Showing posts from December, 2009

Interesting Place # 123 - Germany

Every New Year's Eve, thousands of Germans sit down to watch an English comedy sketch that hardly anyone in England has heard of.

(The sketch is called "Dinner for One" and it stars the late Freddie Frinton, who plays James, butler to an elderly upper-class English woman called Miss Sophie who is celebrating her 90th birthday. There's even a catchphrase that most Germans would instantly recognise "The same procedure as every year". But the whole thing was produced by a German TV company. Even so, many people are surprised that I had never heard of it before coming here.)

Interesting Fact - Friendship

According to a study carried out by a team at the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) the wealthiest people are those that had the most friends at school.

(They studied 10,000 students over a period of 35 years and the results suggest that each extra school friend adds 2% to your salary. I wonder how many friends Bill Gates had.)

Interesting People # 145 - Charles Osborne

American Charles Osborne, of Anthon, Iowa, holds the world record for the longest ever bout of hiccups.

(He hiccuped for 68 years from 1922 until 1990. Poor guy! Seemingly you can even hiccup while you're asleep.)

Interesting Fact - Buildings

The world's newest, and to date, tallest building, Burj Dubai can be seen at a distance of 95 km.

(There are 28,261 glass panels on the exterior of the tower, and it has 57 lifts, the main service lift goes up 504 metres. There are 49 office floors with 1,044 residential apartments. The fountain at the foot of the tower is 900 feet long, and is the world's tallest performing fountain.

 It is a superlative building.)

Interesting Fact # 1223 - Language

Spanish is spoken by around 500 million people in more than 20 countries.

According to the Spanish in the World website, the following countries have a Spanish-speaking population greater than 100,000.

Mexico - 106 million
Colombia - 44 million
Spain - 44 million
Argentina - 39 million
United States - 31 million
Venezuela - 25 million
Peru - 25 million
Chile - 16 million
Guatemala - 14 million
Ecuador - 13 million
Cuba - 11 million
Bolivia - 8.7 million
Dominican Republic - 8.5 million
El Salvador - 6.8 million
Honduras - 6.8 million
Nicaragua - 5.5 million
Paraguay - 4.5 million
Costa Rica - 4 million
Puerto Rico - 3.6 million
Uruguay - 3.4 million
Panama - 3 million

Interesting Fact # 1222 - Christmas Fact - The 12 Days of Christmas

According to the PNC Financial Services "The Christmas Price Index", buying all the presents in "The 12 Days of Christmas" song will cost nearly 400 dollars more than last year.

(The reason is the price of gold rings and French hens are up sharply. The total price tag would be $21,465.56 this year.)

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - A Typical Christmas Day

Happy Christmas!

According to research by, of all things, Jarlsberg cheese company, a typical Christmas Day in the UK runs like clockwork. By 9.00 the presents have all been unwrapped, and the first (alcoholic) drink is drunk at 11.48, dinner follows at 3.24 (after the Queen's speech) then 8 hours later everyone is in bed.

(As a child I experienced a slightly different Christmas. We were always woken up by "Oh come all ye faithful" played on the radio, then we were allowed to unwrap Santa's presents, but we had to wait until after we had eaten dinner and the washing up had been done to open the other presents. My mother wasn't stupid. It guaranteed good behaviour for most of the day.)

Interesting Fact # 1220 - Christmas Fact - The Christmas Row

A typical British family has its first festive row at precisely 9.58 on Christmas morning.

(The presents have been unwrapped, overexcited children row with their parents, who are trying to tidy up the discarded wrapping and packaging material before rushing round trying to shove an oversized turkey into the oven. Arguments start about what to watch on TV and the average parent ends up losing it, and telling off their children for the first time by 11.07am.)

Interesting Fact #1219 - Christmas Fact - Christmas Turkey - Podcast

According to the Recycling Consortium, nearly 3,000,000 kg of aluminium foil will be used to wrap Christmas turkeys.

(A Peugeot 307 only contains 75 kg of aluminium.)

Interesting Fact #1218 - Christmas Fact - Aluminium

According to the Recycling Consortium the UK will get through an extra 500 million aluminium drinks cans over the festive period.

(Add that to the next interesting fact! That's a lot of alu.)

Interesting Fact #1217 - Christmas Fact - Turkeys

During Christmas 2008 the UK consumed around 10 million turkeys.

(From free-range fresh, to frozen, it's still the bird of choice.)

Interesting Fact #1216- Christmas Fact - Cost of Christmas

People in the UK spend around £20bn on Christmas.

(£1.6bn of that goes on food and drink.)

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - Secret Santa

The largest secret Santa event involved 1,270 participants.

(It was organized by Boots UK Limited in Nottingham, UK, on December 18, 2008. Secret Santa is a tradition in which members of a group are randomly assigned other members to whom they anonymously give a gift. All the participants agree on a price limit and then they write their names on small pieces of paper and put them in an envelope. Each person then draws a name. The name drawn is the recipient of the gift. You'll usually find secret Santa events in workplaces, because it helps to limit the number of gifts people have to buy.)

Interesting Fact #1214 - Christmas Fact - Christmas Stocking

The largest Christmas stocking ever made, measured 106 ft 9 in long and 49 ft 1 in wide (heel to toe).

(It was made by the Children's Society (UK) in London, UK on December 14, 2007. I don't know if anyone filled it though.)

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - Mince Pies

According to the All About Christmas web site, the largest mince pie ever made weighed 2,260 pounds (1.02 tonnes) and measured 6.1m X 1.5m. It was baked in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire on 15 October 1932.

