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The Book

Out now at Amazon | Waterstones

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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 blonde M (4)


    Fridge raiders: appalling snacks we suddenly lust for after a drunken night out  

    It’s not big or clever, but we’ve all done it: stumbling into the kitchen late at night after one too many Riojas at the office Christmas party, desperate for something to soak up the booze, but not quite possessing the wherewithal to concoct a proper supper. Our usual levels of discernment and good taste go out the window. Often, of course, we’ll only realise what we’ve done when we discover the empty packets and remnants the next morning. And sometimes we see evidence of an attempt to MC up an appalling snack. Which just makes it more depressing.

    Here are some of the worst offenders:

    • Babybel or Dairylea: You know somewhere in the back of your mind that the nice goat’s cheese is earmarked for the Christmas Day starter. So you grab a Babybel or Dairylea, usually reserved only for your children’s lunch box.
    • Things directly from jars: Expensive little nuggets that you’d never ordinarily just guzzle down in one go, but when drunk it seems perfectly reasonable to stand there with the fridge door open eating straight from the jars. Chorizo, olives, dolmades, those little spicy peppers stuffed with soft cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts. Apparently anything goes.
    • Mini Pizzas: You know they’re at the back of the freezer somewhere, saved for those evenings when you can’t be bothered to make the kids a ‘proper dinner’. The mini pizza is perfect for a drunken snack. Often eaten post crisps, Babybel and chorizo – you needed something to tide you over while you waited of course.  
    • Inappropriate things on toast: There is something slightly desperate about pesto on toast, but even worse is hummus on toast. Reserved for the truly tiddly. 
    • Crisps: An immediate answer to your increasing hunger. Often consumed more than one bag at a time and as crisps are usually kept in the house for kids, you find yourself hoovering down Monster Munch, Pom Bears and Wotsits. 
    • Fish finger sandwiches: Made with fish fingers pilfered from the kids’ drawer of the freezer. Your drunk self decided that a smear of tartare sauce would make it more respectable.




    The Christmas round robin is something of a quandary to the upstanding MC.

    They’re commonly seen as rather naff, but we feel here it’s time for them to make a comeback to the fold of acceptability.

    In our digital age, it’s actually rather nice to hear other’s people’s news in hard copy. They’re a throwback to a pre-Facebook world, where you had to make a real effort to communicate news with people you no longer see on a frequent basis.

    If you’re going to indulge, here are a few guidelines to bear in mind when writing round robins that will ensure the recipients aren’t inspired to burn you in effigy:

    • Don’t be smug, however tempted you are. Modesty, that MC watchword, is key. Your teenaged daughter might well be on her way to being the youngest person ever to decode a genome, but it’s best skimmed over with a suitably understated “Holly is doing rather well at work, although I fear she still hasn’t grasped the politics of the office tea round”.
    • Keep mentions of children to a minimum. Passing references to mainstream exams are fine, but extensive detail of the achievements of musical grade exams are not.
    • Light inconsequential anecdotes are ideal round robin fodder. Have you found just the right place to stand on the platform to ensure you get a seat on the morning commute? Or how about mentioning that time that you saw that chap from Gardener’s World in Waitrose?
    • Do strike a balance between good and bad news. No one wants to hear from the perfect family of overachievers, but being maudlin is not festive. This is neither the medium nor the audience to go unleash your inner Jonathan Frazen.
    • Serious news is best passed off lightly, and self-deprecation is key. Slipping the serious stuff into a paragraph somewhere in the middle after the cat’s unfortunate attempts at snaffling the family goldfish earns you maximum MC points. 

    Flickr: Catchesthelight 


    How to be middle class: The Great Amalgamation

    It used to be ever so easy. A nice chap would propose to a nice girl, and after they got married, they’d move into their new home to unpack the household items they’d popped onto their gift list (John Lewis, naturally) and all was well.

    Now, not so. You live with friends and flatmates, dating on and off and on again until you eventually find someone who doesn’t leave the loo seat up or put regular, not-extra virgin olive oil on salad (the horror).

    So by the time you choose to indulge in the now ubiquitous pre-marriage state of cohabitation with someone who dresses their salad correctly, you’ve already got all the essentials you need, and moving in with the other half results in The Great Amalgamation of Stuff.

    As one currently going through The Great Amalgamation, I can now confirm that the (non-exhaustive) list of things now available to me in duplicate and thus clearly vital for a middle-class life are:


    -       Heavy-bottomed frying pan

    -       Cafetière

    -       IKEA bedside table lamp

    -       Electric hand whisk

    -       Oil and vinegar drizzlers

    -       DVD player

    -       iPhone (several)

    -       Wine rack (er, several several)

    -       Champagne flutes

    -       Nigel Slater cookbook

    -       Single malt, Tanqueray 10

    -       Photographs of long-term trips to Eastern Africa

    -       Times’ subscription

    -       Hungarian goose duvet

    -       Fairtrade anything


    The Friday Question: Is it time we launched a Kitemark for Balsamic Vinegar?

    Are there any middle class staples stapler than a good bottle of balsamic vinegar? I think not. But I’ve recently been disappointed to find that an acceptable bottle of Modena’s finest is becoming increasingly tricky to track down.

    Obviously, you can’t just grab any bottle that you happen upon in your grocer of choice. Buying the cheap ‘n’ nasty stuff is like buying cheap bin bags: a thoroughly false economy. Nothing more than tart water, it’ll ruin caramelised onions beyond recovery. And you can’t rely on the ‘organic’ label either – disappointingly often it signifies nothing more than pesticide-free tart water. But who in these times of austerity really, truly, honestly wants to fork out thirty quid for what is essentially salad dressing? Especially when it can turn out to be less vinegar, more overly sugary glaze. And then what’s a person to do?

    What’s desperately needed is some sort of Balsamic Kitemark to let the discerning condiment enthusiast know quite what they’re getting, saving the endless mid-aisle, bottle-tipping, through dark glass-peering, viscosity-testing guessing game. I hear a petition calling…