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The Book

Out now at Amazon | Waterstones

Middle Class Handbook on Twitter
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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The Periodic Table of the Middle Class
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    Friday
    Nov132015

    DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK: THE ART OF SNEAKING BACK ONLINE

    There are many awkward situations online, each requiring their own etiquette. Whether or not to tell someone there's a typo in their post, for example, and how to deal with the follower who tiresomely responds to literally everything you tweet – we will address these matters in due course. But first, how does a blogger or avid social media user return to writing fresh posts and/or tweets after a prolonged absence? What’s the correct form here?

    Always keen to put forward ideas in such debates, we here offer some options for sneaking back online. As for why we’re thinking of this right now – we really have no idea (see option 5 below). 

    1. Apologise with full excuse note

    A favourite of bloggers. “Sorry,” the post usually runs, “I haven’t posted for such a long time, I’ve been so busy moving house/having a baby/with life in general, etc etc.” Nice and honest, but can seem unnecessarily fussy. “It happens to us all,” the reader may want to say, “get over yourself.” 

    2. Pick up where you left off

    Make no reference to the fact that you appear to have spent the last six months in outer space. This is the easiest option – but it's a bit creepy, frankly. Your reader is likely to be left feeling suspicious about you and everything you subsequently post. 

    3. Redesign your site and announce a 'relaunch'

    The idea is to look as though you’ve been busy on an overhaul, and now are back with renewed purpose. This is OK, we suppose, but do make it a proper redesign and not just a change in the colour scheme of your Wordpress template. 

    4. Be jolly

    “Hello, remember me?” you might want to ask, hoping for a warm welcome. Be careful with this one; bear in mind a possible answer could be: “No, who on earth are you, get out of my timeline”.

    5. Be meta and anthropological
    Write a piece about the awkwardness of coming back to post on a blog after not posting on a blog, in order to divert attention from the fact that you are one of the returning non-posters. Ridiculous! Seriously, what sort of chancers would try that?

    Flickr: TheTruthAbout

    Monday
    Nov172014

    The most MC TV ads you’ll see this Christmas

    For a concentrated shot of class values, this season’s much-discussed TV ads are a great place to go. There’s that Sainsbury’s ad of course (the one that rips off Paul McCartney’s Pipes of Peace), but you won’t find more juicy nuggets of insight into middle-class beliefs than in the John Lewis and Waitrose offerings.

    This year, their ads explore a theme close to middle-class hearts – the Sensitive Child. John Lewis brings us the tale of a boy with an imaginary penguin friend while Waitrose tells the story of a girl who overcomes her lack of confidence to run the school gingerbread stall.

    Parallels between the two ads are interesting. In both, the child is slightly at odds with their social environment. Not seriously, dysfunctionally out-of-kilter, just a little different, a little awkward. John Lewis Boy plays with his penguin while the other kids play together. Waitrose Girl looks awkwardly down while her classmates all shoot their hands up to be gingerbread nominee.

    What could be more middle class than that? The fantasy of the Sensitive Child means being special and different. There may be a price to pay in social awkwardness, but it’s well worth it.

    Another interesting feature of the ads is their sense of loneliness. John Lewis Boy and Waitrose Girl both have inner journeys to undertake in these ads – and as they do so they’re largely on their own. Caring parents look on with concern from a distance – OK, Waitrose Girl does get one hug. But deep down, life’s lessons have to be learned independently.

    That’s another major middle-class belief. You have to be self-reliant and can’t depend too much on other people. Life is an individual quest and not always something that’s easy to share.

    For a window onto a totally different universe, the Tesco ad is worth a look.

    No awkwardness and no sensitive children here – Christmas is an outer not an inner experience: about lights, sharing and fun, not long dark nights of the soul. Phew.

    Friday
    Oct312014

    Halloween Pumpkin as Status Symbol: A guide to Britain’s conspicuous carvers

     

    Is it just in my own north London locale, or have the middle classes become quietly competitive about Halloween pumpkin carving? I know people have experimented before, but this year it all seems to have moved up a level: on my street, a café has a window display of pumpkins “carved by a local artist”, my neighbour has told me she is doing FOUR for her balcony, and on Facebook I have already seen two jack o’lanterns decorated with stencil-assisted outlines of film characters. It’s become the autumnal, MC version of competing to see who can have the most Christmas lights: where will it end? And how long, I wonder, before Britain gets American-style pumpkin-carving classes?

