Class conscious

We've sold our London house and are looking for a new home - a fraught affair class-wise.

My first idea was Oxford - a good place to bring up children, I innocently thought, with much accessible green space, the lack of which was our original reason for selling up. But I was deterred by Londoners accusing me of being a prig and a snob for wanting to live in such a salubrious spot.

Then I shifted my sights to Canterbury, at which point my fellow Londoners' snobbery changed from being inverted to right way up: "Canterbury," they'd say in disgust, "is a cultural desert." Their ire, in fact, was directed at Kent in general, a very unfashionable county. One smart woman at a smart party took my wife to one side and said: "You just can't move to Kent." My wife responded in the way I'd schooled her, by saying that if Kent was so naff, how come Alan Clark lives there and in a castle to boot? But my wife's resistance to the cultural elitism of Londoners soon crumbled utterly. So we decided to house-hunt in the capital . . .

Now, the property we've just sold is midway between Highgate Village, which is posh, and Crouch End, which is not. Crouch End is in N8 while Highgate Village is in N6. This is why residents in the next street from us petitioned the council to have their house re-categorised as N6 instead of N8. We're fortunate in always having been N6, although we live a good distance from the village, and we've been reluctant to state unequivocally that we "live in Highgate" ever since my wife, having done just that in front of a snob, provoked the disgusted retort, "Only just".

But now I want to move to a house which is smaller than our present one but actually in Highgate Village. Not because the village is Georgian, or because Sting lives there, but because it's next to Hampstead Heath. No one believes me, however, and the snobbery of our friends has become inverted once again. "Your husband," my wife was recently told, "must be a snob if he wants to live in Highgate Village." Yet the speaker was exactly the sort of self-styled metropolitan sophisticate whose snobbery prevented us leaving London originally.

You can't bloody win.

This article first appeared in the 17 May 1999 issue of the New Statesman, The NS Essay - A culture of pretence