Tuesday 31 July 2012

Keep Cool and Classy

Update: It’s so hot in the summer of 2020 that Brits are seriously talking about installing air-conditioning at home. They may come round to it, as they eventually embraced central heating, despite both being “American”. Unfortunately aircon contributes to global warming, and uses a lot of electricity. Americans are not “soft”, or more practical than the Brits – electricity is much cheaper there.

I remember ads on the tube for portable aircon units from the 70s and 80s – but that was before most offices were air-conditioned. In the summer we opened windows and turned on large fans. In an office or hall with no opening windows, turning on the aircon can be perilous. Sometimes it gets switched off because "draughts give you flu". As a teenager, I got on a bus on the hottest day of the year. Opposite me on the bench seat were three ladies in thick woollen overcoats. Sweltering, I opened a window. They frowned and said, “Are you warm? We are not!”

More tips for keeping your cool:

Sleep under a damp sheet, dampen your nightie.

Turn your room heater to “cool”, and place a tray of ice in its path.

Buy a plant spray, fill it with water and spritz yourself.

Direct the plant spray at the fan for a cooling mist.

Make a room spray by combining vodka and a few drops of essential oil in a small pump-action bottle. Spritz yourself, and direct at the fan. (Don't try drinking the scented vodka.)

If you have sash windows, open them top and bottom. Warm air exits through the top slot, cool air enters through the bottom slot. (From 50 Ways to Save the Planet, Sian Berry)

A friend advises: On a still, hot day, shut the windows and draw the curtains to create a cool interior. This is why Mediterranean houses have external window shutters. (You can also close the shutters and open the windows.) We could also borrow European tiled floors.

Upwards used to despise cold drinks, but in the 18th century these were thought to cause malaria. And in the colonies, ice in drinks might give you dysentery.

In hot weather, aristocratic Caro wears a linen dress, with a cardigan for the chilly evenings. She shudders at people who reveal “acres of sunburned flesh”. Young Stow Crats used to wear a jersey slung over their shoulders capewise, or with the sleeves tied loosely round the neck (never round the waist). Caro says “Create a through draught by opening doors and windows, and take up the (beautiful, Persian) rugs in the hall – York stone flags are so cool.” She makes her own lemonade using a recipe from Mrs Beeton. (1/2 pint cold water, juice of one lemon, 1/4 tsp bicarb, castor sugar to taste. Add the lemon-juice to the water, sweeten, stir in the bicarb and drink while the mixture is effervescing.)

Upper middle-class Upwards who live in Hampstead open the trunk where they keep all the summer clothes they’ve had for 30 years and take out an old cotton number which they wear with thick, flat, brown Clarks sandals. They are so out they're in, but they don't care. They drink Pimm's.

Lower middle-class Jen Teale says she’s got a tan in Morocco when she’s just gone lobster and damaged her skin. She drinks Campari and soda.

Samantha Upward can’t sunbathe because it’s a capitalist plot so she remains very white, like a Victorian lady. But she can’t take practical steps to keep cool (problem-solving is so goal-oriented!). She can’t wear a baseball cap to keep the sun out of her eyes because they’re American. She may wear a floppy hat, but fears friends will laugh at her. She could wear a straw hat from the Boden catalogue (called "Molly"), but only as a fashion statement. She can’t fan herself with a fan – she might draw attention to herself. She drinks Rocks elderflower, made very weak. She avoids fizzy drinks - there's something particularly corporate about the bubbles. And she can’t have an electric fan in her home. She is still convinced she's a rebel and a free spirit. When her husband Gideon cracks and buys some electric fans, she's still wailing "But a low setting will keep you cooler - and use less electricity - and save the planet - and think of the bills!" She's mortified that Gideon sits right next to the thing.

Working-class Sharon Definitely has one of those battery-powered hand fans and says “It’s really warm today!” (Upwards and Stow Crats say “hot” because they call a spade a spade.) She wears thong panties under white trousers.

Bohemian Arkana Upward (now Gardenchild) is thinking of building herself a Yemeni adobe house with thick clay walls. She'll call it the Adobe Abode. She drinks iced nettle tea made of real nettles.

Very Bohemian Rowena Upward carries a Japanese parasol and has a selection of beautiful fans. She installs a windcatcher on her roof and drinks Fanta.

