With the current debate around modern pronouns, why is no-one talking about epicene pronouns?

The question of pronouns has become a hot topic over the last decade or so as our language moves towards greater gender-neutrality. To use a pronoun in conversation, without first knowing which pronoun the individual you are addressing identifies with, is now regarded as poor etiquette. However, it may surprise you that two gender-neutral epicene pronouns– ‘ou’ and ‘a’ – were used in regional English dialects from as early as the middle ages, and remained prolific in some parts of northern England till as late as the 19th century. There are even some modern English equivalents that have been directly derived from these former pronouns. By James McKean Epicene pronouns are not associated with any specific gender and can be used in reference to all – they may also be referred to as gender blind, gender-neutral, or unisex pronouns. Everyday epicene pronouns include they, them, theirs, but can also include more specific nouns, such as cousin, lifeguard, or violinist. The latter of which have reduced masculinity to allow for feminine usage, as opposed to much more gender-defined nouns, such as fireman, stewardess, and actress – although many of such nouns are now considered to be gender-biased, they can still be heard in conversation today, and although subliminally, have a specific gender attached to them. Origin of Gender-Neutral Pronouns Epicene pronouns are useful today for those who do not feel that they can identify with the pronouns they were assigned at birth – i.e. she/her he/him. In recent years, this has opened a lot of room for debate over identity, as, generally, people feel it brings up concerns over how we interrelate. However, they strive to introduce gender-neutral, or epicene pronouns into our language is not exactly a recent phenomenon. You could look at a pronoun such as ‘they’ and find it has been used to refer to someone singularly since the time of the Middle English language. Examples of ‘they’, in reference to individual character, are evident in the Canterbury Tales, which Geoffrey Chaucer started writing in the year 1387. From this point, ‘they’ and ‘them’ gender-neutral pronouns can be found littered through works by Shakespeare, Austin, and Dickens. The influence of these works introduced ‘they’ into the public consciousness as a gender-neutral term – if somebody wanted to reference someone whose gender, for whatever reason, was unclear, they definitely would have used ‘they’ or ‘them’. The English language underwent huge changes throughout the 17th century, as Early Modern English turned into Modern English; many of the formerly established grammar rules were uprooted, including pronouns. As time went on, this epicene pronoun was lost, and replaced with male pronouns in the case of an uncertain gender, which became the norm from around the start of the 18th century.   Historical pronouns Gender-Neutral Pronouns in English Dialects It wasn’t only high-end authors who were using gender-neutral pronouns in the Middle Ages- commonfolk were too, but with their regional twists. Most commonly, the epicenes ‘(h)a’ and ‘ou’ were used prominently throughout the country. ‘(H)a’ is the most interesting one, with the ‘h’ part being silent, as it was simply a combination of the two Anglo-Saxon pronouns, ‘he’ and ‘heo’ (meaning she). It was used to refer to several things, including they, it, he, and she. ‘Ou’ was used in combination with the word ‘will’ to express that he/she/it will do something. Examples of ‘ou’ can be seen in the 14th-century writings of John of Trevisa, a famous Cornish translator who wrote in Middle English. It is unknown when these two epicenes died out, but they were recorded in 1789 by writer, William H. Marshall, to be still in use throughout England. Contemporary Equivalents Dennis Baron, renowned linguistic professor of the University of Illinois, argues that some regional epicenes are direct language descendants of the ‘ou’ and ‘(h)a’ pronoun. In Yorkshire, the pronoun ‘hoo’, although predominantly used when referring to a female, also has a gender-neutral quality to it, and is sometimes used in reference to men. This is comparable to West Country English, which often uses the epicene ‘er’. How Gender-Neutrality is Developing There are, of course, plenty of new modern equivalents – pronouns that are not derived from older forms of English and are entirely new words. These words include ze, zir, per, and hur. Changing such words as ‘sister’ and ‘brother’ to ‘sibling’, and ‘son’ and ‘daughter’ to ‘child’, were easy transitions. However, complications arose when changing such words as ‘niece’ and ‘nephew’ to a gender-neutral term – so, the new epicene word ‘nibling’ has been developed. There are a few collective terms that are, too, being developed into more inclusive words. For example, ‘mankind’ has become ‘humankind’, ‘men’ has become ‘people’, and ‘congressmen’ has become ‘people of congress’. Plus, the old gender-neutral ‘they’ has made a comeback, and as of 2019 is considered by the Merriam-Webster dictionary to be grammatically correct to use in reference to a ‘single person whose gender identity is non-binary.’ Conclusion Epicene pronouns is not a new concept to the English language – they are traditional! The Middle English language was full of them, many of which we lost during the transition from Early Modern English to Modern English.

What are the limits of rollercoaster design?

