Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy new year, happy new decade!

As is my wont at this time of year, I've taken a complete and utter break. Please accept my apologies for PB silence over the last week. I'm currently sitting on a very comfortable sofa at my home-from-home, Stapleford Park hotel in Leicestershire having eaten and drunk my way through the festivities and am now slowly gearing myself up for 2010. Posh resolutions are being thought through.

On the brink of a whole new decade, the newspapers have been summing up and discarding the Noughties (which appear to be encapsulated by Tony Blair, Katie Price, Google and terrorism). What will the Teenies bring? David Cameron, Alexa Chung in a Barbour, the Tablet and oil wars. Perhaps.

But for now, let's concentrate on immediate revelry. If you want a posh new year, get stupidly drunk before midnight, dance a Scottish reel or two on the hour,  eat breakfast at 1am and fall asleep in the wrong bedroom, having made a pass at the wrong wife.

Pip pip! Hoorah. xxx

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A very merry Christmas from Posh Bird

Here's to a marvellous posh Christmas to you all - to include tins of Quality Street, watching The Queen, bought Christmas pud, singing Good King Wenceslas as  you line up to open your presents, midnight mass, champagne at breakfast, smoked salmon and carnage.

PB xxx

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Star Guest Blog! Novelist Josa Young on being one of the last debs


When I was 17 I popped out of 10 years of single sex boarding school, and advanced bookwormhood, to find myself blinking in the light of the deb season. It was a huge shock, and I had no idea what I was doing. I cringe when I think how absurd were my views on how to behave.

Most of the other girls were younger than me as they were either not doing A Levels, or were doing the Season at the same time. Which struck me as plain bonkers. I had done my A Levels, got straight As, and was whiling away the time between working, backpacking in Italy looking at pictures, and going up to Cambridge to read English. Naturally enough, the 'debs' delights' - a range of young men chiefly distinguished by their belief that 1950s attitudes to women, society, work and what you will were the way to go - turned up their noses at me. Which led to disagreements, as I could not for the life of me agree that I was in some way inferior to a chap with no O levels. And anyway it wasn't difficult as I am not very tall and many of them, particularly the Guards officers, towered over me.

Having done nothing but read, I had little idea how to relate to the opposite sex anyway in that strange period between the cure for syphillis and the emergence of AIDS. If one of them made a crude pass at me (there was no finesse), I would kick them smartly in the shins. I was also not used to drink at all, and found even a couple of glasses a bit of a challenge. Having had so much single-sex education, I got on much better with the girls. Which led to another difficulty. Why did  they ignore my attempts at conversation as soon as a man - any man, however plain and dull - came into the room?

The good things were visiting, dancing and staying in beautiful houses all over the country. I have a persistent memory of a ravishing hall with open fires burning in white marble fire places on each side, of flowers and marquees, of four-poster beds and grand staircases. In those days people felt it was their social duty to give house parties for complete strangers, and provided dinner and a bed for local dances. I thought I disliked grouse until quite recently, because us young were always fed on nameless game birds hacked off the bottom of the freezer - old when they went in there no doubt. And our hosts could be tetchy - I remember once asking what kind of dog as strange, liver-coloured, squat creature might be, and feeling very embarrassed by the haughty answer: 'It's a labrador, of course!'

The Season forced me to be sociable and put on a good show wherever I went. I was brought up to understand that 'being shy' was extremely rude, and that I was always to try and talk to everyone. At dinner, I was to make conversation with the people on both sides of me and not turn my back and only talk to the interesting ones. But I had no idea what to talk about - I was interested in literature and history and hopeless at flirting. I am afraid I was a terrific wallflower - the tradition of young men in your party being obliged to dance with you had evaporated. I always rushing from room to room trying to look as if I was having fun - there was always sitting on a pile of coats reading a book if things got really uncomfortable. Once the coats squawked when I sat on them, as I had sat upon a semi-naked sleeping couple.

My husband, at 18 and in possession of a modest title, found himself in receipt of invitations from complete strangers at the same time - he put them in the bin having no concept of what was expected of him. I often wonder what would have happened if we had met then.

I definitely don't regret doing the Season - even a very watered down 1970s one. It was a kind of crucible where bits of me were burned away in the flames of embarrassment. And it has provided lots of material for my writing.

Josa Young's debut novel One Apple Tasted (E&T Books) is out now.
www.oneappletasted.co.uk

Monday, December 21, 2009

Posh Bird Is Back....with happy news

So I went to the Tower of London and I'm so damned posh I was captured. Seriously, they was all, like, this must be the new pretender to the throne and that. So I was banged up and if it hadn't been for my cunning way with a scone knife and a row of pearls I'd still be rotting under the stairs with the princes.

Well, almost.

I went to the Tower and it was really jolly good fun. Lots of armour and ravens and a simply spiffing cafe. I highly recommend it.

But in other exciting news, Posh Geezer and I are now engaged. Hurrah! We're off this morning to Chelsea Registry Office to give our Notice of Intent (so that's what people mean when they say, "...and does he have honourable intentions towards your daughter?"). Promise I'll be back in full PB flow shortly - there's lots of posh stuff to report: bow ties are back, more posh comics on the Royal Variety Performance....plus, a special on what the posh do for Christmas.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Posh Bird is off to the Tower of London today



Will report back on the Crown Jewels later today.
PB x

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

More hot new evidence that Posh Is Back: demand for monocles


The meisters of specs at Vision Express have been confused and bewildered recently by a number of enquiries about monocles, so they are starting to sell them in London. They will cost £50 and come in a pouch, with a string to put around the wearer's neck. "It's one of those inexplicable fashion things," Vision's chief executive said last week. "We've had dozens of requests from customers in the past few months, so we thought we'd bring back the monocle on a trial basis. We're as puzzled as anyone by the interest."


Last seen on Bertie Wooster, Patrick Moore, a ventriloquist's toff dummy and a dotty duke or two, the monocle is a hapless piece of magnifying machinery. My grandmother used to have one and I could never fathom the thing - constantly falling out, you couldn't read more than a half a sentence at a time before you had to catch it and try and pop it back on. They were swiftly replaced by glasses that didn't fall off every time you moved your head or coughed and no one looked back.

Until now.

So what's happened - has the country suddenly suffered a case of one-eyed myopic syndrome? Is there a Daily Mail scare we should be aware of? Have years of squinting at iPhones, the tiny text on food labels and celebrities' cellulite in Heat magazine begun to wreak eyeball havoc?

No. Simply put - Posh Is Back. Along with double rows of pearls, Barbours and toffee noses, the monocle is the latest must-have style item.

As India Knight said about this recent phenomenon in her Sunday Times column:

I was thinking how odd this was and then I remembered that the streets of fashionable Shoreditch, east London, are littered with young people wearing Barbours, strings of pearls and — spotted last week — those über-Sloane pie-crust collars. I find it too mind-boggling to analyse — let’s just say said young people weren’t on the way back from a weekend at the ancestral pile — but it rather cheers me up. Being a Hooray may be unhelpful if you’re a politician, but out there on the street it’s never been more fashionable.


(So excited has everyone been about this monocle revival story that it has been reported everywhere from the Daily Telegraph to LA Times and the Huffington Post.) It does make me wonder though - if the trendies of east London are prepared to go back that far in time for their fashion inspiration, what else might be up for grabs? Top hats? Crinolines? Walking canes? Let's just say, I look forward to getting off the tube at Liverpool St and tangling with the Labradors.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A lovely party at the Ritz and a Royal-spotting story


I was out at the Ritz last night for their media Christmas party (I do love the Ritz - it should be naff, but isn't. They do everything beautifully, it's still the best tea in London and if you pass by soon please do pop in and gawp at their Christmas decorations. I particularly love the golden-headed deer) and there was plenty of PB spotting to be done, much to my delight.

