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).

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