• Guy Martyr

'La Dolce Vita' a novel by Guy Martyr 2.

Instalment 2 of 20:


2.

Next morning:

Horatio swiped himself on site for his last day. The first thing he did was check the Company Status: Public; for today at least. Good. And the first cabins would be arriving today; at least he’d be there for that.

The constructors were hanging about, cleaning the site a little, but everything was basically ready. Let me describe: imagine an enormous airfield, beside a motorway, the flat concrete expanse sketched in delineations of roads; pipes, in clusters dotted about, sprouted forth; tall lighting towers and a fence marked the boundaries; some smaller lighting units had been positioned along the ‘roads’; occasional holes, with corresponding mounds of spoil, punctuated the table.

But the overall impression was flatness stretching far; flatness and prepared emptiness - ‘the architect’s dream should amount to no more than prepared emptiness’ Horatio recalled, as he stood: the writings of his great mentor le Korbu, whose attainments he would surely never emulate . . .

Horatio took post outside one of a cluster of portacabins, by the entrance to the site. The portacabin read ‘Site Office’, with a list of officers, including his name under ‘Site Architect’. This distinguished it from the constructors’ portacabins, which had no signs. The site itself was announced in grand style beside its entrance onto the main road: ‘TRANSITIONAL HABITATION PROGRAMME Establishment of 5,000 Transitional Habitation Units for single, dual and multiple occupancy. SITE NO.1’


Horatio looked out onto the carriageway for the lorries; where were they? He wandered over to the cluster of constructors.

“Your last day then, Horatio” volunteered one of the men.

”You’ll be doing our job tomorrow . . . “ another, tapping his shovel.

Or,

“You might be killed Fighting by the end of the week” pessimistically.

“Oh, you get more Training than that, I think” he hoped. What am I thinking ! Of course it’ll be Drains . . .

A big carriage swept onto the site. The boss! The ever jovial and very switched on Mr Wylie. His great frame, topped with beacon of bushy white hair approached Horatio: “Big day, Horatio, big day! Glad you were here for it. We’ll miss you; but really, your job’s done. Well done . . . “ and he was off, congratulating workers and directing the TV crews and press, who were starting to stream in.

Horatio knew his job was done. Something else must be in store now. He strode away from the crowd, out onto the airfield, and recalled his dreams fed by those old architectural visions - ‘Superstudio’, ‘Archigram’, mobile cities, mass movements, continuous flow - which the Company, his Company, had, after a fashion, brought into being. The only thing which had spoilt the purity had been the cost: all budgets had been cut so tight; he wasn’t even sure any more if the cabins were up to living in. And the amenities, another worry: what use was mile after mile of living cells, with no interleaved amenity? They had negotiated some cultural components from the Continental fund, but it was tokenistic. Somewhere along the way the guts had fallen out of this project.

A noise from the sky pulled him out of his thoughts: a helicopter, appearing small, but getting closer, with an underslung load. Horatio smiled; one of Wylie’s wiles; a real coup! Impress the press. Accentuate the positive. Trees. It was the trees! Now several helicopters were visible, each carrying a mature tree swaying in a net beneath. Groups of workmen scooted off to the tree landing-sites. Amazingly, like perfect choreography, the choppers hovered as one above their allotted places and descended slowly, till root balls were in position over prepared holes, steadied by constructors’ hands.

Cord was cut, root bundles were freed and busy shovels compacted earth. Helicopters retrieved released straps and flew away like

slow

fat

migrating

starlings.

And now the lorries were here: oh the harmony! thought an impressed Horatio. Only Jack Wylie could have arranged this - none of le Korbu’s prevarication he mused, as he weighed his allegiances. The man was an artist. Huge multi-wheeled beasts with low, flat articulated beds piled three-high with permacabins drew on in a line down the central spine, then, by pre-arranged signal - as if! - they pulled left or right along tenuous routes, the avenues or culs- de-sac to be.

The tree teams left their charges, and turned about to inorganic preoccupation.

Mobile cranes bustled from bed to bed.


The city was still growing as darkness fell.


3.


When Horatio returned home that night, Dave and Dorothy were ensconced with a well-earned drink after that bloody awful trip up to London - do you know the security guards at London border weren’t going to let us in, something about out-of-date passes, so we had to hang around in this bare-arsed station for hours while they checked us out. On the bright side, Dot’s bagged a few kills in the shops, haven’t you, my love? Dot smiled, demurring to Dave’s full flight.

“Still got problems on the farm, though: the water level won’t stop rising. I have to see the Ministry tomorrow . . . I need Drains workers . . . “

He went on; he seemed to need to talk; I sat beside him on the sofa. Dot had drifted into the kitchen to converse with Victoria.

I flicked the screen, chose broadcast - keeps you in touch - ‘Newsworld’ was on - Newsworld in one ear, Newsworld in the other - an interview with the Prime Minister, this should be good!


“And what of the war, Prime Minister? It has been suggested that an extra 20,000 troops are to be called up.”


“I can not, of course, confirm or deny anything like that, Jemima; I can, and do, give every support to the peace process . . . "


“Shall we call a war a war, Prime Minister?”


“The UN Articles of War Declaration have not been invoked; we are at a pre-war footing; our reserves have not been diverted from the vital task of Drainage . . . "


“Six bombs in London this month; troops killed overseas; how many is it now? Over a thousand, according to our information . . . “


“Troop losses are consistent with a rigorous peace, no more.

Jemima, is there nothing happier you wish to discuss? The people I am sure will be wanting to hear about the Drainage programme . . . “


Upon hearing this, Dave sat upright “ . . . and, of course, the opening of the first ‘Transitional Habitation Centre’.”


and now we were both leaning forward with keen interest.


“Well, Prime Minister, we can see what you want to talk about; so I’ll throw it open to the country . . . Vote ‘A’ for drains, ‘B’ for temporary housing, ‘C’ for war . . . “


“Where’s your box, Horatio?” I padded around the sofa. “It’s . . . I don’t know . . . round here somewhere. Vicki ! where’s the box?”


“Under the sofa!” yelled she back.


Dave and I scrambled around for the box: Dave pressed for Drains, I for THC; up came the figures: Drains 9%, Transitional Housing 8%, War 83%. Dave and I looked at each other, and grinned like a couple of Dave’s goats. So while they blathered on about the war/peace, Dave and I poured ourselves large whiskies and went to join the girls.


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