Dabbler Diary – Room At The Top

Susan’s post last Saturday, about a new form of space-maximising home, got me thinking about what we could do to improve things without re-modelling the entire place. Here are a few suggestions.

First, double up on dishwashers and dispense entirely with cupboards for your crockery and pots and pans. Rotate it all through your bank of dishwashers – when one is filling up with dirty utensils, another is storing the washed and clean. Saves effort and probably a bit of space.

Second, washing machines. Why do we keep them on the ground floor? If we made room for them upstairs we wouldn’t have to carry our laundry so far. Say goodbye to back-strain!

Following on from the first two suggestions, how about this… now the washing is near where you keep your clothes, you can extend the dishwasher idea to your tumble dryers – and do without chests of drawers. You could have a series of dryers, each containing different sorts of clothing at different stages of drying.

I’m sure there’s even more mileage here – perhaps we should eat off our fridges?


I don’t recognise the picture some – see here – paint of this country. The last couple of Saturdays I’ve cycled along canals through the East End, firstly, from Islington to Tottenham Marshes and then, a week later and with the eldest, down to Limehouse and Canary Wharf. Almost all of it looked fantastic. Beautiful new social housing, wonderful parks, charming waterside pubs – and, of course, lovely waterways, ideal for cycling and walking.

Then yesterday I discovered that the aforementioned eldest – a six-year-old pupil at a socially mixed primary school – is being taught English grammar (for those readers who didn’t benefit from a 20th century British state education, just so you know: this is unheard of). He’s even been talking about the job verbs do. And here’s some words from this week’s spelling test: ‘immediately’, ‘subsequently’, ‘humongous’; pretty tricky for Year Two and, in the last case, the sort of word I would have felt proud to use in an ‘O’ level essay.

There are lots of other reasons to think things are pretty decent right now – socially, if not economically. Crime is down, for instance. But then I’ve realised – after four decades or so of responding to this and that – that I’m temperamentally optimistic and enjoy seeing the good in things. Others, obviously, aren’t and don’t. Take your pick.


I’ve worked out how you can quickly spot those who are unreasonably pessimistic about the state of the nation: if the words ‘crumbling infrastructure’ pass their lips you can stop listening. And most especially if they’re referring to London.

Locally, here in N1, our infrastructural cup overflows: two huge hospitals re-built from the ground up (UCH, The Royal London), two re-modelled Tube and Overground stations (Highbury & Islington and Farringdon) each accommodating new railway lines (the East London Line extension and Crossrail), a new, state-of-the-art football stadium (The Emirates), the sprawling and notorious Packington Estate flattened and being replaced largely by streets and houses, a massively re-developed mainline station (Kings Cross/St Pancras), a refurbished Regents Canal. Not to mention the expensive changes made to the roads, largely for the benefit of cyclists and pedestrians. And all the new playgrounds, tennis courts, all-weather pitches dotted around. Then there’s the tarted-up parks and squares. I could go on… and not even get to that Limpicks legacy over in the east.

I think we should do more to enjoy all this new and shiny stuff. I realise that, being British, it won’t be as satisfying as revelling in the gloom brought on by all the associated debt. But, as those Limpicks showed, an occasional change of pace can be refreshing.


Have you seen this?

I try to ignore politics – or at least try not to care too much about it – as it tends to defeat even my happy disposition. But every so often you see something that makes it clear that even if you’re not fighting the class war, others are. And in this instance it’s not the lot that we middle-class folk have traditionally felt uneasy about.


I’ve been writing this whilst watching a blast from a truly class-bound past, the BBC4 TV adaptation of Room at the Top. But never mind the social climbing: I don’t think I’ve ever peeped at so much shagging in all my life. It’s a bit like Mad Men but oop North and with even more sex. Catch it when you can.

Dabbler Diary is brought to you by Glengoyne single malt whisky – the Dabbler’s choice.
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19 thoughts on “Dabbler Diary – Room At The Top

  1. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    September 28, 2012 at 13:09

    Elberry’s lily has been well and truly gilded, Britain resounding to the sound of whirring machinery, the ones printing the money, too feed the PFI schemes.

    The first Room an T’top was an excellent movie, apart from the lousy pretendy northern accents.

