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Best article in The Mail ever. I think I've missed my true calling, or milieu, or something.

Dogs and ponies belong in the house, obviously.

As Boris Johnson is attacked for his unkempt appearance at the Olympics...Why are posh people so scruffy?


Last updated at 10:04 PM on 26th August 2008

The carpet looks filthy, the fireplace brims with ashes and a dog is shedding hair on the floor.

The chair cushions are on their last legs, propped up on decrepit armchairs, showing no signs of ever having been cleaned.

Worst of all, the lady of the house seems to be wearing her Wellington boots in the sitting room.

But the thing you may find really shocking about this tableau is that it is not the home of some slovenly slattern.

It is the country retreat of Rachel Johnson, the sister of Mayor of London Boris Johnson, as pictured in a recent newspaper supplement.


Life of grime: Rachel Johnson's home epitomises the upper-class tradition of not bothering to keep their houses tidy

Ms Johnson is something of a social butterfly, appearing at all the best parties in designer-wear. But at home, her polished exterior evidently disappears into grubby chaos.

Yet for my own tastes Rachel seems to live in style and comfort.

I can hear the gasps of horror from around the country. But I have something to reveal. Rachel Johnson is not on her own.

A surprising number of members of the upper classes really are this grubby. Not only that - but they love being so.

I can vouch for that - my husband Francis, whose family have been resident in their manor, Great Fulford, since 1190, could more often than not be muddled for a tramp. And he's far from unique.

The upper classes live with their dogs in their beds and their wives trussed up in old dressing gowns girdled with binder twine. Many live in old farmhouses which don't even have sinks in the kitchen.

In my own part of Britain - the West Country - there are two examples that spring to mind.

Tim Chichester, a true gentleman in every way, lives in a farmhouse on his family's glorious Wiscombe Park estate in East Devon.

He hasn't dusted in decades - if ever. On his Aga is a stuffed badger, coated in layers of cobwebs, and he has a pet raven which leaves its droppings on the old clothes horse.

Then there's the Marquess of Bath, master of Longleat house in Wiltshire and famous for his 74 wifelets, who openly admits to 'not being the best of washers. I can't remember when I last washed my hair'.

Take it from me, these two men are by no means the worst offenders. All over the country, at many of the grandest homes in the land, the upper crust are content to live in squalor.

Why do the scions of society delight in dirt? It might be simple to blame the whole thing on 'Nanny', who runs after the upper-class child chanting the mantra 'cleanliness is next to godliness' and tidying everything away.

This has the reverse effect on the child who, in later life, rebels.

'A surprising number of members of the upper classes really are as grubby as Rachel Johnson - and they love being so'

Perhaps their boarding school upbringing leads them to believe that clean clothes once a week is the 'norm'.

It surprises me that my husband packs only two pairs of underpants to go away for a week's holiday - and it surprises me even more when he wears only one of them.

Of course, real grubbiness is not just thanks to Nanny or boarding school, but is a state of mind. The true upper-class Brits do not care what anyone thinks about their house, their clothes or their car.

They do not mind about cobwebs, dust on the top of their pictures, mud on their Barbour, cars filled with cherry stones or out-of-date food (unless it is moving by itself).

Here, I speak from experience. When parts of my house were scientifically tested by the boffins from Channel 4's How Clean Is Your House, the show's presenter, the ultra-hygienic Aggie, took great delight in telling me that I had streptococci on the kitchen table, E.coli on the great staircase windows and something unpronounceable lurking on one of the 15th-century chests.

I was warned that if any of us brushed against this potentially lethal piece of furniture with a small scrape on our skin, the chances are we would die. They told me that we and our four children lived in a bug minefield.

But you know what? We are all perfectly well and no Fulford to my knowledge has in the past 800 years died of one of these unseen horrors.

There's no denying, however, that a primary cause of slackness in hygiene standards is the upper-class love affair with animals, particularly dogs.

No male gentleman wants to see his dogs confined in a kennel: he wants them to lie on a cosy sofa during the day and then, in extreme cases, snuggle up to them in his bed at night or, at the very least, ensure that they are snug in their basket by the Aga in the kitchen.

Scruffy? London Mayor Boris Johnson was criticised for wearing an unbuttoned jacket and putting his hand in his pocket during the Olympics closing ceremony

These dogs are always forgiven for peeing on the curtains as puppies and when they grow older and roam and occasionally mistake a chest of drawers for a tree, nobody bats an eyelid.

Some people might squirm at the thought that my Shetland pony loves spending an hour or two in the house. He helps himself to carrots and tries to knock the lid off the dog food bin. But to me, he's just a part of the family.

Hygiene aside, the upper classes are also notoriously messy. They never throw anything away. This is partly due to inbred frugality and partly because, as they tend to live in large houses, the rule 'junk accumulates to fill the space provided' tends to apply.

