SeaFrance's subsidies for Dover-Calais ferries is a good example of Keynesian economics in action if the French government takes the view that it's better to employ people than pay them to be on the dole. If it costs £10,000 per year to keep each of the 1,000 workers on benefits (probably a conservative estimate), then the total over the 17 years of SeaFrance's existence would be close to the company's £190m debt, but with the advantage of having done something productive and maintained social and economic cohesion.
Traveller's Guide to the Northern Lights
When I worked in northern parts of Ontario, Canada, overnight road journeys were illuminated by Aurora Borealis. I often stopped and lay down by the side of Highway 11 to enjoy nature's coloured light show – so bright that it was possible to read a newspaper. Truly a wonderful vista.
What's the problem with Finland? Not only is January and February low season (cheaper hotels), but there are also daily flights from Helsinki to Ivalo. The town is relatively small with a wonderful, dark night sky.
When I farmed in north Aberdeenshire I often saw the Northern Lights.
Family Caribbean holidays
The best time for a family holiday is actually August. All the best hotels are 50 per cent cheaper, there are bargain flights and weather is far better than Cornwall.
Thailand is cheaper. The people are friendly. The food is good and cheap. The beaches are lovely.
Ho Chi Minh's other city
That "Axis of Ealing" to which you refer (Independent Traveller, 24 December, featuring the North Korean embassy in Ealing, west London), might be extended to include the Drayton Court Hotel in The Avenue, West Ealing.
North Vietnam's erstwhile leader, Ho Chi Minh, who arrived in London in 1913, aged just 23, is reported to have obtained employment in the kitchen there as a dishwasher and general dogsbody.