Class conscious

This time, I thought I'd simply present the class-conscious highlights of my week.

. . . I've been listening to The Benn Tapes 2, the second commercially available instalment of Tony Benn's mesmerising audio diaries - a strange mixture of drollery and absolute moral certainty. On one of the cassettes, Benn describes a lunch that took place on 5 October 1976, when he, as secretary for energy, entertained William Rees-Mogg, who was then the editor of the Times and not yet a peer. "I knew William Rees-Mogg when he came back from the army as a sergeant," says Benn, in his spoken introduction to this segment. "He was then a rather pompous young man with a gold watch and a fancy waistcoat." Immediately afterwards he says the crucial thing again, this time in italics, as it were: "He'd been a sergeant in the army . . . "

I'd long suspected that, amid all the extrenuously inverted snobbery of Benn, there were tiny traces of the primary kind (to which he, as a lapsed toff, is quite entitled). It is nice to have this confirmed.

. . . I read an interview with John Cleese in which he says that, in his native town of Weston-super-Mare, "doctors were treated like archdukes". This prompts thoughts about the incorrigible middle-classness of doctors, and reminds me of something else I'd read: that in prison, Harold Shipman spends his time reading the Guardian (for God's sake) and translating Harry Potter (for God's sake) into Braille. As part of her ongoing mission to quell my chippiness, my wife tells me not to be intimidated by doctors, especially not surgeons: "They were originally barbers; that's why they're called 'Mister'."

In a cafe in Oxford, I order (being still under the influence, perhaps, of Benn) egg, chips and beans and a mug of tea. Three young men walk in and sit next to me. They have that aquiline public school look, and they're wearing tracksuits labelled "Keble College", yet they're all reading the sports supplements of the Saturday tabloids and making jokes, with all the right slang, about various Premier League soccer players. They all order egg, bacon, chips and beans, but what they're really doing, I decide, is having their cake and eating it.