And so, perhaps inevitably, we turn to the topic of mugs. How posh are your mugs? When Boris Johnson stepped out with his tray of tea for journalists last weekend, he was carrying a hotchpotch of mugs. From what I could see, there was a yellow Mini Eggs mug of the sort you get free with an Easter egg, a corporate-looking mug that read “Battersea Power Station” and then assorted mugs with different, colourful patterns on them.
As with tea towels, mugs are a teller. If you weren’t entirely convinced before the tea episode, Boris’s choice of mugs marks him out as posh. No one mug matched another. The shape and sizes of them varied. Some mugs were clearly freebies and might even have been chipped. You might think it would be grander of Boris to bring out a tray of matching Wedgwood, but actually there was an insouciance to his gesture – here, journalists, drink my tea which I am bringing out in a display of noblesse oblige, but I won’t offer you matching mugs because that’s awfully middle class. Mea culpa, me paenitet, Boris might have said, but luckily didn’t.
Which brings us to Michael Gove and Pippa Middleton. An unlikely double act, I grant you, but both of them have been photographed touting much more middle-class mugs. Emma Bridgewater mugs. They’re the ones that come with paintings of animals on the outside and the name of that animal on the inside – hedgehog, labrador, robin – in case you’re not quite sure what animal it is. Michael brought out the Bridgewater mugs for reporters outside his house last September; Pippa was papped a couple of weeks ago holding two green woodpecker mugs while having tea with her in-laws. These in-laws are the wealthy Matthews family who own the Eden Rock hotel in St Barts, and I suspect do not own any sort of freebie mug.
We’ve all got so pretentious about coffee that now we need to get that “barista” effect at home too, apparently
Other middle-class mug choices include matching “barista” mugs, as evidenced by the Camerons who were photographed at Downing Street with these tall, thin, black mugs made by Whittard. We’ve all got so pretentious about coffee that now we need to get that “barista” effect at home too, apparently. And while we’re about it, a pox on whoever came up with the idea of glass mugs, the sort that you’re often served lattes or tea in. Glass doesn’t make a suitable mug because you can’t get your hands around it. Glass is much better for wine.
Slogan mugs – “Keep calm and drink tea”, “I’d rather be fishing”, “I love spreadsheets” – are a tiny bit embarrassing, but we’ve all got at least one because they make a useful present when you really don’t know what to buy someone. You can always turn them into a toothbrush mug which gathers revolting gunk at the bottom of it.
And the other mug that’s quite posh, albeit ironic posh, is one with the Royal family on it. I’ve had tea at a couple of big houses recently, both times drinking from Harry and Meghan mugs. It’s basically a bit of an in-joke – ha ha ha, look at our mugs, aren’t they just screamingly funny? Posh people love a bit of kitsch. Look how popular Billy Bass the singing fish was. There are apparently six of the blighters at Balmoral alone.
Wash properly or pay the price
A Brighton, Airbnb landlady has started charging guests if they stain her sheets with fake tan. She warns guests – especially hen parties – that she’ll sting them for cleaning costs if they leave orange smears behind them. Quite right. While you’re at it, why not fine those who remove their foundation and mascara with towels, too?
While staying in B&Bs for weddings or hen parties, I’ve lost count of the number of girlfriends who clean their face in a slapdash fashion, then rub their face with a hand towel to get rid of the rest of it, leaving towels that look like the Turin shroud. It’s slutty, in the old-fashioned sense of the word. Can everyone wash themselves properly and stop assuming grubby marks on the linen are someone else’s problem?
Best to keep this habit off the menu
A debate raged on Twitter last week (no change there): is it acceptable to look up a menu online and decide what you’re having before getting to the restaurant? “I was happy we had both googled the menu beforehand and chosen our food,” said a woman on a newspaper blind date.
Now, I am greedy and always have several menu pages open on my laptop. We look up menus online because it stretches out the anticipatory pleasure and means we can work out whether to order the expensive thing if someone else is paying, but the cheap thing if it’s on us. But confess to this on a date and next you’ll be admitting you cut your toenails in bed and never change the loo roll. It’s one of those little habits that should be disguised for as long as possible.