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Monday, 28 July 2014

A Room with A View

I've spent much of my adult life trying to be middle class.

I didn't try very hard during the first couple of decades. I was too naive; and simply too stupid. I was surrounded by examples of tip top middle classness. My mother was, not exactly working class since her family were workers on the land, but my dad's family were middle class through and through except  somehow they ended up as trade, don't you know.

I managed for quite a while to evade the blandishments of cloying "keeping up with the Jones" - that gives my age away, despite...going to crap private school where all the kids were from families with dishwashers and automatic washing machines, Jaguars and stereo systems.

At university I hung around with dentist's daughters and headmaster's off springs. I supported the draft dodgers and went to the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. I listened to Leonard Cohen and Buffy St Marie and tripped out on Liebfraumilch.

My parents were fatally down market. Joe Loss, Mrs Mills and the BBC Light Orchestra. Holidays in Ludlow, Poole and Weymouth and a treat at Pontins - where I discovered love (sex), but more of that another day.

Even my girl friends were from the wrong side of the track - from the Council Estate, or the daughter of a tool maker made good. I used to clean his Vauxhall Vestra for 10 shillings. Afterwards I'd chammy down his daughter. 

Living in Hampstead and Belsize Park, I clearly brushed up against the middle classes but somehow I wasn't impressed. Any sort of pretentions were limited to buying the most expensive record deck and amplifier I could afford - and a sheep skin coat.

My Jewish girlfriend, with her own "new" Mini and a family living in a large house in Hampstead sort of opened my eyes. Bidets, on suite bathrooms and extremely large kitchens full of stuff. Heals catalogues, and regular holidays in places I hadn't heard of and...wine.

But that was a mere interlude. Who knows, had she not "given me up" on religious grounds maybe now I'd be truly kosher upper middle class. After that brief encounter with wealth and good taste I reverted to my base instincts.  Pubs, curries and flatulence.

I blame my first wife ( I've been married only twice - for the record) for seducing me into middle class ways. She was solidly middle class - and you can't get more middle class than English speaking white South Africans from Johannesburg .

Her dad was a director of a multi- national company. Her mum from an established white English South African family. Not one of our acquaintances was "trade".  Lawyers, surgeons, dentists, artists, and politicians by the bucket load, not one plumber or chippie.

I got used to the middle class way of life. Elizabeth David, Oz Clarke, John Lewis and Siematic were my watch words. 

I suppose the mid 80's were the apogee of my middle class persona. It's then we had the bidet in the bathroom and the De Dietrich in the kitchen. This was years before Farrow and Ball and slatted blinds, but it was the same statement.

And then it all fell apart. I reverted to type. Broke up the family home, dossed on  a mate's floor and ate curry and drank beer - couldn't afford wine what with the mortgage and other out goings.

20 odd years on, I'm still pursuing that middle class dream. Reading of house price increases in our  neighbourhood is better than sex.

I'm embarrassed driving my Vauxhall Astra - I walk past it if anyone might see me get in.

I take our Waitrose "bags for life"when I shop at Sainsbury's - won't be seen dead at Tesco's or Morrisons. Lidl bags are fine - now.

I go to the theatre regularly. I reckon at least 6 times a year qualifies you as "interesting" and "informed". Concert going is my down fall - I just can't be arsed if you want the honest truth, and opera - well at those  prices - no way. 

My salvation is living in Walthamstow. God it is now so excitingly middle class - in that truly nicely upwardly mobile sort of way.

I just hope we don't get left behind when they all move onto the next middle class "must have" postal code.   

Friday, 25 July 2014

Dark Matter

"Existentialism": It's brilliant. It's long, it sounds learned and it was made up by that French genius John Paul Sartre and his friend Albert Camus.

If you are lucky enough to be interviewed on the "Today" programme, about anything really, bung in a few existential threats or crisis and you'll be booked on all the Beeb's Radio 4 progs.

