Saturday, December 31, 2011

"We need to talk about Kevin"

For most people, psychopathology is a quite mysterious medical term. What does it exactly mean? Is it the result of early life experiences or is it caused by something in our genetic system? The most widespread definition tells us that psychopathology is a mental illness or a mental distress. First of all, we have to identify people with mental disorders if we want to help them. Just having problems is not enough to classify someone as having a mental disorder. That’s the reason why mental health specialists are trained to make such judgements. Of course, madness has been a part of the human condition since the very beginning. Until recently, people with psychological problems were seen as sick. This theme is quite vague, isn’t it?

Based on an epistolary novel written by Lionel Shriver in 2003, the film “We need to talk about Kevin” sheds light on the mental illness of Kevin. From his early childhood onwards, he hasn’t been a common boy. Actually, he feels like an outsider. He hardly ever displays any affection towards his family and he distances himself from other people. On one terrible day, Kevin went to school and committed a Columbine-style massacre by means of his favourite sports instrument, a bow. He did content himself with killing pupils but he also massacred his father Franklin (performed by John C Reilly) and his little sweet sister Celia (Ashley Gerasimovich). Told from the perspective of the killer’s mother Eva (Tilda Swinton), the story turned out to be a horror film. She cannot walk on the streets without being shouted at insultingly; her unhealthy bungalow is often covered with red paint symbolizing the blood that her son shed. Furthermore, the idea of culpability recurs quite often in the film in different forms such as the red wine, the red paint, the colour of the alarm clock and the celebration of the so-called Tomatina (a giant tomato fight), all symbolizing blood and Kevin’s unspeakable crime. Eva was depressed and obsessed by the fact that she gave birth to horror: Why did Kevin save his mother? Was it a sign of affection or was it a way of hurting her? Has she ever loved her son?

If you want to get some answers to these questions, I advise you to watch this fascinating psychological thriller. You will probably see the world in a new light.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Erasmus in Cologne

Guten Tag und herzlich Willkommen in Köln!

This is the type of sentence you may hear if you are an Erasmus student in Cologne.
From April onwards, it took me months to realize I was going to spend 4 months in this beautiful but huge city. Even if you first embrace the joy of living abroad, you then feel scared and when you look at all the bureaucracy you have to take care of before your departure, you may want to cancel everything. This would be a huge mistake since there would be so many things you would never experience.

In April, I was then selected to go to Cologne. I took care of finding a good place to stay, to fill in the required documents and to find all the classes I could possibly attend. Unfortunately, I was only to get my student room by the end of August, so during the summer, I began to freak out at the idea of not getting a place to live. Then I got the last room available in Efferen. This student village is situated in the outskirts of Cologne. I thus had to take the tram every day to go to class. It took me 30 minutes to get to the university but it was worth it because Efferen is a really nice place. That is actually the place to stay if you are a student considering you would live with other German people and Erasmus students. This may help you feel more comfortable in a city you barely know. Furthermore, it is quite calm and thus ideal if you feel like studying.

Let us now discuss the university. The "philosophische Fakultät" or "Philosophikum" (see the picture) is the biggest faculty in Cologne. The system is quite different from Belgium as no one is considered as a BA III student. Everything is counted in semesters. It means that I actually was some kind of "fifth-semester student". If you do not know that, people might be confused when you talk about your studies. My “Wintersemester” started pretty late, namely October 10th to end February 3rd. You thus have to make a deal with your teachers if you do not want to get back to Namur too late. But they are usually comprehensive in this matter. I had four classes: German as a foreign language, German literature from the 19th century to modernism, German morphology and a conversation class. This last one was my only class in English: I wanted to keep on speaking the language as much as possible, that is why it was pretty useful. You are quite free when you pick up your courses: you just have to be careful because you absolutely need 21 credit points or more. In Cologne, you get these ECTS by writing a “Hausarbeit” (20 pages) or a “Klausur” (a written exam), you can also choose to make a presentation about anything or even an oral exam, depending on how many credit points you need. That is the freedom an Erasmus student can enjoy: one should never forget to mention it.

Philosophikum in Cologne.

It is impossible to get bored in this huge city. There is something to do every day. The museums represent an entire part of the culture, and when night has come, anyone can enjoy a great party. The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) helps you have fun and discover the city and other cities. This group of students organized for example trips to Düsseldorf, Aachen, Bonn, even Berlin for all the Erasmus students. It helps you know other people and discover other cities. Moreover, The ESN organizes the so-called “Erasmus parties” which help you get to know people from all over the world.

I thus had a great time in this city and I have learned a lot about relationships, the German language and the city itself; that is why Erasmus is one of the best experiences ever. I do feel I have improved myself in German, even though four months seemed to end up pretty fast. I now wish I could get back there next year, as I am going to study for my master.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Anzac Day

the Ottoman Empire 1914 (in red)
The Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand. It commemorates every year on April 25th the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (A.N.Z.A.C.) who fought at Gallipoli against the Ottoman Empire (today Turkey) during World War I. It now more broadly remembers all those who died and served in military operations for their countries.

