Thursday, May 13, 2004

My weekly plough through the Guardian recently reminded me that the new columnist in the Weekend section is fairly annoying in a thoroughly middle class way. In this particular column, she was complaining about her children's outlook on life and then came full circle by feeling guilty herself about having moved them to a presumably dung-infested corner of Suffolk where they were unable to have any fun or commune with anything other than the occasional sheep. Apparently she had been driving her kids through a ghastly common person's estate when they commented on how "cool" it was that children were playing out in the street and were seemingly enjoying themselves. Madam had difficulty in restraining herself from saying that her children should be made of finer stuff and would as a matter of course develop Good Taste.

At one point she disparagingly used the expression "boxy newbuilds". Hah! Even as a Wimpey Estate dweller, I didn't take offence. Oh no. Mainly because I find hilarious the middle class preoccupation with paying way over the odds for a big, drafty house riddled with woodworm, damp and "real individuality, unlike those characterless new estates which are going up everywhere, usually on some greenbelt land which should be left well alone". Almost as funny as the insistence of such people that on holiday they are "travellers" rather than "tourists". It seems that everyone loves to have a pop at anyone in the social class one or two rungs down from them: perhaps people think "there by the grace of God - fortunately, due to my intelligence, tenacity and Good Taste, I have escaped such an awful fate!". Yes, how awful in the scheme of things to run a double glazing business, or to be a woman wearing a pink velour tracksuit.

Similarly, the often heard opinion of your "decent, law abiding, hard-working, taxpaying" end of the working and lower middle classes is turned against Single Mothers On Benefits who've Had It Too Easy. Or the unknown quantity of east Europeans who are allegedly about to swamp Britain with their savage unEnglish ways. Presumably, it's only when you are at the very bottom of the heap that you can find no-one else to kick.

It's pretty common knowledge that there's always somebody worse off than you. Whether they want to admit it or not, most people would take just as much comfort from the fact that there's always somebody with much worse taste than you.

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