One good story. A really rather posh woman, in a brilliant sequinned jacket (the pavements of London are lined with sequins this season) told of how she had some very smart New Yorkers staying with her last weekend, so decided to take them out to her favourite Chelsea restaurant. She booked the table late on Saturday morning and grimaced but bore it when told they could have a table at 7pm but would have to be out by 9.15pm. However, when she got there, a few minutes before her guests at 7pm, she discovered her table was in Siberia. "Simply the worst table ever and I kicked up SUCH a fuss. You've never known such a stinker. I even reduced myself to telling them that I knew the owner etc etc. It didn't work. We were stuck with the table."

But when they got there, squeezing to their table on the outer edges of social acceptability they found themselves thigh-by-thigh with Prince William and his girlfriend Kate 'Waity-Katy' Middleton. Their table was in fact in between Wills and Kate on one side, their bodyguards on the other.

This was pretty exciting for my posh acquaintance ("I tell you what, that man has the HOTS for her! I've never seen a man burning up for a girl like that!") but even more so for the New Yorkers who promptly started squealing: "Oh my gawd. I just CANNOT WAIT to go back and tell the Upper East Siders that even at the WORST table in a restaurant, you get to sit RIGHT NEXT TO ROYALTY!!"

PS And I now know Will's pet name for Kate. And no, I'm not going to tell you. But it's very sweet. They're a real life genuine couple as our New Yawk friends would say.

Monday, December 14, 2009

What time is lunch? And tales of a wicked grandmother


Yesterday, PB had a delightful friend over to lunch. She had been a (much younger) friend of my grandmother's and we had lost touch for several years and are only just recently reunited. Now in her early 70s - although she could easily pass for ten years younger - I was so excited to see her and be reminded of my grandmother, who was wicked in the best possible sense (and sometimes in the worst).

Before I digress, my friend told me that she had had an etiquette panic sparked by me saying to come for lunch at '12.30 for 1pm'. The polite thing, of course, is to always arrive 10 minutes later than the specified time - but this built-in vagueness threw her off course. And did I mean that at 12.30 there would be champagne before lunch? So although she was coming to my tiny flat, she suddenly feared there would be a chic crowd downing Ruinart. The real question in her mind was - did that mean she needed to wear her pearls? In the end she compromised, arriving at 12.40pm and with pearl earrings on. Such are the beautiful manners of her generation.

All of which brought to mind my grandmother, Kate - my mother's mother - who I don't think was especially posh (upper middle, probably) but was always immaculately, beautifully dressed and had the crystal-clear diction of the war generation. (When, as one funnyman put it, they seemed to ration vowels as well as eggs: "Do come up to the hice for tea" etc.) Kate was 40 when she had my mother, so even when I was little she was really pretty old and not at all grandmotherly. I used to like staying with her because she would feed me cigarettes and whisky and tell me wild stories, such as the man who would insist on bringing a tiger to her nightclub ("until it went for a waiter and I really couldn't have it anymore"). She married three times and in between had an endless stream of lovers. She often recounted how she would tell her husband she was off to get some bread for breakfast, pop to see her lover for half an hour and then come home saying, "sorry darling, the queue at the baker's was just so long".

Funnily enough, although a stickler for manners, I doubt she had much sense of time and I can't imagine her worrying about ten minutes here or there. If she turned up to a party, that would be the right time to appear (actually, I seem to remember that 'arrive late, leave early' was her maxim) whereupon she would sit in the corner and wait to be feted. This worked until she was 80, her shapely legs still beautifully stockinged and in heels, glass of avocaat in one hand, cig in the other. "Put another record on, darling."

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Wonder of Whiffling - joyous English words



I've lifted some posh-appropriate words from 'The Wonder of Whiffling and other extraordinary words in the English language' by my good friend Adam Jacot de Boinod. Adam takes us on a tour around the language of the British Isles, finding words you always wished existed but never knew...Here are some words that Posh Bird wishes she had known when describing the less pleasant members of her species.


Posh mannerisms:
bespawl (Tudor-Stuart) to bespatter with saliva
sirkenton (Ayrshire) one who is very careful to avoid pain or cold and keeps near the fire
smell-feast (1519) one who haunts good tables, a greedy sponger
slapsauce (1573) a person who enjoys eating fine food, a glutton
yaffle (1788) to eat or drink especially noisily or greedily
admiral of the narrow seas (17C) a drunkard who vomits over his neighbour
stalko (1802) a man who has nothing to do and no fortune to support him but who styles himself as a squire


For describing the looks of a toff:
stridewallops (Yorkshire) a tall, long-legged girl
endormorphic (1888) being short but powerful
simous (1634) having a very flat nose or with the end turned up
mimp (1786) to speak in a prissy manner, usually with pursed lips

What they wear:
prick-me-dainty (1529) one that is finicky about dress; a dandy (of either sex)
galligaskins (1577) loose breeches
excruciators (19C) very tight, pointed shoes [what woman doesn't have a pair of these?]
caxon (1756) a worn-out wig

Thursday, December 10, 2009

STAR GUEST BLOG! Lucy Pridden, posh fashion and shopping journo, on the return of the Barbour





Wax Lyrical

I had my first fashion epiphany on the Kings Road aged 12.  It was the Eighties and Sloane Rangers ruled.  I was in town for the Feathers Ball - the highlight of the teenage Sloane’s social calendar.  It was Saturday afternoon and my best friend and I were dolled up to cruise the King’s Road in stripe shirts with the collar turned up, frosted lipstick from Boots 17 and our pièce de résistance, brand spanking new Barbour jackets.

Twenty-something years later and I am again considering purchasing a waxed jacket for fashion purposes.  There is nothing wrong with my original – it is still going strong and looks pleasingly worn in – perfect for country life, but it wouldn’t cut it on the Kings Road anymore.  You see, even Barbour have had a makeover.  Alexa Chung wore a Barbour Bedale jacket at Glastonbury and suddenly every fashionista worth her salt is after one – despite the fact that by and large the nearest thing to the real countryside they have experienced is a muddy field at the aforementioned music fest.

This time the rules are different – the jackets are fitted and worn in the style of Belstaff biker jackets and like Hunter wellies, which were also an integral part of the original Sloane wardrobe  – black has usurped green as the colour of choice.  You should wear your jacket undone over a vintage tea dress or tightly belted with skinny jeans, big shades and an even bigger bag and remember to give boot cut jeans, cashmere and flat shoes a wide berth unless you want to look like a Euro.

Barbour isn’t the only purveyor of these fashionable jackets, but they are the original and still the best.  One word of warning before you rush off to buy yours – wear a ‘fashion’ Barbour in the country at your peril – locals will brand you a nouveau, if you are not mistaken for a Russian or a WAG.

For stockist details visit www.barbour.com

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Posh Bird at Cliveden


Last night I was whisked away for a surprise by Posh Geezer to Cliveden. One of Britain's most beautiful stately homes, it now belongs to the National Trust and von Essen hotels but gained infamy as the setting for the Profumo Scandal. It was given by William Waldorf Astor to his son and daughter-in-law, Nancy Astor, for their wedding present in 1906. Nancy became famous as a society hostess and as one of the country's first women MPs when she successfully won her husband's seat after he was forced to give it up on gaining a place in the House of Lords. They gave the house to the National Trust in 1942 but she lived there until her death in 1964.

It is astonishingly beautiful - there are dining rooms of a grandeur matched only by the interiors of a Venetian palazzo. We were hugely lucky to be staying in what was Lady Astor's bedroom - a vast, high-ceilinged room with 8 tall windows and a terrace big enough for a birthday party. White panels hid the doors to the wardrobe and bathroom. There was a plump sofa, a white, ornately carved tall mantelpiece and the bed...Oh! Them were the days. The most comfortable I've ever slept in - one sort of sank in and was firmly held all at once. No modern duvet nonsense either - just soft white sheets, pure merino wool blankets and a heavy cover.

We had drinks and a vicious game of Scrabble in the Great Hall (where the 1908 portrait of Lady Astor by John Singer Sargent hangs) and then a delicious supper in a long red dining room.

