From the desk of Rupert Wright: Economic siestas and box lunch notes

Focus: After years of growth, perhaps an economic siesta isn't a bad idea, notes Rupert Wright.

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A The zombies have taken over Wall Street, the protesters have headed to the avenues of Athens and I suspect even in Paris there might be the odd gathering on the boulevard. Does this mean that the end of the world is nigh? According to Jean-Pierre Roth, a Swiss banker, we are now in an era of "large uncertainty" with Europe facing a lost decade.

With respect, I slightly wonder where he has been over the past few years. Europe has had a lost decade for the past three decades, with the possible exception of Germany and every so often, Britain. France positively prides itself on its sclerotic growth. As Jean Fourastié pointed out in his 1979 book Les Trente Glorieuses, ou la révolution invisible de 1946 à 1975, France had 30 years of growth from the end of the Second World War until the mid-1970s. After that? The country had a long lunch and a collective nap.

This is absolutely how it should be. France is not about growth, lugging things here and there and working all hours. France is all about quality, not quantity of life. It's not just about France of course. Anywhere below the Siesta Line, an area that takes in the Midi of France, Spain, Portugal, south of Rome, Greece etc, there has been hardly any growth. Spain, it's true, had a brief spurt when they built horrible developments all along the coastline, ruining the view for generations. These sorts of places don't need growth. Just as tourism always kills what it loves, so does development. I have been on a number of field visits with greedy developers to beautiful unspoilt coves, fringed with palm trees and fishing boats. "And here," says the developer, "we are going to put an enormous hotel, townhouses, villas and a couple of golf courses." I hope they all go somewhere else.


I am indebted to TheWall Street Journal for a scoop of monumental proportions. It turns out the lunch box note business is big business. I didn't even know that as you lovingly make your children's lunches, or at least lovingly ask the maid to prepare them, you are expected to slip in a little message. "You are loved," writes one American mother. "Blue bananas," says another, rather cryptically.

Now Pottery Barn Kids and Toys'R'Us are selling pre-printed notes. One can buy a pack of messages from a company called Lunchbox Love, including such gems as "You've become so mature", "I love you unconditionally" and "I can't believe how creative you are".

I rather think this is taking all the creativity out of the process, and certainly the personal touch. These pre-printed notes are nonsense. In what way are these children being creative, except for the patterns of food they spray on their shirts?

Some teachers recommend notes as a way to encourage children to read. I may suggest to my Sri Lankan maid that as she makes the children their varied meals she may consider knocking out a little note, possibly in Sinhalese. That will fox them. I doubt my eldest daughter will bother to read them though. She is too busy planning her next business. As we discussed the news of Steve Jobs' demise, she finished her Greek yogurt and asked: "Does that mean Apple products will now be cheaper?"


Three years ago I confidently predicted that the watch business would soon be defunct. People would realise that paying thousands of dirhams for a piece of jewellery on your wrist to perform a function that your phone could do more accurately and for free, was foolish. For a while it seemed my prediction would come true. Watch sales were pretty dismal in 2008. But for all the hype and horrors of the Great Recession, sales have recovered. Take a walk through Dubai Mall and you can't move for watches. My dilemma, as well as how to pay for one, is which to buy? Purists love Patek Philippe, but for me they are a bit poncey. The Rolex is ubiquitous, as common as a Toyota Land Cruiser on the Sheikh Zayed Highway. But should one go for an IWC, a Glasshütte, a Luminor Panerai or a Jaeger-le-Coultre? The richest man I know wears a Swatch. I bought one for my son, but he lost it. Maybe I should have written a message in his lunch box "Don't lose your watch, doughnut".