Getting a table at Scott’s at an hour’s notice could be a sign of social clout – but I smell recession. The whispers have turned into shouts, with newspapers dishing out gloom and schadenfreude on a daily basis. I read some good news yesterday: despite the rumours, a survey showed that house prices were in fact on the up.
My heart sank when I read that the survey had been commissioned by a real-estate agent. Some of the non-doms have gone. To France, and New York and Switzerland, apparently. South Ken is looking a little more English – greyer and more sullen.The music hasn’t stopped but the orchestra is looking a little peaky. The middle classes will eat out less, holiday less, and apparently, read Vogue more – a form of escapism. I have cut down on visits to Starbucks and private doctors. The very rich embrace economy as a gesture of solidarity rather than out of necessity.
Waiting lists for super-yachts are waning and I’m told that there is a glut of gin palaces back on the market again – their owners having got cold feet, divorced or Joe Lewis’d backing the wrong horse. Renting not buying yachts or houses or jets is the jet-set equivalent of my Starbucks cutback. Why spend thirty million on a jet when you can charter one for fifty thousand. This is false economy, but economy none the less. Nigel Burgess and Camper & Nicholson charter the boat that, six months ago, you wish you’d bought but you’re now rather glad that you didn’t. Paying school fees is one thing but paying the school fees for your mildly alcoholic captain’s children is quite another.
Renting a boat allows you to enjoy all the perks of yacht ownership bar boasting about how much you paid for it and the dubious pleasure of decorating your vessel. Boats unavailable for charter previously are available for the first time this year. Owners are keen to try to defer the massive cost of running a large yacht – however slight this reduction in running costs might be.
This year’s bonus is unlikely to stretch to an estate off Pampelonne in St Tropez. Rather than betting the ranch on a ranch, it’s better, perhaps, to rent the ranch – at least until the oil price levels off. The rental of a manor house near St Remy is far more 2008. It’s hard to spend money in the middle of nowhere. CV Travel rent wonderful houses in Italy, Spain and France. My fiancée Sara and I live beyond our means for one week a year. We ‘take’ a house in Greece and then give it back
a week later. The maintenance bills and crazy neighbours and local cats and the mosquitoes are not our problem.
The demise of Eos suggests either that theirs was an unsustainable model, or that in the current economic climate a business-class-only airline is unsustainable. Silverjet’s fate hangs in the balance. Jet hire is about to become less expensive. This revolution in private air travel is timed perfectly. The Cessna Citation Mustang, Eclipse 500 and HondaJet will mean that private-air travel is within reach of those who formerly had to limp their way to Nice in BA’s cramped Club Europe seat. Now they’ll be cramped in privacy. This new breed of jets will bring the cost of air charter down considerably, and even people like me, tipsy at the start of the summer, start eyeing up private planes and dividing the charter price by six – then comparing it to the easyJet price. A good rule is that if you have to do any kind of arithmetic when hiring planes, boats, or houses, you’re better off flying, sailing and staying with the rest of us.