Future Views Magazine
University Fees and Debt
Who is the main beneficiary of university education, the student, the employer or the nation?
Units of measurement and the end of space.
Six Point Pollution Solution
Part One: "Flowers In The City"
brighten our cities with many tiny garden?
Six Point Pollution Solution
Part Two: "The Transformation of Waste"
Instead of landfill, waste could be a valuable resource.
Hidden blueprints for the new cities of the sea.
Arabian Mights & Maybes
Plans for the future carefully copied by Brenda.
Arabian Might May Raise The Sea
Desalinated reverse rivers powered by nature
The Unpublished Manuscript
A hint as to what may lie in the future.
A curious twist to the laws of perception.
The Slop House
an alternative to the traditional public house
You Are A Winner
A willing victim is the best victim.
Maybe our prisons are not as wonderful as all that.
The Bright New Pants Manifesto
The hilarious solution to invevitable change
A raging argument is discovered
MEET THE CREW
My mate Euan, Sir Keith's nephew and my assistant, got me the job as sound recordist.
Others on set include Brenda, Lotte, Eta, Tosh and Arri (so called because it is short for Arthur and also reflects his love of the Arriflex cameras).
Sir Keith funds the entire operation, or so he would have us believe.
His friend and business partner, Saleh el Moharbi undoubtedly has a lot to do with it as well.
Then there's Acey, Ed and Igvarts Slobermann from Lithuania or some other country, I think he's from a place I've never heard of.
That's us, sometimes we get together outside work, often we pass each other in the course of our work and barely exchange more than a greeting.
Euan and I stumbled across evidence that pointed us towards a bizarre plot. Our two benefactors, Sir Keith and Saleh el Moharbi, are heavily implicated as being at the centre.
Saleh el Moharbi
The Slop House
Euan enthusiastically describes his idea for an alternative to the traditional public house.
We left the Unterdorfer in Hauingen near Basel, Switzerland. Impressed by the array of unusual drinks, mostly spirits and liqueurs, we had indulged in a jolly good sampling session. After all, we deserved it.
From seven o'clock that morning we had been high in the mountains filming and, so far as we could tell, the results had been excellent.
"Definition of heaven," Euan tried yet again to tell us but, as before, his words fizzled out.
Euan had been slightly over-enthusiastic and, being a helpful sort of bloke, assisted others with the drinks they had tasted but did not want to finish for fear of finding themselves the wrong way up.
The diabolic concoction had rather suddenly gone to his head. Bravely he persevered.
"Come on Euan," Igvarts said as he grasped him by the armpits.
"I'm fine, I'm fine," Euan protested. He gulped down the last of his beer, knocked back another Apricot Schnapps and reached for his jacket. Igvarts hauled him to his feet.
Euan was not quite as fine as he had imagined.
I gave him a hand with his jacket, Igvarts slung his arm over his shoulder and we turned to go; Arri, Acey, Lotte and Eta smiled and waved to his back.
"Heaven is an English policeman," Euan continued, annoyed at having been deprived of most of his audience.
"Which car?" Igvarts asked.
Euan dug in his heels, swung us round, grabbed his little leather briefcase and we continued.
"Good question," I replied, I had no idea.
Brenda appeared beside me.
"Do you think he'll have sobered up enough by the time we reach Dornach?" Brenda asked.
"Hardly," I replied, "the play starts in less than an hour, by that time - "
"He'll be worse," Brenda concluded.
"I'll be fine," Euan said, "let's go, act normal. I'll sober up in no time."
We found this hilarious.
"Which car?" Igvarts asked as we half helped, half carried Euan around the car park.
Dieter appeared from the shadows, "which way are you going?" he asked.
"Back to base camp," I said, "seems safest."
"I'll be fine," Euan mumbled but I'm not sure anyone noticed.
Dieter dangled his keys and we followed.
"Heaven," muttered Euan, somewhat to my amusement. I made a mental note to ask him about that later.
"What on earth is that?" Brenda exclaimed.
Dieter was leaning over an ancient little car that looked like it belonged in a museum - a toy museum.
It had a canvass fold-up roof with plastic windows, narrow spoked wheels, a small arched bonnet and a brass radiator frame topped with an interesting emblem.
"That," said Dieter with a smile, "is my car."
