It's the 300th anniversary of Tatler this week. So I was asked to write a big piece about new posh, old posh, bohemian posh, u and non-u things. I thought it would be dead easy until I got down to it. I called a few poshos and we tried to define posh (see this blog passim) and realised that all the old benchmarks of poshness no longer hold the answer: not accent (think Guy Ritchie), not schooling (hardly anyone goes to Eton), not etiquette knowledge (few realise to address the envelope to wife only), nor even family history (you can get posh in just three generations).
In the end I decided that - appropriately enough for these times - poshness comes down to a sort of posh 'x-factor', or 'toff-factor'. An indefinable quality that is the only means by which you can know whether someone is truly posh or not: might be the high forehead, might be style, could be manners. The only truism is that when you ask someone posh if they're posh, they'll hotly deny it.
That done, I then settled down to write a piece about 'posh foodies' for someone else. And, my, that was fun! I could have done that for weeks on end. I decided that I really love truly posh people. They're always hearty, terribly enthusiastic, shouting down the phone about their really excellent cakes. And why shouldn't they be that way? Most have had a life of privilege - top schooling, rambling houses, fresh air, dear old Nanny, strong sense of identity and that cushioned feeling that life is never really going to be too hard. And for all their stiff upper lips, the fact that they've never had to waste energy on worrying about the roof over their head (beyond it leaking every generation or so) means that they're actually rather good with the big stuff of life. If you have heartbreak, terminal illness, blackmail, or are generally just feel a bit down in the dumps - seek out a posh person. Within half an hour they'll have you eating mashed banana in front of It's A Wonderful Life before telling you to buck up and get outdoors for a bracing walk. "It'll all be fine in the morning." It always is.