Congratulations to Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen on the news that he is to become a dad. Apparently Sacha and his partner Isla Fisher couldn’t contain their excitement at becoming parents and revealed their happy news to friends in a Los Angeles pub. According to sources the happy couple couldn’t stop hugging and kissing!
British scientists at Sheffield University have discovered that drinking green tea can help fight HIV, the virus that leads to Aids. A compound in the tea prevents the virus from binding to cells in the immune system. A university professor stated that the tea could reduce the risk of infection and slow down the spread of the virus. However he stressed that it wasn’t a cure but could be used to improve the quality of life of those affected by the HIV virus. The current number of UK residents with the virus has risen to over 63,000.
Meanwhile tea connoisseurs believe that the tea purchased by most UK shoppers is amongst the worst tea in the world. Apparently experts say that many supermarket own-brand tea bags are nothing more than dust and water stuffed into a bag! So now we know!
Plans revealed by Tony Blair this week to put “facial recognition” cameras on the streets of Britain were met by a furious public response. Apparently the idea is that the cameras will be able to spot criminals by matching pictures with electronic “maps” of their faces stored on a computer. What if the technology goes wrong and an innocent person is targeted? I don’t think this has even been considered. They say everyone has a double so an innocent person could easily be mistaken for a criminal who looks uncannily like them. Mr Blair believes that the new system will be a way to combat 21st century crime.
Critics argue that the new system will lead to less police on the streets and pose a serious threat to our civil liberties. Many people believe the cameras will lead to a society as in George Orwell’s 1984 novel where people’s every move is monitored. I couldn’t believe it when I heard that the government are also going to put hidden cameras into bricks and baked bean cans to catch residents who put their rubbish out on the wrong day! This would be funny if it wasn’t so petty and yet another waste of taxpayers’ hard earned money! It certainly feels as if Britain is turning into a “Big Brother is watching” society. Love them or loathe them, cameras of any description are no substitute for good policing, something that’s sadly lacking in this country.
We put the clocks forward one hour on Sunday to mark British Summertime. I'm really enjoying the lighter evenings and not having to drive home from work in the dark! Now all we need is some Summer weather to go with it! Roll on Summer!
James Bond star Daniel Craig has been voted Best Actor by readers in the Empire Magazine awards. The 007 actor beat Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen, Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio to the title. Casino Royale was named Best Film. Empire Magazine readers obviously have good taste!
The Hogwarts Express, the train used in the Harry Potter movies has been wrecked by teenage vandals as it stood in a depot at Carnforth in Lancashire. The train is now in need of the boy wizard’s magic touch, after 230 windows were smashed causing £50,000 worth of damage, which will take several weeks to repair and could result in job losses if other repair work has to be left. Hammers used to shatter the toughened glass windows were left at the scene. Six youths were seen fleeing but so far no arrests have been made. The train carries Harry and his school friends from London’s Kings Cross to Hogwart’s in the fictional movie adventures. I personally can’t believe how anybody can do something like this. Youths who do things like this have no respect for anything or anybody. It is just wanton destruction. They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.
Warwick University researchers have found a link between heavy metal music and intelligence. It seems that children with high IQ’s often feel isolated and seek solace in listening to heavy metal bands like Ozzy Osbourne’s Black Sabbath. One researcher said that talented pupils appreciate hard rock as it’s quite a challenging form. So there we go.
Chancellor Gordon Brown delivered his 2007 budget this week, his final one as Chancellor. An opinion poll reveals that almost half of voters believe they will be worse off despite a 2p cut in the basic rate of income tax, making it the lowest for 75 years. Critics accused Mr Brown of giving with one hand and taking with the other as the abolishment of the bottom ten percent tax rate was announced. In general the budget was well received as being good for families, good for business and good for the environment, paving the way to No. 10 for Mr Brown. The Chancellor plans to put more money into education, whilst businesses will gain from a cut in corporation tax. In addition Mr Brown plans sharp increases in road tax for gas guzzling vehicles.
