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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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    That’s Channel 4 News: how Snow & co triumphed over Newsnight

    One secondary casualty of this week’s Cambridge Analytica story has been the reputation of the BBC’s once-mighty Newsnight. On the evening Channel 4 News aired the first instalment of its hidden-camera scoop, Newsnight carried a recorded interview with Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix. As many noted on social media, interviewer Emily Maitliss politely allowed Nix to robustly defend all the crimes that he had been seen boasting about three hours earlier. It was a disaster for the Beeb’s flagship news show and, by extension, for the BBC itself.

    The usual questions about BBC budgets and charters will doubtless be raised in due time, but the bigger point here is Channel 4 News’ ascendency. Former Newsnight anchor James O’Brien recently quit the show because, he said, the venerable ideals of objective reporting, balance and right to reply didn’t work in a time when we know that we're being manipulated and misled on serious issues by media-trained hucksters. 

    The Channel 4 team, led by Jon Snow, Krishnan Guru Murthy and Cathy Newman, has however shifted to meet that change. Tactically they use key moments from the show across all media to drive audiences to the TV show, and  the rather elegant website. Tonally, the presenters are openly sceptical and challenging without resorting to showy Paxman-like rudeness; the slightly-weary-yet-personable-eyerolling-weariness of Snow, Guru-Murty and Newman captures our feelings about politicians better than any other presenters or journalists at the moment.

    The lesson is simple. Old-fashioned objectivity and balance have become a bit outdated, somehow; far better, in 2018, to have a point of view, and be honest about it. 

    And of, course, wear excellent ties.





    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

    When is a gravy boat not a gravy boat?

    Is any other area so open to rebranding-through-language as food? In the modern world, the humble bun can be reborn as a muffin, fast food as street food, Shreddies reinvented as “Diamond Shreddies” merely by tilting them by 45 degrees.

    This process has been applied, we note with some sadness, to the traditional and surely much-loved gravy boat. Clearly feeling that gravy was too lumpen and 20th Century a concept, John Lewis has rebirthed its traditional table receptacle as a “sauce boat”. 

    This is to be regretted because, in our opinion, sauces belong in more upright, jug-like containers while the majesty of the elongated bath of a boat is merited by the brown, juicy magnificence of gravy alone. It also implies a downgrading of the importance of gravy – a grievous error because as any good mc knows, the ability to fashion a good gravy is one of those true tests of a chef’s mettle, like making bread and butter pudding and not overdoing the beef.  

    It hurts us to say this, John Lewis, but we are most disappointed in you. Not angry, you understand, just - disappointed.


    Sharp charcuterie: slipping the Lidl cooked meats into a buffet

    On the day that several established supermarkets posted declining sales figures I went to a small lunch party at a friend who lives in the suburbs of York. He is a great cook and the food was excellent, particularly the selection of salads and an ample plate of cooked meats. I asked about the origin of these two particular elements: “The Leon recipe book, and Lidl,” he said, and I noticed there was no joking about Lidl as there might have been a year or so ago. “Lidl have really good cooked meats. Cheap, but really good. Maybe because they’re German.”

    I’ve heard a similar thing said before, and it makes me realise how flexible people’s ideas about premium goods and quality can be; Lidl might be seen as a bargain basement, but that doesn’t stop people believing the stuff can be ok – or a good deal more than OK if the provenance works. Perhaps the likes of Tesco have rather forgotten that in recent years.

    Flickr: jasonlam

    Swedish Dancing Lunch Hours: Why they’ll never catch on here

    It has been revealed that in some Swedish offices workers have shunned sitting at their desks munching on crispbreads in favour of dancing. Computers are shut down and music is played for a strict 60 minutes allowing employees to let down their hair and have a jig about. Looking at this in a positive way, perhaps it could be a great way to encourage more friendships between workers, or a way of having a bit of light hearted fun on an otherwise dreary day, or a useful way of squeezing a bit of exercise into a busy day, but I couldn’t help wondering how this idea would go down in middle class work places in Britain. It’s obviously one of those experiences that would throw the different tribes into relief, and I thought it might be interesting to consider in terms of some of our old friends.

    How would Britain’s MC tribes dance through their lunch hour?

    The Loft Wingers

    Would complain about the inferior sound quality due to the fact that the music is being played through someone’s laptop. Despite the fact that they haven’t actually used their own high tech turntable for ages, secretly preferring their Bose sound dock for ease, will claim that the music should be played on vinyl to create a more authentic sound. This will of course be their elaborate excuse to get them out of participating in the dancing.

    The Hornby Set

    They will complain about the music being too crass and mainstream. Will insist on bringing in their own music (probably world music, in order to educate the masses) which everyone else will dread and which will immediately destroy any happiness and enjoyment that people were feeling when they were listening to an old 80s compilation that that Dave in IT had brought in for a laugh.

    The Can-Do's

    Love it, love it, love it! Drive everyone else in the office insane by dancing too enthusiastically (and badly), and going around trying to drag everyone else onto the dance floor. Aggressively tell people who refuse to join in that they’re being boring.

    The Damn-Wrights

    Dismiss the idea as being ridiculous. He airs his views loudly and she agrees of course, and both refuse to join in and go out every lunchtime in protest.

    White Vain Man and No Sugar Babe

    He can’t understand what all the fuss is about - he always listens to the radio at work, although he wouldn’t mind seeing Kelly from accounts shaking her booty LOL. And No Sugar Babe loves it! It’s a chance to be a bit flirty with that bloke from HR, it gives her a chance to show off how sexy she is, AND it gives her the chance to burn off some of the calories from that glass of wine she had last night. Amaze!

    The Liberal Actuallys

    In public talk about what a great idea it is. In private, die inwardly at the mere thought of actually having to participate.