Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Normality: A Definition. By Spinsterella.

There was a late comment, I almost missed it, from non-blogger Alice, about the private school she went to:

"many pupils were from fairly 'ordinary' - albeit middle class – backgrounds"

I laughed (well, I supposed I lol’d).

Middle –class backgrounds aren’t ‘ordinary’! I thought to myself. What a preposterous notion!
Then I realised that this probably says far more about me than it does about posh private schools or Society or the MCs.

I grew up in a town with 30% unemployment. Yes, that’s thirty percent. I was amongst a very small handful of pupils in my class who had two working parents - many of them didn’t even have one parent in regular employment.

And this was the top class – we were the eleven-plus passers – can you imagine what the stats would have been for the eight lower streams? Virtually all of my friends were the first generation in their families to go to uni too.

You can probably imagine the culture shock I got when I got to university.

I thought it would be full of desperately poor indie-kids* like me. That, surely, was what being a student was all about?

But everyone was MC, and phenomenally wealthy to my eyes. They took for granted things like foreign holidays and being insured on their boyfriend’s parents’ cars (yes, that’s ‘cars’ plural) and buying clothes from proper shops – all things that were just incredible to my worldview. They all already had their own chequebooks and had televisions in their bedrooms and the confidence, God, so much confidence!

These weren’t particularly wealthy people though, looking back. None of them had their own cars (although they all had friends who did) and although their parents funded them, it wasn’t a bottomless pit.

They were ‘normal’ Middle Class.

But to me they were all like Creatures from the Planet Gold.

The stupid thing was, I had thought that I was relatively posh! We had Radio 4 and Sunday Times in our house. I’d even been on an aeroplane once, to go to London.

I soon learnt.

But back to the MCs. I suppose you can’t blame them. If you grow up knowing nothing but other MC people, of course you’re going to think that that’s normal.

But I’m glad that I grew up with the sort of people I did. The kids who couldn’t read, the ones who came to school with dirty faces, the ones who slept three in a bed every night, the ones who shared their parents’ bedroom because it was the only available space.

It means that I know that it’s not ‘normal’ to grow up with piano lessons and books – never mind books – literacy.

‘Normal’ clearly is open to interpretation.

But then again, on the radio the other day it said that 15% of children in Britain today grow up in a household where no-one works.

So I reckon that makes my version of normality rather closer to the average than anyone who pays more than a living wage just to send their cosseted little darlings to school.

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  • I think you can still be posh, even with no money.

    I also think a lot of people who think they are MC are nothing of the sort.

    By Blogger Billy, at 8:37 PM  

  • I remember the shock of arriving at university from a failing school (now demolished) to find students living in halls with me had cars and computers and rent paid for them by their parents, parents who owned books and went on holiday while mine read nothing but the Sun and have never been on a plane in their lives. They were another world and still are, but at least they were good for a pint.

    By Blogger Jack, at 9:32 PM  

  • Cracking post, Spin. Made me think of when my friend and I were at the ludicrously scummy Barking campus of East London university, experiencing a massive culture shock from our Northern Slum anyway, and she started going out with a very upper-middle class girl. My mate was frantically finishing an essay one day and sent Posh Girlfriend out with her last £15 to buy a week's shopping. Posh Girlfriend came back with duck, creme fraiche and a £10 bottle of wine. Full stop. She really had not understood the concept of "this is all the money I have to last the week", and said as much. We were speechless. And really confused by what the hell creme fraiche was.

    By Blogger violetforthemoment, at 9:58 PM  

  • you grew up in oregon too?

    By Blogger First Nations, at 12:44 AM  

  • I love the blog that you have. I was wondering if you would link my blog to yours and in return I would do the same for your blog. If you want to, my site name is American Legends and the URL is:


    If you want to do this just go to my blog and in one of the comments just write your blog name and the URL and I will add it to my site.


    By Blogger David, at 1:00 AM  

  • Spin, you have the oddest fans.

    By Blogger Mangonel, at 2:23 AM  

  • That American Legends blog. It's about rounders.

    I went to a primary school on a tough council estate, and I was a posh boy. Then i went to a super-selective direct grant school in the leafy Hampshire countryside, and I was chave scum. It's all relative.

    Incidentally, there was recently a poll conducted in Japan, in which over 90% of people declared themselves to be middle class.

    By Blogger Tim Footman, at 2:51 AM  

  • Chave? Is that a posh chav?

    By Blogger Tim Footman, at 2:52 AM  

  • In the next district actoss to where I live now over 50% of adults have no educational qualifications whatsoever.

    My 'hood's less scummy, but we are the ONLY house on the street that recycles.

    But according to Tony Blair we are all middle class now. Maybe we're Japanese?

    By Blogger Spinsterella, at 6:01 AM  

  • I know the feeling. It was only when I blogged about my schooldays and childhood that I realised how rural I was and how primitive the school seems by current standards. Secondary school was a real culture shock and it took about a year to settle in.

    By Blogger llewtrah, at 7:13 AM  

  • I see the New York Rangers won 7-0 tonight....way to go!!!
    NFN (Normal for Norfolk)

    By Blogger Murph, at 9:26 AM  

  • When I was a child, people would be defined as "posh" if they owned a car or had a mortgage.

    Working class people I knew who went to unversity would talk about rich kids who would drink, drug and shag their way through the three years they were there and do the minimum of work and revision because they knew that mater and pater could step in and bail them out. A good job I never bothered with any kind of higher education. I would've ended up joining some sort of class war terrorist organisation!

