LGBT Engineers – Website discussion

In May 2014 the Engineer Website carried an article entitled ‘Why engineering must start addressing its sexuality issue’ by Stephen Harris, in which he discussed the lack of information about LGBT employees in the industry.
The article included reference to the fact that happy, secure employees will deliver a better performance in the workplace, and said that if the engineering sector is not seen as explicitly supportive, then firms stand to miss out on talented graduate recruits.
A series of responses were posted, some anonymous, by members of the association. One correspondent, called ‘Jacob’ submitted a wonderful reply in a sort of incoherent chav-speak; indeed, his narrative was so clumsy that I suspected it may have been a spoof. I have added questioning notes (in italic) to various sections of his diatribe…

Jacob 16th May 2014 at 3:35 pm

“This smacks of trendy tokenism, forcing the LGBT agenda in to every corner of our lives.
“Firstly, the how I’ll be treated argument weighs very little. It does NOT matter what your sexuality is, what matters is your work output.
[Note: if your work output was the only important factor, then workplace nepotism wouldn’t be a problem. There are numerous instances of incompetent staff being supported by family members on their rise through the company’s ranks. Likewise, it is possible that personal hostility by senior members of staff could hamper the career progress of gay employees, even if their performance at work was outstanding]

“I’ve worked with many strange people whom can only be described as ‘creatures’. They would probably not be tolerated in other industries, let alone accepted, but have found a ‘home’ in engineering because they were so good at their jobs.
“Think back to the geeky school kid, with heavy rimmed glasses, who was bullied by all at school. That guy is as likely as not a respected engineer now.
[Note: how many respected engineers would admit to having been bullied at school, and was Jacob one of them? And again, it is assumed that engineers are exclusively male]

“This brings me to the second point. The recruitment pool argument weighs very little. Just as the school nerds tend towards engineering, those of the LBGT community tend towards the arts.
[Any evidence? This is the type of comment you might expect to see in the Sunday People in 1978, as part of a sensational expos
é called ‘The Twilight World of The Homosexual’]

“No disproportionate amount of group hugging will change that. And it amounts to an awful lot of effort for very few people just so a company can claim it is fluffy.
[Perhaps the diversity initiatives carried out by European and US firms have shown an impressive financial return that wouldn’t have otherwise been realised]

“If an effort has to be made, wouldn’t those resources be better spent addressing the social inadequacies of some existing employees? As good communication is the foundation of any business with serious aspirations.
“This might even help get more women into the sector by shedding the dull geek image.
[But he has just defended the dull geeks as being natural born engineers, and said that it doesn’t matter what you look like so long as you are good at your job]

“Lastly, the open sexuality argument weighs very little. A company’s primary responsibility is to seek a profit for the shareholders and secure employment for ALL its employees.
[No, a company’s primary responsibility is to maximise profit for shareholders by any and all legal means. The welfare and security of workers are tiresome burdens which can be overcome by increased use of advanced technology]

“And this isn’t about LBGT staff in a foreign branch feeling secure, where the likelihood of the laws of that country proscribes said sexuality. That company has to follow the laws of the land it operates in, or nobody will work there. Instructing engineers to accept LGBT colleagues is not going to change that.
“It provides the best workplace for all by not concerning itself with its employee’s personal lives, which is pretty creepy anyway.
[The birth of a child, or a major wedding anniversary, or a bereavement; these are aspects of employees’ private lives which have an impact on their performance at work, and need to be shared. If a company maintains a stolid indifference to pastoral welfare, then the workers may feel neglected and will start looking for jobs elsewhere]

“So what have we learnt?
“-Bullying bosses/colleagues are everywhere and at every level, pushing you to a result is their job. They tolerate/accept you on performance.
[I am not sure that any handbook of business studies would advocate bullying as a normal or productive means of getting results. Perhaps it is true that bullying bosses are everywhere; that wold help explain why there is such a high level of staff turnover in engineering]

“-A return from the recruitment pool is unlikely to justify the effort.
“-Private lives are called private for good reasons.
As for the right thing to do, that is the justification for saying tolerating is no longer enough, you must now accept (like).

[Note: The writer seems to find a clear distinction between the world of engineering and ‘the arts’. Surely part of good engineering practice involves component design, using fuel and materials in the most efficient manner possible. This strikes me as being an artistic endeavour – weaving together technical skill and imagination to obtain a superior result.

And when I read comments like these, I wonder if some people turn to careers in engineering because it offers a haven from the messy world of human relationships. People are irrational, uncoordinated, and prone to err; but machines are elegant and reliable.

