Sunday, December 21, 2008

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL MY READERS!


I hope you've enjoyed your visits to Diary From England this year. I'd like to take this opportunity of wishing all my readers a Merry Christmas and a very Happy and Prosperous New Year!

MERRY XMAS! (WAR IS OVER)

I’ve always been a Beatles fan and wanted to share this video with you. It has some great still footage of the fab four. I love this Christmas song which was written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in their New York City hotel room. It’s such a wonderful haunting melody and in my opinion one of the best Christmas songs ever written. John and Yoko were both great anti-war campaigners and spent a lot of time in the late 60’s and early 70’s campaigning for peace. In 1969, they even went as far as putting up billboard advertisements saying, “War is over! (if you want it)”, in some of the world’s major cities. Two year’s later the slogan became the basis for this unique and special Christmas song with John and Yoko’s special anti-war message. I think the song is really relevant to this time of year. “Peace on earth and goodwill to all men”. It would be so wonderful to live in a world where there were no wars.

After the Beatles split up, both Paul McCartney and John Lennon went on to form successful solo careers. Along with “Imagine”, "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" is one of my favourite John Lennon tracks. John's murder came as a shock to a lot of people including myself. Like Princess Diana's death, most people can remember where they were and what they were doing the day it happened. His death was a terrible tragedy and a great loss to his millions of fans around the world. Fortunately we still have the legacy of John Lennon’s music to keep his memory alive. John was shot and killed less than 3 weeks before Christmas in 1980. This special Christmas song was re-released in the UK in December of the same year. Merry Christmas and Rest in Peace John!

BRITONS GO ON XMAS SPENDING SPREE AS STORES SLASH PRICES


It’s spend, spend, spend for credit crunch Britons as some of our major shops and stores have slashed prices to encourage shoppers to hit the high street in the run up to Christmas. With only a few Xmas shopping days left, many Britons have now gone on a Christmas shopping bonanza, with many purposely waiting until the last minute in a bid to grab those last-minute bargains.

With rising unemployment and the current gloomy economic outlook, more and more people are choosing to pay for goods and services using their credit cards. The current credit crunch has done nothing to diminish the British love affair with credit cards. Britain is still known as the credit capital of Europe. Many Britons including myself can’t imagine life without a credit card. Balance transfer cards in particular have become increasingly popular amongst consumers. More and more people are transferring balances from one card to another, to take advantage of 0% and other great low rate deals to ensure they pay as little interest as possible. According to recent research millions of us are looking to transfer billions of pounds collectively over the next few months alone in a bid to save on interest on our existing higher interest rate credit cards. Indeed many people have already saved themselves a small fortune on interest by switching their balances and in the case of a 0% balance transfer card, repaying the total amount owed within the interest free period.

There has never been a better time to take advantage of some of the great balance transfer card deals out there. As the credit crunch bites, we have all become more choosey about our cards and want the best deals and rewards for our money to make shopping even more enjoyable.

SIMON COWELL MORE FAMOUS THAN GOD!


According to the results of a recent survey of British youngsters for National Kid’s Day, XFactor judge Simon Cowell is now more famous with British kids than the Queen or God! Her Majesty was No. 1 on the list last year. However Simon Cowell managed to knock the Queen off the top spot this year, taking the coveted No. 1 place with God coming second. It was interesting to note that if kids ruled the world, one of the top things they would ban is being overweight, closely followed by divorce and bullying. They rated these on a list of the worst things in the world. Top of the list of the best things in the world was good looks, closely followed by fame and riches. Just goes to show what an increasingly shallow society we have come to live in. Interesting!

ALEXANDRA CROWNED XFACTOR WINNER

Congratulations to this year’s XFactor winner Alexandra Burke. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is one of Alexandra’s biggest fans and says he will be following in the footsteps of millions of other Britons by buying Alexandra’s hit single, “Hallelujah”. Mr Brown revealed his plans to buy the single as “one of his Christmas presents”, at a Downing Street press conference. Alexandra who is following in the footsteps of her mother, Melissa Bell, ex lead singer of hit group Soul II Soul, is expected to take the Christmas No. 1 spot with the hit song. Alexandra’s “Hallelujah” song has already become the fastest selling download in history with over 105,000 copies sold on its first day of release, smashing the 82,000 sales record set by Leona Lewis for her XFactor winning song, “A Moment Like This”. To see Alexandra in action, click on the player shown below:-

Sunday, December 14, 2008

HOLIDAY CAMPS HIT HI DE HI NOTE WITH BRITISH HOLIDAYMAKERS


I used to love the 80’s comedy show, "Hi-De-Hi". Set in the fictional Maplins holiday camp of the 1950s, it bore more than a striking resemblance to many British holiday camps of years gone by. One of my favourite characters was chief Yellowcoat Gladys Pugh who woke unsuspecting campers with the immortal words, “Morning Campers! Hi-De-Hi!”. Billy Butlin opened Britain’s first ever holiday camp in Skegness in 1936 and despite some early teething troubles, the venture was an immediate success. The aim was to offer cheap and cheerful family holidays in luxury chalet accommodation that ordinary working families could afford, complete with all singing, all dancing Redcoat entertainers to attend to their every need. Meanwhile Butlin’s rival Sir Fred Pontin opened his first holiday camp at Brean Sands in Somerset in 1946 to meet the demand for family holidays from soldiers returning from World War II, offering families a low cost, chalet holiday with entertainment from Bluecoats entertainers. Some of Britain's most famous entertainers and comedians including the likes of Des O'Connor and Shane Ritchie, started their lives as Bluecoat and Redcoat entertainers at the famous holiday camps.

However today’s holiday camps are unrecognisable from those of years gone by, having done much to ditch their “Hi-De-Hi leaking chalets” and “knobbly knees contests” image with many having undergone massive refurbishments. Despite the credit crunch, business is booming at Britain’s holiday camps which have now turned into a billion pound a year industry as they enjoy a mini revival. Many Brits particularly those with families are choosing to holiday at home both to save money and to avoid the inevitable airport queues. More and more people are concerned at the impact of flying on the environment and the increasing number of airport security delays. So the likes of Butlins and Pontins have become more popular than ever, with bookings rising by as much as 8% in the past five years alone. Even the unreliable British weather is not a problem anymore as many camps boast indoor pools, restaurants and entertainment centres. There are also kids clubs to look after the children, whilst the adults enjoy the top quality entertainment and variety acts on offer. Many holiday camps are also offering themed entertainment weekends out of season to attract groups of single adults too, with many choosing to hold their stag and hen weekends there. There really is something for everyone at today’s holiday camps making holidaying in the U.K. an even more attractive proposition.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

ARE YOU AN AVID READER? - JOIN THE CLUB!


It’s the National Year of Reading in England and it’s not surprising that reading is becoming an increasingly popular pastime with both children and adults alike. Reading a book can be like stepping into another world, a place where the reader can let their imagination run wild and makes great escapism from the boring and mundane routine of everyday life. Step onto any train or bus and you will invariably see commuters reading a book to help ease the boredom of a long journey. For people like myself who love books, life without them is unthinkable. There are so many different titles and genres to choose from. Where would we be without them!

Reading a good book can be addictive. I think that by far the best books are those that you pick up and can’t put down until you get to the end! My personal favourites are the Harry Potter books. However I also enjoyed Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code too. With many books, once you start reading, it’s hard to stop and when most people finish one book, they can’t wait to start reading another one. Indeed many people enjoy reading so much, they have two or three books on the go at the same time! Whatever type of book you prefer, more and more people are opting to join a book club to ensure they get a regular supply of their favourite reading material. It’s so easy and convenient, with books delivered to your home at regular intervals

However there are so many book clubs around, finding the right one to join at the right price can be quite a daunting task. All Book Clubs.com is one of the best and most comprehensive online resource sites available for book lovers everywhere. The site enables avid readers to compare the vast selection of book clubs available quickly and easily online to find the best deals available for your favourite type of books. You might prefer fiction, the likes of a good murder mystery, romantic novel, or a horror from the pen of the likes of Stephen King, something to make your hair stand on end with fear! On the other hand you may want an educational reference type book that will help you to learn a new skill or pastime or you may be looking for children’s books to encourage your child to read. Whatever your personal preference, All Book Clubs.com features a book club for you. The site enables you to search by book category as well as price making joining a book club really fast and simple. It is also possible to compare the best introductory deals available, helping you to get your favourite books at the best prices available. The majority of book clubs offer several books for a minimal price as a special introductory offer, with many offering a free gift as well. The good news is that many books are up to 60% cheaper than on the high street. Good news for avid readers everywhere! Selecting and ordering books has never been easier and all at the click of a mouse, in the comfort of your own home!

