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If you can’t beat the bah humbuggers…

Ian Martin
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Ian Martin is full of seasonal despair for a bloody change

MONDAY Redesign Christmas, giving it a warm 1940s feel. Fat people are jolly, robins are so plentiful they’re a pestilence, snow’s everywhere, salt-of-the-earth types are struggling to make ends meet, and the RAF’s off bombing overseas.

TUESDAY It was my great honour to be one of the judges for this year’s Architectural Nativity design competition, sponsored by Corset & Grammar estate agents. Unfortunately since I agreed to do it months ago, rights have been sold to some grisly ‘internet experience’ called Poppin’ Up Xmas with an exclamation mark. Worse, it’s now sponsored by some disgusting ‘instant noodles’ also with an exclamation mark. Worse, it’s now called Crimbo Supercrib, with three exclamation marks.

I tried getting out of it but my fixer, Rock Steady Eddie, was adamant. ‘Sorry son, on your head be it, contract’s bulletproof, you finishing them mince pies, cheer up you muppet, it’s fucking Christmas.’

WEDNESDAY Actual hell. Cheapskate studio on the outskirts of Watford. The host, a 16-year-old boy shaped like asparagus with an anti-gravity haircut, compensates for the emptiness of the occasion by moving around a lot.

I and my fellow judges – an unemployed music journalist and an alcoholic who was Devon Architect of the Year 1981 – are keen to crack on. We’re considering mock-ups of:

• a Calais Jungle shantycrib, because ‘Jesus was a Syrian refugee too’;

• a converted stable behind a wool shop in Walthamstow, £1,900 pcm, sorry no housing benefit tenants;

• a luxury ultrabarn at the posh end of Bethlehem.

We all vote for a different one and leave Asparagus to spin out a draw over two hours with ad breaks.

THURSDAY Go Christmas shopping by designing 20,000m² of high-end retail space filled with pointless bollocks.

FRIDAY Emotional scenes at the UN Paris climate change conference. Everyone’s very pleased with themselves for agreeing to somehow limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C.

As if. China, India and the rest of New Dickensiana need to burn as much coal as they can. Not just to drive the economy, but to harvest the soot. Indeed, I made an impassioned plea on behalf of my clients the Soot Association in an address to the conference fringe, Fossil Fuels – Bringing A Jurassic World Back To Life. It got a lot of traction. Coal is suddenly ultra-fashionable again among the opinion formers and clickbaiters of the digital world. Coal is now the energy industry’s VINYL.

Heartbreaking to think of all those years of waste in China, that precious black gold just coughed into the atmosphere, settling aimlessly in living rooms and lungs. Mad. Squandered. When the world’s post-industrial economies were desperate for the stuff, their marvellous built heritage no longer stained black with the blood of the martyrs of the industral revolution, but just a horrible antiseptic beigey non-colour, the result of decades of misguided power-cleaning.

It makes you wonder at our stupidity. Those old codgers on Antiques Roadshow are always telling some greedy, grief-struck treasure-hunter that she shouldn’t have cleaned off the patina, that her hideous trinket was gaining value as it got filthier. Perhaps the guardians of our built heritage don’t watch television. I wouldn’t be surprised. Now China of course is being praised for its ecological smoke filters when it’s simply turning a dark byproduct into a monetisable commodity, the way the Marmite people did back in those lovely, sooty, foggy, murderous 19th-century days whose high production values are so cherished by British television.  

A haughty Ukranian sand artist draws gasps as she depicts the invitable desertification of the planet

The scandalously lavish conference celebration party is, I have to admit, impressive, though not very carbon-continent. Apparently it’s OK for everybody to be swanning around pissed, guzzling crazy air-freighted delicacies, before catching their empty personal aeroplanes home tomorrow. There’s even a cabaret, with fire-eaters (ho ho) and a haughty sand artist from Ukraine, who draws gasps from the crowd as she depicts, in sand, the inevitable desertification of the planet and humanity’s agonising death.

What a relief to move on to ‘soul and pop diva Sheila Ferguson’ and a much smaller woman. They’re wearing identical glittery disco ballgowns and breezing through 70s hits such as When Will I See You Again as the One And A Half Degrees.

SATURDAY Five-a-side theological snowball. Immaculate Concepsis 1, Cellular Parthenogenesis 2 after spatial awareness, physics and Catholicism.

SUNDAY Completely tinselled in the recliner. I love you. You’re my best mates.



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