As part of our week on Britain's fastest growing subculture, Tories, I've spent a week undercover trying to unpick the mysteries that make them who they are. By experiencing their behaviour firsthand, I hope to understand them better so that we may one day live amongst them.
READ PART ONE: I Pretended to Be a Tory to Go to a Mansion Viewing
Creeping off the train at Tunbridge Wells – a Conservative stronghold since its inception – through brigades of men in two-piece tweed suits, sucking through venison cheeks for air, hearts pumping goose fat through varicose veins, it's clear:
I've entered Tory Valhalla. Today, I'll experience a phenomenon that has occurred annually since the early-1900s: the Tunbridge Wells Cricket Festival. I'm here to study Tories in their natural habitat, playing the Toriest sport (polo and rugby come a close second and third) in a town that's essentially a byword for British stiff-upper-lip Conservatism.
The Nevill Ground is idyllic. Take a photo of the place and it's the kind of thing Tommy Robinson would pencil St George's flags over in a bid to manipulate vulnerable people into hating foreigners.
The place is surrounded by a palette of beautiful colour – lush greens, purple blossom – then, on deck chairs sipping jugs of ruby red Pimms, is a sea of grey. Most people here are retirees (although the Cricket Club, run by the local Tory council, won't provide concessions for pensioners). I try to make some friends.
It's docile, lethargic conversation and, with people stretched out, topless sunbathing and drinking cider, it starts to feel a little more Weston-Super-Mare than Westerham. An older gent makes a joke about a man who has been baked the colour of beetroot in the sun, before strolling off around the pitch. He disappears into an ornate white marquee.
The top table. A place filled with superhuman beauties, dressed in their finest and seemingly immune to the heat, sipping Bollinger and munching on Foie Gras, or something – I assume – also generally unavailable in Tesco Direct. I try to enter, but am refused entry. "This is for members and guests." The pyramid at the top of the pyramid.
"Well can I buy a meal in here?"
"It's unlikely. Possibly. It would have to be the three courses."
I don't have literally hundreds of pounds for the three course, so I make my way to the paupers' bar.
Yet even the mouthful of Spitfire Lager won't wash away the brief taste of the top life I've now had. I'm hooked and hankering for more. Then I see it.
An opportunity, this hard-working man sniffs! Vacuum the crumbs from others' tables all the way to the top. And £1 a cup? Gather enough and I'll be laughing my way to the top tent in no time.
And so I go, bloodthirsty, snatching plastic vessels from between legs, under chairs and out of bags. I'm darn aspirational!
After hours of sweating, I finally have… seven cups. I tried my best to pull myself up by my bootstraps, but apparently I am not quite Tory enough. I attempt to take my pittance to the rarefied tent but am quickly denied.
I shudder and make my way back toward the grassy knoll on the other side of the pitch. I trade in all my cups and get two pints of their cheapest lager. I join the shirtless men on the deck chairs.
This is where I'm better suited: among the swing-voting Countryside Alliance Tories.
Watching cricket and getting drunk in the sun is a fine, fine way to spend the day, so I try to get comfortable. Though, deep down, I can still hear the distant champagne flute clinks of Chairmen, CEOs and Presidents; the rocking of posh portaloos. I wouldn't want to cross them. When the Suffragettes burned down the Tunbridge Wells Pavilion due to its "Men's Only" policy in 1913 the big wigs rallied, inspiring the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle to help, and raised more than enough money for another in little time.
What I have learnt about being a Tory is that it's never just as simple as that. There are levels.
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