Other comments made on the message board include remarks such as ‘We should appoint staff on the basis of technical ability, not because of sexuality or ethnic background. This ‘technical ability’ which they so revere does not appear by magic; youngsters are constantly exposed to a bewildering network of influences – parents, teachers, friends. If your dad is an engineer and helps you build model railways and gets you a holiday job in his company’s office, then you might end up having the natural abilities and skills desired by manufacturing firms]


Withered Calyx No.2, by Andy Warhol

Neurotic Supermarket Victims

You see them parade down the cereal aisle, the ongoing and retired, condemned to resent their hard-won success. With a stern, determined expression, they manoeuvre a cynical trolley and fill it with tempting consumer goods. Look, here is a neat array of packets; I shall discard the one at the front, and place in my trolley the one behind it. Look, here is a gallery of sliced meat in a pristine polythene portfolio, all arranged in date order. I shall carefully rummage through, moving them aside into a jumbled mess, so that I can take one that has the longest sell-by date. Yes, I’m going to have it for my tea this evening; but you can’t trust the supermarkets, can you? They only exist to rip you off, to sell a range of foods from multinational conglomerates instead of good old fashioned proper food. None of this foreign muck; I love to go to Spain with the missus, we can get egg and chips for breakfast and a doner kebab for tea.

Pity our Dawn can’t make it with us this year, but she lost her job. The manager accused her of stealing. Stealing! Cheeky bleeder – on his wage, he’s the one who should be accused of stealing. Anyway, she didn’t do it. Our Dawn isn’t that kind of girl, she was brought up properly. And anyway, stuff in a supermarket doesn’t actually belong to anyone until they’ve gone through the checkout and paid for it, so it doesn’t count as stealing. Not really.

Actually, I’m not sure about having ham salad for tea tonight; perhaps I’ll have something else. What else is there? I don’t know. I can’t think. I’ll have a tin of soup; proper food, that is. Here; I shall take this packet of cooked meat out of my trolley and abandon it here on a shelf next to some chocolate Bourbon biscuits. Never had chocolate Bourbon biscuits when I were a lad. Look at all these – choc chip and walnut cookies, red velvet cookies, golden crunch creams – it’s all gone mad. Never had mint flavoured Oreos when I were a lad. I remember proper supermarkets, the Co-Op, now that was a good old fashioned honest shop. You could get tinned peaches and evaporated milk. It was good enough for me; and it should be good enough for the modern kids. Kids, indeed; that’s all they are. They have mobile phone things, and they can watch mucky films on them, laughing about it with their friends; but then they carry on wearing jeans and trainers to go out in, like they were still teenagers. And none of them wears a tie these days. When I were a lad, you didn’t go out without a tie.

What sort of soup will I have? They all seem a bit pricey. Carrot and corraye-ander? What’s that, sounds like something you’d give a rabbit. Never had corraye-ander when I was a lad. What makes these youngsters think they’re so special, eh? If plain chicken soup was good enough for my parents, and it’s good enough for me, then why do they need to have all these different varieties?

Oh, that’s right, I need to get some toothpaste. Eh, where have they put the Colgate, then? There’s hundreds of different kinds – whitening, enamel defence, fresh breath, spearmint, peppermint, foaming antibacterial gel – but no Colgate. Hee, I’ve just remembered, I was walking past here last week and I suddenly decided that I didn’t fancy sausage casserole after all, so I took the sausages out of my trolley and put them back there, behind all the bottles of mouthwash where nobody would find them. I bet they wondered where that funny smell was coming from, eh, that were a laugh!

Our Dawn was on the phone last night, saying that her and her boyfriend have missed out on that house. Pity, really; it would be handy to have them just round the corner from me; we could go shopping together. Mind you, she can’t come in here any more, not after getting the sack. But still, I’m sure they’ll find somewhere. Mind you, she was in the hairdressers the other day having her nails done – always been proud of her appearance, has our Dawn, spends a fortune on makeup and nice things – and the girl doing her highlights said that her friend Sally had just got a new job in the estate agent’s down the road. Oh, that’s great, said Dawn. We must go out for a drink sometime, so they arrange to meet up in a wine bar – our Dawn’s very trendy, she likes to be seen at all the right venues, smart girl – and this Sally was ever so nice. After a few sherbets she let slip that the house round the corner has gone to a nice young couple, apparently they’re moving over here from Northampton. He’s a history teacher or something.

Chicken soup, yes, that’s what I’ll have. I might get something nice in for the weekend, maybe a bit of bacon. But then again, you can’t be too sure, can you? I mean, it might look okay in the packet, but somebody might have put it in their basket, and changed their mind, and left it at the checkout, and then the store just puts it back in the chilled cabinet and no-one’s any the wiser. No, I won’t have bacon – can’t be too careful. And you never know who’s been handling the stuff before it gets put on the shelf. No, we’ll just stick to good old chicken soup.

