Sunday, 23 March 2014

Oodles of Boodles

Whilst my husband was out running last night, I indulged my inner girl and watched a programme about jewellery. The making of a million pound necklace, to be precise. And then, because diamonds are apparently a girl’s best friend, I carried on my millionaire’s fantasy and watched a programme about the making of a diamond-studded Rolls Royce.

Boodles the jeweller’s is full of women who are not very much like me. They might also technically be described as housewives, but they are the sort of housewife who is in fact a lady of total leisure. A lady who doesn’t do a scrap of cleaning, cooking or child care, yet takes an unlimited salary out of her husband’s bank account and gets so bored that she feels the need to go into town to drink champagne with a jeweller who is trying to get her to spend £87,000 on a necklace. Now, I too generally avoid doing much cleaning. With two cats and a three-year-old in the house, there is nothing less rewarding than making the effort to find half an hour to hoover one night, only to have your carpet knee-deep in fur, Cheerios and train sets by eight o’clock the following morning. But I do partake in a lot of cooking and child care, even if I have no great skill at either. However, I only go out and spend my husband’s money on food for us all to eat, and things for our daughter (most of which are second-hand). But I never spend a penny on myself. Which is one of the things I find hardest about full-time parenting – with the loss of our child benefit (don’t get me started, you bastard coalition), I am now entirely without income. I was very used to paying my own way before I had to stop work. So I now feel unable to buy myself a new pair of shoes, or a jumper or a book that isn’t from a charity shop, because I haven’t earned the money to do so. (And I didn't spend our child benefit on these things either, for the record.) I don’t wish to give the impression that my husband is an old meanie – he never spends any of his money on himself and would gladly let me buy something for me (provided it wasn’t an £87,000 necklace) if I asked. But that’s just it - I hate to ask. I detest being financially dependent on someone. Therefore, however much I like shopping, I find it hard to relate to people who just see spending their husband’s money as a hobby. Especially that much money. And especially when they don’t do anything else with their lives.
Trying to look like I belong in Monaco

Casino in Monte Carlo
The people buying from Boodles and Rolls Royce also inhabit a world I cannot relate to. I’m not sure that many of us can. They inhabit places where I have never felt less at home – Monaco, the shops on 5th Avenue in New York City, the ballroom scene in Vienna. In Monaco, I spent a lot of time trudging past roadworks and ate lunch from a portside shack. I’d paid 1 Euro on a bus from Nice to get there. In Boodles’ world, the people have arrived by helicopter, luxury yacht or racing car, and are hosting a glamorous party high up on the skyline, looking down on the casino in Monte Carlo. For me the casino was a long hike up a ton of steps and when I got to the top, I didn’t dare go inside. Not even to use the loo. I did go inside Tiffany’s in New York, and possibly wasn’t even the shabbiest tourist in there, but there was no way I was going to buy anything. Thankfully most of it wasn’t to my taste. I did once have a box at the ballet in Vienna, but it was a freebie from a flautist in the orchestra that I happened to be staying with, and I have never (given that I was in the middle of a student Interrailing trip) genuinely had nothing to wear more in my life. 

The only jewellery shopping I have ever done was to buy my engagement ring. After feeling very awkward in a number of establishments on Bond Street in London where the assistants made it all too plain we were giving off whiffs of “we can’t afford it in here”, we ended up at Arlington’s in Hatton Garden. It certainly wasn’t Boodles, awash with champagne and perfectly manicured coffee and petits fours, but they were helpful and cared, and didn’t make us feel like we shouldn’t be there. And when we finally found the “one”, which was of course so perfect and beautiful and slipped on my finger like something out of Cinderella (no comments about ugly sisters, please), but was also an awful lot over budget, they gave us a massive discount if we paid for it then and there. My husband said that the look on my face made it worth every penny. Ah, we were so in love.

The only time I have been driven in Rolls Royce was on our wedding day. It was vintage and a shade of brown that was very close to my school uniform, and I was too nervous to appreciate it properly on the way to the church. On leaving the church, several Japanese tourists (we were getting married in the heart of the Lake District) tried to climb in there with us.
Me and a Rolls

But these giant oil tankers of a car that Rolls currently manufacture look like my idea of driving hell. Try parallel parking one of those on our narrow York street. They’re not exactly nippy either. But hey, they all come with an umbrella hidden away inside one of the front wings, so that’s OK. Not much use in Abu Dhabi though, where most Rolls owners live. The diamond studded Celestrial car also came with a picnic set of uniquely designed plates worth 20,000 pounds. The owner will probably never even use it. (Sand in sandwiches is, after all, never particularly pleasant.)

The images of no expense spared in both programmes was really quite disturbing – the poor goldsmith had to redo the diamond panels for the Rolls Royce about three times, thanks to tiny flaws no one would probably have ever noticed. No doubt he was being paid handsomely, but it seemed so extraordinarily reckless, that they could just repeat and repeat any process with no cost limitations. Because someone out there would eventually buy the end product, no matter how extortionate the price, and see them recoup their losses. And the luxurious launch parties and car shows were jaw-dropping in terms of extravagance and show. And yet a lot of the people the companies employed seemed fairly normal. Quite posh at the top, but down on the factory floor, you could still feel a connection with them.

Though the team at Boodles trying to think of a name for the emerald million-pound necklace was a farce. You could just see Siobhan Sharpe from Twenty Twelve and W1A in the corner shuffling the yellow Post-Its around before announcing. “Here’s the thing, the thing is, the thing is, here’s the things, yah, the thing is, it’s green, yah? And it’s so like fiery. So let’s call it greenfire, dude, yah?” And that’s exactly what they did.

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