August 12, 2020

Archives for February 2020

Essex Library Hosts Jeff Croyle to Introduce Essex Land Trust, Today

A free, illustrated talk on the Essex Land Trust properties will be presented by Jeff Croyle at 4 p.m., Feb. 29, at the Essex Library. Croyle will focus on the Essex Land Trust’s mission and accomplishments and highlighting its properties.

ESSEX — Essex Land Trust Board member and Steward of Windswept Ridge, Jeff Croyle, will present an illustrated introduction to the Essex Land Trust, its mission and accomplishments, highlighting its properties with a focus on its larger preserves on Saturday, Feb. 29 at 4 p.m. at the Essex Library. Jeff Croyle is Chair of the Essex Land Trust Nominating Committee.

This talk is free and open to the public. For more information or to register, call the library at 860-767-1560.

The Essex Library is located at 33 West Ave. in Essex.

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St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church Hosts Free Pancake Dinner Tonight, Shrove Tuesday

EAST HADDAM – On Tuesday, Feb. 25, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church will hold a free pancake dinner to mark Shrove Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. The event is open to the public and is free to attend; however, St. Stephen’s will be collecting freewill donations for Middlesex Habitat for Humanity of Connecticut.

“Pancakes on Shrove Tuesday is a centuries-old tradition in the U.K., where the Episcopal Church has its roots, and we’re happy to continue it here in East Haddam,” said the Rev. Adam Yates, rector of St. Stephen’s. Shrove Tuesday falls immediately before Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, and in French it is called Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday.”

“We don’t get as wild with our pancakes as they do with the Mardi Gras celebration,” continued Yates, “but delicious food, fellowship, and raising money for a great organization is a terrific way to begin the Lenten season – and comes without the hangover!”

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Essex Winter Series Presents LINÜ Guitar Duo, March 8

LINÜ Guitar Duo comprises Jiji (left in photo above) and Gulli Bjornsson.

DEEP RIVER/ESSEX Essex Winter Series (EWS) presents its Fenton Brown Emerging Artists Concert, featuring LINÜ, a vibrant and talented guitar duo comprised of Gulli Bjornsson and Jiji, on Sunday, March 8 at 3 p.m. at John Winthrop Middle School, Deep River. 

Gulli Bjornsson and Jiji are two aspiring young artists searching for new ways to promote classical music. Both virtuosic and versatile, they have received multiple accolades for their guitar playing and have backgrounds in composition, film, electronic music, visual arts and theater.

Their diverse backgrounds, classical training and contemporary influences all come to fruition as Bjornsson and Jiji present unique programs of classical music, improvisations, arrangements and new compositions on classical and electric guitars. In recital, they have performed in a wide array of venues, including: Le Poisson Rouge, National Sawdust, Dominican Guest Concert Series, Morse Recital Hall, Mengi, Hannesarholt, Yale British Art Gallery, East Meadow Public Library and Yale Cabaret.

Bjornsson and Jiji met at Yale School of Music in 2015 and have been performing together and creating music ever since. Their primary teacher was Benjamin Verdery.

The EWS season will continue on March 29 at Valley Regional High School with BeethovenFest, a celebration of Beethoven’s 250th with seven world-renowned artists: David Shiffrin, clarinet; William Purvis, horn; Marc Goldberg, bassoon; Ida Kavafian, violin; Steven Tenenbom, viola; Peter Wiley, cello; and Timothy Cobb, double bass.

All concerts begin at 3 p.m. and are general admission. For tickets call 860-272-4572 or visit www.essexwinterseries.com.

The 2020 season is generously sponsored by Masonicare at Chester Village with co-sponsors The Clark Group, Essex Meadows, Essex Savings Bank, Jeffrey N. Mehler CFP LLC, Tower Laboratories, and hospitality sponsors Guilford Savings Bank and BrandTech Scientific.

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Get Your Spring On! Free Yoga Workshop Offered by Essex Library Reawakens Joy, Vitality, Balance; March 14

ESSEX– Spring can stimulate the urge to start something new or to observe the ordinary with fresh eyes. Through asana (physical poses), pranayama (mindful breathing) and meditation, yoga teaches us how to still our bodies and minds and focus on present moment experience.

Ellen McNally

On Saturday, March 14, from 2 to 4 p.m.  Ellen McNally RYT500 will present a workshop that will include a brief talk about how yoga practice differs from other types of physical exercise; a series of gentle yoga poses and stretches; a simple meditation on the breath; and yoga nidra, a deep relaxation technique that will leave you relaxed and revitalized.

No previous yoga experience is required. 

Bring a yoga mat (one-quarter inch thickness preferred), a small blanket to support your knees, a cushion to sit on and a bottle of water.  Chairs are available for anyone who prefers a chair practice (indicate this preference when you register.) The class is limited to 15 people.

This workshop is free and open to the public. Registration is required. To register, or for more information, call the Essex Library at 860-767-1560.

The Essex Library is located at 33 West Ave. in Essex.