Middlesex University researchers have discovered that the smell of lemons whilst driving adds zest to difficult journeys and generally improves driving performance. You can now buy car vapourisers that plug into the cigarette lighter socket. Pop some lemon scented aromatherapy oil in and away you go. What a good idea. Lemon and Orange scented aromatherapy oils are good for keeping you awake, focused and alert. Maybe more British drivers should try this. It might help prevent some of the accidents on the road.
Madonna fans made a beeline for H & M stores this week as the material girl launched her new fashion collection. Garments from the M by Madonna 30 piece fashion collection were quickly snapped up by eager shoppers after they went on sale at the store chain. Leather trench coats, kimono dresses and sequinned shift dresses were amongst the most popular items.
I smiled when I heard that a crematorium in Kings Lynn, Norfolk is having wider furnaces installed to accommodate the growing number of fat corpses. Yet more evidence of the growing obesity problem in Britain!
Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair has a big fan in the shape of Terminator star Arnold Schwarzenegger. It seems to be a case of life imitating art as California governor Arnold vowed to win the battle to save the planet and give California a green makeover. Mr Schwarzenegger described Tony Blair as an “action hero” and an “inspiration” to many countries of the world, after Mr Blair unveiled the Climate Change Bill. If it becomes law, the Bill will make Britain the first country to forcibly cut the greenhouse gasses blamed for global warming. The new plans mean that Britain must slash carbon dioxide emissions by at least 60 per cent by 2050. The two men recently exchanged ideas on how to save the planet in a video conferencing call.
Meanwhile Harry Potter author JK Rowling has done her bit to save the planet by having the latest saga of the boy wizard, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, printed on paper from recycled pulp and sustainable forests.
London has been named the global capital of the 21st century by New York magazine. The influential American publication pays tribute to London in its latest issue, extolling the virtues of London’s financial, cultural and culinary benefits. The magazine also praises London’s architectural skyline and thriving arts and theatre scene. London has always been a very vibrant city, definitely one of the jewels in England’s crown. I always enjoy my visits there.
For more information on London, particularly if you are planning a visit there, go to:- http://www.visitlondon.com/
N.B. This was originally posted over at Diary From England in March 07
Today we celebrate Mother’s Day in England, a special day when we can show our Mum just how much we love and appreciate her! Traditionally Mother’s Day has always been celebrated (in Britain), on the fourth Sunday of Lent since about the 16th century. The original roots of Mother’s Day probably lie in the church festival of “Refreshment Sunday”, when traditionally people would go back to visit their “Mother” church, i.e. the church where they were baptised. As time went by this custom changed to using the day for people to honour their mothers rather than the church. I’m taking my own Mum out for a meal to celebrate her special day! Happy Mothers Day to any mums reading this!
A shocking report published this week reveals that wasteful British families throw away a third of the food they buy. Apparently most families buy more food than they need, storing it in fridges that are too warm and allowing it to go out of date. As somebody who was brought up not to waste food and always reminded that there were lots of starving children in the world by my dad, I can never understand why people do this. They should spare a thought for the thousands of starving people in third world countries who have nothing. They would appreciate just a small amount of the food we cast on one side and throw away. Many people in the west just don’t appreciate how lucky they are.
I smiled when I heard about the Jack Russell terrier who swallowed his owner’s false teeth. His owner discovered the teeth missing and realised what had happened when she saw the dog looking at her with a sheepish expression on his face. Fortunately he lived to tell the tale, after having them removed in a 3 hour operation. The mischievous hound has previously munched on slippers, shoes and tv wires!
After a public outcry over the cost of the pay as you go hospital telephone services, the ban on mobile phone use in British hospitals is set to be lifted within weeks. Mobile phone use is currently banned in hospitals. Under the current system, anyone wanting to make a phone call is obliged to use one of the hospital bedside pay as you go telephone services run by private companies and costing up to 50p a minute! Many patients and relatives have complained about running up massive phone bills for the privilege of using them. In the past it was argued that mobile phones interfered with hospital equipment. However experts have found that in most wards they don’t cause any problems. In the future mobile phone use by staff, patients and their visitors will be allowed in communal areas of hospitals.