    So far, the conspicuous carvers fall into five tribes, here’s a quick guide:

    1 The Artist

    Holes are not good enough for the artist; instead they peel off the outer skin and carve a realistic (if scary) human face in it. Clearly begun in early September. Showy.

    2 The Classicist

    A traditional, scary face, but with dozens of uniformly-sized, perfectly-pointed teeth that must have taken hours to do. May backfire by making small children cry – but then this isn’t actually about the children, is it? Frightening, in more ways than one.

    3 The Stenciller

    Downloaded a stencil of a classic Star Wars scene last week and has been busy ever since. His (and let’s face it, it is always a he) Instagram followers will love it! Bit weird to us, but who are we to argue?

    4 The Modernist

    Rather than carving, the modernist gets out the power drill and creates an impressive, polka-dot pattern of differently-sized holes. VERY middle-class.

    5 The Bodger

    Old-school: a couple of eyes hastily hacked out, and a row of fangs – all done on the fly because the owner forgot to buy one until they suddenly realised what day it was. Perfectly adequate, actually.

    Friday
    Sep052014

    Emergency etiquette guide: How to react when undergoing the Ice Bucket Challenge

    By now your Facebook timeline will have been groaning with videos of people doing the ice bucket challenge, and you may well be thoroughly fed up with them. However, if you haven’t already done it yourself you may still be called upon to do so, and if you don’t want to look like a killjoy, you will be obliged to go through the somewhat over-familiar ritual. This will leave you with a question: how to react when the icy water hits you, and you stand wet and soaking for the world – or at least the bit of the world that uses Facebook – to see. People’s reactions tend to divide along certain lines, and so far we have noted the following, take your pick:

    The Shrieker

    Screams loudly, then stands quivering as if they’re in a horror film and have just been attacked by the villain. Finally runs off, cursing person who nominated them.

    The In-Shocker

    Stands rigid and silent for so long that it appears they have suffered some sort of permanent injury. May repeat one word or phrase over and over, e.g. “So cold, so cold, so cold.” Slightly worrying.

    The Stoic

    Shows no sign of alarm or distress then walks calmly away. Tends to wear fancy dress and/or be doing something amusing, e.g. drinking gin and tonic, reading a book.

    The Customiser

    Takes the idea and adapts it to a more extreme version, e.g. jumping in bath of ice, having ice cubes tipped over self. Reaction usually in same ball park as Shrieker, as effect is all.

    The Jumper

    Light shouting, with an extreme physical reaction which may involve jumping or dancing around on the patio before running off camera to get warm. Occasionally trips on slippery floor, which can be alarming.

    Flickr: Anthony Quintano
    Thursday
    Sep042014

    Introducing Mrs Bore d’Eaux: lover of the French exception

    We’ve met Bore d’Eaux – now it’s time to introduce his female counterpart. Mrs Bore d’Eaux is his equal in revering French-ness, to the extent that once she’s in France, she’ll do all kinds of things she’d never consider at home – because ‘it’s part of the culture’.

    Back in Clapham, for instance, she religiously abstains from wheat and dairy, but both become her daily staples on holiday in the Dordogne, where she’ll even begin the day with a croissant. All these foods undergo a mysterious transformation in her eyes when bathed in the aura of French-ness – as if, through them, she can imbibe the glamour of France itself. At home, she’d never dream of letting her kids drink fizzy pop, but in France, she buys them Orangina by the litre – it’s healthier, of course, because it’s French. She’ll even let them have Nutella tartines for breakfast, when at home, she blames the obesity crisis on non-MC kids ‘eating chocolate first thing’. But if it’s part of French culture – like smoking and adultery – it’s different, naturellement.

    How to spot Mrs Bore d’Eaux:

    • Bookshelves stacked with Francophile self-help books such as French Women Don’t Get Fat and French Children Don’t Throw Food.
    • Serves diluted wine to her six-year-old daughter.
    • Boasts about how she owns one good Hermes scarf rather than a thousand from Primark.
    • Sings along to Carla Bruni in the car.

    Flickr: einalem 

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