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State Rep. Carney, OS First Selectman Fortuna Host Morning Coffee Hour, Tomorrow; All Welcome

State Representative Devin Carney (R-23rd)

Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl P. Fortuna, Jr.

OLD SAYBROOK – State Representative Devin Carney (R-23) will host a Mornng Coffee Hour with Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl P. Fortuna, Jr. in the Parthenon Diner, Thursday, Feb. 20, from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. All are welcome.

The diner is located at 809 Boston Post Rd., Old Saybrook.

This event is designed to provide residents with a forum to hear about issues most likely to be taken up during this legislative session, ask questions about state and local government, or other issues affecting their communities.

If you are unable to make the event but would like to contact State Rep. Carney, email him at Devin.Carney@housegop.ct.gov, or call him at 800-842-1423.

If you would like to follow State Rep. Carney’s legislative activity, sign up to receive his newsletter at www.RepCarney.com.

If you are unable to make the event but would like to contact First Selectman Fortuna, visit OldSaybrookCT.gov or call him at 800-395-3123.

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Eversource Conducts Statewide Infrared Helicopter Inspections Through Feb. 28


TRI-TOWN & OLD SAYBROOK — Rights of way in Chester, Dep River, Essex and Old Saybrook are included on the list over which Eversource is currently conducting aerial inspections of high-voltage electrical equipment. This semiannual inspection, which takes place at locations throughout Connecticut, is an important part of the company’s ongoing commitment to providing reliable electric service.

The work involves the use of a helicopter (pictured above) equipped with heat-sensing, infrared scanning technology, which can detect potential equipment issues before they occur.

Inspecting images taken from the Eversource helicopter and looking for potential equipment issues.

The aerial inspections continue through Feb. 28. Weather permitting, flights will take place between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

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Essex Winter Series Continues with Concert by Classical Guitar Duo, LINÜ, March 8

ESSEX – The Essex Winter Series (EWS) continues its 2020 season Sunday, March 8, with the classical guitar duo, LINÜ, performing at John Winthrop Middle School, Deep River. The virtuosic and versatile Gulli Bjornsson and JIJI are aspiring young artists searching for new ways to promote classical music. They have received many accolades for their guitar playing and have backgrounds in composition, film, electronic music, visual arts and theater.

Essex Winter Series’ 43rd season concludes on March 29 at Valley Regional High School with BeethovenFest, a celebration of Beethoven’s 250th with seven world-renowned artists: David Shiffrin, clarinet; William Purvis, horn; Marc Goldberg, bassoon; Ida Kavafian, violin; Steven Tenenbom, viola; Peter Wiley, cello; and Timothy Cobb, double bass.

All concerts begin at 3 p.m. and are general admission. For tickets call 860-272-4572 or visit www.essexwinterseries.com.

The 2020 season is generously sponsored by Masonicare at Chester Village with co-sponsors The Clark Group, Essex Meadows, Essex Savings Bank, Jeffrey N. Mehler CFP LLC, Tower Laboratories, and hospitality sponsors Guilford Savings Bank and BrandTech Scientific.

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A View From My Porch: Remembering Connecticut Icon William Gillette

Gillette Castle, former home of the iconic movie star and playwright, Connecticut-born William Gillette, who died in 1937.

Editor’s Note: Feb. 12 is the 90th anniversary of William Gillette’s final performance as Sherlock Holmes, given Feb. 12, 1930 at the popular Parsons Theatre in downtown Hartford.

I am going a few miles upstream in this essay towards East Haddam and its medieval gothic castle to consider William Gillette’s impact on how Sherlock Holmes has been portrayed in movies and television. My goal in these essays is to cover the subject thoroughly enough to either satisfy your curiosity, or to pique your interest to pursue some additional research.

Assuming the editor’s forbearance, I will also review, in a subsequent essay, several of the actors who played Holmes or Watson to judge how true they were to either Gillette’s or Arthur Conan Doyle’s artistic vision.

Gillette was born to a progressive political family in Hartford’s Nook Farm neighborhood where authors Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, and Charles Dudley Warner each once resided. His mother was a Hooker, that is a direct descendant of Connecticut Colony co-founder Thomas Hooker. Gillette is most recognized for his on-stage interpretation of Sherlock Holmes. He may have been America’s first matinée idol or to put it another way, the era’s rock star.

The Sherlockian Literature

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. See below for photo credit.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote 56 short stories and four novels between the 1880s and the early 20th century that comprise the “canon” of Sherlock Holmes. The stories were first published in Strand Magazine and two of the novels were serialized in that same periodical. 

Holmes defined himself as the world’s first and only “consulting detective.” He shared rooms at 221B Baker Street in London with Dr. John H. Watson, who was a former army surgeon wounded in the Second Afghan War. 

Holmes referred to Watson as his “Boswell” because he chronicled his life and the investigations that they jointly pursued as did 18th century biographer, James Boswell, of Dr. Samuel Johnson.  Watson was described as a typical Victorian-era gentleman and also served as first-person narrator for nearly all of the stories.

