Friday, August 15, 2008

Hello Summer (2)

Apart from the fact that the entire time I was in Edinburgh it rained ceaselessly - one wag was forced to admit "this is just like Glasgow" har de har - I discovered on my return that you don't actually need to do to the Festival anymore. You just have to watch this.

Anyway, despite the rain, the flooding, the cancelled trains and the, oh the rain, (did I mention the rain?) Edinburgh was unendingly beautiful, from the Witchery to the Port o'Leith, from the Cafe Royal to the Cumberland Bar (it doesn't rain in pubs, you see) and apparently there were a few shows on too.

The High Street is closed to traffic to allow several thousand performers to wander up and down shoving leaflets and fliers at you, imploring old age pensioners to come and see the Jim Rose Circus, toddlers to come and be shouted at by Big Scary People, and all the time Edinburghers, those who haven't fled that is, are valiantly trying to go about their business as if an extra two million people suddenly turning up for tea is not the slightest bit inconvenient.

What shows did we see? Er, actually we didn't. We went through to Glasgow. Where it was raining.

On our return south (it apparently stopped raining as our train pulled out of Waverley Station) I discover that my local 'hood has been transformed overnight by the Dubai and Qatar Massif, fleeing the desert heat for the month of August. The whole population of South West London may have gone on holiday to the South of France, (the local posh Brasserie is empty) but in a small corner of SW7 the richest people on the planet have dropped off their teenage offspring to run free. Harrods is open to 9pm every night, cafes are doing a roaring trade in brightly coloured swirly patterned non-alcoholic cocktails, and the elevated pavement restaurants of Brompton Road (I always wondered when they got busy) are standing room only, save for those sitting smoking the shisha. Sainsbury's Local is swarming with packs of well dressed young ladies buying the oddest assortment of sweets and fizzy drinks by the basket load, and much to his delight the local newsagent seems to now run the place to hangout, as opposed to sitting quietly reading awaiting the odd customer of an evening.

The parade of cars is like the Goodwood Festival of Speed, in slow motion. Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Bentleys, Roller after Roller, white Range Rovers with flared arches, a Bugatti or three, more Ferraris, more Porsches than you can shake a gearstick at, all with tinted windows in various shades of black but mirrored too, with what appears to be gold leaf. And endless, endless groups of kids all talking into their phones. All the time. While they're talking to each other, while they're eating, while they're smoking (does everyone smoke in the Middle East?). Cafe Rouge - that fabulous quality eatery facing Harrods back door - is rammed until way past midnight, it's pavement tables probably changing hands for several thousand dirhum for all I know.

Designer labels, designer burkhas, designer everything. Our Chinese is slap bang in the middle of all this and during an early supper we're treated to a constant sortie at the door. Trio after trio after trio of both sexes troop in to sit at the window table, only to be told they have to order food. Harrumph. Dontwanna. Dontwantfood. Goway. Cue raspy Chinese waitress getting increasingly shouty (this is clearly happening every night. I get the impression these kids are not normally told 'no') while outside on the pavement the cruising is cranking up. It's 7pm already and it continues until well past midnight. All the pavement tables are taken by kids slouching in the most expensive designer gear you've ever seen, pretending they're not eyeing each other up. And the grandstand seat appears to be in the Chinese window. As we leave, a trio of young boys has agreed to a token plate of noodles with their raspberry ripple and melon surprises. I'm sure one of them's just going to buy the restaurant one night.

If it was any other part of London, any other city, you'd feel slightly intimidated by these wandering gangs. Here, you're wondering which one is royalty. Which one's the Billionaire.