Category Archives: Sports

Emerging from the August slumber

It’s clear that people are gearing up for the “rentrée” on Monday – my diary is filling up with meetings after several quiet weeks. And it’s also obvious that with the prospect of a general election looming, and EP elections next year, we’re going to have a lot of work on our hands over the next few months. Just this week, the acre story has reared its head again (am I allowed to say that there’s some irony to be found in Conservative MPs talking about the awfulness of the EU getting rid of the acre, when all the EU decision does is recognise the status quo in the UK, a measure brought in by the last Conservative government…?). We had the cakes. We know that we have pesticides and electronic tagging of sheep coming up. Who knows what else is waiting there for us?!

Off to Brussels this weekend, which will include watching the Challenge Cup Final with some friends. If you need a laugh, read Jon Wilkin’s analysis of the Saints team. The man is a comedy genius. Also getting my hair cut, finally, so will no longer look like the evil lovechild of Leo Sayer.

I tried out for a band last night, but I’m not very hopeful – I had made clear that I was looking to do this for fun, not as a career choice, but they do want to do a lot of gigs and festivals and things. Loved their music though, so I can only wish them the best of luck!

Silly season

There’s been a story doing the rounds a bit during “silly season” that’s actually pretty interesting. It all comes from a piece in the Sunday Times about how there is a dearth of quality English native speaker translators and interpreters in the European institutions. While there may be some nuance that was missed, the article has started a more general reflection on UK language skills. A recent report shows a dramatic decrease in numbers studying French and German. Having said that, there do still seem to be a lot of people taking languages as a module. That’s the route I took – one language at A-level, one improved during my year off and both taken as modules in another type of degree. But I do believe that having languages at my disposal greatly improved my employability. Certainly in terms of the jobs I got while I was at university – shops in touristy areas in London, marketing, English language schools: all using my languages. Never mind the fun you get meeting new people, going to new places and surprising people by being a Brit that can talk something other than English. Given the importance of multilingualism to the European Union, it’s an issue we take an interest in, even if we don’t have any direct involvement. And we provide support to those that promote language learning, with the UK doing pretty well there, as recent awards show.

Hasn’t it been great watching the Olympics! I was looking forward to the Velodrome since the Commonwealth Games, where we gave a real hint of what was to come. And boy they didn’t disappoint. Just amazing, and also displaying real form for the future, with lads like Ross Edgar and Jason Kenny. I just feel so bad for Cav and I hope his four stages of the Tour will compensate to some extent for missing out. And then the sailors, swimmers, rowers, runners, jumpers, riders and kayakers…so exciting. And hopefully there’s more to come! I love the chance to watch the sports that don’t usually make it to the screen, which is why I can’t really get excited about the football and tennis – they have their chance. The Olympics for me is about archery, weightlighting, fencing, modern pentathlon and all the other sports that people around the world are dedicating themselves to, not for money or fame, but because they love it and they get a buzz from being good at it.

Feeling calmer now

I didn’t post yesterday because I was having a ‘mare of a day dealing with various administrative things in Brussels and here and the entry would have been one long rant. And no-one wants that, do they! But I met a friend after work and went to Watch this Space and that went a long way to calming me down.

I was at the Spanish Embassy this morning for the awards to the schools in the UK that teach Spanish best. I went along because quite a few of the people involved in the Arsenal Double Club were there. That project is winning its own award next week, so we have been thinking about how to get word out about it. I tried some different angles – Observer Sports Monthly, Times Education – but I’m not hopeful. Shame, because I think it’s a great story on many levels. They were saying at the awards today that Spanish is rising in popularity as a foreign language, partly because of cultural things such as seeing big stars like Antonia Banderas, Penelope Cruz and J-Lo working and talking in both languages, and the growing role of Hispanic culture in the US. I think the number of Spanish sportpeople here is an issue too – is it a coincidence that 2 of the schools are from Liverpool, where both the red and blue teams have Spanish players? We have a report out from the Commission tomorrow about languages and business, and apparently it is a big issue here in the UK – the business community often complain about the UK’s lack of language skills. I know from personal experience that having those skills was a huge advantage for working while I was at college – I did telemarketing in German and worked as receptionist at a language school and got both of those jobs because I spoke foreign languages.

By the way the salt cellar story was definitely a Euro-myth – though not a total myth. Apparently Gateshead Council came up with the idea and Rochdale are trialing it during Salt Awareness Week. The article from the Daily Mail was pretty positive about the idea, as were the vox pops they talked to. I can’t imagine it would have been like that if the suggestion had come from the EU…would you like double standards with those chips, sir?

First the cucumbers, now the kiwis

[Sigh] One step forward, two steps back…

The redtops are full of a story today about a market trader who is being fined for his kiwis being 1mm smaller than the rules for grade 2 kiwis allow. Of course “Brussels bureaucrats” are getting the blame. Now, there are a number of things here:

1) We do not ensure implementation of the rules, the countries do. So the bureaucrat in this case is British, not Brussels

2) We are trying to get the rules changed so that even if there are standards for how things can be marketed, produce that falls below those standards can be sold.

3) The standards are set at UN, not EU level: http://www.unece.org/trade/agr/standard/fresh/fresh_e/46kiwifruit_2008.pdf

3) In this particular case the fruit were on average 4g below the minimum weight for a kiwi fruit to be sold for food. Now I’m no mathematician, but I reckon that’s more than 1mm smaller than regs – in fact the regs don’t have any size requirement in them at all.

I was thinking about this case in the shower this morning (rehearsing how I would make these points to anyone that calls us…) and it occurred to me that the humble kiwifruit is a result of one of the best ever marketing campaigns – remember when they weren’t called kiwi fruit, rather cape gooseberries? That was dreamt up by the New Zealand fruit marketing people, to encourage people to buy theirs. It’s all spun back on them though, because now they’re called kiwi fruit, wherever they are from!

Quite a busy day today, not helped by my being out of the office yesterday afternoon with the hayfever. Sounds stupid, but I was having such a bad attack I couldn’t do anything except blow my nose and feel sorry for myself! Today we’re trying to place an article on Zimbabwe, have another on patient rights that needs serious rewriting, I’ve got to get in touch with the Arsenal Double Club people as it looks we’ll be able to arrange a visit to Anderlecht with the kids, been talking to the National Theatre about how we can market the European aspect of the Watch This Space festival. And then I head off to Brussels this afternoon! Looking forward to seeing everyone there again.