Sometimes I think that Britain is changing, becoming a place where people are at last disentangling themselves from the impeding but very British distraction the rest of the world calls snobbery*, which in my childhood was so pervasive that it was practically a collective mental illness.
I know that sounds a bit extreme but take the case of my next door neighbour's mother-in-law. She could never accept that her son lived in what she considered the socially inferior district covered by the post code SW10. Therefore, for the entire two and a half decades he lived there, she never sent him a letter addressed to anything but SW3, (much classier, in case you hadn't guessed).
To me at least that behaviour does seem to justify the well-known medical diagnosis, 'stark raving bonkers'.
Anyway, I had a vague impression that such funny little preoccupations were on the wane. I imagined that no-one made judgments based on silly little details any more.
Then I came across an article about credit cards in this week's Sunday Times and I realised the whole absurd game of "what are your vowel sounds and what school did you go to and do you live in the right post code and who were your parents" is still being played, with the same desperate me sir, pick me sir, elbowing eagerness as it always was.
The article was headed thus:
To fill up the space below the heading, various so-called celebrities were asked to tell the newspaper's readers what their views were on credit cards.
I'd barely heard of any of the respondents, but that's beside the point really. Several didn't like cards at all and didn't have them; one or two did, but didn't specify which credit card it was that they had. The amazing part wasn't either of these groups; the amazing part was that among the throng of self-promoters were three who were deluded enough to believe that even a credit card is a sign of class.
First up, (ever desperate to impress) was the pathetic Piers Morgan:
Poor Piers - it's more than sometimes that the joke is on him, I suspect.
Next came a man for whom the word 'wally' must have been invented**, that prancing fool who goes round wrecking people's houses, Mr Thingummybob Llewelyn-Jones:
(Whoops, it turns out it's Llewelyn-Bowen [whatever] [actually, I have to be fair and admit he does very occasionally make a quite interesting radio programme - but in his case I think it's the exception that proves the rule])
Finally there was a surprise entry: Stephen Berkoff, who I might have thought would be cool enough to know better:
(If Berkoff genuinely thinks that Coutts would be any less careless, indifferent and rude than other banks, should he fall on hard times, he's surely deluded; it all reminds me of the late lamented Linda Smith's mockery of people who say they prefer Waitrose to other supermarkets, "Ooh yes, I do like a place that let's me pay just that little bit more for all my shopping" - and while we're on the subject is there any other nation in the world that has class-gradated supermarkets?)
"Well, but it was only a few of them", I hear you cry, "it wasn't everyone." I know, I know, but the question I want an answer to is this one (and answer me honestly, having first considered the question above re supermarkets):
Is there any other country in the entire universe that could manage to inject class - even if it is only the illusion of class - into one's choice of credit card?
I think the answer is no.
And, while saying that, I should point out what an utter hypocrite I am, for, unable to rid myself of the hideous English taint, I couldn't help noticing that there was one responder who effortlessly - and if class is about anything, it is about being effortless - trumped the entire rest of the field in class terms.
That person was Ranulph Fiennes, whose languid answer indicated, without direct boastful statement, that he is in possession of large tracts of land - always the true class marker, at least when combined with the implication that you are not merely the owner but the instinctively skilled husbander of same, something Fiennes also managed to convey clearly without resorting to outright skiting - and made the pathetic Coutts card wavers look oh so even more ridiculously silly.
Fiennes thus demonstrated that old money (I've no idea how old the Fiennes family money is but almost any money is older than Piers Morgan's stash, even if he does keep it at Coutts) still sets the rules of the class game, which, when boiled down, can be reduced to one essential : flash will never ever beat dash:
** or was that Piers Morgan actually?