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 – beware of the 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 maypole of celery – or was it 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 

Daxien Grahy

21 October ‘14: In preparation for our research lab meeting on Thursday I decided to check the viscosity of my SQF mauve, and I also set up a hardness timeline sample. This should have taken about an hour to set fully.

However, when I checked it after an hour it was still mobile; then after two-and-a-half hours it still hadn’t become hard, so I embarked on the standard quench procedure.

Mentioned this curious behaviour to Kelly; she glanced nervously round and told me that a similar thing had occurred when she first started. Some of the workers here are rather ambitious and competitive and they regard it as normal to perform sabotage to impede the progress of their rivals – sorry, I mean colleagues.

Meanwhile, Carl has reformulated a chlorinated rubber finish, replacing the talc (extender pigment) with Garamite (a powerful thixotropes) because he doesn’t understand the significance of these component materials.

And I found a Google Book online about ‘The Dispersion of Pigments’ by Daxien Grahy which explains in detail the premix and grind procedures and the importance of using the correct P:B ratio and the most suitable surfactant additives – essential for phthalo blue and green and quinacridone and fumed silica and carbon black and polymer microfibres.

Mentioned this book during our meeting but it was dismissed as irrelevant by the boss.

2 Feb ’03:   Fri night it snowed; stayed in. Sat night went to Stockport and hit charity shops – ‘Monstrum’, ‘Behind Scenes at Museum’, and a couple of grey shirts.

Chinese takeaway, went to Patricroft Conservative Club to see ‘Jalapenos’ – great band, did TV themes and old Rock ‘n Roll numbers.
Back to flat, red wine, woke up with appalling hangover, went to Bolton for MAG meeting.  In the news: Space Shuttle Columbia exploded during re-entry, seven dead.

Tony Benn has interviewed Saddam Hussein. British troops in Kuwait ready to invade Iraq.
Twenty people dead after explosion in Lagos. 

Reminiscence Therapy

It was a bright warm day in June
And I watched you fan yourself
With a second-hand paperback.
Did gentle Georgian breezes cool your brow,
I wondered, or perhaps some
Angry New York hustle?

Perhaps it was a book you hadn’t even read;
A biography of one obscure – nay, one unknown
By another long-forgotten nobody.
And words beat down upon us still
In waves of overwhelming heat
‘Zen and The Grapes of Brideshead Expectations’

Perhaps one day, compelled by lack of time
We will create a new synthetic literature
To remind us of the things we can’t recall
While alternating voices weave a counterpoint
We struggle on from day to warner day
Hoping that truth lies just beyond the dune. 

Daxien Grahy (08/03/04)

I dreamt last night of a smart hotel
Whose floors, instead of numbers, were
Given names – Diamond, Sapphire, Emerald,
Ruby and Pearl. And in one room I saw
Two young men with two much younger girls
Striving to attain unknown delights.

Seated in a corner of the room
She watches them perform; the merest
Flicker animates her mask of elegant
Disdain. Eventually the two still forms
Are laid before the woman in her smart
Grey suit. No tremor of concern disturbs her mind.

[Note: in late April 04, a few weeks after writing this, I discovered that Dame Britney of Spears was on tour with her ‘Onyx Hotel’ concept stage show]

Stop The Far

Journal Entry, Sat 7 Jan ’12:

I suppose since it’s 2012 I should really put together my turntable and listen to ‘XII’ by BJH, an LP which I bought five or six years ago at a car boot sale in Bolton.

And in yesterday’s Indie I was reading a review of ‘Delta’, a new CD by Hyperpotamus, some Spanish guy who does that multi-tracked vocal thing like Bobby McFerrin  but to simulate instruments. Apparently a similar work (Melissa?) has been done in the past by Bjork.
Which reminded me that when I moved into the house in Campbell Road in 1991, Leon had a Sony CD player with four discs, one of which was ‘Deus’ by The Sugarcubes.

On Spotify the other night I found a set of Mozart transcriptions – symphonies 35-41 played by a piano quartet.

The paperwork for ‘Making Sense of Strategy’ included a discussion of ‘Core Competencies’ which made me start thinking about Exova and the things that didn’t work, the QUV machines and salt-spray cabinets that failed to function correctly.

If we want to really understand how a company operates, look for the ‘Core Incompetencies’.

15 Jan ’12: 8.30 a.m. and it’s already light outside. Last night Vicky texted me to ask if I was going to the Brickies Rock Night in Leigh, so I rang and said no. But our Soapbox Derby is on 10 March, and I’ve already arrange to to book Fri 9 off work – the Alan G memorial lecture is on Thursday night at OCCA, Solihull.

