Tag Archives: Balham

Knitting, talking and dancing

Something strange has happened to me since I arrived in London. I have started talking to people I don’t know. Not in a crazy-lady kind of way, but if there’s something to say. And you know, it’s really working well. Take last night. I was on the tube travelling back from an event in the centre of London (which, as an aside, had Brendan Cole at it, who came over as much less arrogant than he does on the telly, I have to say) and I decided to get the Bakerloo to Elephant and Castle so I’d be on the line down to Balham, rather than changing at Waterloo and then again at Kennington. DOH! Because we waited for aaaages at waterloo and then again at Lambeth North. The woman next to me seemed to be getting quite irate, so I asked her if the Bakerloo was always that slow. We talked about the tube system a bit and then she asked me if I had anything planned for the weekend. I told her that, at the risk of her laughing at me, I was going to the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. Turns out, she’s really keen to learn to knit and while she can’t make the Ally Pally think, she might come along to Stitch and Bitch. So you see, get talking: you might find yourself taking up a new hobby!

The event last night was an opportunity to learn a few new dance steps – we did a bit of Lindy and Mambo, and the really great thing was that i found out where all the swing dance classes are. So might try some of those, especially as one is in Balham!

We had Vice-President Verheugen in town today and I was there while he was talking to the Observer. Very interesting to hear his take on the impact of the current stock market turmoil on what everyone seems to be calling the “real economy”. Which must make banking and finance the “fake economy”… Will link to any article that comes out of the interview on Monday. He was supposed to do an interview with a German radio station but infuriatingly the ISDN line seemed not to be working again. We’ll need to get the technicians in, because it’s just embarassing when that happens.

Otherwise not a particularly busy day, just answering calls, providing people with links to information and doing the things you can do in slightly quieter times, like filing and clearing out your e-mail. Glad it’s Friday – I plan a very quiet weekend at home, apart from the above-mentioned trip to Norf London.

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Enjoy the silence

*weird, this got caught in the out tray. Still, here it is for the record*

Sorry for the long break – I was in France for a few days for my father’s 60th birthday, then Brussels sorting out moving all my belongings out of the house there and into the one here. The stuff arrives on Friday this week, so that will be a few days of graft getting it all out of boxes. Moving is a great time to clean up your life a bit and there were 35 bags of rubbish outside my house on Wednesday – most of them recycling bags I hasten to add. I’ve also got loads of stuff that I’m trying to give away to the Sally Army or something, if I can arrange for someone to pick it up. Got to go back one more time for the final tour through the house and transfer of utilities meters, but I’ll be staying with Abi (and my cats) then, as I was the few days I was back this week.

Abi stayed with me in Balham on Friday and we had a really nice night (watched Little Miss Sunshine, which is absolutely hilarious!). Saturday I met Hannah, someone I knew in Brussels, and some of her friends and we had a great day – late lunch at Tate Modern, drink at the Oxo Tower, then joined in a trance party on the river beach by the South Bank! We ended up in the ICA bar, which was great. Sunday I just watched Olympics for most of the day, which is no hardship with Team GB going so well. I’ve particularly been enjoying the velodrome, as always – how crazy are the events there??!! Just looking forward to seeing what else our lads and lasses can achieve!

So back in work, and as is usual in August, it’s all very quiet. Actually August is even quieter here than it is when you stay in Brussels, or maybe I’ve just always chosen bad summers to stay! Let’s see what happens…!

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It’s raining Euromyths

*sigh* a few days out of the office having a blast at the samba festival and I get back to find the office is euromyth central. For the general information of the world out there – we are not banning the acre, we are just not extending the use of a derogation that the UK government doesn’t make use of any more. The same legislation secures the status of the mile and the pint, so they’re not going anywhere either. Equally, we have nothing against Peking Duck, but some ovens used to make it have been found to be dangerous and so rightly removed from use – I don’t think anyone wants crispy skin so much they are willing for someone to get carbon monoxide poisoning. Let’s just recap: the EU is NOT banning the acre and the EU is NOT banning Peking Duck.

Another NOT in my life at the moment is I am NOT flying anywhere on EasyJet any time soon. We were left at Toulouse airport for more than 2 hours yesterday, so by the time we got through passport control and customs, it was too late for me to get a train back to Balham. Len and Bev very kindly let me stay at their house, but I’m really looking forward to getting back to Balham tonight and sleeping in my own bed!

The festival itself was ace though, indeed much more fun than I thought it was going to be. I thought it was going to be all samba dancing and women with big headresses and little bikinis, but actually it was predominantly percussion baterias and I can confirm that the rhythm IS going to get you… There was also some fantastic street art – from a troupe of musicians with bombards and drums singing in minority languages like provencal and languedocien, to a street magician, and Ens’batucada who were just outstanding – stuff for Watch This Space next year?. Plus I did stuff I love like going to French markets (3 in 5 days!) and I saw my house, which I’m so happy about. Just need to get some furniture into it now.

