British Culture 2

Iconic Symbols of the UK: Double-Decker Buses
double decker busA double-decker bus is a bus that has two storeys or decks. The red double-decker buses in London have become a national symbol of England and the UK.

Furthermore, when I was younger the double decker bus was used to differentiate your social identity, for instance if you were hip and cool you sat upstairs but if you were a bit of nerd and socially awkward you sat downstairs. Where do you think I sat?
Do you want to learn vocabulary about cities and phrasal verbs connected to transport? Of course, you do. Ok, click here and let Reggie Roo help you.

Iconic Symbols of the UK: Black Cabs
Black CabBy far one of the most popular iconic symbols of the UK is the black cab, and yes, we love our cheeky cabbies ( taxi driver).

It is said that there are currently 21,000 black cabs in London and every driver has to pass a test called The Knowledge, to become an authorized driver. The test takes on average 3 years to pass and all drivers have to learn 25,000 streets and 20, 000 monuments. So, if you get lost in London, don’t bother asking directions from a policeman or a passerby, ask a taxi driver they are the walking talking driving A-Z of London.

As many of you know, the Brits love rules and regulations and we have a lot of rules that encourage integration, a respect for diversity and religious tolerance. However, we are also total nutjobs when it comes to some of the laws passed by Parliament. For instance:

  • Technically is is illegal to shout ‘ Taxi’ at a moving black cab.
  • All black cabs legally have to be designed so that a man can sit upright wearing a bowler hat.
  • Moreover, and the most bizarre law is that a taxi driver can legally take a piss against the rear of his or her vehicle. OMG – that’s just disgusting!

Finally, the race is on, if you want to find out if a taxi driver is more intelligent than a SatNav then watch this video. Will the SatNav win the race or will the taxi driver get to the finishing line first? My money’s on the cab driver, how about yours?

Oh, word of warning, if you put the subtitles on, be careful there are loads of mistakes. For example: Saint Pauls is subtitled as Big Balls and ‘We are stuck here now’, is subtitled as: ‘Overstock Africa’. OMG, it’s hilarious – the voice to text App can’t understand the London accent. As a proud Yorkshire woman, I’ve been laughing my pants off!

Iconic Symbols of the UK: Red Telephone Box

red telephone boxThe red telephone box was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in 1924 and in 1999 there were140, 000 of them in the streets of the UK. The colour red was chosen to make them easy to spot.

Unfortunately, as a result of 84% of the UK population having mobile phones there were less than 65,000 in 2005. Despite this sad fact, my love affair with these boxes will last a life time as it’s the place I stole a kiss with a guy that I had a massive crush on when I was 16.

To have a stiff upper lip
keep stiff upper lipTo have a stiff upper lip is an expression used to describe someone who doesn’t show that they are upset or angry.

Ironically, British people are often described as people who have a stiff upper lip and yet, most of my friends flip out when they are angry and upset – there is definitely no stiff upper lip in their behaviour management.

What about me? Well, it really depends on the situation and the person. If it’s my mother, I usually turn bright red and yell my lungs off. However, if it’s a friend, I try to walk away because I think if you haven’t got anything nice to say, then it’s better not to say anything at all. Life is too short for regrets and most people regret the things they say in anger.

Improve Listening Comprehension: Blah blah blah

Improving your listening comprehension takes time, effort and patience. In addition, you should practise in different situations using different mediums, for example: listening to the radio, watching television and speaking face to face. So, why not connect with the LINK IN section and start practising your listening comprehension skills today?

My favourites from the LINK IN section are:

  1. Elementary Podcasts from The British Council
  2. Bitesize recordings about every topic you can imagine
  3. BBC podcasts and Downloads
  4. BBC Travel Show Pods
  5. Simple English Videos to help you use English better
  6. Watch TV and Films online for free

British People Can’t Flamenco and We Can’t Fan!
Janette with fanAlthough I would like to say: ‘Of course British people have rhythm and that if we practise, we can learn Flamenco and that clapping thing and that OLE thing’. However, I have to concede that we CAN’T. In addition, perfecting the action of fanning is also a massive challenge for most of us Brits.

I’ve been practising for 5 years and look at me. Yep, the word ‘moronic’ comes to mind!

Gut Feeling

gut feelingGut feeling is an expression that we use to describe a strong instinct about something although we can’t really explain why.

For example, my gut feeling told me NOT to go on a blind date and, as usual, it was correct, OMG, what a disaster! I’m still red with rage at my friend who set me up.

Who invented blind dates? And, do they ever work? If you don’t have any experience of them, what’s your gut feeling? Brief answers will be gratefully received.

British People Plan: I’m already thinking about Christmas!

andalusiaI need your advice!