Dieter was tall, very tall. Tall and thin. Something about his manner made me want to fold him up and pack him away in the boot.
He clambered in and threw open the passenger door, I grabbed it fearing it was about to come flying off.
"Euan needs to be in the front," said Igvarts knowledgeably, "if he needs to -"
"Okay Igvarts, we've got it," Brenda did not want to hear the rest.
I clambered into the back and Brenda followed.
Igvarts shoe-horned Euan into the tiny front seat.
"Heaven - "
"Later, Euan, later," said Brenda.
"I'm going to the Goeteanum in Dornach with the others," Igvarts explained and waved us on our way.
"What's the Goet - 'Dornach' - when it's at home?" Euan asked.
"It's the world headquarters of the Anthroposophical Society," Dieter explained with only a hint of a Swiss accent.
"The what movement?" Brenda laughed, "is that a medical condition?"
"Membership is conditional upon being able to pronounce the name," Euan joked.
"They founded many kinds of centres all over the world," Dieter continued, "Waldorf Schools, specialist colleges, teacher training centres, recuperation clinics, biodynamic gardens, private hospitals, and villages specialising in caring for handicapped children."
"Isn't that a bit un-politically correct, 'handicapped children'?" asked Brenda.
Dieter shrugged, "I've no idea actually, let's face it, changing the name isn't going to change the reality so whatever newfangled nonsensical term paranoid neurotics decide to come up with it will eventually carry the exact same connotations in the end."
I had to think about that; recently I had read an old Encyclopaedia of Psychiatry that described sending 'lunatics' to the 'lunatic asylum'. I had found it rather funny. 'Call a spade a spade,' I mused.
"Pubs?" Euan had sat up.
"Pubs?" Dieter repeated, quizzically.
"What about pubs, Anthro-whatsit pubs, have they any of those?" Euan asked.
Dieter frowned, "no, not that I know of. Should they?"
"Of course," Euan exclaimed, "why ever not? In fact, I think they've missed a trick there, you know."
Dieter sounded annoyed, "isn't it enough, what they've done?" I think he wanted Euan to listen to his eulogy of Anthroposophical institutions.
What's that you've got in your hand?" Brenda exclaimed, "are you going to clobber someone? It looks dangerous." Brenda pointed at the bar Dieter seemed to be waving in the air.
Engine crank. Got to turn the motor," Dieter replied.
"Who was it started this Anthropo-stuff?" Brenda asked.
"Dr Rudolf Steiner," Dieter shouted, turning the handle and making the little car rock, "an Austrian, died in 1925. He predicted television, BSE, the Internet and all sorts of other things. A seer, that's what he was, a visionary."
"Really?" Brenda pursed her lip and tilted her head pensively.
The engine running, Dieter clambered in (folded himself up, or so it seemed) and took the wheel. We set off.
"Pubs," Euan repeated, "pubs, prisons and communities. The poor fellow has barely begun," Euan grinned, I could practically hear the cogs and flywheels whirring in his brain.
Dieter, on the other hand, was growing annoyed.
"Explain?" he said, with a scowl.
We drove past a quaint little pub called, "The Elephant and Duck," I read the name out loud, it made us laugh.
The car teetered scarily as Dieter took a turn too fast.
"I've got great name for a pub," Brenda said, "the Roaring Trunk," she stifled a giggle. "Anyway, you were saying," she prompted Euan to continue.
"The name 'pub' is short for 'Public House,'" Euan continued, "a home from home, that's what it's supposed to be but instead, they've degenerated into bars."
"Piss-up 'n' Puke," Brenda muttered with a smirk.
"Exactly," said Euan. "What's the biggest problem we have today?"
"Drunks," said Dieter, throwing Euan a vicious look.
"Exactly," said Euan with a mischievous grin. "What's the solution? Re-invent the humble pub and make it a true home-from-home where everyone and anyone can feel welcome."
"Sofas instead of bar stools?" I asked, a trifle flippantly.
Euan gave me a dirty look and shook his head, this was serious stuff.
"Pubs are pathetic!" Euan exclaimed with an alarming vehemence. I was taken aback. "Minimalism, no thought," he continued, slightly calmer. "No imagination, no innovation, no development - pour booze down people's throats and flog 'em crappy snacks." Euan gazed at the countryside, it was not yet dark.
