Showing posts from July, 2008

African immigrants?

I have often contemplated the relatively homogeneous ethnic makeup of Argentina. Having lived most of my life in countries or cities with diverse populations one can often assume that everywhere in the world is like that. From my few trips to Argentina I can recall that Buenos Aires is not.

Today I spotted this article about African immigration to BA. It suggests that as Europe has effectively closed it's doors to African immigration more Africans are making their way to Argentina where getting in and staying is easy. It's a fairly light and one sided article and I would love to understand more.

Life as a nomad

Tonight is my LAST night in my flat. Tomorrow we are moving in with our friends, Philip and Anne, a week later, in with Jason and then one more week with Fiona. After that, we're spending a week in Scotland before jetting off.

It's going to be a hectic couple of weeks, so many things planned:

Madonna in Cardiff
Office leaving drinks
Leaving Party
Joan Rivers
Dinner with Gideon and Mark
Vlad's birthday drinks
Tranny Olympics (don't ask)
Dinner at the spectacular Richard H's house (preceded by cocktail @ The Casa)

Actually, when you write it down it doesn't seem so bad. Sounds like fun, albeit shamefully camp.

I am so bored of constant admin at the moment, once we've moved out I'm hoping things will calm down and I'll be able to socialise and relax again. I guess, the constant domestic chores has meant I haven't spent too much money... save save save.

Two thoughts about capitalism

As I mentioned earlier I am reading as much as I can about Argentina, currently focusing on finding out more about the Kirchners,triggered mainly by what seemed like some negative comments in some of the blogs I've been reading. While digging around I came across this interview that Time did with Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in September 2007, before she was elected. It has some interesting quotes in it, and two in particular caught my attention and gave me pause for thought.You can't be a capitalist only when there are investment profits but then a socialist when you experience losses.andWe're not averse to capitalism. But if they used to say, "Workers of the world unite!" then we also say today, "Capitalists of the world, assume your social responsibility!"I'm intrigued by both of these ideas. The former mainly because I it reminds me of the UK government bailing out failing mortgage lender Northern Rock earlier in the year and the recent US gov…

Flooding in Kennington

It's my second last night in my London flat. I'll be moving in with PJ & Anne on Thursday, followed by a month of nomadic living before zooting up to Scotland to visit with Big Mama, one more night in London (to see Joan Rivers), one night in Frankfurt and then finally the flight out to BA.

Imagine my surprise when I came home tonight to discover that the street between Oval tube station and Kennington Park was flooded. This morning started with the excitement of a fire in a converted church and hostel in Shepherd's Bush and the afternoon has ended with this. I think the London Fire Brigade are earning their money today. This was as close as I could get with my phone... barriers all over the place and mild traffic chaos.

Unexpected side effects

As I've said in the past, I'm determined to learn as much about Argentina as I can before I go. Although I've read a fair amount of travel books and some history I'm finding myself constantly drawn to the same themes, economics and social policy. It's great fun. I'm not an economist and so am finding it quite a challenge to really get under the skin of Argentina's recent economic history. My understanding is also (unashamedly) skewed by my own bias.

With all these things, the actual situation is complex and there are no crib sheets or quick guides that will explain what happened and what is happening. Inevitably in the globalised world we live in, the major influences are beyond Argentina's borders and with that comes a need to understand a much wider international picture. Today alone I learned about the Washington Consensus and The Paris Club.

The Paris Club is an informal group of financiers from the world's richest countries who effectively manage…

Flying in Argentina

I was amused by this little piece on The Argentine Post (it's a grand name I know). Apparently air travel in Argentina is still unreliable but getting better. Apparently 53% of flights left on time, up from 26% the year before! Aish! That's frightening. Apparently the European average (because that *is* the yardstick against which all things are measured, apparently) is 77%. I wonder if that includes EasyJet and Ryanair.

I don't plan to be doing too much flying while I'm in BA, as I'll not be working I hope to fully exploit all the free time I have on my hands and try to (as much as possible) rely on overland travel. I have 4 or 3 weeks of work left (still in negotiation) and can't bloody wait.

Charlie's Gone

The cat has left the building. Charlie has gone to Wales. Chris left this morning to take him. I was quite sad to see him go. He's been with us for 6 years. Sadly taking him with us wasn't an option and I'm sure he'll be happier in the countryside. He might even see sheep! For a indoors city cat that will be quite exciting.

Here he is sleeping in his favourite spot moments before leaving.

