The London property market is in decline partly because large numbers of American citizens, who two years ago accounted for 60 per cent of tenancies of rented property in central London, have either lost their jobs in the City or else have taken fright in the face of the terrorist threat. It is not all bad news in the property world, however. Real-estate agents in Finland and New Zealand could not be happier.
I have just returned from a trip to the Alpine village of MegŒve, situated in the heart of the Haute-Savoie, in the shadow of Mont Blanc, where I successfully introduced my three-and-a-half-year-old goddaughter to the pleasures of skiing. It occurred to me, while out there, that there has never been a better time to head for the hills and buy a place in the mountains.
According to the International Residential Department of FPDSavills (020 7824 9030), 'a nervous stock market and low interest rates have led many people to look at alternative investments, especially in overseas property offering both pleasure and profit'.
Very few white people have seen the source of the Oxus in the Great Pamir. This vast Central Asian river that never meets an ocean was a source of fascination to 19th-century geographers, and the question of its origin, for which there are six candidates, was only finally settled in 1892 by Lord Curzon himself. He chose the highest glacier as the true source. I prefer the source of the biggest volume of water, christened Lake Victoria in 1835 by a British army officer.
Walking around this exhibition is a humbling experience. We are privileged to have a display of paintings of this quality in London, and it is an incredible achievement to have obtained loans of such distinction. One of the pictures scheduled for the show is not in fact available, 'Sacred and Profane Love' from the Villa Borghese in Rome, but two late additions more than compensate for its absence.
In Warsaw last Tuesday the French defence minister, Michelle Alliot-Marie, continued her President's ham-fisted strategy of offering patronising advice to Eastern European nations on course to join the European Union. 'It was better to keep silent when you don't know what's going on,' she declared. Poland's deputy foreign minister, Adam Rotfeld, resented the lecture. 'France has a right to its opinion and Poland has the right to decide what is good for it,' he told an interviewer.