All totally heavenly and totally posh. It was a different world in which the very rich and powerful were entertained there 100 years ago. But as Cliveden even then had a reputation for excellent staff, good food and general spoilingness; and as the feeling even now is of staying at someone's house, I think the only difference now is that the guests write a cheque when they leave.

www.clivedenhouse.co.uk

PS You know it's a truly posh hotel not by the liveried staff or the linen napkins, but because they welcome dogs. Woof to that, I say.

Posh Bird in the Evening Standard

In case you didn't find a scrappy copy on the tube last night, the Posh Bird blog was plugged and I was quoted in the Evening Standard Diary:


TOP HATS off to writer Jessica Fellowes. Her blog, Posh Bird in London, is an excellent read for beleaguered Etonian future Cabinet ministers and anyone else concerned about Gordon Brown’s personal attacks on Dave Cameron.
Hot topics include “are posh people thinner?” and jaunts in castles. Jessica is the former deputy editor of Country Life and niece of very posh writer Julian Fellowes who has brought posh to Hollywood famously in the form of Gosford Park.
“There’s a class nerve out there, and I’m hitting on it,” says Jessica. “As something of a posh bird myself, with antennae on alert, it’s become increasingly clear to me that Posh Is Back. With the Tories aiming for victory next year, the posh have started coming out again, braying for the first time in over decade. Posh style is in — mounted antlers on our walls, Barbour jackets on Hoxton trendies. You can even spot the Hermes scarf knotted around the heads of women under the age of 75.”
Apropos the class war, she asks: “The question is: can [Gordon] Brown rally the country to fight? Or will we declare ourselves conscientious objectors now we’re all middle-class?”

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Posh Bird answers your dilemmas




I've had some posh queries recently (see below). What fun. Please feel free to post any of your posh agonies here and I'll ease your worries in the manner of Nanny - with a hot flannel and caution to buck up soon.


Dear Jessica, please can you solve a problem for me. I think I am posh, take yesterday, for example, I cycled from Lina's Italian Deli in Soho to Harrods in pursuit of a white truffle for a 'food happening' (dinner parties, I feel are declasse) I'm holding on Monday. I was delighted to be one of the eight lucky Londoners who got hold of one, despite it being £81 and basically a mushroom. However, my boyfriend says no matter what ridiculous things I do I cannot ever be posh because I went to a comprehensive (although this was many years ago). I would be grateful if you could solve this matter once and for all. Am I posh? Yours, hb xx.


Dear Am I Posh, now that many posh families have lost their fortunes to older sons who snorted it up their nose/crashed it into a tree/married a whore, several posh people go to comprehensives. So this may not hold you back. However, I fear that use of the word 'declasse', spending more than £80 on a mushroom (do you KNOW how much horse feed you can get for that?) and, worst of all, engaging in a 'food happening' may render you Upper Middle at best. Aspirational at worst. I suggest you cook shepherd's pie for a 'kitchen supper with friends' forthwith and you may regain some poshness. Yours, PB xx

dear posh bird. could you please clarify the status of brown sauce in bacon sandwiches and also whether marmite should be kept in the fridge or not. also could you please confirm exactly how many vegetables should be served with roasted meats, or is that just a roast? or roast lunch? who knows? i feel one of those christmas stocking books in the offing miss fellowes....

Dear Wants A Christmas Stocking Book - brown sauce is not posh although one feels it should be. It's one of those things that, like racing on the telly, white bread and gin, is a taste shared by both the working and upper classes. Marmite is kept in the cupboard. Roast lunch (never dinner) traditionally was served with a few overly crunchy potatoes and overly boiled carrots. But now posh food is all about Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and serving organic produce straight from the garden (or Waitrose). Butternut squash, parsnips, cabbage fried with bacon, roasted garlic and all other manner of exoticisms that my grandfather wouldn't have recognised are positively de rigeur. PB x

The life of Lady Maureen Fellowes, 1917-2009

Yesterday was my step-grandmother's funeral. Born in 1917 the eldest child of the fourth Earl of Gainsborough, she is the last of an era. I adored her. She had the silliest giggle, talked about people in history as if they were friends and was so undomesticated she once tried to cut a raw egg in half when told to separate the yolk from the whites.

Maureen was married by Cardinal Hume to my grandfather, Peregrine Launcelot Fellowes, in 1982. My own beloved grandmother had died just a couple of years before, but Maureen, while never grandmotherly in the baking-cakes sense, was quick to make my sister and I feel part of her family. She was very small, and quite round by the time we knew her, but would gamely come to Ireland and come for trips on our motor boat, clambering in and out like a child on a rock climbing exercise. She much preferred getting the number 19 bus in Chelsea to see her hairdresser, where she would chat merrily away to whoever she found sitting next to her. But her favourite place in her later years was a comfortable armchair by the fire, where she would sit and regale me with the tales of her youth.

Think of the parties that populated F Scott Fitzgerald and Evelyn Waugh's novels (to whom she once sat next to at dinner and didn't like very much) and the chinless wonders of PG Wodehouse - and that was her life. (She married very late for her generation - about the age of 27, because she was having too much fun in the meantime.) She would tell me of going to three balls in a night, and finishing off with a Chinese supper at the 100 Club at 4am. She would go to fabulous house parties at the biggest stately homes around England ("where I'd always have the best room and be able to take my own maid, because I'd always be the grandest there").

Completely uneducated, she was nevertheless absolutely fluent in French and Spanish (the latter because of an adored Spanish grandmother who couldn't speak English) and had a passion for the opera, theatre and history. (I got the highest mark in the school for European History in my A'level papers, which I put down entirely to having spent a week with her before the exams when she told me all the stories as if history were a particularly racy novel.)

Maureen's two daughters never went to school either, because she much preferred to have them at home where they could all have fun. The youngest was still having her silk stockings put on her legs by her own lady's maid when she was 18 years old.

Of course, I suppose one must say that we are glad such privilege is over now. But Maureen was never silly. She was almost defined by her Catholicism (although never pious and quicker than anyone to point out the church's faults) and throughout her life did a lot of work for charity, particularly local hospitals, where she would visit the patients to chat to them, encouraging her daughters to do the same regularly. She was huge fun, loving and all for the family. Had she been born in a terraced house in Manchester, she would have been exactly the same, only with a northern accent. I shall miss her hugely.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Posh in the news: Gordon Brown launches his class war




Gordon Brown, a desperate PM, fighting an opposition with no policies to attack, has made what can only be his last-ditch attempt to win favour with voters who despise him for his leadership qualities, fake smile and bad spelling. At least, he pleads, I'm not a toff. We're not over-privileged ponces in top hats trying to fight a war on the playing fields of Eton (which is where he accuses Cameron of drawing up his economic policy).

Matthew Parris, as always, writes perceptively on Brown's latest tactics in The Times - recalling the crude attack in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election, when Labour sent on to the streets 'toffs' in top hats. He warns that the Conservatives must not rise to the bait - but also concedes that it could be a successful point scorer.

This was responded to the next day by Minette Marin - 'Toff-baiting, the dangerous sport that will hurt you too'. She raises an interesting question - one that will be discussed at length over the next few months:

The only important question here is whether toffs — any toffs, of any party — are fit to represent us politically. Those who suggest not have to explain why. Is it that toffs have no right to represent us because of their class guilt or our class hatred? Or is it that they are not capable of representing us, because they are too limited by their background? Is there something about being rich, highly educated and well travelled that makes them unfit for office?

Next up: Janice Turner admits to a small crush on Zac Goldsmith. And why not, when she has this to say about Etonian charm?

When an Eton education truly takes, it bestows an aura of otherworldliness, an appearance of getting what you want without pushing, being above the scramble and petty change-counting of commerce, Conservatism as nostalgia, Conservatism that actually wants to conserve something.


