The goings on in Corfu are a reminder that life for the super-rich hasn't changed much. So far, as The Sunday Times put it, it's been "pleasure as usual" for the wealthy.
This applies, in particular, to the world of superyachts like Deripaska's Queen K. A new 550ft monster is being built for Roman Abramovich, for example, equipped with anti-missile radar and water cannon, while Edmiston & Co, the global yachting company, have had several commissions in recent months and are currently building 30 superyachts for prospective owners.
There has been the odd sign of restraint in some quarters. "Private jets are now seen as too flashy," says Alice Thomson in The Times. "Even P. Diddy says he has given up on his." But this restraint doesn't apply to yachts.
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Once it was the Greeks who had the best boats, then the Arabs. Now it's the Russians and they've taken expensive boating into a different league. These days, your average superyacht will cost between £40m and £70m depending on the interior specifications. "It's roughly £1m a metre," says Jamie Edmiston of Edmiston & Co. "For that you get helipads, swimming pools and spas as standard."Running costs can be £5m a year or more. The oligarchs, as Thomson says, are constantly demanding extras: mini-submarines, extra yachts full of toys to follow along behind, garages for cars, beaches made of teak which can be lowered from the side so you can jetski from them. No boat has a tennis court yet, but I'm sure we'll see one soon.
Being oligarchs, they prize, above all, privacy and security. Not long ago, a minor one bought a house in a Wiltshire village not far from me. The locals hardly ever see him; he doesn't encourage visitors. On boats, of course, that kind of privacy is part of the package. At any one time, most superyachts have very few guests, maybe six or so, but 18-30 crew is standard, with at least two chefs, six stewardesses and five engineers. "Rooms are serviced eight times a day," one owner told Thomson. "Wet swimming trunks rarely hit the deck, they are laundered and back in your room within an hour. The late Kerry Packer's boat has a button in every room that you can press 24 hours a days to get a club sandwich and a cosmopolitan within five minutes."
A friend of mine gave up her job in London to join an oligarch's crew in the Med. What's he like? "His manners could be better," she says. "But we hardly ever see him." She can have her job as long as she wants to: the owner likes his boat fully crewed up at all times.
I suppose in the world of superyachts, where moorings can cost £1,000 a night, where disposing of rubbish can cost the same, and where organic meat or fresh vegetables are often flown in from far afield for pernickety owners, the wage bill of the crew is no more than one of life's small, incidental expenses.
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