I posted that letter yesterday morning, so it might be there by now. Of course, I didn’t actually accuse anybody of anything – you can’t go round doing that sort of thing – but, well; don’t you think it’s a bit odd, moving all the way over here for work? And was there a report in the Northampton Gazette about a teacher who had been disciplined for collecting indecent images on his laptop computer? It’s a very serious matter to accuse people of doing something wrong, but all I did was ask the questions – and if it turns out that no such report ever appeared in the paper, well, there’s no harm done, is there?

Of course, when the girl in the hairdresser’s opens the letter, she will see that it was actually addressed to the Estate Agent, and will take it round to his office next door; but with any luck, she will glance through the contents and emit a horrified gasp before stuffing it back in the envelope with trembling hands. And, throughout the course of the day, the gossip in the salon will become less and less inhibited, and people will begin to speculate and the rumours will gather pace.

I’m not sure she likes chicken soup that much, our Dawn; when I went round to theirs she was doing lasagne and salad. And garlic bread! Oh god, I can’t abide the stuff. But she’s a smart girl, and I think it’s only right that I should do my little bit to help her. With any luck, I’ll be helping her to hang some wallpaper in a few weeks’ time…

Whitworth Galaxy, Part Three: April 2017

Since it was a lovely sunny day, I decided to go again to the Whitworth Gallery. Large chunks of Oxford Road are being dug up and repaired. Although it was warm, we didn’t have the hordes of students lounging on the grass in shorts and sunglasses; so I took photographs of the architecture instead.

Inside the gallery there were new exhibitions – from Deanna Petherbridge, a collection of large black-and-white drawings, vivid slabs of precise technical draughtsmanship, depicting stairways and pillars and military hardware and organ pipes. I was reminded of some pictures by the photographer Vincent Serbin, or of the imaginary ruins created on paper by John Soane, or the galvanised metal pipes left isolated after the closure of the Mason Coatings factory in Derby. If I had ventured into this gallery after a couple of glasses of Italian red, I think the pictures wold seem like windows overlooking a workshop full of dead machines.

Other delights at the Whitworth included the three-screen film called ‘Vertigo Sea’ by John Akomfrah, which gives simultaneous images of whale-hunting, Vietnamese Boat people and other marine dramas. The picture quality is stunning, but it is the soundtrack – surging waves, narrated texts – that makes the piece so compelling.
There was also a collection of etchings by Raimondi, working alongside Raphael, showing some erotic images and invented allegories. This legendary catalogue of sexual gymnastics is called I Modi.

And there was a collection of Warhol pictures, brought together from galleries around the world, including a large self-portrait and some abstract designs. I recall amny years ago that I was supposed to buy a ‘Secret Santa’ gift for one of my workmates, and had decided that a printed mug – with the Campbell’s Soup Tin design – would be absolutely perfect. Alas, I couldn’t track down one of these items, and she had to go without.
There has been much discussion lately about education in the UK, with the proposed return of widespread selection. Message boards on popular news websites have carried remarks about the worthless nature of modern degrees, and the disputed value of education. ‘Imagine turning up for a haircut and finding that the salon staff were having an argument about the merits of Harold Pinter or architecture in Prague’ said one correspondent.
But education is valuable – we are all surrounded by people who speak a different language in so many ways; we cannot learn the shared experience that allows groups of people to communicate effectively, but we can gain awareness and recognise the need to translate.

White Spirit

Journal Entry, Tue 4 Mar 2003: Rang Angela at Kelly Sci Resources: she said she only had my old details. ‘So how come you’ve got my Manchester phone number?’
She asked about my salary details. Wants to put me forward for a job in Widnes.
At work, had two batches of identical black paint for QC test, one for 300 litres, the other for ten litres.

Weds 5 Mar 2003: White primer for Perkins – slower drying required. Vil 259 being withdrawn so we can move to Synolac 78 perhaps.
The usual – I rejected a batch for being low gloss, and back it came, improved, but no additions recorded on the batch card.
[Note: we made the primer using lots of white spirit instead of the recommended xylene, because xylene is more expensive and reduces the viscosity more effectively. The resin is incompatible with WS, so the drying process gives an apparently matt film before all the solvent lost]

Fascinating evening at Poynton Bike Club: Tev and I were sitting on stage with club chairman, having given a short talk about MAG membership, when they went on to discuss other agenda items. At one point they were discussing their website having links to other clubs and someone (jokingly) mentioned GBMCC. ‘Well we could…’ said the chairman, ‘what do you lot think?’
There was a lot of murmured disapproval with some of the girls looking extremely hostile. [Note: it was interesting to be present in front of all these people and yet be invisible, as they had no idea I was gay, and they displayed an immediate negative response]

Tue 15 Apr 2003: At work, one of the main products contains about 0.3 percent of Thorcat, a phenyl mercury compound, but no mention is made of this being toxic on the works order form.