Anyway – Thursday night just gone – went to ‘Alibi’ for a snack before cinema cos everywhere else was packed. Strange pub/club, odd pictures on walls.
I asked for a glass of house red and the (v dishy) barman gave me something that tasted like an expensive Shiraz to go with my ham and eggs. Then flounced off to the Cornerhouse to see ‘The Artist’ before which they showed a Virgin Media short called ‘Good Samaritan’ about a matronly (but highly indignant) black woman who takes pity on a nude bloke handcuffed to a stag-night lamppost.

12 Mar ’12: This morning went to the ENT clinic at Salford Royal Hosp. They sent a camera down my nose to explore the tubes and see whether a blockage there was responsible for my deafness.

Alas, no.

Then I went to work (having told them I would be away for the whole morning) and found we had a staff meeting about H and S, in particular, ways to avoid cuts when using knives so I stood at the flip-chart like a Dolly Dealer on Play Your Cards Right, writing down the various proposals to make it safer.

After this, Lynda went through a presentation about restructuring the Coatings Division. One of the slides had a staff listing with Danny at the top as Lab Manager, with various project leaders. I noticed that my position was dangling as a stem from Jon G (who’s just joined us from PIH Ltd) so I asked whether I was now reporting to him.

‘Eventually, yes.’ Said Lynda.

30 Dec ’03: Christmas time, chocolates and red wine (sand Cliff Richard) down at St Austell. Jean and Terry both coughing and sneezing, like a Lem-Sip advert but without the happy ending. Xmas dinner – guinea-fowl, red wine and Thorntons and Lindt.

Viv’s annual newsletter from Abu Dhabi was a catalogue of boating, ending with “…wishing you all lots of happiness, health and of course, money!”
Whilst in Cornwall Jean and I bumped into John R who has gone completely grey.
Bob Monkhouse, Dinsdale Lansden and Alan Bates all died.
Iranian citadel of Bam destroyed by earthquake – twenty thousand killed. 

Eighteen-Line Poem

Bold-fashioned stripes divide me from myself;
Connect me to your relics
And echo my despair
I can’t disturb this mask
While the acid waits to take effect
And the sky’s clear silence drifts away.

Oblique the warnings; I don’t wanna hear
Your narrative of wealth
The epicure of filth
Is sauntering thru another
Of my dreams where fascinated snakes
Converge upon the addict of the stripes.

She’s had it – ‘’Bowie Knife’ – engraved
Upon her heart; I said don’t worry,
This isn’t life, it’s just a work of art
Or a very fractured one-man show
To be watched thru furtive Venetian blinds
By one who favours shallow stripes of light.

Drop the Bar

Journal Entry, Sun 12 Jan ’97:

Well, where does a girl begin?
Last Friday night was our works do at the Central Banqueting Suite (late Xmas party).
Loads of real 70s music – buffet – cabaret artiste who did ‘Simply The Best’, having dragged two of the blokes up with her, when one of the reps – pissed – joined in with a vengeance.
Left at 11.30.

Sat morning went to B’ham, gave Adrian his pressies and a tenner.
Went to Mandy, gave her pressies, went to Skoda garage, it was shut so we went to visit Betty.
Drove to Warwick, got there at seven (2 hours early), Michael cooked pasta with chicken in white wine and cream and partisan cheese. And while we were eating dinner Robbie turned up.

Went to Crazy Daisies – camp arguments in taxi.
Anyway, had a boogie at the club and a fair bit to drink, got taxi back, eventually there were 16 of us in the pub at three o’clock, girls pissed, making sandwiches and coffee, Michael spilling drink, me practicing kata.
Mid-life crisis; an exhibition of industrial art funded by an eccentric lottery-winner. A series of 205-litre drums painted using advanced coating technology.
Black-and-orange Greek vase design. M C Escher interlocking figures.
Sepia-tint Victorian hard-core porn montage.
‘Nude Descending a Staircase’ type kata painting.

The exact text of my idea, which I scrawled around the blank margins of the Independent on Sunday while in bed at the Antelope. I didn’t have a TV at home so I was fascinated by the haunted fishtank in the room – there were OU programmes about Manchester Town Hall and the physics of rainbows.

16 Jan ’97:

One of the most appealing aspects of this town was its architecture; nothing elegant or significant, but there were several derelict warehouses and chapels which intrigued me; their blackened fronts and broken signs, painted in a style not used for many years.

