Celebrities joined ordinary members of the public to run in the London Marathon on Sunday. Thousands of spectators lined the route to cheer them on as they left Greenwich Park and headed eastwards towards Woolwich Royal Artillery barracks before making their way back across the river at Tower Bridge. Reality tv stars Katie Price and Peter Andre, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and model Nell McAndrew were amongst some of the famous names taking part. They were joined by runners in fancy dress, professional athletes, those running in support of various charities and fun runners. It always helps when the weather is good. This year the many thousands of runners who took part were lucky enough to enjoy a fine, sunny day. Kenyan Olympic champion Sammy Wanjiru won the men's race, completing the marathon in a record time of 2:05:10, smashing the current record by five seconds. Meanwhile German Irina Mikitenko triumphed in the women's event for the second year running.
The London Marathon is one of Britain's biggest and most popular sporting events. Welcomed by charities, it is also one of the world's biggest and best fundraisers. It's a great annual event which brings people from all different walks of life together, all running and trying to do their bit for their chosen charities, as every year the city comes alive with the sound of pounding feet! Despite all the doom and gloom of the current financial recession, we still have the marathon, an event that definitely brings out the best in everyone taking part. The runners might end up tired and with blistered feet but the tremendous sense of achievement that everyone gets from taking part is well worth it. To read more about this great event, click on the link shown below:-
I've always liked Laurel and Hardy. My grandparents were big fans of the comic duo and as a child, I spent many happy hours round at their house watching Laurel and Hardy films. Laurel and Hardy were a classic and unique comedy duo. Unfortunately they don't make films like that any more. I'm sure some of the innocent slapstick comedy of yesteryear would be lost on some of today's movie goers.
Not many people know but Stan Laurel wasn't American, he was actually English. Arthur Stanley Jefferson or Stan Laurel (as he is more famously known) was born in Ulverston, Cumbria in 1890. He met Oliver Hardy in 1926 when they were both in Hollywood working for the Hal Roach Studios. The two formed a comedy partnership that lasted 31 years. Stan and Ollie appeared in 106 short films and motion pictures spanning the silent film era until the 1950's. Now the famous comedy duo have been immortalised with a £60,000 bronze sculpture which was unveiled last weekend by comedian Ken Dodd in Ulverston. Ken arrived for the ceremony in a vintage Model T Ford with Laurel and Hardy lookalikes to add to the fun. Hundreds of people, including members of The Sons of the Desert (Laurel and Hardy Appreciation Society) gathered to watch the unveiling ceremony. The sculpture which now stands in Ulverston's County Square shows Stan and Ollie leaning against a lamppost. Stan brought Ollie back to his hometown of Ulverston in 1947, with the duo famously waving from the Coronation Hall balcony to a huge crowd of adoring fans standing below. One of my favourite all-time Laurel and Hardy classics is a scene from the movie, "Way Out West", where they sing, "On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine". To view it, click on the player shown below:-
Hannah Montana fever hit London this week as teen star Miley Cyrus wowed fans at the premiere of Hannah Montana The Movie in Leicester Square. The streets were lined with thousands of children and teenagers, some of whom had queued for hours to catch a glimpse of their favourite Disney idol. Dressed in a short and sparkley Herve Leger dress and silver heels, Miley didn't disappoint her loyal army of fans and looked quite the fashion icon, She was accompanied by her dad, country music singer Billy Ray Cyrus. To the delight of eager fans, Miley and her dad happily shook hands, signed autographs and posed for photographs.
Billy Ray, famous for his hit song Achy Breaky Heart (I loved that song!) spoke of his pride of both his daughter and the new film. It's definitely a case of life imitating art, as Billy Ray plays Miley's dad in the movie too. As Hannah Montana The Movie shot to no. 1 in its opening weekend in the States, Billy spoke of the amazing reaction of fans and said the new movie had a great cast and crew. The film follows on from the Disney tv series about Miley Stewart who leads a secret double life, acting as a normal teenager and schoolgirl by day but who dons a blonde wig by night to become singing star and alter-ego Hannah Montana. The movie follows Miley as she is ready to crack under the pressure of the soaring popularity of her singing sensation other half. Her dad thinks she needs a reality check and takes her back home to Tennessee, where movie goers can follow her fun and romance filled adventures. Billy Ray explained that going back to Miley's roots in Tennessee was the heart and soul of the film. Miley Cyrus is definitely one of Disney's shining stars. The Hannah Montana tv series has grown into a worldwide billion dollar phenomena. The tv series is loved by millions of children and teenagers, not just in Britain but the world over. I'm sure the movie will be just as popular. To see the trailer, click on the link shown below:-
Today in England we celebrate St George’s Day. St George is the patron saint of England, better known for slaying a dragon (evil), as the story goes and rescuing a trapped maiden. St George’s emblem is a red cross on a white background, which is England’s flag and forms part of Britain’s Union Jack flag. The flag has grown in popularity in recent years, particularly with football fans who display it on their cars at the time of the World Cup matches.
