The Bloke and I have been watching George Clarke’s National Trust Unlocked series and were particularly intrigued by his feature on the Holy Austin Rock Houses, especially when we discovered that it was only a forty minute drive from where we live.
Kinver Edge is home to the last cave-dwelling population in England, with a number of cave-houses carved into the local red sandstone.
According to the National Trust, the earliest record of people living in the rock houses is from 1777, when Joseph Heely took refuge from a storm and was given shelter by a “clean & decent family,” describing how the location of the rock houses provided open space and a better quality of air than the village situated below. The houses “warm in winter, cool in summer” and generally dry, had access to water from the well and later, gas, but no electricity. Sanitation was by earth closets. Continue reading →
We’re over half way through with the ‘United We Stand’ posts and Steve (a scot), Jenny (an American) and I (an English woman) have been compiling lists about the things we love about our countries.
This week’s focus is language. I toyed with the idea of focusing on the different aspects of the history of the english language, but have somehow gravitated towards slang and swear words. Warning: there may be uses of words that you may deem to be inappropriate within this list – if you are easily offended, read the post with your hands over your face whilst peeking out between your fingers.
1. Bugger. This is a word that I use on a regular basis to in any number of situations:
Bugger off – go away.
We’re buggered – all is lost.
It’s buggered – it is broken.
I’m buggered – I’m tired.
Lucky bugger – a lucky person.
Bugger it – forget it.
2. Bung. This is usually placed in the context of putting something into a specific place (“just bung it in the bin), or to throw (“bung it over here will you”). Bung can also be replaced with the word ‘chuck’ in both of these situations.
3. Gagging. This means ‘desperate for’ and can be used in any number of phrases to emphasise the need for something – “I’m gagging for a drink/cigarette/the toilet.”
4. Fanny. To put it simply, this means vagina in England, so when the word is used in American television programmes to describe somebody’s ass I can’t help but have a sneaky giggle to myself. It can also be used to describe someone who is an idiot or who has done something stupid.
5. Piss poor. This has nothing to do with urine, it emphasises the fact that somebody isn’t just short of money, they have absolutely nothing. Like ‘bugger,’ the word ‘piss’ can also be used in lots of contexts:
I’m pissed – I’m drunk
Piss off – go away
I haven’t got a pot to piss in – I don’t have any money
Pissing about – messing around/doing nothing/being silly.
Piss up – a large drinking session with friends.
I’m going for a piss – I am going to urinate.
6. Right. This is often used by people from northern England and means ‘very.’ Example phrases are “I’m right knackered,” and “I’m right pissed off” meaning “I am very tired,” and “I’m very annoyed.”
7. Wanker. This is a word that is often brought up by foreign celebrities when questioned about the differences in language during interviews when they visit our country. It simply means that you are describing somebody as an idiot. Here are other words that can be used in the same context:
Tw*t. (I detest this word, which is why I have bleeped it out a little.)
8. Rubbish. This can be used to describe something that is put into a bin, or to describe something that isn’t very good.
9. Wangle. This can also be used in lots of contexts, but essentially it is managing to obtain something: “I managed to wangle an invitation/discount/extra day out of them.”
10. Sod’s law. If something can go wrong, it will inevitably go wrong.
11. Chav. This is used to describe teenagers and young adults who generally wear tracksuits, caps with the Burberry pattern on them, sovereign rings, claim benefits and hang around on street corners and parks, smoking cigarettes and weed and drinking cheap alcohol.
12. Slapper. This is often used to describe girls who are considered to be promiscuous.
13. Gobby. This is of no relation to a Harry Potter house elf, it is used to describe a loud, obnoxious person.
14. Arse over tit. This means to fall over. I use this often.
Warning: most of these words are considered to be moderately offensive, and shouldn’t be used in conversation with anyone who you deem to be in a position of authority. Saying “bugger off you wanker” to your boss, the police or your parents is not likely to get you any brownie points.
You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog.