Much to the disgust of my mother who doesn’t understand why I don’t want to celebrate Christmas with my birth family in the UK, (perhaps the weather, the children and the endless washing up have something to do with it!), I”ve decided to stay in Málaga and persuaded some like-minded friends, including my elder sister, to spend Christmas with me. However, we are thinking about taking a road-trip and renting a self-catering cottage inland for three or four days so we can do some adventure sport, play dominoes with old Spanish men, and perhaps do a lot of drinking and eating. So, please help me; does anyone have any ideas about where we should go?

So far, the following places have been suggested:

  1. Grazalema
  2. Ronda
  3. Priego de Cordoba

What do you think? Any suggestions?

To take a rain check

can i take a rain chackTo take a rain check is an informal expression which means you can not accept an invitation but you intend to do so at a later date.

For example, last week I was invited out for dinner but because I was working I asked if I could take a rain check.

Are you a Mod or a Punk?

The JamIn my youth you were either a Mod or a Punk, or a nobody, and if you were a Mod then you listened to The Jam, you rode a scooter and you wore a suit. Unfortunately, I was a nobody!

However, I loved the Jam and one of my summer hits of 2014 has been The Jam’s English Rose. So, it’s not an up-tempo song, but it’s the perfect tune to listen to if you sat at Mandelas in Pedregalejo watching the sky turn from blue to pink. What’s happening to me, I’m becoming romantic!?

To be down-to-earth

down to earthTo be down-to-earth is a common expression used to describe a person who is straightforward, realistic, and not pretentious.

It is said that most people from Yorkshire are down-to-earth, and in general, as a Yorkshire woman, I would agree.

To have your head in the clouds

head in the cloudsTo have your head in the clouds is used to describe a person who is not in touch with reality.

For example, many people think I have my head in the clouds when I say that I’m going to marry George Clooney. They tell me to get my head out of the clouds because A, he’s already married to some beautiful, leggy young woman and B, it is alleged that he’s a gay man. And, although I get what they mean, I just think: so, what’s the problem?!

To be down in the dumps

down in the dumpsTo be down in the dumps is a common idiom used to describe a negative emotion. We use this idiom when we are feeling a little depressed, gloomy or sad. Indeed, this weekend, I’ve been feeling very down in the dumps because my best friend is moving to Barcelona.

What am I going to do without my partner in crime? I feel like a fish out of water

Yep, that’s right, I’m going to cry like a baby for months and I’m going to start booking weekend return flights with some dodgy no-frills airline company.

OMG, I’m sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo down in the dumps! Even the fact that Málaga beat Granada this weekend didn’t bring a smile to my face. I know; I am pathetic!

British Music: Indie Pop – Goldfrapp
goldfrappGoldfrapp is an English indie pop duo from London who formed in 1999.

My favourite track entitled ooh la la, is said to be about relationships although I think it’s more about a great one night stand or a booty call. Whatever your thoughts, the lyrics do have a great personal twist on the three common phrasal verbs: To dial up, To switch on and To turn up.

Check out the lyrics and explain to me whether this song is about realtionships or a one night stand.

British Indie Rock: The Stone Roses

I wanna be adoredThe Stone Roses were an English rock band formed in Manchester in 1983. They were one of the pioneering groups of the MaDchester movement that was active during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

My relationship with The Stone Roses started at university when my, then boyfriend, referenced one of their most popular tracks as a tool to help me write a philosophy paper.

So, the story is:

It was a Sunday afternoon, I was hung over, struggling to write a philosophy paper about Existentialism which was due to be handed in in 12 hours, the clock was ticking and I was getting nowhere fast! As usual, I had done a mammoth amount of research, I had a million post-it notes all over my room with ideas and bite-sized nuggets of intellectual blah, blah, blah, and yet, I still couldn’t make out what all this information meant.

save the brainAfter hours of ‘unproductive brain wastage’ I was beginning to freak out and so, at 3am in the morning I knew I had two options: one, call The A Team or two, wake up the boyfriend. So, as the telephone number for The A Team wasn’t in the public domain, I really had no option; it was Rob to the rescue.

So, I went to Rob’s house, threw rocks at his window to wake him up, and asked him: ‘What does all this Existentialism stuff mean?’ and he said to me: ‘Janette, forget Existentialism; everyone, wants to be adored’.

Suffice to say, I wanted to smack him in his face, as I thought, how is that useful? He then took out his Stone Roses CD and played me the track: I wanna be adored, and promptly went back to sleep. I listened to this track, which, only has 22 different words and yet lasts just under 5 minutes, and I thought: OMG, yeah, that’s the answer. I went home, took some pro-plus, wrote my paper, handed it in on time, and 2 weeks later I got a First; GET IN !

So, what’s the moral to this story?

  1. Study less, listen to music more
  2. Date people called Rob
  3. Look for solutions in unlikely places
  4. Never study philosophy
  5. Love The Stone Roses
  6. Find out the telephone number for The A Team

The decision is yours!

