Friday, 11 July 2014

Druid Britain and the new Erasmus Stats

On a day that saw the Daily Express un-ironically ask its readers to text whether ALL migration to the UK should be stopped, new statistics about the uptake of the EU Erasmus programme, providing grants to young people to study in other EU countries, seem designed to add fuel to the sacred flame of Europhobia.

“Scrounging foreign students clog up OUR unis at YOUR expense”; “Brits shun continent but lazy foreign students are coming over HERE” – these are just two of an infinite variety of paint-by number headlines I can immediately predict.

To a paper which seems to consider the Druids the last legitimate inhabitants of these isles (before those unwashed Romans came over here, stealing our women and carpeting our beautiful countryside with unsightly aqueducts) and would no doubt swap the drawbridge for the Channel Tunnel any day, the Erasmus programme is just one more COSTLY and IRRITATING EU concoction.

According to the European Commission 14. 500 British students took the chance to study elsewhere in Europe thanks to Erasmus in 2012/13, a 7 per cent rise from the previous year.

Britain has the sixth highest number of successful applicants across the 28 member, no mean feat is one considers how poor the language skills of its young people are compared to some of their continental neighbours.

The stats also reveal Britain to be the fourth most attractive Erasmus destination for EU students. This is perhaps unsurprising, given that 7 out of the top 10 EU universities are British and English has in effect become the unofficial language of the EU, spoken by most youngsters across the continent.

All the same, this is fantastic news, as the grants disbursed centrally by the EU find their way back into the coffers of UK universities and happy foreign students go on to provide free marketing for them around the EU.

The new, improved version of the Erasmus programme, recently agreed for the next 7 years will extend grants to high school students, volunteers and apprentices.  The European Commission estimates 162.000 young Brits will take advantage of it over that period.

By contributing to Erasmus though its share of the EU budget Britain gets in return more money for its universities, grants for foreign travel for its students, as well as the priceless diplomatic and cultural gains to be had through such exchanges.

It is, after all, through travel, cultural links and the communication of engineering and scientific discoveries that we progressed from the crude monoliths of Stonehenge to the engineering marvel that is the Channel Tunnel.

Only ‘travel’ and ‘cultural links’ often came in the guise of war or at the  price of actual invasions, not via Treaties and debates in the European Parliament.

But these arguments would no doubt be lost on the elderly readers of the Daily Express, busy as I imagine them to be today instructing their Eastern European carers to text their newspaper that ALL immigration should be stopped.  

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Keep the f@*#king thing switched ON! Or: what technical incompetence will I annoy my nephew with?

In the wake of a parental visit last week-end very nearly marred by the reluctant and distressingly uneven use of an ancient and very EASY TO OPERATE mobile phone, I couldn't help but wonder: which totally banal yet 'indispensable as oxygen' technology will my inability to get my head around result in my nephew shouting (inside) in exasperation thirty years from now? Here are a few scenarios...

1 Replaceable organs.

Me - Where is it, I know I have it somewhere..
Mouse -Antie Paola...?
Me - Yes, in a second.
Mouse- Auntie Paola, what are you looking for now?
Me- Mutters to self - I had it right here! Then aloud: Nothing! Just a minute...
Mouse - It's your liver, isn't it?
Me- My what? I'm insulted, insulted I say, that you could think a thing like that, besides..
Mouse -You've been at the gin again, haven't you, and you've forgotten to change your liver..
Me -I might, I meant to..very short measure...well it's none of your business anyhow but if you must know..
Mouse - Show me the control panel Auntie.
Me - Get off me, you know nothing, nothing! I used to change your nappies young man..
Mouse -You never changed a single one of my nappies, Auntie, mum still goes on about that..
Me- I used to feed you and burp you, and I will never accept, never, this tone of voice when.. Ohhhh
Mouse - Here we go (control panel clicks open). Weeeeelll, what do you know..
Me- Anxiously clutching a G&T -What is it? What is it, Mouse? Is it serious??
Mouse - We have been through this Auntie. DO NOT CALL ME MOUSE. I manage a WHOLE MOON OFF EUROPA. I shuttle to Mars weekly. Drop the pet name for god's sake.
ME - All right, all right!!! Young people are so touchy these days!
MOUSE- I am 43. But back to your ORGANigram: it would appear someone has installed two gallbladders..
ME - Ohhh, have they?
MOUSE -Yeeeees, they have forgotten the liver altogether and just plonked a second gallbladder in. Silly or what?
ME - Well, yes, that was silly, silly and dangerous! Someone should have a word with..someone and sort this out, it's an outrage (loud clonk) Ohh!
MOUSE -There you are: Livers, 1 Gallbladders, 1, Brains...
ME -Wait, wait, I had one here, I had it a minute ago, I swear. (Ominous swish-shplatt noise) Oh boy. These things sure are slippery, aren't they?

Next week: Teleportation.

Stay tuned.

And keep the f*@#ing thing switched ON!

Please help me combat the eight sign of ageing

My friends all know that the full length mirror simply loves my silhouette. 

I've long ago defeated any notion of cellulite with all the appropriate gels and spa treatments.  

As I was born bikini-ready and cleansing detoxes are already my idea of fun I feel vaguely left out from the ladies' mags' seasonal body-bashing and self-loading calls to action. 

In vain I scour my luminous visage for those pesky seven signs of ageing: perfection is a curse, I'm telling you!

But perhaps there is an area in my life (not of my body, god forbid) where I do show my years- an eight sign of ageing if you like, one that even the most expensive tub of lotion, made of gold dust and babies' souls, simply cannot reach.

And perhaps dear friends, some of the musical (if ugly) ones among you can come to the rescue.

I have stopped caring about, knowing about, buying and listening to new music. There, I said it. 

My musical taste was never considered exquisite by those (fat, dumpy, envious) in the know but I least I could name-check REM, say, when they came on the radio. 

Then, sometimes between the End of History and the start of Coldplay an iron curtain of mutual indifference descended between me and popular music as an art form (or even as background to the washing up).

What I would like to do is update my musical wardrobe with the equivalent of a styling service. 

Since all music shops have disappeared in the meantime and I would not know where to start online (and I don't dare lose the correct Radio 4 slot on the dial so listening to new stuff on the radio is not an option) I thought if I told my friends what I already like and feel comfortable in they might help me pick the newest models, so to speak.

So here we go, and please don't judge me (people with bat wings should not throw stones):

I like Bobby McFerrin, Cat power, Dire Straits, They Might Be Giants, 1000 Maniacs, Natalie Merchant, The Police, Sting, KT Turnstall, Mattafix, Massive Attack, Nick Drake, Oasis, Suzanne Vega, Tracy Chapman, Tanita Tikaram. I love reasonable jazz, you know, Miles Davies and stuff, plus stuff you can sing along to, Nina, Ella and all that.

I think the most recent CDs I downloaded were by Amy Whitehouse, Adele, Elbow, Mumford and Sons, Band of Horses, Jamie Cullum.

For Italian friends: I'm a singer-songwriter nut, on the DeGregori-Fossati-Conte wavelength with lashings of De Andre'. My most recent heroes are Lucio Quarantotto, Filippo Gatti, Samuele bersani, Cristina Dona'.

So there you have it, my disgracefully middle-of-the-road-in-my-slippers-carrying-antibacterial-spray list of faves. 

If you want to help, these are the rules:

1) I have no desire to have my horizons expanded.
2) mind blown - same as above.
3) If I haven't discovered a musical genre -or cared for it- in the past 45 years I think I can safely live without.
4) I basically want to listen to the same shit but newer, more up to date versions of it.

Can you help me? Can you suggest new shit for this ever young goddess to listen to?

Please leave your comments here or on my Facebook page. 

5) No classical music, obviously. I said NEW shit.