Doctors warned this week that office workers who spend several hours a week sitting in front of a computer, are more at risk of deep vein thrombosis that air travellers. Apparently a third of people admitted to hospital with deadly blood clots and deep vein thrombosis were those who had sat at a desk for long periods of time. Apparently some people spend a staggering 14 hours sedentary and working at a desk without moving. Frightening news! I think the key is to take regular breaks and walk around, if only to get a tea or coffee. Employers owe it to the health and wellbeing of their staff to give them some break times away from their desks. As most of you know, I spend several hours a week desk-based but I’m lucky as I have a good employer and I’m able to take several breaks away from my desk. Sadly some employees in this country aren’t so lucky.
The news that the minimum wage is to be increased by the paltry sum of 17p sparked an outcry from many of Britain’s workforce this week. The meagre amount doesn’t even cover the cost of a second class stamp! It’s an insult to the hard working people of Britain.
Scientists revealed this week that Epicatechin, a compound found in cocoa can dramatically reduce your chances of developing major illnesses and its health benefits may rival Penicillin in terms of importance to public health. They made their discoveries after studying the Kuna tribe in Panama, who drink a staggering 40 cups of cocoa a week! Good news for cocoa lovers everywhere or maybe not! It seems the cocoa that the Kuna tribe drink is a homemade version, rich in flavenols, notably Epicatechin, which are usually removed from commercial cocoas sold in the western world as they make it taste too bitter. Maybe manufacturers should have a re-think and put the flavenols back in, as scientists claim that drinking cocoa containing these could cut the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes to less than 10 per cent. Definitely food for thought.
The Queen of Bollywood, Shilpa Shetty met The Queen of England this week at a Westminster Abbey multi-faith service to mark Commonwealth Day. During the service Shilpa who was at the centre of a global race row during her time on Big Brother, spoke of the importance of tolerance, respect and understanding of other cultures. This is more important than ever today in our multi-cultural society. Shilpa Shetty has become a household name in the U.K. after winning Celebrity Big Brother. In addition to meeting the Queen, Shilpa has also been welcomed into the Houses of Parliament and met Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The latest government suggestion announced this week to improve the National Health Service is to make nurses smile more! Not sure exactly how they’re going to go about doing this with the current crisis situation in the NHS. Apparently research has suggested that some of the problems in the NHS are caused by the “unfriendly image” of the staff. The suggestion provoked an angry reaction from The Royal College of Nursing after it was made within one week of nurses being told they would receive a staged, below inflation pay rise. On top of this, we have hospital closures and cuts, resulting in massive job losses. No wonder staff morale is so low in the NHS. It should come as no surprise to the government that nurses are so unhappy. They are already trying to do their best for patients with often limited resources, as hospital funding is cut to the bone. It doesn’t sound like nurses have much to smile about to me! Instead of coming up with stupid suggestions, the government should wake up and face up to the reality of what’s happening in the NHS and find a solution as a matter of urgency, for the sake of everyone in Britain.
regarding the origins of the British “bobby”. PJ’s specialise in creating books of handmade paper dolls. They sell a lot of other interesting items for children as well if you'd like to go over and pay them a visit. Janey has just introduced some new little animal paper dolls and one of them is Peppy the little Sheppy, an old timey cop. "Bobby" is an English expression used to describe a British policeman or cop as our American neighbours refer to them. The term “bobby” was first used many years ago and is derived from Sir Robert Peel who was the Home Secretary in England when the Metropolitan Police Force was created in the 1800’s. The British “bobby” is still to this day a treasured icon in England. However nowadays you're more likely to see them on motorcycles, in police cars or even on horseback rather than pounding the beat on foot like they used to in the old days. ("Pounding the beat" is another British expression. It means walking round the streets looking for any wrong doing).
Other expressions we use to describe a British policeman are “Plod”, which comes from the policeman character of Mr Plod in Enid Blyton’s Noddy stories and “Copper” which comes from the expression “copping” which literally means watching what criminals are up to and catching them. I hope that answers your question Janey.
