Her shell suit so bulbous that she had to take two steps before it moved, Kylie set out across newly gentrified centre of Dundee. Grim of visage, she made her way along the streets, past the Aga cooker shops and the hand-pulled pasta boutiques. A mother called her children in for their afternoon nap: 'Jeremy! Svetlana!' Two middle-aged men in trench coats, boots and outback hats emerged from a wine bar: 'And ninthly...' one was saying to the other. Kylie snapped. 'Artisan Bakers Battered in Street!' said the Courier
headline the next day.
Alarm gripped the city. Anxious water aficionados filled the waiting rooms of mindfulness practitioners. Coffee aficionados checked that their furniture was arranged in accord with Feng Shui. The cash registers of psychiatrists and other homeopaths bulged. Life-long liberal consciences were traded for authoritarian ones.
In court, Kylie's defence was that she had had been momentarily distracted by the striking beauty of the nearby V&A building and had simply bumped into the artisan bakers. The prosecutor shook his head. Wasn't the truth, he said, that she was out to get artisan bakers because they had taken over all the peh shops on the Hulltoon where she lived. Newly arrived from Edinburgh, the prosecutor was not to know that people from Dundee had long been sick of the inability of outsiders to say or write anything about the city without referring to pehs and the Hulltoon. Fortunately for Kylie, the sheriff, herself from Dundee, was also sick of it and the case was thrown out.
The artisan bakers pursued the matter in the civil courts. Artisan bakery was important, their advocate noted. It enhanced the wellness of people who could afford it. Although the artisan bakers had sustained only minor abrasions in the alleged assault, they had been so upset that they had been compelled to retreat to a spa for a fortnight during which their clients had had to do without focaccia bread. If unchallenged, Kylie's acquittal could embolden other ordinary people to follow suit.
The advocate argued that it was impossible for Kylie to have been distracted by the 'striking beauty' of the V&A since it was a structure so unattractive that it could only make people turn away. This was demonstrated by the fact that its architect had not been disciplined by the British Association of Iconic Architects. The association's oath forbade its members from creating buildings that were pleasing to look at. Since there had been no disciplinary procedure, the oath could not have been breached. Thus, it was argued, Kylie had been lying when she had claimed to have been distracted by the 'striking beauty' of the V&A. It was upon this single narrow point that the artisan bakers' case was hinged.
Attracted by the hitherto little-known 'Iconic Architects' Oath', interest stirred in the national press, one red top renaming the oath as 'The Scottish Parliament Building Oath'. With no money or other assets, Kylie had so far been unrepresented in her court appearances. But the publicity now attracted a law firm in need of a higher profile. They would represent her for nothing.
The firm had done its homework. They called a witness from the British Association of Iconic Architects. He confirmed that the V&A building was indeed pleasing to look at and was in itself therefore in breach of the oath. However, the witness continued, the oath was not as simple as had been represented in the press. He explained that when a collection of buildings was erected in the same area at broadly the same time, the decision as to whether the oath had been breached related to the whole group of buildings. In this case, he said, the new surrounding buildings were so unattractive that they complied with the oath to such an extent that the sum more than compensated for the breach represented by the V&A building.
But the artisan bakers' representatives had also done their homework. They had polled 1,000 people in the streets of Dundee with the simple yes/no question, 'Most well-adjusted people do not like the V&A. Do you like it?'. Everyone said 'No'.
Again, Kylie's advocate was ready with a rebuttal. There was, she argued, a flaw in the plaintiffs' poll question. How were respondents to know whether the term 'V&A' referred to the V&A or to the building in which it was housed?
It turned out that when such a distinction was made, as was the case with Kylie's team's own polling, quite different results were obtained. Broadly, they were, in the popular mind at least: the V&A building is marvellous; the V&A is dull and empty. Many of those polled pointed out that the local municipal museum was better. It had more things to see, the design was more skilled, nothing was presented in the dark, and there was no need for a defibrillator next to the till in the cafe.
It was a knock-out blow for the artisan bakers' case. But even so, Kylie's representatives were disappointed for they had not anticipated that victory would come so soon, or at all for that matter. Trade was flooding in. They had a collection of headline-grabbing witnesses lined up. The more experienced artisan bakers' team spotted this hubris and discarded any thoughts they might have had about withdrawing. They knew that hubris frequently leads to ruin. And, as things turned out, that was very nearly the case.
Kylie's team duly called upon famous artists of various kinds to testify. Crowds gathered to see them arrive at the court, interested when a limousine drew up, wincing when Bono got out. He could not stay long, he announced to the rapidly thinning crowd, for he had a meeting with the prime minister. Painters and writers followed, all testifying along the lines that the rigid radical plasticity of the V&A building would challenge visitors to question their assumptions about the nature of existence.
Kylie's team looked on despairingly as the enormity of the backfire potential of what they had done unfolded. They need not have worried. Lord Brechin did what everybody else does and ignored the artists' views, not least on the grounds that they were unintelligible. In any event, the artisan bakers' case was already lost.
Kylie went home, there to be forgotten after a few months. You can still see her sometimes, walking by the V&A building, pausing now and again in admiration. She would like to go inside but the unimaginative emptiness of such a lovely space would only spoil her day.