Decamot of the month

31 Jul 2019-Middleclass Matters

Inspired by the following items:crane, astronaut, pitch, social worker, ketch, saxophone, tomato, Acacia Avenue, taper, auditorium

The Drapers had seen better days but Joshua Draper, the 15-year-old son of university educated parents, one a social worker, the other a senior civil servant, could not believe his eyes when his twin sister, Sonia, showed him their new home on the Smart Move website.

It was a neat but small four-bedroom detached house with an integral garage and a front door the colour of an over ripe tomato. It was identical to the one next to it and the one next to that and the one next to that except the front lawn had a slight taper to as it was on the end of the road; or the beginning, depending on which way you were travelling. Pete Seeger’s rendition of Little Boxes came into Joshua’s head immediately.

He found himself singing the whole song

Little boxes on the hillside
Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes
Little boxes
Little boxes all the same
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same
And the people in the houses all go to the university
And they all get put in boxes, little boxes all the same
And there's doctors and there's lawyers
And business executives
And they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same
And they all play on the golf course and drink their martini dry
And they all have pretty children and the children go to school
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university
And they all get put in boxes, and they all come out the same
And the boys go into business and marry and raise a family
And they all get put in boxes, little boxes all the same
There's a green one, and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same

Sonia joined in on saxophone as Joshua strummed out three alternating chords on his acoustic guitar.

“Dad said they were having to downsize” said Joshua as they finished on a harmonised final line, “But Acacia Avenue, Milton Keynes for heaven’s sake! How bloody utterly soporifically middle class can you get!”

“Acacia Avenue” Woodbridge, perhaps?” suggested Sonia helpfully.

Both Joshua and Sonia had studied “Successful British Sitcoms” for GCSE ahead of their proposed music and sociology degree. Comedian Harry Worth’s opening antics in a shop doorway, in which he created the illusion that he was able to form a star shape with extended arms and legs two feet off the ground just by raising his limbs, had inspired both of them to pursue theatre as a career.

“Or where the Dursley’s lived in Harry Potter” said Joshua, who was warming to the idea of making Acacia Avenue world famous. “Just Imagine I’m an astronaut stepping out of a returning capsule” he said to Sonia “and being interviewed on Fox News to reveal “Not bad for a boy from Acacia Avenue eh?”

Sonia laughed out loud “But why would US television have any interest in Acacia Avenue?” she said.

“Well” said Joshua working through an idea in his head. “Walt Disney’s empire of theme parks all features Main Street, USA, don’t they? It’s just as mundane as Acacia Avenue but they still flock there in their thousands and make Disney a fortune in the process. What’s the difference?”

Sonia was beginning to lose patience. She was used to Joshua’s flights of fancy, but she was due to meet her drama teacher in half an hour when she planned to pitch an idea for a new musical based on eighties’ classic songs in which she would play the role of Carole King.

“Dad’s downsizing is to take some equity out of the house so he and Mum can buy that ketch they’ve had their eye on for years. Don’t go spoiling it for them Josh!” she called out, as she put on her crash helmet and went in search of her bicycle. “With any luck, we will be at Uni most of the time anyway, building our career in musical theatre”

“Don’t worry, Sis!” he called back, “I won’t upset the apple cart!”

But an outrageous idea had taken root and he wouldn’t be satisfied until they had moved to the epicentre of middle class living in Milton ‘Bloody’ Keynes and tested his plan for real; so, began a three-year project which exceeded all his wildest expectations.

The first stage was to find likeminded neighbours from the ten households that made up Acacia Avenue.

To his surprise, Joshua Draper found three co-conspirators who actually bought into the plan with enthusiasm; Lisa Eagles, who lived at no 1 and Suzie Crane at no 7, both of whom would have been referred to as ‘feisty birds’ in another era and Ralph Smith at no 6, a typically nerdy male of the species.

Joshua’s parents had purchased no 10 which was on the end of the road, but it was important for the plan to work efficiently if all were able to see each other whilst standing on the roofs of their respective houses. The road was barely 60 yards long and each house had a central chimney. It was almost as if the architects had designed it as a picture for kids to colour in. Odd numbers were on one side of the road with even numbers opposite.

Suzie Crane and Ralph Smith were almost across the road from each other whilst Joshua and Lisa Eagles were at opposite ends, five houses apart, but still visible to each other when they experimented one weekend on the pretext they were checking out their gutters with ladders supplied by Lisa’s older brother who had been brought in to the general plot on the strict understanding that he would keep it secret.

Joshua’s parents were away on their ketch and so unaware of anything untoward brewing.

All four had met by chance when they signed up for ‘Italian for beginners’, an evening class run at Milton Keynes College. It meant they had regular opportunities to discuss how they might overcome technical problems arising from the project. For example, Lisa’s older brother provided four special wooden platforms which he made to order, and which fitted neatly over their identical square chimneys

Ralph Smith was doing a course in electrical engineering and was prodigiously gifted when it came to improvisation with electronic gismos. He was used to creating sound and lighting systems for diverse auditoriums but even he admitted that this was a unique challenge. Suzie Crane was planning to pursue a career in aviation so was heavily into all things connected to flying. She and Ralph were constantly modifying drones to provide lighting and sound co-ordination to professional broadcast standards.

