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The Book

Out now at Amazon | Waterstones

Middle Class Handbook on Twitter
Chattering Class

Prince Harry

Even republicans approve, surely?

Microwaving tea

Recommended by scientists, apparently. Disgusting

No televised election debates

Disappointing; we were rather looking forward to May vs The Sturge

Broadchurch

Olivia Coleman = nailed-on Future National Treasure

Spring Bank holidays

Too close together! Very bad!

Bin-mageddon

“I queued for THREE BLOODY HOURS at B&Q for a new recycling bin! The entire town’s in CHAOS”

S-Town

To be listened to whole on a long journey for maximum effect

Using a proper paper map

Strangely satisfying

The “Flash” Flash ad

It’s back! Possibly the best ever singing dog in an advert ever

Crap tacos

Reheated, with too much chilli: middle-class kebabs, basically

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The Periodic Table of the Middle Class
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    Friday
    Apr152011

    Men and their Mojitos - a waitress reveals a new side to modern men

    Flickr: janineomg
    When taking out drinks to a table, I remember the days I could simply assume the pint was for the man and the small glass of white was for the woman. I could set them down with a smile and not have to actually speak. The same applied to food - who the steak was for and where the plate of steamed fish was going could be guessed; nine times out of ten I’d be right. But all that is out of the window for waitresses now, gender based assumption is no longer safe. I offended some guy recently by placing his Campari and soda automatically in front of his wife. My faux pas was washed over as she made some joke. We all laughed, but when I looked closely, his eyes were shooting daggers at me, clearly appalled. Metrosexualism has very much filtered into menu and ordering patterns. Instead of sticking to the Stella, it seems men are finally comfortable with experimenting in restaurants and bars, and not just with their girlfriends. Gin and tonics, Rose spritzers, Malibu and pineapple, it seems to be about taste for them now, rather than consumption. Drinks dressed in paraphernalia aren’t a no-no for men anymore, and I’ve noticed cocktails becoming quite sought after where I work. Apparently Mojitos with the lads is an acceptable after-work activity amongst businessmen. 
     
    I’m discovering, slowly hovering with my tray at the table, I’ve got to ask what is going where. I hope this ‘fashion’ stops soon, I can’t read people anymore and it’s thrown my whole system. 
    Friday
    Apr152011

    THE FRIDAY QUESTION: CAN FILM MUSIC BE CLASSIFIED AS CLASSICAL MUSIC? 

    Gramophone Magazine, ‘the world’s authority on classical music since 1923’, has dedicated a recent issue to film music. There’s not much in its guide that’s likely to be a revelation to anyone in possession of even a fleeting interest in music and a pair of their own ears. The usual suspects are all present and correct – John Barry, Ennio Morricone (in a profile written by Hans Zimmer, of The Lion King fame!) and a handful of familiar French film soundtracks. But the venerable publication also poses what’s presumably a contentious question for its readership: can film music be classified as classical music?

    I don’t know about you, but like lots of middle-class people, film music has been serving the same purpose as classical music in my CD collection for as long as I’ve had a CD collection. Instrumental music that signifies the listener (me) can cope with something more cultured than Coldplay or Deadmau5, but where you’re under no obligation to know your concertos from your symphonies. Filed after ‘Z’ in my alphabetised CD library, my OST collection has grown to a reasonably impressive two-and-a-half-shelves worth over the years. The roots of my collecting go back to the days of being a slightly pretentious student. Not pretentious enough to attempt some Prokofiev or Mahler but pretentious enough to know that the soundtrack to 37°2 Le Matin (i.e Betty Blue) and The Good, The Bad And The Ugly looked good in the rack alongside The Queen Is Dead and Lloyd Cole. The Best Of Michael Nyman also enjoyed its airings in the Halls Of Residence – mainly because it reminded one of the fruity Peter Greenaway films he used to soundtrack. Then there was the girlfriend who used to use Vangelis’ Blade Runner as, oh dear, ‘mood music’.

    The OST collection has swelled as the disposable income has grown. Included therein are The Last Waltz (on boxset, natch). Pulp Fiction (from when Tarantino’s soundtracks commanded as much attention as his films). Koyaanisquatski (because it’s Philip Glass). The Italian Job and Get Carter (because they star Michael Caine). And The Wicker Man (obviously). Then there’s the real connoiseurish stuff: The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg for its kitsch appeal and Vampyros Lesbos: Sexadelic Dance Party, a collection of 1970s European ‘horotica’ soundtracks, because of its cool cover and the fact it’s available on import only.

    Do I ever listen to this stuff? Not really. But then a music collection isn’t just for listening to. None of my dinner party guests are going to get a conversation started based on Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 1/ 3S/ C. I mean have you seen the cover art to most classical CDs? It’s really boring. There’s not a gun or a 1960s Mini or a lesbian vampire in sight. 

