It seems that despite the recent Antarctic cruise ship disaster, cruising is still more popular than ever with us Brits. In scenes reminiscent from the Titanic disaster, a cruise ship with some British and Irish passengers on board, hit an iceberg and sank in Antarctic waters last week. Fortunately all the passengers who were forced to flee the stricken vessel aboard life rafts were safely rescued.
However this has not deterred Britons' love of life on the ocean wave. Record numbers of Brits are now choosing to take holidays on the high seas aboard cruise ships. It is thought that many people have been lured by tempting deals offered by cruise holiday companies. In addition more and more people are becoming disillusioned with airport delays. Consequently the thought of boarding a ship somewhere like Southampton, avoiding long airport check-in queues and cruising off to warmer climates is very appealing.
A little piglet thought to be only 3 weeks old was discovered in the back of a delivery lorry. The bewildered little creature was found by Tesco supermarket workers amidst the lorry’s cargo of toilet rolls. It is thought he was loaded onto the vehicle as a prank. I can’t believe how cruel some people can be. Fortunately the story had a happy ending. The little piglet had cuts and bruises to his snout but was otherwise ok. The supermarket workers who found him, wrapped him in a blanket to keep him warm.and called the RSPCA. The little piglet is now being cared for in an animal shelter until he is fit enough to be re-homed.
A massive security breach has left more than 25 million people at risk of fraud and identity theft after two discs containing sensitive information about child benefit claimants went missing in transit. The loss of the discs containing bank details, national insurance numbers, dates of birth and names and address of every family in the country claiming child benefit has caused the biggest data security breach in Britain’s history. Chancellor Alistair Darling has advised families to be vigilant and check their bank accounts, whilst Gordon Brown has issued a public apology. That’s all very well but this is a serious blunder and has raised serious questions and concerns about how civil service departments treat sensitive information. It is rumoured that a junior member of staff was responsible for the blunder. To add insult to injury, HM Revenue and Customs revealed that a further six discs containing recorded conversations between a member of a staff and a customer making a complaint had also gone missing.
As police began a futile search of a courier’s warehouse, it does make you wonder where this is all going to end. I am a strong supporter of Gordon Brown myself but the public will only tolerate so much. The security of 25 million British men, women and children has been seriously compromised and heads must roll for this. If this blunder had happened in private industry, we would have expected nothing less than the resignation of the M.D. or Chief Executive Officer. It’s time that government ministers had the courage to stand up and be counted and take some responsibility for their actions. There are so many unanswered questions here too, the main one being why a junior member of staff was given responsibility for discs containing such highly sensitive information. Surely a more senior person in the organisation should have been looking after them. It is up to Mr Brown to ensure that safeguards are put in place so that nothing like this can ever happen again in the future. Our P.M. owes it to every man, woman and child in this country to do nothing less. Meanwhile the search for the missing data discs goes on.
It's interesting to note that in the wake of this massive security breach, a survey revealed that many Britons don’t check their bank accounts or statements on a regular basis to spot identity fraud. The main reasons for this are they are afraid of seeing how far in the red they are or just forget to check due to lack of time. In fact only 14 per cent of Britons would notice if a £1,000 went missing from their account, whilst eight out of ten Britons wouldn’t notice. Frightening news and this plays right into the hands of fraudsters. You owe it to yourself and your security to always check bank and building society statements regularly. This is obviously now more important than ever, in light of recent events.
Many people have asked me if we in Britain have an equivalent of The White House website in the U.S. Well here it is!
Click on the link below to go to the 10 Downing Street website. I'm also adding this to the British links in the left hand column of this blog. Not sure how it compares to The White House Site but I personally think the 10 Downing Street one is a great site!
10 Downing Street is the historic office and home of the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. The website is very interesting. Amongst other things, you can read about all the previous Prime Ministers who have lived at No. 10. There are also photo galleries on there, showing the Prime Minister at work. You can even take a virtual tour of No. 10 whilst you are there. Happy surfing everybody!
Prince Charles is planning to host a special dinner party to celebrate the diamond wedding anniversary of his parents, The Queen and Prince Philip. The party will be held at the Prince’s home Clarence House, where close members of the Royal family including Prince Charles, The Duchess of Cornwall and Princes William and Harry, will gather to toast the royal couple’s special 60 year anniversary.
Many people forget that as well as being a head of state and one of the hardest working members of the royal family, the Queen is also a wife, mother and grandmother. It’s hard to believe that 60 years have passed since The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh were married at Westminster Abbey on 20th November 1947. Over 2,000 people including many heads of state are expected to attend a special service of thanksgiving for the royal couple which is due to be held there today.