Holmes was known for his incredible skills of observation and deduction, and forensic science and logic, all of which he used when investigating cases for his myriad clients, which often included Scotland Yard. He played the violin well and was an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman. He summarized his investigative skills for Watson this way, “Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth,” and, “It is my business to know what other people don’t know.”

However, Holmes had shortcomings. He was a very heavy smoker of black shag pipe tobacco, which he kept in the toe of a Persian slipper on the fireplace mantel at 221B. He also smoked cigars and cigarettes. A very difficult problem was called a “three pipe problem.” 

He used cocaine and morphine to provide “stimulation for his overactive brain” during periods when he did not have an interesting case or as an escape from “the dull routine of existence.” This was not really unusual in that period because the sale of opium, laudanum, cocaine, and morphine was legal and often used to self-medicate or for recreation. This habit was worrisome for Dr. Watson, although he once said of Holmes, “He was the best and wisest man whom I have ever known.”

The Holmes stories were immensely popular and Doyle’s last publication in Strand, “The Final Problem,” elicited such public (and Royal Family) outrage, that there were mass subscriber cancellations bringing the magazine to the brink of failure.

William Gillette. See below for photo credit.

Doyle decided to write a stage play about Holmes, set earlier in the detective’s career. He was probably compelled to do so because there already were several Sherlock Holmes on-stage productions, which provided him no income, and were of such poor quality that he felt the need to both protect his character’s legacy and improve his own income stream. 

He drafted the play and shared it with his literary agent, who sent it on to Broadway producer and impresario, Charles Frohman. Frohman reviewed it and said it needed substantial work before anyone would consider production. He suggested that William Gillette be offered the rewriting task. 

At that time, Gillette was already well-known as a talented actor and a successful and prolific playwright. His approach was a significant change from the melodramatic standards in the American theater of the time. He stressed realism in sets, lighting, and sound effects. Holmes Scholar Susan Dahlinger described Gillette’s acting style this way, “He could be thrilling without bombast, or infinitely touching without descending to sentimentality.” 

So, Doyle agreed with Frohman, and Gillette began the project by reading the entire “canon” of Holmes stories and novels. He began drafting the new manuscript while touring in California with the stage production of “Secret Service,” which he had also written.  He exchanged frequent telegrams with Doyle during the process and, with Doyle’s blessing, borrowed some plots and detail from the canon in adapting Doyle’s original manuscript into a four-act play. 

Unfortunately, neither Gillette’s first draft nor Doyle’s original script ever reached stage production. A fire broke out at Gillette’s San Francisco hotel and both manuscripts were lost. So, Gillette began a complete redraft of his lost script, and Doyle was finally able to present a play before the century’s end that he deemed worthy of Sherlock Holmes.

It is worth noting that Frohman perished on the Lusitania in May, 1915, after it had been torpedoed by a German submarine.

In 1899, Gillette was “predictably” cast for the lead role in “Sherlock Holmes A Drama in Four Acts.” Initially presented in previews at the Star Theatre in Buffalo, NY, it opened that November at the Garrick Theatre in New York City, and ran there for more than 260 performances before beginning a tour of the United States and then on to a long run in London, where it received great critical and public acclaim.

He starred in that role for more than 30 years, and about 1,500 productions in the United States and Great Britain. He also starred in the 1916 silent film, “Sherlock Holmes,” which film-historians have called, “the most elaborate of the early movies.”

Playing a role for so many years was not unusual at that time in American Theater. For example, James O’Neill, father of playwright Eugene, played Edmond Dantès, The Count of Monte Cristo, more than 6000 times between 1875 and 1920.

Some Key Elements of Gillette’s Sherlock

Although William Gillette is really no longer a “household name” — except perhaps,here in Southeastern Connecticut, where much of how we imagine Holmes today is still due to his stage portrayal of the great consulting detective. 

Gillette actually bore some resemblance to the Holmes described by Dr. Watson in “A Study in Scarlet.” Watson notes, “His [Holmes’s] very person and appearance were such as to strike the attention of the most casual observer. In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and piercing, and his thin, hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air of alertness and decision. His chin, too, had the prominence and squareness which mark the man of determination.” 

Gillette’s Holmes appeared in deerstalker cap and Inverness cape. He smoked a curve-stemmed briar pipe, and carried a magnifying glass.  He crafted a phrase that eventually evolved into one of the most recognized lines in popular culture: “Elementary, my dear Watson.” Gillette’s direct style was said to lend a bit of arrogance to Holmes beyond that which Doyle had depicted —  that arrogance has become a hallmark of Holmes’ portrayal in contemporary movies and television.

And finally, Gillette introduced the page, “Billie,” who had actually been played by a certain 13-year-old Charles Spencer Chaplin during the London engagement. At the end of the run, Chaplin began his career as a Vaudeville comedian, which ultimately took him to the United States and movie stardom as the incomparable Charlie Chaplin. 

