Thursday 31 December 2015

A Poem for New Year

When disaster overtakes you
Never show it, though it breaks you.
In a crisis truly crucial
One must carry on as usual.

If the chaps all round you panic
Be depressive, never manic.
Though your road be steep and slippery
Cultivate stiff-upper-lippery.

Catastrophic misadventures?
Clench your fists or grit your dentures.
Just be calm and just be static.
Doesn't do to be dramatic.

When the sky begins to redden
At the dawn of Armageddon, 
If a feller makes a fuss
He just isn't one of us.

Afferbeck Lauder

Friday 18 December 2015

Happy Holidays!

...I favour tacky Christmas decorations, the more Poundland the better, and like nothing more than framing a wall mirror with gold tinsel, the last word in naff, I’m told (the Savoy’s creative team decrees any tinsel a “no-no”...). Now I’ve bought an illuminated reindeer in rope-lights: just what our garden needs. It’ll set off my blue drip-effect icicle lights nicely, though even my daughter, aged 11, cringes that it looks like we’re attempting some “cheap Frozen theme”. Let’s just say my husband doesn’t share my penchant for house bling. Once he bought a pricey posh wreath and within 12 hours it had been stolen from the front door ... I’ve never turned my entire house into one of those pulsating light shows with a waving Santa on the roof (more’s the pity) but I’ve no problem with those who do. Quite the opposite. It shows generosity of spirit to give passing strangers a cheery boost at your own expense. And OK, there are eco-concerns but it’s only a few days a year unlike those shops which keep the lights on 24/7/365 for no reason. No, it’s snobbery that drives most grinches on this issue. As it happens I’m slightly disappointed with my reindeer: I’ve been far too subtle. I should have got a bigger one. I should have got three. This weekend I might risk domestic discord and buy a seven-footer. (Carol Midgley Times Dec 2015)

Upwards loathe “merry” Xmas, Xmas not Christmas – and “We’re not allowed to call it Christmas!”

They hate Black Friday – American import, and chavs buying chavvy things as usual. Materialism! They are embarrassed by Sun-style patriotism, and the idea of “loving your country” (especially when it means “brown people go home”). But they do love slagging off the Americans, whom they amusingly call “Merkins” or “Usanians”. They want to ban all Americanisms. How? 

What really galls the Upwards is all the MONEY people spend on Christmas – and now Halloween. Bang goes sixpence right and left – and nobody seems to care! But isn’t it good for the economy, or something?

Someone has suggested we rename it “Greedmas”. Upwards really don’t like to see common people buying things. And they still resent poor people having televisions. Does it all go back to the Puritans and Cromwell banning Christmas celebrations? (Apart from the interregnum, the festival was always a blow-out.)

Apparently the rich compete to invite bigger and bigger Xmas house parties (you have to have a house that fits 26, of course).

Wrapping paper – where did that go? Everybody uses gift bags now. How sensible is that?

Upwards have to wrestle their Xmas lights around the (large) tree (“I refuse to give in! I must have REAL lights!”) because they can’t buy an artificial one with lights built in. Caro’s mother is still attaching real candles to the branches, in Victorian tin clip-on candle holders. Such a shame Stow-Crat Hall burned to the ground on Boxing Day – but it was all insured, they carried the valuable contents onto the lawn, and they don’t have to worry about the roof any more.

This year, the Upwards have an Xmas tree made of recycled wood with traces of distressed paint, adorned with antique glass baubles. They do not hang evergreen wreaths (“garlands”) on their doors. They just might accept one made entirely of bare twigs. And no Xmas decorationss in the home before December. (Oliver Cromwell would have loved them.)

As usual, a vicar has told small children the story of St Nicholas and parents are up in arms, wailing: “They’ll stop believing in the tooth fairy next!” Upwards come up with 99 twisted reasons for lying to your children about Santa. It teaches them how to believe. It teaches them how to be skeptical. It gives them faith in a benevolent society – even though this is a myth. (Parents see the adult the child will be, and reasons for folk rituals always change over time.) And it’s “Father Christmas” not “Santa”.