Over the last few weeks I’ve teamed up with Steve, Jenny and now Jenny’s beau to compile a list of things that we love about our country. I’m English, Steve is Scottish and Jenny is American, and it’s been a really interesting experiment.
The focus of this week is writers. I love to read and it is a regular source of enjoyment that has followed me since early childhood. As an English woman, I am blessed that this country has produced some of the greatest writers of all time, and if I were to list every influential member of this group I think that I would have to create an entirely different blog in itself. I started by trying to sound intelligent – I researched lots of authors that I felt should be included on the list simply because The Guardian told me so, but then I realised that I couldn’t talk about them with any passion because, however revered their works are, I simply don’t enjoy them myself. Instead, I thought I would take a slightly different approach and discuss my own favourite writers and creators of works that I love to read, so I apologise if your favourites are missing from the list.
1. William Shakespeare (1564, baptised, – 1616): Ah, the Bard of Avon. as I have aged, my love for Shakespeare’s words have grown. Widely regarded as the greatest writer and dramatist in the english language in history, his many works have been translated into every major living language and are the source of endless hours of boredom for students the world over. I live a short drive away from his birthplace, Stratford – upon – Avon, and I am always surpised by the number of tourists, particularly American and Chinese tourists (sporting enormous cameras) that visit the city every year. I could create an entire post dedicated to the great man’s work and would still never be able to do him justice, so I’ll simply say this: his sonnets, poetry and plays express different aspects of life that simply transcend time. He demonstrated such a mastery of language, weaving words together to create layers within layers at levels that no other writer has been able to reach since.
2. Charles Dickens (1812-1870): Every year, at Christmas, The Bloke and I have a tradition which involves a movie marathon that includes of ‘Scrooged’ and ‘A Muppets Christmas Carol.’ We’ve also go and see theatrical adaptations, the last one starring Tommy Steele. It is essentially the same story each time, and yet I have never become bored or dissolusioned by it. Why? Because a Christmas Carol, as with most of Dickens novels, is written in a way that demonstrates the universal emotions that we all share while being able to transport us to a different time and place. When Dickens began writing his first novel in 1836, the literacy rate in England was less than 50%. By 1901, it was over 97%, and it is widely believed that Dickens’s novels were partially responsible for this growth. Dickens was able to appeal to the masses, taking advantage of the developments of technology to publish his works on a large scale, and as a result he became a public figure that everyone loved.
3. J.R.R. Tolkein (1892-1973): Tolkein was a writer, poet and university professor. The Hobbit was a the first novel that we read as a class at primary school. We were given a copy each, during which we had to read chapters at home, and our teacher would read large sections to us at the end of a long day. I loved it – it was exciting and intruiging, and the first time that I remember genuinely caring about a character. I found it a little more difficult to attempt Lord of The Rings admittedly, and it took me a while to finish the trilogy, but he absolutely deserves to be on the list as one of the greatest English fantasy writers of all time.
4. Jane Austen (1775-1817): I believe that my love of Jane Austen appeals to both my enjoyment of English history and the hidden romantic in me. I adored ‘Emma’ in my early teens and read it so many times that I had to buy another copy to replace my original that started to fall apart. While I admit I found the language a little difficult at first, Austen’s novels are beautiful, and she remains one of the only authors to make me cry.
5. J.K. Rowling (Born 1965): I have included J.K. Rowling in this list because she is responsible for the biggest selling book and movie franchise in recent history. While the general plot for Harry Potter isn’t entirely original (read The Worst Witch books if you don’t believe me) it’s impossible to argue with the fact that Rowling is a master of storytelling. I read the Harry Potter books in a ridiculous order – 4,3,2,1,5,6,7 – and yet I thoroughly enjoyed every single one. I think that in a world of evermore exciting technological developments, above all, Rowling should be rewarded for the fact that she encouraged a whole new set of generations to sit down and read again.
