Happy Birthday, Queen Elizabeth II!

Celebrations are happening all over the country to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday. Royal gun salutes were fired from each capital city in the UK, and the Prince of Wales recorded a special radio broadcast of his reading of an edited passage of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII.

The celebrations continue online, with well-wishers on Twitter using the hashtag #HappyBirthdayYourMajesty. We take a look at some of Queen Elizabeth II’s most awe-inspiring moments.

 

They think it’s all over… it is now!

1966 saw England win the FIFA World Cup for the first (and so far, only!) time. The final match had an attendance of over 96,000, including the Queen and Prince Phillip.

Queen Elizabeth II presented the Jules Rimet trophy to England captain Bobby Moore in the royal box at the most watched television event in the UK, with a British television audience of 32.30 million.

The coronation

The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II took place on the 2nd June 1953 at the age of 25, upon the death of her father, King George VI in 1952. The coronation was actually delayed by over a year, due to the tradition of waiting until the period of mourning following the death of a monarch is over.

The preparations for the ceremony took 16 months, with several committees being formed in order to handle international relations and physical preparations.

The coronation was the first to be televised, both in the UK and internationally.

Long to reign over us

On the 9th September 2015, Queen Elizabeth II became the longest-reigning British monarch, surpassing her great great grandmother Victoria. Since her ascension to the throne on 6th February 1952, she has seen 12 UK prime ministers, 7 popes and 7 Archbishops of Canterbury. She has sat for over 130 official portrait paintings and visited 117 countries.

Will you be celebrating the Queen’s birthday? Let us know what you are doing on this special day.

Apr 01

April Fools!

April Fools!

Also known as All Fools’ Day, the origins of April Fools’ Day remains a mystery. One popular theory speculates that it dates back to 1582 when France switched to the Gregorian calendar, from the Julian calendar. Those who did not realise that the start of the new year had moved to the 1st of January continued to celebrate it from the last week of March until the 1st of April. Pranksters placed paper fish on these people and called them “poisson d’avril” (April fish), inferring that they were like a young, gullible and easy to catch fish!

Check out our favourite pranks from around the web today.

 

A Scottish-Welsh union

The Independent reported this morning that “Scotland and Wales ‘could form own country’ if Britain votes to leave EU.” Claiming that designs are being discussed for a bridge linking the countries via the Isle of Man, this one had us in stitches – the “Celtic Union” being a suggested name. What would you call such a union?

A job opportunity

Parenting website Mumsnet listed a vacancy on its Jobs site, seeking a mother and baby duo “to participate in a six-month mission to the International Space Station, with the aim of establishing the viability of space travel for infants.” We notice that the position is unsalaried, as Mumsnet says, “in line with standard parenting rates.”

The National Living Wage

Ok, so this one isn’t actually a joke – the National Living Wage actually does come into force today, but people on Twitter have taken the opportunity to mock David Cameron’s tweet celebrating the news. Oh dear!

I’m proud the National Living Wage comes into force today. It requires employers to pay workers over 25 at least £7.20 per hour.

— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) April 1, 2016

 

It’s British Pie Week

Often regarded as a staple of the British diet, British Pie Week celebrates the traditional dish that last year caused a dispute about whether a ‘pie with a puff pastry lid’ is actually a pie, with a petition garnering over 5,000 signatures with the noble aim to “Make wrongly describing a casserole with a pastry lid as a pie a criminal offence.” We look at our top three recipes for this British classic.

Steak and Cheese Pie

This Kiwi-inspired twist on a classic uses a generous helping of cheese and potato as a topping, making for a mouth-watering dinner. Find the full recipe here.

 

Chicken and Leek Pie

The BBC bring us this simple yet delicious recipe by Nigel Slater, incorporating chicken, leek and bacon in a sumptuous mustard sauce. Click here for the recipe.

 

Moroccan Kale, Carrot and Hummus Tart

Ok, so this is technically a ‘tart’ (the difference being the texture of the crust and depth,) however this bright and beautiful vegetarian meal is packed with yummy yet healthy ingredients including courgette, chickpeas and peppers. View the recipe here.

 

Mother’s Day is on its way

Mothering Sunday is on the 6th of March, so don’t forget! To show your appreciation for the love and nurturing over the years, give a special gift from the heart. We look at some thoughtful ways to show how much you care.

A mother holds her children’s hands for a while and their hearts forever.

Movie night

A classic film or cheesy rom-com and a night in with mum is a brilliant way to spend some quality time together.

Video call

If mum lives further afield, why not schedule some time to make a special video call – what a lovely way to tell her how much you care when you can’t be there in person.

A special gift to treasure

See mum’s eyes light up when you give her a keepsake that she can treasure for years to come. Our top pick is the beautiful Mother Bangle, with the heartfelt message “A mother holds her children’s hands for a while and their hearts forever.”

 

Feb 15

The BAFTAs

The 69th BAFTA awards

This year’s award ceromony was watched by a live audience of 4.5 million, and saw the film The Revenent, which was named Best Film, dominate the awards, Alejandro G Inarritu taking home the award for Best Director, while Leonardo DiCaprio won Leading Actor for his role as Hugh Glass.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts

Formed in 1947 by a group of directors and figures in the British film industry, BAFTA is an independent charity with a mission statement that “identifies, rewards and celebrates excellence at its internationally-renowned, annual awards ceremonies whilst providing opportunities for the public to find information and inspiration through its year-round programme of events”. Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, was named President of the Academy in 2010, and follows a long tradition of royal connections – his grandfather, Prince Philip, was the first President of the Society of Film and Television Arts.