World War I broke out in 1914, when Germany declared war on the whole British Empire. Soon the Turkey formed an alliance with Germany, becoming a threat for the whole Mediterranean area. France and Great Britain decided to lead their troops into an expedition in order to capture the Gallipoli peninsula and in this way, open the Dardanelles to the allied navies. This strait was located on the Turkish territory and marked the border between Europe and Asia, the gateway to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea. On the 25th April 1915, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed at Gallipoli. This Corps was made up of 13.000 Australians, and 8.000 New Zealanders, and supposed to attack the Turks on the North, while the French and British had to attack on the South.
The campaign lasted 8 months, but neither the Allies, nor the Turks won the strait. After severe lost on both side, the total evacuation of the peninsula was demanded, without any winner.  8,700 Australians and 2,700 New Zealanders died in the fighting.
Australians commemorating on April 25th
Australia lost more soldiers in WWI in proportion to its population than any other country, and many of them during this battle. 25 April soon became the day on which Australians and New Zealanders remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in that battle, in that war, but also in all other conflicts through whole History. The Anzac Day is probably one of the most important Remembrance Days and national occasions in both Australia and New Zealand, as well as in Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, Niue, and in Bourail (New Caledonia). The Anzac Day not only commemorates dead soldiers, but also honours returned servicemen and servicewomen.

Anzac Day today
Anzac Day was first marked in 1916. The day has gone through many changes since then.  Modern Anzac Day's ceremonies have two major parts: one at dawn and another, more public event, later in the morning.
red poppies as a symbol of remembrance
On Anzac Day, which is a public holiday in most parts of the countries, people bring red poppies and rosemary to memorials and graves of the dead soldiers. The tradition is to turn oneself to face the West, where the sun sets, and have a minute of silence.
In Australia and New Zealand, marches by veterans of past wars, as well as by current serving members of ‘Australia/ New Zealand Defence Force’ are organised in the main streets of many cities. Those marches are supported by Scouts and Guides and other uniformed service groups.
For many Australians and especially New Zealanders, the Anzac Day is not only a day of commemoration, but also an opportunity to speak about their national identity.

Josua Dahmen and Sophie de Streel


The Māori are the native Polynesian people of New Zealand. The meaning of the word is “normal”, “natural” or “ordinary”. The total population approximates 800,000 people. Māori language is the second most widely-spoken language after English in New Zealand. Places where you can find Māori are New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. According to the traditions, “Māori” distinguished ordinary people from deities and spirits. Tangata whenua is the term used to describe themselves, as being in relationship with a particular area of the land. The inhabitants of New Zealand were earlier referred to as New Zealanders or Natives. But, thanks to the Māori Purposes Act of 1947, the term Native was replaced by the term Māori. Since the Declaration of Independence of New Zealand in 1835, Māori have been involved in the national politics, with seven designated seats in the Parliament.

The current Māori religion is different from the traditional one. Nowadays, most of them have converted to Christianism. Traditional Māori religion believed that everything, including natural elements and all living things were connected by common descent through whakapapa or genealogy. Accordingly, all things were thought of as possessing a life force. Tapu and mana were the main traditional concepts. Tapu was a supernatural condition that could be acquired by places, things and people, which gave them a sacred quality. Certain people and objects contained mana, a spiritual power or essence. In the early 19th century, many Māori embraced Christianity and its concepts. Large numbers of converts joined the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, several new mixed religions arose, combining various aspects of Christianity with traditional and non-traditional Māori philosophies. Furthermore, the number of Māori Muslims grew rapidly at the end of the 20th century.

Concerning Māori culture, it can be described as a rich and varied one which includes traditional and contemporary arts. Traditional arts such as carving, weaving, whaikorero (speeches of welcome), moko (tattoo) and kappa haka are practised throughout the country. Haka is defined as that part of the Māori dance repertoire where the men are to the fore with the women lending vocal support in the rear. More than any aspect of Māori culture, this complex dance is an expression of the passion, vigour and identity of the race. Since the original "All Black" team of "New Zealand Natives" the haka has been closely associated with New Zealand rugby. Today Māori culture also includes art, film, television, poetry, theatre, hip-hop. Māori is an oral culture rich with stories and legends. Its language has a logical structure and very consistent rules of pronunciation. Eventually, the majority of place names in New Zealand are of Māori origin.

