Lessons in the "2011" Category

Irritating British Bedtime Habits

You have just got off to sleep when suddenly your partner decides to tuck the duvet around them and roll away from you. This ‘tuck and roll’, as it’s called, is one of a number of irritating bedtime habits that have been revealed in a recent survey of British couples - according to Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Another is the ‘midnight shuffle’ where one sleeper moves away from the other and is slowly followed across the bed by their partner. Eventually, the creeper forces the other to hang on precipitously off the edge of the bed until they are woken up and crossly sent back from where they came. Nearly a fifth (19%) of respondents aged 25-50 complained about the problem.

The survey of 1,000 people by Debenhams, the British department store, revealed some other interesting habits, for example, snoring, talking and fidgeting and the grinding of teeth. Surprisingly flatulence under the covers only accounts for one per cent of complaints!

Category: Survey / Britain / Bedtime Habits

Great British Dishes

Food is always a good talking point in any conversation. So today, let’s talk about some great British food dishes. Britain has some fabulous mouth watering choices. So what are they?

Well, let’s start with one of the most popular – freshly bought fish and chips from the fish and chip shop. In England, cod is the favourite fish in the south; haddock in the north. The chips are sprinkled with salt and vinegar. Northerners like mushy peas with theirs.

Another British dish is Steak and Kidney Pudding or Pie. The former is made with suet, the latter with pastry. Both are filled with succulent cutup pieces of British beef and ox kidney. They are delicious with potatoes and English vegetables and some Lea & Perrin’s Worcestershire sauce.

A similar traditional pub meal is pie and mash. These days pie is made with beef. More than 50 years ago however, Londoners from the East End made this pie with jellied eels, as eels were then cheaper than beef.

Category: Great Britain / Food / British Dishes

Events in London – January to March

Today’s English lesson focuses on more happening events in London.

January - The New Year’s Day Parade in London is the first big event of the New Year. It runs through many of the West End’s famous streets. The parade, which started in 1987, features more than 10,000 performers from 20 London Boroughs and countries from across the globe taking part. Each year it gets bigger and bigger! The money raised goes to thousands of local charities.

Also happening in January is the London International Boat Show. In 2012, it returns to the ExCel Arena. The annual event offers visitors a multitude of things to do with boats! An alternative thing to do in London in January is to go to the annual Twelfth Night Festival at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre. The event marks the end of Christmas and the start of the New Year. Visitors can see a folk play enacted.

London is also a good place to be to see Chinese New Year celebrated. Next year sees it taking place on 23rd January. Chinatown in Soho will be the place to be! Watch out for the fireworks, firecrackers and crispy Chinese Duck!

Category: London / Tourism / London Events

A traditional Christmas in England

Pre-Christmas - The English like to celebrate Christmas well ahead of the actual day. Before the kids break up from school toddlers might visit Santa’s grotto in a local department store. Children at primary and secondary schools might hold Christmas bazaars. Kids at secondary schools normally have to go to church for the annual carol service. Adults meanwhile celebrate with the Christmas office party! That’s always good festive fun!

There are Christmas lights in the main parts of most towns and these days some people like to decorate the front of their houses with Christmas lights. Meanwhile many retailers in England have been flogging Christmas goodies since October! The advent calendar is also a must for kids to open daily in December. Christmas markets are now very popular.

Category: England / Traditional Christmas / Christmas

Why do we dream of a white Christmas?

Why do we dream of a white Christmas? Why do we get Christmas cards with snow on them? The culprit is the writer Charles Dickens. His childhood coincided with a decade of freakishly cold winters. Thus in his writings he describes persistently a Britain smothered in snow on Christmas Day, his inspiration coming from his childhood.

Six of Dickens’s first nine Christmases were white. One of these fell in the winter of 1813-14, when Britain’s last Frost Fair was held on a frozen River Thames in London and Dickens was nearly two years old. The ice around Blackfriars Bridge was thick enough to bear the weight of an elephant. So when in 1843, he came to write about the Ghost of Christmas Past, he did so with the spirit of those colder Christmases, with “quick wheels dashing the hoar frost and snow from the darker leaves of the evergreen like spray”. The story is now credited with establishing the Victorian genre of the Christmas story and spurring a revival of the celebration of Christmas in early Victorian England.