Rollercoasters are getting faster and taller, with ever higher g-forces for their riders. Have we now reached the limits of their design? By Phil Taylor The thrill of a fun fair or a theme park can be unrivalled for many people. The excitement builds up as you queue for a roller coaster as you see the ride whizzing around in front of you, flying in all sorts of directions much to your amazement. It has been this way for generations and the formula does not need to change, however, rollercoaster designers are always looking to push the boundaries. So, what can they do and what can they do next? The first rollercoaster in the world was Promenades Aeriennes, opened in Parc Beaujon in Paris on July 8, 1817. This sparked a lot of imitators to take the lead of the Promenades Aeriennes and the popularity of a roller coaster was born. 200 years has gone by in the rollercoaster world, and they have kept people hungry for more by adapting the thrill and making sure that the design of rides does not become repetitive. Roller coasters when they first arrived on the scene would follow a similar layout of a cart following a rail and reaching high speeds. Roller coasters were seen as a place for the upper class as they could afford to visit the theme parks and pay to ride the attractions. However, in Copenhagen, Tivoli gardens opened to the public aiming to attract the middle class. The theme park was able to make more permanent fixtures and try out new styles of rollercoasters away from what was becoming the normal style of a drop and loop round, they were able to incorporate more loops round and more turns. Roller coasters have adapted massively and become much safer with the advancement in technology. From wooden rollercoasters which were predominantly used at Blackpool Pleasure Beach to steel rollercoasters first used at Disneyland, rollercoasters are constantly changing. Since the first roller coaster opened in 1817 there are currently over 2,400 roller coasters across the world, and this do not even include defunct roller coasters! Rollercoaster manWhat should I know about roller coasters? To understand the thrill of a roller coaster you must understand what people want when they want to go on a roller coaster. People want to have the thrill of speed alongside the element of surprise alongside the element of not being in control but also feeling safe. It is a tough thing being a designer for roller coasters as they must consider what way they want to go in giving the rider the perfect experience so that they want to ride it all day. However, rather than trying to go for the full package each time, designers will report to a certain specification of the ride. For example, they may be designing a roller coaster that is aimed at families it needs to have enough exciting element to keep the child entertained but not too quick that they will be petrified to ever go on a rollercoaster again! There are also more thrilling rides that have many adaptations. There are two different coasters wooden or steel but then there are 37 different variations such as dive coasters, spinning coasters and hyper coasters. These give the rider more thrills as they experience different types of G. So what are the different types of G? +Gx is gravitational force exerted on a rider’s body from chest to back or sudden acceleration, pushing a rider back into their seats. -Gx force is exerted from back to chest, pushing the rider forward.  Gy – A lateral gravitational force that is exerted on the rider’s shoulders, such as during a lateral roll. +Gz is gravitational force that is exerted on the body of the coaster, such as during a recovery from a dive or the pull into an inside loop. -Gz is a force exerted vertically as rider push into dives. What are the fastest rides in the world?
  • Formula Rossa: 149.1 mph, Ferrari World on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi
  • Kingda Ka: 128 mph, Six Flags Adventure, Jackson, New Jersey
  • Top Thrill Dragster: 120 mph, Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio
  • Red Force: 112 mph, PortAventura, Salou, Tarragona, Spain
  • Dodonpa: 112 mph, Fuji-Q Highland, Yamanashi, Japan
  • Superman: Escape from Krypton: 100 mph, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, California
What are the tallest rides in the world?
  • Kingda Ka, 456 ft (139 m), Six Flags Great Adventure,
  • Top Thrill Dragster, 420 ft (130 m), Cedar Point
  • Superman: Escape from Krypton, 415 ft (126 m), Six Flags Magic Mountain
  • Red Force, 367.3 ft (112.0 m), Ferrari Land, Spain
  • Fury 325, 325 ft (99 m), Carowinds, United States
  • Steel Dragon 2000, 318.3 ft (97.0 m), Nagashima Spa Land, Japan
  • Millennium Force, 310 ft (94 m) , Cedar Point, United States
What are the limitations? Designers are always trying to better what has come before it and always wanting to top the limitations in technology.  Falcon’s Flight, which will not open until 2023 will reach speeds of 155 mph but also reach 525 feet so therefore it would also include the world’s biggest drop. However, physicist Kevin Hickerson says coaster could technically do more in comparison to planes and trains, “In terms of the physics of going fast, that’s something that roller coasters haven’t really peaked at,” Hickerson says. “Trains and airplanes go way faster.” “Although coasters can definitely go faster, they’re limited by the acceleration those higher speeds would require. Roller coasters reach their peak speeds in a matter of seconds. The achieved acceleration is what causes g-forces, which allows riders, like astronauts in space, to feel as an increased or decreased sense of their mass. These g-forces can be deadly but they are also well understood by physicists, so roller coasters are built according to strict standards that keep them well within safe levels.” Rollercoaster extremeWhat does a designer say? John Wardley, who can be credited with many designs such as Nemesis at Alton Towers, Vampire at Chessington World of Adventure and Stampida at PortAventura, echoes the sentiment that there are limitations and things have to be considered meticulously, “Designing rides is a serious business which requires much restraint, dedication and self-discipline. It is fun and exciting work, but most of your time is spent doing calculations, preparing budgets, solving problems and attending planning meetings. The designs of amazing terror machines which I get sent by enthusiasts may seem wonderful in the fantasy-world of the enthusiast, but frequently ignore the realities of: Safety, Reliability, Capacity, Cost-effectiveness, Wide appeal, Local planning restrictions” So there are limitations but there is also room for more with technology improving constantly. Be prepared to be thrilled even more in the future!

