Sunday, 27 April 2014

Classy Quotes 16

Service industry
We've had to divide the cafe into different regions of China, because they don't want to sit with each other. (staff member of Danish auction house catering to Chinese fur buyers)

Only posh people get away with wearing salmon pink trousers. (@pauljmcg)

Only posh people have underfloor heating and olive dishes. (@TeeCee_Baby)

You don't expect farm labourers to have nerves, do you? But they're human, like the rest of us. (A vicar speaking in The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers)

Until the Twenties, “the largest single group of working people in Britain” were in service.  (Roger Lewis in The Times, reviewing Selina Todd's The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class 1910–2010)

I knew clever classmates in South Wales who deliberately flunked the 11-plus because they didn’t want to seem as if they had airs — it would have been class betrayal, treachery to their roots. They knew their place. (I was once beaten up for reading the Radio Times, a middle-class periodical.) (Roger Lewis)

I can’t write about suburbia – I’d have to go and live there. (Martin Amis)

It's about Ferraris, it's about Ming vases, it's about massive tracts of land! (Nicky Campbell on the rich, BBC The Big Questions)

The UK is changing as a whole in terms of class-dependent structure and I think Eton reflects that. When I was there – I am 45 – it was a much more aristocratic place, so some of the criticism would have been true in some elements. But now the school has a very robust academic entry policy. (Old Etonian and dot.com millionaire Brent Hoberman, Times 22 March 2014)

Mummy and Daddy were going to buy a car and some land and enlarge the cottage. But they weren’t going to spoil it with a horrible garage. (Joanna Cannan, A Pony for Jean, 1936)

A certain breed of well-off types are obsessed with poor people having televisions – as if they should huddle around a candle at night singing hymns. (Barbara Ellen, Obs Mar 16 2014)

Not long ago, only rich people had access to pedicures and dog-walkers. Such services were totally unknown to the middle-class families of my childhood. Today, they are essential to most upper-middle-class lives. (Margaret Wente in the Toronto Globe and Mail on the new, freelance “service class” - so unlike the old servant class. She includes chefs who will tutor your nanny in world cuisine, and yard dog-poop cleaners.)

In Denmark a nursery or grandparent was fine. But employing a nanny would be seen as putting on airs. (Times 2014-02-22)

As acclaimed author, academic and working-class child Marshall Berman said of his student days: "The experience of studying at Columbia, Oxford and Harvard was intellectually exciting but socially lonely. They all catered to the rich, to the current and wannabe ruling class, and I felt I didn't fit in." (Guardian Feb 2014)

Pebbledash - do we or don't we?She bought the home at a discount because the exterior was covered in pebbledash, unlike any other properties on the street. Now that it has been returned to the brick exterior the neighbourhood has breathed a collective sigh of relief. (Times May 11, 2012)

[In Hampstead’s posh Crediton Hill] Here a homeowner has fallen foul of tut-tutting neighbours after removing the pebbledash finish on the front of her property in favour of a smooth white render. (Camden New Journal, Feb 2014)

More here, and links to the rest.


Sunday, 13 April 2014

What's in a Name? 4

Insert name here

Last year, according to the UK Deed Poll Service, an estimated 58,000 people changed their name – an increase of 4,000 on the previous year. A decade ago, only 5,000 people changed their names. (Daily Mail Feb 2012)

Whenever there’s an election, I scan the list of candidates. Those standing for the main parties tend to be called Beacham, Hammond, Davidson or Taylor – names derived from places, ancestors, forebears’ trades.

When I stumble over a name that’s awkward, agricultural, eccentric, unusual or distorted, or that looks misspelled, I nearly always find that its owner is standing for a minority party. They haven’t got round to prettifying it, changing it, or returning its spelling to a more regular form.

If your name’s Ballance, it’ll constantly be changed to Balance by spellcheck. And how many times over a lifetime will you have to say “No, not Rodgers – Odgers”?

But it would be a dull world without people called Drinkall, Spickernell, Sables, Nettleship, Cullip, Jestico, Badrick, Bage, Blench, Fanthom, Gunstock, Hookem, Lightwing, Mallender, Rippeth, Shonk, Turtill, Varnsverry, Wildgust or Wrench. Maybe you voted for them.

