It’s December

As we are now in December, l thought i would post a photo of a Christmas Tree from around the world every day leading up to Christmas, and give you two fun facts per day about Christmas that you may not know. So todays photo is a fiber optic tree in Beijing, China, and two fun facts for you – 1.Most of Santa’s reindeer have male-sounding names, such as Blitzer, Comet, and Cupid. However, male reindeers shed their antlers around Christmas, so the reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh are likely not male, but female. 2. 3.The Germans made the first artificial Christmas trees out of dyed goose feathers. Have a wonderful Saturday everybody.

The Advent Calendar

Well it’s only two days away from the advent calendars being put up, and children everywhere looking forward to opening a different door on the calendar each day to reveal its secret. For those who don’t know about the Advent calendar, it is a special calendar, used to count, or celebrate the days in anticipation of Christmas. Most commercially available Advent calendars begin on December 1st , regardless of when Advent begins, which can be as early as November 27th and as late as December 3rd . Many take the form of a large rectangular card with “windows” of which there are usually 24: one for each day of December leading up to Christmas Day. One is opened every day leading up to Christmas. The calendar windows open to reveal an image, poem, a portion of a story (such as the story of the Nativity of Jesus) or a small gift, such as a toy, but the majority of calendars available these days contain a chocolate item behind each door. The origins of the Advent calendar come from German Lutherans who, as early as the beginning of the 19th century would count down the first 24 days of December physically. Often this meant simply drawing a chalk line on the door each day, beginning on December 1st . Some families had more elaborate means of marking the days, such as lighting a new candle or hanging a little religious picture on the wall each day.
The first known Advent calendar was handmade in 1851. According to the Lower Austrian Landesmuseum, the first printed Advent calendar was produced in Munich by a gentle called Gerhard Lang, in 1908.Lang who was a printer, made 24 little colored pictures that could be affixed to a piece of cardboard. Several years later, he introduced a calendar with 24 little doors. The practice disappeared during World War II, apparently to save paper. After the war, Richard Sellmer of Stuttgart resurrected the commercial Advent calendar and is responsible for its widespread popularity. His company, Richard Sellmer Verlag, today maintains a stock of over 1,000,000 calendars worldwide. Other companies, such as Cadbury’s in the UK, specialize in the making of calendars have similar stocks, if not higher. So there you have it, the history behind the advent calendar…

Old English sayings

Where did some of these old English sayings come from that we’ve heard all of our lives, but maybe never really thought about their origins? Well here are a few answers for you:
The first one is depicted in tonight’s photo, “IT’S RAINING CATS AND DOGS”. This comes from the 1500’s when many homes in England had thatched roofs, a lot of people who owned pet’s did not like them staying in the house, and so the cats and dogs would climb into the thatching and keep themselves warm in little nooks they found in the roof. However when it rained, they would get wet and would jump down off the roof to see shelter on the ground – hence the saying…. “IN A PICKLE”, this refers to Admiral Nelson, who was mortally wounded onboard HMS Victory by a musket ball. It is said that the crew placed the deceased Admiral in a barrel of brandy until the battle was over and they could dis-embark in Gibraltar, so that Nelson was literally pickled in a barrel of brandy, hence the saying. “WEAR YOUR HEART ON YOUR SLEEVE”, this comes from a middle-ages custom on knights wearing the colours of the lady that they were supporting during jousting matches. They would wear a cloth or ribbon in the colour of their fair maiden around their arms before galloping towards impending pain or victory. And lastly three sayings in one, first “SAVED BY THE BELL”. England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and re-use the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 20 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive! So they would tie a long string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night, and here is the second saying (THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT.) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be, saved by the bell or was considered (third saying) A DEAD RINGER.
Now, aren’t you glad you know the origins of these sayings and customs? And aren’t you glad we live in modern times?

Ah Blackpool

Every September, when l was young, my granparents would take me to stay in Blackpool for a long weekend to see the Illuminations. We would stay in a boarding house on the North shore, near the Cliffs Hotels, and l have such great memories of those visits. Virtually everyone who lives in the UK has either visited, or certainly know off Blackpool on England’s North West coast. It has a few nick names (well ones I can publish) “the jewel of the north”, “playground of the north”‘ and Britain’s Las Vegas..Blackpool grew in the 19th century to be the most popular British seaside resort, and actually welcomed its first visitors in 1755. Today Blackpool boasts the world famous tower, the Blackpool illuminations that light up the sea front from September to November, the old tramway that runs from Blackpool to Fleetwood, and the Blackpool pleasure beach. So here are some fun facts about Blackpool – There are over 3,000 hotels and guest houses that’s approximately 90,600 visitor beds. On average 16 million visitors visit each year, the iconic Blackpool Tower was built in 1894 and stands 518 feet tall. Blackpool’s trams were the worlds first permanent electric street tramway, it was opened in September 1885 and is still going to this day. There are 11.5 miles of track from Star Gate Blackpool to Fleetwood, during the illuminations there are five illuminated trams that run along the tracks. The illuminations are staged yearly and are an institution in the UK, they cost 2.5 million pounds to stage (that’s 4 million dollars) and alone attract 4 million visitors each year. Blackpool pleasure beach is home to Europe’s tallest and fastest roller coaster “The Big One” which is 235 feet tall, and reaches 95 miles per hour. A gentleman called Richard Rodriguez broke the Guinness book of records for riding a roller coaster when he rode “The Big One” for 1013 hours (it took 45 days). And lastly every year over 2 million post cards are sent from Blackpool. So there you have it – fun facts about Blackpool, hope you enjoyed, and everybody have a great week.