Dive Bar – Bringing Back the Ancient Beers

Everyone knows that X marks the spot. Hidden treasure troves that could entice any pirate of the Caribbean lie across and beneath the waves. But what if we could drink the same rum that Captain Jack Sparrow adored so much? Well thanks to the efforts of a single diver off the Scottish coast, we are recreating the flavours of ancient beer. By Andrew Cook Just off the Scottish coast, a ship has lain on the seafloor since 1895. Forgotten along the seabed for almost 100 years, the Wallachia lay untouched and undisturbed in the darkness as the ocean floor gradually moved in to claim it. Layers of silt began to cover the decks and gradually made their way inside through the gigantic tear in the starboard side, until sediment and tiny denizens of the deep made it their home. Now, thanks to an intrepid diver named Steve Hickman – we are redefining the future of brewing. The Lost Cargo The Wallachia is, or rather was, a single crew cargo steamer owned by William Burrel & Son of Glasgow. Among her regular tasks was to make runs between Glasgow and the West Indies. Unfortunately for her, during a foggy morning with little visibility in 1895, she was accidentally rammed by a 1,406 ton Norwegian steamer named Flos speeding out of the mists. Fortunately for us, she was filled to the brim with earthenware jars that survived more or less intact. Among this precious cargo included hundreds of samples filled with beer from McEwans. The British Empire effectively functioned on such brews during this period, after all it was the great Queen Victoria who decreed “Give my people plenty of beer, good beer, and cheap beer, and you will have no revolution among them.” Remember that the next time someone says that the Empire was built on tea! Dive Bar beer The Recovery Efforts Steve Hickman is a dive technician and amateur diver, and a regular at the site of the Wallachia. Since the 1980’s he has been braving the depths and exploring the near-impenetrable visibility of the silt-filled holds. Using only a small, netted bag, his recoveries that he has brought to the surface include whisky, gin and beer. But the real game-changer has only appeared recently. Despite the cold, dark conditions that make it so ideal for preserving yeast and other bacteria, many items from the depths are damaged, meaning that the original states have not always been maintained. Even under perfect conditions, many bottles have a tendency to explode when brought to the surface due to changing pressures. Recently, however, a team from Brewlab and the University of Sunderland have managed to extract liquid yeast from some samples retrieved from the depths. And they resemble nothing of the beers of today. The New (or Ancient) Kind of Yeast Even the most fervent alcohol aficionado could be forgiven for not understanding the complexities of brewing, so bear with us as we dive right in.
Beer underwater
Not all beer underwater is welcome!
As a nation of heavy-drinkers, our breweries have fallen into the habit of using yeasts primarily from the Saccharomyces cerevisiae family. (Don’t ask us to say it out loud – we have no idea how to!) And only a very small minority of sour beers nowadays use strains from the Brettanomyces family. But the treasure trove from the Wallachia not only contains the aforementioned yeast strains, but also from the Debaryomyces strain. This mix of yeast strains, both common and unheard of, mean that ancient beers were filled with vastly varied flavours and notes that we currently do not experience drinking at the pub with our mates nowadays. Of course scientists also discovered tremendous amounts of bacteria within the beers, proving that ancient brewing was incredibly unhygienic, but naturally they are leaving those parts out of the recreation process! The Initial Results Preliminary bottles have been produced in an effort to recreate the bottles of the 7.5% Stout retrieved from the Wallachia. Strong hints of coffee and chocolate wrapped up in a low-carbonated, dark beer that by all accounts goes down far too well. Now Brewlab are undergoing in-depth microbiology experimentation to investigate the possibilities of other yeast strains in brewing processes. Could the same beer be vastly changed via fermentation with a different yeast strain? Could the processes become more efficient? What qualities will be available in the future? This is not limited to only the brewing industry either. The possibilities of recreating ancient bread, of culinary experts inventing vastly different pizza bases – and even the future of pharmaceutical companies creating new compounds in different conditions is at stake. The chemicals being created via different varieties of yeast could possibly lead to incredible breakthroughs in life-saving medicine for future generations. The End of a Legacy All of this and more, from the hands of one diver in a shipwreck off the coast of Scotland. However time is running out for the Wallachia. As the days go by, the incessant ebbs and flows of the tides are wearing down the ancient walls of the Wallachia as the seabed tries to claim her prize and drag it down to Davy Jones’ locker. Within the next 20-30 years, it is more than likely that the remaining pieces of the Wallachia will disappear from memory, and the treasure trove of yeast strains will be scattered and lost forever. Until such time, we must remember that truly, through beer, all things are possible.

Northern High Lights -10 fun things to do in Reykjavík

Iceland is becoming one of the best places to visit for a city break for many travellers. Despite the population of the city being smaller than Blackpool, it does not feel like a small English town. This is the capital city of Iceland, it is full of entertainment, history, and culture. So, what fun things are there to do in this northern capital city? By Phil Taylor
  1. Borgarholt
If you are one of those people who enjoy free things and enjoy spectacular views, then Borgarholt hill is exactly the type of thing for you to enjoy. Located in Karsens part of the city and away from the hum drum of the city centre, this hill offers you perfect views of the city but also right onto the horizon of the sea. At the top of the hill is also the Kópavogskirkja. The Kópavogskirkja is a church is a large white building built in the 1960s and is one of the most interesting looking buildings in Iceland.
  1. Hafnarfjörður Museum
The Hafnarfjörður Museum will tell you all things Iceland. The museum consists of five different buildings and shows Iceland all the way through the ages. The main part of the museum has three floors of exhibits showing life in this area over the past century. Whereas the other buildings are specific to a certain era from Iceland these include a shop from the early 20th Century and the home a fishing family. The museum certainly helps you understand what life has been like in Iceland and how people have lived in the country for centuries.
  1. Experience local cuisine
Reykjavik has plenty of restaurants and more than many are world class. Iceland has excellent cuisine and there are some Icelandic foods that you just must try. As you may have guessed you cannot go wrong with ordering fish from the island because in most restaurants it is a fresh as you can get. Lamb is also used in many meals as well. Although it might not sound appealing but Matur og Drykkur, which is cods head cooked in chicken stock, is the ideal Icelandic meal. Some might be struggling to understand how this is nice, but you will not regret this salty treat. Hot pool Reykjavik
  1. Hot Springs and Swimming Pools
The hot springs and natural geysers are the standout images of Reykjavik. When people mention the Icelandic capital they often picture people chilling in the hot springs or relaxing by the pools such as Laugardalslaug which are thermal public swimming baths. Alongside Laugardalslaug is the Blue Lagoon. It is home to 25 natural wonders of the world and is a place where the powers of geothermal seawater create transformational spa journeys. Although Reykjavik is not a stressful capital city it is certainly a great place to relax and enjoy the natural wonders.
  1. Golden Circle Bus Tour
If you are taken by the idea of the hot springs, then you must take the Golden Circle Bus tour. You will experience 300km of natural wonders as you go around Reykjavik and down the southern side of Iceland. The wonders include the geysers that can shoot up to 40m in the air and Gulfoss the unbelievable waterfall is just so photogenic that you will not want to put your camera down and stop taking photos of it. This is the real Iceland on this tour, and it shows how fantastic a city break to Reykjavik can be as you get both nature and city life.
  1. Northern Lights
Easily the most well-known thing about Iceland and you can experience the Northern Lights from the capital city. It is possible to see the lights from the streets in the city which is quite amazing. However, you might experience some glare from the streetlights so the best place to see the natural phenomenon is just slightly out of the city down is by the seaside at Seltjarnarnes. Here you will get a clear image of the amazing sky and you can fully immerse yourself in the magical feeling above you. Reykjavik skyline
  1. Game of Thrones Tour
Winter is coming. In fact, it is always here in Reykjavik with lots of filming from the famous HBO TV show filmed in the country. Fans from all over the world visit the city to spot their favourite scenes from the TV show and what better way to do it then taking the Game of Thrones licensed tour where you can visit all the locations including the White Wall. With the tour you will be given all the information you need to satisfy your own Game of Thrones needs.
  1. Hallgrimskirkja Church
There is something about Iceland and building impressive churches because alongside Kópavogskirkja, there is Hallgrimskirkja which offers possibly the best panoramic views of the city and the sea surrounding the island. At 74.5m tall it stands out with its height, but it also stands out because of the modern impressionist style, grand doors at the entrance of the church and the history that surrounds this church. Entry to the top is 900 ISK (about £5) for adults but 100 ISK for children aged 7-14. However, you will get every penny worth of it with 360 views of the capital city.
  1. Experience the nightlife
The nightlife in Rekjavik is something else. The nightlife goes on until the early hours in the morning with people drinking and enjoying the clubs in the city. Although venues close at 1am Sunday to Thursday, on Friday and Saturday night bars and clubs usually close at 5am! Some of the clubs offer live music such as jazz bars which always draw a crowd, but you can also experience comedy sets, drag acts and maybe even a film festival depending on the time of year you go.
  1. Harpa Concert Hall and Old Harbor
This impressive building is something of an illusion when you first lay your eyes on It. It is worth it just to go and take pictures of the architecture. However, if you visit at night you will see the building lit up with LEDs and the view is spectacular. In the actual building you can have many a cultural festival or you might be able to catch the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra.