Sharon and her friends go to the beach and get drunk and leave all their rubbish behind. Samantha and her friends have great fun picking it up and tutting. Thalia Upward goes beach litter-picking and makes a lot of posters and T shirts reading BAG YOUR LITTER AND TAKE IT HOME. Who knows, might work!

Monday 23 July 2012

What Your House Name Reveals

What do you call your dog, house, children? Consumer classification company Mosaic will know.

Upper-middle-class Upwards avoid names like Holmeleigh - they sound too cosily made up. Over-complicated names, especially with added yyyys, are a failed attempt to look classy.

Manors and stately homes were called Something House (park, hall, court, castle, manor, place), or they had a single name like Pencarrow, Sezincote, Tyntesfield or Cotehele. Farms were often called after the family that owned them (Robinsons). But when the suburbs copy, these naming conventions become taboo to Upwards and Stow Crats.

So what can Samantha Upward call her house? Not “Thistledome” painted on a wooden slab in the shape of a dolphin. Or anything on a cast-iron plaque also featuring painted flowers and/or kittens. Or carved on a board in pseudo-Celtic lettering. Lower-middle-class Jen Teale adds a “via” to her address and puts the name of her house (if it’s got one) in quote marks. At the end of letters, she signs herself “Jennifer Teale (Mrs.)”.

If you live in a stately home called Beaulieu (pronounced Bewley), that’s OK. If you inherit a house name that’s fairly plain and descriptive (The Pines, Orchard End, Eden House – after someone who built it or lived there) you can keep it. Anything twee (The Nook, Honeysuckle Cottage) should be avoided, unless you actually live in a nook draped with honeysuckle. The Old Mill is descriptive, and The Old Electricity Substation might have some cachet. Inner-city converted warehouses proudly display names like Perseverance Works, or The Chocolate Factory. (“Factories” now produce art and music.)

Here are the UK’s Top 50 house names from the Halifax House Names Survey of 2003:

The Cottage
Rose Cottage
The Bungalow
The Coach House
Orchard House
The Lodge
The Old School House
Ivy Cottage
The Willows
The Barn
The Old Rectory
The Croft
The Old Vicarage
Orchard Cottage
Yew Tree Cottage
The Laurels
The Old Post Office
The Gables
The Hollies
The Beeches
The First
Meadow View
The Stables
The White House
Holly Cottage
Willow Cottage
The Haven
White Cottage
Mill House
The Orchard
Primrose Cottage
The Granary
The Nook
Corner Cottage
School House
The Old School
Honeysuckle Cottage
Lilac Cottage

Of this list, most will pass with the Upwards, apart from The Haven, Fairview, Treetops, Greenacres, Wayside and Oaklands, which have a whiff of seaside bungalow or golf course. You can imagine an Agatha Christie mystery happening in any of them. (Inspector Spence retired to sandy, Home Counties Pine Ridge.)

Retired middle-class Weybridges live at: Badgers Cottage, Cuckoo Cottage, Curlew Cottage, Dolphin Cottage, Fox Hollow, Kestrels, Magpies, Mole End, Nightingale Cottage, Robin Hill, Rookery Nook, Squirrels Leap, Swallow Barn, The Jays. The Nouveau-Richards live at Two Hoots.

Countrified Upwards live at: Orchard House, The Orchard, Woodlands, Treetops, Oaklands, The Willows, Yew Tree Cottage, The Laurels, The Hollies, The Beeches and The Firs.

Golfing Weybridges live at: Hillside, Hillcrest, Sunnyside, Woodside, Meadow View and Fairview, on a sandy soil and with a lot of Scots pines in their garden.

Jen lives at: Thimble Cottage, Pippins, The Little House, The Nutshell, Whispers, Wishing Well Cottage and The Nest.

Pretentious Victorian seaside terraces have individual houses called: Ambleside, Blencathra, Eskdale, Rydal, Tarn Hows, Windermere, Lamorna, Tresco and Kynance in Gothic lettering on the stained-glass panel over the front door. Houses like this are also called after actual stately homes such as Normanby (Hall) and Dunvegan (Castle).

