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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

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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    « Chattering class: Middle-class conversation topics for the dark winter nights of November | Main | How to be middle class: ORDINARY, WORKING CLASS PLEASURES THAT ARE ENJOYED BY THE MIDDLE CLASSES IN A SPECIAL WAY »
    Friday
    Nov052010

    The best bag in Britain: why a small London book chain's bag lifts the spirits of middle-class Londoners

    These days you can’t walk anywhere in London without seeing a Longchamp nylon shoulder bag, or an imitation of one. And yet until recently, the French designer luggage brand’s black or tan bags were only seen on the arms of French mamans delicieuses around the Lycee at South Kensington. Now the practical and roomy accessories – real or fake, as sold on stalls on Oxford Street - seem to be as much a part of the ultilitarian urban uniform as wellies.

    As London’s middle class areas become increasingly continental (several cafes in Chelsea and Kensington now close, French-style, for the whole of August) and the wave of foreign money dilutes London’s class-led character and Britishness, it is becoming harder to spot authentic, home-grown middle class symbols. Gone now are the battered old Volvos driven by mothers with unbrushed hair outside posh London schools. All is now manicured, caramel-toned and in the case of cars, highly polished with tinted windows (the rich’s attempt at low-key).  Houses in the wealthiest areas of London, formerly inhabited by middle class families, have been “bankerfied”, their front gardens and personality ripped out and replaced by electric gates, security systems, plastic-looking topiary pots, slate paving and gravel.

    Thank goodness, then, for the Daunt’s Bookshop cloth book bag. Whenever I see one, it reassures me that there are still some upper middle class people out there who like things unflashy. These are the old-money, low-fuss Londoners who would never shop at Harrods, and who go to the opera at Convent Garden but hop on the Number 19 bus home afterwards.

    There are two types of bag – the white cotton version or the dark green canvas one, and both styles are made by re-wrap, a ‘not-for-profit organization working with co-operatives in India’, further enhancing the bag’s honest credentials. You can either buy them in one of Daunt’s three branches or you can spend so much on books that you are given one for free.

    A friend recently spotted one a long way from a Daunt’s branch, in New York, and we discussed the volumes it speaks about the wearer. First of all it tells you, obviously, that he or she buys books and uses environmentally-sound cloth bags. Secondly, that they buy travel books, (preferably published by Eland), hinting that the bag wearer travels to places other than Gstaad. And finally, the understated wealth associated with the bag comes from the location of the bookshop’s branches in Chelsea, Cheapside, Hampstead, Belsize Park, Holland Park and Marylebone. 

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    Reader Comments (6)

    I like your point about bankerfication. I have to walk past a row of these in Chalk Farm (doubtless they claim it's Primrose Hill) whenever I take Violet to school and after five years my urge to set fire to them is undiminished. Box trees in square metal pots, expensive wooden flooring with horrible carpet, and worst of all the uncanny ability to choose the worst colours from Farrow and Ball so that it might as well be Dulux (City taste in a nutshell; having no imagination, they only want the same things as other people, but need to pay more for it).

    November 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSpellman

    Since I agree 100% with the original article and the follow up comment I'd be interested to know how each of you fine, refined, undserstated but upstanding memebers of the mc's react to each item included in the top 20 vitrous mysery list?

    November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGareth

    i agree - its just an obsession with "stuff" and having as much of it as possible - taste is an entirely subsidiary issue. bring on the daunt bags - an icon of sensibility at every level. but its very difficult to avoid the "stuff" - i went to my kids school fireworks on friday - sorry not the school fireworks - they were in fact the "hideous corporate sponsor" (i cannot bring myself to name and shame) school fireworks. of course!

    November 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterfrances

    gareth:

    Bob Dylan - love his 60s and 70s work but i can understand objections - critics are too kind to him

    Beatles - lennon and revolver are overrated but to not get the beatles is to have a bit of your humanity missing

    Proust - People who don't like Proust are inferior to me and should just read picture books and The Sun

    Sex In The City - Up to the second film would have said objectors need to relax and get a sense of humour

    Miles Davis - in total agreement if it's Bitches Brew

    White Teeth - in total agreement. The biggest hype of the 90s. Tho I don't think one should hate Zadie Smith for that

    Hyped history books - more agreement. Except Kynaston

    Fight Club - this might be my no 1 virtuous misery. I don't get it.

    The Wire - I take this to be reaction to critical overkill - or see Proust.

    Monty Python - some sympathy for this. I'm not sure how well a lot of it stands up now.

    Ian McEwan novels and similar - Agree. Too drippy and self-consciously sensitive for my taste.

    Fine dining in general - I hadn't thought of this but I agree that a lot of "good" restaurants are overrated. Their food is often too salty and I get bored of paying £40 for mediocre wine. "Good" hotels are even worse.

    Peter S - agree, and same applies to 90% of stand up comedy, which has become more predictable and boring than the 70s stuff it originally replaced

    Star Wars - The only reason for not liking Star Wars is being related to Darth Vader

    Clash, CITR, The Fall - see Proust

    Historical buildings on holiday - forget FC, this would be my real VM. I am compelled to do it, but only rarely enjoy it.

    Jane Austen - only ever read two. It's not hard ot see why someone might consider them a bit over-pushed. I hate the girlification of the covers etc - Jane Austen would ahve had a field day with that.

    Tracey Emin - Interesting addition to the list because with most of the others the obvious objection is they are too hard or obscure. With her, the obvious obkection is that anyone could have done it. That begs the question - why didn't they, then? I think her work is great, and if you don't like it you are a humorless bourgeois moron who should donate their eyes to a blind person who might actually amke some worthwhile use of the gift of sight.

    November 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRB

    Hype and it's first cousin over have a big roll in all of this

    I get the feeling that some of the mysery comes not from the object but from the reaction of those less well placed to judge than ourselves

    Strangely I find it hard to hate Zadie Smith for being overhyped but see it as an unforgivable sin in Ian McEwan.

    November 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGareth

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