Some Final Thoughts

I first learned of William Gillette a few summers ago when I visited his remarkable home, “Gillette Castle” built high above the eastern bank of the Connecticut River. I left that visit impressed with Gillette’s creativity in his design of the doors, light switches, and some of the furniture; wondering about his secret multi-mirror “spying” system, and with the assumption that he was just an eccentric artist who liked trains. 

However, I enjoy the Sherlock Holmes literature; and began reading the “canon” at age twelve. I have certainly re-read many of the stories a few more times. Over the past several years, I began to read several authors who write Sherlock Holmes short stories and novels “in the style of Arthur Conan Doyle.” Some of these “pastiches,” as they are called, are quite accurate in style and continuity of Doyle’s themes. 

In researching this essay, I was surprised with the breadth of scholarly work that is currently available regarding Sherlock and Gillette. There are several national and international literary organizations that have also developed around Doyle’s work.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth offers a “Study of Sherlock” course, wherein students engage in critical reading, thinking, and writing by studying the iconic detective.

Our local expert on Holmes is Danna Mancini of Niantic. He has lectured and conducted seminars on The World of “Sherlock Holmes.” He is active in at least two Holmes literary organizations: The Baker Street Irregulars (NYC) and the Speckled Band of Boston.

Of some note, the Special Operations Executive (SOE) tasked by Winston Churchill to “set Europe ablaze” during World War II, had its headquarters at 64 Baker Street and was often called, “The Baker Street Irregulars.”

So, the ‘consulting detective’ continues to inspire novels, movies, and television.

As noted above, I will review several of the actors who played Holmes or Watson in these media in my next essay, and judge how true they were to either Gillette’s or Arthur Conan Doyle’s artistic vision.

Photo credit for the photo of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is as follows: By Arnold Genthe – PD image from http://www.sru.edu/depts/cisba/compsci/dailey/217students/sgm8660/Final/They got it from: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/photodraw/portraits/,where the source was given as: Current History of the War v.I (December 1914 – March 1915). New York: New York Times Company., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=240887

Photo credit for the photo of William Gillette is as follows: Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. William Gillette Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47de-e15c-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Tom Gotowka

About the author: Tom Gotowka’s entire adult career has been in healthcare. He’ will sit on the Navy side at the Army/Navy football game. He always sit on the crimson side at any Harvard/Yale contest. He enjoys reading historic speeches and considers himself a scholar of the period from FDR through JFK.

A child of AM Radio, he probably knows the lyrics of every rock and roll or folk song published since 1960. He hopes these experiences give readers a sense of what he believes “qualify” him to write this column.

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K-3 Students Can Enjoy ‘Book Bites’ at Deep River Public Library, Feb. 20

DEEP RIVER — The Deep River Library will hold a special after-school program for book lovers in grades K-3 on Feb. 20 at 3:45 p.m. The classic story, Stone Soup, will be read and then attendees can try a sample of the soup made famous by this traditional French folk tale.

Registration is required for this program. Visit the library’s website calendar or Facebook Events page for the link to sign up.

For more information, visit http://deepriverlibrary.accountsupport.com and click on our monthly calendar, or call the library at 860-526-6039 during service hours: Monday 1 – 8pm; Tuesday 10 am – 6 pm; Wednesday 1 – 8 pm; Thursday and Friday 10 am – 6 pm; and Saturday 10 am – 2 pm.

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Letter From Paris: France is Embroiled in Pension Reform Crisis, But Seems to be Doing Fine … or is it?

Nicole Prévost Logan

Reform of the retirement system was at the core of French President Emmanuel Macron’s 2016 campaign. He wanted to simplify the system and make it universal. The reform is so highly sensitive – one might even say explosive – that several prime ministers have fallen in similar attempts (1986, 1995, 2008.) Although close to 60 percent of public opinion is favorable to the reforms, the opposition is orchestrated into an angry movement by the unions and the Left.  

In a nutshell, the objective of the reform is two-fold: first, to prevent the system from being in the red in the 2020s and second to achieve social justice. This latter aim is being sought by suppressing the 42 régimes spéciaux (special systems), which grant privileges to certain groups of the population, such as civil servants, train workers (SNCF) bus and subway employees (RATP), personnel of the Paris Opera, members of the two legislative assemblies, etc. Some of these benefits include calculating the amount of retirement after the last six months of employment rather than the last 25 years.  And not surprisingly, these régimes spéciaux cost the French government billions every year.

The pension system in France is based on “repartition,” meaning that the active population pays for the retired one.  The problem is that in 1950, there were four working people for each retiree. Demography will soon reduce the ratio to 1 to 1.  In the US, the retirement system is based on “capitalization,” that is, individuals are free to invest their accumulated capital in a pension fund or other types of investment as they wish.  The Scandinavian countries use both systems – “capitalization” and “repartition”- simultaneously. 

