Sunday 8 September 2019

Modern Manners 5


Invite the single, widowed and divorced.
Drop the subject if someone doesn't want to discuss it.
Project your voice when addressing a roomful of people without a microphone.

Post revolting pictures on Facebook and Twitter.
Keep telling everybody you’re from Yorkshire.
Moan about others all the time.
Make sweeping statements about groups.
Force anyone to do something they don’t want to do – or are frightened of.

Tell “funny” anecdotes that go on for ten minutes.
Turn your life into a succession of “funny” anecdotes.
Tell "funny" anecdotes about family members.
Repeat entire sketches from the TV or radio, word-for-word.
Tell the kind of jokes that start “Have you heard this one?”
Hold an entire conversation in a comedy Yorkshire accent.

Tell friends too much about each other before they meet.
Psychoanalyse your friends and family – especially to their face.
Put everybody else in the wrong.
Discuss the party in front of the one person who hasn't been invited.
Guilt your flatmates by washing up their pots and pans while they're still eating.
Tell people off for something they would have done if you hadn't told them not to in time.
Keep mispronouncing an unfamiliar name.
Give people nicknames.
Push someone’s boundaries for years.
Live other's lives for them.
Try and train your friends and family to be more proactive, or independent, or whatever.
Set traps for visitors.
Lend visitors unflattering sunhats.

Disparage someone else’s allergy.
Snap or video a disabled person in a public place.
Grab the arm or belongings of a blind person – ask them if they need help.
Tell anyone that they don’t look disabled enough for a wheelchair.

Turn any conversation into a lament about “kids today” (or "parents today" who fail to teach their kids manners).

Don’t sit on people’s cars! (@TheRoyalButler)
Don’t tell the bereaved to smile, or cheer up, or any other asinine BS. (@Living400lbs)

Mrs Gillette, of the White House Cook Book, 1887, explains why you shouldn’t cut or bite your roll at dinner, but tear off a piece and butter only that piece. You don’t want to leave your buttered roll on your side plate with a bite mark everybody can see. She also adds that you shouldn’t mix the food on your plate, or drop pieces of bread into your gravy.

I have an aunt who is mostly cool but anytime I posted something on Facebook, she would correct me. Publicly. (@KaleidoscopeJen)

"Take care how you comment on public FB groups – your family and friends may see it, even if you’ve blocked them!", says Samantha Upward.

"Remember what I said before about not correcting your family’s anecdotes – or their social media posts?", says Caroline Stow Crat. "And if your friends keep posting annoying memes on Facebook, click on the three grey dots and block the source. And you know what else I find boring? Competitive ignorance of popular culture. You know, 'I haven’t heard of any of the contestants on this year’s Strictly!'"

"And competitive refusal to use new technology," says Sam. “ 'I’m so refined I don’t watch Youtube!' And I met an academic who told me his Wikipedia page was out of date, but it wasn’t worth anybody’s time and effort to update it."

"That usually means “I don’t know how”!"

"I bossily thought I'd do it for him – but it had been updated, he just hadn't bothered to look!"

More here.

More here, and links to the rest.

Thursday 5 September 2019

What to Wear 11

Don’t wear very small hats.
(The Well-Dressed Woman’s Do’s and Don’ts, Elise Vallee, 1926)

Cardigans with mismatched “whacky” buttons.
Anything turquoise, unless it’s jewellery.
Anything machine-knitted.
Too many rings, khaki or blue nails.
Short dress, bare legs.
Floral fabric, lace and sequins.
Bracelet-sleeved jacket over a long-sleeved shirt.
High round neck.
Long hair.
Per the broadsheets: No all-beige outfits, no elasticated jeans, no wallet that closes with velcro.

V-necks or an open shirt/jacket over a camisole.
Hats and fascinators need short hair or an updo.
Buy new bras every few months and shorten the straps.

I recently read a thread about young women in academia and what they should wear to be professional. Why, oh why, were the proposed solutions:
Don't wear colorful clothing.
Don't wear "too much" makeup.
Don't wear "flashy" jewelry. (@CallMeRichier)

Anna Murphy in the Times says the following rules should never be broken:
No navy and black together.
Don’t mix silver and gold jewellery.
No trainers with a tailored jacket.
Sleek clothes call for sleek hair.
Don’t mix the seasons “no chunky knit with summery silk skirt”.
No socks and heels.

An older woman always looks good when groomed, and wearing good quality clothing that is stylish, simple and well tailored. A well-cut blazer-style jacket, with slacks or skirt, can then be made modern and younger with T shirts, blouses and ONE new fashion item. This may be a belt in a bright colour or modern-style shoes and bag. Or team the blazer with a good pair of jeans. This will stop you from looking “like a Nana”, and be comfortable at the same time. Also, tone down your makeup if you have always worn it, or start wearing a little if you haven’t – you will need subtle colouring to stop you looking washed out and pale. (Top Tips for Girls)

She had about nine bracelets and bangles, consisting of chains and padlocks, the Major's miniature, and a variety of brass serpents with fiery ruby or tender turquoise eyes, writhing up to her elbow almost, in the most profuse contortions. (W.M. Thackeray, Snobs)

In my first few weeks at the convent, aged 10, we were supposed to follow the hunt, which “met” at the school. A notice went up telling us what to wear: “Jeans, not slacks, may be worn.” I remember thinking at the time that the nuns had got it the wrong way round – surely they wanted us to wear old-fashioned “slacks” – tapered, terylene and uncool – rather than working-class jeans? 

In the 50s we were dressed rather plainly, with an avoidance of overt femininity. Mum sneered at mothers who dressed their children in party dresses for every day – particularly very short black velvet with lace collars. Frilly white lace knickers probably went with these. And she would never get me an organza party dress like my friends had, with several layers in the skirt. Instead she made me a dress out of pale blue velvet, with a net overskirt. It was lovely, and a white rabbit cape went with it, but it wasn’t the real thing.

Stow Crats and Upper-Upwards were still changing for dinner in the 70s – men in DJs, women in a long tweed skirt (what Jilly Cooper called “horse-blanket skirts”), and either a white silk blouse or a cashmere jumper. This outfit was a long way from the evening dress that used to be de rigueur, but Upper-Upward houses were still freezing. When Agatha Christie first got married, everyone changed for dinner, but, she explains, you made one dress do for about five years.

More here, and links to the rest.

Thursday 18 July 2019

You Are What You Eat 14

Some kind of supper with cold meat and pink or white shape and stewed prunes. (Crewe Train, Rose Macaulay, written in the 20s. “Shape” was cornflour blancmange.)

