Monday, 6 April 2015

Classy Sports and Pastimes 2

Sick of this post-Olympic meme about how wonderful athletes etc are compared to footballers. Assumption behind it seems to be that working class people are corrupted by money, footballers as undeserving rich. Not like wonderful Olympians who do it for the love of sport and because they are so hard working and dedicated. (Mark Fisher ‏@kpunk99)

Upwards never go to London’s ExCel centre (upcoming events include the Holy Ghost Festival of Life and the Property Investor & Homebuyer Show). Their children wonder why they can’t go to Cinderella on Ice at Alexandra Palace like all their friends.

Tennis (and having your own tennis court) used to be a sign of sophistication. Then it was proximity to a golf course. This has been replaced by nearness to a gym, and doing strange exercises on an elastic attached to a tree (just as in the first chapter of Howards End, set in 1905).

In the country, Upwards go for long, muddy walks along the same few routes. Apart from being “good for you”, these walks have no object. They don’t look for archaeology, observe botany (though "foraging" is fashionable) or sketch. And they never walk anywhere near a café or shop. They like to go somewhere where they’re unlikely to meet anybody else – they don’t want to have to say “Good afternoon” to a stranger. Weybridges play golf, and hang out in the clubhouse, which makes Upwards despise them.

Upwards do contemporary dance, Teales and Definitelies do jazz dance and tap. Upwards perform for free in “arts centres”. Sharon Definitely gets a job in Cats. Bryan and Jen go ballroom dancing.

Upwards never go to interior ski slopes or dry ski slopes. Stow Crats go there to practise, or just go to Verbier three times a year. It’s a mating ritual. Upwards can’t go snow sphering either – bang goes sixpence and it’s not mind-improving. Besides, they're just not very physical, despite all that netball at boarding school.

Teales know how to wrap their bathing things (as Samantha would call them) into a neat roll to be carried under the arm. Sam shoves hers into an old canvas bag. Sharon makes herself a beach bag from a pattern in a woman’s magazine.

More pastimes here.
Olympic legacy here.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

You Are What You Eat 6

Happy Easter

For anyone too afraid to ask where the quinoa is in case they say it wrong, it's ‘keen-wah’ and it’s in the rice aisle. (‏@Tesco)

Dining room furnishings have gone the way of dining rooms. (Flog It!)

Dinner-parties and dining rooms are a thing of the past. I can't believe it! Where do people eat? (David Barby on Flog It!)

I doubt there will be many mourners at the grave of “fine dining”. The very phrase, with its genteel fussiness, makes me feel a bit itchy. (Jemima Lewis, Daily Telegraph 2014)

I wondered out loud in front of some foodie friends: “What the hell is a middle-class vegetable?”
“Avocado,” replied one. “That’s a middle class vegetable.”
“Oh no,” countered another. “Avocado is definitely lower-middle class these days.”
O Hades, open the ground beneath my feet and swallow me up. Can we not even eat our tea without a side order of snobbery?

(Henry Dimbleby, owner of the Leon café chain)

Huge chocolate Easter eggs full of chocolates are of course terribly vulgar. And expensive. Upwards dye real eggs using natural ingredients like onion skins and beetroot. “I never really cared for the usual colourful Easter eggs most people make. They're too gaudy for my taste.” (Web)

When vegetarianism first came in, veggies had to eat fake steak, mock duck, nut cutlets and sausalata because society couldn’t cope with difference. in the 70s and 80s people still thought a “proper meal” was meat and two veg. And you just couldn’t say you didn’t like melon. It appeared in every dish. But we could only get unripe melons, and nobody waited for them to ripen, and unripe melons are quite nasty and bitter. Of course they were the middle-class fruit par excellence, and saying you didn’t like them was almost like saying you preferred white sliced bread, or shopped at Costcutter.

Now the government wants to make motorway service stations “less monotonous” with natural light, open spaces and farm shops. Make them more middle-class, in fact. I love motorway service stations for their bland classlessness and you can usually get a latte macchiato if you want one.

