Saturday, 11 April 2009


Last night in the pub with SC. I refer to someone as 'a literary gent'. Her face contorts into a grimace between pain and disgust. She doesn't like 'gent'. She has even less affection for 'toff'.

I don't know of any visceral class loathing quite as intense as the English. It is not as if SC herself were working class, it's just that she is not of gent- or toff-land. The palpable fury briefly has the effect of turning me back into a foreigner of the democratic rationalist sort to whom the entire human species, and especially the English, is a kind of extraordinary zoo. I look at the photo of the author William Fiennes,for example in today's Guardian, a handsome gent of the aristocractic class complete with castle and moat, and think, "Yes, he must be one." Yes, but which? Gent or toff? And all those chaps in Evelyn Waugh likely to be played by Anthony Andrews. And David Cameron and George Osborne. Landed gents, and Eton boys. Toffs. Lord Snooty and his pals.

I imagined the derivation of the 'toff' must be from 'toffee-nosed' but the online etymological dictionary (I write away from home and my books) offers the following:

Lower-class British slang for "stylish dresser, member of the smart set," 1851, probably an alteration of tuft, formerly an Oxford Univ. term for a nobleman or gentleman-commoner (1755), in ref. to the gold ornamental tassel worn on the caps of undergraduates at Oxford and Cambridge whose fathers were peers with votes in the House of Lords.

Working class hero and absolute disgrace SF also hates toffs, as does authentic Will of the Popinjays. They hate them with the same visceral intensity that led Nye Bevan to call the Tories 'lower than vermin'. You probably need an early industrialised society to produce such hatred. You need those unspoken, unarticulated, unmentionable insecurities, that aggregate of slipping-and-sliding-and-climbing, Snakes-and-Ladders, class winners and losers, where the working class is at the very bottom with everyone sitting and scrambling about on top. Hatred up is the reward for contempt down.

Where I come from we had peasants and workers and students and the intelligentsia.* By the time I arrived to any kind of consciousness the ranks of the higher bourgeoisie and petit bourgeoisie had, in so far as they had a firm existence, been wiped away, leaving behind a sea of sad bourgeois kitsch. There remained an aristocracy among the intelligentsia: professors who were the sons of professors who themselves were the sons of professors, with a stage- or film-actress or a scientific genius thrown in. And there was the old bloodline aristocracy who had bent in the Stalinist wind and somehow survived, sadder and wiser, liberal, left-leaning, but still aristocrats. Like lovely, elderly M, who is as close to my definition of a good man as anyone could be and who has as fine a contempt for fascists, and for the idiocies of the old landed gentry as anyone but who keeps a portrait of his ancestor the patriotic General of 1848 on the wall of his none-too-grand Budapest flat.

Would the existence of M make any sense to a working class hero and absolute disgrace or to an ideological Popinjay, or indeed to SC, young as she is, with her roots somewhere in the hard-working English lower middle class? Do I care?

I am not sufficiently English to care. It is, if you like, a lack in me. Well, tough. The democratic rationalist in me only asks: What are these person's ideas and sympathies? What kind of mind and heart? There's plenty of room in the zoo of the imagination (in my fathers house, etc...), nor am I stupid enough to think that I am uncaged. I'm in the foreigners' cage - just out of sight there. I can't myself read the label.

I am reading the young Australian poet, Emma Jones's book The Striped World for review. That woman can write! She talks in one poem of her mother as a 'ten-pound pom', meaning one who takes the £10 assisted passage to Australia, just as my own family meant to. "Her fine, pale, English, / cigarette-paper skin was frail, untouched by the sun or the Mersey, / was nourished in Ireland, imported by famine...' Mother, in fact, takes the plane not the boat. Jones then returns to the subject of her mother's skin, which, she now adds, "...was as pale as the lashed cliffs of Dover.... and goes on:

It had a quality. It had a ring to it. And I was stitched in:
an alleged convict-celt, with a bland facade

like an Anglican chapel, and with secularized, mild,
deferential, careful, middle-class good manners,,,

It seems an honourable enough thing to be.

*And the Party, of course. The political class.


Stephen F said...

