Category Archives: History/Curiosities

British Food | Favourite British Food Brands

Below is the article Elaine Lemm has written. This was not written by me. LINK:

Britain and Ireland are steeped in traditional and easily recognizable foods, many of which have made their way into other food cultures worldwide. There are, however, foods and drinks now raised to near iconic status and considered typical of all things British.


Photo © Unilever
One of the great British discussions – after the weather – is do you love it, or hate it? British favorite Marmite is a rich, dark-brown, yeasty spread for hot toast, spread on wafer biscuits, as a hot drink or a sandwich filling. Marmite lovers will tell you it is good on or in almost anything! The spread has a dense, salty flavor and must be used sparingly. Marmite is made from yeast extract (a by-product of the brewing industry) and is a rich source of vitamin B complex. Statistics say that 25% of Britons take Marmite with them when travelling.

Robinsons Barley Water

Photo © Britvic
Robinsons Lemon Barley Water is as much a part of a British summer as strawberries and cream being the drink of choice for players at the Wimbledon Tennis tournament. The drink was launched in 1823 as a powder to mix with water and didnt make an appearance in its current bottled form until 1935. The refreshing drink was designed to be taken to combat fever and kidney complaints and thus began its long association with health and fitness which still exists today.

HP Sauce

Photo © RFB Photography
No self-respecting full English breakfast is seen without it and a humble bacon sandwich raised to gourmet status with a dash of the ‘brown stuff’. HP Sauce has graced British tables since the late 19th century with the slim bottle and distinctive label featuring the Houses of Parliament now a British icon. HP sauce contains malt vinegar, spices and tomato with the recipe a well-kept secret. It resembles an American barbecue sauce though not used in the same way. Like mustard or ketchup HP is blobbed on the side of the plate for dipping; drizzling over food considered a little vulgar except in a sandwich.


It may now be brewed all over the world, but Guinness is still synonymous with its birthplace in Ireland in 1799. True devotees of the “black stuff” will vow that true Guinness is only found in Dublin pubs, where the pouring to create a large creamy head is considered an art form. The brewery at St James’s Gate is now one of the largest breweries in the world producing about 70 million gallons every year.

Colmans Mustard

Photo © RFB Photography
Colmans Mustard is considered one of the oldest (and most recognised) brands across the UK. The distinctive, bright yellow mustard has been made in Norwich, in England since 1814. The bull’s head logo first appeared in 1855 and remains a symbol of both tradition and quality. No British or irish sausage is complete without a blob of the pungent condiment.

Birds Custard Powder

Photo © RFB Photography
Throughout Great Britain and Ireland mention custard, and the first thought will be of Birds Custard. The sauce is made from a corn flour based powder and bears little resemblance to the thick egg based sauce of ‘real’ custard (the French Creme Anglaise). It’s distinctive taste is the perfect partner to rich English puddings and the base of a traditional Trifle. Bird’s Custard was invented by Alfred Bird in 1837 and remains today much as it has always been. No British store cupboard is complete without a tin lurking somewhere at the back.

R Whites Lemonade

Photo © Britvic
The best-selling lemonade was first produced in 1845 by Robert and Mary White. They set up business selling home-made brews from a barrow in Camberwell, London. By 1896 the fame of the company had spread including abroad to among others the Emperor Napoleon of France. Its claim to fame not only a high-quality soft drink and made with real lemons but the quirky advertising theme introduced in the 1970’s of the Secret Lemonade Drinker. The man in his early 30s, with dark hair and wearing heavy rimmed glasses sleeps in striped pyjamas and lives in a semi in the suburbs. He has an obsession with R Whites Lemonade and feeds his addiction secretly at night.

Golden Syrup

Photo © RFB Photography

For more than 125 years Lyle’s Golden Syrup has graced the kitchens of British households. The rich, sweet syrup is a preserve and ultimate ingredient in treacle tarts, steamed puddings and favorite topping on pancakes, in porridge or simply spread on bread for a sweet, sticky treat.

Oxo Cubes

Photo © RFB Photography
No self-respecting chef will give kitchen space to an Oxo cube. But, the foil wrapped cubes of beef stock in their distinctive red and white box are an iconic British brand and over two million are still sold every day in the UK. Their popularity came from post-war years of rationing when meat was still in short supply and the tiny cube gave a kick start to many meat dishes and produced a half-decent gravy.

Know Your Stuff | UCAS

We are the organisation responsible for managing applications to higher education courses in the UK. Not only do we process more than two million applications for full-time undergraduate courses every year, but we help students to find the right course. We try to make things run as smoothly as possible by providing innovative online tools which make it easier for students and higher education institutions (HEIs) to manage applications and offers.

