Which Country Have I Just Arrived From?

I have just returned to the USA from a trip home to Manchester, now this is where my dilemma starts – is it Manchester – United Kingdom, Manchester – Great Britain, Manchester – England, or even Manchester – British Isles ?????? So I had to do some investigation to find out the origins of these different names for the same country, (plus it will help me next time l fill in my U.S. Customs form as l am never sure what to show in the box “Which country have you visited?”).

Let’s start with Great Britain, this is the term used for the island containing the nations of England, Scotland and Wales (Not Northern Ireland). Great Britain and not just Britain was officially used after King James I, who was also King James VI of Scotland, acceded to the throne of England and Wales in 1603, calling himself the King of Great Britain using the term so it is distinguished from Brittany in France. If you add England, Scotland, Wales and the province of Northern Ireland, then the correct official term changes to “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”, or simply the United Kingdom. The use of the United Kingdom came into being in 1801 following the Irish Union with the rest of England, Scotland and Wales.

OK so that’s Great Britain and the United Kingdom dealt with, and the some fun facts about the individual countries will be shown later, so what about the term – The British Isles? This is a term used more loosely to describe the main island of Great Britain together with its associated islands (The Channel Islands and The Isle of Man). It has no legal significance. Speaking of the islands, did you know that the United Kingdom does not include the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands! These are direct dependencies of the British Crown, maintaining their own legislative, monetary and taxation systems. And the Isle of Man is not a member of the European Union (the Channel Islands are)…… The Isle of Man maintains free-trade agreements with the EU, but is not a member.

So have I answered my own question as to what term I used on my US Immigration form when returning into the USA from Manchester – well l can use either Great Britain or the United Kingdom (I Think??).

POLITICS Passport 1

This past year really highlighted the UK in the eyes of the world with the hosting of the 2012 Olympics, it seemed to fuel everyone’s obsession with everything British, whether it was rock music, Harry Potter, the Royal Family, tea, football (Not soccer), or simply the lovely British accent. So here are some fun facts about the four countries that make up the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”:

There is nowhere in England that is more than 75 miles from the sea.
Did you know that chickens outnumber humans in England.
Windsor Castle is the largest royal home in the world.
London was the first city in the world to have an underground subway system.
William the Conqueror, who ruled England from 1066 to 1087, ordered everyone to be in their beds by 8pm.
Also from the start of his reign in 1066 until 1362, the official language of England was French!
There are over 35,000 people with the name John Smith in England.
The first fish and chip shop in England was opened by a Jewish immigrant in 1860.
You can fit 74 England’s into the Unites States of America.
Established in 1902, Ealing Studios in West London are the oldest continuously working film studios in the world.


Image of London

Northern Ireland
The best-known delicacy of Northern Ireland is the “Ulster Fry” which is full of high cholesterol items such as bacon, egg, sausage mushrooms, fried tomato, baked beans, black pudding and potato bread.
Although English is the most popular language in Northern Ireland, the Irish and Ulster Scots language are still prevalent in several pockets of the region. Interestingly, Chinese is the most widely spoken minority language in Northern Ireland!
The unfortunate ocean liner “Titanic” was built and launched from Belfast Harbor in Northern Ireland.
Almost 46% of the total population of Northern Ireland is under 30 years old.
A potato in Northern Ireland is called a “Pruttie”, a child is called a “wean”, and in a Belfast accent , Northern Ireland is pronounced Norn Iron….
Lough Neagh, at 151 square miles, is the largest freshwater lake in Northern Ireland, and in the United Kingdom.
The Giant’s Causeway is one of Northern Ireland most visited tourist attractions, It consists of over 40,000 unusual basalt columns, Irish folk lore says they were put there by the giant Finn McCool. Actually they are the result of volcanic activity.


Image of Belfast

Scotland has three officially recognized languages: English, Scots and Scottish Gaelic. In Gaelic, Scotland is called “Alba”.
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland, though Edinburgh is its capital.
Some of Scotland’s most famous inventions: The TV, Telephone, Tyres, Penicillin, Tarmacadam, and the Waterproof Raincoat..
Scotland’s highest point, (also the highest in the whole of the UK) is Ben Nevis at 1,343 meters.
Scotland is well known all over the world for Whisky. It is very important to distinguish whisky from “Whiskey”. Which is made in the USA and Ireland.
As well as mainland Scotland, there are 787 islands off its coast..
The Bank of Scotland was founded in 1695, and is the oldest surviving bank in the UK. It was also the first bank in Europe to print its own banknotes.


