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.

Saturday 16 June 2018

Class is Dead, Long Live Class 3

Class is dead? Only if you redefine class as something that happens to be dead.

Writer Sophie Hannah says that when people learn she comes from Manchester they assume she comes from a “deprived” background. She has had to tell people: "My parents went to Oxford University, actually, and we all drink Earl Grey tea."
Those people were well read and well travelled; they loved meeting people from other cultures and countries. They prided themselves on their curiosity about the world around them.
 (Kerry Hudson,, on nice, educated people who recycle – but sneer at chavs.)

The rich accumulate wealth not just in the form of money but in enjoyment of the suffering of others. (@theseantcollins)

It was a curious social pattern, looking back. It was snobbish, I suppose; on the other hand, a certain type of snobbishness was much looked down upon. People who introduced the aristocracy into their conversation too frequently were disapproved of and laughed at. Three phases have succeeded each other during the span of my life. In the first the questions would be: ‘But who is she, dear? Who are her people? Is she one of the Yorkshire Twiddledos? Of course, they are badly off, very badly off, but she was a Wilmot.’ This was to be succeeded in due course by: ‘Oh yes, of course they are pretty dreadful, but then they are terribly rich.’ ‘Have the people who have taken The Larches got money?’ ‘Oh well, then we’d better call.’ The third phase was different again: ‘Well, dear, but are they amusing?’ ‘Yes, well of course they are not well off, and nobody knows where they came from, but they are very very amusing.’ (Agatha Christie, An Autobiography)

Our behaviour is also still a giveaway: lab studies show that working-class people are more likely to employ eye-contact, laughter and head nods when interacting with others, compared to a more disengaged non-verbal style from the middle/upper classes. And class can be read at greater than chance levels even from stimuli as basic as Facebook photographs or seven words of speech. So we feel a certain class, and others can detect that class fairly easily... Working-class people are more likely to consider the world as a mass of forces and risks to contend with and accommodate... Meanwhile, middle/upper-class people are more motivated by internal states and personal goals... The issue is how they should shape the world, not how it pushes back on them. This is indicated by a higher sense of perceived control, and more confidence that good things happen to people due to their choices... University deans and administrators asked to list qualities of their culture tended to endorse words more about independence – the natural state of the solipsistic upper-class person, charting their course into the future – than interdependence, which tends to be a particular priority for first-generation university goers, looking to give back to their community. (BPS Digest)

You could tell what class a person was by the way they smoked their cigarettes. Lower classes kept the ciggy stuck on their lips while they were talking. (imdb)

Taxpayers Alliance/IEA Tory fringe meeting on helping the young: Biggest clap for 29-yr-old in audience saying young folk can’t buy houses cos they are too “entitled” and waste £ on “fake tans”, football “season tickets” and out twice/week drinking “10 pints”. (Solomon Hughes‏ @SolHughesWriter)

Samantha Upward is vainly looking for “reality” in the cracks between Youtube and McDonalds. “Why do I have to know what a McDonald’s is?” wails a London Review of Books contributor.

Both Upwards and Weybridges feel that correcting facts is bad manners. This enables them to believe any old rubbish.

A friend of a friend moved to Marlow. A rather grand chum wailed: "Marlow? But there'll be nobody there you could be friends with!"

An obituary of writer Sue Margolis describes her parents: “Donald Wener, a dapper, moustachioed RAF man turned civil servant, and Audrey (nee Dixon), a nurse turned bank clerk”, and ascribes her success despite being bottom of the class as a child to the “aspirational ethos of the lower-middle-class culture of Gants Hill.” 

150 years ago, the landed gentry were the ruling class. They lost their power, but we still somehow feel that they are the best people who lead perfect lives that we should imitate. They may not run the country – to such an extent – any more, but we think they are superior to us.

Writer Jilly Cooper nailed the class system in the 70s – but she didn't get everything right. She claimed that Social Class D are inarticulate. Perhaps she’d never met any Cockneys or Irish people or Welshmen or Liverpudlians or…

More here, and links to the rest.

Friday 15 June 2018

World of Interiors 13


The venue currently called Harry Cockers had been through many identities in the previous decade, as various kinds of bars and restaurants became fashionable. Its latest manifestation was very thirties, with bright jagged lines along every surface, and wall-panels showing geometrically stylized silhouettes of dancing figures in evening dress.
(Simon Brett, Dead Giveaway)

Alex Polizzi: Depersonalise! It’s not your house! 
Also Alex Polizzi: It’s so beige, darling. Add some personality! (@sleuthstress)

a) Remove the naff knicknacks.
b) Add some more upmarket knicknacks.

Perhaps the attraction is “I am staying in an upmarket hotel therefore I am an upmarket person.” And then they can put the price up. By “beige”, Alex doesn’t mean “everything is the colour of straw, sand or digestive biscuits”, she means it’s “dull”.

Bed runners have reached Travelodge, reports an informant.

An article points out that property programmes always recommend “knocking through”, and that the “void” has become bigger and bigger.

A recent (2018) study showed that American houses are getting bigger and bigger, but American families live in about a third of the space. Diagram shows an unused dining room, a barely used “reception room” and a lived-in “family room”.

The Nouveau-Richards have built a lovely new house with a light-filled atrium. It has all the usual rooms, but they’re quadruple the usual size, and the furniture looks a bit lost. Mrs NR has enough space for yoga exercises in her enormous bedroom, but she wonders what to do with the huge field that surrounds the house. She can’t even put a swimming pool out there – it’s in the basement. Caro suggests a croquet lawn and herbaceous borders, and Samantha offers to create a shrubbery with winding paths, and a pergola with vines.

Per the New Yorker, vast US McMansions have “lawyer foyers” and “garage mahals”. The lawyer, presumably, never gets further than the foyer. “Hall, please – only theatres and hotels have foyers,” says Caro. “And it doesn’t rhyme with lawyer, vous voyez?” “Or is it modelled on the office of a New York law firm?” asks Samantha.

Starting in the 1930s, modernist design brought indoor and outdoor spaces to flow together with greater ease. To seek out even more air and light, interior spaces became less distinguished from one another. A new moralism underwrote the opening of the house plan, too: that a house’s design should facilitate a lofty attitude in its occupants... The hope was that light and openness in the physical environment might elevate the social and creative virtues of the individuals who lived there. (

See the Victorians designing cemeteries as arboreta with winding paths, explicitly hoping that the “chastely designed” monuments would “elevate the taste” of those who strolled there. Betjeman’s “bright canteens” were intended to cheer up the workers. But remember what they were replacing: mid-century cemeteries were grim, and Edwardian workers’ facilities were dimly lit and painted cream, green and brown.

Rowena shocks her friends by rebuilding the knocked-through walls of her Victorian terraced house, and turning the back “space” into a kitchen instead of building a science lab over the garden. She remodels the 60s kitchen as a "scullery" with a sink and washing machine, and she has her eye on the old lavatory at the bottom of the garden. Why not restore it to it original function?

If stuck for ideas, try Kelly Hoppen's Design Masterclass.

More here, and links to the rest.