Friday, 24 January 2014

Classy Schools and Careers



Only desperate pleading won Shirley Williams six months at the local primary school and a brief reprieve from boarding school. (LRB Dec 2013)

A world of nurseries and pinafores which felt like "the snuffing out of every spontaneous impulse". (Architect Alison Smithson on her Edwardian-style upbringing)

When he appointed me in 1988 John Major said me, him and the filing clerks were the only non-Oxbridge Treasury staff. (@PeterWanless)

Writer Tim Lott’s daughter doesn’t quite understand “that one only goes to a faith school in order to get better exam results, not to actually sign up for a medieval worldview.”

If anyone in the news went to public school, journalists are determined to make something of it. OK, with the government they’ve got a point, but David Walliams? Interviewer Robert Crampton of the Times marvelled that Matt Lucas, from a “deprived” background, was sunny and relaxed, while Walliams – who had been to a public school – admitted that his childhood hadn’t always been happy and he suffered from nerves and angst.


Upwards all think they should be a writer, artist, actor or musician. As talent is rare, they work “in the arts” or the media. If they can’t get a media job, and decide making their own chutney will never pay, they want to lead informative walks around London.

Without capital there was no means of making a start [as a novelist]. (Arthur Calder-Marshall, The Magic of My Youth, writing about the early 30s.)

Middle-class Upward parents are furious that after all their piano lessons, activities and private tutors their children are "obsessed by” pop culture heroes and heroines – who are working class kids who have achieved instant fame on a chav talent show. The pop culture heroines have probably put in gruelling years at stage school, or are naturally talented. But the Upward parents want to push the line that their kids must work hard 24/7 if they want to achieve anything.

Gap years are now too expensive (higher uni fees), also middle-class kids can’t afford to waste time. Instead they are going on mini-gaps of three months (as we used to before it all got so competitive).

Relatives will always ask young people at university “And what job does that qualify you for?”, but the Upwards still send their kids to uni to get a general education, while lower-middle-class Teales train as dog groomers and fantasy artists, or set up their own interior design practice. Working-class Definitelies become tattooists and nail technicians. Middle class kids become ballerinas, not dancers in musicals; conceptual artists, not fashion illustrators. In the 50s, they were never allowed to learn to tap dance.

Writer Penelope Fitzgerald’s husband got a job “issuing train tickets for the Lunn Poly travel agency. It was low-paid and menial, far below what either had expected: ‘I’m not going to pretend anything about my job,’ Edward says in [her novel] Offshore, as his wife realises ‘in terror’ that he will ‘never get anywhere’.” LRB Jan 2014

James Hawes’ typical character realizes that working hard and playing by the rules will never get him the family home in a nice area the middle-class children of the 70s took to be their due… the children of the rich he thought of as friends at university are from a world whose admission price he cannot afford. “You have to go and be an accountant or a schoolteacher.” [Now this character is as likely to be a young woman with] a degree that was next to worthless because so many of her contemporaries had one too. [If she wants to work in the media, she has to do work experience:] a refined version of slavery. (Waiting for the Etonians by Nick Cohen)

More careers here.
More schools here.


Thursday, 16 January 2014

Classy Quotes 15



Novelist Nina Bawden was born in 1925 and raised in Ilford, Essex, in "a rather nasty housing estate that [her] mother despised". (Wikipedia)

They preached the lessons of moderation, cleanliness, simplicity, self-denial and humility with an admirable thoroughness, low-church to the core… There was no need for place mats as the meal was to be cold, but place mats were invariably laid. (Jerusalem the Golden, Margaret Drabble)

WASPs took pride in "good posture, genteel manners, personal hygiene, pointless discipline, the ability to sit still for long periods of time" (Wikipedia on WASPs)

My three best girlfriends were daughters of earls… but their upbringings had been even colder and lonelier than mine… I didn’t know how out of touch I was. I thought that I was worldly and sophisticated, but I had no idea what the world was like. I became aware of how oddly sheltered and yet at the same time unprotected I had been. (aristocratic Ivana Lowell, Why Not Say What Happened?)