For an American reader, it must be hard to comprehend the over-regulated retirement system in France, which applies not only to the 5.6 million civil servants  but also to the private sector.  A special dispensation is even required for retirees to be allowed to work.

The Macron plan is based on a points system.  Throughout one’s professional life, each hour’s work is translated into “points.” Variables – such as the political or economic environment – may impact the points’ value.  Employers and unions will determine together the value of each point.  Hence the anxiety of the people regarding this unfamiliar system.

France has the most generous retirement pension in Europe but it’s costing the country dearly. Photo by Hans Ripa on Unsplash.

France is the ‘Etat-providence’ (Welfare State) par excellence and the most generous in Europe.  The retirement age is 62 in France as compared to 65 in the UK.  It can be as low as 52 as in the case of train conductors.  More than 13 percent of the Gross Domestic Product is devoted to funding pensions.

The French government announced its plan to reform pensions on Dec. 5, 2019.  The reaction was immediate:- a general strike of all public transport. That meant no subway in Paris, except for two lines (which are automated), no buses, and very few trains.  That ordeal lasted for weeks without even a respite during the Christmas and New Year vacations.  Life for working people, who had to commute from the suburbs, became a pure nightmare.  Videos showed stampede scenes at stations.

On Jan. 28, 2020  the Gare de Lyon was packed as usual with passengers waiting for TGVs and suburban trains.  Suddenly a deafening sound resonated under the glass and steel structure.  Several explosions followed and pink smoke filled the station.  It turned out that dozens of the men getting off the train, wearing black parkas with yellow stripes, were firefighters on their way to join a demonstration at the Bastille. They were just getting warmed up, using their talents with pyrotechnics to blast powerful fire-crackers. 

After 50 days, the strikes had partially stopped.  The street demonstrations continued and have become a way of life in the city.  The left-wing unions and radical groups keep the momentum going and direct their actions to strategic areas such as blocking the main ports or shutting down oil refineries .

Tens of thousands people in black robes marched near the Bastille on Feb. 3.  They were some of France’s 70,000 lawyers, who have been on strike for five weeks – an absolute first.  The atmosphere was peaceful.  Not a single policeman in sight, no police vans nor water guns. 

I went down to take pictures.  ‘Why are you on strike?’  I asked a young lawyer. ‘We have our own retirement system,’ she answered, ‘which is autonomous and, furthermore, has a surplus.  Now the government has announced that the contributions toward the pension fund will double from 14 to 28 percent.’ Actually, what she said is not entirely accurate — the increase will be gradual: it will not start until the late 2020s and will not apply to all equally. 

French President Emmanuel Macron.

The launching of this crucial pension reform is like stepping into an anthill.  Wherever the government goes, it cuts into well-entrenched benefits, provoking an outpouring of protests.  Every time the government helps one group financially, this assistance has to be paid for by depriving another group.  This in turn feeds the popular mistrust for the government . 

After consultation with all the unions at the Hotel Matignon (seat of the Executive Power), an agreement was reached with the CFDT (Confederation Française Democratique du Travail), the most reformist of the unions.  For Laurent Berger, the CFDT leader,  the “age pivot” (retirement age) of 64 was a “red line” not to be crossed.  The Prime Minister agreed to pull back from it and replace it with a “cocktail of measures” to generate 12 billion Euros in order to balance the pension system. 

A parliamentary commission  of 80 deputies from all parties from the RN (Rassemblement National of Marine LePen) to LFI (La France Insoumise of Jean-Luc Melanchon) was appointed.  The government’s proposal was met with a ridiculous number of 22,000 amendments, (19,000 by LFI alone.)  Their obvious strategy was total obstruction of the process.  A general debate in the Parliament will follow.  If time runs out because of the municipal elections in 36,000 towns on March 15, the Prime Minister may resort to Executive Orders. 

In this crisis, I believe both sides are to blame: the government’s project may not have been prepared well enough and appeared confusing.  The opposition consistently refuses to enter any dialogue.  It is a French cultural trait:- first you flex your muscles then – possibly – you may be willing to come to the negotiating table.  But keep in mind that compromise is a dirty word in France.

The proposed retirement reform has somehow triggered other requests.  Seeing an opportunity, demands for higher wages and benefits are snowballing.  Some teachers in public schools are striking for pay raises.  These school students take their cue from their teachers and march in the street, or block their classrooms to protect their future pension rights — an odd sight indeed for 12- or 13-year olds!

The unrest (accompanied by violence) is dragging on.  There does not seem to be an end to it.

France appears to be functioning on two different levels — on the one hand, there is a France of  angry people, who feel very sorry for themselves. On the other, there is a dynamic France doing rather well, which has become economically attractive to foreign investors thanks primarily to labor market reforms. 

At the same time, Macron has chosen to keep above the in-fighting and focus on his role as the president of the only nuclear power of Europe, strengthening its defense and security while seeking a more integrated European Union.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Tickets on Sale Now for Fourth Annual Festival of Women’s Plays at Ivoryton Playhouse, Feb. 22

Sharon Goulner’s play is Savior.