So what are you waiting for, log onto All Book Clubs.com now and get yourself a great book club deal today!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

LAKE DISTRICT BRITAIN'S FAVOURITE TRAVEL DESTINATION


The English Lake District has been named the British public’s favourite travel destination, beating Cornwall and London to the top spot at the 2008 British Travel Awards ceremony. It’s not surprising really. The English Lake District is one of my personal favourite places and one of the most picturesque areas of England. It looks like a lot of people agree with me. Wastwater, a three mile long lake in the Wasdale Valley area of the Lake District has already been named Britain’s favourite view in a television poll. At 258 feet, it’s England’s deepest lake and is flanked by three mountains, Lingmell, Great Gable and Scafell Pike.

The Lake District is 33 miles wide and 40 miles long and is renowned for its beautiful and spectacular scenery. To this day, thousands of visitors flock to Dove Cottage in Grasmere to see where the famous poet, William Wordsworth lived. No doubt he got inspiration for his poetry from some of the beautiful scenery in the surrounding area. Grasmere is a haven for walkers and cyclists and is also famous for its delicious gingerbread. Bowness On Windermere is one of my personal favourite areas of the Lake District and home to the popular World of Beatrix Potter tourist attraction. The famous writer and creater of characters like Jemima Puddleduck was another famous resident of the area. To read more about Bowness, click on the link shown below:-

Bowness On Windermere

You can find some of my Lake District photos posted in the Flickr album which is located underneath my profile and underneath the Blog Village logo in the left hand column of this blog. Hope you enjoy them!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

ELEANOR RIGBY DOCUMENT AUCTIONED

Most Beatles fans remember their famous song about Eleanor Rigby, the famous lady who picked up the rice in a church where a wedding had been! However the question as to whether or not Eleanor Rigby was a real character has intrigued Beatles fans for many years. The song was always thought to be based on a fictional character especially after one of the fab four Paul McCartney told fans they would never find a trace of Eleanor as she was entirely fictitious, even though a gravestone bearing her name was discovered in a churchyard in the 1980’s. But it seems that Eleanor Rigby did actually exist in the flesh and Paul McCartney knew more about her than he was letting on! After being asked for a donation from The Sunbeam Trust, a charity which uses music to help children with special needs, Paul sent them a document.

The document was none other than a Liverpool City Hospital salary register, featuring the signature of one E Rigby. Eleanor Rigby worked there as a scullery maid and had to sign for her monthly wage. She earned £14 per annum. How times change! That wouldn’t get you very far today the way the cost of living has risen nowadays. The document dated back to 1911 and is one of the biggest clues to date of the true identity of the Beatle’s Eleanor Rigby, a poor soul who dies lonely and alone with nobody to mourn her according to the song. It was auctioned for charity this week and sold for £115,000. Wow! All the money raised from the sale will go towards helping children with special needs. The Beatles are as popular today as they have always been. The fab four’s album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was recently voted the nation’s favourite no. 1 album in the BBC’s Radio 2 Music Club Top 100 Album chart.

To hear more about Eleanor Rigby, click on the player shown below:-

LORD COE CALMS OLYMPIC MONEY FEARS


As the credit crunch continues to bite, Lord Sebastian Coe has calmed Olympic money fears and reassured the Olympic Committee that London will still be going ahead with plans to host the Olympic Games in 2012, despite the current economic climate. London is currently facing a major challenge to stay within its £9.3billion budget, mainly because of problems in raising the anticipated level of private financing to cover the cost of the £40million media centre and £1billion Olympic village.

After the lavish spectacular of the Beijing Olympic Games, Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge stressed the importance of holding down the cost and size of future games to ensure that they remained affordable in these current tough economic times. Lord Coe once an Olympic athlete himself, stated that the economic climate in Britain now was very different to the time when London first bid for the chance to host the games but nevertheless the city was determined to honour its commitments. Oh well they could always host an “It’s a Knockout” style games and save even more money. Maybe Stuart Hall will come out of retirement to host them. Just a suggestion! Ha ha!

Friday, November 28, 2008

KYLIE TO HOST BRIT AWARDS


It's rumoured that Australian pop princess Kylie Minogue will be hosting next year's Brit Awards ceremony in February. However she won't be alone and will be sharing presenting duties with Gavin and Stacey stars Matthew Home and James Corden. Apparently Kylie has been in lengthy talks with the organisers of the ceremony, who are said to be planning “the best show ever”. It will certainly be very different to this year's show hosted by the Osbournes, when viewers jammed the Offcom switchboard complaining about the bad language used during the show. Last minute details of next year’s Brits are still being finalised but according to a show insider, organisers believe getting Kylie to host is “the icing on cake”. Kylie is herself a Brit award winner, having won several awards in the past.

The British public took Kylie into their hearts after she starred in the Australian soap, “Neighbours” in the mid 1980’s. She then went on to launch a successful singing career, selling millions of albums and producing many hit songs along the way. She was awarded an OBE by Prince Charles earlier this year for her services to the music industry. Kyle was also an inspiration to millions of women after fighting her way back to health from breast cancer. The singer has always acknowledged Britain as her “adopted homeland”.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

PEDAL POWER FOR BRITISH WORKERS


As the credit crunch continues to bite, It seems that more British workers than ever before are now cycling to work both to save money on petrol and public transport. According to the results of a recent survey by Sainsburys Home Insurance, up to eight per cent of workers and fifteen per cent of men are now cycling to their jobs on a daily basis resulting in big savings on transport costs. On average the survey found that using pedal power as opposed to cars or public transport, results in average savings of £33.70 a week or a whopping £11 million a year! Even more reason to cycle to work! There are also the health benefits as well.

Regular aerobic exercise such as cycling can help to reduce the risk of various life threatening conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and diabetes. Cycling is one of the best forms of aerobic exercise available, giving the body a vigorous and energetic workout. It is the third most popular sport in the U.K. and one of the easiest to fit into your daily routine. Cycling helps to reduce obesity, burning away body fat and keeping the body toned and healthy. It is also one of the few forms of exercise that actually helps to reduce cellulite. Good news for women everywhere! Cycling home is a good stress reliever too, just the thing to help you wind down after a stressful day at work. Any form of exercise is also good for releasing lots of the body’s “feel good” hormones, helping to banish any symptoms of S.A.D. or the Winter blues. So what are you waiting for! Get on your bike!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

BECKS HAS NO. 1 CELEBRITY CALENDAR


Well it’s that time of year again! You know Christmas is just around the corner when the suite adverts start appearing on tv. It seems everybody wants a new settee in time for Christmas to impress the outlaws and other relatives! And if that wasn’t enough, next year’s calendars have been in the shops since September! It seems they have proved very popular with shoppers too! According to the results of a recent Woolworths survey, David Beckham is definitely the hottest date in Britain with his new calendar shooting straight to the top of the celebrity calendar charts and David is laughing all the way to the bank! Other popular celebrity calendars in the top 10 include Kylie Minogue, Cliff Richard, Dr Who star David Tennant and popular girl band Girls Aloud.

BEING BRITISH NO LONGER POLITICALLY CORRECT


Under new guidelines recently set out, Welsh council workers have been warned not to call Scots people British in case it causes offence. Apparently it is no longer politically correct to describe yourself as being British as it could cause offence to people from Scotland, Wales and Ireland and ethnic minorities. Sounds like Gordon Brown definitely needs to seriously re-think his thoughts and comments on Britishness then lest he should cause offence! Please accept my apologies if I’ve ever described myself as British on this blog. No offence intended! Honestly! I always try to fly the flag for common sense on this blog. I think some people more than others need a large dose of it!

