The Most “Mind Boggling” Crop Circle
THE MOST COMPLEX crop circle ever found in British fields emerged this summer in a barley field at Barbury Castle near Wroughton. Called “a creation stunning in its ingenuity,” the pattern is a coded message—a pictorial depiction of the value of pi expressed to 10 digits.
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Retired astrophysicist Mike Reed is credited with figuring out the puzzle. “The little dot near the center is the decimal point,” he explains. “The code is based on 10 angular segments, with the radial jumps being the indicator of each segment.” The three larger circles on the edge represent an ellipsis indicating that pi’s absolute value extends toward an unknown infinity. This one’s a real chin-dropper for crop circle researchers.
Clarence House, London
Silver Anniversary for Prince’s Trust
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A CONFERENCE hosted by the Prince of Wales marked the 25th anniversary of the Prince’s Trust this past spring. Since 1983 the trust’s principal program has been providing low-interest start-up business loans to young adults between 18-30 who could not secure financing for their ventures from traditional lending sources. The silver jubilee commemorations include workshops conducted by successful business leaders who owe their own career beginnings to funding and mentoring by the trust. “There is a need to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs,” summarized Prince Charles.
And Just in Passing
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POWYS MARKET TOWN WINS DUBIOUS DISTINCTION
BBC Radio 4 has named the small town of Rhayader, gateway to the Elan Valley, as the town with the most pubs per person in Britain. With a population of 2,075, Rhayader has 12 pubs—one for every 173 people. The pub proliferation dates from the 1890s, when Birmingham acquired the Elan Valley as a water supply and imported 1,000 temporary workers to build dams and reservoirs. Clearly, residents don’t have to rely on drinking the water.
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RARE PORTRAIT DISCOVERED AT BOUGHTON HOUSE
A mid-1600s copy of an original panel painting of a young princess Elizabeth with her siblings Edward and Mary and their father Henry VIII was recently discovered by accident in the Duke of Buccleuch’s home in Northamptonshire. Only two other portraits of Queen Elizabeth I before her accession are known to exist—one at Hampton Court and the other at Windsor Castle.
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REVIVING THE CORNISH LANGUAGE
The Cornish language effectively died out in the 1800s. As it happens, however, there were four different versions of the Celtic tongue. After a two-year discussion, the Cornish Language Partnership has agreed on a single standard written form, hoping to pave the way to a revival of the language—presently used by about 300 Cornish speakers.
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MARMALADE-LOVING URSINE TURNS 50
With floppy hat and battered suitcase, Michael Bond’s Bear Called Paddington arrived on the scene in 1958. To mark Paddington Bear’s golden anniversary, Bond, 83, has published new adventures of the loveable, always optimistic bear for the first time in almost 30 years. Paddington Here and Now is the 12th book in the popular children’s series.
Liverpool Street, London
Last Orders for the Underground
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TRUE TO HIS WORD, new London Mayor Boris Johnson banned open containers of alcohol and public drinking on the Tube, London buses and the Dockland’s Light Railway from midnight June 1. Accordingly, a party to commemorate the last night of public drinking was widely advertised on social networking Internet sites. What was billed as the “Last Round on the Underground,” however, degenerated into mayhem as thousands of celebrants enjoyed several more than one round reveling around the Circle Line.
As the evening wore on, British Transport Police closed Liverpool Street station to ease overcrowding, and subsequently five other stations including Baker Street and Gloucester Road. Four Tube drivers, two police officers and at least 50 London Transport staff were assaulted in the course of the evening. Police made 17 arrests for sundry public order-related offenses, and several trains were damaged enough to be withdrawn from service.
Mayor Johnson introduced the alcohol ban in order to make public transport safer and more pleasant.
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THE LARGEST UNEXPLODED World War II bomb found in London in 30 years was uncovered this June near the Bromley-by-Bow Underground station. Construction workers uncovered the 2,000-pound bomb during preparatory work for construction of the 2012 Olympic village.
Lying on a gas main only 50 yards from East London’s principal sewage pumping station, the device had been dormant for more than 60 years. It took army experts several days of painstaking operations to defuse the sensitive bomb, which started ticking when it was disturbed. Meanwhile, a 200-yard exclusion zone was created. Several Underground stations were closed and two lines suspended, generating havoc for thousands of commuters.
Settling a 17th-Century Score
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WHEN KING CHARLES II was preparing for the Battle of Worcester in 1651, he had the Clothiers Company of Worcester make uniforms for his soldiers and promised to pay the debt after the battle. As it happened, Charles was beaten badly and scuppered off to France, and the tab, unsurprisingly, was never settled. The 13th-century Clothiers Company, one of the last of the medieval craft guilds, had kept the debt on its books ever since.
The bill has now been paid, however. On a recent visit to Worcester, Prince Charles made the princely payment of £453, 3 shillings, to Andrew Grant, master of the Clothiers Company, during a brief ceremony at the Commandery—royalist headquarters for the famous battle. The payment was handed over in a 1650s-style purse made by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Prince Charles insisted he was happy to pay the debt as a gesture of good will, but declined to include interest that would have brought the total to something Andrew Grant of the Clothiers guild receives the late payment in cash. like $94,000.
