Patrick Cathcart is the first to admit that he has spent most of his 21 years living ‘in a bubble’. Quite a shiny bubble at that.
An only child, to incredibly rich parents – his father runs a hair thickening lotion empire and a property development business – Patrick grew up in a six-bedroomed mansion in Hertfordshire with expansive manicured lawns, a selection of football pitches and his own purpose-built treehouse.
In his teenage years, he acquired a full apartment within the house for himself. Privately educated, he has wanted for nothing. The Bank of Mum and Dad has been generous.
He drives a Mercedes (‘satin black. It’s quite posey,’ he admits). His wardrobe is full of designer garb.
His favourite pair of trainers cost £1,000 and he once bought a jacket costing a similar sum because he saw that Kayne West was wearing one.
Rolex watches? He has a few, his favourite being a two-tone Submariner, a particularly flashy model which costs around £10,000.
‘What can I say? I like nice things. Cars, watches, things like that.’
He now lives in a flat in Fulham but even when he was a student at university, he wasn’t a typical one, because he ate out in restaurants most nights.
Holidays? Well, many would say his life is one long holiday, but technically, he is used to having ‘about five or six’ every year.
In his defence, he says, that’s ‘pretty average’ in his circles.
‘At school, everyone pretty much went on holiday during every break – summer, Easter, half terms. It wasn’t unusual.’
Budgeting? It’s never been necessary, really.
‘I mean I got an allowance, but it was a pretty generous one. Stupid money, really. I’ve never had to think “can I afford this?”.’
How on earth would the ultimate rich kid then fare if he was dropped at the door of Tesco and asked to shop for a family for a week – with just £30 in his pocket? Suffice to say, he baulked at the idea.
On the phone to his friend in the programme, he summed up his dilemma: ‘I mean, £30! That’s a carpaccio starter,’ goes the conversation.
What does he buy with his £30? There are quite sensible choices, considering.
He hits the reduced section, and stocks up an industrial sized bag of pasta. But you can only take the rich boy so far out of Fulham.
He also selects the finest Parma Ham. Oh and he forgets the dog food completely.
‘The dog didn’t get any food,’ he recalls, a little shamefully. ‘But it’s hard. £30 is nothing. It’s a meal, basically.’
Patrick Cathcart is one of the privileged young people who agreed to go and live with a family living on the breadline in a new series of the 5STAR show Rich Kids Go Skint.
Is this show the ultimate in poverty porn? Well, it is certainly vying for the title.
Single mum Katrina, 30, and her two year old son Jackson live in a council house in Salford near Manchester, one of the more deprived pockets of the UK.
Patrick makes the trip to Salford, which he has never even heard of, never mind visited. As he is driven in for his three day stay, he surveys the area as one might a war zone in a foreign land.
‘The houses were on top of one another. I was used to greenery, space. I’d never seen anything like it,’ he says today.
‘I felt safe enough when I was inside the house, but it’s not the sort of place I’d want to walk around on my own at night.’
His bed for the duration of the experiment is a sofa in the rather cramped living room, which also doubles as the family’s dining room.
He’s rather shocked to discover there is no table, so meals must be eaten on knees. In the kitchen he wonders where the dishwasher is (answer: Katrina doesn’t have one).
The meals are not quite what he is used to either.
When he isn’t eating out, Patrick (who is described by his friend in the show as something of a “Mummy’s boy), tends to have his culinary needs met by his mother, who cooks shops in Marks and Spencer and Waitrose, and from the finest ingredients.
‘We have a lot of salmon and steak,’ he says, as, on his first day with the family, Katrina serves him up a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it portion of frozen mini chicken Kiev balls (he gets two) from the freezer.
‘The food was the biggest shock,’ he says, reflecting on the brief, but clearly brutal, experience.
‘I eat a lot. And I eat for pleasure. For Katrina and her son, it’s more functional. They didn’t have nice things. There were no extras. They didn’t even have ketchup.’
Who knew that some families in Britain today struggle to actually eat? Well, not Patrick, that’s for sure.
At one point Katrina takes him to her local food bank which has an arrangement whereby struggling families can pay a few pounds a week and in return stock up on donated food worth around £15.
It’s a no-brainer for her. Without such places, she says she would not be able to survive.
Patrick says he had never heard of food banks. Seriously? A university graduate living in Britain today has not heard of food banks?
‘Not in this country, no. I mean, you hear of people in Africa not having enough food, but not here.’
We all know about the wealth gap, but this show does a rather jaw-dropping job of highlighting how vast the chasm is, and how clueless each ‘side’ is about the way the other lives.
Katrina can’t begin to fathom being rich enough to spend thousands on a watch.
‘I think even if I won the lottery I wouldn’t buy one of those,’ she says, as the Rolex on Patrick’s wrist gleams. She has two watches. They cost about £3 each.
Patrick in turn cannot get over the fact that Katrina – who grew up in care, still could not read and write at the age of 18, and at one stage served a two-and-a-half year prison sentence (we are not told her crime) – hasn’t left Salford for years.
Foreign holidays for her are a distance dream, given that she lives on benefits, receiving a total of £500 a month, and has literally nothing left at the end of every month.
There is an odd, if touching moment, between them where they agree that no holidays isn’t normal – but that six isn’t normal either. The ideal, concludes Patrick, would be to split his six, ‘so we had three each’.
What’s the point of programmes like this, though? It’s hard to see what Katrina gets from the experience – although Patrick does offer up a leaving present of five free passes to the soft play centre they visited during his stay, the one she normally has to skip paying a bill to afford.
Patrick, though, insists it was a much-needed pin through his bubble.
‘The whole point of doing it was to give me an idea of what life is like in the real world, and it was certainly a lesson there. I came out with such admiration for Katrina.
‘She didn’t have anyone to help her – my mum and dad have always been there – and she’s had a really tough time. I suppose it just made me grateful for what I’ve had.’
Patrick insists that since the programme was filmed he has radically changed his life.
He now has a job, for starters. Where? ‘I’m working in my Dad’s company.’
From here, he says, the six-holiday-a-year habit will have to stop: ‘I’m standing on my own two feet, money-wise, and besides there won’t be the time because I’m working full-time.’
His Fulham flat is rented, but his goal is to buy his own place, ‘with my own money’.
Patrick’s parents, who declined to be involved in the show, were bemused, but supportive of his decision. ‘I think they thought it would be good for me’.
You might conclude that Patrick’s little foray into the world of the less-privileged was long overdue, but to be fair he does seem sobered by the whole experience.
He says he even looks at his Rolex watch now with unease. Not enough unease to take it off, but still.
‘I do look at it and think “for what I paid for this I could feed myself for a year”.’
Could HE live on £500 a month now, then? Of course it’s a ridiculous question, because he will never have to.
He likes to think he could if he had to, though: ‘I think if you have to you have to. I’d certainly be better equipped to do it now than I was before.’
Rich Kids Go Skint returns to 5STAR on Monday 8 October at 9pm