SHORTAGE OF SHEEP SHEARERS IN BRITAIN


Are you an accomplished sheep shearer or talented ballerina? Then Britain wants you! Under a new Australian style immigration points system, the two career options appear on a list of occupations where there is a skills shortage. The new system is described as the biggest shakeup of the immigration system for a generation. Other occupations where there is a skills shortage include chefs and pipe welders! It’s quite funny that Britain now has a shortage of accomplished sheep shearers, a popular occupation in some parts of Australia. In years gone by, many Britons with this skill would take the opportunity to emigrate to Oz to take full advantage of their skills over there but now it’s the other way round! There is a catch however. Pipe welders will need to have at least three years experience, sheep shearers will need to hold the British Wool Marketing Board Bronze Medal and chefs will need to be able to earn at least £8 per hour after board and lodging deductions. The new rules also demand that employers must prove that they can’t find a suitable employee to fill a vacancy locally before offering the job to an overseas applicant.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

PRINCE CHARLES CELEBRATES 60TH BIRTHDAY


Princes William and Harry described their father Prince Charles as an “inspiration” to them and many others as he celebrated his 60th birthday yesterday, whilst the Queen praised his work with the Prince’s Trust saying his “vision and conviction” had transformed “countless lives”. The Prince spent his birthday meeting schoolchildren at a special classical music concert held in his honour at The Royal Opera House. The children joined Camilla in singing a special rendition of “Happy Birthday” to the Prince, whilst a 41 gun military salute was fired in Hyde Park to mark the occasion. The concert was one of many special events held to celebrate Prince Charles’ milestone birthday. A special comedy gala night was also held in the Prince’s honour on Wednesday night, whilst the Queen hosted a special dinner at Buckingham Palace on Thursday night and Camilla is planning to host an informal party on Saturday evening with Rod Stewart providing the entertainment.

An official portrait showing Prince Charles wearing the ceremonial uniform of the Welsh Guards was released to mark his milestone birthday. It’s hard to believe that Prince Charles is now 60. Charles Philip Arthur George was born at Buckingham Palace on 14th November 1948. He was just 3 years old when his mother became Queen. Time flies by so fast and still Prince Charles is no nearer to becoming King. The Queen at 82, is one of the oldest reigning monarchs in the nation’s history. Sh is still in good health, one of the hardest working members of the Royal family and shows no signs of slowing down. According to the results of a recent YouGov poll, the majority of Britons don’t think Prince Charles is too old to become King and believe he rather than Prince William should succeed the Queen as Monarch. Despite the fact that Prince Charles is one of the most experienced and well trained heirs to the throne we have ever had, until recently many members of the public were still reluctant to accept him as King, preferring William to take the throne in his place. Many remained unforgiving over Charles’ marriage breakup and were reluctant to accept Camilla as a possible future Queen, preferring the late Princess Diana. However it seems that many people have now warmed to Camilla since her marriage to Prince Charles. They also admire Prince Charles for his charity work and his views on climate change.

Photo:- Courtesy of Yahoo News

Monday, November 10, 2008

THE QUEEN LEADS THE NATION IN REMEMBRANCE


The Queen led the nation in two minute's silence laying the first wreath at the Centotaph memorial in Whitehall yesterday on Remembrance Sunday, as the Royal family, politicians and war veterans gathered for the Remembrance day service in honour of British serviceman killed in battle. This year’s service was particularly poignant as it marked the 90th anniversary of the end of World War 1. Crowds lined the streets to watch the annual Remembrance Day parade, as similar ceremonies took place all over England to honour those who have given their lives for their country.

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.

Photo:- Courtesy of Yahoo News

Sunday, November 09, 2008

QUANTUM OF SOLACE RECEIVES ROYAL SEAL OF APPROVAL


Actor Daniel Craig was shaken but not stirred after meeting Princes William and Harry at the premiere of his latest Bond film Quantum of Solace. The movie’s glittering premiere was held at The Odeon in London’s Leicester Square, where outside crowds of eager fans lined the streets in the freezing cold, hoping to get a glimpse of some of their favourite stars. Daniel Craig duly obliged by signing autographs and waving to the crowd. The sound of old and new Bond theme music could be heard playing through giant speakers, setting the scene for the premiere of the 22nd Bond movie. Daniel arrived dressed to kill with his arm in a sling, the result of an injury during filming final scenes of the movie. The actor, who arrived with his partner Satsuki Michell, was asked who his favourite Bond girl was and replied, “I can’t say. The one on my arm of course.” Craig also stated the importance of the Bond premiere being held in London, as it’s “Bond” and as “British as you can get”. Meanwhile another star of the film, the Aston Martin car took pride of place in the centre of Leicester Square Park. Other stars joining Daniel Craig on the red carpet at Quantum’s explosive premiere, included Bond girls Gemma Arterton and Olga Kuryl who wowed fans with their daring choice of outfits.

Quantum of Solace is very different to the other Bond films and the first Bond sequel of its kind, continuing on from where the last movie Casino Royale ended. The mood of the film is much darker than usual, with Bond seeking revenge for his love Vesper, whilst trying to stop a mad environmentalist from taking over a country’s water supply. Veteran actress Judi Dench who also attended the premiere complete with glittery 007 tattoo on her back, reprises her role as the formidable “M”. The new Bond film has received a severe mauling from the critics, many of whom have criticised the thin plot line and compared the new film to the Bourne movies. I certainly don’t think it’s as good as Casino Royale, even if Princes William and Harry have given Quantum of Solace the royal seal of approval. On the other hand it’s still worth going to see the movie just to get another glimpse of hunky Daniel Craig starring in the role he has made his own!

To view the film’s trailer, click on the player shown below:-

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

BONFIRE NIGHT


"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!

BRITISH SCIENTISTS CREATE PURPLE CANCER FIGHTING TOMATOES


I’ve always loved tomatoes and was quite excited to hear that British scientists have created a genetically modified purple tomato that will help in the fight against cancer. Good news for all of us! The purple super tomato contains anthocyanins, antioxidants found in blueberries and blackcurrants that give them their distinctive purple colour. The unusual looking fruit, which was created by genetically combining a normal tomato with genes from a snap dragon flower, has been shown to extend the lives of cancer prone mice. In addition researchers have discovered that the anthocyanins contained in the tomatoes are thought to protect against heart disease and degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s.

Scientists stated that the purple tomatoes could be on sale within the next 3 years. However the bad news is that it’s unlikely they will be sold in England due to strict European regulations governing genetically modified foods. Instead the purple tomatoes are likely to make their debut in India, China and the U.S. which are all counties with more relaxed regulations. Things are changing so fast, let’s hope the regulations will have relaxed a bit more by then to allow foods like this with health giving properties to be sold in Britain as well as other countries of the world. The new tomatoes will certainly brighten up a salad with their distinctive purple colour and help us all to live longer too! Can't wait to try them!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!


Well only a few more hours to go and soon it will be Halloween again. Time to get the pumpkins organised and carved into jack-o-lanterns! But more importantly time to get your Halloween costumes ready to go trick or treating or to that special Halloween party. Halloween is originally derived from the Celtic festival of Samhain, a time that marks the end of the Summer and the beginning of the Winter. It’s quite appropriate really as here in England, we have just put the clocks back one hour to mark the end of British Summertime. Nowadays we associate Halloween with people dressing up in Halloween costumes and going trick or treating.

Sadly according to the results of a recent survey, some children will not be going trick or treating this year, particularly those in inner city areas as their parents think it is too dangerous for them to be out in the dark due to the increasing incidences of knife crime and violence. It’s a sad state of affairs unfortunately in modern day Britain.