Subsidizing the Village Pub
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THE VILLAGE PUB is on politicians’ minds these days. An All Party Parliamentary Beer Group has finished a two-year inquiry into the state of the local pub. Village pubs across England and Wales have been closing at an alarming rate. There were 1,400 pub closures last year—a rate of 27 a week. Inexpensive “supermarket” alcohol and the smoking ban are cited as leading reasons for the pub’s decline.
The Beer Group report, however, realizes the social value of pubs as a center of village life: “We want the government to recognize the value of pubs and the work they do in the community.” The pub industry itself is lobbying for industry tax breaks. The government may actually go further than that, however. The BBC reports it may well provide assistance in cases where pubs offer evidence of their importance to community life.
And Just in Passing
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IS THE RED PHONE BOX FACING EXTINCTION?
Public telephone boxes may be rapidly disappearing from the landscape, rendered obsolete by the proliferation of mobile phones. British Telecom plans to eliminate 14,000 phone boxes, claiming some of them go weeks at a time without being used.
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EDINBURGH BAGPIPERS HOLDING THEIR BREATHBusking musicians are a staple of street life in London and Edinburgh. Bagpipers on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, however, have been told to pipe down. Police say they receive up to 100 calls a day from annoyed residents who have tired of listening to the skirl of the pipes sometimes from 8 a.m. until well into the evening.
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SALISBURY CATHEDRAL IN FESTIVE MODE
Special events are scheduled throughout the year at Salisbury Cathedral, celebrating the 750th anniversary of the completed cathedral’s dedication in 1258. Among the most colorful was June’s five-day Festival of Flowers, which filled the 13th-century church with vivid arrangements of seasonal blooms.
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PICKING UP THE MONARCHY’S TAB
Over the last fiscal year, the Queen and Royal Family have cost British taxpayers £40 million. Funds for the Queen’s function as head of state, palace maintenance, official royal travel and the Queen’s civil list amount to 66p per person in the UK. The largest single expense last year? The Queen’s state visit to America to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, Va.
Shopping for Roman Fashionistas
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ARCHAEOLOGISTS have uncovered a 1,800-year-old row of shops in South Wales fields. A team of 50 archaeologists excavating the 44-acre site has uncovered what is being described as “one of the best preserved Roman towns in the UK.” Now the rural village of Caerwent, about five miles west of Chepstow, in Roman times the place was known as Venta Silurum. Back then, it was a fashionable and affluent town.
Researchers have found long narrow buildings in several places, believed to have been shops lining the town’s commercial High Street. Ceramics, animal bones, coins, glass and lead patches are among the artifacts thus far recovered. The discoveries at Caerwent have been so well preserved largely because, unlike other similar Roman communities, Venta Silurum did not have later towns built on top of it.
Britain’s Biggest-Ever Carriers Coming
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THE MINISTRY OF DEFENSE has signed contracts to build the two largest aircraft carriers in UK history. The two ships, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, will each be 920 feet long and capable of carrying 40 aircraft, with a flight deck the size of three football pitches. Though the plans are not without controversy, “the two aircraft carriers will provide our forces with the world-class capabilities they will need over the coming decades,” summarized Defense Secretary Des Brown. “They will allow us to project force, but they will also allow us to make a contribution to the protection of the sea lanes of the world, because as a trading nation we rely on those being secure.”
The tab to the taxpayers will be almost £4 billion, but the project will provide some 10,000 jobs over the next six to eight years, largely at shipyards in Glasgow, Rosyth, Portsmouth and Barrow-in Furness. Shipyard and union officials are celebrating the news.
Jurassic Coast, Dorset
A Whole Dinosaur Pieced Together
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IT IS THE MOST complete dinosaur skeleton ever found in Britain. Professional fossil hunters spent five years painstakingly extracting the 195-million-year-old scelidosaurus piece by piece from the cliffs near Lyme Regis. Geologists have spent the past two years lining up the bones and reconstructing the 13-foot-long, vegetable-eating reptile. The dinosaur was so well preserved—spines, horns, teeth and all—that it is possible to see the creature’s last meal lodged in its throat.
Instead of being scooped into a national collection, the rare scelidosaurus has been put on display at the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery.
Windsor, Royal Berkshire
Newest of the Order of the Garter
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PRINCE WILLIAM was made a Knight of the Garter in the annual Garter Day ceremony at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. He was officially appointed by the Queen to join the ranks of the world’s oldest order of chivalry—first established by King Edward III in 1348. William joins Prince Philip, his father, the Princess Royal, the Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex as a Royal Knight Companion, recognizing his seniority within the royal family. Wearing the traditional blue velvet cape and black velvet hat with white ostrich plumes, Prince William became the 1,000th Knight in the Garter’s Registry since the order’s medieval beginnings.
And Just in Passing
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WINGS ACROSS THE SEA
As part of their first North American tour, the RAF’s famed aerobatic team, the Red Arrows, put on a dazzling display over midtown Manhattan in June. The nine Hawk jets flew in perfect formation past the Empire State Building and buzzed the Statue of Liberty. Meanwhile, back home, many of their engagements have had to be canceled this year—because of the cost of jet fuel.
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BRITAIN’S MOST POPULAR ATTRACTION
Easily surpassing runners-up Blackpool and the Tate Modern, the British Museum has become the country’s most popular cultural attraction. Over the last year, the Bloomsbury museum has logged more than 6 million visitors. Officials judge that what put it over the top was the Terracotta Army exhibition, which proved the most popular exhibit since Tutankhamen more than 30 years ago.