It would be a shame to lose them all. But why be Mudd or Smellie when you can be Maude or Smiley? (Of course “smoothing” your name, like smoothing your accent, means “bringing it upmarket”.)

You can just announce publicly "I, Cedric Grubb, wish to be known as Charles Grosvenor" – as long as you don’t use your new name to defraud anybody. But if you want to make the change permanent, here’s how: www.deedpoll.org.uk.

More here, and links to the rest.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Classy Collecting II

And cultural capital. Or "taste", as an 18th century Stow Crat would have put it.

Upwards and Weybridges were taught at school that Romantic poetry is the best. Contrarian Rowena likes 18th century Dryden and Alexander Pope. Arkana reads 80s feminist poets. Weybridges and Stow Crats like poems that turn up on the “your 100 best poems lists”, because they’re the only ones they remember from school anthologies.

Middle-class Upwards and Weybridges agree that High Gothic architecture is the pinnacle of achievement, building-wise: the more prickly spikes and pointless over-decoration the better. Somebody always makes the crack about “a-spire-ing” to heaven. Bohemian Arkana Nightshade prefers log cabins, and  Rowena has an embarrassing fondness for very plain Romanesque churches that look like corrugated iron barns. (She likes those, too.)

It used to be very cool to display hand-made clay teacups from India (in India they are like paper cups and are thrown away after one use). It showed you had been to India - but these days everybody goes.

Upwards used to collect fishingabilia – cork and green glass fishing-net floats (also known as "witch balls"). They’re delighted when they visit a seaside village and find people still fishing for a living. It’s so authentic. Upward artists circa 1900 were crazy about commercial fishing and produced endless pictures of boats, working beaches and craggy old fishermen. (But not of fish-gutting girls.) But Upwards aren't interested in fly fishing – it’s Howard Weybridge who collects old fishing rods and reels. Harry Stow-Crat collects vintage guns, cars and lawnmowers. They’re called “mantiques”. Upwards who live in the New Forest and collect classic cars are almost Stow Crats.

There was a brief fashion in the 90s for lampshades based on primitive fishing traps (you scored more points if your lampshade really was a primitive fishing trap).

Eileen brashly asks an Upward friend with expertise what her objets are worth – he refuses to tell her, and says patronisingly, “What matters is the pleasure it gives you.”

Jen loves Cash in the Attic and makes quite a bit on her yard sale. Mr Definitely is an expert in something unlikely like Japanese netsuke or samurai swords. Mrs D collects Royal Worcester porcelain – lots of gold and lifelike paintings of fruit. If she lives in a caravan, she collects cut glass and imitation Sèvres.

Upwards still find the word “pewter” hilarious.

More here.

Monday, 7 April 2014

You Are What You Eat V

A thing with a roof is a pie
"Fussy, pretentious, haute cuisine hotel restaurant food." (Angela Carter)

An Aldous Huxley character ticks off his second wife for calling a flan a pie: “Flan, dear – a thing with a roof is a pie.” The distinction has disappeared – a pie can be a flan or a quiche, or even a casserole. Flans have mainly vanished, too.

In a Times piece on what people keep in their fridges, writer Jilly Cooper reveals she has three, stuffed with “Sanglier paté from France, poached salmon, mousses from Waitrose. We also have an animal fridge, purely for the dogs.” (That's wild-boar paté.)

"When will it be socially acceptable for alcohol drinkers not to drink without an excuse? Phil Daoust recommends lying to friends by feigning a headache or hangover. Is it really so inadmissable to abstain? With 1.6m people in England dependent on alcohol, we need a serious change in attitude, starting with our advisers." Elisabeth Johns, Brighton (Guardian June 22 2013)

“Sell-by dates are just a marketing device.” Bill Turnbull, BBC Breakfast 2013-06-09

A “scratch meal” in the 30s-50s was one assembled or cooked in ten minutes, by yourself – ie not one cooked and served by servants.