So a quick perusal round a couple of my downstairs rooms has revealed: old pots of linseed oil; unwanted bits of riding tack; chunks of brown soap; wooden tennis rackets; brittle leather riding boots that are so small in the calf that a child cannot fit into them; wooden skis with the bindings gone; tables with woodworm; several cans of paint from the 1930s; ammonia in glass bottles; oh, and a rusted pairs of ice skates.

This rule about junk also extends to a toff's motor car. Rarely brought brand new, the upper classes seem to use their vehicles as a rubbish bin. This is, I suppose, better than throwing their litter out of the window.

Early in my romance with my husband, he arranged to pick me up from my parents in the late afternoon. He had spent the whole day cleaning his car out. I was horrified when I saw the car and thought I could not possibly marry anyone who kept his car in such pristine order.

Luckily, Francis had forgotten about the boot. As I went to put my suitcase in, there was not only copious rubbish but also two cock pheasants which had festered there since they had been shot several weeks before.

I have to remind him of that when, if I am on a cleaning binge and disturbing his peace, he tells me to stop being so 'middle class' and put the Hoover away.

It is not only the upper-class house and car that are less than salubrious, but their clothes as well.

The upper classes are either superbly dressed (rarely, though) or pitifully clad. It seems there is no in-between. In fact, a gentlemen does not go out of his way to buy new clothes unless he has got richer, fatter or his clothes are beyond repair.

My grandmother, an expert on lupins, was often dismissed by visitors to her house as the gardener. It was said of her: 'She wears her clothes as if they were thrown on her by a pitchfork.'

But, if they had got closer to her, they would have seen that her hat was held in place with a very large diamond pin.

A past Duke of Norfolk, whose country seat is Arundel, in Sussex, was so appallingly dressed that a friend eventually remonstrated with him and urged him to tidy himself up: 'Whatever for?' he answered. 'In Arundel everyone knows who I am, while in London no one knows who I am.' That arrangement suited him perfectly.

My husband has what his friends call the 'moth' look about him. He does not possess a single sweater without a hole in it and at the time of writing he has only one suit that would pass muster. The rest are frayed and dissolving at the seams.

So why do some of the upper classes live in what some might think of as squalor?

The truth is they like to be comfortable. What is more comfortable than wearing an old sweater with that special 'eau de cologne Anglais rustique', which is a mixture of damp wool, dog and gun oil - with the odd gravy stain added for good measure.

After all, who wants to take their boots off if they are shortly going back outside - and anyway, what is the point? Why spend hours spraying 'surfaces' with chemicals when there are so many more amusing things to do? Is there any point in ironing your underclothes?

It could be said that the upper classes are highly eco-friendly. They don't hoover very much, hardly ever turn on the washing machine and have the heating on only when it is really very cold.

And, more to the point, where would you rather go for a cup of tea? To Rachel's comfortable messy house or to an immaculate drawing room where you are frightened of leaning back in the chair in case you crush the perfect cushions?

Dirt is a way of life to me and my fellow toffs. It's both comfortable and relaxing. It's medically desirable as you build up resistance to an enormous range of bugs.

You save lots of money as you don't need to buy many clothes, and when you do they last for ever. And it's even environmentally friendly.

A blind eye to the dust on the mantle and the mud on the kitchen floor has served our family well for more than 800 years. Neat freaks be damned, I have no intention of changing those habits of eight centuries. Not now. Not ever.

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Finding my cell phone after I dropped it without my glasses on.

I "called" it from my landline and alas! I hear Kashmir my ringtone, far, far away from where I dropped it. :blink:

My eldest daughter had just texted me as I was waking up and said " I cut off all my hair mom." :(:(

Hers was long like mine. Haven't seen it yet to decide, but she's happy so that's all that matters.

*sniff* sniff* :boohoo:

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Best article in The Mail ever. I think I've missed my true calling, or milieu, or something.

Dogs and ponies belong in the house, obviously.

:lol: I read and emailed this article to my husband this morning along with a message that he would fit right in with the people described there and told him not to get any more ideas from the article. :lol: We live in a clean, modern home but his office really does resemble the rooms described in the article. Very much so. My husband also takes a perverse sort of pleasure in dressing like a ranch hand and rattling around in his dusty, mud-caked pickup.

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It was more of a laugh and it was yesterday evening. my nephew threw a beach ball at my dog and he sort of jumped out of the way and then bit the beach ball. once it was popped, my nephew picked it up and started crying and threw it again...and then my dog bit the deflated beach ball and shook it...which made my nephew cry even more and louder. it was just funny in regards to the emotions of a 2yr old and my dog. but ofcourse we were comforting him and said there will be more beach balls in life and then went for a walk.

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Seeing my cousin, his wife and three kids who lives in Manhattan and only visit a few times a year. My daughter always has such a great time playing with her cousins. My cousin is a screenwriter and after 15 years may finally get his "big" break next week. If it goes well, he will be writing for a show HBO or Showtime will pick up. Would be great to have a celebrity in the family. His wife is friends with Alec Baldwin, lol. They have lunch together and he adores her kids. Anyway, was great to catch up with my cousin and his ever fascinating life.

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