If you dislike someone, give them a boat

Boats are temperamental things. And when they go wrong - which they are apt to do - they cost an awful lot of money to fix.

"At least the price of oil should come down," I said to Jeff.

Going flat out at 20 knots or more is hardly the most fuel-efficient way to run a 42ft boat with two thirsty 320hp engines, but the sun was shining, the sea was calm and, what's more, both the engines, for once, were working to full capacity.

The starboard one, you may recall, has been overheating in recent weeks. A marine engineer came to work on it but could find nothing wrong. Finally, Jeff, who looks after the boat, took the engine apart himself, and solved the problem. Amazingly almost unheard of in the world of boats, at least as I've experienced it it wasn't an expensive problem. The engines are cooled, in part, by sea water and a piece of seaweed had got stuck in one of the intake pipes. Jeff removed it and now here we were bowling along the Cornish coast in the sunshine.

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It was one of those days, in fact, when owning a boat seems almost worthwhile. Shortly before Land's End we came upon three basking sharks and stopped to inspect them: 20ft long, they swam lazily past our hull. It was a lovely sight.

An hour later we were back on shore and it was time to settle up with the harbourmaster in Newlyn, where the boat had spent much of the summer. I walked round to his cramped office on the quayside. He searched through a desk awash with paperwork, looking for my bill. "You're not going to like it," he said, but I wrote out the cheque as nonchalantly as I could. "I'd sell her if I were you," he said cheerfully as I left. "You know what they say. If you dislike someone give them a boat as a present. If you dislike them a lot give them two."

Even Notting Hill is feeling the pain

Life is no longer so sweet in Notting Hill. Over the past decade, says Rachel Johnson in The Sunday Times, this London suburb has become a mecca for American merchant bankers. They love its private schools, its "vast acreage" of communal gardens (reserved exclusively for property-owning residents or their tenants) and its "groovy-creative vibe".

At any one time, 65% of the housing stock available for rent was taken by Americans and "boy, did they take the place by storm". British landlords had to install power showers and security lights and new kitchens and delis started staying open late so bankers on their way home could pick up some "cod and miso and steamed baby leeks".

But that was then. How about now? The signs aren't good. Bankers are cancelling their subscriptions to the FT and Wall Street Journal, reports Johnson, dog walkers are losing business and estate agents say American tenants are starting to pull out. And while flats are still letting at between £500 and £800 a week, there is "no activity on rentals between £3,000 and £5,000 a week". In Notting Hill, as elsewhere, the party is over. As one banker put it to Johnson: "These are dark days and it's going to get darker."