Monday, September 12, 2011

Essert-Romand. Day two. And to use a cliche: Greek default and the euro - the endgame

Essert-Romand, Haute-Savoie, France.
Second day here in the Rhone Alps, so I thought I might dribble on a bit and keep whoever is bloody interested up to speed (Sid and Doris Bonkers for anyone who cares to pick up on the allusion, not that it is in any way significant. But I am keen to get underway a literary tradition of ‘insignificant significance’ - see further dribblings, as yet unpublished, for greater insight, although I should warn you that an essential element in the new literary philosophy of ‘insignificant singificance’ is the notion of ‘pointless insight’)
After a train ride to Gatwick Airport, the highlight of which was being buttonholed by a divorced Russian journalist (her claim) who was on her way to Sicily for alone for a 20-day sojourn and who didn’t stop talking about herself from Clapham Junction to Gatwick, Mark and I flew to Geneva Airport where we encountered our first hiccup.
I am vacationing with my younger brother Mark who I have finally managed to winkle out of his hole for what I believe is a much-needed holiday. For two months earlier this year, he was bedridden with an awful case of shingles and, I think, that persuaded him to give in and come with me. I get on well with Mark, and although I am now almost 62 and he turned 53 in June, I still regard him as ‘my little brother’. Older siblings might know what I am talking about.
But Mark can be quiet particular, and that first hiccup - for him at least, I didn’t give a flying fuck - was that instead of the VW Polo hire car he reckons we were promised by Budget, we ended up with a Skoda Fabia. He was rather put out and suggested, whether seriously or not, that we should complain and insist on a Polo. As, as far as I am concerned, I’ll put up with more or less any car as long as it has four wheels, a working engine and keeps me dry, I didn’t encourage him. So the Skoda it was, and is, and, as you will gather I have no complaints.
A slightly bigger hiccup occurred when we approached the Swiss/French border and Mark went to take out his passport in case the border police of either stripe demanded to see it. He could find it. We pulled in and he searched is jacket high and low, then his bag, then the car, but he still couldn’t find it. He last had it, as must be pretty obvious, when we went through immigration at the airport just 30 minutes earlier but between then and now it had mysteriously gone missing. I offered to turn around and drive back to the airport as we were no more than 10 minutes away, but in that stubborn way he was, he would hear none of it (which for me is a subsidiary mystery - returning to the airport and trying to track it down seemed to me the obvious thing to do).
Then is was the winding schlepp through sunny Alpine road to this little hamlet. It is just on the outskirts of Morzine, but we took a wrong turning somewhere and drove right into the town, arriving after dark when everything was lit up and made it all look like a Hollywood Alpine film set designed by someone with more money than taste. After I had finally persuaded him to ask directions to Essert-Romand (he was brought up in France and is bilingual in English and French but is oddly pathologically averse to bothering people by way of asking directions) we reached the little hamlet. There was one last diversion when instead of taking a turning just 30m up a steep hill off the main road, we carried on for anther few kilometres deep into the mountains. We then came across a gang of young men from whom, again at my urging, Mark solicited directions and finally arrived at our apartment.
It is very nice and comfortable. The first day, yesterday, we spent doing absolutely nothing - which is as it should be - and today we visited the local Carrefour to stock up on gin and tonic and all the things that go with gin and tonic (moussaka, kitchen towels, red peppers, crisps etc.)

. . .

What is quite noticeable is how expensive ordinary goods are here in France. Given that the pound is trading 1 to 1.13 euros, prices seem to have gone up quite remarkable in these past few years. I was in France last July, but I didn’t do very much shopping. But my brother and I went out today for a general shop-up and for pretty much very few goods I parted with 46.40 euros. That’s more than £41. Ironcially, the most expensive item - a 75cl - was still cheaper than I could have bought it in England, so the other goods - red peppers, jar of anchovies, milk, break, garlic, nuts and crisps (and one or two other things I can’t be arsed to record at this point) were up in price. This on the day when the shares in French banks are plummeting, given that far too many of them hold Greek bonds. I wonder whether all the futures bods in the City have now laid their bets as to how soon the Greece will default?
The panic started when spokesmen for both coalition parties in Germany talked of ‘an orderly default by Greece’ no longer being out of the question. And bearing in mind the old saw that one should never believe anything until it’s officially denied, a default be Greece in now a racing certainty. About the only game in town is which one of the German government’s tame banks and cronies should be shielded from the fallout. That’s what will be getting hearts racing in Berlin and Frankfurt. Oddly enough, I was also on holiday in September when Britain was turfed out of the ERM (which, in hindsight, was a blessing in disguise).

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