But she ends on a depressing note. Recently, she met at a dinner party a woman who had just been accepted onto the Tory party's candidate list. Lives in Notting Hill, weekends in Oxfordshire. That sorta thing. 


So why did she get into politics, I asked. I thought my question was neutral: it was perceived as hostile. She shrugged, told me that she’d voted Blair in ’97: “Now the parties are all the same,” she said. “We all agree on everything, don’t we? Who gets in now, it doesn’t really matter.” And I suppose to her it doesn’t. To those like her it never will.


In other words - those who are in it, are in it to win it. Sigh. I do fervently hope not. (Go back, my friend, and read Marinette Marin's column on why we shouldn't write all toffs off, tempting though it is.)


Still - even the Observer, who one might think would be up for a quick game of stab-the-posh are deriding him. See Henry Porter, who cautions that a rallying call for class warfare is only ever going to miss the point. "As a nation we've always been more interested in character."


And a major Focus spread: Resurgent Brown ready to declare class war on Tories


(By the way - interesting stat - key in 'posh' to the Guardian search engine and get 8505 results. And not all of them derisory.)


Haven't got round to checking News of the World yet but what's the odds on them running an article shortly on Posh Totty in the House of Commons? Pretty good, I'd say. What, what?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Posh Bird on Facebook

Find me here for a Posh Bird agony aunt session and some marvellous responses to Posh Bird dilemmas.

Posh Bird on Facebook

Posh Bird in a castle


Yes! A real live castle! Very posh. I was, they were. No one said 'toilet' and and we sat in the yellow drawing room of the East Wing. (I love drawing rooms, despite the fact that nothing in them is drawn, except for the curtains). There were two teams of staff - East Wing and West Wing. Sometimes the staff cross over. No one mentioned whether this caused any bipolar mental difficulty. But you suspect that it might.

There were home-made mince pies, head bakers, head chefs, a live-in archivist and an assistant household manager. There seemed to be more assistants than heads, in fact. There were christmas trees - 57 of them! - and as many sets of lights. "No more candles on the trees, except when it's just family." They all had posh names and a completely posh love of lowbrow culture ("all I want is a xmas special of Strictly Come Dancing").

I can't tell you any more because I'm writing it up as a big feature but I just thought I'd give a little castle-licious taster.

Tonight I'll be staying with posh people in East Angular. More on that tomorrow.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Are posh people thinner?


Zoe Williams writing in today's Guardian praises Delia Smith for her retro-style. Slightly too formal wear and never licking a spoon or using 'just a bit' of something. Quite right, too (Nigella's last series, which involved her going to the fridge in the middle of the night to eat cold custard straight from the bowl bordered on the obscene).

Then this:

She mentions the fact that double cream is highly calorific, and therefore should only be used as a special treat (it has become very unfashionable to admit that some food is more fattening than other food. I suspect this is a snob thing; that rich people don't do it because they are kept thin by, I don't know, horseriding, bone structure, inadequate central heating . . . If rich people don't do it, then it is not posh, and the rest of us shouldn't do it).


Again, it's someone confusing 'posh' with 'snob' but I don't mind. It's quite funny here. It's also alluding to the idea that we all would rather be seen to be doing what posh people do.


I do actually think that people were a bit thinner in the old days partly because their houses were so much colder, especially those who lived in draughty country houses. I.e. the posh.


Think I'll turn the thermostat down today and then I can have scones with cream and jam for tea. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Posh Christmas Countdown


I see from peering into windows in Snotty Hill (residence of PB) that some people have already started to put up their Christmas decorations. Unless they are garnishing the public wing of their stately home – cf. Castle Howard, Blenheim Palace, Chatsworth – this is absolutely not posh. Ditto fairy light and neon Santa extravaganzas on the front of your house (not even done at Buckingham Palace - but wouldn't it be wonderful if they did?).

Of course, for children, this can be maddening. We weren't allowed to put our Christmas tree up until Christmas Eve when I was growing up and I can remember thinking that this was a devastatingly long time to wait. Particularly then as one suffered a sort of festive, tinselled overload - an explosion of glitter and presents that was too much for a small child to handle. I'd end up so overexcited that I wouldn't be able to eat a single scrap of the Christmas dinner. One year, my naughty uncle gave me a champagne cocktail before the dinner. I'd deliberately starved myself all day so that I could really tuck in.

I don't need to spell out the effect of a brandy soaked sugar cube in a glass of champagne on an eight-year-old's empty stomach, do I? I slept throughout the whole thing and woke up in time for my mother to give me a five pence she'd rescued from the pudding.

The only thing right now the posh are doing for Christmas is opening an advent calendar (preferably chocolate and cheap - this is when we miss Woolworth's). Some misguided souls will have had photos of the children taken for their cards but I'm afraid this is deeply non-U. The Royals do it. 'Nuff said.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Posh Bird in Soho - a party, a pop-up club and a bed at Groucho's


Posh Bird had quite the Soho night out last weekend. My father worked there in the 80s when it was still a proper sexshop dive (there was a sign on the buzzer below his office, which said, "busty, blonde model" which I remembered thinking, even at the age of 10, was a rather odd way to get modelling jobs). Then in the 90s it got trendy as the film companies and advertising agencies got richer. I used to hang out at Madame JoJos's, Soho House, the Boardwalk, the Limelight and Raw (strictly speaking off Tottenham Court Road but cool enough to be almost Soho). Late night coffees in Bar Italia and early morning breakfasts on Old Compton St were de rigeur.

But in the Noughties, the mainstream crowds moved in and I rarely would go there on a weekend night. During the week is still fine - cocktails upstairs at Quo Vadis (since the divine Sam and Eddie Hart took over), a bit of music at Ronnie Scott's, a meeting at Soho House or catching the flicks at the Curzon Soho. But weekends are reserved for the coked up bridge 'n' tunnel crowds. Not for me.

Still, I had a happy occasion to be in the area this time - for a friend's wedding party. Posh Geezer and I tottered off to the Union Street club, which I like a lot. It's not too poncey, with red glossy walls and a relaxed atmosphere. Afterwards, we popped into the amazing pop-up members club at House of St Barnabas, which was set up by Quintessentially's Ben Eliot. Every single rug, glass, oil painting, cushion and fork has been begged, borrowed and stolen by the very clever and extremely fun interior designer Russell Sage. It's got the air of an impromptu party in a half-abandoned house. Lots of people are going to miss it when it closes on December 21st.

Finally we rocked up to the Groucho, where we were staying for the night. I'd been very kindly asked by the PR if I wanted to try out their club rooms. I have to admit that the room itself is a little basic if you're used to 5 star country hotels (what, moi?) but not if you're used to squeezing into central Manhattan. The bed is comfy, there's a decent bath, a big telly, an iPod base plugged into the speakers and the service is truly impeccable. I was a difficult PB, demanding chips, batteries (for my radio, don't be naughty), an A4 envelope and tea. It's not really meant to be providing full room service, but they did. And for £135 a night, I don't think you'll find much cheaper or better in deepest central London. You even get the joyous Soho atmosphere: lagered-up shouting until the early hours. At 6am, I took a peek outside. The washed down streets reflected the street lamps and a neon sign glowed - 'Sex Shop Basement'. Ahh. Familiar comforts.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Posh or Not? Depends how you like your bacon.



A friend of mine got called  a "posh tw*t" (in the nicest possible way) by her new friends on a writing course because she prefers sushi to pizza. Apparently that's one way to tell. 

Another tells me that it all depends on where you keep your ketchup (in fridge is posh, in cupboard is not). 

Or it might be according to how you order your bacon. Laura Lockington (author of the sublime 'Cupboard Love') said her grocer judged someone's poshness by the way they ordered their bacon. "If a woman asks for streaky, I call her dear. If she asks for back, I call her madam." 

PS If you like your bacon in a sandwich with ketchup - that's better than classy: it's classless. Simply tops. 

