Friday, 6 November 2015

Alcohol and Class

It's a week after my operation, and I've finally plucked up the courage to have a peek at My Left Boob.

The surgeon was a genius. Lefty is very black and blue, but apart from that doesn't look terribly different (he was far from perfect to start with, to be honest).

I'm back on form, feeling perky, and I have ten days R&R before my meeting with my oncologist to discuss next steps.

So, I'm moving on from thinking about nothing but cancer. I've turned over the page in the dictionary of highly emotive c words, and now I've been thinking about class.

The British have always been obsessed by class. We may not like to admit to it these days, but it's still there, seeped into our bones.

Mr SM is deeply upper class. Properly coat-of-arms posh. He visibly flinches if the children ever use a word like toilet, or serviette or (God forbid) pardon. One of his favourite bon mots is "Bad manners: worse than adultery."

(I don't think, by the way, that Mr SM actually condones adultery. Even if his wife has a wonky boob and may soon be bald).

The last few weeks have been particularly tricky for Mr SM, as his upbringing makes showing any emotion anathema, and he can't say the word breast out loud. Plus the poor thing has to sit there while a conveyor belt of strangers cop a feel of his wife.

Anyhow, because of all of this, I find anything to do with class rather fascinating.

A month or so ago there was a flurry of articles in the press about research showing that mothers are drinking earlier and earlier in the day, often cracking open the vino mid afternoon, after the school run.

There were a number of interviews, with celebrities and regular Mums, who would readily and happily confess to sharing bottles of wine with friends over a Friday afternoon play date, or having a glass or two with lunch mid week.

I read through a number of the online comments under these articles. Frequently someone would point out that this behaviour was only seen as acceptable (normal even) because of class.

A group of nice, well dressed, middle class mums sharing bottles of wine at 3pm on a Friday was deemed to be okay, but a group of mums on benefits passing round extra strong cider would lead to a call to social services.

It's so true. I was able to justify my drinking habits because I only drank wine. And wine is sophisticated, up market, expensive. Hell, the majority of it is French.

But it's still the same poison. The same addiction. Whether it's called Chablis grand cru and is being sipped from crystal glasses by a connoisseur, or it's methylated spirits being drunk from a plastic bottle by a tramp.

The same is true of cocaine. It is - I kid you not - deemed totally acceptable at many Notting Hill or Kensington dinner parties for the host to offer round cocaine rather than coffee at the end of the meal. After all, cocaine is for the rich, the rebellious, the young at heart.

(You'd get a sharp intake of breath if you served non organic milk in Notting Hill. Were you not aware that Milo is lactose intolerant?!? But cocaine? Perfectly okay!)

Can you imagine anyone passing round a bag of heroin? Oh no! That's an entirely different thing.

But it's not really, is it? It's just about image. And class.

So next time you're battling with the wine witch, make sure you see it for what it is. Strip away the packaging, the sophisticated names, the rituals. It's just ethanol. And it's a poison.

Happy Friday!

Love SM x


  1. Dear SM, such a great post. It is just a slow or fast way, depending on chosen approach, to poison ourselves. There is no class discriminator. It's also pretty good at relieving you of any classiness you might be in possession of. I never had much to start with so figure should try and retain what is left and reclaim any that was discarded with careless abandon over the last couple of decades. Wow that's a scary sentence. Just checking in to keep on track. Day 4, Friday, everything is calling. I am tired but ignoring it. Will swap for a bath, a period drama - always a favourite escape - and feeling okay in the morning. Happy days x

    1. Great point Eowyn! And well done on day 4! Just think how good you're going to feel on Saturday morning :-). Have you watched Far From The Madding Crowd yet? It's brilliant. And Bathsheba Everdene is a classy bird who definitely doesn't need vino!

    2. And she came back in Doctor Zhivago with a bunch of lovely jumpers and fur hats - again no alcohol - and one of my favourite lines in a movie which seems relevant now with all that is going on in the world "This is a terrible time to be alive" - there are wolves howling in the background.

