When I first wrote The Class Ceiling a couple of years ago – the story of a cleaner who inherits enough money to send her kids to private school but none to live the accompanying lifestyle – one agent said to me, ‘Why are you writing about class? No-one’s interested in class any more.’ Well. It appears that I was ahead of my time (or far enough behind to be fashionable again). Can I just whisper JK Rowling, The Casual Vacancy?
And even the jolly old Times had a lovely test to get us arguing over the breakfast table – The New Middle-Class Top 50 – How Many Can You Tick? Seven out of ten of us apparently think we fall into that category. Husband – in my mind, not nearly as posh as me - reckons he can trump my (rather paltry) 18 out of 50. Personally, I am disappointed to find that I am less than half middle class. How can that be? From the rather random list supposedly defining those sandwiched between working and upper, I was able to tick making my own chutney. What a ringing endorsement of refinement! Nigella’s cranberry. Though it does make me feel very Mother Earth and pretty smug.
Another tick in my little box for ‘I have dinner parties in the kitchen’. I don’t think that’s to do with being middle class though, more a fear of missing out. Can’t stand the shouts of laughter in the dining room while I’m nose to nose with the cheese plate in the kitchen, trying to work out whether the dog has just sniffed it or actually got a lick in.
I absolutely love to snoop on Zoopla, another perceived sign of burgeoning bourgeoisie. Who’d have thought that the people quibbling over an extra fifty pence so the teaching assistant can have some flowers at Christmas made a hundred per cent profit when they sold their last house? And recycling. Don’t get me started. Never let it be said that a redundant grain of quinoa escapes my little green food bin. And somehow I don’t feel half as bad about chugging down vats of wine as long as those bottles are going to create nice new road surfaces.
So far, so good. But husband informs me that he is more middle class than me with a score of 19. Impossible. I see he has ticked ‘man hugs’ – the new handshake among urbane types. I’m discounting that. This is the man who puts his hand up to visiting guests - ‘I don’t do kisses’ - when they try to greet him with (very middle class) cheek kissing. I’m also ignoring his foraging claims - as in, it’s become all terribly chattering classes to go seasonal and hoover up sloes and mushrooms on autumn walks. When the kids and I are blowing cobwebs off blackberries and making a slaughterhouse out of our hands, the husband is muttering about bumblebee wee and maggots. The only thing I’ve ever known him forage for is cheese in the fridge…we always know it’s him because he never cuts it with a knife, just breaks off a great jaggedy lump. Which leads me neatly back to the cutting the nose off the Brie, the anti-Christ of the middle classes. Only in our house it’s more a chunk off the Cheddar.
So I think that takes his score back down to seventeen. Which means he’s married up, not down, though I am still trying to train myself not to say ‘settee’ or ‘lounge’ (cuttingly described by one of my posh friends as what people say when they are trying to be posh…). So, I guess that leads on to the question – does any of it matter a jot? I’m going to think about that one, but in the meantime, please do tell me if you have any class insights, I’m dying to know. Or is being too nosey a bit common?