Her Imperial Mauveness

Journal Entry, 14 Oct 2013: Last night stayed in with a pizza – never went to Blayds, never got upset over Chris, never had 3 pints of Kronenbourg and didn’t stagger back home via McDonalds. Got up really early. Plugged in printer & scanned the Electoral Register.

Then I was brushing my teeth and had a coughing fit which jolted my lower back and I’ve spent the entire day in pain.
At work made a mess of loading the cloth roller-towel so Danny had to cut it free. Bah!

15 Oct 2013: Today at work WWE caught me watching as she spent half-an-hour messing around with her driving licence. ‘Yes?’ she said in her most imperious manner.

Boss has been asking why Perkin-Elmer charge 200 pounds an hour, and we want to send our machine to their workshop for servicing.
Meanwhile, John at work asked if I ever went to gay bars. Me: ‘Yes, all the time.’ He stared, so I asked if he was surprised.

17 Oct 2013: At work, made up a small batch of black stainer for the coatings shop to use, but I had left a few tiny flecks of black on the stirrer. Later on, the WWE flounced into the office and said angrily ‘Have you finished using the stirrer?’

Yes, said I, why? She complained that ‘There is black pigment all over it!’
Ah, said I, I was waiting for that complaint. She always starts the day with a complaint about something.

We have been having problems with intercoat adhesion using epoxy systems on the works. I made some dual-coated panels, using the actual works batch of material which had failed the amine-bloom test. I tried to insert a knife-blade between the layers but it was completely stuck. Hurrah!

[Note: the epoxy coatings are made by stirring the pigments into a keg of resin, at a low P:B ratio. No mechanical grinding is used, no wetting agents to promote pigment dispersion, so silicone flow agents, and an overall low P:B. The corresponding products from rival companies tend to have much higher SG values than ours, but we can’t have dense material since a 20-litre keg will breach manual handling regulations. So the systems are guaranteed not to work properly. And if we use hydrophobic fumed silica, we incorporate that by gentle stirring instead of ball-mill grinding. And if we use any polymer microfibres, these are also dispersed by gentle stirring instead of the almighty thrashing they so badly need]

30 Nov 2013: At work we had a leaving do for one of the guys from the factory floor. He had been with the firm for 26 years, but the presentation lasted two minutes.

9 May 2014: Today at work the repair engineer called in to fix the DSC machine; he said that he had originally installed this item ten years ago and we have not had it serviced once since then.

And I’ve been asked to make some epoxy coating with manganese violet pigment and hydrophobic silica; while wandering round the storage shed I spotted a couple of pallets which between them held 33 tins of the violet paint and 58 tins of hardener – just the stuff I was trying to make. Each tin weighed about 10 kg, so might have been worth £65 to a customer.  And it was all just sitting there, gathering dust and growing older and older and older….

…so anyway, Trevor walked into the boardroom a few minutes after we had started the meeting. He was always late, and usually spent the whole time gazing scornfully at the ceiling or creating elaborate angular doodles on the eight-year-old desk blotter he always took along.

‘Nice of you to join us’ remarked Simon. Trevor smiled weakly at the Sales Manager before slumping into his seat.

The discussion went on and on – a few production issues, cancelled orders, feedback from our trade stand at an exhibition, alternative raw materials suppliers – until we came to the Panufnik Disaster.

‘Right, have we made any progress?’ asked the Managing Director. ‘Of course, we all know that it’s the customers fault; idiots who try to save money by not applying the stuff properly.  We always have this problem with them.

Panufnik Components was a producer of specialist marine equipment, and we had supplied them with four batches of heavy-duty protective coating material. One batch of this stuff had started to crumble away after six months in service, and a huge desalination plant had to be shut down for repairs to be carried out.

‘Well; any ideas?’ The sales manager looked round the room at the assembled team leaders. Trevor, without opening his eyes, raised a finger. A few seconds later he stood up and rapidly pulled two small conical flasks from the pockets of his lab coat.

‘Tell me, would you prefer some peanuts’ – and he placed one flask gently on the table – ‘or would you like some ecstasy’ – and here he slammed the other flask, half-full of gleaming white sweets, onto the polished wood – ‘instead?’

The MD was about to start yelling at him to get out, but Trevor began striding round the room towards a flip-chart, addressing the carpet in a bold, harsh monotone: ‘Now most people think that drugs are harmful and indeed they are exceedingly dangerous and will produce systemic organ imbalance leading to malfunction and death – but rumour has it that peanut allergies are responsible for more deaths in the UK each year than MDMA.’

