Cotswold Voice: Save our Twits!
PUBLISHED: 10:35 23 October 2014 | UPDATED: 10:35 23 October 2014
Adam Edwards: Cirencester’s Upper Class Twits are now an endangered species as their natural habitat moves with the times, and we can’t expect the RSPCA to rescue them
I am grateful to Cotswold Life reader Bharat Jashanmal who has drawn my attention to the October Issue of Tatler magazine and its piece in praise of Upper Class Twits. It is the perfect subject for this month’s pets’ issue.
The Upper Class Twit (UCT) is, as Tatler points out, the Labrador of the human race. He is a gentle, two-legged Rover proudly barking, barfing and farting; an eccentric mutt of conservative habit who enjoys the simple pleasures of life such as eating, rutting and jumping into swimming pools.
“He is – for they are almost always male – as much part of British life as gooseberries and saying sorry,” states Tatler. “He belongs to a tradition dating back to Twelfth Night’s Sir Andrew Aguecheek and PG Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster. He has been mocked, in Monty Python’s Upper Class Twit of the Year sketch and immortalised as Harry Enfield’s Tim Nice-But-Dim. But the time has come to stop mocking him and pay him his due.”
Why, readers might ask, is this particular fellow of interest to the Cotswolds? Why should we be more fascinated by this amiable creature than any other well-heeled corner of the Shires? The reason, as the society magazine points out, is that there are only five places left in the UK where the UCT is to be found – White’s Club, Wilton’s Restaurant, the estate agent Knight Frank, Hunt Balls… and Cirencester.
But sadly I fear that that list may be a little out of date for Cirencester is no longer a bastion of Berties and Borises and Tim-but-Dims. The buffoonish chaps can still be spotted popping into R Scott & Co (Traditional Menswear & Ladieswear Clothing) for a ferrule for their shooting stick, or buying a bottle of West Indian Lime cologne from Horton’s the chemist, but like the pie-crust Sloane Ranger and the cashiered Captain they are rapidly becoming an endangered species in the Capital of the Cotswolds.
This may be of course because Cirencester itself has changed. When I first knew the town 20 years ago it boasted (well boast may not be quite the right word) in addition to Scott’s and Horton’s, The General Trading Company, the hunting, shooting and fishing shop Roxton’s, the then-hopeless hardware store Gardner’s, a parish pump Waitrose, West Midland Farmers, Woolworth’s, three wine merchants, a score of taverns and a particularly feeble weekly market selling marijuana-emblazoned tobacco tins and ill-fitting sheepskin slippers. In other words it provided the basic needs for any UCT. “If you can’t get it in Cirencester you don’t want it,” one such jolly fellow informed me without a soupçon of irony.
Cirencester 2014 is a very different place. Instead of dusty costermongers and egg and chip pubs there is a Royal Flush of supermarkets and a chalkboard of coffee shops, which are neither the spiritual nor the actual home of the chump who cheerfully calls his food ‘swill’ and his pints ‘slosh’.
But perhaps most wounding of all to the Twit in our midst has been the rebranding of the Cirencester Agricultural College. It was the Upper Class Twit’s polytechnic. It was where he was packed off to with his four GCSEs (well perhaps four is over-egging it) and was taught to drink, bonk, play table football and see how Daddy’s cow worked. It was his alma mater. Today the Ag College calls itself a university and is part of UCAS. It is still more Early Learning Centre than Russell Group, but now you need three A-levels to put a pair of gumboots under its scholarly table. And A-levels are not part of a UCT’s CV.
The consequence of all of the above is that the UCT is slowly disappearing from our small rural capital. You can still spot clusters of them at the local point to points. They man stalls at Badminton, attend Matins and flog expensive country houses to Londoners, but the truth is many have gone to ground. The changing face of Cirencester, the non-UCT aspirations of his Poly and the glitter of modern life has overtaken him. Now, for the most part, he is a stray in the Market Place; a tweed-clad mongrel who is out of kilter with the modern polyester crossbreeds.
And so like any other hapless pet we must look after him and cherish him, for if we do not one thing is certain - the Spartist RSPCA will not step in to save this particular rare beast.
This article by Adam Edwards is from the November 2014 issue of Cotswold Life