We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]


Alice Bachini has been out shopping, for her aunties:

What I can afford is Marks and Spencer room spray, or Woolworths scented cushions for putting in your wardrobe. But it seems to me that if aunties wanted that kind of thing, they would buy it for themselves already.

If they wanted a normal sort of thing, they’d buy it themselves.

Because so many people can now afford to get normal things, there are now special places called gift shops, and special mail order catalogues called gift catalogues, to enable you to buy abnormal things to give to people at Christmas. This is a recently encountered abnormal thing selling operation, the dead-tree catalogue for which came with the Sunday Times of about a fortnight ago. My favourite abnormality here is the hat you put on to catch incoming ping pong balls.

Rich people used to love this kind of nonsense, when they were the only ones who could afford it. But now they are above such stuff, and live in places which are ostentatiously full of empty space. This change in social mores is hammered home in one of my favourite recent movies, The Family Man, starring Nicholas Cage. In this movie, a magical rearrangement of reality of the sort beloved of Hollywood movie makers looking to catch the Christmas market ordains that The Man (Cage) shall be transformed from The Man (who works for a hotshot money-processing enterprise in Manhattan) shall instead become The Family Man, with a dead-end job, a lovely wife (the girl he nearly married when he was Younger Man, but didn’t), two fascinating children, and … that’s right, a house full of junk. He’s poor you see. He has stuff. Rich people don’t do that. Rich people have empty rooms painted black with one picture on the wall, and one designer coffee table.

Rich people used to collect junk like crazy. That’s how they proved they were rich. My gandparents (Sir Ronald and Lady Bosanquet, my mother’s parents – Granny Bosanquet was the scariest woman I have ever known) had a mini-stately home. This huge house has always been delightfully full of junk, and now that my cousin lives there it still contains many objects of great interest and antiquity. On the top floor there used to be room after room containing enough strange things to keep a visiting grandson happy for hours. Furniture of every imaginable kind. Telescopes. Rocking horses. Stuffed animals in glass cases. A butterfly collection. Weirdly obscure books. Pre-computer-age games equipment of all sorts, such as croquet mallets, tennis rackets, cricket bats, ping pong equipment. Standard lamps of every sort you can think of. Ancient cameras. Toy train sets. In the lower floors there were other official rich people items, like ancestral oil paintings of people we were actually descended from, nice furniture and official literature-type books in a special library.

There was a snooker room. (This was where, according to family legend, cousin B. J. T. Bosanquet invented a special type of cricket bowling manoevre – the “googly, or “Bosie” as they still call it in Australia in his honour. BJT briefly captained the England cricket team, until opposing batsmen learned to play the googly. The leading exponent of the googly these days is the Australian, Shane Warne, now doing awful things to England’s cricketers in Australia. My grandfather also played cricket, and captained his local team. But this was because he owned the pitch.)

There was even, and Samizdata readers will love this, a “gun room”. That’s right, an entire room set aside for guns for attacking animals with.

Not surprisingly, this house was seldom – in fact never – plundered by the lower orders, despite containing numerous objects of great value, in among all the fun junk that I preferred.

Gift shops are the democratisation of my grandparents’ upstairs rooms. Now that everyone can afford to have lots of stuff, rich people now prove that they’re superior not by accumulating lots of stuff and showing it off, but by showing off how good they are at resisting the urge to accumulate, unlike those ghastly poor people. Thus Nicholas Cage’s empty Rich Man appartment in The Family Man.

A related fact is that Indian movie stars have got thinner. It used to be that Indian movie stars would prove their desirability by flaunting the fact that they could afford to be constantly eating, which made them special. Thin Indian film stars prove that millions of people in India now eat well enough for getting fat to be a mass problem rather than a minority luxury. Desirable men used to be rich enough to be able to indulge their appetites. Now, desirable men are men who can control their appetites.

Make of this what you will. Samizdata. You never know what stuff you’re going to come across next. We’re the blogging equivalent of my grandparents’ top floor.

4 comments to Stuff

  • You’re related to B. J. T. Bosanquet ? Now I’m impressed. We Australians don’t normally call the ball a “Bosie” that much any more, sadly. It’s normally a “wrong un” or a “googlie”, although most of us are still familiar with the word.

    I would also disagree that Warne is the leading exponent of the googlie, either. Most leg spin bowlers bowl on a line outside the off stump, and bowl mostly leg spinners that spin away from the bat of a right handed batsman. Occasionally they bowl a googlie, the purpose of which is to surprise the batsman so that it spins back onto the stumps.

    Where Warne is different is that he bowls from outside the leg stump, and his stock ball, the leg spinner, comes back at the stumps from on or outside outside the leg stump. Warne mixes these balls with straight balls (flippers, sliders, top-spinners) that the batsman is hopefully going to think will spin back outside the off stump, but instead come straight for to bowl the batsman or get an lbw. This is an extremely effective strategy, but it does not work for most leg spinners, because any bad ball bowled outside the leg stump is a gift of runs to the batsman, and leg spinning is an extremely difficult art and most bowlers bowl a couple of bad balls per over. Warne is extraordinarily accurate, however, so he can geet away with it.

    However, Warne’s strategy finds little use for googlies. If these are bowled on a line ouside the leg stump, they just spin away from the stumps, and provide little if any danger to the batsman. Therefore, although Warne certainly is capable of bowling googles, he very seldom does.

    Stuart McGill, Australia’s number two legspin bowler, is a much more conventional bowler than Warne, and bowls the wrong un much more frequently.

    Okay, I now think I have scared all the Americans away. We can now get on with the conspiracy. Interesting post by the way. I may comment on it in a little while.

  • Grizzled Wrenchbender

    Nope, this american is still here. Completely in the dark, but still here. Calvinball, anyone?

    As always, “The rich are different from you and me,” if only for the sake of being different from the teeming masses. If ever I stirke it rich, I hope to be comfortable without descending to nouveau riche tackiness. I know from experience that poverty sucks- and also that rich people are often miserable. Maybe I’ve built up enough character to be a happy rich man… only one way to find out!

  • I’ve known some upper middle class types with a bunch of tacky junk in their homes. I haven’t known any extremely rich people, so I’m not qualified to comment on that. In my experience, though, most people collect junk of one form or another.

    In my family, it’s interesting or useful items taken from garage sales, thrift stores and most frequently, other people’s trash. If I strike it rich, I’ll still slow down and look at a big trash pile to see what marvels it carries. I get a great deal of satisfaction out of finding a good chain for a bicycle in the trash. The fact that I don’t have to pay for it is of course offset somewhat by the fact that I have 5 replacement chains at home. Still, there’s a great joy in finding free stuff in the trash, even if I don’t need it. That’s the real American way, and it’s the best kind of recycling.

    (Note to entrepreneurial capitalists out there: the trash can also be quite profitable. I’ve made several thousand dollars by finding books in library trash and selling them on the internet.)

  • 2003 is the centenary of the Nomads Cricket club and I am putting together a short history etc..I notice that your grandfather Sir Ronald Bosanquet was a vice-president of Nomads CC in 1951 and wonder wether you retain any of his cricket memorabilia and in particular anything about Nomads CC..when he was vice-President someone called Sir Richard Butler was President at that time??..