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January 10, 2020
by Bloomsbury International

Labyrinths, labyrinths, labyrinths… wherever you go


A labyrinth is another word for a maze – you can see one in the picture above. If you’ve been to London, you might think that some of its neighbourhoods with narrow, winding streets are mazes themselves! But the city also has plenty of real labyrinths to enjoy.


The London Underground

You can find lots of mazes in the London Underground, thanks to a man called Mark Wallinger. Mark is a British contemporary artist born in 1959. He is most famous for his installation art which you can find all over London.

Now, it was the 150thanniversary of the London Underground back in 2013. For the occasion, Wallinger created metal pictures with different and tricky labyrinth patterns – in black, white, and red. They all have a round shape and there are 270 of them. Why so many? Well, there are exactly 270 tube stations in London, so he made one for each station. There are easier and harder ones, too, of course.

Wallinger decided to create the labyrinths to contribute something poetic to the Tube’s colourful history. Also, his idea is a gift to travellers. Imagine you woke up earlier and you had extra time, or maybe the Central Line just got delayed? Well, you will have an activity to kill the time while waiting – solving a maze!

Maze - Mark Wallinger

Hampton Court Maze

Now, this maze is in the gardens of the beautiful and famous Hampton Court Palace, which is in London, about one hour away from Bloomsbury school!) Today, Hampton Court is a royal palace of Elizabeth II. It has several gardens, a large vineyard, a royal tennis court and a very popular maze. Back in the 17thcentury, King William III decided to plant two mazes, because he loved walking through his gardens with his beloved wife Mary II. We’re not talking about pictures this time; this is a real labyrinth, and a green one! It is made up of tall bushes and hedges. Today, only one of the two mazes is left, but it is proudly the oldest labyrinth in the UK.

An adult ticket to enter the maze is only £4.50, and for most people it takes more than 20 minutes to get out of the labyrinth. Sounds fun!

Hampton Court

Historical mazes

The United Kingdom has quite a lot of world-famous mazes, but in the past, there used to be even more. By the eighteenth century, there were hundreds of mazes around the UK. Then, many of them were destroyed, thanks to one man: Lancelot Brown.

Lancelot Brown was a gardener and landscape designer living in the 18thcentury, and most people called him “Capability” because he was so enthusiastic. All the time, he would tell clients that they could improve their gardens by making them look more natural and informal. He disliked mazes because he thought they were too formal – so he destroyed quite a lot of them. The only reason the Hampton Court Maze is still up is because Brown was strictly told not to get rid of it.

Christmas Pudding

December 19, 2019
by Bloomsbury International

What can you see on the dining table at Christmas?

Christmas Table

The 25thof December is here just next week! Around this time in the United Kingdom, lots of families like to celebrate, decorate their houses and put up shiny Christmas trees. But does this stop them from spending time in the kitchen, too, and making some tasty holiday dishes? Of course not. I brought you two sweet and traditional desserts that have been always popular in Great Britain.

If you don’t really like sugar, don’t run away! Even if you’d like to make any of them, there are a lot of versions and recipes of these dishes. You can always use something else instead of the sugars.


History of the Christmas Pudding

Christmas Pudding

Also known as Plum Pudding or “pud”, its story goes way back to the Middle Ages. In the 14thcentury, it was more like porridge (you know, the breakfast cereal dish), but with heavy, meat ingredients, plus alcohol, currants, prunes, raisins, and more. Interesting combo, isn’t it?

By the 16thcentury, the recipe had changed. Eggs and breadcrumbs were also added to the bowl – it wasn’t a soup anymore.

Later in 1714, King George I decided to have the pudding on the Royal menu at Christmas, because he thought it was so delicious. It became an even more popular choice for families as well: to make this dessert, people didn’t need to buy an expensive oven and bake it. The preparation was very simple, so more families could enjoy it. The most important ingredients now weren’t really meats, but people added more dried fruit, spirits, and sugar.

The Christmas Pudding in the 19thcentury was finally very similar to the ones that we make these days.

Fun facts:

  • Traditionally, while making the pudding, each and every family member comes to the mixing bowl and stirs it with a wooden spoon. They take turns.
  • A long time ago, the recipe had only 13 ingredients for a religious reason. It meant one ingredient for Jesus, and the others for the Twelve Apostles.
  • The top of the pudding has been decorated with holly for ages. It brings good luck!
  • Do you know what also brought good luck? Imagine eating this pudding and then suddenly feeling something metal in your mouth! Well, people used to put a silver coin in the pudding. If you had found it, it would have brought you lots of happiness and luck, and … some money – a silver coin!


History of the British Christmas Cake

Christmas Cake

Again, another delicacy full of dried fruit. Its origin is the Plum Pudding, which you already know now. This one, however, is more of a proper cake today! The main ingredients are juicy currants, raisins (multiple types), and rum. The cake usually has icing on it, so it’s even sweeter. Also, it is easier to decorate it this way. People usually put nuts or write something nice on the cake.

Although there is no special rule on when to eat the cake, during Victorian times, people enjoyed it with their afternoon teas.

In Yorkshire, northern England, it is very common to have some local cheese with the Christmas Cake.

Scottish people’s version of this traditional cake is known as the Whisky Dundee. It is a lighter dessert, with much less dried fruit. And of course, as its names suggests, it has Scotch Whisky in it.


Are you going to try any of these historical desserts this year? If you are curious, I would definitely recommend it. You can have a lot of fun while making it, or if you prefer to only enjoy the taste, you can buy a Christmas Cake at many shops.

Sandringham House

December 5, 2019
by Bloomsbury International

A Royal Christmas

The month of December in the UK means that Christmas is coming up. Well, it’s just around the corner again. Each person or family has their own traditions, but have you ever thought about the Queen Elizabeth II’s plans for the holiday?

It is well-know that this time of the year the Queen travels to her private estate in the countryside: to Sandringham House. It lies in Sandringham, Norfolk, on a land of 8000 hectares. (Can you imagine?)

Sandringham House

Sandringham House

The House is covered with red bricks and it features numberless doors and windows. Her Majesty can decide where she prefers to have her afternoon tea with biscuits – the ballroom, the saloon, the drawing room, or perhaps just the dining room. She spends each New Year there as well, of course along with the Royal Family. Last year, after her annual winter break, the Queen simply hopped on a morning train from Norfolk and travelled back to London.

Christmas trees

Let’s look a bit back in time. Has there always been a Royal Christmas tree? When was the first one put up? Well,  think back to the second half of the 18th century! Queen Charlotte was the first to decorate with a Christmas tree in Britain. A little later, in the 19th century, trees became a popular tradition thanks to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

These days, several schools and churches get a special present from the Queen every year: a Christmas tree! Her Majesty also gifts trees to St. Paul’s Cathedral (London), Westminster Abbey (London) and more.

St Paul's Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral

But what about the Queen’s tree? The red and gold decorations are already hung up. The trees are all put up at Windsor Castle, and one of them is more than 6 meters tall! Wow. 

The Castle is a home to Her Majesty, but it is open to the public, too. So, if you fancy checking out the Winter Wonderland in Windsor, it is less than 90 minutes away from Bloomsbury International.

Royal Christmas Broadcast

Each Christmas, there is a special message from the Queen or King of the Commonwealth realm. The tradition started with King George V; he delivered the very first Christmas message back in 1932.

In the Broadcasts, you can hear what Her Majesty has to say about current affairs, and Christmas itself. The Queen’s Message was first seen on TV in 1957. Nowadays, besides watching it on TV or listening to it on the radio, you can check them out on the Internet! This tradition of Christmas Broadcasts has become very important for people in the UK.

Earlier Royal Christmases: did you know?

  • In the 12th century, Henry II wanted a winter palace in Dublin, Ireland where he could celebrate Christmases. Of course, the palace was built, and he enjoyed a lot of a special meals there, for example, peacocks, swans or wild geese. Would you taste those meals?
  • While the Royal Family today give each other presents around teatime at Christmas, it was different in the 14th century. At the time, people would normally give gifts at New Year or on Twelfth Night.
  • The first Royal Christmas Card was sent in the 1920s. The cards usually had a family photo on them, and it’s the same today. The Queen sends out around 750 Royal Christmas Cards yearly. Do you think she writes them all?