Dream away those mid-winter blues by exploring our (completely made-up) selection of shagri-las.
If ever there was a time when we all needed a fantasy idyll, mid-January, with its dark evenings and iron grey skies, is probably it. As you clutch your cup of tea and stare out at the soggy world, we’d like to suggest a bit of constructive daydreaming.
In the new Archive on 4 programme 'Utopias', Michael Symmons Roberts explores the influence of a man-made perfect world on politics and literature, so we’ve concocted a few wonderlands for you to ponder. Pick your favourite from the list below. Full instructions and Allen keys provided. No returns or exchanges, sadly, even with a valid receipt.
The Book Lover
A community in which everyone is a reader, writer and publisher.
Daily life: Mornings are spent writing, afternoons at book groups. Everyone lives on fried egg sandwiches apart from dinner parties which usually involve spaghetti Bolognese and a lot of red wine.
Infrastructure: Each inhabitant is writing a novel while publishing one of their friends’. They also have to buy one of someone else’s on a daily basis. This works very well as an economic structure but owing to the somewhat cerebral nature of the inhabitants, no-one ever empties the bins.
Points of dispute: Absolutely endless, (royalties, plagiarism, advances, etc) but as the commune dwellers love nothing more than a jolly good argument, this all adds to the pleasure. You risk being evicted if you smoke French filterless cigarettes with your strong, black, filtered coffee.
Do say: “Of course her last one was so Balzac, I felt.”
Don’t say: “I don't care. I liked The Da Vinci Code.
An entirely self-sufficient community living in a series of smallholdings, smokeries, organic macrobiotic farms, vineyards and dairies built entirely out of quinoa and crème patissiere.
Daily life: Revolves around meal times and visits to the daily farmers’ markets. People get up at 5am to bake bread for breakfast, lunch takes two hours to prepare and one hour to eat, and dinners take all night. It’s a bit like living with a toddler, or being French.
Infrastructure: Communal oven, communal dishwasher. Penal colony reserved for those who do the 5:2 diet.
Points of dispute: How to stack the communal dishwasher. Whether or not you should cut little crosses into the bottoms of Brussels sprouts.
Do say: “I really think the caraway works, don’t you?”
Don’t say: ”Could we not just get a takeaway?”
The Social Media Obsessives
A happy community of pedants and inflammatory commentators who enjoy themselves by monitoring every facet of social media and endlessly commenting and correcting others.
Daily life: Inhabitants share monitoring duties across all social media throughout the day.
Infrastructure: There is an on-site health centre to treat common injuries like “Stabby Forefinger” and “Question Time Blood Pressure”.
Points of dispute: No real life disputes as all ire and fury reserved for those who use a semi colon in the wrong place or express an uncommon opinion.
Do say: “I think you’ll find it was the 17th, actually #justsayin’”
Don’t say: “Oh, leave it, it’s only Twitter.”
Inhabited by slouching, grumpy individuals who use a language system of grunts, words with no vowels, and pictures of faces.
Daily life: This is a nocturnal utopia, in which the day begins at 5pm and ends at around 4am. Food is eaten irregularly, and is always consumed straight out of the refrigerator and standing up.
Infrastructure: Each inhabitant has a vlog and is paid in internet tokens, fizzy drinks and acne treatment.
Points of dispute: Any attempt from the outside world to impose boundaries on the commune.
Do say: “Whevs. LOL.”
Don’t say: “Why don’t we go for a walk?”
Still unsure if utopias are all they're cracked up to be? Listen to Archive on 4: Utopias to find out about the book which sparked the idea which has been hotly contested for five hundred years since its release.