Posh gatecrashing (and a bit on posh jewellery)


Last week, Posh Bird's Posh Geezer held a wine tasting evening at Cartier in Bond St. Lots of jolly quaffing of fine bordeaux and burgundies – not to mention Cartier's own champagne – and ogling of the jewels. All very posh indeed.

(Posh jewellery is not, surprisingly enough, always inherited. Although the engagement ring is ideally a family heirloom, as is the tiara, it is perfectly acceptable to buy your wife her wedding ring, a ring for the birth of each baby and assorted trinkets over the years to keep her sweet. It is not, however, deemed at all right to buy a woman jewellery unless she is your wife. Otherwise, it rather smacks of 'mistress'. Although I don't think a silver bracelet could really be said to be a gaudy exchange for sexual favours.)

There were only about 40 of us select few, all of whom were personally known to the PG. Which is why initially he had slightly questioned the need for a clipboard Nazi on the door. Turns out - he was wrong. At least eight people tried their luck, insisting to the man with the list that they had been invited firmly by [insert made up name here] and should be let in forthwith. It didn't work for any of them but I rather liked their pluck.

Which makes it all the more amusing that the bouncers at a party hosted by newly elected Barack 'Most Powerful Man in the World' Obama failed to spot the thrusting Salahis who had blagged their way in.

Reminded me too of my favourite gatecrashing technique, which I used to get into nightclubs on the guest list, when I wasn't on the guest list (couldn't stand queuing). I would confidently tell the clipboard girl my name and that I was from the Mail on Sunday (the last bit, at least, was true) and then chat to my friend, as if completely unconcerned. After a minute or two, she would say, "I'm so sorry but you're not here." I'd say, "Yes, I am." Spell out my name and leave her to check it again. When she came back again to say - as she inevitably would given that I had never given my name to anyone at the club bar her just one minute before - sorry, but no, you're still not there. I would then say: "I don't understand. I told my PA to call today and get it all sorted. She told me that she'd done it. For god's sake. That bloody girl. It's the last straw. I'm going to fire her on Monday. The one thing I ask her to do....etc." Clipboard Nazi would feel so sorry for the poor (fictional) PA that was going to get a bawling out on Monday if I was deprived of my mojitos and a shimmy to Faithless that she'd let me in. Worked every time.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Shotgun Socialism


Great piece by Nick Foulkes in yesterday's Evening Standard about 'shotgun socialism'. New Labour stalwarts Peter Mandelson and Cherie Blair were reported in Charles Moore's diary in the Spectator to have been at a shoot at Waddesdon - one of Britain's grandest stately homes. Both Bleugh and Mandy deny having picked up a gun let alone shot down a feathered friend. But the fact remains: a socialist of the 20th century would rather have been run down by a tractor than spotted in plus fours on the moors.

But Mandy and Bleugh are quite different socialist creatures, although, like unhappy families, in their own way. Cherie is a classic aspirational, inverted snob. Addicted to power and money, she simply wants to do whatever keeps her in the realms of the Rich and Powerful Great and the Good. Not only does she trade on her status as an ex-PM's wife, she wants to create the illusion that she is also a Lady of the Manor with a long and glorious history by buying up antiques from auction houses around the country. I can't picture Arthur Scargill bidding on a French dresser, can you? She makes my blood boil not because she buys her own furniture (the famous put-down made by a senior Tory of Michael Heseltine - proper posh people inherit everything, you see) but because she is not true to herself. In fact, she is so far from herself she wouldn't recognise herself if she gave herself a stinging slap.

Mandy, on the other hand, has never made a secret of his love of champagne, grand houses and fine yachts. For all his devilish smirks (and unelected status), people rather grudgingly admire his ability to get things done. From the start, he's let everyone know that he wants power and he's going to get it. In short, he's an operator - that's why he was at the shoot.

It is this last point which Bleugh and Mandy have in common. They know that posh is back (see PB blogs passim). When the Tories get in next year, it's the Lords who live in statelies (and rent their grounds out to big banks for shooting days) who will be the new powerbase. Neither of them want to be left on the side of the beaters. It's a brace of pheasants for them.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Posh Bird in Chelsea

What's so unusual about that? Lots of posh birds in Chelsea, all the bloomin' time.

And that's where I thought I was going at first, when I was chatting away to my NBF, Ken Monkou. He said he wanted to meet me as he was down in London for a few days, and when I asked where he'd be, he said: "Chelsea." So, I asked where we should meet then and he said: "I can meet you at Fulham Broadway tube station." Which threw me for a second, as I was expecting an answer that contained the words 'Sloane Square' and 'Oriel's' (ultimate posh bird hangout, if not mine). Also, any fule no that despite the frequent sightings of red corduroy trousers and jumpers worn on the shoulders, Fulham is not Chelsea. I said: "I'm coming by car." In that case, he said (good anecdote this, isn't it?), come to the main reception.

Ah. Chelsea. (The sportsmen among you will have spotted that our lovely Ken was a star Chelsea footballer not so long ago.) As in, Stamford Bridge. Y'know. Come on the blues. (Or is it the reds?).

So just to prove that Posh Bird really can be posh anywhere, orf I popped to Chelsea FC in my clapped out Land Rover.

Where, of course, just to prove that I'm wrong about nearly everything, nearly everyone there was posh. From the girl in a tulip skirt and studded flats discussing the picture framing in the Main Reception to the chi-chi Italian waiter in Frankie's.

Really, Chelsea is absolutely marvellous.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Posh Bird spotted out and about in London

Just for fun - a real life pic of Posh Bird in this month's North West magazine at a party (which was boho-posh being in Notting Hill n'all) with her own Posh Geezer.

You should know though that the truly posh would never deign to appear in social pages of any form - not even Tatler's. They believe that one should only be in the papers three times in a lifetime: 'hatch, match and dispatch' (ie announcements of birth, engagement and death).



Posh Is Back - part 23054: The Hermes Scarf - and how to wear it



First of all, Laura (posh) Tennant wrote a piece in last weekend's Guardian about the Hermes scarf.  (And when Grauniad start writing about posh things, then you know what THAT means, yes, my sweets: PIB). Apparently, there's a book out about the the silk squares of picturesque loveliness. She mentions that British women of a certain class wear it knotted under the chin (a la HM The Queen) but fashionistas were queuing up at the Hermes pop-up store in Liberty's last month to find out the chic-not-mumsy way to wear it. She doesn't divulge what this was - as a boob tube? Round the leg? I'll be off to Dalston soon (the new Shoreditch, doncha know) to try and find the answer. 

You can see the article here

One answer might come from Leeds, where Posh Bird's Cousin is at uni.  She reports on an alarming number of posh fashion forwards springing up (there will be a full report and pictures soon). She writes: 

"Read one of your blogs about the 'posh' look coming back into fashion and then on my way into and around uni I saw two boys in quilted Barbours, another boy in tweed and a girl wearing a quilted Barbour with a brooch on it and an Hermes type silk scarf knotted at her neck and hanging over shoulders with the corner pointing down her back. I thought you might be interested to know that it's not only happening in the capital but also in Leeds!!"

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What not to wear in the country


Not to throw names all over the floor but I've met Rod Stewart and Penny Lancaster, at a small dinner party in LA. And I liked them. He likes hanging out with his mates, simple food and football. She's very pretty and sweet (much more girlish than she looks in photos, when she's towering over her husband), worrying about her diet and wishing her husband didn't insist on inviting all the ex-wives over at Christmas.  Not much different from most of us, except for about £50 million and the ability to sing Hot Legs without blushing. Apart from the fact that, like all celebs, they never ask you a single question about you or your life, they were lovely.

In other words - they're try-harders. Which means they often get it wrong. Here they are in the South of France, kitted out in head-to-toe tweed. It's an outfit that wouldn't work in Nuneaton, let alone Nice. I know what they were thinking: brown is right for the country. Tweed is a classic material. And a three-piece suit is always dapper. But all together at once - it's wrong. As wrong as an all-in-one Burberry catsuit. Or a peroxide mullet. Can't help liking them for it, though.