Now come on George - theoretically the character in the book hates them, as he is programmed to do, but when he meets them one by one he sometimes finds them charming...

George S said...

I quite see that, and I don't take issue with any of it. Some of my favourite people feel the same. The generalised intensity is still an odd shock to my residually-Hungarian psycho-system. I can rationalise the shock (as I do in the post) and offer explanations for it. Which is what I do here. It is worth understanding, isn't it?

The individual charm - or indeed saintly goodness - of this or that person is not a guide to the class, of course. But then neither is the inverse process.

What is complex is the role of all those in the middle. The sheer complexity of that middle region. If it came to a straight battle between the poor worker and the rich capitalist it would be a very simple choice - as much for me, as, I imagine, for you.

In your own post it is a churchman and a Freemason that commit the first act of contempt. They are not really toffs are they? They are representative of the middle. But which section?

I am pretty sure that Scotland is closer to my Hungarian model than England is.

Mark Granier said...

'Tuft' eh? Hats off for that little dictionary niblet, and how apt that toff rhymes with doff.

Stephen F said...

* In your own post it is a churchman and a Freemason that commit the first act of contempt. They are not really toffs are they? They are representative of the middle. But which section? *

The wrong section ;--)

dubois said...

Toffs, gents and peasants are fine people. It is the ones in between who are the problem.

Billy C. said...

I once worked at the house of an old Colonel of the old school. He was a Toff. But, he was one of the nicest human beings I've ever met. A true Gent. I agree with dubois. The working classes accept their lot without attitude. The Toffs accept their lot as a natural order of things. Usually, neither give the other grief. Actually, they work well together and tolerate the other without rancour. It's the middle lot who are the problem.

And then there's George. He's too clever to get involved with any of their silly class squabbles. Pass me the Palinka, George. :)

George S said...

The middle is what there is most of. And none of us is a toff, a gent or even a peasant. So what does that make us?

Absolute disgraces? The problem?

Mark Granier said...

I agree with George. I like Billy Connelly, but in one of his sillier and more complacent diatribes, he once expressed a similar sentiment (long after he had become famous enough to hang out with the toffs).

Stephen F said...

Being born in the middle must be difficult, identity-wise, isn't that the reason the SDP are unelectable?
It's possible to enter the middle class from the bottom, to be a lower order who is 'rising,' but you have to learn a certain number of unnatural habits and you need a defence mechanism of some sort - playing the northern firebrand will do as a guest ticket for a while.But it won't last for ever, that's how you move on to to don the cloak of the diasporic displaced person. Just because it looks a handy pose doesn't mean you don't need it. Just as you'll never be English, George, I'll never be middle class; it's all to do with where you're born.

There is a politer, nicer, more middle-class, way of saying that: just as you'll always be Hungarian, I'll always be working class. Nuances and niceties of language certainly change the emphasis, but I don't think they change the facts. But then you can live with facts in whichever way you wish, you can push against them, or you can ignore them. And then you are talking about character.

I don't think there is 'an answer.'

George S said...

Yes Steve, but actually it is the middle that is usually elected. Gordon Brown isn't a toff, neither was Blair, Thatcher or Major. Does one inherit class? Does one betray class by marrying outside it? Were the Krays working class? Would their kids have been? Are one's children necessarily of the same class? Yours? Just how cast-iron is it?

This is really the door I am gently knocking at. It is what strikes most outsiders about England: how unremittingly class-conscious it is and why, when it had the earliest industrial revolution and the most complex, seething, oddly mobile middle-classes, it remains so class-obsessed?

The working class itself ranges from the traditional 'respectable working classes' through to the regions of the underclass. But while there is pride in being at the top and near-bottom of the social order (as far as I know no-one has boasted of being 'underclass') it is chiefly embarrassment that governs the middle.

In the US people talk about blue-collar and white-collar, but in England John Davidson's poem, 'Thirty Bob a Week' (published 1894) about the life of a low-status white-collar clerk is clearly about poverty. I can't recall it if it's a poem I did with your group. What is he? Lower-middle? Respectable working-class?

Billy C. said...

"The middle is what there is most of. And none of us is a toff, a gent or even a peasant. So what does that make us?"

