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By Keystone Studios - DVD screenshot, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19287378

January 23, 2020
by Bloomsbury International
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Who was Charlie Chaplin?

By Keystone Studios - DVD screenshot, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19287378

By Keystone Studios – DVD screenshot, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19287378


According to the British Film Institute, he was “a towering figure in world culture”.

Before I’d share anything about Mr. Chaplin, let me tell you what a silent film is. It is a film that doesn’t have any recorded sounds in it, for example, it doesn’t have any conversations. However, you could hear music in a silent film. The silent film era became popular from the 2nd half of the 19th century, and it only started to become less fashionable around the 1960s. But how is this connected to Charlie Chaplin and who was he?

Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977) was born in London, England. He was an exceptional actor, comic artist and filmmaker in his time, and he became famous during the silent film era.

How did he become so good? He started his career very young. As a child, he was an entertainer already from the age of 5. (Wow!) He soon became a professional stage actor, dancer and comedian. He was so fit that he also worked for a while in a circus. When he was only 19, he joined Fred Karno’s (English theatre producer and organiser) company and that was his turning point. After signing with Fred Karno, he had many more opportunities and decided to travel to the United States. He became even more well-known after that.

Are you wondering how can somebody be so talented? Well, he was surely gifted, but he was extremely hard-working, too – by 1919, he had his own company called United Artists. This meant that he could direct, write, and produce his own films. Not only these, but obviously, he also starred in his productions.

He was most famous for portraying a tramp in his films. (A tramp is someone who always travels from one place to another, and is usually unemployed and asking others for money.) How did he portray ‘the tramp’? It was pretty different from today’s world! He wore too-large, black trousers with a black coat. He put on huge black shoes and had a little hat on his head. Of course, he always had a walking cane in his hand. And let’s not forget the small moustache on his face either! Even his appearance was funny! He played the character of ‘the tramp’ in many of his films.

Around the 1920s, sound films (a movie with recorded sounds and conversations in it; opposite of silent films) started to become more and more popular. Unluckily for Chaplin, he had a very strong British accent, so he couldn’t portray the American character of ‘the tramp’ in the modern productions.

Obviously ‘the tramp’ wasn’t the only role he played. He also played survivors, waiters, firemen and many more.

Chaplin had a very special comedic style and the people loved him. His physical activity was exaggerated for humour; his films were funny, but they had an intelligent story at the same time. Who wouldn’t like that?

Today, there are several statues of him in different countries all over the world.
I know what you’re thinking: “is there one in London?” Of course. The statue here was made in 1979, and now you can find it in Leicester Square.

Charles Chaplin Statue in Leicester Square

Continue to the Chaplin crossword…

Chaplin Crossword

Maze

January 10, 2020
by Bloomsbury International
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Labyrinths, labyrinths, labyrinths… wherever you go

Maze

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
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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.