The world of conservation is a small one, even for homeless bees
Ian Martin attends the Hon. Aeneas Upmother-Brown’s charity garden party
Monday. Pitching for a big housing scheme in Taiwan. They want something with a British look, so I’ve styled it on a Latvian business park, with ‘damp Mediterranean’ courtyards.
Tuesday. Emergency meeting at the Institute of Urban Garden Design. In the chair: Isis de Cambray, magic arborealist.
The institute has been stung by accusations that it is disconnected from current affairs, and has convened to demonstrate that it’s ‘plugged in’.
As Isis says, ‘In an uncertain world, beset by so many problems, the provision of hallucinatory tasting gardens, ethnic bamboo-framed water features and post-funky nanogazebos has never been more relevant’. After a gently warmed debate, the Institute agrees to:
WELCOME the current public interest in ‘slut walks’, with the proviso that they are properly landscaped with plenty of bark, an ironic perspective and a ‘Lady Gagarden’ at the end, with bar and disco.
REMAIN AMBIVALENT about the concept of ‘localism’ until the Coalition clarifies its policy. Does ‘garden localism’ simply mean the encouragement of smoking lawns at pubs? Will localism emphasise the importance of ‘place’ in garden theory, eg at the back of a house? Should gardeners buy only locally-sourced pot plants, from their nearest B&Q?
CONDEMN in the strongest possible terms the current craze for ‘extreme planking’. ALL decking is a form of fascism, shutting out a vulnerable refugee population of tiny life forms – feral mice, rare lichens and some really fascinating insects.
Wednesday. Lunch with Dusty Penhaligon, the conservactionist. His quandary this week is what to think about 86 Paddington Shoulder, the iconic Thatcher-era lump of petrified capitalism with a little ice rink in the middle.
Dusty welcomes the mischief of conserving an undistinguished complex, which at the time symbolised a depressing new wave of architectural acquiescence.
Paddington Shoulder was a trailblazer, all right. It elevated the developer to the status of ‘patron’ and allowed him to do more or less what he wanted for the rest of the 1980s – wear a toga, get a knighthood, etc.
Paddington Shoulder was also emblematic of a whole new planning mindset. Patron with haughty architect in tow + timid Postmodern design + public seating area = planning permission. You can see why Dusty is so keen to preserve it, even if it does look shit.
But of course, he’s going to back a ridiculous plan by the Ghost Town Recreationists, a guerilla alliance of psychogeographers, psychoarchaeologists and psychoarchitects. They propose removing 86 Paddington Shoulder and restoring the site to an exact facsimile of its previous incarnation: coal truck shunting yard, puppy market, tripe shop, 12 little kiosks selling tobacco, girdle factory, World War II bomb site.
Thursday. To a press conference at the Department of Entertainment. Architecture minister the Hon. Aeneas Upmother-Brown is also addressing the issue of historic 20th Century buildings. For example: why are some landmark buildings being preserved for the nation, often as museums of themselves, while others are just smashed up like stale cake?
Upmother-Brown is, as usual, accompanied by his swarm of pet bees. While he suavely addresses the room they circle around his head, looking quite suave themselves. ‘Listing is a complicated process in and of and up itself,’ he murmurs from within the gentle mantle of bee drone. ‘Each building judged on its merits. We take it all very seriously…’ His eyes swivel as he focuses on his bees ‘…don’t we, my darlings?’
Friday. Can’t be arsed. Have a lazy pastiche of last Friday.
Saturday. Cotswolds. I’ve been invited to the Hon. Aeneas Upmother-Brown’s charity garden party, held in aid of homeless bees. It’s a proper country pile. I had no idea he was so filthily rich, even though he is notionally in the Cabinet.
I’m on my second punch when I hear the approaching buzz of Upmother-Brown and his shawl of bees. He’s dying to show me something. After a half-mile slog we’ve reached a massive secluded building, an old orangery. Inside, amazing, it’s crammed with scale models of important buildings up for listing. And thousands of bees.
He explains. As soon as the Thirty Year Rule bestows eligibility upon an architectural ‘gem’ he has a balsa wood replica knocked up. If bees make a home in it, it’s listed. Sadly, bees hate Brutalism.
Now a ragged swarm investigates the miniature 86 Paddington Shoulder, tentatively…
Sunday. Create a hive of inactivity in the recliner.