There are three guilty pleasures in my life: Instagram stalking my ex (photos of trainers aren't important, Lewis! I'm so glad you're miserable now!); using my Waitrose card to grab a complimentary latte, whether I'm purchasing anything from Waitrose that day or not; and religiously – religiously, as in Spencer Matthews is my roid-rage Pope – watching Made in Chelsea. The BAFTA award-winning MiC (this is the acronym for Made In Chelsea, do not pretend you don't know this) is currently 11 series in, and it's as posh and deliciously horrible to watch as ever.
For most of us, E4's stalwart show is the ultimate comfort TV. In a way, it's a bit like watching Friends, except that in Friends you feel like you're one of the gang, sitting on the sofa of Central Perk and sipping coffee and only having relationships with Hollywood-handsome human beings, whereas MiC makes you feel like you're Gunther – an ugly outsider, sniggering and leering simultaneously at a group of white, privileged, incestuous 20-somethings as they bitch about their lives while lounging in a coffee shop at 3PM on a Tuesday.
But while most of us will happily lap up Mark Francis' pantomime insults and Louise Thompson's (almost medical excuses for her) cheating while watching an E4+1 marathon on a hangover, there are some people who are seriously and apparently un-ironically into MiC. How do I know this? I discovered there is actually such a thing as "The Made In Chelsea Walking Tour". And then I found myself booking tickets to it. And then I found myself going on it. And then I found myself kind of hating it.
As I made my way to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, hungover, with last night's make up on and flying solo thanks to the flakiness of my even more hungover friend, it started to piss it down. I have to be honest here: I was not up for this. I was in no mood to look at places Jamie Laing had once stood, hugging his own arms and asking Proudlock if he "likes Cheska or not, bro".
There was also no small part of me that didn't suspect this whole thing wasn't one of those famous internet lies, like those apps that can supposedly tell you who looks at your Facebook profile the most, or WebMD. But when I reached the meeting point outside the Royal Court Theatre, there were 16 cold but keen bodies all huddled around our tour guide. As they say so famously on MiC: Yeah, bro! Bro! Yeah, bro! Yeah!
As the guide did a meet 'n' greet, three things became apparent: i. everyone else had travelled from outside London specifically to come on the tour; ii. the men in the group wanted to make it explicitly clear they were only here to do their duty as part of their heterosexual relationships; iii. my socks were already completely soaked through.
The first stop on the tour is a bench. "The benches on Sloane Square aren't just seats," our guide explained. "This is the place where Millie Mackintosh and Rosie Fortescue sat outside with Herbie and ran into Andy Jordan and they chatted about how to deal with Spencer!"
The group seemed impressed. A few took photos of the bench.
We were just about to move on when the guide realised there was another hen-do MiC tour group just ahead, which was interesting in and of itself: there was more than one commercially available MiC tour in existence. Would an impromptu turf war break out, the streets of SW1 slicked with blood and hen party deely boppers? Or would we just stand in the rain for a bit doing an impromptu MiC trivia quiz until they had moved a safe distance off? You know the answer to this already.
King's Road derives its name from its function as a private road used by Charles II and is also synonymous with 1960s fashion and culture. But we weren't here for that: we were here to stand outside Joe's Juice because it's where Jamie Laing admitted to Spencer Matthews that he'd messed up with Binky. One of the group got her boyfriend to hold her umbrella, unzipped the front pocket of her cagoule, pulled out her digital camera and began snapping away at the people drinking juice in the cafe. There was a solemn air of reverence about this Joe's Juice.
We trundled down the whole of the King's Road and at various places we'd stop and clog up the pavement, and the tour guide – armed with a ringbinder of _MiC_screenshots, printed and bound and laminated – would then retell an anecdote from the show, which wasn't real in the first place, to a damp group of strangers who were half focused on exactly where their possessions were at all times. I started to feel weird. The experience so far was essentially like reading Sky's programme description while taking a very slow, cold shower.
By this point, the inevitable class distinction began to arise. You know what rich people have? Sturdy umbrellas. You know what poor people have? Dayglo cagoules. A mixture of the lashing rain and the severe difference between us working class potatoes and the elite local Chelsea residents made me keep my head bowed the whole way down the street. My hair was drenched, my cheap jeans saturated, and every now and then I'd realise a superior person had just walked past me because a waft of expensive perfume would fill my runny nose. One of the fiercely heterosexual men in the group said, "I'm going to get ill if this rain doesn't stop soon – well, Man Flu, anyway!" I did not know men who said these sort of things existed.
PROUDLOCK'S AND JAMIE'S OFFICES
An hour and a half into the tour (Yep, yes.) (AN HOUR AND A HALF INTO THE TOUR.) we stopped outside Ollie Proudlock and Jamie Laing's offices. The guide told us about Jamie being heir to the McVities fortune and how his grandad invented the digestive biscuit, but rudely did not pull out a sleeve of biscuits to share around, so we all just talked about digestive biscuits for a bit. As she began telling us about Jamie's gourmet "Candy Kittens" sweet brand, the iron gate to their offices began closing, and us drenched street urchins were pushed out of the courtyard.
"Jamie's business is doing really well," we were told on the way out. "You can actually get the sweets in Waitrose now." No, thanks! I only go to Waitrose to get my free coffee after a gruelling Sainsbury's shop!
Next, we stopped off at The Phene pub – it's a popular filming spot and Lucy and Tiffany Watson's dad owns it. The laminated binder was flung out again and the tour guide raved about how she'd once met the Watson sisters here while on a tour.
"Tiffany was lovely, but Lucy couldn't comprehend that people would want to go on a tour," she said. "She just said, 'How bizarre,' blinked and turned away, and I thought: 'OMG! I've been Lucy'd!'" Everyone on the tour laughed and I went to the toilet to dry my hair under the hand dryer as a bone dry woman head-to-toe in Céline gave me a pitying look. I've never felt poorer, more desperate. I've never needed a gratis coffee machine-coffee ever in my life.
With the sky now clearing and the bench photo girl's memory card reaching capacity, the tour came to a much anticipated end outside the regularly featured Bluebird Cafe.
I felt altered. Normally nothing sparks joy in me like indulging in the lives of Chelsea's vile, highly filtered bodies, but it's hard to maintain a sense of humour and any self esteem when you've just spent over a tenner and two hours of your life on that tour.
I looked over at the hen-do tour, those 15-minutes-ahead-of-us sightseeing trailblazers. They looked tired and dejected and I knew they probably still had a Jamie Oliver pasta making lesson and a trip to Icebar London to finish. I could just go home, lie on my low thread count bedsheets, eat cereal and laugh at Jamie Laing's little whippet body as he tried to mount any female who came into his vicinity. Everything would be OK again.
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