I would disagree with you there, George. A 'gent' does exist and can come from any class. A gent is a bloke who on seeing an old lady having difficulty crossing the road, goes to her and sees her safely across. That's my definition of a gent. You may have a different one...I dunno. Perhaps you're looking too hard and can't see the wood for the trees? Isn't that what Foster Boy is doing in his book? I reckon there are just three classes in our society: the upper class who are perfectly comfortable with their position even though they might be skint: the working classes who are perfectly comfortable with their position even though they might be skint, and the middle class who are a group of individuals who will never be comfortable even if they are rolling in the green stuff. Foster Boy's title is the disgrace. He was never a working class hero and he'll never be an absolute disgrace. He's a lost soul and it's up to the likes of you and me to guide him back to a firm base. I'm doing my best but you're not helping by creating doubts in his mind. It's all your fault. He was fine before he started meddling in art and prose :)

Stephen F said...

'It's all your fault.'

He's getting near the definitive definition of the middle classes there.

Billy C. said...

Exactly, Foster Boy. There's no such thing as a middle class: it's a state of mind...usually an unhappy one because the 'middle class' are terrified of losing their perceived status. There are numerous examples of that. The most recent and one which hit the headlines is the case of the bloke who killed his wife and daughter and all his animals because he couldn't bear the thought of losing his perceived position in society. The two classes that do exist don't bother too much. Take away a working man's terraced castle and he will live happily in a caravan. Take away an upper class man's real castle and he will live happily in a caravan.

George S said...

Blimey o'Reilly, Billy! The man who killed his wife and daughter and burned down his house is, you think, representative of a middle class which doesn't actually exist except as a state of mind.

I think there are reasonable sociological descriptions of what constitutes the middle class.

Various social possibilities:

Income range: take a swathe around median income nationally or regionally;
Taste in food, drink etc: (Steve's beer v. white wine as a crude example);
Manner of address: (how people talk to each other);
Education: (private, public, tertiary, scholarship etc);
Birth: (what did the parents do, and the grandparents?);
Occupation: (manual labour, white collar labour, managerial, directorial, civil service teacher...);
Dress code: (ask SF)
Cultural interests: (ask SF)

This is a mixed bag, Billy, but SF would admit they are signifiers in some ways and descriptors in others. Now if I listen to you none of this really exists: it is all "a state of mind" to do with status! Forgive me while I twist off my head and stick it up my arse.

If I admit to a love of chamber music (cultural signifier) I think that might make me the odd one out in most working class company, but you would argue I only love this form of music because I am terrified of losing my status!!!! What f.... status!?

If I pull in £60K rather than £18K a year (sociological descriptor) that is just a state of mind? (No, I don't, by the way).

There used to a very active area called the WEA. There was a time when workers thought chamber music, for the sake of argument, was their birthright too. And so it damn well is. Denying this is what debilitates the working class in England. We're not going to do all that middle-class stuff... It is middle class stuff now, but it needn't be.

But no, we're proud, working class, we know who we are, everything we have and believe is the only possible thing to have and believe in our position, and move an inch out of line and you're some unhappy, terrified man who burns down his family when he loses his money.

Come on! We can all do better than this. Life is more interesting than toffs / gents on the one hand and working class lads on the other.

Stephen F said...

Well, the WEA used to stand for something before the petit bourgeois Thatcher destroyed the status of thought, and subsumed everything to pounds, shilling and pence and whole swathes of the middles classes dived in.

This one isn't a rehetorical comment, this is where it starts. That's how one day Manuel says to IS on the steps of the old NSAD: your Cultural Studies is taking money off my Fine Art and I am going to make it my business to get rid of you.
It's divide and rule, and all it takes for the system to work is for the Manuels to go along with it. That's what I'm really against, that's why I hate the NUCotA, and that's a real emotion: some people have destroyed something that diminishes the possibility for other people to change. And those people are middle class.

George S said...

Well, I'm with you there, Steve. On NUCA that is.

Though I doubt that IS is working class. And what Manuel was, God knows! Man looking after his own area, I suppose.

And Fine Art wasn't a class issue in that the middle class weren't that keen on it either. Nor was Cultural Studies specifically working class.