Lauren Laverne in the Guardian nails it: “Culinary talent was one of those skills I admired in others, like smalltalk, ballroom dancing, jujitsu and nuclear physics... Ingredients are chosen for their cachet as much as their flavour; people change dietary preferences along with their hair... Reading cookbooks unlocked the middle-class attitude to food – which I had not grown up around, and always found anxiety-inducing (I remember, in my early 20s, being scolded by a TV exec for ordering a “builder’s breakfast” before London started fetishising that kind of thing). I realised that the middle classes cook (and eat) like they decorate: expertly, heavy on borrowed authenticity, low on perceptible effort and frills.”

Upwards and Weybridge use food to make their children’s lives a misery – with the best of intentions, of course. It’s absurd to carrying on cooking, laying and eating formal meals twice a day when you no longer have servants, and it’s the holidays. Stated objective: children must learn how to behave in formal situations. As if they’re going to spend their entire adult lives lunching at the Ritz and dining at banquets. They’re going to spend most of their time eating a sandwich for lunch and coming home and cooking pasta. It will be much more use to them to learn how to behave in those situations. You may have to eat in a very formal situation (wedding? business lunch?) about once a year. Is this an adequate excuse for putting your children through a time-wasting ritual surrounding food twice a day? TV presenter Matt Allwright asks on Twitter “How do you get children to eat food they don’t like?” Matt, it’s easy – give them food they like.

The real British diet

Arrive at work, eat croissant/toast/porridge/latte with sugar. Eat biscuits all morning.
Lunch: A very small salad.
2pm-4pm: Eat biscuits.
4pm: Eat cake.
Dinner: A small portion of meat and veg.

Middle class parents painstakingly train their children to eat middle-class food – and then they fly off and eat junk food just like a chav.

When did Upwards decide that curry powder wasn’t good enough, but curry paste was OK? (Of course you really ought to buy all the spices and fry them...)

My parents thought white sugar was terribly common - even the cube sugar was coloured (shades of beige?) - and the same for white bread. (SP) And there were those who thought white sugar was poisonous because... it was “just chemicals”? Who said that? Toyah Willcox? “We’ll have no killer whites in our tent, Candice Marie!” (Nuts in May, Mike Leigh)

It used to be social death to clean your plate or mop up your gravy with a piece of bread. But then Upwards began to travel to France and picked up the habit. (You should use your knife and fork to do this, however. Most of the time.)

"Fast food is so fatty, and fizzy drinks are so sugary." This means they’re common. Upwards and Weybridges aren’t allowed to like Ribena or Rock’s lemonade “too strong”. If you put “too much” Rock’s in your glass, someone will shout bossily “You won’t want that much!” And “fizzy drinks” mean Coke, not sparkling elderflower. However, “Middle-class” soft drinks contain most sugar" said a Times headline in June 12 2014.

Upwards think that in the Middle East everyone eats humous the whole time. Actually they eat crisps, madeleines and wafer biscuits. Likewise Upwards think that Italians love peppers – Italians adore sugary instant peach tea. Polish cuisine remains resolutely un-Upward.

Definitely kids eat chicken nuggets; Upward children eat chicken goujons.

Greggs’ version of a “rustic” roast beef and cheese roll: very soft roll, almost too soft, with flour dusted on top. Finely-cut soft beef that you can actually chew (how do they do that?), lots of cheese, lots and lots of onion jam and very sweet pickle. Bliss. (Of course no middle-class person would be seen dead in Greggs.)

Caro Stow Crat is probably one of a dying breed who understand the difference between tablespoons and dessert spoons (though she would never say dessert for pudding). Why are recipes still written using tablespoons as a measure? Jen calls a spoon used for serving food a “serving spoon”. But I suppose aristocrats never served their own food.

A hipster has been spotted on the Tube drinking porridge from a jam jar. (Hipster cafes serve coffee in jam jars or small pudding basins, sometimes accompanied by a miniature glass milk bottle full of milk.) Somehow a Rose’s lime marmalade jar, with the labels still on, wouldn’t do. It has to be an “industrial design is so simple and beautiful” bog standard jar, preferably made of recycled glass.
And if you ask for a cappucino in a Look Ma! café, you get offered a flat white because cappucino is soooo last century.