According to the most reliable evidence, initial settlement of New Zealand occurred around 1280. However the first contacts between Māori and Europeans did not happen before 1780. The tribes which were in close contact with Europeans began to use fire weapons. This lead to internal power struggles known as The Musket Wars, resulting in a reduction of the local population. In 1840, Queen Victoria annexed New Zealand by royal proclamation. The Treaty of Waitangi, negotiated by the English politician William Hobson, guaranteed Māori property rights, tribal autonomy and the rights of British subjects in exchange of accepting the British sovereignty. From this moment onwards, land properties became the object of many conflicts. Although many Māori blended in the European way of life, most of them kept their own cultural identity. On the late 19th century, successful Māori politicians emerged and tried to improve the status of their people. Later on, Māori underwent a cultural revival. Nowadays, Māori has become an official language taught in many New Zealand schools.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Warren Buffett: The legendary investor

Warren Buffett, the “Legendary investor” is an American billionaire who has built his fortune thanks to the stock market trading investment technique.

He was born in 1930 in Omaha. Thanks to his father who worked in the financial world, Buffett junior displayed an amazing aptitude for both business and money from a very early age. At only 6, he already had an interest in making and saving money by reselling chewing gum, Coca-Cola bottles, etc. At 11, he purchased three shares of Cities Service Preferred. This first investment taught him one of the basic lessons of investing: patience is a virtue.
After he graduated from High School, his father sent him to the University of Pennsylvania. Warren Buffett found academic life boring, claiming he knew more than his professors. Later on, he went to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in only 3 years. Afterwards he applied for the well-known Harvard Business School but against all odds, he was rejected because he was “too young”. He eventually applied for Columbia where he met Ben Graham and David Dodd, two famous investors who became Warren’s mentors.

The businessman
At 25, Buffett began a limited stock market trading investment partnership. But fourteen years later, when his fortune had grown to be worth over US$25 million, he decided to stop this investment method because it had become too speculative.
His greatest achievement is undeniably Berkshire Hathaway, a textile manufacturing firm which diversified later on thanks to his investing talent. He is currently the primary shareholder, chairman and CEO of this empire. The investing career of Warren Buffett is one of the longest and most successful ever.

The billionaire
His brilliant career allowed him to be ranked by Forbes as the richest person in the world in 2008. He is at the moment the third wealthiest man in the world, just after Carlos Slim Helú and Bill Gates. This latter is also one of Warren’s best friends. Over time, they discovered they shared a passion for Bridge.

The philanthropist
There is another side to Warren Buffett: his philanthropy. He is indeed a very generous man, who donates billions to charities and encourages other wealthy personalities to do the same. Furthermore Warren Buffett recently claimed that the American tax system was unfair because a billionaire paid less in taxes than a ­middle-class family. That’s why the American President Barrack Obama proposed a “Buffett Taxto make the system more balanced.
Moreover despite his wealth, Buffett appears to be very down-to-earth. Indeed the billionaire still lives in a small house, drives his own car and doesn’t have any security people around him.
While he is considered as one of the world's greatest businessmen, his moral qualities and his simplicity differentiate him from numbers of other billionaires.
Justine O. & Loïc T.

The Glastonbury Festival

The Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts is one of the best known music and contemporary performing arts festivals in the world. It takes place over a period of three or four days in June on the site of Worthy Farm. It is located in the county Somerset, in the south-west of England, between the villages of Pilton and Pylle. It is thus not situated in Glastonbury itself but 7 miles from this little picturesque town, characterized by her Tor, Abbey, market and shops. The site extends over 900 hectares in the Vale of Avalon, an area full of mythological and religious traditions from centuries ago. Each year, thousands of musicians, dancers, comedians and other artists entertain some 150 000 festival-goers.

Noticeable are the facts that the Glastonbury Festival tends to encourage young people in all sorts of arts, and that it has an environmental and humanitarian side. In fact, many volunteers work each year for the Festival, representing associations such as the campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, WaterAid, Greenpeace or Oxfam. That is why the profit made is distributed to these good causes. Furthermore, the Glastonbury Festival is a good example of green behaviour since recycling, solar energy and other green material are the key words during the three or four days of the Festival.

The first edition took place in September 1970, strongly influenced by the hippie culture and free festival movement. This Festival was called ‘Pilton Festival’. The founder, Michael Eavis, thought of this cultural event after having gone to an open air Blues festival the same year. The first edition was not as successful as it is now and gathered some 15,000 people.

A year later, in 1971, the Festival was held in June for the first time and called “Glastonbury Fair”. The entrance was totally free as the Festival was against the principle of over commercialization. The Festival also took a new turn, mixing medieval themes with different artists’ shows. The first pyramid stage was built, made of scaffoldings and plastic sheeting whereas famous musicians such as David Bowie or Traffic offered musical performances.

In 1981 the Festival got its official name “Glastonbury Festival” and in 1995, the 25th anniversary of the Festival was celebrated, providing unforgettable performances from famous artists (Jeff Buckley, Oasis, The Cure,…). Since then, it has developed, consisting of numerous stages and divided into distinct areas with their own specific atmosphere and attractions. The whole site is centred around the main stage: ‘The Pyramid’ where the headliners perform. Besides, the three main areas are ‘Dance Village’, ‘The Green Fields’, ‘The Circus and Theatre’ and ‘The Park’. Different camping sites are situated within those areas to enable people to stay in their favourite village for the night. Tipis are also made available, furnished with groundsheets and raincatchers. Also, the Festival has not been spared by the weather and has often had to cope with heavy rain, floods and thunderstorms, leading to serious damage, and affecting camping sites.

