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I'm in London. I'm here to attend some meetings, but I came over a couple days early "to adjust to the time change"--at least that was my excuse; I really just wanted a weekend on my own before the meetings started.

I've been in London quite a few times. The first time was thirty-four years ago when I was in college. I remember London being cheap back then. The Underground was dirt cheap; even taxis were cheap. Fish and chips was cheap, as was beer.

On this trip I've been stunned by how much things cost. Mike and I were here five years ago and I don't remember feeling this way. The prices would seem about right if they were in dollars instead of pounds, but with the exchange rate being nearly $2 to the pound, prices are double what I'd expect to pay back home.

Yesterday I took a short taxi ride--my first and last if I can help it--and paid £12: almost $24. I took the Underground after that and paid £3 for a short trip. I'd pay less than $3 for a comparable ride on the DC Metro. It started to rain and I bought a small umbrella at Boots--£15. Again, that would seem about right if it were dollars, not pounds. Last night I had fish and chips, a beer, and dessert at the Sherlock Holmes pub/restaurant and with the tip it came to £21--almost $42.

I went into a couple of clothing stores--didn't buy anything, just looked around--and had the same impression. The prices would be about what I'd expect to pay if they were in dollars instead of pounds.

When did London get so expensive? A couple of summers ago Mike and I were in Ireland and I noticed how expensive it was to eat in restaurants or get a beer in a pub. I wondered how the locals felt about it and when I asked I heard plenty of grumbling. People blamed it on Ireland having joined the European Common Market.

The exchange rate hasn't changed much since my first trip to London; it's always been about $2 to the pound. Which means prices here have gone up twice as fast as prices in the US. I wonder what's happened here in England to make everything so expensive, and if wages have kept up?

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May 2009

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