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The Book

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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


Olivia Coleman = nailed-on Future National Treasure

Spring Bank holidays

Too close together! Very bad!


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


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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    Entries in Billy R (4)


    The curious attraction of other people's shower gel

    I have to say that many of the Christmas presents that have a bad name these days are actually favourites of mine. Socks, for example; as I never buy a really nice pair for myself, being given one is always a delight. Ditto scented candles and glove/scarf sets. And I would particularly add to this shower and bath gels – which, being a man, I am not given half as often as I would like.

    Shower gel is a secret passion of mine, and I associate it with Christmas because over the festive period I usually go to stay with my brother whose wife works for a well-known chemist and always has a lavish stock of new and unusual gels and creams in her pristine bathroom. I assume the etiquette is not to use too much shower gel when staying somewhere as it seems to be taking the mickey somewhat but this suits me fine when staying at Stuart and Pam’s, because I sample them all. My favourite last year was a Body Shop Satsuma, which with its almost lickable tangerine-y scent seemed good for Christmas.

    Indeed I liked it so much that in the New Year I bought some for myself, and yet somehow it never smelled as good and fresh as it had at their house. This is typical; whenever I buy a shower or bath product I have enjoyed somewhere, it never seems quite as good in my own house  (the exception to this rule is Imperial Leather original, which I don’t mind at home but find cheap elsewhere). I’ve always wondered if other people have the same experience – is anyone else on the same hopeless quest for scents that can never be recaptured, or am I just a weirdo? Has any other normal person been excited to take home a Radox Mint and Tea Tree, and then found it to evoke cough sweets rather than the mood of a balmy weekend in Cornwall?

    If anyone has, I should love to know; it would make me feel less weird and lonely as exfoliate aromatically in Northumberland on December 29th. 


    British football's poshest players: the final XI

    To date our middle class footballers XI has taken in schooling and family history. From these an armature of covertly educated, professionally sired, unassumingly bourgeois footballers has emerged to make up the basis of our team. However, there is, of course, much more to the concept of class than this.

    There is a kind of middle class X-factor, an attitude as much as a set of status symbols. There are footballers who qualify for other reasons. David James, for example, has had his car converted to run on eco-friendly bio fuel. James also has voluble opinions, writes a column for the Observer and made a slightly embarrassing (but somehow deeply middle class) issue out of who was going to pay the washer ladies at Portsmouth when the club went into administration. England midfielder Gareth Barry has named his two young children Freya and Oscar. He may or may not be middle class; they certainly seem to be. Theo Walcott is from a village in Berkshire and has jarringly good manners. He is regularly taunted by opposition fans for (in all seriousness) his politeness. Perhaps most subtly middle class of all: Michael Owen lives in a Grade 2 listed country manor house in north Wales which he has faithfully restored in historically appropriate  fashion. No faux-Tesco pillars. Just period detail, the catnip of the bourgeoisie. 

    At the end of all of which we finally have our middle class XI, arranged in a 4-4-2 formation:

    David James (eco-fuel car)

    James Milner (father a quantity surveyor); Clarke Carlisle (GCSEs); Nedum Onuoha (mum has PhD); Andrew Frampton (Lancing)

    Theo Walcott (polite); Frank Lampard (private school); Gareth Barry (posh kids); Robin Shroot (slightly better private school)

    Peter Crouch (dad works in advertising); Michael Owen (period detail manor house). 

    Not a million miles from a current England side, you'll notice. Does this tell us something about the future? Perhaps if Fabio just culls the chavs like Rooney and Terry, we'll be sorted.


    WHo are British football's poshest players? Part 2

    Our middle class football XI has so far taken in the notion of the privately educated footballer, with his covert swag-bag of GCSE’s and his quietly hoarded knowledge of long words. It has always been a furtive existence as a modern day (ie. post about 1873) middle-class footballer. How much worse, then, when it’s that great middle class embarrassment, your family, that ties you to the bourgeoisie.

    James Milner comes from a jarringly comfortable background. His father is a quantity surveyor, his mother an upmarket estate agent. “We lived in a nice house in a nice area,” Milner has said, ticking two very significant boxes. England striker Peter Couch is also a bit different. Crouch grew up in Ealing. His father is a very successful advertising executive and family legend has it Crouch’s first words were in Mandarin: Crouch snr’s career took the family to Singapore for several years.

    Manchester City’s England Under-21 defender Nedum Onuoha also scores highly: his mother has a doctorate in environmental sciences and his father is a maths teacher. Onuoha lived in Nigeria until he was five (‘I do recall we had house helps’) went to school in England and has three A’s at A-level. Asked where his defender could be found at City’s training ground Onuoha’s former manager Stuart Pearce famously replied "probably splitting the atom or something around the back." Such, sadly, is still the lot of the educated middle class footballer. 


    Who are British football's poshest players?

    It is now commonplace to state (usually with a sigh of appalled resignation) that football in England has become “middle class”. Not that this is anything football has any business feeling pleased about. In this context “middle class” means effete, cynical and inauthentic (rather than, say, mild, orderly and well-educated).

    In practice, however, the game itself isn’t very middle class at all. The periphery may have been tarted up, but the Premier League’s playing staff is still drawn almost entirely from a pool outside the still-dormant talents of the middle classes.  There are green-shoots, however. And with a new season upon us, the notion of a middle -class strain of footballer is no longer completely fanciful. We thought that by drawing on certain trusted badges of bourgeois status, it shoud even possible to cull a middle-class side from the current playing personnel - and so, to mark the beginning of the new season, the Middle Class Handbook, is assembling its own fantasy XI. 

    The most obvious measure is, of course, education. Frank Lampard is often cited as the only privately educated current top flight player (Lampard went to Brentwood School, alma mater of Robin Day and the chief economist of the Bank of England: he has a GCSE in Latin). But there are others. Clarke Carlisle of Burnley studied Maths and Politics at the same west London college as Britain’s leading palaeontologist. Robin Shroot, Birmingham City midfielder and Northern Ireland U21 international was educated the very solid Alleyn's School (as were Jude Law, Pixie Geldof and V S Pritchett). And not quite Premier League, but certainly PLU (and the most jarring class mash-up football has yet provided) Millwall’s current left back Andrew Frampton went to Lancing College. “I get a few comments, but that is part of football,” Frampton has said, being, above all, very middle class about it. BR

    Already we have a middle class XI  - politely, even diffidently - taking shape. On Tuesday and Wednesday we'll be adding more until we have a side to rival the best - in terms of manners at least.