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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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    Entries in L Jolly (10)

    Tuesday
    Feb052013

    How to be middle class: eat local food (from thousands of miles away)

    These days, we’re baking Victoria sponges and foraging for weeds like there’s no tomorrow. Remember the 1990s, when the exotic was compulsory and British food a crime? Despite our nursery food and vintage tea parties of 2012, the intrigue factor of the exotic just won’t let go. It’s a real MC dilemma: how to satisfy our appetite for exciting new flavours while sticking to our ‘make-do-and-mend’ agenda. How can we get away with seeking out the foreign when we’re supposed to be growing and baking our own?

    Waitrose seems to have cracked it with a global snack range featuring those two magical words – ‘street food’ – an ingenious compromise which allows exotic foods to retain cheerful, populist credentials. Their chorizo frittata pancakes and Vietnamese baguettes titillate our taste for the new without betraying the spirit of the times. They’re like eating a foreign version of pasties or mushy peas – authentic, cheerful local food. So now we can have exotic without looking too aspirational or show-offy. Perfect for 2013.

    Here’s a little bit more on how street food keeps food basic and modest while meeting our needs for a bit of excitement.

    Sunday
    Nov112012

    A trip to an Ancient Orient which only ever really existed in Britain, circa 1999

    If you want to take a trip back in time to the late 1990s or early 2000s, all you need to do is visit your local Rituals – a toiletries shop to be found in many posh high streets and train stations. 

    With product names including Yogi Flow, Energy Bubbles and T’ai Chi White Lotus, Rituals deserves full praise for taking us back to an era of unabashed Orientalist fantasy and mystical  aspiration. Remember Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? Rituals is that film – reincarnated as a shop. 

    In the late 1990s, every lifestyle brand wanted to be like Rituals. Ads for trendy warehouse flats always seemed to feature people sitting meditating on bare floorboards, a cup of green tea just within reach.  The language of ‘Mind, Body, Soul’ went mainstream, chic yoga studios appeared in every affluent neighbourhood, and self-purification became a major middle-class hobby. 

    Sadly, the Mystical East lost a lot of its allure as the middle classes re-discovered their Great British Heritage, staycations and baking.  Caravans in the rain, Victoria sponges, Kirstie Allsopp’s Home-made Home….culture has entered a more prosaic and stodgy mode. 

    But for those of us who can’t get over slight feelings of depression at all this hearty Britishness, a trip to Rituals is always an option. There, hesitating between the Shanti Chakra and the Xiu Xi body oil, the middle-class soul can enjoy a final trip to an Ancient Orient which only ever really existed in Britain, circa 1999.

    Sunday
    Nov042012

    The changing professional family portrait and what it reveals about modern MC life

    In the middle class home, there’s always been a special place on the wall for the professional family portrait. You can’t get more aspirational than to have your dynasty enshrined over the mantelpiece – just as aristocrats always have done in their stately homes.

    But these days, family portraits are looking very different from the staged groupings of old – with their protective patriarchs and studio backdrops.

    The most aspirational choice now for a middle-class family is to book a reportage photographer, who’ll spend half a day with them in the great outdoors, snapping the kids as they climb trees and catching photogenic moments on the fly.  The more spontaneous, fun and free the family seem, the better. 

     

    Wedding photography is going exactly the same way. For middle-class couples, the idea of smiling to the camera while cutting the cake has become unacceptably cheesy. Now the height of aspiration is, again, for natural-looking shots that show ‘unscripted moments’, to quote the Echo Falls line.

    This love of reportage casualness says so much about how MCs really want to be seen by others. While being very much bound by social conventions, MCs also dream of being individual, special and unique – not reducible to cliches and poses. In keeping with that quest, reportage-style photographs try to capture one-off moments that show people expressing their true selves.

    The trouble is, the reportage style is already congealing into its own set of cliches. Contemporary wedding photography has developed a real love of the ‘behind-the-scenes’ shot: nervous groom adjusting his cravat, bride having her make-up done, and so on. These shots rebel against the traditional stagey poses – but only to create a new set of poses. The MC quest for originality isn’t an easy one. 

    Flickr: jolien_vallins, Ernst Vikne, johnhope14

     

    Wednesday
    Oct172012

    How to be MC: Talk like a Shakespearean

    A love of archaisms isn’t shared across all the middle classes. But you do hear it. And it has a vital role to play for some middle-class speakers: creating a kind of ironically ornate speech that helps cover up self-consciousness and social anxiety. For example, when at a boring dinner party, and in desperate need of making a polite exit, say: It’s time to wend my weary way home. You can also preface statements with ‘methinks’ – a nice way to ask for something while still being ironic and playful about it. Methinks…the hour hath struck for our Monday morning gathering or Methinks…a cup of tea might be in order. 

    You hear archaisms particularly amongst middle-class men, who find social bonding even more complex than their female counterparts. The result is what we could call ‘Faux-Falstaffianism’ – a self-consciously affable, jovial tonality that helps men bond safely from an ironic distance. Unsurprisingly, ‘Faux-Falstaffianism’ is often heard in situations relating to drinking and pubs. ‘Chaps’ or ‘Sir’ may be appended to any of the examples below: Shall we repair to the bar? (easy) How about we partake in some fine ales? (intermediate) A-ha! Methinks I do espy a fine hostelry over yonder horizon! (advanced) 

    Wednesday
    Sep122012

    How to be middle class: gaining intellectual credibility  

    It’s all very well putting in the hours reading books and visiting exhibitions. But as a middle-class person with intellectual leanings, it’s also important to show the fruits of your labours to the world at large.

    The following words, spread evenly over your vocabulary, are an easy way to boost your intellectual credibility in any social setting.  They’ll give you the stamp of a sensitive soul well used to peering into life’s hidden depths. But also show a razor-sharp critical intelligence that won’t be suckered in by any second-rate effort.

    ‘Ambitious’

    Most average minds use the word ‘ambitious’ to describe people – ‘Johnny is a very ambitious lawyer’. Not so the intellectual, who uses it instead to describe artistic works (even better, ‘projects’).  Use it in this way and you’ll mark yourself out as a person of critical discernment. Say: ‘The Guardian Review is a very ambitious publication’.

    ‘Harrowing’

    ‘Harrowing’ is useful for when you need to show your artistically soulful and sensitive side.  Say ‘I found that film absolutely harrowing’ and you’ll instantly show your sensitivity to the human condition (unless you’re referring to Keith Lemon).  ‘Searing’ is another good option – if you’ve already used ‘harrowing’ too many times. 

     ‘Work’

    ‘Work’ might sound oddly mundane to be included in this list. But it depends how you use it.  If someone refers to a writer or film director you haven’t heard of, you can always say: ‘I’m not familiar with so-and-so’s work’. A simple technique, giving you intellectual cred even in the midst of admitting ignorance.

    ‘Cinematography’

    A staple in the middle-class intellectual’s vocabulary. After viewing a film, say to your companion: ‘wonderful cinematography!’ It shows you weren’t just suckered in by the romance and/or thrills, but that your viewing experience took place on a higher plane:  light, angles, and compositions.