Donald MacInnes: Why I'm slumming it as my wife hunts for a home of our own


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The Independent Online

Where do you come from? Geographically speaking, were your beginnings a little more humble than your current situation? Have you moved up in the world? Or was the hallmarked spoon in your gob from the word go and you're now slumming it?

It's all relative, of course. When I was a child in Glasgow, my parents' divorce meant that my sister and I actually lived two lives. Every other weekend we would be picked up by our estranged father and deposited into his new life, with his new family and his new flat. And his life was very different to the one we knew.

To put it into very simple vernacular we can all understand, my father dropped his aitches and my mother would die before doing so. My mother's mother, unfortunately, was an irredeemable snob, God rest her soul. It's amazing that my mother grew into the all-things-being-equal libertarian she was, given that her mother's default facial expression was that of the woman who has just got a whiff of whichever canine-derived gloop had been tracked into her kitchen. Especially if there was someone on the TV who sounded a little too Glaswegian.

It's not as if my grandmother was some princess in a castle – she grew up on a farm on the isle of Arran, off Scotland's west coast. But, like many people of her generation, she equated being well-spoken with social mobility and breeding. (Boy, did she have a phone voice – she sounded like a continuity announcer from the BBC in 1947.) Sadly (for him) my father was a little less than well-spoken when he was dating my mother, and I'm sure he was never so nervous as when he had to visit the Palace of Unfettered Snobbery and pretend he didn't spend his childhood wiping his snotty nose on the sleeve of his sweater.

Anyway, so much for my class-spanning formative years. As you may know, my wife and I have been looking for a house of our own for a few months. And one of the speed-bumps on our journey has been the fact that my missus, having grown up in London, has very well-formed opinions about certain areas of the capital; opinions about which I, having not moved here until I was 30, knew nothing.

As we scoured the internet for houses, those in an area my wife considered a bit dodgy or prone to teenage gang rampaging were immediately discarded. I would say: "What's wrong with [to my eyes, a standard London suburb]?" and she would look as if I had just suggested we undertake an armed crime spree through the West End.

I would look at the condemned area's streets, shops and nearby park and recall with wonder some of the parts of my hometown Glasgow which, frankly, made her slums look like Knightsbridge.

But, as I said, everything is relative. Especially my dear old gran. And thankfully I talk well proper, innit?

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