Sunday 20 January 2013

Classy Quotes 12

You always talk very quietly in England, at least the middle classes do. If you talk loudly you count as “common”, not a gentleman. The English don’t defend their ideas, because then they’d have to talk loudly. (Artist Kurt Schwitters)

Which is stronger? The Tory voter's desire to do as he pleases in his back garden, or his desire none of his neighbours do anything he dislikes in their back garden? The latter? Close, isn't it? And that's why the Tories won't derive benefit from planning reform. (Novelist @WillWiles)

And now let us observe the well-furnished breakfast-parlour at Plumstead Episcopi, and the comfortable air of all the belongings of the rectory. Comfortable they certainly were, but neither gorgeous nor even grand; indeed, considering the money that had been spent there, the eye and taste might have been better served; there was an air of heaviness about the rooms which might have been avoided without any sacrifice of propriety; colours might have been better chosen and lights more perfectly diffused; but perhaps in doing so the thorough clerical aspect of the whole might have been somewhat marred; at any rate, it was not without ample consideration that those thick, dark, costly carpets were put down; those embossed, but sombre papers hung up; those heavy curtains draped so as to half exclude the light of the sun: nor were these old-fashioned chairs, bought at a price far exceeding that now given for more modern goods, without a purpose. The breakfast-service on the table was equally costly and equally plain; the apparent object had been to spend money without obtaining brilliancy or splendour. The urn was of thick and solid silver, as were also the tea-pot, coffee-pot, cream-ewer, and sugar-bowl; the cups were old, dim dragon china, worth about a pound a piece, but very despicable in the eyes of the uninitiated. The silver forks were so heavy as to be disagreeable to the hand, and the bread-basket was of a weight really formidable to any but robust persons. (Anthony Trollope, The Warden, 1855)

He appears in Downton Abbey, one of a wave of TV dramas centred on class, and in the Radio Times this week the actor Rob James-Collier was asked whether working-class talent was being squeezed out of the profession. James-Collier was born in Stockport, and defines himself as working class, and his answer was direct. As with so many other jobs at the moment, he said, you have to work for no money when starting out, and "how on earth are you going to finance that" if you don't come from a wealthy background? His comments tapped into a question that has arisen repeatedly this year. Can anyone but the exceptionally well-heeled, wealthy, connected upper classes now make it in the arts? (Kira Cochrane, 7 March 2012)

“There are plenty of gritty dramas and soaps for working class actors out there” says a commenter (and actor), proving that “gritty” is a euphemism for working class.

The Marchioness of Worcester revealed that she did not want to send their children to boarding schools, which she said were elitist and failed to teach children about the real world. However, she said that she was expected to do so by her husband’s family…  “I did not want it but it was demanded in this family,” she said. The great-granddaughter of the Earl of Dudley said that her experience of boarding school had been negative and that she was expelled a number of times. “For me, when I came out of boarding school I was totally ignorant of the world,” she said. “This is the only country in the world where normal children are sent to boarding school…” The Marchioness said that she did not want boarding schools to be banned but instead wanted more money for national schools. “We are enslaved to earning enough money to send people to the boarding school club. It would be great to be freed from that so that everyone’s children had a good education,” she said. “It makes a division in society.” (Telegraph, Jan 2013)

”Co-option" is the term that people like Naomi Klein use to differentiate her own consumption patterns from the vulgar masses. (amazon review)

Midcult is Masscult masquerading as art: slick and predictable but varnished with ersatz seriousness. For Dwight Macdonald (Masscult and Midcult, 1960), Midcult was Our Town, The Old Man and the Sea, South Pacific, Life magazine, the Book-of-the-Month Club: all of them marked by a high-minded sentimentality that congratulated the audience for its fine feelings… Midcult, still peddling uplift in the guise of big ideas, is Tree of Life, Steven Spielberg, Jonathan Safran Foer, Middlesex, Freedom—the things that win the Oscars and the Pulitzer Prizes, just like in Macdonald’s day. (William Deresiewicz, The American Scholar, Nov 2012)

