Sunday, 1 May 2011

Tinned ham and shopping baskets

After reading this entertaining post, several anecdotes came to mind. The first is my favourite tale of someone being put off a potential 'date'.
 My friend had met a seemingly eligible chap at work, and waxed lyrical about him for several weeks. "He really looks after his car" not something I can imagine getting excited about "He likes all the same music as me" erm, lots of people like listening to the radio "He's tall, and fit" ok, so that IS a plus I suppose. Much flirting, loud mutual guffaws at double entendres and text message joke swapping ensued, culminating in a suggested post-work meet up on the Friday. Excited and enthused, said friend began her preparations for the date on Wednesday. On Thursday, it all went wrong unexpectedly and disastrously. Friend popped to the supermarket after the gym early in the evening. As she loaded her basket with magazines, oranges, cotton buds and a few other single-girl essentials, who should she spot entering the store? Only Friday's date. It appeared he was with his mother, and luckily, hadn't spotted her. A stealth exit was planned, no way did she want to bump into him, all sweaty, and have that awkward "meet my mum" moment before the first date. As she was about to leave the store, she glanced over her shoulder, witnessing a scene that would lead to her cancelling Friday's date. Mr 'could've been' Right was cradling his basket in the crook of his arm. "He just looked so camp,walking down the shampoo aisle with his mum, carrying the basket on his arm like an old lady,  there's no way I could meet him".
If only he knew what his crime was...
The second tale involves a scene witnessed by my mum. Mum's friend Jane lived in the next street, and had one daughter, in her early twenties at the time.  Saturday afternoons were dedicated to mum and Jane catching up on the weeks' events in Jane's kitchen. Mum would sit and listen as Jane chain-smoked and reeled off tiresome tales of the cleaning chores she'd completed, minor exchanges she'd had with local folk with whom she was on mere nodding terms with, and generally whine. Jane's daughter Abi was ambitious and  desperate to escape her oppressive working-class environment. From her style of dress to her 'put-on' accent and ladylike composure, Abi screamed 'snob' but looking back it was an admirable attempt to better herself.
Abi took various live-in nanny positions, moving to affluent areas and  working for professional couples. Jane would moan to my mum "Abi comes home and says things like 'why can't WE have constant hot water mum?'" One of Abi's ambitions was to meet and marry a well educated gentleman who was 'going places'. Whilst working in Reading, the start of this dream took shape. Abi met a graduate and his well-heeled family, who took to her, despite possibly questioning her background. When the time came for Abi to introduce Mr 'Going Places' to her parents,  she invited him to stay for the weekend. Mum still visited Jane that Saturday, who quickly shared shocking facts about her weekend guest; "His mum must have packed his weekend bag, he had a neatly folded dressing gown and slippers" "I keep telling him to call me Jane, but he still says 'Mrs Davies'". Mum and Jane were sat at the kitchen table, a cramped terraced-house space, when Abi and (let's call him) 'David' emerged from the bedroom.
 Mum described the look of horror she saw etched on a sensible-looking David's face upon witnessing the spectacle before him. Jane sipping Carling lager from a can, cigarette in hand,  Abi asking David if he fancied a sandwich as she opened a tin of ham with one of those fiddly key things, mum and daughter were oblivious to how alien this scene must have been to David. Mum felt equal pity for all three parties, this was a mix of classes, a contrast of social standards and expectation that was NEVER going to work. Perhaps comparable to a typical scene from a Mike Leigh film; uncomfortable, embarrassing, awkward and somehow quite sad.

I'm pleased to report that Abi went on to meet and marry someone just like her, an ambitious guy who complimented her perfectly. They now live in  'nice' area and continue to socially climb and strive to achieve a higher standard of living. Let's hope David did the same


  1. There is a running joke in my family about my Gran and 'Ye Olde Oake Ham', which she used to buy. My sister and I had a real aversion to 'tinned meat'. My dad was the first to escape working class Manchester and go to university, and despite my roots, obviously I was an aspirational brat!

  2. I think we had that very ham in one of my dad's Christmas hampers, the cats went nuts for the jellified brine! 'The class divide' provides the best backdrop for some of life's most memorable people watching moments, probably all of them.

  3. The Hearts of Palm have 3.19g of carbs per 100g! Hope that helps :) xxx


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