When I was growing up, we never celebrated Halloween over here in England, even though it has always been a popular holiday in the States. It’s only in recent years that Halloween has become more popular in this country. Halloween has now become a million pound industry in Britain and we are fast catching up with our American neighbours. Halloween is now the most profitable time for British retailers after Christmas and Easter, with a staggering £25million being spent on pumpkins alone. Whole supermarket aisles are now dedicated to Halloween novelties as people shop for Halloween themed food and drink and decorations for their houses. Some people even want Halloween themed outfits for their pets!

One of my personal favourite ways to spend Halloween is to go on a ghost walk where a guide takes a group of people on a walk around supposedly haunted parts of a town or city and tells spooky tales about it. It’s fun and great exercise too! One of my favourite Halloweens was spent at a place called Pendle Hill, home of the Lancashire witch trials. Very spooky! This year, I’ll be going to a Halloween party and have my witch costume all ready!

Happy Halloween Everybody!

LONDON EXPERIENCES FIRST OCTOBER SNOW IN OVER 70 YEARS


It always makes me smile when I hear some of the thoughts people from other countries have about England. Many people have read some of the books by British classic novelist Charles Dickens, particularly “A Christmas Carol” and imagine London in particular, to be white in Wintertime and covered in a blanket of snow, just like a scene from one of Dickens’ novels. However you might be surprised to hear that snow is actually quite a rare occurrence in London, particularly in October. However the weather has been particularly cold this week, so cold that London experienced its first October snowfall since 1934. What's the betting we'll have a white Christmas!

Photo:- Courtesy of Sky News

PRINCE HARRY PLANS TO BECOME MILITARY PILOT


Prince Harry is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his brother Prince William by training as a military helicopter pilot. A Clarence House spokesman announced earlier this week that Prince Harry had already taken and passed an initial aptitude test, part of the Army selection process and will begin a four week assessment course next month to determine his suitability to become a pilot. Prospective candidates are graded according to their ability but apparently the failure rate is quite high. If successful Harry will take part in the full Army Air Corps programme and begin flight training in January. Harry’s elder brother William gained his wings earlier this year.

Harry comes from a family of military pilots. Apart from his brother William, Harry’s father Prince Charles and uncle Prince Andrew were both military pilots. Prince Andrew flew Royal Navy helicopters during the Falklands War. Prince Harry himself served on the front line in Afghanistan earlier this year and was bitterly disappointed when the Ministry of Defence took the decision to bring him home for his own safety and that of his fellow troops, after a website revealed his whereabouts making him a prime target for the Taliban.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

BUSINESS IS BOOMING AT MCDONALDS AS CREDIT CRUNCH BITES


As many businesses, particularly shops and restaurants struggle to survive the credit crunch, business is booming for one of our favourite fast food chains. McDonalds have reported serving over 100 million customers in the last 3 months up to the end of September. Bosses at the fast food chain put their success down to the fact they have recently revamped many of their restaurants and given their menu an overall too. There is also a good choice of special offer items on the menu which is probably why so many Britons are heading there as they look for cheaper dining options. The only downside is that junk food in excess can be bad for us. But on the other hand, as the old saying goes, “a bit of what you fancy does you good”. Moderation is the key. As most Britons know a McDonalds meal makes great cheap and cheerful comfort food in these recession hit times. Meanwhile Ronald McDonald is laughing all the way to the bank!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

FIVE A DAY FOR MENTAL HEALTH

The government is constantly recommending everyone to eat their “Five a Day” (five portions of fruit or vegetables per day), to keep our bodies healthy and reduce the risk of many serious conditions like heart disease and cancer. However the results of recent government backed research at Cambridge University recommend “Five a Day” to keep our minds healthy too. Not five fruit and vegetables but five simple actions to keep our minds in good shape. The recommendations are that we should all aim to connect with friends and family, learn new things, help others, keep active and notice the beauty in everyday things.

These are all important factors in our overall happiness and mental wellbeing and university researchers are recommending that we should all aim to do them on a daily basis. Connecting with family and friends is good for us as it gives us support as well as enriching our lives. Learning new things is good as it keeps the mind active, giving us something to focus on. Helping others is rewarding both for ourselves and for those we help. Keeping active helps us to keep fit and the exercise helps us to feel good. It’s just a shame that the government has to remind us all to look for the beauty in everyday things. We live in such a materialistic world that it is sometimes easy to miss the simple things that can give us such pleasure in our everyday lives. Taking notice of and admiring the world around us, helps us to truly appreciate what we have.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

£6,000 FOR A ROCK STAR LIFESTYLE

Do you fancy living a rock star lifestyle? Well now you can have one and all for the princely sum of £6,000! An American firm is running a six day “Rock ‘n’ Roll” Fantasy Camp” at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London from November 4th, where prospective rock stars can learn how to play from the likes of former Beatles drummer Pete Best, Pink Floyd drummer, Nick Mason and ex Stones bassist Bill Wyman. The finale of the course is playing in a gig at the world famous Cavern Club, where the Beatles made their debut. Sounds like the stuff dreams are made of to me and it certainly is for those lucky enough to be able to afford it.

David Fishof, the promoter of the course, says it attracts many kinds of people from all walks of life. He describes time spent at the rock camp as a life changing experience, saying it’s something you can’t really put a price on and when you come out of it you are a different person. It’s only the second time the course has been hosted in London, although it has been running in the States for 11 years. So what are you waiting for, if you fancy yourself as a budding Roger Daltrey or Bill Wyman and you have £6,000 to spare, click on the link shown below:-

www.rockcamp.com

How does that song go - Hey, hey I want to be a rock star!

THE QUEEN VISITS GOOGLE


It was interesting to hear of the Queen and Prince Philip’s recent visit to the Google headquarters in London. During the visit, the royal couple were shown some Google searches on topics including Buckingham Palace and the royal corgis. The Queen was also reduced to giggles after being shown one of You Tube’s most popular videos of a laughing baby in a high chair. The video has already received more than 63 million views. The Queen described the baby as a “lovely little thing” and said it was amazing that a child would laugh like that. Google’s homepage logo was also given a makeover for the day to mark the Queen’s visit and featured a profile of her Majesty wearing a crown.

Despite being in her eighties, the Queen is very much in touch with modern technology. Like many grandmothers, she regularly e-mails her grandchildren, some of whom introduced her to the famous video sharing website You Tube. Although she did admit to not owning a computer until four years ago, the Queen is certainly very IT literate. Her Majesty made history last Christmas when she posted her annual Christmas message to the nation on You Tube, becoming the first monarch to do this. The Queen’s speech appeared on a special dedicated Royal Channel also launched in December 07 on You Tube. The Royal Channel received more than one million visitors during its first week of launch, making it one of the most popular and fastest growing channels of all time. The Queen was given the task of uploading a new clip to the popular channel during her visit to Google. Apart from the Queen’s speech, the Royal Channel also features a special regal homepage showing archive footage of Britain’s royal family. Click on the link shown below to find out more:-

Royal Channel - You Tube

The Queen is definitely a monarch of our times and very much in touch with the changing trends of the nation. Long may she reign over us!

Monday, October 20, 2008

NAOMI CAMPBELL TURNS UGLY


As some of my readers know I love the U.S. show Ugly Betty. It’s one of my favourite programmes and a very popular show here in England. I was watching the last episode of the current series the other night. I was interested to see my namesake, Naomi Campbell making a guest appearance. She was seen playing in a charity baseball game. It made me laugh when her phone was ringing, she picked it up to answer it and everybody ducked! I’m sure Naomi will never live that particular incident down!

The name Naomi is Hebrew Jewish and also a bible name. It was quite rare when I was growing up, with the most famous Naomis being the writer Naomi Jacobs and the yachtswoman Naomi James. However now Naomi Campbell has come along and changed all that and made the name more popular than ever.

I always remember going to a job interview a few years ago and the person interviewing me looked a bit surprised when I walked in. She said to me that she hadn’t expected me to be white. The interviewer said, “Oh I thought you would be black as Naomi Campbell is black!” I remember thinking what a stupid statement that was. I couldn’t believe that companies would entrust interviews to people like that! It doesn’t give prospective candidates a very good impression of the company when you hear comments like that. Times have certainly changed a lot since then.