Fri 31 Mar 2017: Recent news events – following last year’s referendum, Theresa May has signed Article 50 and sent official notice to the President of the EU that Great Britain wishes to sever all financial and political connections with the EU. Mrs May is also very keen on Grammar Schools, and thinks that she can restore the UK to a state of grey uniform bliss, filled with typewriter ribbons, shiny bog roll and bowler hats, just like 1957.
A new design for the one-pound coin has been launched, featuring a host of subtle security devices to prevent forgery. Many years ago, one pound was a great deal of money. Today, it will buy about 930 cc of unleaded petrol, or one-third of a pint of beer. Or a daily newspaper. Or a large white loaf.
Celebrated buy-to-let champion landlord Fergus Wilson has hit the headlines after sending a list of instructions to the letting firm which manages his vast portfolio of houses in Kent. He instructs them that he is not prepared to accept certain classes of people as tenants, including battered wives, housing benefit claimants, smokers, single people, zero-hours contract workers and plumbers. He also made an unfortunate, deeply offensive remark about not accepting ‘coloureds’ as tenants since the smell of curry is very difficult to remove after they leave the property.
Does he imagine that ordinary white tenants aren’t keen on showing off their authentic Madhur Jaffrey kitchen skills?
Meanwhile, a grand civil engineering project called HS2 is in trouble. This high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham will reduce journey times by about three minutes and will create between twenty and eighty thousand new jobs, depending on which newspaper you happen to be reading. The contractors CH2M have withdrawn from stage 2b of the project, shortly after being awarded the contract worth 200 million pounds. Presumably newly-minted pounds, at that…
According to the Daily Fail, “American-based firm CH2M has been involved with HS2 Ltd since 2012 and has been awarded a £350 million deal to develop Phase 1 of the line from London to Birmingham. Mark Thurston, HS2 Ltd’s new chief executive, is a former CH2M employee, as was his temporary predecessor Roy Hill.”

As they say, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

30 Nov 2011: Back to work today after travelling to Cornwall for Xmas. As usual, Ryan was gruff and determined to avoid eye contact. Chris also v subdues. Danny hasn’t yet given me a rundown of Monday’s meeting about our revised hours of work. Today was a massive strike by public sector workers – schools closed, airports shut, and operations cancelled – because the Gov’t has imposed new pension agreements on them.

1 Dec 2011: Danny still hasn’t mentioned anything about Monday’s meeting with JC and the rest of lab. I asked if I could leave early next Monday to attend the OCCA c’ttee meeting, and he said ‘Yes, I suppose so, but you’ll have to make up the time by working over.’
Me: ‘Since when has this been a requirement?’ To which he replied that it’s always been the case. He also remarked that ‘we need to consider whether you’re attending these meetings as an ambassador for Exova or if it’s for your own personal benefit.’

1 Mar 2012: Last week Lynda sent us all an e-mail message saying that John C was going to give a presentation about our new three-year strategy and everyone was expected to attend.
JC is famous for altering the date of his meetings – the last one was changed five times in total – and of course tomorrow’s show has been postponed until next Tuesday, and moved down the road to The Lighthouse.



Santa Phailure

Journal Entry, 14 Dec 98: What a Santastic Weekend!

1.       A young boy in ASDA had to ask one of the store assistants to wake their snoozing Father Xmas.
2.      A huge gathering of Santas failed to make the record books when only two people turned up.
3.      Half-time entertainment at the Villa ground was a skydiving Santa. Alas, he missed the pitch and landed on the roof, breaking both legs.

Today at work sat in on managers’ meeting. Not that exciting.

Last Friday – in my absence – a huge list of short term projects (some not so short) was issued with a demand for deadlines.

16 Dec 98: Last night went to MAG meeting where two newcomers turned up, Paul and Matt; an ex-con who chatted drunkenly to me.

Today at work; Mike came into lab with an Xmas card for us all to sign, for Sherwin-Williams.

Overtime at work, shifting warehouse stuff. Eleven pounds an hour. I told them I would be in Cornwall but they still seemed annoyed when I said no.

Blagden’s have noticed lumps in our 630-line paint (made at Stokes); we have no retain samples because I was booted off the team. 


Farewell, Peter

Does anybody here remember
Stanley Moon?
Remember ‘How’ he said,
And ‘Where’ and ‘When’ and ‘Why’
Some sunny day?

Does anybody here
Want to forget Bill Gates?
Erase deliberately once or twice again
An avalanche of microstates
We label ‘Who’ and ‘How’ and ‘When’.

‘Cos somewhere floating round about
Are words that bring to life this tune
They wait for time to desiccate
And fall upon the ground like snow
To celebrate the life of Stanley Moon


Deer Dear Salixburg


Journal Entry, 22 March 2017

We decided to take a journey; a landscape of potential configurations lay before us, alternately tempting and daring to forbid. It was not clear whether our currency would be accepted in these streets, these towns; we could not agree on whether the streets and boulevards were made up of buildings or merely occupied by these.

