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The Book

Out now at Amazon | Waterstones

Middle Class Handbook on Twitter
Chattering Class

Quality Street

It's too soon for the first box of the season

Mince pies

Too soon for them, too, unless homemade for a school fair

MasterChef's pig's trotter challenge

A bit much

Secret Life of Five-Year-Olds

Those little monsters are just brilliant. Lovely teachers, too

'Reach out'

This has to stop

Being told 'things' don't bring you lasting happiness

Yeah, but what about things like the NutriBullet?

Waitrose 'Heritage Collection' bath stuff

We see what you're doing, and we're not biting

'Excited for'

This is creeping in and it's very worrying

Over-hashtagging tweets

#Notnecessaryorclever #Really #Annoying #Stop


Back in, and we couldn't be happier

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The Periodic Table of the Middle Class
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    Chattering Class

    When will The Guardian stop interviewing Beth Ditto?

    Not anytime soon, apparently

    The ubiquity of the pea coat

    Really starting to pea us off

    Royal Wedding Day-lemma

    Stay in London, or clear off abroad for a long weekend?

    FarmVille: English Countryside

    Launching next week with Garden Gnome, Thatched Cottage and Antique Shop items. But what have they missed?

    The Cumberland Sausage

    Follows the Cornish Pasty to become Britain’s 44th protected food. Suggestions for Number 45?

    Prof Brian Cox

    Shoot yourself into outer space, you overexposed fop

    The revelation Banksy has a wife

    Does he tell her he’s going to be working late?

    Lily Allen’s Riches To Rags

    Riveting car-crash TV. But would you buy a used dress from this woman?

    Go Compare’s £400m founder reveals secret of TV ad’s success

    “The brief was to make it as irritating as possible”

    Cadbury fesses-up to reducing Dairy Milk by one chunk

    And their Creme Eggs have definitely shrunk


    Rastamouse – some middle class spin-offs

    The CBeebies sensation is already one of the TV hits of the year, achieving cult status among the middle class people who are the BBC’s traditional audience. Now, we are all for diversity in BBC programming, and it’s a genuinely great bit of TV, but when midlife middle class white people who work in post-production houses in Soho start saying ‘irie!’ something has to be done. We suggest they get their own shows. Here’s a few spin-offs that might be more appropriate…

    Pastamouse – All the spaghetti in Grovetown has gone missing and dem orphans have nothing to eat. Voiced by someone English, but with great cheekbones.

    Vestamouse – The Easy Crew become obsessed with bland 1970s ready meals but with the help of a wise old grandmother voiced by Madhur Jaffrey and some fresh spices they learn how to ‘make a bad ting good’.

    Jocasta Mouse – each episode based on a Greek tragedy. Intense mother-son relationships abound, and ‘Scratchy’ gets her nickname (by gauging her own eyes out). 

    RastaScouse – The Easy Crew swap their dreadlocks for moptops in order to fight the BlueCheese Meanies. RastaScouse’s aunt Mimi voiced by Kim Cattrall

    Nancy Astor Mouse – replacing president Wensley Dale as the main political figure of Grovetown. Voiced by Helena Bonham Carter

    RastaLouse – there’s a nit epidemic at the orphanage. Grovetown sells out of NittyGritty combs, and RastaLouse delivers a speech about nits being attracted to clean hair as much as dirty hair, and anyway, even Madonna’s kids get them.

    RastaRouse – the Easy Crew ditch their reggae sounds in favour of a season of comedy gigs at the Edinburgh Fringe

    DIYdisastamouse – Ep 1: putting up shelves; Ep 2: fixing that drip you said you’d get round to 3 months ago but has now turned into a leak: Ep 3 No point wasting money on a professional…  Frequent appearances from his trouble-shooting tradesman cousin Plastamouse (voiced by Sean Lock)

    So there you go, let us know yours at #middleclassrastamouse


    Is it weird and snobbish to fear and loathe designer outlets? No, especially if it’s Bicester Village

