A Calendar of Customs # 7 ~ July
Doggett's Coat and Badge, the world's oldest race, is held in July and was conceived to mark the anniversary of George I's accession to the throne. It has been held each summer since 1715, and is supervised by the Fishmongers' Company, with only young members of the Worshipful Company of Watermen and Lightermen eligible to take part in the sculling challenge. The winner is presented with a scarlet coat and a large silver badge, having rowed 4 1/2 miles single-handedly while negotiating no fewer than ten bridges.
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
A Calendar of Customs # 6 ~ June
The tradition of Beating the Bounds dates back to before the eighth century. Walking and beating the parish boundaries was intended to seek God's protection for crops, livestock and people. This annual custom, in which long wooden wands were used to beat the boundary markers, also served to pass the knowledge of parish boundaries on to younger generations. At the church of All Hallows-by-the-Tower, the beating party comprises of students from St Dunstan's College, Catford, who, with clergy and liverymen, travel by boat each Ascension Day out to the middle of the Thames to mark the parishes southern boundary. The Beating of the Bounds ceremony is held in several of London's churches.
The Knollys Rose Ceremony is one of the City Quit Rents Ceremonies in which symbolic rents are collected for certain lands or properties of antiquity in order to assert the overlord's ultimate title to that land. By agreement, such token rents may be paid in peppercorns (hence the phrase 'peppercorn rent'), red roses and even, in one case, a roast dinner. Celebrated on Midsummer Day, the Knolly Rose is a reference to a famous fourteenth-century soldier, Sir Robert Knollys, and is made each year by the Verger of All Hallow-by-the-Tower in payment for a footbridge - now long gone - linking two properties believed once to have stood in Seething Lane. Following a procession to the Manor House, the rent of a single red rose is paid in person to the Lord Mayor.
The Bubble Sermon, a reminder to liverymen and freemen of the Worshipful Company of Stationers that 'life is a but a bubble', is preached on the first Tuesday of the month at St Martin's-within-Ludgate. This is done as per the will of one of the company's eighteenth-century benefactors, Richard Johnson.
Trooping the Colour, first performed in 1755 and regularly since 1805, takes place annually on Horse Guard's Parade on the monarch's official birthday in June. It commemorates the ancient military practise of parading flags in from of troops to familiarize them with the regimental emblems around which they should rally in battle. The colours trooped are those of a battalion of one of the five regiments of Foot Guards - Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish and Welsh - who take the honour in turns. The parade leaves Buckingham Palace at 11.00 am and moves along The Mall to Horse Guard's Parade, where the Queen is greeted by a royal salute and carries out an inspection of the troops. The massed bands perform a musical 'troop' and the regimental flag is carried down the ranks; the Foot Guards and the Household Cavalry then march past the Queen followed by the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery. The parade then returns to Buckingham Palace, and the Royal Family gathers on the balcony to watch an R.A.F flypast.
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
I was walking across Hungerford Bridge and noticed this accumulation of broken skateboard decks, I assume casualties from the nearby activity on the South Bank. Steelwork by Norman Foster: the pier is by I.K. Brunel, builder of the first footbridge here....they reused the chains to make the Clifton Suspension Bridge
- Skiing and Boarding
Central London tubes are busy and can be annoying. People working in Central London are constantly in a hurry and can get very irritated with tourists not abiding by the rules. Always stand on the right side of the escalator. Even though it might seem unbelievable, there are people who run up and down the escalator stairs. Don't block the entrance gates while trying to figure out where you want to go to. If you are going to travel on the tube regularly it might be useful to get an Oyster card. It is quicker to tap at the gates and rides are far cheaper than individual tickets.
The tubes are full, especially during peak times, which is in the morning from about 7 to 10 and in the afternoon/evening from about 4 till 7. That doesn't mean it won't be full at other times, but you stand a better change at getting a seat.
Wait for people to disembark the tube before you get on. Be prepared to stand most of the way or all way in the centre of the city. Don't be concerned about personal space as there is none during busy times.
View tube rides as just another experience and try to be polite even though regular users might not be.
Gold post boxes
During the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics, the Royal Mail painted more than 100 of its iconic red post boxes gold – one for every gold medal won by a GB competitor. These can be found in various locations across the country, in the home town or community of the athlete it commemorates. The post boxes are intended to remain permanently gold to mark the achievements of the athletes and the historic Games.
But in the centre of London you will find one that celebrates not an individual athlete but all of them. This post box in Tothill Street, opposite Westminster Abbey, has been painted to mark the gold medal winning performances from Team GB and Paralympics GB.
There are no other gold post boxes in the centre of town but further out you may spot more. There is one dedicated to Andy Murray, winner of the men’s Singles Tennis Gold medal, in Wimbledon, and a second one there for Sophie Hosking, Gold medallist in the Women's Lightweight Double Sculls. Chiswick in west London has one for another rower, Pete Reed, who was one of the Gold medallists in the Men's Four. Mo Farah’s box is outside Isleworth post office and he has a second one in nearby Teddington. In north London there are fewer, but Enfield has one dedicated to Charlotte Dujardin, Gold medallist in the Equestrian Team Dressage.
To find these, or to look for post boxes in other locations in the country, check out the map on the website below, where you can also search by entering the name of your favourite athlete.
Christmas Market on the South Bank
In recent years the traditional Christmas markets that are popular in Germany and elsewhere on the continent of Europe have become increasingly common in England, and most cities now have one. In London there are several, including one at Covent Garden, but our favourite is the one held on the South Bank by the Royal Festival Hall. The atmosphere by the river is really festive, with the lights reflecting in the water, and often there is a parallel Real Food Market on the other side of the Royal Festival Hall offering even more tasty meals than the Christmas market stalls. Not that the latter are short on treats – far from it! You will always find German-style sausages, burgers, crepes and much more. And of course there is Glühwein to warm you up on a chilly afternoon.
As to shopping, there’s a good mix of stalls selling various crafts and gifts. These range from the pretty high quality (I’ve seen hand-made leather bags and beautiful jewellery in the past) to the cheap and cheerful. I always find one or two nice presents here for friends or family.
There are also a few attractions, such as a carousel, and often seasonal music or carol singing. It’s a really good spot to get into the festive mood.
The market starts in mid November and runs through to Christmas Eve. The nearest Underground stations are Waterloo and Embankment, and you use the latter you can enjoy the walk across the Thames with the lights of the market drawing closer as you approach.
Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square
Every Christmas since 1947 a tall Christmas tree has stood in Trafalgar Square. It is a gift donated by the city of Oslo to the people of London in gratitude for British support during the Second World War. The tree usually arrives in late November or very early in December and stays until Twelfth Night. It is decorated quite simply, with strings of white lights, at a tree-lighting ceremony on the first Thursday in December. The same sign is always placed at its base:
This tree is given by the city of Oslo as a token of Norwegian gratitude to the people of London for their assistance during the years 1940-45.
A tree has been given annually since 1947.
In the weeks that follow there are often carol singers under the tree, collecting for various charities, and I always make a point of walking through the square if I’m in central London during that time – seeing the tree is a sign for me that Christmas is on its way. After Christmas, on New Year’s Eve, Trafalgar Square is the venue for lively celebrations, and revellers splash in the fountains at the foot of the tree on even the coldest night. Soon after though, the tree is taken down and is chipped and made into mulch which is used in London’s parks. But next year there will be another tree, thanks to the people of Oslo.
Traffic at the Savoy
In the UK they always drive on the left – right? Well, no actually. In the UK they almost always drive on the left. The only exception is this tiny stretch of road leading from the Strand to the entrance to the Savoy Hotel, one of London’s grandest and oldest. Why? Well, this is a private road (owned by the hotel) so British traffic rules can be ignored if wanted, and in this particular case it is more convenient for vehicles approaching the hotel, and the theatre of the same name next door, to do so on the right-hand side of the road. There are several practical reasons for this. One is that cars and taxis dropping off at the theatre don’t block access to the hotel as they would if the conventional arrangement applied. Another is that in the early 20th century when the practice was adopted, ladies would traditionally sit behind their chauffeur, and this would ensure they could step directly out on to the pavement rather than into the road. Furthermore, they would not have to wait while the driver walked round the vehicle to let them out, as he also would be already on the right side.
- Historical Travel
This a magazine basically made for all the Aussie, Kiwi and Saffa travellers who are here in London.
You will find the weekly mag in their TNT marked colourful bins in various locations around London - including the city centre but generally near tube stations or main roads where tourists and the antipodeans are known to end up living - south as EArls court, Acton, Baker Street, Victoria.
These mags are great for all sorts of ideas of where to go - weekly highlights of festivals happening around Europe and countries further afield, latest news and happening and any good deals.
TNT also have a big part in the annual travel fairs - so they will have articles and promotions here. Also travel agents recommended for flights and especially round the world deals and relocation information.
Each time Ive needed to move house or thought I was going to send boxes of stuff back home ive looked here for the companies that tend to be reliable with better prices for our well traversed routes back home.
For the first few years I was here in London totally fixated on travelling, using all my days off from work as much as possible to get to special events and festivals I made sure I had their copy of the TNT diary as they had included information of excellent festivals not to miss. I was able to plan my roster requests very tightly and got to great places due to their diary. It is still available each year and information how to obtain will be here in their website.
TNT also have a part in the 1st Contact Travel clinics for all your medical needs - there is one at Oxford street which I have been using as my resource for the last few years. Good advice, good service and much better prices for jabs and medications needed. Also DEET free evidence based mosquito skin spray.
In the back pages are ads for accommodation, where to find a dentist or hairdresser, doctor, or even work. Nanny and au pair jobs, managing a pub, seasonal fruit picking - all sorts can be found here for the new arrival and those who are still looking to find services or want to place ads particularly for their fellow countrymen in mind.
- Arts and Culture
What a strange idea to look right when you are crossing a street! Everybody who lives in continental Europe (in Russia for example) knows from childhood that one must look to the left!
But when you found yourself in England (in London for example) you must remember that you are in left-hand traffic (LHT) country.
Today, about 66.1% of the world's people live in right-hand traffic countries and 33.9% in left-hand traffic countries.
England was my second country (after Japan) where I had to change my habit to cross streets, but it was more difficult to change my habit to walk right side.
But when I saw such inscriptions reminding me about LHT on roads, I was laughing when turning my face to the right.
- Road Trip
There are a number of so-called “Bluecoat Schools” in London. The name comes from the costume formerly worn by the pupils. Nowadays most of these establishments are bluecoat schools in name only, having long ago abandoned the cassock-like bluecoats, knee breeches and stockings in favour of a more modern uniform. However, a number of schools still retain the traditional bluecoat costume for special occasions and pupils at the most famous bluecoat school of all, Christ's Hospital (in Sussex), wear it at all times, keeping alive a tradition that dates back to the mid 16th century. If you’re in London in November for the Lord Mayor’s Show you might spot some in the parade.
These schools date back to Tudor times and the long blue coat is a relic of the ordinary attire of schoolboys and apprentices of that time. Blue was a favoured colour for charity school children because in Tudor and Stuart times it was the cheapest available dye for clothing. Blue-dyed materials were economical, implying a humble status, and they were therefore avoided by gentlemen and the aristocracy.
My main photo was taken at St Andrew’s Church at Holborn Circus, and photo two at St Mary's Church, Rotherhithe, but keep your eyes open and you’ll spot others elsewhere.
- Historical Travel
There are many private squares in London, usually fenced off and residents can enter with their own key. These squares usually have a garden and benches to sit upon, particularly popular in central areas. Around the squares residents normally live in Victorian houses.
Not quite sure where to post this but London commuters save money by taking a free 'Metro' newspaper which you can collect each morning at most stations throughout the capital. It has the latest news and sports as well as a list of London Theater and Cinema showings.
BRIT LIFE © NO. 3 – BEEFEATERS
Why do they call them Beefeaters? The answer: no one knows! Yes there are a few theories, but that’s all they are! The yare officially called YEOMAN WARDERS and they are the guardians of the Tower of London and the Crown Jewels. They have been there for over 600 years and they have no idea where the nickname came from. Don’t believe any person or website saying they know because they don’t. They are excellent tour guides by the way and you get it free with the insane ticket price.
- Historical Travel
- Castles and Palaces
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BRIT LIFE © NO. 2 – THE FREE HOUSE
No, its not a house and its certainly not free. Everything has a price here – so get used to it. You will see the words ‘FREE HOUSE’ only on the outside of Pubs. So many tourists think. ‘Oh well – I can use the toilets here for free’. This is like thinking you can stick your head in the jaws of a crocodile and not get a severe haircut. Many Pubs are tied to a Brewery chain. Much like a certain Scottish sounding burger place only has Coca Cola products. They have to sell the Brewer's beers and ales and only other good stuff by permission (exception).
Free Houses are not tied to a Brewer and sell what they damn well want to.
Did you notice that you and your bladder take no part in the considerations? That’s right. To pee here you have to DRINK here. Kind of defeats the original object of you journey with crossed legs at this point. You will be shouted at as well by the staff or just barred from your destination.
So what can you do? Well public urination is against the law and just plain bad manners. Either go into a very crowded Pub or just learn to hold it. For days.
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