P.S. You might also be interested to know that one of the most popular expressions we associate with the British "bobby" is, "Hello, hello what's goin' on here?". It's a popular line used on tv and in comedy sketches where policemen are featured.
A new style £20 note featuring 18th century economist, Adam Smith has been launched by the Bank of England. The banknote also includes a number of new security features designed to stamp out counterfeiting. Most Britons have never heard of Adam Smith who is the first Scot to feature on a banknote. The current £20 note features composer Sir Edward Elgar.
In October this year, the Bank of England accidentally circulated up to forty £10 notes which are blank on one side due to a misprint. Apparently the notes still count as legal tender and are selling on Ebay for £260 each! Wow!
As some of you know, I love to travel. I’ve visited lots of interesting places over the years but it’s always good to get home to England or “Blighty” as it’s affectionately known by some of us Brits. As soon as you hear Big Ben’s chimes and see the red buses and black cabs, you know you’re home! It’s always nice to get back after a trip and sit down with a cup of English tea. It never tastes the same abroad. Also favourite things like HP sauce, Bisto gravy granules, Marmite and Cadburys chocolate are virtually unheard of in some parts of the world. One of the things I particularly like about England is the fact we have a Royal family and a Monarch to rule over us. Despite having just celebrated her 80th birthday, the Queen shows no signs of slowing down and is still one of the hardest working members of the Royal family. We badly need a change of government but you can’t have everything in this life! England is also the land that gave us Shakespeare and many other famous writers including Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Barbara Taylor Bradford and Harry Potter’s creator J K Rowling. Screen icons Elizabeth Taylor and Bob Hope were both born here. Lots of great bands have also originated here including The Beatles, The Rowling Stones, Queen and Oasis.
England has a special place in a lot of people’s hearts including mine. Singer Tom Jones missed the “green green grass of home” so much that he had a red telephone box shipped over to his American home which now takes pride of place in his back garden, a nostalgic reminder of his English roots. Sadly the famous red telephone boxes have now been replaced by newer more modern looking boxes. With the invention of mobiles, phone boxes are now a rare site in England. Thankfully some red postboxes still remain. There's no place like home!
I smiled when I heard about the American couple who were awaiting delivery of a table they ordered on E-bay and instead received two mystery packages which were meant for delivery to a medical research lab. Upon opening the packages the shocked couple discovered a head and a liver which had been delivered to their home in error by DHL. Investigators now fear a further 28 organs could be wrongly delivered. It looks like there are even more shocks in store for some unsuspecting people!
The government announced this week that long-term job seekers would be helped to find work by offering them free haircuts, tattoo removal, new suits and smart clothes. I wonder if they’ll be offered the new stain-resistant “wipe and go” Permatech cotton shirt just launched by Asda this week. Sounds like a good idea to me!
Meanwhile the world’s first aerodynamic umbrella which its makers claim can withstand a Force 10 gale without turning inside out was launched this week. The Senz created by a Dutch firm, will be sold for £35. Good idea but that’s a lot of money to pay for a humble brolly! Wonder if it sings and dances as well?
The humble Lancashire Eccles cake was in the news this week. The fruity Lancashire delicacy has been chosen, along with the hot cross bun as the UK’s entry in a bakery festival in Berlin, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the European Union. Each of the 27 EU member states will be able to choose two of their favourite cakes to enter. The UK’s entry will sit alongside strudel and gateaux, when the festival takes place later this month. Eccles cakes are now famous throughout the world with exports to several countries including the U.S. and The West Indies. They’re a popular British favourite, a welcome addition to any table. The Germans are notorious pastry addicts. I’m sure they’ll grow to love them as much as we Brits do!
