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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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    How not to be middle-class: the trouble with Ed Milliband

    It’s noticeable that amid all the hoo-ha over today’s public sector strike, Ed Milliband is keeping a markedly low profile. On the one had this seems lily-livered of him, but then again, he could be doing the strikers a favour. Middle-class voters belief that he is “weird” seems as firm as ever, and it’s easy to see why. Ed has that aloof, middle-class liberal aura and body language that seem normal in metropolitan intellectual circles, and both odd and snooty to anyone outside them. He never laughs; he is never self-deprecating; you just know he could never tell a joke successfully; he appears faintly patronizing and impatient when having to answer questions. Somehow, he gives the impression of being the sort of person who, at a party, would always be looking over your shoulder to see if anyone more interesting had arrived. And all this sits on top of that strange relationship with his brother. A friend of the MCH was recently doing focus groups with voters, and found most people – women in particular – felt that he had done David over, and that anyone who would do that wasn’t to be trusted (rather unfairly, they said it was all the worse because he was the younger one).
    What the fed-up middle classes want now is an ordinary person who seems to have felt their pain. Ed, sadly, seems to feel a different kind of pain, and for that reason the MCH will continue forlornly  to hope Alan Johnson stages a coup.


    Flickr: ukinsouthafrica


    10 Things I Hate About Facebook: a former fan laments

    I've been on Facebook for about four years, and for most of that time I have loved it. I loved reconnecting with old friends, I loved being in touch with people I wouldn’t otherwise have heard from, and I still love seeing what friends are thinking and doing. However, in recent months I’ve found disillusion setting in. I don’t know if it’s me, or if it’s down to spending too much time using it, or whether it and its users have changed – but I have to say that in my heart I feel it’s the latter. There seems to be less and less talk and sharing, and more and more… stuff that is annoying; the following 10 things are the worst examples.

    1 Openly boastful status updates

    You know the sort of thing: “OMG the boss just told me he thinks my project was the best in the whole company!” “Can’t believe it – am at reception with [insert name of admired peer or, even better, celebrity here].” “Have just run 1000 miles in 10 seconds” etc etc. Only a few people are quite so crass, but it’s still unbearable – and desperate.

    2 Clarkson/Daily-Mail-esque rants

    Usually target people who are on strike or protesting about something, and then make a ridiculous comparison with soldiers in Afghanistan; “striking teachers should try fighting in Helmand before they complain about bad conditions” etc etc. I feel suspicious of this stuff because I know a few soldiers on FB, and have never seen them cut and pasting it; and while I don’t mind hearing friends’ opinions, I don’t like them lazily passing on those of other people.

    3 Endless pictures of people’s children

    Yes I know this sounds misanthropic, so before I go on, allow me to say I have children myself and I sometimes put pictures of them on Facebook, But people, there’s a fine line; you’re interested to see your mates’ kids from time to time, but it’s a bit boring when that’s ALL that appears in your news feed. And as for the posts about the children winning things – well, see (1) above.

    4 Couples who have public rows with each other on their page

    Whether playful or serious, this is just a little but w.e.i.r.d.

    5 Notification disappointment

    I.e. the little slump of the spirit that occurs when you see you have notifications, guess they’re going to be from friends responding to some update-conversation you’re in, and then check them only to find they’re just Farmville requests. Don’t even get me started on Farmville.

    6 People being smug on holiday

    You’re having a lovely time abroad, staying in a great hotel and enjoying hot weather with your partner and/or family: is your first instinct a) to relax and enjoy it, or b) to post an update on Facebook mocking all your friends for having cold and wet weather at home? It’s not a big deal, but b is, like (4) just a little bit, well, odd. And, sometimes, annoying.

    7 People publicly professing their love for their partner in a status update

    This is Britain, not California. Get a room. Or at least, send a Direct Message.

    8 People tagging you in embarrassing photographs that make you look horrible

    Call me neurotic, but somehow, I’d just rather the people at work that I wish I’d never friended in the first place didn’t get to see the photos of me pissed and doing my Slash from Guns N Roses impression on a dance floor. Yes, I know you can remove the tag. But it’s usually too late, isn’t it?

