“… This realm, this England.”


Kit: Onion soup gratinée, £9; fish pie, £19.50; broccoli £5; americano £3 Tim: Baked scallops, £24; steak frites, £27.50; flat white, £3 They shared: Carafe of Cotes du Rhone, £21; bottle of sparkling water, £4 Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Observer.

I find the paragraph cited here interesting and amusing for its self-aware description of how the author and his interviewee, both of them writers, preen themselves competitively on their humble class origins to establish their bona fides while preparing to dine in a luxurious restaurant. Their ritual seems to involve a sort of what would be called “humble-bragging” in the States. The context is De Waal’s project to discover and publish new working-class voices in British fiction. The article includes a link to Monty Python’s Yorkshiremen sketch, which is wildly funny.

Before we’ve really sat down, De Waal has deftly established that I come from a significantly posher part of Birmingham than her and that I have a suspiciously “neutral accent”; while I have noted that she left her home city 22 years ago to live in Royal Leamington Spa, though she still says: “I live in Leamington, but I’m from Birmingham.” I see she has come in clutching several West End shopping bags and note the labels. She meanwhile trumps comprehensively my mumbled “first in family to go to university” with “left school – and home – at 16”. We both despise ourselves for doing this – we are in our 50s, after all, when will it stop? – but obviously accept it as our solemn English birthright.

(Tim Adams, “Kit de Waal: ‘Writing’s very solitary — you do it because you want to find readers’,” The Guardian, 4-14-19)

(c) 2019 JMN.

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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