Sunday, 11 September 2011
Hoggart continues: [A correspondent] and family found themselves on a wide and otherwise deserted beach on the Isles of Scilly. To their astonishment a couple arrived and for some reason selected a spot right next to them. [The writer] whispered to his son to pick a fight with his sister, which he did, causing much noise and tumult, followed by the departure of the couple. "This event has passed into family legend," he says.
To the middle-class Upwards, a deserted beach is "deserted but for us".
A friend writes: I was once at a party where there were two travel snobs, both of whom were boasting about their holidays in Mongolia, and one was showing off about having drunk yak's milk and the other said tartly "I think you'll find it was mare's milk."
Nowadays there’s a swish children’s boutique, and shops to sell you good olives and Scandinavian ceramics, muddled up with old-school purveyors of Swanage rock, plastic fairies and tat… it seems that half of southern Britain is coming to join us. So buying ginger beer and a vegetable pasty from the local post office we escape the madding crowd… While not exactly downmarket, Swanage is not the place to find boutique hotels… we stop a while at Corfe Castle. This is tourist-trap Britain, where... you can eat your body weight in locally sourced cake. The antique charm of the place still shines through… Swanage has few airs or graces; it’s more cheerful than chic. It hasn’t been “discovered” by the 4X4 brigade, like, say, Bridport…. John Bungey in The Times on Swanage, July 2011, describes his holiday destination almost solely in class terms. This is just what broadsheet readers expect. (Go to Swanage, it's lovely.)
More holiday hell here, here, here and here. And here.
Friday, 9 September 2011
"One of the core aims [of Toby Young's free school] is to instil in boys and girls from ordinary backgrounds the same edge that public school toffs have."
When Young arrived at Oxford University (the poshest) from a northern grammar school, he was bowled over by the public-school boys. "They had an assurance that contemporaries from humbler backgrounds altogether lacked" - he has probably been jealous of them ever since.
Top public school Eton "has a practice known as "oiling", which is learning how to win friends and influence others, and how to clamber over them to get what you want. It's a mixture of ambition, self-confidence and bloody-mindedness...""Young is right to emphasise the importance of character." State-educated youths "find they lack confidence and roundedness..." Baden-Powell described the Scout movement as a "character factory, designed to instil determination and resilience in all young people, regardless of class."
"Competitive sport is vital: it teaches resilience, teamwork and trust. Leadership training and mentoring should become widespread in schools. Young people should be given tough challenges, mental as well as physical..."
To give them "mental strength" send children on "hikes and gruelling expeditions". "Boarding... should become much more prevalent... The experience of living side by side with fellow students, and in conditions of relative deprivation, is profoundly character-building."
It looks like "character" can mean whatever you want it to mean. Public schools are often said to turn out "confident, articulate" young people. If you Google these words, you'll find they appear on the prospectus of most private schools. I like the sound of the Helen O'Grady Drama Academy in Africa, where they teach presentation, performance skills and public speaking. Because the confident, articulate child "finds it easier to make friends". If you want confident, articulate children, why not teach confidence and articulacy, rather than separating them from their families and subjecting them to gruelling hikes? It seems a roundabout method, to say the least.
Thursday, 1 September 2011
Gaily into Ruislip Gardens
Runs the red electric train,
With a thousand Ta's and Pardon's
Daintily alights Elaine;
Hurries down the concrete station
With a frown of concentration,
Out into the outskirt's edges
Where a few surviving hedges
Keep alive our lost Elysium -
rural Middlesex again.
Well cut Windsmoor flapping lightly,
Jacqmar scarf of mauve and green
Hiding hair which, Friday nightly,
Delicately drowns in Drene;
Fair Elaine the bobby-soxer,
Fresh-complexioned with Innoxa,
Gains the garden - father's hobby -
Hangs her Windsmoor in the lobby,
Settles down to sandwich supper
and the television screen.
Gentle Brent, I used to know you
Wandering Wembley-wards at will,
Now what change your waters show you
In the meadowlands you fill!
Recollect the elm-trees misty
And the footpaths climbing twisty
Under cedar-shaded palings,
Low laburnum-leaned-on railings
Out of Northolt on and upward
to the heights of Harrow hill.
Parish of enormous hayfields
Perivale stood all alone,
And from Greenford scent of may fields
Most enticingly was blown
Over market gardens tidy,
Taverns for the bona fide,
Cockney singers, cockney shooters,
Murray Poshes, Lupin Pooters,
Long in Kensal Green and Highgate
silent under soot and stone.
Betjeman contrasts this neat, polite, genteel girl with the louche Edwardians (now gone) who strolled through the fields, now built over. Murray Posh and Lupin Pooter are two dudes from George and Weedon Grossmith's Diary of a Nobody; Kensal Green and Highgate are London cemeteries.