Last Night's Viewing: Billionaire Boy Racers, Channel 4
Trouble Abroad, ITV1
The residents of Knightsbridge are suffering. Their simple village ways are under threat and their traditional lifestyle assailed by insensitive newcomers. And the problem, it seems, is the wrong kind of rich people. "Gulfies", to be specific, the local nickname for the moneyed Gulf Arabs who favour that part of London for their summer holidays and prefer to bring their own cars with them rather than rely on a holiday rental.
You can see their point, really. As it happens, you can hire a Bugatti Veyron in London, but it will cost you £16,500 a day. And while the Lamborghini Aventador is a comparative snip at £2,990 for two days, they will want a £7,500 deposit. Frankly, you're saving money if you fly in your own.
The problem for their English neighbours is that there's not a lot of point to a supercar unless you cruise the streets in it, advertising all that expensive horsepower by gunning the engine repeatedly. Or by arranging impromptu races through the Hyde Park underpass. And this makes the locals tetchy in some cases and weepy in others. Panda, founder of a local action group, talked emotionally about the beleaguered natives who had passed their flats from generation to generation, as if she was defending a crofting community from holiday rentals. Justin, whose upper lip was a little stiffer, thought it was "reverse colonisation... we're subjects, slaves to their money". And again, with a little effort, you could see their point. Bloody hell! That's not how colonisation is supposed to work.
Not everyone hates the annual invasion of the boy racers. The carparazzi – photographers who specialise in snapping rare cars – love it. On that side of things, Matt Rudge's Billionaire Boy Racers focused on Liam from Cumbria, who regularly takes time off from working in the kebab shop to film material for his specialised YouTube channel, and whose day (and possibly life so far) was made when he was offered a quick spin in a Lamborghini by a friendly owner. Local businesses also seem phlegmatic about the window- rattling presence of the supercars, given that it's usually accompanied by a complete indifference to the eye-watering mark-ups on everything they sell. And I have good news for those who just can't take it anymore. In my particular stretch of north London, property remains relatively affordable and the most likely automative face-off is going to be two Prius owners boasting about their fuel-economy figures.
One hopes they don't make the mistake of thinking they can just move to the south of France or Florida and leave all their troubles behind them – the misconception exposed (with a slightly unseemly avidity) in Trouble Abroad, the first of a two-part ITV documentary that seems designed to reassure viewers that they're better off as wage slaves in an English winter. Those featured included Sally, whose husband squandered the retirement fund on online poker, leaving her to eke out a living with the help of a French food bank, and Rob and Sandy, who cashed in their entire life-savings to buy a mobility-scooter rental franchise in Florida. "Yeah. It's a good business to be in," said Sandy, though sadly not quite good to prevent them staring bankruptcy and repatriation in the face.
We also met Terry, "one-time miner-turned-rock star", who was rattling around a 10-room mansion in Spain with his wife, praying for someone to buy it for half the sum he originally paid. "This place here is like a beautiful prison," he said glumly. Some prospective buyers turned up, preceded by a hailstorm of such biblical intensity that even the least superstitious would have taken it as a "Don't Purchase" warning. The film concluded, a little startlingly, with Sally announcing that she didn't regret her move to France, as if the makers had realised that a completely undiluted slug of schadenfreude might leave a little bitterness on the lips.
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
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