vineyard
All you wine lovers head on over to various places in England to take part in the English Wine Week! It actually started on the 24th of May and will end on the 1st of June, so you have several days left to enjoy the festivities of the English Wine Week. What can you expect during this week?

All over England, you can pay visits to various regions where their vineyards have scheduled tours and wine tasting events. Some are for free while others charge a small fee. More than just wine, you can also visit restaurants and hotels to discover the wonders of British cuisine and which wine goes best with certain food. Again, you can visit various establishments in various regions.

You can also find other events such as in store wine tasting in participating stores. There are just so many events that we can’t list all of them here. I suggest that you head on over to the web site of the English Wine Week for the most detailed list of events.

I am sure that those who reside in the UK and surrounding areas which are within easy reach of the wine producing regions would not miss the chance to get a taste of what the English Wine Week has to offer. Although English wine is not the foremost thing that comes to mind when people talk about wine, there is no doubt that the quality is of the highest standards. So, grab your weekend bag and catch the tail end of the activities!

spa
For many city dwellers, stress is a part of life. Londoners are not exempt from this – perhaps they are even more stressed than people in other cities. Yet for all the stress that is present in one’s city life, there is always something that one can do to de-stress. We all do it in our own ways but I am sure that going to the spa is something that is agreeable to most every city dweller.

In West Yorkshire, within easy reach of London, one can melt his or her worries away at the Titanic Spa. Oh, there are spas all over the place, but Titanic Spa has the distinction of being the UK’s first eco-spa. What does that mean, though? What makes an eco-spa better than other spas?

Read their own description of their services to find out:


Titanic Spa, UK’s first Eco-Spa, has been designed within a traditional textile mill creating a brand new concept exclusively offering an unsurpassed spa experience. Favoured for its seclusion on the edge of the Pennines, this intimate spa has gone beyond the organic philosophy, offering exceptional results-driven spa treatments and products by Decléor, Elemis, Carita and ghd Spa, creating spa therapies to work in natural synergy with skin, body and mind.

You may be thinking that this is a biased description but based on other people’s testimonials, it does seem that the Titanic Spa has a way about it. Johanna Leggatt of the Telegraph tried the spa for herself and had nothing but good to say about it. If you city living is getting to you, perhaps you should try to getaway for a day and get some relaxation at the spa.

alcohol bottles
The government is launching an advertising campaign that is aimed at improving the awareness of older drinkers with regard to the potential problems of over drinking. The people of the UK are known for loving their drink. With the pub culture being big in Britain, this comes as no surprise. Yet what does the government mean by “older” drinkers?

The advertising campaign, which is going to cost a whopping £10M is targeted at drinkers aged 35 years and above. Why this age group? According to Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo:

It’s primarily aimed at over-35s because it’s clear from research that that age range is less well-informed, at times clueless [about units]. However, such ignorance is understandable because of the trend towards larger-sized drinks and the growing strength of some wines and beers.

The main action plan is to inform the general public about the units of alcohol contained within drinks. The Guardian gives some examples:

A UK unit is 10ml or eight grams of pure alcohol. A standard 750ml bottle of wine that is 11.5 per cent alcohol by volume contains 8.625 units, but one at 12.5 per cent strength has 9.375 units and one at 13.5 per cent has 10.125 units.

I just wonder how effective this expensive campaign is going to be. Would merely pointing out the alcohol content of favorite tipples be enough? The government seems convinced – let’s hope that the campaign does help.

asparagus
In the Britain, as is in many countries with 4 seasons, certain food is only available at certain times of the year. May is a very good time to entertain friends as it is well into spring and summer is starting to make itself felt as well. More so, the food in season in May is quite delectable.

One of the best favorites is asparagus. Of course, you can see this vegetable in the supermarket all year round. However, the flavor that you can get from asparagus grown in the UK is much better than those that are imported from other countries. The Great British Kitchen suggests the following for asparagus:

Use the best spears in a creamed chicken dish, Norfolk Turkey Breast with Asparagus, Somerset Brie and Asparagus Quiche or Asparagus Mimosa; the less perfect specimens are ideal for Asparagus Soup.

By the way, this vegetable is only in season for about 6 weeks, so make the most out of it!

In the mood for rhubarb pie? This is the best time to make it – lots of it! – as this plant (vegetable or fruit?) is very abundant in May. Technically, rhubarb is a vegetable but it is most often regarded and treated as fruit. In any case, you can make a lot of desserts using it as an ingredient. Just make sure that you do not eat the leaves as they contain a poisonous substance.

sweeps
Take a step back in time and imagine children and other people having to clean chimneys – they were called sweeps back then. As you can imagine, it was a hard and dirty job. Yet those people found time to enjoy themselves as each year, they would have a festival to enjoy themselves. This tradition has roots from 300 years ago. Back then, they would celebrate on the first of May with processions on the streets. The main focus of the procession would be the Jack-in-the-Green, a seven foot mascot which represented the coming of spring. He was also called the Green Man.