Who buys that M&S Xmas food that’s all slightly wrong? Or do I mean “traditional with a twist”? Xmas pud with an apricot jam centre? Upwards have pudding, not Christmas cake. Chocolate logs with robins and holly are very Weybridge/Teale.

More here, and links to the rest.

Sunday 13 December 2015

Classy Quotes 20

Strapless maxi dress
Writer Chris Kraus recommends landlording as “a way of engaging with a population completely outside the culture industry. Kind of like in gay culture, where hookups are a way of escaping your class.” (London Review of Books)

“We attract the very top echelon of clients from around the world. This development represents a real threat to our livelihood here at the Goring... It is one of the premium suites in London, accommodating senior royalty, presidents and superstars. All require privacy, and this is how we manage to sell this suite in a very competitive market.” (Jeremy Goring, chief executive of the Goring Hotel, doesn't want social housing built opposite the hotel, especially not in full view of the royal suite.)

The noble Lord says that he does not want a housemaid to carry a coal scuttle up two or three floors. He says there should be a gas fire. I have always believed this was a free country. (The House of Lords discusses the Clean Air Act.)

It is not simply a question of there being too many people, it is the wrong kind of people. (Darran Anderson, Imaginary Cities on certain people's fears for the future.)

Heston Blumenthal: I was at the opening of Soho Farmhouse... and they said, “Oh, when people phone to book we Google them. If they’re not interesting then we don’t give them a table.” Observer 2015

There is, she concedes, “a U and Non-U side of the lighthouse”. U would be living on South Green (Georgian houses; unrestricted views); Non-U is found on the road to the front. (Observer on Southwold, 23.08.15)

In the brilliant 60s film Jigsaw, a neighbour sums up the murder victim, saying she was still wearing a dressing gown and curlers at teatime (and sleeps with the gas fire on). “She was wearing lipstick with the curlers – she was that type of woman.”

George Orwell being rude about the Upwards of his day: The more-water-in-your-beer reformers of whom Shaw is the prototype, and the astute young social-literary climbers who are Communists now, as they will be Fascists five years hence, because it is all the go, and all that dreary tribe of highminded women and sandal-wearers and bearded fruit-juice drinkers...

Famously, there is the attraction of socialist doctrine for “cranks”: One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.

And finally, rising to an apparent pitch of impotent frustration: If only the sandals and pistachio-coloured shirts could be put in a pile and burnt, and every vegetarian and teetotaller sent home to Welwyn Garden City to do his yoga exercises quietly. (

Orwell also wrote of: “The lower-upper-middle-class” who own no land but still feel they are “landowners in the sight of God”.

David’s most spectacular career move... was his marriage to a cousin of the queen, the thus royal Lady Pamela Mountbatten. He unwisely boasted his “grand” engagement to Tony Armstrong-Jones. “Oh, I don’t call that grand,” was Tony’s testy reply. A few days later Tony announced his own engagement to Princess Margaret. (Redeeming Features, Nicky Haslam)

Town and Country have identified a new class: the Upper Middletons. “UMs bring neither vast wealth nor lineage to the table. Instead they bring qualities never before seen in the English upper classes — warm, close family relationships, loyalty, reliability and that most socially derided asset: niceness. UM parents may want their children to marry and mix with real poshies, but they do not do this by copying them. In defiance of the ancient English upper class code, they actually like their children, so refuse to pack them off to prep school at seven. Instead, children stay at home to be loved and nurtured, instructed in good manners and kindness until the age of 13, when they go off to an unflashy co-educational boarding school – Bradfield, Millfield or Marlborough”, says the Times. “Their children are perfectly turned out, polite and, dare we say it, slightly boring. They have nice manners, are popular, attend school parties with perfectly wrapped gifts and get decent grades,” Town & Country said. In London, they live in Battersea, Putney and Richmond, but they prefer “underwhelming” Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Hertfordshire. They often run small businesses that keep them close to home. Their sports are skiing and tennis. “They don’t have great taste; they have ‘nice’, high-street taste. UMs never wear black (too fashionable). They adore a pop of colour, a stripe or a floral and, for the females, a daring split skirt or plunging neckline. Their weakness is white jeans, which both sexes wear far too often,” says T&C. (They do sound nice, don’t they?)