Winning the Lottery- Why would anyone go public?

From death threats to letters from distant family begging for money – there are many reasons why lottery winners would choose to conceal their good fortune. Yet many are equally happy to be shown on national TV with giant cheques and champagne.  Given the risks winners face, why would anyone go public? By Phil Taylor The lottery is many people’s dream to win as it is incredibly life changing with millions of pounds on offer for the lucky winner. It can come with many complications and one being the quick fame with many people’s stories picked up by the newspapers and media outlets. However, can people stay out of the limelight and avoid the unwanted publicity of winning such large amounts? The lottery has engaged the public of many countries across the world for years; there is a national lottery in each continent. People buy into the lottery because of the chance to change their life. Figures do vary each week but there can be monumental amounts of money available. The biggest win ever was $1.54 billion and there were three winners of this jackpot in the USA! They kept themselves anonymous and were advised to delete all of their social media accounts before claiming the money. So is it the right thing to come out about winning sums this large? Especially given that this money could nearly buy you Manchester United football club. It is a mixed bag with the amount of people who want to keep their identity to themselves but many do want to be in the papers or the news to talk about their winnings. But why? One of the reasons people are encouraged to do it is publicity for the national lottery game. If people can see the average Joe winning millions upon millions of pounds then they might wonder, if it can happen to them it could happen to me. This thought has even spurred on the tagline from the lottery “It might be you” to make people wonder and dream. However, some people do not want the burden of being known as the people who won the lottery. They feel they are exposed to the world and are putting themselves in a greater risk situation with people knowing that they have won a huge amount of money. This is specifically the case in America where there are constant battles between lottery winners and state laws which means they cannot stay anonymous without a lot of legal trouble. “Jackpot winners get a big old target painted on their backs,” said Andrew Stoltmann, an Illinois attorney who has represented winners. “When their names are released “they get harassed and harangued into some horrifically bad investments.” “Forcing people to reveal their names, is like throwing meat into a shark-infested ocean”. In America, states are rethinking how people can stay out of the limelight. States such as Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina already allow winners to remain anonymous. But more and more states including Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont, will allow a trustee, usually an attorney, to collect without disclosing the name of the ticket holder. The support offered in the United Kingdom and Ireland is much better. In the UK, Camelot offer full support in how to deal with the media if you choose to go public. The same applies in Ireland as the national lottery offer support for winners over €2 million to deal with the shock of life changing money and that support is in place even if you choose not to go public. Camelot spoke after a massive €105 million win on the EuroMillions by English couple Steve and Lenka Thomson, stating that it is often easier to come out rather than hiding away because that causes complications. The spokesperson said, “The decision is solely down to the individual and no pressure is put on them to step into the spotlight.” “But previous winners have spoken about the difficulty of remaining anonymous, arguing it can put a bigger strain on the win than accepting the 15 minutes of fame.” This sentiment was echoed by Colin and Christine Weir who bagged £161 million in 2011, “We would have preferred to stay anonymous, but we recognised it wasn’t a possibility,” “We wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the experience if we had constructed lies to tell our nearest and dearest.” Camelot also cited that many people are left worrying about the day a knock at the door will come if they have not gone public. The fear can lead to paranoia and people wondering if someone will find out about the vast amount of money they have won because the National Lottery are obligated to state that somebody has won the jackpot or large sums of money. The publicity, despite the support, can lead to many difficult situations even with the nearest and dearest that the Weirs stated here. It could lead to awkward issues of lending money to friends and family or making investments in something you are not too keen about. As stated before, in the UK it is solely up to the winners themselves if they decide to make themselves known to the public because the attention can be too much for some people. In 2002, Mickey Carroll aged just 19, won £9 million and he rose to fame as the self-proclaimed “King of the Chavs”. Coming into so much money and being so much in the public eye, led to Carroll making poor decisions with his money. After much drama including time spent in prison, attacks on his mansion and a documentary made about him, Carroll was broke and applied for his old job as a bin man in 2010. This shows that it can be difficult not to live the lavish lifestyle without the attention of the press. However, if you make smart decisions with the money then you can still live your normal life without the unwanted attention. If you take the full support from the national lottery and go public with it, it can help you get your head around the win and deal with the change. So from what might have sounded like a strange decision, it might be the best thing to come out into the public eye and accept your win. The main thing to remember is to be smart with your winnings.
Photo credit – Camelot UK Lotteries Ltd

Visiting London on the cheap – is it possible?

