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The Periodic Table of the Middle Class
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    Entries in Mr Bendle (6)

    Monday
    Jan242011

    Middle-class dilemmas: how and when to greet an acquaintance when they’re a long way off

    Flickr: Herry LawfordYour recent blog about using pub toilets reminded me of a similar street-etiquette problem that bothers me in a neurotic way. When you’re walking down a long, straight street and you see an acquaintance – not a good pal, nor someone you know only vaguely – who is walking towards you but a long way off, what do you do? I mean, do you smile and wave, and then avoid eye contact in the drawn out minutes as you approach each other? Or do you make a quick acknowledgement – just a raised brow, perhaps – and then fix them in your view as you prepare to converge? Or do you affect not to have seen them at all?

    Living on a long straight street, this happens to me quite often, and I must admit I usually go for the first option – but feel bit self-conscious afterwards. The fact that I can’t now think of what the any other person has ever done in return suggests that my mind is overly troubled by this manners issue; I can’t be sure it’s specifically middle class, but it does seem to me to be middle class to fret about it. If anyone has any liberating advice, I should love to hear it.

    Friday
    Jan072011

    The Friday Question: What to do about the awkward bag on seat problem?

    During the travel chaos over the holiday period, I was amazed by how often I looked for seats on buses or trains and found that people had placed their bags on seats to try to ensure a double seat for themselves when the journey began. I know it’s very English and uptight of me, but I never know quite what to say in this situation: should one stick with the indirect “Is anyone sitting there?” or go directly to “Can you move that bag please?” On trying the former, I have once been lied to – the person said yes, as if someone else owned the bag, but then treated it as their own as the journey progressed. On another occasion, I was just bare-facedly ignored, which was quite unsettling. 
     
    Does anyone else have a way of dealing with this? Does it bother you? What is the correct middle class etiquette? Anyone?
    Wednesday
    Dec082010

    A Middle-class Christmas hero: Respect, please ladies and gentlemen, for the early Christmas card sender

    Just over a week into December, it’s always interesting to tot up the number of one’s friends who were sufficiently organized to get their Christmas cards off in the first few days of advent.  This year it was four for our family – two of them from two generations of the same family, which suggests that the early habit is either genetic or passed down. It’s certainly a question of mindset and manners; unlike crass multiple mail-out businesses who send in November, the early-sender would never write or post before the start of December. One imagines them, a massed rank of to-do-list-crosser-offers with pens, cards, stamps and address books at the ready, barely able to wait until they can get going, get them off, and then move onto the next job of putting up the decorations. Not present buying of course; that was completed in October. 

    Wednesday
    Dec232009

    aromatherapy candle accidents: a hidden hell emerges

    "I was moved and vaguely consoled to read of Suburbanbuddha's middle class accident yesterday," writes Bendle. "For it reminded me of a middle-class accident of my own. A few years ago I was visiting a friend's house and needed to use his downstairs loo under the stairs. I don't wish to offend with detail, but I have to add here that it was for a number 2 (we are quite good friends - I find there is a certain limit in this respect). I noticed his wife had thoughtfully placed a scented candle and matches on a shelf above the loo itself, and I duly lit it. Alas, I somehow forgot I had lit the candle.

    You can imagine my confusion horror when, a few minutes after I got back to the kitchen, my friend's wife said "Can anyone smell something?" The real problem was that because the loo was under the stairs, the ceiling was low and sloping - the candle had had begun to scorch the paint, and much of the wall behind was black. They made light of it, but I felt terrible. I have certainly never lit a candle in a loo again. It's working-class aerosols all the way for me now."

    Friday
    Dec182009

    Saab: a tribute to one of the most meaningful middle-class cars ever made

    Bendle writes: When I was a kid in the 80s, we lived on a new Barratt estate in a village. Most of the families like us were run of the mill, with young kids, and dads who did jobs like sellling cars, or maybe teaching or vaguely techy stuff. They drove cars like Austin Montegos, Ford Sierras and Vauxhall Cavaliers; trustworthy, reliable-ish and just a tiny bit smug.

    But then there was this other family, the Emersons. Mrs Emerson was a single mum, having been divorced (I suppose the house on the estate seemed a safe bet having left her husband the big house). She was good-looking and fashionable, and I think she did something to do with psychology. The eldest daughter was 18, called Jocasta and looked like Alannah Currie out of the Thompson Twins. Her brother, Luke, was a punk with all the right clothes, and also very good looking. Mrs Emerson seemed quite at ease with her kids looking like freaks, which was quite weird in a little town like ours. 

    Anyway, my point is, what car did the Emersons drive? Of course it could only be a Saab - in this case the coolest possible Saab, ie a 92. Saabs - and I say this not an owner, just an admirer - are only ever driven by interesting people, often quite arty ones. They were so heavy and oddly-shaped that they showed you were committed to the brand and the idea, and THAT showed that you desperately wanted to make an indivdual choice in the market that makes the endless claims about expressing your personality for you while offering blandness in most models under £40,000. They were the only cars that felt a bit alternative and underground. And they were without doubt the most Hornby Set car in history. 

    Alas, a big company like GM was always going to struggle to cope with that; the days when a niche could be that small and specialised are probably over now - although electric cars may changes that. The Prius aside, the middle classes increasingly must define themselves by choices of particular models.