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Sunday, 12 April 2015

Excessive focus on class really drives me mad

At an event yesterday afternoon while standing round talking to a guy who I'd never met before, and who had just walked up and started chatting with me, I was asked if I were British. No, I said, I've never been to Europe. He then said I must've gone to a good school and I admitted that, yes, I had attended Cranbrook School as a child. I also added that my grandmother, who always spoke very properly, lived with us when I was growing up. And I mentioned how I lived in Japan for a decade later on. But once you mention schools, it seems, people stop listening, so it was the school that this man exclusively focused on despite the fact that I had given him many other topics of potential conversation.

"I always find that people who talk nicely who weren't born in England have gone to a private school," he said. I was more than slightly mortified although I found a slight smile coming to my lips. Here we go again, I thought. This turn in the conversation of course also completely stopped us talking about what we had been talking about before, which were the artworks in the gallery that surrounded us. Instead, we were forced, like automatons, to talk about class. The man, who was somewhat older than me, had grown up in New Zealand and so I was then forced to make some comment about his own accent which was, frankly, quite mild compared to those of some people from that country I have heard. Maybe he wanted me to say just that. Sigh.

But this is the way it is. I had said to this man, at the start of the conversation, as we were talking about the gallery, that I didn't want to talk about real estate. "People in Sydney can talk about real estate for hours," I noted. This came up because he had mentioned that the gallery was an early occupier of space in the suburb of Waterloo, where we were standing. Hence the potential segue to real estate. Once people in Australia start talking about real estate, I find, they never stop. And it's the same with class. I find it so annoying. Here we were surrounded by lovely cultural objects - which were in any case the reason we had both come to the place - and all we could think to talk about was the way different people talked. I sighed inwardly. The man left soon after he told me that his partner's son had attended the same school I had gone to. "So that was what he wanted to talk about," I thought. "He wanted to move the conversation to his partner's son so he could talk about him."

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