The British passport is issued to anybody resident within the United Kingdom 0f Great Britain & Northern Island, & is valid for 10 years...
The British passport was originally introduced in 1920, in a blue-cover; in 1998 the design was replaced with the current burgundy cover, but retained the 32-page format...
The British Passport has become more than just a document & is an artwork in itself with pages featuring engravings of all the contrasting wildlife habitats in the British Isles, under the page titles;
Village Green (!)
The British passport permits unlimited, visa-free travel within the EU member states, as well as other European countries, including Ukraine, & some nations outside Europe...
Plans to replace this item of national heritage, by the Blair/Brown government, & to replace the passport with a plastic ID-card, were mercifully scrapped by the Coalition that replaced them...Related to:
- Family Travel
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A folly is a building with no actual purpose, built for its ornamental value alone, typically in the grounds of stately homes & parks...
It should not be surprising then, that there are many such of these ornamental structures to be found throughout the British Isles...
Most follies were constructed during the 18th Century, but their architectural-style is usually outside that of their own era...
A folly is usually striking in its appearance, being an extreme form of fantastic Gothic, or in a style of architecture imported from other cultures, such as Tatar or Turkish tent, Egyptian pyramid, Japanese bridge, or Chinese pagoda...
However, the most extreme example must be the Dunmore Pineapple in Scotland, with its stone roof shaped like a giant fruit...
Although follies were really just a way for a landowner to demonstrate that they had enough extra cash in order to build something of no practical purpose, some were built in order to give employment to out-of-work artisans, during periods of low employment...
There is some debate over what constitutes an actual folly, or just fantastic architecture - Freston Folly in Suffolk, said to be the oldest example of a folly in England, is a 6-storey, redbrick tower, which though it has no apparent purpose, could be used as a functional building...
If a landowner really wanted to show-off, it was once fashionable to employ a resident hermit to inhabit the folly in his grounds!
2 follies are to be found in Colchester, in the Castle Park, & at The Minories Art Gallery (see separate tips...)Related to:
- Arts and Culture
You do not have to be a 'freegan' or a 'survivalist', in order to enjoy a free dinner in Britain!
Free food is all over the place, depending on season - all you need is the initiative & energy in order to go & gather it...
1 of the things that embarasses me most about my own country is the laziness of my own race in doing this, because it mostly seems to be the immigrants who take advantage of what nature is offering for free!
@ the same time, British people pass by naturally-growing food that is just left to rot, yet complain that they cannot afford fresh food because of 'the credit crunch', & other such nonsense...
During Autumn, I regularly pass gardens where apples are laying on the grass, unforaged - what a waste of perfect fruit - if I was in government this wastage would be a criminal offence!
Gatheing apples is 1 of my favourite ways to find free food in my own country, & even though the only native English apple is the sour Crabapple, all sorts of dessert varieties have taken root in hedgerows - I have even enjoyed Cox 0range Pippin for free from such a source - & it does not come much better for apple taste, than that...
All sorts of berries can be foraged at this time of year, as well as the obvious blackberries, but best of all are the damsons that can be found growing for free in hedgebanks...
These are often so sweet & juicy, they can be eaten direct from the tree - the only problem is that this is only about a fortnight in order to enjoy the crop, before the wasps ruin the fruit...
Another source of free food is road kill - which many people are squeamish about, despite the excess of it on Britain's roads...
Personally, I do not take dead game or rabbits or deer from off the road, because there is always the chance that the animal had been poisoned before 'white van man' squashed it flat...
However, doing the amount of cycling I do, it is not uncommon to witness a 'hit'n'run' by a speeding sales rep, most usually of a pheasant, which is an expensive delicacy if bought in a butchers, but a free dinner if you are in the right place at the wrong time for the poor bird!
When a bird is hit by a vehicle, they usually appear to be trying to flyaway, while still stricken in the road, but if you pick them up, the neck is already broken, so actually it is kinder to kill the critter on the spot than let it suffer further from flapping about...
