A rogues' gallery of mountebanks, charlatans and scoundrels
Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay
Tuesday, 12 April 2011
Roll up, roll up for the flea circus!
On a rare foray into the world of commerce this week, I encountered a new business directory designed to ‘bring local businesses into contact with high-end consumers’.
While the inmates of the Tavern could in no way be described as ‘high-end consumers’, I was interested to see to what delights the affluent denizens of the neighbourhood could be treating themselves – onyx bathtubs? Bespoke champagne coolers? Handmade truffle forks? – so I had a sneaky look.
On the first page was a large advertisement for another business directory, and on the fifth page, a second one. Meanwhile the intervening pages advertised the services of a design consultancy, a recruitment consultant and a life coach.
Subsequent double-page spreads invited the reader to contemplate the benefits of sales and motivational seminars and yet more business directories and web agencies. In fact, the whole thing seemed to be an exercise in consultancies selling their services to each other with a few builders or kitchen firms in there for form’s sake.
And it made me wonder what sustains them all in these straitened times; is the whole edifice balanced precariously on the few remaining manufacturing industries left in the area or are they all involved in a sort of perpetual motion carousel, reciprocally patronising each other’s businesses over and over again?
Or is there another explanation – are they surviving as parasites, quietly bleeding the state dry with seminars, management days, website design and recruitment fees?
Macheath, the notorious highwayman, has retired from a life of crime and can now be found behind the bar of Peachum's Tavern, favourite haunt of the rakes, rogues and vagabonds of 18th century Newgate and setting of 'The Beggars' Opera'. Visitors are always welcome; help yourself to a virtual tankard of ale and read on...