It was a strange winter; three days of biting cold and deep snow would give way to three days of mild weather, after which the cruel season would reappear. After several weeks of this pattern we had a few days of dense fog; the landscape was transformed, with cars gliding past in slow motion, illuminating the very air before them.

Even the square church (a defiantly plain structure) seemed to have swollen in size, and its lack of decoration made it look more threatening than unfinished.

30 Jan ’97: Greetings from Tiger-Lily Mavis!

Last night went to T’ai Chi and we did 15 minutes of standing Chi-Kung. Arranged to go to seminar in Kirkby on Saturday. Reading ‘Satanic Verses’ at home and ‘Oscar and Lucinda’ at work, both utterly fab.

Earlier this week found out that a former employee, many years ago, had done a runner with loads of money collected for a football club – it all ended up in court, and when questioned about the money he fell silent for five minutes before eventually piping up ‘shoes for my kids.’

And now another of the lads has done the same – neither was sacked although both deserved it.

7 Mar ’97: Drama drama drama!

Yesterday was walking home as per usual and noticed some young kids messing about on the wall of a school playground – opposite the RC Church.

Anyway, next thing I know I was lying on the floor in agony and saw a long metal bar rolling away from me. Kids’ voices yelling ‘You’ve hit a man!’
One of them said ‘Are you alright mate?’ and I snapped ‘No, I’ve broken my foot!’

Staggered along to my GP surgery who told me to get a taxi to casualty dept, hung around for hours, they eventually saw me, tweaked my tow, decided not to bother with an X-ray, offered me paracetamol and said come back if it gets worse.
Rang the police who did nothing so Jean rang them and a WPC came out to see me at 10.30.

Postcard from Gran Canaria


Postcard from Gran Canaria 

A speeding taxi carried us away
From town and up into the dusty hills
Like a pair of nervous bandits on the run. 

Our apartment lurked behind the dismal front
Of an abandoned bar. Inside, cool marble-resin floors
And dozens of cupboards and drawers and shelves
All empty.

The kitchen doors are finished
In a strange pearlescent white; they
Make the place look like a film set in a dream.
Strange prints along the stairwell showed
A factory behind a forest; a closer look
Revealed it was a generic European Church. 

Outside, the hills recede, crushed
By the noonday heat, a grey
Forbidding wilderness of stone.
A buzzard, falling horizontally
Sees only harsh grey outcrops.  A far-off
Diesel generator snores to break
The terrible silent beauty. 

Meanwhile the lights of Maspalomas gleam
Impossibly remote, an oasis
Of hysterical debauchery. Two slender men
In tight young polyester shorts
Drift past the Chinese buffet restaurant; they
Glance at the menu, then at the diners
Before deciding to continue on their way.

We have just eaten; along
With the bill the waitress (Sullen? Impassive?
I can’t decide) brings a bottle
And pours us out two shots of cheap liqueur;
She will not leave until she sees us drink
Which makes me think that
This brew, cold-pressed from the seeds
Of the amoxicillin tree is meant, perhaps,
To fend off gastric flu
Or any of the other side-effects of dining
At the crimson-tasselled house of Doctor Wu. 

To my surprise, the waiters at
The ice-cream bar
Were not on roller-skates; an otherworldly
Smoothness informed their every move
Not to mention the ice-cream itself
An expensive ambrosial delight.

Meanwhile, holed up in our windswept retreat
We watch TV in rapid Spanish dialect; Tarot card
Readings, cooking shows, a long, long service
From a huge cathedral, and fierce political debate.
Political debate: a procession of distinguished men
Dark suits, grey beards,
Debate an imaginary fracture. “The Basques” said Clive James
Back in ’78 “Are simply an explosive people.”
Some things will never change…  

From the rooftop terrace we see endless grey stone
No creatures move except the lonely hawk.
Deep down, we know that we would see
Crawling life emerge in abundance
From these barren rocks when darkness falls.

And at the roadside, dull green hearts
Pile up, adorned with ivory toothpick spines.
And the pylons – their tall, unstable elegance
How did they make their way up here
To beam the news – along with Tarot cards,
Dating chatlines, badly-dubbed ‘60s cowboy films
And Anita Dobson launching the Armada
Into family dwellings and holiday flats.  

At least out here
The air is hot and dry, the pylons
Need no paint to keep them safe. But still we paint them anyway, a
Barrier of luxury – rich, creamy varnish
Filled with powdered oyster shells and
Reinforced with shredded cactus spines. 

We walk to the deserted village square
And wonder if we’ll ever leave this place; the
Question rises, and I ask myself again
Will all the cacti find a home?