    9 The chat function

    More specifically, a “friend” you’re not all that keen on talking to using the chat function to pop up when you’re casually browsing and saying “Hi!!! Haven’t heard from u 4 ages, how u doing???” Etc etc.

    10 Endless redesigns

    None of which ever improve the service, all of which are derided, and most of which leave you confused and unable to use key elements for about three weeks. Although in some ways, I am beginning to think that being unable to use the site might be quite a good thing.

    Flickr: Daniel Morris

    How to be middle class: playing “Coffee Chicken” in train stations

    The young boy’s game of chicken – i.e. standing in front of a oncoming vehicle for as long as you dare before leaping from its path – is of course not a popular one with modern middle-class adults, but they do have their own version. “Coffee Chicken” is played in pairs on the concourses of railway stations. To begin, two people who are catching a train that leaves in approximately 5-10 minutes both queue to buy a coffee. If the queue moves slowly, one of the pair will eventually give in and say, “let’s leave it and get on”, whereupon the other will insist that they have plenty of time, even if the Romanian barista is going slowly. The tension escalates until either the worrier wins by persuading the coffee-wanter that they really have to go, or the coffee-wanter triumphs by sticking it out and landing their skinny cap – whereupon they both have to run to get the train that is by this stage about to pull off.

    It must be that trains have been missed, but I have never seen this happen; given the increasing popularity of Coffee Chicken, though, I feel confident of doing so shortly.


    How To Be Middle Class: The Art Of The Modern Competitive Greeting

    As I grew up in dour, rural Yorkshire, my idea of suitable salutations is perhaps plainer than some other people’s. When I was a kid, if an adult asked another adult how they were “going on”, the answer would almost always be “alright” “not so bad” or “can’t complain”; in other words, people expressed their wellbeing as a relative absence of problems, rather than as a positive.  So it may be this conditioning that makes me over-sensitive, but I cannot help noticing the growing middle-class trend for incredibly effusive greetings and responses; nowadays, to fit in at the office you have to say “GREAT to see you! How’s it going?” and make replies such as “REALLY GOOD thanks!” or “Things are great, super busy as ever!” It is as if the old sort of subtle competition over personal wealth and success at work has passed into welfare and happiness; I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point soon I am greeted by someone announcing a drop in their BMI score or cholesterol levels.

    Flickr: mrflip

    Irrational holiday annoyances: the finale

    As regular readers will know, we spent the month of August posting a list of common holiday annoyances. As the month progressed people suggested more to annoyances to us, and by the end we had quite a list. Wanting to honour and share these contributions, we decided to mark the end of the peak holiday season with a final list of our 101 favourites - some from our own August list, most from friends. We hope that you enjoy them, despite we're sure being the sort of accomplished, serene folk who are immune to such petty vexation. 

    1 Bikini diets features in magazines that make you feel neurotic for weeks before leaving
    2 The realization that the holiday is going to cost at least 30% more than you thought
    3 Being tempted by budget airlines despite promising yourself last year that you would only fly with a proper airline in future
    4 Buying at least one item of clothing before you leave, and knowing even at the time that you’ll never, ever wear it once you get back home
    5 Packing. Every aspect of it.
    6 Not having time to finish making your ideal iPod playlist, so that it starts really well but peters out into badly-thought through chunks of the last album you bought.
    7 Your partner conning you (again) that the “4pm” flight departure was actually 4-50pm so you arrive with ridiculous amount of time to spare
    8 Forgetting to do the travel insurance and then trying to sort it out via mobile phone in the taxi en route to the airport
    9 Trying to drag your airport trolley over thick curbs in the airport car park
    10 Finding a huge queue at check in despite arriving an hour in advance of when you needed to
    11 Finding airline staff walking up and down huge queue refusing to take any responsibility for it, while preoccupying themselves with minor procedural details
    12 Trying to look clever by using the automated check-in service, getting totally confused and subsequently having to join the queue that you were much too good for 15 minutes ago
    13 The specific, slightly out of body experience you have when RyanAir staff find a technicality on which to charge you extra for your baggage
    14 Shopping to kill time in shops you’d never normally set foot in and purchasing things you don’t really need or want, but are attracted too because everyone knows things are cheaper at the airport
    15 Not being able to see the departures screen from the table you’re sitting at in the café, and feeling nervous as a result
    16 The con/cost when security take all your liquids off you when boarding a plane
    17 Being forced to put all your liquids in your suitcase only to find they’ve exploded all over your clothes when you get there and cursing the airplane staff
    18 The tattiness of inflight magazines on budget airlines
    19 Air hostesses who still think blue eye-shadow is flattering
    20 The moment you realise the cabin on your cruise ship really is that small
    21 The sense on a cruise that more than half your fellow passengers have come chiefly for the free buffet, which of course is hardly “free”, really
    22 The moment on a caravan holiday when you realise your neighbour has a much better caravan than yours
    23 The niggling feeling that you’ve been done by putting your car in the mid-stay section rather than the long-stay one at the airport car park
    24 “Priority boarding”
    25 People who recline their seats in economy
    26 Waking up to the smell of cheap strawberry yoghurt on long-haul flights
    27 Being unable to resist taking a taxi from the airport, and then being ripped off by the driver