6. Caitlin Moran (Born 1975): Aside from the late Maya Angelou, who I unfortunately can’t include in the list, Caitlin Moran is by far my favourite writer. Homeschooled in Wolverhampton, she has been writing for national newspapers and magazines since the age of fifteen and over recent years has written several books and a novel, including my favourite: ‘How To Be a Woman.’ Moran is sharp, witty, highly intelligent and insightful, and her outlook on many different aspects of life make me laugh out loud regularly and rethink my perspective on my status as a woman and my surroundings.
7. Sue Townsend (1946 – 2014): As a teenager I liked to visit my local bookstore regularly, and was often given book tokens as gifts. On one of my many jaunts I discovered ‘The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4.’ It only took a single page for me to buy it, and my obsession was born. I followed the Adrian Mole series avidly from that moment, excitedly waiting for the next installment. What I loved about the books was that as I aged, so did he, and Townsend was extremely clever in that she wrote them almost in ‘real time,’ including all the major national and international social issues and events in Adrian Mole’s diary entries. When Townsend passed away earlier in the year, I was devastated both at the loss of a great literary artist, and my favourite character of all time.
8. Benjamin Zephaniah (Born 1958): I have a little piece of paper on my desk. It says, ‘To Suzie, thank you for your support, I love you, Benjamin Zephaniah.‘ After being a huge fan for years I discovered that one of my students was related to him and begged for an autograph. While I am not usually a poetry connoiseur (mainly because of the fact that I often don’t understand it), his poems have always challenged me – they are strong, emotive and utterly fantastic. His novel ‘Refugee Boy’ is in my list of all-time favourite books.
I have only included eight on the list, and I have discovered that a large proportion of them are both modern and from the Midlands, where I have lived for nearly fourteen years, but these are the things that I like to read. I appreciate that I have made some almost blasphemous ommissions – Orwell, Pratchett, Bronte, Chaucer, Woolf, Hardy, Wordsworth… So this is your opportunity. What are your favourite English (not British) authors?
You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog
I’ve teamed up with Steve and Jenny (I’m English, Steve is a Scotsman and Jenny is an American) to compile a series of lists of the things we love about our countries. This week is architecture.
As an English woman I am blessed that my country has a long history, with buildings and monuments that demonstrate the many periods of our interesting and exciting past. While I am only allowed to choose ten (although I’ve cheated and chosen twelve), there are thousands of examples of outstanding architecture throughout the country that draw in millions of tourists every year from all over the world. I have tried to choose examples of architecture from all over the country rather than just focusing on London…
1. St. Paul’s Cathedral, London
Despite visiting London many times over the last few years, I only actually went to this a few months ago. Designed by Christopher Wren and built between 1675 and 1720, it was part of the rebuilding programme in the city after the Great Fire of London in 1666, It is one of the most famous examples of English architecture and is still used for important services today. Whenever I see it, I think of Mary Poppins.
2. Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury
Salisbury Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral that was built from 1220 to 1258 and has the tallest spire in the UK. It’s one of only three English cathedrals that doesn’t have a ringing of bells. In its construction, 70,000 tonnes of stone, 3,000 tonnes of timber and 450 tonnes of lead were used.
3. The Selfridges Building, Birmingham
I live about ten minutes away from this building and I’ve always loved it, even though it reminds me of a Narwhal. It was designed by Jan Kaplicky and Amanda Levette and was completed in 2003 at a cost of £60,000,000. It is the home to Selfridges and is part of the Bullring shopping centre.
4. Stonehenge, Wiltshire
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument, believed to be created between 2400BC and 2200BC. It is the remains of a ring of standing stones and is a nationally legally protected Scheduled Ancient Monument. While research in 2008 indicated that it served as a burial ground, how it was constructed and by whom remains a mystery.
5. Roman Baths, Bath
The Roman Baths are a set of buildings that are designed around the hot springs that bubble up from the ground in Bath. The first shrine at the site was built by the Celts and was dedicated to the goddess Sulis. The temple was constructed in 60-70AD by the Romans after the invasion and the complex was gradually built but over the next 300 years. They have been modified on many occasions and now serves as a major tourist attraction, receiving more than 1,000,000 visitors a year. The water that flows through the baths was considered extremely unsafe for bathing, but newly constructed boreholes now allow modern day bathers to experience the waters without fear of becoming ill.
