Non-Brits must understand: Victoria Beckham is not in any way “posh”. At the time she was given her showbiz nickname she was relatively well-off; now she is simply rich. She could buy and sell many genuinely posh—that is titled rather than monied—people, but they probably wouldn’t let her. Even if they had a financial crisis it would be too awful for them to contemplate selling out to someone so vulgar. You might think the former Spice’s habits and taste are weird, but a large number of “ordinary” British people would behave just like her if they dropped into her kitten heels tomorrow. In my strange, accidental outsider’s wanderings up and down the social strata of this country, from outside lavs to royal garden parties (the Windsors are certainly not as posh as it gets here, by the way), I have learned that truly posh people really are not like the rest of us.
I once placed a classified ad in The Spectator. I was looking for accommodation close my place of work, the Institute of Cancer Research on the Fulham Road, so it seemed like the perfect place to go a-fishing for spare rooms let by genteel, cash-poor, old Chelsea ladies. My choice was too perfect. If you want to meet characters who you thought only existed in P G Wodehouse novels I recommend the Speccie.
As well as carrying an obligatory red-faced-geezer rant about “health fascists”—
“Scarcely a day passes without some bossy New Labour drone appearing on the radio to announce yet another ban on something or other or to demand tougher regulations… …One gets the impression that they’re usually whining women… …but one can think of plenty of Labour men who year to prohibit or regulate our private behaviour, from riding horses in the harmless pursuit of vermin, or banning all smoking in public places, through to smacking uncontrollable brats…
—last week’s edition contains posh people galore. This is from its review of a biography of William Coldstream:
“Coldstream wanted to be a doctor like his father (who was also a Fellow of Royal Zoological Society and an excellent knitter), but although he went to a prep school that was so reverential about games that a boy was expelled for farting as he boxed, his formal education more or less ended when he caught rheumatic fever at the age of 11, and he did not pass the necessary exams.”
This is from a review of Christopher Simon Sykes’s history of Sledmere, The Big House:
“…Venetia Cavendish-Bentinck, married to a millionaire and yet so tight-fisted she bought bacon on a sale-or-return basis, recycled left-over milk from the cat’s dish for her guests, and tried to entertain Catholics on Fridays because fish was cheaper than meat…”
“…Sir Mark Sykes… …who distinguished himself internationally as an orientalist, MP, soldier and writer. He had a perfectly miserable childhood—its highlight being when his father, in a rage, hanged his beloved pet terriers from a tree and left them dangling dead for him to find—yet grew up to be energetic, humorous, honourable and kind…”
Then there’s Charles Spencer (not the late Diana’s brother) writing about why he’s glad he didn’t grow up to achieve his ambition at public school [that’s private school] to be a rock drummer:
“I’ve had enough problems with booze to realise that easy access to drugs would quickly have been the death of me. In hospital once for an operation—I had the embarrassing and acutely painful condition of an abscess on the bum—I was given morphine for 24 hours and suddenly understood why junkies maintained their habit, whatever the personal cost. It was sheer dreamy bliss. Who would mind lying on a filthy mattress in a rancid squat if this is where opiates took you? Even now, three years, ten months and 11 days into my sobriety, I still find myself wistfully and irresponsibly wishing that I had tried smack before getting clean and sober.”