Prole Drift

I think it was the late (and much-missed) Paul Fussell who in one of his books (either Class  or Bad ) coined the term “prole drift” to describe how American society was shifting inexorably towards the working classes in terms of clothing, manners, taste and so on.  (Aside:  I love books written by ur-patricians like Fussell because I’m one of them, and unashamedly so.)

So I gladly admit to bias when I read articles like this one:

Almost a quarter of the population of Marlow in Buckinghamshire are aged over 65 and many of them think a Wetherspoons pub will attract ‘the wrong sort of people’.

For Readers of the non-Brit persuasion, Wetherspoons is a massive chain of pubs found all over the place, whose modus operandi  is typically to buy a failing pub (or any failing business, for that matter) and reopen it (sometimes under its own name even) as a place that sells cheaper fare — beer, wine, food whatever — to attract a large and it should be said loyal customer base.  Needless to say, the toffs and trendies tend to look down on Wetherspoons because inevitably, the kind of people attracted thereto are quite definitely Not Our Kind, Dear.

So this latest kerfuffle in Marlow should be seen in that context.

As it happens, I’ve actually been to Marlow simply because in looking for a place to have lunch while on a road trip, I took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up there.

It is undeniably beautiful, as these English small towns go, but like the curate’s egg, only in parts.  While the main street is lovely, there are also parts that resemble Typical Brit Suburbia (i.e. fugly semi-detached dwellings) with a population to match. Not Yorkshire Mining Town, to be sure, but not a place where Mr. Free Market would feel at home either.

Here’s what I discovered when I retraced my steps and went back up to Marlow Road (the main drag):  fucking hell, it’s an expensive place to eat and drink, even by Brit standards.  Worst of all, the high street pubs are of the gastropub variety — at least, the ones I looked at were — and when I finally did find a place to eat — off the main street —  I ended up ordering a simple cheese sandwich, chips and a pint which still set me back close to £10 (which was a lot, back in the early 2000s, when the same meal in London cost me just under £5).  I don’t remember which pub it was, but it sure as hell wasn’t The Coach (as mentioned in the article).

So I can see why Wetherspoons would choose to open one of their corporate or franchise pubs there, because if you’re not one of the Snooty Set, there’s nowhere to get a decently-priced pub lunch in Marlow.  And while the Snooty Set are well represented in the town’s demographics, there is also a sizable percentage of people like, well, you and me;  and that that makes for a sound business case.

Finally, I find the outrage at the “prole” Wetherspoons to be hypocritical.  Why?  Because on that same Marlow Road can be found a Domino’s Pizza and Subway sandwich shop.

And if that ain’t prole, I dunno what is.


  1. I recall a motor tour of England that my wife and I made 30-ish years ago … Lake District, Scotland, etc. Even as recently as that it didn’t seem that the concept of readily available food of consistent quality was even a thing outside of the big cities. In small towns, good luck. And by “readily available”, I guess I mean “obviously available.” Some places it felt like you were knocking on the door of some stranger’s house to find something to eat. It some cases that was exactly true. I am sure there are those for whom the publican experience is considered pleasant and quaint. Perhaps it was … in the 17th century. I don’t want to have to search for a £10 sandwich. If that makes us proles, then I will gladly own it.
    Fussell, by the way, was a national treasure.

  2. Ah, ‘spoons. The alcoholic equivalent of Greggs.

    I’m told the Spoons breakfast is hard to beat and beer reasonably priced. We have one here and the young uns seem to like it. If their business model and food/drink wasn’t good then whatever filling place they took over, would continue to fail, so obviously it works.

    Marlow is very nice – but spendy. Had to stay there when there was a slight mishap with the house – think water and electricity – and ventured into the high street for dinner. There are several pubs and the usual chain pizza places but nothing independent to spark the gastric juices. As for the Hand and Flowers….. pffft, no thanks. I don’t want a big white plate with a small ‘something’ on it and be charged £40 for the privilege.

  3. Not a lot of posh people riot in the centre of town, destroy property and attack police. Apart from those of the migrant persuasion, most proles are mobilizing themselves upwards as hard as they can go.

  4. Ah, ‘Spoons. Yes. I haven’t been in one for a while but they focus on quantity rather than quality. People need to remember that all those shop assistants and council workers need somewhere to go to drink. Not everyone can afford a gastropub. And since they’re prolescum they depend upon public transport – don’t even think about drinking and driving – to get home to Wycombe. The busses, of course, congregate in central Marlow

    And I think you may get a shock if you look at the price of a pizza from Dominos.

    A friend used to live in Marlow Bottom. There was a brewery there. And Wycombe Air Park is a short drive away.

