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Wheels within deals

Ian Martin catches the value train and gets a table seat next to the window

MONDAY Redesign Egypt for the second time in two years. Apparently my last branding makeover - ‘Spring-Fresh Arab Glastonbury’ - is looking tired.
‘Hackneyed’. That was actually the word used by my contact Guy, the posh project liaison officer who’s acting for a mysterious international consortium now bidding for Egypt 2.1: The Rebuild.

That’s pretty rich, I must say, coming from someone who LIVES in Hackney and dresses like the Boden version of a Cairo street protester. This time I’m going for a loose-fit, short-life ‘military casual’ look.

TUESDAY I wish certain people would make their stupid minds up. The Society For Antique Preservance has objected in the most forceful and bleating way to my masterplan/overhaul of the Clement Atlee Arts Complex, Elephant and Castle.

My proposal is to encase the modest huddle of public galleries and a community centre in a sparkling pastry of retail units, fine dining opportunities and a stylish clump of apartments called something enigmatic like The Waterfall or whatever. We’re still waiting for the marketing people to cast their spell.

Of course, you can’t make a vibrant new city hamlet without breaking a few hearts. The contents of the galleries and community centre will be redistributed throughout the Elephant and Castle as part of a social policy to develop a customer base for local arts and pensioners’ lunch clubs within the wider, vaguer community itself. Admittedly some of the actual building will have to go.

Yet the conservationists call for my masterplan to be rejected, demanding a ‘fresh approach and new thinking’. This is at best disingenuous, as they clearly prefer a stale approach and old thinking, ie leave everything alone. The hypocrisy of these muddled preservationists sometimes is just breathtaking.

WEDNESDAY ‘Once that value train gets under way, you don’t wanna be stuck in the standard class quiet coach, mate…’ says my fixer Rock Steady Eddie, through a mouthful of hand-shucked artisan peanuts.

‘You wanna be at the front, son. DRIVING that value train, innit. Ok, maybe not driving it, but definitely in the first class bit with the free wifi and muffins. You getting a round in? We need more of them peanuts, they’ve all gone, look’.

Working lunches would be much easier if Eddie sent me proper briefing notes in advance. What the shuddering arse is a ‘value train’? He gives me one of his ‘don’t take the piss on my manor or I’ll give you a spanking’ looks.

‘A value train is the vehicle that delivers creativity and economic efficiency, all joined up together like an 11-coach Pendolino, you muppet. Used to be called the gravy train in the good old days when they had steam engines, before Branson and his mates bought everything up and the internet happened…’

Whatever. It’s just another mindset. Resolve to catch the value train and get a table seat next to the window.

THURSDAY Big job today. I’ve been asked to remodel Kensitas Tip, the Grade II-listed office tower in central Tamworth designed by ’60s urban ‘groove auteur’ Sir Nobby Carshalton.

In the morning I catch the value train by hitching 364 luxury flats to 12 ‘affordable units’ and travelling non-stop until lunchtime. In the afternoon, I hop on the air-conditioned quality coach by creating a new pay-per-use public square at street level.

In the evening I settle into the luxury long-haul business class flight to viability by reading the client’s mission statement. It includes the phrase ‘landmark destination’. I feel sudden turbulence as the viability plane is dangerously destabilised by the rough air of contradictory nonsense.

A landmark destination? You’d see it, get your bearings, then go there to be there? I can hear terrified screams as the viability plane plunges into the ground, smashing its way into the quality coach and finally derailing the value train and it all goes up in a burning mangled heap in my head.

FRIDAY The important thing after having a transport-analogy accident is to get back into the saddle as soon as possible, so I mount my bicycle of sustainability, trundle through some sketches for internal refurbishment, then have a little nap.

SATURDAY Five-a-zeitgeist theoretical football. Pop-Up 0, Opt-Out 1 after half time. Match abandoned following dematerialisation and shirt-swapping. Opt-Out goes forward to the preliminary round on aggregate as Pop-Out.

SUNDAY Occupy the recliner of energy conservation, using natural ventilation and power-saving strategies.

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