Keep the comments coming

I was delighted by the recent comments made on this blog in response
to my post about renationalisation. I'm learning a lot about how all
this works and it certainly seems that the more opinionated posts
generate the most interest.It's not hard to imagine why. Me bleeting out about the minute details
of my life is not that interesting, I can hardly bring myself to read
it! Whereas the opinionated ramblings... well they give one more to
get a hold of. I am delighted that people take the time to read the
blog and to comment so please keep it coming. I don't expect everyone
to agree with me but am passionate about the debate.My intention when I'm in BA is to give this blog more of a focus. I'll
continue with the narrative pieces (more for my sake as a log really)
but also intend to offer opinion and to start publishing my
photographs in a more structured way. I need to give it some more
thought about how that will work and will write more about that in due

Plenty to keep me busy

Packing up our house. It is a funny exercise. I was packing up part of the kitchen during the week. Carefully ensuring I kept two plates, two glasses, two sets of cutlery etc to use for the last week. Then I got to the champagne flutes. For some reason I hesitated, contemplating how many champagne flutes I am likely to need all at once in the next 5 days. The answer is obviously none, but I did pause to consider what that meant AND what the pause meant.We have lots of champagne flutes and we only use them about twice a year. But somehow the hysical acknowledgement of that reality was jarring. Surely I have the kind of life where I might be serving champagne to hoards or adoring friends at any moment! Alas the reality is quite different and if it isn't, we'll be serving it from plastic cups for the foreseeable future.

---I have so much to do. This is our last weekend in our London flat. We have to have moved out by Thursday so that the new tenants can move in on Friday! Yikes. …

Things are starting to move - more about renationalisation

Perhaps it's obvious but I can't help but get the feeling that
Argentina is on the brink of something profound, nationally, socially
and economically. Of course, it might always seem like that and it's
only my relatively recent attention to the Argentine news that (for me
at least) is creating this sense of anticipation.The more I find out the more I get the feeling that the changes taking
place, particularly the Peron style renationalisation of local
industries and the recent senate defeat of the proposed agricultural
export duties signify the start of something profound. A country
brought to it's knees by economic collapse has recently enjoyed
consistent growth, re-calibrated its ambition and its economy and is
now poised to redefine itself. The political rhetoric is increasingly
talking about rebuilding Argentina, taking responsibility and about
regeneration - quite reminiscent of the Peron era.My prediction is that this process will be painful, disruptive and
dramatic but ultim…


UPDATE : Here is a bit more on the renationalisation from BBC News.

Even though I know next to nothing about national and or global economic models it has never stopped me from having an opinion. I am always excited when I hear stories that challenge what seems to be a formidable and irreversible move towards free market economies. Menem's heavy handed privatisation policy during the 80's paved the way for the loss of a significant portion of Argentine industry to foreign investors. Admittedly this saw an influx of foreign investment, but when the economy collapsed in 2001 this offered little protection. This combined with the peso-dollar pegging meant local industries suffered. Production moving overseas to cheaper countries and stagnant local economies.

Then I spotted this little story in the FT: Argentina to buy back state airline

In 1990 Iberia took a 83.5% stake in Aerolíneas Argentinas . The airline continued to under perform and was taken over by Marsans in 2001. Rising fu…

Barrio Juan Perón

Just stumbled across this blog post : housing for the masses on the rather superb line of site blog. Gutted that the author, Robert Wright, is leaving BA so soon. He seems to possess real insight. Barrio Juan Perón is a definite on my list of things to do!

Research! Research! Research!

I'm getting mildly hysterical. I have approximately 6 weeks of work left and can barely control myself. We're getting close. The "saving" is coming along okay (marginally better than I had hoped – touch wood), the flat is rented (our stuff goes into storage tomorrow). At the risk of jinxing it, I don't think we can stop now. We're going to BA! It is still 8 weeks until we go, imagine what I'll be like in 8 weeks. Anyway, a major contributor to my heightened sense of excitement is the research I've been doing. At the moment I'm spending hours scouring the internet and reading the blogs to find out as much as I can about the city. The blogs vary in quality dramatically, but for all the frivolous and tired ones there are superb insightful and considered writers. I guess the mad exodus to BA from the states in the early 00's and the relatively good connectivity of the city has helped create quite an active and verbal (they're mostly America…

Buenos Aires - Metropolis

So, missing footage of Fritz Lang's seminal film, Metropolis, has been found in a basement in Buenos Aires. Two films fans discovered the reels in a small museum. Now if only the could find more German remnants (see: Nazi Hunting). Reuters

Gay Pride BA style

I was delighted to see that Buenos Aires Gay pride will be when we are there. It's on the 1 November with festivities planned for the week before.

A Leaving Party

Nothing like a little party to cheer one up. We hadn't really thought too much about a leaving doo but it seems a crime not to have one. So we're going reliable and having a few drinkie poos at The Friendly Society on Sunday 24 August. The 25th is a Bank Holiday so seems quite a good night to go out. I suspect that quite a few folk will be away for the bank holiday, but not to worry. As long as we get the core group there. Here's the invite and the email.


As you know, Chris and I are going to Argentina in September and will be out of the UK for 9 months.
Sounds to me like the perfect excuse for a little knees up. Please join us. Invite attached.