    28 Being sure you’re being ripped off in the taxi from the airport to the hotel but being totally powerless to prevent it

    29 Being allocated a hire car model that is nothing like the one you thought you were booking online

    30 Needing to tip person who has carried your bags to room, but realize you have only large-denomination notes
    31 Having nowhere in your room to store your suitcase out of sight in your hotel
    32 Thief-proof coat hanger systems, which imply everyone wants to nick coat hangers when you can buy them for pence in IKEA anyway
    33 The small size of soap tablets in hotel rooms
    34 Instructions laminated and/or Sellotaped to tables and worktops in self-catering accommodation
    35 Hotel/B&B courtesy trays whose offerings are stuck firmly in the pre-Stabucks era, and possibly in 1983.
    36 The impenetrable complexity of TV sets, (sorry “entertainment systems”) in hotel rooms
    37 There being nothing like enough electrical sockets in your hotel room, and those that there are being positioned badly so you can’t get the cable in
    38 Spotting a McDonald’s in your resort

    39 The desserts in all-inclusive buffet desserts. In fact, the all-inclusive buffet dessert period.

    40 Going to the McDonald’s when the local restaurants disappoint, and the kids start playing up

    41 Blunt knives in self-catering accommodation
    42 “Double beds” that are really two singles pushed together
    43 People assuming, when you say you’re from England, that you live in London and support Manchester United
    44 The nagging suspicion that the locals bars and restaurants that you are eating in because its good to do what the locals do are not actually as good as the tourist ones
    45 Meeting people who make a loud fuss about being above package holidays
    46 Booking your holiday yourself to save money, and then meeting annoying couples who have had exactly the same travel and accommodation as you with less cost and stress because they booked a package
    47 Shops that sell postcards but not stamps
    48 Children who prefer DVDs and Wiis to ‘culture”
    49 Misunderstanding the exchange rate, and grossly overspending as a consequence

    50 The very phrase “midnight buffet” on cruise ships
    51 Holiday guidebooks whose authors cannot possibly have visited the places they have supposedly “described”
    52 Friends who “borrow” a book that you have brought with you (usually the one you were most looking forward to reading) and then read it for the rest of holiday, returning it only when there isn’t enough time for you to finish it before going home
    53 Waiting several days to get off your cruise ship because the photographers are taking picture of people ahead of you, thus causing everyone to back up like a motorway accident in the fog.
    54 Beach lounger attendants being all laid back and jolly and yet also hawkishly watching people on a beach in order to make money out of them
    55 Worrying about your valuables when going for a swim on the beach
    56 Washing the sand off your feet in the sea only to have to walk back to your towel and get covered in sand again
    57 The ludicrous cost of cornflakes in supermarkets catering for tourists
    58 Realising the friends you’ve gone away with have some hitherto unnoticed and unpleasant sides to their character
    59 The ever-amazing fact that people really do put towels on sun loungers
    60 The dead wasp you nearly swallow as you go for a refreshing swim
    61 Getting there and not daring to strip off for the first day or so because everyone else has already developed their tan and you’re shockingly white
    62 Falling asleep on a sun bed and waking up looking like nougat bar
    63 The “waterproof” sunscreen that doesn’t do what it says on the tin
    64 Reapplying said sunscreen after the swim
    65 Being boiling hot 10 minutes later, but failing to go for another swim because you cant be bothered reapplying the sunscreen
    66 Finally asking partner to do “do your back” only to find she has missed a patch
    67 Lying awake all night in agony with third degree burns

