The leaving of Pudding Island

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  • Published 20090831
  • ISBN: 9781921520761
  • Extent: 264 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

I SPENT MUCH of 2008 in France, Spain and Greece, living among British expats, some of them relatives or friends and some complete strangers, all of whom had decided over the previous two decades that they no longer wanted to live in the country of their birth. What started out as a pleasant journey of exploration and reminiscence ended in a jolting confrontation not only with the collapse of capitalism as we know it, but with a more urgent imperative to survive.

The decisions made by the people I knew were mostly based on romantic dreams they had harboured in their twenties but could only realise in middle age. The accelerant was the decade-long power of the British pound, whose strength against the euro gave owners of modest homes from all over the United Kingdom the opportunity to sell up, buy a little bit of continental Europe and live there on quite low incomes or pensions. Sterling peaked in 2000, when a euro could be bought for 58 pence, but in January 2009 the two were at parity, with the pound falling. It was a disaster the English had never imagined.

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