6. The Gherkin, London
30 St Mary Axe is more commonly known as The Gherkin (because of it’s resemblance to an enormous gherkin) and is a commercial skyscraper in London’s Financial District. It was completed in 2003 at the cost of £138,000,000 and was designed by Fosters and Partners. It is a prominent feature in the London skyline – I think it’s a great example of modern architecture…
7. The Sage Gateshead, Gateshead Quays
The Sage Gateshead in Gateshead Quays is a concert centre and centre for musical education. It opened in 2004 and was completed at a cost of £70,000,000. It contains three performance spaces – a 1700 seater, 450 seater and a performance hall. It is made of three separate buildings that are insulated from each other to prevent noise travelling between them. It’s often referred to as ‘The Armadillo,’ because it looks like… Well… An armadillo!
8. Rievaulx Abbey, North Yorkshire
Rievaulx Abbey is one of many stunning examples of abbeys that were dissolved by Henry VIII around the country. It is owned and maintained by English Heritage and is a major tourist attraction. It was founded in 1132 by twelve monks from Clairvaux Abbey as a mission for the colonisation of the north of England and Scotland. In 1538, Henry VIII, being the charming man that he was, ordered the buildings to be regarded uninhabitable and stripped of its valuables. The site was granted to the Earl of Rutland, one of his advisors, until it passed to the Duncombe family.
9. Battersea Power Station, London
Battersea is a decommissioned coal power station located on the south bank of the Thames. It was originally built in the 1930’s and a second identical station was added in the 1950’s, and decommissioned in 1975. It is a Grade II listed building. Doctor Who fans will be familiar with this building as it has been used many times during the series…
10. Albert Docks, Liverpool
The Albert Docks is a complex of dock buildings and warehouses in Liverpool, designed by Jesse Hartley and Philip Hardwick and opened in 1846. At the time of its construction the docks were considered revolutionary because ships loaded and unloaded directly to and from the warehouses. Two years after it opened it was modified to feature the world’s first hydraulic cranes. Today, the docks are a major tourist attraction, comprising of the largest collection of Grade I listed buildings anywhere in the UK. And for those of you who know what I’m talking about, Fred’s weather map is still there to the best of my knowledge.
11. Urbis, Manchester
Urbis is an exhibition and museum venue in Manchester, it was designed by Ian Simpson and completed in 2002 at a cost of £30,000,000. It is made of concrete and glass and between 2002 and 2010 it hosted exhibits on pop culture themes. In 2012 it became the National Football Museum (he, my friends, that’s football, not soccer). I must admit, I’m not a fan, but I included it because of it’s unusual shape and design.
12. Windsor Castle, Berkshire
No English architecture list should be without Windsor Castle. It’s a truly magnificent building with so much historical interest that an entire blog could be devoted to it. The original castle was built in the 11th Century after the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror. It was originally designed to protect Norman dominance around the outskirts of London and was built as a motte and bailey and has been extended and redeveloped countless times since then. It has survived a siege during the First Barons War at the start of the 13th Century, the English civil war, the Blitz and a fire in 1992. It is a popular tourist attraction, a venue for hosting state visits and is Queen Elizabeth II’s preferred weekend home. Nice. It’s one of the places that I have never been…
Of course, there are hundreds of buildings that could and should be included in the list – Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, Dover Castle, The Shard, One Canada Square, the BT Tower, Hampton Court Palace, the Liver Birds Building… I could go on forever!
What about you guys? What English buildings would you put on the list? Feel free to join in our little project!
You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog
I’ve teamed up with the lovely Steve Says to compile a set of comparison lists about why we love our countries. He’s Scottish, I’m English and even though we are both currently part of the United Kingdom we thought that it might be fun to see the differences between the two…
This week’s subject is inventions and their inventors. I had to be careful on this one – England has produced some of the greatest scientist in the history of the world – Sir Isaac Newton, Ernest Rutherford, Charles Darwin, Michael Faraday, Stephen Hawking to name just a few, but these didn’t invent anything as such, they were able to discover and explain the universe around them.
