Hawarden, December

And when at last he learned to fly
The ideas in his brain became a fixed array
Of structured principles and abstract calculus;
Strict rules marked out on intersecting planes,
No spaces left between the blocks to be contaminated. 

On a concrete altar cracked with weeds, a fighter jet
Stands guard. The tragic ruins of technology, old man
Ready to throw a punch or two, forgetting
That his glory days are long behind. We

Watch the Beluga cargo plane, a floating warehouse
Bearing gifts and raising hopes. If you stare too long
At this colossal beast so far away,
It makes the rest of the world look vaguely wrong
With proportions and perspective out of joint;

The matrix is infected, unable to support
The magic ruins of psychology. Meanwhile inside the hold
Eleven
car-sized bags of graphene dust
(Total weight; a kilogram or two) are on their way
Like scales from the skin of a cosmic whale, a

Honeycomb that would be black if only
There was some form of light that it could drink. Today,
As on so many other days, we
Take the boundaries and leave behind the grains.

 

Derby to leave Europe

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Journal Entry, 23 Aug 96:
Last night went to Leah Nelson’s lecture on acupuncture at the Derby Back Pain Association. She was fascinating; explained about the 6 different pulses and 38 characteristics which can be discerned in each one, at 24 levels of intensity.
Traditional Chinese Medicine, Five elements, Drugs and Herbal Therapy all used together in sympathy.

28 Apr 95:
Fantabulosa sweetie! Been driving to work early and staying late every night, all this caught up with me and I collapsed into bed about eight o’clock and slept through until two.
At work we are carrying out the TQI project (total quality improvement) and someone has ordered a cost-cutting move; supplying all our products at the low end of their viscosity range. This looks like desperation.

01 May 97:
Last night felt like a turning point; during t’ai chi we did standing chi kung and for the first time I was able to do it without my legs shaking uncontrollably.
Remember, don’t lean back during the ‘push’ of the form.

Tonight, went to vote at the Catholic School down the road, where the kids are watched over by Jesus on the Cross and his mother. Something vaguely creepy about it all.

02 May 97:
Enormous victory for Labour Party over whole UK. Reasons? Tory party disunited over Europe, and not committed to NHS or welfare state. 

13 Dec 2019:
Somewhere among my assorted photographs I keep the echo of a broken plate; it’s blue-and-white, just like this one. But the fracture means the purpose once it held is gone.

Tonight we went out for a Christmas meal with my friends from the local amateur writers’ group; there were about fourteen of us present, all drinking, talking loudly, and eating seabass or chicken. After the meal we came home and I went into the kitchen to make coffee.

I didn’t bother turning on the kitchen light.

As I walked into the kitchen I noticed a plate standing in the rack, and I saw – for the first time – a dimple situated at the very centre, brought into focus by the living room light behind me. This was a plate I had purchased over twenty years previously when I lived in Derby, and which had travelled with me to Tamworth, Salford and Leeds.

I went back into the living room with my drink and settled down to watch the arguments about the general election voting which had taken place throughout the day.

The UK had voted three years previously to leave the European Union, but this transition had been halted by various parliamentary moves; we had decided to leave, and then tried to establish the procedures and mechanisms and consequences instead of analysing these factors before the referendum.

In Derby I lived in a smart bedsit located in a former convent with a helical staircase, an elegant table and a hallway light that was permanently on. My few possessions there included magazines (BSH, The Face, Fighting Arts International) and concert programmes from my year in London (Beethoven quartets, Mahler symphonies, Stockhausen piano works, Haydn masses) and four plates.

The sedate tones of the current affairs editor bubbled from the wireless, explaining that an exit poll had been commissioned to predict the outcome of this election. Previous surveys had predicted a modest victory leading to a hung parliament, but this exit poll seemed to suggest a massive majority for the Tory party.

Strange, that I have carried this plate with me from one dwelling to another; it would have been easy and cheap enough to just buy another.

The election campaign has been a raucous yelling match where each side has disputed the claims of the other – and even used misleading data to confuse the electorate. It seems apt that I should find myself admiring a sculpture called Truth and Falsehood. I tried to photograph this piece, but it was on an unlit shelf – the whole point of the exhibition was to show visitors how statues are stored, and how little gallery space is available for their proper display.

The voice continues to drift, soothing and bland, from the radio; massive political upheaval has occurred, with formerly loyal Labour strongholds turning to the Conservative party. British society seems to have cracked like a plate; we can keep all the pieces safe together, but we can never safely eat another meal from this dish. An unseen crack lies between Britain and Ireland, while a bleak stone wall keeps Scotland and England apart.