Shop-bought cakes were considered vulgar.” Mrs Woolf and the Servants, Alison Light
Virginia Woolf didn’t want to return to a middle-class life with “overcooked meat”. Upwards are obsessed with underdone meat. They like bloody steak, as well as beef carpaccio, Parma ham and steak tartare - which are actually raw. (Though all three are unfashionable now.)

Posh people eat a huge dinner late at night, so they are not hungry for breakfast, or lunch, or tea… this makes going on holiday with them really hard. Also they are obeying a secret directive that you don’t waste money (sixpence) on eating out. Also anywhere you’d find to have breakfast, lunch or tea on holiday will be common. Also eating because you are hungry and drinking because you are thirsty is really rather vulgar. Dinner is different – dinner isn’t eating and drinking, it’s “having dinner”, an important social ritual at which you show off your knowledge of correct behaviour, good taste in tableware, and expertise in the latest esoteric food and wine – not to mention the latest health-conscious diet, food-exclusion fad and super-berries.

29% of primary school children think cheese is harvested from plants (and fish fingers are made of chicken etc etc). Could they possibly be teasing the researchers? The middle classes are obsessed with the idea that “kids these days don’t know where food comes from”. You try explaining to a four-year-old where cheese comes from. Or lamb. It links to Upward hatred for instant meals and takeaways. They used to despise tinned food, particularly salmon. It also connects to their insistence that kids should eat adult food with a knife and fork (and lamentations that children are turning up at school not knowing how to hold cutlery). At least in Victorian times when children lived in a nursery and saw their parents for half an hour a day (if you were rich enough) they were allowed to eat nice, bland bread and milk dispensed by nurses who wouldn’t have dreamed of explaining where milk came from.

Middle-class Upwards love to explain that Cadbury’s Dairy Milk is not really chocolate, even though it’s what British people think is chocolate. Then they boast of the high chocolate count in their favourite very exclusive brand that can only be bought somewhere unlikely.

They're always whingeing that you can’t get offal any more, and claiming that ox heart was delicious. (It wasn't, but tongue was.) They're also pious about eating fruit and veg in the right seasons, and obsessed with “encouraging their children to try different foods” – very important because you don’t want them turning down piperade in front of your friends. Of course it’s the commonest kids who live on bread and jam (1900) or chips/fried chicken (now).

The latest hipster trend is to open a café and call it “The Haberdashery”. What are they going to call their haberdashery – The Bakery? Trendy ingredients April 2013: fennel pollen and baobab.

No Upward would have a set of coasters in a matching box. They could never eat anything called a “lunchpot”.

Upwards love anything made by peasants, especially peasants in other countries. A "homemade" cake might be a WI Battenberg made by common Brits, but artisanal bread is crusty bread made by foreign peasants. And they adore foraging. Elderflower champagne, summer pudding. It’s seasonal, it’s natural, and it’s free.

And they’re obsessed by checkout dividers, and the way they’re manipulated by others in the queue. They have "queue rage". Apparently Tesco is now naff.

Yoghourt started life as a punitive superfood which Upwards ate without sugar because it was good for you (and new). You can now get hypersweet toffee yoghourt – hurrah!

Upwards and Stow-Crats eat a “baked potato”. Lower-middle Teales eat “potatoes in their jackets”. They loved smorgasbord when it was fashionable. At the local “greasy spoon” café Samantha Upward struggles to remember it’s a “jacket potato” and the Polish waitress won’t understand “baked”. (It’s “jacket” on the menu she’s memorised.) When eating in public, some Teales will only nibble with their front teeth.

Sometimes posh people take a common food such as crisps and make an upmarket version. It’s still sold in corner shops, but it’s twice the price, so that’s all right. Popcorn in different flavours is the latest (or it was – seems to have gone again). I'm not sure how Heinz is doing with its garlic/pepper/honey tomato ketchup.

Americans sensibly call fusilli “corkscrew noodles”. They also have to go on about how nasty fruit cake is. They're right! But it’s the only kind Upwards are allowed to like. Dark fruit cake was the only cake – apart from seed, sand, madeira, poppy seed, drizzle – but never Victoria sponge, and nothing with cream. Upward cakes have yoghourt based fillings that taste of cheese and contain no sugar at all. Children hate them.

More here, and links to the rest.