(I don't know if anyone ever ate it though.)

Interesting Place - Christmas Fact - Latvia

In Latvia a traditional Christmas dinner is cooked brown peas with bacon sauce, small pies, cabbage and sausage.

(Mmmm peas!)

Interesting Place - Christmas Fact - Austria

Austria is campaigning to save the Christkind, their traditional Christmas gift giver, from the red and white menace of Santa Claus.

(Traditionally the Christkind leaves a fully decorated tree and presents after dark on Christmas Eve, but Santa has been dropping down the chimney and is better at self promotion. This has caused a bit of a fuss, as Santa is seen as an American usurper, but according to the curator of the Joanneum museum in Graz, even the Christkind is not really an Austrian tradition. It all started in the Protestant areas of Germany in the 16th Century, and only arrived in largely Catholic Austria in 1870. Before that Austrians would make seasonal offerings to household spirits. If the children of Austria are canny, they'll invite the Christkind, Father Christmas, Santa and any little sprites or spirits to leave presents.)

Interesting Place - Christmas Fact - Covent Market

According to Time Out, this year’s Christmas lights in the Market Building at Covent Garden, London will be spectacular chandeliers made from 600 LED tubes.

(The seasonal transformation also features a 40ft christmas tree, and a 37ft topiary reindeer. There will be occasional visits by live reindeer, who hopefully won't eat their shrubby cousin.)

Interesting Place # 119 - Christmas Fact - London

This Christmas it is estimated that Londoners will send around 123 million Christmas cards, consume around 1.5m jars of pickles, put up 976,000 trees and use enough wrapping paper to cover Hyde Park four times!

(I couldn't find out how much beer and wine they'll drink. They probably lost count.)

Interesting Fact #1212 - Christmas Fact - Christmas Trees

The 21m tree in Trafalgar square is turned into mulch which is then used as fertiliser in Parliament Square.

(The tree is taken down after Christmas and fed into a chipping machine. It makes about 15 bags of mulch.)

Interesting Fact # 1212 - Christmas Fact - Packaging

According to the Recycling Consortium, around 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging will be thrown away over Christmas.

(That's the equivalent weight of more than 50,000 polar bears! And that's not counting all the cardboard boxes.)

Interesting Fact #1211 - Christmas Fact - Christmas

According to the Recycling Consortium, in the UK we will go through an extra 750 million glass bottles and jars over Christmas and the New Year.

(That's a lot of wine and pickled onions.)

Interesting Fact #1210 - Christmas Fact - Christmas Trees - Podcast

According to the Recycling Consortium, people in the UK will put up about 8 million Christmas trees.

(Unfortunately most of them will be thrown away in January, generating over 12,000 tonnes of rubbish. Hopefully most people will recycle them. Once a tree has been chipped it takes about 10 weeks for the wood to become compost.)

Interesting Fact #1209 - Christmas Fact - Presents

According to the Recycling Consortium we use about 83 km2 of Christmas wrapping paper in the UK.

(Some people unwrap their presents carefully so that they can save the paper till next year, other people simply rip it off into confetti sized pieces to get at the goodies inside. What do you do?)

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - Christmas Cards

One tree makes enough card for about 3,000 Christmas cards.

(If you look at Interesting Fact 1207, that means around 333,333 are felled to produce the Christmas cards for the UK alone.)

!Note - Card, the material is uncountable. Cards are made of card and are countable. Don't you love English?

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - Christmas Cards

According to the recycling consortium, one billion Christmas cards end up in bins across the UK over Christmas.

(That's 17 for every man, woman and child in the UK.)

Interesting Fact - Banking

According to a watchdog report the great bank bailout for banks in the UK has hit 850 billion pounds.

(This involved buying shares, underwriting debts and lending money to banks including Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) during the crisis. Northern Rock was nationalised outright. Now LBG is 43-percent owned by the taxpayer while RBS, ravaged by the credit crunch and the takeover of Dutch giant ABN Amro at the top of the market, is set to become 84 percent state-owned after the latest bailout. From a nation of shopkeepers, to a nation of bankers.)

Interesting Fact #1205 - Games Consoles in the UK

According to gadget magazine T3, the Nintendo Wii is the UK’s fastest selling games console.

(I mocked the name when it came out, but now nearly a quarter of all households in the UK own one - more than six million homes. And just think, this number will probably go up on Christmas day.)

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - The White House

The White House' traditional Gingerbread house is a white chocolate-covered replication of the White House.

(It took six weeks for executive pastry chef Bill Yosses and his staff to create it, with green royal icing wreaths adorning its windows. They even recreated Mrs Obama's garden, complete with marzipan vegetables, and a cutout that gives viewers a look inside the gingerbread State Dining Room, with a lit chandelier and furniture made of dark chocolate.)

Interesting Fact # 1203 - Christmas Fact - The White House

It takes 3,400 man hours to decorate the White House for Christmas.

(It's all carried out by volunteers, who then get to attend the first party hosted by the President and First Lady. Now that's the spirit of Christmas.)

Interesting People # 144 - Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher only suffered one parliamentary defeat during her "reign" as prime minister - on Sunday trading laws.

(The UK trading act was eventually passed eight years later. But it still faced stiff opposition, and not just from religious groups, trade unions, and even some large stores such as Marks and Spencer and Waitrose were also opposed to the idea. Before Sunday opening, an interesting quote from a fictitious source stated: "If England has not been invaded since 1066, it is because foreigners dread having to spend a Sunday there.")