Remembrance Sunday is commemorated in the United Kingdom on the second Sunday of November, which is the Sunday nearest to 11th November, the anniversary of the end of First World War hostilities at 11.00 AM in 1918. As in most countries, the ceremonies are marked by two minutes’ silence. Wreaths of poppies are laid on war memorials all-round the country, as well as at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London. The latter is attended by the Queen and other members of the Royal Family, but in cities and up and down the country the practice is observed by members of local armed forces regular and reserve units, military cadet forces, the Royal British Legion (a charity for retired servicemen and women), local dignitaries and representatives of local and youth organisations.
Londonderry or Derry? As you approach a city with seemingly 2 names – you will see the battles commence. Both from the Republic of Ireland side of the border and inside Northern Ireland (UK) itself! There are many signs on the motorways (highways) and roads trying to tell you the direction and/or how many miles to drive to arrive at the second largest city in Northern Ireland. It’s an amazing historic and vibrant city that is also the 4th largest city on the Irish Island. But what is the battle?
If you are Catholic – you will call the city ‘Derry’. If you are Protestant you will call it ‘Londonderry’. As I was driving along I saw most road signs with the LONDON part spray painted out. Even just when it said L’Derry – the ‘L’ was painted out. Fair play to vandals of a Protestant background. I saw a few signs where DERRY was painted out and I seemed to be driving toward London itself.
And then there were the ultimate signs- both names painted out.
The battle of Nowhere won!
At least, given the death and pain, today the battle are with a spray can of paint, not an assault rifle in a crowd of civilians.
If you would like some history – here it is!
The official name of the city is Londonderry. Originally it was a village called Doire meaning ‘oak wood’ or ‘oak grove’ in Gaelic. In 1613, King James I granted the now city a Royal Charter and added ‘London’ when all of Ireland was part of an English, later United Kingdom. Interestingly the County Londonderry in which it resides in existed with the full name first. The County was created (there was never a ‘County Derry’) in reference to the London Livery Companies of the Irish Society. This was a venture that pioneered the colonisation of Northern Ireland.
The post office got into the Olympic spirit by issuing stamps for the British gold medalists. They also painted a post box gold in the home towns of the gold medal winners. We visited the gold post box in Dunblane - birthplace of Andy Murray. My photo shows the gold postbox in Dunblane with my husband and close friends.
The Olympics were the big event in the UK this summer and while we were not lucky enough to see any live events, we both spent many hours glued to the TV. I also liked the Olympic ring symbols that appeared all over the place. We were not in London this year so did not see the most famous ones; the Olympic rings on Tower Bridge but we did see them next to Edinburgh Castle and in George’s Square, Glasgow.
Pantomimes or Pantos are a musical-comedy theatrical production performed during the Christmas and New Year season. The stories are generally adapted from a fairy tale and come in all shapes and sizes, but with some commonalities - goodies and baddies, the pantomime dame (a man in drag) and actors dressed as a horse or cow. The viewers play an essential part of the show as audience participation is a must; with children encouraged to repeatedly shout phrases such as “It’s behind you!” and “Oh no it isn’t! Oh yes it is!”
Postal codes were first introduced in the United Kingdom in 1959 and use an alphanumeric (letters and numbers) system, this type is more precise and the code corresponds to a street or part of, this means that a letter only needs a house number and post code for accurate delivery. The code can be between five and eight characters long and includes a space separating the postal district and a particular part of the town/street.
Boxing Day is the day after Christmas and is a UK National Holiday, if December 26 falls on a weekend, the following Monday becomes a holiday. Boxing Day is a time to spend with family or friends, usually those not seen on Christmas Day itself and normally involves guests often popping in for a snack and quick drink usually a buffet or leftovers from Christmas lunch. Boxing Day now also brings with it a full sporting calendar.
Bonfire Night is an annual event dedicated to bonfires, fireworks and celebrations that are held every Fifth of November. The tradition dates back to the events of 5 November 1605, when Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives that had been placed beneath the House of Lords. Celebrating the fact that King James I had survived the attempt on his life people lit bonfires, usually effigies of Guy Fawkes are placed on top of the bonfire, which is then set alight; and fireworks displays accompany the bonfires throughout the country
April 1st is April Fool's Day, when you can play tricks and jokes until midday.
There are usually joke articles in newspapers, and sometimes on radio, television and websites as well.
If you catch someone out with a trick, they are an 'April Fool'....but if you try a trick after 12 noon then you are the 'April fool'.
The origins of the tradition are unclear but probably go way back to Medieval times (the Middle Ages, roughly 900-1600 in the UK). It possibly began with the Roman festival of 'Hilaria' (March 25th). Certainly the idea of a day 'for fools' has long been widespread in Europe. The French tradition on April 1st, for example, is the 'Poisson D'Avril', when one tries to attach a paper fish to the victim's back.
They are starting to become harder to find. Nothing is as iconic as the British Phone Box. Needless to say, they don’t make them like that anymore. The red telephone box was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. They were designed to protect callers from the rain and to be easily seen. The first telephone kiosks were introduced by the Post Office and made from concrete in 1920 (called a K1). Many London Metropolitan Boroughs would not accept this and the Post Office held a contest in 1924 to make a better phone box.
The winning design was by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott who envisioned a silver coloured exterior. The Post Office saw red. Literally. The phone boxes were all made red and matched their letterboxes. This was accepted in London as K2.
Sir Giles stayed busy and designed K3 in 1930 made in concrete.
K4 was designed by the Post Office itself in 1927 and only 50 were built (please see my pictures to see one). They incorporated a post box and a machine that sold stamps. They are far larger than a standard phone box.
K5 (1934) was made from plywood and was used at exhibitions.
