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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 Polly P (33)


    Which is really the more middle-class, morning suit or lounge?

    Flickr: andybullock77

    Nice to see that the debate about what political leaders should wear to the Royal Wedding, i.e lounge suit or morning suit, has now even got to the serious-minded politicos on LabourList. The subject may be popular, and many may feel they have a valid opinion, but I’d like to point out some basic errors in the debate. Most of the lefties, like the BBC reporters when the 10 O'Clock News did the story, believe that the morning suit is basically for toffs while lounge is for The People. As someone who works at a Register Office in a large Northern English city, I would question this. True, most of our parties are working class, and most don’t wear morning suits, but a lot of them do – and I would go so far as to say that it’s now more working class to have a big showy set of wedding costumes, while the more middle-class people are more subtle and dressed down. I’d say that if Ed Milliband really wants to show solidarity with the masses, he should get a battered-looking morning suit on hire, preferably with the waistcoat straining over his belly. And his wife should expose plenty of flesh. I can’t  believe how much skin some women get out at our ceremonies these days, but I suppose that is a very different story. 


    Reclaiming the Muffin 

    Time was not so very long ago that ‘muffin’ meant a cakey thing filled with blueberries. It was a national travesty that our good old British yeast leavened toastable treat had been overshadowed by this brash American confection; humiliated into having to adopt the prefix English muffin to avoid messy blueberry-and-poached-egg related confusion.

    But the revolution has happened and the traditional muffin has reasserted itself. It may have started with artisanal bakeries looking for ever more specialist types of bread rolls to give choice-obsessed customers incapable of being satisfied by just ‘a roll’. Or possibly in the sorts of local café frequented by homeworkers and Bugaboo owning parents, offering nursery food like porridge, or Marmite on toast. Or maybe even (though we’d rather not think it) with the Egg McMuffin.

    Now, not since the fabled Drury Lane Muffin Man has it been easier to get your hands on a muffin. Wholesome brands such as Kingsmill and Allinson have been quick to pick up on the trend. This week they’re two for a £1 in Iceland, and Sainsbury's is stocking at least four different names, including its own Basics range.

    And whither the American muffin? Gone the same way as the fairy cake, overshadowed by its compatriot the cupcake.



    Honeysuckle; colour of the year, apparently, though we’re not sure which one

    We were intrigued to read that Pantone, the company of the clever colour-matching system, has declared Honeysuckle to be the colour of 2011. Leaving aside the fact that the colour looks very un-honeysuckle-ish, it looked a little too close to one of the shades of pink that are now commonly used for products aimed at ladies who like to make a big deal of owning lots of pink things. And since owning lots of pink things has been a bit of a, er, thing, for at least the last ten years, it’s hard to know if Pantone are out of step, or else so far ahead that they feel the time is right to start a revival.

    I have to say I’d quibble with the latter point While a lot of women have moved on from the pink thing, it’s still popular – at least it is in the suburbs of Leeds where I live. Personally I find ostentatious pink common, and fuschia pink as good as a Burberry check for showing how sophisticated you are(n’t); I certainly shan’t be investing in “honeysuckle” any time soon. 



    Christmas countdown: when does it really begin for you?

    Back on December 11 I tweeted that my family had bought our Christmas tree and put up our decorations, and received a reply from EnglishPerugina suggesting that this was too early for the English middle classes. English Perugina favoured December 23; for me this would be far too late, but the point is that different people have very defined, and very different ideas about when Christmas is really underway. Below are the start points for the main Christmas tribes; how do you start yours?

    November 6 - The Maximalists

    Really love Christmas, and get going once Bonfire Night’s over and the ads begin in earnest. Decorations up on December 1, cry when they’re taken down. Traditionalists.

    The first Sunday of Advent - The Classicists

    Genteel, churchy and likely to be older; begin writing Christmas cards when the first candle on the Advent crown is lit, but prefer restrained decoration and a small tree

    December 11 – The Personal Organisers

    Buy tree a week after they go on sale because unable to rest until job is ticked off list. Spend 2 months trying to get organized in advance, but always fail. A bit neurotic.

    December 18-ish/Publication of the Radio Times Christmas issue - The Christmas Specials

    Like to make the most of the season but don’t like to spread it too thin. Prefer home-based festivities, and big on nostalgia. Enjoy planning viewing.

    December 20th-ish – last Friday before Christmas – the Office Party Posse

    Probably under 30. Don’t think much about it until the work drink on last Friday before breaking up. Spend final few days frantically buying gifts and avoiding colleague they snogged at the drinks do.

    December 23 The Minimalists

    Favour perfunctory decoration and celebration, and consider most of it commercial nonsense, apart from the hearty walks - and possibly hunting.

    December 25th The Drinkers

    Loath the season, and put it off at last minute by getting drunk on the 24th - only to wake with a hangover that makes it all seem even worse. Don’t decorate at all if they can help it.

    The Middle Class Handbook: The Hornby Set – What’s on The Hornby Set’s Olive Oil label?

    The Hornby Set is one of The Middle Class Handbook’s social tribes. A visit to their house is pleasant enough yet somehow exhausting. Why? Because every detail of everything you do/eat/look at has a complex significance that has to be explained to you.

    The Hornby Set avoid your kind of olive oil, for instance, because while it says Italian, unless you buy single estate, the olives are probably imported from Spain and merely pressed in Italy. What's on their olive oil label?

    1. Caption referring to the Fairtrade co-operative that produced the oil 
    2. Reverse: lengthy biography of the Fairtrade co-operative that produced the oil, with details of the area in which the olives were grown, written in straightforward English without post-Innocent drinks childlike tone, which The Hornby Set now considers done to death and suspect
    3. Country of origin (Palestine: olive trees are not actually native to Italy, Jonathon likes to tell guests)
    4. Picture of single-estate olive grove belonging to co-operative
    5. Fairtrade logo (actually The Hornby Set think fair trade is suspect as trade undermines local food supply. However, Nabali olives are indigenous to Palestine, so that’s ok)
    6. GMO free
    7. Guide to taste and aroma of the oil
    8. Biodynamic
    9. Cold pressed (not for cooking then!)
    10. Signature of presser, details of mill and date of pressing
    11. Hand-picked olives (more expensive, but the harvesting machines bruise the olives, which ruins them)
    12. Rousing, semi-political slogan

    More about The Hornby Set