PHOTO:- Courtesy of CBS

AUSTRALIA WANTS SINGLE BRIT CAREERWOMEN


I love the new Australia Tourism ad currently airing on British tv. Produced by Baz Luhrmann (of Moulin Rouge fame), it features a stressed out British (probably single!) career woman feeling the pressures of work and life! An Aborigine child (her fairy godmother!) appears, drops some fairy dust (or is it Australian sand!) into her hand and as if by magic she is whisked off to Oz, a welcome release from the pressures of work. From the ad, it’s almost like she has arrived in an unspoilt paradise and met the man of her dreams, all at the same time! No doubt it was part of a clever marketing plan by the Australian High Commission as they try to tempt away our talented single women with promises of sun, sand and the chance to find their Mr Right, particularly in South Australia, where we’re told 50.4 per cent of the male population is single compared to 34.7 per cent here. The Australians believe that Britain is full of dissatisfied young, talented British careerwomen who are disillusioned with their menfolk and boast that they can offer them a much better quality of life with many sporty (and no doubt bronzed!) suitors on offer! Oh the wonders of modern marketing! I have to admit the tourism ad definitely sold Australia to me. It looks like a great holiday destination. I'm not sure if I would want to live there though!

Australia has always held a special place in British people’s hearts. Popular Australian soaps like Neighbours and Home and Away have certainly helped to boost Australia’s tourist trade. Rolf Harris, one of Australia’s most famous exports is a popular household name here. As a child, I grew up watching Skippy, the popular show about the bush kangaroo. Australia is now a popular choice of holiday destination for many Brits. In addition an estimated 50,000 Brits choose to make Australia their new home every year. And who can blame them. Many are tempted by the 300 days of sunshine that Australia enjoys every year and see it as a welcome retreat from the cold weather and rising costs of living in England. To see the latest Australia Tourism ad, click on the link shown below:-


Australia Tourism Ad

Sunday, October 19, 2008

QUEEN OPENING PALACE GARDENS TO PUBLIC


The Queen is opening up the gardens of Buckingham Palace to the public for the first time in 200 years. For £20 a ticket, visitors will be able to wander round what has been described as “a large oasis” in the centre of London. The gardens are the largest of their kind in the capital and apart from the many varieties of trees and wild flowers, tourists will also be able to view the Palace tennis court where Fred Perry played against George VI in the 30’s. The garden also boasts the oldest private helicopter pad in central London. Visitors will also have a chance to admire the 19th century lake, the central feature of the gardens.

The Palace gardens are regularly used for Royal family celebrations and official entertaining and are the scene of the Queen’s annual Summer garden parties. Public tours will run in April, May and June, when the Queen is not in residence and will be limited to twenty five visitors at a time. All monies from the tours will go towards the upkeep of the gardens. The Queen first opened the state rooms of Buckingham Palace to the public in 1993. It is now one of London’s most popular tourist attractions, boasting over 360,000 visitors a year. To find out more, click on the link shown below:-

Buckingham Palace

NO MORE FAN MAIL FOR RINGO


Former Beatle Ringo Starr has angered fans by telling them to stop sending him fan mail. In a video posted on his website, Ringo tells fans that he has “too much to do”, to answer fan mail. Giving a deadline of 20th October, Ringo warns that any mail received after that date will be thrown into the bin. He has also warned fans not to send him anything to autograph. Presumably this will end up in the bin as well! It seems that Ringo has been inundated with fan mail since his appearance in an episode of The Simpsons a few years ago where he made a vow to answer all fan mail he received.

Ringo’s comments have provoked an angry reaction from some fans who accused him of biting the hand that feeds him. After all where would Ringo or The Beatles for that matter have been without their loyal army of fans all these years? It is their legion of fans that gave both Ringo and The Beatles the fame, wealth and success they still enjoy to this day. Other fans reacted more calmly saying it was understandable that Ringo had enough of signing autographs and fan mail after 45 years in the limelight! Ringo has already angered many Liverpool residents after making dismissive comments about his home city, resulting in the decapitation of a statue of him!

BIRMINGHAM HOME TO SOME OF BRITAIN'S UGLIEST BUILDINGS


It’s official Birmingham is Britain’s ugliest city. According to the results of a recent poll it is home to some of the ugliest buildings in Britain. Birmingham’s famous shopping centre, “The Bullring” came top of the list as Britain’s ugliest building. Birmingham’s Central Library came in at No.2 on the list and Birmingham’s Spaghetti Junction was also mentioned in the top 10. Even Prince Charles once condemned the Central Library, saying it resembled an incinerator more suited to burning books than storing them! Oh dear! It’s interesting to note that Birmingham’s Central Library could soon have the last laugh as English Heritage have recommended that it should have listed building status as it “defines an era” of the city’s history. I actually visited Birmingham on a day trip a while ago and didn’t think it was all that bad. I liked The Bullring shopping centre and thought it was very easy to find your way round. I found the people there very sociable and friendly too. But obviously the majority of the people surveyed don’t agree with me. Apparently many local people would like to see the Eiffel Tower or something similar in the middle of the city. By contrast, the famous French landmark was voted the most beautiful building in Europe.

Manchester’s Arndale Shopping Centre, Edinburgh’s Scottish Parliament Building and the Newcastle sculpture Angel of the North also came under fierce criticism for being ugly. Some people went as far as saying they would like to see Birmingham’s Spaghetti Junction, Liverpool’s Liver Building and also Plymouth’s Drakes Circus demolished as they are such eyesores.

Monday, October 13, 2008

GORDON BROWN ON THE MOVE


Gordon Brown has announced that he is moving out of No. 10. But don’t put the flags out just yet! The move is only temporary. Mr Brown and his team of key advisers need more space for their meetings to try and find solutions to the current global credit crisis. Under normal circumstances, the PM would be able to get the builders in to knock down walls to make more space. However as No. 10 is a listed building, major structural alterations are out of the question. Consequently our embattled PM has taken the decision to move himself and his advisers lock, stock and barrel into No.12, where they will direct operations from an open plan “war room”, although cabinet meetings will still continue to be held at No. 10. Currently No. 12 is home to the PM’s Press Office and the strategic communications unit.

By moving out of No. 10, Mr Brown has broken with more than 275 years of tradition. No. 10 Downing Street has been the seat of government since 1735. It is thought that Gordon Brown got his inspiration for the open plan office from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who also has one.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

CREDIT CRUNCH BRITAIN

As some of you know, I quite often receive funny e-mails from work colleagues and friends. I wanted to share this one with you. Here are some images of Credit Crunch Britain to lighten your day!

Will one be wanting fries with that?

(Oh dear! What's the world coming to - Her poor Majesty reduced to working in a burger joint!)



(Our favourite quiz show renamed! If the prices of petrol continue to soar, there'll be no shortage of eager Britons wanting to play for this. I'll be first in the queue!)

ROD STEWART GIVING PRINCE CHARLES A SPECIAL PERFORMANCE


Rocker Rod Stewart has offered to perform for free at a private family party to celebrate Prince Charles’ 60th birthday. The Prince will be celebrating at his Highgrove home the day before his actual birthday on 14th November. Rod whose hits include, “Sailing” and “Maggie May”, usually charges £1million to perform at private functions. However he has waived his fee on this occasion, offering Prince Charles a free performance as a special birthday gift. A spokesman stated that Rod Stewart would provide the main musical entertainment at the party. Rod is a personal friend of Prince Charles and his wife Camilla and also an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust.

FORBES CROWNS JK ROWLING HIGHEST EARNING AUTHOR


Forbes magazine has named Harry Potter author JK Rowling as the highest earning author in the world, describing her as “a children’s literary sensation”. Harry earns his creator a staggering £5 per second! Wow! According to American business magazine Forbes, JK earned a whopping £170million last year alone, leaving the other writers on the list including James Patterson far behind. In addition, the author earns millions from merchandising and the big screen versions of Harry’s adventures.

