As the snow continues to tumble out of the sky and more people drive gingerly, my front-wheel drive car has encountered little problems. I’m not showing off, I have had a few instances of lost traction but it’s light enough to skirt over the snow with no real grief. I have watched a lot of heaver cars struggle, especially those with rear-wheel-drive. So the solution, surely is a 4WD.

But what if you don’t want a Chelsea Tractor? Surely there must be something out there that has that capability that would look more at home in the fast lane than on a farmer’s field? There is, this:

I’ve seen a few examples of the new Alfa Romeo Brera in Kent and I would never have guessed it was 4WD. Then again, why should I? There’s no rule that every car with such capability has to look like an old Land Rover Defender and absolutely NO reason why Alfa Romeo couldn’t combine it with their undeniable gift for styling.

Even that pube-headed, loud-mouthed Jeremy Clarkson rated it amongst the top 25 cars he’d ever driven. He said that “as you drive along you can feel the Alfa-ness of this car, the little tingles and the droplets of feedback that you don’t really get from anything else in this class” and that “what makes the pleasure so doubly satisfying is that you have a four-wheel-drive car, yet no one can tell.”

It’s a gorgeous car and one that I’m sure would leave many people stuck with wheels spinning in the snow understandably jealous as it moved through with no problem at all while looking like a slab of pure Italian style.

alfa romeo brera kent

Share markets across Europe opened over 1% lower this morning as worries over Dubai’s debt problem hit investor confidence. With news from Dubai World that it will delay paying some of its debt, the Asian markets took a sharp dent too.

Not so long ago, Dubai was synonymous with success and prosperity. If there was an extravagant building going up, a bridge ridiculous in ambition falling into place or an absurdly luxurious hotel spring out of the sand, you could bet it was in Dubai. However, problems with Dubai World and Nakheel have thrown a dark cloud over the future of the emirate.

dubai

In fact, this image of a playground of the rich and haven of opportunity was behind hundreds of thousands of people moving to Dubai.  Only recently did figures indicate that 25,000 people a month moved to Dubai in a way not seen since the California gold rush.

However, Dubai World – the conglomerate which led the emirate’s giant expansion drive – had a total $59bn of liabilities. A majority, then, of the $80bn total of Dubai. The news has shocked markets and even – perhaps as a stroke of good news – the prices of oil have fallen 4.5%.

Of course, speculation being the wonderful thing it is, there’s a concern growing that Dubai World will prove unable to pay back its debtors and Nakheel will be unable to finish work on the Palm Jumeriah (that lovely palm-tree shaped development island) and prices and values have started that sharp journey to rock-bottom.

Now though the spiralling price of property and fears as the once staggering-future of Dubai becomes questionable, the biggest fear is that, with banks and builders set to take a big hit, the fall of Dubai’s fortunes could throw the global recession back into the downward swing.

It’s certainly strange to think of this happening in Dubai when it was so very recently seen as development-central, with such over-the-top buildings as the Burj Dubai, being seen as an example of how countries can move away from reliance on oil (albeit in a somewhat tasteless sense) and pulling in money from tourism and investment.

Such a shame.

It goes without saying that people are anxious to leave the less-than-sunny shores (in more ways than just the weather) of Great Britain lately. This blog has often pointed out the record stats of those flocking Down Under or departing for Dubai.

Close To Europe?!

Close To Europe?!

Now though, it seems some countries might be feeling left out of the population jumps and are advertising the pros of becoming a resident within them. A Brazilian tourist representative, keen to attract those moving abroad, has said of the Rio Grande Du Norte Francisco Cipriano de Paulo Segundo area (try getting that on your envelope) as having “a lot of good wonderful beaches, 410 km of beach with warm  water and we are very close to Europe. The Natal district is closer to Europe than all of Brazil.”

Given that the heart of Brazil is some 6,000 plus miles from the middle of Europe, even going edge-to-edge is still only going to carve a fraction off that. I don’t really think it’s fair to say that it’s close to Europe. It’s like saying the BNP are close to being the next government. Both a long way off.

Still, they’re pretty up there in the beach catergory though.

Meanwhile, there’s been an interesting claim recently that the Eurostar – a wonderful service, don’t get me wrong – has made international removals easier. The Times, infact, has noted that now it’s so easy to travel to areas of France, Germany and the Low Countries – thanks to connections with the TGV – has encouraged property buyers to look further afield.

In fact, Assetz Martin, an international property firm, even said that “Eurostar’s connection to the TGV has opened up areas of the south-west of France, which previously had been hard to get to.”

