Thursday, 21 April 2016

Class in "Nine Till Six"



Nine Till Six is a 1930 play by Aimee and Philip Stuart with an all-woman cast, set in the cloakroom and office of an upmarket dress and hat shop. The proprietors, Mrs and Miss Pembroke, are gentlewomen struggling to keep the business afloat. They’d probably be much better off working for someone else and drawing a salary – but would that be hopelessly déclassé? They seem to spend a lot of their profits on employing young girls to run about with messages (and clothes).

Two young girls turn up the shop wanting a job: a working-class girl (Gracie) and an aristocrat down on her luck (Bridget). Mrs P takes them both on.

Clare Pembroke: Lots of girls of good family are learning to do something these days... Why did you send Pam (her sister) to the best school you could find? You sent her because you wanted her to come in contact with girls like Bridgit Penarth, instead of girls at a Council School.

They agree that the point of going to a “good” school is so that you can marry the brother of a well-heeled schoolmate. Clare reveals that when she was at a “good” school she never revealed that her mother ran a shop, but “times have changed” as they keep saying. The fashion for felt hats means that nobody will pay five guineas for the kind of fussy, elaborate headgear they used to make their money on. “We said short hair would never go out. It’s going. We said long dresses would never be worn again. We’re wearing them now.”

The resentful Freda tells Bridgit “You’re not the daughter of a lord without having things made easy for you. You’ll be first every time.”

There’s a “Mam’selle” who’s brought on so that we can laugh at her accent and giggle over her having a husband and a boyfriend (she’s French, of course!).

Bridgit gives the two mannequins (they swan about the shop modelling the clothes so that customers can see how they look “on”) a talking to about their futures: You two ought to be working where you can be seen by eligible men... With this surplus of women, someone’s got to get left. Why let it be you? (They quit to become cinema usherettes.)

The play ends with home truths being spoken right and left. A girl who has stolen clothes explains that she wanted to look good enough on holiday to get off with someone “who had enough money to give me a good time”. The workers demand to be paid a living wage, and the proprietors explain that they’re terribly sorry but that is impossible and they’re the ones who should be pitied.

In 1930, West End plays were also fashion shows – it must have been a shock to see beautiful gowns worn only by “common” shopgirls sitting around eating sticky buns. The play may have raised awareness of the plight of women workers, but I couldn’t help wishing the Pembrokes had employed a manager to rationalise their working practices.

Other all-women plays:
The Women, by Clare Boothe Luce (filmed with Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford)
The Ladies of the Corridor, by Dorothy Parker, set in a residential hotel for ladies (ordering now)
Steel Magnolias, by Robert Harling
Stage Door by Edna Feber and George F. Kaufman (The film stars Katharine Hepburn intoning “the calla lilies are in blewm again”.)

More on the play here at Clothes in Books.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Classy Quotes 21

Artist Cornelia Parker bulldozed the family silver
Elizabeth Jane Howard's autobiography, Slipstream, is illuminating on the misery of "privilege".

I remember little of the rest of the house; in those days middle-class children lived in their nursery quarters unless sent for at teatime... I saw comparatively little of [my parents].

At her grandmother's, “food was always seriously plain. Boiled mutton and semolina 'shape' were usual, and she wouldn’t allow me to have both butter and marmalade on breakfast toast”. One of their cooks “produced grey meat, potatoes boiled until they had a battered, furry appearance, and cabbage until it was almost colourless”. The family considered food simply as good plain fuel... the less said about it the better... Talking about food was considered to be what Aunt Ruth called “unnecessary”. In one of the family’s houses there was a billiard room and “a fiendishly cold little room called the gun room where the only telephone was kept”.

There was no one to whom I could talk about things that touched me most nearly.

News was nothing like so ubiquitous then: we were, perhaps, unusual in that we didn’t possess a wireless. I’m sure my parents took a newspaper, but it was strictly for them. So news was confined to the occasional guarded remark made at the dinner table.
(This was just before the war.)

Her mother told her “People of our sort never make any fuss or noise when they are having a baby.” (Her account of giving birth in a posh nursing home is gruelling. Her baby was taken away immediately and then looked after by nannies.)


Alison Light reviews A Notable Woman: the Romantic Journals of Jean Lucey Pratt in the London Review of Books. (She laments that the diaries have been severely cut, and their grammar “tidied up”. Jean was a young woman in the 20s.)

