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Inflation, recession and gloom: you don't have to be Scrooge to say 'Bah humbug' this year.

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There was something immensely satisfying about the juxtaposition between Land of the Pharaohs, and that upended shoebox of a room in Jericho.

You get the picture: I was a regulation scrofulous and disaffected student, in those happily miserable times before higher education became fixated by the ridiculous – and mercenary – idea that it was part of a career path, and that pliant youths should be forcibly moulded into productive units for use in the burgeoning economy.

It was cold that winter, and scuzzy rime built up inside the tall, ill-fitting sash windows.

Even with the noxious gas fire continually twittering on in the corner my room felt exposed to the winds blowing from the Urals.

All my dog-eared paperbacks were piled up in a nook, and the only decoration on the walls were the Rorschach blots of moist plaster and a tiny picture of Kleist, the German Romantic writer who killed himself in a suicide pact at the age of 34.

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