Thursday, 28 April 2011

Royal Wedding

Everyone is talking about the Royal Wedding tomorrow, when a "commoner" will become royal, as Prince William of Wales marries his longtime girlfriend Catherine "Kate" Elizabeth Middleton.
For anyone who hasn't been reading the papers, Friday April 29th is a bank holiday here in the UK in honor of the royal marriage. Which means: the second four-day weekend in two weeks. Woot! Woot! (Gotta love a country that gives you 11 days off for 3 days vacation leave.)

Cool Facts for us normal folk:
  • Among the guests will be shopkeepers from Kate's home village of Bucklebury
  • The happy couple will live in a remote farmhouse in Anglesey, North Wales for the first couple of years
What does it mean to be a commoner? Well, you and I know, don't we? But for formality here is the definition: A commoner is someone who does not come from an aristocratic background; someone without a proper title.
When Kate marries William, she will get a title. Which one? Who knows, since apparently it depends on whatever new title William gets when he marries. At the very least she will be "Her Royal Highness, Princess William of Wales." If the queen decides, she could give Kate the title "Her Royal Highness Princess Catherine." However, Kate will probably become "Her Royal Highness, Duchess of [whatever new title William gets]."
None of that really matters, does it?  In the long run, she will be Queen Catherine.
If you want to watch the procession, the BBC will be covering all the details starting at 8 AM Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). If you just want to watch the arrival of the royals – check in at 11 AM (GMT). Of course, there are supposed to be over 8,000 journalists there, so if you do not live in the UK, your local television station will probably be showing it, too. There will even be one lone reporter inside Westminster Abbey – his commentary will broadcast on BBC Radio.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

High Street Pt.2 – How many streets in a "High Street"?

Ready for more High Street talk? I love the High Street. It is my favorite place to shop, socialize and take a nice leisurely stroll about town.

Did you know that even though the area is called the High Street (singular), it can in fact contain several streets (plural)?

Faversham, for example, has five streets that constitute the High Street:
Market Square (the central area), Court, West, East, and Preston. (And not one of them called "High"!)

Today we'll take a look at Preston Street.

Preston Street is probably the longest of Faversham's High Streets. It has lots of shops and businesses. Some of them include:

The Chimney Boy: a pub where the Faversham Folk Club meets on Wednesday nights. (You can find my husband there singing!)

10-11 Preston Street is the Fleur de Lis Heritage Centre and Museum, which was built during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, in about 1600. (America was known as the "new world" back then.)

Ossie's Fish Bar is hands-down the best chippy in Kent. There is an old fashioned candy shop called The Sweet Scene. And a nice restaurant with an outdoor eating area in the back called Moonlight Café. They serve a great English breakfast any time of day.

There are lots of artsy shops in Faversham, including Birds Birds Birds on upper Preston Street. With my first paycheque (paycheck) working in the UK, I celebrated by buying a small figurine in this shop. It is adorable, I call it my "Cheeky Bird" because the tiny bird is hanging upside down and showing you its butt! LOL! They also sell chunks of creamy fudge in the shop.

Here is a link to a panorama filmed by the BBC, which shows the front of the Alexander Centre: BBC Faversham Panorama - Preston Street

At the end of Preston Street is the Rail Station. If you are in London, it is an hour and 20 minutes down the rail line to Faversham. Along the way, you will see lots of gorgeous British countryside, and even Rochester Castle.

So, what are you waiting for? :D


Sunday, 10 April 2011

A British High Street

Many adverts (commercials) in the UK talk about the "High Street". An advertisement might say something like: "Cheaper than those you will find on the High Street" or "As good as the High Street."

So, what is the High Street?

First off, High Street doesn't mean the name of the street is "High" (although some towns do have a High Street called "High" Street).

When I asked my husband for a definition, he said: "Somewhere in the town center where most of the main shopping is done." Then to make sure I had exactly what I needed he pulled out his trusty Oxford Concise English Dictionary and gave me the "official" word:

Oxford English Dictionary: noun. Main road, especially principal street of town with shops.

One of my favorite High Street stores: Obidosh! They sell adorable decorating goodies to clutter your home. Heh. I know this from personal experience! :D I'm a cupcake lover, and they always have cute cupcake stuff.

(BTW: The yellow lettering reflected on the windows comes from the bookmaker (aka turf accountant), across the street. Not to be confused with anyone who actually makes books. Betting is legal in England so there are lots of betting shops. Never been in one, so I couldn't tell you any more about them.)

Many High Streets have no traffic access. Which means you can walk down the middle of the street and not get run over, at least not by a car—there are some cycling nutters who are dangerous anywhere!

Some High Streets have special hours when traffic is not allowed. For example, during business hours or when there is an outdoor market 2-3 times a week. Those streets become normal streets after 5PM or on non-market days, so, don't get too lax.

Some of the streets aren't really big enough for a car to fit through, although that doesn't always stop British lorry (truck) drivers from trying.

Later in the week I'll talk more about Faversham's High Street.


Saturday, 2 April 2011

Nina Bell & The Fleur de Lis Heritage Centre

Thursday I had the privilege of meeting author Alexandra Iron, aka Nina Bell. Alexandra writes big family dramas including The Inheritance and Sisters in Law.

We both belong to the Faversham Society, a local organization dedicated to the preservation of English history. The Society runs a Museum and Gallery in the town center. They help with family history research, and have frequent educational evenings spotlighting local buildings, nature walks and archaeology.

Last month the Society held a silent auction to raise money for new activities. Alexandra donated a crash course in UK publishing. Since I'm a shameless wannabe novelist (an evolutionary step up from freelance), and an avid supporter of the Faversham Society, I decided to put in a bid. I didn't win, however, Alexandra was kind enough to offer a second block of time, so I got my chance.

It was lovely. Alexandra is sweet and knowledgeable. She'd prepared a worksheet full of things I need to know. Which was great, because I got to chatting and forgot to take notes. We discussed the differences between publishing in America and England. I was relieved to find out the process is similar on both sides of the Atlantic, although, Alexandra was quick to point out some British quirks.

We talked about writer's groups and writing classes, and some of the festivals available in England. (Note: In America we call them Writer's Conventions or Conferences – in the UK they call them Festivals.) The time flew, and I was surprised when I checked my watch to discover two hours had passed!

If you want to know more about Alexandra and her books, you can visit her website at: or follow her on Twitter: @NinaBellBooks

I don't mean to sound like an advertisement, but she was that nice!

By the way, I'm a steward at the Museum and Gallery. So, if you are ever in Faversham, stop by the Fleur de Lis Heritage Centre and say 'hello!'