JK Rowling is certainly laughing all the way to the bank after the phenomenal success of the Harry Potter books which have sold over 375 million copies worldwide. The boy wizard’s adventures have transformed her life, taking JK Rowling from being a single mum living on benefits to a billionaire. JK Rowling stated that she considered herself to be, “immensely privileged”, saying, “I am the luckiest woman in the world”.

Monday, October 06, 2008

RICK ASTLEY NOMINATED FOR MTV AWARD


Eighties pop sensation Rick Astley is a surprise nominee for the title of “Best Act Ever” at the MTV Europe Music Awards which will be broadcast live from Liverpool on 6th November. Rick will compete against the likes of Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Madonna and U2 to win the coveted title. The winner will be nominated online by fans and announced at the ceremony.

Rick’s new found popularity is partly due to the recent internet craze of “Rickrolling”, where unsuspecting net users click on a link and are taken to a video of Rick Astley’s hit song, “Never Gonna Give You Up”. The craze led to millions of plays of Rick’s hit song. It’s happened to me a couple of times, even though I’m a big Rick Astley fan anyway. “Never Gonna Give You Up”, was one of my favourite hit songs. I always loved that song. Millions of other people did too and it reached No. 1 in the U.K. charts in 1987. “Never Gonna Give You Up”, enjoyed similar success abroad, becoming a No.1 hit in 15 other countries. Thanks to the Rickrolling phenomenon, Rick has now gained a whole new generation of fans. MTV’s Senior Vice President, Richard Godfrey said, “The audience has spoken and MTV has been well and truly “Rickrolled”. The singer has never before been nominated in the event’s history but now his many fans out there have decided that he deserves recognition as an 80’s pop icon. We wish him every success. To see Rick in action, click on the link shown below:-

You've been Rickrolled!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

BRIDESHEAD REVISITED HITS THE BIG SCREEN


I was a big fan of the tv series, “Brideshead Revisited”. It was probably one of the greatest tv adaptations of a classic British novel ever created. The series featured the cream of British acting talent including Anthony Andrews, Jeremy Irons, Laurence Olivier and Sir John Gielgud. Based on one of the most celebrated books in English literature by Evelyn Waugh, the tv series enjoyed great success, winning two Golden Globe awards, seven BAFTA’s and an Emmy for Lord Olivier.

The film version of Brideshead enjoyed its U.K. premiere this week. Starring Emma Thompson as the overbearing matriarch Lady Marchmain, the screen version of Brideshead is far darker and more serious than the popular tv series. The story centres around the friendship and later three way love story between Charles Ryder (played by Matthew Goode), the drunken and doomed aristocrat Sebastian (Ben Whishaw) and his beautiful and sophisticated sister Julia (played by Hayley Atwell). After meeting at university Charles and Sebastian become inseparable, culminating in Charles spending the Summer at Sebastian’s ancestral home, Brideshead. Charles becomes entranced with the Marchmain family and Brideshead but soon finds his atheist beliefs at odds with the family’s Roman Catholic beliefs. Set in the pre WWII era, Brideshead Revisited tells the story of loss of innocence and forbidden love.

The Marchmain family’s ancestral home, Brideshead Castle is more like a museum than a stately home, with many years of family secrets hidden within its walls. The family lineage is one based on lies, deception and an unflappable faith in God. Once again Castle Howard which featured as Brideshead Castle in the original tv series, plays host to the aristocratic Marchmain family in the big screen adaptation. Another stalwart and icon from the original Brideshead tv series is the little teddy bear Aloysius. Who could forget him! The little bear also features as Sebastian’s constant companion in the movie version too. With a great cast and wonderful locations, the big screen version of Brideshead Revisited looks like enjoying similar success to the tv series and certainly has all the ingredients of a hit movie. Can’t wait to see it! To view the trailer, click on the player shown below:-

BRITISH WOMEN FOOTING £29MILLION BILLS DUE TO LOVE OF HIGH HEELS


It seems that British women are paying a high price for their love of high heels, with many suffering from painful conditions including bunions, bent toes, damaged big toe joints, corns, in-growing toenails and trapped nerves. Ouch! Sounds painful! Injuries due to wearing heels are costing the nation’s women a staggering £29million a year! Wow! Many women are opting for private treatment due to long waiting lists for operations and procedures to repair injuries to damaged feet. One podiatrist recommended that women should alternate between wearing high heels and flat shoes, to give their bodies a chance to recover. It seems that wearing high heels for long periods of time is bad news for the health of our feet and our wallets! Even former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham recently admitted to suffering from painful bunions due to her love of wearing 4 inch stillettos!

I think there is a certain amount of glamour attached to wearing high heels. They do help women to feel better when they are feeling down, raising their self esteem and making them feel more confident about themselves. In addition they also add a bit of height if you’re not very tall and make your legs look longer and slimmer! According to the results of a recent survey done last year by Compeed, almost half of British women (48%) stated that they felt more confident when wearing high heels at work and nearly a quarter (24%) felt more assertive and acknowledged by others. It’s also interesting to note that almost a fifth of women (18%) believed that wearing high heels could have a positive effect on their work life giving them a greater chance of promotion. Despite the agonies caused by heels, over 78% of British women admit to wearing them, implying they are not willing to trade style for comfort. So there we go!

MEL B AUCTIONS SPICE GIRL MEMORABILIA FOR CHARITY


Former Spice Girl Mel B who now spends most of her time living and working in the U.S., is planning to auction off the contents of her London home to the highest bidder. The items up for auction include some of Mel’s treasured Spice Girls memorabilia, with all proceeds from the sale going to a cancer charity. Big hearted Mel, better known as Scary Spice is following in the footsteps of Ozzy Osbourne, who sold the contents of his Beverley Hills home in aid of charity. The Spice Girls were one of the most popular girls groups of all time. However after a successful run of hit records the girls split up and went their separate ways, embarking on solo careers. Mel B recently wowed American audiences with her appearance in the U.S. version of Strictly Come Dancing, "Dancing with the Stars".

Eager fans can log on to Mel B Sale.com between now and October 26th to get themselves a piece of Spice Girls memorabilia. Amongst the items up for grabs is Mel’s trademark leopard print outfit from her Spice Girls’ days and her personal copy of “Spiceworld – The Movie”. All proceeds from the sale go to CLIC Sargent, a charity that cares for children and young people suffering from cancer. Mel B said that she was happy to contribute to such an important cause and stated, “I hope people have fun bidding on a piece of me!” I think this is a wonderful gesture on Mel’s part. If only more people shared their good fortune like this, the world would be a nicer place. So what are you waiting for, log on to Mel B Sale.com now for a chance to get your hands on some treasured Spice Girls memorabilia!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

ONE IN TEN BRITS PREFER TO STORE CASH UNDER MATTRESS


It’s been a bad week for Britain’s banking industry. First we hear that HBOS is in trouble and being taken over and then the news that Bradford and Bingley are also experiencing difficulties. Bradford and Bingley have reassured their customers that their savings are secure, with deposits of up to £35,000 covered by the government-backed protection scheme. However it’s little comfort to the many thousands of the bank’s customers. After the collapse of Northern Rock earlier this year and the current bleak economic climate, one in ten Brits now say they don’t trust banks and think it’s safer to store their cash under the mattress!

ROOT VEGETABLES MAKING A COMEBACK


Sales of root vegetables, particularly turnips have risen dramatically recently as cash-strapped Britons look for cheap and nutritious ways to feed their families. Turnips, swedes and parsnips have all become increasingly popular with British shoppers. Turnips were first grown in Europe over 2,000 years ago and were a prized vegetable to the Romans. They were particularly popular in wartime when food was rationed and they were seen as a cheap and cheerful vegetable, which was filling and readily available. However after the war, they had a certain amount of stigma attached to them with many Brits regarding them as peasant food. Their close relatives swedes and parsnips were seen as being much more sophisticated vegetables and became much more popular with shoppers. However all that looks set to change as some of Britain’s most famous chefs including Jamie Oliver and Delia Smith, use turnips, together with other root vegetables in their recipes. I enjoyed the BBC series Blackadder starring Rowan Atkinson in the title role. His trusty servant Baldrick loved turnips and gave them his seal of approval! Other popular root vegetables include carrots, potatoes, beetroots and sweet potatoes.