    By Blogger Betty, at 9:30 AM  

  • I went from local comp to ultra-posh boarding school aged 15. That was a culture shock too, believe you me. I tried very hard to fit in and keep up, and eventually managed it. But then I realised it wasn't important. It doesn't matter who you are or where you come from, just be yourself and you'll be much happier.

    What that experience did for me is make me able to glide through life. I can be hold my own with anyone.

    By Blogger Five-Centres, at 10:06 AM  

  • Your background sounds pretty much like mine and every day I feel more thankful.
    After teaching for most of my career in the inner city I found myself 'out of a job'

    I accepted a temporary position at Manchester's top independent school for boys...yes that one!

    And it was impressive!
    I could easily have been drawn into their world.

    So glad my principles and upbringing kept me in the role of a very sceptical spectator.

    By Blogger KAZ, at 11:20 AM  

  • Great post - you're clearly an extraordinarily well-balanced person, Spin! I work for the company who publishes magazines like Take a Break and That's Life, and whilst I was always the first to sneer at the people in them, I finally realised that they represented the way most people live in Britain today, and frankly, these mags are the only way their lives are represented in the media - unless you count Shameless.

    By Blogger Clair, at 11:21 AM  

  • I'm continually slightly amazed and befuddled by the class-consciousness here. It's all very strange to me still, especially the vitriolic hate of the middle classes.

    By Blogger Chaucer's Bitch, at 12:07 PM  

  • Nice one Spin.

    L.U.V. on ya,


    By Blogger Robert Swipe, at 12:47 PM  

  • I used to think I was quite normal (whatever that means), but blogging made me realise that I'm actually quite posh (whatever that means).

    I'm not sure what to do about this, other than just carry on as usual and hope that no one kicks me to death when the revolution comes.

    By Blogger patroclus, at 1:26 PM  

  • We first went abroad when I was 17. Wales is abroad, isn't it?

    My dad worked overtime most of his working life. We were pretty well off in a mostly affluent working class area. I had what I suppose were middle class friends at school (kids whose parents had "careers").

    At Poly in my course, it was mostly kids who lived with their parents (including me). I'd say the white British middle class kids were in the minority and tended to stick together in groups.

    Work colleagues have been mostly pretty affluent working class.

    Am I middle class now? I don't consider myself to have a career and I haven't got any professional qualifications. But I'm not going to work overtime like my dad did. Bollocks to that.

    By Blogger Geoff, at 6:47 PM  

  • Normality's a relative concept, surely? What's normal to one is totally different (and no better or worse) than what's normal to someone else.

    By Blogger Hannah, at 7:09 PM  

  • *No-one's mentioned the missing footnote.

    Don't you all want a very long rambling post about how I got to uni and found no indie-lids whatsoever, just dull fucking automatons who listened to *shudder* M People?


    Anyhow, like-finds-like as someone once told me. Pretty much all of my friends are from the aspirational working class or the LMCs.

    If I was a hideous braying toff I suppose I'd want to hang out with my own kind too.

    By Blogger Spinsterella, at 7:51 PM  

  • Um, or even indie-kids.

    Indie-lids would have done, to be honest.

    By Blogger Spinsterella, at 7:53 PM  

  • is this where i have to apologise for being middle-class? new money tho - very vulgar...

    By Blogger surly girl, at 8:24 PM  

  • **desperately rummages around in handbag for working class credentials to show off just like everyone else**

    **comes up with 'my grandad worked in a garage' then remembers that grandad was manager of garage**

    **realises is f*cked and nothing will cancel out private school education and decides to join patroclus in bunker come the revolution**

    By Blogger Urban Chick, at 8:43 PM  

  • My grandad was a foreman and I still get to be working class cos of how bloody awful my grandparents were at trying to be middle class once he was promoted. Think Hyacinth Bucket but with Geordie accents - we're talking faux-crystal chandeliers in the terrace, bragging self-consciously about hols in Jersey, and my nan starting to pronounce odd words in the way she thought befit her new status ('cup' became 'kep', that sort of thing, hi-bloody-larious). The family never took to it.

    By Blogger violetforthemoment, at 8:58 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Spinsterella, at 9:29 PM  

  • My dad was a boxer.* Do I win?

    *Sporting person, not a breed of dog. Or Chinese cult.

    By Anonymous wyndham, at 12:34 AM  

  • well thank dog i'm from NZ and dont have to classify myself, it's a an angsty business. the only pigeonholes we tend to have are very black and white; rich or poor.

    By Blogger Kirses, at 3:12 PM  

  • UC: Shove over, and make some room: I'll join you...!

    By Blogger Hannah, at 4:35 PM  

  • the official, economic definition of 'middle class' here in the U.S. -and this from a social worker now- is 'having at least three months' worth of living expenses in savings'.
    ok then.
    so despite never having vacationed in parts exotique-unless you count Idaho- and not ever having been featured in 'Town and Country' magazine, we are middle class to the tune of two years' worth (last time I looked.)
    ignore the tattoos, the harley and the pickup truck. when do I get my picture in 'Hello!" ?

    By Blogger First Nations, at 4:41 PM  

  • I have to say I saw 'class structures' pretty clear when I was growing up in NZ. I mean, in a class of 30 in my primary school, 3 of us (to my knowledge) went to university.

    Moreover we have other categories, the most obvious being racial: Maori/Pakeha, European and 'asians' (meaning, from north asia) as well as indians.

    In this respect, not being from the european majority, I have to say that 'the poor' were hardly virtuous. Maybe they didn't eat much and maybe they had a rich working class culture that I didn't know about, but that didn't stop them beating me up. Maybe it's different in the UK, but I doubt it.

    but what would I know. I'm middle class.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:02 PM  

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