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Putting the Corb in Corbyn

Ian Martin
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Ian Martin welcomes a Cockney utopian knees-up

MONDAY My old friend Jeremy Corbyn is not the easiest of people to get along with. He refused to speak to me at all between 1983 and 1997 just because I made fun of his tank-top. We were reconciled eventually by the lying shit Blair, whom we both loathed, and by our love for the built environment. Now, against the odds, JC is poised to lead the plastic arts into the sunlit uplands just in time for the panto season.

Hilariously, young urbanists apparently assume that he’s posh because Corbyn looks like an ‘élitist’ surname. Talk about judging a book by its cover. You might just as easily assume that architecture was posh, yet who has ever met an élitist architect? The verb ‘to corb’ of course means to ‘create, through political invective and architectural rhetoric, a theoretically utopian future in which Modernist principles prevail’. Older readers may recall the old music hall song My Old Man’s A-Corbin’, which took a light-hearted Cockney view of social engineering:

He’s gone corbin’ round the houses, he’s gone corbin’ down the pub.

He’s gone all corblimey corbin’, radiating from his hub…

Jeremy may not have much in common with architects – he’s haughty, arsey, obsessed with ‘process’ and problem-solving and has hit his peak in his 60s – but I’m sure he’ll do for now.

TUESDAY A month is a long, mentally deranged time in the London property market. I mean, come on, how much smaller can bedsits actually GET?

Naturally, all the hip young estate agents agree that my prototype ‘Shedsit’ was the smash hit of the summer. It combined cosy privacy (your shedsit, your rules) with a genuine sense of community belonging (obviously you have to negotiate access to someone’s plumbing for hot water or a flushable toilet). Almost instantly shedsits were sub-divided into ‘semi-shedsits’. This situation was logistically challenging as well as morally questionable, and also quite difficult to pronounce. Let’s face it, two families living in the same ‘converted’ shed? All sorts of problems. People have to sleep sort of standing up but leaning back a bit. More importantly, where does the householder keep items such as rakes, flowerpots, unused disposable barbeques, incomplete plastic boules sets, bags of compost and bits of old carpet ‘on their way to the dump’? 

Worse, entrepreneurial types started cramming as many shedsits as they possibly could over lawns and flower beds, creating densely-shedded areas similar to those you see round the back at B&Q. Even worse, in the last month or so, landlords have started putting shedsits INSIDE properties, which is certainly moving the concept on a bit. There are some very, very crowded living rooms in Walthamstow at the moment, I can tell you. And some massive queues for the bathroom.

However, if you move shedshits indoors, might you then exploit freed-up gardens and yards? Technically, this is now ‘brownfield’ land and a legitimate target for redevelopment. As always, late capitalism has thought of something. An opportunistic website, an app and a squiggly logo have appeared, called Air. The business model is based on Airbnb, but all the hosts are actually offering is cubic metres of air in the garden.

Guests may lodge at agreed rates and furnish themselves with whatever waterproofing they wish. The components for a Continental breakfast are available at the nearest supermarket.

WEDNESDAY A group of financial traders has asked me to humanise their new venture by endorsing it, for a fee. It’s an archaeological dig – there’s a thriving futures market in the past – and they’ve already bagged a humanising professor of Druidic studies and a humanising geophysicist. Inevitably, the group is calling itself a ‘henge fund’ and has got dibs on a stone monument buried beneath a development site in Somerset. If it turns out to be a tourism flop, the stone would be great for upmarket patios.

THURSDAY These are turbulent, unpredictable times and I for one cannot blame my old mate Loaf, the bubbly mayor of London, for taking a pragmatic approach to developers’ social responsibilities.

What is ‘affordable housing’ anyway? Everything’s so fluid. Much more sensible to insist that 30 per cent of all new housing is ‘adorable’.

FRIDAY AM Pre-conceptualise a sustainable future.
FRIDAY PM Discover nobody’s interested in my pre-conceived ideas.

SATURDAY Five-a-zeitgeist theoretical football. Politburolandschaft 1, Blocked Metabolism 0.

SUNDAY Invent the recline-a-pad.



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