Letters to the Editor (Times)
Sir, the correspondence on baked beans reminds me of an incident one morning at the Royal Marines officers’ mess in Poole years ago. I had barely taken my seat when. White-coated and white-gloved member of mess staff arrived silently at my side to take my order. “Good morning,” I said. “May I please have baked beans on fried bread.” I turned to read my newspaper when I realized that he had not moved. Believing that he had not heard, I repeated my order. “yes, Sir, I heard you the first time,” he said. When I asked if there was a problem he replied, very much Jeeves-like: The thing is, Sir, that baked beans are not really an officer’s vegetable.” (Simon De’Ath, Upper Basildon, Berkshire)

My background is working class but I would never try to pretend I’m not middle class now... But I heartily agree with a friend from similar stock who complains that the middle-class lifestyle creates much more washing-up. At dinner parties and even family meals food is put on the table in various serving bowls with spoons from which you help yourself, not all ready-portioned on the one plate as it was in my childhood. Crockery use is doubled. And... you don’t want to look greedy so you always take less than you really want. (Carol Midgley, Times)

Mum told Greggs vegan sausage rolls are “too posh for Kirby” (Liverpool Echo headline 2019)

Food is a pretty important and significant social activity, and dating is often centered around food. (Daniel Mallory Ortberg)

Per Mary Killen (pictured above by Hugo Bernand), common food includes:
Anything on an oval plate
Stacked towers of ingredients
Anything that’s too easy to eat
Anything microwaved
Quartered tomatoes
Potato croquettes
Lemon quarters are fine, but not if you call them “lemon wedges”.
Cheesecake and apple strudel are out because they’re “mucked-about food”.
Shaped portions of fish and chicken (fingers and nuggets)
She condemns “thick” marmalade – surely some mistake?

Taboo words are “cereal”, “meal” and “nibbles”. Be specific – cornflakes, lunch and nuts.

Mary would have a fit over tomatoes carved into flower shapes, wouldn’t she? Samantha doesn't like to admit that these days she microwaves side veg like mushrooms and carrots with a knob of butter in a container with a lid. She agrees about food that’s too easy – rice-like orzi pasta instead of spaghetti that you can just spoon into the cake’ole.

Mary's list of posh food includes:
Anything difficult to come by, difficult to cook, or repulsive: sweetbreads, oxtail. (I’d add brains, steak tartare and cold soup.)
Game in season
Gulls’ eggs
Turnips, swedes, parsnips, beetroot – but boiled, not pickled
Baked pears, home-made custard
Bread-and-butter pudding

The "cheese and biscuits" circuit? (March 2019) Whatever happened to cheese and biscuits – they used to end every middle-class dinner.

A vegan pie has sparked outrage after winning a top food award, with a leading chef branding the butternut squash creation “a disgrace”. (Daily Telegraph, March 2019) “The millennials have taken over,” opines chef Richard Corrigan. There’s an outbreak of really quite nasty “vegan jokes” among conservatives – vegan food, which has existed happily for years out of sight in health food shops, has now hit the supermarkets. And manufacturers are trying to cash in by producing special bars, nut mixes, protein balls with too much artificial flavouring and a ridiculously high price. Conservatives are furious to find these cranks given their own section – next to the Poles'.

In April 2018, the inhabitants of Giffnock in Scotland were furious that their Wholefoods was being replaced by a Lidl. It will “bring down the tone of the whole area”. “Stores like this... attract the degenerates of society. I understand that they need to shop somewhere, however you didn’t see benefit cheats and single mothers and their feral brood flock to Whole Foods. Discount stores allegedly save you pounds on your shopping but you could lose a lot more at the front door when your purse is stolen... It’s only going to attract vermin that do not belong in this prestigious area. Giffnock isn’t pretentious at all, it’s a middle-class area and that is the way it should remain.”

Others suggested that the “pretentious” could always shop in Newton Means, and one riposted: “Honestly what has happened to people. I grew up in Giffnock when that space was Presto and up the road was Gateway then Kwicksave and not an eye was batted.” (And I remember when the middle classes agonised over whether it was possible for them to shop in supermarkets at all.)

Britain is discovering the hot dog! Translation: Firms are making serious money selling upmarket, gentrified hot dogs to affluent gourmets. French President Emmanuel Macron told farmers to concentrate on upmarket products – and now they’re struggling. An area is “regenerated” and all the cafés and shops are too expensive for the people who live there. Where do the gentrifiers think the poor people are going to go? Perhaps they don’t care. In the US, it’s been suggested that cheap food shops should be closed – to encourage purveyors of “proper” food to move in. Because working class people eat unhealthy, processed fast food, don’t they?

Cheap food doesn’t need to be unhealthy: potatoes, cabbages, lentils, carrots are all cheap. And so are quinoa and avocado – so why are they middle-class signifiers? As a friend says, the hippies have basically won. We all eat brown rice and want to save the planet now.

Rowena has crowd-funded to turn her caff into a chain. Samantha suggested calling it “Scoff”, but Rowena went for “Lou’s Café”, in hand-painted red lettering on white, and had the fascias carefully distressed. The menu now includes: chops, greens, roast potatoes, steak pie, stew, mashed swedes, corned-beef hash, beetroot in white sauce, bubble and squeak, Spam fritters, cottage pie, pork pie, Scotch egg, jam roly poly, and local dishes like Manchester pie, gypsy tart, Bedfordshire clangers and barm cakes. She'll overboil your cabbage for you if you really like it like that. Sam disparages the menu by calling it "comfort food".

Rowena ripostes that her goals for 2019 include eating a burrito washed down with crème de menthe, and working her way through all those chocolate bars that people like us don’t buy.

Sam is rather tired of the “street food” fad. Former open spaces are cluttered up with smelly stalls selling food that all seems to be fried. And there’s nowhere to sit down and eat it. Really, what happened to farmers’ markets?

Howard Weybridge agrees. “Isn’t there any British street food? Er, fish and chips…?”

Sam checks with Henry Mayhew. “Men sold freshly baked muffins, and there were pudding shops – and isn’t there a bit in Little Dorrit where Flora and Amy chat over steak and kidney pies? Here’s more: shell-fish, pea-soup, baked potatoes, ham sandwiches, meat puddings, pigs’ and sheep’s trotters, hot eels, hot green peas, penny pies, plum duff, crumpets, Chelsea buns.”

Howard  says: “Haven’t had a good old steak and kidney pud for years. Used to come in pudding-shaped tins. Well, now we’re leaving the EU…”

“I dared to mention a superfood after it had gone out of fashion, and was put in my place by a friend who’d been all over it a couple of years before”, says Sam.

