We’re all depressed. Nobody has cash to buy all our wharfside flats any more. But take heart, says Chris Addison, help is at hand in the form of the the insane, the vain and the very, very rich
Okay comrades. That’s quite enough of the doom and the gloom and the self-fulfilling prophesying about where exactly this handcart we’re all in might have its terminus. We’ve done the months of pretending we may not end up in a recession – we’re here now and it’s no use sitting tight and pretending it’s not happening, like a middle-class matron on a bus trying to ignore the R’n’B blaring out of some sunken-eyed 12-year-old’s Motorola. What we need here is action. Pep, vim, vigour, gumption and lateral thinking are the order of the day.
So, let’s think about this. What we need is to find a recession-proof market. Now, this isn’t necessarily going to be easy; it will almost certainly involve leaving our comfort zone of building identi-snazzy wharfside apartment developments and branches of Tesco Express sensitively inserted into the redbrick shells of Victorian mental hospitals and the like. However, a faint heart never won fair maid. We must be prepared to charge out, like Don Quixote in search of windmills. (Ooh, windmills – now there’s an idea. Actually, scratch that – what with the price of grain, they’re hardly going to be the recession-proof market we’re after.)
If buying Wiltshire so your daughter can celebrate her eighth birthday party at Stonehenge is within the realms of trivial possibility, then you will lose touch with reality.
Now, then. There are generally two groups relatively unaffected by a downturn in the economy. The first contains people who are already very, very poor. Hang on, though – before we start flicking through our Rolodexes, wondering if any of the charities we donate to could put us in touch with poor people, it’s worth noting that traditionally they don’t commission that much in the way of building work. I’m not sure why. Possibly it’s a cultural thing. At any rate, we’d do better to look elsewhere.
The second group consists of people who are very, very rich. I mean staggeringly wealthy. So steeped in Croesian lucre that the only financial crisis likely to affect them would be one in which every other person on the planet woke up one day having entirely forgotten what money was and wondering why they kept all those pictures of the Queen next to the AA card in their wallet. The great thing about people who have that sort of gelt sloshing about is that, with certain exceptions, they are lunatics. This is only to be expected; incredible wealth is bound to send you mad. If you live in a world in which buying Wiltshire so that you can circumvent the tiresome regulations preventing your daughter celebrating her eighth birthday party at Stonehenge is within the realms of trivial possibility, then you will sooner or later lose touch with reality.
We need to identify some indigenous potential benefactor to whom we can start pitching ideas. My vote goes with the Queen.
Rich lunatics tend to be tremendously self-regarding, and this makes them our ideal target market. Every so often some tycoon or other, driven by the arrogance of the wealthy and the hallucinatory side effects of an oyster-rich diet, declares that they will build something utterly spectacular for which they will be remembered. What exactly this might be varies from tycoon to tycoon – a vast artificial archipelago in the shape of their face here, an upside-down pyramidal eco-city there, or even the occasional new moon. Each project, though, has four things in common: too many golf courses, a series of obscenely luxurious hotels, no really good reason for existing and the fact that they are going to provide contractors with oodles of work for years to come. We should try and get in on this.
Our biggest stumbling block is that these projects are only announced occasionally and usually abroad (owing to rich people liking the sun – the reason, after all, that the south of France was built in the first place). So we need to identify some indigenous potential benefactor to whom we can start pitching ideas. My vote goes with the Queen. Partly because traditionally it’s relatively easy to bamboozle old ladies into buying things (for example, lottery tickets and that stuff that turns their hair slightly purple), and partly because I reckon she’s loaded. I mean, the royalties on stamps alone must be more than enough to keep her in headscarves and tartan skirts. All we really need to do here is run up some likely-looking eyesore tenders to tickle her fancy and wait for her wealthy ego to kick in: a huge floating palace on the Humber estuary, perhaps, or a magnificent super-embassy built on some Caribbean protectorate and designed on a plan shaped like a corgi, in which she can entertain foreign heads of state with anything from enormous banquets to glow-in-the-dark bowling. Quite apart from anything else, that should get our national stock up again nicely. Name another embassy with glow-in-the-dark bowling. Exactly.
There. I’ve done my bit. Your go.
Chris Addison is a writer, actor and comedian