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January 2009

Monday, 05 January 2009

Jelly, ice-cream and party games

First of all, let me start by wishing you all a happy and healthy 2009! Thank you for all the amazing comments you left: it made us all feel very warm and proud!

Yesterday was the first day back in the office for most people, so it was a strange feeling to be sitting back at a desk after nearly two weeks at home. What a surprise when our postman came in carrying a large parcel. Paul and I got to work with the scissors and inside was a wonderful present from Adriana: chocolates, a berimbau and a handcrafted container for cachaca! We've already eaten the chocolates, but the other gifts have gone on display in our cabinet right by the door, so that everyone can admire them: thank you Adriana!

While I was on leave over Christmas I was still moderating your comments, thinking about you all and wracking my brains about what to write for the first staff blog of 2009. I didn't make any New Year's resolutions, so that was out. I spent a quiet Christmas at home, so that was out too. Then inspiration struck! If you've read some of the previous blogs, you'll know that I run a Ranger Unit. On 1st January 2009, we celebrated our 10th birthday. Although the original Rangers are now adults (one is even married), I'm still in touch with some of them and so we decided to have a birthday party. They range in age from 16 to 25 - so you'd expect them to want a sophisticated party, wouldn't you? With nice food and posh clothes? Right? Wrong! They decided they wanted an old fashioned children's birthday party, with party games and children's food. Some even turned up in their slippers and pyjamas!

It got me thinking about parties when I was a child.

This is my 4th birthday party and actually, not much has changed: the food is still the same, the games are still the same: the only difference is that now all the guests expect to take a "party bag" home with them - that's a bag filled with small gifts and sweets. When I was a child, the guests brought presents for the person celebrating their birthday and that was all. Actually these days a lot of children don't celebrate their birthday with a party at home, but take their friends out for a bowling party, or a party in a burger restaurant or a swimming pool. It's much easier for the parents, as they don't have to entertain the children and there's no clearing up to do! However, it's also very expensive.

Anyway, back to our old fashioned party. I don't know what games are played at children's parties in your country - it would be really interesting to know and to know if you recognise any of these games:

Pass the parcel This is a "must have" game for any party. Everyone sits in a circle, music plays and a large wrapped parcel is passed from person to person. When the music stops, the person holding the parcel takes off a layer of paper: inside there is either a sweet or a forfeit: the forfeit can be anything from "Tell a joke" (What do you call a snowman in the summer?
A puddle!) to "Stand on your hands" (see the end of this blog for the easy way to do this). When the forfeit has been completed, the music starts again and the parcel is passed on. Eventually, after many layers, there is a small gift in the middle.

Musical chairs A row of chairs is set out, one facing to the left, the next to the right, the next to the left and so on - enough for all the players except one. When the music starts, the players walk round all the chairs. When the music stops, everyone sits on a chair - the person who doesn't have a chair is out. The game starts again, but another chair is removed, so that there are still not enough chairs for the players. This carries on until there are 2 players left, but only one chair - the person who is first to sit on the chair when the music stops wins a prize.

What's the time Mr Wolf? One player is the wolf and stands at the end of the room with their back to all the other players. The players move forwards, stop and ask "What's the time Mr Wolf?" The wolf doesn't turn round but calls out a time e.g. "It's 2 o'clock." The players take another step forward and ask the same question. The wolf replies with a different time. The player's aim is to get to the wolf before he decides "It's dinner time": when he says that, he turns round and chases all the players: if he catches a player, they are out. All the other players go back to the start and the game continues until the wolf has caught all the players, or one of the players reaches the wolf.

Musical bumps or statues Very easy: everyone dances to the music until it stops. If you're playing musical bumps, everyone has to sit on the floor immediately. The last person to sit on the floor is out. If you're playing musical statues, when the music stops, everyone has to freeze in place - if you move you're out!

Did you ever play any of those games?

Of course, the other important part of any birthday party is the food. What do English children eat at parties? Here's what we had at our party:

Pizza: cheese and tomato flavour
Cheese and pineapple on sticks: a cube of cheese and a piece of tinned pineapple stuck on a cocktail stick
Sausage rolls: minced pork meat in puff pastry
Cheese triangles: small triangles of cheese spread - a mixture of cheese, butter and milk
Cucumber sticks: long pieces of cucumber (well we have to eat something healthy ;-) )
Cocktail sausages: very small sausages, eaten cold
Party rings: small biscuits with brightly coloured icing
Jelly (American English: jello): raspberry, pineapple or orange flavour with ice-cream

and of course....birthday cake

So as you can see, we all had great fun! I'm looking forward to hearing from you about children's birthday parties: until the next time, take care!


to be in touch with: to contact someone by letter, phone or email
a forfeit: a task that has to be performed when you lose in a game
to be out: to be out of the game - i.e. not allowed to play the game any more
to freeze in place : to stand completely still
tinned: from a tin - not fresh
puff pastry: light, flaky pastry

PS: I nearly forgot: here's how to stand on your hands the hard way:

And this is the easy way:

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

My journey to work


I'm Nuala and I write The Flatmates every week.

Most folks in this office come to work by bus, train or tube but a few hearty souls ride their bikes in. Here are the BBC Learning English riders (from left to right) Helen - who works on the BBC China Learning English website , Callum, Neil, John – who works on the BBC Arabic Learning English website, me and Paul)

I thought this week I'd describe my route to work and post some photos of places I pass on my journey. And, to see how good your powers of observation are, I've got two tasks for you:
1. How many of the photos do you recognise from The Flatmates.

2. Can you guess which two photos I didn't take?

The first place of interest I pass on my journey is my local. Just about everyone in Britain has a local - a pub that's near your house, the one you go to if you want to catch up with your friends in the neighbourhood. And this is my local - The Nag's Head in the east end of London.

Next photo stop on my trip to work is a lighthouse! And no, I don't live anywhere near the sea. I'm not quite sure what a lighthouse is doing in the middle of London! Any ideas?

Another kilometre down the road, I pass the allotments. These are small plots of land that people, who don't have gardens, can rent from the local government. Allotments are becoming very popular in London now because more and more people want to grow their own.

Then I bike for about 20 minutes and arrive at John's house. I ring his doorbell, say hello and then the two of us ride on our merry way. Here's Johnny!

Johnny and I ride for about 15 more minutes and then join a canal path. The next bit of the journey is lovely - there's no traffic on the canal, only other bikes and a few pedestrians, so you can just relax and enjoy the view of the water and the ducks.

And the barges too!

Then we come to one of my favourite bits of the ride - this lovely piece of colourful art, done on the side of an abandoned warehouse a few months ago.

When we come off the canal, we've been riding for about 45 minutes and it's about time for a break. We stop off at this lovely cafe and have a well-earned cup of tea!

Then, we join the busy London traffic again. But we have one more burst of greenery before we finish our trip. It's the park in the middle of Lincoln's Inn Fields, which we ride around.

And then, before you know it, we're at Bush House and ready to start another day in BBC Learning English!

Happy cycling!

folks (informal): people

hearty souls (informal): brave people

route: particular way or direction between places

powers of observation: how good you are at noticing things

nag (informal): horse, especially an old one or one that's too old to do any work

grow their own: grow fruit and vegetables for themselves (rather than buying the food from a shop)

canal: long channel of artificially made water which boats travel along

pedestrians: people who walk along pavements or roads

barges: long narrow boats which go along canals

abandoned: no longer used

well-earned: deserved because you have worked hard

January 2009

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