British Soul: Heather Small

heather smallHeather Small is a British soul singer, best known for being the lead singer in the band M People. Their song: Proud, was chosen to be the official song for the winning London 2012 Olympic and Paralympics bid.

Click here to listen to the track and watch the video. If you are still sat on your backside 30 minutes later, please repeat after me:

‘We need a change, yeah!
Do it today, yeah!
I can feel my spirit rising, change, yeah, we need a change yeah!
So do it today, yeah! Coz, I can see a clear horizon!
What have you done today to make you feel proud?

British Alternative Rock: Radiohead

radioheadRadiohead are an English rock band from Oxfordshire who formed in 1985.

Radiohead have sold more than 30 million albums worldwide, with the band’s work being placed highly in both listener polls and critics’ lists. In 2009, Rolling Stone readers voted the group the second best artist of the 2000s.

Finally, and very curiously, despite the fact that I adore their track: High and Dry, the lead singer, Thom Yorke can’t stand it, saying “It’s not bad… it’s VERY bad”

So, what’s the song about?

Well, truthfully, I have absolutely no idea, but perhaps it’s about the ridiculous idea of trying to achieve self affirmation and love from others and that, for many who do this, along the way they lose sight of who they are and therefore will never attain contentment neither self-acceptance. On the other hand, what do I know; maybe it’s about an old wellington boot and a bit of mouldy cheese. So, I’m wondering, what do you think?

To be under the weather

feeling under the weatherTo be, or to feel under the weather is a common idiom used when you are not feeling 100% well. Perhaps you have a slight cold, stomach cramps or a headache.

Last Sunday, I felt very under the weather. Unfortunately, it was completely self-inflicted! So, no sympathy required!
Why don’t I learn that it is never, ever, a good idea to mix lager with wine?! Anyway, personally speaking the hangover is definitely the reason why aspirin was invented; and on a positive note, over the years I have kept a lot of chemists in business as a result of my aspirin requirements. OMG, I’m a business angel!

The British Way: How to make a cup of tea!

making a cup of teaSeriously, someone is pulling my leg.

Is it possible that we need an instructional video to show us how to make a cup of tea? Well, perhaps the answer is yes.

So, if you’ve never made a cup of tea before, here’s a simple 5 step video to help you learn the skills and key vocabulary. The main verbs include the following: To fill, To stir, To add, To boil, To brew, To remove. Good luck! Oh, and if you don’t have a kettle, you might be in trouble!

The British Jamie Oliver Way: How to poach an egg!

perfect poached eggsOk, forget fried eggs, boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, baked eggs, sunny-side up eggs; Jamie Oliver, the well-known British Chef, explains how to make the perfect poached egg.


chatterboxAre you a chatterbox?

A chatterbox is a person who does not stop talking and talking and talking and talking. Curiously, when I was a kid, I was an accomplished chatterbox and my brother used to chase me around the house trying to put a sock in it because he found me very annoying! Moreover, when I was at my grandparent’s house, my granddad used to say to me either: ”Janette, please speak only when spoken to” or “Janette, all that chatter is creating a draft in the house” OMG, that’s just mean!

Thankfully, nowadays, I’m usually far too busy putting food, drink, or vitamins in my mouth to be a chatterbox. How about you? Are you a chatterbox or are you a little more conservative with all that lip flapping stuff?

Pride of Britain: Harley Lane Child of Bravery

Pride of Britain CourageAs little Harley lay and hovered on the brink of death from meningitis, doctors made the heartbreaking decision to amputate his arms and legs to save his life.
Then just a toddler, Harley pulled through and fought back against what could have been a devastating disability with inspirational spirit and determination.

Harley simply refuses to let his missing limbs hold him back in life. The cheeky schoolboy even completed a grueling 1.5km race on his false legs to thank the hospital that saved him.
If you want to read more about this inspirational child, then please click here.

Pride of Britain: Clifford Harding Youth Worker

Britain Pride Youth WorkerAfter nine years without a job, with no purpose and no future, Clifford Harding was facing life as just another unemployment statistic. However, one moment changed his life, and put him on the path to helping other young people from deprived backgrounds.

He has gone on to become a role model for youngsters in his community and developed a truly innovative way of teaching children maths that saw him rapping in the House of Commons. Clifford, who lives in Birmingham, had always found school tough. Suffering from dyslexia, he struggled to keep up with his classmates and failed most of his exams.

He remembers: “I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I grew up in a very strict household, and when I left school with no qualifications or job prospects I rebelled. “I was a bit like a caged animal breaking free and didn’t care that I didn’t have a job.”