Click here for more: Rod and Penny in Nice

Called posh? Not posh

More on poshly named things that are not posh at all:
www.theposh.com - the website for Peterborough United FC
www.poshbingo.com - 'the UK's most stylish online bingo site' (check it out - it is quite posh actually, with poodle cartoons and swinging bird cages)
www.posh.co.uk - 'posh windows and conservatories' (turn the volume UP - hilarious 80s pop singer warbling about designing posh conservatories to reflect your style - LOVE!)
www.posh-restaurant.com - an Indian. No flock wallpaper but a lovely chintz sofa in the waiting area.
www.peterposh.co.uk - formal wear for hire. No place that hires 'lounge suits' can ever be posh.

Called posh and actually quite posh:
www.poshpaint.com - the likes of Farrow & Ball etc, which posh people really do paint their houses with
www.poshgraffiti.com - I like this - a young girl who has designed big letters, posh decorations, posh rocks etc to sprinkle about your home

Monday, November 23, 2009

The singular crossbreed that is 'posh bird'


Talking about this blog last week with my dad he asked: "Aren't you too posh to be a 'bird'?" But my point is that I am quite posh but not too posh and I need the bird bit to show which level I'm really at. In other words - if you met me, you'd probably think I was fairly posh. It would surprise you at least, as many are, to hear that I'd been brought up in Deptford. But you'd be equally flummoxed if I told you I was staying the night at Buckingham Palace (which I'm not, by the way).

But perhaps I don't need the bird bit. Because there's also exists the paradox in which anything called posh is almost by definition not - any brand name with the word 'posh' in it is more likely to come from the school of Hyacinth Bucket: i.e. suburban chintz and inverted snobbery. From Victoria 'Posh' Beckham to poshbingo.co.uk ('Britain's most stylish bingo site').

More posh-brand spotting to come.

Friday, November 20, 2009

STAR GUEST BLOG by Geraint Anderson, aka Cityboy




There was a time when the City was the sole preserve of chinless wonders. These ex-Etonians would cavort around the Square Mile in pin-stripe suits and bowler hats meeting chaps they’d fagged for and chatting about cricket. The average working day would begin at 9.30, involve a three hour boozy lunch at ‘the club’ and end at around 4.30pm. It was a tight-knit club of clipped vowels and polite manners where a gentlemen’s word was his bond. This week yet another nail was hammered into that arcane world as Cazenove, by far the poshest City firm and ‘stockbroker to the Queen’, agreed to be taken over by the American behemoth JP Morgan.

The rot really began when Maggie Thatcher implemented ‘Big Bang’ in 1986. This was a concerted effort by the grocer’s daughter from Grantham to wipe away the over-regulated elitist old boys’ network and open up this rarefied world to all in sundry. Worse still, Johnny Foreigner was allowed to buy all our quaint old partnership stock broking firms. Soon oiks (some of whom hadn’t even been to public school!) began to enter the hallowed gates to untold wealth and before you could say ‘loadsamoney’ a whole generation of nouveaux riche Cityboys was born.

Within a few years nearly all the old stock broking firms had been acquired by rapacious foreign banks and these guys really meant business: twelve hour days, profit margins, getting in on time - all that crap. These uncouth Nazis also had the temerity to believe in something called ‘meritocracy’. It was a dark day indeed for Tarquin and Rupert when over-bearing yank bosses demanded results and didn’t care a jot about which school they’d attended. These arrogant scoundrels didn’t even respect the fact that you never had butter with brie or that house pronounced correctly rhymed with lice.

Soon the posh boys were being pushed out by diligent, clever middle class types and super sharp barrow boy traders. Inevitably, these Stella-swilling chavs would reveal their poor upbringing and cause problems. Indeed, one Watford boy called Nick Leeson would show his contempt for all things posh by causing the collapse of Baring’s - Britain’s oldest investment bank. It was almost as if he was on a one-man mission to finish the job Maggie had begun! All the trends suggested that the number of upper class stockbrokers was on the decline and that they would experience a similar fate to their fathers and uncles who had once monopolised government.

But the rumours of the demise of posh folk in the City proved to be greatly exaggerated. They have shown a remarkable resilience and I came across numerous diminutive chins and double-barrelled surnames over my twelve year City career. Nepotism and the old boys’ network have helped ensure their survival and the kudos that an Oxbridge education confers still matters to City firms. I always used to wonder why these already rich upper class chaps didn’t just bugger off back to their estates and take up a traditional country pursuit (like developing a smack habit) and so let some poorer folk have a piece of the action. However, a couple of Hoorays once explained to me that their families were often cash-poor and asset-rich and hence a fast buck in the Square Mile was still a very attractive option.

So, posh folks can rest easy in the knowledge that they’re still a major force in the City and look likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future. They are also uniquely qualified to survive in the current climate of banker-bashing for surely no social group is more used to resentment and envy than our aristos who’ve seen their economic and political power steadily usurped by uppity social groups over the last century. The public hostility they’re currently experiencing must surely just wash away like raindrops off a well-oiled Barbour.

Geraint Anderson is author of Cityboy - Beer and Loathing in the Square Mile
See more on his website: Cityboy 






Posh Bird looks at some art


There are, of course, quite a few posh art galleries in London. I'm not thinking so much of grand institutions such as the National and the Royal Academy, wonderful as they are. But more of those tiny galleries dotted about St James's, overhung with Victorian illustrations or watercolours of Venice. They are usually manned by either a smart young gel trying to break into the art world, who has had this job forced upon her by a well-meaning godparent. Or they are presided over by a man in a tweed jacket and egg-stained tie who secretly longs to be either an academic or a roue with a loftspace in New York, where he would gain success as the eccentric Englishman with an amazing talent for spotting emerging artists. They certainly didn't imagine they'd end their days trying to make the sale of three paintings to Japanese tourists pay for six months' rent.

But now for something completely different...Those who fancy good art in a posh setting can hotfoot it to the Hempel Hotel in Craven Hill Gardens. Rather an odd hotel this - it was fiercely modern when it was done up by the formidable Lady Hempel in the 80s but now it's white walls and Zen-ish stone water effects look rather dated. Still, it has a gorgeous garden and now a gallery in the basement. Previously incarnated as the restaurant, with a highly polished granite floor, it is - as curators say - a great space. Last night was the opening of its second exhibition, the UK debut of Irish artist Conrad Frankel. He has done oil paintings of antique photographs of children and adults in their Sunday best (aspirational posh?), in which the sitters stare out at the observer with a rather creepy, intense manner (the result of having to be still for four or five seconds while the picture was taken). The result is intriguing. If you go, you can have a decent cocktail in the bar upstairs, which is a definite improvement on the vast majority of London's galleries.

See more here: Art Work Space at the Hempel

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dominic Lawson applauds McIntyre for being unashamedly posh comedian

The Daily Mail picked up on this piece by Lawson in The Independent (funny that - now they share 'back offices'...). Anyway - it's a good 'un. He applauds McIntyre's bravery in calling his children Oscar and Lucas and remarks on his more-than-passing-resemblance to a country estate agent. I like this quote of the smiley comedian's best, from an interview in last week's Sunday Times, where he defends himself against the 'alternatives': "If only I'd had a more troubled upbringing. Richard Pryor's mother was a prostitute. I was never on fire, while shooting up. All that happened was that some people came round for pasta. So I talk about pasta."

