Hey, it turns out that we’re neighbors! Isn’t that great? Not really neighbors, exactly, like living down the street or something, but we do live in the same part of London. We’re in more of a low rent part of town, but still, it’s nice to know that we have the same taste in real estate. Which must be some comfort for you these days, considering the fact that many of your countrymen don’t appreciate your leadership qualities, or those of your father, for that matter. It’s hard to find a decent place to live in London these days, I have to admit, and to have all these other problems too—it makes me feel better knowing that you have this peaceful retreat to come to if, for whatever reason, you may feel the need to leave Libya. Although I have to say there are some issues for you to deal with here in London as well. First there’s the fact that the London School of Economics is now investigating whether you actually wrote your own dissertation. And then there’s that pesky little issue of the large donation to the LSE from your foundation. Of course, things at home look a bit complicated as well, and probably not helped by the support of the Arab League yesterday for a no-fly zone. And boy, what’s with France recognizing the rebels as the government of Libya? What’s that all about? You’ve got a lot on your plate there, Saif! Sometimes it seems like the whole world is against you, doesn’t it?
So Mrs W and I hopped in the car this morning and drove over to your house, just to be neighborly, and to let you know that not everyone in the world is on your case these days. Well, I guess I have to admit I tend to agree with the rebels, who would like to see you and your dad and the rest of your omnivorously greedy family leave, and quickly. But it wouldn’t actually be the neighborly thing to do to let that get in the way of a friendly cup of coffee, would it? So we thought we’d stop by for a neighborly chat. And guess what? You weren’t there! But you know who were? Squatters! Can you imagine? They appear to be sympathizers with the rebels, and they’ve got various flags and posters hanging on the place. Doesn’t exactly improve the tone of the neighborhood, I have to say, and I hope the residents committee will take this up at the next meeting. Are you on the committee? It’s a good way to meet your neighbors, by the way—I heartily recommend it!
Now, I also have to say that Mrs W and I are generally sympathetic to the squatters, not just in your place, but elsewhere in London. London is chock full of big houses owned by people who don’t live there. I’m sure you know the reason for this, since you still (for the moment, anyway) have that doctorate from the London School of Economics. It’s something that we learned when we first moved here in 1998. You may remember what the world was like back then—it was yet another period in recent history when the world looked like it was about to go down the economic tubes. And you know what was happening? Well, all these rich people from various places around the world—Russia, Korea, the Mideast, even some of your own family, I bet—were busy plowing cash into London real estate. Because any time there’s significant economic uncertainty in various interesting places of the world—North Africa, for example—cash somehow magically finds its way into London real estate.
Of course, owning a house in some tony part of London doesn’t mean that you actually have to live there. And many of the owners of these houses—does this include you, I wonder—don’t. They just use London real estate as an easy place to park cash during the duration of whatever crisis is going on. Now, the rest of us who actually want to live here have to contend with folks like you helping to drive up real estate prices to such an extent that it’s virtually impossible for most people to be able to buy anything here. But people like you keep taking that cash—I won’t speculate about where you got it, because that wouldn’t be neighborly—and buying properties here that you have no intention of living in. And it makes much of London unaffordable for most of the rest of us. I’m sure you know all this already, though, so there’s no need to bring it up over a friendly cup of coffee.
So you have to give the squatters credit. They find a house that’s owned by some absentee oligarch or potentate or corrupt family member—maybe even your very large family, Saif—and move into it. Now, London has some interesting laws on squatting, which for all I know go back to medieval times, as many of the laws here do, and it turns out that it’s actually pretty difficult to get squatters out once they’ve set up shop. And I have to say this group of squatters sounds like an interesting bunch—they want to take a lot of your money and give it back to the Libyan people. It was early when we showed, up, though, and we didn’t want to wake them. I did notice that they left their bicycles just lying around in the driveway, though—I imagine that will come up at the next residents committee meeting too. You really have to get involved with that group, Saif, if you end up living here permanently.
Anyway, sorry we missed you. I know you’re busy these days, but Mrs W and I would just love to get together with you and the missus the next time you’re in town. Just drop us a tweet!