K6 (1935) was designed to celebrate the silver jubilee of King George V. Thousands were erected all across Britain and made the red telephone box a fixture in every hamlet, town and village. People were not too keen on the red colour at first.
K7 (1959) was experimental only
K8 (1968) Was the last of the red boxes.
KX100 This soulless horrible glass box was introduced by British Telecom after it was privatised and sold off from the Post Office. These can be seen blighting most communities in the UK today.
In 1952 Queen Elizabeth II decided to stop using the purely symbolic 'Tudor Crown' and instead use a representation of the actual crown used for coronations - the St Edward's Crown. New K6 models (1955) began to use this new symbol. In Scotland, they decided to use a representation of the actual Crown of Scotland.
Despite the omnipresent 'Estuary English', accents and dialects still vary quite considerably with the United Kingdom - not only between the nations of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, but also within these countries themselves. The accent of someone from the West Country (Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire) for example will differ quite a lot from that of someone from the North-East. Even within quite small areas it is possible to find variations - in the North-east, the inhabitants of Newcastle and Sunderland, known as Geordies and Mackems respectively, may have similar accents but with a good ear subtle differences can be found.
The range of pronunciations and use of quite localised words can be very confusing to someone not from that area, and certainly for someone whose first language is not English I can imagine it could cause serious misunderstanding!
If you are planning to visit somewhere with a strong accent - Wales, Scotland, Liverpool, Newcastle etc - see if you can find recordings and/or dialect 'dictionaries' for the area, it may help a little, and will add a little colour to your visit, not to mention some cultural background.
Lots of people in the UK are wearing bright fluorescent yellow jackets - luckily it is not sunny so often or your eyes would hurt!
This is not fashion - it is purely "health and safety" gone mad. First it was cyclists and motorcyclists, to be seen by drivers. Then it progressed to construction workers and anyone near machines, like at harbours and airports. Then the police and traffic wardens and little children on their way to school in winter.
Most clothing in UK is quite dull, so these "high visibility" yellow jackets are a sight for sore eyes.
It has gone crazy.
The man in this picture is a labourer on his lunch break - in Kirkwall, Orkney.
English (and Welsh, and Scots) pubs are special places with their own way of doing things.
You can buy and drink alcohol a the age of 18. You can drink beer or cider with a meal at 16 (as long as it is purchased by an adult).
Children are sometimes tolerated in pubs, as long as they have 'family rooms'or 'restaurant'rooms. Otherwise, it is expected that children will not be in the bar area. The law states that a child must be 14 to enter a pub, but this does not apply if there are special rooms as previously mentioned.
The landlord or landlady has absolute power in a pub, and can decide who he or she will serve. They can refuse to serve you if they don'tlike the look of you, if your behaviour is inappropriate or if they think you have already had too much to drink. It is important that they keep their pubs orderly, for their licences have to be renewed every year. A poor reputation means they may lose their licence (and their livelihood).
If you want a drink, you can either find a table/seat first or go straight to the bar.
You buy drinks at the bar, pay then carry them to your seat.
All pubs serve non-alcoholic drinks.....lemonade, bottled juices etc .......and it is perfectly ok just to have non-alcoholic drinks (which are more expensive than in shops/supermarkets, as pubs make their profit on these). Many pubs also serve coffee and tea, and will certainly do so if they serve food.
If there are lots of people at the bar it is polite to wait your turn, but you can also catch the barperson's eye by having a note (5 or 10GBP) very obviously in your hand. This makes it clear that you want to be served.
Many pubs serve food. Most will have menus on the tables,and many also have a blackboar or notice with 'daily specials' displayed on it. Somepubs only serve sandwiches,some only serve crisps and nuts, but serving 'bar snacks'and meals is more common than not nowadays.since the drink/driving laws were introduced it is the only way to make a pub a viable financial proposition.
If you want to eat, find your table first then go to the bar to order. Tables often have a number somewhere on them (though not always), so check before you go to the bar. You will be expected to pay for your food. It will be brought to your table.
Some pubs will give you a number when you order, and you will have to listen for the bar staff shouting out your number when they appear with your food.
If you want anything else (drinks, dessert etc) then you will have to go to the bar again.
It is not usual to sit at a table which is already occupied, even if seats are free. No-one will say anything if you do, but in the UK people generally prefer not to share tables. It's one of our foibles.
One does not tip in pubs, although you can offer the bar person a drink if you wish...'And have one for yourself' is the usual expression. Many bar staff are not allowed to drink on duty, so they may say 'Thank you, I'll have one later' and keep the appropriate amount. That's perfectly ok.
”The children break up on Friday” Truly chilling words. Will their tiny arms and legs suddenly fall off? Will they become decapitated suddenly? All of them? This tip has been written on 18 July 2008. They day the kids break-up in England. Before you become very scared or are afraid you will see little body parts littering the roads in school uniforms – it’s OK. Really. ‘Breaking up’ is a British expression meaning the schools are closing for the summer holidays or other breaks during the year and the children are off school for a while. The first time I heard it I could only imagine complete carnage.
BRIT LIFE ©
I’m no flag waving patriot but I’m proud of some things British, not least our sense of humour, which is maybe at its best when our backs are to the wall. One of my favourite examples comes from 1940, when France, our last remaining ally in Europe had fallen and the shattered remnants of the British Army had fled from Dunkirk, leaving its weapons on the beaches.
As a stunned and practically defenceless Britain was waiting for what seemed to be inevitable Nazi invasion (and almost certain annihilation) the doorman at one of the Armed Services clubs was heard to console a downcast member by saying: "Anyhow, sir, at least we're in the final, and it is to be played on the home ground." Now that’s irony.
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The UK is packed full of local traditions, customs, dialects and accents. We certainly don't all speak like the Queen, or even the BBC announcers! You'll find that each part of the country has...
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