London is renowned as an expensive city to travel. From pricey pints to costly cabs, a visit to the capital can be an ongoing assault on your wallet. But it does not have to be this way. Visiting London on the cheap – it is possible! By Sam Roberts I love London – not because it is my home city – because it is one of the world’s truly great megacities. And I’ve been lucky enough to visit many of the world’s greatest cities. These include Tokyo, New York City, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney, and Dubai – London is comfortably on that list, and many argue London tops the list. Best cities voted London the world’s greatest cities for the sixth year running in 2020. London is a vast concoction of cosmopolitan energy, a world-leading financial centre, and the world’s thirds most visited city in 2019. But there is one problem – London is expensive. There is no way around that. If you’re visiting from overseas, the Great British Pound is going to hurt your wallet. Is it possible to explore London on the cheap? As a proud Londoner, I’m going to say yes, and better still, I’m going to show you how!

Visting London on the cheapVisit Primrose Hill

I have always said that the best way to understand a city is to get high-up. London is one of the world’s flattest cities, and there aren’t many incredible viewpoints. You could go up The Shard – the views are spectacular, but the price isn’t always budget-friendly. However, Primrose Hill is the ultimate London view, and it is entirely free. British rock band Blur famously sang, “Let’s take a drive to Primrose Hill, It’s windy there, and the view’s so nice.” It is one of my favourite songs, and the lyrics ring true. That was in 1993 before the London skyline developed, and in 2021, the view is better than nice; it is stunning. You can see all of London’s top landmarks, including the London Eye, The Shard and St. Pauls Cathedral. Moreover, you see views of the Canary Wharf skyline. A view worth seeing, without a doubt. (The Sky Garden is also free, but it requires pre-booking.)

Visting London on the cheapThe British Museum 

The British Museum is one of the world’s most comprehensive museums. Visitors get to see 2 million years worth of history – and you won’t pay a penny, cent, or euro. That is why the museum attracts over 5.9 million visitors yearly. It remains the world’s oldest national public museum, dating back to 1753, 23 years before the founding fathers created the United States of America. During the past 250 years, the museum has housed global exhibits from every world corner. And the museum was the film set for various famous movies, including The Wakefield Cause and the Day of the Jackal. Although London called it the “British Museum,” it may as well be the global museum. A must-do if you’re visiting London on the cheap. 

Visit London’s fantastic park’s

London doesn’t have the beaches and outdoor lifestyle of Sydney or Los Angeles, but it does have the world’s most fantastic parks. Every park is entirely free to visit, and during the summer months, it is one of the best aspects of London. Hyde Park is one of the world’s most famous parks, and it is home to various summer events, the serpentine, and an excellent Central London location. Alternatively, you should check out Regents Park. The park is beautiful and next to the epic Primrose Hill views and the quirkiness of Camden. Moreover, if you want to escape the London hustle, check out Richmond Park. Situated deep into Southwest London, you’ll find a stunning park that feels more like the British Countryside than London (you will even see a few wild deers.) Exploring London’s green space is free, fun, and a must-do. 

Wander around the Thames

The River Thames is perhaps the world’s most famous river. When you walk around the Thames, you see centuries of global history, various world-famous landmarks, and London’s very best scenery. Popular places to see along the River Thames include Westminster Palace, the Houses of Parliament, and Big Ben. If you walk towards the east, you’ll get excellent views of St. Pauls Cathedral, The Tower of London, and Tower Bridge. And better still, you won’t pay a penny. It is entirely free to cycle, walk, or even run. 

Visting London on the cheapSo why is London so expensive?

London is expensive because of accommodation and transport prices. Although you can save money with an Oyster Card, using the world-class London Underground is costly. If you travel outside of rush hours, you will save money on the tube. A single journey between zone 1 & 2 is £2.40, but that will add up through the day. If you don’t mind getting some exercise, you could hire a “Boris Bike,” as Londoners affectionately coin them. Santander Bikes are affordable and will save you bundles of money. You can catch a taxi, but they aren’t overly cheap. Uber or a London Black Cab are the best options. Plus, hotels are expensive in zone one and two. You will be lucky to find a hotel for less than £50 per night. If you stay in zones 3 or 4 – you can find some good deals, but you will be commuting into Central London. Three are some cheap hostels in London, and good deals are possible. You will have to shop around on sites like Some of my favourite – and affordable – London areas for accommodation are Shepherd’s Bush, Camden, and West Hampstead. You can find good deals in all of these areas, and they’re all in zone two, with tonnes of cool stuff to do. Also, you could find affordable accommodation in East London, but it is away from the tourist areas and a more raw version of London. However, East London has gone through gentrification since the 20th century.

Final thoughts 

London is never going to be a cheap city. If you research, explore wisely and stay disciplined, you don’t have to break the bank. London is a tremendous global hub and one of the greatest cities in history. Just don’t expect to budget yourself in London easily. It is not comparable to other European cities like Lisbon, Berlin, or Prague, but it is worth every penny spent!

Alias names – Scottish genealogy is littered with alias names in court and church records. What was behind the practice in Scotland and when did the tradition die out?