The sales manager sighed, keen as always to contradict anything that Trevor said. ‘Yeah, but only because they’re consumed in vastly different amounts. Or didn’t you do statistics at school?’

‘Anyway’ (ignoring the interruption) ‘imagine that these nuts’ (winking as he shook a few of them into his hand) ‘are particles of pigment.’

We all stared, wondering what he was going to do next.
‘And imagine that the delightful savoury dust’ (and here he popped a nut into his mouth and began to chew) ‘represents the film of air and water which is tightly bonded’ – here he gave a slight wink and the merest hint of a gasp after the word ‘tight’ – ‘to the surface of each seven-micron granule.’

While talking, he had drawn an irregular shaped blob around whose edges there were snakes and marshmallows and eyes. ‘Now, if you incorporate the pigments by gently stirring them, this layer of damp air will remain at the surface; which is no problem, until two of the particles bump into each other, at which point they will decide to stick together. And if this process happens often enough, the overall number of pigment particles will be reduced by ten, or fifteen, or twenty-five percent.’

‘So what?’ asked the MD. ‘If all the material is still present, then it will give the same level of protection!’
‘But’ continued Trevor, ‘If the number of particles is significantly reduced, then the barrier properties would be compromised. And the colour strength would start to change on storage. And the viscosity would begin to drift’ – at which point, we all began to feel uncomfortable, since these were exactly the performance problems of which the client had complained.

‘But if you incorporate the right amount of wetting agent during the grind stage’ (and here, the purchasing manager snorted, since he was utterly convinced that additives were expensive and unnecessary and gave no improvement) ‘it becomes possible to incorporate higher levels of pigment while keeping the viscosity low’ (at which point the sales manager rolled his eyes in torment, since his entire career was devoted to adding solvent to things in order to make them cheaper, and a lower-viscosity system would not allow him to do this) ‘so we can apply the material more easily.’

None of us had noticed the patches of double-sided tape dotted around the flip-chart, but now Trevor pulled a cheap plastic doll from his pocket and began to roughly dismantle her, sticking the beige-coloured limbs and head around the edge of the blob-shaped blob.
‘Behold, for these are your lovely seductive tendrils of Solsperse’ he began, ‘and they will enable the pigment grains to remain distant from each other and firmly bonded to the resin matrix, giving you’re the level of performance that is so impressive in other firms.’





Aftermath of Lucifer



Aftermath of Lucifer (JCP) 

Youth, with immortal gaiety undimmed
Ripeness, by years indulgent now left spent
Drinks that bitter draught, reality
Spurns the illusion of the cosmic dawn

And all death destined and delicious things
Waiting till the sands no longer fall
More lovely finds, the more it finds them vain

Believe at last the fractured notes we hear…
As through men it thrills
But round the edge it kills
Who love, and of their love
The ones whose love is kept
The poignance feel; at bay

When to the margin of their hope they draw
By cruel awareness of an unjust law.
Away! Thou hast no time to lose!
The sundial mask is falling into place
Long ere this hour thy potent enemy holds

Another suite of constellated lies
Deep counsel with his peers
How best to stay
She hears our yesterday

Thy ventures
Like hollow eastern blossoms washed away.

Miiss iinformed…

I’m – glowing – down, down, down
To Radium Street
Where the stained-glass pavement
Sticks to your feet
And the alpha-phlavoured particles
Betray a long-forgotten sacrament
Yeah – yeah – yeah…

We’re gonna dive – dive – dive
Into cloud chamber park
Where the photons of mercy
Remember the dark
And the asymmetric cavities
Declare it just another lovely day
Yeah – yeah – yeah….

And when the street succumbs
To glorious decay
We can carry off the relics
In a scarlet beret
And leave them in the rain
For future generations to excavate
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah?

Curriculum Vitae’s



This path of life is as crazy as they come. None of that orderly procession of success, the languid stroll from one distinguished seat of learning to the next, along the way managing to cultivate the most gifted and influential friends and lovers to render the next few years as exciting and easy as possible.
Some people went to a great University and sailed forth on a calm sea, heading confidently towards remote islands where glorious riches waited to be found.

