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Ian Martin: The urge to be a thaumaturge

Ian Martin
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A double diamond works wonders

MONDAY Complete, partially memorise, then destroy my sketches for a Museum of Psychogeography. I hope to remember some of it in the future. If anyone ever needs figments of the past cloaked in dusky melancholia, give me a shout.

TUESDAY Every time some dickhead billionaire narcissist announces a Seven New Wonders of the World design competition I feel compelled to enter.

Oh, we all know they’ll never get built. That’s not the point. The truth is that ‘designer of one of the Seven New Wonders of the World’ would really lift one’s CV. Yet preposterously, despite having over the years proposed at least 20 separate Seven Wonders, I’ve yet to win a single competition.

It can’t be the calibre of my entries. What about my Great Pyramid of Gaza? A massive healing crystal, clasped in cubic zirconia flames, which changes colour according to international mood, with a default of ‘dazzling azure’ for international indifference. Or my quirky Galoshes of Rhodes: two monumental boots partially submerged in the Mediterranean, symbolising humanity’s stoical trudge through history.

I blame my lack of success on the skeuomorphic brass plaque that adorns my dedicated Seven New Wonders of the World competitions website, describing me as an ‘architectural fabulator’. While certainly pretentious enough, it’s a little oblique. I need to sound singularly qualified for global landmarksmanship. From now on I will be a ‘thaumaturge of epic space’, and crack on with my Aerial Gardens of Babylon, a giant ironic hanging basket held in the sky by powerful physics.

WEDNESDAY Redesign Gibraltar as a New Wonder of the World, creating an enormous yet light-hearted monument to paper and scissors.

THURSDAY Westminster. I find my old friend the Hon. Aeneas Upmother-Brown down in the dumps as usual.

He’s been like this ever since they made him minister for post-Brexit cultural affairs. A tough break, as our public school-educated Cabinet of millionaires has now declared war on the ‘metropolitan élite’. As far as I can tell this simply means anyone they don’t like who’s ever read a book or pronounced ‘latte’ correctly.

Poor U-B. ‘Last week David bloody Davis pointed straight at me and said when he hears the word Culture he reaches for his Browning. And I really don’t think he meant an anthology of poetry, do you? Hopeless, really. I’ve been handed a ruddy poisoned chalice here, mm?’ A sympathetic ‘mm…mm…’ fills the room. As ever, his faithful bees swarm slowly around their master like furry, buzzing electrons. They too feel the humiliation of having to pretend that everything’s going to be fine.

U-B’s in a pickle. He’s leading a media presentation tomorrow on the virtues of ‘permitted development’ – the relaxation of planning rules allowing developers to do whatever they want when converting old office blocks into silos of millennial renters. ‘Permitted development’ has taken everyone by surprise, as developers have been doing whatever they want for years.

Admittedly, a studio flat’s now the size of a disabled toilet. ‘Rabbit hutches they’re calling ’em, mm?’ The bees hum angrily. ‘Dog kennels! Pretty poor show, mm? Brexit Britons seen to be living like animals, mm?’ A mass humming swells into a menacing ‘beescendo’. Wait. I have an idea.

FRIDAY The media suite’s filled with journalists. Upmother-Brown – beeless for the first time in living memory – looks nervous as he indicates two architectural models.

The first is a vulgar 70s office block, a grim slab of dark glass and dark concrete. The second is the permitted development conversion. SO much jollier with its gilded security perimeter and graphene cladding decorated with commissioned graffiti about living well and being true to yourself. Then U-B removes the façade and proudly says ‘Welcome to Beehive Britain!’

Inside, snug in their ‘micropartments’, are the bees. An alarm sounds, followed by the opening bars of Dolly Parton’s Nine To Five. The bees yawn and stretch theatrically. They mime ‘showering’ and ‘having breakfast’ to demonstrate there’s definitely room for that. Then, one by one – some in tiny hats, some with little rucksacks, they float down to create a buzz at street level and, line dancing in time to the chorus, hum their way to work.

They’re adorable ambassadors for Beehive Britain. Poor U-B’s moved to tears.

SATURDAY Five-a-zeitgeist theoretical football. Individual Destiny 0, Communal Density 5.

SUNDAY Create hive of inertia in the recliner.

Illustration by Hanna Melin

Epic Space, an anthology of Ian Martin’s columns for the AJ, is published by Unbound

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