The official flag of Europe’s main purpose is to represent the continent of Europe (obviously), and it is also used to indicate Eurozone countries. It was designed in 1955 by Arsène Heitz and Paul Lévy with the intention of becoming the symbol for the Council of Europe. Heitz came up with the initial idea for the 12 yellow stars on a dark blue background, and the design was later finalised by Lévy – both worked for the Council of Europe.
Despite the many rumours, there isn’t really any significance in the number of stars on the flag – when it was being created, there were argument over having a star for each member country of the Council of Europe, but then there were more arguments about the number of member ‘countries’. One rather interesting rumour is that the number of stars is inspired by the Virgin Mary’s star halo described in the Book of Revelations in the Bible. The authorities at the European Union have said all the rumours linking this with the flag are just myths, but they’re interesting nonetheless. The official European flag has even inspired the flags of newer countries like Kosovo (below left) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (below right), where the European Union has had a lot of involvement.
It’s that time of year again – the run-up to Christmas and the start of the school holidays. London has loads of rinks to choose from if you want to go skating, but some are better than others… Here are our top three:
1. Somerset House
The best rink in the city… they get everything right. The ice isn’t too icy, the marshals are helpful if you’re a beginner, and it looks pretty. But best of all: the skates are comfy. The café is nice too, but it gets busy so it’s probably best to find one in Covent Garden when you’ve finished. The rink is open until 6 January 2013, and you can book tickets at http://www.somersethouse.org.uk/ice-rink
2. Natural History Museum
Best for spending time afterwards – not only is there the Natural History Museum, but you’re five minutes walk away from the V&A, the Science Museum, and South Kensington high street/tube. This is probably the best place to go if you’re a tourist, and it’s nice and Christmassy with a massive decorated tree in the middle of the rink. The one downside? The skates aren’t that comfy… but you’ll be fine if you take thick socks. Book at http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit-us/whats-on/ice-rink
3. The Tower of London
Probably the most dramatic location for skating in London, it’s always fun to go to the Tower of London. “Located in the moat, the ice rink is set against the magnificent fortress battlements, providing a stunning setting for winter skating in the City”, says the website, and it’s true: it really is a cool thing to do. It gets busy, so book at http://www.toweroflondonicerink.com
You know when you occasionally find out facts that totally blow your mind? This, for me, is one of them.
Here’s what happened: I was walking through Marylebone, in the London borough of Westminster, with my friend (who’s into fashiony things) and she pointed out a nearby lamppost to me. She told me that on all the lampposts in the area, you could see the famous crossed letter ‘c’, the logo of Chanel…… Although I see a LOT of lampposts every day, somehow I had never found myself examining their inscriptions. Here’s the story behind the maybe-urban-myth:
“Legend has it that the second Duke of Westminster, Hugh Richard Arthur Grosvenor, was so love-struck by Mademoiselle ‘Coco’ Chanel back in the late Twenties after they met at a party in Monte Carlo in 1925, that he ordered all the lampposts in Westminster to be adorned with her initials.”
I really hope that, before I’m too old, someone invents a time machine. I don’t want to go into the future, I want to go to the past. The very-far-back past. More specifically, I want to go to Ancient Greek times, about 200 BC. This is for numerous reasons. If you think about it, it’s insane how much the Greeks were able to find out just by ‘observing’ stuff/life/nature. The things they found out about science and maths in particular are amazing, considering they were using just their eyes – none of these fancy telescopes or advanced computers our scientists use today.
I mean, what’s not to love about Ancient Greece? They lived right on the Med, they ate tzatziki every day, they were all geniuses, they wore togas… Compare this to modern-day England. We live by the Channel, we eat fish & chips, most of us aren’t geniuses and we don’t wear togas. Need I say more?
If you’ve ever been to London, you’ll have seen black cabs driving past all day. Yet what many Londoners don’t even know is how the black cabs originated. When Prince Albert died in 1861 at the age of 41, Queen Victoria was understandably grief-stricken. She ordered all hackney-carriages (the forerunners of the modern-day black cab) to be painted black, as a sign of mourning. When the hackney-carriage evolved into the taxis we now see on the streets of London, they didn’t change the colour, and these are now known as a trademark symbol of the city to tourists as the black cab.