The Queen celebrated her 83rd birthday today, spending the day quietly at Windsor Castle with her husband Prince Philip. Union Jack flags will be flying above government buildings until sunset today in her Majesty's honour, whilst a 41-Gun salute was fired in the centre of London by the Kings Troop Royal Artillery. Despite being in her eighties, the Queen is still one of the hardest working members of the Royal family and shows no signs of slowing down. She also has no plans to step down from the throne. As the great grandchild of Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth is the last female sovereign. The Queen and Prince Philip have been married for over 61 years and have four children and eight grandchildren. Apart from being a mum and grandmother, the Queen is also Head of State, Head of the Church of England, the Commonwealth and the Armed Forces.
The Queen traditionally celebrates two birthdays every year. Her actual birthday is in April, whilst she celebrates a second official birthday in June with the traditional Trooping the Colour ceremony. The tradition of two birthdays goes back to the time when if monarchs were born in Winter, the weather was deemed unsuitable for outdoor events so a second “birthday” had to be created for them. Unfortunately when this tradition came into being, they didn’t count on how unpredictable the British weather can be!
Scottish spinster Susan Boyle has become an overnight sensation after her recent appearance on Britain's Got Talent. The judges were about to dismiss the volunteer charity worker until she started to sing her version of the Les Miserables song "I Dreamed a Dream", blowing the audience away with her amazing voice. The judges watched in stunned silence with Piers Morgan describing her performance as, "amazing, incredible and stunning". Amanda Holden said it had been a "complete privilege" listening to her. Simon Cowell described her performance as extraordinary. A video of Susan's appearance on the show has become an instant hit on You Tube with over 18 million hits. It seems that word of Susan's amazing voice has spread far and wide! Even Demi Moore and her husband Ashton Kutcher were heard "twittering" about it. Wow! News travels fast! Susan is this year's hot favourite to win the show. There are also rumours she will soon be a special guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show, after wowing Americans with her recent appearance on CBS's "The Early Show". To hear Susan sing, follow the link shown below:-
I was interested to hear about the new Michelle and Barrack Obama dolls being brought out in the States. The President and his wife seem to be a well-liked and high profile couple. I'm sure the dolls will prove very popular with American children. I can't see the idea taking off here though. I can't imagine anyone wanting a Gordon Brown doll! Then again, maybe it would prove popular with some adults, if only to stick pins in! Things are in such a state in this country!
What's for dinner? The eternal question and one that many busy wives and mums struggle to answer, particularly after a difficult day at work. Well it seems their prayers are about to be answered. I smiled when I read about the results of a recent report compiled by the Future Laboratory Consultancy on behalf of British electrical retailer Comet. The report predicts that in the future intelligent fridges and ovens will do the thinking for us! Interesting! Apparently in the next 10 years, we could see fridges that will make menu suggestions for dinner according to the contents inside them and even let us know when we're running low on supplies so we know exactly what to buy when we go shopping without forgetting anything! In the home of the future, intelligent bathroom scales will be connected to the kitchen and keep an eye on our waistlines. If we're putting on weight, the fridge of the future will make menu suggestions to encourage us to eat more healthily and shed the excess pounds.
Can't cook? Well that's not a problem either! The report predicts that in the kitchen of the future, intelligent ovens will automatically calculate the correct cooking times and conditions for every type of food, to ensure perfect results every time! If you live alone, that's no problem either! You'll never be lonely in the kitchen of the future as all singing, all dancing (well almost!) ovens and fridges communicate verbally with their owners, understanding and responding to our every need via Voice Recognition Technology. Sounds like fun! I wonder if they do the cleaning, washing and ironing and put the bins out as well? No doubt there will be some intelligent, labour saving devices to do that as well in 10 years' time. Can't wait!
Prince Charles is joining forces with British actress Liz Hurley to launch a range of "modern, healthy" organic produce. The Prince plans to market a selection of organic meat and grain products using ingredients sourced from the actress's nearby farm. The new products will be on sale from October and will be sold under Prince Charles' Duchy Originals label. The Austin Powers actress described Prince Charles as an "inspiration" due to his belief in organic food and farming and said that she felt honoured to be associated with Duchy Originals. Liz Hurley currently breeds cows, pigs and chickens at her 400 acre organic farm. Her organic and rare breed lamb, pork and beef are used by some of London and Gloucestershire's leading chefs. Prince Charles is a long time advocate of organic and sustainable farming. Duchy Originals currently sells a range of over 200 "quintessentially British" products, with all profits going to the Prince's Charities Foundation.
This year has gone by so fast, I can't believe it's the big Easter weekend again over here in England and yet again Easter eggs appeared on sale in the shops here in February! I'm sure it gets earlier every year as Easter, (like every other holiday), gets more and more commercialised.