The Festival takes a “fallow year” every five years for the area and the organizers to rest. There will be no Festival in 2012, but you can already register for the 2013 edition!

Sean Connery

Sir Thomas Sean Connery was born on the 25 th of August 1930 in Scotland, near Edinburgh. Unlike his mother, his father was a Roman Catholic. Sean Connery is the oldest of a family of 2 children.

Before becoming one of the most well-known actors of his generation he exercised different jobs from lorry driver to coffin polisher. Sean Connery first worked as a milkman in his own town of Edinburgh. Afterwards he joined the Royal Navy. Nevertheless he couldn't serve his country any longer due to medical reasons. Finally he became a model for the Edinburgh College of Art and even reached the third place in Mr. Universe beauty pageant.

Football played an important role in his life. He also had the opportunity to join the Manchester United squad. He was tempted to accept, but he recalled: "I realized that a top-class footballer could be over the hill by the age of 30, and I was already 23. I decided to become an actor and it turned out to be one of my more intelligent moves.

He then began his theatrical career by playing different secondary roles. His talent struck many people who believed he could assume an international cinematographic career. From then onwards he became the most famous Scottish actor and producer. It took him 8 long years before being cast in Lewis Allen’s film ‘Another time, Another place’.

4 years after his breakthrough in cinema, he took on the role of the famous Britsh secret agent, James Bond. Sean Connery is considered as the real Ian Fleming James Bond character. He starred in seven James Bond films cases in point include Goldfinger (1964) and Never Say Never Again (1983).

He continued to lead a successful career in front and behind the camera. We can point out The Name of the Rose (1986) and The Untouchable (1987) .Throughout his career the Scottish actor won a huge number of prices including: an Academy Award, two BAFTA awards and three Golden Globes.

Although he was elected ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ by People magazine at the age of 59. He only had 2 serious relationships, namely his famous love affair with actress Diane Cilento, who gave him his only son Jason and finally his marriage with a Moroccan-French painter named Micheline Roquebrune.

In July 2000 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

Even though he earned a lot of popular success he is also involved in politics. Indeed he is a strong believer of the philosophy of the Scottish National Party. He supported it financially and through personal appearances. According to him Scotland is to be independent before his death.

Tke Duke of Edinburgh's Award

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, shortened DofE, is a charitative programme founded by Queen’s Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. It is initially the “County Badge Scheme” project introduced in 1956 and developed by Prince Philip to become the well-known youth training association of today.

This charitative programme is accessible for young aged between 14 and 24. It was at the beginning destined for boys with the aim of attracting those who didn’t want joining one of the British youth movements such as The Scout association. A year after its creation, girls could also join in.

The DofE programme has been created in order to develop the potential of young people, by broading their mind and body and by encouraging them in their self esteem. The DofE also exists to create positive changes in young people’s lives and according to former participants, it is a memorable adventure, an experience full of discoveries and propitious for their future life as social citizens.

The challenge that the association offers consists of three different levels. The first two levels, the Bronze and the Silver levels, are based on four different types of activities (Volunteering, Physical, Skills and Expedition). At the third level, the Gold level, it exists a further one: Residential. Physical is the improvement of a sportive activity, Skills consists of the internal development of the participant and Expedition is the realisation of a journey in the world. The last criteria, Residential, involves a stay around the world to participate in a shared activity. When a level is completed, the young receives an Award, the Bronze, Silver or Gold Award, depending on the fulfilled level.

The two other things to do to achieve an Award are to complete an enrolment form and to pay a DofE participation fee. This rises to £14.000 for the Bronze and the Silver Awards and to £20.000 for the Gold Award. Participants have to show regular activity, at least one hour per week. They must complete their DofE level before their twenty-fifth birthday. Moreover, each section must be done for a minimum period of time and the participants must be assessed by someone who has knowledge or experience of that activity. It will take at least six months to complete the Bronze or the Silver level if the Bronze is already completed. To reach the Gold Award, it requires at least twelve months or if the participant didn’t achieve the Silver level, eighteen months.

The DofE is supported by many celebrities who attend the ceremonies and who help to increase the organisation’s popularity.

This programme, developed in the United-Kingdom, has also existed in other countries such as Australia, Canada or Jamaica. They adopt different names but the Awards Programme remains the same. Since its creation there have been around 275,000 participants taking part in the United-Kingdom’s DofE programmes and globally 850,000 participants in the 132 other countries offering such a youth association.

Page Three girls

Page Three girls are topless women who usually model on the Page Three in tabloids. The Sun is most of the time associated to this concept. However you can also find this kind of pictures in other papers, but the names attributed to the models diverge from one paper to another.