Image of Edinburgh

Officially the Welsh and English language have equal status in Wales, and all signs are bilingual in both Welsh and English. According to the last census taken – over 20% of the population are fluent in Welsh.
March 1st in Wales is St David’s Day, the patron saint of Wales. It is celebrated by wearing a leek or daffodil. A Welsh tradition says that the person who saw the first flowering daffodil of Spring would be blessed with more gold than silver during the coming year.
Wales has the youngest Capital city in Europe – Cardiff. It was pronounced as the capital in 1955, before this there was no capital, Wales was just a Principality of Europe.
Wales in the Welsh language is “Cymru”, and the letters K, Q, V and Z do not appear in the Welsh language.
Mount Everest was named after Welshman Sir George Everest..
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch is the name of a town in North Wales which translates as “The church of St. Mary in the hollow of white hazel trees near the rapid whirlpool by St. Tysilio’s of the red cave”. It is believed to be the longest place name in the world.
The population of sheep in Wales is four times greater than the Welsh population of humans.


Image of Cardiff

So there you have it, the origins of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”, and some fun facts about each of the four countries within it. Have to be honest, will still ponder what to write on my next immigration form, when entering the USA from England/Great Britain/ United Kingdom………etc, etc.

Immigration 2

Immigration Reform – Senate’s Proposal

by Florida Board Certified Immigration Attorney Kashmira Bhavsar


On April 16, 2013, eight U.S. Senators (including Senators Charles Schumer, John McCain, Dick Durbin, Lindsey Graham, Robert Menendez, Michael Bennet, Jeff Flake, and Florida’s own Marco Rubio), now known as the “Gang of Eight” introduced a comprehensive immigration bill called “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013.”  The bill is more than 850 pages and covers a slew of proposed immigration legislation.  It covers issues relating to the estimated 10-12 million undocumented individuals residing in the United States, as well as, revising the current immigration laws to address the unreasonable backlogs for family and employment-based immigrants, shortages of skilled and unskilled workers, and border security.


It is important to understand that this bill (briefly described in this article) is NOT law; it is simply a PROPOSAL of new law.  In the United States, for an idea to become law, it is first proposed by Congress (either the House of Representatives or the Senate), approved by both, and then sent to the President to sign.  In the present scenario, the Senate introduced the bill.  Thus, members of the Senate will likely take the next few weeks/months to review the details of the bill, discuss it, debate it, revise it and eventually be put up for vote on the Senate floor to pass.  If approved by the majority of Senators, the bill will then be sent to the members of the House of Representatives  to go through many of the same steps described on the Senate side.  If the majority of House of Representatives also approve the bill, it will finally be sent to the President to approve.  Only after passing all three of these government processes, will the bill become law.


As mentioned above, the bill introduced by the “Gang of Eight” is extensive.  Below is a brief summary of some of these proposals:

  •         Security:  In order to better protect our borders, provide funding for 3,500 additional Customs and Border Protection agents nationwide as well as provide funding to construct further fencing around U.S. border states.


  •         Unlawful Population:  Provide individuals in unlawful status to apply to adjust their status to a newly created legal status called “Registered Provisional Immigrant” (RPI).  The bill provides for individuals residing in the U.S. prior to December 31, 2011 and currently unlawful.  They would be required to pay a filing fee, a penalty fee, and back taxes.  Spouses and children can be included if in the United States.  Individuals will have to remain in RPI status for 10 years prior to being eligible for Lawful Permanent Resident (i.e. a green card) but they will be permitted to work and travel outside the U.S. during this time.  Individuals with certain criminal convictions will not be eligible.


  •         Eliminate backlog in family-based cases: The bill eliminates the backlog for family-based immigrants by re-configuring the entire process.  Currently, there are four preference categories in family-based cases.  The bill revises it to two categories to include unmarried adult children and married adult children who file before age 31.  The bill eliminates the ability to file for a brother or sister and eliminates the Diversity Visa Program.   The bill however would treat the spouse and minor child of a lawful permanent resident similar to that of a U.S. citizen by amending the “immediate relative” category to include same.  Finally, the bill revises the married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens to include only sons and daughters who are under 31 years of age.


