I am not to The Manor Born, and most of the time I’m glad of it. It’s true that I prefer genuine Toffs to aspirant monied middlies (I find the former on the whole far less class-conscious) but like most members of the élite, the bubble they inhabit is miles from reality.
A chap I knew as a colleague in advertising was a proper full-grown Toff who only ever ate in smart restaurants and travelled solely on his personal cab account. On a piece of business we shared, he one day in a meeting said something so out of touch, it would’ve sounded perfect coming from the lips of a 90 year old High Court judge. So I pointed this out gently, and suggested it was time he met a poorer class of person. He asked how to do that, and I said that a few trips on the London Undergound would give him a better perspective. I saw him the next day and asked how he’d got on in the Tube.
“Would you believe it?” he drawled, “they don’t take Coutts credit cards”.
That’s less funny today than it was then (when the Undergound was all cash or season ticket and the world was not its Oyster) but it was my chum’s assumption – “doesn’t everyone have a Coutts card?” – that tickled me.
In a bubble or not, however, most Toffs not too inbred to have survived the 1950s era of death duties and 83% unearned income tax do enjoy one advantage over the rest of us: an army of servants, advisors and soil-tillers to ensure that the most tedious thing they’re ever asked to do is sniff the Vosne Romanée cork to check it’s in good nick.
Without that army, after a certain age it is possible to spend the entire day carrying out chores, answering thick-headed bureaucrats, arguing with the Revenue, checking that everyone from EDF to the Bricomarché via the ISP isn’t cheating you, cutting grass, chopping wood, making fires, cleaning crockery and vacuuming floors.
Baroness Thatcher (who, by the way, my Toff mate dismissed as “drunk on the power of her ghastly husband’s new money”) admitted in private that encouraging a higher level of home ownership not only gave citizens an easy way to turn Tory, based on tax-free profits; it also kept them busy doing gardening and DIY….and nothing kills political activism quicker than bare walls and weeds.
Being busy (and the product of a hopelessly superficial education system) keeps most people away from marches and demos these days. Loaded down by whingeing functionaries, rubbish manufacturing I have to fix and a house too large for me means I don’t get anywhere near enough time to research stuff for columns. And that’s why, just now and again, I think ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have staff?’
I particularly get the feeling when the central heating boiler suffers a pressure drop and goes into lockdown for safety reasons: all French boilers do this…nobody seems to know why. I’m glad of the feature, but less enthusastic about having to go down to the boiler in the freezing cold in bare feet and twiddle the knob thingy to get it going again. Did you spot my profound grasp of plumbing techicalities there? I’m qualified to do all sorts of stuff, none of which interests me in the slightest. What I need is a handyman.
I get the same feeling when the landline rings, and I just know it’s going to be Anaïs from the Societé des Pestilences trying to sell me complete safety from Termites. It’s amusing to annoy such people – I usually ask them if they want to buy a garden shed – but it distracts, and takes up valuable time….not counting that awful moment of getting back to the pc screen and trying to remember what on Earth the point was of that sentence I started. What I need is a butler.
The sentiment is evident yet again when, emerging from a post-luncheon snooze, one realises that all those culinary efforts to produce cabillaud à la Provencale sur son lit d’olives et courgettes have resulted, not just in a full stomach, but also a mountain of dirty dishes, pots, pans and endless gadgets that simply aren’t going to clean themselves. I don’t need a cook – cooking is a hobby for me. What I need is a scullery maid.
At the moment here, we’re about to have another cold snap, and I’m short of fully chopped wood. However, there are already signs that Spring is here: the birds have bits of twig in their beaks, my nightingale is back to warbling of a morning, the fruit trees have newly-minted leaves with the odd blossom, and the grass is growing. What I need is a woodman-gardener
Then there is the nuisance of servicing, insurance, road tax and driving everywhere myself with the pain of a shoulder racked by tertiary arthritis. The DVLA will only give me another three years of driving – but it is imperative for my work as an international roving columnist that I have access to independent road travel anywhere, anytime. It must therefore be obvious to any fair-minded, objective observer that I am going to need a full time chauffeur.
The small problem I face in putting this team together is that, at interview stage, I shall have to come clean and say I am, as they say in the senior school at Marlborough, a bit short of the readies, squire.
Now of course, I could crowd-source the underwriting of these imperative needs, but I’m not convinced that the response would be terribly encouraging. As far as I know, there is no track-record of success for any appeal headlined ‘Bone-idle blogger seeks your hard-earned spondoolicks with a view to maintaining a retinue of staff’.
This nevertheless strikes me as grossly unfair, given that week in week out, neoliberal economists (well-meaning in their own grasping way, I’m sure) insist that, if we are to pay our way in this highly competitive global village we are alleged to inhabit, then we must all – every last one of us – consume more and more goods and services despite earning less and less in real terms. But here I am, taking the thinking time to devise a way of doing exactly that….without an iota of confidence that even such a silver-tongued devil as myself could carry it off.
At this point, perhaps, it might be appropriate to examine why my confidence is at a low ebb – and equally, why I need to source liquidity from the borassic crowd. As Chris Tarrant remarked on many occasions during the run of Who wants to be a Millionaire, “The questions are only easy if you know the answers”. As luck would have it, I do know all the answers re this one.
Crowd-sourcing is the only path available to me when it comes to the free provision of personal help via domestic servitude because QE to save the bankers ripped a third of my SIPP pension bear-notes to shreds, being cheated by Scottish Widows cost me fifty grand, and Zirp (also to save the bankers) reduced my retirement income outside the pension over five years by an eye-watering £35,700.
As for the unwilling crowd of potential donors, they are unlikely to help me because – let’s not beat about the bush here – they would like to have my problems, seeing as how (while they have lost a lot less than I) they had nothing lose on account of being anything from worked to death at a young age for very little thanks to deregulated employment…to penniless in old age, thanks to government embezzlement of their pensions.
The model underpinning my desire for assistance with the onerous task of changing the World is holistically, obviously and indescribably daft. But I submit that it is marginally less bonkers than the contemporary model of globalist monopolism’s ridiculous suggestion that 93% should be poor in order to sustain a Master of the Universe lifestyle for 3%, and a fabulously rich Earthly existence for a further 4% of enablers.
That said, however, nothing would ever persuade me to vote Corbyn Labour, Clinton Democrat, or KKE in Greece. And those constituencies should look into their own souls for the answer to that one, not mine: the kind of violent activism they court in the shape of Momentum, Antifa and Stalinism will only ever replace illiberal corporate fascism with totalitarian collectivism.
Thank you for persevering with this essay. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.