Ian Martin meets Hugh Grantley, the beleagured new secretary of state for fun
Monday. A great start to the week. I’ve won the RIPBA’s ‘suburban souk’ competition, along with everyone else on the shortlist.
We had to (1) choose a site in a suburban context in need of dejuvenation, then (2) dejuvenate it, with (3) visionary architecture. I chose (1) Basildon town centre, (2) a ‘teenage-neutral’ design methodology and (3) pretentious new glasses.
Tuesday. To the Department of Entertainment. Poor Hugh Grantley, the beleagured secretary of state. He’s been having such a tough time since he took over.
His predecessor was loveable Scouse teenager Azzy Bifter, who has since gone on to pass his driving test and become health secretary. Unfortunately Azzy’s ‘Mam’ Shona really enjoyed her special adviser role at Entertainment, offering insights into everything from Cheryl Cole - ‘lovely face’ - to contemporary architecture - ‘any further up itself, you’d have to call it self harm’. So she decided to stay on.
Now when Hugh invites titans of culture to the downstairs drawing room, Old Ma Bifter’s likely to be there surrounded by scratchcards and knitting. That’s why I’m meeting him by the photocopier on the fourth floor. He seems a bit frazzled. ‘You’ve GOT to help me get rid of her’ he pleads. ‘It’s impossible here. She drinks, she’s rude. She offered to “do” TraceyEmin outside by the bins because she was “looking at her funny”. Nicky Serota and Antony Gormley daren’t turn up at the same time, she calls them the Terrible Twins and tickles them…’
I point out that Mrs Bifter is a metaphor for a decade of patronising vulgarity and may be impossible to shift without a change of government. ‘Oh, she’s already informed the other lot they’ll have to carry her out of here in a box. They’re more scared of her than WE are. You know she’s had the Music Room converted into a grace and favour bedsit? Honestly, I’m at my wits’ end. Rem Koolhaas came for a meeting the other day. He was in full flow about turning the city inside out like a plastic bag to re-use the dynamic urban paradigm when she barged in smelling of gin. She went up to Rem, pinched him on the cheek, called him Soft Lad and said cheer up, love, it might never happen’.
I suggest he finds her a more important job, or gets her into the House of Lords.
Wednesday. My personal preparations for Conservative Britain continue. I have been seconded onto a working committee of the Bow Window Group, a centre-right epic space think tank. I say ‘seconded’, it’s really only lunch at this stage.
The unofficial brief is to think the unsayable, as this leads to less unpleasantness on YouTube and Twitter. Our task this week is to come at the whole ‘affordable housing’ debate from an original angle, by suggesting ways of value-engineering affordable people. This is a very important thought shift. We know affordable housing is unachievable because developers can’t make a profit. Affordable people, though, can be organised through the public sector.
Our thoughts: ban baggy clothes and ‘trimmings’ to make people more streamlined and ‘rational’ looking. Impose a mandatory Modulor body shape, with obesity surchargeable by the kilo. And merge NHS and other welfare state benefits into a single ‘health-seeker’s allowance’.
Thursday. Text from Dorothy Bungham, minister for epic space. Could I give her a call?
Of all the ministries at the Department of Entertainment, hers is the cushiest because nobody’s that interested in architecture. Which means she can say more or less what she wants - a lot of 20th-century architecture is not fit for purpose, for instance. Fair enough, much of it was built under a Tory government. You’d think she was on thin ice making the same claim about a new hospital, commissioned in that lying shit Blair’s PFI Age of Terror.
She has a theory, though. ‘Architects are wonderful people and I admire them immensely, but they do not always think about how a building is going to work and how it will be used…’ This is encouraging news. Not only does she like architects, but acknowledges that at least SOME of the time they’re thinking about how their building works. She’s a caution. Oh well, I have nothing to do with her these days.
Friday. Ooh, Dorothy wants me to advise on the Reinvention of the Public Library. This hasn’t happened since 2006! On reflection, I think she’s a wonderful person and I admire her immensely.
Saturday. Five-a-zeitgeist Theory League first leg playoff. Memetrope 2, Hashtag Cloud 1.
Sunday. Increase my sustainability by remaining in the recliner and ventilating naturally.