Fires and floods, we're hardwired to accept them or at least file them under Bad Things Happening. But there's something so abstract and so modern about a bank making a technical mistake about how it funded its obligations to depositors, and suddenly you're out of work.
If European monetary policy is run according to German interests, huge structural imbalances will accumulate. The Germans will then either have to pay to correct those imbalances or agree that the euro should not be run primarily according to German interests. If they are unwilling to do either of those things, the euro can't survive.
Most British tapas bars aren't bars at all. They're restaurants that specialise in tapas. Nothing wrong with that, but it's a bit different from the Spanish way of doing things, in which tapas is an adjunct to the drinks and the general vibe.
Celebrity farmer. Now there's a phrase that should be an oxymoron. There are farmers on both sides of my family, and I can attest that the overlap between the way farmers live, work and think, and celebrity culture, is exactly 0%.
During the 20th century, the greatest danger to European stability was Germany's sense of its special destiny. During the 21st century, the greatest danger to European stability is Germany's reluctance to accept its special destiny.
Obviously you can stash money under your mattress, cut down on hazelnut lattes, but in terms of the larger economic frame of our lives, we have very little agency. About one of the only things you can do is understand it.
The slogans of globalisation are 'Get on your bike' and 'The world is flat.' People who want to get on have to be willing to move, often and unhesitatingly, at the behest of their employer or to seek work.
Often, in horror films, the single most effective device for building a sense of scariness is the soundtrack: the clanking of chains, the groaning of off-stage ghouls, the unmistakable sound of a cannibal rustic firing up a chainsaw.
Nando's is a casual restaurant rather than a fast-food one - another aspirational touch. The food is energetically spiced, where so many of its competitors are bland and grilled to order, where the competition fries food and then lets it sit around.
I'd like to pretend to be all Olympian and above it, as if this is a phenomenon I'm observing from a great height, nothing to do with my own behavior at all - but the fact is I'm absolutely one of those people in the cafe staring at my phone.
One of the things that happens to you if you write about restaurants - one of the reasons restaurant critics are the real heroes - is that whenever anyone has a grievance about any aspect of the business, they tell you about it.
The first ATM in Hong Kong was actually at the foot of the bank. I remember my father using it. And I find it absolutely terrifying that - something about the way the machine just kind of coughed up money with no difficulty.
People misunderstand what a police state is. It isn't a country where the police strut around in jackboots; it's a country where the police can do anything they like. Similarly, a security state is one in which the security establishment can do anything it likes.
We can all instinctively understand the idea of life insurance; most of us will feel an instinctive repugnance at the thought of the viatical industry, or 'dead peasants insurance.' As market thinking penetrated the life insurance industry, a moral line was crossed, and the application of market ideas was taken too far.
Once I've properly finished a book, my ideal state of being would be to never think about it again. But with 'Capital,' I felt I'd spent so much time with the characters that they were very, very real, and I definitely had a sense of loss about leaving them behind in a way I've not quite had before.
I don't answer the phone or do my email; I don't do anything until I've got the day's writing done. I have a word count for every day: 500 for fiction, 1,000 for non-fiction, and journalism is 1,500. That's a level I can sustain.
One of the things I have noticed about my novels is that they all concern people who can't quite bring themselves to tell the truth about their own lives... I've come to realise that this interest in damaged, untellable stories comes from my parents.
I grew up in Hong Kong, and London used to seem very gray: the sky was gray, the buildings were gray, the food was incredibly gray - the food had, like, new kinds of grayness specially invented for it.
Because the Spanish eat so crazily late - anybody who's been to Spain has had the experience of sitting down at 9:30 P.M. to find themselves the first customer in the restaurant - they tend to favour an early-evening drink and a nibble to keep them going.