George Mikes in How to Be an Alien complained that the British are very reticent about revealing their house name or number. Perhaps they're still agonising over a name, or style of lettering, that won't be common. Who gets the solar-powered house number that lights up at night?

What Your Name Says About You II

"People with easier-to-pronounce surnames occupy higher status positions in law firms." (sciencedirect.com)

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 It’s easy: see www.deedpoll.org.uk.

When you look at the list of parliamentary candidates at election time, you can see who has changed or “smoothed” their name – usually the Conservative, Labour or Liberal candidates. Members of minority parties have names that are odd, unusual or awkward or look mis-spelt – like Bavage, Drinkall, Spickernell, Gollings or Nettleship. Upward families quietly changed such names to Savage, Dale, Speedwell, Collings or Nettles – probably in the last century or earlier.

Don’t have a surname that looks like a misprint (Odgers, Rotheram), otherwise you go through life saying “Actually it’s Odgers with an O” or “Rotheram without the H”. And you can correct an earlier misspelling – Willsher becomes Wiltshire again. And if your parents have unkindly called you Amandla, Amabel or Mathew, you can fix that at the same time. (Weybridges say: "She is not called Mary, she is named Mary.")

Avoid a surname that’s too rural in the wrong way: Brickstock, Hedgepath. Pick a village (Stavely, Devonport) or county (Kent, Cornwall) instead.

Steer clear of names that suggest unglamorous or ludicrous body parts: Whipple, Botterill, Organ. But if you are very grand you can carry off a name like Panter-Downes, Bigg-Wither or Bodham-Wetton.

More than a quarter [of parents] said they grew to dislike [their child’s] name because it became too popular. Daily Mail, Feb 2012

When naming a child today (or changing your name), make it stand out on Google. You don’t want your son to be in a crowd of Paul Smiths, or your daughter lost among the Sophie Browns.

But remember that posh people are never called Brandi.

What Your Name Says About You I

Sunday 15 July 2012

The New Poor

Why my family can’t live on £41K 

by “Kate Church"

From The Times 14 July 2012

She has felt the loneliness of middle-class poverty.
So five years ago, we downsized (a pleasant euphemism for a humiliating, traumatic event). Still, I was glad to give up my large, elegant house in leafy West London to move to a small, plain one, because that Georgian beauty was a nausea-inducing financial millstone — however, certain friends stopped speaking to me. One had old baby clothes to get rid of: “I’ll take them,” I said. Pride is the first luxury to go (shortly followed by the cleaner, the nanny, and the private nursery). My so-called friend dumped her cast-offs in my hall in a bin bag. She was awkward when I rang. My ex-neighbour (dinner parties, babysitting each other’s kids) was embarrassed to encounter me in the supermarket, post-move, and started bleating about her own imaginary money troubles — “If it weren’t for our savings!”. Her husband, sweetly ignorant of the new protocol, insisted that we’d “arrange something”. She couldn’t drag him away fast enough — I think she feared contamination… The cost of fitting in — I don’t mean keeping up — with friends gives me chest pain. (No longer able to afford “plane holidays”, they have a week self-catering in Wales.) it’s gorgeous. I was surprised… Despite relinquishing the gardener and other staff, and slowly rebuilding our careers, Tom and I find it a stretch to fund a “socially acceptable” existence… Lacking spa days and stuff is not the hardship: it’s the social pressure that’s so agonising to negotiate… We spoil our children with love, but it’s naive to pretend that love is everything. Sometimes, your kids just need to go to the fair with their friends…

Couldn't they have moved further downmarket, sent their children to state schools and let them play football instead of mother-subsidised “horse-riding and cricket”?

Sunday 8 July 2012

Classy Sports and Pastimes

Conservative Stow Crats love tennis because their houses and public schools have their own tennis courts. You have to be good at tennis so you can meet the right kind of boys/girls at tennis parties after leaving your single-sex school. In London they play at exclusive clubs like the Hurlingham (pictured) or Queen's.

Pretty much anybody can follow football and it’s always good for a conversation. Lower middle-class Teales follow what they call “ice-skating”. (Why isn’t roller-skating an Olympic sport? Perhaps it is.) Only Teales become synchronised swimmers. Upper middle-class Upwards never become Olympic anything – they’re too non-competitive. They go for walks, and do Tai Chi, yoga and Pilates where you “strengthen your core” (ie slim your waist). Middle-class Weybridges play golf and join gyms. Their children go to salsa classes.