“All my friends are on some ridiculous exclusion diet – and meanwhile people are queueing up at food banks!” sighs Eileen Weybridge.

"As food becomes plentiful, not eating becomes virtuous," says Sam. "Except it has always been virtuous – look at Early Christian ascetics. Or even 60s crash diets."

“The trouble with vegan food,” says Harry Stow Crat, “Is that it takes such a darned long time to eat! And it’s all in little bits so it falls off your fork. Plus it tastes of nothing and after you've eaten it you're still hungry. Give me a bacon sandwich any day.”

But Harry earns enough to restore the orangery by selling over-priced vegan and gluten-free snacks made from oats and spinach grown on his estates. Caro gets the recipes out of Vegetables for Victory by Ambrose Heath.

"Shops at stately homes sell such ghastly wares," she explains. “Tea towels, novelty pencils and pot pourri, oven gloves in the shape of fish, and everything covered with weedy water-colours of flowers."

When I was at university in Norwich, I took a friend to a caff I often went to. It was always full of art students. She boggled slightly when I ate a cake with pink icing and shreds of desiccated coconut. Few of my fellow-students went to cafés in town (though they went to wine bars and ate a lot of ratatouille). But it was OK to go to a tearoom in a converted Tudor cloth hall.

We like to poke fun at the “mid-century menu” – everything suspended in gelatine, on a bed of lettuce. This cuisine wasn’t sold as “slimming”, but it can’t have contained many calories. The gelatine bulked out the ingredients, so you got a slice of something that only looked like food. Jellied chicken soup, anyone? From the 30s (and probably earlier) to the 70s, there was a trend for food that was mainly air or gelatine. Sorbets (water ices), soufflés, apple snow (apple puree and whipped egg white), strawberry mousse, savoury terrines. They were a debased version of Mrs Beeton-style posh food. Those Victorian banquets with endless courses probably needed dishes that didn’t have much food value. (You didn’t eat all the food, there was a menu and you could choose, and portions were small. It was more of a tasting menu, and if Giles Coren is to be believed, this idea lives on. I mean the idea that you eat food for its taste, or rarity, or exoticism, or unusual ingredients, or to admire its presentation – not because you are hungry.)

Theresa May scrapes mould off jam and eats it – this is very Stow-Crat. They may even say “It’s penicillin – it’s good for you”, or “Waste not, want not”.

Gingerbread Easter Bunnies are on sale at Costas just after Christmas. This means they have three months to sell the things. Creme Eggs on sale in the Coop, ditto. It happens every year and no amount of middle-class whingeing is going to change it. Do the Upwards really think they can persuade big firms like Costa and the Coop not to use strategies that make them money?

Some restaurants deliberately increase the noise! Microphones collect customer and kitchen noise and pipe it back into the dining area ("dial in the buzz"). (Via Twitter. It’s called “acoustic reflection”. Really great for anyone with hearing problems.)

More here, and links to the rest.

You Are What You Eat - and Drink 15

It's "rosé", not “rosé wine” – you're supposed to know it's wine.

Everything comes in a “range” now, even of degrees of fizziness in water. But to save on plastic bottles, Upwards now have soda streams. (In the 60s when these devices reached us from America, only Weybridges bought them. Make your own fizzy drinks? Out of flavoured sugar syrup? What Upward could contemplate etc etc...) Now, even though they have the devices, they like to tell you that you won’t want too much fizz in your Sani-Cola.

Eileen feels guilty when she drinks a “diet soda”, because she knows sweet things are bad for you. Samantha, who went to a convent school (where she met Caro Stow-Crat), reserves guilt for sins you might confess to a priest (unclean thoughts). Except nobody does that any more. And not going to Mass on Sunday is no longer a mortal sin. What happened to all the people who went to Hell and burned for all eternity under the old rules, she wonders?

Milk used to come in bottles. Silver-top was medium creamy, gold-top was very creamy, green-top was unpasteurized. The cream rose to the top to become “top of the milk”. Some milk was “homogenized”, however – rather sweet, and the cream never separated out. Upwards despised it and complained it made your tea taste funny. But at some point in the last 30 years, all milk became homogenized, and the snobbery has disappeared. I don’t remember a single Upward commenting on the changeover, or saying “I say this homogenized milk isn’t so bad really”. Though they did lament the disappearance of non-pasteurized milk and for a few years some farms used to sell it. You could use it to make your own cottage cheese – rejoicing in the freedom from government red tape or “health and safety” – and contract TB, brucellosis or worse. (There was something called UHT milk which was universally despised – it stands for ultra-high temperature processing. In hotels it came in little plastic pots, along with tiny wrapped butter pats and weeny pots of jam. Sterilized milk in bottles with metal tops lived on in corner shops, bought by people who didn’t have fridges, until it too vanished.)

In the Good Old Days, you couldn’t get a glass of water anywhere. Restaurants and cafés begrudged it. But you could always get some warm tap water in a chemist’s if you needed to take an aspirin. How come we didn’t dehydrate and shrivel up? We drank tea all day. And now that we all carry water bottles everywhere, tea has almost disappeared.

“May I press you to another cup of tea?”, as Teales used to say. The old instructions about leaving tea to “mash” and warming the pot made sense when the leaf fragments were larger and the brew took longer to steep. Now all tea is tea “dust” of the kind you get in teabags. And milk is all homogenized and they’ve done something to the water...

When Sam asks for a “herb tea” in a café, the Polish staff look blank. To them, English Breakfast is just another box of teabags, and “tea” means peppermint or chamomile. If she asks for “lemon tea” she gets lemon and ginger, even in Italian restaurants where you’d think they’d have heard of té con limone. The English Breakfast is weak and tepid – Rowena's caff is the only place where you can get a proper cup of stewed, black tea with sugar and cream.

And the Americans are still using "tea-drinkers" as an insult! See Alex Morgan, pictured above.

More here, and links to the rest.

Wednesday 10 July 2019

The Diary of a Nobody

I’ve just reread George and Weedon Grossmith’s Diary of a Nobody (1888-89). Paul Bailey calls its hero, Charles Pooter, “majestically uninteresting”. The chapters were originally serialised in the humorous magazine Punch.

Pooter is a clerk in a City firm, and when the story starts he has just rented a house in Holloway that backs onto the railway. It’s a “suburban villa with a stucco-column portico, resembling a four-post bedstead,” as their friend Mr Huttle later describes it. Charles and his wife Carrie live there with one servant until they are joined by their son, Lupin.

The big joke is that Pooter thinks that everything happens to him is worth recording. He also considers that he’s doing pretty well, and is a cut above the tradesmen he employs. Punch’s middle-class readers were supposed to find it a perfect scream that a clerk should think himself as good as themselves. There's a solecism on every page.