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What it’s all about

Today has been a little microcosm of what this job is going to be about.

We started out with two “bonkers Brussels” stories, neither of which were correctly reported. Firstly was the one about “Brussels” (I love the way they say that) has banned dogs from the kitchen of good old British B&Bs. The times story was written by the ironically named Simon de Bruxelles, if you can believe that – Geoff Meade says that’s his real name; I thought it had to be a pseudonym for one of the Brussels journalists! Anyway, as usual, this is a story of overzealous implementation in the UK – our rules make people working in the food industry responsible for ensuring their food is prepared in hygenic conditions. This may require keeping animals out of food preparation areas. But the rules have flexibility to take into account the presence of animals provided appropriate measures are taken to ensure there is no contamination. Which makes sense – none of us wants dog hair in our fry-up, I suspect! The other story was that the Commission is bringing in new rules that will close duty-free shops in regional airports. Basically the MEP (Con…) peddling this one was a few months out of date, because the Council working group is amending a Commission proposal that might have had this effect and we’re completely happy to go along with that. Which just shows that a) the member states have an important role in European processes and b) the Commission doesn’t have overarching unchecked power to decide about European citizens’ lives.

Then mid-morning, I found myself – joy of joys! – at the stage door of the National Theatre! We are sponsoring the longest street arts festival in the UK, organised by the NT, called Watch This Space. I actually went along to this a few years ago as a punter, so it’s exciting to think we’ll be directly involved. We met with the organisers and press people to talk about how we are going to do the launch. It’s a fabulous project, and a fantastic opportunity for serious visibility (in the most literal sense – you’ll be able to see the banner from the other side of the river I think!). Of course, all these Polish, Spanish, French and whatever acts would have much more difficulty coming here and taking part without EU rules on free movement and so on. And we hope it will be a showcase for UK acts to go to European countries. I’m just going to love the cultural diplomacy side of this job!

Saw a flat at lunchtime, in Clapham/Battersea. In old local authority buildings, so pretty unprepossessing from the outside, but quite nice inside, certainly less soulless that the Greenwich Millennium Village places I saw yesterday! Also off for another viewing of the houseboat today, so will see how that goes. No luck finding someone to share the Balham place yet and they had someone to see it yesterday who was very interested, so that might be an idea I have to give up, unfortunately. Such is life…

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Hunting for the perfect house

It’s all about the house-hunting today I’m afraid. Excited as I am about getting out there and describing to people what the EU does for them, I need somewhere to live and no-one is going to help me with that! So evenings this week are spent trailing around estate agents and visiting places. I was down in East Greenwich yesterday and back there again today. I’ve also hatched a plan with the people where I am lodging about renting their place, if I can find someone to share with.  So a few irons in the fire and I hope that before too long I’ll have something sorted out. I seem to be a difficult customer for two reasons – I’m looking for an unfurnished place and so much seems to be furnished and also I have the cats, and very few landlords want pets. I can understand not wanting them in a furnshed place, but I don’t see the issue in an unfurnished place – after all it’s my furniture they’ll be scratching. So the search goes on and my best hope is a cat-loving landlord (which is the bonus of the houseboat).

There are some great EU stories around today. As someone trying to bring pets into this country, I’m becoming very familiar with the pet passport scheme, which is now being extended to horses. There have been rules in place before (there need to be for all those Irish racehorses to come over here and win all the major races!) but now they will be based on a microchip, like for cats, dogs and ferrets, rather than a hand-drawn outline. There’s also a food safety aspect to this, less in the UK because we don’t eat each much horsemeat, but they do in lots of other countries. I’ve never had horsemeat, and I suppose I should try it one day, just not to make a snap judgement, though I can’t say it appeals.

Another story I liked was that Love Hearts, refreshers and Double Lollies, among other things, will soon be free of e-numbers as Swizzlers Matlow are going to stop using additives that are not EU-approved. As a bit of a fizzy sweet addict, I think that’s a move in the right direction. There’s no reason that sweets shouldn’t be as natural as possible – frankly, they taste better when they are and it does mitigate the guilt a little!!

I’m off to a meeting this afternoon for the national end of the “For Diversity. Against Discrimination” campaign. There’s A nice circularity about that meeting – my first press conference as a spokesperson was the launch of this campaign in 2003, when Commissioner Diamantopoulou was photographed with the crash test dummies used in the launch ads. The thing that this campaign has got right is the emphasis on national differentiation. So often (generally because of resources) we organise a campaign centrally, usually focused on Brussels, and that just isn’t the way to get to people. Media and advertising are so different from one Member State to another. In one, humour might work well, where as that might put people off in another. Something we always have to keep in mind.

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