I was in New York about four years ago for the launch of Disney cruise ship Fantasy – what a lark that was! – and spent some time with a lovely friend who lives an effortlessly glamorous lifestyle in the Downtown area. She took me to the Ace Hotel which had then just opened and was the epitome of cool – no doubt it’s been replaced at the top umpteen times by now but I still love it.
The first thing I noticed about the Ace, all that time ago, was that the place was full of people working on their laptops. ‘Are they allowed to do that here? Why aren’t they in their own offices?’ I asked my friend, who was by this time becoming my translator between normal and New York. ‘They don’t have offices any more, or even wifi accounts, they just move from cafe to cafe using the free wifi and work wherever,’ she explained patiently.
Well, I thought. That’ll never catch on here in the UK.
Now, of course, I can never get a seat in my local branch of Gail’s because it’s full of people writing power point presentations, having conferences, working away like coffee-drinking beavers ….
So this time, last week in New York, I paid very careful attention as my friend patiently explained the natives to me again.
‘Where are all the schools?’ was one of the first things I wondered. There’s no pick-up time rush, there are no gaggles of mums waiting to get their kids ….. hang on a minute. There are actually no kids in New York City.
‘Yep, there are no kids any more, not in the centre, anyway. They’re too expensive. People have dogs instead.’
It was true. I probably saw three times as many dogs as I saw children. And there were gorgeous bijou doggy accessory shops, like Zee.Dog, dotted around. I suppose even if you bought your dog a thousand leads and ten thousand cute little doggy T shirts, it wouldn’t come anywhere near the price of a few terms in a New York Montessori school. If you’d seen the adorable Dognal Trump and Hilary Kitten chew toys in Zee.Dog, you’d be tempted to swap your kids for darling Chihuahuas wearing berets and jumpers too.
‘Where are all the supermarkets?’ I asked next.
‘There really aren’t many supermarkets any more. People don’t cook.’ Now, I did know that New York is the capital city of eating out. But where do they get a pint of milk, or a loaf of bread? ‘No one eats bread. If you want a coffee, you go to a cafe. No one cooks.’
Seriously? Not even a little bit? ‘When we moved in, the cooker in our flat had never, ever been used. The man we bought the place from had been here for ages. No one cooks.’ The next day, I read an interview in the New York Times with Arianna Huffington, in which she said proudly that the only thing she could make in the kitchen was tea.
No one cooks, and no one buys raw ingredients. It’s all restaurants, or take aways, or cafes. I suppose to some extent it explains more about the child thing, too. You have to keep cooking little bits of food for kids, which would just be plain inconvenient in a city with no supermarkets. Children wouldn’t be welcome in an achingly trendy New York restaurant, either. Whereas dogs are fine. Heaven knows what they eat, though. Oh, wait. Maybe children?