     

    Thursday
    Apr142011

    Guide to wearing sunglasses in April without looking like a twat

    It’s a common dilemma at this time in the year: it’s a sunny day but it’s still nippy out. Do you wear sunglasses and risk looking like a Dulwich Mum/media twat/Primrose Hill celeb pretending they don’t want to be recognised? Or risk frying your retinas?

    Brief and totally unscientific research in one of South London’s bourgeois enclaves this weekend produced the following:

    Sitting at a pavement table outside a cafe – yes. Almost compulsory we’d say. Makes you look at ease with your cosmopolitan lifestyle. Accessorise with small dog. Also avoids premature frownies from too much squinting.

    Walking down the street (sunny side) – ok as long as street consistently sunny, not ducking in and out of shade. Sunnies must be removed when stopping to greet a friend.

    Walking down the street (shady side) – no, and not top of head. Tuck into pocket or cross the road.

    With Bermuda shorts and deck shoes, or a strappy dress – no. for God’s sake, it’s still only April.

    With coat (preferably puffy jacket) and scarf – good for working a sort of après ski or Rome in January look. Especially if you are sitting outside a café and have a small dog at your feet.

    An amendment is this rule is no hats, or more specifically tweed caps.

    Oversized quiff, 50s dress, or other retro styling – yes, as long as glasses match period

    Big sunglasses with conspicuous logos (Chanel, Dior, Gucci) – can be worn in any situation, indoor or out, at any time of year. Providing you are a rich expat or don’t mind being mistaken for one.

    On the school run – only if you drive a people mover or a Mini (probably to an independent prep school) and only if you don’t mind people thinking you do. 

     

    Wednesday
    Apr132011

    When Is It Time For A Man To Pull Up His Waistband?

    I’d say 24 years old is the cut off for a low-slung waistband. Why so young? Why so cruelly specific? Well, the whole concept of an unruly waistband playing a precarious game of frottage with one’s crotch and lower arse area came out of the US prison service. Gang-bangers would get arrested in their baggy jeans and have their belts (and shoe laces) confiscated to stop them attempting suicide by hanging. Consequently baggy denim trews would hang low and tough, showing off lots of underpant elastic. Shoes showed lots of tongue.  A look was born. 
      
    So, let’s fast forward back to the 24 year old cut off. Sorry to be definitively prescriptive here, but at that age, a British middle class man should really have worked through his morbid, comic book fascination with scary US gang culture. 
       
    Yes, he can carry on liking rap music, still nod his head to a Jay Z or Kanye tune at a wedding, but once he starts working for a living and finds a cut of suit (with proper trousers) that flatters him, defining deviancy down by trying to relate to slackers, surfers, moshers and skateboarders via some sort of mystical waistband semaphore becomes a bit, well…embarrassing. 
     
    You don’t have to go Clarkson or Cowell with your pants once you hit your quarter century. Just find a cut of trouser that actually fits properly, sits on your hips nicely, doesn’t infantilise your body, isn’t endorsed by the guys from JLS, doesn’t inspire you to break out into a chorus of “Pretty Fly For A White Guy” when you look in the mirror and doesn’t require a sideways skewed baseball cap to set it off.  Ditto skinny jeans. Sorry. 
    Tuesday
    Apr122011

    The mealtime names conundrum; what exactly ARE lunch, dinner, tea and supper?

    Flickr: Danielle Walquist Lynch
    One of the classic markers of class status in Britain is the naming of midday and evening meals. Traditionally, the working classes, and some among the lower-middles, eat dinner in the middle of the day, and tea in the early evening; the middle and uppers, meanwhile, eat lunch at 1pm and dinner at around eight with, possibly, tea thrown in at 4.
     
    In recent years, this has slipped a little. First, there is a discernible trend among the younger, liberal, urban middle classes – the ones who wish they were not middle class at all, dreaming of Alan Bennett-ish working class homes, or aristocratic wealth – to refer to the later evening meal as “tea”. Second, I hear more working class people than previously referring to “lunch"; I have no clue why that is, but would guess it has something to do with people eating more restaurant-based/fast food whose marketing always refers to “lunch”.
     
    The term that has always confused me, though, is “supper”. Nowadays, this seems to be the province of those towards the higher end of the middle-class spectrum, and vicars; “I wonder if you’d like to join us for a light supper to discuss the organ appeal” etc etc. Not being overly-familiar with this group, I have never been sure whether this version of “supper” is the same as “dinner” or something else; I’ve heard it said that it’s less formal than dinner, but would love to have this confirmed.
     
    And before anyone leaves comments, yes I know the working classes sometimes eat a snack at about 10 (or 11 if it's after the pub). My parents were fond of a bit of bread and dripping before turning in. However, I think this is on the way out, whereas if anything the middle-class version is on the rise.