    3. That was one of the first I saw in the cinema, along with (not at the same time obvs) The Sound of Music

    4. Ha ha oh yes already watched it once in cinema, twice on plane, bought dvd last Friday and watched at least 3 times since and scheduled for tonight. I love it, it's a really beautifully shot film. I like Hardy but his heroines can be a bit annoying..(Tess) however Bathsheba us simply fabulous. As I have not read this particular classic I am also reading for good measure at same time :0). After that think I might head back to the classic Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice for a revisit of my late teens :0) if you have not seen my Cumberbatch in Parade's End I highly recommend :0) happy viewing x

    5. Gulp make that my early twenties! Lol ..I will get done under Trade Descriptions Act. Where does the time go! I think class is an interesting concept, particularly when you get down to the point of when it is about perception. Is it a good French wine - then you equal sophisticated. Tenants Super then you equal down and out. It's all the same poison when you are in your own personal gutter. Everyone's rock bottom is different and why do we want to reach one? I was most struck reading Alan Carr when he suggested viewing alcohol as Strychnine - naming it is such struck home. Not quite enough to make me stop then but enough to make me start seriously and I do mean really seriously reviewing everything over the last 6 months. Which brings me to Day 4 and back to choice du jour of Gabriel Oak instead ...0) x

  2. This is so interesting! I always thought such things didn't bother me, until No 2 said (very recently) she had described us to The Boyfriend as "lower middle class". Lower??!! No, I don't think so!! However, we should also remember that some of the Upper Classes have done some really dodgy things - in history and the present day (George Osborne, anyone). Sorry to get a bit political, and probably off track too. I am so glad you really seem to be feeling better.

    1. Quite right! Look at what went on in the housemaster's studies of all those boarding prep schools in the 70s and 80s.....

    2. You ski don't you? We normally go to Austria (cheap and I like the gemutlichkeit, although Italian dolomites do it for me too) but went to France a couple of times and there were some corking conversations on the chairlift - one between two blokes (one taught at the school Andrew Motion was at and wrote about in his memoir, and the other was teaching there now) and a female friend of theirs.

  3. Ha ha, Mr SM's awkward embarrassment reminds me of my last trip home with my new husband. My husband is half native half Scottish. We had Christmas with my brother and his family, plus his very "upper class" in-laws who were apparently very stressed that my husband might turn up in full feather head dress and loin cloth. It was most amusing for me, (and revenge for having been introduced to my in-laws and extended family....all at once, and asked if I was bringing blankets and beads...they all thought that was hilarious). Glad you're healing up SM!xx

  4. I read that too about different class drinking and it's so true. Who are we to think we're superior because we got drunk on wine? The result is the same - Yuck! I wasn't a day time drinker or lager or vodka but I probably drove over the limit in the mornings, probably had next day wine breath and would not have been able to drive to sick kids hospital during the night if one of my kids got sick! Glad you're feeling perked. Your blog is still a huge help to all of us. And it's still funny. Bad manners are worse than adultery. Am going to use that one!!! Lol xxx

  5. Well said. Today i saw two ladies having their nails done in the middle of john Lewis drinking bubbles at 10 30am! It was quite surreal, shows how far I have come if I was shocked!

  6. Great post again SM. I bet ur left boob is still better than either of mine ( I never had good ones even before breast feeding. ) will be thinking of you and hoping your oncology meeting goes well. I'm currently on day 8 (yay) and feeling so proud because I resisted vino despite having a couple of nights away with the hubby ( no kids). As pickle said a couple of days ago - something feels different this time. Thanks so much for your wonderful wonderful posts which help me so much. Take care. Love SFM x

  7. The play date choice in Antwerp is Laurent Perrier. I mean how could anyone think of us as old alcoholics with our olives, prosciutto and 50€ a piece, door-stop heavy lead crystal flutes? Anyone who offers cava in a glass from IKEA with a few crisps in a bowl is viewed as being extremely common. What a load of old tosh! The money, time and worry spent on those "friends" was just not worth the effort. Would rather have a cup of tea, decent biscuit and a laugh with a real friend who might swear on occasion.

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