Montpellier, France

I got a letter from Joe Biden, which doesn’t happen every day. In the envelope was a check, made out to me, for $1,400. The letter is headed



and dated April 22 although it has taken some time to drop into the boîte aux lettres due to the President experiencing confusion over my address.

‘My fellow American,’ he began. Although I am not one I did once work there and paid Social Security contributions, apparently qualifying me for the President’s generosity. ‘I am pleased to inform you,’ he continued, ‘that because of the American rescue plan, a direct payment was issued to you.’

Having attracted attention, Joe, my new best friend, continues. ‘This has been a hard time…brighter days are ahead…the economy is on the mend…our children will be back in school.’ President Biden concludes, ‘I truly believe there is nothing we can’t do as a nation, as long as we do it together.’ Perhaps this isn’t Rooseveltian, but it will do. All this is repeated in Spanish on the reverse.

Several points arise from this communication. Obviously the immutable rule of cashing all checks applies, even if it seems ludicrous that I, living in my semi-detached chateau in the south of France, should be able to restock my wine cellar at the largesse of the United States Treasury, with enough left over for two of those exquisitely thin Baccarat glasses with which Mrs Miller and I might drink it.

The second is the apparent inability to encash the instrument, since I have no American bank account and my Swedish bankers won’t accept it. Perhaps they think it will bounce.

I am thus thwarted for the moment in my plan to spend my windfall memorably and pass on my good fortune, as I am advised by Bianca, my counselor on Christian charity. I appeal to anyone who knows how I might turn America’s gift into euros.

One final reflection on these events is that notwithstanding my personal circumstances, I am left deeply impressed by President Biden, or whoever it was in the master control room who made this letter so, and the sheer political chutzpah that the money comes from President Joe, himself.

This was a clever maneuver. President Trump had wanted to sign an earlier round of ‘economic impact payment’ checks personally (I never got one — Donald owes me) but this was determined to be unlawful. The check I’ve got is signed by an unheard-of Treasury official, but Biden’s team found a way of exploiting the crisis for his political gain regardless.

Sending money to voters, money conjured out of thin air, costs nothing after all, or if it does, it’s someone else’s problem. When you start throwing cash out of the sky, if some of it lands in a corner of a foreign field, what’s the difference?