I know that service stations get a bad press. But I love them. They evoke memories of childhood trips to the beach; they are mini-treats on long, boring journeys, where you can eat at Burger King without feeling guilty. At service stations, you exist in a bubble, divorced from the rest of the world. I always think that if an atom bomb went off, I would be safe at Leigh Delamere, browsing useless travel accessories. Here lurks all human life – divorced parents handing over children, Alan Partridges in permanent limbo, the posh, the poor and everything in between. The service station is the great British leveller. Bryony Gordon, DT July 10

I love that "flat screen television" is still the definition of living in luxury in 2012 #bbcqt (@RopesToInfinity)

Parvenu merchants and financiers routinely purchased country estates in order to display their material splendor, advance their claims to gentility - the ownership of a landed estate being the foundation of genteel status - and establish the foundation for their descendants' entry into upper-class circles. (The Jews of Britain by Todd M. Endelman)

The Brits don’t like anything to look new. Furniture must have rips in the upholstery, exposed stuffing, paintings hung crooked, crockery unmatched and properly chipped. The feeling being, I suppose, one is above caring; however self-consciously tattered it appears. (Frank Langella, Dropped Names)

At school in the 70s it was vital, for the purpose of not getting your face bashed in behind the bike sheds, that your parents had a) a good car b) a house in the proper part of town and c) jobs from the approved list. (Tom Cutler, Guardian, Oct 20 2012)

The rules of discussing class in Britain are, pleasingly, very like those of cricket. Once you know them, they seem incredibly obvious and intuitive and barely worth mentioning; if you don't know them, they are pointlessly, sadistically complicated, their exclusivity almost an exercise in snobbery in its own right. Nowhere is this more evident and yet more tacit than in relationships: people marry into their own class. It's called "assortative mating". You know this by looking around, yet there's such profound squeamishness about it that research tends to cluster around class proxies. The question goes: "Do you and your spouse share the same educational attainment?" (Translation: are you the same class?) Or: "Did you go to the same university?" (Translation: are you really, really the same class?) This trend is immune to social progress elsewhere. (Guardian, Oct 20 2012)

[Julian Fellowes' wife Emma] once gave an interview in which she described the 'tell-tale signs' by which you could spot a parvenu. 'I hope I would never judge somebody because they folded their napkin after dinner,' she said piously. 'But I'd never pretend I didn't notice. Isn't that awful?' Well, yes it is rather. Ditto her confession that, 'Sometimes, I'm ashamed to say, I'll go upstairs after we've had a dinner party and I'll say to Julian, "Did you see Cybilla tipping her soup towards her?"' (Guardian, 2004)

They were young, clearly middle-class, mostly in employment I would guess... They were part of a forgotten social group – young people who aren't particularly challenging or at all cynical (they loved the little jokes the band told). If I had to guess, they included trainee solicitors, a few office managers, people starting out in PR, maybe the odd teacher and researcher. They were extremely courteous, and there probably wasn't a racist nerve cell in the whole hall; many of the groups there were mixed-race, chiefly white and Asian. Nobody ever really notices these people. They never riot, and they don't snarl at the world, which has done quite well by them. They like to watch Miranda on TV, and hold their office Christmas parties at Café Rouge. They own little cars which have nicknames. (Simon Hoggart on the audience for the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, Sept 30 2012)

More here, and links to the rest.

Saturday 19 January 2013

World of Interiors 1

One or two, maybe three decorative pillows can work, but after that a bed starts to look like a department store showroom… Understand the virtues of patina, faded fabric, peeling paint, and old chintz.
(Guardian, May 11 2012 – make it look as if your family has lived there for centuries)

A friend reports that a posher acquaintance is bullying him to buy curtains at Curtain Exchange because at Homebase you can’t avoid contact with common people. At Curtain Exchange you get curtains pre-owned by People Like Us.

Middle-class Upwards used to buy a cheap Victorian or Georgian “shell” and live in it while they did it up. This took years, so their look was bare plaster, colourful ethnic textiles, bare boards and a lot of dust. Can we now say what hell this was, and how we hate chipping layers of paint off ceiling roses, and how wonderful it is to buy a house you can move straight into? And employ tradesmen to do the work?

Upwards could never never have a sofa with controls (to raise a footrest, rotate a section, turn on the telly…) Or an extractor fan that rose from a kitchen island at the touch of a button. They really didn’t like dimmer switches – what happened to them? Upward sofas are never comfortable enough or big enough. They like to tell you that in the olden days people sat on hard, upright chairs.