The pagan origins of Easter are thought to derive from Eostre (or Oestre as it’s sometimes spelt), a fertility godess. As the egg is the symbol of fertility and rebirth, this is where the custom of Easter eggs came from. Easter bunnies too originate from here as rabbits are very fertile creatures. Easter egg rolling is also popular at this time of year. In some areas of England, it still continues today, usually on Easter Monday. This is symbolic in Christian tradition of the stone being rolled away from Christ’s tomb. Spring and Easter is traditionally a time of rebirth.
Even though Easter has become commercialised now, we mustn’t forget it’s true meaning. In Christianity, Maundy Thursday recalls the Last Supper, the agony in the garden and Jesus’s arrest. For centuries, people in authority have washed the feet of their followers on this day. In England, the Queen traditionally presents “Maundy” money to pensioners (nominated by clergy of various denominations), for their service to the church. Good Friday remembers Jesus’s death on the cross and how he died to save us all. Easter Saturday is the final day of Lent. Easter Sunday celebrates Jesus’s resurrection. Happy Easter Everybody!
"Hot Cross Buns - one a penny, two a penny, Hot Cross Buns!"
Who can forget that popular little nursery rhyme! It could have come straight out of the pages of a Dickens' novel and was regularly chanted by street vendors who sold the warm, fresh buns straight from the oven on Good Friday. Until recent years, Hot Cross Buns were only available to buy on Good Friday, as a result of a London bylaw which was introduced back in Tudor times, banning the sale of them at any other times. The little fruited and spiced buns with a cross carved on top have long been a symbol of Good Friday. Hot Cross Buns have been a Good Friday and Lenten tradition for centuries. Even though nowadays we associate them with Christianity, some people believe the original roots of the buns lie in pagan times when the cross symbolised the four corners of the moon. Also in Roman times, an ox would traditionally be sacrified at Easter and the image of it's horns carved into a ritual bread bun, which later evolved to become the Hot Cross Bun we know today. To the Romans the cross symbol represented the ox's horns. The word bun is actually derived from the Saxon word boun which means sacred ox. In the late 1300's a monk, Father Thomas Rockliffe distributed the buns to the poor of St Albans on Good Friday. They were made to a secret recipe and became very popular. Soon afterwards they became a christian tradition with the cross symbolising the crucifixion and reminding us that Jesus died on the cross.
There are many old English superstitions and folklore tales surrounding the buns. The buns have long been associated with healing and protection. It was once thought that taking a Hot Cross Bun on a sea voyage helped to guard against shipwreck! Other popular beliefs are that if a bun is halfed and shared, the person you share it with will remain a lifelong friend and also that hanging a hot cross bun up in the house ensures good luck for the coming year! In years gone by, buns made on Good Friday were used in powdered form to treat a variety of illnesses. Today Hot Cross Buns are available to buy in supermarkets and bakeries thoughout the Easter season. I love Hot Cross Buns and always enjoy them at this time of year. My favourite way of eating them is toasted and buttered with some cheese in the middle. If you would like to have a go at making some delicious Hot Cross Buns yourself, click on the link shown below:-
It was a historic day as America's new President Obama and his wife Michelle made their first visit to the U.K. for the historic G20 summit. The couple were greeted warmly by Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah, enjoying a special dinner cooked by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. The couple were also granted a private audience with Her Majesty the Queen as part of their visit. America has always enjoyed a special relationship with Britain, so it was no surprise that the President's wife Michelle dispensed with protocol and hugged the Queen. Her Majesty, who had earlier placed a white gloved hand around Michelle's waist, asked her to keep in touch. Michelle wowed everyone she met with her easygoing manner and dazzling outfits. I think she will make a wonderful First Lady. Michelle reminds me a lot of Princess Diana. She seems like a warm and compassionate woman, someone who is not afraid to show emotion and is able to communicate with people from all walks of life.
President Obama said that the Queen was one of the main reasons he loved the U.K. He also spoke of the "extraordinary affinity and kinship" between the British and American people.
As Gordon Brown's popularity sinks lower by the day, he was no doubt hoping that Barack Obama's visit would help to boost his profile. Certainly Gordon Brown's diplomatic skills came to the fore as he brought together the world's leaders at the G20 summit and thrashed out a $1trillion bailout deal from some of the world's richest countries to kickstart global economic growth. The deal will see some of the world's wealthiest nations injecting a huge amount of money into the International Monetary Fund. The Prime Minister described it as, "the day the world came together to fight back against the global recession - not with words, but with a plan for global recovery and reform". He received a standing ovation from world leaders after the deal was secured. Mr Brown has flown half way round the world in recent weeks, in a bid to persuade some of the world's most powerful leaders to support his plans at the G20 summit. However he still refused to take all the credit for the successful outcome, describing the bailout deal as a good example of the world working together. Economists predict that as a result of the deal, we should see a way out of this terrible global recession next year. Only time will tell if they are right. With so many people here losing their jobs and homes, we can only hope that things will get better and there is a brighter economic future ahead for all of us.