More here, and links to the rest.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Choose Your Words Carefully 3

Steph McGovern

It turns out that what's fine for Alan Titchmarsh, just doesn't go for women in academia. We can't be taken seriously and have working class regional accents at the same time... It turns out that very few people like to think they have a discernible accent and instead believe they speak in a neutral voice, one that doesn't betray the region in which they grew up, or, more to point, the socio-economic status of the region in which they grew up. Because that's what it's really all about, isn't it? I frequently hear friends, students, colleagues, teachers and parents talk about 'rough' or 'common' accents. Or correcting school kids out of their accents because it sounds 'ignorant' and it's not 'proper' English. (A university lecturer in the Daily Telegraph explains how her regional accent draws ridicule in academia, Jan 2015 )

Most users of English habitually distinguish between two types of people whose linguistic habits they deplore... Berks are careless, crass, gross and [in] what anybody would agree is a lower class than one’s own. They speak in a slipshod way with dropped Hs, intruded glottal stops and many mistakes of grammar. Left to them the English language would die of impurity, like late Latin. W*nkers are prissy, fussy, priggish, prim and of what they would probably misrepresent as a higher social class than one’s own. They speak in an over-precise way with much pedantic insistence on letters no generally sounded, especially Hs. Left to them the language would die of purity, like medieval Latin. (Kingsley Amis, The King’s English)

Mum says I sound a bit too common.
(F Stavrakopoulou ‏@ProfFrancesca of her appearance on The Infinite Monkey Cage.)

Georgette Heyer, writing in the 30s, mentions a character whose voice “cast into shocking relief the light, metallic tones of her contemporaries, with their clipped vowels, and the oddly common inflections they so carefully cultivated”.

French was for the academic kids, Spanish for those who were seen as fodder for the vocational training stream. Probably a reflection of the rather fixed views as to where each set would holiday, when older. (GC I had some posh friends who wanted their kids taught French at two "for skiing". They learned to ski at two, too. Somehow we lost touch.)

Hearing me speak, someone once asked me why I wasn't living in Fulham with a barrister. (What could I have said? “Why aren’t you living in Stepney with a woman you call ‘me old Dutch’?”)

Singer Davey Jones (from Manchester) adopted a weird kind of Mockney when he became an “English” star in the States. Judy Carne had the same voice, and Geraldine Chaplin adopted it for Nashville. Nobody ever talked like that.

In the 50s, 60s and 70s, across most of the class spectrum, people communicated in a kind of knee-jerk sarcasm. Which made being a naïve 16-year-old really difficult. I think it's gone out – people are much politer and friendlier now, despite Weybridges complaining that nobody says “Please” or “Thankyou” any more and that manners are a thing of the past. Perhaps they miss “inferiors” kowtowing and calling them “sir” and “madam”.

Upwards and Weybridges have conniption fits over “can I get”. “It’s ‘may I have’,” they rave. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anybody say “may I have”. It’s just something middle-class people invented to annoy their children. If you hover at a coffee-shop counter you’ll hear most people saying “could I have”.

Eileen pronounces Protestant as “Prodestant”, and says “within” for “in”. Upwards insist that antiques have PAT-ina not pa-TEE-na, but pa-TEE-na is winning. Upwards and Stow-Crats used to insist on saying patent with a short A. Everybody says “paytent” now, as in “patently obvious”, which is a favourite phrase of theirs. But it is fearfully infra dig to say “lather” to rhyme with father rather than gather.

Stow Crats have their own pronunciations, not just of stately homes (Althrop for Althorp, Annick for Alnwick), but of names like Walter Raleigh (Rawley not Rahly), Halley’s comet (Hawley or Haley). Are they the ones who insist on Katherine Hebburn and Barbara Stannick? And watch out for Cholmondeley and Marjoribanks and Featherstonehaugh (Chumley, Marchbanks and Fawston).

Samantha Upward is trying very hard to cure herself of calling the living room or sitting room the “drawing room”, as her parents did. It was the “withdrawing room”, whither the ladies withdrew after dinner.

