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The Book

Out now at Amazon | Waterstones

Middle Class Handbook on Twitter
Chattering Class

TV shows on dieting

Ugh, enough now! Oh alright, just one more...

People leaning forward in train seats

Annoying and intrusive

Metcalfe's Skinny popcorn

Favourite niche snack about to go mainstream

Tax returns

Absolutely love sharing misery on Twitter

Books received for Christmas

No idea how/when to get through the stack

Doddle

Still not convinced it's a doddle

Dry January

Would be easier if people didn't stop talking about it

People who breathe really loudly in yoga and pilates classes

Do please shut up

Kale and spinach

Why do they come in such huge bags?

A newly filled fruit bowl

As satisfying as fresh bed sheets

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The Periodic Table of the Middle Class
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    Wednesday
    Feb102016

    Workplace offenders: the excessively theatrical sneezer

    A guy I once worked with had the loudest sneeze I had ever heard. It was a proper, full-body, unrestrained, loud and distinctive ach-oo, and every time he did it – two or three times a day, I'd say (people sneeze a hell of a lot in offices, don't they?) – it brought an aftermath of awkwardness. There would be some offended frowning (me) and some embarrassed laughter (also me), and a flurry of comments from his surrounding colleagues: 'Wow, that was a bigun', 'blimey, that was quite something', 'that deserves a round of applause'. 

    I felt so outraged by these comments because a loud, theatrical sneeze should not be celebrated. It is bad manners. It's nonsense that humans have no control about the way they sneeze. The discreet, embarrassed 'pneu' sound I make when I sneeze in public ('like Tinkerbell from a distance', one colleague told me), compared to the normal, more relaxed 'kknn-chh' I do at home is evidence that a sneeze can be adapted to suit one's environment. It's just some people have gone through their lives doing a particularly distinctive sneeze and have come to almost forget that what is actually happening is an expulsion of air and mucus and therefore it should probably be reined in when you are in public.

    So, I'm sorry if you've grown up being told that your sneeze is characterful and delightful and you think of it as part of who you are; it's not OK to let rip at work. And, those of you who encourage this behaviour with comments like 'I really felt you put your full weight behind that one' (yes, someone actually said this), you need to zip it too.

    Saturday
    Feb062016

    class phwoar: extreme muesli

    There’s no doubt muesli is upping its game as 2016 gets under way. The industry has worked out a way to bring traditional muesli, which once defined us as a class, out of its crisis.  The stuff we used to fill our breakfast bowls with is loaded with gluten, carbs and dried-fruit sugars – which simply won’t do any more. So it’s a relief to see new and more acceptable pathways opening up.

    In fact, we have two options. We can stick to old-school carbs but make it worth our while by going super-indulgent: Waitrose offers flower-petal and coffee-infused varieties if that’s our solution. Alternatively, we can submit to the paleo revolution and experiment with the truly extreme: not just the courgette granola that is finding its way into MC homes, but RAWnola or Beetroot and Ginger Muesli from Primrose’s Kitchen. Thank goodness, we can chomp away self-righteously once more.

    Thursday
    Feb042016

    collaborative consumption: how to offer sweet treats around the office

    It's lovely when a colleague brings treats to work, but you can't get away with only ever being on the receiving end: eventually you have to step up and bring something in yourself, and it can be quite a fraught experience. You need to approach it strategically, otherwise you will a) make everyone uncomfortable and b) miss out on any of the treats yourself. Here are three ways to go about this to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible:

    1. Leave your biscuits or whatever – and make sure it's a plentiful supply – on your desk. Send an email to all saying people should come and help themselves. Include a fact about where the treats came from (eg. put 'Italian holiday biscuits' in the subject line) – this will give people a nice talking point for when they come over. Of course this might not work and only about three people will come over because people don't like to look greedy and some don't enjoy talking to others; in which case, you could adapt this method and email everyone saying you've left the chocolates or cake or whatever in the staff kitchen. Or, try method 2:
    2. Pass the treats to the person next to you and tell them to pass them around. There will be people who haven't paid any attention to your email and mutterings of 'oh how nice, who are these from, what are these in aid of?' will be heard. Try not to seek glory or validation at this point. Be cool. If you are worried that the treats will get stuck and not everyone will get one – including you – you might take greater control by following method 3:
    3. Actually walk around the office and deliver treats or slices of cake to people in person. It will take quite a while to get round everyone so make sure you have time. If you can do this and make a bit of small talk and make sure the treats are evenly distributed, you should feel very proud: this really is the pinnacle of achievement in social interaction.

    Flickr: massdistraction

    Tuesday
    Jan262016

    Lunch at work, part 2: the lunch debrief

    “What did you go for in the end?” people ask when you're tucking in to whatever you've brought back from your “Pret run”. It's a strange part of having lunch at work, this debrief that so many of us seem to enjoy or, more probably, feel too awkward not to engage with. When people eat at their desks it seems like you have to acknowledge it in some way, make a little bit of small talk around it. Especially if you've all been caught up in the pre-lunchtime chat about what you're going to have (more on this, here). It would feel rude and unsatisfying not to follow up.

    The debrief session seeks to establish answers to three questions. 1) What did you get? 2) Is it nice? 3) Should someone else get that for their own lunch (either right now, or tomorrow)? There might also be questions about what the weather is doing outside and if it was busy out there.

    The lunch debrief is the end of a little journey we go on with our colleagues each day. We keep each other company as we consider our food options, make a decision, and then evaluate our choice and help others in their own decisions. It might be mundane, and infuriating at times, but it's rather nice.

    Flickr: Ambernectar 13

    Saturday
    Jan232016

    class phwoar: almond milk

    Is there anything MCs love more than loudly and anxiously giving things up? That's basically what defines our behaviour at this time of year.  And dairy is often top of the list. But soya milk has never quite been an acceptable substitute. It sounds a bit basic and studenty – just a bit too 1970s healthfood shop. Of course it does the job if you’ve got a serious intolerance, but doesn’t really inspire if you’re doing a bit of non-dairy dabbling.

    So MCs are giving a warm welcome to almond milk, which froths up beautifully for a latte and generally sounds so much more exotic. Artisan coffee shops are stocking up on it too – ask your barista.