To prepare for the evening walk, we had each made separate trips to look at the buildings, and to consider the unseen history of ideas that lay fossilised in their elaborate masonry. Even the plainest wall or doorway speaks to us; the absence of decoration is itself a form of decoration. He is awake who knows himself asleep.

Last night I was at work in the supermarket, replenishing the shelves with breakfast cereals. How strange that we should have adopted a particular type of foodstuff to eat early in the morning but at no other time. And how curious that the shelves are laden with numerous variations on a common theme; milled oats combined with flakes of wheat and corn and spelt and flax and barley. Sometimes with raisins and or sultanas and or cranberries and or almonds and or hazelnuts and or golden syrup (the use of the word ‘sugar’ is strictly forbidden in any foodstuff aimed at children, it is the essence of wickedness, it is the elixir of doom, it is the rancid semen from the jockstrap of Beelzebub, despite being an essential part of digestive biochemistry) or honey or cinnamon or chocolate or bananas.

I find myself humming Prince (‘Cinnamon Girl’ or ‘Raspberry Beret’) when I encounter these flavours on the shelf. It’s the Banana Splits Show! Twang the sharp Mandarin! I just wanna play around my baby’s tangerine… Sometimes I find that customers have carefully taken packets from the rear of the display area, perhaps due to some paranoid obsession with the number of packets on display or the fear that the front packets have been handled and touched and polluted by human contact with the flesh of the unbelievers. And sometimes I find that customers have taken perishable items – chilled lasagne, steak pie, chicken Kiev – and concealed them behind the wall of cereal boxes, ready to go stale and mouldy and swarming with unseen tormenters.

Sometimes I would find that packets had been removed from the display to leave a jagged arrangement of rectangles, like the built-up skyline of the town where we planned to hold our evening walk. The buildings had been there for many years; but their surroundings had flowed in and out of fashion, with the neo-brutalist paradigm coming to rest on a star of bleak forgetfulness. As we move closer to the buildings, different hierarchies of detail emerge and then disappear.

“It was on a Tuesday night in eighty-five that someone with a shotgun made their way up to the Valette suite. They had tried to assassinate the Lord Mayor once before, convinced that he was selling the entire city to his friends in the Department of Obscurity; to fully appreciate the beauty of this frontage, let us view it like so – “

And he handed us each a disc of coloured glass, a faint amber shade. “This is the new differential polariser, which helps to cut out interference from the future. You may find that it works a little better over the left eye than the right.”

We held aloft the smoked windows and looked at the office building. A slight improvement in detail was immediately apparent, and the surrounding tower blocks became gently unfocused and vague. The office looked as though it was breathing, an endless one-way cycle, sinking gently into itself, becoming more and more authentic.

“Rumour has it,” remarked Kashmir Five, “that some people look at buildings with the naked eye. They either don’t know about the lens of Orpelia, or they haven’t been told how to use it properly.”

We all looked serious, not too patronising, not too indulgent. Awareness is a gift and a burden. The individual can spend years carefully selecting the tinted lens that reveals to them the underlying truth.

Last night I was also working on the aisle given over to toilet rolls. In some parts of the world, they do not use any form of paper to wipe the posterior gateway after discharge. But here, we have an abundance of choice – budget tissue, recycled tissue, bog rolls with aloe vera, with shea butter, with coconut oil, quilted three-layer assemblies of diaphanous cellulose membranes. Oddly enough, I noticed that all the material was supplied either in white or a pale cream colour – the old blue and green and pink had been abandoned. Perhaps somebody has realised that, in defiance of the marketing mantra, there is such a thing as having too much choice.

Any task becomes noble when performed in a spirit of devotion.

Journal entry, 22 Mar 2005: Went over to the QC Lab to ask Gill if I could book some holiday time off.

‘Do what you like’ she said, not bothering to look at me. So I’ve sent my form to Rob with about twelve days booked. Aaron has volunteered to act as my assistant for the Employee Survey Presentation. It was only today that we learned that we were supposed to work in pairs.

At work I discovered that the production dept is using sodium nitrate instead of sodium nitrite as a component in WB paint – it acts to prevent flash-rusting on steel substrates. Had to quarantine the bag of raw material.

Journal entry, 13 April 2005: Rode down to Salisbury on Fri night – arrived before sundown, put up tent, campsite landlady hadn’t been warned about our arrival.

Pub for dinner – Sicilian Lamb.
Went down to Cattle Market for the meeting (MAG Ann Gen Conference) and heard that Mike C had been knocked off his bike on the way down, so I went to visit him in his guest house.
Then back to the Campsite to get the minibus to the evening do at the Cattle Market. We waited so long that when it eventually arrived we crammed 27 people on board.

