The curse of the in-trays and a treasure trove of 'useless' trivia
Nowadays, when every architectural magazine that is not about suspended glass facades is about the keyworker housing problem, it is time to strike out in a different direction entirely.
My starter for 10 this week is in-trays, of which I have five, plus one massive slush pile that is bigger than than all the in-trays put together.
The first in-tray is called 'Countryside'. This was originally intended to hold cuttings from newspapers about the evils of building in the countryside.
But on examining it now I find that on top of the heap is a story about Prince Charles agreeing with farmers that their outlook is grim, followed by another story in which he tells the owners of pubs how to turn them into 'village hubs' instead of more houses. The next story is about farmers in Hampshire and Wiltshire growing poppies to make morphine, and the next about how agricultural shows are subtly turning themselves into 'countryside' shows.
Finally, about an inch down the heap, comes a piece predicting a government crackdown on local councils who won't use empty offices and wastelands as sites for housing instead of green fields. After that it is back to HRH, with 'My vision for rural renewal', followed by 'Prescott opens the way to 900,000 homes'. Then comes a rant about uncontrolled litter in National Parks, followed by a gloomy 'Farming exodus now running at 450 a week', and then a solid wodge of articles on foot-and-mouth, ending with a final vintage item from 1996, 'Gummer urged to fight urban sprawl'.
The next tray is called 'Transport', but a single glance shows not only that it is full to the gunwales, but that its contents have become gravely polluted with other subjects. For example, the top item is a months old expose of the 'Dot-com myth'.
Underneath is a piece about a smart car 'that can keep your life running smoothly.' Next up is a piece about insurance companies backing out after 11 September followed by a scrawled note, 'Joke about Caxton, great invention, pity nobody can read', folded inside an impassioned piece demanding more London skyscrapers, not less. Then comes 'Glut of empty offices fuels fears', and 'Big banks exposed by threat to aviation industry'.
Still nothing directly about transport but after 'Terminal 5 not the answer' comes at last 'King of Jordan trapped in M4 tailback', and 'School run a deadly menace', after which the contents flop back to 'Wembley costs soar to £660 million', 'Black Tuesday on tube as six lines close down', and 'Police abandon cities to anarchy'.
Glossing over bulging trays labelled 'Projects' and 'Technology', I reluctantly decide not to reveal their contents, switching instead to the enigmatically titled tray 'Others'.
Here, at last, I shall no doubt find the treasure trove of useful information that has so far eluded me. On top is an item recording the resignation of the head of the London Tourist Board following a drop of 16 per cent in overseas visitors.
Next comes 'Mortgage lending jumps £4.2 billion', and then 'Stolen art in France ended up in canal', followed by 'Green is new red for traffic lights', 'Wall Street duped by fake Enron dealing room', and 'Pigeon loses by a beak in race with top dog'.
Further down I find 'Fury at mail-by-milkmen plan', 'Come and abstain plea to voters', 'Hong Kong to kill 1.2 million chickens', and 'Black market jumps to 13 per cent of economy'.
Then, right at the bottom of the heap, is the real nitty-gritty. 'E-mails deliver financial disaster to US postal service', and, at last, the oldest of the old, a 1971 original, 'Living with the decimal revolution!'