The Pooters invite friends to “meat tea”, and Carrie frequently cooks party food (jam puffs) herself. Carrie’s clothes are both frumpy and vulgar: a pink Garibaldi jacket and blue-serge skirt, an olive outfit with pink bows, and a sky-blue party frock.

Most of the Pooters' friends are either bounders (Gowing), boring (Cummings) or pretentious (Mrs James) – the only exceptions are the colourless Mr Franching of Peckham, and Pooter’s kindly but old-fashioned employer, Mr Perkupp.

Pooter has some puritanical attitudes – he disapproves of amateur dramatics and spiritualism – but his household seem to drink rather a lot, even swigging champagne out of tumblers. Pooter’s inability to recognise a hangover is a running gag.

Lupin is a trial – he makes a lot of friends at a local theatrical society, and they constantly turn up at the house, take advantage of the older Pooters, and baffle them by spouting meaningless catchphrases. However, the Pooters love a good laugh, and are constantly in stitches over Charles’s puns.

Charles and Carrie do up the house themselves. He attacks everything that doesn’t move with cheap enamel paint. Carrie attaches silk bows to the corners of “our new enlarged and tinted photographs”, and arranges “some fans very prettily on the top and on each side” of a new mirror. She’s catching on to Japonaiserie, a bit late. She decorates her buffet table with “fairy lamps”: small coloured glass nightlight holders.

Pooter admires a friend’s house: “It was full of knick-knacks, and some plates hung up on the wall. There were several little wooden milk-stools with paintings on them; also a white wooden banjo, painted by one of Mr Paul Finsworth’s nieces.” Arts and Crafts style had reached the suburbs.

Mr Perkupp takes Lupin on as a clerk, but the boy drops a brick by recommending a rival firm to a valued client. Mr Perkupp is forced to let Lupin go, but the lad falls on his feet. He seems to have a knack for making money, and gets engaged to an heiress (sister of “Posh’s three-shilling hats”). So what if she bleaches her hair, smokes, is several years older than him, and has an annoying laugh?

Mr Perkupp rewards Pooter with a rise in salary, and after Charles manages to acquire an even wealthier client for the firm, buys the freehold of the Pooters’ house.

“You’re a good man, Mr Perkupp,” stammers Pooter. “No, you’re the good man,” responds Perkupp, and he’s right. Apart from his copper-bottomed dullness, Pooter’s only fault is snobbery. And so we leave them to live happily ever after.

Middlesex by John Betjeman references some of these characters.

Sunday 7 July 2019

Modern Manners 4

When trapped in a conversation from which we wish to escape, simply say "It was a pleasure talking to you, please do excuse me for a moment". (@TheRoyalButler)

When I was little, we were never supposed to refer to a woman as "she". If I did so, "She's the cat's mother" was the response I got from grown-ups. I never understood why. (EJA)

When invited to someone's home for lunch or dinner, take a small gift. Perhaps a small house plant, but please refrain from unusual gifts! (@TheRoyalButler)

A friend was once so appalled when colleagues bought her a balloon ride she considered faking pneumonia to get out of it.
(Carol Midgley, Times)

Sam and Caro are discussing modern manners again.

Sam: We really need etiquette to go with modern technology.

Caro: Yes, calling a mobile isn't like calling a landline. If your callee answers, she may be in a café, or walking along a street – she’s not at her desk with pen, paper and calendar to hand. I know people have calendars on their phones nowadays, but how do you look at it while talking and walking? If there’s background noise she probably can’t hear what you’re saying, and certainly can’t have a long conversation before you come to the point as we used to do in the olden tymes. Don’t call me – text or email.

People treat phone conversations more like texts these days.

Glad to hear it! I love Facebook and seeing pix of the grand-sprogs, but I can do without all these sentimental pictures of cats.

And posts about your pets' bodily functions – please, no! And don’t send your friends links to videos and keep asking “Have you watched it yet?” Especially if it’s a lecture by Jordan Peterson. Point them to an article. Videos take up too much time – and you can’t “scan” through them. Any more do's and don'ts?

Don't answer for someone else because you think they're being a bit slow.

Don't have a public face that's different from your private face.

When having lunch in the garden on a sunny day, you may lend your guests hats. But you should never put a hat on a guest’s head. Especially not if you hope it'll make them look ridiculous.

You should respect people's boundaries and avoid invading their space.

Is that the modern way of putting it? If a friend or family member is ill, don’t try and manage their condition for them. They probably know far more about it than you do.

Yes, it's so intrusive! And hold back on the recommendations of alternative medicine. Or any kind of helpful advice I haven't asked for. And if I don’t want to moan about the cowboy builders, or NHS waiting times, I don’t really need you to do it for me. Sometimes I just want you to change the subject. But if I want to moan about someone’s awful behaviour – please don’t justify everything they did or said. Take MY side, not theirs!

You know, we could turn this into a book.

With your name on the cover!

I don't know why I should be the expert!

Are you taking notes? I had a flatmate who would ask me to help her with something. I'd sit down and wait for her to be ready, thinking she'd be about five minutes. But she'd bustle about feeding the goldfish, watering the plants, bleeding the radiators. I had no idea how long she was going to take, and meanwhile I couldn't do anything I wanted to do. I hadn't told her about my own plans because, well, why should I? I fell for it a couple of times – but then never again.

Another thing – don’t give single people little jobs to do, because you fear they’ll be under-occupied. And don't force them to do something they're bad at.
That's almost bullying. And I hate having to admire something hideous, like a collection of Toby jugs, or Gillray and Rowlandson prints.

And meanwhile your host watches you, hoping you’ll be embarrassed. People can be so vile! 

The same flatmate would ask me to come shopping, and then trail me around while she searched for some really obscure widget. If I needed to buy something, she'd rush me into the wrong kind of shop and try to railroad me into buying something inappropriate. Sometimes she'd leave me five minutes to buy a present, or a pair of shoes for a wedding. And we could never stop at the first eaterie we found – she'd find something wrong with it and insist on walking to the next one, and the next one. And then we'd get lost and have to walk miles home.

I hope you moved out!

I did. And she'd tell me to do something and then stand over me telling me I was doing it all wrong! What else?

Don’t imitate someone’s accent to their face. And avoid “You don’t sound as if you came from Barnsley”. Don’t tell them who they are! Don’t make assumptions, even if you think they're positive. My Yoga teacher thought I wouldn’t have heard of Stormzy!

It was your voice, I expect. We went to the same school, and people sometimes think I'm an Earl's daughter!

Let's swap! You can worry about replacing the roof in the west wing!

