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: - the website for Peterborough United FC - 'the UK's most stylish online bingo site' (check it out - it is quite posh actually, with poodle cartoons and swinging bird cages) - 'posh windows and conservatories' (turn the volume UP - hilarious 80s pop singer warbling about designing posh conservatories to reflect your style - LOVE!) - an Indian. No flock wallpaper but a lovely chintz sofa in the waiting area. - formal wear for hire. No place that hires 'lounge suits' can ever be posh.

Called posh and actually quite posh: - the likes of Farrow & Ball etc, which posh people really do paint their houses with - 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 ('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 -

Juliet Warkentin is the Content Director of 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

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

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,

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
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

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,

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.

More posh comedy - Miranda Hart

Last night was the debut of Miranda Hart's new sitcom on BBC2 - 'Miranda'. I first spotted her on the under-the-radar but funny tv show 'Not Going Out'. Recently, she hosted an episode of 'Have I Got News For You.' Brilliantly.

She's on here because she's tall and posh. And I just love her. She has a nice line in self-deprecation (turning her 6'1" of height and slightly, er, mannish looks into physical comedy) but is not averse to pointing the finger at her own kind. In the sitcom, she owns a joke shop which is run by a bossy friend, while she spends her time dodging work. Her mother – Patricia Hodge – plays a typical toff, desperate to get her daughter married orf and with no patience for loving expressions ("We're not Spanish, darling"). Miranda goes out at one point for lunch with ghastly posh girlfriends from school, who scream instead of saying hello and call each other ridiculous names (Tilly, Bunty, Kong...).

It's slapstick in parts (she falls over a lot, which one really should be too sophisticated to laugh at but Miranda thankfully knows no one is), is a little bit clever in others but is mainly wryly observant, leavened by what is obviously a very sweet temperament.

Throughout the episode I also couldn't help but think - does this mean the time for poshos has come again? What with Armstrong & Miller, and return of OE-cool and the Tories bracing themselves for leadership...Will the Tens be the decade that sees 'The Return of the Toff'?


(Go to for more info and watch the programme on BBC2, Mondays at 8.30pm.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Posh fireworks

It was fireworks night last week. I love a bit of fizz, bang, pop myself but couldn't find a decent display on anywhere. There's a local park that does it but I have distinct memories last year of being made to file to the viewing site via a narrow path with chicken wire high on either side and a general nervousness that someone was going to put a catherine wheel in my pocket.

Anyway, as luck would have it I was told at the last minute about the show at Cleveland Square. "It's not a football scrum like the local park one," said my informer. "You only see one sort of person there - it's all Notting Hill blondes and their spoilt children." PLU, in other words.

So off we trotted and it was simply lovely. Bought the tickets – £8 for a green wristband – from the pub round the corner then, along with about 2,000 others, we piled into the private, communal gardens. Open for one night only, if not exactly to the masses then to the posh massive (massif?). Toff music pumped on the system - 90s hits with anthemic choruses, like Blur's 'Parklife' – a huge bonfire warmed our faces, and mulled wine was on sale for a couple of quid a plastic-cup-pop. All around us the tall, grand stucco'ed white houses looked down on us smugly, as the light show danced on their facades. There were private parties on the balconies and some of them even had small back gardens that led directly into the square; so the guests could be part of the Cleveland Square event without having to actually get into the scrum.

There were indeed hordes of blondes with caramel highlights and lots of children dressed in yummy Boden outfits. Everyone smiled, oohed and aahed at the fireworks ("the sparkliest you'll ever see", I was promised - and they were right). We bumped into some people we knew - of course. PLU, you see.

And then we went home. But this is the worst bit. Now that I've been introduced to this snippet of posh insider knowledge, I won't be able to help myself in future: I'll pretend, just like all the other Snotty Hillers, that I *always* knew about it and will be slightly shocked at anyone who doesn't. Come Nov 5 2010, you'll hear me: "Aren't you going to Cleveland Square? Don't you know you that one? Oh. [Pause] I thought you would. Well, you really must try it. It's such fun."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

OK to be an OE

This month's GQ magazine features an article by Charlie Brooks. For those who don't know, he's the posho who recently married Rebekah Wade (formerly Editor of The Sun and now top henchman at Murdoch's News International). Brooks's day job is as a racing journalist for The Telegraph. The sort of job, in other words, that puts one rather in mind of the actor who was asked by Peter Cook at a party if he was doing anything these days. "I'm writing a novel, actually," said the actor. "Ah, neither am I," replied Cook.

Anyway, I digress etc. This piece is a jolly romp about why it's finally OK, after a "lonely, secretive life" hitherto, to admit to being an Old Etonian. ("The only person I knew who was reckless enough to admit he was an OE was the late Daily Mail diarist Nigel Dempster. And he went to Sherborne."

Now that OE David Cameron is likely to change his pre-initials to PM in the near future, all sorts of cronies are popping up. There's Boris, of course ("[without whom] this renaissance would certainly not have been possible; because Boris proves the point that there is no such thing as a stereotypical OE."). Rory Stewart – who I am a little hot for – a young man who has already racked up an OBE, a Harvard professorship and serious time in Afghanistan. (Next foolhardy mission: to become a Tory MP.)

Those with rather fewer democratic tendencies include Prince Dipendra of Nepal who massacred several members of his family from cousin to King. Let's hope fellow OE Prince William doesn't follow in his bloody steps. (No, all you anti-monarchists out there - I'm not going to say otherwise - we'll have that argument another time.)

Simon Mann, recently home and sure to be pointing not so much a finger as a heavy load of artillery at Sir Mark Thatcher, also learned his survival skills at the Slough Grammar.

Plus a plethora of others - Bear Grylls, Hugh Laurie, John Carver, Johnnie Boden, Jeremy - sorry, Jay – Jopling and more. Much more than this.

The question is somehow still begged: is it - is it really - OK to be an OE?

More to follow...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Posh Bird in the Country

Had a few days borrowing a friend's house in the country for the tail-end of half-term. Proper country-like. Dogs, chickens, guinea pigs, fish, cats and tiny kittens to feed and an ancient pony to cuddle (that was the instruction). An Aga, on which I cooked endlessly - red velvet cake, pumpkin soup (even roasting my own pumpkin seeds - only to leave the soup on the Aga all night so that the cream in it curdled, rendering it totally inedible), roast chicken, home made pizza, home made bread. Plus there were chilly but bright walks on the farmland, around the woods, shouting at the dogs. All bracing and refreshing stuff.

But the bit I'd forgotten about being in the country - what it's like living there as opposed to just weekending - is that you are never alone. There was a constant stream of people coming in to deliver vegetables, collect vegetables, check the post, mend the Aga, dig the ditch, test the tractor, plough the fields, do the washing, pop in for a chat, drop off something from the church that 'might be of interest', check on the pony, sell a granny....Well, they might have done that last one. I think by that point I'd gone upstairs to hide under the duvet. The city might have a population of millions but it's a much less crowded place to be.