Monday 18 June 2018

Class Is Dead, Long Live Class 4

Stand-up comedian @SamWhyte asked Twitter: "When you were a kid, how did you know someone was a bit posh when you went round their house? So far we've got more than one type of cheese in the fridge..."

I've divided the answers into social strata.

Served food without a pile of bread and marge for if you were still hungry. (In our Upward home, all our meals came with bread and butter on the side, but nobody ever ate it. It was just make-work. And we continued with the pantomime for years.)

Soda stream. (I could never understand why my Upward parents wouldn’t get one. They didn’t want to spend the money, and they rationed sugary drinks. Even Kia-ora orange squash was only allowed at birthday parties. They thought that if we didn’t get much sugary food, we wouldn’t “acquire a taste” for it, and we’d “acquire a taste” for grown-up middle-class food like tough mutton and over-boiled cabbage. Liking sweet food is common – but it meant there was something they could withhold. Also they despised electric gadgets, though they did get a “waste disposal unit” for the sink, which made a horrible noise and ate a lot of Georgian silver teaspoons. I’m sure my mother used to push potato peelings down it with her fingers while it was on.)

Bidet, two sinks to wash up in, salad spinner.
Fitted carpets. Soft toilet paper. Colour TV.
Not sure if it was the master bedroom ensuite or the stone lion on a plinth in the garden.
One word - LladrĂ³.
My friend's Dad had a study and always asked me what career I’d chosen - I was 10.
A serving hatch.
Fish knives and cake forks.
Fancy biscuits for every day.
Pot pourri, mahogany TV cabinet, VHS spinning shelves.
My friend was called Chris, until you were in his house and he was called Christopher.
Guest soaps in the shape of shells and a phone in the parent’s bedroom.
Phone table, guest room, ottoman, front garden, utility room, breakfast room.
A front room called the "morning room".
Taking your shoes off in the house.
Home-made puddings every day.
Keeping the Radio Times in a faux leather folder with ‘Radio Times’ on the front in gold letters.
Coca Cola when it wasn't a birthday party.
Choc ices in the fridge, a whole box of crisp packets, being allowed to take food between meals.

Soap on a magnetic arm. I often think I dreamt this, but the bar of soap had a little disk of metal pressed into it, and it hung off a magnetic thing.

In the 70s our back yard (with outside toilet and coal shed) was converted into an extension. My mum still calls it her 'East Wing'.

When I was a kid, the posh ones wore 100% shop-bought clothes. It might seem amazing now but things like shorts, sweaters, socks, scarves and dresses in the 1950s were just about all home-made among most of my class-mates.

Supper is a bowl of Frosties. (I once stayed with an aristocratic family who lived in a stately home. But they had cereal for supper, in the kitchen, and then watched TV. I tried to persuade my parents to do the same, but they wheeled out the line about “learning how to behave in formal situations”, and “setting a good example” for my eight-year-old brother.)

I was born in the 1940s and lived in privately rented housing (with an outside toilet). But when I suggested to my mother that she put her name down for one of the council houses with all mod cons the snobbery kicked in, and she said "only common people lived there"... It was more to do with the infinite gradations of class, and whether people sounded their H's or not. My mother's mother was from the upper servant sphere, and I think she saw council-house tenancies as for the labouring classes. It was quite intricate.

White pepper in its original container from the shop.
Dairylea was considered posh in our street.
We had Walls Viennetta for pudding! Mint flavour. (Lucky things.)
Variety cereal boxes “were considered profligate in our household". (And ours.)

A hardwood stereogram with a glorified giant toast rack next to it full of classical albums.  A very small black and white TV for those rare occasions when there was a good documentary on BBC2.

Playing classical music while eating homemade lasagne with a side salad at a dining table in a room with no TV on. Followed by homemade tiramisu for dessert. Oh, and it was called dinner, not tea or supper.

Using a cup and saucer, dads went to work in a suit to an office not down the pit, wine with evening meal, went abroad for holidays not to Hornsea or Ireland, rugs on polished wood floors. (Guilty as charged – though we did holiday in Ireland.)

Parents that engaged you in conversation. (Others say: “They talked at meals, instead of sitting in silence.”)

A spice rack. We only ever had salt in the cupboard. (The herbs were all dried, and these days Upwards grow their own.)

A separate immaculate living room that you weren't allowed to enter, let alone play in. (My parents tried this one, without much success.)

Engraved napkin rings. “Visitors were assigned a napkin ring from the guest set, kept in a special velvet-lined box in the sideboard.”

Dinner didn’t arrive on your plate, there were serving dishes on the table or a hostess trolley, with serving spoons and napkins. At home I just got given a plate of food. Served dinner at the table – owned tureens and stuff. (A lot of extra work, and assumes someone else will do the washing-up.)

I remember being completely bemused by the concept of a milk jug. 
Nobody left the table before everyone had finished. (Someone comments “I had to suffer that too.”)
Dishwasher, and they put whole peppercorns in the dinner.
Kids who referred to mum and dad as their ‘parents’ and their nan as ‘gran’ or ‘grandma’.

No visible religious iconography.
Imperial Leather soap.
Gold-top milk.
Brown bread.
Original art on the wall. (Sometimes by relatives or friends.)
An old upright piano.
Large, well maintained back gardens.
Melon as a starter.
Grapes on the sideboard.
A landing half-way up the stairs.
Garden furniture made of wicker.
Gravy boat on the table.
Salad in a bowl, without a sliced boiled egg but with vinaigrette.
Mayonnaise (home-made, not Hellman’s).
Telly in another room.
Not opening Christmas presents until after lunch. (Probably to teach children “deferred gratification”.)
Multiple kids who don’t share a room.
Downstairs and upstairs toilets.

Air fresheners plugged into the wall. A knitted lady hiding the toilet roll in the bathroom. Not being allowed ketchup at dinner because it’s too ‘common’ and finally not being allowed food upstairs.

A "formal dining room" they never normally went into. (One family only used it for Christmas.)
Decorative plates hung on the wall.
Dream topping and angel delight for pudding. 
A transparent plastic mat over the carpet the length of the hall.
Quiche and laminate flooring.
A 32-piece shiny cutlery set complete with fish knives in a purple velvet box.
Pampas grass... and it didn't smell like people lived there.
Video cassettes kept in cases that looked like hardback books.
Good outdoor garden toys.
Double glazing and radiators.
Doilies, antimacassars.
Mid-week fizzy drinks, a plastic wipeable table cloth.
A non-standard bathroom colour.
An immaculately tidy house

My mate lived in a house that had a name. His dad had a bar with a full-sized snooker table in it, and a woman who just did stuff around the house but didn’t live there. 

Colour telly in more than one bedroom.
Shag pile carpets that got hoovered every day.
Globe drinks cabinet.
A silver carriage for the After Eights box.
One whole room of house devoted to an electric organ – or a complete orchestra of instruments.
Two staircases and a housekeeper.
A room called a "den".
Onyx table lighter.
Leather sofa. Stairs you could see through. Shop cake.
A marble chess set on a wooden board always set ready to go but nobody ever dared play it.

More here, and links to the rest.

1 comment:

  1. There are few things in life I enjoy more than reading about class differences.