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The Middle-class ABC by Fi Cotter-Craig and Zebedee Helm, ISBN-10: 1848546807
Published in Country Life, December 19, 2012

One of the secret inner truths about the British is that individually we think of ourselves as classless, neither upper, lower or middle, just our own sweet complex little selves. Though this is never true of others, who we delight in classifying in just the same thorough manner that we like to identify and name our butterflies, birds, wild flowers and rank our wine labels.

But when you open this book, through the tears of laughter and the sniggers of recognition, you begin to realise that your innermost passions, be it for heritage vegetables, for making your own elderflower cordial, or for the eggs from your rare breeds of chickens, are in fact no more than shared symbols of your class and status that pin you as neatly to a dissecting board as a Red Admiral, skewered between a Peackock and a Downland Blue.

The first time my wife and I read it, idly flicking through the pages as we lay in bed, we ended up galloping through the entire book, increasingly desperate to identify one major characteristic of our lifestyle that hadn’t been expertly lampooned and made gloriously funny by the two geniuses who compiled, created and illustrated the Middle Class ABC. The intentional misspellings, the muddle of misheard aspirations, the acute anthropological accuracy of insider observation brought to mind that high trinity of Molesworth, Sellars and Yeatman’s 1066 and All That, and Potter on Gamesmanship – loo books of comic genius one and all. My only complaint is that one very necessary correction needs to be made to the cover, for although it has nothing to do with my own intriguing and highly individual classless persona, the whole book is very clearly about those people who have been ‘Upper Middle Class’ for at least four generations.

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