Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Real vs Fake People

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

I was contemplating just giving you a lot of dog pictures today. It is a dour, cross day; the sky is the colour of old socks. It is coming up to tax day, and that always makes me furious, not because I resent paying tax, but because it always reminds me of my inability to keep track of the Vital Documents. (I have banged on about this before, and shall not revisit it; it is too demoralising.) I am having a sluggish work day, which sometimes happens and is not the end of the world, but is a mild, constant irritant like a grumpy old fly buzzing in my ear.

On days like this, I generally don't have much to say. But as I sat down to write, or rather not write, the blog, I suddenly remembered something someone said yesterday. There was a discussion about the resignation of Andy Coulson, and how it left the Prime Minister without the crucial voice of the Essex Man. Coulson is not a child of privilege. He is working class, has worked for the tabloids, and not only did not go to Oxbridge, but did not go to university at all. All this was related as if it gave him exclusive insight into the mind of the modern day equivalent of the man on the Clapham Omnibus. It was stated, by every presenter and commentator, that without the Coulson hotline to the great British public, the front bench would be left clueless, cocooned in the precious bubble of money and private education, entirely unable to discern the worries and fears of ordinary citizens.

This herd narrative started to irritate me. There was a kind of four legs good, two legs bad whiff in the air. The implication was: regular, not especially rich, state-educated people are all good, and fortunate, moneyed, public school people are all bad. It was all reductive, all the time.

It's not so much that I mind a bit of toff-bashing. The toffs have had an awful lot of advantages in their lives, and so can probably take a bit of bashing. I'm not becoming tenderly protective of people who went to Eton. What I mind are lazy generalities and intellectual incoherence. The idea that every single person who grew up on a council estate is automatically morally superior to every single person who was expensively educated is just empirically incorrect. The notion that because a politician went to Oxford or Cambridge, she or he may have absolutely no understanding of someone struggling on the minimum wage cannot be right. It is much, much harder, if you have never had the sick panic in the pit of your stomach because a bill has arrived which you have no money to pay, to put yourself in the position of someone for whom that is a weekly occurrence. But humans have two miraculous faculties which make it possible. These are: imagination, and empathy. The ability to put oneself in someone else's shoes is one of the defining marks of an adult. I cannot believe that every single member of the government had it magically removed at birth.

I am perfectly certain that there are elected representatives who regard everyone on the dole as work-shy dossers. The point is that you cannot tell who they are simply from where they went to school. It was Norman Tebbit, if not an Essex man at least a Middlesex one, who insisted that everyone out of work should just get on their bike.

But this counts for nothing in the current received wisdom. One journalist yesterday revealingly said that the point of Coulson was that, unlike the Prime Minister, he understood 'real people'. The assumption is that not only does Mr Cameron have no concept of real people, he is not a real person himself. I can't go too high up on the mountain top on this, being fatally attracted to a massive generalisation myself. But you can't go around dividing people into the categories of real or fake because of their backgrounds. The silliness would never end. Was Churchill bogus because he went to Harrow? Must we regard Gladstone as a phoney because he went to Eton and Christ Church, where he got a double first in Classics and Mathematics? Would a little bit of complexity kill us? That is all I ask.

Pictures of the day appear to feature rather a lot of wood. On the ugly old days, I search for moss and lichen and a good bit of texture like a trufflehound on the trail.










That's probably quite enough of that. Despite the dreich, there were still some views:





To cheer me out of my blah mood, the Pigeon put on a tremendous jumping display:


She may be eleven years old, but she can still get her groove on when she sees a cattle grid to leap over:


She goes so quick it is almost impossible to capture on film, but I rather love this blurry shot of her feet:


The Duchess, meanwhile, was much more concerned with doing a bit of moody gazing:


(Do not disturb me; I am contemplating the possible existence of an eleventh dimension.)

