As the world lumbers along wounded and haemorrhaging wildly from every financial orifice, blood and guts gushing this way and that, with General Motors and Chrysler once and for all on the point of destruction, the leaders of the rich and powerful countries, the G20, have been meeting in all the glitter of London.

New Zealand, naturally, was not there but our immediate future might be much affected by G20 decisions.

The world's greatest celebrity, President Barack Obama, in his first trip to Europe as the American Chief Executive, and his beautiful wife, Michelle, have met the world's most photographed woman, the Queen.

Another of the world's most-photographed woman, Carla Bruni, did not go to London with her husband, the President of France. Instead, she hosted Michelle in Strasbourg, that beautiful city in Eastern France, capital of Alsace, over which the French and the Germans argued and finally blew each other up. But Strasbourg was always a place of tolerance between Catholics and Protestants, and is now a centre of pan-European co-operation. It is a grand, romantic, medieval place, Strasbourg, an old cathedral and university town bustling along the swollen Rhine.

I went there with a German girlfriend in the late 70s, lost on a long OE. I had a job reading news on the Dutch World Service in Hilversum, just out of Amsterdam. It was a curious place. No one worked very hard.

A large numbers of the translators and editorial staff were receiving help in alcohol-abuse programmes. On the news-reading night shift, I was woken in my little overnight room by an old man every couple of hours to go upstairs to read the five-minute bulletin to East Africa or West Africa or Central America or the eastern United States.

Who actually listened, I had no idea. If it was Dutch expatriates, why would they listen to English broadcasts?

In those days there were people around the world who were shortwave freaks. They would write to say they heard you on such and such megacycles, but no mention was ever made of what you said.

One day the boss, a kind and fatherly Dutchman, Bill Van Der Fluit, who, I seem to remember, was once a travel agent in Rotorua, called me in. There was a perplexed look on his face as he studied one of those old blue aerogrammes we used to send.

They were as light as feathers and you could pack them with type or small writing. This correspondent had used every centimetre, the thin paper bruised with fresh black-ribbon typing, single space. It had come from New Zealand and Bill asked me what I made of it. The writer was clearly a deeply frustrated person. Why, he complained, when the name of the country was Nederland, or The Netherlands, did so many of the Radio Nederland announcers persist in calling the country Holland? It is not Holland, he shouted through the pages, it is The Netherlands.

Holland, he protested, was merely one of the old Dutch provinces and there were 12 others. No one called The Netherlands by any of those names.

Why Holland? Holland this and Holland that. On and on, it went.

We all committed the sin because so did every Dutch person we knew. Dutch people are quite happy calling their country Holland.

I turned the aerogramme over to see who it was from. No worries about this one, I told Bill. This person has obsession issues and is receiving treatment. The address was Cherry Farm, Dunedin, the old insane asylum.

Anyway, it paid very well for what it was. For the nightshift, I got paid all night so I had a little bit of money to go with the German girl to Strasbourg. I remember it was very cold.

It was a very student town, really, very nicely Bohemian, and we walked for hours in the bitter cold along the Rhine.

It is a completely different place this weekend, however, because Strasbourg is hosting the 60th anniversary of the formation of Nato.

That is why Michelle Obama is in Strasbourg seeing Carla Bruni. Their husbands are there.

They and the other Nato leaders have poured into a locked-down Strasbourg. Schools have been closed, manholes and sewers have been sealed up and 15,000 troops were put on duty.

When the Obamas landed on British soil this week, their hand-in-hand appearance at the door of the lit-up legendary Air Force One made every front page. The old hands are saying there is more interest in the arrival of this First Couple than there has been since the arrival of John and Jackie Kennedy half a century ago.

I never cease to be impressed at the way an American President moves around. Obama is in Europe with an entourage of 500, including 200 Secret Service agents who sweep venues for bugs, food poison and security.

He has with him a team of chefs to cook him anything he wants, any time. There is a team of six medical staff, carrying his blood type.

Air Force One is modified to carry only 75 people. It has a gym, it has the sleeping quarters, it has the conference room.

The windows are armour-plated, it flies internationally accompanied by F-16 fighters and it can be refuelled in mid-air.

The helicopter that took Obama from Stansted Airport into London, was Marine One, and it never flies alone. Decoy helicopters fly with it to confuse the bad boys with the beards, ever looking for an opportunity.

The President of the United States travels like the plenipotentiaries of antiquity, the only difference, really, being that he makes more noise.

Oh, and the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the 90,000 tonne super-aircraft-carrier with 90 strike aircraft was stationed only a day's sail from London.

What is more, the Obamas and the other G20 leaders had dinner cooked by Jamie Oliver. Not bad, Jamie. You have well and truly made it.

Back home, in our neck of the woods, things were a little more prosaic. Nick Smith found himself in trouble with his leader when he appeared to suggest a nationally imposed impost of 5c on supermarket plastic bags.

Prime Minister John Key, anxious not to frighten the horses, slapped down the idea of an extra tax.

If I have one abiding memory of Yemen, where I did an Intrepid Journey for television just over a year ago, it is of the scourge of the plastic bag.

Millions and millions of them litter the country, on the sides of roads, in the markets, stuck on mountainsides, stuck in bushes and trees, blowing along the streets and towns.

It will not be long before plastic bags will be banned everywhere, I should think, before they fill the oceans and cover the Earth.