I think the odd English paradox is that no-one wants to own up to being middle class; everyone hates the middle-class; yet, surprisingly enough, according to the criteria I offer, almost everyone I know is middle-class, or at least a middle-class gayer.

Stephen F said...

I'm not saying IS is middle class, i'm saying there's a system in pllace that acts against the working classes. New Labour is a part of that system as a small para in the book notes. I've seen zero WC students in nearly two years as an RLF fellow: how would you when it costs ten grand a year to get a university education? We had plenty of the working classes on the old CS, and in the wider art school too, when tuition fees were paid as of right and there were even small maintenance grants - that was another state of affairs that the Tories dismantled, a programme that New Labour continued on with and extended. There is no party more middle class than them.

George S said...

Well, we don't disagree on that. Let's leave it there for now.

Billy C said...

Sorry, George, but I think you're talking a load of bollox! I don't know where to start on you but I'll nit-pick at some of the things you attribute to 'middle class'. You've got me going now so you'd better be carefull! I am working class and I'm bloody proud of it!

All the examples you gave can equally be enjoyed by the working classes. I'm working class. Very much so. I enjoy a nice Riocha. Does that make me middle class? I have a painting in my house that Foster Boy gave to me, an Auguste Macke: A Woman in a Green Jacket. I love it. I don't have to be middle bloody class to appreciate art. Nor does a good education change my perception of status. What is so abnormal about a working class man having half a brain and the ability to use it? Most working class folk have enough savvy to earn a decent crust of bread and to keep a roof over the heads of their families. They may have to buy their furniture and fittings from B&Q and not some overpriced joint who cater specifically to those who's state of mind says "B&Q stuff isn't good enough for me."

As for your 'sociological descriptor': who makes that damned term up? I'll tell you who...the brain damaged middle classes, that's who! They have to invent some damned term to shove themselves up a rung or two. How about they term themselves 'affluent working classes'? Oh no, that won't do! They have to be different. They have to invent something to place them apart because of their state of mind.

Manner of address! What on earth does that mean? I'm gobsmacked at that one! The implication is that the working classes are incapable of being pleasant or, perhaps, we are getting back to the crass working of Foster Boy's mind when he wanted to drop his Potteries accent because he felt it was holding him back. In whose world was it holding him back? Ho ho. In the world where the state of mind says an accent isn't the done thing, Old Chap. You need to lose that to step up this bloody imaginary rung. Old Chap. Well, sod that. If people are going to judge me on my accent then that's their problem. If they think that way then I could be the finest artist on earth but they would shun me because I didn't speak properly. Again, we're back to the state of mind.

"If I admit to a love of chamber music (cultural signifier)"

And why should I think any different of you as a person if you like chamber music? What's wrong with chamber music. It isn't my personal taste but so what. You enjoy it: superb! Note: it's you who thinks that makes you middle class, not me. I just think you have a taste in a certain type of music. Being working class doesn't disqualify me from accepting that you have a fine ear.

"Birth: (what did the parents do, and the grandparents?)"

I'll let you know that my grandfather was a superb musician (clarionet) and his three brothers were too. His sister was a professor of music and taught it at the highest level. My maternal family grandparents would send me flying high up the rungs of this imaginary state of mind ladder: he was an overseer of the poor no less! And, wait for it, his father was a shipping magnate who lived in Pimlico! Wow! I'm nearly at the top of the state of mind. A few more rungs and I've cracked it to the upper class.

Unfortunately, I know I'll never get there because even money can't buy you a place in that class.

Sorry, George, but I've been on the elderberry wine (home made from the tree of course)and when I have, and after I've been disturbed from my warm bread oven, I get a bit het up when I hear people deliberately elevating their status because they feel better in the mind for it :)

BTW, on the subject of income, I have enough tucked away in my eunuch's truss to make me middle class. But I prefer to call it honest brass made from working in muck.

Foster Boy has a lot to learn. Maybe you do too about the class system. I shall attempt to teach him when we have dinner this saturday and arrange for him to be my consul when you're having a game of ping pong. :)

George S said...

Well, Billy, my apologies for putting my stupid foreign nose where it doesn't belong.

