Didis and dodos

Every now and then you come across a person who fits their stereotype as neatly as a white upper middle class conservative. It was at a country club, surprise, surprise.

I don’t frequent country clubs, I neither have the budget nor the inclination, but, as most of my life experiences have come about, I was offered a freebie visit through a family friend who happened to be going with her friend ‘Didi’ after school. As it turned out Didi had a daughter the same age as my friend’s daughter and a boy the same age as my own daughter. I met Didi soaking wet in a swimming costume with a frill around her hips (which tend to be worn strangely by apple shaped women who wear it at an attempt to detract attention away from the bottom and thigh area when in fact they may as well have a sign pointing to below the hip saying ‘look here’). But don’t let the cutesy costume fool you from the Didis of this world, one look at that her steely glaze with unflinching direct eye contact told me that:

A) she probably rides horses

B) most likely to have been privately educated

C) is going to be a tad bossy and domineering as many of the ‘pushy middle class mums’ tend to be

At this point I had to scold the little voice in my head with ‘dont judge a book by its cover, she hasn’t even said a word and already she is in a box’. “Hello I’m Didi, nice to meet you, the boys are in the pool already, lets get this lot in their costumes, I assume you are staying for supper, I have lots of kindles and iPad we can ‘plug the children into’ (while she haw haws over a glass of wine…… shut-up voice in my head). I smile and nod and before I know it my friend’s children and mine are ‘cluck-clucked’ to the pool by Didi. Then pool session over, in the showers and then she is going round brushing everyone’s hair with aussie miracle spray (including my daughter who loved it), sorting the seating arrangements out in the country club bar and recommending the most expensive items on the menu.

After she has got half of PC World out for the kids and got a glass of wine in hand, she then embarks on confirming my inner voice’s assumptions. “well of course I said to the teacher, the forest school route hadn’t been properly risk assessed, it was far too close to a bridleway and any rider knows a horse can spook at anything, then buck and goodness knows what could happen” (I found this scenario so far fetched that she may as well have been including in her assessment earth tremors and hurricanes. What she really meant was ‘i want to demonstrate that I am a horse person and this tenuous link is the best way I can do that). Then came assumption b) “I have my eldest down at prep school and my daughter will follow suit, you just can’t beat the class sizes”. In between utterances she was clucking round the table like a mother hen seeing to everyone’s children and paused for rather too long at something situated on my son’s chair, prompting me to look and notice he had wet his trousers as she flounces away in quiet merciless judgement. Before her posh chaos exits the room she makes some remark about her husband playing golf’ (apparently better than her first husband), how she ‘travelled the world and London’ before settling here and listened to my views on co-education with a stony expression before saying “what a funny idea”.

So stereotypically middle-class Brit was this encounter that I was half expecting someone to say ‘cut’ and finding myself mistakenly placed on the set of the next Bridget Jones movie. If this indeed had happened I would fantasise that ‘Didi’ would once again return to her actual name of ‘Diane’ and say ‘thank god that’s over, it takes effort to play the part of a point-scoring, social climbing bitch’ and then tell me how she graffitid all over the local UKIP signs.

But that would be a fictitious character.

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Ur ukipping me

It shouldn’t happen in 2014, but it has – a UKIP leader winning the majority support on a debate. While the main theme was Europe, other incredibly concerning views were expressed by UKIP, including the belittling of the Syrian war, heralding Putin’s ‘operational approach’. I don’t know whether it was the way in which the BBC edited the highlights of the debate or whether there really are more Mail readers in existence than I thought but, having seen Clegg’s rhetoric in response to UKIP, I would say he did a good job confirming fears that UKIP really are out of touch with the modern world.

It is hard not to be ageist when looking at the growth in popularity of UKIP, but it is the views of people of mainly my father’s generation that surely must underpin UKIP’s recent success. My Dad is against Europe, anti-immigration and racist. He would not have liked me to ‘date’ a black man. Yes it is 2014 and not 1964.

Part of the problem is that people over 60 have the biggest political influence, they are on our parish councils, our county councils, committees, government agencies, you name it, they have a view on it (and a largely out-dated one).

But people whose heyday was in the 60s can be forgiven for wanting the clock to be turned back. What is most worrying is when ignorance and narrow-minded blind patriotism infiltrates the psyche of the next generation. All the time partys like UKIP get a voice and are allowed to give voice to other important issues off the back of their popularity on Europe, subtle shifts in social thinking gain pace in the completely wrong direction.

I am blogging for UNICEF to help protect vulnerable children regardless of where they are in the world – support the campaign here.

Thanks for reading