IVORYTON:  The Ivoryton Playhouse has announced the date of its Fourth Annual Women
Playwrights Initiative – 4 x 4 in 2020.

Over 170 plays from all over the country were submitted to the initiative and the four finalists will be traveling to Ivoryton from Washington State, California, Indiana and Maryland to have their work presented in a series of staged reading on Saturday, Feb. 22, with a snow date of Sunday, Feb. 23.

The Initiative includes the Ellie Award and a $500 stipend for each of the four women playwrights chosen and provides a safe, nurturing environment for the development of new, one-act plays with a director and actors.

The plays are by and about women and the issues that shape their lives, and the workshop culminates in a festival of staged readings, which will take place at the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main St., Ivoryton, CT 06422.

Crystal V. Rhodes’s play is 1200 miles to Jerome.

At 2 p.m., there will be two readings presented.  Savior by Sharon Goldner finds two modern moms at a yoga class dealing with an absurd yet very familiar situation – what do you do when your five-year-old tells you he is the messiah?

1200 miles to Jerome by Crystal V. Rhodes relates the daunting experience of the Franklin family, who are traveling through the Deep South with a fugitive in tow in the 1940s. It is a journey in which “driving while black” could mean the difference between life and death.

At 7 p.m., the festival will continue witha  performance of Court by Holly Arsenault, which takes an intimate look at divorce and custody battles from a child’s unique, funny and raw perspective.

Deanna and Paul by Dagney Kerr concludes the event. In this play, Deanna is a quirky waitress with a strict no tipping policy and Paul a surly customer with a tight lid on his heart. Their lonely worlds collide one day in a small-town diner, where one cup of coffee can change everything.

To purchase tickets for the Women Playwrights Festival, call 860.767.7318 or visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org

Holly Arsenault’s play is Court.

Tickets are priced as follows: $20 — adult; $15 — senior; $10 — student for one performance.

Buy tickets for both performances at these special prices: $30 — adult; $25 — senior; $10 — student. Call the box office at 860.767.7318 to book two-performance packages.

Check the Playhouse website for additional workshops and special festival deals with local restaurants.

The Ivoryton Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT  06442.

Dagney Kerr’s play is Deanna and Paul.

For more information about the Women Playwrights Initiative and to read biographies of the playwrights, visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org

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State Sen. Needleman Announces Candidacy for Re-election in 33rd District

State Senator Norm Needleman (D-33rd)

ESSEX — State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex) announced his candidacy yesterday for re-election to the 33rd State Senate District. First elected to his seat in 2018, Senator Needleman represents the town of Lyme along with those of Colchester, Chester, Clinton, Essex, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Haddam, Old Saybrook, Westbrook, and Portland.

“It is an honor to be able to represent the 33rd Senatorial District, and I’m excited to continue serving my constituents,” said Sen. Needleman. “My time in the General Assembly has been an incredible experience, and I truly enjoy fighting for my district to ensure we build a stronger future for them and all the citizens of Connecticut. I humbly ask my constituents for the opportunity to do so for another term.”

Needleman serves as Senate Chair of the Energy and Technology Committee, Vice Chair of the Planning and Development Committee, and is a member of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding, Transportation, and Commerce Committees.

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Want to Know More About Mosquitoes? Potapaug Hosts Presentation Thursday, All Welcome

TRI-TOWN/OLD LYME — Worried about mosquitoes?

Potapaug Audubon hosts a presentation on Mosquitoes of Connecticut and the Viruses they may Transmit given by John Shepard from the Department of Environmental Sciences Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station on Thursday, Feb. 6, at 7 p.m. at Old Lyme’s Memorial Town Hall, 52 Lyme St., Old Lyme.

Shepard has expertise in the identification of larval and adult mosquitoes in the northeastern U.S., mosquito biology, and the ecology/epidemiology of arboviruses in the northeastern U.S., particularly West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

Come early for cheese and crackers and cider and catch-up conversations. All are welcome.

Visit the Potapaug Audubon website for more information.

For more about
Shepard, visit this link. 

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Letter From Paris: Brexit Has Happened – An Historic Day Which Sparked Joy, Tears, and Innumerable Challenges

Editor’s Note: The United Kingdom finally left the European Union (EU) at 11 p.m. on Jan 31, 2020, after being a member of the EU for 47 years. Despite a referendum passing in 2016 by a very slim margin that requested the extraction of the UK from the EU, it has been a long three years of butter argument to reach this point. Even now, it is estimated that roughly half of the population are delighted with Brexit and the other half are devastated.  But what are thinking on the other side of the English Channel?  Nicole Prévost Logan is back to give her thoughts from Paris on how the French see the whole business and where we all go from here.

Nicole Prévost Logan

The historic day has finally come … applauded by some and mourned by others.

The United Kingdom has left the European Union (EU).  With emotional tears the deputies of the European Parliament sang Auld Lang Syne – a 1788 Scottish song with a traditional folk tune – and hugged each other.