"Ah," Roland cried delightedly, "I see we have a new class now. There used to be those who had the tele and those who were above it. Now we have those who have the tele and are still above it." (A Bit off the Map and Other Stories, Angus Wilson)

In a really nice hotel or restaurant, things like old fraying stained suitcases and terrible clothes equal terrible rooms, uninterested service, and bad tables. (Stephanie Pierson, Males, Nails, Sample Sales (She also says that good clothes will win you the job, but warns that in Europe you get what you pay for – smart clothes and luggage won’t get you an upgrade to first class, or a better hotel room.)

One Facebook user, Jennifer Huggins, wrote on Waitrose's Facebook page: "Please stop the free coffee at Barry Waitrose, it is putting me off shopping in the store. People are coming with two cards two free coffee no shopping, with their Tesco bags." (Telegraph Dec 2013

It was a strange time in Prague. The city was awash with young Westerners, mostly Americans, and the Americans … were all setting up small businesses. There was great snobbery, with those who'd been there for eighteen months greatly despising those who'd been there for a mere six. (JP)

They are rattling breakfast plates in basement kitchens,
And along the trampled edges of the street
I am aware of the damp souls of housemaids
Sprouting despondently at area gates.
(T.S. Eliot The “area” was a small courtyard at basement level, below the street. Steps led up to a gate in the railings.)

Virginia Woolf found “ordinary people… repulsive in the mass”. In 1915 she  describes train journeys taken with “shabby clerks and dressmakers” and women with string bags. Buying her own food is a “degrading but rather amusing business. I dislike the sight of women shopping. They take it so seriously.” In one of her novels (Night and Day), an upper-middle-class man meets a lower-middle-class woman and joins his suburban family for “an unpleasant meal under a very bright light”. Leonard Woolf loathed “cheap humanity” in “red villas”. Virginia thought Leonard’s “uneasiness in the presence of the lower classes; always suspects them, is never genial with them” could be explained by the fact that he was not a “gentleman”. Does anybody read her novels any more? (Alison Light, Mrs Woolf and the Servants)

A character in a novel by Enid Bagnold dismisses an applicant for the post of cook as “a born lavatory attendant”. (The Duchess of Denver in Dorothy Sayers’ Strong Poison talks of the victims of a poisoner being “born murderees”.)

Councils aren't against non-chainstore spaces as long as they conform to a Farrow & Ball model of middle-class individuality. (Guardian Nov 2013)

You could tell, though, even in my day, that you were living in a culture that simply wasn’t going to survive. This was an environment balanced weirdly between antiquity and modernity. (Hugo Rifkind on public schools, Times Nov 2 2013)

Research suggests the upper classes are less cognizant of others, worse at reading other people's emotions and less altruistic than individuals in lower social classes. "If you occupy these higher echelons, you start to see yourself as more entitled, and develop a heightened self-focus," [researcher Paul] Piff told the Guardian. "Your social environment is likely more buffered against the impact of your actions, and you might not perceive the risks of your behaviour because you are better resourced, you have the money for lawyers and so on." (Feb 27 2012)

Who are you calling an average Joe you two up two down 2.4 children Just for Men mediocre tea and digestive swilling Punto driving middle England Harvester frequenting Mail reading saturday lawn mowing non-entity you? (Commenter on lions-tour-extra.com, 2007 The riposte: Black poloneck man is having a hormone imbalance. Quick get some sushi or latte or something!!!)

The idea of being stuck in some concrete complex surrounded by sunburnt, overweight, Daily Mail reading, Harvester-frequenting, Chelsea supporters piling their plates high with a full English and “free” cocktail at 9.30am, is not an experience I’d pay for. (Letter to the Guardian, 2013-05-26)

More here, and links to the rest.