I was brought up in a suppurating boil on the eastern rump of London: a suburban blob of dark cultural matter in which men who don’t support West Ham get their heads nailed to fruit machines, and women whose faces haven’t been marinated in Tango are presumed to have a congenital disorder. My accent was ground and whetted in the rain-soaked playgrounds of Romford – a place where cockney’s brutal elegance has been smelted and spliced into the caustic phonemes of mockney.
So when I entered the mileau of upper echelon men’s magazines, I must have seemed a little ex situ to many of my vocally refined new colleagues and peers, most of whom had entered the work force - via ‘gap yah’ – following a decade-and-half of ego-stoking refinement at the kind of Hogwartsian institutions which view alumni with successful publishing careers as dropouts.
That’s not to say my double-barelled new colleagues showed an iota of snobbery towards me – most magazine professionals, in my experience, have chosen to apply their above-average worldliness and nous to a career which will never make them wealthy, and are therefore unlikely to be social Darwinists. I cannot recommend any profession higher, in terms of meeting life-enrichingly open-minded, kindly people.
But class conditioning is a powerful force, and I did feel a little bit self-conscious, under-entitled – a bit of a fraud, really - when I found myself washing down the €60 lobster club sandwich with 50-year-old Château Lafite at Paris’s most expensive hotel, tearing up the tarmac of Southern Spain in a Bentley Continental GT, having my pores pickled in Tahitian plunge pools, getting tickled by the tape measures of Savile Row’s finest and being whisked around the Chilean Andes in a helicopter while sipping upmarket whisky with Bolivian models. All of this, without ever putting a hand in my own chronically shallow pocket.