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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 Spellman (122)

    Thursday
    Jul112013

    Could this be the slow death of the British noticeboard?

    In the middle-class area where I live, I have noticed more and more of the sign shown above – a laminated A4 poster, attached to lampposts or railings with plastic cable ties. They used to be put up mainly by the owners of missing pets, but these days all sorts of organisations use them, including public bodies and councils.

    I have to say that I dislike them – I find them ugly, and cable ties are a particular bugbear of mine. But what really bothers me is what they imply for the future of the traditional community noticeboard. There seem to be fewer and fewer of these outside community halls, churches and council offices, presumably replaced by emails and the laminated lamp-poster. In their traditional form – wooden, with glass – or Perspex-fronted opening doors – they are a lovely and reassuring piece of “street furniture” whose mismatched contents let you know that local community spirit was something real. Somehow the laminated and cable-tied signs don’t seem the same.

    Monday
    Mar252013

    Signings of the times: the fading art of the signature

    The recent MCH blog about initials made me think of the time I – and I suspect many others – spent practicing fancy signatures during my childhood. Taking note of adults’ styles, and autographs pictured in books, I’d experiment with loops, italics, underlines, i-dotting/not dotting, and wavy lines rather than actual letters, until I felt I had exhausted every calligraphic possibility. It wasn’t a question of wanting an autograph for when, as was surely inevitable, I became a pop star or professional footballer; I saw it more as an accouterment of adulthood, like being able to drive, or a capacity for enjoying strong cheese.

    It is a sad thought that this small joy may be lost to kids in the future, as the signature is clearly dying out, constantly losing ground to the password, PIN and names typed in emails. It’s a shame because signatures are a little expression of our personality; think of a relative and close friend and you’ll know how they write their name – and quite probably think of it with some fondness. Enjoy writing those cheques while you can.

    Tuesday
    Mar122013

    Some dried fruit nibbles with that petrol, please! Discovering Britain’s most middle-class motorways 

    “When was the last time,” asks the website of Westmorland Ltd, owners of Tebay and Gloucester Services, “that you stopped at a motorway service area and enjoyed homemade food, stunning mountain views, a duck pond, well-stocked farm shops …and not a slot machine, franchise or man with a clipboard in sight?”

    If you doubted that some motorways service stations, and indeed the motorways they straddle, are more middle class than others, then that paragraph should put you straight. The facilities alone would be enough to distinguish them (the M3’s cool, modern Waitrose branch at Fleet, the M74’s Abington with its survey-topping toilets), but there are other factors too: the countryside they pass through, the towns in which they terminate, the kind of cars you’re likely to see.

    And then there are the little quirks that make all the difference to aficionados; the M4 could hardly be anything but mc given it has a services called “Heston”. The Middle Class Handbooks top five middle class three-lane drives are, in order:

    1 The M40
    To Oxford and the Cotswolds via Bucks, passing classic art deco architecture and RAF Northolt? Might as well have a Royal Warrant. Head and hard shoulders in front of the rest.
     
    2 The M4
    Mainly for its status as the superhighway for the middle-class West Country heartlands
     
    3 The M5
    Not only a Cornwall-Devon link, but also has Gloucester Services. Lovely.
     
    4 The M11
    Four words: Stansted, Cambridge, Birchanger Services. And such a nice length
     
    5 The M6
    For Tebay services, and for the novelty of the lorry-free West Midlands toll road

    Saturday
    Jan262013

    Abrandoned! The sudden, fickle rejection of once-loved pioneer brands 

    The other day I was having a very middle-class conversation about soup, with a work colleague who is very finicky about her food. "Well, I don't buy Covent Garden Soups," she said, when I mentioned my liking for their chicken variety. "Far too salty."

    I was mildly irritated by what I felt was a small show of soup-upmanship, but I also noted that this was a common kind of rejection, i.e. the self-styled connoisseur ostentatiously rejecting a brand that was once a pioneer. Think of Stella Artois or Starbucks, or perhaps even these days Green & Black's chocolate and Innocent Smoothies; the sales might be holding up, but the more fickle, discerning customers are looking for the new, more extreme, up-and-comers.

    This is because in this era of a mass middle class, the most significant class divide in terms of taste is between not middle and working, but middle-middle and lower-middle. One might call this King's Hill syndrome, after the lower-middle residents of King's Hill in Kent, who emerged as the least popular characters in Grayson Perry's All In The Best Possible Taste. The middle middles enjoy appropriating elements of working class culture (football, fry-ups, even the odd post-pub kebab) but when they see people of similar income but less exclusive tastes buying their old pioneer brands, those brands can be tainted for years - until, of course, they fall so far down the chain they can be reclaimed. It's all quite enough to get one reaching for a stiff Bombay Sapphire. 

    Monday
    Dec242012

    What does Santa expect from the modern middle-class home?  

    When I was a kid, the food that one left out for Father Christmas on the 24th was straightforward - sherry, mince pie, possible carrot for Rudolph. In recent years, however, things seem to have changed. “Reindeer food” (aka oats in a gift bag sold at Christmas Fairs for 50p a go) has become popular; whisky is edging out unfashionable sherry, and my own daughter insists on cups of tea. This leads me to wonder what the good MC person should leave out to feel they are au courant, and to not disappoint Santa? A hearty home-made soup in a John Lewis flask would be practical. Brief instructions for the Nespresso machine might be appreciated if he’s flagging. And perhaps sherry might once more be acceptable if one made it a Pedro Ximinez in a bit of artisan glassware. 

    Obviously any carrot should be organic, but what else do you reckon, middle-class revelers and wassaillers?  Do let us have your suggestions and secrets. After all, we wouldn’t want your house to have nicer gifts than ours, would we?