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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


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 Highbury Dan (97)


    Reverse Ostentation and the Curious World of the New Utilitarians

    The Evening Standard review of the high end fish and chip shop we blogged about the other day has had me thinking about a certain middle-class tribe that is deserving of a MCH mention.

    This tribe, which I think of as the New Utilitarians, are chiefly characterized by Reverse Ostentation – that is, the use of plain or even shabby goods to convey a certain confidence and spiritual superiority to the rat race. You see this among wealthy people who drive around in knackered old Ford cars, or have used the same kitchen gadgets for about 30 years. Their houses may well be a bit dilapidated, their TV sets are old and small, and if you visit for lunch you may well get an organic ready meal (though warmed in the Aga – microwaves are de trop). They particularly love juxtaposing cheap-but-stylish utilitarian things with expensive ones – you will always know you’re with one if they serve good wine in a Duralex glass, and then lend you an old Penguin paperback at the end of the night. Other give-away contrasts that the New U’s love include:

    1. Loose single-estate tea served in Cornish Blue (original if possible) mugs
    2. Well-worn English brogues with high-end dark wash denim
    3. Stuffed animals displayed next to classic mid-century modern plastic picture frames
    4. Battered Eames rockers with cushions covered in fabrics from John Lewis
    5. Vintage Roberts Radios with anything

    The Unstoppable Rise of Premium Casual – and Why the Middle Classes Love it so

    As we have reported before, the middle classes have always loved to sample traditional working class eating habits, but over the last year or so this has generated a new genre of eating out that now threatens to take over. This is the made-over version of fast food/gran food/snack food or, to be snappier, Premium Casual, and it is everywhere. From upmarket chippies to vintage versions of KFC to toasted teacakes and crumpets on posh patisserie menus.

    Some will carp at the silliness of it, but so long as the food is nice, we are big fans. In many ways it says a lot about modern middle class tastes, particularly the desire for quality without stiff, stultifying formality. Enjoying yourself, allowing food to have a sense of humour, and being relaxed enough to have a decent conversation as you eat; it already seems odd that these things ever seemed such alien ideas, but they did, and the change can only be welcome. In contrast, the whole idea of expensive, upmarket dining can seem a bit cheesy (that’s donkey cheese, of course) when rappers rap about truffles and Michelin star restaurants are full of goons bragging about ordering the most expensive wines.


    What became of “synergy”? 

    Remember when this was the business word du jour – when everyone was running around looking for “synergy” or, even better, “synergies”? It made your skin crawl at the time, sure, but we sort of trusted it, didn’t we? We understood exactly the level of bullshit it represented.
    Where the hell did it go? Surely we need to find whatever it means more than ever in these austere times. Yet, even the naffest of businesses seem to have cooled down on their desire for it. I have my suspicions on what may have replaced it. Has it maybe been pushed out by the rise and rise of “joined up thinking”? What are the new MC business buzzwords you’re hearing around your “space”? Let’s “interrogate” this further, and in “granular” detail, if you please.

    Flickr: DaveFayram

    Rob, Rich and Ant, and Robert and Richard and Anthony: why middle-class chaps reclaim their full name in middle age

    The late 30s, when middle age and grey hair hove into view, can be a tricky time for all chaps, and for the middle-class ones in particular it can bring an anxious urge to purge oneself of youthful trappings, to prepare oneself for proper adulthood. If I can’t be young, the argument goes, then I shall be cultured, wise and serious. 

    In real terms this tends to mean getting into classical music and joining a wine club – and, crucially, reverting to one’s full name. Suddenly, as they hit 38, Rob begins signing his emails “Robert”; Rich becomes “Richard” when he introduces himself in meetings, and Tony desperately begs people to call him Anthony, or at the very least to dispense with “Ant”. Some diminutives (Nick, Jim, Dan) may be acceptable, others (Johnny) can cause real worry, but in the end it doesn’t matter. Hardly anyone takes any notice, and by the time everyone hits 43 they’ve either given up and accepted themselves, or bought an expensive sportscar by way of a distraction. 


    Class phwoar: the just-rightness of a cortado coffee  

    For all that we love good coffee in all its modern varieties, the unreliability of lattes makes it difficult to choose a form that feels just right. Espresso is pure and sort of exciting, but it is over so quickly. Capuccinos are too foamy and usually just wrong. Lattes can all to often resemble milk with half a teaspoon of Nescafe added. Macchiatos are almost there, but still too short.

    For the middle-class connoisseur who worries about such things, the cortado is the answer; short and intense so you taste the coffee, but also long enough to drink as you read a paper. Until recently you rarely saw it offered in England, it being an exotic treat for visitors to Spain or Cuba (where it is known as the cordatito - such a pleasant word to say). However, Costa have now launched one and so we give thanks (even while wishing it had been AMT) and look forward to its, er, percolation into wider society. 

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