I have absolutely no idea why we bother with it. It's too long, most people haven't the foggiest idea what it means and I suspect most people who use it don't know either.

Which is why it's a "fave" on the Beeb. Jenny Murray gets bogged down on "Woman's Hour", sure enough she's banging on about the existential threat of the BOGOF offers at Tesco's. Evan Davis is nonplussed by a contestant on "Dragon's Den", and we're into an existential crisis in the High Street.

Even Clarkson has been known to raise the spectre of an existential moment , but usually phrased in good old Anglo-Saxon.

Which brings me to my point.

I've just be listening to a "Point of View". Usually a fifteen minute radio slot where someone quite bright and articulate tackles a question of the moment. Except tonight it was Will Self.

To be honest, with a name like that he immediately is not my favourite. He and Will.i.am. Now he's extremely bright and speaks with an undisguised "Estuary" accent, which I believe scores points in Islington's coffee shops.

But does he have to show off his cranium quotient so promiscuously?   Every other word is at least twenty letters long with either a Latin or Greek root. What is wrong with good old Anglo Saxon, or Norse for that matter.

This is more a reflection of the lack of depth of my knowledge, but tonight I spent most of the time not listening to Will but referencing his collection of overly complicated sentences.

He was either showing off or knows no other way of speaking. Either way he's a loser.

Can I suggest that as an exercise in humility, reconnecting with the human race or just being more literate he tries to write in short sentences and with a max two syllables a word.

And if he says you can't express complex ideas simply. He's not trying.


Thursday, 24 July 2014

Total Recall

When I met my mate to play squash earlier in the week he had an old racquet with him. He'd gone to the gym that weekend, at the same sports centre where we played squash, and absentmindedly took his squash racquet with him. After his gym session he, of course, left the centre without his racquet.

He was surprised to find that someone had handed it in, but that joy was tempered by the thought that he was having more and more "senior moments".  It was made worse when he discovered that he'd forgotten to pack his cuff links.

I thought "Poor man, he'll be forgetting where he lives soon."

It's that time of year when the car needs to be taxed. I'd received a reminder from the DVLA and as usual I logged on to their site to renew my tax on line. It's a really painless process. You key in the reference number they provide in the reminder and that brings up your car reg etc. If that's o.k. you click thro' to renew.

Except this time I was told there was no matching valid MoT certificate. Must be some mistake, I thought so I went through the process again - after all they were testing a Beta service upgrade. Nope, no MoT.

Not a problem, the certificate would be with my papers. I'm very particular about keeping everything up to date and tidy. I found every MoT cert. from when I bought the car 5 years ago, but no current one. As I was going through the car's log book I turned up the invoice for its last annual service. It would be due quite soon, after the MoT renewal.

It was dated March 2013. I had completely forgotten to have the car serviced, thinking it was due some 6 months later.

I'd been driving without a valid MoT, in an unserviced car - I was one of those ruffins of the road I keep going on about. You know the sort, feckless cheapskates who, for saving a few pounds, don't bother to keep their car taxed, insured, MoT'd and serviced.

I dashed round to the garage which I thought had MoT'd my car last year. "If DVLA say you ain't got a MoT cert. you ain't got one." "But I need one!" I muttered. "Can I bring my car in on Monday for an MoT, I need the car over the weekend. And a full service since I appear to have forgotten to have the car looked at in March." "You ain't got an MoT cert. so you can't drive the car" my garage owner helpfully pointed out. "Bring the car in and we'll do the MoT and service tomorrow."

"Thank you, oh so thank you", I mouthed as I kissed his oil smeared boots and wiped the sweat from his treasured brow.

All this will now have completely thrown out of kilter my carefully scheduled cash flow, with an unexpected MoT fee and annual service bill, not to mention that bloody iniquitous road tax.

Now where did I file away the Coidan's household budget spreadsheet. I didn't absentmindedly delete it did I?