1. The World Wide Web (not to be confused with the Internet): Created by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the World Wide Web is a system of interlinked hypertext documents that can be accessed through the Internet. With a web browser it is possible to view web pages and navigate them using hyperlinks.
2. Christmas Cards: The first Christmas card was commissioned by Henry Cole and designed by John Calcott Horsely. There were 2,500 cards originally produced and sold for a shilling each.
3. DNA Fingerprinting: This was developed in the 1980’s by Sir Alec Jeffreys. Using this technique it was possible to identify a person based on their unique DNA profile in their genes. I still find it difficult to imagine a world without it – it is used throughout the criminal justice system, and where would talk show hosts be without it??
4. The Sandwich: Contrary to popular belief, English food is exciting, varied and tasty. However, of all the culinary creations that England has produced, the biggest contribution to gastronomy is the sandwich. While it is possible to trace sandwich-like food back to 18th Century Europe, it is named after the Earl of Sandwich, who was said to like meat being placed between two pieces of bread
5. The Smallpox Vaccine (the worlds first vaccination): introduced by Edward Jenner in 1798, the smallpox vaccine has been so successful that smallpox is considered to be virtually extinct from the planet, aside from remaining in a few laboratories. It is also thought to have some protection against the HIV virus.
6. Ice Hockey: Sorry Canada, but Ice Hockey was a version of field hockey that was created by British soldiers based in Canada.
7. Jet Engine: Ever flown to another country on an aeroplane? You’re welcome – the jet engine was created by Englishman Frank Whittle in 1928. The are lots of squabbles about who actually came up with original ideas, but the patent was awarded to him in 1932.
8. Mass – Produced Toothbrush: The English wrongly have a reputation for having bad teeth, but they were responsible for the first mass-produced toothbrush.
Stay tuned for the next instalment next Tuesday!
You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog
I’ve teamed up with the lovely Steve from Steve Says to compile a comparison set of lists about why we love our country. He’s Scottish, I’m English, and even though we are currently both part of the United Kingdom we thought it might be fun to see the differences between the two…
Our first topic in the series is Music.
I’m proud to be English, and I’m proud that England has produced some of the greatest musicians and songwriters of all time. Steve’s list was very patriotic, but I couldn’t stomach listing things like ‘Pomp and Circumstance,’ and ‘Jerusalem’ – they’re brilliant pieces of music and I’m always uplifted when I hear them, but I wanted to branch out a little. My list (that isn’t in any particular order) represents songs that I feel are quintessentially part of English culture and performed by English artists.
1. Bohemian Rhapsody: Queen
This frequently tops music polls as being one of the greatest songs ever written, performed by one of England’s greatest bands, selling 7.5 millions copies worldwide. (Yes, I know that Freddie Mercury was born in Tanzania before anyone points this out…).
2. London Calling: The Clash
Written by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, this song alludes to the the BBC World Service’s station identification: “This is London calling …”, which was used during World War II, often in broadcasts to occupied countries. The song, written during a time of upheaval and unrest throughout English society is a classic.
3. Life On Mars: David Bowie
Ah, Bowie. I love this song. My friends love this song. My family loves this song. Everybody loves this song. Why? Because it’s a great song. I went to the Bowie exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum last year and saw the suit that he wears in the video, which was surpisingly tiny.
4. Paranoid: Black Sabbath
I love the fact that I live in the city where Black Sabbath were formed. Ozzy Osbourne’s house is a tourist attraction, to the point where the front door of the house keeps being stolen by fans. I’ve no idea how it’s possible to steal a door, but the story always makes me smile.
5. Hey Jude: The Beatles
It wouldn’t be a list without The Beatles. No English music list should ever be without The Beatles. My problem was with which song, and for this I had to ask those around me. Hey Jude topped the list of nearly 100 songs that were suggested, possibly because this is the song that Paul McCartney performs during every major event that they drag him out for.
