Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I dimly remember Roger Scruton writing somewhere that snobbery was a form of sanctity. This made certain meritocratic types of my acquaintance madder than wet hens, which, I assume, was Roger's intention. He's like that. But I know what he meant - snobbery sustains class divisions and aspirations which were the foundations of eighteenth century England, a kind of paradise. Unlike Roger, I can't go along with this. Not only am I an angry agnostic, I am also chippy middle class. This means I regard the working class with intense paranoia because I know they are out to rip me off and the upper class with burning resentment because all this bird-slaughter and condescension is plainly designed to conceal the fact that they aren't as clever and well-read as me.
But, to be honest, I think the worst aspects of the British class system are expressed in the idiotic strivings of the middle class. One becomes aware of these things if one spends too much of the summer in the country. There is, for example, the desperately fraught phenomenon of the house guest. Middle class house guests instinctively strip their beds before they leave and neatly fold the sheets, perhaps even putting them in the washing machine. Upper class guests leave their beds unmade and a tip for the cleaning lady. These are both perfectly respectable responses. What is not respectable is middle class types making a big show of leaving a cleaning lady pourboire just to demonstrate they know about upper class manners. Once you notice this, you see it everywhere. I was scanning a wedding magazine in a hairdresser's and I became oppressively aware that weddings have become an entire industry designed to extract money from the middle classes by telling them they must have flouncy marquees, poncey catering and daft clothes because that's what the upper classes do. And what did the middle class jerks in the City who made money out of dud mortgages and the misery of the poor spend their bonuses on? Purdey shot guns and the like.
I have come to the view that we should proudly be what we are. This means we should politely say to the uppers 'We don't do that, we read Marilynne Robinson' when they offer to take us bird murdering and to the lowers, 'Don't come the cheeky chappy with me, sunshine, I'm in trade myself' when they tell us fixing the toilet will cost exactly £999.99. Being non-striving middle class is, I have concluded, the most fun.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 6:39 am