P.S. I’m posting a special picture showing the Queen and Prince Philip on their wedding day in 1947. I thought many readers would like to see this. This picture is courtesy of
Poor old Santa has been getting a lot of bad press this week. He can’t seem to do right for doing wrong. First of all apparently it’s no longer politically correct for Santa to say, “Ho ho ho!” Apparently a U.S. based recruitment agency in Sydney, Australia is telling potential Santas to say “Ha ha ha!” instead, for fear that the traditional “Ho ho ho!” may frighten children. Apparently the word “Ho” has a totally different meaning in the U.S. and is a slang term used to describe ladies of the night. Surely no child would know this anyway. I certainly didn’t and I’m an adult! “Ha ha ha!” just doesn’t have the same ring to it! In my opinion, this is taking political correctness a bit too far!
On another note some Santas in this country are being encouraged to slim down, to set a good example to children. Whoever heard of a slim Santa! Going to Santa’s grotto to have your photo taken, sitting on the knee of a chubby Santa was half the fun of Christmas for children of my generation. The Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent is running a boot camp for overweight Santas to get themselves slim on the run-up to Christmas! Apparently shoppers at the centre will be able to watch as the Santas are put through their paces in a bid to get them in shape! A manager from the centre said the idea was to make sure that Santa was fit so he could deliver all the presents! Oh dear poor old Santa! Looks like he'll have to give the traditional glass of sherry and mince pie a miss then as he does his rounds of all the houses!
One of the most eagerly anticipated exhibitions of the year has just opened in London. Prince Charles and his wife Camilla were the first visitors to see treasures and artefacts belonging to the Egyptian boy King Tutankhamun, when they went on display for the first time in 35 years. The collection is being showcased at the O2 Arena in London’s Docklands and is expected to attract many thousands of visitors. The Royal Diadem (crown) found around the head of Tutankhamun’s mummified body is being displayed along with other items, some over 3,500 years old.
British explorer Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb in Luxor in 1922. When the artefacts were first displayed at the British Museum in 1972, they attracted over a million visitors.
Prince William joined his father Prince Charles and grandmother the Queen at the Remembrance Day Ceremony held at the Cenotaph in London's Whitehall on Sunday. Crowds lined the streets to watch the annual Remembrance Day parade in the Autumn sunshine. Similar ceremonies took place all over England to honour those who have given their lives for their country.
The Queen led the tributes as an emotional Prince William laid a wreath for the first time at a Remembrance Day ceremony. The Prince may not have been allowed to fight in a war himself but he understands only too well the reality of armed conflict. The service was particularly poignant for the Prince as two of his army colleagues lost their lives this year. As Big Ben chimed and a single cannon round was fired, the U.K. observed a two minute silence at 11.00am as a mark of respect to the fallen service personnel and civilians.
My grandmother on my mum's side was the eldest of eleven children and I grew up hearing how some of her brothers and cousins fought in the World Wars. I always support the British Legion's Poppy Appeal and wear my poppy with pride at this time of year. I think everyone should. I always think that there should be some sort of special recognition for the service personnel who have given their lives for their country or been badly wounded in action. They deserve it for the sacrifices they have made for us all. Our Prime Minister Gordon Brown is supporting a national newspaper campaign to honour these soldiers with special medals. I personally believe service personnel who have been badly injured or have given their lives for our great nation deserve nothing less.
I've always loved Swedish supergroup Abba. I still have all my vinyl Abba records, all of them in pristine condition, treasured memorabillia from bygone times. It seems a lot of Britons share my taste in music. Abba is the group most Britons would like to see re-united according to the results of a recent poll. I have to agree it was a sad loss to the music world when they split up. Abba have certainly stood the test of time. Even today you can still hear their records being played by young and old alike. Abba are as popular now as they have always been.
Other groups that Britons would like to see getting back together include Spandau Ballet, The Stone Roses and Wham.
It's official Britons love texting! Recent research has revealed that Britons send over a staggering billion texts every week! That's approximately 4,000 messages per second! Wow! How did we ever manage without all this technology!
I personally love to text and find it a quick and easy way to keep in touch with friends and family. I send quite a lot of texts but even I don't manage to send that many!
British Vogue has named Her Majesty the Queen as one of the world's most glamourous women. The Queen appears in the top 50 alongside the likes of Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss.
British Vogue describes glamour as being, "not about what you wear but how you wear something". The Queen is described as being as glamourous in her Balmoral outfit of brogues and headscarf as she is when she is wearing the crown jewels. The Queen is one of the hardest working members of the Royal family. Despite her busy lifestyle, she always maintains a sense of dignity, style and elegance that is sometimes lacking in the younger members of the Royal family. The Queen is a great ambassador for Britain and one of the great style icons of our time. Long may she reign over us.
Congratulations to Tescos for launching a range of Disney branded fruit. The fruit will feature collectable Snow White and Tigger stickers to make it more attractive to primary school children. What better way to encourage youngsters to eat more fruit. There are also plans to put the stickers onto milk, fruit juice and cereals. Anything that encourages children to eat more healthier is always welcome in today's fast food world.
