In an email I sent to someone the other day, I confessed to having an inner Guardian-reading armchair lefty airhead nestling within me, adding the parenthetical comment that he needs to be bludgeoned into submission. In truth, my inner woolly-brained “progressive” loon has been shrivelling up slowly but surely for quite some time. It won’t take a bludgeon to bash him utterly senseless.
And indeed it has not, for today I have finally understood the obvious superiority of capitalism. I really have.
There is, this week, in Trafalgar Square, a temporary maze. It is open from 11 am to 8 pm, entrance is free, and it is a proper maze, with wrong turns and dead ends and, best of all, hedges higher than Mr Key’s head. I blundered through it this afternoon, in sunshine after rainfall, and enjoyed myself, if not quite immensely, then enough, enough. It was a diverting fifteen minutes, wandering through a high hedge maze slap bang in the middle of London.
My pleasure was soured only by the fact that, on the blue plaques dotted hither and thither within the maze, I noted a number of typos. “Fred Astair” without a final “e”? A misplaced apostrophe in “Beatle’s”? I have come to expect such slapdashery, but still it never fails to depress me. The blue plaques themselves, by the way, give a clue to one reason for the maze being there in the first place, which is that it’s meant to boost the West End as a tourist hub. There are no advertisements for particular shops or restaurants, just the general message that this is a place of great historical interest which now, in the twenty-first century, is the world’s finest and most popular retail ‘n’ leisure complex (or words to that effect). That’s one reason why the maze is there, the other being, of course, simply to provide people with the chance, for a week, to walk through a maze in Trafalgar Square, at no cost, and without having your forehead tattooed with a corporate logo or some such marketing ploy.
But why has it made me embrace the joys of capitalism? For one very simple reason. Those high hedges, of which the maze is constructed, were provided by RentaHedge! What a fantastic idea for a business, one which – crucially – no bureaucrat or civic functionary would ever think up. I am lost in admiration for the entrepreneurial genius who, one day, thought: “I know! I will make a living by renting hedges to people!”
Sadly, my own talents do not lie in that direction, so I shall continue to plough my lonely furrow of prose. Pansy Cradledew suggested starting a business called RentaSedge(warbler), renting sedge warblers to those who needed a temporary sedge warbler, but a bank manager took one look at the business plan and reached for his bludgeon. Heigh ho.