Grace Dent on TV: After watching Posh People: Inside Tatler I'm happier to be a peasant

But just as we should 'hug a hoodie', we should also, I believe, learn to 'hug a Hooray Henry', because poshness is an accident of birth

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The Independent Culture

There was a time when I was younger and rawer and angrier that I loathed the Sloaney mag Tatler, the subject of BBC2’s rather brilliant Posh People.

I’d be handed Tatler at the hairdressers and sit there in tin foil, flicking and fuming, seething at these foppish, moneyed goons cavorting in their own trust-fund fuelled micro-climate. Death to the lot of them. Actually not straightforward death: posh person gulag and then death. Make them live on Lidl marrowfat peas in Macclesfield.

Obviously, the irony that I was experiencing intense class rage while sitting in Trevor Sorbie, Covent Garden paying more for a restyle than some people do for their annual caravan holiday in Rhyl was beyond me. I was different from these awful Tatler people. Look at them, I thought, with their curiously long, willowy limbs, their defined décolletage, their infinite access to hunting balls, the requisite ball gowns and their silly first names which sound like childhood teddy bears. Binky Fullington-Smyth. Frou-Frou Fox-Boff.

But with age – and following numerous run-ins with blow-dried, long-lineage fillies and men called Rupert in red jeans – I mellowed. Just as we should “hug a hoodie”, we should also, I believe, learn to “hug a Hooray Henry”, because poshness is an accident of birth. They can’t help that their family tree dates back to Matilda of Flanders or that they stand to inherit 800 or so square miles of Perth. They can’t help that everyone outside of the SW1 postcode hates them the moment they open their beautifully mannered mouths. They can’t help it if their second name is Money-Coutts – like Tatler’s lovely Sophia Money-Coutts – which is so ridiculously laden with “I’m posh” signifiers she may as well be called “Arabella-Caviar-Blood-Diamond”.

Also, posh, I realise now, is not the same as rich. Lots of Tatler types are newly poor or simply habitually charming freeloaders. Show me a set of Tatler “We’re on a yacht!” party pics and I’ll show you half a dozen posh scroungers tolerating one wealthy tosspot in return for a free holiday. Being posh sounds quite exhausting.

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Matthew Bell in the new BBC series Posh People: Inside Tatler

So if these people want their very own magazine covering Prince Charles’s alpaca pack, or articles advising the exact shade of labrador one must own to symbolise old money (it’s black, by the way), then so be it. If they want eight pages on side-saddle horse racing, then a piece on how the whippet is now posher than the pug, followed by some charming, relaxed, behind-closed-doors photos of Sam Cam and a feature on an old duke who can’t afford his gas bill so is now selling cupcakes in his banqueting hall, then so bloody be it.

One of the things not generally noted about Tatler – because I read it these days for fun – is that it is prepared to laugh at the very silliness of poshness. Tatler continually, tastefully, sends itself up. Poor commissioning editor Matthew Bell, dispatched around London clutching an empty champagne flute to see if it’s still the key to gatecrashing society parties. Matthew, in his words, isn’t posh by the way. “No, technically not. I’m half foreign and half intelligentsia. My father is a doctor, my mother is a teacher, so in a way you couldn’t get more of a middle-class background.” In episode one he pitched a brilliant-sounding feature entitled “Why the middle classes have ruined having money”, which accused them of ruining boarding schools by dragging their pampered kids home every weekend. I would read this article right through a haircut and blow-dry. Nothing like putting aside my class war to spectate on other people’s.

And God bless Sophie Goodwin, lost in Poundland for the very first time, slowly realising that, yes, it all costs one pound. Oh what fun it was to watch her feel this joy for the very first time. Like watching a lion cub feel a snowflake. Yes, Sophie, even the shower caps! Even the cocktail umbrellas! All one quid! And hats off to Hugo Burnand, Tatler photographer, who has devoted decades to documenting every sip of champagne Jerry Hall and the Marchioness of Milford Haven have ever glugged. And who could feel anything but warmth towards editor Kate Reardon for the fresh copy of Debrett’s Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners she gives each new member of staff. “The smart way to eat a pear is with a spoon,” advises the guide. Clearly this is a truly silly piece of advice.

Imagine the abject sadness of living in a world where casual fruit intake had its own rules of conduct? We should not envy or loathe the good people of Tatler, or scoff at their exquisite, odd readership, their bottoms raw from riding side-saddle, their cheeks bruised from ill-judged air-kissing, their free time frittered on the constant hunt for fancy dress and their egos bruised by their omission from the Bystander pages. I’ve had a long think about this. I’m happier being a peasant.

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