Class conscious

There are tell-tale strictures that denote middle-classness. Quite a few of my friends never go into pubs, and I don't know anybody who has engaged in karaoke. I run from any room in which EastEnders is being broadcast, and have only ever glimpsed it accidentally - at which times, a bald man with small eyes has usually been threatening a bottle blonde far prettier than anybody he would tangle with in real life.

But I do, unlike many of my peers, go to McDonald's. If ever I am brought before the court of crimes against middle-classness, I will enter the defence that burgers must have some role to play in a balanced diet, and that my children drag me there. These children of mine recently had their first holiday in France, and such was the amount of excellent fresh food they were served there that, on the drive back home from the ferry, they insisted that I turn off into the drive-in McDonald's at Canary Wharf in order to touch base with culinary reality.

I agreed - I take them to McDonald's roughly once a fortnight, so it would have been hypocritical not to. I refuse to enter into the spirit of it, however. I will not utter the word "Whopper", still less "Double Whopper", so I always have something muted like a cheeseburger. For my children, I order what I call "kids' meals", refusing to use the technically correct term "happy meals" because, at the moment of ordering them, I am always very sad.

We take our seats, and I go into a snobbish reverie. Sitting in a McDonald's, I become F R Leavis. Everybody looks like a moron. Once, I saw a man perform the closing ritual of a McDonald's meal - that is, he tipped the greasy remnants into a flip-top bin - and then, instead of walking to the exit, he just sat back down in his seat. It was one of the lowest points of my life, and yet, two weeks later, I was probably back at that very McDonald's (in Golders Green).

Could it be that I have a subconscious desire to experience the social equivalent of a mixed diet, and want my children to experience the same? I would like to think so, because that sounds just about OK.

This article first appeared in the 23 July 2001 issue of the New Statesman, In the line of fire