We provide application services across a range of subject areas and modes of study for UK universities and colleges. More than half a million people wanting to study at a university or college use our services each year. Our specialist services, the Graduate Teacher Training Registry (GTTR), the UK Postgraduate Application and Statistical Service (UKPASS) and the Conservatoires UK Admissions Service (CUKAS) are used by more than 50,000 people every year.

We aim to help students make informed choices about higher education, guiding them, their parents and advisers through the application process.

We carry out research, consultancy and advisory work for schools, colleges, careers services, professional bodies and employers. We also offer continuing professional development tailored to meet the needs of individual institutions or subject areas. This ensures a long-term commitment to improving admissions processes across the industry.




Lifestyle | The Tea Appreciation Post

In Britain tea is usually black tea served with milk (never cream; the cream of a “cream tea” is clotted cream served on scones, usually with strawberry jam, a tradition originating from Devon and Cornwall). Strong tea served with lots of milk and often two teaspoons of sugar, usually in a mug, is commonly referred to as builder’s tea. Much of the time in the United Kingdom, tea drinking is not the delicate, refined cultural expression that some might imagine—a cup (or commonly a mug) of tea is something drunk often, with some people drinking six or more cups of tea a day. Employers generally allow breaks for tea.

How to drink your tea… British style!

Even very slightly formal events can be a cause for cups and saucers to be used instead of mugs. A typical semi-formal British tea ritual might run as follows (the host performing all actions unless noted):

  1. The kettle, with fresh water, is brought to a rolling boil and water poured into a tea pot.
  2. Enough boiling water is swirled around the pot to warm it and then poured out.
  3. Add loose tea leaves, black tea usually, although tea bags are sometimes used, always added before the boiled water.
  4. Fresh boiling water is poured over the tea in the pot and allowed to brew for 2 to 5 minutes while a tea cosy is placed on the pot to keep the tea warm. If the tea is allowed to brew for too long, for example, more than 10 minutes, it will become “over-steeped”,or “stewed”, resulting in a very bitter, astringent taste.
  5. Milk may be added to the tea cup, the host asking the guest if milk is wanted, although milk may alternatively be added after the tea is poured.
  6. A tea strainer is placed over the top of the cup and the tea poured in, unless tea bags are used. Tea bags may be removed, if desired, once desired strength is attained.
  7. Fresh milk and white sugar is added according to individual taste. Most people have milk with their tea, many without sugar.
  8. The pot will normally hold enough tea so as not to be empty after filling the cups of all the guests. If this is the case, the tea cosy is replaced after everyone has been served. Hot water may be provided in a separate pot, and is used only for topping up the pot, never the cup.

Whether to put milk into the cup before or after the tea is, and has been since at least the late 20th century, a matter of some debate with claims that adding milk at the different times alters the flavour of the tea.In addition to considerations of flavour, is thought that historically, the order of steps was taken as an indication of class: only those wealthy enough to afford good quality porcelain would be confident of its being able to cope with being exposed to boiling water unadulterated with milk.

There is also a proper manner in which to drink tea when using a cup and saucer. If one is seated at a table, the proper manner to drink tea is to raise the teacup only, placing it back into the saucer in between sips. When standing or sitting in a chair without a table, one holds the tea saucer with the off hand and the tea cup in the dominant hand. When not in use, the tea cup is placed back in the tea saucer and held in one’s lap or at waist height. In either event, the tea cup should never be held or waved in the air.

Drinking tea from the saucer (poured from the cup in order to cool it) was not uncommon at one time but is now almost universally considered a breach of etiquette.

“The Tea Poem” (written when tea began to be rationed during WWII)

Cup of Tea, Cup of Tea You Are Just the Thing for Me

no Milk, No Sugar, It’s just Great Fancy herbal ones I hate

(No Chamomile I say for me No Parsley in My cup of Tea)

No Mint, No Thyme, No Red Red Rose Just Give Me Normal by the Hose

So keep your ration Book in Hand And we’ll drink tea across the land

And an extra cup for Granny too And all our dashing lads in blue.

Tea Cards

In the United Kingdom, and to a certain extent, Canada, a number of varieties of loose tea sold in packets from the 1940s to the 1980s contained tea cards. These were illustrated cards roughly the same size as cigarette cards and intended to be collected by children. Perhaps the best known were Typhoo tea and Brooke Bond (manufacturer of PG Tips), the latter of whom also provided albums for collectors to keep their cards in. Some renowned artists were commissioned to illustrate the cards including Charles Tunnicliffe. Many of these card collections are now valuable collectors’ items.