[Note: after the AGC, on Sunday afternoon, I was riding home and had just left the outskirts of Salisbury on an A-road with no pavement. Up ahead of me I saw a dark shape suddenly fly out from a hedge on the right-hand side. I thought it was a bird, but it turned out to be a deer, which smacked into an oncoming MG sports car and ripped the bumper off. I had nowhere to stop so I rode carefully past this injured creature lying in the road. It was only several years later that I realised that if I had been riding slightly faster, then I might have been hit by this animal. And possibly injured. Or killed.]

Paranoid Cannabinoid

I’m lurking in the corner of the room
Gazing down at ruined words
And sentences that lie in coloured piles
Evoking paisley phosphorescent seas
Weightless and restless in equal domain
Like photons who run against the grain
Of space and all its possibilities.

High corners of this room
Watch me as I drift away
Borne aloft by mushroom parachute unseen
Tempered by the agile curves of chardonnay.

I lurk in one remaining corner of infinity
Left over from the moment of release
When ten dimensions rapidly succumbed
To the temptation of the trinity
While the burden of space upon us fell
Just so the march of time would never cease.

Journal Entry, 14 Oct 2010: This morning I arrived at work to find a huge van parked outside reception. On the side, professionally signwritten, it said: “f p & p, manufacturer’s of fume extraction systems and hoods”.
Then I found an e-mail message from John Carter asking Terry to pass on some water absorbance enquiry to me, including the phrase “Cause Tim is the worlds leading expert on this.”
So I e-mailed him back with a photo of this van, and said “I think your missing apostrophe has taken up residence on the side of this vehicle.”

16 Oct 2010: This morning I was listening to Radio 2 – The Who had just given way to James Brown and the Famous Flames – when there was an almighty rumbling noise without.

I looked out window and saw a wrecked Volvo, with a guy climbing out of the driver’s side window. [Note: even though a few seconds had elapsed, there were already several people taking photos with their smartphones of the incident. Monton Road runs East-West, so in the morning you get blinding sunlight straight in the eyes].
Then a hunky young man with nothing on appeared in the window of the flat opposite.

23 Mar 2017: Yesterday I went for some beauty sleep before going to work, and was woken by the alarm at 5.00 pm, to hear from the radio that a terrorist attack had taken place in London, where a lone person had driven a car along the pavement on Westminster Bridge, causing injury to forty people before then using a knife to murder a policeman.

2 Oct 2010: It’s raining hard, and has been doing so for about three hours. Have started ploughing through the Open Uni course book 1. Can’t find the ‘Register’ button on the Operations Management textbook website.
Posted a reply on the B203 Tutor Group Forum.

Breakfast – Cornish Wafers with rhubarb-and-ginger marmalade and crème fraiche, a sort of neomodern post-ironic take on the classic cream tea.
Went to town to buy a two man tent for next weekend, but couldn’t.
Went to pictures to see ‘Devil’ £8.25 at Odeon. A nice little film, eighty minutes long, felt like a very well-made episode of the Twilight Zone.
Had a drink in Via, came home and got off the bus in Monton to be accosted by a group of scruffy urchins asking ‘Penny for the Guy please’ but with no guy in sight.

Sat 17 Sep 2011: This morning I was down at the laundryette in Swinton, the one with psychedelic wallpaper, dusty net curtains and dead wasps everywhere; and in an elderly copy of ‘Chat’ magazine found a story about a girl who had been invited out by her friends for a drink on the night before her wedding, and had got smashed and overslept leaving her fiancé stranded in grief.
And I couldn’t help thinking that her ‘friends’ had carefully set this up to embarrass her because they were fed up with hearing about how she was having a white RR and a £2000 wedding dress and a lavish reception banquet because mommy and daddy had been saving up for this big day since she was born.
And also while in the washeteria the radio played ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’ which reminded me of the time I went to see ‘Cinderella’ at the Seven Stars pub in Penryn. Boris Johnson Prince Charming, with his sidekick Bald Eric – Gok Wan makeover – and the Sheila’s Wheels parody, ‘Never Let a Fairy Drive’.

13 Mar 2013: Visit today from Nick H (kA testing); he inspected their two tested items and was completely happy, i.e. no rust! Carl and I decided to transfer this hefty monstrosity (55kg) down in the lift, since the gantry was already occupied and there was no-one available to drive an FLT.

Of course, Matt McRae just happened to walk down the corridor in time to see us manoeuvring the pump-truck into the lift.
Naturally, he sent out an e-mail later on to remind everyone that the lift is only for use with people or light goods. I reckon there are one or two people at Exova who weigh more than eighty kilos.
But if we had told Nick ‘Oh, you’ll have to wait two hours before the gantry is going to be free’ we would have been told off for not creating ‘wow’. Sorry, ‘WOW!’
And Dean C, close friend and ex-colleague of Danny, Lynda and Geoff, has started wearing a tie to work (not supposed to wear a tie if operating the pillar drill, nobody else wears one) and when I remarked on this, he said ‘It doesn’t do to be too relaxed’.

