At a time when millions of foreign holidaymakers are flocking to Britain for their Summer vacation, gift and souvenir shops are gearing up for the holiday rush as eager tourists come in search of novel souvenirs to take back home. However according to the results of a recent poll, by far the most popular souvenir amongst foreign tourists is postcards of the Queen. The cards featuring her Majesty came in at No. 1 in a poll by B.A.A. at London Heathrow Airport, closely followed by Union Jack T-shirts and badges at No. 2 and replicas of Big Ben at No. 3. She may be in her eighties but The Queen is still as popular as she has always been and is one of the U.K.’s best ambassadors. She represents everything that is good about Britain and it’s not surprising that foreign tourists want to take Royal postcards home as a fitting reminder of their trip over here.
This is intensely moving and profoundly beautiful music. Don’t be surprised if you are moved to tears upon first hearing this album. The Choir of King’s College are definitely one of the jewels in England’s crown and this album showcases their talents beautifully. You can almost imagine you are there in King’s College Chapel listening to them, as their voices invoke images of serenity and peace in a church or cathedral setting.
This essential English collection opens and closes with coronation music. “Zadok the Priest” was written for the crowning of George II in 1727, whilst “I was glad” was composed for the coronation of Edward VII in 1902, and they have both been sung at coronation ceremonies ever since. Listeners will recognize many of the pieces on the album, partly due to their association with key English history events. John Ireland’s “Greater love hath no man” is often heard on Remembrance Sunday. Sir John Tavener’s “Song for Athene” made a powerful impression at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales; whilst John Rutter’s small-scale, personal “Requiem” touched a wider public following the attacks of 11 September 2001. Queen Mary’s 1694 birthday ode, “Come ye sons of art away”, composed by Purcell, together with the music he wrote for her funeral nine months later, “Thou knowest Lord” is also featured. Many favourite hymns and well known psalms sung to Anglican chant, feature on the album, sandwiched amongst both ancient and modern motets. In addition the album features a choral version of “Nimrod”, “Lux aeterna” composed by Edward Elgar, which epitomizes the music of national remembrance.
All in all listening to this album is an intensely beautiful and very moving musical experience. I can thoroughly recommend it.
As Gordon Brown’s popularity continues to sink to an all-time low, he is hoping to re-connect with voters by appearing on “Songs of Praise”. It seems when times get tough Mr Brown, like many others, is turning to religion. Psalm 23, The Lord is My Shepherd was on Mr Brown’s list of chosen hymns. He could certainly do with some divine intervention at the moment! The programme usually features famous churchgoers talking about their favourite hymns. Although Gordon’s father was a Church of Scotland minister, unlike his predecessor Tony Blair, he has never been known as a regular churchgoer. Gordon will be featured in a special edition of the programme which focuses on the subject of courage, something he once wrote a book about. The programme shows Gordon and tv presenter Sally Magnusson discussing the importance of courage. It is thought that Mr Brown’s appearance on the show will help to boost his public image and show him in a more human light. He certainly made an interesting choice of hymns. It’s quite ironic that one of Gordon’s chosen hymns is “Fight the Good Fight”, especially since he has had quite a fight on his hands recently, fighting for his political life in the wake of the recent Westminster MP’s expenses scandal. Well never mind, chin up Gordon! The D-ream song, “Things can only get better” comes to mind!
As many of you know, working in an office, I quite often get funny emails sent to my inbox. This one made me laugh and I thought it was quite appropriate, given the current spate of MP's claiming for second home benefits for the rest of us to pay for and generally trying to squeeze as much money out of the already severely cash strapped economy as they possibly can! As many of us struggle to pay the mortgage on our one and only home and keep a roof over our heads, the recent revelation of MP's expenses claims is certainly quite an eye opener! The Department of Work and Pensions Fraud Team could do to keep a close watch on the lot of them! I'm sure they'd have their work cut out!
The credit crunch has seen a massive rise in allotments as many Britons want to live the “Good Life” and grow their own vegetables. Now the Queen is following in the footsteps of Britons everywhere by having her own organic vegetable plot at her Buckingham Palace gardens. Her Majesty is also following in the footsteps of new First Lady Michelle Obama who recently created a vegetable garden at The White House. The Queen, who attends the Chelsea Flower Show every year, has always had a keen interest in gardens. Vegetables are now growing alongside ornamental plants in the royal gardens, for the first time since the Second World War. Liquid seaweed is being used to cultivate them rather than chemicals. The Queen and Prince Philip will soon be able to savour the fruits of their gardeners’ labours as a range of produce including beetroot, carrots, runner beans and leeks are grown and cultivated in their 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. They were recently opened to the public for the first time in 200 years. For £20 a ticket, visitors can now 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 can also 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. Public tours run in April, May and June, when the Queen is not in residence and are limited to twenty five visitors at a time. All monies from the tours go towards the upkeep of the gardens.
Britons have often turned their backs to the land in times of crisis, so it is no surprise that allotments have become so popular in the current recession-hit times. Millions of Britons became vegetable gardeners during World War Two, in a bid to feed their families healthily in times of rationing. Allotments were first created in Victorian times to feed factory workers and encourage them to eat healthily. However in modern times, allotments have now crossed the class barriers, providing a relaxing, healthy and money saving pastime for today’s stressed workers. Certainly there is nothing more rewarding than growing, harvesting and eating your own fruit and vegetables. They are also much healthier than their supermarket counterparts which are often full of pesticides. You can hear more about the Royal allotment by clicking on the player shown below:-
Another person celebrating a birthday this week is Prince Philip. The Prince celebrated his 88th birthday on Wednesday and like the Queen, shows no signs of slowing down and is as busy as ever. A member of the Greek Royal family, Prince Philip was born in 1921 and has been married to The Queen since 1947. The couple have four children and eight grandchildren. The Duke of Edinburgh is only the fifth consort to a reigning Queen in British history and gave up his navy career to support the then Princess Elizabeth when she became Queen. On 18th April this year, Prince Philip also became the longest serving consort in British history.