How's it all going?
Much better since we started renting out the old chateau as a wedding venue. The whole party stays overnight and they think they're living in Downton for the day! We've moved into a cosy flat in one of the turrets. What about office etiquette? You've worked in an office.

If someone is tapping a laptop in a meeting, they're not tweeting or writing a book – they're taking notes. Leave them alone. And if a colleague is sitting with a phone to their ear while their pencil moves swiftly over their notebook – don’t engage them in conversation. They are taking notes while the person on the other end of the phone speaks, and if you talk they won’t be able to hear either of you. And they certainly can’t break off and talk to you.

That's the moment to say "Can we have a brief word?" Take them aside and give them what for, as nanny used to say. I'm sure we'll think of some more – save them for next time we meet!

More here, and links to the rest.

Monday 20 May 2019

What to Wear 10

The ladies are lunching in John Lewis again: Caro Stow Crat buys Rowan yarn and Samantha Upward purchases white baby wool – she’s going to dye it with natural substances like blackberries and beetroot. Eileen Weybridge and Jen Teale have acquired a jade two-piece and a pair of robust jeans on the womenswear floor – Eileen's off sailing again.

"Lovely!" shudders Sam, and boasts that she buys all her clothes in charity shops.

“I’m sure more people would, if the shops would only wash the clothes first,” says Eileen.

“It seems so obvious,” says Jen.

“I must admit I don’t appreciate odeur de charité!” says Caro, looking round her at the crowds. "Why is everybody wearing plimsolls? And how do they keep them so white?"

"They're trainers!" says Jen.

"Nothing but trainers on sale – even in Clarks!" bemoans Eileen.

"You spray them with Gleem-o-Brite!" says Jen.

"Oh for the days of Meltonian shoe cream!" sighs Caro. "Those happy evenings at boarding school whitening one's tennis shoes."

She is still wearing the Stow Crat hairstyle: blonde, layered, off the forehead, off the collar, and brushed behind the ears. Earrings and a silk scarf in the neck of her cashmere jersey go with it. When skin-tight jeans are in, her grand-daughters wear a more relaxed version, and Caro's heels are always slightly lower than the fashion. Thalia Upward wears the sexy/unsexy look, featuring bare legs and black ankle boots.

A Sloane in Cirencester? Short tweed skirt and riding boots if young, longer tweed suit if not, or jodhpurs, or good jeans. Expensive yoga wear if she's more on the New Age side. You see plenty of quilted gilets at the track, usually with that sort of heather-coloured hat that suggests someone has sat on it. (LW)

To lead her Qi Gong class, Arkana sports a blue and hot-pink block-coloured shirt, pink patterned leggings, and orange rubber shoes – with lifelike toes. Her hair is the same shade of orange, which makes her look somewhat haggard, but Sam finds the whole ensemble soothing to rest her eyes on as Arkana takes the class through a gruelling session.

She showed up in total nerdcore clothing, head to toe: bow tie, thick-rimmed specs, sweater vest, plaid buttondown... (via Twitter)

This month’s collection references the interiors of Charleston, the country home of Vanessa Bell, and also the wild gardens of her childhood home in St Ives. (Seasalt Cornwall. The clothes are slightly influenced by the colour palette, no Charleston designs are copied, anyone can have a wild garden – but the magic words “Vanessa Bell” may get middle-class buyers to bite. See also the Past Times catalogue and “inspired by”. Cardigans printed with a pattern a long way after a medieval manuscript are the height of frump, the depth of chic.)

It’s all in the detail! says the Damart catalogue. Oh dear, it’s the details – the embroidery, the applique’d flowers, the top stitching, the asymmetrical hems – that make the clothes frumpy. We want completely plain clothes, a bit like a school uniform, made of good materials, that fit. Thanks.

Update: In 2022, paper catalogues have all but disappeared, so there's no way of getting a feel for this season's look.

More here, and links to the rest.

Saturday 13 April 2019

Modern Manners 3

In the run-up to Christmas, the ladies are lunching in a department store. Present are Caroline Stow-Crat, Samantha Upward, Jen Teale and Eileen Weybridge. Now that Gideon Upward has retired, he doesn’t mind coming along to help carry the shopping and get the girls a taxi. Caro has borrowed Samantha’s Guardian, which has an article on modern manners.

“Isn’t it just politeness?” asks Eileen.

“And common sense?” says Jen.

"Manners are part of a system of power relations," says Sam. “The purpose of etiquette is to uphold the power structure of oppression.”

"Do you mean a code of manners is designed to keep others in their place?" asks Eileen.

"We think our whole age has been a progress from formality to informality and that this is a good thing," puts in Gideon. "Dating in the 60s, getting off at a party in the 70s. And now apparently young people are saying 'If only we had the formal manners of the 90s!'"

Caro reads aloud from the paper: "According to the Guardian, we should behave ourselves in pubs. Don’t crowd the bar, don’t jostle other customers, and attract the attention of staff with a quick lift of the eyebrows. There IS a queue at the bar, but only the staff knows everybody’s place in it. Honestly, the English are mad. How about forming an actual queue? Or getting one of those numbered ticket machines?"

Sam reads on: "Communal tables in restaurants are a 'horrific trend'. Be civil, pass the salt, but avoid 'pottering small talk'."

Jean continues: "And if you must bring children, they should be seen and not heard, and the restaurant should not be expected to make them special meals. Well, really!"

"Don’t quiz staff about their hairstyle, accent, tattoos," reads Caro. “But I’m surprised at the Guardian suggesting tweeting and emailing at the table is acceptable.”

“And they forgot to say ‘don’t drink too much',” says Jen Teale. “And we need etiquette on Twitter – people are so ill-mannered!”

"Perhaps we do need modern manners," sighs Eileen. "Can you think of any?"

"Bin the doggy-doo," says Jen. "And your chewing gum. And the rubbish you're about to leave on the beach."

"Avoid PDAs – public displays of affection," says Caro.

"But I love the way everybody hugs now," says Sam.

"I meant snogging in restaurants – I never know where to look. I've got some thoughts."

"Let's have them!" say the others.

"It is really beyond the pale to count someone else’s money. I mean people who complain that their single older relative is always going on expensive foreign holidays. How do you know he’s not travelling on the cheap and staying with friends? And you shouldn’t assume a single person is better off because they don’t have children to support – it costs more to live alone. And if Uncle Bob and Aunt Mary leave all their money, which presumably they’ve worked hard for, to the Cats’ Protection League – well, serve you jolly well right."

Eileen chips in: "You know, people are finding books in bookshops and then buying them from Amazon for less in the actual store, while bragging about it. The definition of bad manners!"