Now the real work is starting.  The UK has only an 11-month transition period (starting Feb. 1) to negotiate the terms of Brexit.

The extent of the long, drawn-out discussions has been covered many times in the past four years (see my previous article in Letter from Paris dated 12/9/14;  3/2/164/6/1712/29/18;  4/12/19)

On both sides of the English Channel there is, at least for now, a feeling of relief that a decision has been reached.

An image of 10 Downing Street — the UK British Prime Minister’s official residence – taken from a BBC broadcast moments after the 11 p.m. deadline on Jan. 31, 2020 when the UK left the EU.

How did Boris Johnson win

The French have been very impressed by the dexterity with which Boris Johnson (BJ) was able out to turn around the majority in the House of Commons: the Tories won 364 seats, an increase of 48 seats while the Labour party took 262, representing a loss of 60.   “Salut l’Artiste” (congratulations to the artist), wrote Françoise Fressoz, Le Monde editorialist  on Jan. 8.  On a radio talk show, a commentator said that BJ has become a model for the French Right: a conservative with social projects. The French feel that BJ, because of his super majority, is going to negotiate from a position  of strength.

A brillant strategist, he put his focus on the less wealthy population of the North of England and the Midlands, who supported Brexit. He undercut the Labour party by proposing a number of social measures such as raising the minimum wage, encouraging apprenticeships, building 40 hospitals and schools, and investing in railroad tracks at the cost of 100s of billions pounds sterling.  How will these projects be carried out?  How they will be paid for?  Not a mention of that in his campaign.

The other part of his strategy was to put pressure on the EU.  It is not clear how he did this, possibly in making concessions.  In a populist fashion, he probably told the Europeans what they wanted to hear.  A French journalist-columnist for The Daily Telegraph said BJ bluffed his way through. His optimism is more appealing that May’s stubbornness.  The French like another trait of his: his culture.  On our TV screens here, we saw him recite The Iliad poem for two and a half hours in classical Greek.

With Brexit both sides will lose, but many feel the UK will lose more.  The UK exports 47 percent of its products to Europe whereas the EU exports only 20 percent.  Some have compared Donald Trump’s attitude toward the EU to Boris Johnson’s.  There is one big difference though: BJ is not trying to destroy Europe.

Immigration has been at the core of Brexit since the beginning.  In this area, there is an inner contradiction.  Although the UK was never part of the Schengen Area (which guarantees freedom of circulation of the people), it still took advantage of the accession of eight new states to the EU in 2004, and 2007, to welcome these new labor forces – particularly from Poland.  It is unknown at this point how this situation will be resolved under Brexit.

The transition period

What’s going to happen during the transition?  Concretely, very little except that the Union Jack will not fly any more at the entrance of the EU HQ.

In the immediate term, ferry boats will continue crossing The Channel and Eurostar will continue to carry passengers and goods.  There will be no custom duties, no tariffs, and no visas required.

However, some changes are going to be immediately painful for the UK. The 73 British deputies at the European Parliament packed their bags on Jan. 31.  The British Commissioners have been gone for a while.  This means that the UK will not participate in the decision-making process, while it will still have to contribute to the EU budget and abide by the decisions of the European Court of Justice.

Michel Barnier from France has been appointed again as chief negotiator.  This is good news for everybody because he is a consensus-making personality.  He will work with a group of deputies from the European Parliament in Strasbourg,  Barnier has always stressed that the EU is not out to punish the UK.  Its only objective is to protect the EU’s interests.  Barnier feels sorry for the British population that was misinformed prior to the 2016 referendum.

The task ahead

In the simplest of terms, it is Herculean.

The UK is party to more than 600 international agreements with around 100 other countries through its EU membership.  As it leaves the EU , the UK will be cut off from these agreements.  However, it can retain its place whenever the UK signed an agreement in its own right.  The undoing of all these agreements is called (delightfully) “detricotage” in French (tricoter is to knit.)

The country has already taken steps to secure continuity in its relationships with other countries.  Examples include a treaty maintaining the UK’s civil nuclear trade; bilateral aviation agreements with the US and Canada; citizens rights agreements with Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland; protection for Scotch and Irish Whiskey exports.

The Lancaster House Bilateral Treaty of 2010 between the UK and France is a good example. It was signed between then French President Sarkozy and then UK Prime Minister Cameron and concerns Defense and Security Cooperation. Nathalie Loiseau, former French minister for European Affairs is the president of  the Commission on Security and Defense of the European Parliament.

One of the greatest fears in Europe is the prospect of a “Singapore-on-Thames.”  This would mean a country disrespectful of social and environmental norms and regulations.  Fiscal dumping will not be tolerated, says Brussels.  “There will not be quotas nor tariff if the UK forgets about dumping” writes the newspaper La Croix.