    Gaw, have you tried out you space-saver theory on Kirsty, her approval is essential. The plumbers federation would be delighted, I calculate circa £2800 per house, the streets will be awash with Berlingos.

    • Gaw
      September 28, 2012 at 14:05

      Our liabilities are horrendous and will keep us poorer than we’ve been used to for years. So why not try to enjoy the assets?

      Re the home space-saving tips – I’m going to see if Pimlico Plumbers will sponsor us.

  2. andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
    September 28, 2012 at 13:57

    Poltical hari-kari that from Mitt. Possibly, I don’t know, American politics baffles and now really bores me.

    I’m of your half-full optimistic view, as is Worm, which does seem to be where the Dabbler’s editorial staff is rather out of kilter with its commentariat.

    • johngjobling@googlemail.com'
      September 28, 2012 at 15:00

      It’s a generational thing Brit, if we ancients can’t have a grumblefest, what else is there, is that all there is, I would hear myself croon. Where does that leave Elberry, hammer of the makums, renderer of the doomladen, young geezer and apprentice Bavarian. Old beyond his years, that’s where.

      I see the ash trees are all dying.

    • peter.burnet@hotmail.com'
      September 29, 2012 at 00:06

      American politics baffles and now really bores me.

      There’s always Canada to keep you riveted, Brit.

  3. danielkalder@yahoo.com'
    September 28, 2012 at 15:18

    Perhaps it depends not only on disposition but on the state of your resources. Eking out a living doing shit jobs kills many a pleasure and crushes the soul.

    As for infrastructure, some stuff in the UK has indeed improved, but I can say that on a recent trip home to Fife I observed much planning lunacy and a decline in services. The shiny new-ish hospital opened to much fanfare in Dunfermline a decade or so back is now reduced to an outpatient facility, for everything else folk have to travel to Kirkcaldy, which is much less convenient, given that there are many poor people who have to use public transport. Edinburgh’s new tram system is an expensive farce. Dunfermline’s new road layout is preposterous. They built a school for the new development that is much too small, etc.

    On the other hand, there are now tons of cafes and several restaurants, whereas when I was a bairn the only option was the one in the back of Littlewood’s and a curry house at the foot of the High Street.

  4. markcfdbailey@gmail.com'
    September 28, 2012 at 17:15

    Don’t worry Gaw and Brit, some of your commentariat share your generally optimistic disposition, even those, like me, who think that we took a wrong turn in 1688. ‘Twas ever thus and as I creep up to the sixty mark and can see why Malty mentions the attractions of being allowed to be a cantankerous old goat.

    Forget Pimlico Plumbers, Gaw, just get in touch with the German white goods manufacturers, Miele et al, and get them to work with Poggenpohl on putting your brilliant ideas into practice: the aspiring middle classes of England will lap it up.

    American politics has become so vicious and partisan that it is becoming hard and wearying to watch; probably were ours will be in ten years time.

  5. wormstir@gmail.com'
    September 28, 2012 at 17:46

    I’m liking your kitchen of the future idea G, although I propose that we bring it to its logical conclusion and simply tile the entire kitchen, floor to ceiling and install a high powered sprinkler system that hoses the whole thing down after every meal. Melamine tablewear nailed to the table, naturally. Frugal types and thrill seekers could then strip off and stay in the kitchen during the wash cycle and have a shower at the same time too. The resulting food/water/skin slurry would run off into the hydroponic garden area

    Regarding glass half empty/half full thoughts – Where I deviate with ‘end of days’ scenarios is that they are normally extrapolated from one particular circumstance into an easy to digest worst-case-scenario conclusion, when we know that life lived through the prism of time is bent and refracted in myriad directions. As Brit has mentioned on here before, the only thing constant is change and I’m of the wishy washy opinion that whilst the world might be getting that little bit shitter every day, it will do so by muddled-along increments, and any mad lurches towards Armageddon will always be patched up and a new, slightly less satisfactory compromise reached (with a bit of grumbling), until it too becomes the norm. Thus the world can get worse whilst also always remaining the same. Reality, and life, is what you make it after all!

    nb. you can purchase my self-help cd ‘Waffle Yourself Rich’ in the Dabbler Giftshop

  6. walter_aske@yahoo.co.uk'
    September 29, 2012 at 11:00

    i believe Daniel K is correct, that one’s daily circumstances make a big difference. If you have money, a nice job, the respect of your colleagues, then you’re unlikely to feel the country is going to the dogs. On the contrary, everything would seem quite perfect and you simply can’t understand why anyone could possibly feel otherwise.