In her stuffy home, crying in public is seen as vulgar; affection is rarely expressed. Jean is both pampered and neglected... Jean’s home life between the wars initially seems to belong to someone in a Betjeman poem ... [she attends] Conservative Club dinners in “pale blue georgette”.

[Jean learns] a finely tuned language of discrimination. What matters are the differences between the middle classes... Fitzrovia, where she rents a flat, takes a dim view of Wembley ... “I am still stamped with the stamp of suburbia.”


In Home Counties parlance, [workmen] are always diminutive, as in “a little plumber came today”.
[She longs to be rich enough to be free of the] “petty irksome little details” of life. [Later she ponders that life is made up of] “washing up, typewriters and shoulder straps”.

At college, she dismisses sex as of “minor importance” but worries that she is “oversexed”. (Oddly, that view was popular in the liberated 70s and 80s.) Later, she opines that “promiscuity is morally dangerous”. (In the 80s, the line was “It won’t make you happy”.)

Later in life, she’s embarrassed by her early “facetious” style (I’m looking forward to that), goes to a psychotherapist who has been affected by Eastern philosophy and advises patients to accept their lot (I bet he was a big help), and transcribes quotes from Marcus Aurelius about “renouncing the ego”.

Living alone in the country, she takes in paying guests, and then opens a bookshop, although the “snob in me” shrieks “Oh you can’t! You couldn’t!”. She refuses to sell tobacco, sweets and stationery (“Oh God! I will not descend to that level!”), but gets by thanks to her expertise in cat books.

Her romances come to nothing, her novels aren’t accepted, she publishes one biography, and hopes to be known for her diary. I’ve got a feeling this is one dream that will come true.

Her family are an echelon or two below what George Orwell called the “lower-upper-middle-class”, his family’s shabby-genteel world peopled by clerics, servicemen and Anglo-Indian officials who were reduced to living on “virtually working class incomes”.

As he wrote: "Practically the whole family income goes in keeping up appearances."

My parents tried gracious living on a too-small budget. They couldn’t afford to heat the house, which was too big anyway, so it was always freezing in the winter. Bedrooms were unheated, and the hard, lumpy pillows were never replaced. Why didn’t we heat one room, put the telly in it, and live there? We were always being hived off into separate rooms. They were still trying to follow the “put the children in a nursery with a nanny and hardly ever see them” model. We really did hardly ever see them, apart from meal-times.

We ate off Georgian silver (inherited) but they were stingy about butter, sugar, jam and gravy. We only got water to drink, not milk or lemonade (that was for birthday parties). Of course they had to pretend that it was common to eat lots of butter or put sugar in your tea or be warm enough! Why didn’t we sell the silver and buy butter? Or eat marge?

Every meal had to be served up with proper china and tablecloths and a lot of stuff that was never used but just put on the table and taken away again (like side plates and small knives). It was supposed to, one imagines, make us happy – but instead it made us miserable. It took up our time and was too much hard work. We were trying to live as if we had fleets of servants when we had a daily and an au pair. Did they fear that if they serving little curls of butter with a silver knife we'd end up pouring milk out of the bottle, using newspaper as a tablecloth? Oh yes, milk was always decanted into a jug, and vegetables were served in their own dishes – more washing up. We even dimmed the lights and lit candles when we were eating in the kitchen.

We couldn’t have tea without carrying the entire equipment of teapot, hot water, milk, tea cups and saucers, food and plates, silver teaspoons, on one tray from the kitchen to the sitting room. (Which is what a servant would have done.) We also couldn’t have a picnic at the bottom of the garden without pushing a bent trolley all the way there (squeak, jingle) piled with the whole above caboodle.

It doesn’t take three hours to prepare dinner. And it doesn’t take two hours to eat it and clear it away, either. That was five hours of every day wasted. And there was nobody around to impress, it was just us. I tried to protest, but got the answer "You have to learn how to behave in formal situations".

When we became more prosperous, the nonsense faded somewhat. We got a set of melamine picnic plates and bought shop cakes and had a new kitchen with a formica table top, and “Nightstor” heating, except we weren’t allowed to turn it up, or on very often.

It was about maintaining our class position – but was it worth putting ourselves through such misery? When my parents retired, they put the Georgian silver salt cellars and mustard pots and butter knives into a safe, and never opened it again.

More here, and links to the rest.



