Counter Culture


August 27, 2012 by benmblackman

A quite hideous realisation struck me at precisely 12.15pm yesterday. I know this because I took my Apple iPhone out of my Levi Strauss 501 jeans and made a note.

I have turned in to Catalogue Man.

We were at Bolton Abbey Steam Train Station (readying ourselves for departure on Thomas the Tank Engine no less) when I realised what had become of me. Whenever I find myself in groups of parents at organised outdoor venues or events I always tend to zone out at some stage of my daughter repeating the same activity for the seven hundred and fifty thousandth time (I know, I’m a bad parent – I should embrace every single minutia of her activities but, come on – when am I going to get the chance to people watch and get excellent blog material if I do that)?

I have this thing I like to describe (until now – only in my head) as the ‘Middle Class Parents Uniform.’ I don’t really understand what is middle class these days but let’s just go with it shall we? If you’re a parent, you’ll know it, if you’re not – look out for it next time you’re at an outdoor venue or event. On second thoughts – if you’re not a parent, don’t do that – enjoy your life! Go on holiday, a lot; read books, a lot; watch films, a lot; drink, a lot (I mean alcohol); sleep a lot. Do whatever you like doing, only do it more. I guess if you are like I was BC (before children) then you’re already doing this. But, believe me, you’re not doing it enough – do it more! For me.

Sorry, this Middlle Class Uniform thing. You know the thing? I like to spot the ladies the most:

Ugg boots; expensive jeans; long sleeve t-shirt type top thing; North Face body warmer; expensive sun glasses; cup of takeaway coffee – always a cup of coffee!

For men just substitute the Ugg for Timberland and the same applies.

If they’re better parents than I (they usually are) then their appearance will, somehow, look immaculate. If you’re me, you’ll have various child related stains up your (much less expensive and branded apparel)…

…or will you?

Future Prime Minister of England
Slide #750,001

This is the thing. Yesterday (at precisely 12.15pm), whilst I should have been observing the future Prime Minister of England sliding down the slide for the umpteenth time, I was in fact partaking in a spot of Middle Class Uniform observing. Whilst doing so, for some reason, I checked myself out for conformability. Oh no. Really? How has this come to pass I asked myself? I almost dropped my cup of takeaway Americano there and then. Here stood a man I thought I once knew, now, maybe not so much:

Jasper Conran socks in my Caterpillar boots; Levi Strauss 501 jeans leading to a Joules polo shirt, covered by a Regatta soft shell jacket. Luckily it wasn’t sunny so my Oakley sunglasses were in my pocket.

The trouble is, you see, I thought I was more of a man of the people than this. More Counter Culture than over the counter. In my defense, I would like to site (site or sight – I don’t know: my working-class education let me down somewhat) the Jenifer Lopez defence.


‘Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got, I’m still, I’m still Benny from the block.’

The Jasper Conran’s were a Christmas Present from the Mother in Law; Caterpillar Boots bought for £40 (should have been £120) at the best Outlet Store in the world Boundary Mill (good friends of mine will know, I should work there I have such a love for the place and advertise it verbally at least 4 times a week);

You get free croissant & coffee before 10am on a Sunday

The Levi’s I bought 3 years ago and they had 75% off – ‘it’s a deal, it’s a steal, it’s the sale of the f’ing century’ (name that film); my Joules polo shirt was another present from my good lady wife and was purchased for the Watergate Bay element of it rather than the brand (beautiful beach in Cornwall where we have many just as beautiful family memories); the Regatta soft shell was purchased 2 years ago at a lovely little independent outdoor shop in Boscastle for £20. I think, at the start of the recession they were happy with my support. Oakley wise – come on, I have yearned for a pair of those since Ian Botham started wearing them probably 22 years ago now. I finally got some 4 years ago and have looked after them like they are one of my own ever since. 4 years, that’s just over £21 a year for the price I paid for them (which in my book is a bargain compared to Mrs B’s Sunglasses back catalogue).


What can I say? I like top quality products…at low cost prices!

More defence your honour:

Aldi is easily my favourite supermarket (aside from the checkout experience – I don’t know why they are always seeking a new world record for the scanning to trolley sprint every time I’m in there)?

If you want to hear my fancy job title then I am a Chief Executive no less (oooooooh) but I travel by Train and or Bus as often as I can (which is nearly always). We are a 1 car family and for as long as we can manage that way, I promise you we will do so. As I write this missive my daughter is sleeping in some ebay purchased clothes after a trip to the public swimming pool with me earlier today. I am such a man of the people!

I just got a shock when I took a look at myself yesterday.

I’d be more worried if I thought that any of those brands or items meant anything. Of course, they don’t.

The only thing I ever wear with any real significance to me, the thing I wouldn’t give you for a million dollars is my wedding ring. 9 carrot white gold (even though so many salesmen tried to put on the hard sell and force the 450% more expensive platinum) bought at a family jewelers in Garstang enough years ago to make me incredibly proud whenever I look at it and touch it numerous times a day.

Take my comfy, lifetime guarantee, hard wearing boots from my feet; tell me I can only wear socks from Primark from now on; give me a T-shirt from the market and a pak-amak from ebay (I’ve got both such items in my wardrobe by the way) but never – never will you take my wedding ring away from me.

If you want advice my friends I’ll tell you what matters in this life: forget the brands dudes – it’s the people and what’s inside that matters.

Maybe I am still Counter Culture after all. Oh, but you’re still not having the Oakley’s though. I dreamt and worked too hard for those bad boys.

Watergate Bay – You can’t buy this.

Forget the clothes, the smile tells the real story.


5 thoughts on “Counter Culture

  1. MelJd46 says:

    Guess that’s a lesson to all not to judge what first you see as the actuality is probably very different. Well observed and written. There are those who do live for their “labels” , always seems a sad way to go on.
    I like good quality, classic clothes for my “best” clothes & yes I do still have “best” clothes. They make it into the wardrobe on the basis they can come out fresh for the next ten yrs or so as required.
    Everyday clothes, charity shops, and cheap retailers – not necessarily seen as politically correct but, importantly within my budget.
    Criteria for me NOT to buy something – put a brand label on the outside of the garment

    • benmblackman says:

      I know my blog will seem to say otherwise to some people but – you got it in 1 JD!
      Don’t judge what first you see as the actuality is probably very different.
      Thanks very much for your kind words.
      iPads in schools is the next subject – I reckon the majority will agree with me

  2. […] Counter Culture | Happy Campers | Fat Skinny Man | iPads in Schools | Mentalist at Dentist Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  3. I used to be all those thing but without the kids, now with the ready made family my lovely Sara gave me I am man at Asda… But like you I sport my Oakleys and god help anyone who try’s to take them!!!

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