John Lichfield: Where has all my money gone?

Paris Notebook: Try living on a sterling salary in Euroland
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The Independent Online

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to fall off a cliff? Try living on a sterling salary in Euroland. Actually, it is not like falling off a cliff, it is more painful than that. If you fell from a cliff, you would just feel one brief thump when you reached the bottom. Living on a sterling salary in Euroland over the past two years has been like tumbling down an endless flight of stairs. You receive a sharp bash on the head every step of the way.

If you are paid in sterling and live in France – or any of the other 14 eurozone countries – you have suffered a pay cut every month for the past 12 months – 25 per cent in all, and 30 per cent in the past two years. Many people, such as those retired in France on modest British pensions, are doubtless worse off than my family. Forgive us, however, if we fail to shed a tear for British holidaymakers who find that skiing is rather costly this winter.

I also have an existential problem. I find myself torn (although not for very long) between abstract politics and practical concern for Lichfield family survival.

What happens if sterling continues to melt like a snowman in 2009? My political instinct is to cheer the strength of the euro. Remember all those pompous obituary notices for the European single currency penned by clever, Eurosceptic British columnists. Remember all those condescending commentaries about the chilliness of the eurozone economies and the insolent heat of the UK economy (based, it now turns out, on burning £20 notes). Let the euro thrive, I say. Or, rather, please, please, let it collapse.

The recession has not yet fully reached the continent. EU countries have failed to agree on a common approach to avoiding a deep slump. Unsustainable tensions are appearing between Euroland economies. The euro must begin to tumble soon, mustn't it?

The flag of inconvenience

My son, Charles, has just finished his first term at university in Britain after 12 years in French schools. He enjoyed the experience but made an unexpected discovery: he is French, or at least his fellow British students insist that he is more French than British.

So, it turns out, is his sister, Grace, aged 11. The planting of dynamite in the Printemps department store last week caused her school to abandon a trip to the Louvre. Grace was outraged. If the trip is not reinstated next month, she says, she will go on strike and stand outside the school with a placard.

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