When we first met, his mother’s chief concern was that, being common, I might get our children to use dummies, which she disapproved of. (Woman quoted in the Guardian)

Competition is fierce, but Hilary Rose in the Times magazine wins the snobbery prize:
"In fact, I think, too much daytime skin in general looks a bit trashy in town, doesn’t it? I’m thinking mainly of those sunburnt women who walk down Oxford Street, hoisting up their strapless maxidresses. Then again, Oxford Street’s awful full stop." (There was a move to pedestrianise it in order to attract a better class of shopper but fortunately it was put a stop to.)


Social capital ... the quantity and social status of their friends, family and personal and business contacts. (Wikipedia)

Social hierarchy is determined by whether you’re more West Street or Devonshire Street on a night out. (Buzzfeed on Sheffield)

Living in Guildford has its advantages. People in Surrey are too posh for Trick or Treating. (Judge Dreadful ‏@KeefJudge)

I worry about people who think that AUTOMATICALLY because of gender/age/cultural background, certain people have it easier. Not always true. (@matthaig1)

Melanie Phillips thinks it is patronising and middle class to say that working class people would find boring work boring. (@JonnElledge)

Well I have always found @McVities Jaffa cakes to be utterly classless whether Eton in #Holloway or #Islington. (@RuthRobinsonLon)

Took my builder cousin into a branch of Fired Earth and he almost literally hasn't stopped laughing about the prices for three hours. (Sathnam Sanghera ‏@Sathnam)

More engineers have regional accents because it’s a meritocracy. (Bloke on Infinite Monkey Cage. He adds that the media is full of posh people because it’s not a meritocracy.)

Most of the time I feel middle class. Until I met someone who is actually middle class, then I feel working class again. (And a real snob would think “So sad – they think they’re middle class!”) (concretism ‏@concretism_mus)

I think the north stops when you go far enough into the Midlands that people start calling you “babs” instead of “duck” or “love”. Or when people have tea instead of dinner and dinner instead of lunch. Or when chippies start asking if you want gravy with your chips. (Guardian July 2015. Don't they mean "the north starts"?)

Grand Edwardian life: the vast houses, the vast house parties, the vast shoots, yachts, hydrangeas, tiaras and aigrettes. (Nicky Haslam, Redeeming Features An aigrette is an ornament worn in the hair - probably comprising diamonds and feathers.)

The Times magazine Aug 2015-08-01has a piece on “smart casual” – the new relaxed style. It’s the old “how to be middle class” under another name. These are some signs you are not “smart casual”.
Changing your towels often
A year-round tandoori tan
Wearing heels at home
Sending lavish, Miss World-style floral bouquets
Designer beach kaftan
Regularly rotating your designer handbags
Teeth veneers
One miniature dog

Smart casual signs:
A sailing/staycation tan
Ditching heels all summer
Cotton book bags
Teeth whitening
Minimum two dogs, one of them Shetland-pony size

The whole idea is to make your home resemble a holiday cottage, and when not at work to look as if you were just about to stroll onto a beach or sailing boat. When entertaining, the smart casuals pile the kitchen table with cutlery and food, and everybody mixes and matches. No formality. “The whole experience is more rustica than roux. More squeeze of lemon than creamy sauces.” (The middle classes have thought “creamy sauces” common for decades: perhaps ever since the aspirant copied them in the form of cheaper white sauce – thickened with flour. Remember Sole Veronique?)

More here, and links to the rest.