When researching your Scottish ancestry, particularly if you can trace your routes back to the Highlands, you may hit a brick wall around the turn of the 18th century.This could be due to common research limitations, such as lack documentation or records gone amiss, however, it could also be down to the peculiar case of alias surnames that became a particularly popular trend throughout the middle ages. Although not exclusive to Scotland, as research has uncovered a plethora of examples in English ancestral records, alias surnames were particularly prevalent, and used for reasons more interesting, throughout the Scottish Highlands, where last names were, at the time, already commonly interchangeable between the respective Gaelic and anglicised versions. So, what gave rise to this trend in Scotland? By James McKean Alias Names Origins in Britain The history of alias surnames in Britain runs almost concurrently to the developments of surnames themselves, with examples of which dating back to the 1460s. Alias surnames became more prominent at the start of the 16th century, when they were seen to become frequently documented throughout English, and later Scottish court documents, wills, and registers. When examining such records from this period, reasons for surname aliases can be inferred as being mainly a return in popularity of patronymic surnames, whereby members of the gentry would replace their surname with an alias in tribute to one of their forefathers. This may have been done so to retain family wealth and prestige, or as a means of keeping topographical ownership over land passed down through the generations. Alias names were, otherwise, used at this time to cover up illegitimate births. This trend started around London, and gradually moved north, with it being heavily documented in the north of England around the middle of the 17th century, and then further on towards Scotland. Culloden GaelicThe Battle of Culloden The most prevalent reason for the rise of alias names in Scotland, on the other hand, had a lot more to do with evading persecution by the British government. Following the final defeat of the Jacobite cause at the Battle of Culloden in 1745, highland clans were prosecuted, and many Gaelic last names were essentially blacklisted in the eyes of the British government through former association to the Jacobite cause. A series of acts, which included the outright banning of tartan, were imposed in the Highlands which were essentially aimed at vanquishing Scottish culture altogether. Gaelic had originally been outlawed in 1616 but was enforced a whole lot harder following the defeat of the Jacobite movement. It was in this era of repression of Scottish culture that many Scottish clans adopted alias surnames to distance themselves from the Jacobite cause and avoid punishment at the hands of the British government. Luckily for some clans, there were direct Anglicised versions of their Gaelic surname. For example, MacGhilledhuinn became Brown/Broun. Other times, seemingly unrelated English surnames replaced Gaelic ones, for example, Mac na Ceardaich commonly became Sinclair for a lot of clansmen. Phonetic rendering was also implemented for the likes of such surnames as McKay and Davidson, which were both phonetic renderings of the Gaelic name MacDhabhaidh, which translates to son of David. Although the Anglican replacements became the official title for many, the remained as merely an ‘alias’ to many, who still referred to themselves in their Gaelic title when in safe company. Rob Roy MacGregor Scottish folk hero Rob Roy MacGregor was a noteworthy early documented user of alias names in Scotland. Following the the outlawing of the Gaelic language in 1603, many Scottish clans either adopted a moniker or alias. Rob Roy was often referred to as Robert Campbell, however his son, Duncan Macgregor, opted instead to become Duncan Drummond. The reason for this was that the Gaelic clans took refuge under the surnames of their next of kin, or otherwise, another clan altogether. Many MacGregors at the time had adopted the names Drummond, Buchanan, Campbell, and Graham. Conclusion Although research into aliases in Scottish genealogy continues today, historians are far off uncovering all the intricate connections between seemingly unrelated surnames. For that reason, it may be impossible for some to ever trace their Scottish ancestry past the battle of Culloden.

The latest 007 film ‘No Time to Die’ will be released shortly. But is James Bond still relevant in 2021 and is it now time for Britain’s superspy to retire?

The name’s Bond, James Bond. Okay, that was a cheesy way to start but those words immediately grab your attention and I am pretty sure most people will have read that with the famous accent of Sean Connery. Since hitting the screens in 1962, Bond has always been the smash hit film of the year and is a national institute. However, is it time for the secret agent with a ‘license to kill’ to now pack up his Walther PPK and retire? By Phil Taylor James Bond is more than just a film star and before ‘Dr. No’, there were ten books written by Ian Fleming. In fact Fleming wrote four more about the English hero whilst films starring Sean Connery (a Scottish actor) were making millions at the box office. The post war books had managed to attract a following after the adaptations hit the big screen and Bond was born. It is seen as a great honour to play James Bond and there have been six actors to play him (films produced by Eon, so that does not include David Niven in Casino Royale). Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig have all played 007 in the past 59 years. Over those 59 years there have been 24 films released and it is set to be 25 this year with No Time to Die expected to be released 8th October, however, it has faced several delays due to the global pandemic so there could be another. The most successful film at the box office was ‘Skyfall’ in 2012 starring Daniel Craig as it earned $1108.6 at the box office. The film directed by Sam Mendes was everything people love about Bond, a great storyline, a vengeful villain and a perfect piece of music by Adele which when you instantly hear it you think, “Bond.” The entire film series has grossed a whopping $7 billion and it sits in number six of the all time grossing movie series sandwiched in between ‘Spiderman’ and ‘X Men’. Despite being an instant hit in 1962, I do not think anybody expected the film series to still be producing films and making as much as it has at the box office. So despite its popularity and success at the box office, why are people suggesting it is time to end the Bond series after Daniel Craig’s final film is released this year? Matera James BondLinks to colonial past Fleming wrote his first book just after the end of WWII in 1951, England at the time still had a lot of ties with the Empire and Fleming was particularly proud of this fact. “James Bond is really an imperial throwback,” says Matthew Parker, author of Goldeneye, “He projects British power in all corners of the globe.” Fleming lived in Jamaica and he could see the change of the British Empire happening and he was not a fan,  “He didn’t like the fact that black people were getting the vote and that they were forming political parties and demanding much more respect,” Parker explains. “So he created James Bond as this sort of consoling fantasy for himself and his readers.” Parker argues that the nostalgia for the British Empire still plays a major role in the United Kingdom politics today. “Some of the people who voted to leave the European Union were really motivated by that same fantasy that is James Bond,” he notes. “The fantasy that Britain can still go out with its buccaneering spirit into the world and punch above its weight.” Far too sexist A Bond girl. A role that has connotations of being the main woman role but over time and looking back at former bond girls, this is certainly not the case and they find themselves playing second fiddle to James Bond. Especially earlier Bond films, the women were just seen as sex symbols and Bond was incredibly creepy around the women in the film. Culture writer Fiona Sturges echoes this point by stating, “These are grown women and co-stars being relegated to the status of side-dish to the more robust and interesting main course,” Women are seen as objects to Bond and this has been a constant battle between women’s rights activist and die hard Bond fans who are unable to see flaws of women in skimpy outfits and being used just for sex by Bond. However, in more modern Bond films we have seen attempts from characters such as M, Camille Montes and Jinx to remove the stigma as they portray a more rounded, hardened female character. But they are always needed to be saved by James Bond which does not empower women as much as it should do. James Bond retireLack of diversity One main problem that people have with James Bond is the lack of diversity about the main character. Every James Bond character has been a middle aged white man and there has not been a change to that. Actors such as Idris Elba have been mooted as a possible person to replace Craig to make it more relatable for a more diverse country. It would be a bold move to change the ethnicity or even the gender of Bond but it would be one that is welcomed by the majority of the country, even if there are grumblings from the minority. Although the Bond franchise does have some questionable content it is worth noting that the latter stages of Brosnan’s stint as Bond and certainly Craig’s time, we are seeing a more modern Bond who is challenged by women and has more interaction with diverse characters. Bringing in Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge as a writer, offers the franchise a chance to be more diverse especially with the longing question of female empowerment and not needing to rely on James. Is it time to retire Bond? Probably not, Bond just needs to be kept with the times rather than being forced back to his roots. The fundamentals of what make Bond brilliant are still being used but he, like a human, must keep changing to his surroundings.  
How many languages does James Bond speak? Find out here. Photocredit – Shutterstock

