Sunday, December 09, 2007

On £35,000 cocktails

A London nightclub frequented by bulky, braces-wearing bankers, footballers and celebrities last week launched its 'Christmas Cocktail'. A blend of cognacs, adorned with an edible gold leaf, it will set you back £35,000. The reason? On the ocean-floor of this rarefied sea lies sunken treasure: an 11-carat white diamond. If someone orders one, the music stops and some pompous Hollywood film theme tune plays signaling that the other patrons must suspend briefly their own frivolities and instead gawp at the drink which is brought to the client's table, shepherded by its own minders.

I suppose we can only be grateful that this sort of gratuitous nonsense goes on behind closed doors. And before I'm accused of class-jealously or curmudgeonhood (the latter not being a title I ordinarily shy from in any case) may I state in mitigation that I think this kind of outward show of opulence is quite removed from those more recognisable displays of wealth. Cars, boats and houses all, to some degree, serve a purpose. Whether someone requires five of each of those is perhaps to be discussed another time. But as far as I can discern there is no other aim in making the purchase other than a crude and crass display of wealth. That the transaction secures a diamond at its end is secondary to the show itself. I wonder whether the staff in such exclusive bars receive more than the average bar job wage in London. I expect not. You might at least find consolation in the likelihood that tips are doubtless plentiful.

The footballer Johnathan Woodgate, formerly of Real Madrid now in the more humble surrounds of Middlesbrough, is said to have once incinerated £200 in cash while sitting in a working class pub in Leeds. To describe Woodgate's behaviour in this instance as disgraceful and repugnant would, to borrow from Christopher Hitchens, be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. At the root is some desire to provoke. The same cannot be said of those nightclub-goers with vastly more money to burn since, as explained, mercifully they do it behind closed doors. But what speaks more urgently of a need to tax these people more, if only to save them from themselves?

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