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Top Ten: Great Danes

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Evening blogosphere!

So, the big news in my life this week is that yesterday I booked a holiday to Copenhagen, and since I’m massively excited about it I thought I’d write a Denmark-themed blog post. Especially useful as after booking I realised that it’s a country I know very little about – other than it’s cold, they make bacon, and it’s near Sweden. It’s been a while since I’ve written a ‘top ten’, so here are my Top Ten Danes – enjoy ūüôā

The Australians liked Denmark so much, they created their own.

The Australians liked Denmark so much, they created their own. Photo courtesy of BaroBert.

1. Hans Christian Anderson:¬†writer of fairytales such as The Ugly Duckling and The LIttle Mermaid. If you don’t know who he is, I’m not sure you had a childhood.

2. ¬†J√łrn Utzon¬†(1918‚Äď2008): ¬†architect. This is the guy that designed the Sydney Opera House, one of the most recognisable buildings on the planet. And it’s a long way from Denmark.

3. Hamlet:¬†Ok, he might be fictional, but he’s still one of the most famous Danes in the world. Telling the story of a Danish Prince struggling with his own sanity and the need to revenge his father’s death, this is Shakespeare’s longest play, and most-performed.

4. Niels Bohr:  A physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1922. His work in theoretical physics and quantum theory shed new light on atomic structure, and whilst some of his ideas have been overtaken, the principles behind them are still valid. During the Second World War he helped refugees in Denmark before fleeing to Britain and later becoming involved in the Manhattan Project. Later he called for international co-operation on nuclear power and helped set up CERN. On the whole, a pretty impressive bloke.

5. Ole Kirk Christiansen:¬†All you need to know about this man is that he is responsible for the development and mass production of LEGO. ‘Nuff said.

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LEGO! Photo courtesy of Alan Chia

6. Queen Margrethe II:¬†She might be the current Queen of Denmark, but that hasn’t stopped her having multiple other careers. She’s fluent in 5 languages and has helped translate books, including Lord of the Rings. Her links with Tolkien don’t stop there, as she also provided illustrations for the Danish version of the book – she is a talented artist and holds regular exhibitions of her work. Not to mention that she designs clothing and has worked as a costume designer for ballet and film. As well as, y’know, being Queen and having to open hospitals and all.

7. Viggo Mortensen: Any man who plays Aragorn is alright in my book.

8. Poul Le Cour: Back in the 1890s, he developed wind turbines that could generate electricity. La Cour was the first to discover that fast rotating wind turbines with fewer rotor blades were the most efficient in generating electricity and in 1904 he founded the Society of Wind Electricians. Denmark now has the largest wind turbine in the world.

9. Bjorn Lomberg:¬†Environmentalist, writer. Sometimes a controversial figure,¬†Lomborg has campaigned against¬†measures to cut carbon emissions in the short-term, and argued instead for spending money on research and development for longer-term environmental solutions.¬†In 2008 he was named “one of the 50 people who could save¬†the planet” by the UK¬†Guardian, and in November 2001, Lomborg was selected “Global Leader for Tomorrow” by the¬†World Economic Forum. Although there are those that disagree with his views as a “sceptical environmentalist”, nobody can deny that he has opened up the debate on climate change a great deal.

10. Nielsen: I couldn’t write a top ten without including a musician… Also a skilled conductor and violinist, Nielsen’s said to be Denmark’s greatest composer. He wrote 6 symphonies, an opera and a large collection of chamber works which have become an integral part of Danish national heritage. He even made it onto Danish banknotes for a while before being ousted ¬†in 2009 (anyone else seeing a similarity between him and Elgar, who was also unceremoniously dumped from ¬£20 notes?).

Credits: Thanks to Wikipedia and various other websites for this information – too many to list, but nothing written above is directly quoted from other websites in any case.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

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After a fairly depressing few days (weeks) of battling with teenagers, I couldn’t bring myself to blog about teaching this week.

Having said that, however, this morning I was at a really inspiring assembly about reading. Yes, really.  And it got me thinking about where my love of all things literary came from, stories particularly.  As a child, I always looked forward to bedtime stories (my love of sleep was also present from an early age), and the ones my Dad told were spectacular. He created his own stories, based around the life of a character called Freddy Рa frog who lived in the pond at the bottom of our garden, had a racing driver for an uncle, and whose favourite snacks were chocolate covered flies or crispy lily pads.

Therefore, in honour of my dad Рand the memory of Freddy the Frog cheering up a horrible week Рhere are my top ten facts about frogs.  Ribbit.

  1. Frogs can see forwards, sideways and upwards all at the same time. They never close their eyes, even when they sleep.
  2. Certain frogs can jump up to 20 times their own body length in a single leap.
  3. Frog bones form a new ring every year when the frog is hibernating, just like trees do. Scientists can count these rings to discover the age of the frog.
  4. One type of desert frog can wait as long as seven years for water by surrounding itself in a type of transparent bag that becomes its first meal once the rain comes.
  5. The golden dart frog is the most poisonous frog on earth and the skin of one frog could kill up to 1,000 people. a single touch of its skin can kill ten humans.
  6. Frogs can retract their eyes and when they do, they bulge inward in their mouths and help them swallow their food.
  7. A frog can only see moving things. It could literally starve to death with live prey in front of it if the prey never moved.
  8. The North American Wood Frog is the only species of frog found above the Arctic Circle and in winter it actually freezes, its heartbeat stops, and it thaws again in spring, coming back to life.
  9. A tadpole is also known as a polliwog (like Pokemon!)
  10. Australian Tree Frogs emit a chemical substance that heals wounds on humans.
English: A green frog on a palm frond.