Root vegetables are also very easy to grow, even in the smallest garden and can be grown in large pots or containers. Getting children involved in helping to grow their own vegetables is always a good idea too. Most parents have an uphill struggle trying to persuade their children to eat vegetables. However many children are quite keen to eat vegetables they have grown themselves! Growing your own vegetables is a healthy and rewarding pastime for children and adults alike.

It’s funny how times and trends change. I always remember my grandparents cooking meals with root vegetables. As a child, I enjoyed swede and carrot mash, turnip mash and stews and soups containing a variety of root vegetables. Root vegetables taste as good today as they have always done. Packed with lots of vitamins and minerals, they are great winter warmers and particularly good for bulking out stews and casseroles. More importantly they also count towards your five fruit and vegetable a day target. I love honey glazed parsnips, a great accompaniment to so many dishes. Parsnip crisps are a great and healthy alternative to normal potato crisps sold in supermarkets for both children and adults alike. This recipe by Sophie Grigson is one of my favourites:-

Parsnip Crisps

Here’s a link to another great recipe which makes a tasty accompaniment to your favourite meat dish or an excellent and impressive main dish for vegetarians:-

Gratin of Carrots and Root Vegetables

Bon Appetit!

FORECASTERS PREDICT MILD WINTER AS BRITONS PREPARE FOR HIGHER FUEL BILLS


It’s 1st October next week and early Autumn but it feels more like Spring here with sunshine, blue skies and unseasonably warm weather. Met office forecasters say the good weather is set to continue and we’re all in for a warm, mild Winter. Let’s hope so. It’s certainly good news for all of us with rising gas and electricity prices making the cost of heating our homes increasingly more expensive.

I was interested to hear that Britain’s chimney sweeps (who are mostly only found at weddings nowadays as a sign of good luck!) are making a comeback. It seems that more and more Britons are cleaning out their chimneys and fireplaces in readiness for burning coal and wood fires as a cheaper way to heat their homes. I grew up in a house with no central heating and a coal burning fire. My parents had a fire guard in front of it, so it was quite safe for us as children. Sometimes central heating isn’t always a good thing. I certainly don’t remember getting quite as many colds then as I do now. Certainly every time the central heating goes on at the start of Winter, I always get a sore throat. I always associate the sight of a warm burning coal or log fire with home. There’s nothing like it.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

IDENTITY THEFT COSTING U.K. £1.3BILLION

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing criminal activities in the U.K. and costs the country an estimated £1.3billion a year. It is now more important than ever to check your credit score and monitor your credit report regularly to check for any suspicious activity. Monitoring your credit report definitely enhances card fraud detection. Most identity thieves not only steal their victim’s identity but also steal money from financial organisations by impersonating their victims and opening accounts in their name. The effects of this can wreck your credit file and have a significant impact on your life. Fraudsters usually rely on the fact that their victims will be too busy to check their credit report or realise that under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, everyone has a legal right to credit score disputing if they discover fraudulent activity or accounts that have been opened by somebody else in their name.

You may think that identity theft is something that can never happen to you. However it seems that criminals are increasingly targeting people’s identities with at least one in ten of us falling victim. Prevention is definitely better than cure in the case of identity fraud as the mess it creates can be horrendous. Don’t let it happen to you!

THIRSTY BRITS SWIGGING OVER 33 BILLION CUPS OF TEA!


Britons have always been renowned for being a nation of tea drinkers (although many people here do drink coffee too and some prefer it to tea!) However it’s hard to believe that we get through over a staggering 33 billion cups of tea every year. Wow! Certainly the credit crunch seems to be doing little to diminish Britons’ tea consumption, if anything we as a nation are probably drinking more cups of tea than ever. People often reach for a cup of tea as a pick me up or to cheer them up in times of crisis. A cup of tea has become almost like a national icon to many people in this country and is quite often referred to as “the best drink of the day”. Invented by accident by an American in 1908, British tea company Tetley saw the possible marketing potential of teabags a few years later and launched them as an alternative to leaf tea. They proved an instant hit with the British public. The company has never looked back since. Teabags can now be found in virtually every home in Britain. It’s hard to imagine what life would be like without them.

It’s also interesting to note that according to secret documents released recently, government officials in Whitehall were worried about a possible tea shortage in the event of a nuclear attack in the 1950’s! Apparently the documentation revealed that a nuclear attack would result in the loss of 75% of tea stocks and the tea supply situation could be “very serious”. Never mind the radiation then!

According to the results of a recent survey, tea has been named as Britain’s favourite hot drink. Coffee came in second place, with Britain’s coffee drinkers getting through 20 billion cups a year. I personally prefer tea to coffee and get through several cups a day. I particularly enjoy Earl Grey and Lady Grey teas as well as ordinary tea. I also enjoy fruit and herb teas too. Researchers have discovered that drinking tea is even better for you than drinking water. It contains antioxidants and doesn’t dehydrate you. Three or more cups of tea a day can cut the risk of heart attacks whilst other benefits include bone strengthening and protection against dental plaque, one of the main causes of tooth decay. All the more reason to have a nice cup of tea!

JK ROWLING RECEIVES PRESTIGIOUS EDINBURGH AWARD


Harry Potter author JK Rowling has been honoured by the Scottish city where she first created the adventures of the famous boy wizard. JK Rowling penned many of the early stories about Harry whilst sitting in cafes around Edinburgh. Since then the boy wizard has become phenomenally successful the world over with book sales of over 400 million. The stories have also been translated into 67 languages.

JK Rowling has now received the prestigious Edinburgh award for her efforts. A judging panel consisting of members from the arts, science and business worlds unanimously voted her the 2008 winner, saying that her literary achievements have helped to put the Scottish city on the map. After receiving the award at a special ceremony in Edinburgh, JK Rowling said it was an “absolute honour” and she considered Edinburgh to be “home”. Rebus series creator and writer Ian Rankin won the prestigious award last year.

Meanwhile JK Rowling has just donated £1million to the Labour party, mainly because she believes in the party’s record on child poverty. JK Rowling stated that she believed that poor and vulnerable families would fare much better under Labour than under a Cameron-led Conservative party. The writer was herself a single mum, living on benefits when she wrote the first book about the boy wizard’s adventures. JK Rowling is a personal friend of Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah. No doubt Mr Brown will use some of the money to try and improve his public image as his popularity and that of the Labour party has now sank to an all-time low. Poor Gordon, as the British public struggle to cope with rising energy and food bills and the threat of job losses, JK Rowling must be his only friend in this country.

CHANGING FACE OF BRITISH DENTISTRY


Most Britons, including myself, are sick of having to pay inflated prices for dental treatment, so many welcomed the recent arrival in Britain of a group of Hungarian dentists. Complete with inflatable surgery tent, at first glance they might have been mistaken for being part of a travelling circus! The dentists have been busy touring some of Britain’s cities in an effort to encourage people to have dental treatment in Hungary rather than here. Hungary is currently known as the dental capital of Europe, with treatments costing about a third of what they do in Britain. The reason for the tour was to enable Brits to meet the dentists face to face, get prices for any treatments and get answers to any questions they may have. Apparently even with the cost of airfare and accommodation in Hungary, dental treatments over there are still considerably less than patients would pay over here. With the current state of NHS dentistry, dental tourism is growing in popularity and more and more Brits are choosing to travel to Hungary and other Eastern European countries for cheaper and better dental treatment. One Hungarian dentist remarked that he used to see mainly American and Canadian patients but was currently seeing increasing numbers of British patients too.

According to the results of a study done earlier this year as part of National Smile Month, it seems that one in four Brits are too embarrassed to smile in photos due to bad teeth. It’s not surprising many Brits have bad teeth as trying to find an NHS dentist in most areas of the country is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. You hear so many horror stories nowadays about many people using “DIY dentistry”, as they are unable to find an NHS dentist to treat them and unable to pay the very high fees charged by private dentists. I couldn’t believe it when I heard that one man had actually used superglue to fix a damaged crown on his front tooth. Unbelievable!

