Ian Martin proposes the high-speed English Circle Line (ECL)
MONDAY It is with great solemnity that I take up my new role as the coalition government’s temporary Common Sense Tsar. I look forward to bringing my unique approach of lunch-based conciliation to several so-called ‘intractable’ problems facing the built environment in the next few days, after which my probationary performance will be reviewed and rewarded with a permanent post, I hope.
By mid-morning, my Common Sense Tsar inbox looks pretty full. I take a calm overview and award myself a long lunch.
TUESDAY If there’s one thing history has taught us it’s that peace is better than war. How ironic that some of the longest and bitterest battles between developers and conservationists have been fought over the future of historic battlegrounds themselves.
Even unwarlike historic sites have become battlegrounds. The bloody Battle of Stonehenge has dragged on for generations now and still nobody is entirely certain what the occult formation of ‘visitor centre within car park’ originally signified.
Today I have convened the battlefield opponents. On one side, the high speed rail enthusiasts who want to drive a railway through the ancient site of the Battle of Morsen Lewis in Oxfordshire. On the other, the powerful cultural guardians of Sponsored English Heritage, who definitely don’t want that to happen.
After three courses and several armagnacs, both parties agree to cease hostilities, which have included very nasty physical threats and a carefully orchestrated Twitterstorm.
I feel a warm glow of achievement, which later turns out to be armagnac-inspired dyspepsia.
WEDNESDAY My common sense solution is a high-speed English Circle Line which, instead of accidentally bisecting key battlefields, does it deliberately.
The ECL would plough right through the middle of Bosworth Field in Leiestershire, Yorkshire’s Marston Moor and all the major centres of historic carnage in England. New transport/heritage interchanges would stimulate the creation of exciting new ‘battle destination experiences’ designed in a historically contemporary style and housing graphic scenes of violence, restaurants etc.
This solution also allows the train people to stop worrying about being murdered by single men in their twenties who have full beards and big swords with girls’ names.
THURSDAY Seek reconciliation between two hugely influential Mercian warlords. Kenny Wrathshield, direct descendant of Wrathshield the Baby-Eater who according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles ‘did perish through consumption of tainted pudding’. And Julie Bloodbath, whose ancestor Bloodbath the Man-Butcher went on to become a cliché.
Both are claiming air rights for the proposed new Tamworth ‘health service providers outlet centre’ which will replace the existing NHS hospital’s A&E, maternity and intensive care units. Their argument is that all air above the site was consecrated during the reign of Offa and therefore is one of the spoils of war. After an eighth century lunch (charred boar, trough of mead) everyone agrees to call the Battle of Tamworth Infirmary a draw. Mr Wrathshield and Ms Bloodbath will split the equity stake in all retail, leisure and entertainment opportunities above the new community wellbeing and lifestyle hub.
FRIDAY Reconcile the North-South divide with an ornamental coast-to-coast ha-ha.
SATURDAY I’m officially off duty today but such is my dedication to common sense that I act as a voluntary tsar at the pub.
The Bride of Russia is located in a four-storey basement extension commissioned by my friend Dmitri the oligarch for his Kensington mansion. It’s a great pub. The Victorian fixtures were rescued by Dmitri’s diligent team of salvage hunters following the break-up of basement pubs recreated in the 1960s from original features rescued from Victorian pubs bombed during the Blitz. Dmitri’s other guests include his architect Django Liberace and Colin Trout, the outsourced planner in charge of objecting to dangerous excavations in residential areas then inevitably agreeing to them.
The evening begins predictably enough with the planner as a common enemy of the client and architect. But by midnight everyone’s gone all-in vino veritas in the luxury solarium and it’s clear that the planner isn’t the architect’s enemy. The client is. It’s the client who through sheer force of wealth forces the architect to design exactly the kind of morally unsustainable, egomaniacal bullshit that same architect would vehemently oppose as a neighbour, or abhor as a passer-by in a beret.
I seem to have caused more problems than I’ve solved here, but have more champagne anyway.
SUNDAY Reconcile self with recliner.