What: Nothing fancy. Reliable and "traditional" - a few drinkie poos.

Where: The Friendly Society in London's Soho

When: Sunday 24 August 2008, 19.00 (Monday is a bank holiday)

Hope you can make it.


Flat Rented!

We have found a tenant to rent our London flat while we are in Buenos Aires. It was quite a simple process although very interesting. Initially we went with Sherton Law down in Clapham, who seemed very nice and professional. At the same time Chris was in conversation with
Ludlow Thompson although we hadn't told them to list the flat.Sheraton Law had suggested a rental price of 380 pounds per week, whereas Ludlow were suggesting we should go for 450. We asked Sheraton to list it at 410. After two weeks, Sheraton had only managed to show the flat twice! I'm not sure if it was the fact that they are so much
smaller or that the pictures they posted on their website were so blurry and over exposed but I would have expected a little more interest.So then, we asked Ludlow to list it. Within 4 days they'd show 5 people around and 3 days later we had two offers on the table, one at 440 and the other at 450! And while this was going on, the lady from Sheraton was suggesting we need to…

Nazi Hunting

Just spotted this article about the hunt for Nazi "Dr Death" who is believed to be living in Southern Chile or Argentina. Aribert Heim would be 94.The centre trying to locate him suspect he is still alive because no family members have made a claim for money and other investments contained in an account held in Berlin in his name. To do that they would have to produce evidence that he'd died.The centre, along with the German and Austrian governments, are offering a reward of €315,000 for information leading to his Heim's capture. Zuroff said the centre had already received information "that has strong potential" to help efforts to find Heim.He was also known for using many of the body parts of the people he killed as decorations. He used one victim's skull as a paperweight.Yikes! The Guardian

Making new friends, in advance

So I'm determined that during my time in Buenos Aires I am going to
make as many local friends as possible and I've already started the
campaign. Not being the most outgoing person I think it will be very
important to make that extra effort.I've been introduced (via email) to a couple of people living there
and have struck up email conversations with them. Problem is that I'm
kind of running out of things to say to them. Every email I have to
try that little bit harder to keep the conversation going. I guess we
haven't yet found the things that we might have in common. I'm going
to keep trying though and hopefully things will get easier.I've been reading quite a few blogs written by people living in BA,
mostly written by American expats who have moved there to take
advantage of the cheaper living and higher quality of life. I get the
feeling that infiltrating the expat scene won't be too difficult but
I'm not sure if that is where I want to place my effort. I&#…

Culture Shock

I have just finished reading the Argentina Culture Shock book. I've
always been a fan of the books and the Argentina version is no
different. Although I'm slightly nervous as the copy I had predated
the economic "crisis" and so I wonder how much of it has changed. I
checked out a newer copy in Foyles and it seems that the only
changes are an improved page layout and an extra page taking the
historical narrative to just past the massive debt default. Apart from
that all seemed the same.One would have thought that with two thirds of the population slipping
below the poverty line that would suggest cultural changes. Perhaps
I'm wrong. At least I can be pretty confident that crisis or not mate
drinking is still very important and asados still prevail.

and counting

It's just under 2 months until we leave for Buenos Aires. Seems like a
long time but when I think of all that needs to be done I get a little
nervous. We still have to move out of the flat... as a buffer we're
decided to move out a month early (end of August) and try to rent it
from the first. That way, if we have any problems finding tenants we
have another month.It's kind of sad packing up all our things. We only moved into the
flat in November 2007 and I for one really love it.

A healthy cat is better

So I took Charlie the cat to the vet yesterday. Got to get him healthy before his big move. As my life is also changing so too is his. He’s moving to live with Aunty Mary in Wales. Now, he is a healthy cat but I suspected that he needed some new vaccinations or such things and I was right. £110 later and a future (dental) booking he’s now *almost* ready for his move. We’ll miss him when we’re in Buenos Aires and hopefully we won’t be in for a cat custody battle when we try to reclaim him.

Spring cleaning one's life is fabulous. I can enthusiastically recommend it.

I’m moving to Buenos Aires for the next nine months and getting ready for that involves a lot of personal administration and efficiencies. The past few weeks have involved winding down a substantial chunk of my London life, all geared towards making me more agile, less cluttered and most importantly cheaper to sustain. I’ve been known to be quite expensive in the past.I’ve sold my scooter on Ebay, converted my mobile to Pay As You Go, closed surplus bank accounts and credit cards, put my flat up for rent and am moving all my possessions into storage. Packing everything up is a profound and liberating experience and winding everything up is too. Planning ahead and being ruthless is everything.It’s like flying. Either you can wiz through the airport, pre printed boarding card in hand and only the lightest super-efficient Mandarina Duck cabin luggage to slow you down. Or you can travel with 10kg hand luggage (£10 from Poundland, no wheels), a bag from WH SMITH weighed down with magazines…