Ian Martin meets His Royal Highness
Monday. Conference. How To Recession-Proof Your Business. Summary: specialise in draughting facades; make sure you call this DELIVERING FRONT-LINE SERVICES. That way you’ll remain unaffected by any cuts.
Tuesday. I’ve been asked to redesign the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World for a BBC3 programme with two giggly presenters and lots of jump cuts. I get as far (11am) as The Big Ideas Store of Alexandria and The Chilled Biodomes of Babylon before calling it a day and going to the pub.
Wednesday. Briefing at the Department of Entertainment. Minister for architecture the Hon. Aeneas Upmother-Brown is setting out his new agenda, which supersedes last week’s agenda. It still sounds tentative, to be honest.
‘These are tough times,’ he says, checking his Blackberry. ‘We need to be tough on architecture. But also tough on the causes of architecture. Public houses, for instance. Some of them are absolute eyesores. They encourage welfare dependency, moral torpor…’ A press officer leans in to correct him. ‘Ah, of course. Not public houses. Public housing. Bloody varifocals, ha ha ha. Tough on housing the unemployed, tough on reasons for housing the unemployed…’
There’s a persistent yapping behind me. I know even before I turn round that it is Bauhau, the preposterous dachshund and constant companion of architecture critic Darcy Farquear’say. I say ‘architecture critic’. The Creative on Sunday has now decided that sounds a bit too ‘stretchy’ for today’s readers. His new title is Arts Parts Of The Environment Correspondent.
Darcy’s job may have been ‘dumbed down’ but his couture remains haute. Today he and Bauhau are wearing matching linen Mackintoshes: a Glasgow Herald cape for Sir and a stylish Helensburgh Hill House wraparound for Cur. Ooh, they’re jointly asking Upmother-Brown a question, too.
‘Secretary of - yap! - state. I was just wondering which of your - yap! - three ministerial areas of responsibility architecture was part of - yap! Tourism, Alcohol Licensing or Paywalls? Rrrruff!’ It’s obviously a good question. This time even the press officers look blank. A junior civil servant with surprised-looking hair takes the microphone.
‘I think it would be fair to say that architecture has not yet been assigned a portfolio. Of course, it IS central to our evolving policy programme of tourism reform. Architecture is looked at a great deal by overseas visitors, for instance. Of course alcohol licensing cannot take place in thin air, so obviously architecture is key there too. And paywalls are very much part of the architecture scene as these days people expect to have to pay to see it, or even read about it. We may have to adopt a floating brief on this one, secretary of state…’
The Hon. Aeneas Upmother-Brown nods wisely. ‘It may be that architecture is across all three areas. No more questions, ladies and gentlemen. But I would like to show you this.’ He whistles softly and his personal swarm of 35 trained bees fly into the room and start orbiting his head. ‘Marvellous, aren’t they?’ he whispers. ‘My bees, my bees…’ Even Bauhau maintains a stunned silence.
Thursday. Redesign the Israeli embassy, redacting all unnecessary details and giving it a ‘carte blanche’ contextual finish to silence any planning objections.
Friday. I’ve been hired as a rebadging consultant by the billionaire US property developer Dick Shunt. His golf-themed resort Coombe-over-Heed has the full backing of Scottish Nationalists, who in line with their fiercely protective attitude to the natural landscape have just approved the New Luxury Enclosures Act 2010. The big task will be repackaging the whole of the country to make Scotland much more appealing to people who don’t actually give a shit about it.
We have already renamed the Menie dunes ‘The Dick Shunt Mega McPuddens o’ Scotland’. In due course, Dick wants to call Scotland itself something much sexier e.g. Saudi Tartania. The priority now though is to correct certain media misunderstandings. So ‘cynical exploitation of stunning landscape and supine administration’ becomes ‘vital inward investment and much needed bling infusion’. And ‘flap-haired, haemorrhoidfaced bastard’ becomes ‘benefactor and Caledoniaphile Dick Shunt’.
Saturday. Garden party hosted by HRH The Prince of Wales. We all turn up but he’s cancelled at the last minute. The punchbowl was ‘out of scale’, the sandwiches were ‘in unacceptable shapes’ and the caterers turned out to be ‘entirely the wrong sort’.
Sunday. Realignment with horizontal emphasis in the recliner.