"Go on," Brenda said, her head to one side, an eyebrow raised.
"Pubs - public houses - they're important places!" Euan was getting wound up, "everyone needs to get out the house and where can you go in a city?"
"Pubs, clubs, cafés or restaurants, cinemas, theatres," I said.
"Libraries," Brenda intoned with a smile, adding, oh, of course: the church!"
"Expensive?" Euan continued, "oh yes. How much does it cost for a night out - to chat to your mates?"
"Seventy quid a pop," Brenda said, "hundred and fifty for some."
"Exactly," Euan said, "a hell of a price for a conversation!"
"You bet," Dieter and I said together.
"Unnecessary," Euan continued, quieter, "completely over the top. We need pubs, places that are open to the public regardless of race, creed, age, sex, addiction, whatever. No challenge to your beliefs or anything like that."
"Level playing field," I said.
Euan nodded, "but why just drink, with the occasional meal deal? Why not broaden our horizons, use some imagination and kill two birds with one stone: tackle the problem of drinking to excess at the same time as dramatically reducing the cost of a night out - and add a few bells and whistles on top?"
"What are you waiting for?" Brenda said, "buy a pub and do it yourself."
Euan scowled, "I'm an assistant sound recordist, how am I supposed to run a pub when I'm doing this?"
"Just a thought," Brenda muttered.
"Okay so what's this Roaring Trunk of yours like?" Dieter asked, I gathered he was hoping Euan would lose the thread and fall asleep.
We stopped at the lights, traffic streamed across in front of us, we seemed stuck for an age.
"First of all, it's huge," said Euan. "It's more of a centre than a house. A place where people can spend all day and all night with a variety of things to do."
The car lurched and the engine spluttered as Dieter tried to accelerate too quickly the moment the lights changed.
"I've just remembered something," Euan said, "I've got drawings in my bag."
We burst out laughing.
Brenda was incredulous, "how on earth did you know we were going to be discussing pubs?"
"I didn't," said Euan, "I just happen to have been working on this for a couple of years, that's all."
He opened his leather case, drew out a folder and opened it at a floor-plan.
"There," he said, "a preliminary sketch but it's got pretty much everything on it."
He passed several pages over to Brenda.
Euan pointed to the front entrance, "when you enter you find yourself inside 'The Glade,' a fairly traditional coffee house, cafe, bistro whatever. Tables laid out, a bar over here, and a door through to a more formal restaurant called 'The Meadow'."
"What's different about it?" Dieter asked.
"No alcohol for a start," said Euan.
"Pah," Brenda exclaimed, "you won't make much money out of that then, will you? 'Bring Your Own Booze'?"
I chuckled to myself, here was Euan, one of the biggest piss-artists on set, talking about an alcohol-free pub. I looked out the window to hide my grin.
"Nope," said Euan, "an alcohol-free premises."
"Really?" Dieter sounded genuinely surprised, "Rudolf Steiner would approve."
"D'you think?" Brenda asked.
Dieter nodded, beaming. "Oh yes," he said.
"Food, snacks, umpteen kinds of drink, dance floor, theatre, computer rooms, meeting rooms, tuition - "
Brenda cut him short, "meeting rooms?" She looked at him quizzically, "sounds like a business centre."
"Yeah," said Euan, "for clubs and societies - they need places where members can meet up, monthly, weekly, whatever."
"A commercial premises like that would have to charge them a fortune," Brenda exclaimed, "clubs and societies want somewhere that's free or really cheap, like: a pound a head."
I nodded, Dieter agreed too.
"Yes," said Euan, "if it were run as a tax-strapped profit-hungry commercial enterprise, of course, but these are charities."
"Oh," Brenda pulled a face, "thought of everything then, eh?"
"Hope so," Euan said, "may I continue?"
"Yes yes," Dieter nodded vigorously.
"There are also information rooms," Euan continued, "places where people can ask for advice about tax, licences, legal matters, business guidance, arbitration and so on."
"Would this be publicly funded or a private organisation?" Brenda asked.
"Waldorf schools often have state support in Germany," said Dieter, answering for Euan.
"But this isn't Germany," I said, and added, "nor is it anthroposophical." I felt chuffed at having managed to pronounce that caterpillar of a word.
