Last week I left you with a question.
Where do we go to escape the current madness. Is there an
I'd love to go travelling and give you a report on various
nice locations and how life is panning out in those
locations, but of course I am grounded. Wonderfull isn't it?
Let's start with the obvious locations. How about starting
with the UK, and then the EU and branching out from there.
I long ago left the UK. I'm a born bum, in fact I was born
on a yacht, which is a pretty good start for someone who is
by nature a traveller. I was born in the West Indies and we
came to the UK in the winter of 1947. How's that for bad
timing? The coldest winter since god knows when. We settled
in a small village on the Lincoln Edge and on the
mantlepiece used to be a photograph of a double-decker bus
on the Lincoln to Grantham road. All you could see of the
bus was the top two or three feet, the rest was covered by
The media were warning us that we were about to return to
another ice age, and indeed I do remember much later having
to leave my home in Somerset one day by the kitchen window.
It was the only one above snow level. I, together with my
friend Jerome, walked two miles to the nearest accessible
pub. We didn't see a single road on the way, and easily cut
across fields without having to find and open gates. Hedges
and gates had simply ceased to exist.
This takes me to my first problem with the UK, the climate.
I long ago figured that spring could be nice (and bloody
awful), the summers could be delightful, (or bloody awful).
Autumn and winter were generally bloody awful. At this point
I'm tempted to quote from the Flanders and Swan song about
the British weather. Of course, it is a piss-take on the
original nursery rhyme that begins:
January brings the snow, makes our feet and
February brings the rain,
...and so on. You get the picture.
But these days it isn't so much the weather as everything
else. The cost of living is considerably higher than where I
currently live (in the Algarve). In England I come out of
the shop with barely a few basics, and maybe a couple of
bottles of wine to last me the week. The bill is not exactly
long, but what are all those numbers on the right? £70?
Pardon? I look down at my shopping bag, and do the addition
yet again. Back home in the south I'd have twice as much in
my bag, and that includes the wine, and I'd be more likely
to be paying anywhere between €25 - €35. And for six months
of the year I can use my simming pool. Try that in the UK.
If you live in Scotland then you have a certain Nicola
Sturgeon to contend with. What is she doing with the money
she gets to run the country? And why is Scotland suffering a
7% budget deficit? And why oh why is Sturgeon trying to get
into the EU when they won't accept any country that has a
deficit of more than 3%? Difficult questions, I know. But
what that means is that very few people will be regarding
Scotland as a go-to place at the moment.
But things have gotten a lot worse. The UK now has a rather
belligerent government that keeps telling us what to do,
spending money it doesn't have, and is doing a good job of
taking away our basic rights, and preventing people from
working. Tried getting a hearing in the courts these days?
Tried getting a government department to answer the phone.
Good grief, the pensions mob even have me listed as dead!
Which is a trifle disconcerting. But at least I no longer
have to pay tax.
And real estate is rather expensive. So maybe it is a good
time to move.
The first question has to be: are you, or could you be, a
digital nomad? Or do you have the skills to get work
somewhere else in the wide world? If not, you're probably
If, on the other hand, you have embraced the digital world
then you are at least in a better position to choose your
place of residence. But where to go?
How about starting with that strange place called the EU?
I know rather a lot of you thought that staying in the EU
was a good idea, in which case you might be a trifle
surprised at what you see if you totter over the border and
have a look. That is, if the various government dictats let
you out of the UK, and into the EU, and the border guards
don't confiscate your sandwiches.
Not only have things changed over the past year, they are
likely to change somewhat drastically over the course of the
The real problem with writing this blog is that things are
deteriorating in the EU at such a rate of knots that I cant
keep up. I started writing this entry at the beginning of
January, but by the middle of the month things were getting
serious. There were reports of half a dozen countries that
were seriously thinking of leaving. Sweden was beginning to
feel a trifle lonely without the support of the UK. Denmark
has for a long time been considering backing out. The
Netherlands is apparently getting fed up with supporting the
southern countries. France and Spain are also on the verge
of accepting that maybe the time has come for referendums on
the subject. And then there is Italy.
Even by the middle of January there was talk of the Italian
government, that was already functioning in what can only be
described as a uniquely Italian manner, beginning to crack
up. How it lasted as long as it did is a wonder, considering
that it was made up of two parties that have fundamentally
opposed ideologies. Fast forward a week and, lo and behold,
the prime minister has thrown in the towel.
I suppose the next move is to see if someone else can cobble
a government together. How long that can take is another
matter, but ultimately we are assuming that Salvini will end
up forming the next relatively stable government, and that
is likely to lead to a referendum which is likely to come
out in favour of an exit from the EU.
Let's back up a bit. First let me first put a few statistics
on the table for you to consider until next week.
The EU started off as a trading bloc. But look at this. Back
in 1980 if we take all of the current members, the value of
the bloc's trading with the rest of the world has halved
from 30% to 15%. That's hardly a promising way to go. Is
that the kind of enterprise one wants to invest in? You have
to be joking. That statistic is appalling. The bloc is
operating in reverse.
How about individual countries' economic performance?
Here are the latest stats for growth in the three largest EU
Germany: 0.6%; France: 1.3%; Italy: 0.3%;
Germany: -0.1%; France: 0.2%; Italy: -0.5%;
In fact, half the EU countries managed a negative inflation
rate. So much for inflation eating away government debts.
Next week we'll home in on the state of various economies
and house prices. However, the main takeaway from the
current situation is that the EU is, economically speaking,
a disaster zone, and prices of real estate are going
nowhere, and likely to continue going nowhere for some time.
But the real question to ask is 'what is going to happen to
finances when another country leaves the bloc?'
For example, let us assume Italy does vote to leave. The
main problem for the country is being tied to the euro. So
Italy will go back to the lira, or the New Lira. But only
after a sizeable devaluation. That's the biggie that
everybody thinking of moving to these places needs to factor
in to any purchase. But we'll go into that in more detail
next week. See you then.