I am sitting high above the North Atlantic looking down on clouds of distinction hovering over a watery desert, wondering if Paul Hyett is the youngest RIBA president ever. I cannot check this here, but I suspect he is one of the youngest.
As his term in office reaches the mid-way point, I would like to ask him what he thinks is likely to be his greatest achievement during his presidency, and also what he will do next. I am thinking about Barbara Castle, who died aged 91, who, at the height of her political career, was very effective in making things happen. One of her achievements was the breathalyser, which has saved many lives since its introduction. She made this happen. What is Paul Hyett's breathalyser?
Ronald Reagan was the first Hollywood actor to become president, and it looks as though Bill Clinton may soon be the first president to turn himself into a TV star. Mr Clinton has been talking with NBC television about becoming a talk show host. The expresident wants $50 million a year for what would be a daytime show, in direct competition with Oprah. It is thought that Clinton, who was the youngest president of the US, is missing the limelight. Apparently, he has been wondering what his second act should be after the White House.
Our incumbent president at Portland Place also enjoys the limelight, and will probably find it dull to go back to the millstone of general practice. I can see Paul absorbing himself into the nether regions of BBC 4 with occasional topical interviews on BBC 2 and Radio 4.
Our president could be very good as some sort of environmental probe to ensure fair play. Even though I felt he did not understand my comments on the RIBA in this column, I still have a respect for him.
This respect is sometimes tested - like when I read about him asking for all new presidential candidates to declare what financial backing they might have.
He was a little quick to condemn Annette Fisher as I am not sure that she has done the things she was 'accused'of. And even if she has, whether it is such a bad thing. The fact that she may have been the poorest (financially) of the runners probably means that it is awkward for younger architects to compete for this august post.
I am pleased that she came forward as a possibility because, before Fisher's presence, the choice was a poor one. It is too late for the president to make calls for accountability at this stage: the horse has already bolted.But surely the RIBA should already have rules in place? Even if they do exist, I then worry about whether it is possible for the poorer members of our profession to become elected if, as it appears, a campaign has to be mounted at a cost.
I fail to see exactly where the money is needed, but I would like to suggest that in the interest of fair play, a donation should always be made to any candidate who has an income below a certain level to make sure that they can afford to stand without either disadvantage or the need to raise funds.
Perhaps this sum of money could be deducted from the current president's future income as a star of the media.
WA from seat 6A, flight AC 849, London to Toronto