I have a lovely new neighbour who’s mad keen to be my friend. Genuinely lovely, I should add, in case she’s reading, but a fully paid up member of the quinoa and avocado, fair trade soya latte, Guardian supplement brigade. Know what I mean? Of course you do.
So, she began by asking after my 16 year old son. In lower sixth, of course? Um, no. He’s training to be a plumber. Ah! How jolly sensible, when it’s so awfully difficult to find reliable tradesman these days, and Heaven knows Brexit will only make it worse! Smashing, smashing.
And your husband – something in the city, no doubt? Oh my, a Postman, eh? How terribly interesting that must be, and – um – um – healthy! Yes, all that fresh air and exercise, perfectly marvellous. Such a valuable job too. And you – you are a – a – um –
I was tempted to claim I keep a crack den. Instead, I admitted, reluctantly, to calling myself a music therapist.
“Oh, how ripping! What do you play? We all play something in my house – piano, flute, violin, bugle, we give recitals, you should pop round – “
“I can’t play anything!” I said, as quickly as possible. “I have no musical ability whatsoever. In fact, my only talents are for working a room and shaking my booty. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I really must go and feed the whippets.”
Since moving to Broadstairs, I’ve developed a hankering for a t-shirt that states, “Please don’t be fooled by the address or the accent: I’m truly the scum of the earth.” But they’d only think it ironic and witty.
The harder you fight against class stereotypes, the more it marks you out as One of Us, riddled with anxiety about image, one’s place in the structure. I suppose I should just relax and embrace my new status. And yet – I feel so lost. Always worried and waiting to be caught out in a deception that isn’t of my making.
Fizzing with attitude
I came to Thanet because I thought that here, in this chippy, run-down, deprived seaside town, down on its luck, still fizzing with attitude, I’d feel a sense of belonging.
But in the decade I’ve called it home it’s become unrecognisable, all micro-breweries and yoga studios, flouncy Fenellas and her family recitals. I no longer belong here. I can’t be the only one who feels it. If my new husband ever sees sense and chucks me, I’ll be caning it up the M2 within the hour.
Fenella and I are meeting for drinks next week, nonetheless. Perhaps she hopes I’ll impart some working class wisdom her way, read her tea leaves, teach her to play the spoons: that’ll add an ironic twist to her violin concertos. I don’t mind nearly so much now she know the truth – I’m indubitably One of Them.