Amsterdam for lovers – things to do for couples on a romantic weekend break in the Dutch capital

When you take away the heavy-going nightlife, the ‘coffee shops’, and the obscure museums, Amsterdam remains to be one of the most accessible and fulfilling romantic getaway options available in Europe. With its idyllic backdrop of winding canals, colourful buildings, and tranquil parklands, there is a whole lot more to Amsterdam than meets the eye – read on to find out our top picks for romantic attractions and accommodations for couples on a weekend break in the Dutch capital. By James McKean Amsterdam has a reputation for fun – parties, stag weekends and its unique cafe culture. But it can be just as fun for couples on a romantic break. Here are some ideas of how you could spend your weekend. Parks and Gardens The best season to visit Amsterdam, and the preferred season for romantic getaways, is the springtime. Bright blue skies dominate this time of year and with the crocuses, tulips, and and daffodils all in bloom, the city parks are gifted an enchanting allure. Keukenhof Gardens – One of the best places that showcases the city’s spring charm is Keukenhof Park – with its extensive flower gardens open exclusively between March and May. Located south west of the city in the town of Lisse, this garden dates to the 19th century and sprouts over 7 million flowers annually. Located in a region known as ‘Bollenstreek’ which is home to many other idyllic gardens – it is recommended to make a day trip out of it from Amsterdam and to visit a few neighbouring gardens. Vondelpark – Located more centrally to the city and open all year round and is the most visited park in Amsterdam. Another one that looks best in the Spring, with a flower garden that boasts over 70 types of rose, there is also an open-air theatre, plus a variety of cafes and restaurants, such as the Café Vertigo, Groot Melkhuis, and Volderpark3. This is the best location for a romantic dinner or picnic! Amsterdam romantic weekendMuseums All of Amsterdam’s biggest cultural attractions are centrally located which makes romantic getaways very easy to organise. Amsterdam’s museum offerings are extensive, from the offbeat to the downright uncomfortable, however, out of the ones suitable for a romantic break, look no further than the Museum Square. Van Gogh Museum – This is the most popular museum in the whole of the Netherlands, and for good reason too. It contains the biggest collection of the awe-inspiring and massively influential work of Vincent Van Gogh, coupled with the works of his contemporaries to boot. Rijksmuseum – Another one for art lovers, this museum displays works by most reverent Dutch artists from the last 800 years, encapsulates numerous different eras, scenes, and styles, and boasts the most famed pieces by the likes of Rembrandt and Johannes Vermeer. Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam – For a more eclectic mix of art, the Stedelijk boasts artworks from all eras, including up and coming contemporary art, amalgamated with classics by Monet, Picasso, and Renoir. Tours A canal tour may appear to be the obvious choice when it comes to romantic activities to do in Amsterdam, however, there is a wide variety of tours, involving all modes of transport, available throughout the city. Romantic Amsterdam Evening Canal Cruise with Wine and Dutch Cheese – This is the premium option when it comes to canal tours, and the best way to take in the wonder of the UNESCO-listed canals as the sun goes down. Bike tours – Amsterdam caters exceptionally well to cyclists, with 320 miles worth of dedicated cycle paths running throughout the city centre and beyond. It is very easy for tourists to make their way around on bike, even if they are unfamiliar with the streets, and with plenty quiet roads running through parklands, booking a bike tour should be an essential part of every romantic getaway in Amsterdam. Zaanse Schans Windmills – This is a full-day excursion, involving a boat ride to the Zaanse Schans Windmills, followed by tours of the Zaans Museum and the Cheese Factory, and finished with a Clog Experience. Walking Tour – An essential part of all city breaks – especially romantic city breaks – to get a sense for the city and an eye for its most iconic landmarks. Beer Tour – If your idea of a romantic getaway involves a lot of drinking, Amsterdam is certainly a city that can cater. One of the best ways of locating the best watering holes, as well as learning a bit of the city’s brewing history, is by partaking in one of the city’s many beer tours, which will point you in the right direction of where to drink and where not to. Amsterdam romantic getawayRomantic Shows Pathé Tuschinski – The best place to go to catch new and classic film screenings, as well as music concerts and opera, is this exquisite art nouveau cinema. Concertgebouw – Mainly a venue that hosts classical music concerts, this 19th century building offers some of the best acoustics in the world and is sure to provide the right atmosphere for a romantic night out. It is worth noting that free admission is sometimes offered on Wednesday afternoons. Viewpoints Amsterdam Public Library – Perhaps not the most obvious romantic location in the city, however there is a small café located on the roof terrace, which offers spectacular 360-degree views of the city – free of charge. Hilton Doubletree Sky lounge – For a fancier equivalent, the 11th floor bar and terrace found at the Hilton Doubletree, nearby central station, is a great place for some romantic rooftop drinks. Places to Stay CityHub Amsterdam – For budget travellers, CityHub is a hostel that offers sizable private rooms. This is a cheaper option for those looking for a romantic getaway, while hoping for a social experience also. Sebastian’s – This mid-ranged price hotel is great for those looking to be in the middle of the action on their romantic getaway. Located nearby the popular Jordaan area, there are plenty of romantic bars, cafes, and  restaurants located nearby. Art’otel – For those seeking an all-out lavish stay in Amsterdam, look no further than the five-star Art’otel, which boasts a restaurant, as well as a spa and pool facilities.

