In childhood, things that one comes across randomly outside one's normal experience can have a big impact. A porn magazine thrown away in a hedge, for example. (Another time.)
I once came across a copy of The Lady magazine (125 years old this year). I quickly surmised that the world of The Lady was restrained and a little dull, but refined, so not all bad.
I was intrigued most of all by the advertisements, particularly one for a home for distressed gentlefolk.
So there were these people who were broke and needed charity, but because they had once been gentle, they needed extra special care, because, well, once gentle, always gentle, I suppose. The poor are always with us (as Lib Dem councillor Susette Palmer reminded us on Tuesday night) but the poor should, as far as possible, only be people who had been born poor.
It was a very intriguing idea, and provided me with an early insight into class society.
Now, to Brian Coleman. My friend said the other night, when I told him about the Barnet council leader and cabinet members' allowances hike, and how Brian Coleman now gets about £130,000 in annual allowances from his various positions: "It's outrageous, why don't you let the papers know about it, the Telegraph, for example?"
I laughed gaily: "Why, they know all about it already. Everyone knows about it!"
And they do, and that's the shame of it. So, not for the first time, I pondered the question of how Coleman gets away with it, and I came up with two answers:
1. Coleman, for whatever reasons of cronyism or whatever, is part of Boris Johnson's team at the GLA, and cannot be sanctioned by his own party for fear of making Johnson look bad in what is now (though the election's not till 2012) the pre-mayoral election period.
2. Coleman was not unseated by his electors at the last election, they go on backing him in spite of all his stunningly and deservedly bad press. The only reason I can think of is that the affluent voters of Totteridge and Whetstone actually think £130,000 is not all that much. Perhaps they feel sorry for Coleman, like some sort of distressed gentleperson who's gamely gone into politics on their behalf and mustn't be allowed to suffer pecuniary disadvantage on account of it.
Why, the man must have his suits tailored and be able to wine and dine people at the Haven as much as any other man of his class.
Oh, surely, the voters of Totteridge and Whetstone can't be as moneyed and foolish as all that?