It is a good idea to carry a large plastic bag for such an occasion, so as to put the free meat in a carrier bag, to carry away for your campfire...
Pheasant is delicious, & even better when it is for free!
Another commonly free food source is Glasswort, which is known by a variety of other names, such as (Marsh) Samphire, or Sea asparagus/pickle/grass, & grows in just about any British saline location, especially estuaries...
It is easy emough to pick, & also to cook, jusy requiring boiling for a few minutes in water, if you enjoy the salty taste, which I have to admit, I do not!
Free food gathering list:
Glassowrt (Marsh Samphire)
Mushrooms (see separate tip...)
Nettles (see separate tip...)
For a full list & preparation tips, refer to a specialist guidebook, such as those written by an expert, such as Britain's answer to The Bush Tucker Man, Ray Mears...Related to:
- Food and Dining
- Budget Travel
An extraordinary feature of the British countryside is the number of non-native species which have not only managed to survive in the wild, but have actually thrived far from where they evolved...
These creatures lend an extra dash of colour to the British countryside, & most especially so, those immigrants from India; Muntjac Deer; Pheasant; & Peacocks/hens...
Peacocks are an extraordinary sight, which requires no description, but also, their cry is quite unlike anything else in the British countryside, & can be eerie when heard at first light...
Although a terrestrial feeder, which likes to strut on the ground, Peafowl roost at night, & when I have stayed on farms, they often alight on a caravan roof above where I have been, when the dusk descends...
The male Indian Peacock is the showstopper with its eye-spotted tail of covert feathers, but my favourite is the rare white plumage, with blue eyes, variety, (which is a genetic mutation, not an albino...)
Peacocks were once treated as a gamebird & consumed for their flesh, but this is seldom the case nowadays, even though most of them are to be found living on farms & smallholdings...
In fact, they have become a symbol of prosperity & wealth, having always been a symbol of pride & vanity, just for the fact that they are allowed to live out their natural life, & not be treated as a cash-crop...
Although Peafowl have become a rural pet, some people like to take a feather or 2 to put in their hat...Related to:
- Farm Stay
- National/State Park
- Castles and Palaces
It's Behind You!
One of the most colourful characters that features in a traditional pantomime is the much loved pantomime dame. A man in heavy make-up, consisting of sequins, fake eyelashes and glitter, wearing an outrageous costume, complete with high heels, stripy stockings and a large elaborate wig, has long been part of this all singing, dancing, comic festive extravaganza.
Pantomime has an amazing history. It evolved from a type of travelling street theatre, commedia dell'arte, that was brought to Britain from Italy and became popular during the sixteenth century. These early shows combined a mixture of music, buffoonery and acrobatics, as well as a stock repertoire of stories and characters, including the comic character of Harlequin.
In 1717, the first pantomime was brought to the British stage by actor manager, John Rich, who performed under the name of John Lun (short for 'Lunatic'). It followed a format of a classic popular story with music and dance, with the addition of a mimed comic performance called the Harlequinade.
The huge success of pantomime meant that productions became more and more elaborate until, in the nineteenth century, they were lavish spectacles with large casts of actors and increasingly extravagant sets. With the decrease in popularity of the Harlequinade, the pantomimes of the Victorian era evolved into the family entertainments we know today. Put on over the festive season, they are usually based on traditional folk or fairy tales that have been re-written for comic effect, with characters that include hero's, villains, the pantomime dame and the odd pantomime cow.
Audience participation plays a large part in these shows, with cast members encouraging adults and children alike to shout such familiar refrains as 'Oh, No, It Doesn't!' and 'It's Behind You!'Related to:
- Arts and Culture
The Day After Christmas.
The origins of Boxing Day, 26 December, are unknown, but from the Middle Ages onwards, it was traditionally the day when householders gave money in earthenware Christmas 'boxes' to their servants and tradesmen. Food left over from the previous days Christmas meal and small gifts were given to employees and tenants by the householder during the eighteenth century. This practise evolved into the custom of tipping tradespeople at Christmas time.
