Following the White House’s announcement that it is to provide billions of dollars of economic aid for the post-war reconstruction of Iraq, the British government has unveiled its contribution to the rebuilding programme – teams of DIY experts and gardeners from popular TV home improvement programmes are to be sent out to give the devastated country a thorough makeover. “It is just what the average Iraqi needs – cost-effective ways to improve their environment using readily available materials,” Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the press. “The decades of repressive home decor – where the only wall decoration you were allowed was a picture of Saddam – are well and truly over! Believe me, once the Iraqis find themselves living in brighter, friendlier surroundings, their whole attitude will change! All that resentment and violence toward coalition forces will quickly melt away! Not only that, but it will greatly enhance local property values!”
Critics of the initiative believe that it has a far more sinister purpose, namely to take slum areas full of low cost housing occupied by the poor, and redevelop and ‘gentrify’ them so as to price the poor out and instead attract in better off, more pro-western residents. “This is nonsense, ordinary Iraqis will be able to profit from the enhancement the value of their properties, not only that but a buoyant housing market will stimulate the local economy! Think of the number of new estate agencies they will need to handle the increased demand,” responds the Foreign Secretary. However, local realtors in Basra have complained that lucrative estate agency contracts in the town have been let exclusively to established British estate agents. Nevertheless, the government remains determined to press ahead with its plans, sending top TV dandy and all-round ponce Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen of Home Front and self-styled interior decorator and crazy woman Linda Barker, late of Changing Rooms, into Basra with a brief to brighten up the war-torn city.
“No wonder people here are so depressed – just look at the shocking state of the place, horrible jagged edges and matt finishes everywhere. Clearly these poor souls have been deprived of soft furnishings and satin finish emulsion paints for decades,” declared Barker upon arrival, before proceeding to give the local police station a warmer and more welcoming look. This included painting two burnt-out tanks parked in the yard satin white with a hint of green, and replacing the bars on the windows with floor-length cream curtains, installing a three-piece suite with recliner chairs in each cell and covering the bloodstains in the torture block with throw-rugs. Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, meanwhile, headed straight for the town’s main mosque. “As the community’s spiritual centre, the mosque should naturally be setting the tone for the whole town,” reasoned the frilly shirted loon. “These drab colours, harsh lighting and frankly archaic wall decorations will have to go – abstract patterns are just so last century!”
So overcome with emotion was the local Imam when he saw the transformation of his mosque – interior walls in pastel shades with matching drapes on the windows, subtle lighting and several prints of tasteful nudes hung in the corridors – he had to be rushed to hospital. The rest of the congregation signalled their approval by running down the street firing their AK-47s in the air, screaming Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen’s name. Another former Changing Rooms presenter, Carol Smillie, was despatched to investigate the situation at local hospitals. “I was appalled by all those maimed people – terrible burns and missing limbs. I was shocked at just how dull and colourless their dressings were, and, how unimaginative their treatment was,” she says. “I quickly made sure that their burns and stumps were painted in bright primary colours to cheer them up – just because you’re horribly injured is no reason to be miserable!” Smillie also ensured that makeshift prosthetic limbs were provided for many of the amputees : “It enabled them to get back to gainful employment as quickly as possible, rather than lying around getting depressed because they felt they were now useless just because they were cripples. One chap, for instance, was able to work in the kitchens after we gave him an egg-whisk in place f his left arm, whilst another got a whole new career as a cleaner with his prosthetic rightleg-cum-brush.”
Whilst the home improvement experts were making a concerted and co-ordinated effort to makeover Basra, dissension erupted between the gardening experts over how best to deal with the minefields outside the city. Short-arsed horticultural sex god Alan Titchmarsh and cheeky, cheery builder’s mate Tommy Walsh of BBC 1’s Ground Force believed they had successfully neutralised several minefields outside the city by covering them with wooden decking. “Its the perfect answer really – local residents can now sit out on them in their deck chairs sipping their Pimms under the shade of the palm trees we’ve planted around the edges of the fields,” enthused Titchmarsh. “Of course, Tommy disagreed with the plan and, as always, wanted to put down a patio of ‘crazy paving’ recovered from the rubble of the local mosque, but after he’d had his legs blown off whilst working in the minefield, he came round to my way of thinking – he even supervised the initial decking from his wheelchair!” However, local residents quickly complained that the cheap materials used for the decking were so flimsy that people were falling through it and suffering nasty scratches from the splinters, not to mention being blown to bits in the minefield.
Despite evidence that the makeover teams’ may actually have provoked local unrest, with serious disturbances being reported after Titchmarsh called in an RAF airstrike to demolish three homes blocking a major town-centre rockery project he was developing, property experts are claiming that house prices in Basra are on the up. “I’m very excited by these developments, we’re already lining up properties for people from the UK to look at – anything with a view of the blazing oil fields is especially desirable,” says Phil Spencer of Channel Four’s Location, Location, Location. “Compared with Britain, prices are still very reasonable, and with the number of British and American firms being given lucrative contracts here, highly paid jobs for upwardly mobile executives is plentiful!” His co-presenter Kirstie Allsop agrees: “Once they get a more affluent, more up-market type of resident moving in here, you’ll soon see a big improvement in the area. With lower crime rates and less violence, it’ll soon be safe for coalition troops to patrol after dark!”