Monthly Archives: February 2009

Girls on film

My feet aren’t on the ground today, because of yesterday’s brush with celebrity – I was at a party with Simon Le Bon!! I was at the relaunch of the Whitechapel Gallery last night, because it is part-funded with European money and we were paying for the reception. It was already amazing being at the world premiere of Michael Nyman’s new piece, played by…Michael Nyman. Then we went in to dinner. I was sat with the managing director of the gallery (a tractor boy, incidentally!) and we were talking about music and which bands we liked. He said have you seen Duran Duran, I said, yes in Antwerp, he said no I mean have you seen them over there…and there they were. I had a direct view across at Nick Rhodes (looking better than he ever did in the 80s) and then a bit later saw Simon (of whom the same is, alas, not true). Unfortunately my Britishness stopped me from rushing up and saying hello, but I did have fun texting all my gal pals to let them know. Every text back started “Oh. My. God”. The event itself was lovely, the Gallery is going to be great and it was fun rubbing shoulders, albeit for one night, with the glitterati.

Stumbled across this great science story via a random link to my blog. Maybe if there had been more custard in my science lessons I’d be in a lab not an office right now. Though I do remember making rhubarb wine in one …


Filed under Culture, science

The Sound of Silence

I’ve been very remiss about writing the blog recently, but as I pointed out previously, there’s a fine balance between being busy enough to have something to write about, and being too busy to find the time. We’re missing several members of staff at the moment, for a variety of reasons, so its been mayhem around here. There’s lots more admin in this job than when you’re a Spokesperson, and that has to get done. Also fewer press officers around means fewer people to answer the phone, so more time dealing with queries from the press. Not that I complain about that – it’s the best bit of the job (next to going to the National Theatre or, in the case of tonight, the Whitechapel Gallery!).

Also the health problem from last week is still around – no news from the NHS about the scan I was supposed to be booked in for, so will try a GP again tomorrow. Here’s hoping I don’t get sent to A&E YET again…

Had a lovely weekend in Brussels. On Friday night I got there in time to catch the second half of the Brussels Shakespeare Society’s Othello. A nice day with the Best Mate on Saturday, then went to my friend Michiel’s 40th that evening – we were at college together, and have known each other almost 20 years, so it was a real night for catching up with your past! On Sunday Best Mate had invited two other friends round for lunch – we were all feeling a bit ropey, so it was the laziest Sunday imaginable, finishing up with watching all 4 hours of the BBC’s adaptation of North and South. I won’t try to pretend that the main attraction was anything other than Richard Armitage looking moody!

My mother is visiting from France at the moment, and it’s been lovely having her here. Hopefully we’re off to a Korean on Friday and the Rugby League on Saturday, then she heads home on Sunday.

We’ve got quite a few Commissioners in town in the next two weeks, so we’re busy managing their media schedules, trying to fulfill interview requests we’ve had, or set up new ones. There have also been some interesting stories around, such as reducing the accounting requirements for very small companies.

There’s been a lot around about sheep tagging as well, but that’s a long story, so I’ll deal with that tomorrow.

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Filed under European news, Management, Personal

Parlez-vous Francais?

The Commission held a briefing in Brussels yesterday entitled “Is English becoming a rare language?” It highlighted the lack of English-language interpreters and translators in the EU institutions. It might not seem logical, but as English becomes such a lingua franca in the work of the EU, the needs for interpreters and translators with English as a mother tongue goes up, not down. We risk losing a third of the current workforce in 2015 due to retirement, and the new people aren’t coming in.

If you read the blog regularly, you will know about the work we do here on languages. The two issues are of course intimately linked. If kids aren’t learning languauges at school, then they’re not studying them at uni. If there are no language graduates, there are no translators and interpreters.

