Tuesday, 8 September 2009

A touch of class

I’m not sure exactly when it happened but somehow I’ve become middle class. At least, I think I have – it’s hard to tell these days.

I grew up in East London in a terraced house that had a toilet tacked on to the end of it. My parents were a milkman and a home help. I went to a local secondary school, left with few O levels and stayed on for a few weeks to study A levels. That is, until I got offered a job and needed to ‘pay my way’ at home.

I suppose the slide started when I was 22. After stints at a chemical manufacturers, as a milkman and then in the civil service (they really did take on anyone), I went to America for a year. It was only meant to be an 8 week trip, as far as my boss was concerned, but a car accident at week 6 gave me the opportunity I'd been looking for.

True, I’d held pretensions of writing a novel since I was 17, like many other disaffected adolescents. However, by the time I got back from New York, I had a rough draft of a very rough novel. And that’s not false modesty; I still have the original handwritten and typed versions.

Fast forward a lot of years and I’m a manager in a Telco, where I started out as a clerical officer. I’m living in Cornwall and posting this now as a distraction from the ongoing edit of a different novel. And that original manuscript? Well, it's much improved over the years, I hope. And a contract has been signed with a 2009 publication date looming. [You can read about it elsewhere in this blog.]

Now, my brother maintained that I had become middle class on the following charges:
1. Purchasing an Aga - guilty, using my partner’s redundancy payout.
2. Possessing a golden retriever - guilty, it was a second-hand one.
3. Driving a brand new car - guilty, but he paid for it after the family house was sold.
4. Reading the Guardian - guilty, once a week, on a Saturday.

I could ask to be taken into consideration: writing that second novel (available to all good literary agents and publishers, gag & sketch writing as a hobby and co-writing The Little Book of Cynics (plug, plug).

Evidence to the contrary is more circumstantial but I’d probably chalk up on the list:
1. Pro union and worker’s rights (I may not be a shop steward anymore but I still know the difference between socialism and socialising).
2. A lifelong and heartfelt love of swearing (thanks mum!) and not in any ironic way.
3. One business suit to my name. (And when it wears out, I’ll get another one, in the sales)
4. I eat in front of the TV. And not through a lack of furniture.
5. My idea of a good meal out is going down one of the local pubs.

I think, on balance, I’ve a foot in each camp. Whatever I am now, the roots of my upbringing run deep and rightly so. If a taxi driver can win Mastermind and a bus driver can be a successful novelist then surely I can knock up a story or two.


  1. There. I know more about you from that brief post than from several meetings! Funny, isn't it, how we feel the need to apologise for being middle-class? As if that makes us somehow second-class citizens?

  2. Fair point, Susie. I think my resistance comes down to having had none of the benefits of a middle class upbringing, and now all of the attendant uncomfortableness!