It's daft to expect kids to work for a living. I'm encouraging mine to take up burglary instead (May 9)
It has been suggested that while everyone was hiding under the bed in a tropical haze of sweat and fear, 700,000 people packed their bags and left London for good. This figure may be wrong, though. According to my sources in the property business, it could be 800,000.
Obviously, the frizzy-haired and the mad who research this kind of thing will explain that it's all been caused by rich people abandoning their houses in the capital and moving full-time to their weekend cottages in the home counties. But that's obviously nonsense. Sure, some people with suits and a direct line to the front desk at Scott's restaurant in Mayfair realised in the hibernation that they could manipulate stock markets just as easily from the middle of a field in Gloucestershire, but the number is not that great. It certainly isn't 700,000.
No, the vast majority of those who've left were not well off at all. And they have not just gone from London. They've gone from Britain, driven out under the cloak of Covid but actually by Brexit, back to all those places you couldn't place with any degree of certainty on a map. And this is going to be one hell of a problem for the capital's pubs and restaurants when they finally fully reopen. Because who's going to man the pumps?
British kids? Hmmm. This suggestion causes employers who were raised under the guiding hand of Norman Tebbit to roll their eyes and smack their foreheads in exasperation. "British kids are hilarious," they say. "They turn up on the first day and lean on stuff, looking sullen, and then, on the second, they text at about 11am to say they had too much ketamine the night before and feel unwell."
We've all heard the stories. One young person I know simply couldn't believe it when he arrived home after an eight-hour shift to be told by his mother that he had to do it all again the next day.
Another teenager, after a month of work, was horrified to find that a quarter of what he'd earned had been taken away in tax to pay for the army and street lighting. But not half as horrified as he was the next month.
"Mum," he sobbed, clutching his payslip in disbelief, "they've done it again."
British kids, then, have a bad rap.
They're seen as weak, spoilt, lazy, entitled and completely incapable of doing what you and I would call work. Getting up. Putting on a tie. Being told what to do. And then going home with not much pay. And it's true. They don't want to do that. Which is why so many of them have decided to become burglars.
I'm not surprised. In burglary you're your own boss, you work whatever hours you like, you pay no tax and there is almost no chance that you will ever be caught. We read in The Times last week that in nearly one million burglaries that have taken place since 2015, police failed to identify a suspect.
Yes, in 18 per cent of cases a suspect was identified, but that was usually because he was on the premises when the constabulary arrived, drooling and puking into his swag bag. Anyone with even the smallest amount of self-restraint and intelligence gets away with it, which is why, in 82 per cent of cases, the perps were never identified. In London, where there are a lot of cycle lanes to police, it's nearly 90 per cent.
Richard Littlejohn, writing in the Daily Mail last week, told us how the private security company that monitors the gated community where he lives found a burglar inside his house while he was on holiday and called the police, who took 2½ hours to turn up. By which time the enterprising young kid who had broken in was long gone.
The government is doing some very hopeless things to try to stop this sort of thing happening. In Nottinghamshire, for instance, residents who have been burgled once already are being offered solar-powered security cameras in the hope that the criminals can be captured on film next time. But then what?
Not that long ago I found a CCTV picture of a bright-looking young man coming out of my London flat carrying my television set. It was as though he'd been photographed on an expensive Nikon in a studio, so I had it published in The Sun. And did Plod catch him? No, they did not. I guess they were too busy investigating Leon Brittan and various equally dead DJs.
So let's picture all this, shall we, from a kid's point of view. You worked hard at school and you're about to emerge from a miserable locked-down spell at university with a 2:1. What are your choices? Well, you could go and work in a restaurant for minimum wage and some blisters. Or you could kick someone's door down this evening and trouser a load of tom.
You won't even have to worry about the owner of the property coming at you, partly because you'll be younger and fitter than they are, but mostly because, in London, no one's there any more. Even when they are. In Knightsbridge, for example, I learnt the other day that 80 per cent of flats are unoccupied 80 per cent of the time.
Guns? No one's got one. Knives? Sure, everyone's got one of those in the kitchen drawer, but if you say please and thank you, no one's going to stick it into the side of your head.
I used to say to my boy that he should think about a career in plumbing. I figured that, with his accent and manners, he'd clean up, even if his customers had to do much the same thing after one of his visits. But now I'm thinking that he should consider a career in burglary instead.
The only problem is that when he knocks off for the night and decides to stop off at a greasy spoon café for a celebratory bacon sandwich on his way home, he'll be in a queue of other burglars and there will be no one on hand to serve them.
And here's the Sun column: "No malaria, sun cream or funny tummy… you can’t beat Britain’s beauty". This part will be of interest to Grand Tour fans:
I’ve just spent ten days filming the next Grand Tour Special. Which wasn’t special, or a Grand Tour, as we shot it entirely in England and Wales. But oooh, it’ll look good.
I began by driving from my house in Oxfordshire to a town I’d never heard of, and can’t pronounce, in the middle of Wales.
And there wasn’t one view on the entire three-hour journey that wasn’t jaw-droppingly spectacular. Or sack-shrivellingly beautiful.
Over the next three days, we whizzed around in Wales, and there’s no getting round the fact that in the spring, on a sunny day, some of their scenery is very nearly as good as the stuff you get in Yorkshire. (I’m bound to say that obviously.)
Then there was another pretty drive to Leamington Spa, which sounds like it’ll just be a provincial hell-hole full of vomit-speckled pavements and Subways. But it was a Regency gem, as awe-inspiring as Florence. Only without the boring art you feel duty-bound to go and look at.
After a night in a cracking hotel just outside Rugby, we toddled off to Kent, which I always thought was full of nothing but mobile homes and bewildered Syrians.
Again, I was wrong. It rolled and bristled and was bursting with pubs I wanted to stop at.
Then, we drove along the south coast to the spectacular Seven Sisters cliffs before turning right and heading for Suffolk with its weird and timeless villages and yet more pubs that tugged hard on my steering wheel.
In ten days, we did not see a cloud. But despite this, no one needed to waste an hour every morning plunging their heads into a bucket of sun cream.
No one caught malaria. And we didn’t have to wait around every morning for Richard Hammond to get over the funny tummy he gets every time we go past Calais. Everyone drove on the correct side of the road as well.
I’m not going to say it was all smooth sailing. On the way home, some out-of-practice herbert had crashed on the M25 and I had to divert through the back streets of Harlow, which was a bit rubbish.