Category: Christmas / Charles Dickens / Snow

Pippa’s top 10 Xmas tips

Pippa Middleton, the sister of the Duchess of Cambridge, has published her guide to the festive season. Pippa’s ‘Top 10 tips for a Perfect Family Christmas’ has been published on the Party Times online magazine that she edits for her family’s mail-order business. It says the most important thing to remember for “stress-free” festive period is “first impressions”.

The magazine suggests: “Welcome family and neighbours by lighting pathways with tea light garden lanterns, LED light sticks and fairy lights wrapped round tree trunks or branches." Other tips include baking festive biscuits for children to hand out to their classmates as end-of-term gifts, creating a “fairytale gingerbread house”, and sprinkling “edible glitter” on Christmas popcorn.

The magazine says: ‘Have guests met by a beautiful red berry wreath and windows decorated with silver snowflake cut-outs, reindeers and Christmas trees using snow spray.’

Category: Pippa Middleton / Christmas / Party Tips


Score 10 points for every correct answer – Score 5 points if half right! Play a JOKER in one round and get DOUBLE points in that round. Show it before you start the round. There are 12 rounds with 6 questions in each round.

Topics include:

  1. Christmas Music
  2. Santa
  3. International Xmas
  4. Christmas general
  5. More Christmas Music
  6. The Nativity story
  7. A Christmas mix
  8. Christmas Pot luck
  9. A UK Christmas
  10. Christmas History
  11. Famous Carols
  12. Another Christmas Mix

Category: Quiz / General Knowledge / English

Ooo la la! Marks & Spencer reopens in France

Paris - After a decade in retreat Marks & Spencer the British retail clothes and food giant has reopened in France. Yesterday, it opened its doors in the French capital. The new three storey shop lies in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe. Its new £50m 10-year lease makes it one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in eurozone territory.

Marks and Spencer will also launch five other stores in Paris and is now searching for suitable premises for its Simply Food outlets. A French language website has also been launched. While some French housewives pouted their cheeks and shrugged off the opening of the new outlet, other loyal followers of well-heeled French housewives were pressing their noses up against the windows in anticipation yesterday.

“We love their sandwiches, little cakes, shoes, trousers,” said Chantal Bruno and Nicole LeClerceq yesterday. “When the shop closed before, we went to London, because we couldn’t bear not to have M&S clothes. Paris is not the capital of style, Marks & Spencer is.” The French you see have a peculiar love affair for the British retailer.

Category: France / Paris / Marks & Spencer

The link between Bletchley Park and Google

For nearly half a century Bletchley Park, a Victorian manor house near Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, lay neglected and unloved; its dilapidated buildings falling into disrepair. By the 90s, its boarded-up huts at its rear were due to be torn down. Yet for more than 50 years the house was shrouded under a veil of secrecy. Only during the last 20 years was its secret finally revealed. It was the place where the codes of the German Enigma machine were broken by a special-purpose codebreaking machine called Colossus.

The secret work at Bletchley Park had, it is believed, shortened the war by up to two years. However, the secrecy came at a cost. Britain lost out to the US in the development of computer technology. So what is the link between Bletchley Park and Google? Simple – there is a desire by some individuals at Google to nurture the past. In fact, Google is helping to spearhead a campaign to save Bletchley Park by restoring it to its former glory. Google has provided the money for the purchase of key papers and is backing the current appeal to restore the derelict block at Bletchley Park.

Category: History / Bletchley Park / Google

Melbourne tops most liveable city list 2011

The Australian city of Melbourne has edged out Canada’s Vancouver to take the title of the world’s most liveable city for the first time in almost a decade. The city’s mayor Robert Doyle said he was “absolutely delighted” with the news. This year Vancouver fell to third place behind the Austrian city of Vienna.

The Australian metropolis topped the Economist Intelligence Unit’s global liveability survey of 140 cities. Australian cities featured prominently in the top ten, with Sydney ranked sixth and Perth and Adelaide in joint 8th place. Canadian cities also did well, with Toronto and Calgary holding fourth and fifth place respectively.

The survey is conducted twice a year. Cities were scored on political and social stability, crime rates, access to quality health care, cultural events, the environment, education and the standard of infrastructure. Vancouver missed out on the top spot because its infrastructure had fallen due to periodic closures of a key motorway.

Category: Cities / Survey / Lifestyle