  •         Eliminate backlog in employment-based cases: The bill eliminates the backlog for employment-based immigrants by re-configuring the manner in which individuals are counted towards the annual caps.  Currently, the law requires each person obtaining residency to be counted towards the annual numerical limits on employment-based immigrants including the principal worker and each member of his/her family.  The bill exempts derivative beneficiaries (i.e. the family) to be counted, aliens of extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, multinational executives and managers, doctoral degree holders in any field; and certain physicians.  Between these exemptions and new allocations of the visas available, the backlog in employment-based cases shall drastically be improved.  This is vital to individuals from India and China, who currently must wait decades for residency.


  •         Increase H-1Bs: The bill would raise the annual cap of H-1Bs from 65,000 to 110,000 immediately and provides various avenues in the future to address further shortages by increasing the cap further.  However, the bill also requires new advertisement requirements and requires further restraints on H-1B dependent employers.


  •         Creation of an Entrepreneur Visa: The bill creates a startup visa for foreign entrepreneurs who wish to emigrate to the United States to startup their own companies.  This would encourage foreigners to invest in the U.S. versus abroad.


  •         Creation of a Point-Based System for Green Cards: Similar to the Canadian system, the bill creates a merit-based visa in the fifth year after the law is enacted, awarding points to individuals based on their education, employment, length of residence in the U.S. and other considerations.

<               Those individuals with the most points earn visas towards Lawful Permanent Residency. Less than one point of this merit-based system the Secretary will allocate merit-based immigrant visas beginning October 01, 2014 for employment based visas that have been pending for three years, family-based petitions that were filed prior to enactment and have been pending for five years, long-term alien workers and other merit based immigrant workers. Reform relating to E-2 visa holders will likely be included here.


  •         W-Visa: The bill creates a new non-immigrant visa called a W-Visa for lower-skilled positions.  It allows an individual with a foreign residence to temporarily work in the U.S. for registered employers in the program.


  •         E-Verify:   All employers will be required to use the E-Verify system over a five-year phase-in period.  This expands the use of an existing internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the U.S.


  •         Creation of a Retiree Visa: The bill creates a new non-immigrant visa for those individuals who are at least 55 years old, have health insurance, do not seek to work in the U.S. and purchase a home in excess of $500,000.
  •         DREAM Act: The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (or the DREAM Act), will no longer just give “temporary relief.” It will give those in such status the opportunity to obtain their green cards in 5 years and be eligible for citizenship immediately upon residency.


As explained above, many of the proposals in the bill can be removed or revised throughout the process of debate.  This is why it is absolutely vital to reach out to your Congressman and express your opinion on the proposed laws.  Without the support and demand of the public, immigration reform will not occur.   Your one voice does count.  Visit my website at and learn who your elective officials are.  You may find the  “Write to Congress” link by scrolling down to the end of the home page.  You will need to type in your zip code to receive contact information for the President, your two Senators, and your Representative’s information is listed.  All you need to do now is call, email, or write to them!


Attorney Kashmira Bhavsar is one of only sixty Board Certified Immigration Attorneys in the State of Florida.  She can be reached at (407) 425-1202 or visit


TFS 7- Joshua's article

A British Houseguest’s Guide to the American Home


Brits that first arrive in the U.S. often have a false sense of security. Not only do we all speak the same language (ha!), but the houses are pretty similar too. Well, a word of warning fellow Brits — it all looks very familiar — until you attempt to do anything.

First off, many homes have air conditioning, which comes with its own set of unspoken rules. Resist the urge to throw the doors and windows open at the first hint of heat; American air conditioning (called A/C rather than air-con, btw) will be one step ahead of you and in full throttle. Opening a window is therefore akin to leaving the fridge door open and will be met with variations of “What? Are we trying to cool down the whole neighborhood?” The question “Do you want the A/C turned down?” actually means, “Do you want this room to be even colder than it is?” since turning A/C down refers to the temp rather than the ferocity. When you wake up in the middle of the night, with chattering teeth and an ice-cream headache, resist the temptation to turn the A/C off. The room will become Hades Revisited in the blink of an eye and the A/C then has to work even harder to cool it back down.

Homes in the States often have screens on doors and windows and I have to say, nothing beats British visitors and screen doors for pure entertainment. The tendency is to forget about them and bounce straight off when trying to enter a house; one poor guest hit my screen door so hard he grazed the end of his nose and bore the scars for a week. Just a note though, as a guest, one surefire way to drive your American hosts crazy is to leave the screen doors open.