8 Feb 2013: Today I was showing Dean C how to carry out ash content. As instructed by Danny (against my advice) we pre-heated the oven to 600 degrees before loading the samples. After closing the door we heard a muffled bang and a burst of yellow flame could be seen at the edge of the door as it was blown slightly open.
I also discovered that one of our standard 100-ml volumetric flasks is actually 104 ml, which is why Sue was getting SG values of 1.44 and 1.65 for two samples of the same powder coating.

At lunchtime we do the Daily Mail quiz: I read out a question to John Lee, ‘Which subatomic particles come in varieties known as flavours?’ He looked baffled, then said hopefully: ‘Nucleus?’ at which Moira looked up with a shocked expression. ‘What’s’ that about a uterus?’ she demanded.
We all laughed and I gave her a bonus point.

Mister Tangerine Man

Hey mister Tangerine Man
Please don’t Tweet to me
I’m not easy with the
Changes that we’re going through.

I’m tired of your bigotry, the hatred and the bile
That you churn out with a smile
And that seven-hundred mile
Barrier of concrete, steel and ignorance.

I’ve had it with your Twitter feed, it fills me with despair
And your yellow plastic hair
Makes me wonder if you care
About the nation that you claim to be a saviour to.

Hey mister Tangerine Man
It’s clear that you don’t see
And this blindness is the reason
I’m not following you.

Fred and Homer


Fred Flintstone is really Homer Simpson’s Dad…

Journal Entry, 30 Jan 2004: At work we’ve got half-a-dozen pallets of Uretech stuff – all the out-of-date material – brought into the paint shop.
All these various (black, white, grey) batches are being cut open and scraped into a couple of huge pans ready to be mixed and decanted and relabelled.
And rumour has it that all the Epoxylite stuff is to be moved down into the paint shop.

Reading ‘The Confessor’ by Jack Curtis and drinking Californian red and eating cappuccino truffles dipped in whipped cream.

9 Feb 2004: Today at work – five batches of choke paint to QC. Totally dull.

Also spotted a pallet with three bags of Lubestine extender pigment on it (which I think is a 50:50 blend of talc and dolomite). So why not use up some of my 975 kg spare dolomite wot I sent out a memo regarding?

[Note: upstairs in the paint dept was a pallet containing 39 bags of dolomite powder. This lot had been there for years before I arrived, presumably brought in for use in a new production line. Lots of dust settled on top. I sent a memo asking of we could work it off in something but had no reply]

24 Mar 2004: A few years ago the Stereophonics released a version of ‘Handbags and Gladrags’ which is very lyrical and gets played on a regular basis all over the radio, not to mention pounding from Andy’s office on auto-repeat for hours on end.

This song open ‘Ever seen a blind man cross the road…’ and it was only today that I heard this line and realised that, yes, I regularly see some middle-aged bloke holding a white stick (with red bands on it) striding purposefully across the A56 at quarter-to-eight every morning.

1 Apr 2004: A few weeks ago we had a new Eiger Torrance mixer installed at work. Me, to A Foll: ‘Yes, but is it Art?’
And this thing has a capacity of 2500 litres so would be ideal for many of our jobs. However, according to Andy it is meant exclusively for Uretech HFS base, while Paul W says it is meant for Epoxylite potting compounds.


If I were a ghost, who would I haunt?
Would I drift through languid spirals
Trapped for all time in my black vinyl vaults
Or perhaps in a page from the Waverley set.

Would I hang round, unseen in the Rembrandt Hotel
Some people have made a career out of that;
To recall how an amateur singer gave forth
Gray’s ‘Babylon’ on the night we first met.

Or the muted whisper of second-hand shirts
With nothing subdued in their hue or design
I bought them and wore them and washed them again
But, like everything else, they’re not mine.

Like a ghost I remain on the platform, about
To embark on a journey I’m going to dread
The train pulls away and I’m left all alone
With lurking confusion ahead…

12 Aug 1998: Today had lunch with Chris Steel. Steve Moor complained bitterly about everything. David Lawson (Production Manager) was sacked today. Still no call from Kev. Still no new pay structure at work – as promised by Mike H.

17 Aug 98: Today between 2-00 and 2-30 I rode to Sainsbury’s at Kingsway and came off the bike when I hit a large diesel spill on the entrance to the car park. Minor injury to hip; both left-hand indicators damaged. Immediately went to service station, asked them to put sand down to prevent further accidents.