Teales join gyms and do aerobicise or zumba. They used to love dressing up in all-green leotards and footless tights in the 80s. Definitelies win medals for ballroom dancing. Their jobs keep them fit (cleaning, plastering, shelf-filling, dustbin emptying, hospital portering).

Gyms are a feature of bubble living. You live in a bubble of your own Brookside Close (the Teales), Crouch End (the Upwards), RockCotswoldsNorfolkSuffolkFulhamChelseaScotland (the Stow Crats). If you move outside your zone you have to put on blinkers so that you don’t see anything outside the bubble. Of course you go to the gym and walk on a treadmill — you can't walk around a city, you might see the wrong things and be seen in the wrong places. And besides, you’d just be breathing in pollution. Cities are far too diverse. You join a gym to be surrounded by people like you. If Stow Crats travel from Rock to North Norfolk they see nothing in between.

Bryan Teale goes kite surfing and jet-skiing, Gideon Upward plays cricket on the village green. When Bryan goes hill-walking or rock-climbing he wears a complete Goretex outfit in mauve and jade. Gideon wears army surplus and gets hypothermia. When the Nouveau-Richards join the Stow Crats to shoot grouse, their clothes and equipment are all too new.

Windsurfing was invented by Bryans, who go on “adventure holidays” to do archaeology, horse riding, paragliding, parachuting, rafting, canoeing, hiking, off-road driving, caving, camping, sailing, skiing, kayaking, climbing, diving and zorbing. They have to keep inventing new extreme sports and setting up new extreme fitness events. The upper-class Stow Crats carry on with the same sports they’ve been pursuing for centuries, which involve just as much exhaustion, cold, damp, mud and frantic running about (shooting, rugby, long walks, riding). Nouveau-Richards live the dream in the country and find they have nothing to do all day but shoot clay pigeons. Upwards go on “family adventures” far from shops and common people with their tacky taste.

Samantha and Gideon Upward would never save up for a day out, or go on a Falconry Experience day. They’d go somewhere that didn’t involve spending money (except on petrol and lunch – or they might take a picnic). They’d go to a village fete, medieval church or nature reserve, and of course they can afford petrol and eating out. But it’s the Definitelies who keep a falcon in their back garden. The Stow-Crats use one to catch their dinner, or go hunting with an owl to make it legal. The Definitelies go to the London Dungeon/McDonalds/Alton Towers. It’s a great day out for all the family! Their favourite sport is riding quad bikes.

The Teales have a hobby that the kids can get involved in and gets them all out in the fresh air: bird watching, wetland conservation, volunteering, UFO spotting. They have mild family jokes that make them laugh hysterically.

When Howard Weybridge retires, he takes up carriage driving to make new friends. He has a second garage to keep the boat in. At any time, he may take up a sport or hobby that involves buying a lot of expensive equipment and a special costume.

In the vast reaches outside London and big towns, Very Peculiar Things go on (dwile flonking, cheese rolling, woolpack races, Furry Dances). These are all rather working class. There’s nothing for local Weybridges to do but join the historical reconstruction society and hope to appear on Time Team. Mr Definitely is a metal detectorist and finds a Viking hoard that he sells on ebay.

The Upwards give dinner parties where everyone twitters about schools, food and alternative therapists (they all have their own “little man” to recommend). Sharon Definitely goes out with her friends wearing a backless minidress and bare legs in the middle of winter. She likes “having a good laugh” with her mates.

Definitely and Stow-Crats kids go clubbing, but in different clubs. Poor Upward and Weybridge kids are too busy practising the clarinet or playing netball, and being sensitive and literary or wholesome and outdoorsy.

Upwards go to the Hay on Wye literary festival (all Guardian readers want to be writers), and music festivals that have yurts you can hire. Stow Crats turn up to recurring events (Henley, Glyndebourne, Ascot) with a small number of expensive tickets that are difficult to obtain, and a rigid dress code. But Essex girls have discovered Ascot - you can dress up to the nines and drink all day! Jen calls it the “Henley Regatta” - those who go there just call it Henley. And you’re supposed to know that Glyndebourne equals opera - and that the first syllable rhymes with “mind”. Caro Stow-Crat organises charity balls for which you buy tickets and make up a “table” of friends.