Me? I remember running up the steps at the railway station in 1982. And then walking to town, past the cattle market; the muted lowing sounded like the relics of a dream. Me? I remember being in the revolving doors at a supermarket when a couple of toddlers pushed the panel, forcing the mechanism to halt. Trapped in a triangular glass cage they ran back and forth, yelling incoherently.


Life must be lived forward but understood backwards.
Me? I remember watching the opening of ‘Repo Girl’ and recognising the statue of Salammbo in the foyer of the Lady Lever Art Gallery at Port Sunlight. Yes, it really sounds like something dreamed up by C S Lewis rather than a real place. But Port Sunlight is real, real, too too real.

This is my life; what can I do?

Back in 1987 the world was a different place; we had just discovered AIDS in the UK, and it was confidently predicted that all gay men were doomed to suffer a short, lonely life, followed by an undignified, disease-ridden demise alone in a polythene tent while their loved ones (suitably protected by gloves and masks and gowns) watched from a safe distance.

So in 1987 I began keeping a diary as a sort of back-up disc (although in those days we didn’t have discs of any kind) for my life, to reassure people that I was actually conscious and alert. I was expecting to perish at the age of thirty, with no great achievements to leave behind; no scientific discoveries, no novels or string quartets, no design plans for radical new school buildings, no elaborate systems to channel the wealth of property speculators into imaginary offshore companies out of reach of the taxman.
How odd it would be if, in 1987, somebody had told us that the Princess of Wales would die ten years later in a car accident together with her lover Dodi Fayed, son of Mohammed Al-Fayed, who  for a time was the owner of a small department store called Harrods.
Meanwhile, here in 2017, we have just enjoyed a total solar eclipse which passed across the US; if an eclipse had occurred twenty years ago it would have provoked widespread hysteria and brought about the collapse of the British economy.


Cobbled again…

Here in the call centre we spend some of our time working on phone calls and some of our time holding webchat discussions with our customers. I occasionally wonder what it would be like if we kept a transcript of our spoken conversations:

“Hello this is the amalgamated coordination advisory sector, how may we help you?”

Instead of a polite and orderly response I am greeted by what sounds like two people having an angry conversation while their children scream with laughter. A cheap electronic musical toy (which I imagine to be made of brightly-coloured plastic) emits a raucous version of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” making it almost impossible for me to hear what the father is trying to tell me. Even without all these distractions, it would be impossible for me to grasp what he was saying since their cordless phone has got a nasty fifty-three hertz buzz that drones and drones like a space-age hornet.

“Hello, I’m-I’m-I’m calling about my nephew – you see, the thing is, it’s like he was going out with this girl see and she walked out on him but they had only been together about – well, you know, you know, like, her uncle was-he-was-like the local grocer and he knew about some of his customers who had been fiddling the dole because their son had moved out but they said he was still living with them.

And-if-and-if you can just tell-me-tell-me-tell-me like what it is like that I should be getting next week-I-=mean-I-know-the-money-should go up a bit cos five of me kids are now getting severe disability allowance-it’s-great-I-mean-we-couldn’t-manage-without-=that-money-it’s-gonna-cause-real-hardship-if-you-don’t-pay-us-on-time-oh-and-have-you-got-down-that-me-daughter-is-staying-on-at-school-for-an-extra-year-she’s-ever-so-bright-is-our- Fifi Dawn Laroche Cadenza.

“What d’you mean? How dare you talk to me like that! Of course she qualifies properly for the disability element at higher rate, I mean she can’t walk or even see properly, she needs a carer to come in three times a day and make sure she gets all her medication properly you know…and so what if she did win a disco dancing competition on holiday in Faliraki? She’s entitled to go on holiday like everybody else, isn’t she? Tell me, do you take your kids on holiday? Go on, tell me? Anyway, they said that it was a miracle recovery, we actually got a face flannel that had actually been used by Wayne Rooney himself, and when she was able to hold this against her legs she suddenly found that the extreme pain began to subside and she could actually walk again I-mean-that-guy-is-such-a-saint-he-does-so-much-good-for-people. One of our friends, he actually used to work in a hotel where the players used to go after matches, and some of the parties and things they used to get up to, well, they just keep a special laundry bin for the players, and everything that goes in there is sent off to the boiler room to be incinerated, no questions asked. Can’t be too careful nowadays.