13 Sep 1998: Scarborough MAG National AGC. Friday night we met up at Heather’s and set off (me, Heather, Paul, Liz and Janice) for the Old Schoolhouse at Low Marshes. Got to campsite fairly late, putting tent up in dark, neglected to put block of wood under side stand and it toppled over into the mud.
Went and had burgers and cider and danced and drank. Staggered back to bed. Woke up 8.00, paracetamol and coffee.
Rain, rain, set off for Spa Centre at Scarborough, got there late and missed opening address. Lot of morning given over to Chairman’s proposal regarding patch clubs. Magna Carta cancellation.

At lunch we wandered round, had fish and chips on the beach and some of Michael Winner’s favourite ice-cream. Back to campsite – bagels, olives, Danish blue, red wine, Scotch eggs. I went bed about 10.00, music (Spice Girls) carried on til 4.00 in morning.

14 Sep 1998: Today started moving into new lab – looks like set of a sci-fi movie with extraction hoses, steel worktops etc.
Unventilated locker room – rancid feet.
On Friday little Rob had a seizure and fell down stairs at work. Might have to lose driving licence on medical grounds.

17 Sep 1998: At work, people in canteen discussing a paedophile – a female scout mistress who has been shagging a 14-year old boy. Everyone seems to think this is great and she shouldn’t be treated as a criminal.

Fred and Homer

The Dome is just a fatal flaw
And stares out of a coma at the moon
I think it was your shirt I saw dancing
In its metal cave, identical to mine.

We need a temple made of squares
That greets tomorrow like an angry fist
Bold Crimson! Our new capital declares
That God itself is now a Futurist.

The Windows of Perception

Seeing a you that exceeds your own reality;
More vividly condensed upon the silicate
Your hair is fields, the face a city
Where the humble die while trying to be great.

Posing as your wife, I hover there
In the background, holding the boys, smiling the names
Keen to please a master forever unaware
Of my devotion to the church of dying flames.

25 Mar 2002: Consignia (wot used to be called The Post Office) has decided to get rid of 15000 workers to save money. Losing over a million a day. Three thousand PO branches to close.
Royal Naval dockyards going to close and shed jobs.
At work: memo from Steve M, he and Phil went to visit Air Prods who are totally happy with their current supplier so we have no chance of getting contract.

Last night’s Oscars Ceremony – Best Actor and Actress awards both went to Persons of Color (Halle Berry and Denzel Washington).
Railtrack shareholders to be bailed out with 300 million of taxpayers’ money.

e-mails: Cleo (former schoolmate) sent me a joke about some Irish chap diagnosed with cancer who tells all his friends at their farewell drink that he has AIDS – in order to stop anybody else going to bed with his wife.

Overlapping Symphony 

It’s Friday night in Birmingham; the
Late bus home describes an arc
I recall the roundabout, my own
Reflected face and swarms of city lights
Swept back from half-black windows, and
Disappearing to the street below – ‘There’s so
Much more to life than I’ll ever know.’

Against hard wind I ride a motorbike
Here on a bleak forgotten road; it’s hours
Since I’ve seen another car or heard the engine notes
From empty lorries full of moving noise.
Colliding protons find themselves already in tomorrow
‘The only thing I ever got from you was sorrow.’

There’s one last journey left for me to make
And one more treasure left for me to steal
But until then I dream of darkened streets where
My young self had yet to realise
The everyone today is chasing fame, and
Through it all, the Song Remains The Same.’

Conversation with Rob P, 26 Jun 2002:
‘Tim, are you going to Surfex?’
‘No, not as far as I know.’
‘Why not?’
‘Well, no-one has said anything about it to me.’

[Notes: in June 2002, a major sporting event called the Fifa World Cup was taking place, with the matches being broadcast on television – whatever that is. My work colleagues were all keen footie fans, and had carefully worked out when the matches featuring the England team were due to be shown, depending on the results from the preceding rounds.
The boss had instructed all the lab staff to attend the Surfex trade show, but they were not happy about this since it meant they would not be able to huddle round a portable TV and watch the England games.
So they identified the day when England would definitely not be playing, and arranged to go en masse, carefully keeping quiet about it when I was in the canteen…]

18 Sep 2002: At work we had a Tech Sales Meeting – I had been given a product costing by Andrea which was miles out. It turned out that she had divided by the SG instead of multiplying.
Phil H made some comment about waterborne drum paints being poor quality, not up to scratch. ‘Excuse ME!’ I cried.

11 Dec 2002: At work, everyone in the company pension scheme has been called to a meeting on Friday.
Last night we went to see The Funky Bananas – terrific! Gerry Rafferty, Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, Focus.
Rang Industrial Copolymers Limited and faxed Siber and Eastman to ask about CPO primers.
[Note: ICL offered to test some materials for me if I sent them substrate polymer. So I did, pointing out that it was PP and needed to be primed with CPO before bonding. So they just used a 2-pack epoxy on its own instead and obtained pitiful results]