You tell me the middle class doesn't exist, Stephen says it is responsible for the bad changes in the education system, which I fully agree are bad. Which of you do I believe?

Just following your family history through shows how complicated these loyalties and obligations are, how complicated individuals are - I mean you and SF, and indeed, myself.

My argument about the WEA is really about now, not about when it kicked off. When it started it was aspirational. It set out to demonstrate, as it did very clearly, that class wasn't a matter of talent, intelligence, perception or sensitivity, but of social and financial circumstance. Like adult education now it was a noble humane project that should be defended.

Over the last thirty years or so though I have heard many arguments to the effect that the WEA and all it taught was about inculcating middle-class values, spoiling the proud independence of the working class. It was this set of opinions that deemed certain kinds of music, literature and art middle-class. I thought the argument a subtle travesty and the result a tragedy. Especially when the classes themselves begin to believe it.

I think I would understand your contention that the middle-class does not exist if you said something to the effect that middle-class class-consciousness does not exist. I think that would have some truth in it. That would mean the middle-classes did not have a clear idea of themselves. That may be how you mean it.

From the outside however middle-class is a term used chiefly as a form of contempt, something like a sewer into which we can pour everything bad, as in 'It's all their fault'. That's the way SF means it. Or seems to mean it.

That might go some way to explaining why the middle-class (as it might objectively be described) is so embarrassed by being called middle-class. Not all the way, but some of the way.

SF puts his finger on it when he talks of the petit bourgeoisie, a term with a specific historical meaning. That is to say a class that wants more than anything to defend its narrow interests if only out of a sense of insecurity. It propagates the qualities by which it has achieved its position as the key virtues by which everyone else should be governed. That I understand quite clearly. But even they are not the same uniform lump.

The middle-class, as far as I can see, constitutes an extraordinarily broad band with a range of possibilities, including the revolutionary. When I translate Marai - about whom I occasionally post - I am struck by the weird conscientiousness of his middle-class characters. The man in the current book constantly refers to himself as middle-class. He is not simply someone who wants to shut down public education. He is a complicated human being. He - this particular individual - voices a lot of criticisms of his own class, and embodies some of them too.

There are contradictions and predicaments everywhere. My instinct is to try to understand them.

Mark Elt said...


Not enough mention of the North and the South? The country middle class, the suburban middle class and the urban middle class? The miners strike? The Daily Mail? Gravy on chips? Loo, bog, toilet or lavatory? Reggie Perrin, Rigsby, Tom and Barbara, Terry and June, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? The middle class monarchy? Stephen Fry or Johnny Vegas?

George S said...

Och, Mark, you really are in for the long haul, aren't you? I'll watch the clip. Thanks for the comment.

Billy C. said...

Good morning, George. First of all let me say that you haven't got a stupid foreign nose. In my opinion, you have intellectual foreign nose. Whether you have a nice or nasty foreign nose, I don't know. We have never met. However, based partly on what Foster Boy has told me about you (he is most complimentary and holds you in the highest esteem, which, because he and I share a common sort of humanity, would probably place you in the category of a bloke I would probably like)and because I like your blog sense of humour and many of the subjects you deal with, and the way you deal with them, I reckon you and I would get on ok.

Back to the matter at hand: this discussion. Perhaps the difference in our intellect is the reason why I can't get my point across. But I'll try.

The English class system is a mockery. There are only two proper classes, the working class and the upper class and both can be divided into susbsections. I'll start with the upper class. There is no way on earth anyone can become a member of that class unless you have three or four generations of ancestry tucked under your genealogical belt. People are born into that class. You can buy/marry into it but not until those three or four generations have passed can a descendant claim their right. Even then, it will be tainted. The right to blue bloodedness takes centuries of breeding. That class has two sections: the rich and the skint. But wealth doesn't matter. So let's leave that one there with the knowledge that a state of mind of wanting to get to the top of the ladder will not succeed.