Caro continues: "Don’t send your Christmas cards too early – it looks needy. And there’s no way to tell if you’ve been dropped from someone’s list because if they’ve got one from you they feel they have to send one back. If you don’t get one back – did you put your latest address inside? I’m sure people used to send change of address cards – even in these days of LinkedIn and the rest they could be useful."

In any place of worship, don't read out loud faster than the minister.

And thank everybody for Christmas and birthday presents – these days probably by email or the dreaded social media, but thank them. If the chocolates were past their sell-by date, don’t tell them. If it’s not quite what you wanted/last year’s fad/unflattering, say nothing – but thank you.

And a tip when present-buying – does the recipient have anywhere to put the casserole dishes/coffee-table books/doorstop? Spare a thought for where they live and how they are going to get back there. Are they going to have to shlep the garden sculpture/table lamp/birdbath home on the bus? You may wish your friend or relative had the decency to get married, or a least live as if they were, acquiring a large house and giving dinner parties, but you can’t force this to happen by giving them a set of dinner plates for 12. You may think the giftee will be encouraged by a thoughtful donation of placemats/paper napkins/a fondue set, but he/she is more likely to pass them on to a charity shop. As a general principle – don’t try to live other people’s lives for them.

Back to the sordid subject of money – people like us try to force unmarried women to couple up because there’s no way you can keep up the middle-class lifestyle on one salary. And publishers are notoriously poor payers. Of course your dear friend Perdita doesn’t give dinner parties – she lives in a studio flat which is all she can afford. Perhaps her parents don’t have the inherited wealth you think they have – what did I tell you about counting other people’s money? Yes, perhaps if she gave dinner parties you’d invite her to yours and she might “meet somebody”. And she’d be advertising her cooking skills. Don’t forget men are quite dim – if a woman lives alone in a studio flat they assume she wants to “keep her independence” or somesuch waffle. So why not just invite her anyway?

If one of your friends has a famous ancestor or relation, don’t drag their name into the conversation, or spot a family resemblance, or gleefully tell others about the connection – in your friend’s presence, when they haven’t mentioned it themselves. In fact, if you and a friend are meeting new people, don’t tell the new people anything about him or her. Maybe he or she doesn’t want strangers to know that she’s written a novel, or won a prize at the local flower show. You may think “But I’d brag about it if it was me!”, but it’s not you. Perhaps you think that having a friend with a famous ancestor raises your status, but keep that to yourself. In fact, if you are about to introduce friend A to friend B, don't give B a pre-match briefing about A. Let B make up their own mind.

And when a friend or family member is ill or disabled, please refrain from trying to manage their condition for them. Let them set the walking pace – you may slow down too far. If they’re walking briskly, it may not mean they’re fine, they could be looking for somewhere to sit down. Don’t tell them how to get up out of chairs – offer them a hand! Don’t urge them to do things they lack the energy for. Avoid recommending alternative cures, or insinuating that they haven’t tried hard enough. Don’t tell them that their migraines aren’t migraines because they aren’t one-sided, or that they aren’t on the autistic spectrum because they can feel empathy. They are probably more informed about their condition than you are, who picked up a few ideas from an article 20 years ago. And don’t tell them that if they can walk a few steps they don’t need a wheelchair!

My grandmother used to tell us to butter and jam only the mouthful of toast you were about to bite.  Somehow we stopped doing that, but why don’t we revive the practice? Stops you getting marmalade on your laptop and butter down your sleeves. Laptops at the breakfast-table are hardly comme il faut, of course, but I often breakfast at my desk."

"It's not just about what to say when meeting the Queen!" says Jen.

"When meeting royalty," Caro explains, "You’ll be told when and to whom you should curtsey. Put one foot behind the other and bend your knees briefly while bowing your head slightly – no need to bend right forward like Theresa May. Keep the back straight and the bum in. Sorry, Mrs May. If you can’t manage this, nobody will mind. A slight bow will do. But try to adopt a pleasant smile, rather than a grin. Another thing – curtseying was designed for a long, concealing skirt, and looks rather ridiculous in a mini or trousers. Plan your outfit carefully!

Sam feels Caro has held the floor long enough: "If you invite someone to stay overnight on the floor of your student bedroom, organise some breakfast, and, if they’re still around, lunch. I once stayed with a student and breakfast wasn’t even mentioned. After I made a fuss, I was given a slice of melon! When later I mentioned lunch, my friend waited while I stopped at a newsagent’s and bought a cheese sandwich – which I had to eat in the street."

Eileen adds: "If someone asks you for help, don’t tell them how they can do the thing themselves. If they ask you for the number of a taxi firm to drive them home from your house, don’t say: 'If it was me, I would have found out the number beforehand.' Pin cards from local taxis up in your hall. Your friend needs to get home – now is not the time to proceed with your plan to train them to stand on their own two feet."

Gideon says: "I hope it's not patronising to offer help to a woman? I mean, isn't this whole thing just an excuse to get out of doing anything for others? Call me old-fashioned, but if a woman is walking straight towards me along a narrow pavement, I chivalrously step into the gutter! And if we're walking along a pavement together, I take the gutter side."

"You don’t have to hide your pregnancy bump any more in a Mothercare smock with a Peter Pan collar, but apparently you shouldn’t “flaunt” it," says Jen. "I think this means you should pretend it isn’t there. Isn't that pointless?"

Sam remembers: "I know what's rude! When you throw a party in a shared flat and don't tell your flatmate because you hope he/she will be out. Or you throw a dinner party and don't invite your flatmate so that he doesn’t know whether to join in, retire to his room, or remember a sudden appointment and go to the cinema alone."

"When you take a chilled bottle of dry white wine to a lunch/dinner party," says Gideon. "And your hosts put it to one side and carry on serving something warm and sweet, and never open your contribution."

"Telling people 'I know where you could have got that for half the price'," says Jen.

"Whispering in public!" rejoins Caro. "This woman in the doctor's waiting room... When I didn't respond she just whispered more loudly! She was just asking if I was OK, but I'm getting a bit deaf."

"I do so agree!" says Gideon. "I tell people 'You'll have to speak up', and they just repeat what they said in a normal voice."

"Howard won’t have anything with a 'photo ID' on it," says Eileen. "He says the state intrudes into our lives too much already. I mean, we had to get all the dogs and cats 'chipped'! But what gets me down is the nagging – endlessly being told I eat too much and don’t exercise enough and I ought to eat kale and wear a 'fitbit'. I mean, what’s that if not intrusion into my life? And some people seem to positively like it – being nagged, I mean."

Gideon says: "I was always told it was 'impolite' to discuss politics. It means people can go on being racist and not understanding the issues because it’s 'rude' to put them right."

