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August t

It's 2001 - Bobby just stepped out of the shower!

Must be pretty galling for W, huh. He is finally declared the winner only to discover the family silver has been switched for tin. (I note in a some tiny footnote that they recounting of all the chads has finished and Gore really did win.) Bet Gore is kinda mixed up about this now. He so wanted to be president, but right now old W has got the ball and the whole word is running the other way.

There is something very familiar about this. The economy in a tailspin, everyone over-extended on loans to buy shares that have now halved in value. Naturally they are going to have to pay it back and that means stopping spending, something that might be very hard for some people to do. Hard landing, soft landing? It’s all hard if you don’t have the cash, or the job any longer. Feels just like the last time a Bush was president doesn’t it. The Clinton years will vanish from memory so fast it will be like ‘Bobby in the Shower’, they just won’t have ever happened and the Bush recession has just rolled on from 1990. God we even have Dick Cheney and the old boys in the rocking chairs on the stoop.

A friend of a friend was touting his company shares in November. ‘Buy now, they’ll double when our results come out in January’, he said. Well I investigated, the shares were about $48 bucks each on Nasdaq. Last week they were $24. If I had rushed in, I’d would have halved my savings. Sure they are going back up a little now, but it was sobering. Never stray from the righteous path. I have never bought shares and I have watched some of my friends make a lot of money from investing. Right now, they are all worried about their jobs, their mortgages at five times their incomes, the huge debts they have and the Z3 payments, never mind their credit cards. It’s kind of hard to feel sorry for them though.

Armed with the knowledge that I could have lost a lot of money, I went out this week and bought a real investment. A car. (If you want to see spectacular depreciation, a car is a perfect way to lose money. If you must know, it’s a SEAT Toledo and some poor sucker paid $21,000 for this car, new, just over a year ago. I get a pretty good car albeit with 20,000 miles on the clock for $13,500, still with manufacturers warranty for sixteen months. I like it’s pedigree too. Designed in Germany by VW on a VW Bora platform, built in Belgium with a Spanish label. That’s Euro-economics. I could have shares and a nervous breakdown or a fast little Spanish car in sleek metallic black. I guess it comes down to this. If my money is going to depreciate , I want to at least sit in it and enjoy it as it disappears.

2001 is already throwing up surprises. W’s shock at the state of the US economy, the weather, and that feeling of restlessness you get when you know you aren’t in the right job. It’s kind of funny. I just got off the phone with my ex. Everyone, and I mean everyone she graduated with in1998 has packed in their web jobs and or other media jobs and they are all taking a year out to travel the world. The ex is desperate to follow them, but isn’t sure how to pay for it. A quick survey of my own contemporaries reveals that if they didn’t have kids, husbands, wives, mortgages, jobs, they’d also go on the trail of self discovery. Just last night I was talking to our Cornish travel correspondent, the most travelled woman I know and she is desperate to go somewhere again and she’s only been in the UK two whole weeks since France and Vancouver in December.

So why do we set traps for overselves? I just set myself one, a new car. These things keep us in one place, prevent us from snap decisions like chucking in our jobs and going to Vietnam. Why is our Kiwi correspondent, Helen, out there ‘alone’ exploring New Zealand. Because she can, I suppose.

We can only read of her exploits with envy.
So by way of a survey, ask your friends, your partners, right now. Would you pack it all in and go travelling for year and hang the consequences? No matter if you are 22 or 42, just leave it all behind, hand the keys to the flat back, sell the car for what you can get and go?
What happens to those who go? What happens to the thousands who go and just can’t face coming back. How do they live? Is it really better? Or is a life without money, prospects, health-care but good weather a better lifestyle that the grubby street in the UK, Or the daily commute? Or teaching? Or selling derivatives? When you run out of cash, is teaching English to Japanese businessmen really better than working in PR or behind a keyboard at Ceefax? You tell us. We’d like to know.
Better yet write for us when you go.
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Sam North
Managing Editor

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