Know Your Stuff | The Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship

Please bear in mind that the following post is only a take on the Shakesperian authorship. It does not imply that I stand by it or not. If you want to know my stand on the matter, feel free to ask me. Please do leave your comments below!

The Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship proposes that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550–1604), wrote the plays and poems traditionally attributed to William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon. While a large majority of scholars reject all alternative candidates for authorship, with the editors of one scholarly edition of Shakespeare’s works writing in the introduction that such theories’ only redeeming feature is “unintended humour,” there is popular interest in various authorship theories. Since the 1920s, Oxford has been the most popular anti-Stratfordian candidate.

The convergence of documentary evidence of the type used by academics for authorial attribution—title pages, testimony by other contemporary poets and historians, and official records—sufficiently establishes Shakespeare’s authorship for the overwhelming majority of Shakespeare scholars and literary historians, and no evidence links Oxford to Shakespeare’s works. Oxfordians, however, reject the historical record, often proposing the conspiracy theory that it was falsified to protect the identity of the real author, often invoking the evidence against it and the dearth of evidence for any conspiracy as evidence of its success.Some Oxfordians believe that Shakespeare acted as a “front man,” receiving the plays from Oxford and pretending to have written them, but others claim that he was simply a merchant from Stratford who had nothing to do with the theatre.

The Oxfordian case is based on purported similarities between Oxford’s biography and events in Shakespeare’s narrative works; parallels of language, idiom, and thought between Oxford’s letters and the Shakespearean canon; and marked passages in Oxford’s Bible that appear in some form in Shakespeare’s plays. Oxfordians interpret the plays and poems as autobiographical and use the plays and poems to construct a hypothetical author, a method literary specialists consider arbitrary, subjective, and of no proven evidential value. Oxfordians deduce from the works that the author must have been an aristocrat of great formal learning, intimate with the Elizabethan court and widely travelled through the countries and cities mentioned in the plays. They say that this inferred profile of the author fits Oxford’s biography better than the documented biography of William Shakespeare.

Though Oxford died in 1604 before approximately 12 of the plays were written according to the generally-accepted chronology, Oxfordians say that regular publication of new, “newly augmented”, and “corrected” Shakespeare plays stopped with Oxford’s death in 1604,and they interpret certain written references to Shakespeare between 1604 and 1616 to mean that the writer was dead. In order to make the chronology fit Oxford’s lifespan, they date most of the plays earlier and say that the post-1604 plays, some of which show evidence of revision and collaboration, were completed by other playwrights for posthumous release.

Know Your Stuff | British Festivities/Holidays

New Year’s Day – January 1

Celebrates the new year by having a first footer step over the threshold.


Twelfth Night – January 5

Celebrated the night before Epiphany, it is tradition to take down your Christmas tree to avoid having bad luck.

Candlemas Day – February 2

This day marks the middle of the winter season – from the shortest day of the year to the Spring Equinox. This day also celebrates the cleansing of Mary.

Valentine’s Day – February 14

This day is celebrated with the giving of gifts, as well as writing verses of love in newspapers and magazines for your special someone.

St. David’s Day (Wales) – March 1

St. David’s day is to celebrate the man, Dewi Sant, who spread Christianity throughout Wales.


St. Patrick’s Day – March 17

Though this is an Irish holiday, the English will also celebrate with parades and parties.

Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day) – Day Before Lent – March/April

Many celebrate this day by eating pancakes, as they contain many ingredients that are inappropriate for lent.

Lent – March/April

The first day of lent is 40 days before Easter. Many people give up something they enjoy during lent.

Mothering Sunday – 4th Sunday of Lent – March/April

Mothering Sunday is a day where children generally honor their mothers by giving them a gift and a card.

Maundy Thursday – Thursday Before Easter – March/April

Remembered as the day Jesus had his last supper.

Easter – March/April

Many people go to church on this sunday to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. This day is also celebrated by the giving of eggs.

April Fool’s Day – April 1

Much like other countries with this holiday, it is a day where people play practical jokes on each other.

St. George’s Day (England’s National Day) – April 23

Celebrating with parades, some people celebrate St. George who is said to have defeated a dragon.

May Day – May 1

This day is celebrated beautifully with may poles and flowers.

Trooping the Colours – Sometime in June

Trooping the Colours is celebrated every year with the British Army and the regiments of the Commonwealth performing a ceremony.

Wimbledon Tennis Tournament – Sometime in June

People attend the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament.

Swan Upping – Third Week of July

Many celebrate this day by going to the River Thames and watching a procession of swans and traditional boats.

Notting Hill Carnival – Last Monday in August

On this day, there is a street festival that millions go to see and participate in every year.

Harvest Festival – On or Near the Sunday of the Harvest Moon

A day to celebrate the growth of crops on the land.

