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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

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.   


Steve said...

I come from solid working class stock but we always aspired to middle class and, I think, made it sometime in the eighties. However, given the need to work myself like a horse until I'm at least 70 I can't help thinking that middle class became the new working class and I haven't actually been very upwardly mobile at all.

Jack the Hat said...

Living in a tower block for decades has been an experience

Phase 1 solid working class folk with jobs move in from slums

Phase 2 wasters, druggies, vandals etc move in (I think posh folk call them the underclass - I call em the scumclass)

Phase 3 people with middle class jobs and more money than sense move in paying over the odds for an ex right to buy flat

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the Monty Python photo. My husband thinks its got something to do with the sketch about the man whose family were so poor that they had to live in a shoe.

John Gray said...

It's not a month python photo
It's from a satire show from the 1960s

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification. My husband was confused by Michael Palin being in the photo.

Bojo said...


Barry Coidan said...

Dear Steve, you'll be rewarded in that great suburbia in the sky.

Barry Coidan said...

Dear JtH, have you sold out yet and moved to Chigwell?

Barry Coidan said...

Dear Anon, I would get your husband looked at: he's clearly losing it. Nothing to do with a family on benefit. It's the British class structure sketch from the early 60's satirical TV show "That Was the Week That Was".
Michael Palin it isn't. It's John Cleese.

P.S. Being a smart arse is one of the privileges of getting on in years.

Barry Coidan said...

Dear Bojo, yep Pontins made Butlins look classy.