Weeknotes 2023.7: Rich people have never had good taste

Weeknotes 2023.7: Rich people have never had good taste

It’s easy to mock the rich. As a word of caution, when I say “rich” here, I don’t mean “owns a car” or “once bought an art print” or “occasionally buys a fancy box of chocolate then eats it all at once” or “has an expensive hobby”—those who like to eat out or go on holiday or drink milk substitutes whom the press are keen to label bourgeoise-lite . We’re talking about the richer-than-rich, the heavily detached from reality, the ones who spin their own creation myths of being self-made hustlers whilst trammelling the poor with every step. These are the people who have been swimming in money for so long that it has intoxicated them: eroded at their natural compassion and empathy for other humans; and seemingly ravaged any perception of taste and tact. You can see this today, with Kim and Kanye’s macabre Apple Store nightmare in alabaster, Putin’s mould-ridden palace, and Boris and Carrie Johnson’s hideous wallpaper.

A large dining room with a domed ceiling (from which hands the chandelier in the header image). There are additional chandeliers at each corner, red gilded curtains and drapes, and every border and crevice is gilded in some way. The table is long and covered in a white tablecloth, laid out as if for food. Visitors surround the table.

Anyway, on Friday, we took a day trip to Brighton, and we visited the Royal Pavilion. My partner had been before, so knew what to expect. I had, up until that time, only seen the outside. And reader, I was not prepared. George IV was famously (a) extravagant, (b) vain, (c) a philanderer who introduced continental-style seating so he could sit with his (female) favourites at dinner, (d) appallingly bad at managing money, routinely over-spending on fripperies (among others, his own private band and spectacularly lavish stables) and having to go cap-in-hand to Parliament.

Another, slightly smaller and more tasteful, chandelier, with glass ‘pearl’ and ‘teardrop’ like formations forming a circle.

Looking at the interior, it’s not hard to see why. It’s disgustingly, almost upsettingly opulent, deeply impractical, and an assault on the eyes. The grab bag of vaguely Orientalist architecture has not aged well. Some parts are more tasteful than others (the wallpapers in the main corridor, for instance) and I guess it means that, two hundred years later, we have a public venue that we can visit and laugh at. It’s worth a visit, even if just as a warning from history.

Copper pots and pans and silver platters on an old wooden sideboard.

We spent a fair while wandering around Brighton, too (my phone tells me we walked the best part of 13km.) Lunch was at Mange Tout (where I’d eaten before, and can highly recommend) and dinner was at The Flint House (the confit potato is glorious—go for that if nothing else.) Before dinner, we walked along the beach, and up and down the pier, during a very windy and very cloudy sunset and evening. As foul as I’d expect a February afternoon in Brighton to be. To my astonishment, there was a man surfing near the pier, in water temperatures that can’t have been much higher than freezing! To our relief, he got out in one piece, walked up the beach, and cycled away with his surfboard in a trailer. I remain amazed at what people will put themselves through.

A choppy sea on a grey day, with Brighton Pier in the background. Two people stand on the brown shingle beach looking out to sea. A man in a wetsuit carrying a surfboard walks up the beach, looking astonishingly chilly.

On the train back, I finished Malorie Blackman’s autobiography, Just Sayin’. It’s quite a ride, something typically iconoclastic from beginning to end. She is fantastic. I will write up some further thoughts when I get the time, because I also want to re-read some of her books and try and pick apart what it is about them that spoke to me so much a quarter of a century ago and set me on the career path I’m on now.

Today, we finally got a substantial break in the clouds, and that seems to have been followed by a sudden boom in blossom around Stratford and Leyton and Hackney Marshes. You’ll have to wait a bit longer to see what came out on film, but here’s what I got on my digital camera with the Helios 44-2 (previously) attached.