True Gripes: Sloane dangers: Life in SW3 has its ugly side

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The Independent Online
A year ago, the prospect of living in Chelsea had me all a-quiver. Now I'm moving on, and I shouldn't be sorry if I never saw the King's Road again.

Why such vehemence? Well, alight at Sloane Square Tube. The square is charming, almost Parisian, the renovated Royal Court to your right, and ahead, the Peter Jones building. 'Never knowingly undersold' is the reassuring slogan at PJs, where nice girls have their wedding lists (Conran, of course, is just a wee bit too smart, if you know what I mean).

But try shopping there and you begin to wonder if those fierce assistants take a 'never knowingly pleasant' pledge each morning, as they salute the rising sun, hair in a bun and mouths like sphincters, the retail world's Samurai caste in twin-sets.

All said and done though, Peter Jones is a fine store. John Lewis will love me for saying this, but PJs, Waitrose and Chelsea library are perhaps the only things I would seek to preserve from a nuclear holocaust flattening SW3.

The locals, of course, like insect life and reptiles, would probably survive the bomb, saved from annihilation by their indomitable hairdos. Your average Chelsea bag has, besides boundless confidence, braying voice and Coutts cheque book, a helmet stronger than a Star Wars trooper and of almost roccoco grandeur.

She is like Mme de Pompadour, only without the culture. Or glamour. l'm happy to doff my cap to a real lady, but it's hard to respect a ruling class that wears culottes. Ines de la Fressange would think twice about wearing them, so what makes some weather-beaten old Sloane think she can get away with it?

I don't enjoy feeling like this about my neighbours - a good reason to move, if there ever was one - but Chelsea just seems to bring out the worst in people, like some freak show rendition of our iniquitous class system, with toffs behaving like caricatures of themselves and plebs looking equally ugly, only with tight little perms.

If God had wanted us to look like that he'd have put pubic hair on our heads, but in Chelsea you go from one grotesque extreme to another.

There is the Fulham Road with nightmare Eighties couples leaving the health club in pastel colours. The younger folk drink spritzers, flirting decorously outside the Goat In Boats, just as their ancestors might have done at Almack's marriage mart 200 years ago. Money to money.

And down the road at World's End? The white trash buy their beers from a woman at the offie who I swear has worn the same unwashed kilt every day since I first moved here.

And where do I fit into this cosy little Chelsea? Well, I would like to move to a place where the poles weren't so far apart. But what difference would a few miles make? I should be changing my country, not my postal code.