What class were you in

I suppose we can all be ‘guilty’ of trying to be something we are clearly not.

There was much ribald humour when Lord Wedgewood Benn, unhappy with his aristocratic lineage, made it known he preferred to be known as plain Tony Benn.

He was pictured holding a working man’s mug of tea. Many ‘socialists’ are adept at disguising their public school backgrounds.

It works both ways; many going through life in steerage strive to go in what they perceive to be an upwards direction. I recall a couple of glaziers who, having won the lottery took themselves, their wives and sprogs off to one of those exotic Caribbean islets the stinking rich prefer us not to know about.

It was not a happy experience; their stay was spoiled by an offensive social apartheid that left them in no doubt they were regarded as riff raff.

As a young man I dated a public school educated debutante. Her career as a model had begun as a Pears Calendar child. I once told her I was sweating. She pulled me up on that one. “No Michael; horses sweat, men perspire, but we ladies just feel the heat.”

She also taught me to say ‘may I have’ when asking for something rather than ‘can I have.’

There is a difference and it taught me a lesson. Don’t even try to be something you are not; a single word or expression will hole your social status below the waterline.

Just be yourself and you will be better thought of. Ask Ludwig van Beethoven; a grumpy Rhinelander feted throughout the palaces of Habsburg.

Many successful people never allow their achievement, their power or their wealth to change their nature or their background.

Pam Morgan of Redrow Homes, the house building empire insisted on her chauffeur’s admission to the inner warmth of black tie venues rather than wait in the car.

Others attendees were aghast at her proletarian behaviour. Goodness me: Whatever next? To me Alan Whicker, journalist and broadcaster epitomised the classless Briton.

This amiable conversationalist had the gift of being able to chat as gently with princes as with the road sweeper outside.

Broadcaster Sir Terry Wogan; fellow Irishmen Eamonn Andrews and Henry Kelly, had similar qualities as did Michael Parkinson the British television presenter. Eva Peron, was the wife of Argentine dictator Juan Peron but ‘the shirtless ones’ adored her empathy with their humble situation.

The Managing Director of the Bowaters Shipping Company, a fleet built specifically to service the UK’s insatiable appetite for newsprint, often joined us in the ship’s mess.

Much the same could be said of Captain Inez, Spanish-born commodore of Palm Lines shipping fleet. It is a quirk of human nature that the only people who talk big are the little people.

Photo credit: Lancaster Evening Post

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