Archive for April, 2008

A half-successful week

Well I’m back in Aber (and the Internet has been shored back up. Again.) Had a busy week back in Shropshire, and bits of it were unexpectedly successful.

Got back on Wednesday, and the washing machine finally and unexpectedly gave up the ghost, and started pouring water all over the floor. Fair play to the thing, though, it’s lasted thirteen years, and spent the last two with the door held in place with duck tape and a tent-peg since the hinges rusted through, so it’s not as if it just got bored of doing the washing and broke itself. Still, that did lead to an interesting Thursday game of “hunt the sack truck” so I could actually move it out of the kitchen having disconnected it from the pipes.

However, Tyler’s Gas and Electrical up in St. Mary’s Street were nice and helpful (actually told me what to look for, and which makes to avoid, which I wouldn’t really have known) and were able to deliver a new machine on Saturday and take the old one away again (which saved me having to ring the council to come and collect it, which was good).

Discovered that, if you’re chucking out a washing machine, a couple of minutes with a penknife will give you not only the obvious spare plug, but also a handy plastic bowl (formerly the window in the door) which you can turn into a plant-pot, or salad bowl for taking camping, or something. And, of course, you gain an extra four screws, although we’ve got boxes and boxes of screws at Newport, so we just dumped them in the cellar.

Also discovered that washing machines, whilst fairly easy to plumb in, have ceased to take water from both the hot and cold pipes, and you thus need to cap the hot pipe junction, which involved crawling about under the worksurface with an adjustable spanner, and banging my head. Gah. Still, there’s a new one, now, with an actual energy rating, and everything.

I live in hope that the long-term savings proffered by the new washing machine might convince my mother that a fridge somewhat newer than the current MidElec 50 (I’m genuinely not sure, but I think that might be MidElec as in ‘Midlands Electricity Board,’ which leads me to have some strong suspicions that it’s not, in fact, likely to qualify for any level of energy efficiency rating at all. Also it’s down one shelf, since the students broke the glass one, and periodically the bars which form the milk shelf on the inside of the door snap loose and drop things everywhere. Still, one thing at a time, I suppose.

Anyway, that was a success, as was stopping by school to say hello to Mrs. K in the Library, which was fun, and Thursday evening in the Bridge, where I was able to catch up with actually quite a lot of people; I didn’t realise so many people were still within shooting distance of Newport, although the number of us geared to become actual professionals is something I find rather alarming!

Less successful was my expedition to see Mr. Banks, who wasn’t in (and whose phone number, along with most other numbers, I lost when my mobile got nicked).

Also something of a fail was my construction of a new PC for my mother, which went fine right up until Sunday evening, when, just as I’d finished installing things and copying over new files, and so on, died on it’s arse. Not sure what’s given out; it’s either the motherboard or the tower/PSU (the two of them came together) but either way it’s very annoying. Have had to arrange a return with Dabs, and will have to go back to Newport to re-build the damn thing at some point presently, although it ought to take less time now I don’t need to install huge swathes of stuff to the new drive…

O, and I completely forgot about having to take it all to bits again until we were about to leave the house on Monday morning, so I had a fun time stripping a case down and disconnecting everything against the clock. Did it in about seven minutes, which I think is not too bad, since I wanted the bulk of the components to actually survive (and I really hope they have; it’ll be such a pain if they haven’t.

Didn’t manage to go to Meeting on Sunday, because it was the last Sunday of the month, so it was actually happening at Coalbrookedale, which we’d forgotten. However we did get a very nice pub lunch at the Navigation Inn in Gnosall which I reckon I’d reccommend, and then we had a wander along the Shropshire Union, and met a fairly cheerful guy who talked to us for an hour, mostly about his boat, which he was taking up the Norbury Junction for a festival/fundraiser for the guys trying to restore the canal down to Newport (which, though I admit to bias from two entirely seperate directions) I reckon would be a huge boost for the place, since it would give people a reason to go there which they’ll be hard pushed to find from any other source…

Anyway, he was also fairly keen to tell us helpful things such as would be handy when buying a boat, so that was good too, and we didn’t get caught in a storm, although we only just managed that, so it might not count!

And then we came home on Monday; we got an actual train which took us all the way back to Aber, which was amazing, and, also, ran into Rosemary, with whom I’d wanted to speak at Meeting (which we didn’t get to) in the Town Centre, which was very useful. And I bought a fairly good photo of the Wrekin in winter (which would be ‘very good’ if only there wasn’t a conspicuous bird alighting on a tree a couple of inches to the left of the Wrekin itself; screws up the focal point, which I reckon spoils it, although as a documentary item I’m sure it’s very flash.)

Still, back now. Here we go again…


“And so, as the mousedroppings of fate sink into the muesli of eternity, I notice it’s the end of the show…”

‘s been going through my head since I turned on the radio this morning. Figured it was worth sharing with people.

I’m off to dig out the anniversary special.

Well that came out sounding rather more fed up than I’d expected it to…

There’s been a “thing” recently, much akin to the cyclical trends of flared trousers, yo-yos and pogs, which seems to be growing in Aber. I honestly can’t tell if it’s been about for ages and I’ve only just started tuning into other people’s conversations rather than sitting there in a Happy Dream World (TM), but I find myself not exactly bothered by it, but sufficiently confused by my own status of ‘at odds with this argument’ that I’ve actually been wanting to blog about it for a couple of weeks.

From where I’m sitting there’s basically a linguistic gulf between me and, um, most of my social circle here, in that they seem (at least in terms of what they say, rather than what they do) to think that being middle class is a bad thing. This baffles me completely, as I shall now relate:

In terms of class I see the bulk of the UK population as having access to two states: Working class and Middle class. Upper class is one of those things that you can’t achieve unless you have it, although you can, if you want, work at getting it over four to ten generations (barring massive social upheavals), so I discount it here since I can only count, uh, threeish people of my vague accquaintance who might fall into that bracket.