Anyway, here’s a little clip showcasing the work of English-language interpreters:

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Doctor doctor

I’ve had a weird few days, at the mercy of the UK health system. I started feeling a pain in my abdomen on Friday night, and by Sunday it was painful and persistent enough for me to be getting worried. So I called NHS Direct, who advised me to go to the NHS walk-in centre at Tooting. When I saw a GP there, she said she thought it was my appendix and sent me over to Casualty. After seeing the triage nurse, and having blood taken a while later, I eventually saw a surgeon, who said I seemed too well for it to be my appendix, and sent me off to the Acute Gynae Clinic for a pelvic scan. That was normal, so I went back to A&E, where the surgeon I had originally seen told me to go home and come back if it got worse. So that was almost 5 hours of my Sunday.

I stayed off work on Monday and got an appointment with another GP, because if it wasn’t my appendix or an ovarian cyst, I was keen to find out what it was. When I saw her, she prodded me a bit and said it was my appendix and I should go back to St George’s. So back I went with my referral letter. Another triage nurse, more blood, and, eventually, about 3.5 hours after I arrived, I saw a surgeon. Again, I was told I was too well for it to be appendicitis, and he set up a full abdominal scan as an outpatient, though the appointment will take a few weeks. When I asked what it might be if not appendix or ovaries he said I might never know – helpful! And when I pointed out that I was in considerable discomfort when moving around, he suggested I take painkillers. So I’m back at work now, in as much discomfort as I was on Sunday and no wiser about why, despite having seen 4 doctors and spent 10 hours in casualty.

Still, there are a lot of people worse off than me, and I’m just glad that I’m not writing this from a hospital bed having undergone surgery!

Maybe it was because I was in a slight emotional state, but I was very moved by John Suchet’s appearance on the BBC yesterday (I watched it on the website, so I’m not sure if it was on Breakfast or News). Luckily I haven’t had to deal with anyone close to me having dementia, but when I was working as an au-pair in Germany in 1989/90, the father of my au pair father had very advanced Alzhiemers. He couldn’t talk or communicate with anyone. In fact the only thing that seemed to reach him at all was music, and they always asked me to play the piano when I was there, and he would hum while I was playing. It was tragic enough to see without having known the man, though I did hear stories about him, his amazing musicianship and his love of literature. How much worse though to watch that happen to someone you love. There is still stigma attached to dementia and so I really admire people like John Suchet and Terry Pratchett, sorry, SIR Terry Pratchett, for the work they are doing to break down those walls.

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Baby you can drive my car

There’s so much going on today, what with those terrible fires in Australia, Premier League managers being sacked left, right and centre and all the hoo-ha about bankers’ bonuses, that I suspect Neelie Kroes’ meeting with the roundtable to discuss the future of the car block exemption may have gone unnoticed. I wrote about this issue in September, when it hit some of the papers. Today Kroes gave a “cast iron guarantee” that she would “not agree to any change to the rules that will make life harder for independent repairers”. She  also said that the Commission “will not use competition policy to put unnecessary barriers in front of efforts to help the industry survive and adapt”.

Coming back to the fires, it beggars belief that anybody could deliberately start those fires, knowing how often Australia suffers. What is going on in the heads of these people? When I was Science Spokeswoman, we did a report every year about the previous season’s fires, as well as showing the system developed for monitoring and warning about fires. The 2007 report says for Italy, just to take an example:

The most worrying aspect is the increase in arson that, in percentages, is the highest since 1998 and concerns the cause of nearly 7000 fires ; it has more than doubled since last year.

If you have friends or family in Australia, I hope they are safe and well. It does make you appreciate the good things that you have.

For me that was very evident this weekend, with three of my closest friends from Brussels coming over to stay with me, and while they were here we managed to catch up with loads of other friends. The best weekend I’ve had in years. We went to Strictly Live, which was hilarious fun, and also managed to catch Derek Jacobi as Malvolio in Twelfth Night as part of the Donmar in the West End season  – what a pleasure to see one of the greats in action. Not even the uselessness of London’s transport could get us down – neither the Northern Line nor the Jubilee line was working (fairly crucial if you’re going from Balham to the O2) so we drove, a trip of 11 miles that took 1.5 hours – an average speed of 7.33 miles per hour by my reckoning.

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Filed under Culture, Living in London, Media, Personal