Both the Queen and Prince Philip are great-great grandchildren of Queen Victoria. Like his eldest son Prince Charles, Prince Philip takes a great interest in the environment, using an LPG powered taxi cab around London to attend engagements. Apart from being an active supporter of a wide range of charities, the Duke of Edinburgh has also founded his own Duke of Edinburgh national and international award scheme, to introduce young people to new challenges and experiences. The scheme has proved to be extremely successful both here and abroad. Prince Philip undertakes a number of Royal engagements himself, in addition to accompanying the Queen on all her overseas tours and visits and on some engagements in this country too. Apart from carrying the title of The Duke of Edinburgh, he also carries the titles of The Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich.
I can’t believe how fast this year is flying by! Today I’ve been busy celebrating yet another birthday. However I don’t feel any older and am telling myself that I’m like fine wine! I get better with age! Ha ha!
I’m not surprised to hear that Michelle Obama and her daughters were very keen to visit Big Ben during their private tour of London this week. With its distinctive chimes, Big Ben is one of London’s most famous landmarks and a very popular tourist attraction. The famous icon recently celebrated its 150th anniversary. It is the biggest chiming clock tower in the world. However the name, “Big Ben” actually refers to the 13.5 tonne bell inside rather than the clock itself. The death of the monarch is usually marked by the tolling of the bell. Big Ben is a magnificent piece of Victorian engineering that was built to last for hundreds of years. The famous clock tower in Parliament Square and the Palace of Westminster were commissioned in 1834, after a fire destroyed most of the original Houses of Parliament. The clock was designed by Edmund Beckett Denison, a member of Parliament. It was completed in 1854 and installed in 1859, after the clock tower was completed. The bell was made in Whitechapel and sent out its first chimes in July of that year. Many people believe the clock is electronic, but this is not the case. Big Ben is clockwork and driven by weights which need regular winding. The clock is wound by hand three times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The whole process takes over an hour as it isn’t possible to wind the clock whilst it is chiming. The clock’s hour hand was famously immobilised in 1944 when a flock of starlings chose it for a perch! The clock face is usually cleaned by abseilers about every five years. Westminster’s famous landmark clock was silenced for the first time in 51 years in August 2007, when the final phase of work to clean the four clock faces and replace parts took place in preparation for the clock’s 150th anniversary celebration. London tourists and spectators were surprised to see engineers and workers abseiling down the south clock face to repair and clean it. Big Ben was named Britain’s favourite attraction in a recent poll and still holds a special place in many people’s hearts. Big Ben’s chimes can be downloaded as a ringtone at:- www.bigben.parliament.uk
In these credit crunch times when more and more companies are going to the wall and so many people are losing their jobs, it makes sense to support your country and buy British. Have you ever looked round your home and realised just how many items you have that were made and produced in other countries of the world, other than the U.K.? British businesses are the lifeline of our economy and need our support now. Like many other Brits, I’m an avid supporter of buybritish.com and always try wherever possible to buy British goods and services. Consequently I was very interested to hear about a new tv show about to hit our screens.
"Made in Britain" features award-winning tv comedian Dom Joly , as one man, literally stripped of everything he owns and challenged to buy British. Dom’s family home is also stripped from top to bottom of anything not made in this country. As you can imagine, once Dom’s Japanese tv, French pots and pans, German fridge and several other foreign household items have been removed, there is not much left and all that remains is an almost empty shell of a house with several empty rooms to fill! Dom is then challenged to travel the length and breadth of the country to try and replace all his foreign goods with British made ones. Every episode of the show features Dom dealing with a different room in his house and attempting to fill it with only British made goods. It’s very interesting to watch Dom on his travels to various popular British companies, some well-known and some not so well-known. He meets some quirky, colourful and interesting characters along the way, all of whom believe passionately in the quality of the products they produce. It’s all an exciting voyage of discovery for Dom as he travels around Blighty (as England is affectionately known!) and learns what it really means to be “Made in Britain”. Along the way he visits well-known British toiletries company Lush, now a global success story and also one of Europe’s oldest waterbed companies (surprisingly it was the Brits who first invented them and not the Americans as a lot of people believe!)
You can watch “Made in Britain” on Sky Channel 534 and Virgin TV 206. The new show starts next Monday (8th June) at 8.00pm.
To hear more about it, click on the player shown below:-
Congratulations to popular dance troupe Diversity, who were crowned the winners of 2009’s Britain’s Got Talent. The dance group who hail from London and Essex, take away a £100,000 prize and the chance to perform in front of Her Majesty the Queen at The Royal Variety Performance. They blew the judges and the audience away with their amazing “transformer” dance routine. Bookies’ favourite and global phenomena, Susan Boyle came second but was a gracious loser, telling Ant and Dec that the best people won and wishing Diversity all the best. Despite losing out to Diversity for the coveted No. 1 spot, Susan is expected to make millions from tv appearances, contracts and CD recordings. To see Diversity in action, click on the player shown below:-