Yesterday I mentioned how proud I am of my working class northern roots. Friends and colleagues would say I’m somewhat obsessed by them. I’ve been accused in the past of favouring people from the north and of being a bit of a cheap scumbag. I hold my hands up to both of these allegations. They’re factually correct and I don’t like to shy away from the truth. I do prefer other northerners. And I like a bargain. What of it? Perhaps it is a little weirder, however, that I’m wary of the middle classes. When I meet someone new, and am unsure of how posh, or potentially southern they are, I always ask the following question:
‘When did you first have an olive and enjoy it?’
This is my little test. Yes, they’ll usually think it’s a strange opening gambit. But, for me, their answer is generally a clear indicator of whether we can truly ever be friends. I don’t think I tried an olive until I was in my early twenties, and at first, I couldn’t tolerate the little shits. My taste buds weren’t ready for that kind of thing. Nowadays, I’m rather partial, but if I learn that someone started eating them happily before puberty, then I’m on my guard. Oh, they had olives in their house, did they? Kettle Chips in their lunchbox? Knew what a pistachio was? Jesus.
If I then discover they didn’t have a telly as a youngster, or if they did, weren’t allowed to watch Grange Hill because it was considered a bad influence, then I realise that we are from different stock and are unlikely to truly gel as adults.
I’m also suspicious of people who went to boarding school. I’d wanted to go as a child – not to escape my evil parents or to have the opportunity of a better education. No, it was primarily because in the Enid Blyton’s Mallory Towers and St Claire’s books, the girls had tuck boxes and regular midnight feasts. Oh, and once you got into the sixth form, the younger girls had to act as personal slaves for you. What’s not to like about that? Loads of food and cheap labour. Sounds idyllic.
I’m even a bit put off by people who had to wear a blazer to school. Bit too smart. Bit too middle class for me. To be fair, my senior school had a blazer in its uniform collection, but there was only one child who ever wore one. And he got the shit mercilessly kicked out of him for this most days. I’ve just remembered he had a briefcase too. So he deserved it. Come to think of it, what if he was just a very small teacher? Oh dear.
And, in the spirit of complete honesty, even people who used to have their tea at a table every night are a bit too ‘hoity toity’ for my liking. And yes, it’s tea, not dinner. I’ll argue until I’m blue in the face and my tea’s ready, that it’s not called dinner. Only posh people call it that. It’s breakfast, dinner, tea. Fact. The only time my family would sit at a table to eat was at Christmas and even then we’d have to position ourselves so that my dad had the best view of the telly from his chair. We were, and remain, a classy bunch.
As well as being slovenly coach potatoes, we weren’t a well-off family (I didn’t have a Mr Frosty/Operation/Soda Stream – still aggrieved about that), but we weren’t poor (I did have Mousetrap – which was crap). I remember that money was tight – my dad would gamble away his wages and my mum would worry about the loan that I used to pay off for her. I didn’t literally pay it off – I only had a paper-round at the time, but I religiously cycled down to Riby Square to hand over the cash on her behalf on a Saturday morning. Oh, I did have a bike too.
So it wasn’t too bad. But there were no school skiing trips for me. I’d ridden a donkey at Cleethorpes beach (the poor bastard), but never a horse. I didn’t take music or dance lessons. So when I meet people who were involved in those kind of activities, I tend to dismiss them as posh gets. Who were spoilt.
I also think that my mum’s need to watch every penny and be frugal has rubbed off on me. It will never matter how much I earn, or how well I manage my finances.
So, when a friend suggests going to one of the more expensive bars in town, even though I can afford it, I start to get a bit stressed about how much a pint is going to cost. And feel uneasy that it’s unlikely they’ll stock Scampi Fries.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m always first to the bar when we’re out, but I’d prefer it if that bar had a happy hour, or cocktail offers, or was perhaps, even better still, a slightly upmarket Wetherspoons.
I’ll buy two for one offers at the supermarket – just because they’re two for one, and not because I particularly like the products involved. I ended up with two bags of McCain’s Smiley Faces once. Most of which weren’t smiling. There had clearly been a production line disaster which meant they’d all adopted a one-eyed evil snarl. Who wants that kind of evil potato gang on their plate? Well I did. But just because they were cheap.
On holiday, I’ll spend up to an hour wandering along the seafront restaurants, because I worry that perhaps, just 100 metres away, someone could be eating an almost identical meal and may have paid one euro less than me. If I don’t take up that offer, then I’ve practically allowed the whole of Spain to fuck me up the arse. And I can’t have that. I can’t waste good money. Or have copious amounts of anal sex. Not after that bowel cancer scare.