How to save Britain's urban heritage: Do it up, call it 'urbane'
TUESDAY. A very old friend of mine, Bill Dingdy, has organised a petition to save the Simpsons' seminal (therefore threatened) Ivanhoe Gardens housing estate. 'Intelligent conversation could make this place desirable again' it says in his email. I assume he means if you turf out the riff-raff and fill it with chattering wankers who work at Canary Wharf everything will be OK.
WEDNESDAY. Bill emails back. He meant to type 'conservation'. But essentially, yes, wankerfication is the answer.
THURSDAY. Vegan pub lunch with Amy Blackwater, the extreme green activist. She's been like this for several months now, following a thoughtful sabbatical in unoccupied Denmark.
Before that she was an archivist for Landscape Waterly Quarterly. She's decided that 'green activist' is better than 'green archivist' as it reduces her lexicon footprint by one letter. That may seem modest but, as she points out, if everyone did it the letters would soon become paragraphs, and paragraphs can change the world.
There's a huge amount of one-upmanship in the world of extreme greenness. Someone sprays MEAT IS CARBON on a boutique butcher's window, someone else is out the next night writing WOOD IS MURDER by B&Q's trolley park, in their own arterial blood. Nobody outgreens Amy, though. She was first up on the House of Commons roof last week for the Heathrow protest, holding up the (admittedly unreadable) banner slagging off Terminal 5 and its architects. Poor Richard. It was a vicious limerick. Though for the record, I tell her, 'todgers' was mis-spelled.
She shrugs. And pouts, I think. It's difficult to read her mood as she's wearing a ski mask. She's not the only one. The Overthrow is a favourite activist pub, with its Levellers-only jukebox and its saucy interpretation of the smoking ban: roll-ups only. She should really take it off, I say, she looks ridiculous. I indicate the other masked drinkers. Like Amy, they're all talking earnestly about grim stuff, but wear clownish smiles where pints of beer have entered their faces.
Amy removes her mask. She's got a look of triumph, and a new green haircut. No huge surprise, there's been a green hair diaspora since Camden Lock burned down the other week. 'Grrr. Look closer, you dim capitalist tool...' My God. She's got GRASS growing out of her head. 'Bloody painful it was too. Grrr. I'm having a lifestyle step-change. Reparations to Nature start not just in your head, but on it...'
The procedure is simple enough. Hair is removed follicle by follicle and micrografts of fine fescue-type grass implanted. 'As an organism, I'm now at least 15% more efficient', she says, a little loudly. 'Basically, a bipedal urban heat island. I'm retaining 75% of rainwater, I've got this whole living ecosystem thing going on, and best of all I'm the first to do it. Grrr. Oh yeah, eat your heart out, bitch!' A young woman at the next table who's been gaping at Amy from behind her ski mask looks away quickly.
I eschew the rest of my sprouting bean salad and order a large Scotch.
FRIDAY. Archiholics Anonymous. Everyone very pleased at my progress. I'm at Stage Two, Denial. Big discussion about whether the government's relaxation of listing has encouraged binge architecture. Obviously 24-hour telly has pushed it into the small hours, but in town centres it's still only a small minority of historic buildings causing all the anti-social disturbances. Pubs, mostly.
SATURDAY. Catch up with Amy. She looks awful. Her headgrass is turning brown at the ends. Her doctor's advice is to stop wearing a head-mounted glass terrarium at night. 'An entire micro-community - homeless. Grrr!' I sympathise. This is the sort of thing that happens in Tower Hamlets, not Crouch End.
SUNDAY. Re-imagine myself in terms of an iconic landmark. Not for me the slender, nervous verticality of the skyscraper. No, I allow my bulbous, fluid mass to spread horizontally in the recliner.