Ian Martin takes a trip up the Thames
Monday. To a conference hosted by the Political Landscape Architects Institute. Summary: expect rose gardens, ambitious climbers and creepers, intellectual gnomes, ironic ‘swords of freedom’, tighter border controls, spinney management and admission fees.
Tuesday. Olympic Rebadging Task Force. Extraordinary meeting. For a start we’re not in a committee room but on board a luxury Thames barge with very little in the way of an agenda, though with every incitement to get pissed, including a ‘trad jazz band’.
Bizarrely, about half the people on this floating drink tank are sweltering inside stupid costumes. My old mate Loaf the mayor of London has on his obligatory Cadbury’s Creme Egg Sponsors Of The London Olympics outfit. The catering staff are all shuffling precariously about in tapered Olympic Flame suits. And photographers are gathered around task force chair Suzi Towel.
She’s dressed up as Britannia. ‘Can’t see your face, love,’ says one. ‘Can you drop the trident?’ She gurns coquettishly: ‘That is a decision for the new government, ha ha!’
Guests of honour are Olympic mascots Cocky and Toddler. Exquisitely designed to resemble an animated penis and an incontinent two year-old, they’re on their first official engagement and fed up already. ‘We have to do this stupid showbiz pose and go “yay!” in unison every time some bastard says the word Olympics, oh SHIT…’ They both adopt the ‘da-dah!’ position and sullenly mumble ‘yay’.
I grab a few bottles of cava and escort them to the stern, where the smokers are. I have to say Cocky and Toddler look more human somehow with Marlboros sticking out of their mouth holes.
Half an hour later Toddler’s asleep on the deck, completely paralympic, in a warm pool of probably-cava. Cocky’s having a pop at Olympic architecture. ‘The design aesthetic was crompermised…compom…fucked, from Day One. I should know, grr…’
Turns out that in a previous life Cocky was an architect! Went bust after his award-winning Media and Security Campus was cancelled. The bid cost a fortune but he’d failed to read the small print about it being a ‘notional’ design competition. His former client, possibly acting from guilt, rang up and asked if he fancied being at the heart of creating a new Olympic icon, and here he is.
Just then Egg-Loaf beetles over, shouting at us to stop smoking. ‘You are here to represent the flipping Olympics!’ Cocky unsteadily does his showbiz pose, shouts ‘yay!’ and smacks Loaf right in the yolk, before falling over.
Wednesday. Redesign the Eurozone, giving it a blue-chip finish.
Thursday. Dragged back to Coalition HQ after yet another reshuffle. I think we can all agree that this consensus politics is getting pretty complicated. We’re here to meet the NEW new minister for architecture, Aeneas Upmother-Brown, and to see if he can manage to stay in post until the end of the press conference. Upmother-Brown looks impressive on paper - he’s been an MP for a staggering FIVE YEARS - but less convincing in highdefinition reality.
Sure, he has that indefinable Coalition look: all nannies and crumpets and Lord’s and Pimm’s and bum jokes in Latin. But there’s something even more ‘two-dimensional’ about him, which isn’t very promising for the world of epic space.
His official title is Minister for Tourism, Alcohol Licensing and Paywalls. He’s happy to take questions from the assembled hacks, who seem to have formed their own coalition of suspended disbelief.
Each gentle enquiry is met with a firm but polite, ‘As I say, I’m still very much finding my feet as it were, so perhaps I can take the next question…’ I ask if he thinks austerity will foster a new style of architecture. I need to know because I’m thinking of calling it ‘underclassicism’.
Upmother-Brown looks blank: ‘I’m afraid architecture is not within my purview…’ A press officer whispers the correction. ‘It is. Of course. Architecture. Terribly important. I actually have some of that at home. Tremendous. Lasts for AGES, doesn’t it?’ We move swiftly on to the issue of 3D World Cup beer goggles.
Friday. Oh God, I’d completely forgotten about the RIPBA. Hope it’s OK, haven’t heard from it in weeks. I feel like an anxious parent.
Saturday. Oh good. It’s still there. Phew. It’s silly, but sometimes you just have to sneak in and make sure they’re breathing, don’t you?
Sunday. Adjust regional spatial strategy by devolving to recliner.