People with Farrow and Ball painted doors don’t have doorbells, notes architect Charles Holland. (Hungarian immigrant George Mikes observed that the British won’t paint a name or a number on their houses.)

In the 70s, Upwards bought a Victorian rocking horse, had it restored, and placed it in the front window of their living room so passers-by could see how tasteful they were. They don’t have net curtains, so their front room is an advert for themselves.

The middle classes buy real old cottages and rework the interior to make it more “cottagey”.

Old carriage lamps
outside your front door used to be a class marker for the middle middle Weybridges, but they seem to have gone out anyway. (They went with painted carriage or wagon wheels in your garden, or propped against your front wall, and those stone mushrooms barns used to stand on.)

When the middle classes (and upper) say “dining table” they mean one that will seat 12 – or 20 if you add extra leaves. No wonder you need a separate “dining room” to put it in. Middle-class Sam Upward is a bit puzzled when lower middle-class Jen Teale says she’s going to put a “dining table” by the window in her kitchen – she means a small, light table with four chairs. Upwards never eat at a table pushed against a wall (though they might at a pinch put one in a bay window).

The Nouveau-Richards don't care:
Hedge fund trophy home. Besides the usual basket-ball court and wine cellar, it has an observatory, a carousel, a 150-seat theatre, a petting zoo, a trading floor, and a fully equipped laboratory. Doonesbury

Nouveau-Richards have a media room with leather sofas and the flat-screen telly rather high up and far away on a wall. Not cosy.

Elin Nordegren, the former Mrs Tiger Woods, has demolished her termite-ridden, 90-year-old mansion and is building a replica in its place with:

9 bedrooms
2 large living rooms
huge formal dining room
2 kitchens
large pool
pool cabana with huge living room
2 jacuzzis
detached guest house with 3 bedrooms
3 guest bungalows
wine cellar
vast master wing with walk-in closet
basement that runs the entire length of the house

More décor here. And more here. And here.

Money, Money, Money

You must only withdraw from your wallet enough notes for the current transaction. If you withdraw the whole wedge, that’s “flashing the cash”.

The middle classes have to sneer at anybody making money from property, and bewail shopping “madness”, “frenzy” etc.

Middle-class Samantha Upward is appalled by the way everybody seems to have so much money these days, and the luxury industry that has sprung up. People talk about their third or fourth houses; they send their children on competitive gap years; they have three holidays a year; their children are learning Arabic or Japanese. None of Sam's relatives can exploit this new moneyed class by becoming a lady's maid, butler or housekeeper.

In the olden days, the Antiques Roadshow would only tell people the insurance value of their object (You’d need to insure it for…). They never mentioned auction rooms or the possibility that someone might sell their antique. (They still say “But you’ll never sell it, will you!”)

Middle-class people don’t just buy things, they “finally give in and” buy them “in the end”. (Sometimes they “succumb”.) We gave in and bought a: tanning bed, gas-powered mower, laptop, fake Xmas tree, upvc shed, external hard drive, brand new car, minivan, book on tape, hydraulic press, leather suite, hamster, Twitter account, black Labrador for the kids, squirrel baffle (for the bird feeder), cell phone for our oldest daughter, cat, cab home, mini trampoline, new car (Twingo), Wii, chocolate egg filled with chocolates, small greenhouse, thumb guard, double skillet, new puppy, Gamecube, iPad, Blackberry Curve, Moleskine notebook, printer, mummy bus, some Whittard’s instant iced tea. (Thankyou, Google.)

It’s every middle-class person’s dream to write a novel. But it seems such a hopeless business plan – so much work for such a tiny return. But the novel is a passport to the lecture circuit, the creative writing class, the column in a broadsheet, the book reviews, the status, the gigs at Hay on Wye.
If you cost your labour, is it worth it? Yes - not in money, but for the cachet, status, profile, visibility and a more interesting life with superior friends. (And you can always write money-spinning genre novels using a pseudonym.)

Lower middle-class Jen Teale would cost it out before she started, and make sure she wrote something that people wanted to read (teen vampire novels, not literature).

Weybridges think it’s terribly important to teach your children the value of money.

