ANY lingering doubts I may have had about the United Kingdom being a status ridden society were swept away on a train journey from Edinburgh last week.
After asking for a cup of tea from the trolley I decided to indulge myself, asking for one of the muffins sitting invitingly at the rear of the tray.
To my astonishment my very polite steward, while happy to oblige with the request for the tea, said of my sought after muffin:
“I am sorry, sir, they are only for first class passengers.”
There followed a stunned silence before I recovered sufficiently to ask why not: “Because we reserve them for first class travellers who get them for nothing, plus the fact I don’t know what to charge, but I’m really sorry,” he replied.
I did not pursue the discussion, as clearly my attendant was embarrassed about having to conduct a conversation he had obviously been confronted with many times before on his way up and down the train.
Over my tea I got to thinking that the muffin experience was in fact not an isolated one, as even on my Aberdeen journey there were other areas of discrimination.
Why for example do I only get 15 minutes of free Wi-Fi time for my iPad when first class passengers have the service free of charge for the entire duration of their journey?
My mind was now fully engaged by the issue, not least when reflecting on air travel where the distinction is quite marked, especially on long-haul trips.
Nothing galls me more than when making my way to my allocated seat at the rear of the plane than to pass the first class cabin and to see passengers lolling back in their more than ample space, sipping a glass champagne.
In my more nasty moments I think “Well pal, when the plane goes down you’ll get no more special treatment than I will.”
There are of course many, many more examples of just how class-ridden our society is, and worse still how we the ‘’plebs’’ so readily accept our lot.
The new order of things is actually much worse than the old system of class that was in my day in deepest rural Dumfriesshire all about landlords who generally were nice people who in the main looked after, not down at us peasants, while ensuring we did not get above our station.
The current situation revolves around money. The more you have the more status you seem to earn. What a set up, and what an envirnoment in which to bring up children, far less educate them.
How do you explain to a child that he is not getting that muffin he covets? Because we are not travelling first class seems not to go anywhere near answering an age-old question.
At the time of the death of Margaret Thatcher I chose, surprisingly to hold my wheesht, when in fact I was dying to condemn all she stood for, including greed, self interest and all the things my late father urged me to despise.
If I was unable to get muffin on the Aberdeen train last week, Mrs Thatcher was surely in part to blame.