Thursday 11th January 2007
Arriving to collect Kal today, I was treated to the sight of a phenomenal car parked right in the ‘reserved’ space outside school. Excited boys, on their exit through the gates, were squirming to get a look. Their mothers, trying not to give the vehicle more than a sideways glance, bundled and encouraged them into their own car seats. I noticed the small round plate on the front grille, between two enormous radiators – ‘Bugatti’. Parked opposite, I sat and stared as its door, moulded in a single piece right to the headlights, swung open, like some exotic insect wing. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were made of platinum. From behind this dramatic curve, a very thin leg (above green lizard-skin 4-inch cowboy boots and below a fur coat) emerged to stake its place. The very-over-the-top rest of a very, very rich-looking woman, followed. Bling shone on her oversized Christian Dior shades (I could see the letters made out in diamonds from feet away) and ropes of long pearls on gold chains literally swung around her neck. Her hair, unfeasibly bottle blond, curled around a young (but overly-made-up) face. She motioned to her driver, who had dismounted and was holding the door for her, and barked something like an order, in something like Russian. He was all got up in a uniform which made him look like the doorman from Claridges’. God, who the hell is this?!
Next, Mrs. Docherty, the Head-mistress, emerged. I could see her turn and leave instructions with some unknown person behind her as she bustled through the side gate. She met Mrs. Bling almost head on, and stepped back, coughing apologetically. I pretended to fiddle with my mobile phone, having quietly winded down the window to hear better despite the chill.
‘Good afternoon, Mrs. er, er....’ Mrs. Docherty trailed off.
‘Ivanka Vinogradova’ (haughty and heavily accented) ‘I’m here to register my son, Igor, to start on Monday. I call earlier.’
‘Of course, er, Madam, we’ve been expecting you!’ (the surname’s probably too much of a mouthful) ‘Please come this way, and would you mind if possible asking your driver to move further up the road?’ Mrs. Docherty smiled apologetically.
‘Yes, I do!’ shot back the reply, as simple as that. ‘This is Very’ (dragging the ‘V’ like she was going to spit on the street, which wouldn't have surprised me) ‘expensive car, just delivered from factory. I leave it on this space please, this space is safe! If I pay fine, I pay!’ and she motioned to her driver to stay put with a flick of a wrist wrapped in what might have been half a kilo of gold charm bracelet. You’d think she’d just parked in the middle of the Bronx. Mrs. Docherty started to explain that this road is, in any case, private but at the look she received, blanched instead, shut her mouth, opened it again like a guppy, beckoned for the Russian to follow her, and nervously buzzed off. I found out later that this ‘Bugatti Veyron’ is the world’s fastest road car: built at a Chateau in Alsace, France, they cost a mere eight hundred thousand pounds or so (each)! That’s more than the new school gymnasium hall. Hmmm....precisely....enough to impress the admissions powers-that-be to skip the interminable waiting lists and allocate a place in an oversubscribed class, mid-term, at two days’ notice...