You can always spot a nouveau riche by his henna jar

THE AGREEABLE WORLD OF WALLACE ARNOLD

Share
Related Topics
t was at that delicious time of day immediately prior to luncheon. Our very select Reading Group sat in the library of The Travellers Club, mulling over the business of the day. We had, as you will soon gather, been greatly enjoying a magisterial new tome on a particularly knotty social problem.

Whither Kosovo? "You can tell by his haircut that Milosevic is a nouveau," quoth I, adding ruminatively, "No gentleman would ever ask his barber for such fancy scissor-work. And do I detect the tell-tale curls of a blow drier at hand? I rest my case."

"But surely one can blow-dry one's hair and yet still remain a gentleman?" asked my young confrere Simon Heffer, no stranger, methinks, to the henna jar.

"The last gentleman to blow-dry his hair was King Edward VIII," I opined, "and look what happened to him."

The others purred agreement. "Vulgar, vulgar, vulgar," said my old friend and quaffing partner Lord Charteris, stirring his coffee employing only his penis, as is correct.

"Pardon me," chimed in Hughie Trevor-Roper, "but King Edward VIII was no gentleman. His father and his grandfather both sported beards. No gentleman has ever sported a beard. I rest my case."

"But did his family not date back to the Normans, Hughie?" asked Roy Strong, a novice in these matters.

"I don't care whether they date back to the Freds, the Sharons or the Kevins, they are still fearfully common," snapped Hughie, dipping the end of his necktie into his coffee and sucking on it in the approved manner. "Look at the Queen Mother! She might have stepped out from behind the bar at The Rover's Return bearing a half-pint of lemonade shandy!"

"The Rover's Return?" quoth young Heffer. "I'm afraid you've quite lost me there, Hughie."

"And what on earth is a lemonade shandy?" quoth I. "A motor-car, is it? Or some sort of household gadget?"

"Gadget, Wallace? Gadget?" spluttered Roy Strong. "I trust you are employing the word with a fair dollop of irony! No gentleman EVER says the word gadget, you know!"

"Vulgar, vulgar, vulgar," chipped in Charteris.

"One's revulsion towards the word dates back to the days of Sir Sidney Gadget, the nouveau riche Victorian entrepreneur," elucidated Roy. "The moment it was discovered that he had invented the toothbrush, society dropped him like a hot brick.

"Just as they had dropped Sir Algernon Brick, less than two hundred years earlier," added Heffer, "Neither he nor his wife, Lady Cynthia, ever recovered."

How very stimulating our Reading Group discussions can prove! We had all, you will have gathered, been inwardly digesting J Mordaunt Crook's magisterial new work, The Rise of the Nouveaux Riches. As you might imagine, it had served only to increase our vigilance against this ongoing social problem.

"Of course, the Bricks were forced to change their name, in the hope that they might one day be accepted back into society," said Hughie. "But they chose badly and their ploy failed miserably."

Roy's ears pricked up. "To what did they change their name?" he asked.

"Sir Algernon and Lady Cynthia Toilet," explained Hughie with an ill- concealed grimace.

At this point, the library doors swung open. A young couple strode in, all over-pressed clothes and eager smiles. "Vulgar, vulgar, vulgar!" muttered Charteris. It was HRH Prince Edward, escorting his fiancee, Miss (Msssss!) Sophie Rhys-Jones on a whistle-stop tour of the club.

"Don't look now," hissed Heffer, puckering his lips. "But I think he's holding her hand!"

"Eeyurgh!" we all groaned in unison.

"No man and woman should ever hold hands," said Trevor-Roper. "Unless, of course, the gentleman is on his death-bed, his will is about to be read, and no qualified doctor is available to take his pulse."

The Royal Couple continued to scurry about the library, blissfully unaware that they were the objects of our social analysis. "I see the Prince wears tassels on his shoes," I whispered.

"Tassels were invented by Rodney Tassel in the late 18th century," hissed Roy Strong. "The family still live at Tassel Castle in Rutland, but they're never invited out."

"No doubt the pair of them will wave after their wedding," said Hughie. "The Windsors are always waving. They don't know any better."

"Vulgar, vulgar, vulgar!" confirmed Charteris, picking his nose with thumb and forefinger, in the approved manner.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

For all his faults, Russell Brand is utterly sincere, something politicians should emulate

Janet Street-Porter
 

Never underestimate the power of the National Trust

Boyd Tonkin
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss