Official: I am not middle class

Here’s a bit of fun from the Daily Mirror. How “Posh” are you?

Well, I didn’t think being middle class was posh, more aspiring posh, I think. However, an expert in etiquette, William Hanson, claims there are 16 tell-tale household possessions which can determine how middle class you are.

And, surprisingly, I score a fat zero.

Okay, hands up, I have owned one or two in the past but, of this precise moment, I don’t. Here they are, listed in order of popularity,

Smart TV. I have thought about it but telly is a bit crap, so I’m putting it off.

Dyson Vacuum Cleaner. Have had two in the past. Expensive crap, both fell apart. Bought German design instead.

Barbecue. No, much prefer proper cooking.

Vinyl Record Collection. Gone to charity.

iMac Computers. Never considered it. Does an iPad count?

Nutribullet. Have teeth, prefer chewing.

Samsonite Wheelie Suitcase. What’s wrong with a couple of carrier bags?

Wood Burning Stove. Previously had one a couple of houses ago. With the state of the world, might need one again soon.

Spiralizer. What the hell is that? Sounds like the name of a 90’s Indie band.

Mulberry Bags. What, like for carrying your mulberries home in? What?

Matching Coasters. The coffee cup marks on the table provide evidence to the contrary.

Boiling Water Taps. Had these at work once. Don’t actually boil water. Horrible tasting tea.

Hot Tub. I very much doubt this is in any way “posh” but, nope, just wouldn’t.

Aga Cooker. Have used one before but – see same for barbecue above.

Smeg Fridge. Sounds obscene: something they store samples in at a sperm bank, perhaps? A fridge is a fridge, isn’t it?

Brompton Folding Bicycle. Never had a car I couldn’t easily throw an ordinary bike into, so, no thanks.

Ha, what larks! Are you middle-class? Want to be? Buy all of the above.

You are posh if you own one of these 16 items says etiquette expert (Daily Mirror)


Shorts, innit?

a flash-fiction piece

It had been the wettest Saturday since records began, they said, and football’s cancelled. The boys were disappointed. Still, it was May and I said, on with the shorts! Shorts are the best, in my opinion; you can’t go wrong. Well, except the young ‘un. He kicked up a stink, threw himself on the floor, big tantrum. I give in. Life’s too short.

She said, we’ll go to the park, it’s stopped raining. We put our waterproofs on, just the same. Life’s too short to muck about in a wet shirt. Good thing about shorts: your legs dry off quick.

(100 words)

written for Bikurgurl’s 100 Word Wednesday Writing Challenge: Week 120

image by Bikurgurl.

Capsulized Wardrobe, Sir?

As a fish of the species Carpio Minimalis, I’m a sure sucker for articles on streamlining life. This one on “capsule wardrobes” drew my attention. (I didn’t read it thoroughly, the site is one of those interrupted with irritating pop-pops which cut across my grain; I just read enough to grab the idea and run.)

I think it’s a great idea though not a novel one. Many of the good and great, and I dare say a few bad ones, have adopted an efficient wardrobe method, reducing the time wasted in choosing what to wear on any ordinary day and avoiding the meltdown when it comes to the special occasion.

In a nutshell, the concept with the capsule wardrobe is to throw out the crap and leave only that which is deemed beforehand to be desirable and wearable. In other words, a reasonable system of dressing.

I have made inroads to this core for several years now and for me it works. Let us have a peek into my wardrobe. Note, it is a man’s perspective only…

Socks. Some people, I know, don’t wear them and I’m a little envious, however, in England, I feel these are essential items, for general comfort and against the cold. Can I, though, be forgiven for regarding those who wear colourful and comical socks with a bit of derision? What are they trying to do?

My choice is to settle on a plain sock of a particular colour and wear only those. Honestly, nobody is watching your socks and nobody cares. Though black isn’t the perfect colour, I have chosen it because it is pretty ubiquitous in the socks department. Grey may be better but black is absolute and more available. The extra advantage is you’ll never have more than one odd sock.

Shoes. Honestly, if shoes were indestructible, I’d probably be happy with one pair. As they’re patently not, it’s prudent to have a reserve pair for when things go wrong. Three pairs is an extravagance but acceptable. Four or more is utterly insane. Normally, I reach for my favourite pair, always.

I am just talking about everyday shoes. Obviously, other footwear is necessary for different purposes like hiking, exercising, rough work and indoor wear.