Halloween – October 31

A day where people dress up, bob for apples and have bonfires.

Bonfire Night (Guy Fawkes Day) – November 5

This day is in celebration of the failed gunpowder attempt to blow up the house of Parliament in 1605. It is celebrated with fireworks at night.

Remembrance Day – November 11

This day recognizes the end of WWI. Many people wear a poppy in their pocket in remembrance.

St. Andrew’s Day – November 30

Advent – December 1-24

On the first 24 days of December, Advent celebrates the coming of Jesus.

Christmas – December 25

This day is celebrated by friends and family by giving gifts and going to a special Sunday service at church.

Boxing Day – December 26

Traditionally, this is the day that servants were able to celebrate Christmas, as they were serving their masters the day before.

Know Your Stuff | The Union Flag


The Union Flag, or Union Jack, is the national flag of the United Kingdom.

It is so called because it combines the crosses of the three countries united under one Sovereign – the kingdoms of England and Wales, of Scotland and of Ireland (although since 1921 only Northern Ireland has been part of the United Kingdom).

The flag consists of three heraldic crosses.

The cross of St George, patron saint of England since the 1270’s, is a red cross on a white ground. After James I succeeded to the throne, it was combined with the cross of St. Andrew in 1606.

The cross saltire of St Andrew, patron saint of Scotland, is a diagonal white cross on a blue ground.

The cross saltire of St Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, is a diagonal red cross on a white ground.

This was combined with the previous Union Flag of St George and St Andrew, after the Act of Union of Ireland with England (and Wales) and Scotland on 1 January 1801, to create the Union Flag that has been flown ever since.

The Welsh dragon does not appear on the Union Flag. This is because when the first Union Flag was created in 1606, the Principality of Wales by that time was already united with England and was no longer a separate principality.

The Union Flag was originally a Royal flag. When the present design was made official in 1801, it was ordered to be flown on all the King’s forts and castles, but not elsewhere.

It is today flown above Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Sandringham when The Queen is not in residence.

The Royal Arms of Scotland (Lion Rampant) is flown at the Palace of Holyroodhouse and Balmoral when The Queen is not in residence.

On news of a Royal death, the Union Flag (or the Royal Arms of Scotland (Lion Rampant) where appropriate) is flown at half-mast.

The Royal Standard is never flown at half-mast, as the Sovereign never dies (the new monarch immediately succeeds his or her predecessor).

The flying of the Union Flag on public buildings is decided by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport at The Queen’s command.

The Union Flag is flown on Government buildings on days marking the birthdays of members of the Royal Family, Commonwealth Day, Coronation Day, The Queen’s official birthday, Remembrance Day and on the days of the State Opening and prorogation of Parliament.

The term ‘Union Jack’ possibly dates from Queen Anne’s time (r. 1702-14), but its origin is uncertain.

It may come from the ‘jack-et’ of the English or Scottish soldiers, or from the name of James I who originated the first union in 1603.

Another alternative is that the name may be derived from a proclamation by Charles II that the Union Flag should be flown only by ships of the Royal Navy as a jack, a small flag at the bowsprit; the term ‘jack’ once meant small.


Know Your Stuff | The National Anthem

(I don’t own the rights to the video)

The British National Anthem dates back to the eighteenth century.

‘God Save The King’ was a patriotic song first publicly performed in London in 1745, which came to be known as the National Anthem at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

The words and tune are anonymous, and may date back to the seventeenth century.

In September 1745 the ‘Young Pretender’ to the British Throne, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, defeated the army of King George II at Prestonpans, near Edinburgh.

In a fit of patriotic fervour after news of Prestonpans had reached London, the leader of the band at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, arranged ‘God Save The King’ for performance after a play. It was a tremendous success and was repeated nightly.

This practice soon spread to other theatres, and the custom of greeting monarchs with the song as he or she entered a place of public entertainment was thus established.

There is no authorised version of the National Anthem as the words are a matter of tradition. Additional verses have been added down the years, but these are rarely used.

The words used today are those sung in 1745, substituting ‘Queen’ for ‘King’ where appropriate. On official occasions, only the first verse is usually sung.

The words of the National Anthem are as follows:

God save our gracious Queen!
Long live our noble Queen!
God save the Queen!
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us,
God save the Queen.

Thy choicest gifts in store
On her be pleased to pour,
Long may she reign.
May she defend our laws,
And ever give us cause,
To sing with heart and voice,
God save the Queen.

The British tune has been used in other countries. European visitors to Britain in the eighteenth century noticed the advantage of a country possessing such a recognised musical symbol.

In total, around 140 composers, including Beethoven, Haydn and Brahms, have used the tune in their compositions.