My job is to prepare them for a world grown more heartless. I split them into two groups. The ‘architects’ are told to collaborate on a design for a children’s hospice and then organise a charrette to talk it through. Meanwhile the ‘insurers’ and I spend all afternoon at the pub and don’t return.
TUESDAY. To Poundbury for a ‘refocus group’ convened by The Man Who Would Theoretically Be King. Oh yes, be afraid, Charles is back. Last year he bored himself into a mild depression with a series of widely ignored blurtings on such pressing issues as the Book of Common Prayer and local potatoes. Now he’s returning to his signature theme of architecture.
The heritage people have glumly agreed to let him front a new campaign to protect the City of London, and he’s taking it very seriously indeed. We’re in a facsimile of a Nissen hut used by the residents association. Charles is at the front dressed in his air chief marshall’s uniform. First we’re shown a short film, a flyover of the Square Mile. ‘Sort of a Spitfire’s-eye view… see the marvellous
higgledy-piggledy medieval streets… but oh dear, what’s this? A ruddy great liquorice allsort! A vile provocation to plucky Londoners. Imagine leading a bombing raid on THAT, ladies and gentlemen…’ As The Dambusters March strikes up, I notice he’s got the beginnings of a little pencil moustache.
‘Who are our allies in this new War on Horror?’ he asks needlessly, as he’s written them on the blackboard. ‘1. Recession. A global economic downturn means less money for ghastly skyscrapers. 2. Deference. The natural instinct of the English Speaking Peoples is to follow inspirational leaders such as Winston Churchill and myself. 3. Simile. By deploying powerful invective we can send Johnny Hedgefund scuttling off with his planning application between his legs…’
And that’s where I come in. He’s got a big speech coming up. Could I tweak it a bit, make it more sarcastic? I agree, reluctantly at first, before he hands me the envelope with the cheque inside.
WEDNESDAY. I’m about to make a killing from the Olympics. Not the Stratford one, although I am buying some allotments on the site of the proposed Ping Pong Superdome. No, the one in Beijing. Now the British and Chinese governments have signed a joint memorandum (Human Rights: A Sliding Scale) businessmen are flocking there for some follow-up philanthropy.
The posher Brits stay in secret boutique hotels inside the Forbidden City, where they disdainfully imbibe centuries of Chinese culture. But Communist billionaires aren’t interested in that. They want timeless, aristocratic England as immortalised in BBC drama. Which is great, as I’m a major shareholder in Cockney Town, a gated luxury leisure hamlet for Anglophiles. Georgian terraces, an English village green, winding cobbled lanes, a thatched pub serving hexagonally-stacked ‘fat gastro chips’ in straw boaters, K2 telephone boxes everywhere and gurning extras wearing Laura Ashley smocks. To add a real touch of class, we’ve got Morrissey over for a month to curate a Diana Dors season at the half-timbered cinema.
Yes, the complex is a private, heavily guarded place. But sometimes you have to create walls in order to build bridges.
THURSDAY. Start editing Charles’ speech. Change ‘as inappropriate as a stereogram playing skiffle music in a Regency drawing room’ to ‘as shocking as a severed
head in a cake-shop window’. Change ‘deconstructed glass monolith’ to ‘300m of frozen piss’. Change ‘aesthetically bankrupt follies’ to ‘monstrous carbuncles on a terrifying Cloverfield-scale architectural rampage’.
FRIDAY. Conference in Leeds – How Sustainable is Wayne Hemingway? Summary: he uses too much energy, his critiques of British cities are indistinguishable from each other, and there’s a sort of vacuum in the middle of him.
SATURDAY. Rethink my Hebridean wind farm as a less controversial ‘air bank’.
SUNDAY. Spend most of the day testing a new floating recliner, the Maglev Hoverbunk. It’s based on the principle of repulsion. Not only are there magnets involved, the recliner itself has been cast in an exceptionally ugly yellow synthetic polymer.