The first issue to be tackled will be fishing.  The negotiators will sit down around the negotiating table as early as Feb. 3, 2020.  The French fishermen have for years been fishing in 60 percent of the time in British waters.  The problem is that the British fisherman need the huge Single Market of 500 million people to sell their catch … and they already complain about quotas, which are imposed in order to avoid the depletion of fish!

France is one of the closest commercial partners of the UK (its foreign trade with that country has a trade surplus  of 12 billion Euros), which mean that it is particularly exposed to the consequences of the Brexit.  The manufacturing sector, such as the automobile industry, is fully integrated with Europe and relies on spare parts coming from the continent.  Every day 1,100 trucks transport parts back and forth through the Channel.  Aeronautics is facing a huge logistics problems since Air Bus employs 13,500 people in Great Britain.

The pharmaceutical industry, such as Sanofi, prepared for the Brexit by accumulating huge quantities of drugs.  The Total energy company is relocating its treasury department from London to Paris.

The traders of BNP Paribas Paris – the largest European bank in the UK – will have to leave the City of London whenever dealing with European clients. HSBC – the largest bank in the EU – is relocating many of its units to Paris.  One thousand personnel have already moved. Bank of America is now located on Rue de la Boetie in Paris.  J.P. Morgan has also relocated here.

The complicated problem of the border  between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland seems to have been defused.  One hears now that, in the long term, the two Irelands may be reunited.  The border would then go under the Irish Channel and the North Sea.  The idea of a “backstop,” which we heard so much about under Theresa May’s watch, seems to have vanished today.

In a recent debate, Pascal Lamy, Honorary Director of the Jacques Delors Institute (Delors was one of the founding fathers of the EU. He created the Single Market in 1993) made a few remarks about

Prognosis for the future

The more the UK diverges from the EU’s norms, the thicker the wall between them will grow.  The 27 members of the EU are extremely attached to the Single Market, the largest in the world.  It seems likely that BJ will in the end up aligned with Europe.  If BJ carries out his proposed social policy, the public deficit risks will be enormous.  Will there be “Boris Bonds” ?

Recently the populist governments in Denmark and Italy have collapsed.  Johnson’s electoral base is a mismatch between the less wealthy Brexiteers of the North and the rich ones from London. Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland and Arlene Foster in Northern Ireland will have an important role to play in whether there is going to be a break-up of the United Kingdom or not.  The UK will likely remain closer to the EU than the US.

On Dec. 13, 2019, some European leaders stated their position toward Brexit in carefully selected words:

Charles Michel, president of the European Council said, “We are ready.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted, “This will be a challenge.”

French President Emanuel Macron stated: “We welcome a new partner who should be a fair competitor.”

And in a Jan. 30, 2020 interview on French radio, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to France, Baron Llewellyn of Steep, said in the most British of ways,”Let’s have a cup of tea and go to work!”

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Hear ‘Trout Quintet,’ Bluegrass-, Jazz-Inspired Duos at Musical Masterworks Concerts This Weekend

Doublis bassist Michael Thurber males his debut at Musical Masterworks, Feb. 8-9. Photo by Lauren Desberg.

TRI-TOWN/OLD LYME — Join Musical Masterworks at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme on Saturday, Feb. 8, at 5 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 9, at 3 p.m. for a program celebrating the return of perennial favorite musicians, violinist Tessa Lark and pianist Jeewon Park, along with an encore appearance by violist Ettore Causa, and the much-anticipated Musical Masterworks debut of double bassist Michael Thurber.

Performing with artistic director and cellist Edward Arron, they will play Schubert’s beloved “Trout” Quintet.

Concert attendees will also hear a collection of original bluegrass- and jazz-inspired duos for violin and bass, composed and performed by Tessa Lark and Michael Thurber. The program also includes the Piano Quartet in A minor by the Spanish composer Joaquin Turina, and an arrangement for violin, cello and bass of the Viola da Gamba Sonata in G minor by J.S. Bach.

Join Edward Arron for an in depth pre-concert talk about the program at 4 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Musical Masterworks’ 29th season runs through May 2020 and includes a celebration of Beethoven’s 250th Anniversary on March 13, 14 and 15, and on May 1, 2 and 3, 2020, when concert-goers will have the remarkable opportunity to hear the complete cycle of Beethoven’s String Quartets.

To purchase a mini subscription ($100 each), a subscription to the Beethoven concerts or individual tickets ($40 adult; $5 student), visit Musical Masterworks at www.musicalmasterworks.org or call 860.434.2252.

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Wanda Nicholas Plays Perfect Cribbage Hand for First Time in ‘Estuary’ History

Wanda Nicholas displays her perfect cribbage hand.

OLD SAYBROOK — Congratulations to Wanda Nicholas!

She is a regular cribbage player at the Estuary Senior Center in Old Saybrook and on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, Nicholas played a perfect cribbage hand, which is 29 points. This is the first perfect hand played in Estuary history.

The Estuary cribbage players meet every Wednesday at the Estuary Senior Center, 220 Main St., Old Saybrook. New players are welcome to this fun group.

Call 860-388-1611 for more information.

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