Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Megastructure


The postman is at your door.
‘Where are you?’ you say.
‘At your door.’ they reply.
‘But what can you see?’
‘The entrance of a cinema’. Less sure now.
A complicated series of instructions follows. This involves level changes, retracing steps and the use of at least one lift. Eventually your post arrives.

Sometimes your friends come to visit you.
‘Where are you?’ you say.
‘By a health club next to a large chimney.’ they say happily.
‘Stay on the line,’ you tell them, ‘I’ll come out and search for you.’

It hasn’t always been like this. You used to live on a street in a house, with a number. Number 32. However, the houses were numbered sequentially along each side, and even this invited confusion. People like the familiar; postmen especially like it. At least this house was on terra firma though.

Living high up in the frame does have its advantages. It’s exciting for one thing. You can stand in its long corridors, squint your eyes a bit, and pretend that the stranger in the distance is an alien. Maybe they are. It is far away.

When it’s sunny you can climb to the summit of the arches, where the sky is open and once again visible. Up there you pretend you’re still a child atop a climbing frame or large tree. The shouting and grunting far below is almost lost.

Money! It used to be cheap to live here and to some it was in fact free. It doesn’t seem to be so cheap anymore. Groups of young architects and designers walk the corridors, sartorially elegant in expensive clothes and dark rimmed glasses. Your hear them say they really like it here and that the building is really clever. Last week the hot water stopped working though.

Each Monday the architects leave empty bottles of exotic looking wines ready for recycling. Labels, full of bright bucolic optimism, look up at you as you walk past. ‘There is another world out there’, they seem to tell you. All you can see is the floor of deck seven above.

You often wonder how many people live in the building. You’ve tried to count front doors, but the complexity of the layout always defeats you. You have overheard the architects saying it’s 2000 people. ‘That little?’ you think ‘Must be more.’

During large sporting events some of the other residents become very patriotic: large St. George’s flags festoon the otherwise sparse balconies. Then, in winter, some of the shops on the ground floor erect a small Santa’s grotto. The smell of mulled wine and mince pies wafts upwards through the maze of corridors. The seasons though are otherwise unrepresented in the building. Autumn’s multicoloured mournfulness and spring’s bloom don’t get beyond the perimeter.

You’ve decided it’s time to leave; to get out and to get away. You speak to an estate agent to get their confidently jargoned advice. You nearly faint when you hear how much your house is worth!

Stuart McKenzie

Made in 1885, 1984 and 2014


You get up, pat down your hair and put on some clothes. You go downstairs stopping at the garden gate to fix a dislodged brick on the front wall. The Victorians, you think, really can’t be surpassed in creating an architecture both poor in quality and stubbornly long-lasting. As you walk away, the brick shears in half.

A handful of steps later you are at the corner of your street, two thirds of the way to human rights violations, financial meltdowns and a comparison of the 10 best autumnal quiches: the Saturday papers. You add some Greek yogurt and spinach from the grocer next door. On the way back you pick up some cement mortar from the builder’s merchant.

Back in sight of your home, your neighbour spies you and comes out to chat. Smiling and laden with blackberry jam you re-enter your house and make breakfast. A little remorsefully you pull out the Money supplement and place it next to the cat litter. If you were more honest, Travelwould go there too – we all have to keep those little flickers of wanderlust alive though don’t we?

Later in the day, you need to go a little further: a week spent tapping keys doesn’t do much for the physique so you get on your bike and head to the gym. It’s a nice day; you go not to the treadmill but to the open marshes nearby and warm up with a run along the towpath. How have you never noticed that disused factory before? Note to self: find out its story.

Later still, removing cement mortar from between your toes, you get ready to go out. A friend is having you over for dinner and you’re also keen to get back a book you loaned them in 2006. This time you walk past the parade of small shops, straight to the high street to catch a bus. Another neighbour is on the bus and you sit next to them speculating conspiratorially about which artisanal burger chain is likely to move into a newly vacant shop.

(originally posted on my personal blog in October 2014)