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How to juggle ‘Mr X Al-X’, Rock Steady Eddie and Isis de Cambray

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Ian Martin discovers what horrors lie beyond the outer limits of luxury

Monday Sketch out a new House of Commons incorporating a public moat, a public duck sanctuary, public tennis courts and a public house. And publicly owned MPs. Living in publicly owned flats. Idiot. Tear it up and get on with that hotel ‘somewhere in the Middle East’.

Tuesday Rock Steady Eddie, my global fixer, calls. Two things. 1. North Korea are quite interested in my plans for governance of the Moon, and are now bidding for a stake in the constitutional arrangements for Ultra New Humanist Lunar City. It’s looking good, by the way, Quaker furniture and everything. 2. That hotel in the Middle East. They want to ‘tweak the feel’.

Wednesday Email from ‘Mr X Al-X’, my high-rolling Wahhabist client. He confirms that money is still talking, just in a panicky high-pitched voice. Accordingly, the only way he’s going to make money is counter-intuitively. So the luxury hotel has to be upgraded to unprecedented levels of indulgence. By the end of the week.

Thursday Pub garden lunch with Isis de Cambray, spiritual advisor to the world of gardening and now, thanks to something called ‘a globalised culture in crisis’, the world of pubs.

People want more escapism in their lives these days. Just how much escapism, that’s what the venture capitalists want to find out. All anyone can say with certainty is that it’s somewhere between sudoku and suicide.

Now a major pub chain has hired me and Isis to rethink the concept of ‘drinking outside’. Our magic arborealism consultancy – Eden’s Psychedelic Head Blossom – is busy conducting extensive field research. The brief is to reconcile, as magically as possible, the conflicting needs of pub garden users. People want a convivial atmosphere at their own table for instance, without having to interact with or, let’s face it, acknowledge anyone else. We believe, for the purposes of our pitch anyway, that the pub garden can be a social laboratory for enlightened living. Top of the list is random dog/toddler interface and – in parts of the North – solving the problem of no food served after 1.30pm.

Isis is buzzing with ideas. She had a very good Chelsea Flower Show this year. Her post-post-urban garden musings were a huge hit with magic arborealism’s smart set. The Creative on Sunday described her entry, Ethereal Entity, as ‘icomic’.

A major pub chain has hired me to rethink the concept of ‘drinking outside’

She’s very pleased with herself. ‘What I’ve done is, I’ve taken certain elements from the traditional minimalist Swedish garden and then I’ve kneaded all those elements gently into the rising dough of a classic English garden, yeah…’ I ask her if she fancies another pint.

‘…but the really clever concept I’ve introduced to extreme gardening this year is The Non-Vertical Wall. God, did you see all those squares and lameheads with their guerilla therapy and espaliered hornbeam and fuddy-duddy texture and permanence? Making such a big deal of The Vertical Wall, as if that was the last word in clever wall disposition. Please. I was doing The Vertical Wall when David Essex was in the charts…’

She’s starting to get on my nerves to be honest. ‘Place In Your Face, that’s what my gardens are all about. Energy flow. Horticultural chakras. Surprise and delight, yeah, but in a radical and plasmic way. One minute you’re up on stilted decking looking down on a polygonal moat full of pottery shards. The next you’re plunging through an urban jungle of thalictrum and purple loosestrife, then – whoa – happening upon a perfumed medieval glade with a Bike Tree in the middle…’

Oh God, shut up. This goes on all afternoon. The only decent idea is mine: pub gardens divided up like those old Rock Townsend open-plan community workspaces, but with yew hedges instead of soap opera setboard dividers. You still hear that slightly wankered pubby hivebuzz, but you’ve got your own little space. And there are bar staff circulating on little hovercraft, taking orders and emptying the ashtrays.

Friday Decide the whole hedges-between-people thing is fashionable and therefore definitely wrong. Retract entire contents of yesterday.

Saturday Embolden my Middle East hotel with more luxury than can be humanly accommodated. Luxury unprecedented. Luxury so crass, so vulgar, I have named it FUXURY. I can’t even begin to tell you what I’ve specified, some of it is illegal.

Sunday Melancholy morning in the recliner, thinking about all the spaces I never inhabited.


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