Joshua Draper’s best attribute was delegation although he did contribute the funds for all the essential materials which included spray cans of pink, blue, green and yellow paint, hire of speakers, ladders, drones etc. And of course, he was deferred to by the others as the author of the big vision. He decided not to confide in his sister Sonia, partly out of sibling rivalry, but partly because she was heavily involved with her own special project and might unwittingly tell their parents what was in store.

Lisa Eagles was responsible for promulgating the event via all of the social media outlets as well as tipping off the mainstream broadcasters to “a defining event in the history of the middle classes”. She spent so much time on what was essential advanced publicity that she was the only one of the four to fail the end of term ‘Italian for Beginners’ examination.

To the consternation of our plotters, about two weeks before the event was due to take place, Acacia Avenue was closed for four days by BROAD BAND 4U when men in yellow vests with the legend “Connecting you to the Future” emblazoned on their backs, went into several households but not numbers 1, 6, 7, or 10 to a collective sigh of relief from the conspirators.

Thus it came to pass that operation Acacia Avenue took place in Milton Keynes at 2.00 am on the morning of Thursday 4th July to the astonishment of all residents not to mention the millions around the world who picked up the stream of twitter video footage which included the BBC, who led all of their early morning bulletins with it as a breaking news item.

“It must go down as one of the most imaginative demonstrations of support for a Planning Application ever witnessed when four residents of Acacia Avenue were filmed in the early hours performing Little Boxes by the late American folk singer Pete Seeger, standing on the chimneys of their individual houses. Their front doors had been sprayed to match the lyrics of the song and the street sign altered to read Seeger Drive. At the culmination of the song, four giant inflatable turkeys emerged from other chimneys in the street and exploded, showering thousands of feathers on to the heads of bemused but delighted onlookers below, many of whom had been tipped off in advance via social media”

The reaction was instant and vociferous with a clear division of public opinion emerging. The traditional establishment condemned the stunt as irresponsible with Health & Safety experts frantically searching for laws which had been broken so that the perpetrators could be prosecuted. Others took a more sanguine view arguing that no animals had been hurt in the making of the video; on the contrary, it had actually provided entertainment of a very high order to millions watching on television. It was a bit like going to the circus.

Inevitably, all four performers appeared together on BBC’s The One Show and performed the song live again. Afterwards they were asked what the scariest moment in the whole sequence was.

“That’s easy” replied Lisa Eagles who was lead vocalist “The exploding Turkeys at the end. None of us was expecting them – it nearly knocked me off my perch!”

“Me too” followed up Joshua Draper and Suzie Crane in unison.

Ralph Smith, who had played tambourine, looked decidedly sheepish at this point but admitted he had created that particular effect with Joshua’s sister Sonia’s help. He had been working on another separate project with her involving the Carole King songbook which sadly had been turned down by Cameron Mackintosh.

“All I will say” he said in explanation “Sonia was sworn to secrecy, but it was she who came up with the BROAD BAND 4U idea. Your sister’s a hugely talented designer/director Joshua and should go far ….”

“The further the better” muttered Joshua under his breath but secretly proud of what they had all achieved.

A week later Joshua Draper took a call on his mobile from the USA

“Hi Josh!” said a voice with a heavily accented American southern drawl “You don’t know me, but my name is Cyrus B Pierpoint 111 and I am calling from Lake Havasu City in Arizona USA – I hope I haven’t caught you at a bad moment Josh?”

A startled Joshua Draper put down the script he was reading and managed a stuttered reply

“Err…. Well … No … I was just reading something, but it will keep … what can I do for you?”

“We would like to buy Acacia Avenue, Milton Keynes, Josh”

Thinking he was referring to the road sign, Joshua immediately offered to have one made up and sent over by FedEx

“No ... no ... Josh, you don’t understand … we want to buy the whole road not just the road sign. Every single house on it as featured in your global video. What do you say Josh?”

The caller was the great grandson of Robert P McCulloch who had created Lake Havasu City and went on to famously purchase London Bridge in 1968. It was transported to Arizona brick by brick and reassembled next to the lake and is now the second most visited tourist attraction in Arizona after the Grand Canyon.

“We think it will be a great addition to our resort. Visitors can stroll across London Bridge and walk up Acacia Avenue an experience to rival the Magic Kingdom don’t you think Josh?”

“Middle class ecstasy” thought Joshua to himself but still not absolutely convinced this wasn’t a prank call by his sister

It wasn’t.

The residents of AA, as it was now universally referred to, needed little persuading to accept offers of £5 million per house and planning applications to replace the street with a modern roundabout passed through Milton Keynes Local Authority in record time.

Acacia Avenue Lake Havasu City Arizona opened on time one year later and recovered its £120 million-pound investment within eighteen months as millions of US citizens flocked to see Arizona’s unique connection to the old country. Many saved up to visit on American Independence Day as the owners of the resort recreated the original performance of Little Boxes by local musicians complete with exploding turkeys, Ralph Smith and Sonia Draper having licensed the technology to Cyrus B Pierpoint 111.

Celebrating two years later, the original conspirators toasted the good taste of their American cousins by opening a Jéroboam of champagne

“The toast is simply to US!” said Joshua

“To US!” they all replied in unison before breaking into the final chorus of Pete Seeger’s anthem.

“I’ve been thinking” said Suzie Crane after a pause whilst glasses were refreshed “The roundabout is quintessentially a British invention. You never see one in the USA do you?”

They all looked at each other as ideas flooded their collective creative juices ……

“I’ll see if I can get Cyrus on his mobile!” said Joshua with a glint in his eye, adrenaline pumping through his veins.