On another note a Manchester supermarket has just launched the first in-store walk-in dental surgery as part of a pilot scheme. The dental surgery, open seven days a week like the supermarket, will offer checkups and treatments to shoppers at reasonable, affordable prices for everyone. It will certainly make dental treatment much more accessible to people. I know so many of us are much busier than we used to be. Everyone (myself included!) is all working longer hours and consequently people have a lot less time on their hands! Most people prefer to buy everything they need in a once a week visit to the supermarket anyway, rather than going to several different shops to buy things. So why not add a visit to the dentist onto the weekly shopping list as well! Sounds like a great idea to me. It has certainly proved very popular with shoppers and the new supermarket surgery was swamped with patients eager to register on its first day of opening. If the scheme proves popular, we may see more dentists popping up in other branches of supermarkets around the country.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

HARRY COOLEST YOUNG ROYAL


Prince Harry has been named the coolest young Royal in a recent poll. Harry, who celebrates his 24th birthday on Monday beat his cousins Princess Beatrice, Eugenie and Zara Philips to the coveted title. A Lieutenant in the Household Cavalry’s Blues and Royals, Prince Harry was deeply disappointed when he was told he wouldn’t be going to Iraq and considered leaving the army. However he decided to stay after being given a chance to fulfil a long held ambition earlier this year by serving on the front line in Afghanistan. Harry was bitterly disappointed when the Ministry of Defence took the decision to bring him home for his own safety and that of his fellow troops, after a website revealed his whereabouts making him a prime target for the Taliban.

Prince Harry who is third in line to the throne, spent part of the summer in Lesotho helping to refurbish a school for special needs children in connection with his Africa based charity Sentebale. Prince Harry launched Sentebale which means “Forget Me Not”, an Aids charity a couple of years ago in his late mother’s name. Prince Harry is definitely a chip off the old block. He is his mother’s son and we’ll never forget Diana, the people’s Princess, whilst Prince Harry follows in her footsteps and continues with the wonderful and charitable work that she started. Diana would have been so proud of Harry and his brother William.

BRITONS LOVE THEIR CURRY


These cash-strapped times have done nothing to diminish Britain’s love affair with curry. The average Briton spends £10 a week on curry and will probably spend a whopping £25,000 on it by retirement. Wow! It seems that men tend to prefer hotter curries like Madras and Vindaloo, whilst women tend to go for milder dishes like Korma. However by far the most popular Indian curry in this country is Chicken Tikka Masala. I enjoy Indian food myself and my favourite dish is Chicken Tikka Masala. I also enjoy a Chicken Pasanda dish too. I find Korma a bit too mild and prefer a medium, sweeter curry with fruits, almonds and spices. Accompanied by my favourite mushroom pilau rice, it’s a real treat. Chicken Tikka Masala started life in a New Delhi restaurant in October 1947. It proved an instant hit, when the first Indian restaurants opened in Britain in the 1950’s and became the U.K.’s No. 1 dish in 2001.

Britons have always been known as a nation of curry lovers, with curry being one of the U.K.’s most popular dishes. It’s also interesting to note that new research reveals that eating curry could help in the fight against Alzheimer's disease. Scientists recently discovered that a chemical called curcumin, found in curry and turmeric can help the body fight the disease. Curcumin helps the immune system to clear the brain of a waste product which is crucial in the development of Alzheimer's. As a curry lover myself, it’s good to know that something you enjoy has health giving properties too. It seems that one in two Britons enjoy cooking a curry meal at home at least once a week. If you would like to have a go, click on the link below to a delicious recipe by Roopa Gulati, courtesy of UKTV Food. Bon Appetit!

Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

NO TEA BREAKS FOR BRITISH OFFICE WORKERS


It seems that the humble tea break is the latest victim of the credit crunch according to the results of a recent survey of workplace habits. One in five British office workers are choosing to forfeit their tea breaks as they live in constant fear of losing their jobs. Instead they are choosing to remain at their desks as they work in more pressurised office environments. Apparently human resources departments are currently the worst affected. However the recession doesn’t seem to have affected hairdressers, who have now overtaken builders to become Britain’s no. 1 tea break takers!

BRING ON THE CHINA PLATES FOR BRITISH SCHOOLCHILDREN



British school children could soon be eating their school dinners off china plates if new government plans go ahead. It’s all part of a new initiative to encourage more secondary school pupils to take school dinners. Education minister Ed Balls has urged schools to offer a better restaurant style service to pupils. He suggested that school dinners should be served to pupils on china plates rather than the “prison style” trays that are currently used and they should also be given proper cutlery. Mr Balls would like to see school children treated like paying customers in a restaurant and is eager to make their dining experience more healthy and enjoyable.

In the future school meals will have to meet stringently high nutritional standards and provide guaranteed minimum levels of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. They will also have to ensure that they don’t have a high salt, sugar or fat content. Schools which fail to meet the high standards required will be reported to local authorities. Future plans include staggered lunch break periods so that children who have just moved up to secondary school won’t feel intimidated eating meals in the same dining room as much older children. In addition children may soon be able to order their school meals on-line. The plans sound great in theory and if they get children staying at school and eating healthier meals, rather than going out at lunchtimes and eating chips and junk food, that’s great. The china plates and nice cutlery idea may encourage children to develop good table manners too, which is another plus factor.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

BRITONS LEAD THE WAY IN EUROPE FOR CREDIT CARD USE

According to the results of a recent insurance company survey, many Brits are not at all worried about the ongoing global credit crunch with the majority saying that it was unlikely to affect either them or their lifestyles. Nearly 50% of people said they would not be cutting back on their spending. Not surprising really as Britain is known as the credit capital of Europe. Brits have twice as many credit cards as their European neighbours, with the average Brit carrying 1.4 credit cards. With the rising cost of living and the current economic climate, people enjoy the flexibility of being able to pay over a long period of time for goods and services.

Many Brits including myself can’t imagine life without a credit card. With the current economic climate, it is more important than ever to find the best credit card rates. More and more people are transferring balances from one card to another, to take advantage of 0% and other great low rate deals to ensure they pay as little interest as possible.

However there are so many different credit card deals on offer out there, it’s always important to compare the various different cards and deals available. Apply for Best Credit.com features some of the best 0% and low APR credit card deals on the internet and has many different types of cards available to suit your individual requirements, spending style and credit score, allowing you to compare credit card suppliers quickly and easily online, to find the best deals available.

There has never been a better time to take advantage of some of the great card deals out there. As the credit crunch bites, we have all become more choosey about our cards and want the best deals and rewards for our money to make shopping even more enjoyable.

So what are you waiting for log onto Apply for Best Credit.com today and get yourself a great credit card deal now.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

GIANT SPIDER GOES WALKABOUT IN LIVERPOOL


A giant mechanical spider has gone on the rampage in Liverpool this week! The spider better known as La Princesse, is a giant mechanical sculpture created by French company La Machine as part of Liverpool’s Capital of Culture celebrations. Made of steel and wood, the giant arachnid has a sophisticated hydraulics system which allows engineers strapped to its frame to operate its legs, eyes and abdomen. The 37 ton creature can reach a top speed of 2mph on its articulated steel legs. The creature began by being suspended from the concourse building near to Lime Street Station. It appeared almost overnight shocking commuters who walked or drove past it the following day.

Thousands of people lined the streets to see the giant spider, the star attraction at the La Machine Extravaganza held in Liverpool this weekend. La Princesse is now going walkabout around the city over the next three days, before disappearing down the Mersey Tunnel! I personally think the giant creature looks quite scary. Looking at the photos and tv coverage, it reminded me of one of the creatures from the scifi movie War of the Worlds! Whilst it is an awesome sight, I’m sure it will strike fear into the hearts of those of a nervous disposition like myself who are scared of spiders! I’ve always been afraid of spiders so as you can imagine I stayed away from Liverpool this week and won’t be going back until I’m sure that spider is well out of the way!