Gay for Gallifrey – Why do the LGBT Community Adore Doctor Who?

Doctor Who is the longest running sci-fi TV series in history. Now having been on our screens for over 57 years, Doctor Who has received a swell of support from the LGBT community, as well as backlash from more conservative audiences. Why has a TV show, once made for children, become such a controversial piece of television? By Andrew Cook Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey was the favourite Doctor Who phrase among our group of Whovians at school. Ironically that phrase also described how straight we all were, but it did raise a question – why did our LGBT generation so adore the series? We’re not saying that Doctor Who actively encouraged our evolving sexualities, but it definitely moved with our generation’s views. As the LGBT community received greater freedom, recognition and public acceptance, Doctor Who matched it step for step.. With the show now including pretty much every aspect of the LGBT movement and then some, it could well be argued that Doctor Who has actually outperformed the movement itself. The key lies in an incredibly clever, absolutely flawless execution of TV presentation. Dr Who LGBTThe Beginning Yes, to go back to the beginning of Doctor Who would take a bit of a trip back in time, but sadly our TARDIS is in for repairs. However apt it would be for the show, many will agree that the LGBT agenda  of the show began with Captain Jack Harkness. When John Barrowman, the openly gay Scottish-American actor, made an appearance on the show as the smouldering pansexual Captain Jack Harkness, everything was permitted. John Barrowman’s love interests crossed genders, and even species, shocking the more conservative audiences while he kissed both Rose and the Doctor in the same episode. Director Russel T. Davies admitted explicitly making Doctor Who more LGBT friendly, stating that sexuality is fluid. After all, as humanity evolves – so too do our definitions and ideas of sexuality itself. With onscreen kisses, and even more suggested offscreen, the BBC would face backlash and complaints for years. Promoting the gay agenda on a TV series was apparently unacceptable to some people, as if they couldn’t understand a love story unless it was heteronormative. Perhaps these complainers require a TARDIS to go back to when homosexuality didn’t exist. Or at least, to when it was hushed up and shoved under the carpet so as to not disturb their delicate persuasions. Nevertheless, the Doctor Who series armed itself with sonic screwdrivers aplenty, and continued its fantastic storytelling, not just through space and time, but gender, species, sexuality and race as well. To date we have had omnisexuals, bisexuals, gays, lesbians, transexuals, inter-species kisses, and inter-cultural romances. Too many in fact, to list down in one place. But the cleverest, and most heart-warming part of Doctor Who isn’t simply the fact that inclusivity has been portrayed, but how they portrayed it. Blatant, yet not shouting. Refusing to shy away from the LGBT romances and relationships was a brave thing for Doctor Who to do. However, if you can normalise a constant character appearing as different actors for over 5 decades, you can normalise anything. The messages in Doctor Who consistently cover love, honour, and the inclusion of differences. After all a time-travelling, two-hearted alien capable of regeneration for hundreds of years can still care for frail short-lived humans. How could anyone be judged for one human loving another? In stark contrast, the enemies of the Doctor include the dreaded Cybermen and Daleks. Loveless races, intent on destroying or assimilating all other life in the universe, until only their beliefs and races exist. Hmmm, no tolerance for anything different than themselves? That sounds familiar. Perhaps the metaphor rang sharply for our generation. A story that spans the universe, where love triumphs over hate and ignorance. Therefore, whenever love and connection appear on screen, it’s accepted. Perhaps with the occasional jibe, or reference, but nothing is unacceptable. The running message is that we’re all individuals capable of love. Regardless of race, species, or gender, Doctor Who continues to encourage the concept of anything goes, just dont hurt anyone. A Galifreyan who protects a myriad of different races from destruction can hardly afford to be picky about their life choices after all. In 2011, we saw a companion named Oliver Harper who was terrified to come out before the Doctor, due to homosexuality being illegal in 1960’s America. The Doctor reassured Oliver that this persecution was societys crime, not Oliver’s. DR Who gay fansThe Doctor  The Doctor also has a history of non-heteronormative sexuality after all. The sixth Doctor, Colin Baker, agreed with a popular fan theory that the Doctor was asexual/aromantic. Love is a human emotion, the Doctor isnt human’. While not sufficient to be accurately described as alien as asexuality and aromanticism do exist within humans, this is possibly the first, albeit perhaps unintentional, example of behaviour within Doctor Who that didn not fit into heteronormative examples. Perhaps the classiest way to present the LGBT community as ‘normative’, has been Doctor Who’s understated method of promoting theories. With many characters rarely being made outright gay or straight, theories and conversations are promoted among fans. The Doctor’s asexuality was only ever theorised, and was never made canon. Since then we have seen him fall in love with Melody Pond, aka Professor River Song, and be both biological mother and father to Jenny, via non-standard means. Finally, we have seen Jodie Whittaker play the Doctor as a woman in the latest reincarnation of the family favourite. While it has alienated many long-time fans (check dictionary definition for snowflakes) the female incarnation of the Doctor has brought in a vast swathe of brand new viewers who are now finding the show more relatable. With brand new viewers watching the show, be it from the queer community, or simply from female fans who are relating to it now more than ever, the show is going from strength to strength with its message of inclusion and love. The Future (Or past, depending upon when you are!) More recently John Barrowman has spread gossip by suggesting that the next iteration of the Doctor could be gay or even bisexual. Something many would surely see as a travesty, but if we can believe in a time-travelling alien with two hearts who can travel through space and time, a same-sex attraction should not be a shock. After all, there are far worse things in this world. If you can stomach fishfingers and custard, you should be able to handle two people in love.