To help out friends, I sometimes collect a boy from his primary school near Sloane Square. This part of London boasts the most expensive homes in Britain and the local families are served by a crop of ultra-pricey schools. The best known, Hill House, was founded in the 1940s by an eccentric army officer, ‘the Colonel’, who replaced the traditional blazers, caps and ties with a uniform of soft shoes, breeches and cravats inspired by George Mallory’s climbing kit. The Colonel’s wife chose the colours – red, brown and saffron – and the pupils became a local landmark as they marched along the King’s Road to play games at the Duke of York’s parade ground. Their red breeches suggested a nickname, ‘the Rusty Blobs’. King Charles was a Rusty Blob. So was the pop star Lily Allen and the political commentator Nick Watt. Today’s Rusty Blobs include members of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s impressive litter.
The boy I look after attends a school nearby and it provides exactly the same services as Hill House. First, it’s a nice, warm place for the cosseted Fauntleroys to fool around in during the day. Secondly, it gives the parents access to a social club with a high but discreet minimum property threshold. At the school gates the small talk is suitably oligarchical. ‘Can anyone recommend a fencing master in Holland Park?’ ‘Oxfordshire Council have said no to our helipad unless we re-classify the house as a business.’ ‘We’re looking for something near Beauchamp Place for about four-and-a-half.’
My little friend exists in a rarefied world of luxury that seems perfectly normal to him. ‘Do you prefer summer or winter truffles?’ he asked me while we were getting to know each other. I replied that I’ve never tasted a truffle and he gave me a pitying look as if I’d told him I don’t own a car or a TV set (which I don’t, but I thought he’d suffered enough surprises for one day).