I have met plenty of very wealthy people who try as they might, simply don’t posses class. Indeed I have sung for too many of the so-called 'elite' whose fake Gainsborough rolls back into a plasma screen
Mr Legris has managed to trap me in my very own class struggle. Knowing how much it would amuse him, I took the BBC class assessment test – a quick online novelty and the product of a study set up by professors at the LSE and Universities of York and Manchester which now declares there are seven classes instead of the old three.
For those who have class, one knows it isn’t about money, profession or social activity: it is often something quite indefinable. Even talking about it is really dreadfully common. I have met plenty of very wealthy people who try as they might, simply don’t posses class. Indeed I have sung for too many of the so-called 'elite' who play club chill at dinner and whose fake Gainsborough rolls back into a plasma screen.
Much to my confusion (I won’t say horror as that is just being snobbish), I have been categorised as belonging to the Precariat, the lowest group, but then with Mr Legris standing over my shoulder, I magically upgraded to Emergent Service Worker – he insisted that I know an accountant.
'Of course I know an accountant,' I retorted. 'My accountant is an accountant.'
He also reminded me I knew plenty of CEOs. I dutifully ticked the box. So why this self-sabotage? Perhaps I was being modest because, hell, I’m a classy gal and we’re not meant to shout about these things. Whatever it was, I hated the thought of being classed so I outclassed myself.
Boarding School Manners
When I was twelve years old I returned from my wholesome Dorset boarding school to attend Queen’s Gate School in London, where the word 'toilet' was knocked straight out of me. I became a product of my environment, realising the nuances that distinguished the elite from the aspiring middle class.
Priceless tips on how to seem like a member of the elite seeped into my day to day life in the expressions I used, the accent I had, where I lived and what I wore. Every detail counted. I accelerated from a very middle class background where my grandmother would answer the phone reciting the phone number and use French expressions when in company to snogging sons of lords at the Feathers Ball and studying History of Art in Florence.
My father (also class exempt as he was a film director) would complain that I had acquired a plummy accent and was terrified I would turn into some gormless toff, which to him meant Intellectual damnation.
Bottom of the Heap
Yet for me one problem remained: I was an opera singer and on a lower wage than that of my upwardly mobile friends who would in time be obscenely wealthy and welcome me as the token impoverished artist. I may have stayed in every stately home in England, shunned leopard skin every time it made its ghastly comeback and abhorred the use of loo roll holders yet I am still on the bottom of the economic heap.
In my grandmother’s day, her desire to be an opera singer was thwarted – life on the stage was just not done – but the 1930s saw an emergence of Hollywood films and glamour. Combine this with the need for the British aristocracy to save their wealth in the Depression by marrying American heiresses and the class system began to break down. Roll on sixty years and suddenly being an opera singer was my pass par tout.
I may fit like a square peg in a round hole but for those at the BBC who hope to define me I must say you have failed to do so for me and for thousands like me, so I offer you two further overlooked categories that I am an expert on: Pobupobo (posh but poor bohemian) and OWMYGUD (obscenely wealthy mogul yet grossly uncultured dunce).
Let’s hope Tony Hall, the new director general of the BBC recently poached from the Royal Opera House, knocks some sense into these BLOBS (BBC, loquacious, officious, blockhead simpletons).
Written in Zermatt (skiing destination of the elite)