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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)

    Wednesday
    Sep262012

    Books, covers and bloody price stickers: a personal plea to British booksellers 

    I have just purchased the hardback of Boneland, Alan Garners' long-overdue follow-up to his classic, J.K. Rowling-influencing, children's novels The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath. Those books were published in the 1960s, so Garner's fans have had quite a wait for this last one, and one has to say his current published, 4th Estate, has got it just right with the pleasing, matt-black cover.

    It is a cover with seriousness and weight, which is as it should be; alas and alack, then, that bloody Waterstones should see fit to stick a money-off sticker in the top right hand corner. I peeled it off, only to find that the glue residue had ruined a little circle of the matt black - annoying enough in itself,  but particularly so because it looks like a pale moon, and the moon is important in Garner's stories. Is there really no other glue they could use? It makes me want to give up and just use Amazon.

     
    Tuesday
    Aug212012

    The five most unfashionable MC guilty pleasures

    Tea-drinking, like fried breakfasts and period dramas, may be one of the great British traditions that cuts across class, but coffee is a different matter entirely. The cappuccino is a symbol of the big, broad, aspirational middle-class that fell in and out of love with New Labour, and the new, independent artisan coffee shops the spiritual home of fashionable urban folk in the 2010s. And there can be no stronger guarantee of middle-class status than an unashamed disappointment at being served instant coffee (yes, dears, they still make it) when you visit someone. However, even as as someone who owns an Aeropress and grinds their own beans, I must confess to a secret fondness for an occasional bit of Gold Blend or Kenco freeze-dried . Made with half-milk, half-water boiled in a pan, then drunk through the froth. I think it’s because it reminds me of childhood, as my mother is a fan, but it’s one of quite a few not-very-mc pleasures that I fear my more middle-class friends would scorn. Does anyone have them, I wonder? Another four to make up a personal top five would be:

    1. Fitted carpets. Particularly in bedrooms in winter. So soft and warm on the feet. Why are middle-people so fond of hard things, such as floorboards?
    2. Chocolate biscuits. The ones in wrappers. And not just Kit Kats. And preferably “served” by putting two (or even three!) packets on the table, so it’s just about sheer, brute, greedy pleasure. (Top three: Gold, Club, Viscount Mint. Wish they’d bring back Trio)
    3. Stereophonics. Because bands such as Pulp and Blur (who I’ve never really liked) who supposedly write about “ordinary British life” actually write about “ordinary British life” as it was 20 years ago, and Jarvis Cocker and Damon Albarn couldn’t have written “Bank Holiday Monday” in a month of Sundays.
    4. Package holidays. Because a few years ago I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t interested in going to look at ruins, and a lot of “untouristy” places are actually every bit as touristy as Malaga, except with lemon groves and alioli.

     

    Friday
    May252012

    HOW TO BE MIDDLE-CLASS: BEING UNABLE TO RESIST WHSMITH AT THE AIRPORT

    Although departure lounge shopping is popular, the individual shops shopped at are a matter of taste. True, most men find it hard to resist a look in Dixons, few women can resist Boots and most people have at least a browse in the big duty free, but still; these still feel like a choice.

    The exception, the shop that is virtually a public utility in airports, is of course WHSmith. For all classes, getting a few things here is more or less a legal requirement.

    These are the items the MCs just can’t resist buying from the airport WHSmith:

    Magazines
    In most cases destined to be lightly read and left on the plane, although in some cases the magazine will be bought as a treat and kept to be read through the holiday. Keepers include: Vogue, Word, The Spectator, The New Statesman, Top Gear, Wallpaper.

    Newspapers
    Destined to be barely read. “What did you buy the Telegraph for, David? It’s too big to open, and the Mail’s free.”

    Haribo
    While sweets are unhealthy and therefore frowned upon by the MCs, the WHSmith plane shop is all about indulgence and suspension of the usual rules. Thus, a bag of sweets is acceptable – all the more so because it can be used to keep the kids quiet, and sweets still have a residual sense of a sort-of health benefit in that sucking them is supposed to stop one’s ears popping.

    Water
    Because drinking lots of water on flights is good for you, as everyone knows. However, as WHSmith annoyingly sells only the 1-litre, this means buying either one bottle and not having enough, or two and leaving one half-full on the plane. Tch.

    Very large pack of chewing gum
    Almost always mint, and bought for utilitarian and aesthetic reasons. Planes are stale, stinky places and the food on planes could leave even a grizzly bear wishing to refresh itself orally, so some breath-freshening will be in order. And anyway, those dinky pots are so pleasing.

    Books
    If they don’t have time to visit the proper bookshop, or if said proper shop doesn’t have the one they want. “You’d think Books Etc would have had bloody Stalingrad! I had to go back to Smiths!”

    Mini fans
    Knowing those moments of airport retail madness only too well, Smiths is adept at cunningly offering small gadgets that hold the promise of cool, poised, controlled travelling. And with a fan to keep you literally cool – well! Will be used several times on plane, then on beach until it runs out of batteries, and thereafter will see out its time being pushed further and further back in the kitchen Bits drawer.

    Wednesday
    May022012

    Introducing the pub for people who don't like pubs

    Visiting Edinburgh recently, I was disappointed to find that one of my favourite pubs, The Sheep Heid Inn in Duddingston had been transformed. Scotland’s oldest surviving pub, and possessor of a fine skittles alley, it used to be a shabby-genteel place with the occasional folky-ish singer, and a clientele that knew its beer and whisky.

    Under new ownership, it is now a generic, Farrow-and-Ball-ish gastro pub. It is busier, so perhaps I am out of step, but it is also less individual and of its place. Sitting there, drinking amid the smells of mussels and steaks, I was trying to decide what I dislike so much about places like this when I discovered among a sheaf of menus and leaflets on the table, a “summer drinks menu” illustrated with fashionable pseudo-hand-drawn pictures. Suddenly I realised; these drinks seemed to be aimed at people who didn’t really like alcoholic drinks all that much, and these pubs are for people who don't really like pubs. They’d rather be at home in the living room, but knowing that would be boring, they go out to somewhere that looks and feels like someone else’s living room.

    The history of the pub becomes really important in this situation, because it is the history that means you’re in a pub (and therefore a fun person) rather than, say, a branch of a recently-refurbished mid-market rural hotel chain. God, how I’m coming to hate Farrow & Ball paint.

    Sunday
    Apr292012

    When brands go wrong: the decline of Superdry

    Various reasons are given for the downturn in the fortunes of Superdry but there can be little doubt that it has lost cache. A few years ago it was a key label for Jamie Olivers Army, whereas now it’s got a humdrum Sports Direct feel to it. I noticed a lot of Superdry jackets at Peppa Pig world in Hampshire recently, which is fine, but not, one assumes, where the label would like to see itself. What’s the problem? Maybe it’s just a question of fashion cycles, but I’d like to think it might indicate a bigger change.

    That whole Superdry aesthetic of taking average-quality basic clothing and slapping a contrived, pseudo-international brand/ethos on them seems very Noughties boomtime (Superdry, American Apparel etc). I’m not saying that it’s going away altogether, but it looks very non-zeitgeisty when you think of the new interest in UK-made/based stuff, clothes with integrity, from Albam to Nigel Cabourn, even to Mary's Knickers. And as the comments on the Guardian website show, for many a middle-class observer, it now merits the name Superchav. 

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