    If you do soul-crushingly tedious 5 pound an hour jobs for 5 years, and are despised by your managers because you look different & talk posh; if you are routinely involved in, or witness to, violent altercations; if you care about higher education and see it debased & emptied of substance – then it probably seems quite shitty.

    i’m sure just being half-Indian and short, with big 80s hair, colours my view of England. While moneyed, connected, Chardonnay-drinking, brutally steroid-pumped white leviathans like the Dabbler editors can walk down the street and cast awe and fear upon all & sundry, i’m more likely to be called e.g. “Paki bastard”, “Imran Khan”, to be jostled, have bottle tops thrown at my face, be spat on, and for people to try to punch & kick me (they try and fail because i move out of the way) – all of these have happened, dozens of times, lest you accuse me of hysteria, and i rarely went out after dark in England, and generally avoided going near the bad areas, although one could argue that most of Huddersfield, Bradford, Leeds, Durham, and Manchester are bad areas now.

    Personally i think England is more or less going to the dogs but i’m aware that had i the wealth & connections & correct background & Chardonnay, i might be more of an optimist about things. Who’s to say which is right? Perhaps the truth is that it’s just changing and the things i saw & noted over my 33 years were evidently getting worse, and the things Gaw and Brit and Worm note (nice new ethnic restaurants opening up, opportunities for managerial advancement, the expansion of men’s fashion, the quality of sitcoms, range of luxury household appliances, iphone apps, diversity of investment options, ease of access to foreign luxury resorts, etc.) are evidently getting better. So it comes down to what you value, what you regard as central to civilisation, what affects you.

    As i once observed, we imagine in straight lines but things move more in complex spirals. Hence the feeling that some things recur even as everything changes. i don’t really care about England now, because i never intend to return. You can all die horribly in the next riots while i eat Schnitzel and admire the dirndls.


    • Gaw
      September 29, 2012 at 13:28

      You make my point for me, Elb – and with your usual articulacy and flair (at least you got something out of that expensive and privileged education).

      BTW I don’t like Chardonnay.

      • markcfdbailey@gmail.com'
        September 29, 2012 at 14:15

        What, not even Puligny-Montrachet?

        • Wormstir@gmail.com'
          September 29, 2012 at 14:57

          I find a Puligny-Montrachet helps the steroids slip down more easily

        • Gaw
          September 29, 2012 at 14:58

          I haven’t been fortunate enough, I’m afraid (o woe is me). But I do enjoy a Chablis, and I forgot that’s made with Chardonnay grapes. Given my penchant for apples, it’s hardly surprising that in general I prefer a crisp Sauvignon Blanc.

  7. walter_aske@yahoo.co.uk'
    September 29, 2012 at 14:15

    Chardonnay drinker, it would please you to think that your apple polishing kind moulded & trained & formed me, so you can add another feather to your already amply-bedecked polisher hat but alas it is not so. Bottom of the class every year in school and repeatedly threatened with expulsion from university for non-compliance, put that in your polisher pipe and smoke it.

  8. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    September 29, 2012 at 17:50

    More nepotism, that’s what’s required, not enough of it mate, according to Guido both the Blairs and Harriet the pterodactyl are shoving their offspring into the arena, using that time honoured list jumper, undue influence.

    Chardonnay, moi, Where The Dreams Have No End, boys and girls, the Ities finest crushed grape, and Jancis secret comforter. None of your pretentious French plonk in wor hoose.

  9. andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
    September 29, 2012 at 19:49

    Well I guess wherever you live, you can’t escape yourself.

    Re chardonnay, I’m with Kingsley Amis, who when asked if he wanted red or white wine would reply “Wine IS red.”

  10. walter_aske@yahoo.co.uk'
    September 29, 2012 at 20:39

    About 1600 years ago, in what’s now the Loire area, a friend of a friend referred to white wine as “cat piss” (in Latin) and that judgement seems to have stood the test of time.

    Those who drink cat piss will be torn asunder by the badgers of unexpected retribution.

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