I was trying recently to recreate my personal lists of Sins and also of Works of the devil, trying to determine the difference between the two and fine-tune the criteria for each. I’m fond of making lists, as is My Favourite Niece, but my problem is I keep them on random bits of paper. As I mentioned before (see Saving my breath to cool my porridge), she once had my list of Things that really annoy me on her phone but alas it was on an old phone and she says it hasn’t transferred over so it’s now “lost and gone forever”. Och well, there’ll be plenty more to come – I hope.
While the idea of redoing my lists was just an idle fancy, I came across lists compiled by Nicky Haslam of things he considers to be “common”. Who he? I wondered, but from a survey of two other folk it seems that I’m the odd one out in not knowing of him. He’s an “interior designer”, a “man about town”, a “socialite”, an Old Etonian, the son of a goddaughter of Queen Victoria, an 84 year old ex-columnist on the Evening Standard in London.
His, to me, utterly bizarre, snobbish, provocative, selfish and just plain daft choices can be found in this 2019 article by John Plunkett: https://www.thepoke.co.uk/2019/03/10/list-things-society-designer-nicky-haslam-finds-common-funny-and-utterly-random/ And I must give thanks to the wonderful Grace Dent, restaurant critic at The Guardian, for having this link in an article on 31 December of the year just gone.
His lists get printed on tea towels and were sold for £28 unsigned in 2019 while a signed one was £38 (up from £18 / £24 in 2018). Now I’d call them dish cloths but maybe that’s just me being ‘common’. I’m uneasy with this word: I don’t feel it’s being used here to mean average or ordinary or even widespread but in the derogatory sense of vulgar or coarse or associated by pretentious folk with working class people.
Haslam says his lists are not using common in a class sense, but are “far more about pretensions, attitudes and beliefs that irritate, and the things that have become cliched.” (Why Nicky Haslam’s tea towel is the only society guide you need on dnyuz.com 22.10.21) Well, why not just use the word “cliched” or “pretentious”? I don’t want or need a society guide but I do like a list and found to my surprise that I was warming just a wee bit to this old chancer the more I looked at some of his choices.
He got off to a very bad start with me though when on his 2018 list, “Scottish accents” jumped off the page – or the screen rather; then I saw “Minding about smoking” and I was of a mind to write him off as a London-centric, selfish old git. However, “Jazz” and “Richard Branson” were there too! Could he be all bad? Into my Just Plain Daft category, I’d put his “Loving your parents”, “Being ill”, “Confidence” and “Oxfordshire”.
In 2019, his odd and downright provocative choices continued. “Pronouncing last t in trait”, “Scarves” and “Palm trees” are on his expensive cloot, as is poor old “Bono”; so are “Swans” – what’ve they done to merit inclusion? “Being on time” I’m attributing to plain selfishness, along with “Washing hands after the loo”, “Cash machines” and “Rinsing fruit”. (The Loon and My Favourite Niece called me a hygiene freak for trying to insist on two of these three when they came to visit and would delight in getting grapes or apples into their gobs before I’d had a chance to wash them.) Then I cut him a bit of slack when I spotted “Hedge funds”, “Henley Regatta”, “Knighthoods” and “The Proms”, though he’s in the bad books again with his final item: “Woman’s Hour” – he should be forced to listen to Radio Scotland’s weekday programmes (see Dearie, dearie me) and then he’d really have something to complain about.
While doing a bit more research, I found on his website a third list from October 2021: “Even more things Nicky Haslam finds common“, with no price increase from 2019. His first broad-brush choice of “Art” is provocative enough, but it’s joined by “Frida Kahlo” and “David Hockney exhibitions”. I have nothing against these two painters, nor “Richard Osman” who’s maybe committed the sin of becoming a popular author. Then I spot “baby showers”, “loud laughter”, “Across the pond” and “Gorgeous” all of which I agree deserve condemnation. However, “I hate having my photo taken” is something I’ve said many times, meaning it most sincerely each time and Mr Haslam seems to be straying back into anti-Scottish territory with “Saying uz instead of us”.
“Assouline” and “Nikki Beaches” I had never heard of and I checked online. While the former is a seemingly inoffensive New York-based publishing company, the latter describes itself as a “global, multifaceted lifestyle hospitality company with beach clubs, hotels and resorts” which provides an “unrivalled and distinctive luxury lifestyle experience”; it’s “a Celebration of Life” for “glamorous, fashion forward guests”. So some kind of up-market Butlins then, but without the real people. Someone who disapproves of Nikki Beaches can’t be all bad.
I was horrified to see there’s one on Pemba, north of Zanzibar and another which opened in Montenegro last summer. What a shocking contrast they must be with their locations and how far removed from the living standards and lifestyles of those who’ll be catering to the whims of the over-privileged visitors and clearing up their daily mess. I was back on Mr Haslam’s side, whatever his motivations were for this inclusion. And I thanked God for the midgies and for the horizontal rain on our lovely west coast beaches here.
Also on his website, I found a paragraph from his Designer’s Notebook which he’d written in May 2021 for The Spectator (Yes, yes, I know, but wait till you read it). It’s about cowslips: “… their unique colour and scent and silken furred leaves lift the spirit almost more than any other wildflower.” If he can feel that, I must cut him a lot of slack but is he forgiven for the crack about Scottish accents? Absolutely not.
Now, my own two lists seem very tame in comparison and clearly need a lot more work before they become as lengthy and outrageous as Mr Haslam’s.
- Putting on oven for only one thing
- Shop-bought cakes (except panettone)
- Taking taxis
- Not drying the dishes
- Watching tv in the morning
The Work of The Devil
- Plastic grass
- Christmas jumpers
- Clothing for dogs