And if you want to drive yourself crazy, try switching off a ceiling fan/central light combo when you go to bed. Basically, the fan can be controlled by the regular switch on the wall or by a chain hanging from the fixture itself. The lights above or below the fan are also controlled this way, and often by an additional switch elsewhere in the room — next to the bed, for example. You have more chance of winning the lottery than of both light and fan simultaneously coming on when you first hit the wall switch, and thus begins the dance.

Usually the fan goes on, but not the light, which means you have to walk to the center of the room and pull one of the chains; the chain you pull will turn the fan off, but you won’t notice till you’re back at the wall switch and the blades have begun to slow down. Now you can’t remember which chain you pulled so you go back and pull a few at random. Something activates the light, so now you have a light on but no fan and you’re not quite sure which chain you pulled to turn the light on. (It often helps to have a two-man team at this point — one at the wall and one pulling the chains.)

Incidentally, some homeowners also use their ceiling fans in the winter to push warmer air back down into the room (the blades should move in a counter-clockwise direction in summer and clockwise in winter).

Many kitchen sinks contain a handy dandy waste disposal, down which you can throw all your food waste and prevent it stinking up the kitchen. Make sure to check that it actually is a waste disposal before you do this, as some sinks have large plugholes masquerading as disposals. Not everything can be tossed down there, mind you! The main thing to remember is to run cold water when disposing of food, and keep it on for 30 to 60 seconds after you’ve finished. Without wishing to state the obvious, never put your hand down there until it’s switched off and the (very sharp) blades have come to a complete stop. Also, if you hear an odd, clanging noise coming from the depths of the disposal, switch it off immediately — they tend not to like forks and other hard objects getting in there.

Oh, and the banging noise coming from the kitchen in the dead of night? Probably the ice-maker in the fridge.

Originally produced for Virgin Atlantic and BBC America’s blog,

10 Things Brits Say… And What Americans Think We Mean


We may have invented the English language but that doesn’t mean our version is always understood by those who share our mother tongue.

1. What we say: “Sorry”
What Americans hear: “I sincerely apologize.”
Saying sorry is like a national tic, which means we Brits rarely use the word to convey a heartfelt apology. This is baffling to Americans who will, on occasion, reply with something like, “Why, exactly, are you sorry?” “I’m not,” you’ll say, confused. “Sorry.”

2. What we say: “How do you do?”
What Americans hear: “Please provide a rundown of your most recent medical.”
Despite how it sounds, this is a formal greeting and not an invitation for commentary on a person’s quality of life. But Americans sometimes take it literally and have no problem replying truthfully, with a list of ailments.

3. What we say: “Cheers”
What Americans hear: “To your good health”
In the US, this is what people say when they clink glasses in the pub. We do this too but Brits have other uses for this word, all of which will flummox your American friends. Like when we say “cheers” instead of “thank you.” Signing off a phone call or an email this way will leave US folk wondering why you’re toasting them.

4. What we say: “You know what I mean?”
What Americans hear: “Did you comprehend what I just said?”
This British conversation filler isn’t even weighty enough to count as a rhetorical question. Nonetheless, Americans will take it at face value and seek to reassure you that they did indeed understand your last statement.

5. What we say: “I’ve got the right hump.”
What Americans hear: “I have a hunchback.” 
Sometime Brits see fit to borrow camels’ dominant physical attribute to help explain that they’re annoyed or frustrated. We’re not, in fact, opening up about a crippling disfigurement.

6. What we say: “It’s a bit dear.”
What Americans hear: “It’s slightly adorable.”
When we Brits want to politely say something is too expensive, we might roll out this quaint old expression. Not a good idea if you’re trying to haggle with an American: they’ll take it as a compliment.

7. What we say: “I got off with this fit bird.”
What Americans hear: “I disembarked with an athletic pigeon.”
Don’t expect Americans to even attempt a translation here. But if they do manage to guess that “got off with” means “made out with”, be sure to clarify that what you mean by “bird.”

8. What we say: “I went to public school.”
What Americans hear: “I went to a school my parents didn’t pay for.”
Americans with a snobbish bent will lap up tales of posh British schooling. However, your use of the word “public” may well throw them off. Begin by explaining that, in the UK, ‘public school’ is the same as private school. Or, decide not to have this conversation in the first place because it’ll make you sound like a twit.

