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Keeping it nice and short is the height of good manners

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Ian Martin enters a competition to design the Nicest Building In The North

Monday. I have devised a ‘new look’ for the coming decade of university buildings. This will supersede my campus prototype for the last decade, which was ‘like a business park but with weaker landscaping’.

The new style has been worked up from a vague government brief and allows for maximum flexibility in these troubled times. I propose that all new campus buildings are cloaked in ‘designer knock-off ’ cladding, studded with big white ceramic spheres. This ‘mothballed’ aesthetic will be appropriate for all universities, whether open or shut.

Tuesday . I blame myself. I was the one who introduced them to each other, after all. And it’s turned out to be the most dangerous matchmaking since the late 1960s, when a Frankfurt barman winked at Andreas Baader and said: ‘See that bird in the corner done up like a go-go girl? That’s Ulrike Meinhof and she fancies you.’

To be honest, I didn’t expect my friend Dusty Penhaligon the conservactionist to be attracted in the least to Amy Blackwater, the extreme green lunatic. She wears a balaclava all the time, even at parties. She hates everybody, especially men.

Likewise, I assumed Amy would be immune to Dusty’s theoretical charm, artfully hidden as it is within a shapeless aura of hair, corduroy, army-surplus clothing, metabolised real ale and rhetoric. Of course, now I think of it, they’ve got lots in common. A contempt for anything new. Roll-up smoking. Social awkwardness. Terrible outfits. Total disconnection from reality. Oh God, what have I done?

I have a growing sense of dread. Dusty’s moved into Amy’s Essex treehouse and started Twittering about an event that will put eco-conservactionism on the map. He’s using ‘angry’ emoticons, too. Brr.

Wednesday. The tide is turning. We’re all getting bored with height. The tallest this, the tallest that. Tallest Building In Europe, Tallest Building In Cleethorpes. Who gives a shit?

I was immensely cheered, entering this competition to design the Nicest Building In The North. My scheme is modest, clever, funny, kind, generous AND crafted from local materials. Everyone will be welcome inside it. It will serve as a community focus and as a base for charitable work.

It was excluded from the shortlist as it sounded suspiciously like a church, and therefore ‘fascistic’. Never mind, there’s another competition here for Scariest Building In Scotland…

Thursday. A phone call from someone trying to sound ominous and anonymous. It’s Dusty, talking in a weird baritone. ‘Meet me in an hour. Usual place.’ Idiot. He rings back two minutes later. ‘I have just remembered you’re in the North of England and the usual place is in London. Meet me there tomorrow afternoon instead.’ I’m sure I can hear disguised huffing and puffing in the background, as if from someone angry and frustrated and wearing a balaclava.

Friday. The ‘usual place’. Amy and Dusty outline their ‘escalated’ plan to destroy Finsbury Health Centre. I’m having nothing to do with it.

I was happy to proceed with the original Operation Pulverise. Indeed, Dusty and I rented a lock-up last year to store the explosives. The idea was to blow the building up as soon as the treacherous local NHS Trust sold off this totemic socialist gem to some fucking Simon Cowell-alike, to be turned into a yuppie spa with holistic massage and juice hub, with ‘retro chic’ smartwalls exhaling light classical music. Ugh.

But apparently that’s ‘not sending a powerful enough message’. Simply blowing the place up has now been officially endorsed by the Berthold Lubetkin Estate, which makes the idea ‘mainstream’. Amy has many contacts in the field of eco-terrorism and assures us there is a long queue of martyrs ready and willing to take this one step further.

‘We wait until the grr bastards have done their expensive refurb, yeah? Then, comrades, at the launch party - attended no doubt by the grr grinning public-sector jackals who’ve sold us out in return for free grr spa membership - in walks our martyr and BOOM!’ Amy and Dusty cackle in a horrible, demented way. No, I say firmly. This is murder. I’m out. Then Dusty casually mentions that they’ve got a sleeper in PR. ‘She can get ANYONE to the launch party. I mean, if you could think of half a dozen high-profile people you’d like assassinated…’

Hm. I suppose there’s no harm in putting together a shortlist. Purely as a theoretical exercise.

Saturday . Five-a-zeitgeist football. Mimsical Neo-Realism 4, Sun-Dried Organicism 2.

Sunday . Idle list-making in the recliner. Just a cathartic, theoretical exercise, as I say.


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