"There’s an unwritten rule that if two men get into an argument about politics, science or philosophy, women do not chip in," says Caro. "This is merely a territorial contest between alpha stag beetles (or animal of your choice). Another unwritten rule: if one of your acquaintance likes to harangue the company at length about the evils of vaccination, the charms of astrology or the fact that the earth is flat, it is bad manners to disagree with them. Especially if they are a man.

These rules should be broken at every opportunity."

More here, and links to the rest.

Modern Manners 2

My mother in law used to think it showed you were upper class if you were really rude to shop assistants - put them in their place sort of thing. She was a snob and it caused lots of arguments! (via Facebook)

The woman - never invited back - who told me she was a vegetarian, but didn't tell me that she was allergic to eggs. "I'll just pick it out of my quiche," (she actually said this), sighing alongside an accompanying smell of burning martyr. "I don't want you to go to any trouble."
(LW, paraphrase)

Visiting Americans were stunned at the rudeness with which the British upper classes addressed the unfortunates below them. (Great British Fictional Detectives, Russell James)

Stop making a fuss about how bad you are at pronouncing foreign names. Don't preface your attempt with a lengthy apology. It's deeply othering. If you encounter a name you don't know how to pronounce and you haven't an opportunity to ask, I strongly recommend you just do it. Thank people for their patience but crucially, just move on. At some point the jokes about being bad a pronouncing a name stop being about the pronouncer and become about how weird and foreign the name is. I know you feel uncomfortable and awkward and you don't want to get it wrong. But just move on. (@jeannette_ng)

Thanks for X product, which I’ve enjoyed using while committing Y task. Looking forward to seeing you during Z event. (Template for a thankyou letter from Daniel Mallory Ortberg)

An indignant friend tells me an anecdote about a woman on a bus who had put her bag on the seat (so that she was taking up two places). She didn’t move the bag even though he stood beside her without speaking for five minutes. 

Unbelievably, in the 70s posh people still changed for dinner. We stayed with some grand people who assumed we were as upmarket as they were. Mrs Thing was quite annoyed that we hadn’t brought skirts to change into. “Couldn’t Mary lend you something?” Mary was about five foot two and a size 12. I was five foot nine and a size 16. (If you're a tall woman, people have a strange blindness to your real height.)

I stayed with my parents at a hotel on Loch Maree where all the guests dined together. The proprietress said nothing to me, but approached my mother to say “Could you ask your daughter to wear tights in the evening instead of bare legs?” At least I was wearing a skirt! Bare legs were still taboo in the 70s, though they became OK in the 80s. In the 70s it was only OK to go without stockings if you applied fake tan that smelled of biscuits and turned your legs orange.

Don’t overload your fork, says the Royal Butler.

In the 17th century bell-ringers were penalised for wearing a hat or spurs in the belfry.

More here.

Thursday 7 February 2019

What to Wear 9

"Sumptuary" laws forbade the wrong kind of people to wear sable or ermine, like the aristocracy. Elizabeth I proclaimed: None shall wear in his apparel: Any silk of the color of purple, cloth of gold tissued, nor fur of sables, but only the King, Queen, King's mother, children, brethren, and sisters, uncles and aunts; and except dukes, marquises, and earls, who may wear the same in doublets, jerkins, linings of cloaks, gowns, and hose; and those of the Garter, purple in mantles only. (And you couldn't wear pantofles of velvet unless you were the son and heir apparent of a Knight.)

In the medieval period,  “luxuria” – the temptation of fine clothes – was a sin. Don’t blame everything on the Puritans. Disdain of the wrong people buying too many luxury goods (materialism, consumerism, media-fuelled shopping frenzy) continues.

A lot of School of Oriental and African Studies students dress like they’re off on an episode of Time Team, fresh from private school. (Via FB)

Coco Chanel... proposed that her wealthy clients dress among other things like fishermen (in Breton tops), like male horse riders (in, shock, trousers), and like their maids (in, double shock, black dresses). Times Nov 2018 (See also espadrilles borrowed from sailors in the South of France, sailor trousers, gaucho hats, baseball caps, military caps, Basque berets, ballet skirts and ballet shoes.)

“This season’s tailoring” is always “softer”.

Judging by the Toast catalogue and others, a youngish Upward woman wears a baggy dress with a full skirt to below the knee, no tights or socks, and flat lace-up canvas shoes, probably in dark green. With it she wears no makeup, no smile, and her hair in a messy updo. If it’s cold, she puts on a droopy cardigan. The clothes are made of “good” materials like cotton, and cost rather a lot. She is trying so hard not to look as if she is trying to look sexy that she looks sexy, or that is the idea.

No Upward could wear sling-back shoes in the 60s – they were too sexy in a sluttish kind of way.

Hippy style in the 60s included necklaces made of dried melon and pumpkin seeds. You washed them in a colander, dried them in the oven and dyed them with food dye, before stringing them with a needle and thread. When times were hard, you could eat the necklace. It was a tremendous amount of work, and few people did it. The fashion came just before the full-blown hippy era – as teenagers we were desperate for finery, and our Upward parents looked down on children wearing jewellery. Fake pearls from Woolworths were beyond the pale. We learned how to make the seed necklaces from girls’ comics. It took up so much time, and you’d be doing something. And once hippy fashion got going, necklaces of dyed exotic seeds from stalls in Oxford Street were affordable, if not edible.

Blue collar, white collar – a working man couldn’t afford to wear a clean white shirt every day. Dark colours didn’t show the dirt.

Formal wear for women is physically restrictive. Wearing a skirt used to involve a tight girdle and stockings, and a tailored jacket in which you couldn't raise your arms or slump. Tailored jackets and blouses are still like this.

Samantha Upward might wear a tunic over jeans, especially if it’s flowery and from a wacky, bohemian Swedish designer. With it she wears boots over-decorated with tooling, flowers or coloured leather rosettes, that describe themselves as “vintage”. The ensemble makes her look like an elf. Mrs Definitely wears a tunic over leggings – it hides everything – but she’d look better dressed as an 1900s flower-seller in a blouse, skirt and hat.

Caro Stow-Crat only wears clothes that are recognisable garments with a long history: blouse, shirt, skirt, trousers, cardigan, jacket, jumper, coat. They may have changed their shape several times over the past century or so, but they have endured. She avoids the “detailing” that manufacturers love to add to clothes for the older lady. And she never wears a tunic.

More here, and links to the rest.

Wednesday 6 February 2019

Choose Your Words Carefully 8

Class is a thing of the past, people keep telling me.