    Flickr: Rod
    There can’t be a city in Britain nowadays that doesn’t have a discount outlet (usually just referred to as “the outlet”) somewhere on its ring road, and there’s no denying that these mini shopping centres are popular with British people from all walks of life. My favourites, however, are the ones that try to market themselves as upmarket; and my very favourite, a place that fascinates me in a macabre sort of way, is Bicester Village Outlet Shopping centre in Oxfordshire.
    Bicester Village, built in 1995, was Britain's first purpose-built upmarket discount shopping complex, and is part of a chain that takes in the US, Japan and Europe. Its parent company's website says the villages are for "affluent and educated" people, and in Bicester the Stepford tidiness (geometrically-correct flower displays, uniform signage, uniformed street sweepers with dustpans) creates the sort of tentatively refined atmosphere you get at parties where everyone thinks everyone else is posher than them. (I once overheard a coiffy mother here telling her grumpy teenage son to "remember where we are".) 
    It comprises of a small grid of wooden shops selling discounted, past-season clothes and household goods from middling-posh brands such as L.K Bennett and Paul Smith and the the atmosphere is unusual, because people avoid eye contact, and don't talk much - all you hear is the clack of leather soles. It looks and feels like a shopping centre for Amish pensioners. Or Port Merrion for people obsessed by 'latte'.
    Personally, I think the shopping experience here is depressing. I’ll go to shops that, on the outside world, I quite like, and at first I’ll laugh at the XXXXXXL-size branded polo shirts and awful colours that didn’t sell in the mainstream shop. But then I become aware of a brand using its badge to sell stuff no one wanted at full price to people who don’t want it, but are sufficiently motivated by status to buy junk with a status label on it. 
    The Village is really an exercise in the great American art of over-packaging, a place designed to intimidate you into respecting the brands so much that you forget that what they're selling is essentially failed product. And when you see a brand you like and respect taking part in that, it’s a bit depressing; you might think I’m daft to invest emotion in an international fashion brand, but the consumerism-age truth is that we all like to believe in the people we buy stuff from. In that respect we try to be innocent; and places like Bicester Village are where we go to have that innocence stripped away.

    Why Middle Class Men Are a bit rubbish At Choosing Trainers

    Flickr: Celeste Lindell
    There’s an occasionally held belief that British middle class males stick with the hairstyle that they had at school for their whole lives. Doesn’t matter if he suffers partial baldness, if a chap has his hair cut in a sort of Hugh Grant sweep when he’s in the sixth form – short back and sides with a foppishly long fringe – that’s the way he’ll keep it, through thick and thinning, for the rest of his days. 
    I think it’s the same with trainers. During his school days middle class chaps are not allowed to be slaves to trends with their choice of sneakers. They get one pair and make ‘em last. They don’t live near any big branch of J-D Sports and the idea that a pair of barely worn, perfectly presentable running shoes must be discarded because they just aren’t cool anymore is not a concept that is encouraged by their penny pinching parents. Ergo; what trainers MC types do get to own – sometimes for many years - take on a sentimental significance. 
    When it comes to buying a new pair in adult life - with his own money, now - a middle class man’s choice is governed by his heart and his innate sense of parsimony. Just as Dad sticks with the same style of brogues he’s had since early adulthood, the average MC trainers shopper is looking for longevity not fashionability. He wants to invest in a heritage brand, an old school design, a tried and tested classic. 
    For instance, when ever I go to get a new pair (which is not often – the price of these things!) I think I’m going into the store with an open mind. I’m not. Almost immediately, I ignore anything new and exciting and come out of the shop with the same Puma States/Adidas Stan Smith/Converse Jack Purcell that I’ve always had. Never in any special edition or fashionable new colourway.
    But the real rub here is….newness. The working classes love “box fresh” trainers, while deep down the middle classes are slightly embarrassed by them. 
    Personally I feel very self-conscious in shiny new white sneakers because all through my life it’s been drummed into me that newness in clothes, shoes and furniture is a bit…naff. 
    It’s like my er, man, Jay Z once said; “If you grew up with holes in your zapatos, you'd celebrate the minute you was havin’ dough….” Well, let’s be honest here. I didn’t. So I don’t. And that’s why you should never shop for new sneakers with a middle class berk like me… 

    The rise of the "vintage" Comic Relief T shirt; status symbol or skinflint money-saver?

    Flickr: Martin Pettitt
    At work on Friday we were having a “Fun Day” to raise money for Comic Relief.
    Lots of people were quietly getting on with, organising little events and donating money, while others seemed to be making more of a song and dance about it, as if wanting to prove that they were more dedicated to the cause than everyone else – and, of course, more wacky. Wackiness in this instance involving mainly spraying hair red, and donning comedy wigs and deely boppers.
    Lots of people were also wearing Comic Relief merchandise (noses, mainly, and a variety of Comic Relief t shirts) and I couldn’t help noticing how the people making the most fuss about showing support were wearing merchandise from previous Comic  Relief days. The lady in the red wig and Minnie Mouse ears wore a t shirt with Comic Relief 2007 proudly emblazoned across her bosom; another had a red nose so old that it was the hard plastic variety rather than more comfortable spongey type of recent years. The same thing happened when we held a fund raising day for Children in Need back in November. One member of staff who was selling Pudsey Bear t shirts, lost count of the number of people who said they didn’t want one as they had one from a previous year.
    I know that many of us are having to tighten our purse strings at the moment but surely this defeats the object of charity merchandise? I’m not sure if I could be missing something here. Are the wearers of this old merchanise treating it like a festival t shirt that you wear until it is threadbare to prove that you were once young and hip enough to go to festivals? Is an old Comic Relief number now like a badge of honour, allowing the wearer to prove you are much more dedicated to fundraising than the rest of us? Or are charity events now more about having fun than raising money?