9. What we say: “I’m easy.”
What Americans hear: “I always have sex on the first date.”
Even the ultra laidback Brits who use this expression might still take issue with the American translation. To avoid misinterpretation, plump for something more on the nose like, “I don’t mind.”

10. What we say: “All right, darling?”
What Americans hear: “How are you, love of my life?”
Save prudish Americans’ blushes by not directing this informal version of “How do you do?” at them. Worse still is the West Country version, which substitutes “darling” for the infinitely more bewildering and inappropriate “my lover.”

10 Things Americans Say … And What They Really Mean


 When it comes to the spoken word, Americans are a truly baffling bunch. So we’ve decoded their most irritating idioms.

1. When an American shop assistant says, “Have a nice day!”
Translation: “Honestly, I don’t care what kind of day you have. But please tell my manager I was friendly so I get extra commission.”
Definitely doesn’t mean: “I will sob myself to sleep if I subsequently learn that you had a less than adequate day.”

2. When an American you’ve just met says, “Let’s have lunch sometime.”
Translation: “Let’s never ever eat a meal together.”
Definitely doesn’t mean: “I urgently need to see you put food in your mouth.”

3. When an American friend says, “I hooked up with…”
Translation: “I had sex with/kissed/hung out with…”
Definitely doesn’t mean: “I attached myself to someone with a metal clasp.”

4. When American parents say, “Good job!”
Translation: “Hey! Everyone! My two-year-old is a genius because he split an infinitive, then corrected himself! Also, he went pee-pee in the potty.”
Definitely doesn’t mean: “Excellent career choice. Well done, son.”

5. When a drunken American says, “I’m actually Irish.”
Translation: “My great great grandfather was part Irish. Or at least that’s what I heard.”
Definitely doesn’t mean: “I’m Irish.”

6. When a sarcastic American says, “You do the math.”
Translation: “Work it out, fish brain.”
Definitely doesn’t mean: “Please do some long division immediately.”

7. When an annoying American says, “Your shirt is so cute!”
Translation: “That’s one good looking upper body garment, be it a vest top, a t-shirt or an actual bona fide shirt – with cuffs and a collar.”
Definitely doesn’t mean: “I’m sexually attracted to your blouse.”

8. When an annoyed American says, “I could care less.”
Translation: “I couldn’t care less.”
Definitely doesn’t mean: “I could care less.”

9. When an American with a full bladder says, “I need to use the restroom.”
Translation: “I need the loo.”
Definitely doesn’t mean: “I need to find a room where I can have a quiet lie down.”

10. When a festive American says, “Happy holidays!”
Translation: “Happy culturally non-specific celebration in late December/early January!”
Definitely doesn’t mean: “Have a nice time in Ibiza.”




English Nursery Ryhmes and Their History

Someone suggested l look into the origins of English nursery rhymes, ones that we all know, and were all taught when we were young at school, or by our Grandparents. So l did some research, and l found out that some of them gruesome, and in fact, quite sinister, so sit back and prepare to be surprised by their hidden meanings:-


Humpty Dumpty: Whoever would have thought a giant egg sitting on the wall was in fact a reference to a cannon during the English Civil War? Humpty Dumpty, the cannon, resided upon a wall at St. Mary’s Church in Colchester, England. The tale says that during the siege of Colchester, parliamentarians shot their own cannon and crumbled the wall beneath old Humpty causing the great fall, but the cannon was shattered and useless and none of the royalist were able to put it back together, causing their surrender.

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary: It sounds like a lovely English Garden poem, the fact is, the poem is about Queen Mary I of England, who became known affectionately as Bloody Mary by the end of her reign. The poem is about her graveyard of slain Protestants, as she was a devout Catholic ruling England during a time of religious turmoil. The silver bells and cockleshells are torture devices, and the maids in all in a row refer to a device that’s the predecessor to the guillotine that was called “the maiden.” So much for the lovely English garden you may have envisioned as a child during a time of religious turmoil. The silver bells and cockleshells are torture devices, and the maids in all in a row refer to a device that’s the predecessor to the guillotine that was called “the maiden.” So much for the lovely English garden you may have envisioned as a child.

