• Guy Martyr

'La Dolce Vita' a novel by Guy Martyr 7.



La Dolce Vita, instalment 7 of 20


*

The carriage-way was empty as Horatio sped into Berkshire. His windows on ‘transparent’, Horatio hypnotised himself in the orange stalk lights which lit the carriage way. He let his mind compute the problem, while he drank in the beauty of the conveyor’s pristine flat expanse, its deep indigo accented by the bleached white concrete of bridges and kerbs.

Trees lined the route: but not too many to spoil the created poise. He had been instrumental in Tree Clearance, before his switch to Transitional Habitation. He thought back to the Birmingham Tree Clearances, a land-mark of the genre: Birmingham cleansed, shorn, shaven; the Bristol Road a neat, tarmac arrow; Edgbaston tamed, beautified, every avenue brought into line. There had been portents even then, come to think of it, though when you’re 21 you’ve no idea what people are on about, protesting at you. Ignore all noise in your youthful zeal. How can this be wrong? Don’t you realise you need this? Horatio had become so enthusiastic about the Clearance that he had even taken himself off to technical college to get his forestry-chainsaw NVQ.

“But darling” his mother had said “you’ve only just graduated; you don’t need that kind of qualification as well, in hand work . . . “

He had planned by night, executed by day: instead of business garb in the a.m., on went knee pads, chest guard, helmet, gloves. Chainsaw in hand, he waited at the pick-up point in town to be taken off whither the day demanded: Handsworth, Moseley, Balsall Heath, Small Heath, Aston, Erdington, Kings Norton, Kings Heath, Alum Rock, Yardley, Deritend. Down came the trees, great swathes cut into the virgin city jungle; away with clogging leaves, down with untidy form, conquered the falling hazards.

So many foresters had been required, they had had to be recruited from Continental-main: particularly from Belgium, as it turned out.

Horatio’s crew were in fact mostly Belgian. He liked them; promised to visit them there one day, which he did, and consequently met his wife. Mother, you were wrong about this job!

His boss had been Mr Wylie, even then flash and broad and deep enough to indulge Horatio. “You can’t see it now, Horatio,” he had instructed, “but we, the visionaries, will remove all the trees, the clutter, then give them back in an ordered manner, to serve the greater purpose, achieving efficiency and control. This is our destiny!”

When Horatio had first seen Mr Wylie, he had been standing atop a felled bough wielding an axe - press call only, of course, but nonetheless inspiring to the fresh-faced graduate newly part of the Civil Architecture Service.

When Birmingham was finished, ideas had begun to circulate about Transitional Habitation: perhaps it was the new clarity, the far horizons, all that clutter now having been extirpated. Mr Wylie had been keen for his department to be involved, an involvement which culminated in leadership of the project, nay, ‘movement’. There seemed to be more and more people on the move: life as movement, architecture as flow, moving cities, all that stuff. You didn’t need the baggage, the weight; just a few personal items would suffice. Storage would be a growth industry: ready, quick access to your treasures, then off to your new adventure.

The migrating populations, betimes desperate, provided ammunition too for political acceptance of the idea: aside from the seemingly interminate river of thousands drifting towards London from across the world or within these lands, there arose a plethora of self-recognising groups - ‘new age travellers’, ‘old age travellers’, ‘peripatetic professionals’, ‘job seekers’, vying alongside ‘radical Christians’, ‘punk golfers’, and ’Salesforce’ (“we sell anything”), all needing a place to stay.


Where had it all gone wrong?

Yes, they had built; built and built; procured and prepared sites; designed units; had units manufactured, delivered, erected. But where was the teeming demography of which the marketing agencies had assured them?

Where?

Site Number 1 - supposedly their show site, filling up with desperate migrants and the domestic ‘homeless’.

When push had come to shove, the wealthier employed had stuck to their streets, their baggage, their clay.


*

Horatio was shaken back to reality as his carriage delivered him to the front of a wealthy country house: chez Victoria’s parents, and possibly once again chez Victoria.

He made for the front door, but Vicki was too quick and accosted him outside:

“Horatio!”

“Victoria”

“Let’s talk out here . . . “

“Well?. . . “

“I haven’t seen you for ages . . . how was it, the, Dave’s farm,

everything?”

Horatio should be hugging and kissing her; he didn’t feel inclined; nor she, apparently.

“Muddy. I think Dave’s pleased. Didn’t see much of him. Dot says hallo. What are you doing here?”

“Mummy suggested it; till you got back . . . Things have been a bit grim with you away, and not phoning, or anything.”

“Someone visited you? . . . A small man, from the Training

camp . . . “

“Oh, him . . . funny little chap . . . he left something for you . . . Who was he?”

“I don’t really know. He sort of latched on to me. The thing he left - it’s a disc, it must be with your entertainment discs. Can you

get it? . . . “

“Yes, I think I can find it . . . Mummy won’t want you to stay . . . “

“Don’t worry, I’m not staying. Will you come back with me tonight?” as they walked inside.

“No . . . Mummy’s arranged a dinner party . . . “


Horatio sped back home with the disc. He put it, without too much interest, nor expectation, into the ‘wild’ drive on the carriage computer and sat back to see: lots of numbers coming up. He wasn’t much good at computers, once it got to the codes and programming level. He idly tapped a key or two; nothing. He entered his birth date: the numbers stopped; names appeared, hundreds, scrolling down, each with a code; he entered one of the codes; documents pertaining to the person became available: birth certificate, exams, qualifications, job history, medical, legal, finances, family: a ‘pack’ ready for downloading.

Horatio entered his own name: here it came, the lot; and there was an ‘options’ button: upgrades, economy versions, new starts, kick starts, massages; how far could you go?

A computer message appeared: “Are you authorised to view this material? Enter Pass key. Suspicion aroused.”

Cheeky thing!

Horatio escaped and pulled out the disc.


Back home the weasel had vanished. Horatio was quite pleased: the dwelling to himself. He went to sleep.


The sun woke him, then the communicator, then the door.

Vicki! with arms-full of breakfast! Lovely. Smiling.

“I couldn’t leave you all on your own here - you’d be hopeless. Oh, your thing’s bleeping.”

“Horatio glanced: a message: REPORT FOR DUTY, HEATHROW AIRPORT, ETC, ETC . . . “

What now?

They shared a perfectly pleasant breakfast; lovely really. A little reminder of earlier times.

“What are you doing today?”

“Meeting mummy for shopping.”


Horatio departed for Heathrow, to what duty not he knew.


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