Monday, 21 March 2016

You Are What You Eat 7



Posh snack sellers are distraught to find that the UK government’s Sugar Smart app, designed to help people monitor their sugar intake, is laying are the calorific content of their artisanal snack bars and sodas. According to the telegraph, the app “fails to distinguish between natural and refined sugars” – a nutritional distinction that Feedback suspects may exist largely in the minds of upmarket shoppers. Helenor Rogers, whose company makes toasted grain breakfast snacks, complained to the newspaper that the Sugar Smart app “puts granola in the same box as Coco Pops”. Perish the thought.New Scientist March 2016

There's something majestic about the Guardian expressing quantities of sugar to its readers in quinoa- and mung-bean-based units. (Damian Counsell ‏@DamCou)

"Did chicken Kiev ever go out of fashion at home? I don’t think it did. But it never stayed on the menu," says Jesse Dunford Wood, chef at Parlour in Kensal Green, north London. "Everyone knows what it is, everyone secretly eats it at home, it sells really well in supermarkets, but you can’t buy it in a restaurant. And that’s weird. Why not?"
Telegraph September 2015

Upwards eat exotic food not because they like it, but to show that they are better than other people. (We had shi’itake mushrooms – delicious! You mean you’ve never eaten one? You’ve never heard of them...?) They are falling over themselves trying to stay ahead of the superfoods game. Freekeh! Chia seeds! There’s a new one every few weeks!

Middle-class food continues its tradition of being unpleasant, tasteless and difficult to eat. Quinoa, rocket, salmon fillet, no dressing... There’s nothing to stick the quinoa together with and it goes everywhere. Doesn’t taste exactly exciting. Nobody cuts up rocket so you end up with bits sticking out of your mouth like a manatee browsing on seaweed. And it’s not very satisfying if you’re really hungry.

In the 70s, we had to pretend to like food that was utterly nauseous (steak Tartare), unbearably hot (chicken Madras), or unbelievably dull (polenta). I wonder why steak Tartare and escargots went out of fashion?

Now 30-year-old Upwards are obsessed with coffee oneupmanship. (In the 18th century it was snuff.)

Fussy food is aspirational, rustic food is middle class. The Upwards are secure enough to be able to eat dull peasant food without losing caste. “Aspirational” is of course code for “lower down the scale than us and trying to be something they are not”.

Upwards can eat Battenberg cake – in fact they’re fond of it. But they never eat Angel Cake – layers of the same white, yellow and pink cake with icing, and syrup on top. Too sweet? Battenberg cake is at least swathed in marzipan and held together with apricot jam, which are both slightly bitter.

The new Spar in Brockley is so posh! It's full of food I've never even seen before. (@MarkOneinFour)

Stow Crats can only eat thick cut marmalade (Cooper’s Oxford).
Upwards make their own (delicious – but it must be thick cut, and not too sweet).
Definitelies eat Silver Shred.

“I’ve watched Stella do the simplest things – like eating an apple. She'd peel it in one piece, round and round till the whole peel fell off. Then she'd cut the apple and dice the quarters, getting it all ready before she ate it… She must have seen how people do things here, but it never occurred to her that she ought to copy them.” (John Le Carré, A Murder of Quality)

You were supposed to break, not cut, a piece off your roll, butter just that little bit, and eat it. You couldn’t cut your roll in half and butter both halves. Was it too like preparing food, which was what servants did? Maybe that was Stella's faux pas. (This is all very old-fashioned.)

About 30 years ago, about the same time they bought crumbling Victorian mansions in unfashionable Crouch Hill, Upwards suddenly all became wine buffs. They went on about years and terroir and “nose”. They bought wine racks. Now they just neck the stuff, and are furious about the latest alcoholism figures.

Those in middle age are more likely than young adults to exceed alcohol limits and develop serious health problems, finds charity Drinkaware Guardian hed May 2015

In Weybridge Waitrose: Last Saturday they were offering samples of biscuits and booze. A woman reached for a beaker. "But darling, it's cava!" said her husband, in a very pained tone of voice. (She took it, nonetheless.) (JP)

On nature documentaries, animals never have breakfast, dinner, lunch or tea, because if they’re having tea at six pm the middle classes will be offended. (The watching middle classes wince at every use of the word “meal”.)