  5. Brought to mind Clarkson’s Farm when a few of the stuck up arrogant HOA-types in town managed to stop him from having his farm stand then restaurant. He then finds loopholes and moved the restaurant further mid-farm to great acclaim only to have the local officials (aka. scumbags who hate The Greatest Living Englishman even if he does good for the community) redouble their efforts to shut him down…for the umpteenth time.

    Those are the same types who would complain: a) their local meat and produce is expensive, or, more likely, b) gladly pay much higher shipped-in food prices “because they stopped their nemesis”. It’s demented and despicable. Curious what Season 3 will reveal as Clarkson has plenty of Eff- U money to wait them out while showcasing asinine British farming regulation and local morons that work in concert to stop farming in order to “save the planet”. My suggestion is the ninny’s start with tossing themselves into the nearest hog pen.

    1. I was thinking of the same thing while reading Kim’s article. Apparently, bureaucrats and busybodies are the same the world over.

  6. Some decades ago our town’s nimbys established a moratorium on what they called “fast food chains,” by blocking the large distinctive signs; basically we have only the D brothers, Mickey and Dunkin; the latter of course is across the street from the cop shop. So what we have is a great variety of one-off pricey medium quality feeders. But… a few miles away is the town of Lake George, and what you have there is what we’ve avoided – a mile-long culinary strip mall with an uglitude of signage that completely overwhelms the really beautiful terrain.
    For once, the nimbys were on the side of the angels.

  7. the strong drive towards the nadir;
    or as Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov once said:
    “The posh will just have to learn to eat excrement like the lowest of the low.”

  8. My closest “pub” (as if such a thing exists in the Northern Virginia suburbs of DC), is only 3 miles away (or in NOVA terms, 4 police jurisdictions) and tries I guess (sigh), but it’s a sham of a farce of a misgendering of a pub. Two pints of (so poorly poured that Jesus Wept) Guinness and a couple of pasties will set you back $70, once you add in the strongarm gratuity, the social responsibility surcharge, the city tax, the state tax and the county tax.

    Happily, I am only a few weeks away from my annual trek to Carmarthen, Wales for the 1000-mile Scenic Drive and Pub Crawl across Wales and southern Ireland with my BIL. Wales and Ireland aren’t immune to inflation, he warns me, but you can still get a gammon sandwich, crisps, a pickle and a pint for £5 in Wales if you’re willing to walk a few blocks off the high streets. He’s kindly mapped out all the daily specials and happy hours, with special consideration given to pubs with no TVs.

    Several years ago I went to a pub in Cork and asked for a pint. “American, are ya?” “yeah,” I answered.
    “Da ya want the American pint or the neighborhood pint?” he said.
    This not being my first pub rodeo, I replied, “The neighborhood pint, of course.” He hands me a pint, does a quick head count in the pub and says “that’ll be €60, mate” and then the entire pub raised a glass in unison and said “thanks neighbor, welcome to the neighborhood!” I didn’t buy a pint the rest of the night.

  9. I bought Paul Fussell’s book “Thank God for the Atom Bomb”. The title article was long, well thought out and lots of historical references, photos and quote with footnotes on various contemporary publications. I do not recall if it was the same article or another one that discussed the barbarities of the war, including the Time or Life magazine cover of a young women posing with the skull of a Japanese soldier that her boyfriend had sent her.
    The article(s) drove home the feeling beliefs and emotional atmosphere that surrounded the war.

    The rest of the book was endless essays on how that boorish Hollywood degenerate fool Reagan was going to get us all nuked by the peace loving, sophisticated Soviets. Really, it was just their urban sophistication that had kept the war from erupting, don’t you know old boy.

    I enjoyed the book

  10. Typical isn’t it, refuse to visit and spend money at the local “classy” but overpriced watering hole, then when a cheaper, more affordable, competitor takes over they complain about “how sad it is that the old pub goes out of business”.

    And it’s not just pubs either, it’s the local grocery, the local bakery, the local butcher shop, the local drugstore.
    People drive half an hour to the discount hypermarket because it’s cheaper, then complain that “the town image is destroyed” when the local shops go out of business.

  11. Fussell was a leftist piece of shit.

    There, I’ve said it, probably everyone here will hate me.

    Tough noodles, he was.

    Like most leftist shits he was glib, he wrote well, he was well spoken, but…

    Leftist piece of shit.

      1. Perhaps I was too hard on the fucking commie, he was erudite, if misguided and he did introduce me to the greatest and funniest sentence in the English language.

        If I remember correctly, is a complete sentence of 5 words including an incredible 5 parts of speech in 5 words: “Fuck, the fucking fucker’s fucked”.

        This, supposedly, again, if my leaky old memory is correct, from an aircraft fitter who had just stripped bolt-head and skinned his knuckles.

        Sounds right for the USA, Canada and western civ in general, no? “Fuck, the fucking fucker’s fucked”

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