More here, and links to the rest.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

World of Interiors, Again

A Radio 4 Interviewee who grew up on a council state says that the built environment expresses the class system – you know which layer you are in by looking at your surroundings. (But of course “There’s no such thing as class any more”.)

Daily Mail always mentions how much someone’s house cost (to locate them socially).

The fashion for a collection of junk shop flower paintings leaning against the wall has reached adverts.

If Upwards want to sit at a kitchen table they have to go to a posh café. For about 100 years, they have felt that they ought to aspire to Bohemia rather than Suburbia. They wouldn’t like it really.

Upwards hate people to make money out of property – unless it’s them – and it has to happen by accident. In the 70s and 80s they would buy a “shell” – a ruin that they spent years doing up themselves. They babbled of high ceilings and “beautifully proportioned” rooms, and spent all their weekends chipping paint off the original ceiling roses. (They have laptops and cafes now, and outsource the plaster-chipping.)

Were the houses built with high ceilings to prove that you could waste the space? Or because of Victorian superstitions about “foul air” and the miasmatic theory? It’s why Victorian schools were huge, high halls. The hot, “exhausted” air rose to the ceiling and fresh air came in through the windows and the pupils froze. One plus is that you can have tall windows that let in a lot of light, but tall rooms are harder to heat.

Property programmes are always asking “Are you going to change the layout?” This still shocks Samantha Upward slightly – are you really allowed to turn a kitchen into a bedroom? Houses had drawing rooms, dining rooms and kitchens (and perhaps halls, snugs and booteries). The most she and friends would do was “knock through” and talk knowledgeably about “RSJs”.

Upwards and Weybridges aspire to a big house at the end of a long, long drive so that you’re cut off from other people – they call this “tranquillity”. The drive is gravel, not tarmac. The Middletons have a tarmac drive at their large house in Berkshire – and what’s wrong with that? Too like a road? Not eco-friendly? Upwards love to get together and complain about people who “concrete over their front gardens”. Nouveau-Richards have a sea of gravel right up to their front door, so that 30 guests can park at once. Upwards can’t actually afford to move to the kind of house that has a drive, and besides they secretly love living in cities.

In American sitcoms, a vivid crocheted Afghan over the back of the sofa is a sign we’re in a blue-collar home. Same goes for ceiling fans.

Nouveau-Richards have “hobby farms”.

Oscar Wilde said that a gentleman never stands at a window. In the 60s, council estates were given windows that you can’t lean out of and shout down to someone in the street. (Oh, OK, they didn’t want people to fall out either.)

More here, and links to the rest.

Get the Look

According to the wonderful Great Interior Design Challenge:

a bit of bamboo
rustic: some exposed wood
French: carved wood painted grey
modern Shaker: a light made out of a silver birch log
authentic:  either “with a Middle Eastern feel” or “an old door turned into a coffee table”

I’d describe my style as modern vintage with a hint of kitsch... I like everything to be quite minimal, but at the same time I really love period features... I’m light, bright and a little bit crazy. 

The client wants a “sophisticated boutique style”. She gets “French sunshine with hints of traditional and a bit of a contemporary feel to it”.

I really like the vintage contemporary look.

It’s very colonial, I can feel it! Bamboo and everything... (Her colonial scheme includes a feature wall of mirrors.)

She’s got to keep it classy – don’t go too themey!

This is rustic meets industrial because rustic is really on trend just now. (The contestant’s “industrial” touch consisted of painting a standard-lamp black because factories are full of black stuff, yeah?)

And from Ebay:
Vintage retro Art Deco Edwardian style

Large vintage convex mirror – copper Arts and Crafts with Regency style! (It looks like a porthole, with token vestigial “rivets”.)

I think that, to Americans, "colonial style" is 17th-18th century. To Brits, it means bungalows in Poona.

More here, and links to the rest.

Decor Quotes

Mansion house

Don’t buy big just because you can. McMansions are so aesthetically awful, ecologically offensive, and ostentatious. Do you really need eight bedrooms?
(Males, Nails, Sample Sales by Stephanie Pearson)

I know you like shape, form, colour and texture! (Great Interior Design Challenge)

There’s a strong luxury presence out there – especially at the classic end. (Manufacturer of de luxe bedroom furniture on BBC Breakfast. Think he means "rich people".)