In Derby, I would make my way to work on foot, watching the two cathedrals steadily move together until at last their spires were lined up. An abandoned corner shop had a window (protected by a rusted wire grid) full of dusty jars, together with a leaflet called ‘Brotherhood of the Living Stones’. I remember a magazine article I encountered which described human colour vision as being dynamic, with the retina spraying out beams of imaginary hollow beads which would break open, creating the impression of different primary hues.

The UK is now going to leave the EU, which will cause great financial turmoil and social disruption. But we were promised that it would be a smooth, effortless procedure after which enormous funding would become available to improve the NHS and infrastructure.

Media Storage Garments

Fabric and structure convey meaning and texture.
In 2010, I was dismissed from my job after three months. The agency found me another post, so I bought a new shirt from BHS, which I wore to meet Andy at the fountain outside the Trafford Centre. This might be viscosity…

In 2008, I went to my father’s funeral and while travelling back to Manchester I called in at a charity shop and bought another shirt in dark Italian stripes. Here we see the density…

In 2004 I went to the Cropredy Folk festival and found myself burning in the sun; my bike luggage had room only for a few garments, so I had taken tee-shirts. To protect my marble limbs I went to a charity shop in Banbury and purchased a long-sleeved shirt in a deafening shade of blue. Serene, like conductivity…

In 2016 I attended a seminar organised by, and for, the UK community of LGBT scientists and engineers. To ensure I looked perfectly delicious I wore a cotton-and-silk shirt with double cuffs, purchased a year earlier from a charity shop in Leeds. The stripes diffract the zeta potential of pigment grains…

In 1994, two years before I had ever ridden a motorbike, I decided to buy a leather jacket (from Oasis, the hippy emporium) and turn myself into a fragment of Thom Gunn’s slow-grained narrative.
And in 1998 I bleached my black denim jacket; the badges remind me of a forgotten time. My wardrobe is a library of dreams, a past I struggle to describe…

Make the Quartet – identify three companion pieces which are similar to the item; allow the presence of these extra items to highlight the individual characteristics of the first piece.
Write the Quartet – assemble the four ideas and identify the impact that they will have.
Find the Quartet – explore the individual item and identify four aspects of its construction or performance.
Play the Quartet – enact the performance and observe the outcome of the performance.
Each idea can be broken down into four conflicting aspects.
The environment within which these ideas operate will consist of four conflicting themes or potential influences, a shell which permits or restricts or activates the functions of the idea.

Inner shell: Eyes, Horns, Flowers and Chains (alternative suits for Tarot)
Outer shell: Red, Blue, Purple, Green.

Consider the four reactor vessels; for many years they were hidden inside a concrete shed, but when the firm had been sold and the site was undergoing demolition, they were revealed. Each tank is constructed from steel with a protective epoxy coating.

There are pipes leading to these chambers; some pipes carry steam, to heat the contents, some convey white spirit or xylene or pentoxone. The access port at the top of each vessel is where the solid ingredients – iso-phthalic acid, trimellitic anhydride, maleic anhydride, trimethylol propane, and bisphenol-A – were tumbled in, ready to be transformed.

There are probes to monitor the temperature and pH, and traps to extract water and solvents. The lads on the factory floor will periodically take samples and check these to identify the level of unreacted products. No matter how carefully we make the resin, there will always remain a small amount of unreacted ingredients. Perhaps we must recognize that every process reaches a point of diminishing returns.

Of course, we rely on the thermocouples and porous electrodes to accurately register the physical properties of the reaction mixture, and we rely on the production personnel to correctly identify and weigh the basic materials. MEK (methyl ethyl ketone) is not the same as MEKO (methyl ethyl ketoxime) and a kilogram does not consist of one hundred grams.
We can consider the alkyd resin; the four properties of the quartet would be viscosity, acid value, drying time, and solids content. The four aspects of the environment would be ease of processing, hardness, flexibility and cost.

The alkyd would become part of one quartet consisting of different kinds of alkyd resin (each of which may or may not be able to serve as a replacement material) and also part of another quartet with three completely different organic polymer binders – epoxy ester, polyurethane, acrylic resin. During these explorations we may unearth economies of scope and economies of scale.

Vessel 1, codename: Jack Reid, resin system: unsaturated polyester
Vessel 2, codename: Casa Moda, resin system: vinyl chloride

Vessel 3, codename: Burton, resin system: styrenated alkyd
Vessel 4, codename: Autograph, resin system: cellulose acetate-butyrate

Viscosity and density can never occupy
A single point, we try to make them
Land within a tolerable field. And then I realise that
Good enough is good enough for me.

Events and principles fall neatly
Into quantum themes; opposing pairs
Surrender and prevail in turn, while
Awareness gathers pace to split
Whatever darkness yet remains – a train
Can never be on time.