When I was small, eating or drinking on the street was really, really bad form. (Professor Susan Jebb, Obs April 2015)

Food crimes: supermarket or corner shop fusion food. Ramen burrito. Frozen French bread pizza. Sloppy Giuseppe (basically a mince pizza).

Kettle chips used to be the posh ones, and now they come in pumpkin pie flavour.

As Morrison’s open a chain called My Corner Shop, the BBC is helpfully explaining what corner shops are, and how you visit them three times a week, possibly even on foot, and buy only a few things.

Meanwhile, Liz Kendall’s final campaign rally is a few friends round her place for prosecco and gnocchi. (JeSuisREDTORY @twildun)
Nope, Malbec and steak. (Liz Kendall)

George Orwell suggested centralised cooking, with meals delivered and dirty plates taken away. It never happened, but became supermarket microwaveable ready meals, and takeaways. And thanks to dishwashers, constant hot water and fairy liquid, washing up isn’t the chore it used to be. (He once worked as a washer-up using liquid soap, cold water, and bunches of chain.)

More here, and links to the rest.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Romance and Sex, Part 2

Ghastly American import
Valentine's Day is coming up – don't forget it's a commercialised American import! Pairing off has a lot to do with class – but that’s one of those things the British won’t talk about. They have to pretend that partnerships are all the result of True Love striking like lightning.
Turns out that when a woman is rejected by a looker, rather than lasso the nearest leftovers... she will actually spurn the average guy waiting in the shadows even harder, because she doesn’t need that noise watering down her social value... accepting the overtures of a “low-status” person “may imply one is of similarly low status”... “What people want is not immediate acceptance per se, but a sense of assurance that the person is acceptable to the sorts of people they want to be connected to.” We only care about the opinions of certain people—it’s called standards... Everyone knows this. (Jezebel.com)

Comment to the above: I find the fact that most romantic pairings are negotiations of social status so disgusting that I cannot let my guard down to date at all. (She says she gets many more approaches when she is underweight. “I know they’re attracted to the idea that they are good enough to be with someone that is that small.” Also that slimmer women marry “professional guys with a college education” while their heavier sisters end up with a dropout with missing teeth.)

My parents met in a nightclub. I met my boyfriend in one. (London Review of Books Jan 2016)

It’s tough being middle class, because you can’t step outside. You can’t follow bands or go to discos or “clubs”. You have to go to classical concerts. You can be friendly with people from different backgrounds, but they keep expecting you to go back where you came from. They may almost order you to. They think you won’t want to go out with them. If they do ask you out, it's for the wrong reasons – you’re a trophy, or else they want to use you to move up the ladder. And they say nasty things about “chavs” and expect you to join in.

Point out a relationship between a man and a woman on planet earth that does not involve some sort of monetary output or exchange. The truth is marriages are built on this premise as is dating. (Web)

We can put a man on the moon, but it’s lonely in the big city and though we all want a partner we pretend nobody does, and couples drop their single friends and are super-unsupportive. Methods of finding somebody: parties, bars and apps.

In the olden days, middle-class parents spent a lot on their children, sending their sons to Eton and Oxford, and taking a house in the London “season” so that their daughters could mix with the right young men at the theatre, opera and ballet. They gave a lot of mutual parties, and there were public balls with an MC who would introduce you to a dancing partner. The Victorians gave big parties and invited all sorts, but made sure to invite several singles. There were also trips to the theatre, skating on the Round Pond, archery, croquet and tennis parties. Parents made strenuous efforts to get their children married, and got together with other parents. But there was no unchaperoned dating in those days. The Edwardians built conservatories so that couples could "sit out" at dances and propose behind the potted palms.

In the early 20th century there was a round of house parties with the aim of pairing people off. It was reciprocal, like wedding presents. Once you’d got married and had a house of your own and your husband was making money you took on that role and gave the parties. Obviously the house owners were rich (low taxes) and had servants (low wages). They wanted the right sort of people to marry each other, and probably thought of it as a social duty. They also wanted to keep family money in their own class. As the century wore on, they became poorer, and most of the big houses ceased to be. The debutante “season” limped on for a couple of decades after the war. And was replaced by... university. (Teales and Weybridges in suburbs or small country towns went to tennis club dances.)

These days parents buy a house in the right area near the right schools (where the children will meet the right people), pay public school fees ditto, and shell out for university ditto ditto. Do they ever admit their motives to themselves or each other? (In Jane Austen, the girls – and boys – had to pretend to be totally ignorant of what was going on, and the girls had to pretend they didn’t want to get married at all, as Captain Wentworth points out in Persuasion.)