The Feast of St Stephen, who was associated with giving alms to the poor, and the first Christian to die for his faith, also falls on this day. Church alms boxes were opened on Boxing Day and the money therein was distributed among the needy. Poor people would also take their own personal alms boxes 'Stephening', going from house to house begging for money and food.
Boxing Day has for many years been the biggest day of the hunting calendar, with hundreds of meets held across Britain. Fox hunting is an important part of rural life in the UK, although many people see it as cruel. These days the hunt cannot kill or harm the foxes, but that does not put off supporters of the sport, which still attracts hoards of participants and spectators alike on even the bleakest of winter days.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
Eat, Drink and Be Merry!
Most of us are familiar with traditional Christmas fare such as roast turkey and mince pies, but the reasons why they have become associated with Christmas time have, for the most part, been forgotten.
Mince pies first made their appearance in Britain during the thirteenth century. They were made from actual meat, rather than the sweet mincemeat we use today, and included other ingredients such as eggs, fruit and spices. These pies were oblong in shape and were often decorated with pastry in the form of a baby on top to represent Jesus. It wasn't until the nineteenth century that mince pies became smaller, round in shape and sweet mincemeat was used instead of meat. It was thought to be lucky if you ate twelve mince pies (one for every day of the year) made by twelve different cooks in twelve different houses, but to refuse to eat a mince pie was said to bring bad luck.
Henry VIII is thought to be responsible for introducing the eating of roast turkey as part of a Christmas feast in the sixteenth century. All kinds of meat, including wild boar, swans and peacocks, were eaten before that time. In the Victorian era, the eating of goose was commonplace, although turkey was featured in 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens in 1842.
No Christmas dinner would be complete without a Christmas pudding. Originally called 'plum pudding' or 'figgy pudding', the first Christmas puddings were of a porridge-like consistency of nuts and fruit and were a favourite dish of George I, which earned him the nickname of the 'Pudding King'. It wasn't until the nineteenth century that the pudding became sweeter in flavour and took on the rounded shape we all recognise today.
The custom for putting coins, usually sixpences, in the pudding mixture prior to cooking, was thought to bring wealth to those that found them, although they were more likely to swallow the coins than to find them!Related to:
- Arts and Culture
We Wish You A Merry Christmas!
The origins of carol singing date back to pagan times. Songs, accompanied by the 'round dance'. a folk dance which involved participants dancing together in a large circle, were performed at pagan festivals throughout the year, especially at harvest time.
The first carols specifically about Christmas first appeared in 1426, with 'wassailer's, the earliest carol singers, going from house to house collecting alms in return for a song. These seasonal songs combined pagan and Christian themes, as in 'The Holly and the Ivy', and were soon adopted by the church and sung as part of Christmas services. The custom of carol singing is still practised today, with singers going from house to house collecting money for charity.
Many of the ancient carols have been forgotten over the centuries, and most of the songs in existence today date back to the Victorian and Edwardian eras, when carol singing was a popular festive activity. Among the early carols that do survive however, are 'The Coventry Carol' and 'Good King Wenceslas', which follow a medieval chord sequence even though they were written in the 1800's. Carols are traditionally sung from 20 December (St Thomas's Day) until Christmas Day, and it is considered unlucky to sing them thereafter, even on Boxing Day.
In churches all over Britain on Christmas Eve, communities still gather to sing carols by candlelight. These wonderfully atmospheric services offer a chance to take a break from the hectic festive preparations to focus on the true meaning of Christmas.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
Deck the Halls.
Whether it be real or artificial, large or small, the custom of having a Christmas tree in the home during the festive season is rather a recent one.
The practise of decorating the home during midwinter in an ancient tradition. The Romans used seasonal foliage to decorate their houses, while pagans used evergreen boughs such as box, fir laurel and rosemary as a reminder of the spring to come during the long, dark months of winter. Holly, associated with good spirits would be made into wreaths that were hung in doorways and placed round the necks of livestock to ward off evil. Ivy was thought to be a cure for drunkenness if you drank from a bowl made out of its wood. Both holly and ivy feature heavily in many Christmas carols, with the holly's red berries being a symbol for Christ's blood.
