I’ll be the first to admit I have a working class chip on my shoulder, but that doesn’t mean to say I despise the upper and middle classes who have all the money and power. Not at all. I see all the people of the world as one big global family, and it’s nobody’s fault if they are born on a dirt floor in a hut in rural Africa to a family with a sack of millet – just like it is nobody’s fault if they are born in a private hospital with their name already on the list for Eton and an enormous trust fund for them to spend on champagne and ski holidays when they are eighteen. Luck of the draw. We don’t get to choose our origins, right? And you know what? Hard though it may be for a worker like myself, some of they rich folk are okay.
I see posh people. I do. I see them, and I ask them for money. Not for me you understand. No. For poor people. I see them in tasteful restaurants, hip coffee shops, shiny office blocks, grand houses, ancient oak-panelled rooms and members-only clubs. We meet, and I say “can you see me?”, because I’m slightly sweaty and dressed in my usual shabby attire, produced in a sweatshop behind a disused video-rental store by shackled baby seals. I always stick out like a Dickensian urchin, but not only can they genuinely see me, but they offer me a seat, and they listen to me, and they buy me coffee or lunch. And a very strange thing happens to me. I start talking posh. Whether it’s a subliminal survival mechanism, or whether I’m just a pathetic idiot, I’ll leave the anthropologists to decide, but suddenly I am talking like Princess Anne (without the swearing. You can’t swear at people you are begging from. Rule no.1). I hate myself. Surely they must see through this desperate charade? Or maybe everybody does it. Maybe, like the Queen thinking all toilets smell of violets and the whole world is covered in red carpet, all posh people think everybody talks posh – except for people on the telly, and they’re actors. I mean look at Alf Garnett – proper cockney right? Warren Mitchell who played him – spoke like he had a whole pound of plums in his mouth. Anyway, I digress.
But sometimes, some-awful-times, I see posh people and the opposite happens. It brings out my working class chip. Something snaps within me and I start talking like a Pearly Queen. I don’t even come from London. It’s like I have to become the antithesis of poshness to create an equilibrium so the world doesn’t implode.
Posh person: ” so could you maybe just give me a little more detail on what is covered by this budget?”
Me: “Cor blimey mister, it’s everyfink innit? It’s like all the stuff we gotta buy, and like all the stuff we gonna do”.
It’s horrendous. I hate myself, again, but I have no control.
I haven’t worked out the ‘giving ratio’ yet. Do they give more money when I talk posh (empathy) or more when I talk like Eliza Doolittle (sympathy)? There’s a Phd in that for somebody. In the meantime I have to just suck up the fear, walking into the unknown every time I see a posh person – unaware until I actually open my mouth what kind of twat I’m going to be. That takes courage.