An iconic trophy

Perhaps one of the most recognisable trophies, the bronze BAFTA mask was designed by the sculptor Mitzi Cunliffe. The back of the mask has an electronic symbol around one eye, and a screen symbol around the other, to link drama and technology together. Cunliffe’s original design allowed the mask to be turned around to reveal the back easily.

 

Matt LeBlanc joins Chris Evans on Top Gear

Former Friends star Matt LeBlanc has been announced as on of the new presenters of Top Gear when it returns in May. He’ll be the first non-British host on the show, and has appeared twice already, holding the fastest celebrity lap of 1:42:1 in the show’s ‘star in a reasonably priced car’ segment.

Two of the new presenters have been revealed – Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc

39 years of Top Gear

Top Gear in its original format began in 1977, produced by BBC Midlands as a monthly TV series. It was initially only transmitted to viewers in the Midlands only, but in 1978 the BBC network took it on to become a weekly broadcast on BBC2. The show was cancelled in 2001 as many of the popular presenters had left, only for it to be re-launched as an hour-long studio-based format in 2002. Known for its humourous style, the new format ran until last year, when host Jeremy Clarkson’s contract was controversially not renewed. Co-hosts Richard Hammond and James May, along with executive producer Andy Wilman announced that they would not return without Clarkson, and so the search for a new cast began.

Further presenters still to be announced

We are excited to see the new show, which is due to return to the BBC for a 23rd series, with all-new presenters, of which some have yet to be announced. To tide you over until then, watch Matt’s famous lap as a ‘Star in the Reasonably Priced Car’

Jan 25

Burns Night

A celebration

Burns Night is celebrated annually on the 25th of January, the anniversary of the birth of Scottish poet Robert Burns. The tradition of a Burns Night supper has continued since the first, which was held in 1801, five years after Robert Burn’s death. Perhaps his most famous work, the poem “Auld Lang Syne” was written in 1788 and set to the tune of a traditional folk song.

The Bard of Ayrshire

One of the most important Scottish literary figures, Burns is often regarded as Scotland’s national bard. Born to a poor family in 1759, ‘Rabbie’ Burns showed signs of a talent for writing from a young age, and his first work, ‘Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect’, also known as the Kilmarnock Edition, was published in 1786.

A Burns Supper

People around the world celebrate with a ‘Burns Supper’ – a traditional Scottish meal, finished with Scotch whisky. Haggis is commonly eaten, but the meal might include smoked salmon or ‘stovies’, a potato-based dish. A prayer, The Selkirk Grace, is read to usher in the meal, and is usually recited in a Scottish dialect:

Some hae meat and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it, But we hae meat and we can eat, And sae the Lord be thankit.

 

Blast off

On 15th December 2015, Tim Peake from Chichester became the first British astronaut to set foot on the International Space Station. The former army major follows Helen Sharman, who went into low Earth orbit in 1991, but as her journey wasn’t funded by the government, Tim is sometimes being called the first “official” British astronaut.

 

“Even though you’re far away, you’re in my thoughts every day”

Jumping into space

A month after arriving at the ISS, Tim Peake will become the first British person to walk in space. The six and a half hour activity, known as an “Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA),” will be completed by Major Peake and NASA’s Tim Kopra, to repair a broken power unit on the space station. The walk begins at 12:55.

The life on the ISS

Astronauts on the International Space Station take part in testing technology and experiments, but also maintenence, much of which needs to be done by the resident astronauts, like today’s spacewalk.

 

Our top picks

2016 is set to be a fantastic year for the world of film, with impressive movies for all ages being released. We look at just some of the exciting 2016 line-up.

Dad’s Army is back in February 2016

The Hateful Eight (8th January)

Directed by Quentin Tarantino and starring Samuel L Jackson, Kurt Russell and Tim Roth, this Western is set in the dead of winter in Wyoming, described as “a crazy explosion of killer dialogue and intensity.”

Dad’s Army (5th February)

This fun movie version of the classic BBC sitcom was directed by Oliver Parker and is set near the end of the second World War. The adaptation was filmed in Bridlington, East Yorkshire, and sees the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard platoon deal with a spy on the loose. Famous faces including Michael Gambon, Blake Harrison and Catherine Zeta Jones pay tribute to the much-loved original show. Don’t panic! We think it will be brilliant.

Finding Dory (29th July)

Pixar’s seventeenth feature film follows up Nemo’s story from thirteen years ago with a new installment starring Dory the forgetful blue tang fish, voice-acted by Ellen DeGeneres. With help from her friends, Dory embarks on a journey to reunite with her parents. Just keep swimming!

 

The return of Star Wars

It has been 10 years since the last episode of the space opera, Star Wars, was released, and despite previous director George Lucas stating that he had no plans to expand the series, a sequel trilogy was announced by The Walt Disney Company, who aquired Lucasfilm, in 2012. Pre-production for ‘The Force Awakens’ began in October 2012, with original cast members along with newcomers such as John Boyega and Daisy Ridley.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is expected to be a huge global success

Three trilogies

The film series began in 1977 with ‘Star Wars’, later retitled ‘Star Wars IV: A New Hope’. The film surpassed Jaws to become the highest-grossing film of all time, although this feat was later surpassed by ‘E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial’ in 1982. The film’s huge success led to the production of two sequels: ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ in 1980 and ‘Return of the Jedi’ in 1983. A prequel trilogy went on to be released between 1999 and 2005, although they did not gain the same level of critical acclaim as the original trilogy.

Heading for a world record

The latest instalment of the saga is on course for a box office record, expected to post $575m-650m globally over the opening weekend. The long-awaited film opened yesterday in the UK, and opens today in the USA, but the Los Angeles premiere on the 14th of December saw a couple queuing for tickets getting married outside the Chinese Theatre, with a Star Wars themed ceremony.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is showing in UK cinemas now.

 

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