The working class is far more complex. For many, it's a rat race, not only in monetary terms but also in heirachical status. Some people want to be top of the pile. Some get there by using their skills: intellectual; financial; artistic; scholarly; musical etc. Now comes the crunch. It's how they perceive themselves once they get there that is the problem. Hence the 'state of mind'. They are all workers, but in order to reward themselves for their efforts, some have to create a sub-section of society: the 'middle class'. By that very act and that state of mind, they automatically denigrate a section of the working classes to a lower level. What in fact they are saying, and you made my point in your last but one reply to me, 'we are better than you because we have various talents that you don't possess.' That, now, has reached a level where one's accent, or to put it more succinctly, CERTAIN ACCENTS are persona non grata in their state of mind: the best examples being a Midlands accent, a Liverpudlian accent or a Northern Working Class Monkey accent. Perversely, some accents are cherished; the best example being a Welsh one.

"I think I would understand your contention that the middle-class does not exist if you said something to the effect that middle-class class-consciousness does not exist. I think that would have some truth in it. That would mean the middle-classes did not have a clear idea of themselves. That may be how you mean it."

No. The opposite in fact. It is that middle class consciousness which is the state of mind. The 'middle classes' do have a clear idea of what they are...superior beings. They may not like to admit it but once they elevate themselves above their real status - working class, because they go to work - they place others below them. Now, whether this state of mind is becoming a socially acceptable mode of address is debatable. For instance, it holds no water with me. I bow to no man and neither do I see anyone as a superior being. That doesn't disqualify me from holding people in the highest esteem, but I will not place them in a class above me because they are talented. I have many talents. Most would not be counted as meaningful in the state of mind of the 'middle classes' because they are hidden in the everyday jumble of life.

Foster Boy in his book, in my opinion, experiences all the emotions of attempting to escape from something and then, finally, goes full circle in the knowledge that he has wasted his time. Yes, he is more world-wise; yes he is more educated; yes he has become a more complete human being, but he is still working class. And the reason for that is simple...he has come to the conclusion that, although he has to use the term of reference as a means of identifying 'them', the 'middle class' is a state of mind and no matter how much people like to think of themselves as superior to elevate themselves to a different level, in the main, he is as good as any of them, and he doesn't need to be 'middle class' to prove it. And that's why I love him like a son, as I do that other degenerate who thinks he's the bee's knees, Mark Elt, who has poked his nose in thinking he is clever :) Apart from his betrayal in the 'Pulis Stakes', Foster Boy is as sound as a pound :)

George S said...

I am not sure where we go from here, Billy.

So to sum up, there is the upper class. Right? That's all in the blood, hereditary, at least three or four generations back. Literally, a separate breed. Used to command. Noblesse oblige.

The rest is workers, some of whom have got above themselves. But they don't really exist, except as a false consciousness. Just enough false consciousness to exist as bastards. In that sense, and that sense alone, they exist.

England 6 : 3 Hungary.

It explains everything except why the Welsh are better regarded than Midland or Scouse. I thought Liverpool had pretty good publicity, ever since the Beatles. Scots do very well (the most trusted accent according to some poll a few years back). Yorkshire is OK. Then, as you go down:, Manc down to Midlands with Brum bottom. Cornwall? Toon? Norfolk? London-Essex? British-Caribbean? British-Indian?

I'll hand that one over to Mark.

As for the gentry there is the old story about a squire catching a poacher on his land.

Get of my land, says the squire.

What makes it your land? asks the poacher.

I inherited it from my father, replies the squire.

And how did he get it? the poacher continues.

Inherited it from his father...

and so it continues back to about the 13th century where we pick up the conversation again.

And how did he get it? asks the poacher.

He fought for it, replies the squire.

Fair enough, says the poacher. I'll fight you for it.

Old story. Old stories are fine by me. Best keep it in mind anyway.

Mark Elt said...

I think Mick is partly wrong about the accents. I think the poll you're talking about George was to do with the locations of call centres. What I recall is that in general Northern and Scottish accents are seen as more trustworthy, Brummies are seen as dim and estuary English is the least trusted.

I think the problem people have with call centres in India is more an irritation to be talking to somebody who may not have the depth of knowledge to sort problems out, for example if they are location specific. Although there's undoubtedly a touch of racsism* thrown in, both of the casual and nasty varieties.

It's a mess, the whole British class thing. You can look at it from any number of angles and be none the wiser - region, wealth, profession, heredity, attitudes, behaviours, gardens, cars, clothes and what to call toilets.

