Ian Martin heads to the beta-village of Block Rocking Heath
Monday. First meeting of the Coalition Heritage Committee under the chairmanship of new minister Oliver Jamey.
Conservatives on proper seats, Lib Dems on beanbags at the back. Our agenda, like everyone else’s in Westminster these days, is driven by selfinterest and the will to survive. Correction: the national interest and the need to cut spending. Today we’re discussing Britain’s Georgian architecture, and the practicalities of making it pay-per-view.
Historically, Georgian architecture has been free to look at, but the General Election has utterly ‘changed the game’ here as everywhere else. All those hours when nothing much was happening, we were glued to a live feed of a gentlemen’s club in Mayfair where Cameron was framing his thoughts on equality. Or aerial shots of Downing Street, zooming in occasionally
on a postman filling in one of those ‘we called but you weren’t in’ cards. Very soothing. There was intense rivalry at the time, the BBC’s state Chinook versus the HD Skycopter. Now we’re encouraging a bidding war. The winner will be allowed to broadcast Georgian architecture, the loser will have to pixellate it out.
Tuesday. Will nobody speak up for the world’s wealthiest people, denied a luxury apartment at Chelsea Barracks? I will, for a preposterously generous fee.
Wednesday. To Block Rocking Heath, an experimental ‘beta-village’ in deepest Essex. Here, leading green extremists, post-urbanists and scowling chancers casually congregate to plot a new world order in their heads.
I’ve come to have lunch with my friends Dusty Penhaligon the conservactionist and Amy Blackwater, the self-styled ‘ecomaniac’. Their dangerous liaison has inspired a new generation of young ideological archi-terrorists more than willing to sacrifice their lives in the cause of aesthetic jihad, especially after three years of unpaid intern work in bossy commercial practices.
Dusty and Amy’s big forthcoming gig is at Finsbury Health Centre. They’re waiting for it to reopen as a private sector luxury pampering vortex so they can blow it up. I tried talking them out of it. The loss of innocent lives is a powerful argument, but D&A’s trump card is that Sting has agreed to come along on launch night and play his lute.
Meanwhile, they’ve discovered a vast potential market for the violent destruction of buildings. They are extremely picky about the clients they’ll talk to, obviously, and insist on a moral justification for pulverising architectural targets. But still, I think they’ve been surprised by the level of interest ‘out there’. They’re currently considering an offer from a shadowy group of ultra-Scottish nationalists who want to atomise the parliament building on the grounds that its overwrought neuroticism is at odds with the nation’s bluff, genial, hard-drinking, slightly out of focus self-image.
Dusty and Amy initially thought they’d be turning away loads of dodgy businessmen keen to have uneconomic buildings blown up for the insurance money. But everyone reckoned without our Islamophobic risk assessment system, which classifies any terrorist attack as an Act of Allah. Most UK insurance documents, of course, are C of E.
I implore them not to blow anything up until we’ve all had a chance to think things through. Bloody coalitions, total pain in the arse.
Thursday. The Heritage Committee has awarded Georgian architecture screen rights to Rupert Murdoch. Obviously Lib Dems and Tories are completely committed to the BBC, but Sky tabled an unbeatable package. More money. Much better reception, with champagne and quality nibbles. Plus a tie-in with the Sun, whose Georgian Girls will offer a Page Three briefing on the classical tradition every day with their tits out.
Friday. A Designing Against Terrorism conference. Hours of hand-wringing drivel about how to make landmark architecture more bomb-proof, and the summary is: ‘encourage more terrorists to become architects’ and ‘improve public spaces so that more non-bombers live there, reducing the percentage of terrorists per thousand’. I’m in the bar afterwards with one of the organisers. ‘Bullshit, isn’t it? What we REALLY need is ex-terrorists advising us, like those burglars who become home security consultants…’
Saturday. Return to Block Rocking Heath. I tell Amy and Dusty the market’s wide open for them to become anti-terrorist advisers. ‘And sell out?’ fumes Amy inside her balaclava. Dusty sucks on his roll-up and stares into the distance. I sense a domestic brewing, and leave.
Sunday. Go Georgian in the recliner by remaining solid and symmetrical.