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February 10, 2012 9:52 pm
Sir David Tang, founder of ICorrect, globetrotter and the man about too many towns to mention, divides his time between homes in Hong Kong, mainland China and London. Here he invites readers’ queries for his advice on property, interiors, etiquette at home (wherever you live), parties and anything else that may be bothering you.
I want to change my Audi A8 for an old Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow. My wife thinks old Royces are grotesque, creaky, with a certain Savilesque (Jimmy, not the Row) image. She says that to drive a Royce nowadays is bad form and outside the spirit of current times. Apparently people will mouth expletives while I waft by. I’m fed up with all this whiny recession malarkey, so what’s your suggestion for appropriate transport?
Kate Moss has a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow. And she married in it. So you might tell your wife that this particular Roller is far from grotesque and creaky, but iconic and smooth. I used to have a Shadow, and it was one of the most beautiful modern cars ever produced. The Connolly leather seats were like proper armchairs, and the power steering so far ahead of its time that you only needed a finger with which to turn a corner. There was so much acceleration that it surged forward like a fast-moving tank, led by the mascot of the Spirit of Ecstasy, on the slightest depression of the accelerator. The Rolls-Royce was a magnificent motor with romantic names like “The Spur”, “The Silver Ghost” and “The Silver Cloud”.
Now think of the Audi. One of its most popular models, the “A3”, is a parochial reminder of the road out of London to places such as Esher, Woking and Guildford – hardly evocative of anything remotely romantic. Furthermore, the Audi is a car that is neither here nor there – it’s certainly not wow, just boring.
If I were you, I would try to persuade your wife to pay more attention to sheer stylishness, which should never be dismissed in ordinary life. On the contrary, having a sense of style enriches the way in which we live, because when our mind is able to see beautiful and elegant things, we feel enriched – and it costs nothing to have that in our imagination. Go and get a Silver Shadow, and disregard what other people might think.
Is it true that there is going to be a new wave of Chinese wealth buying up all London’s premier properties?
I think probably not, because unlike the Arabs and the Indians and the Russians, there aren’t many Chinese who want to live in London. Therefore, the Chinese might not go after some of the most expensive houses that are designed to give ultimate luxury – as they will not be the end users. A surge of Chinese wealth is definitely coming to London, if only because China’s foreign exchange is already saturated by US money. And the euro does not look like a healthy alternative. So I think lots of London properties will be snapped up by Chinese money.
There is one aspect of British property ownership that is extremely seductive to a Chinese buyer, yet not fully appreciated at all: the freehold. This concept of perpetual ownership does not exist in China, and certainly not in Hong Kong which, theoretically, will revert to total Chinese sovereignty, without the “one country, two systems” principle, in 2047. So in the Chinese mind, much more “value” resides in the proprietorship of British properties.
All the purchases will be made with little fanfare as the Chinese generally prefer to keep a low profile. For example, it is not well known that two grand houses in Belgravia Square have been owned by a couple of Chinese for years. One of these houses was the birthplace of a member of the royal family who, years ago, asked if I could arrange a visit. Tea was planned accordingly. It was bemusing that I was tracing roots for an English royal at a house owned by a Chinese refugee who had prospered as a merchant. The occasion was quintessentially English with finger sandwiches and toasted muffins with jam. It was all rather convivial until my Chinese friend showed off his new underground swimming pool that was surrounded by three huge canvases on which Dracula was dramatically portrayed with blood dripping from the corner of his lips. The royal looked distinctly awkward, as if the yellow peril had invaded the heart of London.
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