I have been told that I was too Northern in a show – a Northern drama, actually – and I was told that I needed to tone down my accent because a character with a well-paid job wouldn’t want to marry me. (Mandip Gill)

David Hockney said that when he arrived at the RA in 1959 from Bradford his fellow students mocked his northern accent. “They’d come up and say, ‘Trouble at mill, Mr Ormonroyd?’”
 (Times Feb 2019)

A couple of minutes into the interview, the man interviewing me said he was stopping the interview. He told me that I was applying for a job teaching English but I wasn’t speaking it properly myself! (A man from Rossendale applies to do a PGCE teaching qualification.

I've met lots of people who've had elocution lessons, especially northerners. They are often perceived as 'posh' by others. (Dr Sandra Jansen of the University of Leipzig)

How ‘well’ we speak can have great social currency... Studies have even shown that speakers of prestige language forms are judged more handsome and physically attractive. (Language Myths, Laurie Bauer and Peter Trudgill)

There are different varieties of a language associated with different regions and different social sets. The way you talk will show what group you belong to, and people will decide on that basis how to treat you. (BBC Online)

A BBC manager once told presenter Steph McGovern she was too common to read the news.

Sir, Years ago I took a screen test before appearing on BBC TV’s Antiques Roadshow, on which I subsequently appeared as a ceramics specialist for nine years. I spoke to camera about an object, and when I had finished the director, aghast, said: “My God, you sound upper-class.” Things do not appear to have changed (“BBC is ordered to reveal staff’s social class”, Sep 15), and it is high time the BBC realised that discrimination does not only happen de haut en bas, and that all discrimination based on factors that a person cannot change is pernicious. (Sally Kevill-Davies, letter to the Times, September 2017)

Not the Whole Story is a delightful memoir. I was going to describe it as “gorgeous”, but that is one of the modern vulgarisms to which Angela Huth objects. There is a list of these at the back of the book, which made me feel every inch of my own vulgarity. “Munching” and “leafy” are both sniffed at, as are “floral tributes” and “passed away”, but fair enough — as a former deb and hobnobber with royalty, you’d expect Huth to be la-di-da. (The Times)

The Headmaster of Harrow School says his pupils speak mockney well into adulthood in an attempt not to appear posh. (Posh young people have done this for years – listen to Princess Diana.) (Jan 2019)

In Georgette Heyer's detective story Envious Casca (1938), common characters say “I took the liberty of saying” and “I happened to pass the remark”. Another (a pretty blonde), says: As a matter of fact I very nearly went to COLLEGE, and I should have, only that it seemed the most frightful waste of time!” She peppers her speech with “foul” and “ghastly” and “frightful” and “lousy”, to the other characters’ disgust. She even says “Oh, I do think you’re the limit!” And “I think it’s all completely deathly!” She also claims to be “highly strung”. Roydon, a playwright, is referred to by the butler as “a person by the name of Roydon”. The family call him “this Roydon fellow”. A valet is referred to as “this Ford”. And someone says of Roydon: “People not out of the top drawer are always inclined to be touchy.”

In Dodie Smith’s It Ends with Revelations (1967), two young girls are trying to update their speech: ‘We’re trying to oust “sort of”, “I mean” and “you know” from our vocabularies.’ They’re also distressed, when listening to a recording, to find that they “mince” and pronounce “no” as “noe”.

Received Pronunciation (RP) has changed: here’s Jack de Manio telling us how to speak. Don’t be slovenly or affected! But nobody says “lib-rar-y” any more. He almost says flexibiliteah and
kee-anteen. Clariteah and accuraceah in delivereah. You’ll naytice... He warns against supstance and dretful – these have vanished.

Radio 3 used to be the last holdout of RP. Announcers could never speak off the cuff, they had to read out misinformation from cards (“Beethoven anticipated Wagner”). Women announcers were picked for their deep, even voices (almost as good as a man). Now they all ramble chattily, failing to enunciate and dropping their voices at the end of sentences, and I find it hard to understand what they're saying.

Caro Stow-Crat talks about people going “puce” with rage or embarrassment, rather than red. Puce was originally a pale red, like rosé wine, but these days it is used to mean – well, the colour people go when angry. Gammon.

January 2019 Eileen Weybridge and Jen Teale are talking about “Project Fair”. To Caro it’s “Project Feeyah!”. Samantha Upward compromises on “Fyair”.

Jen and Eileen say pryvacy and proh-ject; Sam and Caro say privvacy and projject with a short I and O. Teales and Weybridges usually shorten vowels, e.g. oggle for ogle, but sometimes lengthen when they should shorten. Samantha has a crisis of conscience every time she has to say the word “extol” in church.

A posh way of showing contempt is to put the word “now” in an odd place: It has to now be called… The question now is... We then go on to… (Passage to India, E.M. Forster) I now thrash him within an inch of his life. (Howard’s End, E.M. Forster)

Teales and Weybridges take an “Aspro” for a headache (unless they’re the kind who “don’t take tablets”). Stow Crats and Upwards take an “aspirin” because the word is generic and they can’t mention brand names because it means someone is trying to make money and that’s “trade” (Caro) or “capitalism” (Samantha).

The Stow-Crats have attics – the rest of us just have “lofts”. Mr Definitely makes a killing doing “loff conversions”. For Weybridges, the spare room is the “guest room”, where you find special “guest soaps” and “guest towels”. Caro shudders when Jen calls a roast potato a "roastie" and pronounces the t in often – but admits she's an awfully good sort.

Superpose for superimpose is very Weybridge. Elderly Weybridges used to pronounce profile as “profeel”. In Shakespeare’s Quatercentenary (1964), most people pronounced it “courter senteenary”. A few middle-aged Howards pronounced it “kwatter centennary”. It was quite annoying.

Hello Dahlings! Just been to @royalacademy Summer Exhibition dontcha know.” Someone on Twitter is trying to sound posh. For the record, posh people do not call each other “darling” the entire time. However, “darling” is the only endearment they can use. They only use “dear” when delivering searing put-downs. And they would never call anybody “dearie” or “love”. “Doncher know” is extremely old-fashioned upper-class speech from the Edwardian era.

For a long time, my mother wouldn’t talk about people “watching television”, they were always “looking at television”. She also called programmes "films". But then she discovered The Antiques Roadshow. Now elderly Upwards talk disparagingly of "Instachat" and "Facegram".

If Upwards turn up at a friend’s for lunch and the family has clearly just had a screaming row which is still simmering, the visitors later report that “there was an atmosphere”. This atmosphere of things unsaid and seething resentment may persist in a house for years, while everybody goes through the motions and pretends not to notice anything. But that's privilege for you.

More here, and links to the rest.