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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 Malika B (8)


    10 ways to bend the rules MC style  

    Hot on the heels of Chris Huhne's recent admission that he is after all, guilty as hell, it made us wonder which rules it is ok to bend, albeit slightly. We all know that the middle classes are too neurotic and self-conscious to be downright dishonest. But that doesn’t mean that we’re averse to a bit of rule bending when we know that nobody will be hurt or endangered as a result, and when there is little risk of being caught.

    Based on a poll of about three people, here are the top 10 favourite middle-class cheating tactics. Can you bear to share yours?

    1. Paying the VAT-free take away price for food at Pret and then eating in
    2. Lending your Royal Academy card out to friends so they can see blockbuster exhibitions without paying or queuing
      “They never look closely, and there’s no photo on the card” is what your friend says as she hands it to you, adding “Do you want my Tate one too?”. This also applies to Royal Horticultural Society cards, with which members can buy their friends tickets for the Chelsea Flower Show.
    3. Attending your local church in order to get your children into the local Church of England primary school
    4. Nipping into Nespresso for your free morning espresso, claiming to want to sample their latest flavour
      Extra points if you are brave enough to confess to fellow sippers your opinion that all Nespresso flavours taste exactly the same.
    5. Handing on or accepting Pay-And-Display parking tickets if there is still parking time left on them
      This happens a lot in middle-class haunts such as Battersea Park.
    6. When asked by the Sainsbury’s self-check-out machine how many of your own bags you used so the machine can reward you with the appropriate number of Nectar points, grossly inflating the number
      NB. The maximum you can type in is 9.
    7. Re-using unfranked postage stamps by soaking them off and gluing them onto a new envelope
      Naughty. (And surely what led to the invention of the self-adhesive stamp.)
    8. Stealing hotel bath foam and shampoo bottles when on business trips, for resale at your children’s school Christmas fundraising fete, packaged in beribboned cellophane
      Stealing bath robes is in a league of its own.
    9. Booking flights to the US around Thanksgiving, knowing that it’s a popular time and that airlines frequently bump people onto other flights with the lure of free air miles
    10. Wearing the Boden clothes you ordered once and then returning them with the Free Returns
      Sorry Johnny, but you have to insist, like ASOS does, that returns come with tags still attached. 

    Middle classes and moustaches: an awkward relationship  

    Moustaches are having a moment. Look around you. They are everywhere – as cookie cutters and stick-on moustaches, and featuring on teen jewellery, children’s t-shirts, mugs and even Accessorize purses. And yet, real moustaches make us very awkward. 

    Like academic bow-ties, they look great on Americans (Tom Selleck, Ted Turner), but not on us, thank you. Plenty of people can somehow get away with a nice ’tache: sportsmen (Daley Thompson and Ian Botham), comedians (Borat, Charlie Chaplin), toffs (Lord Lucan, RAF officers before a certain date), and older working class men can happily sport the ‘Old Liverpudlian’ (like Terry’s in Brookside), but you’d be hard-pressed to find a middle-class Englishman in the street with one. (Peter Mandelson’s 1990s moustache, wheeled out by picture editors whenever the country needs cheering up, was a mistake Mandy quickly rectified – and up the career ladder he subsequently slid).

    So, what’s the story behind the moustache motifs littering the high street? Are they the legacy of the increasingly popular Movember movement, which encourages middle-class men to grow a 30-day moustache to raise money for charity (an activity so beloved of MCs)? Or just a cute craze, like the Russian dolls we experienced a couple of years back? Whichever it is, it’s certainly the sign of a country that is not comfortable with facial hair; you’d never see moustache cookie cutters in Turkey.



    Last year between Christmas and New Year, I went to Paris. It was cold and pretty empty, and there were still sparkly lights in the streets. But what really struck me was the fact that there wasn’t a single SALE (or SOLDES) sign to be seen anywhere. When I asked French friends, they replied that the government hadn’t yet given the signal for the sales to start, and that this might happen sometime in mid to late January. Unthinkable in Britain!

    In France, money and shopping are still seen as dirty; Napoleon’s label of Britain as a nation of shopkeepers was intended as a slight, but little did he realise that we view shopping, and even better, sale shopping, or queuing overnight for the sales, as a national badge of honour. It’s as if we collectively enjoy cheating the retailer out of his margin, and it’s something that, like war, unites every class. It fits with the very middle class and very British habit of responding “Oh this old thing! I got it in the sale!” when paid a compliment. It’s all part of the increasingly widespread culture of not paying full price for anything.

    French visitors to London are always shocked when they see signs advertising a “Lingerie Sale” - in French it translates as ‘dirty knickers’, further proof that sales are a filthy business. As if January wasn’t depressing enough, our shops are strewn with sad sale items crying out to be taken home: racks of half-hung clothes, tables laid with half-opened boxes, piles of mismatched shoes, all marked with those red and white “Was/Now” stickers, reminding us how much we overpaid before Christmas for the same things and what things should really cost. It’s a good moment when spring collections sweep in later in the month, and the nation tidies up.



    First came the ladies of the night, and then the fur-clad oligarchs’ molls. And now, the most visible Russian woman in our cities is the matryoshka, with her cute headscarf and her dumpy round figure.

    A brief Christmas shopping spree will reveal them all; everywhere you turn, it seems, she is there. Just like that Dr Zhivago theme tune, she will just not go away. The cutesy, comforting curves of the matryoshka graces a puzzling array of fashion and homeware products at the moment.  In one brief outing to Oxford Street last week I saw Russian dolls on girls’ knickers and a child’s rug (both M&S), measuring cups (Topshop),  and Oyster card holders. While  window-shopping online I came across a hand-blown carafe engraved with a matryoshka, a pendant and a ring in the shape of the comely matron, matryoshka cookie cutters, a chopping board, and an apron.

    In each case, the traditional doll’s Slavic red, yellow and black colour scheme had been replaced by a more marketable pink aimed at the teenage market,  a whole demographic for whom the terms “USSR” or “Former Soviet Union” and images of babushkas queuing with string bags in bread lines will be as odd as it is for anyone over 30 to see the resurgence of the matryoshka as a cute branding tool.


    The 'x' factor

    First she addresses you by your first name in an email. Then you speak on the phone and she  says to “leave it with me darlin’”. So far so sweet. And then, the final insult: she (for it is always a she, somehow) signs off her latest message with an x after her name.

    Now it would be fine if you knew or had even met this person. But a recruitment consultant trying to find you a job, or an estate agent trying to sell your house? You wouldn’t kiss them hello in person, so why is it that the innocent x is becoming more and more a feature of exchanges with a certain type of person?
    Is the rise of texting  to blame? Since we don’t need to sign off with our name (since the recipient presumably has it stored in his or her phone), an x is a convenient way to end the message. Or is it the more grown-up version of the dreaded emoticon? Or is it just today’s equivalent of the circle above the i, so beloved of secretaries and other owners of pink biros?