Shirts. There is something simple which sets the polo shirt high above its poor relation, the common t-shirt: its collar. Yet it is equally as comfortable. I think the collar gives it more versatility. Subtle patterns or weaves are okay but I tend to avoid stripes. Stripes tend to suggest something which may be unintended; they can also play havoc with body shape. Again, when opting for plain shirts, nobody’s watching, nobody cares.

Polo shirts are so plentiful, you can pick them up in the sales. I tend to buy several colours at a time, which does cause a modicum of angst when choosing which to put on in the morning, but I usually go with the mood of the day or what I intend to get up to. Like, if I’m thinking of cooking a tomato ragu or a curry sauce, I’m not going to pick out the white shirt.

Navy and black are good colours for sombre and sober events, like funerals or interviews, worn under a suitable jacket or sweater. White carries off pretty well too, under the same outer clothes, for slightly less serious occasions, or on its own in hotter weather. I steer clear of colours under the jacket to avoid the holiday camp entertainments representative, or the slightly dodgy secondhand car salesman look. Consideration applies to suitability of colours to the complexion: I couldn’t pull off wearing yellow, for instance. Reds just about work but any shades of grey, brown, blue or green suit me like leaves on a tree, so I tend to go for those.

Trousers. Everyone lives in jeans, why fight it? A pair of smart trousers in reserve is all I need.

Underpants. Ha ha. Who cares? Who sees? Why should you care who sees? Pick a comfortable brand, pick a readily available colour, buy in bulk. Nobody cares!

Now the things I’ve decided I don’t want are suits and ties. Ties are utterly too useless and if I ever find I need a suit – probably by an invitation I can’t refuse – I will cross that bridge when I come to it, possibly by hiring an extremely decent suit rather than keeping a cheap chain store one in the cupboard. I don’t see it happening to be honest.

I hope that was a fun peek. Here’s that article I mentioned above, if you can stand the pop-ups,

How To Build A Capsule Wardrobe

image by Andrej Lišakov via

Learning the Language of Literature

I think this is an interesting post on Lit Hub, I blog I follow. It’s an excerpt from a book by copy editor, Benjamin Dreyer, an “utterly correct guide to clarity and style”. How many of the bad habits he cites do you make?

(Hey, I initially typed how many of his bad habits do you make?)

As bloggers, I don’t suppose we have to worry too much about correct style and grammar, though clarity is still important. Blogging is more about social media, less about literature. Yet I always maintain the old saw that if a thing is thought worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

I honestly don’t know how well I’m doing but I do try. Notwithstanding that I went to school – a grammar school, to boot – my confidence in my English is frail. I’m not in possession of an extensive vocabulary, my spelling can be atrocious and lessons in grammar have for the most part been informal.

One thing I tend to do now which I never did when I started writing is edit with intent. This can correct many of the silly mistakes and run a sanity check – or clarity check – on the piece, but also it makes me question what I’ve done with grammar, especially tense. Man, I have a real concern with tenses. It’s like operating a machine without a manual, it seems to work but is it working the way it’s intended to?

Also, I’m learning to tighten things up. My venture into flash fiction prompts with word count limits has made me aware of this. The irrelevances, the tautologies and repetition, the pointless adverbs, the inconsequential detail. A rose smells sweet but if there isn’t a nose to appreciate this, why mention it?

To borrow or steal

I met a working artist who trained in England at a time when the prevailing painterly style was Abstract. As a consequence, that’s mostly all his generation of artists were comfortable painting.

When opening his gallery, he found customers preferred landscapes. Apparently there is a yawning chasm between what the art schools teach and what the public wants. To survive, he turned to copying the work of other artists, ones who painted landscapes, until his skill and confidence grew, and now he is a successful landscape painter.

This in part reflects a sentiment attributed to Pablo Picasso,

Good artists borrow, great artists steal.

As I’m reading over my little stories here prior to clicking the publish button, I’m partly aware that I’ve copied a style of a professional author I’ve read, and probably admired, recently. It’s probably automatic and possibly subconscious. It certainly must be easier than inventing your own unique “voice”, if this is at all possible to do.

When I read other people’s, I wonder if it too is an unconscious borrowing of whatever it is they like to read.

Romance, thriller, historical, classic, kitchen sink working class realism. Is there a regular prompt out there which involves writing in a particular style?