According to Wikipedia, the social “season” runs from April to August and includes:

Arts: Edinburgh Fringe (“a rave for middle-class kids”, as somebody said) — Glyndebourne — The Proms (concerts at the Albert Hall in London) — Royal Academy Summer Exhibition (pictures and sculpture in London)

Horticulture: Chelsea Flower Show in London

Equestrianism: Royal Ascot — Glorious Goodwood — Badminton — The Grand National — The Royal Windsor Horse Show

The Crown: Trooping the Colour (parade for the Queen's birthday) — The Garter Service (for the Knights of the Garter)

Sport: The (Oxford versus Cambridge) Boat Race — Henley Royal Regatta (boats) — Wimbledon (tennis) — Cowes Week (yachts in the Isle of Wight) — Lord's Test Match (cricket in London)

Many of these events (Henley, Glyndebourne) involve elaborate and competitive picnics. All kinds of people go to Glyndebourne these days, so the elite go to Grange Park (where you can hire a pavilion for your picnic - and an extra one for your servants).

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Classy Areas

Chez Ballard

I want to get out of the rat race of traffic. I want her to be a surfing girl, not a bar girl. I want quality of life. Characters on Escape to the Country. (Assumes the city is somewhere you want to escape.)

You're probably not going to find a vegan delicatessen round the corner in Wheatley. Relocation, Relocation

You're effectively paying £20,000 for every minute nearer to town. Property guru Phil Spencer

Westbourne Grove – an area that in 20 years has gone “from slightly rough to full-on trustafarian to total bankerisation". John Lanchester, The Guardian Jan 2012

The Guardian Weekend considers Matlock: Amusement arcades, splendidly tacky shops, chippies and caffs… The case against – some won’t like the tat... Look past the seaside veneer, and you’ll find a handsome town.

Upwards are always “looking past” things, and have trouble with the seaside. It’s too democratic – just anybody can go there. And that means the working classes, with their tacky taste, chippies and caffs.

Upwards, including psychogeographer Iain Sinclair, are bemused by writer J.G. Ballard. He spent his whole life in a 30s semi-detached house in the London suburb of Shepperton (after being liberated from the Japanese internment camp where he spent much of his childhood). Why didn’t he move away the instant he could afford it? He could have lived in a Georgian rectory in the middle of the country!

If they move out of town, upper middle class Upwards and posh Stow Crats can only live somewhere called “the real countryside”. The places where middle-class Weybridges live are ipso facto not rural and you refer to them as “leafy” – which is code for suburban. Upwards think they ought to want to live in the real countryside out of sight of other people, seeing nobody from the windows. So you can pretend all those other people who inhabit these islands don’t exist (because they are all, for some reason or other, the wrong kind of people).

Apparently one doesn’t live north of the Harrow Road... the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea's website says "from the 1960s the overcrowded and dilapidated terraces were cleared and replaced by social housing including Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower".

And which ARE the wrong parts of France?

Quotes about areas here.
Where the Upwards Live. 
Where the Definitelies Live.

Gentrification Three

“Gentrification has become more hegemonic.” Some expert on BBC.co.uk June 27, 12

Back in 1968, when Tim and Penny Hicks bought the dilapidated 157 Portland Road for £11,750, the latter's mother was shocked that they had chosen to move their family from up-market Chelsea into an area more known for rag and bone men than bankers [Notting Hill]. Forty-four years later, their house is now worth more than £2m. "I should think we were the second or third of the settlers," Penny Hicks says. BBC.co.uk June 27, 12 (The real driver of gentrification was the abolition of rent control.)

A few years ago there was a rash of shops in Stoke Newington selling retro 50s lampshades, nick nacks and furniture. They’ve all gone, or transformed themselves into shops selling framed prints, distressed industrial furniture, mattress-ticking cushions, old orange Penguin books, furniture made out of recycled offcuts (I suspect all manufactured from scratch). Or have they decamped to Dalston and points East? The moneyed prefer the shabby chic look – it’s hipsters who like Whitefriars glass. Or they did five years ago.

More about gentrification here.
Yet more about gentrification here