The first pictures of women on page three appeared in 1969 and coincided with the creation of The Sun, but the models still remained clothed. At that time, The Sun was run by Rupert Murdoch. In the course of time the photos became more and more suggestive. In 1970 on the occasion of the paper’s first birthday, the 20-year-old Stephanie Rahn became the first mannequin to take her top off. This issue obtained so much success that Larry Lamb, the new director, decided to maintain the tradition of topless women. The models gradually struck provocative poses, which caused a lot of controversies. Despite of this, the success of the page three of The Sun continued to increase and some other newspapers decided to imitate it, publishing their own erotic pictures. For several years, Page Three was often linked with

sports events. But in the 90’s, this connection was abandoned and a new rule was instituted, which prevented women with falsies from posing. It is also at the end of the nineties that a website devoted to Page Three was created. All the published pictures can be found on this site, as well as archives. Another novelty is the contest called “Page 3 Idol” which was initiated in 2002. It gives the opportunity to women over 18 to try their luck to have their photo published in The Sun, after a public vote.


Since its creation Page Three has often been seen as controversial mainly by the conservatives and the feminist groups. On one hand critics define it to be sexist and exploitative; on the other hand others regard the pictures as inappropriate for publication in a national newspaper. Page Three was so disparaged that certain editors of The Sun hesitated for a long time to keep the section in the newspaper. It became so important that politics was even involved in the debate. In 1986 Clare Short, Member of Parliament for Birmingham Ladywood, led a campaign in the House of Commons to have topless mannequin banned from all newspapers. The proposed bill failed and the campaign was unsuccessful. At one point The Sun provoked controversy by featuring topless girls only aged of 16. All these discussions about the age limit ended when the Sexual Offences Act 2003 determined the minimum age for topless modeling at 18.


Nowadays Page Three still remains central to the debate especially with the celebration of his fortieth anniversary in 2010. Some feminist groups assert that Page three reinforces the negative vision of the woman as a denigrated and sexual object. But a lot has changed since 1970 and women outperform men in various domains. Moreover some feminists argue that images of attractive women give an impression of perfection which can lead to an obsession with appearance among young women. Anyway Page Three remains as much a part of British culture as a cup of tea and this for a long time.

Van Morrison

Born on 31 August 1945 in Belfast, George Ivan Morrison (best known as Van Morrison or under the nicknames "Van the Man" and "The Belfast Cowboy") is a Northern-Irish singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist musician. Throughout his professional career, he has played a wide range of musical styles, including rock, blues, rhythm and blues, folk, jazz fusion, country and also Celtic music, hence the term "Celtic Soul" which has been given to define some of his music.

Van Morrison was raised in a working-class Protestant family, where he was exposed to early blues and jazz thanks to his father’s music collection. At the age of eleven, his father bought him his first acoustic guitar and then, at fourteen years old, he received a saxophone. Having taken up those two instruments and with the help of some lessons, he was soon able to start his career as a teenager by playing in several Irish showbands which covered the music hits of that time.

He first came up to the light in the mid-1960s with the rhythm and blues band Them and their single "Gloria", which became an instant classic. In 1967, he released as a solo artist a single called "Brown Eyed Girl", which was followed one year later by his first solo album, Astral Weeks. Although this album did not get good critics and was rather ignored at first, it gradually received critical acclaim and is now regarded as a classic masterpiece which has had a great influence on later music styles. His second album, Moondance, as well as his other works from the 1970’s were immediately well received and allowed him to establish himself as a major artist, who still continues to make records and go on tour nowadays.

Van Morrison distinguished himself from the other rock singers of his generation who were more regarded as simple entertainers whereas he was more of a dark and complex singer, inspired by the integrity of the old bluesmen and the willfulness of poets. An interesting anecdote might be that from 1972 onwards, he began to experience stage fright, making it more difficult for him to perform in front of bigger audiences: indeed, being usually under stress, he therefore tried as much as possible to avoid making eye contact with the audience. Regarding his writing style, Morrison was heavily influenced by English poets John Donne (metaphysical poetry), William Blake (romantic poetry) and Irish poet William Butler Yeats.

The many awards he received definitely confirm him as an icon of Irish and Anglo-Saxon culture. Indeed, he received six Grammy Awards, an induction to the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Irish Hall of Fame. More importantly, he was also decorated OBE, namely Officer of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

Live version of "Brown Eyed Girl" in 2006:

British Tea Culture

We cannot speak about British tea culture without starting with how tea became so popular in the UK. Tea was first introduced in Britain around the Stuart Restoration in 1660. At this moment Chinese tea appeared in London’s coffeehouses. At the beginning tea was only drunk by fashionable and rich people like Samuel Pepys. When it was first introduced into the court in 1662 thanks to Catherine of Braganza, tea started to spread rapidly into the rest of the court and into the bourgeoisie. In the 1660’s the first English factory to make tea was created. In the same period efforts have been made to imitate the Chinese porcelain bowls in which tea was drunk. More than two hundred years later, between 1872 and 1884, the prices of tea rose because the supply of tea spread in the empire. Fortunately thanks to new innovations in making tea, the prices became low again. London is nowadays the international center of tea. The increasing popularity of this drink is in parallel with the increasing demand in porcelain cups or bowls in which people drink tea.

