Thursday, 25 October 2012

Am I Posh? Class And Culture; A Case Of Mistaken Identity

Am I posh? Yesterday a workman came in to fix the tap. He'd interrupted LJ's piano-playing (Debussy's Arabesque, 'cause she's exhausted the Chas 'n' Dave songbook), which she went back to. Later, the workman, having declared his love of Bach (what? you're a plumber!), announced that he'd never been in such a posh flat, to which LJ could only reply 'We're not posh!'. I slapped his back, asked if he'd seen the football last night, offered him a fag, ran out and bought The Sun, showed him Page 3...anything but have him think we're posh! The poor deluded man had seen all my music, some of the books, heard LJ playing Debussy, added two and two together and came up with five.

It's understandable. After all, to collect books and music and play Debussy you've got to be a bit posh, surely. He hadn't accounted for the fact that his company was contracted out to a Housing Association, obviously. Perhaps he thought we were moneyed and, rent-wise, living well within our means.

But then, 'posh' doesn't necessarily relate to income, does it? We have 'posh' taste? We have middle-class taste? I've no idea what middle-class music collections look like, so now I wonder if mine fits the bill...Jazz (oh very middle!), Funk (mmm, maybe), vintage electronic (?), modern electronic (?), avant-garde electronic (probably), reggae (?) - there's just no telling. As for the books, a collection including Ray Bradbury and Baudelaire doesn't say much, does it? The imaginary browser might do better to note what isn't here.

I tell myself that class in relation to culture is rapidly becoming impossible to define because I know a few people with similar taste who aren't 'posh', but then I look around at society and see that the stereotypes still fit the bill. People-watching outside a cafĂ© the other week, LJ and me discussed girls,what they wear and what it says about them. We concluded that for the average prole girl sporting the Hooker look, celeb dolly birds dressed like tarts are key role-models. LJ's dead against it, of course, but men, strangely, are more reluctant to criticise.

The success of The Only Way Is Essex spurs working class youths to greater heights of gawd blimey bling (except that Essex girls don't say 'Gawd blimey, do they? They say 'Oh my god!' a lot, I think). Well, they must aspire to something. Something superficial - off-the-peg pride. They say it loud, they're airheads and proud. It's a natural reaction in an increasingly polarised society of haves and have-nots. Material success is all, and is not inherently related to class because you could become a working-class TV celeb and get rich, couldn't you? Yes. If not, at least dress like one.

Posh culchur is the last thing a working-class boy or girl wants to aspire to; things like Classical or avant-garde music, and books that aren't celeb biographies, Harry Potter, or E. L. James. Sadly, all that glitters in mini-skirts 'n' vertigo-inducing heels is not gold, but more like 50 shades of gormless grey.

In case you're thinking I equate certain forms of culture with intelligence, I should state that I'm pretty stupid. The average school kid would do better than me in exams...unless they were juniors...although even there I'm doubtful. No, all I'm thinking is that books, music and films of depth, or artistic integrity and daring, do us all good, if only by stretching the imagination and, yes, intellect. Anything made for sheeple does the opposite, it confines, confirms ignorance, and cashes in on it. I'm sure that all I've read, seen and heard has enlarged my mind (m-a-a-n), and there was/is plenty of room for enlargement, believe me.

Anyway, here's to the Bach-loving plumber. He may have read us wrong, but at least he defied what would have been our stereotyping of him. There's hope yet.


  1. Brilliantly articulated, thanks for a great read.
    Mr SDS and I once went to Liverpool where someone described us as "a posh bird with a bit of rough" (or maybe it was "posh bieerd")- anyway it sticks in my mind. I'm really not posh, just a Southerner who speaks quite nicely, and he's really not rough, though, to be fair, until I met him I'd never eaten baked beans WITH chips and I have him to thank for that. At the same time, though, neither had I read R.D. Laing's 'Knots', heard of 'Battleship Potemkin' or listened to Curved Air before he introduced me to them...

    1. Thanks, C. You would appear posh to the common scouser!

  2. Culture isn't a reliable indicator of class, but it's better than money. Your Bach-loving plumber would still classify himself as working class. If he met the Queen (posh, rich), I'm sure he'd know more about Bach than she would, but she'd be able to make make the right noises. Whereas Posh Spice (rich) would be utterly lost.

    I always remember an encounter I had with a security guard at university, when I asked him for the keys to a theatre. "Will you need any help getting scenery in?" he asked. "No, we don't have any scenery," I said. "Oh, sort of Brechtian alienation technique?" he responded. "Not really my cup of tea, I'm afraid." Put me in my poncey middle-class place, that did.

    1. Ha! Good story, Tim. Culture is far more reliable than anything else since so many proles started making enough money to shift them into another bracket financially...taking copies of The Sun/Mirror with them, mind. I'm working-class in everything but cultural taste. Perhaps if more of us admitted that perceptions would change. But it's obvious why so many of us want to disassociate ourselves from 'them'.


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