And here is the dear old Pidge at rest:


Despite the dull dankness of the day, there were some thrilling buds, to remind me that spring will one day come:



In three months, those will be horse chestnut leaves as green as apples. And these will be a philadelphus bush:



And today's hill is cropped right into close-up, for your viewing pleasure:



  1. I'm so glad you're back, and glad that you had a lovely weekend away with old friends. Today's pictures of the Pigeon leaping over the cattle grid are wonderful - long may she continue to do so! Our aged basset hound is fourteen and a half and never really did leaping, even when she was a young thing.

    all the best

  2. Jennifer - Do see that the mighty Basset hound is not so much bred for leaping. But I imagine they have many other brilliant talents. So glad you like my dear old jumping girl. It does thrill me she still has so much life in her.

  3. I would be happy with the picture of the dog's back paws all on its own. Love your action dogs.

  4. Go Pigeon! Hope they're resting up on a comfortable cushion now.

    It always strikes me as a Bad Idea to have tax day at the end of Jan, as if things aren't already gloomy enough at this time of year. Maybe moving it to a random day in mid May, when all is green and bursting forth would be a kindness to the nation? Nice to see the buds starting to moving a bit now though.

  5. those all or nothing assumptions are far too dangerous aren't they? us humans and our categories of people... lol@duchess and the 11th dimensions thoughts and love the pics...

  6. We went through the same thing here stateside. As if we should mind having educated people run the country. I would rather prefer educate, empathetic politicians to "good ole boys". But of course, like you said, its about not judging their character by where they went to school. Love your pics and especially todays actions shots. =)

  7. Have had miserable day...dogs brought on the first smile. Please can I borrow dogs who have this capacity to bring smiles? ;-)

  8. Lovely pictures as always. The girls so characterful, the hill so blue, the buds so full of promise.

    And it is heartening to know that I am not alone in getting quite incandescently outraged at sweeping class based but otherwise found-less judgements.

    Why can't people just be people. There are good, bad but mostly indifferent (mid range mediocrity is a target I all too frequently reach) everywhere whatever their starting point in life. Grrrrrrr.

    I rage at:
    All politicians are evil cheats
    All teachers are wonderful
    All policeman are good
    All nurses are angels
    All women make great mothers
    All men are b.......

    etc etc

  9. I totally get the hatred of gross generalisations but to make one myself sUnfortunately the current Cabinet do a bloody good impression of being like the bankers and not really getting it. Perhaps they are all super empathetic but it certainly doesn't come across like that. At least not to me and I have pretty much the same background as they do albeit no trust fund millions mores the pity.

    Loving the leaping dogs!

  10. you're right, generalisations are tedious and unfair (see sports presenters for views on female linesman, for example) but there is a point to be made about privately educated people in positions of power living within a bubble and the dangers that may bring. I went to a very twee little private prep school, then a state mixed comp and there were wonderful people and utter idiots in equal measure in both. but I am pleased to have experienced both. the point is, however, is that only about 5% of the population who are privately educated and go to Oxbridge yet they are expected to govern 100%. Imagination and intelligence, sure, but actual experience and practical knowledge counts for much too. it doesn't make you more valid or 'real', it makes you more (for want of a better expression) common.

  11. Thank you! I was so cross at the constant suggestion that Andy Coulson was the only person close to the cabinet who had any idea of what it's like to be an 'ordinary person'.

    The dear Pigeon, leaping! She reminds me of my dear old collie, who treated all walks as if she was running an agility course at Crufts.

  12. Yes of course this is silly 'call me Dave' must want to try and help people/ improve the country because frankly he doesn't need the money or to work (and could earn far more and probably have a far less stressful life doing something else).

    I defend the right of people to send their children to public school (often) because I defend freedom of choice. Also they pay twice so I suppose frankly they get to choose.

    However I must say this (and my parents both went to private schools and are not like this so it may be a generational issue or a noveau issue): I am regularly made to feel less adequate by people at work who went to private school because I did not. Which is not a very good advertisement in my eyes. Of course they are a snapshot and I meet plenty of extremely nice people who went to public school- but I'm just saying, keeping your cool about having to work longer, harder and get better grades to get to the same place as them in life and then to be teased for it isn't pleasant.

  13. Really interesting and thought-provoking comments; thank you so much. And of course the admiration of the leaping canine makes me smile all over my face, so thank you for that too.


Your comments give me great delight, so please do leave one.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin