Saturday, April 30, 2011

Jaffa Cake Debate & Other Random Facts about the UK

 The best part of staying with family in a country that isn`t your own is that you acquire a host of knowledge in just a week! In a short eight days, I learned about British confectionery, castles, beheading, literature, traffic circles `roundabouts`, football (soccer), and enhanced my `British`` vocabulary to the point where I wonder at the linguistic marvel that makes up the English language.

Jaffa Cakes are little chocolate covered biscuits (cookies), that have a spongy cake type texture, but are shaped like your average cookie. Now, in the UK,  VAT (their 20% tax on goods and services) is exempt from breads and cakes. Mcvities, who makes the original Jaffa cake (named for the Jaffa orange marmalade filling) went to court, arguing that Jaffa cakes were in fact a cake, not a cookie. They won that one, on the basis that cakes start off soft and go hard when stale, while biscuits start off hard and go soft when stale. The Proctor and Gamble Pringles brand  subsequently attempted a similar exemption, claiming that their crisps (chips) were actually a potato product, and therefore should be exempt. Well, the sensible judges on that case decided that the highly processed, greasy, additive infused crisp was actually just that - a crisp!

Check out the news story here!
In my attempt to find Jaffa cakes, I only found the Jaffa Viennesse biscuit (to the left)! Sunny and Nia found me the original Jaffa cakes the next morning, and I must say, they are much nicer than the biscuit!

Here are a few other facts I learned during my stay:
  •  Horlicks is an amazing malt drink that makes you sleepy
  •  Spiral staircases in castles are designed with the railing on the side which is most convenient someone descending the staircase (so intruders ascending the staircases have trouble slashing their sword)
  • A slash key is called a `stroke``  - slashing is a slang word for urinate
  • Henry the VIII was responsible for England`s transformation from Catholic to Protestant, as the Catholic church would not allow him to divorce his wife (so he changed the country`s religion)
  • The silver line on the London Tube is called the Jubilee line to celebrate the Queen`s 25th (Diamond) Jubilee (25 years in her reign)  Click here for more details!  Or, click here to see the 10 year old girl who won the competition for the Queen`s Jubilee official emblem
  • Blue Peter is a program run throughout the UK with competitions and activities for children.
  • Lionel Massey is the best football player at the moment
  • Football players in Europe make more than hockey players in Canada
  • There is no VAT on books (which makes them cheaper, actually than Canada!)
  •  The Metro App  is a great tool to download for your mobile, to get metro maps for virtually any large city in the world. Click here to download it
  • There are no garbage bins in London train and tube stations due to fear of bombs
  • UK tuition fees are comparable to Canada at the moment (3000 GBP per year for a 3 year undergraduate program), but are set to TRIPLE next year. UK citizens can go to school in other countries in Europe for the cost we pay here for textbooks
  • A purse is called a handbag, and a wallet is called a purse (unless you`re a guy, then it`s a wallet)
Speaking of linguistics, my next monthly book review (May) is likely to be Bill Bryson`s The Mother Tongue, which delves into the regional differences of the English language. I got through most of it on the plane, and will have to find time this week to finish the final few chapters! Stay tuned for a review!

Saturday was my last day in the UK - for a very short period of time, I hope.  I brought back gifts for puppy, of course - After dinner Carob mints (not real chocolate of course), and a Manchester United lead (they`re not called leashes here!).   I was trying to find her a union jack collar and lead set, but I couldn`t find one anywhere. Once you get your passport, puppy, you can pick it out yourself!

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