The Christmas tree is thought to have been introduced to Britain in the early nineteenth century during the reign of George III, although due to the large number of German merchants living in Britain at the time, it has probably been around a lot longer. The custom was not adopted by the public at large until after the marriage of Queen Victoria to German born Prince Albert in 1841.
Prince Albert put up a tree at Christmas to remind him of home and soon, the Christmas tree bedecked with baubles, tinsel and fairy lights became a popular festive decoration in homes across the UK.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
The Full Monty.
A plateful of fried bacon, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and fried bread, with possible some black pudding and a helping of baked beans, served with a couple of rounds of toast, all washed down with a mug of hot tea, the Great British Fry Up' is considered something of a national dish in the UK.
Also known as the 'Full English or 'Full Monty', the ingredients vary from region to region, but the central theme of bacon and eggs remains the same. The origins of the dish are thought to date back to the Industrial Revolution, when labourers would tuck into a hearty breakfast in readiness for a long hard day at work.
In the 1950's, cafes serving basic cheap meals, such as bacon and eggs became popular with the British working classes. The drink of choice was 'builder's tea', achieved by stewing the tea leaves for as long as possible and so called because of its strong flavour and dark colour. These cafes earned the nickname 'greasy spoon' because of their rather poor hygiene standards and, like the grease in the bottom of the frying pan, the name has stuck to this day.
The 'greasy spoon' is now in decline in most British towns due to healthier attitudes to eating, a fry up being thought of as a special treat to be enjoyed at weekends or on holidays, but no stay in a British bed and breakfast or hotel would be complete without a Full English Breakfast to start the day.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
If You Want to Get Ahead ...Get a Hat!
A city banker or stockbroker with a bowler hat sitting neatly on his head and a newspaper and rolled umbrella under his arm was once a familiar sight on the streets of London. The bowler hat has always been associated with professional occupations, but was in fact, invented for a very special purpose.
In the year 1849, a politician called Edward Coke commissioned James Lock and Company, a firm of London hat makers, to design a hard hat with a low crown that could be worn by gamekeepers instead of their usual headgear of top hats, which used to get caught up in low branches while they were out on horseback. It is said that when he collected the new hat from the makers, Coke threw it to the floor and stamped on it twice. The hat remained undamaged, much to everyone's relief and Coke left the hat makers a very satisfied customer. Originally called the 'Coke hat' following Lock's custom of naming hats after their clients, it became more commonly known as the 'bowler hat' after the hatters that had made the prototype for Lock and Company, Thomas and William Bowler.
The bowler hat soon became popular among Victorian working class tradesmen because it was so solid and hardwearing, and by the twentieth century, it was adopted as the 'uniform' of the professional businessman, such as stockbrokers and financiers. By the 1970's changes in working practises and fashion brought the formal wearing of hats to an end, and the bowler became to be seen as a rather old fashioned reminder of the more conventional attitude to work.
Today, the bowler is enjoying something of a revival and it will always be thought of as an icon of British style.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
Lest We Forget.
After four years of conflict the First World War finally ended with the signing of the Armistice between the Allies and Germany, and on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, on the Western Front the guns fell silent.
Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day, has been commemorated on 11 November since 1919, although official ceremonies and church services are held on the second Sunday of the month. All over the UK, special services and ceremonies or remembrance are held at war memorials and churches to honour all those who have lost their lives in the service of their country since the First World War. The nation's main commemoration is held at the Cenotaph in London's Whitehall and is attended by members of the royal family, dignitaries, ceremonial detachments of the armed forces, civilian uniformed services, war veterans and the general public.
As Big Ben chimes the first stroke of eleven, the Royal Horse Artillery fire a cannon to signal the start of the two minute silence. Britain falls silent as we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. A bugle call of 'The Last Post', played by the Royal Marines, brings the two minutes of silence to a close, this is followed by 'The Rouse' played by members of the Royal Air Force. The Queen and other members of the Royal Family lay poppy wreaths at the base of the Cenotaph, followed by the Prime Minister, political and Commonwealth leaders and other dignitaries in strict order. The service ends with the singing of the National Anthem, following which they Royal Family lead the parade of veterans.
