The longest day of the year
Last night we had a big thunderstorm in this part of England. Luckily the power supply wasn’t affected, so I can still post my blog. I think it’s a bit rainy where you are too, Naheed? I read in your blog that you like it when it rains. You said:
‘I like rains because they calm down everything around from scorching weather to unhappy and sad faces.’
Just a small language point here, Naheed. When you talk about the rain in general, as a noun, it is always singular. So, it’s better to write:
‘I like (the) rain because it calms everything down.’
It’s only when you use ‘rain’ as a verb that you put an ‘s’ on the end, in the third person:
‘It rains every day during the winter.’
You also asked me about the phrase ‘it’s second to none’. I believe this is yet another phrase that was originally coined by Shakespeare. It basically means that something/someone is better than anyone or anything else, e.g.
Tom won the gold medal at the Olympics. As a sprinter, he is second to none.
If you use the phrase ‘next to nothing’, it means ‘almost nothing’, e.g.
I bought this handbag for 10p at a second-hand shop. It cost next to nothing.
And yes, you can use the following two sentences in the same way -- they mean the same thing:
1) This weekend my best friend and her husband are coming from the north of England to visit.
2) This weekend my best friend and her husband are coming down from the north of England to visit.
The extra word, ‘down’ in the second sentence just gives a little bit of extra emphasis. It emphasizes the fact that I am in the south, and my friend is in the north. So from my point of view, she will be travelling downwards, from north to south.
OK, that’s enough grammar for this blog. Today, I want to talk about tomorrow.
Tomorrow is June 21st. So what? It’s just another day, right? Wrong! In the northern hemisphere, it’s the longest day of the year – because at this time of year, the sun is nearest to us. Here in the UK, that means the sun will rise at 4.50 a.m., and will set at 9.20 p.m. So most days at the moment, it is still a bit light at 10 o’clock at night. I can’t tell you for sure whether it’s really light at 4.50 a.m., because I’m never up that early, but that’s what it says in the newspaper.
June 21st is known as the Summer Solstice. We don’t have a public holiday (unfortunately) on June 21st, and for most people it is just another day. However, for some people in the UK, the Summer Solstice is the most important day of the year. These people are called druids – Celtic priests. The Celts were the inhabitants of the British Isles before the Romans arrived on our shores. The Celts worshipped nature and prayed to the sun, moon and stars. Really, modern-day druids should be called neo-druids, because they are trying to recreate a religion based on the ancient beliefs of the Celts.
Druids traditionally celebrate the Summer Solstice at a place called Stone Henge. This is a mysterious set of stones in the Wiltshire countryside, about an hour’s drive from where I live. No one knows exactly who made Stone Henge, or how they managed to build it all those years ago – Stone Henge is believed to date back to between 3,000 and 1,600 B.C. I’ve found a picture of it for you:
(Thanks to Chris Bond for the photo)
At dawn on the Summer Solstice, the rising sun lines up directly with the stones of Stone Henge. For this reason, many people believe that the people who built Stone Henge were some kind of sun-worshipping tribe.
I visited Stone Henge a long time ago, when I was a child. I remember there being a mystical atmosphere, and my small mind was quite impressed with the sight it saw. If you ever come to the UK for a visit and have the time, I’d highly recommend a trip to see Stone Henge.
Do you do anything in your country to celebrate the Summer Solstice?
After the Summer Solstice, the days will start to get shorter again. You’ll often hear people complaining that ‘the nights are drawing in’. In wintertime, it gets light only at about 8 a.m., and then is dark again by 4.00 p.m. And the shortest day, or the Winter Solstice, is December 21st. I don’t mind the long winter evenings that much, as long as I am cosy and warm indoors and have something nice to eat!
I’m not getting up at 4 a.m. tomorrow to watch the sun rise at Stone Henge, because I like my sleep. If you have to get up at this hour, you have my sympathies. Enjoy the longest day of the year (or the shortest day, if you’re in the southern hemisphere)!
Cheerio from a very light UK,
If something is second-hand, it has been owned by someone before. It is not new.
If you give something emphasis, you give it extra importance.
hemisphere – this means half of the Earth, either north or south, either side of the equator.
If you want to talk about when the sun comes up and goes down, you can say ‘the sun rises’ and ‘the sun sets’. You can also use the noun form: ‘sunrise/sunset is at …’
neo – this handy little prefix means ‘modern’ or ‘new form of’
Wiltshire is a county in southern England.
A tribe is a group of people with something in common.
The nights are drawing in. This means the days are getting shorter, and it is getting dark earlier.
Answers to your comments
Maria – A couple of blogs ago, you asked about the difference between ‘ But it brings me on to …’ and ‘But it does bring me on to’. The extra ‘does’ just adds a little bit more emphasis.
Ahmed – You asked: ‘What does last thing at night mean? Does it mean before the beginning of the night (twighlight) or before the night's end( down)?’ It’s a general term, and its meaning varies slightly depending on the context. Its general meaning is ‘at the end of the evening’. Here, because we’re talking about birds, it means before the sun goes down (because birds nest when it’s dark). However, you could also say ‘last thing at night, I brush my teeth and put on my pyjamas’ – and this would probably mean just before you go to bed.
Antonio – you were almost right! Wembley Arena is next door to Wembley Stadium.
Uddhav – ‘as if’ means ‘like’ or ‘as though’. I’m not sure what books would be available in your country, sorry. But if you have access to the Internet you’ll be able to find lots of English language resources – starting of course with BBC Learning English!
Pary – when friends come to stay with us in the UK, the most important thing is to offer them a cup of tea. You do this as soon as they walk in through the door. Of course I also made my friends dinner (homemade pizza) and gave them my bedroom because it is the nicest room to sleep in.
Ana Paula – Muse’s CD is called Black Holes & Revelations. I love it! If you like (soft) rock music, you might like it too.
Tomo – I have been to the Sapporo Dome once, and it was really impressive. I’m not sure if it can hold as many people as Wembley, but the architecture was fantastic. I have heard of natto, but I’ve never tried it. I once saw a travel reporter spit it out, he thought it tasted so bad. Is it really that disgusting? Or was the reporter being a wimp (being pathetic)?
James – Yes, ‘to muse’ does mean ‘to think about’ or ‘to ponder’. I don’t think you would have really been able to ponder anything at Wembley – it was too loud!
Paul – I’m glad you like Muse, too! Only don’t mention Arsenal or Man U – my local team is Portsmouth, or Pompey. So I can’t comment on any other teams!
Benka – ‘slang’ is informal language. Usually, you should only use slang in certain informal contexts. For example, you wouldn’t use slang in an application letter for a job.
Melissa – ‘lol’ usually stands for ‘laughing out loud’, i.e. ‘you are so funny you’ve made me laugh’. I think a facebook name probably relates to the website facebook, www.facebook.com
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