Boom time for high-rise London
Ian Martin considers blowing up the Shard
MONDAY To Seaquest Detention Park, on a PFI stretch of the Lincolnshire coast.
It’s the flagship of the new ‘free prison’ fleet, run by secure accommodation provider Capitcha. I’m here to see my old friend, the ecomentalist Amy Blackwater.
Amy’s getting out next month on semi-compassionate grounds. As a wheelchair user she’s more expensive to keep banged up at Her Majesty’s Indifference.
The parole people have decided it’s better for everyone if Amy’s sent home, declared fit for work and has her benefits cut. Again.
She seems very cheerful when I meet her in the prison soft drinks bar. She’s been guzzling Virgin Marys and they’ve left a lipsticky smile on her balaclava.
I wonder briefly why she’s wearing a headscarf as well. What’s she planning to do when she’s released? She points firmly to the ceiling. ‘That is in the hands of ALLAH!’ The nearby ox-faced teenage security guards move away a little.
TUESDAY Thank God, or Allah, for that. Amy’s new religion is merely a ruse, another way of making herself indigestible.
The privatised prison whale does not want a Muslim in a wheelchair roiling around in its guts. It wants to spit her out into the privatised sea of social services as quickly as possible.
Once the guards were out of earshot yesterday, she explained that for the past few months she’s been corresponding with a billionaire anarchist.
‘Calls himself The Angel of Death. Used to be a developer in the ’80s. Patron of the arts or some shit. Apparently Prince Charles and that lot stopped him building a load of skyscrapers?
‘Now he’s watching all this bollocks go up in London and he is well bitter innit. Wants his revenge. Very interested in my past experience with explosives.’
I urge caution. People don’t get out of prison and then just start blowing things up. ‘He’s dropped a mil in my account. Mate, I’m bringing down the SHARD. You in?’
Oh God, I don’t know.
WEDNESDAY The secretary of state for work and pensions wants me to ‘rebadge the nanny state’. I’m wary.
The thing about Shitter is his capricious temperament. To his enemies he is a sneering Victorian melodrama of a man, an insufferable wanker, a sentimental yet spiteful bastard who greatly admires the work of Richard Curtis.
Yet friends, tenants, staff and employees all tell a very different, corroborated story. They say Shitter’s a compassionate man, that Richard Curtis films make him CRY. Ha ha. Sure. I remember when Shitter pulled the wings off a wayward sparrow during the launch party for his book on Christian morality, The Charitable Mind.
He’s a very quiet man. At meetings you can miss half the stuff he’s mumbling. Or you suddenly realise you haven’t heard him say anything for a while and there he is, hunkered down in a corner, finger to his lips, going ‘shhhh…shhhh…’
Amy must never find out. As well as blowing up the Shard when she gets out she has also sworn to take Shitter’s face off with a strimmer. I don’t want to be collaterally strimmed. I’m not telling her.
THURSDAY Difficult to see what’s left of the ‘nanny state’ TO rebadge. All benefits are now shame-tested. All non-free schoolchidren are demonised. All primary care patients are timewasters; all acute patients are bedblockers. With the help of the newspapers the Coalition’s already recast food banks as political acts of aggression, and the smoking areas outside job centres as terrorist training camps.
My solution: redefine ‘nanny’. Instead of being the sort of nanny who nurtures our most vulnerable people, let it be the other sort of nanny, who’s just died, and we’re selling off her bungalow to a developer.
Shitter hits the roof, thinks I’m taking the piss. A row escalates. He says he knows people who could have me ‘roughed up’. I tell him I know someone who could take his face off with a strimmer.
FRIDAY That’s it. Fuck Shitter. And I am SO blowing up the Shard.
Amy’s given me some contacts to chase up while she’s in clink. We’re calling ourselves the Space Avengers. As those riot policemen always say: bring it on.
SATURDAY Fifty grand’s appeared in my account, tagged ‘THX-AoD’.
SUNDAY Moment of doubt in the recliner, dispelled by feeling of equilibrium. And a much better balance.