Three Things

Little Wheelie Carry-On Suitcases

I think everyone who flies these days makes do with a hand luggage sized suitcase. I mean, who wants to waste an hour watching other people’s luggage go around a carousel? Not me. Not you either by the look of the way things have gone.

One thing about it that baffles me a bit is why the wheels? I see many fit and strapping blokes pulling an incy-wincy case behind them when it could easily be carried. The way I see it is, if it didn’t have the retractable handle to pull it with, it’d have more capacity inside for clothes and toiletries.

For a week, or even two weeks, away, there’s an art to packing these little blighters and though I may flatter myself at my proficiency, the guy at Gentleman’s Gazette, over on Youtube, is the absolute master by comparison. Since discovering the sartorial Sven Raphael Schneider some months back, and blogging on his excellent style tips, his videos often pop up as Youtube suggestions. I’m fascinated and though I have little fashion consciousness myself, it amazes me how often I agree with him.

Anyway, Mr. Schneider advises that it is preferable to roll up some items, as opposed to folding them which I would do without thinking, so as to prevent creases. Well I’m going to be rolling my packing as well in future, just to see. Brilliant!

Iron Rain

This is not going to be about some European Heavy Metal band; know me, I wouldn’t do that to you.

I am still fascinated by astronomers who have discovered a planet which they believe to be the hottest known planet. It is that close to its parent sun that temperatures on its surface are capable of vaporising the iron and titanium present.

It has been imagined that other exoplanets exist orbiting close to their star that their weather systems might comprise clouds of aluminium, iron and other metals, and these systems could suggests it literally rains down molten iron rods. I just wonder what they make their umbrellas out of.

This sort of science cracks me up. There’s all these Sci-fi books and movies being made – The Martian, Mars Mission, Fly Me To Jupiter and back, whatever – and it’s all bollocks. It’s essentially Science Fantasy rather than Science Fiction; it belongs with stories about ghosts, hobbits and zombies. Sci-Fa, not Sci-fi. The truth is far more amazing yet the fools seem oblivious to it.

Drink Like An Italian

Yes, apparently, according to statistics and an analysis of my alcohol intake last week, I drink like an average Italian. It makes me want to shout and gesticulate whilst wearing a playfully severe expression at the BBC TV article which suggests it.

Actually, I think it’s the Italians whose lifestyles we are told to emulate – good food, long life, and they certainly wear the best clothes (I’m sure Mr. Schneider would agree).

It’s a bit disappointing to read we have a serious drinking problem in the UK despite having the lowest recommended limits for consumption of alcohol in the known universe. The presenter, Adrian Chiles, whose own consumption is the basis for the BBC’s new show about “moderate drinking”, admits to drinking every day though believes he’s not an alcoholic. If he drinks every day, how can he know he isn’t addicted?

Ah, there’s too much of this government guideline business, I don’t think I’ll be tuning in to see Mr. Chiles and his tormented liver do a U-turn; I’m happy to carry on being an Italian.


How To Pack A Carry-On Suitcase (Youtube)

KELT-9b – The first exoplanet discovered with an iron atmosphere

Booze Calculator By Nationality (BBC News)

Look, I’m no expert, but…

Yesterday, another supermarket shop, another tenner spent, and another complimentary edition of The Times newspaper. This being Saturday, there’s supplements inside including one featuring “experts”. Lots of them.

“Experts” reminded me of Tory MP, Michael Gove’s pronouncement during the Brexit campaign. “Look! The people are fed up with experts!” Or words to that effect. He, I think, was referring to certain intellectual experts, people who have made a lifelong and profound study of certain important things, essential things, matters of life and death, things that make the world go around. We know those sort of things, things beyond normal reach and comprehension, so we’re fed up trying to understand them, we’d rather they’d go away.

Then there are the “experts” who simply tickle our fancies.

I remember a neighbour, a teacher, I used to go running with describing an expert (a teacher) as someone who knew a few facts that others (his students) didn’t. With an authoritative bearing, and a few facts – or just opinions – you could convince a lot of folk of your expertise. And what better authoritative bearing is there than the printed word? Everyone is willing to believe what it says in their daily newspaper. It’s why they buy it.

Inside the supplement, a fashion “expert” advises,

“A mistake made by men – wearing brown shoes with jeans. Not OK.”

