Read this, and win a bargain break in Utopia

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The Independent Culture
THIS IS the time of year when we city-dwellers of the northern lands start dreaming wistfully of sitting in front of expensive boxes full of high-powered light-bulbs, snuffling pitifully as we wait for our Seasonal Affective Disorder to clear up.

It's the artificial life we live, of course. Farmers, closer to the land, rely on old- fashioned remedies to dispel the winter gloom, and the characteristic sound of the English countryside towards the end of winter is the gentle creak of a farmer hanging from a milking-shed cross-beam.

Here, in London, our choices are more limited. Stay indoors and your pineal gland seizes up from lack of light. Poke the head out of the window to capture at least a feeble trace of the life-giving actinic ray, and what you see is a spindrift of burger-boxes, ferret-faced postmen chewing gum, gits with pneumatic drills, shouting grebos, middle-management victims in hangdog suits, leisurewear dole bludgers, lurching winos, the whole reeking, drifting wrack of people washed up and beached by the receding tide.

So we fantasise instead, and get it all wrong. Our dreams contract to the scope of an Outside In anti-SAD lightbox. Once we would have dreamed of selling-up and buggering off to some sunny or Mediterranean paradise, but we cannot do that any more. We know, in our heart of hearts, that there is nowhere left. Tuscany is full of braying bores, Provence infested with French socialist millionaires, Hollywood scriptwriters and ghastly English husband-and-wife "teams" refurbishing some pigsty mas and taking an interest in local customs. The southern Mediterranean is full of southern Mediterraneans with pointed teeth and grudges. Latin America is impossible. All known tropical paradises are now owned by Mr Sol Kerzner, the South African casino king, and overrun by retired building contractors from Solihull and their wife, Betty.

Abjure perpetual sunshine, and there is still nowhere. Everywhere in Europe is becoming like everywhere else in Europe. Even Prague is infested with young Americans, uneducated, adrift in the present, carriers of nasty American viruses like relativism and fast food. Where is the Paris de nos jours? Where the Majorca? Where can we go?

Well now. We are going about this all the wrong way, fantasising about Mauritius, the Luberon or plug-in light boxes, when really we should be fantasising about fantasies, hence the name.

There is, of course, a problem here. But I shall solve it. The trouble is that most of you are busy, successful people with rich fulfilling lives, and never mind that it's driving you to despair; misery is the price you pay for happiness. But the truth is that you simply haven't the time to think up something to fantasise about. A good fantasy takes much preliminary work: the mise en scene, the cast of characters, the dialogue, even the lighting has to be right. Why, I have suffered the problem myself; I once had an affair with a woman who had an alarming tendency, in flagrante delicto, to murmur "Tell me a fantasy." Well of course I couldn't. My mind was a blank, and even if I had been able to come up with a fantasy, it would have simply consisted of doing what I was doing with the woman I was doing it with.

So I know how it feels, and here's what we are going to do. You are going to send me some money, and I am going to send you a new fantasy life, complete in every detail. All you have to do is slump in your armchair with your mouth open, and let it rip.

A preview? By all means. In your fantasy life, you will of course be free and unencumbered, neither indebted nor (if married) married, living in a society which has passed its pinnacle of economic success. Once it was rich, but the idyllic climate and wise investment relieved its people of the desire to strive.

The falling birth rate has meant that there is an abundance of property, from tiny hill villages to long, low ocean-front houses with cool verandahs, all available for almost nothing. But you, I think, will live in the capital, where nothing was built after 1825. You can choose between shady gentlemen's chambers in quiet cobbled streets, tall, narrow merchants' houses built in the 17th century in the days of the Dutch occupation, or a set of rooms in one of the many collegiate quadrangles now given over to contemplation, music and gastronomy.

There will be no need to worry about money. Your needs are simple, and the city is rich; more, it welcomes your presence and will, having assessed your requirements, award you an ample pension in recognition of the sheer nobility of your inner life. The municipal bedmakers will visit each day, so that every night you will sleep between cool, fresh, white sheets. Instead of spending money on bureaucrats, the city fathers budget for chefs, and every street has its restaurant and its dimly-lit, conspiratorial bar. The men are elegant, witty and kind; the women, translucent as music, generous as the air; a grave and humorous courtesy marks every social exchange.

There are, of course, laws. It is illegal for men to display armpit-hair or cleft buttock in public. It is illegal to chew gum. It is illegal not to telephone someone when you said you would. But the most important law, the distillation of thousands of experimental statutes, is that which bans any form of loudspeaker. This has led to the virtual extinction of mass politics, advertising, television, demagogy, 24-hour phone-in radio and stroppy, boring ape music, so that residents can not only think but can hear themselves do so.

If you want to know more about this earthly paradise, send pounds 10 and a stamped addressed envelope to me, and keep your fingers crossed. Of course you might prefer a Thomson Holiday or the sodding Seychelles again, but did I mention the brothel quarter? You will love the brothel quarter. !

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