Cesca Major interviews Zebedee Helm, the co-author of ‘The Middle Class ABC’ which Stephen Fry has described as, 'Indispensable and entirely charming'. Watch this video from John Murray to get a glimpse inside.
How would you describe this book?
It is a jolly romp through everything modern middle class Britain has to offer, from the inside. Dressed head to toe in cashmere we have trundled around Waitroses, trawled around Cornwall, trugged around Farmer’s markets and trolleyed our way through the nation's gastropubs doing our penetrating research. Then we made it all up. It’s not one of those sneery books that laughs at other cultures like Eskimos or Vampires, we are middle class ourselves, so it is about us as well as you/them and is therefore extremely affectionate, like a Labrador.
What do you normally get up to you when you are not writing books for loos?
I write and illustrate children’s books, have a blog and an online cartoon gallery/print shop on my website www.zebedeehelm.com , sometimes I draw cartoons for Private Eye, The Spectator or House and Garden. Recently I have started twittering, which is a new and exciting challenge. I also make nougat and exhibit my paintings on the reverse of glass. Fi is a BAFTA winning TV producer who produces TV shows. Recently she has been working with Derren Brown, which she says has been magic, but that may just be an illusion.
What has it been like collaborating on this project?
I’m not really a team player, unless I’m playing in a team, in which case I cope by shouting at everyone else which masks my own deficiencies at team playing moderately well. For this project, because the idea to do a book about the middle class was my co-author Fi’s, collaboration was inevitable. At first we tried writing together in the same room, but because she liked to work with the music blaring and I like to work in total silence, this didn’t work at all well. After that we used email to send each other things. She laughs very easily, usually accompanied by weeping, which was gratifying for me, but alas I rarely laugh, which must have been very annoying for her.
Which is your favourite letter?
It is very hard to choose a favourite letter as none of them are perfect they all are perfect. One thing worth noting is how many entries we had for ‘C’, almost twice as many as for any other letter. If pushed, I’d confess to being rather pleased with ‘X’ which as you’d expect we were dreading but we navigated our way through it, in some places almost ingeniously.
Where do you work?
I work from a large shed (sadly not Scandinavian style) in my garden in Wiltshire. It is semi detached. My neighbour is an enormous horse who sometimes stretches his head right around so it rests on my shoulder and he looks at what I’m doing, which is very distracting.
What was the last book you read?
The last book I read was Hiawatha. I re-read it every autumn, aloud in the bath. It is particularly poignant for me as I lived in a wigwam for 10 years (summers only) and have been credited (mainly by myself) for inventing glamping.
The Middle Class ABC is out today and Cesca Major will be attending the launch party for Novelicious.