I can’t get enough of ultra-rich people, but they want nothing to do with me. They hole themselves up behind gilded gates, and when they do leave their homes they’re chauffeur-driven in blacked out cars to private members’ clubs with “No Bethan” door policies.
No matter how many Made in Chelsea episodes I watch, or Wikipedia pages for Sunday Times columnists I read, I have no idea what Britain’s stinking rich are really like in the flesh. Enter: Halloween, an annual celebration founded to allow me to peer into strangers’ homes.
This year, I’m going to the priciest road in London to do just that – in the hope that a) I can get the measure of someone who’d pay £9,000 for a bottle of wine, and b) that they might absentmindedly hand me a 50. Of course, Halloween is about being scary, so I need a terrifying costume. And what scares the super wealthy more than anything? The tax man.
Destination: Kensington’s Upper Phillimore Gardens, where house prices average out at £28 million. If anyone falls for my disguise – and in fairness the sign is convincing – I’m hoping I can sort some property tax cash-in-hand and pay off my overdraft.
Here on London’s richest road, doors are reached by climbing steps to entrances far above the pavement below. Dim lamps light the street and big fat Bentleys linger curb-side, ready to whisk someone off to Annabel’s or an international arms convention.
I reach a house with two pointy-eared dog statues guarding the entrance, take a manifesting-breath and knock.
“Trick or treat!!!!” I shout.
A teenage boy silently answers the door and thrusts a bowl of mini Refreshers, Parma Violets and an assortment of the worst Celebrations toward me.
“But I’m the tax man,” I say. “Nice, you can take as many as you want then.”
Success? Maybe, if you like miniature sweets that taste like soap.
The problem is, a teen answered the door, and I very much doubt he owns the keys to the house, unless he bought a load of Ethereum when he was six. Is this how the rich operate? Sending their offspring to do their bidding on All Hallows Eve? I’m not sure – I’ll have to wait for an adult to answer to find out.
On to the next collection of lavish mansions on this little London road.
Over here, people take the ‘ween seriously enough to decorate. Pumpkins sit atop columns, skeletons hang from doorways, orange straw litters walls.
Apparently, though, they don’t take it seriously enough to watch anyone enjoy those decorations, because it’s impossible to find anyone at home. Many of the houses seem dark and empty, almost like they’re merely ghost homes in an offshore investment portfolio.
Eventually, we come across one spooky-looking number that looks promising.
“Trick or treat!!!!!!” I scream.
A voice answers the intercom: “No, I don‘t have treats, sorry!”
“Do you have any money?”
That, clearly, is a lie.
Undeterred, I try another building, pushing my “tax man” briefcase into full-view.
“Trick or treat!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
“It’s trick... or treat…?”
“I’m sorry, I’m not doing this, thank you.”
While 1990s Macauley Culkin movies might have had us believe that the super wealthy are also super chill and benevolent, according to research by social psychologist Professor Paul Piff, rich people are less likely to stop their car when they see an old woman who needs to cross the road.
Tonight, I have been an elderly woman struggling constantly across that sickly sweet road.
I’d gone to the richest street in London, and all these people could give me was a handful of mini Refreshers (RRP: 15p), not even full sized ones (RRP: 35p).
In fairness, it looked like I might have arrived a little late: loads of the houses had stuck up signs outside saying they’d run out of festive treats.
On the way home, a man on the tube said he liked my outfit. I told him I’d spent my night trying to get money from rich people. He said: “Rich people are the worst people to ask for money – they won’t give you anything.”
He might be right. I felt powerless walking around Upper Phillimore Gardens as the tax man. No one seemed to care about me – they barely gave me anything – and in general did their best to avoid me.
More importantly, though, they’re very stingy with sweets!