"Quite," said Euan, "unless of course they wanted to follow the format."
"Why not the church?" Brenda said, "they're famous for banging on about the sins of drink, isn't it time they actually did something practical about it?" She laughed.
"Put their money where their mouths are," said Dieter, proud of his use of an English idiom.
"Let's leave religion out of this," I muttered, sensing controversy.
"Dance floors?" Dieter asked.
"Yes, look, through that door," Euan leaned over and pointed to the drawing, "that's a multi-purpose hall."
"Hang on, what does that say?" Brenda asked, "'Seaside'?"
"Yes," Euan said, "traditionally associated with leisure, holidays, playing, freedom and all that."
"Hmm," Brenda said, "interesting. And what's that?"
"Riverbank," Euan pointed to the different sections, "waterfall, caves, ..."
We were out of the city and trundling along a beautiful country road with overhanging trees and moss-covered walls.
Brenda drew another drawing out from underneath the first, "what's this?" she asked, "the 'Roof-Top Café-Bistro'?"
"Just that, the rooftop garden," said Euan, "serves teas, coffees - select your beans, watch them ground by pedal-powered coffee grinder - meals with the finest non-alcoholic drinks. Under the glass table-tops are programmes of events and facilities. The food is first rate because the chefs are always practising for the Big Day when VIPs drop by."
I groaned, beginner's fantasy," I muttered.
"It looks like a botanical garden with a greenhouse," Brenda cut in, scrutinising the drawings.
"That's right," said Euan, "the whole lot is inside a conservatory. Well, there's an outside bit as well."
"Is that a fish pond?" I asked, looking at the drawing on Brenda's lap.
"Yeah," said Euan, "a swimming pool with a beach, a rocky ledge, foliage and a waterfall. It's part of the air conditioning and heating system."
"Isn't that going to use an awful lot of electricity?" Brenda said.
"Not at all, the entire building is designed to be more or less self-sufficient," Euan said.
"Super-insulated and all that?" I asked.
"The indoor-multi-gym provides power, some of it anyway," said Euan, "and there are solar lenses to capture sunlight and convert it into heat which can be harnessed to do work."
"So there, ya boo," said Brenda with smile.
"Fountains? Water features?" Dieter asked.
"Oh yes," said Euan, "fountains cascade onto the sloping roof, from here the water runs into the pond, out by the stream, and down over the water-wheels which drive the lifts."
"Hang on a mo' though," said Dieter, "how the blazes are you going to pump up enough water to feed a fountain and a river without using up a huge amount of electricity?"
"Mains," said Euan, "the water is part of the mains water supply to the building, the 'river' only flows according to demand."
"Are you mad, off your head, gone bonkers or something?" Brenda laughed. "Do you honestly think you can have a public building supplied by water that's been in a pond?"
Euan shrugged, "it's been in worse places than that before it gets to us, what's the problem? Besides, it is seriously filtered before it reaches any tap."
I groaned, "idealism is one thing but - "
"Insanity is quite another!" Brenda roared with laughter.
We all chuckled, except Euan of course who waited patiently until we had calmed down.
"There's really nothing insane about it," Euan said, "water reaches the roof through mains pressure and additional water is harnessed from rainwater. Animals don't live on air alone, why should we expect a modern, 'organic,' building to be driven entirely by electricity? Every kind of energy conversion is brought into play - "
"Including muscle power," said Brenda. "Are you serious about having a multi-gym to generate electricity?"
"More than that," Euan replied, "it might be used to power the flow of water up in the roof-top garden, or to drive fans in the rooms."
"Ambitious," said Dieter, thoughtfully. "Are you sure it can be done?"
"Have you ever disassembled a top-of-the-range motor car?" Euan asked.
"I take you point," I said, "but that's got over a century of development behind it."
"All I am doing is taking the technological knowledge we have developed and putting it to different uses." Euan turned to face us, "we have developed technology faster than we are able to come up with new ideas that can make use of it. Look around you: lasers, ceramic cookers, suspension bridges, modern 'Zeppelins', formula one cars, space craft - the list is endless. We are surrounded by things we take for granted, barely knowing what has gone into their development, and we are faced by an enormous crisis: the need to provide transport, food, clean air, fresh water, health and social facilities to more and more people yet we have to decrease the demand on gas, oil and electricity as much as possible."