See the full article here

Posh Bird Style Spotter


So this morning I decided that from now on I'd hit the streets armed with my camera. Or, at least, I'd have a camera in my bag when I happened to have to go out for a meeting anyway. Because I thought I could really prove that posh is back by spotting posh-looking trends on, y'know, people on the street. Within seconds of looking – I had someone. Standing right next to me on the Piccadilly platform of King's Cross (not the world's poshest or trendiest place, you'll agree) was this vision. I knew he was trendy – even Posh Bird is up on these things – he was wearing jazz shoes, skinny-skinny jeans, 80s-style faded denim shirt, a gold watch and an Adidas bag slung on his shoulder. All topped off by a genuine quilted Barbour jacket. What could be posher than that? It's back! It's BACK!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

STAR GUEST! Jessica Ruston, author of 'Luxury', on being posh and a blockbuster writer



I should say, before I begin, that when the delightful Jessica Fellowes asked me to write a post on here about being a posh girl writer of blockbuster novels, I had a moment where I panicked that I was Not Posh Enough.  My parents work in the arts, rather than being landed gentry, after all.  I put the milk in first (I know, SHOCKING. But it tastes nicer).  So in an attempt to discover what the barometer for posh was, I turned to twitter (as I do for so many things now).  What words marked you out as posh, I asked?  And answers came there many.  Garage, tooth, bath, praline, glass… Ah.  By the pronunciation of scone shall you be known, it seems, and if you go by this benchmark then I am definitely posh.

So.   What’s a nice girl like me doing writing a book like LUXURY – which, although it is hopefully well written is firmly in the realms of commercial fiction, containing as it does plenty of sex, money, ambition and betrayal?  (Not that these themes run contrary to the concerns or pastimes of the posh…).

Despite the insurance of a number of decidedly un-posh tomes in recent years – see Kerry Katona’s Tough Love, for instance, books are, in and of themselves, a relatively posh affair.  There are plenty of people who think that books are ‘not for them’ – that bookshops are intimidating places where they won’t know where to begin and will be looked down on for not knowing their Bookers from their Left Foot from their Right Ho Jeeves.  I had a drink with a friend the other day who told me that he had read one book in his entire life.  One.  This is not a stupid person, or someone who could not get any pleasure from books if he were to find something he enjoyed – rather, someone who doesn’t see himself as a reader and who thinks books are for other, posher people.

Some of the best ever blockbusters have been written by deeply posh women.  I can only aspire to the success, not to mention cut glass accents of doyennes of the genre such as Penny Vincenzi, Jilly Cooper, and Shirley Conran.  And it’s not just blockbusters – how much poorer would the world be without the heavenly novels of Nancy Mitford, or Joanna Trollope’s canon of books that are known somewhat irritatingly as ‘Aga sagas’ but which are far more incisive and astute than that slightly patronising moniker would suggest?

But while these writers are light years ahead of me, I hope I can begin to follow in their green wellied or LK Bennett heeled footsteps (depending on whether they are in town or the country)  and create books that people will want to read – not because they feel they should, or because they will learn something from them – but just for the sheer and simple pleasure of being told a jolly good story.  And if the person telling them that story does so in a voice that would never dream of rhyming garage with marriage, then so much the better…

*Editor's note: see more of this delightful girl on Jessica Ruston's website

Monday, November 16, 2009

Not a time one wants to be posh and blonde...


Just because it made me laugh, I'll tell you this little tale.  But if you saw me on the Euston Road yesterday at about 7pm, you probably hated me. In my knackered, 21 year old Land Rover Defender, I broke down in the middle lane of said road, at the junction by St Pancras International. Horns blaring doesn't even cover it. Eventually, after several phone calls to breakdown service and the emergency services (briefly unsure which one I wanted), I was rescued by a policeman and his nifty panda car who kindly towed me round the corner and out of harm's way. Finally, the car was rolled onto a pick up truck and delivered back to Snotty Hill. As experiences go, it was really rather thrilling.

And why do we drive such a ridiculous car in London? Partly because we love it. Partly because the alternative (a cheap Ford Fiesta) is too awful to compensate. But mostly because it's knackered. All the best posh things are utterly clapped out.

Posh Is Back Part 3 - WGSN.com


Juliet Warkentin is the Content Director of WGSN.com. And for those of you who don't know, WGSN is the website fashion magazines and designers all over the world subscribe to for its fashion forecasts. With a team of analysts, trend-spotters and writers they analyse where your buttons will be sitting in two seasons' time, whether sequins are for daywear or nightwear  long before you've started rooting in your granny's wardrobe and are more influential than any LiLo, Zoe or Moss for dictating fashion.

Juliet - who is most lovely and funny - likes the blog. She, too, thinks posh is back. If there was any uncertainty before - you can rest assured now: it's back.

See her blog linking back to this one: Juliet's Creative Intelligence Blog

Posh Is Back Part 2 - The Times says it


There was an article in Saturday's Times newspaper in the News/Trends section that endorses Posh Bird's current world view. Sitting in a bigger spread on the interior design trend for putting stag antlers on walls* was a short piece by Luke Leitch entitled 'Sharp End of a Sloaney New Dawn'. In it he says there's a growing vogue for wearing Barbour jackets and Hunter wellies in town as well as country. I, of course, am rarely to be parted from my own red Hunters (see Posh Bird in Venice) and on Saturday night I noticed that a trendy 17 year old I know was wearing skinny jeans and a navy blue quilted gilet, with a navy cashmere scarf around her neck. I kinda liked it as a look - part cool, part mucking out the horses.

(Will try to get Times link up here soon, for some reason it's not working right now.)

Pictured here are resin antlers from Graham & Green, £118, "for that special man in your life".

*PS This 'trend' is of course as old as stately homes themselves but for a great modern example of it in a country setting, take a trip to Stapleford Park Hotel in Leicestershire and see the Old Kitchen, done by the brilliant designer Russell Sage. It's a small, grey room with angular ceilings and every single last inch is covered in mounted antlers of all sizes.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Another toff comedian (and his signet ring)


How could I have forgotten? Marcus Brigstocke, of course - to add to the growing roster that is now Armstrong & Miller, Miranda Hart and Michael McIntyre. And you thought posh people couldn't take a joke.

I've met Marcus a few times and he's a thoroughly nice chap. Very tall and with a quite posh voice - there's some hint of a regional accent there but I'm not sure what it is (like all posh people who talk with a largely flat range, I'm absolutely hopeless with accents). He went to Bristol University (quite posh), is married to his uni sweetheart (pretty posh), lives in Clapham ('Nappy Valley' - quite a lot of posh-aspirationals there), loves skiing (posh sport) and wears a gold signet ring on his left hand little finger. This is the dead giveaway for a posho. I spotted it on last night's Have I Got News For You and wondered if it was its first outing - now that the posh are allowed back on the telly n' all. But I think I can see him wearing it in some Youtube clips from his stand-up as far back as 2007. Although it must be noted that it is firmly hidden in all his official press photographs (see www.marcusbrigstocke.com).

Signet rings can mean middle class (which is how Marcus would define himself if he stooped to such self-labelling at all) but only the top layer. The only signet rings that don't send out this particular signal are the ones that are shiny yellow gold-plated, with a single initial and some studding details on the circular edge.

But the thing to really celebrate is that he is a (nearly proper) toff with proper left wing political credentials. And I don't mean your boho/hippy 'we adore backpacking in India and let's all free Tibet' posh lefties. I mean your proper eco-saving, anti-violence, pro Labour stance (he has a nice line in class angst too). Go Marcus.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Diana Jenkins - poor little rich girl?

See today's Telegraph for a quote from me - and a link to this blog - on the sorry tale of Diana Jenkins. She claims to have been driven out of London by the snobbery of its socialites. But I'm not sure that one can feel too awful for someone who, when she thought it would get her on the right side of people, bought a huge diamond ring. Surely that's the sort of club you don't want to be a member of?

But I do acknowledge here that there are snobs - of course! - in London. Plus there's issue of the huge cultural divide between us and Californians: over there they will become your friend quickly and easily, whereas here....well, I'm sure you know the rest.

Telegraph story on Diana Jenkins

PS Before anyone gets on their stallion and starts charging at me, please do remember that to be posh does not necessarily mean you are a snob. In fact, the posher you are, the least snobby you ought to be - you should have good manners and nothing to prove or be chippy about. So there!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

21st century posh - why posh is back.


