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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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    Entries in Richard B (45)

    Friday
    Mar122010

    The Friday Question: how flexible and fun is your workplace?

    I used to work in the offices of a small company where every time someone had a birthday, the boss (a woman who was always saying she wanted us to feel like a family and enjoy coming to work) would buy an elaborate cake and sparkling wine for everyone to share in the afternoon.

    These "birthday afternoons" came to involve everyone downing tools for about two hours, which was fine except that as the company grew and we ended up with about 80 people on staff, there would be some weeks with three or four birthday days in them. Sometimes Fridays became birthday days for people with a birthday at the weekend. It was well-meaning but it got ridiculous, and on bad days just meant that work got delayed so you had to stay late to catch up. In the end, some people began concealing their birthdays - only for the admin staff to look up their birthday "on the system" and "surprise" them.

    I mention this because it reminds me of other stories I've heard of companies with trendy, we're-all-a-family ways of working where the reality is that it causes stress, or the benefits never really materialise or basic things get overlooked while the boss is obsessed with a system of free-thinking days, or whatever - though I'm not sure if this is common or not.

    Do you work somewhere where nice ideas don't really work? Or where they seem like a bit of a sham?  Or perhaps you work somewhere this sort of thing does work, and you love it? We'd love to know.

    Tuesday
    Mar092010

    How to be middle-class: The holiday photograph

    Back in the days when holidays tended to be a week on the Costa Packet and travelling was something you did to and from work, holiday photographs were a bit of a joke. If a middle-class neighbour promised to pop round to talk you through their Bonusprints of Majorca, you hoped they were not the kind to linger on the details of every picture; the ones who invited you over to look at their slides became a standing joke. However, in our age of a) cheap and more adventurous travel, and b) digital photography and printing, the situation has been transformed. The modern middle class home is now not truly furnished without at least one a large framed print, probably hung in the hallway, taken on a family holiday to a non-European destination. The family may be in the picture or not, but the key difference between these displayed images and the old holiday snaps is that the background - the real subject - is more cultural than scenic. It may be of a bazaar, festival or camel market, or of striking and famous buildings; what it should not be of is a beach or a simple "view". The more interesting and unusual the picture, the better it serves as a conversation point, and the popular hallway positioning means that it often serves as a useful icebreaker with strangers visiting for the first time. In this sense the new holiday snap could be seen as a badge displaying the family's taste to newcomers, but to see it serving solely as such would be cold and mistaken. Moments of relaxed family togetherness are not common these days, and the holiday photograph may serve as a daily reminder of one, as well as reminding oneself of why you keep working so hard in this strange, grey and rather damp little island. 

    Suitable subjects for hallway holiday snaps

    1 New York skyline

    2 Moroccan souk

    3 Sunset on beach, Goa

    4 Indian festival

    5 Animals in safari park

    6 Moutains in Nepal

    7 South African veldt

    8 Barrier reef, ideally taken from glass-bottom boat

     

    Friday
    Mar052010

    The Friday Question: do you tip the takeaway food delivery person?

    I went round to a friend's house to watch the football on Wednesday night, and we and another bloke who came round decided to order some Domino pizzas and side orders to be delivered. The food arrived in good time, all well and good, but when pooling our money to pay we had that problem of having hardly any change and no notes smaller than tens. The best we could do was £30 on an order of £25.60. "That's ok," said my friend. "The rest will do for the tip."

    "The tip?" I said.

    "Yes, the tip," he replied.

    "I wouldn't usually tip a pizza delivery bloke four pounds," I said, hesitantly. I was being a bit fake here - I don't know that I usually tip pizza delivery blokes anything, certainly not more than loose change.

    "Oh, well. We just round it up, you know." I felt he thought I was a bit tight, but didn't like to say.

    This incident left me wondering about tipping people who deliver takeaways - not least because I realised later that embarrassingly, I usually give a bigger tip to our Saturday chinese takeaway bloke than I ever would to a pizza deliverer. Somehow a chinese takeaway seems like a higher status meal to me; likewise, I can't imagine tipping someone who delivered a kebab. If people deliver kebabs.

    Am I tight? Do you tip someone who delivers? How much? Are some takeaways more respectable than others? Do you have any other issues with etiquette? We await your responses more keenly than a starving person awaiting a Meat Feast special meal deal. 

    Tuesday
    Mar022010

    The revolutionary middle-classes on line: meet the suburban pirate

    "In 2007 the Ministry Of Defence warned that the middle classes were the new revolutionary class and were to be monitored for protest and agitation," explains the "About" section of Middleclassmayhem, a new blog that we have a) just come across and b) rather like. "In order to keep a watchful eye on the middle classes the Suburban Pirate created this blog, Middle Class Mayhem. Middle Class Mayhem brings together the issues,frustrations and madness that affects the new revolutionary class..the middle classes." The Suburban Pirate would appear to be two middle-class chaps called Sly and Reggie who make/play dub reggae, and travel around performing/playing it in a Morris Minor; "a middle class sound system producing genteel protest music in a dub reggae style," they say.  I think we all generally approve of that, don't we? 

    Monday
    Mar012010

    How to be middle-class: The importance of having a very strong opinion about smart phones

    On my teatime train from London to Leeds last Friday, I noticed that for the first time in my experience, the number of passengers using smartphones to work or to entertain themselves was about equal to the number using laptops. Somehow this came up in conversation with the family we were staying with, and we proceeded to talk for about half an hour about the relative merits of iPods, Blackberrys, apps, and smartphones in general. At least one member of the party was critical of the obsession of iPhone users with pointless apps, and all agreed that the coming of the smartphone had brought in a new etiquette issue, ie the playing with and checking of the phone while you are having a face-to-face conversation with someone else. To some this seems acceptable, to others it is the height of bad manners; to others there is a grey area where you might be doing a facebook update about what you are doing with said face-to-face friends. Is one device or usage habit more middle-class than the other? No. The middle-class part of this is the strong opinion about what the best phones are, what they say about you, and how they should be used. A middle-class person who has purchased a new phone in the last 3 weeks will not be able to spend more than 6 hours in the company of friends without it becoming a subject of debate, and the vast majority will hold forth on their feelings about handsets with far greater force and clarity than they would about other traditionally divisive issues such as politics. Smartphones are unusual status symbols because unlike, say cars, or kitchen gadgets, or home furnishings, their significance seems less about wealth than brand connotations. Which is quite interesting, when you think about it. 

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