"You can't call these places, 'Roaring Trunks'," said Dieter.
"I never said I would," Euan looked from Dieter to Brenda, "How about, 'The Slop House'?" His eyes widened in anticipation of approval.
The Slop House
Dieter laughed, "fine by me."
It's been done," I muttered.
"Go on," said Brenda, "what else is there?"
"Every Slop House -" Euan began.
"Does that mean people have to become members?" I interrupted
"Wheesht, you," Brenda slapped me down.
"Ah yes, membership," Euan's eyes lit up as he rummaged for another sheet of paper, "here we are: Guests, Visitors, Friends, Members, Stewards, Wardens, Staff," he hesitated, "and, er, Angels, Dragons, and any others we can think of."
"Pardon?" said Brenda after a pause, "could you run through that again please, slowly, with a little more explanation?"
"Certainly," said Euan.
"Angels?" Dieter and I spoke in unison (again).
"'Angels'" Euan said, "are those who have facilitated in some way, bequeathed a premises, sponsored staff or worked free for a period of time; 'Dragons' are those who have removed obstacles, vanquished opposition, changed laws or worked furiously hard to get the club going. Guests are occasional visitors who participate in organised activities while visitors are one-time patrons who attend shows or accompany guests. 'Patrons' are those who drop in for a meal or a drink while 'Friends' are, if you like, regular patrons." Euan looked up from the page and passed it round for us to see.
Dieter swerved to avoid a small furry animal.
"Is it a soup kitchen?" Dieter asked.
"Beggar's Banquet," I joked.
Euan coughed, "kind of," he said, "it's aimed at everyone from the poorest to the richest."
"A Pound A Slop" (the dear one's a bit more fancy)
"Royalty?" Brenda exclaimed, a little too loud.
Euan nodded. "Stop the car," he said, "I need a -"
"Pee!" we all said in unison.
Dieter checked his mirrors and pulled up in a lay-by. We all got out, Brenda disappeared through the trees.
Moments later we were back in our seats, Euan seeming to have sobered up somewhat, though he did stagger while making his way back.
As we pulled away Dieter frowned and shook his head, "smelly, lice infested tramps rubbing shoulders with the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of York? Pah, hardly."
"Dress code requires that destitutes change into presentable clothes," Euan continued, "or they may be gifted or sold better clothes. If they smell they have to clean up before entering the restaurant. If they are bedraggled and dishevelled and the fund can support it, they are offered hair-cuts and shaves or trims."
Brenda practically exploded in disbelief, "all for nothing?" she exclaimed.
Euan nodded, Dieter looked intrigued.
The car slowed to a crawl as we approached a junction.
"Where are we going?" I asked Dieter.
"Down to Saleh al Moharbi's farm," he replied.
"Oh," I said.
"If the fund is bare," Euan added, "they can take up temporary employment doing chores."
"Oh yes," said Dieter, "I did that in one of those 'Back-Pack' places."
"You mean there's a hostel in this place too?" Brenda asked.
Euan nodded and showed it on the drawing, "rooms and dormitories," he said.
I laughed, "this is going on and on," I said, "why don't you call it, 'Village In A Box'?"
I thought my contribution was funny but the others didn't seem to agree.
"I like the name, 'Slop House'," said Dieter, Brenda nodded. For some reason the name rubbed me up the wrong way.
Dieter slowed, the road was narrow, he looked around at every bend to see if we had reached the entrance.
"Attached to every 'Apo' is a three-story Job Centre - and, by law, every vacancy in the country must be listed," Euan enthused.
We're getting into politics, let's stay focussed," I remarked.
"How does the free meal thing work?" Brenda asked.
"Ah, yes, well, not quite sure about that," Euan replied.
"That's not like you," I quipped.
Euan cleared his throat, "How about this: all cash payments are handled in a separate office with a one-to-one interview. Here you can buy or be given cards for each course or drink or service you want. Cash and credit cards are never handled at the point of dining, drinking or socialising."
"Ugh," said Brenda, "that is awful. I don't want to go through some sort of 'Means Testing' every time I pop out with my pals."
