In one sense there were differences, and not just that I was younger and slenderer first time round. Food and service are both much better than when I first came here. Attitudes have also changed mostly for the better, although not always. There is this paradox that Britain has never been so rich and the amount of money and possessions most people have cannot be compared with what people had when I first arrived. And yet the country behaves as if it has never been so poor. The refrain you constantly hear is “we can’t afford it”. It feels like we are permanently in this age of austerity in which we not only can’t afford large things – housing for all that need it, cottage hospitals in every town – but also small things such as flower beds on roundabouts. All these things the country had when I first came here, and when we were all much poorer.