Of course it has, for holidaying. In fact, if you’re looking to visit Paris there really is no better, easier or cheaper way. However, connecting to the TGV and then trawling across France isn’t so cost-friendly as, say, a flight from Heathrow.

However, for international removals, unless you’re looking to move your entire life in the confines of a couple of suitcase, I really fail to see how the Eurostar is going to help. I recently assisted in an international move, from Paris to the UK. In a van, along the highways and across in a ferry. There’s no way the Eurostar could really have helped with that let alone if it were to Germany or the South.

And, trust me, having endured a hell-like weekend in doing so, I would thoroughly recommend getting the professionals in instead.

When you’re giving way to oncoming traffic, there is an unwritten rule that is polite for all drivers and that is the thank you ‘wave.’

I was giving way to a loooong line of traffic at rush hour thisy morning – this is how nice I am – or how little of a hurry I’m in to get to work. The people behind me weren’t so sure but the feeling any we get for doing a good deed is quite pleasurable, and if someone doesn’t say thank you it makes you feel quite bitter (well it does me) – I will always wave ‘thank you’ to traffic letting me pass.

When letting this long queue go past of approximately 10 cars, all but but two said thank you, and in all different ways. Some flashed their headlights – so frustrating to be blinded though, some even gave me an entire palm of wave, some lifted a finger or two off the steering wheel, some bared all 4 fingers and some even nodded, but given all those little ways of saying thank you, you realise that no one was taught this during their driving lessons, this little habit has just caught on.

This isn’t something I’ve observed driving on the continent. Certainly not while pulling of a do-it-yourself international removal last month from France to England. If anything I’ve rarely been so angered by both traffic and lack of common courtesy. Given I was driving a giant of a Citroen van I could’ve quite easily thrown my weight around on the road.

Is this unwritten but widely observed driving practice just a sign of our general, good English manners?

The two moody cars this morning that refrained from saying thank you were,  shockingly both Hondas. One a new CR-V. Obviously enjoying the extra amount of condescending allowed by the driving position or had recently read my less-than-positive comments about their looks. I’ve seen increasing amounts of the new Honda CRV in Kent lately. Still not too keen on them and this morning’s experience has just added to that.

It’s strange how fast some places can develop, almost scary. Take Dubai: I’d never heard of it as a kid, even into the nineties I don’t recall it being mentioned that much, certainly not in terms of  “wow, have you seen what they’re building out there?”dubai

Now though, the emirate’s constantly changing skyline and rapid development is famous and barely a week goes by without one of those emails showing some stupidly ambitious development or building arriving. Accordingly, it’s attracting a lot of foreigners and not just on holiday terms.

Not so long ago I took a TEFL course and there were some pretty impressive salaries available over in Dubai but I’m not one for high temperatures. But that’s just me. Of all the people moving overseas, 25,000 of them move to Dubai every month. Staggering, but the tax advantages, heat and way of life mean the population there is expected to go from 1.6 million now to 4 million by 2020.

25,000 a month… that equates to 800 a day. Or 33 every hour! No wonder it’s changing so fast – is it a case of meeting demand for property or people going because there’s so much available property. While it’s not quite a chicken / egg case it’s a quandry. I would say “won’t they run out of room?” but that doesn’t seem to be a concern as fast as they’re building outwards they’re building upwards too.

It’s one of those places that’s so remarkable I’d really like to visit it, though I’m still pretty sure I wouldn’t want to live there.

The population of the UK hit a new high of 61.4 million in the middle of 2008. This jump in population is despite a drop in migration to the country since 2007 since the government have started the biggest clampdown on immigration since World War 2.

So while Immigration Minister Phile Woolas informs us that our borders are tighter than ever – and anyone who’s looked at the immigration requirements will testify to this – our population is stil growing thanks to the highest birth rate since 1973.

Somewhat hypocritically though, while our government feeds the red-top tabloids by making it increasingly harder for foreigners to think of UK removals, the amount of British people making use of other countries’ immigration rules continues to grow.

As if there’s just too many of us to stay put, the number of us emmigrating overseas to Australia grew again in 2008. In fact, 395,000 Brits decided that all the bad weather, bad leadership and recession was enough and that Australia seemed a far better destination. Most of them through the Australian General Skilled Migration Programme – after all, they’re crying out for workers over there.

Not just Australia either, three Britons quit the country every minute. While you may say “it’s nothing to do with the government” you’d be wrong – since 1997, two million UK nationals have decided on emmigrating overseas. It is the largest level of emigtation since the first World War. And what happened in 1997? Yep, Labour’s coming of power.

If the Conservatives make government as seems so inevitable, I can’t see our borders opening up. If we continue getting out at the same rate, will there be any of us Brits left?

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