I’m fairly sure the problem here is with definition, rather than an actual world view, but I’m not sure, so let me explain.

I interpret the three classes as being, in very general terms somewhere in the following brackets by, say, 40ish:

Working class: Education level somewhere between Key Stage 3 and A-level, or Vocational Qualification equivilant. Probably employed in unskilled service industry or as skilled manual labour in manufacturing, etc. Financially badly off; limited savings, poor credit ratings, etc. The kind of people to whom DFS offer ‘Nothing to pay for a whole year!’ credit deals at 19%.

Middle class: Probably educated to graduate level and above. Typically management careers, lawyers, doctors, or owners of businesses. Reasonably well off; decent enough credit rating, probably enough savings that they can re-furbish the entire lounge, carpets and all without needing to take out a loan.

Upper class: Probably went to university, although with the luxury of not having to pay much attention. Bulk of money likely to come either from land, or owned industry, or else the whole goldpile went up the swannee somewhere in the last eighty years or so, and they live in a corner of the family estate having donated the rest to the National Trust, or something. Haven’t refurbished any of the rooms since mother insisted on getting an oil-powered Aga back in the fifties.

Now given that, I don’t see what the problem is with being Middle class. Christ, I want to be Middle class. I spent the winter of 1999 with the hole in my £20 BHS shoes patched up with guttering tape. Bugger that for a game of soldiers, I want to be able to go “these shoes are wearing thin, I shall buy some new ones,” not “I am going to have to make these last through until the January sales,” for Christ’s sake.

(Actually, in terms of shoes, I’m rather hoping to go with “These shoes are wearing thin, I shall have to send them back to Italy to have them re-soled,” but I’ll come to that in a minute.)

I assume the only logical reason people don’t like the idea of being ‘Middle class’ is that they mean something else. Claire, for example, said something like “I’d hate to be middle class!” with quite some force, and when I asked why, she said “Because I hate the idea that I have to eat steak, or something, when I just want a pie and chips!”

What I can’t grasp about that is that it’s the exact opposite of why I want to be middle class; viz: I want to be middle class so that if I want a steak, I’m not forced to eat pie and chips because I can’t afford anything else.

What I think must be happening is that when other people say “middle class,” what they mean is what I would call the “petty bourgeois” – the sort of people who didn’t like Keeping up appearances because they didn’t understand why Hyacinth allowed that fat slob Onslow into her house.

I can understand not wanting to be like that (although I’ve always felt that you’d have to work quite hard to manage it) because that kind of attitude makes you sound like a complete prig. When Harriet was at the Borough we dropped a friend of hers off at her house in Newport, following some music thing or other. The house turned out to be on one of the new housing estates up the Forton Road, and, hillariously, as my mother turned into said estate the girl said “it’s OK, we live on this private drive, but you can go up.”

It wasn’t a private drive, of course; what she meant was “1980s cul-de-sac” but that presumably wouldn’t have sounded quite so posh. Now I confess I ought to cut the girl some slack, because just about everyone is an insufferable git when they’re thirteen (or at least I certainly was) but it was especially funny to us because we do live up a private drive. We don’t, of course, own the bloody thing (although the deeds to the house to specify that we are allowed vehicular access at all times) but we had great fun imagining our neighbour Charlie’s response to that statement, because he’s Hellish keen on keeping out anyone without access rights, which I think comes of being a mechanic and wanting lots of room for vehicles to turn.

Presumably, if that girl doesn’t get sufficiently battered by everyone else in society, then she will grow up to be the kind of person who says things like “Don’t put tomato sauce on your french fries, Tarquin; look, dab a spot of mayonnaise on with this lovely little spoon, there’s a good boy,” although for her sake, I hope she doesn’t.

And, yes, people like that are a sub-set of the middle class, but I don’t think they’re by any means the majority (and, in fact, I tend to assume they’re the people on the borderline, the people who can buy a new sofa no problem, but who have to take the payment plan if they want the full suite).

I think people tend to be more concerened with how they look when they’re on the edges. The upper middle class have a tendancy to embarass themselves by trying to jump up more than can be done in a single generation (and consequently go about buying up perfectly nice houses in the Lake District, flying a Union Flag on a dirty great pole in the middle of the drive, and stocking up all the bookcases with complete sets of Sherlock Holmes from the Reader’s Digest which, when put all in a row, make a silhouette of a man with a pipe and a deerstalker which made the whole thing look like an outsized Mister Men Collection. [True story!]

But, aye. I’ve no interest whatsoever in telling people that they’re not allowed to eat chips, and I’ve no aspiration to be one of those people who refuses to have a slobby evening slumped in front of the TV in case someone looks in through the window.

But I also have no desire to be one of those people who, when they quite fancy a bit of fish, is obliged to drive down to the chippy because they can’t afford to get some salmon and new potatoes in. I won’t ever make it to upper class, but I don’t see why I shouldn’t aspire to being a man with a profession, a steady income, and savings enough that I can take whatever holidays I fancy when I can escape the rat-race for a couple of days.

And I really don’t see why wanting that, or taking in the Saturday Guardian, would put me in the petty bourgeois category. And this is why I am confused, because I cannot tell if people object to the notion that I’ll start caring that they only every buy cars which are less than three license plates old (and have never been owned by one of those immigrants) or if they just mean somehing different by “middle class” than I do.

So, I dunno. Am I right in guessing that, or is there actually a problem here? (Because if there is, I bet I can out Yorkshireman Sketch you buggers without resorting to exaggeration) Frankly, I’d be far more worried if I were reading the Daily Mail. That’s what poor people read…