Up the people
Ian Martin redesigns the world
MONDAY Redefine asset-stripping as ‘burlesque value removal’.
TUESDAY Sad news about the demise of one of the construction industry’s true giants - my Vertical Pilchard tower in Benidorm.
It was, briefly, Europe’s tallest residential building, conceived in happier times when Spain’s economy was booming and criminals were going on holiday a lot. Then certain killjoys pointed out that the Vertical Pilchard was a 250m-tall high-density block crammed with transient Brits on a packaged piss-up for a fortnight, so it couldn’t really be called ‘residential’. I tried the whole ‘what is life but a brief sojourn upon this earthly plane we call reality’ bumfluff but the tall tower verification bureau was having none of it.
Cravenly, the Pilchard’s new owners have reduced its height by 12 storeys to make it look less empty. It’s not Europe’s tallest anything now. Bah, I yearn for the good old days when iconic non-residential towers were owned by East End gangsters.
As my fixer Rock Steady Eddie put it: ‘Say what you like about their brutal taste in architecture, them so-called villains kept the leisure development sector safe for ordinary people. They had a zero tolerance policy towards slags and nonces and planning departments. Plus they wore proper suits, none of this Coalition Casual shit…’
He has a point. The ‘financial concordium’ now in possession of the (ludicrously renamed) El Crazy-Potato are just faceless, greedy buy-to-let crooks with no accountability whatsoever. Despite the fact that most of them sit in the House of Commons.
WEDNESDAY In the morning, design a ‘customer-facing service centre’ for a local authority. In the afternoon, design a ‘victim-blaming social security abattoir’ for a central government contractor.
In the evening, rough out a ‘self-congratulating hyperbolic chamber’ for my own amusement and gratification.
THURSDAY Lunch with Amy Blackwater the extreme enviro-ecomentalist. Say what you like about her hyperactivist politics, you’ve got to admire anyone who insists on wearing a balaclava in a heatwave.
I expected Amy to be still glowing from her media coup a couple of weeks ago, when she led a plucky band of mischief-makers up the outside of the Shard to protest at the commercial exploitation of high space. She’s glowing all right, but from a combination of stifling headwear and moral outrage. ‘Twelve hours, that’s all we had!’ she barks through a mouthful of raw vegan tapas. ‘Twelve shitty hours in the limelight, and then the newspapers discarded us like a…whatever, a yesterday’s newspaper. Twelve hours! It took us that long to climb UP the bloody thing!’
Still, I say. There were only eight of you. That’s like an hour and a half’s worth of national publicity each. Amy freezes with sudden inspiration. A clump of macerated veg falls from her fork onto her plate, a nut fragment falls from her balaclava into her drink, in an epiphanic boom-tish.
FRIDAY Amy calls, muffled but excited. ‘Just to say thanks, dude. Totally following your advice for widening the campaign. I agree, if you can abseil down it, it’s too high’.
I don’t even remember saying that. I wonder if I’m now starting to tune MYSELF out during lunch with people, just to be on the safe side…
SATURDAY Incredible. The news is full of Amy’s latest stunt in her ongoing campaign, People With Altitude.
She’s formed an alliance with other activist groups for a Portfolio Day of Action to protest about the colonisation of public air, post-capital capitalism, men, the ‘cartelisation of the media’, non-sustainable buildings, the Royal Family, sexism in corner shops, Iain Duncan Smith, generically modified education, unchecked privilege and carbon.
Instead of a few angry, fit people climbing up a massive building, thousands of agreeable, ordinary people are instead climbing up very small buildings. News channels show protesters scaling thatched cottages and post-war prefabs.
Slightly overweight urban guerillas risking bus shelter roofs. Wispy pro-polar bear types holding hands in a greengrocer’s awning. A gaggle of masked grans dancing on a bungalow roof, chanting ‘Weather, weather weather! Out, out, out!’
The great thing about this demonstration is how representative it is. Very much a People’s Protest. Lots of half-hearted protesters up a ladder for a bit, or just sitting in the attic. It makes you vaguely proud to be British.
SUNDAY Conduct my own occupation, complaining about the way things are while suspended in the recliner.