What is typical about the UK is a tradition called “afternoon tea”. It was not until the 17thcentury that this concept first appeared. It is in 1840 that Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, introduced it in England. There is a story in which it has been told that the Duchess became hungry around four o’clock in the afternoon. The evening meal was served at eight o’clock, which was quite late and left a long period of time between lunch and dinner. As she was tired of being hungry, the Duchess asked for a tea tray, bread, butter and cake to be brought to her room during those late afternoons. She became used to it and she began inviting friends to join her. As time passes, this became a fashionable and social event and especially among upper-class women. During the 1880’s, they dressed very classy to go to their afternoon tea which was usually served in the dining room between four and five o’clock. That is how afternoon tea became a tradition. It consists of a selection of dainty sandwiches and includes the mythical thinly sliced cucumber sandwiches, scones served with clotted cream and cake and pastries. However, the tradition is no longer the same and is now considered by some as a sacrilege in the sense that it usually consists of a mug of tea and a teabag, with a biscuit or a small cake. A well-known example of cream tea is the Devonshire Cream Tea.

Now that drinking tea has become popular for everybody, some anecdotes and traditions have been created. We can therefore point out that 98% people drink their tea with milk, but only 30% of them take sugar in their tea; 96% of cups of tea drunk daily in the United Kingdom are brewed with tea bags; in the middle of the 18th century tea replaced ale and gin as the drink of the masses and it is recommended to drink four cups of tea a day.

Ascot Racecourse

Ascot Racecourse is by far the most important racecourse in the United Kingdom. It is located in the small town of Ascot, Berkshire, not far from Windsor Castle. There are 26 days of flat racing in spring and jump racing during the winter organised at Ascot, the highlight being Royal Ascot. Apart from racing, it hosts special events such as a cocktail party in July, a concert in August, a beer festival in September and fireworks in October. It has always been associated with the aristocracy and the Royal Family.

It was founded in 1711 by Queen Anne, so it celebrated its 300th anniversary this year. For the inaugural event on 11 August 1711, seven horses raced on three separate heats, each four miles long. Today the Queen Anne Stakes continues to be run in her memory. Several acts were passed in the course of the 19th and 20th century, making it a public racecourse and creating the Ascot Authority (the company that manages the racecourse). Ascot racecourse was closed in 2004 for renovation, and re-opened 20 months later. The costs of the redevelopment reached £200 million. But it was criticised on the ground that it gave too much space for restaurants and other facilities and not enough for patrons to watch the racing. Therefore new renovations were carried out in 2006, improving the view from lower levels of the grandstand. The renovations cost £10 million.

When going to Ascot, races can be watched while standing on the different platforms or the grandstand. In addition, the facility has more than 300 meeting rooms which can be booked. The most conventional and practical one is the Ascot Pavilion which can be divided into three rooms and accommodate 100 to 1100 people. There are other rooms like the Ascot Exhibition Hall and the Queen Anne Building but the most popular is the Royal Ascot Racing Club. On non-race days it can be hired out as a private facility. There are, of course, several restaurants but the Parade Ring Restaurant is the most exquisite one.

The most prestigious event is definitely the Royal Ascot held for five days in June. It dates back to 1711 and is a centrepiece of the British social calendar. It is said to be the ultimate stage of the best racehorses in the world. Every year Royal Ascot is attended by the Queen herself and the members of the Royal Family. Every day they arrive in a horse-drawn carriage with the Royal procession taking place on the racecourse itself. There are three enclosures attended by guests on Royal Ascot week. First-time applicants can gain membership by applying to the Royal Enclosure office. They then receive a badge which can only be used by that person.

Ascot Racecourse is known for its dress code and extravagant hats. On the 300th anniversary eccentric artistic creations for hats and dresses were worn by visitors. On the other hand, especially in the Royal Enclosure, the dress code is very strict. The women need to wear a day dress of appropriate length adding a hat or a fascinator. Men wear a black or grey morning dress with top hat.

Ascot Racecourse is an important part of British culture with a long history. It is associated with quality, excellence and is considered a memorable day out; an event that no Briton can ignore.

Kangaroo: an Australian icon

The kangaroos are marsupials which belong to same family as the koalas. They are mainly present in Australia. Kangaroos are particular animals, especially because of their way of walking: they hop and their tail permits them to balance their body. Thanks to this feature, they are able to reach the speed of 55km/h and the high of 3 meters. Kangaroos are used to be found in desert and grass lands. It provides them protection and security: the aridity of the Australian landscape protects them from predators.