Thanks to credit cards, our children don’t know the value of money! We must introduce our children to money as soon as possible. This is difficult because we use plastic instead of coins and notes these days. So we must give our children coins and tell them the values and play “shop”. (The Times 2009, paraphrase)

Upwards, on the other hand, while investing money, emotion and hopes in their children, fail to explain this to them. (It would mean talking about money, which they don’t do. It would also mean calling a spade a spade.) The children, being children, don’t wonder where the money’s coming from, or what their parents will expect in return (a place at university, a suitable boy or girlfriend, a respectable job). Upward parents need a story they can tell their friends, and Upward children don’t have much choice.

Friday 11 January 2013

"The" January Detox

It's really hard giving up drink for a month, isn't it? It is if you are a low-level alcoholic, like so many middle-class people. Are there any upsides? Well, it gives journalists an excuse to write about alcohol and their heroic intake even more than usual. "I really miss my drunk alter ego", says the Daily Telegraph's blogging "Dryathlete".

So here's a guide to drinking less while pretending not to.

Don't declare that you are detoxing.

Don't talk about booze.

Don't joke about booze.

Don't laugh at jokes about booze.

If you have any friends left... yes, that's the tricky part, isn't it?

Fortunately wikiHow has the answers.

Have you been, or will you be, in a situation where social drinking is expected? If you don't feel comfortable simply telling your peers that you do not drink, the following ideas may help you get through the situation.

Take a can of beer to the loo, pour it down the sink and fill up with water. (That would taste revolting.)

Have a drink in your hand but drink it slowly and occasionally go to the loo to tip some out.

Get someone else to "try" your drink.

Act drunker as the evening progresses.

Drink ginger ale ("beer") from a pint glass.

Drink a wine glass full of of tonic with a slice of lemon. Or a "rum and coke" (mocktails).

Go to the bar to get your own (soft) drink.

If someone asks what you want say you haven't decided.

Say you're on medication.

Offered a top-up, say: "Thanks, that's my limit."

Dump the shot on the bar floor, or into a plant pot when your "friends" are looking the other way. Placing your hand around an empty shot glass will make it appear full - then "drink" the air.

Here's more from wikiHow on How to Turn Down a Drink.

Decline gracefully, giving a polite excuse. (It doesn't really matter what it is: psychological studies have shown that people expect an explanation, but will accept almost anything.)

Order a "virgin" version of a regular cocktail.

Drink low-alcohol beer.

Create a diversion: chat, take photos, dance, eat snacks.

Take a drink and hold it: you don't have to drink it.

And finally... be assertive:

Don't attend future parties like this. If you have a hard time being firm, or this host has a hard time taking "no" for an answer, just don't go next time. When friends ask why you aren't attending, tell the truth. Say, "Well, last time I went, it seemed all anyone cared about was seeing me drink. I don't care to party that way (with alcohol or drugs) any more. Until I feel sure that my "no" will be accepted and I won't be badgered all night, I'm not going to go." That should take care of the problem, because your friends will pass what you said on to the host, and in the future, care will be taken not to offend you in this way again.

More You Are What You Eat (and Drink)

Sunday 6 January 2013

Nasty Habits

The British upper middle classes think they are the best people in the country – in the world! But they have a few unappealing traits.

In the UK, the classes don’t mix much – which is probably why they are so suspicious of each other (benefit scroungers! toffs!). The top layers live in bubbles and only mingle with people from the right “background”.  Who said that these days the classes only mix on the race course? Is this why everyone loves Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs – because you have all the classes in the same soap opera? (Apparently DA shows aristos and staff being fearfully matey with each other – which would never have happened. Employers treated servants as non-people.)

Middle-class Upwards and Weybridges like to say “illegitimi non carborundum!” (Don’t let the bastards grind you down). They think other people are grinding them down, not the other way round.
They are obsessed with queuing – they really don’t see why they should spend a nanosecond in any queue of any kind. Their blood pressure rises on the tube (people are going through the ticket barrier before meeee!!!!), on trains, and especially in supermarkets where they time the people in front – who can never find their money fast enough and then pay in small change!!! Other customers may even misuse the shopping divider. (They still can't quite believe they are shopping in the same place as other people to whom they have not been introduced. And there are so many of them. And they bring their uncontrollable children. Some childless Upwards think that children should be banned.)