Anyway, I don’t care what it says on your silly little computer, there’s obviously been some kind of mistake, we never earned that kind of money during the last three years. Don’t be silly, just let me talk to a manager and see if they can sort it out.  Look, I want to speak to a manager. Yes there is. Every office has a manager. If you don’t put me on to a manager now I shall make a formal complaint about your behaviour, you obviously don’t know who you’re dealing with here.

And why haven’t you got my correct work details – I’m doing eight and a quarter hours every three weeks, then I’m doing nine and a half hours every fourth week except during the school holidays when I do five hours every two weeks and six and a quarter hours for the other two weeks but I’m due to go full time in a couple of months. No, of course I didn’t notify you cos I thought you lot had all the information anyway from my employer. Fat lot of good you are, if you can’t even keep tabs on the workers.

And the customer becomes even more annoyed when I refuse to accept her fiendishly baroque explanation of why the huge lump sum she received from cashing in the shares she had bought with tax-free savings should not be regarded as income. I wanted so much to call her a miserable greedy cow, but contented myself with a murmured comment of ‘I’m sorry but we are unable to disregard the income which you were lucky enough to get last year…’

Half a Dozen Corners Make a Room

I brought you here to
Admire the still-life: cup, ashtray, crumpled plastic film
The hinge designed to make the door swing shut.
I don’t believe in anything; that’s what makes me good
And on the phone I hear them moan about
An unfair world that wicked rulers hold
So today, a girl complained
That she was on the books of an agency
They didn’t give her any work; does that mean
That she is an employee or not? I am reminded of
A world where half a dozen senior designers
And marketing consultants
Assemble round an expensive table and spend
Two hours discussing the exact shade of plastic gold
That should be used for the tear-off band
On cellophane wrappers from Bolton to Colchester.

Several shades were offered for review, including
A bold bright blue. The chairman said
Our clients don’t want nothing new
They’ve grown accustomed to the gold
And don’t like being told what to do. Next

On the agenda, the width of the plastic strip; the
Two choices each received an equal vote, so
In a fine display of leadership the chairman
Came down on the side of the wider band. The difference
Was minute, but the arguments were long and fierce
About the impact of such a change
On sales of cigarettes and sweets and things
That people tear the perfect packet open for themselves.

Meanwhile, hardened missiles make their way to Syria,
Destroying schools and shops and peoples’ lives; and
Children trapped in burning high-rise blocks
Scream for help to a watching TV crew. A man
Is shot. Is this the world we dreamed of? I don’t know.




Diana Park

Off to the Whitworth Gallery, where they had an exhibition of works by Raqib Shaw – some bizarre statues made up of linked human figures or centaurs with the heads of wolves. Behind them, on a deafening patterned wallpaper, were three huge paintings of imaginary marble courtyards, peopled with hideous skeletal creatures. The pictures gleam like enamelled tapestries. In another room we have British landscapes by Cozens and Cozens, charming wash-and-ink pictures.

It was a warm, fairly bright day, and I had hoped to find Whitworth Park full of lazy students reclining on the grass, wearing tight shorts and Ray-Ban shades and not much else. However, there were no handsome bodies on display; so I examined the sculptures, one of which reminded me of the far-off days when I prepared the Qualcast Green paint used on lawnmower hoods.

Twenty years ago I woke one morning to discover that Britain had abruptly changed.

Journal Entry, Sun 31 Aug 97:

Yesterday went to Tyre Sales. They don’t remove wheels but managed to find a nearby garage-man to help me. Had new tyre fitted, went through to office, huge glass case full of trophies. Had a go at changing oil and sheared the edges off the bolt.

Got up this morn, put on R3. Mozart wind quintet. Announcer said ‘We have cancelled the following programme as a mark of respect –‘ (and I immediately thought that they were going to announce that HM the Queen Mother had passed away) ‘ – due to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.’
They’ve cancelled footie matches but not the rugby. Hmmm…
Apparently she was in a car smash in Paris, chased by a mob of press photographers. Get the X-Files out.

Yesterday was reading Clive James’ review of ‘The Big Time’ where he mentions Sheena Easton and then, about two mins later on R2 they played ‘For Your Eyes Only’.
[Note: during this period I had no TV set, so I didn’t see any of the news footage of weeping crowds, or the broadcast tribute to Diana by HM the Q, or the vast fields of flowers left around Buckingham Palace. I eventually found them when I went to see ‘The Queen’, Stephen Frears’ movie about how HM copes with the social upheaval triggered by Diana’s demise.