My writing, Poetry, Writing

Office Trim

I wrote this several years ago; the idea came to me during a particularly uncomfortable meeting with a contractor. I keep changing my mind with regards to the title; sometimes it’s “Six Degrees of Freedom”.

We meet to discuss resources, not people.
Outsourcing, insourcing, TUPEs
And how many FTEs
We need, and how many are superfluous;
We must trim our budgets and our manpower, our undertakings.
But it’s ok; they’re only contractors, and road diggers at that.

We roll with it.
We don’t discuss names but
Full-time equivalents
Each FTE is a person, each team is two,
And a gang is not as it sounds,
A menacing mass of uncomprehending brawn, but
Four living emissaries, who toil to shift the earth and uncover the cables
Whose surge we all live and die by

And as we talk, and look at charts
And calculate how many people to discard,
My eyes swaying, I notice the room divider.
Teak veneer, with a trim at each end to hide the workings
Of the sliding thing which can increase room volume productivity,
Cleave its capacity, double its output.
Efficient divider! We could learn from your mechanism.

I take in this room; the air conditioning set to minimum,
A frigid herald of our decision making.
A false ceiling has a double crisscross trim and
Hangs over us as we crisscross the names on our lists.
The trunking is enclosed in a thick conduit,
The data cables and plugs are docked into
A cunning bay that pops up in our midst.
Startled, we retire it to its depths again
The whiteboard slides slickly on its runner as
We strike off the names from its impassive non-permanence

We make heavy going of this administrative exercise
And shirk our responsibilities
As they heave their muscles with a degree of freedom*.
We yawn and yaw from the task in hand;
While their dirty rough hands are cleaner than ours
Even when we finally pitch the spoil and call for the muck away gang
To clear up today’s handiwork


* The six degrees of freedom are the number of independent parameters that define a mechanical system’s configuration.

 Moving up and down (heaving)
Moving left and right (swaying)
Moving back and forwards (surging)
Tilt backwards and forwards (pitching)
Swivel left and right (yawing)
Pivot  side to side (rolling)

And The Buntings Flew, My writing, Writing

My Research Trip to Belfast for “And The Buntings Flew”

I’ve just returned from a  three-day break to Northern Ireland; the trip was definitely a mix of pleasure and writing research – the first thing I did after checking in at the wonderful Europa Hotel (the most bombed hotel in Europe) was to head for the Belfast Central Library Newspaper archive.

And The Buntings Flew, the novel I’m half way through writing, is based in 1970s Northern Ireland, specifically, Belfast and those of you who have read my blog posts will know that it’s at least partly autobiographical, with a  generous pinch of artistic licence.

My research at the newspaper archive bore some fruit, but this success was tinged with sadness and uncertainty; the Troubles left very few families untouched, and I now have to contemplate and investigate the new information I uncovered.

Despite any unease I felt while reading through the microfiches from 1975 and 76, they did offer, for a writer, a wonderful window on the past. I was particularly interested in the world news, and closer to home, the adverts; in 1975 the Northern Ireland government had members warning that if the UK voted to join the EEC (Common Market, and we did), that it would grow from a trade agreement to a federation of European states with a  loss of UK sovereignty, which was a very topical read!

Some of the job adverts would be illegal today; some jobs called for “men”, “Christians”, and the jobs that females could apply for often called for “girls!” Such was life in the 1970s.On the plus side, a three-course meal with entertainment could be had from as little as £1.20 per head at a selection of Belfast hotels and restaurants!

I’ll be posting some more about some of the information I found in the archive library, but for now, I just wanted to post some pictures from our trip of the wonderful places to visit in Belfast and the rest of Northern Ireland (we confined ourselves to County Antrim on this trip.)

I’m also pleased to relate that I brought back lots of Thompsons Tea and vegetable roll, both Northern Irish treasures that I wrote about in my article lauding the Foods of Ulster!