Unfortunately, their main threat was, and still is, the human beings, by destroying their natural habitat and polluting their biotope. One of the main dangers is the road traffic that prevents them to cross the roads safely. Furthermore, lots of kangaroos, which are nocturnal, are often hit by cars during the night, and killed. When they feel threatened or when they are afraid, they might sometimes attack the car occupants, to protect themselves. Other factors also cause the kangaroos’ decreasing: in period of drought, they take refuge in farms to find food, where they get killed by the inhabitants. Considering that the kangaroos are herbivorous, humans destroy them to keep the grass free for cattle (as sheep or cows). Kangaroo’s meat is also very popular and enjoyed by millions of people around the world.

The Australian society for Kangaroos demands a greater protection for kangaroos because their number is decreasing and they are almost extinct. Their urgent request is a response to the huge industrialized commercialization of kangaroo meat.

It is not a chance that the Kangaroo is a part of the Australian culture and a symbol of the country. Actually, Australia is the main place where kangaroos grow and live. The first image people get when they think about Australia is the one with the cute kangaroo. Moreover, the kangaroo is represented in Australia in many ways: mascots for sporting teams, logos for airline companies, and most of the Australian brands use the kangaroo as a national symbol. In addition, there are lots of films, television programs, toys, and souvenirs that are in effigy of the kangaroo, which strengthen the symbolization of the animal.

From a historical viewpoint, kangaroos have been the source of the survival of Australia’s Indigenous peoples. The Aboriginals used to hunt the marsupials, ate their meat and used their skin to make clothes.
Another reason why the kangaroo is a typical icon of the Australian culture is that they attract millions of people in Australia. Indeed, tourists are coming in the country to meet this cute and loving animal, even if kangaroos are shy and try to keep away from humans.

To conclude, while this cute animal is often the victim of human activity that affects its environment, the kangaroo does not really influence the human way of living. They rather live separately from people and do not attack them, except if they feel threatened. The kangaroo is actually said to be lovely... this animal is indigenous to Australia and is known all around the world. It constitutes the greatest icon of Australia, and to some extent, of the Australian culture.

Kate Bush

Early life

Catherine Bush was born in 1958 in Bexleyheath (Kent). Since her early age, she has been immersed in an artistic background; her mother was an Irish folk dancer and her father a highly talented pianist. Therefore, she began writing her own tunes and eventually added lyrics to them.


At 15 years old, Kate got in touch with David Gilmour (Pink Floyd’s lead guitarist) thanks to Ricky Hopper, a family friend. It enabled her to record her first demo. She signed to EMI Records one year later, but only began her career in 1977. In January 1978, her first song, Wuthering Heights came out, based on the novel of the same name, written by Emily Brontë. Catherine Earnshaw, the main female character in the book, is quoted several times in the song and especially in the chorus. It climbed to number one on the British charts and was part of her first album The Kick Inside.

Her first song opened the way to her future career, a number of literary references can actually be found in her work (e.g.: references to James Joyce, (Lord) Alfred Tennyson…).

Shortly afterwards, Lionheart, Kate’s second album was released. However, she was not satisfied with it, because she needed more time to work on it. She decided thus, to set up her own publishing company, Kate Bush Music, and her own management company, Novercia. This way she became more autonomous. She still had obligations towards EMI Records and had to go on tour in 1979, the only one of her career, The Tour Of Life.

In 1980, her single Babooshka became the first Top Five single since Wuthering Heights, whereas her third album Never For Ever was number one in the British Charts.

Her fourth album, The Dreaming, was also successful, but the single There Goes a Tenner was a failure. Fortunately in 1985, Running Up That Hill (song of her fifth album Hounds of Love), got Bush back on her feet, being the second biggest-selling single.

In 1987, The Whole Story shows the changes in her sound and her development as a writer and performer. This album is a compilation of her greatest hits.

The same year, she was elected “Best British Female Artist” at the BRIT Awards in London.

In 1989, The Sensual World was a success both in the UK and the US.

The Red Shoes is her next album (1993). In the meantime, she became a mother and retreated in her countryside home, so that she produced albums more sporadically. Her last albums are: Aerial (2005), The Director’s Cut, a collection of 11 remakes taken from The Sensual World and The Red Shoes, and, finally, 50 Words for Snow (2011).

British Icon

Kate Bush is a British icon for two reasons. Firstly, she is known for her keening vocals and unusually literate body of songs. Another reason is her absence from concert stage and the extended periods between albums. These two reasons resulted in Bush becoming one of the more enigmatic pop artists in England.

For more information about Kate Bush, surf on her official website.

Marie-Jeanne Bleuzet & Olivia Nisolle

Dolly Parton
From bubblegum pop singer to Queen of Country Music

Dolly Parton is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, actress, author and philanthropist. During her impressively successful career, she has accumulated two Oscar nominations, eight Grammy Awards (45 nominations), 42 Top Ten country music albums and more than 100 chart singles.

