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Up in the air and gone with the wind

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Ian Martin submits proposals for an elevated monorail

MONDAY. Grim start to the week. It’s lashing rain. Worse, I’m on a train to Scotland with my mate Dusty Penhaligon the conservactionist and his glum, determined, silent friends.

They just sit there tick-tocking away at laptops, buds in, fuming, Super Savers ready for inspection. Nobody makes eye contact, the dress code is ‘mourning casual’ and, oh God, now we’re being delayed by engineering works. I cajole Dusty into seeking solace at the ‘onboard shop’.

After a stern lecture through three carriages about the ‘neophile Nazis’ who did away with ‘buffet car’ and how nobody says ‘railway station’ any more and how, ironically, a ‘buffet car’ is technically a ‘train station’, I have frankly lost all interest in Dusty’s latest mission.

I often tag along on these jaunts ‘for a laugh’. Which is a laugh in itself, as nobody ever laughs. If some unwarranted intervention has notionally ruined the historic landscape, that’s where you’ll find Dusty and his gang, trying to un-ruin it. Occasionally it’s something heart-stopping like the attempted overnight destruction of an entire business hub with hammers, or the controlled explosion of a pop-up cinema.

Nothing heart-stopping today, though. It’s just wind. Dusty’s band of retrogoths is heading north of the border to protest against the latest wave of what he calls ‘the eco-fascist clearances’. I get a text in but signal for him to carry on, I’m honestly listening and reading at the same time.

‘Scotland is being violated by the renewable energy racket. Wrecked by brainless, clumsy turbines and horrible bloody pylons. Ruining the landscape, and for what? To line the pockets of the fat cats. The fat cats of the wind industry or as we call it, the…’ – he draws deeply on his electronic cigarette and squints contemptuously into the distance – ‘windustry’.

The text is from my old friend, and Dusty’s ex Amy Blackwater, the extreme eco-activist. She’s on her way up to Scotland in a balaclava to counter-demonstrate in FAVOUR of wind energy. I leave Dusty minding my fun-size bottle of Pinot Noir and ring Amy from the vestibule.

You do know Dusty’s on his way up too? I can hear a muffled growl from inside her balaclava. ‘Of course. That’s what’s spurring me on. The hypocrite. He’s so keen on preserving the past? Well the wind was here long before human civilisation. It deserves to be honoured and husbanded. He wants a fight, bring it. Look, friends happen by accident, yeah?’ – she makes a noise as if dragging on an electronic cigarette – ‘That’s why you need to choose your enemies.’

I have never known Amy smoke anything but roll-ups. Come to think of it, I’ve never known Dusty… and that’s when I spot Amy and her caravan of balaclavas coming through coach D towards me.

Luckily, we’re pulling into Carlisle. I slip off the train and over the bridge, dodging the transport police who are puffing their way to the Scotland train, where their assistance is being urgently sought via the public address system.

TUESDAY. Amy, Dusty and co have been bailed pending their appearance in court on charges of affray and public disorder. Unfortunately it seems to have rekindled their relationship. A joint statement has been issued deploring ‘liberal freeloaders’ on the eco-conservactionist bandwagon.

WEDNESDAY. Rock Steady Eddie the fixer’s been busy buying up ‘lateral air rights’ all over the country. He’s convinced the future of leisure development lies far above the pavement. Inspired by London’s latest liveried cable car and the new walk over Mandelson’s Flan in Greenwich, we’re now thinking above the box and pitching aerially.

After all, if the market convinced us shopping was leisure, why not transport as leisure?

THURSDAY. Submit proposals for an elevated monorail weaving through the dreaming spires of Oxford. In case there’s local opposition, we rejig it for somewhere less protective and articulate.

FRIDAY. Cash in on our exciting new two-tier society by sketching out a ‘luxury Disney-style rooftop walk over Dickensian London’. Don’t say we have no conscience, either. In the middle of the journey food parcels are launched on little parachutes to float down to the poor.

SATURDAY. ‘Up and over’ Anglican podways mooted for York Minster and St Paul’s Cathedral.

SUNDAY. Reflect in the recliner on how we shape our air and wind, and thereafter how they shape us.


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