Once again we find ourselves on the brink of a new decade, poised to overthrow the old regime and usher in the new. A British revolution – a mild-mannered sort, which is less blocking-roads-with-lorries and more resigned-shrug-at-the-Post-Office-queue – is in the air.  But the funny thing about it this time around is that it’s ringing in the old guard, not the new: posh is back.

The end of the 90s were an exciting time that saw the daring antics of the YBA, the Mancunian posturing of Britpop and a young, fresh, highly ambitious and media-spinning New Labour in government. But the beginning of this next decade is better symbolised by London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, with his speeches of piffle and crumpled, ill-fitting suits. We have long accepted that our opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics will most likely be delayed while Boris hunts down a match to light the flame. And we rather love him for it.

For a long time the posh have had to skulk round the back corridors of power. Being posh was hardly the key to open doors – more likely they would get slammed in your chinless face. But now, as one niece of an Earl said to me: “For ten years, one hasn’t been able to get a direct line to anyone in government but as of next year, one will be able to have the PM to lunch.”

One can hardly paint the posh as an oppressed minority but there’s no doubt that they have had to keep their naturally loud, braying voices to a hush. Afraid to be too posh in case they couldn’t get in to Oxbridge or get a job at the BBC. There wasn’t a single posh artist, writer or comedian who had a hope of getting decent PR let alone a review in The Guardian.

In fact, Armstrong & Miller, the comedy duo who now have a Friday night prime time slot on BBC1, were told ten years ago by a senior henchman at the Beeb that they were “too posh” to ever have their own show. Posh stand-up comedian Michael McIntyre has been propelled to stardom in little over a year, and tall, posh comedy actress Miranda Hart, who has been slogging on the circuit for ten years, has just debuted her own tv show on BBC2. Where are the likes of fast-talking, anarchic comics like Ben Elton? He’s just announced he’s moving to Australia.

In the media, the Sun has pledged its allegiance to the Tories. Hardly surprising, given not just Murdoch’s inclination to back the winning horse, but because the outgoing editor and News International executive, Rebekah Wade, has just married Charlie Brooks. A racing journalist, he has just written a piece for GQ on why it’s cool to be an Old Etonian again (see blogs passim). What with him and the missus hanging out with Cameron and Johnson, not to mention their Gloucestershire neighbours Matthew Freud and Elizabeth Murdoch, whose address book contains every famous, hip person alive. Up against that lot, staid Brown hasn’t a hope (although, Mandy, with a nice line in self-deprecating wit against his champagne-socialist tendencies, might).

Not that the posh of the approaching Teens decade is the same as the Sloane Ranger of the 80s. This time, the posh go to work, preferably starting their own businesses: ‘posh-preneurs’ is a phrase I used in an article for the Telegraph last year, which has been picked up by Schott for the New York Times. The best example of this is found in the food industry: with current emphasis on local and organic, who better than the landed gentry to sell the farm produce? From the future King of England’s Duchy Originals to the long legs of Maria Balfour (niece of Sir David Frost) with her instant dinner party delivery and Lord Ivar Mountbatten’s chickens sold in Marks & Spencer. All heartily backed by the posh foodies, of course: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Valentine Warner (my cousin) and Tom Parker-Bowles.

And where the posh of the 80s wore clothes that only they would wear and were deemed pretty silly even at the time (pink jeans and Wellington boots splashing in the Sloane Square fountain) this lot are cutting edge in ways that are terrifically hard to copy. Take trendsetter Violet Naylor-Leyland, hostess of club nights, who, when asked what is fashionable, gave the ultimate boho-posh answer and said, “I wouldn’t know because I dress like no other human being on earth.” Posh models such as Rosie Huntington-Whitely and Poppy Delevigne are hot, as is Emma Watson, who may or may not be posh but certainly looks it.

But what is the face of the New Tories aka New Posh? Is it Cameron – who is, truthfully, 21st century posh (eco-sensitive, politically active, married to a posh bird with good dress sense) but tragically stuck in the baby-faced, gormless look of the old posh. He never looks casual without his tie – he just looks as if he forgot to put it on.


I think it might be Boris: shabby he may be but he is posh without pretence or pretension. He isn’t patronising and he’s showing willing by getting down and dirty on his Mayoral tasks. Because you must be sure of one thing - to be posh is not the same as to be a snob. Still, whether it’s Boris or Dave we watch enter Number 10 next year, there’s no doubt: it will hail the new era of posh, what?






Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Posh foodies in The Lady - more than posh Pot Noodle


I'm rather loving writing for The Lady. It's a little bit like a female 'Spectator', only with more pictures of flowers and rather off-putting ads for hearing aids and special mattresses. I've got another piece in this week's edition (look out for the poppies on the cover and a fetching pic of Rosamund Pike). Unfortunately, for reasons of space, they cut out some of my suggestions, so I'm putting them up here instead. If you fancy a bit of toffish deliciousness (with not a bit of pot or noodle in sight) - here's where to go...

Dorset Cereals www.dorsetcereals.co.uk

Have you noticed how Dorset Cereals have taken over? They look all homemade and crunchy but they’re as ubiquitous as Frosties. It’s no surprise then to learn that the men behind it have all worked for major brands – Peter Farquar, Old Etonian, was for years with Coca-Cola. On relocating to the West Country, he and two others bought this tiny brand and turned it into big business: 11,000 boxes are sold every day. “But we’re still keen that we speak personally to our consumers,” says Peter, (who by the way, denies being posh, as only the posh do, and then when I ask if he means the Fifteenths/Nineteenths when he says he was in the Royal Huzzars, cries: “No – we’re much posher than that!”).

Mr Bunbury Cakes, www.mrbunbury.com

Mr Bunbury cakes are newbies – the company began just a year ago – but they are already causing taste sensations with their brownies for grown-ups (made with 50% Madagascan chocolate), Millionaire’s Shortbread and outrageously scrummy biscuit cakes, for when you can’t decide which way you want to go. Owner Nick Fox has excellent posh foodie credentials, having learned his trade at Gü and being related to one of the co-owners of Prestat. His three young children – six, eight and two – “form the tasting panel and as a result we’re bringing out a new milk chocolate brownie next year.” Buy online or from one of the bigger Sainsbury’s stores.

Orkney Rose www.orkneyrose.com
Rose Grimond is a young woman with a mission – to bring the excellence of the Orkneys to the South. Up to 20 local producers, who couldn’t supply outside of the islands under their own steam, are powered to restaurants such as The Fat Duck and The Anchor & Hope. Look to Rose to provide you with the poshest, most delectable brunch you could find: “unadulterated, unprocessed black pudding, bacon and kippers – if you like that kind of thing.” Who possibly couldn’t?

James White Drinks www.jameswhite.co.uk

When Christmas looms large put Big Tom at the top of your shopping list. A few bottles of this spiced up tomato juice in the kitchen means that at any given moment (what is it about the festive time of year that means drinking straight after breakfast is a sign of normality rather than alcoholism?) a splash of that with more than a splash of vodka will keep you sane and your guests out of your hair. Owner Lawrence Mallinson (“I went to Marlborough – that’s probably not posh enough, is it?”) loves his juices, and it shows.

Prestat Chocolates, www.prestat.co.uk

Who knew Willy Wonka lived in Acton? At least, that’s the site of the magical Prestat factory, which is a five-year-old’s (or even 35-year-old’s) dream. The charming (Downside old boy) Nick Crean, co-proprietor, took me round the chocolate-smeared machines and fed me truffles (dark, milk, hazlenut praline), chocolate squares (raspberry and wasabi mustard a memorable combination), chocolate buttons and oozing banoffee rounds (“we get a lot of students writing to tell us that those are the best thing they’ve ever tasted”) until I was in danger of taking on the persona of Augustus Gloop. No surprise, then, if I tell you that Roald Dahl was a fan of Prestat. Luckily, you don’t need a golden ticket to enjoy them too.