Oh. It’s not the assertion I mind so much as the lack of reasoning or explanation. We’re left puzzling whether it’s “shoes” that causes her offence. Is it just low profile footwear? I hope so, thinking of all those poor cowboys committing fashion faux pas daily with their brown boots.

Can it be just the colour brown? And am I making a bold assumption as to the colour of the jeans in mind? She doesn’t actually specify blue, or indigo, or stonewashed.

What about those with fashionable ready made rips in the knees, or those that hang below the crotch like the wearer is supposed to be wearing a nappy/diaper but forgot to put one on? Surely with those, what can the shoes matter?

Like those loose-hipped, hip-hop jeans, we’re left hanging.

Tongue in cheek, I was interested to know what the rest of the world of fashion expertise thought. For me, that means heading over to my second favourite site, Youtube! It’s all on there.

I found one likely expert, Sven Raphael Schneider, who declares a fondness for brown shoes in all their various shades and rich patinas. I won’t trouble you with that link but I offer this other video from the same source, our expert from the Gentleman’s Gazette, on 19 things he sees that peeve. I like that word, “peeve”. It’s a gentleman’s word, for sure. Also “dapper”. He uses that one a lot. Despite my aversion to suits and ties, I quite liked the cut of Sven’s gib.

Final word? Look, I’m no expert but… I think fashionable is what we buy into to look trendy, whereas style is what we always have to look good.

Britain has had enough of experts, says Gove.

You’re doing it all wrong! The Times’ Experts (paywall)

So do you wanna dance?

I’ve been looking through some old telly music vids on Youtube, mainly from the 60s. Some of those guys and gals could really move, and seemingly in a natural way.

Dance is not an essential life skill. I remember two generations before mine all knew how to dance: the waltz, the foxtrot, quick-step and likely the cha-cha-cha. The generation after pretty much knew how to jive, lindy-hop and twist. By the time the 70s came, dancing was relegated simply to doing your own thing. Doing your own thing looks neither elegant nor clever.

Dancing is liberating, I think. For starters it requires less negative self-consciousness and more positive self-confidence. It’s also physically demanding and, I reckon, psychologically beneficial. Maybe it should be taught in schools.

The Four Tops, looking great in their 60’s fashion (another thing which went West in the 70s – style!) See Lawrence Payton on our far right, not the group’s slightest physique but a smooth mover. It’s a simple shuffle, minimal choreography but they’ve obviously compared notes. It looks like they’re into the groove. I think this is my favourite Four Tops number too, thanks to Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland.

Bacharach and David wrote great songs, I don’t have to tell anyone that. Dionne Warwick was one of their choice singers. Here she is performing Walk On By with a dance group. All singer hosted telly shows had one of these, they were always called The New Whateveritwas or The Britney Holmes-Stoares Steppers. Something like that. Superficially, they appear to be just walking – obviously inspired by the title – yet I reckon it’s deceptively difficult. Even Dionne joins in but her steps, probably restricted by her dress, are not as expressively exaggerated as the pros – there’s a risk of John Cleese breaking out at one point. It’s a fun routine though, and a nice comic book colour palette, typical of the 60s.

Daft Punk came a lot later but someone’s used an old Soul Train clip for this video, dubbing over their song, Lose Yourself To Dance. It seems to work though those cats in the studio do seem to be doing their own thing as the song title suggests. A total dearth of behavioural inhibition with the proverbial knobs on. It looks a bit of a sartorial car crash too; or quite possibly someone stole the light bulb from the communal dressing room. I think it must have all gone pear shaped from around that time on.

Thinking about…

Chin Out (Writing Style)

Not having known the Gallagher brothers before they were famous, I don’t know whether their entertaining uninhibited Mancunian cockiness is an innate trait or gained, and further encouraged, through their success. Either way, you’ve got to credit them with something. Here’s Liam on his recent solo album release,

“It’s not Pink Floyd and it ain’t Radiohead. It’s chin-out music.”

I wonder, should I start writing in a more “chin-out” style?
I’m struggling to find my voice; my true voice, my comfortable voice, here. It’s probably simply self-consciousness. I didn’t have this trouble when I first blogged.

The preferred styles seem to me to be, humorously self-deprecating or “chin-out”. Of course, I know there’s more involved than just that. Cutting down on words, punchier sentences. Construction (or is it composition?) And editing!

No one likes to edit their own work, do they? Chin-out it must be, then.