Every so often I have to pop to the Chelsea & Westminster hospital on the Fulham Road for a check-up. I have learned to love the Fulham Road. Where else in London would have a standalone Le Creuset shop, a pet spa and a daily wet fish market selling lobsters that gaily wave their tentacles from a tank that would do Esther Williams proud?
I also adore the walk back to Bloomsbury apart from the stretch that begins at the Brompton Oratory and is mercifully over once one reaches the Berkeley hotel. I refer of course to the United Arab Emirates of SW3. Knightsbridge! What have they done to you?
Ever since the Candy brothers and the Qataris employed Lord Rogers to build One Hyde Park – known locally as Stalag 9 – the last glimpse of green has been brutally snuffed-out by tower blocks that are architecture’s answer to S&M. These dark, forbidding high-rises house a sinister gumbo of wrong-uns from Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Qatar, Russia and Azerbaijan who, one surmises, might justifiably deserve to live behind bullet-proof glass in panic rooms.
Vanity Fair magazine investigated One Hyde Park and concluded that sixty of the apartments were owned by companies registered in sunny places for shady people. The much-vaunted £140 million penthouse had, in fact, been sold to the gentleman in the keffiyeh and Ray-Bans for £40 mil. The gent in question was Qatari investor and former Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad. Christian Candy also allegedly awarded himself a £100 million discount on another of the penthouse suites.
Now, you know I am not remotely Bolshie. I would defend HM The Queen with my life. But whenever I look-up at One Hyde Park not only do I expect to see the flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz, I also reach for my knitting and whistle for a tumbril. Obscene and arguably corrupt wealth hovering like a sated vulture over the Brompton Road brings out the revolutionary in me. I’m all on not to galvanise all the Big Issue sellers and storm the fecking place like the Bastille.
Can you remember the courtier who described the Duchess of York as ‘vulgar, vulgar, vulgar’? Doesn’t even begin to describe those custom-built monstrosities laughably known as ‘supercars’ that illegally park round Harrods and are abandoned when the Sheikhs, Emirs, Princes and playboys return to the Gulf States. That guttural raw of a vulgar sports car is to automobiles what crotchless panties are to lingerie.
Truth to tell, I wasn’t in the best of moods stoating through Knightsbridge having had a late lunch in the Fulham Road Carluccio’s. There I was minding my own business with my San Pellegrino and battered copy of The Stranger’s Child when what can only be described as a honking great Sloane plonked some smelly old poncho probably made from yak’s hair right next to me.
Said Sloane had a voice like a foghorn, boobs like Zeppelins straining under an ethnic smock and no inhibitions. I believe the woman sharing coffee with her was a life coach who kept on whispering soothingly about self-empowerment and inner beauty. All’s to say was it must have been buried deep but I kept mum until the decibels forced me to stab her with my pastry fork.
Thinking myself the Kofi Annan of Carluccio’s, I settled back to my green salad only for a young rosy-cheeked smug mother with mewling brat to plonk themselves at my other side spilling wet wipes, gluten-free rusks and bottles full of breast milk all over my paperback. Granny looked apologetic as if to say in mime ‘ghastly, aren’t they?’
Now I have nothing against new mothers but my nerves were severely tested when Madonna vigorously attempted to breast feed child at the table. She then bounced it up and down on her lap gurgling endless rubbish about how she made baby cover daddy with big sloppy kisses and licks of a morning. I bet he must be thrilled when he’s chairing a meeting at Goldman Sachs and finds baby sick all over his Charvet tie. And you wonder why men take mistresses?
But I digress. Worse was to come. I think even Granny thought twice about taking another mouthful of her risotto verde when new mum took great delight in telling the entire restaurant what a snotty baby precious was and how it liked putting said substance in its mouth. Old rosy cheeks said this with such pride you’d have thought the baby had already passed grade eight piano.
I’m afraid I fled after snot gate having entirely lost my appetite. Perhaps this is why I was storming towards Knightsbridge like the Wrath of God. My mood wasn’t particularly improved this being half term and me being slightly to the right of the Child Catcher when it comes to tolerance of tots. Don’t you long for a bowling ball when pavements are entirely blocked by families walking five abreast?
Nevertheless, I can take a few bruises from hostile pushchairs but being entirely outnumbered by ladies and gentlemen from Arabic countries wearing national dress made Knightsbridge feel alien … rather like the posh Ridley Road Market it has become. Lest one be accused of racism, I can tell you now I am equally vexed by all the super rich Russians, Azerbaijanis, Ukrainians and Kazakhstanis who seem to possess not one iota of spacial awareness when barging past you in pursuit of products from LVMH and Rolex.
In short, Knightsbridge is lost. If it isn’t the super rich you’ve got to dodge the ladyboys of the Harvey Nichols make-up counters smoking Vogue Menthols (otherwise known as bitch sticks) on the corner dressed like the lost Amish Kardashian sister. You know my thoughts on ‘gender fluid’ fashion so I won’t bore you with any more. But I tell you, as Danny La Rue said before he retired, ‘it’s enough to make you toss in your wig’.