Class conscious - Andrew Martin loses a leg to stop a property
When I said I was having my leg off, they stopped talking about house prices
It's been a very class-conscious week, as usual. On Monday, I bought a small bottle of light ale in a pub and the barman assumed I would drink it straight from the neck, just as if I was somebody in IT and it was a bottle of "Bud". How culturally blind can you be?
On Tuesday, while riding my bike on Marylebone High Street, a man in a gold-coloured Bentley parped his horn at me as I crossed a junction slightly too slowly for his liking. Later, I rode past a bus stop where six people were waiting, all looking wistfully in the direction from which, in an ideal world, the bus might shortly appear.
The conjunction of these events made me nostalgic for the days when there were still quite a few communists about, and I began to wonder what the few remaining ones would make of the widespread use of the word "team" in the workplace.
"Hi, my name is Chris," said a card I picked up at a West End Pret A Manger this week. "I'm the manager of this branch. My team and I meet every morning to discuss the comments you've made . . ."
The word is everywhere. "If I and the on-board team can be of any help, please don't hesitate to ask." "Please look after our team by not smoking at the bar."
And don't newsreaders now say, "Good night from me and the rest of the team"? These are teams only if all the people involved have equal status within the organisation, and I doubt they do. The word is presumably used to borrow some of the glamour attached to sport and, above all, to make people feel guilty if they complain about their working conditions - and I will have no truck with it.
On Thursday, we went to a dinner party and, as usual, I reminded the wife in severe tones as we knocked on the door, "Remember, no discussion of property or our children's education." The door was opened; the hostess said, "Hi, how are you?" And my wife said, "Well, we're thinking of moving down the road so that the boys can go to . . ." I can't remember exactly. I can't keep up with all these schools. I have found it increasingly difficult in recent years to change the subject from property or education at any middle-class gathering. You have to say something along the lines of, "I'm having my leg off next week." Once said, there was no more discussion of property at that particular dinner party. "It proves there's been a crash," said the wife in, to do her credit, an only half-regretful tone.
On Friday, I read what I suppose constitutes a property story in the Ham & High. A very nice, old-fashioned tramp who lives in a shack on Hampstead Heath, and whom I often see walking about Highgate, is likely to be evicted by property developers. Whether they drive gold-coloured Bentleys was not stated. The tramp, who seems to possess limitless grace, has asked that no fuss be made, and no petitions be got up on his behalf.
The story brings a moral dimension to the north London property obsession, as does the recent murder in Highgate of a highly respected couple in late middle age. I read that they moved into their house - which seems to have been picked at random by the killer - three years ago.
My wife and I viewed a house in that very street three years ago. Whether it was the same one I don't know, and it would be ghoulish to cycle by to check, but let's assume so . . . We were very ambivalent about the house, and viewed it three times. If we'd bought it, we'd probably have been fretting right up to this year about whether it was a good buy or not, obsessing about all the ultimately trivial questions of Tube access, closeness to schools and so on, and then the curtain would have come down on us instead.
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