Fame at last! Gordon Brown has been offered a starring role in The Simpsons. Britain's Prime Minister is following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Tony Blair, who appeared in the cartoon show in 2003. Mr Brown was originally thought to be too boring to appear (oh dear!) but it seems the producers have now had a change of heart. The Simpsons already features a Scottish character, janitor and groundskeeper Willie. Maybe our Prime Minister could team up with him.
The show's producers are still waiting to hear if Mr Brown is interested in appearing, if not, he will be featured with an impressionist doing his voice. I've always liked The Simpsons and it would be great to see Gordon Brown as a special guest star.
It seems that a Labour think tank don't do Christmas, or at least they don't want to do it in the future. (Wonder if their last name is Scrooge!) Representatives from the Institute for Public Policy Research believe that the festive season discriminates against minorities and want to send Santa and his helpers packing! They also don't want to see any Xmas lights in our towns and cities or children carol singing on street corners. In fact if this bunch of killjoys had their way, Christmas would be banned altogether! Bah Humbug!
I do agree that Christmas has become too commercialised over the years. I personally don't want to see Christmas decorations and gifts for sale months before the time. However I wouldn't want to see Christmas banned altogether. Christmas is a time for family celebration (even if the outlaws (sorry inlaws!) are a problem sometimes!) and also encourages a sense of community spirit and bringing people together. Christmas is also an important religious festival which many people forget, a chance to rejoice and celebrate Christ's birthday. Don't cancel Christmas just yet!
A recent report has highlighted the poor standards of literacy in Britain's schools. Headteachers are urging more parents to spend time reading to their children. Reading a bedtime story to a child was described by one teacher as an essential part of spending quality time with them.
A spokesman from the Association of Headteachers said that parents had a responsibility to ensure that there were some good books kept in the home to give children reading practice and also recommended the re-introduction of some quiet reading time in schools.
It's a shame that with so many mothers now working and living in such a fast moving world that things like reading stories to children and listening to them practicing to read are no longer high on the list of priorities for parents. Sadly it's seems to have become one of the casualties of our modern world.
Hot on the heels of completing the last Harry Potter novel, JK Rowling has penned a book of fairytales, a spin off from the Harry Potter movies. Unlike the Harry Potter series, these books will not be on general release. JK Rowling has personally handwritten and illustrated only seven copies of "The Tales of Beedle and the Bard". Each book is bound in Morrocan leather and mounted with semi precious stones.
One book, a special edition, mounted with moonstones and silver ornaments will be auctioned at Sothebys to raise money for a children's charity which campaigns for children's rights across Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, where many children are in institutions. The book is expected to raise between £30,000 and £50,000. The remaining six books will be given away to people closely connected with the Harry Potter books. I personally think it's wonderful that JK Rowling is using her talent and good fortune to help children in need. It's people like her that make this world a better place.
"REMEMBER REMEMBER THE FIFTH OF NOVEMBER, GUNPOWDER, TREASON AND PLOT"
Tomorrow night we celebrate Bonfire Night, one of my favourite times of the year. I love watching firework displays. I also love Parkin and Treacle Toffee, which are traditionally eaten at this time of year. Parkin and Treacle Toffee are as much a part of Bonfire Night as Guy Fawkes himself.
Here's a recipe for Parkin, the traditional cake eaten at this time of year. The recipe comes courtesy of the BBC Food website.
Ingredients 350g/12oz medium oatmeal 175g/6oz self-raising flour 2 tsp ground ginger 175g/6oz soft brown sugar 175g/6oz butter 250g/9fl oz golden syrup 50g/2oz black treacle 2 free-range eggs 110ml/4oz milk
Method 1. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2 and line a small, deep baking tray with parchment paper. Combine the oatmeal, flour and ginger in a large mixing bowl. 2. Melt the sugar, butter, syrup and treacle in a bowl in the microwave or in a saucepan over a low heat. Pour the melted ingredients into the flour with the eggs and milk and stir well. 3. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tray. 4. Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown, but still soft and sticky on top. Reduce the oven to 130C/250F/Gas 1 and bake for a further 30 minutes until firm to the touch. 5. Allow to cool, before tightly wrapping in cling film. Store for at least three to five days to mature.
The origins of Bonfire or Guy Fawkes Night (as it's also known) go back to 1605 when a man called Guy Fawkes plotted with a band of others to blow up the Houses of Parliament, in the "Gunpowder Plot". They were angry at the persecution of Catholics by the King and planned to kill him in the explosion. The group were captured in the cellar of parliament, and executed before they had chance to go ahead with their plan. All over Britain on 5th November, we celebrate the capture of Guy Fawkes by having bonfire and fireworks displays and burning an effigy of Guy Fawkes. Groups of children can be seen with "guys" made out of old clothes asking for a "penny for the guy", a few days before Bonfire Night. Happy Bonfire Night everyone!