Writing in the Times about the death of dinner party, Shane Watson lamented: “There are no single men, there never were.” (Giving dinner parties was a terrible lot of work, and only really made sense when you had servants.)

Teales and Definitelies can be quite open about wanting to get a boyfriend, get engaged, get married, have children. Poor Upwards are forced to pretend to want to be writers and actresses, to be utterly wonderful and daring and unique. They settle down and get married anyway, just a bit later. Unless they think they are somehow too special to get married, and live together without the legal and financial benefits of marriage. They think cohabitation gives you legal rights, which it hasn't since 1753.

Writer Bruce Chatwin was married, though gay. He “hated the idea of divorce, while finding ‘something “awful” in the idea of two men living together’.” Meanwhile Lucian Freud thought birth control was “squalid”.

Old anecdote: Lady Jane Snooks got married. After the honeymoon, a friend asked her: “Well, how did you get on? You know, what’s it like?” Lady Jane: “It’s much too good for the working classes.”

Another old anecdote: Lady touring factory: And how do you find marriage, Edna?
Edna: Ooo, miss, it’s like 'ot treacle runnin’ down yer back!

More here.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

A Poem for New Year



When disaster overtakes you
Never show it, though it breaks you.
In a crisis truly crucial
One must carry on as usual.

If the chaps all round you panic
Be depressive, never manic.
Though your road be steep and slippery
Cultivate stiff-upper-lippery.

Catastrophic misadventures?
Clench your fists or grit your dentures.
Just be calm and just be static.
Doesn't do to be dramatic.

When the sky begins to redden
At the dawn of Armageddon, 
If a feller makes a fuss
He just isn't one of us.

Afferbeck Lauder

Friday, 18 December 2015

Happy Holidays!



...I favour tacky Christmas decorations, the more Poundland the better, and like nothing more than framing a wall mirror with gold tinsel, the last word in naff, I’m told (the Savoy’s creative team decrees any tinsel a “no-no”...). Now I’ve bought an illuminated reindeer in rope-lights: just what our garden needs. It’ll set off my blue drip-effect icicle lights nicely, though even my daughter, aged 11, cringes that it looks like we’re attempting some “cheap Frozen theme”. Let’s just say my husband doesn’t share my penchant for house bling. Once he bought a pricey posh wreath and within 12 hours it had been stolen from the front door ... I’ve never turned my entire house into one of those pulsating light shows with a waving Santa on the roof (more’s the pity) but I’ve no problem with those who do. Quite the opposite. It shows generosity of spirit to give passing strangers a cheery boost at your own expense. And OK, there are eco-concerns but it’s only a few days a year unlike those shops which keep the lights on 24/7/365 for no reason. No, it’s snobbery that drives most grinches on this issue. As it happens I’m slightly disappointed with my reindeer: I’ve been far too subtle. I should have got a bigger one. I should have got three. This weekend I might risk domestic discord and buy a seven-footer. (Carol Midgley Times Dec 2015)


Upwards loathe “merry” Xmas, Xmas not Christmas – and “We’re not allowed to call it Christmas!”

They hate Black Friday – American import, and chavs buying chavvy things as usual. Materialism! They are embarrassed by Sun-style patriotism, and the idea of “loving your country” (especially when it means “brown people go home”). But they do love slagging off the Americans, whom they amusingly call “Merkins” or “Usanians”. They want to ban all Americanisms. How? 

What really galls the Upwards is all the MONEY people spend on Christmas – and now Halloween. Bang goes sixpence right and left – and nobody seems to care! But isn’t it good for the economy, or something?

Someone has suggested we rename it “Greedmas”. Upwards really don’t like to see common people buying things. And they still resent poor people having televisions. Does it all go back to the Puritans and Cromwell banning Christmas celebrations? (Apart from the interregnum, the festival was always a blow-out.)

Apparently the rich compete to invite bigger and bigger Xmas house parties (you have to have a house that fits 26, of course).


Wrapping paper – where did that go? Everybody uses gift bags now. How sensible is that?

Upwards have to wrestle their Xmas lights around the (large) tree (“I refuse to give in! I must have REAL lights!”) because they can’t buy an artificial one with lights built in. Caro’s mother is still attaching real candles to the branches, in Victorian tin clip-on candle holders. Such a shame Stow-Crat Hall burned to the ground on Boxing Day – but it was all insured, they carried the valuable contents onto the lawn, and they don’t have to worry about the roof any more.

