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April 25, 2019
by Bloomsbury International

What is Ramadan?

Next month will be the start of Ramadan. It is a holy month where Muslims make some very big changes to their lives. You’re probably going to notice people in London on the buses or the tube half-asleep, or your colleagues and classmates looking tired, hungry and glum. People will stare at you desperately whilst you tuck into your Tesco meal deals and Wasabi lunches.

Their lips will be dry and they’ll keep staring at your water bottle. But why? Well, they’ll probably be fasting!


What is fasting?

Fasting is the act of giving up food and drink for a period of time. Every year, many British Muslims observe the month of Ramadan. It is a four week period where they refrain from eating and drinking during daylight hours. They eat and drink at dawn and go about their day until dusk when they enjoy a feast of delicious food.


Why do Muslims fast?

For many Muslims, It is a time where you remember those who are less fortunate. They are encouraged to give charity, in any form such as food to the homeless beggars we walk past during our commute to work and donating clothes to local charities. It’s a month of giving, remembering and appreciating what we have in life.


Is fasting safe?

According to leading medical experts, fasting improves your energy levels, encourages a healthy diet and reduces stress and anxiety. Your body learns to do more with less. It’s amazing how a bagel at dawn can keep you energised throughout the whole day. It also improves your relationship with food so you don’t consume mindlessly, reducing the likelihood of food addictions and unnecessary snacking. Medical experts recommend we adopt intermittent fasting which is when we fast for between 4-6 hours per day. By training our mind to only eat food at certain times, you regain control of your body. Of course, it’s not for everyone, so if you don’t want to give up those Krispy Kreme doughnuts yet, then snack away! We won’t judge.


What do people do after Ramadan?

After Ramadan, there’s a festive celebration called Eid where people invite all their friends and family over. They open gifts, play games and eat great food. It’s a bit like Christmas without the tree! It’s the celebration of the end of fasting but the beginning of a new and better you. People try to adopt many new habits during Ramadan in an attempt to improve their lives. Some people try to continue giving charity and others try eating healthier foods and lessen their junk food habits.


How will Ramadan affect me?

It may not affect you a lot, but it’s good to be aware of what’ll change around London. You’ll probably see Ramadan food offers at the supermarkets and Ramadan greetings cards. You may have Muslim neighbours or live in an area with a mosque. London is full of all sorts of people from different beliefs and cultures, so it’s important to learn about all the different festivals and events that happen throughout the year so you can be well-cultured. Easter has just past so you have missed all the chocolate glory but maybe you can pop into your local supermarket and try some Ramadan favourites?


Don’t forget to wish your Muslim friends and neighbours a happy Ramadan!

April 11, 2019
by Bloomsbury International

A nation of tea drinkers

Tea is seen by many people around the world as being a very typically British drink. Most people think that we drink tea more than any other nation in the world although Turkey is actually the world’s largest consumer of this beverage with Britain in third place after Ireland.

Tea first became fashionable in Britain in the late 17th century after the Portuguese Queen Catherine of Braganza: the wife of King Charles 11 promoted drinking tea regularly among her court and the British aristocracy proceeded to follow this fashion in the 1680’s. The first tea room was opened by Twinings in 1706 on the Strand (between Waterloo and Embankment) and this establishment is still open for business today.

In the 18th century tea became an increasingly patriotic choice of drink due to the fact that the British East India Company was the monopoly importer of this commodity. Although it was not produced in Britain, it was only provided by Britain to Britons. Moreover, the British East India Company was able to keep the price of tea down because it alone controlled the supplies of this export and this meant that tea became more popular than coffee, chocolate and alcohol.  It was also seen as a drink which encouraged and expressed polite civilized behaviour: a symbol of national character.

In 1784 the tax on tea imports was cut from 119% to  just 12% and by the beginning of the 19th century it had become cheaper than beer, making it more and more popular among Britain’s working classes. The teabreak became an increasingly important tradition among Britain’s labourers especially because it was a hot, sweet, cheap non-alcoholic mass-produced drink which enabled workers to keep going all day in  cold, wet,  grey weather conditions.

March 28, 2019
by Bloomsbury International

The Queen

How much power does the Queen have?

The Queen is probably the most famous symbol of Great Britain but many students often want to know what she actually does, and how much power she has as the United Kingdom’s head of state.

Britain has been a constitutional monarchy since 1688, meaning that its laws are passed by the authority of its parliament not the king or queen. The Queen formally announces her government’s plans for the year when she delivers the Queen’s Speech during the State Opening of Parliament every autumn. But the Queen is not able to decide which laws her government will pass: that is the responsibility of the elected government, headed by the Prime Minister. Although the Prime Minister is formally appointed by the Queen, the Queen does not personally choose the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is the elected leader of the largest political party in the House of Commons which usually has the majority of seats in parliament. But the Queen does hold a regular private meeting with the Prime Minister for 20 minutes each week so she is officially informed in person about what her government is doing.


How much is the Queen paid?

Between 1760 and 2012 the monarch and their spouse were paid by a government grant called the Civil List which covered the money they spent doing their royal duties (for example, representing the country abroad on  State Visits, attending banquets and holding charity functions). Since 2012, the Queen gets paid 15% of revenues received from the Crown Estate: the land she owns within the country of the United Kingdom. The Queen’s net worth was valued as being equivalent to £340 million in 2015.


Who does the Queen represent?

The Queen is not only the head of state for Great Britain & Northern Ireland; she is Head of the Commonwealth (an association of nations which were formerly colonies of the British Empire), Head of the Church of England and head of state for the Dominions: countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada.