12 June 2011

Good morning to you all. Yesterday was a glorious sunny day – I wonder what today will bring? The forecast is for heavy rain which probably means we can look forward to a splendid barbeque this evening.

The big news this weekend is the successful conclusion of a significant surgical procedure for one of our occasional readers. After struggling with debilitating pain in one of her hips for some weeks, Pen’s mum Beryl had a hip replacement done on Thursday which seems to have gone well. By Friday morning she was apparently back to her daily calisthenics regime consisting of jumping jacks, sit-ups, squats and lunges. She’ll be in for a few more days and then will come to us for a recuperation period as their cottage is riddled with steps and steep stairs everywhere one turns. Perfect for an elderly couple!

Eve Loiseau sings Edith PiafMs Playchute and I had a “spur of the moment” outing on Sunday evening. We spent a great evening at the Warwick University Arts Centre with neighbours Paul and Mary from across the road enjoying a performance of “Piaf: A Golden Tribute” performed by Eve Loiseau. Penelope has always been a great fan of Edith Piaf and I’d had an e-mail from the Arts Centre a few days before with their upcoming programme which included this show, so we booked a couple of tickets. Then, on Saturday we were across at Paul and Mary’s for a barbeque and mentioned it to them. They too enjoy Piaf’s music so they were able to secure tickets as well and Sunday evening saw us all trundling across the countryside to the University.

And a great show it was too. We were able to understand about one word in thirty-two (apart from the song “Mon Dieu” where the first line of the song is: “Mon Dieu, Mon Dieu, Mon Dieu!”) but the music is very evocative of the period and wonderfully well performed. Loiseau is French who grew up in a musical family and she has a terrific voice. She was accompanied by just an accordion and a viola player, with a very simple stage setting – table and chairs reminiscent of a French café – and during the performance there were photos and video clips of Piaf projected on to the back wall. This from the York Press:

Loiseau’s passion for Piaf developed at a young age, around the dining table in South East France. Coming from a family of singers, long summer meals were often rounded off with French chansons, and now her lustrous tone captures the essence of the Piaf performance in this tribute to the Little Sparrow.

As the 50th anniversary of Piaf’s death approaches, Piaf –The Songs will combine a lively narrative with such songs La Vie En Rose, Sous Le Ciel De Paris, Milord, Autumn Leaves, Padam Padam, C’est Merveilleux and Non Je Ne Regrette Rien.

Piaf has become synonymous with French cabaret of the 1940s and 1950s and remains France’s most popular singer. Her life was the stuff of legend, from her dramatic rise from Paris street urchin to star of international renown, but it was anything but “La Vie En rose”. Towards the end, ravaged by pain and injury, she turned to drugs to find comfort and solace, never able to believe that she was indeed loved by countless thousands of fans the world over.

 

I had to chuckle the other day when I ran across an article in the Guardian demonstrating the poor Coalition government’s inability to think their policies through. You will remember I wrote some time ago about the despair and dismay in government circles that greeted the rise in inflation early in the year from about 2% to 4.5%. The government seemed to have forgotten that they raised VAT (Value Added Tax or sales tax) by 2.5% in January and I think I commented at the time that it doesn’t really take a rocket scientist to work out that if you raise taxes on virtually everything then prices will tend to go up.

This time they seem to have miscalculated their whole higher education funding plans. You may remember that one of the steps they’ve taken to reduce the deficit is to significantly cut the funding for higher education institutions while, at the same time, raising tuition fees for students to partially offset the effect of the cuts. They set a maximum tuition fee of £9000 per year and somehow imagined that universities would set their fees at something between the existing £3000 and the maximum allowable of £9000. Since all the universities have had their funding cut, I guess it won’t come as any great surprise to learn that virtually every one is set to charge the maximum.

So, apart from the impact on families facing an unexpected three-fold increase in tuition fees, what’s the problem? Well, the government also finances the student loan scheme which provides students with an interest free loan to cover their university costs which is only repayable once the graduate starts to earn above a certain level. It’s projected by the Public Accounts Committee in Parliament that the balance of outstanding loans is expected to rise from the current £24 billion to £70 billion over the next three years. So much for reducing that pesky deficit! Now, they are talking about restricting the numbers of students and introducing a quota while at the same time having in place policies to improve access to higher education, especially from less-well off and disadvantaged sections of society.

You couldn’t make it up.

Flax fields at Edgecote
Flax fields at Edgecote

Finally, a photo of the flowers beginning to emerge on the flax fields at Edgecote (click for a larger version). We’ve been looking forward to seeing these fields in full bloom since we learned that the farmer was planting flax. If you’ve never seen it growing, it is the most amazingly gorgeous blue which, on a sunny summer’s day, is simply stunning. Hopefully, we will get some decent weather and hopefully we will be able to provide more photos in due course.

Love to you all,

Greg