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.

“This is for everyone”

TBLThe World Wide Web is twenty five years young today, and speaking on its anniversary, inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee has said that everyone must play a role in shaping its next 25 years. “The Web’s billions of users are what have made it great,” said the British computer scientist, quoting his famous tweet from the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, “This is for everyone.” Berners-Lee invented the Web in 1989, when he was a software engineer at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research in Switzerland, known as CERN. This was around twenty years after the first connection was established over the infrastructure known today as the internet.

It sprang from a need to help scientists exchange test result data from all around the world. In 1989, he proposed a set of technologies that would make the internet truly accessible, to CERN management. He was refused but persevered and in 1990 managed to specify the three fundamental technologies that form today’s World Wide Web. These comprise HyperText Markup Language (HTML), which is the basic publishing format; the Uniform Resource Identifier, which is the unique online address and Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), which allows for the retrieval of linked resources from across the Web. In April 1993 CERN announced that this technology would be freely usable by anyone – and the rest, as they say, is history…

[pic: Tim Berners-Lee]

Cheltenham Festival

CheltenhamToday is the first day of the annual Cheltenham Festival – one of the most important fixtures in Britain’s National Hunt horse racing calendar, with the second highest race prize money – the first being the Grand National. Here you can see many of the finest British- and Irish-trained horses compete against one another in some absolutely thrilling, high-stakes racing. The Festival happens every March at Cheltenham Racecourse in Gloucestershire, and usually coincides with Saint Patrick’s Day, so it is always well attended by Irish horse racing fans. 

First is Champion’s Day, and features the season’s most important hurdle race – the Stan James Champion Hurdle – plus six other races. The second is Ladies Day, with seven more great races and an excuse for the ladies to parade their most stylish outfits between races. Then comes St. Patrick’s Day, with more great racing action and Irish-themed festivities. Finally, the Cheltenham Gold Cup Day follows, with six more races in addition to the headline event. Over the week, hundreds of millions of pounds are gambled, so there’s an electric atmosphere. The Festival has recently been improved with a new Grandstand adding even more glamour; you can see a time-lapse video of its construction here.