I think the fact that it is so baffling when you look at it as you have here but also intuitive for Brits means it's within us. We understand it ourselves even if we can't explain it. We can't escape it, boats against the current and all that.

George S said...

Yeh, it probably was that survey, Mark.

Yeh, and I guess it is within. My forensic equipment consists of a mild manner and curiosity. It can't penetrate that deep.

The only way it makes sense to me is as an extreme form of tribalism. Bags of frustration and sentimentality.

Why not a nice clean revolution?

Mark Elt said...

I'm an atheist and a republican George. That's enough for many people to regard me as a treacherous lunatic. Throw over the class system? No chance.

I seem to recall we had Francis Fukuyaman proclaiming the End of History at the same time politicians started promising A Classless Society. All horseshit, but people would rather believe it.

George S said...

Ah Fukuyama. Didn't he recant? There used to be a set of philosophy primers called things like The Age of Rationalism (18C), The Age of Ideology (19C), The Age of Anxiety (20C). They were American, I think. Published by Mentor.

Not sure where we are now. I still feel anxious.

Mark Elt said...

Are you anxious at my frantic mashing of the keyboard that had me type 'Fukuyaman'?

George S said...

Damn. Still more anxiety!

Stephen F said...

I'm glad you two interlectewalls have found each other.

Me and Old Stokie can sit over here on the settee* and admire the badinage in our limited way.

George S said...


Surely, you mean 'napkin'.

Billy C. said...

Oi, Foster Boy, when I write 'settee' you tell me 'sofa'. Is sofa a middle class thing?

"The rest is workers, some of whom have got above themselves. But they don't really exist, except as a false consciousness. Just enough false consciousness to exist as bastards. In that sense, and that sense alone, they exist."

George, why didn't you say that in the first place? It's perfect. But some of them are very nice bastards. They're just disallusioned.

Stephen (you don't mind me referring to you in that rather gentle, 'middle class' way, do you?) let us sup up our Sancerre and Riocha and let Elt take over. He is most definitely more a middle class gayer than you will ever be. He fits the bill...the bastard! :)


Poet in Residence said...

An ugly Welsh grandson of a Snowdonia slate quarryman poking his conk in with his groat's worth -
the pinnacle of the so-called British upper class is basically a family of stink-rich Germans. It was the last King George who changed the family name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to the more homely Windsor to save all their skins.
Europe is crammed with such families. What they have in common is a lot of in-breeding, hence all the hyphens, and much spilt blood on their hands. One of the upper class is called Karl der Prinz von Wales. I think he lives on a farm in the Duchy of Cornwall with his good lady the Duchess of Cornwall. I seem to recall that he promised to leave the shores of Blighty for the New World if the anti-hunting bill ever became law.

George S said...

Ah, the dear Saxe-Coburg-Rothas! Mind you, up in Leeds, I used occasionally the drink at The Coburg, so one of them must have settled down and made a success in life. Maybe if I looked further up the road I might have found The Saxe and The Gotha too.

Poet in Residence said...

You'll be sure to have a pint in the Prince Owen Glendwyr next time yr in Wales!
My bro is wed to a real Welsh descended Cadwallader (it's the Cad's coat of arms - the red dragon flag we are graciously allowed to have as our own - since 1950 something)) so that makes me a bit of a toff ... in Wales at any rate!

Billy C said...

I never thought of you as a toff, PiR. I drink in The Princess. What does that make me? :)

Poet in Residence said...

Billy C, worry not, in my book (which I haven't written yet and probably never will) it's quite ok for you to be seen in The Princess so long as you wear your green wellies or your brown brogues and your brown corduroy trousers. It goes without saying that you will proceed there in your Range Rover and enter with copies of the Irish Times and Shooting News firmly tucked under your oxter. You will then proceed to the bar, smile broadly at all, and say in a firm but friendly manner: "The usual Grouse (pause) and how's the better half?" whereupon George will chuckle at your fine humour and hand you a generous measure of your favourite whisky - Famous Grouse. That's the one with the bird on the bottle (painted by Manchester artist Roger McPhail). Do this and you'll be ok. Honest.
Mine's a Mitchell's bitter.