Friday, October 07, 2005

The agony of choosing new placemats

Tom Utley discusses the pitfalls of choosing home decor:

My project for last weekend was to buy a new set of table mats. That may sound like a straightforward task, but anybody brought up in the social minefield of the English middle class will testify that it is anything but. A naff choice would make the Utleys objects of derision in our London suburb. The new mats would have to be exactly right.

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My first port of call was a shop in our local high street - one of those amazing little places that sell everything that you could possibly want for the home, all crammed into a few square feet: mops, bins, pots, pans, plates, sheets, food processors, clocks, table linen, clothes pegs…you name it. Cheap, too....

Sure enough, the very first thing that I saw in the shop was a pile of boxed sets of table mats. They were an astonishing bargain - only £2.75 for a set of eight, with little matching mats for wine glasses thrown in at no extra cost. There was only one problem: they were decorated with photographs of kittens.

Now, I can see that at this point I risk giving great offence to some readers. I can hear them saying: "What's so wrong with kittens?" To them, I say that kittens are all very sweet - in their place. It is just that I was brought up to believe that the proper place for a picture of a kitten is not on a table mat in the Utley household. I can also hear the contemptuous laughter spreading around my suburb: "My dear, we dined with the Utleys last night and you'll never guess: they served up the food on table mats decorated with kittens!" Instant social death.

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