Today, one of the most famous sweeps festivals is held every year in Rochester. Each year, countless dance troupes gather at the above mentioned location to hold a modern version of the sweeps festival. The modern festival has three main parts.

The initial part of the festival begins at the Bluebell Hill, where the Green Man is awakened. This happens on May 1st, at dawn. Dancing and other fun activities then ensue, with many people heading on to the pubs. The various dance groups show off their skill and other musical groups perform as well. This goes on throughout the whole weekend.

There are other two highlights of the festival, namely the Sweeps Ball held at the Corn Exchange and the Final Procession, which is held on the following Monday (considered a Bank Holiday). The focus of the parade are the sweeps – which are children dressed as chimney sweeps. If you want to have good luck, then try getting a sweep to kiss you!

daniel craig
In the previous post, we took a look at the two most powerful people in British culture. The list that The Telegraph presented actually contains a hundred people! Now let us take a look at some of the more popular names in this list (popular in terms of the rest of the world, that is).


Helena Bonham Carter, 41, actress. Her breakthrough role in the 1985 film Room with a View led to a phase of typecasting. After reinventing herself in Fight Club, she has become the staple muse of her boyfriend-director Tim Burton.

She takes the 99th place – barely made it but she’s still there!


Keira Knightley, 23, actress. Love her or loathe her, Knightley’s Hollywood roles have cemented her leading-lady status and made her one of Britain’s most coveted young actresses.

Keira takes the 87th place.


Sir Ian McKellen, 68, actor. The sexagenarian has embraced popular culture of late, taking on the role of Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, parts in the X-Men trilogy, The Da Vinci Code and even Coronation Street. Knighted in 1991, he has played a number of memorable Shakespearean roles including Romeo, Macbeth and Iago.

He has the 45th place.


Daniel Craig, 40, actor. Shot to fame in 1996 in the landmark BBC drama Our Friends in the North and initially concentrated on stage and art house film roles. Reluctant at first to take on the role of James Bond, he’s now the face of an iconic global brand. Has said: ‘I always wanted to be an actor. I had the arrogance to believe I couldn’t be anything else.’

The latest James Bond takes the 29th place.

hytner
In every country, there are those who are considered the most influential. The UK is no exception. Early in April, The Telegraph released a list of the 100 Most Powerful People in British Culture. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Nicholas Hytner gets the top spot. For those who are not familiar with the name, he is the artistic director of the National Theatre. The Telegraph talks about his success:

Prior to becoming, in 2003, the National’s fifth artistic director, Hytner notched up an eclectic series of hits for stage and film which included Measure for Measure, Miss Saigon, The Madness of King George on both stage and film, Carousel, Orpheus Descending and the big screen adaptation of The Crucible.

Indeed, the man behind these big hits is one of the most powerful movers in the world of British culture.

Sir Nicholas Serota takes the second spot. He is the director of Tate Gallery. His greatest achievement? The Telegraph shares:

Serota’s greatest achievement is undoubtedly Tate Modern, which opened in 2000 and is now the world’s most-visited museum of modern and contemporary art. The ambitious Serota is currently raising money for a Herzog and de Meuron- designed extension to the gallery (TM2) which he hopes will open before the London Olympics in 2012. His ability to raise huge sums of money from the private sector makes him a favourite with cash-conscious politicians of all parties.

Is it just me or do people with Nicholas as the first name seem to be more successful than others? Perhaps it’s just me but there is no doubt that these two people are individuals to look up to.

guy fawkes night
Guy who what? Strangers to British culture might very well have that reaction – I know a couple who said exactly that. Well, Guy Fawkes Night is a night of celebration traditional to the United Kingdom. It is also called Bonfire Night, Cracker Night, and Fireworks Night – more common terms used for the same event, actually.

Guy Fawkes Night is celebrated annually on the night of November 5 and is done so because of an even that occurred on the same day in 1605. On this evening, Guy Fawkes and a group of Roman Catholic conspirators carried out an attempt to bomb the House of Parliament in London. The attempt was dubbed the Gunpowder Plot and was subsequently quelled.

Though Guy Fawkes Night is primarily celebrated in the UK, previous colonies also hold their own versions of the celebration. These countries include Canada, New Zealand, British Caribbean, and Australia.

In the UK, people across the country hold celebrations both as public and private occasions. The highlight of the celebrations is to set off fireworks and build bon fires wherein “guys” are burnt. The guys are supposed to be effigies of Guy Fawkes and his group of men.

There are also certain dishes that are served on this night. These include bon fire toffee, parkin, toffee apples, baked potatoes, and black peas with vinegar.

Different areas have their own different versions of celebrating Guy Fawkes Night but the common theme is to have a night of revelry across the country.