Born on 19 January 1946 in Sevierville (Tennessee) in a dirt-poor family, Dolly Rebecca Parton went on to become one of the most famous country music singers of all time. She grew up in a one-room run-down shack as one of 12 children. Her difficult childhood experiences are reflected in some of her earliest lyrics (e.g. “Coat of Many Colors”). Dolly began performing at the age of 12 on several local television and radio programs, among which the Grand Ole Opry.

After having graduated in 1964, Dolly moved to Nashville where she first became successful as a songwriter. In 1966 she married Carl Dean, who worked for an asphalt road-surface-paving business in Nashville. He is very reclusive and has only seen her perform live once in the 45 years they have been together.

In 1967, Parton recorded her first album “Hello, I’m Dolly”, containing two singles which reached the top 25 on the country music charts. Her singing was noticed by Porter Wagoner, who hired her as a regular on “The Porter Wagoner Show”. Their duets became famous, but Dolly’s success eventually overshadowed his. Her song “I Will Always Love You” talks about her professional break from Wagoner in 1974.

After getting mixed reviews for her first self-produced album “New Harvest…First Gathering” in 1977, Dolly turned to pop producer Gary Klein for “Here You Come Again” which earned her a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. The singer continued her string of number one hits with the Academy Award-winning “Nine to Five” which became the theme song of the film of the same name in which she starred alongside Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.

In 1987, along with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, she released the critically acclaimed album Trio. That same year, Dolly was introduced into the Country Music Hall of Fame. She also recorded a series of bluegrass albums, starting with “The Grass Is Blue” (1999).

With “Travelin’Thru”, written for the film “Transamerica” in 2005, she earned her second Academy Award nomination. However, Dolly also received death threats because of her complete acceptance of a transgender woman in the song.

Her latest and 43rd country-music album, “Better day”, was released in June 2011. In addition to that, Dolly stars with Queen Latifah in the film “Joyful Noise”, which is set to come out in 2012.

Parton, dubbed The Queen of Country Music, has also branched out into business and entertainment with, for example, her theme park “Dollywood”. She also runs “Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library”, her own literacy programme, which gives out more than 2.5 million books to children per year.

Besides her success in music and film and her philanthropic efforts, she is best-known for her recourse to plastic surgery and her wigs. Dolly herself once said: “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap.”

Dolly Parton is one of the most honoured female country music artists of all

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach, which is the name of the beach as well as the surrounding suburb, is one of the best known beaches in the world. Located in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, in Australia, it is about one kilometre long and situated at only seven kilometres from the city centre. The beach is as much a symbol of Australia as the kangaroo. It symbolizes the Australian lifestyle, where leisure time is as important as work and where they manage to combine both. It was added to the Australian National Heritage List in 2008. It has a total population of over 10,000 inhabitants, among which only forty percent are Australians.

The beach is a popular destination in the summer, but also in the colder months of winter, when it still attracts lots of surfers, as well as people who want to enjoy a nice walk in the sand. On a typical summer weekend, it is visited by more than 40,000 tourists.

Its name comes from the Aboriginal word "Boondi", which means “noise of water breaking over rocks”. For a long time, Bondi Beach was not considered by the authorities as a potential investment. It was seen as nothing more than a huge sand dune, too far away from the Sydney Central Business District. It is only in 1855 that Francis O’Brien, owner of the Bondi Estate, tried to obtain official permissions to make it available as a public picnic ground. However, bathing was not authorised until 1906.

Since it is accessible for the public, the beach has been synonymous with surf. Opened in 1906, the Bondi Surf Bathers' Life Saving Club is the world's oldest surf club. It was created, as its name suggests, to save lives. It quickly developed special techniques that are now used by the whole world. It is globally known since a terrible accident which happened on 6th February 1938. After a series of large waves, the club members saved 300 people in 24 hours. Only 5 people died. The day is known as ‘Black Sunday’.

The beach is in fact bordered by two headlands. The southern side is reserved for surfboard riding because of its famous strong rip current, which has been rated 7 on a 10-scale. On the northern side, which is calmer, yellow and red flags define the areas which are safe for swimming.

The suburb contains an important commercial area and is full of activities available whenever you wish, during the day but also at night. You can find an indefinite number of restaurants, cafés and snacks. Because of its iconic status and the many tourists it attracts, there are hotels to be found in every price range. The most important building in the suburb is the Bondi Pavilion, a community cultural centre which contains a theatre, an exhibition gallery, studios, rehearsal and meeting rooms, etc. This explains why it is the centre for major festival performances during the whole year.

One of the major events of the year is the City to Surf race, which is held each year in August and attracts more than 60,000 participants. They have to complete a 14 kilometre run from the centre of Sidney to Bondi Beach. In addition to many other activities, such as the Flickerfest, a short film festival, the beach’s market is open every Sunday.