    68 Constantly stubbing your toes – in your holiday apartment, on the beach, in the shop etc

    69 The retention of embarrassing air bubbles in one’s swimming garments after getting out of the pool

    70 Being slightly troubled by your own compulsion to take so many photographs and videos
    71 Being forced utterly against your will to “get involved” and play water polo in the hotel pool by the over-friendly entertainment team who really need you there so the girls in bikinis will feel more comfortable playing too
    72 Politely refusing the first few men who try to force you into their restaurants, later ignoring them, and eventually wishing you could punch them in the face
    73 Groups of singing guitar players wandering around restaurants with al fresco dining
    74 Being endlessly embarrassed by the one friend in your group who honestly believes he can speak the language when he’s actually speaking in English with an accent
    75 Talking over said friend when he tries to order in a restaurant, and then realising half way through your sentence that you’re shouting at the waiter in the hope that will make him understand English
    76 Being at one of the world’s great destinations, having travelled for hours and hours to get there, and realising after 20 minutes that basically, you’ve had enough and would like to find a nice restaurant
    77 The quality of restaurants near the world’s great destinations
    78 Going on an excursion knowing full well that somewhere alone the line, someone is going to try to sell you a carpet
    79 Being unable to resist checking Facebook  and/or email and then seeing that someone has posted something that then worries and/or annoys you for the rest of the holiday
    80 Getting a call from a work colleague who knows perfectly well you’re away
    81 Eating “local food” and then seeing the restaurant dustbins with piles of containers of non-geographically-specific food from mainland cash-and-carries, and realizing it’s all a bit pointless
    82 Taxi drivers who try to sell you “guided tours”
    83 “Guided tours” by taxi drivers that are in practice, drive-bys of places of interest interspersed with visits to his friends’ leather goods shops
    84 Friends who boast about how much they managed to haggle a market trader down, even though at home they make a big deal about supporting “fair trade”
    85 Feeling obliged to use up all your petrol allowance in the hire car before dropping it off
    86 Ending up with mountains of seashells you collected with the intention of making your own photo frame even though you knew you never would
    87 Locking your suitcase up with those tiny padlocks only to realize, as you pack for the return home, that you have inevitably lost the tiny keys that go with it
    88 The impossibility of getting one’s travelling outfit right, with the result that you are either too hot/cold at one end
    89 The manic rush on your return from holiday, to jump on the waiting bus for the car park, only to find it isn’t departing for at another 20 minutes
    90 Realising on the return journey that, despite convincing youself you’d get something for the neighbours/ friend who has watered your plants/ relatives in the airport shops, the produce is even worse and more expensive than you expected
    91 Having to buy fudge as a last resort
    92 The way it’s always raining when you land back in the United Kingdom
    93 Returning home to find that a major news event has been unfolding while you remained oblivious in your holiday bubble.
    94 Holiday returnees who claim to have “picked up” the accent
    95 Finding out your sky plus was set to the wrong channel and you now have two weeks’ worth of Hollyoaks rather than Coronation Street
    96 People going out of their way to tell you how hot and sunny it was in the UK when they heard it was raining where you were
    97 Going back to work on Monday and being more tired than when you left for your “relaxing holiday”
    98 Still finding sand everywhere even after you’ve been back for weeks
    99 Receiving your credit card statement and finding that the hidden charges have added about extra 50% to the price of everything
    100 The tormenting memory that when you were a kid, families used to have a perfectly good time with a week at a crappy resort on the British coast, and the consequent melancholy at the thought that they were more innocent and less materialistic times
    101 Being forced to look at the evidence of the whole trip people here and think that, in the eternal debate about whether it’s Them or Just You,  that yes, it might actually be Just You.