As he approached the end of his teens, Clifford’s grandparents and mother sadly died in quick succession. “That’s when things became really bad,” he says. “I wasn’t interested in bettering myself and remained out of work for nine years.”I was causing trouble, getting involved in petty crime, drinking, loitering and smoking.” However, one day his benefits failed to come through – and that is when his life changed forever. He says: “It really upset me. But then I thought, what am I doing waiting for this money when I could get a job instead?”
Clifford managed to secure a cleaning job, and inspired by the big offices he was working in, he started to think about his future. He heard about The Prince’s Trust and made the decision to approach the youth charity for help setting up his own business, which started out as a children’s party company.

Pride of Britain: Sharon Gray Head Teacher

Pride of Britain Head TeacherBefore Sharon Gray became headteacher in 2009, inspectors had placed the underachieving school in special measures. Ofsted issued a “notice to improve” when Sharon took the helm, after she pleaded with authorities to give the failing school a chance.

She says: “I promised everyone I could get the school to outstanding. “Many didn’t believe it was possible, but I was determined. I wanted to do it for the children because I thought it’s what they deserved. “I believed it wasn’t them failing, it was the system failing them which didn’t seem fair.”

It was Sharon’s awe-inspiring flair for inventing projects to engage her pupils that helped to change the school around. This year she staged an “alien landing” that involved the whole school in a week-long investigation.
Children and parents arrived one Monday morning in March to find a fire engine and police guarding a large white tent in the school field, with strange sounds and billowing smoke.

The “Look Deeper” project was developed by Sharon with the help of her deputy, and two other staff members.It worked on communication and language skills and it led to excited discussions among pupils about scientific experiments.
Sharon has also encouraged the community to participate in school life, involving parents in developing a school farm, and by issuing shops with “good behaviour cards” which they could hand to well-behaved pupils.
Sharon invented the scheme, the Integrity Awards, to encourage children to behave when there were no teachers looking.

Now, while the majority of children enter the school significantly below national achievement levels, a majority leave at or above the national average, including some who take GCSE maths exams at the age of just 11.

One parent, Gemma Nason, says: “If it hadn’t been for Sharon, my son, who suffers learning difficulties, wouldn’t be in a mainstream school.

This year the school achieved an outstanding Ofsted report.

To cheer up

cheer-upTo cheer up is a phrasal verb which means to make someone feel happy.

The other day a friend tried to cheer me up by sending me this picture. etch a sketchHe said in his email that when he saw this it reminded him of me. And I thought, ok I might not be a technological genius, but seriously, I’m not delusional. I know I don’t have an i-pad and it’s very rare that I run out of wine, so now I’m wondering, was he trying to call me a moron? Furthermore, considering I’ve known him for over 20 years, he knows that all he needs to do to cheer me up is to post me a divorced George Clooney in a flatpack! I’m just that simple!

British Children Love: Bob the Builder

bob the builderMy nephew is nuts about Bob the Builder and I can not remember how many times I have had to sing: ‘Bob the Builder, can we fix it? Yes, we can!’.

Suffice it to say, British children love him, but from my point of view, Bob can build himself a boat, get on it and sail away to oblivion.

I hate the BBC for the Bob the Builder TV programme; I hate the songwriters for composing such an annoying theme tune, and I hate all my nephews’ little friends who jump up and down enthusiastically shouting: Janette the TEACHER, can you SPELL it? Grrrrrrrr!!!!!

British Kids and British People who want to make their kids invisible Love: Harry Potter

harry potterHarry Potter is a series of seven epic fantasy novels written by the British author J. K. Rowling. The series, chronicles the adventures of a young wizard, Harry Potter, and his friends Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger, all of whom are students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The main story concerns Harry’s quest to overcome the Dark wizard Lord Voldemort, who aims to become immortal, conquer the wizarding world, kill all non-magical people, the muggles, and destroy all those who stand in his way, especially Harry Potter.

Once again my nephews love Harry Potter and they run around the garden waving big sticks in my direction screaming: ‘Janette, Wingardium Leviosa’. And, unbelievably, they are really surprised that I don’t start flying away. They seriously think that these magic tricks would work if their mummy would enroll them at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry so they could practice with ‘proper’ teachers! Yep, it has to be said that I’m green with envy at their unquestioning faith in magic!

Anyway, if you haven’t seen the films or read the books you can watch this 90 second video and get up to speed!

British People Love: Danger Mouse

Danger MouseDanger Mouse is the world’s greatest secret agent. He speaks 34 languages fluently, including some extraterrestrial ones. In 1983, Danger Mouse viewing figures hit an all-time high of 21.59 million viewers. Yep, 21 million British people had nothing better to do than to watch a mouse, and his sidekick mole partner, beat up villains and fight for justice.

Furthermore, in my last job I had the opportunity to spend a day at Crosgrove Hall Films, the production company who produced the British children’s animated TV series. It was not one of my best days because I just couldn’t believe Danger Mouse wasn’t real.

Danger mouse, he’s amazing………….


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