As you may know, I am a great supporter of new ideas and I’m approached with them all the time.
Some are brilliant, and work. Others are brilliant and don’t work. And then there are those that are ridiculous and shouldn’t work, but somehow do. It’s not always easy to tell them apart, but the market always decides, so you do eventually find out, if they ever get that far.
But if someone had intimated that they’d spotted a gap in law which allowed them to market land on both near and far distant planets, and was I interested in investing in the concept, I’d first enquire if they’d missed their morning medication. But someone’s done just that, and they’re making a fortune.
The premise is to forget flowers, chocolates and vintage champagne. If you really want to make an impression on the love of your life why not ‘wow’ them with a gift that’s quite literally out of this world.
Moon Estates, the West Country-based company that trades in lunar plots, has expanded its trade in all things extraterrestrial and also offers love-struck punters the chance to buy a deeply meaningful slice of Venus and Mars
And who could blame them? Since setting up shop a decade-or-so ago they've sold thousands of acres of the Moon, Venus and Mars. Prices this high up on the property ladder are surprisingly down-to-earth, at a very reasonable £16.75 an acre. It makes those oddly-shaped Network Rail strips of land that come up for auction look rather expensive. Or you can purchase 10 planetary acres for the bargain price of only £94. Lovely gifts, to have that special someone walking on air. We are told that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, after all.
With each purchase you receive a Deed, Constitution, Property Map, Mineral Rights and a Declaration of Ownership, but as with any property purchase Caveat emptor (buyer beware) applies. So here's the low down on what you can expect from your planetary purchase.
On the plus side, Venus, named after the goddess of love and beauty, comes with an impressive set of mythological and literary associations and the added advantage of being the brightest object in the sky.
Often regarded as the Earth's sister planet, it's almost exactly the same size (95%) and has a similar density and chemical composition. It's also the closest to the Earth, which should cut down on travel expenses and lengthy interplanetary voyages.
But there is a down side. Proximity to the sun means blistering temperatures of 475C; the atmospheric pressure is 100 times greater than Earth and is composed mostly of carbon dioxide; and a dense covering of clouds, mainly composed of sulphuric acid, makes landing a bit of a problem.
Should you make it to the surface you'll find an interesting landscape of gently rolling plains - a kind of extraterrestrial South Downs - interspersed with highlands, depressions and some spectacular mountain ranges.
However, hiking, hill-climbing and horsey activities are somewhat hindered by a surface awash with molten lava and punctuated by erupting volcanoes. And forget water sports; the H20 has all but evaporated.
Named after the God of War, and also known as the Red Planet, Mars seems on first viewing to be a pretty poor bet. To begin with, it's a bit of a trek to get there - about 63 million miles - which, let’s face it, even if some futuristic Network Rail can run regular shuttles, may be more than most of us are willing to endure.
But get beyond the distance and there really are quite a few plusses. Unlike unapproachable Venus, Mars looks like it might actually be habitable.
The climate, while not perfect, is at least recognisable (27C at noon), and the terrain, a combination of spectacular canyons and towering mountain ranges, makes it one of the most enviable locations in the solar system.
According to the science fiction writer Gregory Benfold, Mars "is like the Moon with bad weather," but Robert Zubin, founder of the Mars Society prefers a more immediate analogy. He thinks it's a bit like Canada.
Zubin leads a merry band of Mars enthusiasts who are determined to send a human expedition to the planet, convinced that it's possible to colonise the place. They’re a rugged bunch of individualists; self-reliant and competitive, with a powerful pioneering spirit. So much so, that at a conference on colonising Mars (I'm not making this up) a furious Australian interrupted a debate on the need for Law on Mars with the grim interjection: "It's a frontier. People are supposed to die. That's the point!”
Just so. And Mars will certainly oblige. Temperatures swing wildly from Mediterranean summers to freezing winters of 133C; strong winds whip up dust storms which cover the whole planet; and the atmosphere is exceedingly thin - less than 1% of the Earth's - and mostly composed of Carbon dioxide. But hey, better to die a horrible, heroic death on Mars than to live like a domesticated wimp on Earth.
The sale of planetary land may sound, well, pie in the sky, but according to Moon Estates it's all legitimate and above board. Thirty years ago an American, the appropriately named Dennis Hope, spotted a loophole in the various international treaties covering ownership of the planets.
These, apparently, forbid governments to make a claim but neglect to mention private individuals and companies. Armed with this, Hope set up the Lunar Embassy and started flogging plots of the Moon.
Moon Estates is the first franchise of Hope's original venture and looks set to do just as brisk a trade. There are now hundreds of thousands of lunar landowners worldwide, among them Jimmy Carter, Harrison Ford and Clint Eastwood.
For further information on these usual opportunities, visit MoonEstates.com
Personally I haven’t yet been tempted. I’m all in favour of speculating for the future, and constantly find myself doing so (beachfront plots in Thailand, development land in north Africa, caravan sites in Spain and Portugal), but this is a little far-sighted even for me. And, anyway, who knows what neighbours you’ll end up with. Klingons would be irksome. Daleks are always trouble. Those Jedi light sabres can cause havoc with soft furnishings, and it’s in their nature for Triffids to enter into boundary disputes. And what would Noise Abatement do about the Clangers?