Sunday, January 29, 2006

Memoirs of a Hobbyist

I saw Ben Elton on the street today. He walked right past me and I'm sure it was him. Well, almost - if it wasn't, he was the absolute spit and must live his life with the constant irritation of being pointed out by people in the street whispering 'Pssst, that's Ben Elton that is - ooh isn't he short.' What he was doing in York, I cannot imagine. This is not exactly celebrity-ville. Seeing a celeb on the streets of York is a major event. Although, come to think of it I once served Chelsea Clinton in Starbucks once (yes, I used to work in Starbucks - maybe I'll do a blog about it sometime) - she was awfully polite. She had a Chai Tea latte. I tried not to notice the secret service heavies lingering outside the doorway.

When I lived in London it was a different matter. I used to work just off the Strand and the place was crawling with celebrities. You couldn't move for flipping celebrities - always getting in your way, mooching around in the middle of the pavement with that 'I'm a celeb and I can mooch around in the middle of the pavement if I want, just don't notice me, but do notice me' mooch. I used to have an elaborate game worked out in which I would award myself points for a celebrity I'd seen. I would get 10 points for an A list celeb, 5 for a B list and 2 for a C list (working out what list they belonged to was half the fun). Let's think back, who did I spot... I saw Mel B from the Spice Girls (surprisingly small), Claire from Steps, that blond bloke from The Darling Buds of May (C list), Rio Ferdinand, Mark Little (Joe Mangle), Terry Waite, Terry Nutkins (A list), Bill Oddie (aaahhhh, so cute) that bloke out of Holby City who was in one of Natalie Imbruglia's videos, and Celia Imrie on a bike. Wow. Those were the days.

Eventually I got tired of it. I lost my boy from the provinces wide-eyed innocence and developed a tough Londoner cynicism. I started to arrive at work with a grande vanilla latte from Coffee Republic. I got a 12 month Zone 1-3 travel pass. I began shoulder barging through the crowds in Waterloo station. I began to tut loudly when tourists couldn't work out how to get through the ticket barriers in tube stations. I was no longer interested in celebrity spotting - so provincial. I took up a new hobby. I went rich bastard spotting in Wimbledon Village.

I used to live in South Wimbledon (well, probably nearer Morden actually, but South Wimbledon sounded better) with all the SW19 plebs. Such deprivation. So many white collar middle class people wearing Chelsea shirts. At the weekends I would sometimes stroll up to Wimbledon Village. They've probably gated it off now and posted armed sentries at the foot of the hill. Still, in those days you could walk up the street to millionaires' ville without any problem (unless you were wearing a Burberry baseball cap, in which case armed police would swoop). I used to sit in some coffee shop, toff watching.

Wimbledon Village is a strange place. It's right next to the common (obviously) and it fancies itself a bit rural (hence the 'village' part of the name). There's horse poo in the streets, they have at least two saddlers and the residents wear green wellies to nip to the newsagents for bread and milk. It is also incredibly wealthy. You can't buy a house or even rent for less than 5 squillion pounds and I'm informed that there are more Range Rovers per square metre than in any other area of any metropolis in the world. A couple of mansions have large yachts moored in the front garden fish pond. Of course the 'rural village' stuff is all bollocks. It's a kind of faux countryside vilage for those who like to think that they live in the country but who don't want to put up with all the inconveniences of the countryside like sheep, farmers, the rural poor and not having a Waitrose or Pitcher and Piano for miles around. The worst thing about the countryside, of course, is that most people who live there are not very glamorous. Most of them don't shop at Louis Vitton and spend less than £200 a fortnight on haircuts. So if you want the countryside without the countryside, and you have more money than you know what to do with, Wimbledon Village is for you. It's full of columnists from the lifestyle sections of Sunday broadsheets. Which reminds me, isn't Alex James (ex of Blur, now a barbour wax jacket and flat cap wearing, country gent with a column in the Observer - or is it the Indie?) an absolute tit.

Anyway, I used to sit there in a cafe watching the awful rich. I would give myself 2 points for anyone wearing a rugby shirt or polo top with the collar turned up, 5 points for anyone in a wax jacket and wellies, 7 points for a glamorous lady with expensive sunglasses on top of her head, lots of bottled tan and a copy of Tatler poking out of her Prada handbag, and 10 points for Ben Fogle. I would regularly rack up over 100 points in less than an hour.

Eventually I got bored of that, too. So I moved to York. And now I spot bishops.

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