Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Class-less French …

Before you ask, yes, I can justify that statement.

I won’t reveal the identity of the person in question, suffice to say that I know him. He’s a little over 70 years old, been retired from his job as a lawyer for a number of years, owns a 4-bedroomed house on the coast and a large comfortable apartment in a swanky area of Paris. ‘Bien fricée’ is the phrase to describe him - ‘loaded’.

A year or so ago, he ordered himself a small present. Well, small? No. Ostentatious, yes. It’s a brand new Aston Martin DB9 with as many extras as their Warwickshire factory could cram into it. He took delivery 2 months ago and she's a stunning piece of engineering with the looks of a beautiful English gal and an aura of ‘rich f**k inside’. It makes me proud to be British.

This manner from heaven cost him £91 000 (€133,000 or $117,000), which he paid in cash. Now, whenever I see a classy ‘Roast Beef’ motorcar (a Rolls or Bentley) driving around the French capital, I wince. To begin with, it’s the steering wheel on the left which gives me that sinking feeling. Then it’s the very un-British number plate. There’s something about a Brit in the driving seat which gives an air of the upper-classes and a sense of well-being. The French, I’m sorry to say, use this position as a garish money-bags status. Rather like a tramp who’s won the lottery. They do not sit well.

The magicians of Gaydon say that: “Power comes from a 450bhp all aluminum 6.0L V12. A new crankshaft, cams, manifolds, lubrication, and engine management, all contribute to more power and torque over the DB7 engine. 80 percent of the 570Nm of torque is available at just 1500 rpm. Top speed is 186 mph, with an 0-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds. Two transmissions are available: a 6-speed manual and a 6-speed paddle-controlled automatic. The automatic utilizes a shift-by-wire technology, eliminating the traditional gearshift cluster and allowing for either paddle-shifting or fully automatic driving.”

On appraoching his palace on wheels, you open the passenger door and your eyes meet the futuristic instrument panel and deep leather seats. The full monty. Take a look in the passenger foot-well and there you find … a supermarket-bought bright yellow bath mat. Not a mat that might blend in with the maroon interior, oh no. A bright yellow FLORAL bath mat.

But what about a nice pair of Aston Martin car mats? “Non!” he says “they cost too much.”

Eh? You WHAT?! Look, you bought this British icon because your own car industry is incapable of building anything like it (the nation spends too long preening itself), your 'play thing' cost the same as a 2-bedroomed country cottage but just look at the extras that you paid for! The colour-keyed leather trim steering wheel, for a start. Then there's the coloured brake calipers, the front wheel stone guards and a heated front screen. That little lot comes in at over £600 (€870 or $1,140). And yet the supermarket bath mat cost pennies.

For a start, he doesn’t need GPS as he’s been driving from his apartment in Paris to his manor house at the seaside for 30 years. He could do it with his eyes closed. That’s the first waste of cash.

It’s often the way of the loaded French family by eating meat once a week, dressing badly and filling their homes with crappy furniture. The important things in their lives, such as large houses and flashy motorcars, are items which advertise their status.

“Look at me”, they scream ... while the little yellow floral bath mat screams “Class-less”!




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