London’s mindless boy racers

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 ALAN FRAME, pictured à la Toad in his 1.5 litre Singer, reflects on the dopes of Araby

Youth 1: Terrorising SW3

It’s July and while it might be a miserable summer here, it’s unbearably hot in Saudi and Dubai. So that means it’s time for the wretched spoiled kids from those sandy parts to decamp to London SW3 with their dreadful motorised bling and blight the lives of locals.

This has been a phenomenon for a decade now and the police have tried all sorts of wheezes to combat it from fines to towing away. But if you have just paid £20,000 to fly your £500,000 so-called supercar from the Middle East the odd extra £100 is not going that have much effect.

I first came across this weird example of gilded youth at its very worst 10 years or so ago when I was visiting a pal in Basil Street, the narrow road between Harrods and Sloane Street. My friend is not easily offended and is rich enough to have bought all the cars parading outside his house, but he was outraged by both the noise and the lack of taste of the cars and their owners.

On another occasion we were dining al fresco at a Lebanese restaurant in Knightsbridge which turned out to be on the route of the circuit used by these mindless prats. Here’s how it goes: One at a time, the driver accelerates as hard as possible, making max noise and pollution for about 20 yards or until something (or worse somebody) gets in the way. Then they brake, sometimes with smoke coming from the red-hot disc brakes.

Sloane Street offers a better chance of serious speed if the lights are at green. And as for an endorsement on your driving licence, forget it – that sort of thing is for the little people. Not the types who buy Lamborghinis, Paganos, Koenigseggs and Bugatti Veyrons for the price a decent house in the Home Counties. Not that there is so much wrong with those cars if they were still as their makers intended instead of being customised with diamonds (I’m not making this up), matt black paintwork (hideous) and alligator hide interiors (what a shame the alligator didn’t win).

I speak as one who has had a succession of interesting fast cars and vintage sports cars (to prove it see me being a boy racer in my 1934 Singer – but on private land:


The point is these kids could hire a race track for a day and put them through their paces instead of making the residents of SW3 so angry. These 20-somethings have a habit of annoying and not just by being stinking rich thanks to an accident of birth.

Many years ago I was going on business to Dubai with a colleague. He very kindly suggested he used his mountain of air miles to get us upgraded to First Class on Emirates. Well, as we say in Ireland, no good deed goes unpunished: the front left of the plane was exclusively (apart from us) the reserve of Arab princelings in shell suits blaring out music about as tasteful as their cars and jewellery. How we regretted we were not at the back with the decent poor.

A few years before that while working for Mohamed al-Fayed and planning the stillborn Sunday paper he was considering, I was based in a block Fayed owned in Park Lane. Above the ground floor of offices were apartments which could be rented by the night, the week or the month. One morning there was a terrible kerfuffle when the manager of the apartments discovered that one of them had been trashed by a Saudi just out of his teens. He had invited back fellow travellers and hookers and vast quantities of booze and cocaine had been consumed by these kids who back home were no doubt posing as good Muslims.

Compensation was demanded: Instantly met with £20,000 in cash in a suitcase (this was 1997) arriving by cab.

Lest anyone assume I am racist, anti-Muhammad (the prophet, not the former store keeper) or just an old fogey, nothing could be further from the truth. But I am vehemently anti-bad taste and bad behaviour, unless, of course, it is me doing the misbehaving.

Most of all I detest behaviour that is a) dangerous and b) causes others to suffer. The police must be able to do something about this summer menace, they seem to have enough powers when it comes to ordinary motorists doing slightly over the speed limit. As I know to my cost!

 Youth 2: Uplifting in SW1

To Westminster Abbey for choral evensong. And lest you think the congregation in this increasingly non-Christian age would be two old ladies in brogues, think again: there were more than 1,000 in the congregation for the 5pm service.

I was there because the choir was the chapel choir of my old school Methodist College and I have been asked to write the history of the school to coincide with its 150th anniversary in 2018. The kids had been ‘guesting’ at the Abbey for three days with another day at the Chapel Royal, Windsor. It was an uplifting experience to say the least. These pupils broke up at the beginning of July so have given up holiday time to travel from Ireland to sing. As did the music staff and the headmaster and his wife.

Over the years the choir has a habit of winning competitions and the admiration of all who have heard these dedicated children, having sung the Abbey before, Carnegie Hall, for the Queen and President Obama as well as several Irish presidents. A decent pedigree to say the least, especially when you think the age range of the 50 choristers, boys and girls of all religions and none, is 14 to 19.

What a contrast to those young eejits now using SW3 as their summer playground.

 

© 2005-2017 Alastair McIntyre