The corn poppy grew in abundance all over the battlefields of Flanders and has become the emblem of Remembrance Day, it's colour an appropriate symbol for the blood shed in war.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
Don't Shoot the Messenger!
They cry of 'Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!' was once a familiar sound heard the length and breadth of Britain, as the town criers brought official notices and up to date news to their respective communities.
Town crying has its origins in ancient Greece and the practise was brought to British shores by the Normans during the Norman invasions. The word 'oyez' was used as a call for people to fall silent and pay attention and translates from Anglo-Saxon as 'hear ye'. During Medieval time the vast majority of people were unable to read or write so news of royal proclamations, new by-laws, and forthcoming sales and events were announced by the town crier, the proclamation was then nailed the doorpost of the local inn, which gave rise to the phrase 'posting a notice'.
Because town criers were offices of the court and also often bearers of bad news, such as increases in taxes, they could possibly have been and easy target to anyone holding a grudge, and so were granted royal protection. The phrase 'Don't shoot the messenger' refers to this part of their job because injuring a town crier was once seen as an act of treason.
The costume of the town crier was introduced in the eighteenth century and consisted of white breeches, a tri-corn hat, black books and distinctive red and gold robe.
Today, the role of the town crier is largely redundant, although the tradition is still up held in some towns and cities, particularly in the City of Chester, where it serves as a reminder of days gone by and also as a tourist attraction.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
During November, some British people are in the habit of covering their entire house & garden, with coloured lights & ornaments...
Some of the decorating done might be described as 0ver-the-top, with every space available - windows, walls, roof, & chimney, if there is 1, used to display the increasingly elaborate seasonal decorations on the market...
Homes where the decorating is done to impress, often have a collection box in the garden, for a donation to a particular charity...
Electricity is not cheap in UK - so homeowners who have their properties illuminated this way during the darkest months of the year, are looking at a bill of at least £1000+
This seasonal tradition is not popular with everybody, & there are critics of these lightshows who despise the waste of electricity & general kitsch-ness of lit-up, showing-off...
If you are of the view that 'less-is-more', than this seasonal decorating will not appeal, but I know families who make a point of driving around the most illuminated properties during Advent, because the kids like to see the glowing ornamental Santa's & snowmen...Related to:
- Religious Travel
- Family Travel
The Lord Mayor's Show.
The oldest civic procession in the world, the Lord Mayor's Show is held in London every November to celebrate the election of London's new mayor.
With its marching bands, floats, horse-drawn coaches and a spectacular firework display on the Thames Embankment, the Lord Mayor Show attracts thousands of spectators from all over the world along its route from Mansion House to Westminster.
London's first Lord Mayor was appointed in 1189 and in 1215, King John granted a Charter giving the people of London the right to elect their own mayor. Concerned that the powerful position of mayor could be open to abuse, the King added a condition to the Charter stating that the new mayor must appear before the reigning monarch to swear allegiance to the Crown at the Royal Courts of Justice. This ceremonial procession had become so grand by 1535 that it was known as the Lord Mayor's Show.
Up until 1710 the Mayor traveled the route on horseback, when the horses where replaced by coaches or a barge along the Thames. The route of the procession changed from year to year to encompass the mayor's home ward, and remained so up until 1952 when it became fixed. Privileged regiments, such as the Royal Fusiliers, are allowed to march every year, as are the Livery Companies of London, other participants can only take part in the procession by invitation, including the Mayor's moist recent employers, favourite charities and the police service.
The Lord Mayor's show has taken place every year since its conception except for 1852, when it was cancelled for the funeral of the Duke of Wellington. It even took place in 1666, the year of the Great Fire of London and during the years of both World Wars.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
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Two men wearing kilts (or trews) welcome you at the door and an open fire welcomes you in the lobby,...more
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