cotton – sheets, pillowcases, towels and bathrobes – would emerge from the chute at great speed and land on the tiled floor with a loud clap.
The sheets and pillowcases and quilt covers all had to be separated and put into metal cages to be taken away and laundered. Small face flannels and bathrobes we would wash in-house. I check the pockets, and find a green cigarette lighter and a twenty-pound note. The supervisor looks faintly shocked when I hand these items over.
The face-cloths all get thrown into a large white plastic tub, and I suddenly realise that this is identical to the 100-litre tub that we used to have at Exova for making up the 5 percent salt solution (with or without acetic acid, depending on what spec you were carrying out). The salt solution was always made up to exactly 100 litres, but we were obliged to carefully graduate the vessel by adding 20 lites (weighed out to the nearest 5 grams) and marking the fluid level on the side of the tub.