This year, the Upwards have an Xmas tree made of recycled wood with traces of distressed paint, adorned with antique glass baubles. They do not hang evergreen wreaths (“garlands”) on their doors. They just might accept one made entirely of bare twigs. And no Xmas decorationss in the home before December. (Oliver Cromwell would have loved them.)

As usual, a vicar has told small children the story of St Nicholas and parents are up in arms, wailing: “They’ll stop believing in the tooth fairy next!” Upwards come up with 99 twisted reasons for lying to your children about Santa. It teaches them how to believe. It teaches them how to be skeptical. It gives them faith in a benevolent society – even though this is a myth. (Parents see the adult the child will be, and reasons for folk rituals always change over time.) And it’s “Father Christmas” not “Santa”.

Who buys that M&S Xmas food that’s all slightly wrong? Or do I mean “traditional with a twist”? Xmas pud with an apricot jam centre? Upwards have pudding, not Christmas cake. Chocolate logs with robins and holly are very Weybridge/Teale.

More here, and links to the rest.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Classy Quotes 20

Strapless maxi dress
SNOBBERY
Writer Chris Kraus recommends landlording as “a way of engaging with a population completely outside the culture industry. Kind of like in gay culture, where hookups are a way of escaping your class.” (London Review of Books)

“We attract the very top echelon of clients from around the world. This development represents a real threat to our livelihood here at the Goring... “It is one of the premium suites in London, accommodating senior royalty, presidents and superstars. All require privacy, and this is how we manage to sell this suite in a very competitive market.” (Jeremy Goring, chief executive of the Goring Hotel, doesn't want social housing built opposite the hotel, especially not in full view of the royal suite.)

The noble Lord says that he does not want a housemaid to carry a coal scuttle up two or three floors. He says there should be a gas fire. I have always believed this was a free country. (The House of Lords discusses the Clean Air Act.)

It is not simply a question of there being too many people, it is the wrong kind of people. (Darran Anderson, Imaginary Cities on certain people's fears for the future.)

Heston Blumenthal: I was at the opening of Soho Farmhouse... and they said, “Oh, when people phone to book we Google them. If they’re not interesting then we don’t give them a table.” Observer 2015 Aug (“Farmhouse”!)

There is, she concedes, “a U and Non-U side of the lighthouse”. U would be living on South Green (Georgian houses; unrestricted views); Non-U is found on the road to the front. (Observer on Southwold, 23.08.15)

You know what liars these people are— they'll do anything to get themselves into the limelight. (Edgar Wallace, the JG Reeder series from the 1920s)

In the brilliant 60s film Jigsaw, a neighbour sums up the murder victim, saying she was still wearing a dressing gown and curlers at teatime (and sleeps with the gas fire on). “She was wearing lipstick with the curlers – she was that type of woman.”

George Orwell being rude about the Upwards of his day:
The more-water-in-your-beer reformers of whom Shaw is the prototype, and the astute young social-literary climbers who are Communists now, as they will be Fascists five years hence, because it is all the go, and all that dreary tribe of highminded women and sandal-wearers and bearded fruit-juice drinkers...

Famously, there is the attraction of socialist doctrine for “cranks”:One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.

And finally, rising to an apparent pitch of impotent frustration:
If only the sandals and pistachio-coloured shirts could be put in a pile and burnt, and every vegetarian, teetotaller and creeping Jesus sent home to Welwyn Garden City to do his yoga exercises quietly. (www.drb.ie)

Orwell also wrote of: “The lower-upper-middle-class” who own no land but still feel they are “landowners in the sight of God”.

