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
Monday, 11 March 2013
Red nose irritation
It's Comic Relief's Red Nose Day this week, as A K Haart's timely post reminds me; a worthy idea that has been hijacked to incorporate and give licence to irritating behaviour on a national scale while, it turns out, being funded in part out of the television licence fee.
The original inspiration had much to recommend it, and the comedians who started it up put a great deal of time and effort into creating something that offered decent comedy in exchange for public contributions, but in the years since, it has expanded to become a BBC-led extravaganza of celebrity glitz and trivia accompanied by a national idiocy-laden free-for-all.
With the notable recent exception of the' Great British Bake-Off', the BBC has largely taken the lazy route of replacing established comedians performing sharply-written sketches with 'Oooh! Look at the celebrities doing funny things'; the trouble is that one man's 'funny' is another man's 'bloody stupid', and there's a distinct whiff of lowest common denominator about the whole thing.
And then there's practice of replacing the speaking clock and inviting people to ring it to donate, though at least this year it's Clare Balding rather than sound-effect-laden silly messages read by Radio 1 DJs. That was a particularly low point; it used the usual number, the one dialled by anyone who really needs to know the exact time, in which case the last thing they are likely to want is someone messing about on the other end.
But what I really dislike about the whole business is the thinly-disguised witch-hunt on the part of some participants; if you display anything less than inane enthusiasm when accosted in the street by an over-excited shop assistant in an expensively-hired chicken suit waving a collecting bucket, you are somehow guilty of wanting African babies to starve.
Well, this year, at least, I have the moral high ground; I have a funeral to go to on Friday and anyone who tries anything unreasonable on the way is likely to get a loud and cathartic earful on the subject of inappropriate importuning of the public.
A small and utterly reprehensible part of me is secretly hoping it will happen.
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...