Happy birthday

David Bailey portrait of QueenTo commemorate the 88th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II, a new portrait photograph has been commissioned on behalf of the British government’s Great Britain campaign. Taken by famous photographer David Bailey at Buckingham Palace, it shows a happy, relaxed and smiling lady.

History goes online

British PatheNews company British Pathé has uploaded its complete collection of historic films. From 1896 to 1976 the company made newsreels which documented contemporary events around the world, and were shown weekly at British cinemas. They’re a fascinating historical treasure trove, showing how we used to live. 85,000 films are now online in high resolution on its YouTube channel. From music and art to sport and showbusiness, there’s something for everyone.

General Manager of British Pathé Alastair White says, “Whether you’re looking for the Royal Family, the Titanic, the destruction of the Hindenburg, or quirky stories about British pastimes, it’s on our channel. You can lose yourself for hours.”

One favourite is this short film showing Bee Gees singer Barry Gibb [pictured] being greeted by 8,000 adoring fans in Carnaby Street in 1969. He’s presented with the Best Dressed Personality of the Year award by Bond Girl Tsai Chin. Also present are The Equals, Status Quo and The Troggs.

Sweet smell of success

Richard E GrantRichard E Grant is an aristocrat of acting. Most famous for his brilliant work in Withnail and I, he has lit up many films from Spiceworld to Bram Stocker’s Dracula. When not in front of the camera, he’s a serious fan of fragrances. While holidaying on the Caribbean island of Mustique with his friend Anya Hindmarch a couple of years ago, he took in the special scent of a gardenia bush, and this inspired him to create his very own perfume. After many months of development, his new fragrance has finally gone on sale at Liberty’s of London. Jack contains a mix of earthy citrus scents, and costs £95 per bottle.

Say what?

accent mapOne of the puzzling things about the United Kingdom is how so many different English accents can exist so closely to one another – in parts of the UK you only need drive for half an hour to hear a completely different dialect! This short video shows professional accent and dialect coach Andrew Jack switching between the UK’s various regional accents as he moves around the map.

Money, money, money

£1The Royal Mint – the government owned company responsible for designing and producing money in Great Britain – is introducing a new one pound (£1) coin. The change has been prompted to combat fraud; it is estimated that several million pounds are lost to fake £1 coins. The new 12-sided coin pays homage to the old three pence piece or ‘threepenny bit’, phased out in 1971 and one of the most popular ever British coins, but will contain special fraud-prevention measures. It will be made from two metals rather than one, and the Royal Mint’s Integrated Secure Identification System is said to offer greater currency security. The Queen’s head will be on the reverse side, and there will be a public competition to design the front.

Skipton

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERASkipton has just been voted the best place to live in the United Kingdom. In a poll published in The Sunday Times, the North Yorkshire town came top because of its excellent schools, low crime and vibrant High Street full of interesting, independent shops. It also has fine transport links, sensibly priced property and the highly picturesque surrounding countryside of the Yorkshire Dales.

Skipton beat Newnham (“country living in the heart of Cambridge”), Monmouth (described as a charming and attractive Welsh market town) and Falmouth (wonderful Cornish sea views, beaches and countryside). The judges said it offered the best quality of life to the widest number of people, and combining desirable features such as a positive community spirit, good local shops, services and attractive outdoor spaces.

Also known as Skipton-in-Craven, it’s a largish market town sitting on the River Aire, with a population of around 15,000. It is a vibrant community with a bustling High Street, a local history museum and the recently opened Skipton Little Theatre. The town has many pubs – and an annual beer festival – and there are lots of restaurants doing everything from traditional fish and chips to Indian and Chinese. Fast food is excellent too, with strong competition between local butchers to provide the best meat pies! There’s a wide range of good hotels and B&Bs too.

The Leeds and Liverpool Canal runs through Skipton and is a popular destination for tourists, with walking and boat hire; the Skipton Waterway Festival is held there annually. Sporting facilities are excellent, with two football clubs, three cricket clubs, athletics, rugby union and athletics. The sports centre has all-weather football pitches and squash courts, and there are plenty of gyms in the town and a public swimming pool. Adventurous types can get out to the Yorkshire Dales in no time, with loads of activities available in the stunning surrounding countryside. There’s also a magnificent 900-year old castle nearby.