Art à la carte

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The Independent Online

Today, as my contribution to the arts, I am bringing you a list of The Half Dozen Most Controversial Buildings in Britain Today!

1. Dewar's Folly

When the cost of the new Scottish Parliament building shot up from the projected few millions to a lot more millions, it rather punctured the stereotype of the Scots as canny money managers. An inquiry was immediately set up to look into how this could have happened. The first thing they did was commission a new building to house the special inquiry. This new building has become known as Dewar's Folly. It is a handsome structure, with ample built-in facilities for buck-passing and blame-shifting. However, it has proved very expensive to build, and people are already talking about the necessity of setting up an inquiry into its spiralling costs. Nobody knows yet where this will be housed. It will probably be called McConnell Mansion.

2. The Burrell Gift Collection

A custom-built shrine in the Cheshire countryside which was erected solely to house the many gifts which Diana, Princess of Wales, gave to Paul Burrell before she died. It is built in the form of a smaller replica of the Albert Memorial. It is not clear whether planning permission for it was sought or granted, but it seems that Mr Burrell did mention his plans to the Queen some time back, and she said they sounded fine to her, and this has been taken to override anything decided by Cheshire's planning department.

3. The Great Northern Power Station

Situated between Sheffield and somewhere else, this is a large old-fashioned power station which belches out smoke and steam and makes power. So what's controversial about that?

"What's controversial," says manager Ted Nugent, "is that it's a power station that hasn't been converted to an arts centre. Most people under 20 haven't seen a power station which hasn't been converted to an arts centre. We get thousands of school parties a day coming round. Quite often kids come up to me and say they prefer this to an arts centre. 'At least something happens here', they say."

4. The Man Booker Prize Country Retreat for Ex-Man Booker Prize People

It is harrowing to visit this lavishly appointed glass sanatorium in the rolling Chilterns and see what stumbling shadows many Booker Prize judges are reduced to after a season of being force-fed a hundred novels. Clad in dressing gowns, they wander round all day, occasionally shrieking or laughing and exclaiming: "Oh God - which one is Rupert? Is he the handsome estate agent in love with the Nigerian girl? Or is that some other novel I'm thinking of?"

There is also ample room in the austere Salman Rushdie wing for distressed novelists who have repeatedly failed to reach the short-list, or, even worse, who have reached it often but never won.

5. The Dylan Thomas Experience Centre

This is a large, old-fashioned pub on the outskirts of Swansea, where you can get any drink in the world you want, as long as you can get someone else in the pub to pay for the drink for you. Welsh people are only admitted as long as they talk in a plummy English accent. The Welsh are furious about it. But, as Dylan Thomas once remarked, they generally are.

6. Post Office Tower

Ever since it was bombed by the IRA the Post Office Tower has been virtually unused. Or has it? Not at all, it transpires. All this time it has been used by the Royal Mail for postal backlogs. Every time there is a postal strike,the undelivered mail is put in the tower. By AD2000 it had reached the 100 metre mark. Yes, there is at this very moment a stack of undelivered junk mail and greetings cards over 300 feet high in that apparently inoffensive building. The Royal Mail are now praying that the IRA will strike again.