On the agenda: September albums; School of Life stationery; Doctor Who; Sharknado


Middle-class problems: Workmen

By Nicholas Barber

It should be simple. You've got a pipe/wire/something scary that needs mending, so you hire a professional to do it for you. Sorted. Yet, when you open your front door to a plumber or an electrician, logic goes out of the window. You notice your accent slipping several Osbornes down the poshness scale.

You hide your copy of The Independent under a sofa cushion. You try to sound knowledgeable about the workman's (and let's be honest, it is still usually a man) favourite football team. All of a sudden, he's not just a bloke with a hammer and a white van. He's half-god, half-new best friend.

The workman, sensing weakness, launches into a series of questions, quite possibly devised by CIA interrogators. This pipe/wire/something scary, he asks. When was it last fixed? Who fixed it? Didn't you notice that they were using a self-tapping screw with a 5mm slotted-hex washer head? By the time he's finished, you can barely muster the strength to brew him six cups of tea and break out the biscuits.

But the biscuits are part of the problem. On some level, they symbolise the class divide, and your embarrassment about getting someone working-class to do your dirty jobs for you. And that's why you're being so spineless. You're terrified that the workman might accuse you of looking down on him.

Which makes no sense. In the 21st century, the chances are his qualifications and earnings are way beyond anything you'll ever achieve. How come he's not afraid of looking down on you?

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