Hot Air

150 150 Rob McGibbon

For a fleeting moment, I have just marvelled like a little boy at the giant Palm airship as it floated by my window in London. What a bizarre, beautiful sight, set against a glorious blue sky. Two helicopters, blackened in shadow, hovered like giant flies near the beast. Then it was gone, meandering somewhat erractically into the distance above the river.

With the image gone from my easily seduced naked eye – and now only available on Sky – the wearily matured, journalistic cynic in me reared its ugly, sober head: Publicity stunts, the old ones are the best. Put the word “biggest” in front of something and the media run like lemmings. It’s just a bloody big estate agent’s hoarding made of helium. And, to be frank, it is plugging one of the most vulgar man-made creations I have ever witnessed up close and in person.

I sat on a beach in Dubai a few years ago (2002, I think. I was there to interview Nell McAndrew and her bikini. Nice work if you can get it) and I looked out for hours on end in utter horror at the mid-point between me and the horizon. I was fixated by giant machines sucking up sand from the sea bed and spitting it out in furious flumes across the waves into humongous piles. I was told that this was to be Palm Island in a few years time, the most beautiful place on Earth – or, er, sand – to live.

Since then, the PR spin has been moved better than anything Shane Warne’s wrist could flick and the Palm Jumeirah is now billed as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” in today’s press release [courtesy of Orient Planet PR & Marketing]. Eighth Wonder, my arse. The hyperbole is appalling and the media should be ashamed of themselves for falling for this stunt, no matter how pretty it is. Save yourselves and airbrush the name “Palm” out of your scenic London skyline photos of this airship.

All I can think about is the millions of fish and tiny sea creatures and stones and shells shaped over thousands of years that were forcibly evicted to become the hardcore for the foundations for these apparently exotic homes. But, you know that old saying about castles built on sand…