British doctors could soon be prescribing thick pile carpets and swimming lessons alongside the usual prescription medicines and drugs under new government plans announced this week by Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt. Under the plans, doctors are to be asked to provide a much wider range of services. These will include sending teenagers with violent tendencies to anger management classes, offering free swimming lessons to obese patients, air conditioning to people with lung disease and a thick pile carpet to frail elderly people to limit their injuries in a fall. Apparently it’s hoped the new plans will save the National Health Service millions of pounds by preventing people from becoming ill in the first place. At the end of the day it’s all about money. I’m not sure what planet Patricia Hewitt is living on. Obviously not this one. If our cash-strapped National Health Service has no money to fund operations, I’m not sure where the money is going to come from to fund these “services”. Only time will tell if the new plans are successful.
Oscar winner Helen Mirren this week revealed the secret to her youthful appearance. No it isn’t the latest lotion, potion, face cream or wonder drug as some people might think. The secret to her youthful good looks is being happy. I've always believed that a positive outlook is everything and that if you're happy on the inside, it definitely shows in your appearance on the outside. It's certainly true in Helen's case. After her Emmy, Globes, BAFTAs and Oscars successes this year, Dame Helen certainly has plenty to smile about! Well done to her!
A veteran press photographer has expressed concern over the treatment of Prince William’s girlfriend by the paparazzi, warning that she could end up being hounded like Princess Diana. Unfortunately being involved with the heir to the throne has thrust Kate Middleton into the media spotlight with photographers eager to get a much coveted photograph of somebody who could be a future Queen. Sun photographer Arthur Edwards has called on the press to leave Kate Middleton alone and give her some space. Edwards was giving evidence to MP’s about the self-regulation of the press and remarked that he felt “very sorry for that girl”. It certainly seems like history is repeating itself, when you think how the press treated Prince William’s mother, Diana in her lifetime, hounding her till the day she died. I personally think the press should leave Kate and William alone. They should be allowed to enjoy their romance in private, without constant press intrusion. After everything that happened with Diana, the press owe it to William and Kate to leave them alone and give them some space.
Edwards also claimed that Prince William and Kate Middleton are definitely set to marry, saying it was based on conversations he had with the Prince.
Following on from my earlier post about the worrying increase in pet obesity in Britain, a new slimming pill for overweight dogs was launched this week. Yarvitan, a prescription only drug which will be used alongside diet and exercise, stops fat from being digested and can give an average weight loss of eight percent. A better solution might be to issue pet owners with an instruction booklet of how to look after them.
Over 1,000 premature babies die every year in the UK, the equivalent of four babies every day, according to new figures released by baby charity Tommy’s. According to experts, the UK has the worst premature baby death rate of any country in Western Europe. However doctors still do not know why so many babies die so young and are calling on the government to give funding for more research. As Tommy’s launched the “Stop Premature Births” campaign this week, the charity’s patron the Duchess of York said, “Thousands of tiny lives are at risk.” The Department of Health announced that the government has now committed £4million per year for research.
Meanwhile American scientists have discovered that eating ice cream can help a woman's chances of conceiving. Apparently a study found that eating high fat dairy foods like ice cream once a week can increase a woman's chances of getting pregnant. Interesting.
Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe got a standing ovation as he made his West End stage debut this week. Daniel better known as his alter ego Harry Potter, appeared naked in the lead role of a tortured teenager in the gruelling psychological thriller Equus, leaving people under no illusions that the young boy wizard had finally grown up. Watched by a star studded audience on his opening night, Daniel received rave reviews for his performance from his co-stars and critics alike. Several Broadway theatre bosses are now battling for Daniel to bring his stage show to New York, however Daniel’s commitments to the next Harry Potter movie mean he is unlikely to perform there until next Autumn at the earliest.
Is this the best reason yet to avoid exercise? According to Bristol University scientists, fitness fanatics pose a serious threat to global warming. Apparently researchers discovered that strenuous exercise leads to increased carbon dioxide being produced and expelled during breathing. One of many suggested causes of global warming being suggested at the moment it seems!
On a more serious note, according to findings from researchers at Southern California University, women who exercise regularly for several years may protect themselves from breast cancer. The study found that women who exercised for more than five hours a week doing strenuous exercise reduced their risk of early stage cancer and invasive disease. Good news for women everywhere.