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The Periodic Table of the Middle Class
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    The Normal-Actuallys:
    Chris and Alice

     

    Alice and Chris Normal-Actually are in their mid Thirties but actually both turned forty at age 22. They live in a capacious semi-detached house in a tree-lined street on the outskirts of a major conurbation. In fact, let’s be more specific here: Alice and Chris live in Esher, within air-rifle range of Sandown Park racecourse, where Chris’s firm has a corporate box for entertaining clients. Alice and Chris are British first, English second and Surrey third. Chris was brought up nearby, in Thames Ditton, and Alice is from Claygate. They met in a marquee at the wedding of some mutual friends – Chris’s buddy Roger Wilco from the office and Alice’s schoolmate Philippa (Knockers to her friends) - in the summer of 1993 and were married the next year. This summer, they celebrate ten years of marriage.

    Chris first met Alice at a corporate do (tup wanders, Flickr CC BY)

    Going forward (to use a phrase from Chris’s management training course) Chris had a seriously good 2003. He was headhunted by a very aggressive young firm of City fund managers last summer and it’s been full steam ahead on the work front ever since. Alice hardly sees him these days, what with the long hours, the work trips and all that corporate entertaining he has to do. Mind you she’s got her hands full with the kids, plus two days a week she helps out as a classroom assistant and then there’s all the charity work to fit in: this summer, she’s helping to organise a Yummy Mummys Fun Run to Dorking.

    Alice and Chris’ tastes are, for the most part, thoroughly contemporary. They like new things. To wit, the Audi Allroad, which is a recent replacement for the BMW saloon - a decent enough motor but not enough space for the kids (James, seven, and Madeleine, three and a half) and the Lab and all the flotsam and jetsam of family life. The best thing about the Audi is the sat-nav, which Chris is forever fiddling with, much to Alice’s irritation, even when he’s picking up the kids from their prep school or dropping Alice at yoga. Chris, you see, is a gadget nut. He loves a good power tool (DeWalt for preference, Black & Decker if you must), he’s got a sit-on lawnmower, and he’s forever fiddling with the Dell laptop he brought home from work (they’ve just had broadband installed at home – for the kids). Don’t even get him started on the Philips flatscreen telly, the Roberts retro radio (Chris loves retro stuff – one day he wants an E-type Jag), the multi-region DVD, the Sky + box, the digital camera, the camcorder, the kids’ X-Box...

    Where to spot Normal-Actuallys

    • In the car park at Twickenham rugby stadium, enjoying an elaborate barbecue.
    • On the platform at a home counties railway station, waiting for the 7.05am train for Liverpool Street
    • Sending the food back (loudly) at Café Rouge. “I said bleu. This thing’s burned to a bloody crisp!”
    • Getting the pop culture questions wrong on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
    • On the board of governors at your child’s school.
    • In the director’s box at Manchester United, the beer tent at the Derby, the Royal enclosure at Ascot, the hospitality area at the British Grand Prix, on the lawn at Glyndebourne, in the throng at the last night of the Proms, in the lift at John Lewis, at the fish counter in Waitrose, in dinner jacket and ball gowns at a charity bollock (“ball”)
    • In the traffic jam for the Eurostar at the Avignon terminal

    What to look for – Mr Normal-Actually

    • Stout thighs
    • Thick neck
    • Sunburn
    • Oakleys
    • Short hair, apparently cut this morning
    • Gap chinos
    • Blazer from the Boden catalogue
    • TM Lewin shirt
    • Rugby club tie
    • Leather document wallet
    • Other clothes sourced from a variety of reliably blokey retailers: Cotton Traders, Racing Green and Hackett, as endorsed by Johnny Wilkinson
    • Timberlands for weekend, Loake for work
    • Watch by Tag
    • Signet ring

    What to look for – Mrs Normal-Actually

    • High-waisted Gap jeans (mud from dog-walking around ankles)
    • Boating shoes
    • Indeterminate rugby shirt or fleece in winter, polo shirt (collar up) in summer
    • Perfect blonde bob
    • Healthy glow
    • Silver coffee bean necklace (provenance: Tiffany, circa 1998)
    • Barbour jacket
    • Pearls
    • Shoes by LK Bennett

    Chris’s Heroes

    • Clive Woodward – he’s a bloody good man manager
    • Michael Howard – grabbed the party by the scruff of the neck
    • Boris Johnson – “Did you see him on Have I Got News For You? Hysterical!”

    Chris’s Top Birds

    • Carol Smilie (I’ll put a bloody smilie on her)
    • Gabby Logan (married to a rugby player)
    • Britney NOT Christina

    Normal-Actually / Not Normal-Actually

    The Sunday Times / The Sunday Sport
    Ground Force / Cribs
    The Darkness / Marilyn Manson
    Radio Five Live / XFM
    National Portrait Gallery / Tate Modern
    The Spectator / Prospect
    European holidays / Thailand
    Question Time / What Sadie Did Next
    Watching Notting Hill / Living in Notting Hill
    Fancy dress / Fashion
    Helen Fielding / Monica Ali
    Indigestion remedies / Congestion charging
    Friends reunited / Friendster
    Ricky Gervais / Johnny Vegas
    Booze / Drugs
    Finding Nemo, losing the car keys / Finding God, losing the will to live
    Gordon Ramsay / Laurence Llewellyn Bowen
    Wife Swap / Big Brother
    Johnny Wilkinson’s Hackett ads / Freddie Ljungberg’s Calvin ads
    Busted / Blue
    Courtney Cox / Courtney Love