"If you're a regular you'd only go through this once a fortnight or once a month - if this system were the norm, the way we are currently accosted for cash every time we want a glass of orange juice or a bun would seem downright vulgar!" Euan sounded confident but we were unconvinced.
"Why cards? Why not just use cash like everyone else?" I asked.
"Because no one knows what you paid for your card," Euan explained, "if you are rich and benign you might pay extra, make a contribution to the Gift Fund - "
"Gift fund?" Brenda and I asked in unison.
"The Gift Fund provides free or discounted food, clothes, wash facilities and the other stuff," Euan said. "If you're a 'down-and-out' you may be given cards for food, clothing and Internet Access but no one will know you've just stepped in off the street because everyone uses the same cards."
Dieter grimaced, "I'm not sure about this. You know, it sounds a bit like the Catholic Confession. Whoever is in that little room handling the money will know exactly who has what. Couldn't you make it anonymous?"
"Fraud," said Brenda, "perfect recipe for rampant, uncontrollable fraud."
"Vending machine?" I proposed.
"Absolutely," said Euan, "that's a great idea. You go into a cubicle, select what you want, choose your price, and collect your card."
"Brilliant," said Brenda but her voice trailed off. "I'm not sure if it would work though, in practice, I mean. Choose your price? The rich will cheat the most!"
I opened the window, despite the draft from the door hinges and bodywork it was growing hot and stuffy inside the tiny vehicle.
"You don't understand," said Euan, "the more you pay, the more benefits you pick up."
"Benefits?" Brenda practically shouted, "you make it sound like social security! I thought this place was meant to be posh?"
Euan laughed, "I didn't put that very well. I mean, the more you pay, the more you get."
"Are you ging to offer shares?" I remarked, cynically, I thought.
"Something like that," said Euan, "raffle tickets, weekly draws, free theatre admission, little sweeteners that make it worth while paying what is anyway a normal kind of price for a night out."
"Oh I see," said Brenda, "instead of pissing up a hundred quid on booze and fags, people buy a hundred pounds worth of cards or 'tokens' and with these they might get to win the jackpot and see a stripper."
"Who said anything about a stripper?" I exclaimed.
"Euan was going on about shows, I just thought, oh sorry, my mistake." Brenda blushed.
"What's all this green stuff?" I asked, pointing at one of the pictures.
Euan looked over his shoulder, "oh that, why, ivy, creepers growing up the outside of the building."
He took a breath in readiness for his next great explanation. "In the future, all buildings will need to be clad in foliage," he said.
"Boom boom, so there, Sieg Heil," Brenda said.
"Seriously," Euan continued, "we're choking on our own effluent. If cities became more like forests we would be healthier and happier and live longer. If we put our minds to it we could easily devise ways of putting up buildings that can carry a full coat of greenery without being destroyed by it."
"Are you sure?" Dieter asked.
"Sure I'm sure," Euan insisted, adding, "sort of."
"Bat boxes under the eaves, bird havens built into the roof tiles?" I surmised.
Euan snapped his fingers, "yep."
"Here we are," said Dieter, "now what do we do?"
"Go in?" Brenda looked round wide eyed.
"What, now?" Euan asked, "it's barely eight o'clock."
"Bedtime for you Euan," Brenda joked, "pisshead."
Euan took it well.
"I know," I said, "let's find the nearest pub and have a pint!"
Dieter pulled away; sure enough, there it was, the rear entrance to 'Der Schwartzer Glockenspieler,' the black bell ringer, we couldn't believe our eyes. Seems we had taken a rather circuitous route to land up not far from where we started out.
Dieter parked the car as out of sight of the road as possible and in we trooped.
Who should we see sitting around a table but Lady and Sir Keith, Saleh al Moharbi, Acey, Igvarts, Eta, Lotte, Eddie, Tosh and Arri.
"Glass of water, sir?" I asked Euan with a grin.
To my surprise he nodded, "sparkling, natural, mineral," he said as he plonked himself down.
When I returned with our drinks Euan was at long last finishing his little joke, "...and hell is an English cook, a French engineer, a German policeman, a Swiss lover and everything organised by the Italians."
"So much for Goethe's 'Faust'," I remarked.
"Quite," remarked Lady Keith dryly, raising her Gin & Tonic.