David’s most spectacular career move... was his marriage to a cousin of the queen, the thus royal Lady Pamela Mountbatten. He unwisely boasted his “grand” engagement to Tony Armstrong-Jones. “Oh, I don’t call that grand,” was Tony’s testy reply. A few days later Tony announced his own engagement to Princess Margaret. (Redeeming Features, Nicky Haslam)

Town and Country have identified a new class: the Upper Middletons. “UMs bring neither vast wealth nor lineage to the table. Instead they bring qualities never before seen in the English upper classes — warm, close family relationships, loyalty, reliability and that most socially derided asset: niceness. UM parents may want their children to marry and mix with real poshies, but they do not do this by copying them. In defiance of the ancient English upper class code, they actually like their children, so refuse to pack them off to prep school at seven. Instead, children stay at home to be loved and nurtured, instructed in good manners and kindness until the age of 13, when they go off to an unflashy co-educational boarding school – Bradfield, Millfield or Marlborough”, says the Times. “Their children are perfectly turned out, polite and, dare we say it, slightly boring. They have nice manners, are popular, attend school parties with perfectly wrapped gifts and get decent grades,” Town & Country said. In London, they live in Battersea, Putney and Richmond, but they prefer “underwhelming” Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Hertfordshire. They often run small businesses that keep them close to home. Their sports are skiing and tennis. “They don’t have great taste; they have ‘nice’, high-street taste. UMs never wear black (too fashionable). They adore a pop of colour, a stripe or a floral and, for the females, a daring split skirt or plunging neckline. Their weakness is white jeans, which both sexes wear far too often,” says T&C. (They do sound nice, don’t they?)

When we first met, his mother’s chief concern was that, being common, I might get our children to use dummies, which she disapproved of. (Woman quoted in the Guardian)

Competition is fierce, but I think Hilary Rose in the Times magazine wins the snobbery prize:
In fact, I think, too much daytime skin in general looks a bit trashy in town, doesn’t it? I’m thinking mainly of those sunburnt women who walk down Oxford Street, hoisting up their strapless maxidresses. Then again, Oxford Street’s awful full stop.


SOCIAL COMMENTARY

Social capital ... the quantity and social status of their friends, family and personal and business contacts. (Wikipedia)

Social hierarchy is determined by whether you’re more West Street or Devonshire Street on a night out. (Buzzfeed on Sheffield)

Living in Guildford has its advantages. People in Surrey are too posh for Trick or Treating. (Judge Dreadful ‏@KeefJudge)

I worry about people who think that AUTOMATICALLY because of gender/age/cultural background, certain people have it easier. Not always true. (@matthaig1)

Melanie Phillips think it is patronising and middle class to say that working class people would find boring work boring. (@JonnElledge)

Well I have always found @McVities Jaffa cakes to be utterly classless whether Eton in #Holloway or #Islington. (@RuthRobinsonLon)

Took my builder cousin into a branch of Fired Earth and he almost literally hasn't stopped laughing about the prices for three hours. (Sathnam Sanghera ‏@Sathnam)

More engineers have regional accents because it’s a meritocracy. (Bloke on Infinite Monkey Cage He adds that the media is full of posh people because it’s not a meritocracy.)

Most of the time I feel middle class. Until I met someone who is actually middle class, then I feel working class again. (And a real snob would think “So sad – they think they’re middle class!”) (concretism ‏@concretism_mus)

I think the north stops when you go far enough into the Midlands that people start calling you “babs” instead of “duck” or “love”. Or when people have tea instead of dinner and dinner instead of lunch. Or when chippies start asking if you want gravy with your chips. (Guardian July 2015)

Grand Edwardian life: the vast houses, the vast house parties, the vast shoots, yachts, hydrangeas, tiaras and aigrettes. (Nicky Haslam, Redeeming Features An aigrette is an ornament worn in the hair - probably comprising diamonds and feathers.)


The Times magazine Aug 2015-08-01has a piece on “smart casual” – the new relaxed style. It’s the old “how to be middle class” under another name. These are some signs you are not “smart casual”.
Changing your towels often
A year-round tandoori tan
Wearing heels at home
Sending lavish, Miss World-style floral bouquets
Designer beach kaftan
Regularly rotating your designer handbags
Teeth veneers
One miniature dog

Smart casual signs:
A sailing/staycation tan
Ditching heels all summer
Cotton book bags
Teeth whitening
Minimum two dogs, one of them Shetland-pony size

The whole idea is to make your home resemble a holiday cottage, and when not at work to look as if you were just about to stroll onto a beach or sailing boat. When entertaining, the smart casuals pile the kitchen table with cutlery and food, and everybody mixes and matches. No formality. “the whole experience is more rustica than roux. More squeeze of lemon than creamy sauces.” (The middle classes have thought “creamy sauces” common for decades: perhaps ever since the aspirant copied them in the form of cheaper white sauce – thickened with flour. Remember Sole Veronique?)

More here, and links to the rest.