6. You’ll Never Walk Alone: Rodgers and Hammerstein (Gerry and the Pacemakers version)
I’m taking liberties with this one. Yes, it was written by two Americans for the musical ‘Carousel,’ but this song is so intrinsically linked with English culture that I couldn’t leave it out, so I’ve taken the Gerry and the Pacemakers version. It is the main football (yes, football, not all this ‘soccer’ rubbish I’ve had to read about over the last few months) anthem for Liverpool Football Club and is consequently sang in every match by the fans and has been done so since the 1960’s. The song’s title adorns the top of the Shankly Gates, which were unveiled on 2 August 1982 in memory of former manager Bill Shankly.
7. Never Gonna Give You Up: Rick Astley
Lots of you may associate this with the popular internet meme ‘Rik Rolling.’ However, for me, Rick Astley was one of my favourite pop stars in my childhood and early teens. To this day, I can guarantee that during any party and in an English nightclub the DJ will play this song at some point throughout the night. For me, it represents the ‘Stock, Aitkin and Waterman’ era of English pop ie. the time just before shell suits. I had a shell suit.
8. White Cliffs of Dover: Dame Vera Lynn (Robson and Jerome version)
This is a popular Second World War song made famous by Vera Lynn with her 1942 version – one of her best-known recordings. Written in 1941 by Walter Kent with words by Nat Burton and was designed to lift the spirits of the Allies at a time when the Germans had conquered much of Europe and were bombing Britain. It was created about a year after British and German aircraft had been fighting over the cliffs of Dover in the Battle of Britain. And for you non-Brits out there, here’s a bit of trivia. You may recognise the blonde singer, Jerome Flynn, in Game of Thrones. He plays the character Bronn. Yes, my friends, Bronn was a pop star. A pop star.
9. Wannabe: The Spice Girls
I met The Spice Girls, just before they released ‘Wannabe.’ They were performing at ‘Party in the Park’ in Preston, and I went over afterwards to say hello as they were signing autographs. I didn’t have a pen or anything for them to sign, so I didn’t bother staying around for long and walked away, remarking to my friend that they would be ‘one hit wonders.’ I walked away from The Spice Girls without getting their autographs. When there were five of them. Before they became the biggest girl band of all time. Sh*t.
10. Back For Good: Take That
Before One Direction, there was (and still is) Take That. These down-to-earth English working-class men swept the UK charts in the 1990’s and late 2000’s, turning myself and millions of teenagers into screaming mush. They’re still the biggest selling boy band of all time, they’re still touring to sold out stadiums and they are the perfect representation of how a boy band SHOULD be done. I still can’t get over the fact that there are people out there who haven’t heard of them – they’re as famous as Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Jonny Depp, Robert Downey Jr and George Clooney over here (ooh, now there’s a boy band I’d like to see)…
11: Baggy Trousers: Madness
Like Paul McCartney, Madness are dragged out and shoved on stage during every major event. It’s a great song, and is guaranteed make grown English men start dancing like the chimney sweeps from Mary Poppins every time it is played.
12. Back To Black: Amy Winehouse
I was obsessed with the Black To Black album. What a talent, what a voice, what a loss.
13. Anarchy in the UK: The Sex Pistols
I couldn’t leave out the Sex Pistols. They were crude, rude and basic musicians, but they were brilliant performers and continue to be hugely influential on modern day musicians thirty years later.
14. The National Anthem (performed by Brian May on the top of Buckingham Palace).
During the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002 one of England’s greatest guitarists of all time stood on the roof of it’s most famous palace to play the National Anthem. I still get goosebumps even now. The only thing that would have made it more English would be if Brian was wearing the flag, eating fish and chips and drinking a pint of beer…
I’ve made some almost musically blastphemous emissions from the list – The Who, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, Led Zepplin, Oasis, Blur, Radiohead, UB40, Muse, Adele… so please avoid shouting at me… I’d love to hear your thoughts – what songs should be included?
Do you want to join in? Simply link to mine and Steve’s posts and tell us what songs represent your country and nationality!
Stay tuned for the next installment!
You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog
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