English: A green frog on a palm frond. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sources:
http://www.gardenbuildingsdirect.co.uk/article/fun-facts-about-frogs
http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/sciencefacts/animals/frog.html
http://lefo.net/documents/main/3klass/1kala/interesting_fact_about_frogs.htm

An Ode to Wolverhampton. Yes, you heard correctly.

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Of all the things I didn’t expect to come out of my time at university, a blossoming relationship with Wolverhampton was certainly one of the more unanticipated. But as several of my close friends are residents, I’ve had to spend my fair share of time there of late.

I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with this town. Sorry, city. According to the Telegraph, Wolverhampton became a city in 2000 as part of the millennium honours (no cathedral – controversial!). ¬†It’s a city with a lot of character. After living in a small city on the other side of the Midlands with the personality of a teaspoon (apologies to friends who know which city it is I’m bashing. I love you all, I just dislike the city) this is a trait I’ve grown to really appreciate in a place. Of course, the city has it’s down sides. The cabbies are all a bit mad, there are areas my friends won’t let me walk through alone, and I have been winked at by more creepy old men than I wish to remember. But every town has it’s faults. Sure, many people there have slightly questionable views on certain issues,** but at least they actually talk to each other on the bus. And what’s more, the buses themselves talk to you in a Wolverhampton accent. Haven’t you got to love a place whose transport system pronounces the word road ¬†as ‘rowd’?

So, here are a few facts about Wolverhampton. Because knowledge is power. You’re welcome!

  • The UK branch of MENSA is based in Wolverhampton
  • Natives of Wolverhampton are called ‘Wulfrunians’.¬†This is because the city is named after Lady Wulfruna, who founded the town in 985AD and was the granddaughter of Ethelred I
  • Wolverhampton was the first town in Britain to introduce automated traffic lights, in 1927 in Princes Square at the junction of Lichfield Street and Princess Street
  • The Sunbeam motor car, built in Wolverhampton, became the first vehicle to hit 200mph when it broke the land speed record in 1927
  • Trolleybuses appeared in England in 1923 and in 1930 for a brief period, and Wolverhampton was the world’s largest trolleybus system
  • Josef Stawinoga, who lived in a tent on the ring road for 30 years prior to his death in 2007, was a local celebrity. When he had to have his tent replaced in 2003, it made the¬†national news. It is thought he was a Second World War veteran, whose status as a POW had left him with claustrophobia and unable to live in sheltered accommodation, but the council’s ‘meals on wheels’ service visited him regularly whilst he was living on the roundabout. There is talk of a statue being erected on the roundabout in his honour.

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  • Wolverhampton Grammar School was founded in 1512, making it one of the oldest active schools in the UK. Old boys include Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England since July 2003, and¬†Sir David Wright, former British Ambassador to Japan
  • Wolverhampton’s most famous sporting son, footballer Billy Wright, was the first player in the world to earn 100 caps playing for his country. Wright spent his entire 20-year career at Wolves, and played 105 times for England between 1946 and 1959, captaining the national side on 90 occasions
  • The city’s newspaper, the Wolverhampton Express and Star, recorded daily circulation figures in early 2009 of 128,836, making it the biggest selling regional daily paper in the UK

** See the anecdote / transcribed conversation at the end of my previous post which was given to me by a friend from Wolverhampton.

This post was written with some help from:

http://www.wolverhamptonhistory.org.uk

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/6911571/10-things-you-didnt-know-about-Wolverhampton.html

List: Odd London Encounters

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I love London. Yes, it has it’s downsides – it takes forever to get anywhere because it’s so big, for example – but it’s worth it for the wealth of experiences you get. And one of the reasons I love London in particular is because you never know what you’re going to see from one day to the next; just pottering around the city during your daily life, you can come across the most surreal and mind-boggling sights. So here’s a few of my favourites from the past year (off the top of my head!). What is your favourite/most bizarre London encounter?

  1. The man standing on top of a car next to Wandsworth Road… just standing, staring into the middle distance. As you do.
  2. The middle-aged woman walking down the King’s Road in Kensington with a parrot on each shoulder.
  3. My route home from the bus stop being turned into the set of a low budget zombie movie at 2am. At least I hope it was a movie.
  4. Grown men and women running around the Science Museum dressed up as cockroaches, chanting ‘scuttle, scuttle, scuttle’. Apparently this is a regular occurance.
  5. This sheep – spotted outside the station in Wimbledon.261395_10152546737580234_1165374424_n
  6. A woman putting her washing out to dry in the middle of one of the Royal Parks.
  7. Walking past a woman that looked the SPIT of Cruella Deville. Stripey hair and everything.
  8. That one day when for some reason it seemed that everybody except us was dressed in animal onesies. Except the man wearing a leather business suit.
  9. Wandering through Leicester Square one day, when I walked past a man in a suit wearing a Mr Bean mask, holding a teddy bear and dancing on the spot. This was bizarre enough in itself, but about 5 yards away there was a man singing down a traffic cone. Are these the two worst buskers in London?
  10. The wonderful ways in which some people travel to work – on rollerblades, children’s scooters and tandems, amongst others – and always¬†whilst wearing a posh suit. Totally what Boris’s Cycle Super Highways should¬†be used for.