OUT TO LUNCH
About a month ago a very expensive four storey terraced building in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea collapsed in the early hours of the morning.
The strip of terraced buildings known as Durham Place was built in the late 1790’s (before the advent of the motor vehicle) and those familiar with the architecture of some of the posher areas of London will know that these homes sell for an average of R80 million.
For that price you don’t even get a garage and you have to apply for a resident’s parking permit to leave the Bentley on the street in all weathers. One of the seven bedroom homes in Durham Place apparently sold for R320 million last year.
I doubt whether the owners of the homes left standing on either side of the mid terrace collapse are ecstatic at the mess that has been left or are particularly looking forward to the rebuilding programme.
After all, you can’t just call your local builder and asking him to throw up a four storey London townhouse in the exact 18th century style of those on either side. This is going to be a lengthy and expensive process.
When I lived in London I shared a flat in Smith St in Chelsea just 500 metres from the now collapsed terrace building. My flat-mates were three attractive Sloane Rangers and the only reason they allowed me in was because they felt they needed a man about the place to do practical things like change lightbulbs and perform other small services.
In the 1970’s a smaller terraced house in the area would have set you back the equivalent at the time of R60 000 which tells you everything you need to know about UK house price inflation and the collapse of the Rand. My shared flat was conveniently situated above an Indian restaurant and next door to The Phoenix pub which was a magnet for showbiz and sports celebrities.
In those days the sort of people who lived in Durham Place would probably have lived there for years and might well have inherited the property from their parents. Then came the foreign invasion which was particularly noticeable in Chelsea.
Russian oligarchs, Arab sheiks, dodgy money launderers and assorted global despots decided the London property market was the place to put their money and started to buy up properties in the fashionable London squares and terraces. Very often the properties would stand empty for most of the year with the families only arriving for holidays or social events like Wimbledon. This didn’t do much for community spirit and the more permanent residents found themselves living in ghostly isolation.
Then came the boom times of the 2000’s and the silence of the ghostly isolation was replaced by the constant noise of jack-hammers and drills digging down under the 18th century buildings to install 8 car garages, personal gyms, indoor swimming pools and private cinemas.
How on earth building permission was ever obtained for these ‘alterations’ beggars belief but money talks and lots of money talks loudest. It was an accident waiting to happen and Durham Place was that accident. The excavation of the sub basement (work which had been going on for over a year) to install a swimming pool for a Hollywood mogul brought down the entire building.
We have had such building ‘vanities’ here in South Africa and it wasn’t that long ago when the mega wealthy would buy an expensive property in Plettenberg Bay, demolish the house and build a new ultra modern monstrosity specifically with the aim of obstructing the sea view of those living behind the property.
Oh what fun it must be to have unlimited wealth. If you could persuade the builders to work over the Christmas holiday by paying them four times as much, thereby ruining your neighbour’s Christmas, then so much the better.
Of course, the really cool thing to do would be to decide you didn’t like the replacement house after all and then demolish that too.
I am reliably informed by those in the know that the latest cool installation in your R100 million luxury home is not an immaculately clean garage for your collection of vintage cars.
Neither is it the ten pin bowling alley blasted into the rocks under your seafront eyrie. It is a fully equipped ICU unit. On the basis that it’s better to be safe than sorry the rich and infamous are now looking at installing their own personalized Intensive Care Units with all the necessary medical equipment just in case the private hospitals find themselves over extended during a new wave of COVID.
Obviously one needs qualified staff to run such an operation but when money is no object I imagine it can’t be too difficult to lure staff from the public health facilities by waving piles of moolah. And even when COVID has been conquered by the ‘vaccine’ it’s always nice to know that you have state of the art medical facilities with a sea view just three floors away from your bedroom should you experience chest pains at two in the morning.
Speaking of the ‘vaccine’ I’m told that it has replaced Brexit as the dinner party topic of conversation in the UK; or would have if people were still allowed to hold dinner parties. My stance on the ‘vax’ is very simple.
I don’t believe it contains any 5G implants which will enable the Chinese Communist Party to control my life but under top legal advice I will be avoiding anything marked ‘Batch 666’.
I think the fact that a vaccine has been produced for general use in ten months rather than the more usual ten years is more due to efficiency and minimal bureaucratic intervention than a rush to appease political critics.
What does confuse me though is that there are, according to the minimal research I could be bothered to do, around 50 different COVID vaccines all vying for our attention. That’s rather like visiting a whisky bar and trying to decide between a malt and a blend and wondering whether a Speyside might be preferable to a Highland.
So, I’m going to hold back for the moment and wait to see which one scores highest among the vaccine cognoscenti. Three things alarm me though. The first is the suggestion that we won’t be able to take legal action against the developers of the vaccine if things go wrong.
The second is the extraordinarily convenient appearance of a vaccine just as the Brexit talks are about to break down and the third is that I have yet to see a UK politician get vaccinated.
President Frogboiler’s weekly letter to the proletariat (that’s you and me) is always a great way to kick off the week. I can’t believe Cyril gives up part of his Sunday to pen a missive to us so I’m assuming he has a team of writers (like all good comedy shows) who put something together which sounds vaguely uplifting and then the Pres just signs off on it before it’s sent out for general consumption.
The problem is that he probably doesn’t have enough to time to read the final article thoroughly, what with dealing with all the naughty boys in the ANC, so a few howlers are bound to slip through. Last week he wrote:
"The private sector has to do more to empower, capacitate, train and employ more persons with disabilities, and to making workplaces more conducive and accommodating".
The obvious attack on the lackadaisical ‘private sector’ is impossible to miss but, as we know with the ANC, it’s always the private sector that has to do more and never the public sector. But I’m left wondering quite what Cyril has in mind – waiters in wheelchairs perhaps? One armed welders? Epileptic airline pilots? Stammering radio announcers?
Surely a decently organized society should be offering support to those with disabilities and not demanding that the already stretched private sector take responsibility by inventing jobs.
Only when the state can provide a safe and efficient public transport system that isn’t a daily nightmare for even the able bodied trying to get to work can they put a bit of pressure on the private sector to do their bit.
This is the final Out to Lunch for 2020. All that remains is for me to thank you for reading the column and to wish you everything of the best over the festive season. If 2020 has taught us anything at all it is that political comedy is alive and well. I’m sure we can look forward to many more laughs in 2021. Until mid January then….