Fun Fact Friday

It’s fun fact Friday, and today it’s fun facts about the UK, so let’s start with The London Underground: The London tube route from Leicester Square to Covent Garden is the most popular tube route for tourists despite the fact that it is actually quicker to cover this distance on foot!
The tube system, despite being the first and the largest underground system in the world, is also the most unreliable and the costliest. The 409 escalators in the London subway cover a distance every week which is approximately equivalent to 4 trips around the world!
Big Ben is not a clock: Contrary to popular belief that Big Ben refers to the world famous clock, it is actually the name of the thirteen ton bell. The tower itself is known as St. Stephen’s Tower.
The bridge that fell down 1000 years ago: You must have heard the “London Bridge is falling down” nursery rhyme. Did you know that this rhyme is over a thousand years old? The Saxons destroyed London Bridge using boats and ropes to tear it down. This is how the rhyme originated.
The 2012 Olympics: London hosting the 2012 Olympics was the first time a city has ever hosted the Olympics three times. The London 2012 Olympics was the first time that every country has at least 1 female athlete. More than 4 billion people watched the opening ceremony (more than half the population of the world!) The gold medals used are actually 93% silver and 1.3% gold.
Misc Facts: Many of the UK’s laws go back centuries and some seem quite strange nowadays. For example, a law from 1592 says that all unclaimed swans belong to the Queen and that killing them is treason. A man was actually jailed under this law in 1993. Another law dating from the 1600′s makes eating mince pies illegal. Luckily this one is not enforced, because mince pies (which don’t contain meat any more) are a favourite snack at Christmas time. And finally, Newtown is the most popular name for a British town. Over 150 towns are named Newtown. Have a wonderful weekend everybody

The origin of the great British Pub.

Ah the great British Pub, renowned the world over, not just as a place to drink beer, wine, cider or even something a little bit stronger, it is a unique social centre, very often the focus of community life in villages, towns and cities throughout the length and breadth of the country. But did you know that the great British pub actually started life as the great Italian wine bar, and dates back almost 2,000 years! OK let me explain, it was an invading Roman army that first brought Roman Roads, Roman Towns, and Roman Pubs to the British shores in 43AD. The pubs were known as “Tabernae” , or shops that sold wine, and they were quickly built alongside the Roman roads and in towns all over Britain to help quench the thirst of the legionary troops. Ale however was the native British brew, and it appears that these tabernae’s were quickly adapted to provide the locals with their favourite tipple, and the word eventually became corrupted to tavern.

These taverns or alehouses not only survived but continued to adapt to an ever changing clientele, through invading Saxons, Jutes, and both Danish and Scandinavian Vikings. Around 970 AD one Anglo-Saxon King, called Edgar, even attempted to limit the number of alehouses in any one village. He is also said to have been responsible for introducing a drinking measure known as “the peg” as a means of controlling the amount of alcohol an individual could consume, hence that old British expression “To take someone down a peg”. By the year 1577 it is estimated that there were some 17,000 alehouses, 2,000 inns, and 400 taverns throughout England and Wales. Taking into account the population of the period, that would equate to around one pub for every 200 people in 2012….!!! So there you have the story of the great British Pub. My next blog, the origins of the great British breakfast – Egg and bacon.


Hello, l wanted to introduce myself and pose a question to all ex-pats from the UK, what do you miss from the mother country??

So firstly let me introduce myself, my name is Stewart Rushton, and 30 years ago l was working, quite happily in East Grinstead, Surrey, for a travel company in the UK called Jetsave. Jetsave started to fly its own aircraft from London and Manchester to Orlando, and they asked me would I like to go out to Florida for three weeks to help with the first charter flights, which in those days had to fly via Bangor in Maine to re-fuel.

Well l jumped at the offer, the three weeks turned into six months, then at the end of six months I was shipped back to the UK for two weeks, packed up all my belongings and had them shipped to Florida, and with my American 5 year work permit stamped into my passport, returned to Orlando, and here I am still to this day.

In Those 30 years since leaving the UK a lot has changed, especially in the field of technology, we can now “skype” all of our relatives every Sunday back in the UK, and feel as though they are in the next room, email, facebook, and the internet make contacting anybody back home so simple and easy. I read in the on-line version of the Daily Mail a while back, “what expats are homesick for”. Well it’s not what you may think, they don’t pine for the English countryside, or wonder what’s happening on EastEnders, the majority of people, according to the study, who leave the UK don’t seem to miss British television, food, culture or the sense of humour. l am not so sure about that, but what they do say the expats miss is the sociable atmosphere of the good old British Pub…

So what do you miss about the UK? Apart from the British Pub, here are the things that 1,800 people surveyed, say they miss:

Marmite – That‘s not on my list, but it’s all down to personal taste

A proper British Tea Bag – Not Liptons that dominates the AmericanTea Market

A National Health Service – Something you don’t appreciate until you leave the UK

Balanced News Coverage – Most of those surveyed missed the BBC news coverage

Sunday Pub Roasts – With HP sauce

Lamb – New Zealand or Welsh Lamb, not American, it just does not have the taste

And lastly…….

Marks & Spencer’s underwear.!


Personally, it has to be, for me, pork pies, sausage rolls, and Mr Kipling Manor House Fruit Cake. So what do you miss about the UK? Aside from the food items, l do miss the British dry sense of humour, l love comics like Peter Kay, and have to admit that every time l fly home and get off the plane in Manchester, it still feels like home – then reality sets in, when the cold air hits you as you leave the aircraft ,and you don’t see the sun again until you take off, flying home to Florida, and climb up through the clouds. Added to this, you join the M6 to drive north and find that there is only one lane open, good old British road works, two lanes coned off, and nobody working in them. Let me know what you miss, l’d love to hear. My next blog will give you an in-site into the origins of the great British Pub..

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