18 February, 2016

Theatre, lunch and a dedication ceremony

We had a busy and fun-filled weekend last week.

On Saturday afternoon, we went to see Hetty Feather at the Oxford Playhouse. It was our youngest daughter who was so keen to see this, being a firm Jacqueline Wilson fan, and we weren’t altogether sure what to expect. However, we all enjoyed the show. It was very imaginatively produced and rather acrobatic, with actors making full use of ladders, aerial ribbons, and an aerial hoop, which is always impressive to watch. The only downside was the amount of whispering and sweet wrapper rattling during the show. Inevitable, I suppose, in a theatre full of kids.

On Sunday, we were invited to a dedication celebration for a friend’s baby. This began with the dedication ceremony, which was part of the regular Sunday morning service at Trinity Church in Abingdon. Trinity is a Methodist/United Reformed church and one thing I didn’t realise was that the hymns sung by Methodists are different (or at least were different at this service) from those sung in a traditional C of E church. I enjoy hymn singing, so was rather disappointed that I didn’t recognise any of the hymns! Never mind.

The service was followed by a lovely three-course lunch in the Barn – the function room at Abingdon’s Crown and Thistle Hotel. This was very enjoyable. The Barn was beautifully and sympathetically restored, with lots of lovely old timber and fairy lights wound around all the wooden struts – very pretty! The food was excellent too. I had pumpkin soup, salmon, and a kind of Eton Mess with cherries, all of which were delicious. Highly recommended!

15 February, 2016

University pay discrepancy

There was an interesting article in the news last week about pay rates within the university sector.

We learnt that vice-chancellors at UK universities received average salary packages of £272,000 last year, marking an increase of £12,000 on the previous year. We also learnt that thousands of pounds more were spent on hotel accommodation and flights for vice-chancellors, with 50 per cent of flights being either first or business class.

The justification? 'The salaries of university leaders in the UK are ... comparable to similarly sized public and private organisations,' according to Universities UK.

Fair enough, you might think. But hang on a minute. What about those working at lower levels in UK universities? They certainly do not receive salaries comparable to people working in similar roles in the private sector. When entering the university sector, you do so in full knowledge of the fact that your salary will be lower than those working in similar roles in other sectors. It's just part of the deal. And there is absolutely no question that you will travel anything other than economy class, wherever you go -- assuming that your department has the budget for you to travel anywhere at all, that is.

A spokesperson for the University of Oxford said: '[the University's] research output is vast, it has more than £1bn a year in turnover, not including the colleges and Oxford University Press, and it has great institutional complexity. The vice-chancellor's salary reflects that.'

All of this is true, but it is no justification for the VC earning so much more than the University's other employees. After all, all of these people need to navigate the institution's complexity in order to do their jobs. And, let's face it, it's not the VC who brings in the research income or balances the University's books -- it's all those hard-working academics and administrators who are committed to their jobs, despite their pay being (often much) less than those working at a similar level in other sectors.

08 February, 2016

Clothes shopping and changing fashions

I am a creature of habit when it comes to clothes shopping. Once I've found a shop or product that I like, I stick with it. I don't enjoy searching for clothes, so this is a good solution for me.

However, what this means is that, when things change, I find myself rather at sea. Years ago, I used to buy work clothes from Laura Ashley, but then our local branch closed, and I had to find something else. I liked the Per Una label at M&S while it lasted, but after a few years it all but disappeared. My local branch of Monsoon closed recently, giving me yet fewer options for clothes shopping.

And now the same thing has happened with underwear. The only bras that you seem able to buy these days are like armour -- underwired, padded, moulded, you name it... Whatever happened to nice, soft, comfortable underwear? Surely I'm not the only person who thinks like this?!