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Town and country

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Ian Martin pitches to makeover Pompeii

MONDAY The government wants me to rethink the High Street AGAIN.

It only seems like five minutes since I proposed charity shops, chain pubs and those amateur bakeries inspired by the television that last a month before a pass-ag note goes up in the window blaming passers-by for its demise.

Initial thought: turn the high street into massive hub at heart of community, open 24/7 for reinvention of itself.

TUESDAY To Pompeii, where I’m pitching for this year’s big makeover gig.

Like UK high streets, this ancient visitor destination and commercial centre is no longer fit for purpose. It has an old-fashioned, run-down look completely at odds with contemporary trends in leisure and retailing, for a start.

How much more satisfying it would be for tourists to be able to buy things in the old shops - perhaps extended by a few storeys, with first-century wallclimber lifts. And to relax in the exclusive SPQR SPA. And cruise the toga bars, with their imperial cocktails and the sacrificed bull barbecue burgers.

My proposals for the great Forum are particularly ingenious, if I say so myself. I’m giving it a new social purpose, like Twitter. Short spoken sentences appear in text balloons above your head. The challenge is to get hologram Pompeians to follow you, physically.

And as ever with these places, there’s a certain gladiatorial feel. You’d have maybe half an hour to get a big enough forum mob to attack a randomly-selected enemy and drive them away to the Sulcarium, a series of single-person cubicles for writing hateful graffiti.

WEDNESDAY Didn’t get the Pompeii gig. ‘Too stupid’ apparently. Fine. Ars Lava Tango Brava or whatever to you, you necrophiliac bastards.

THURSDAY I’ve been commissioned to design an ultra-high-spec dreampod for two wealthy, articulate, creatively engaged tossers.

My spindly clients Eva and Seb want their inhabited folly to ‘rise noiselessly, like a perfect soufflé’ in a hitherto unspoiled corner of Derbyshire. Their notes to me on the ‘artistic and intellectual freight’ of what will, believe me, be an overpriced weekend retreat are ridiculous.

Obviously everything has to be ‘not just right, but beyond right. So far beyond right it’s wrong’. They’re not joking either. Like most wealthy, articulate, creatively engaged tossers, they have no discernible sense of humour.

‘Biosphere 3’. Yeah, that’s actually what these gonks are calling it, despite spherical houses being definitely not in anyone’s Lexicon of Derbyshire Vernacular and very unlikely to get planning permission without a sizeable bung. Although to be fair there’s no actual built environment for them to be contextual in. The nearest neighbour’s a weather-beaten widower five miles away who used to be ‘in cows’, but who’s now some UKIP eminence with an EU-subsidised microbrewery.

‘We see Biosphere 3 very much as a binary reality, if you will’ gargle Eva and Seb. ‘We like very much the idea of an “inside” and an “outside”, does that makes sense? Perhaps these inside and outside spaces might be merged or blurred in some way here and there. We very much want it to feel inclusivist for us and the people we invite to stay there, without it feeling exclusivist to those who are not welcome. We have settled for now on the idea of it being reclusivist, so do very much bear that in mind when thinking about windows and so on.’

I am very much looking forward to the invoicing for this one, I very much must say.

FRIDAY Once I’ve had a quick troll around the blogs, putting it about that Reclusivism is the next big intensifier, I start serious work on Biosphere 3.

By serious work I mean doing an abstract watercolour of a giant suspended blancmange with a sports car parked outside, surrounded by trees. I hold this under the shower for a few seconds and then dry it off in the oven. Result: enigmatic elegance.

Next I design the language. It’s important to make the client aware that they’re trendsetters, groundbreakers, and very, very clever.

So I bang out a few paragraphs telling them how amazing their inside-outside idea is. Then I describe the inner space as ‘spiritual’, the outer space as ‘fathomless’ and the light as ‘super-natural’.

SATURDAY Eva and Seb actually cry on the conference call. I end the call and cackle with pity. Everybody’s happy, job done.

SUNDAY Create a suspended blancmange by being in the recliner.

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