Almost fifty years ago, when the Mead family migrated to London for a year to investigate life on the far side of the pond, a neighboring family came for Christmas dinner. They had one of those typically hobbity English last names; call them the Snogdens. They came in the early afternoon for the lavish midday meal, and they stayed. They stayed through the afternoon, not leaving the dinner table. They stayed until it was clear that they expected another meal. They stayed through supper, and as the dishes were cleared away they settled in to stay for the evening. Conversation lagged from time to time, but their determination to remain fixed at the Mead family board never failed. They did not get up. They endured. They had brought their budgerigar to join the festivities and Budgie sat in his cage, disconsolately chirping from time to time. Snogden père was a dedicated though not a discriminating cigar smoker; one foul stogie after another hung on his lips and filled the room with dense and dank clouds of acrid smoke.None of the Meads smoked; none of us particularly enjoyed the aroma of cheap cigars. At long last my father could not stand the stale atmosphere; rising from his seat he flung open the window. The quintessentially cold and damp air of an English Christmas rolled into the room and the thick tobacco cloud retreated a bit.This moved Snogden mère to action; she jumped up, and slammed the window shut. “Budgie cannot stand the cold,” she announced. “He has a very delicate chest.” The tobacco smoke swirled; the air staled. The Snogdens stayed; through the swirling smoke from time to time it seemed to me that I could hear Budgie in the background, quietly coughing.The European financial crisis feels more and more like a visit from the Snogdens: the guests from Hell who will not leave. It fouls the air; it darkens the day; it spoils the fun of the season and it refuses to come either to a climax or to a close.Overnight it took another turn for the worse; the latest auction of German government debt could not find enough buyers, and the Bundesbank was left holding about $3 billion in unsold ten year debt. Meanwhile, eurozone industrial production is down and both Italy and Spain are coming under more pressure.The Europeans seem wedded to the idea of a long crisis; this is only partly because habits of bureaucratic delay, political infighting and reality avoidance mean that Brussels prefers to rip any and all bandages off with excruciating slowness. More fundamentally the crisis lingers because of power politics. In the political war of attrition between the French and German visions for the future neither side will back down, and both think the only way to resolve the crisis involves letting things reach such intensity and inflict such damage that the other side will capitulate.This crisis must therefore get worse before it can get better; the guests must sit at the dinner table, smoking, for a very long time. But it’s possible that things are coming to a head. As Matt Yglesias notes in a smart post this morning, the latest problem in the German bond market means that contagion has spread from the hopeless cases like Greece to stronger if poorly run economies like Italy to France and now finally to Germany itself.The fate of Europe and the world now rests on the ability of France and Germany to manage their high stakes game of financial chicken; the news from the German financial markets today suggests that we are coming closer to that magic moment when somebody blinks.From the world’s standpoint, its time for the Snogdens to go. The European crisis has dragged on for years, darkening the global horizon and dimming hopes for recovery elsewhere. At this point, every week, every month of further tension in Europe undermines recovery elsewhere. We wait and we squirm; there is not much else we can do.