It is all the more shocking when you see the miserable-looking 1920's and 30's art-deco houses that the upper-middle class have traded for their former elegant 19th century residences. ( forum on the way immigrants live in Brussels’ 19th century centre while the rich have moved out to the suburbs: the city is just “the wrong way round”. Because of course 19th century houses ought to be inhabited by rich people, and it’s all wrong that they are forced to live in ghastly Art Deco monstrosities.)

Entering Dromborg Castle is like stepping into the past. The interior has exquisite details, including hand-carved moldings, fluted columns, high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, and antique lighting. The master suite has an appointments suitable for a lord and lady of the manor, complete with two dressing rooms, Tudor arches, marble tubs, and a sitting room. A chapel, men’s lounge, map room and wine cellar help complete the illusion. ( describes a nouveau riche home, Feb 2012)

With his black-walnut furniture, his jig-saw and turning-lathe methods of decoration, his lincrusta-walton and pressed terracotta, his chromos, wax flowers, hoop skirts, chokers, side whiskers and pantalettes, went a horrific revival of mock modesty inspired by the dying efforts of the old formulated religious thought. (Are You A Bromide? Gelett Burgess on mid-Victorian décor and attitudes.)

his jig-saw and turning-lathe methods of decoration: fretwork, often produced by amateurs

lincrusta-walton: patent shiny embossed wallpaper

pressed terracotta: bricks with decorative moulding

chromos: gaudily coloured and sentimental chromolithograph prints

hoop skirts: crinolines

pantalettes: lacy trousers to conceal women’s ankles and more

More here and links to the rest.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Choose Your Words Carefully 2

What a drag it is gettin' old
Hippy Sloanes used to call practically everything “draggy”.

In the 60s Upwards and Weybridges were utterly shocked by... the Beatles’ song She Loves You Yeah Yeah Yeah. We’re British! We don’t say “yeah”! After that, practically every pop song had a “yeah” in it. The middle classes survived.

And now Prince William says wahldlife and terrrists (for wildlife and terrorists). Excuse me while I have a conniption.

A woman said she was attacked for “having the wrong accent” during an anti-capitalist protest in Trafalgar Square on Wednesday. She was assaulted after wandering into the Million Mask March attended by 4,0000 people. She said: “The person turned to me, saying, ‘not all of us have mummies and daddies to look after us’, then he lunged at me. I assume I was targeted because of my accent. (Times Nov 2014)

George Osborne and Tony Blair are vilified for trying to tone down their public-school accents. (And Tony Benn in his day, according to Jilly Cooper.)

Ben and David Crystal (actor/philologist) say that Received Pronunciation (talking posh) began to go out circa 2000. (But it has been vilified since the 70s, when lefty Upwards adopted a peculiar social-worker mockney accent, which has now quite disappeared. They shocked their parents and more conservative friends by calling children “kids”.)

I wish Upwards would stop saying “Can I just squeeze past?” when they mean “Excuse me”. It’s so passive-aggressive.

Teales don’t understand Upward overstatement. If Samantha Upward says of a hairspray-loving friend: “Her hair was glued into place!”, Jen will think she means it literally.

Sam wails that people say “slaw” to mean salad. (It’s Dutch for salad.)

Teales and Definitelies pronounce Deirdre (dear-dree) as Deedree. They also say “here” as “heee” rather than “hee-yah”. Stow Crats say “hare and thare”.

Teales (and northerners?) say “bip” for poop as in “poop your horn”. (Bipping or bibbing.) Is it because poop now means poo?

During apartheid, Upwards sneered at South African accents.

Posh young people used to call their parents “the parentals”, now they call them “the rents” (except that’s probably about 10 years out of date).

Weybridges pronounce Noah as “nor” and mayor as “mare”. (Upwards give them two syllables.) They also say “haff to be” and “hass to be”.

In the programme Under Offer, an estate agent from Durham says she couldn’t work in London because she’d feel uncomfortable. “I’d feel like a common, rough Northerner, because of the accent, which I don’t think I could change.” Her accent is lovely. So, still think class is a thing of the past?

More here.