The top layers of society loathe intrusive security at airports. To be patted down – touched! – by common people! And treated just like everybody else! It’s an outrage! Don’t they realise who we are? "Don’t you feel guilty passing through customs even though you’ve got nothing to declare?"

Do you respond when someone lets you cross the road? All you need to do is nod, smile or wave - but to a stranger???

Top people often don’t reply when shop staff chat to them. They don’t think of it as being rude. These are common people they don’t know – why should they speak to them? They like to say: “I hate being sold things.” The shop staff have probably been told to smile and chat (and also hover to see nobody nicks anything).

They like to say: “We can't live in fear.” They are very afraid of fear. We should just shut up about paedophiles because all this talk is making people too afraid. That’s why they flapped over Harriet Harman wearing a stab vest in Peckham, and when Jacqui Smith said she didn’t like walking alone late at night. We mustn’t say that our streets aren’t safe because it would make people afraid. “Being mugged in Spain yet again hit my wallet hard. But the real cost is in losing trust in people.” (The Guardian, May 5 08)

And people shouldn’t show weakness, or emotion in public. Yachtswoman Ellen McArthur is not a national heroine because she whinged all the time in public. And she’s had too much attention and besides she’s common. John Prescott talking about his bulimia is “self-pity disguised as honesty”. And he’s definitely common. And they despise Nick Clegg for saying sorry. He’s an “apologiser” now. (September, 2012)

They hate vacuous celebrities. They are afraid their children will be unduly influenced. These celebrities are celebrated for common achievements like pop music and football, or else they’re just “famous for being famous”. They want their children to see Olympic athletes as role models instead. Or is that just everybody else’s children?

But they adore rather plain middle-aged male actors like Ken Stott, Jim Broadbent and Ian Holm. (Such a mahvellous actor – and he could be me!) They don’t idolise really pretty people, and never go mad over actresses.

Thanks to Twitter and the always wonderful Middle-Class Handbook.

Classy Quotes Eleven

A few years ago I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t interested in going to look at ruins, and a lot of “untouristy” places are actually every bit as touristy as Malaga, except with lemon groves and aioli. (Middle Class Handbook’s blog)

I get prejudged a lot for being posh. People assume well-spoken means posh means wealthy, which then means smug or aloof. That’s just not true. (Rupert Penry-Jones, The Times, Sept 1 2012)

I’m often surprised at the amount of competitiveness involved, the obsession with class and money. I see snobbery, antisocial behaviour, one-upmanship. (A wedding photographer, Guardian Aug 4 2012)

There's a plain and simple teak monastery bench for £280. (Guardian review of Vintage Archive)

You have to think you are unique. (Grayson Perry on decor)

When you bring out the edited highlights, can we have an "atmosphere of decorum... leave out the unseemly bits such as lowbrow cavorting in parks and the like" (Complainer to BBC re Jubilee coverage)

I never look at bossy, mostly useless use-by dates. Eyes and nose are a much better guide. (@lickedspoon) Expiry dates: Look, it's mostly just common sense, isn't it? (@MiddleClassHB)

In principle, I don’t believe in "kids’ food". Children should, as soon as they can, take part in family meals, learn to sit still at the table, and take on grown-up textures and flavours. That’s the theory, anyway. (Joanna Weinberg, Cooking for Real Life. Here's the BBC on why children don't like sprouts.)

The real significance of supper, I think, is that it implies the user is familiar with an altogether grander style of meal held in stately halls, the formal dinner with copperplate invitations, waiters, silverware, port and speeches. (Grayson Perry, The Guardian, Aug 4 2012)

[They like] cooking, reading books about left-wing politics, and going to concerts/protests/poetry [readings]. Generally, this makes them very boring…”

When [they] reach the final year of their arts degree they are faced with a horrible realization: their degree is worthless.

[Middle class] women have a lot of fantasies about idealised lives. [They all] believe they deserve more than they have.

It is their dream “to be able to resolve all conflicts by complaining to unrelated parties”.

It is also a proven fact that dogs are often used…  to attract members of the opposite sex.

All from
Stuff White People Like by Christian Lander

Classy Quotes Part Ten
Classy Quotes Part Nine
Part Eight here.
More here, here, here, here and here. And here. And here.