3 blind mice

Three Blind Mice: Three Blind Mice comes back to Queen Mary I as well. The three blind mice were three protestant nobleman who conspired against Bloody Mary. Once found out, they were swiftly dealt with and burnt at the stake.

Jack and Jill: Again not so nice a subject, Jack is King Louis XVI, who broke his crown by being beheaded, and Jill is Marie Antionette whose head came tumbling after. Ring Around The Rosie: Probably the most grim of all is Ring Around The Rosie. Throughout the ages it’s gone by many similar titles, but even if the one you know is slightly different, the origins and meanings are surely the same. This seemingly floral song is about the Black Death of 1665. The rosies would actually be the rash associated with infected people. The pockets of posies were the herbs carried about as air fresheners or possibly herbal medicines, which were ineffective. Ashes, or Atichoo, depending on the verse you learned, were either the ashes of the funeral pyres of burned victims of the plague or sneezes of the infected. Certainly at this point you can figure out why “we all fall down. “Three Blind Mice: Three Blind Mice comes back to Queen Mary I as well. The three blind mice were three protestant noblemen who conspired against Bloody Mary. Once found out, they were swiftly dealt with and burnt at the stake.

Jack and Jill: Again not so nice a subject, Jack is King Louis XVI, who broke his crown by being beheaded, and Jill is Marie Antoinette whose head came tumbling after.


Baa Baa Black Sheep: This rhyme is a political satire referring to Kind Edward 1st (referred to in the rhyme as the master – “one for the master”) who back in 1275 imposed an export tax that authorized the king to collect a tax on all exports of wool from every port in England. The best wool in Europe was produced in England, but the cloth workers in Flanders, Bruges and Lille were better skilled in the complex finishing trades such as dying, cleansing and thickening the wool, hence most of England’s wool went out of the country to be finished.

Georgie Porgie: Well this rhyme refers to the courtier George Villiers, the 1st Duke of Buckingham, who lived from 1592 to 1628. King James 1st took Villiers as his lover!, Villiers good looks also appealed to the ladies and gentlemen, and his highly suspect morals were much in question. He had an affair with Anne of Austria, who was at the time the Queen of France, being married to French King Louis XIII. This liaison badly injured both the King and Queen’s reputations, however this was overlooked due to his great friendship with English King James 1st. George Villiers exercised great influence over the King who allowed him many liberties. In the end his private liaisons and political scheming was questioned by Parliament, who stopped the King intervening on behalf of “George Porgie”. The romantic elements of George Villiers and Anne of Austria, by the way, are features in the novel “The Three Musketeers” by Alexander Dumas.

The Grand Old Duke of York: The words of the Nursery rhyme refer to Richard, Duke of York, claimant to the English throne and Protector of England, and the Battle of Wakefield on December 30, 1460. The Duke of York and his army marched to his castle at Sandal where Richard took up a defensive position against the Lancastrian army. Sandal Castle was built on top of the site of an old Norman moat and bailey fortress. Its massive earthworks stood 33 feet (10m) above the original ground level (“he marched them up to the top of the hill”). In a moment of madness he left his stronghold in the castle and went down to make a direct attack on the Lancastrians “he marched them down again”. His army was overwhelmed and Richard the Duke of York was killed.


Old Mother Hubbard: Mother Hubbard referred to in this rhyme’s words allude to the famous Cardinal Wolsey. Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was the most important statesman and churchman of the Tudor history period in 16th century England. Cardinal Wolsey proved to be a faithful servant but displeased the King, Henry VIII, by failing to facilitate the King’s divorce from Queen Katherine of Aragon who had been his queen of many years. The reason for seeking the divorce and hence the creation of the Old Mother Hubbard poem was to enable him to marry Anne Boleyn with whom he was passionately in love. In the Old Mother Hubbard song King Henry was the “doggie” and the “bone” refers to the divorce (and not money as many believe) The cupboard relates to the Catholic Church although the subsequent divorce arranged by Thomas Cramner resulted in the break with Rome and the formation of the English Protestant church and the demise of Old Mother Hubbard – Cardinal Wolsey.

And finally – Ring Around The Rosie: Probably the most grim of all is Ring Around The Rosie. Throughout the ages it’s gone by many similar titles, but even if the one you know is slightly different, the origins and meanings are surely the same. This seemingly floral song is about the Black Death of 1665. The rosies would actually be the rash associated with infected people. The pockets of posies were the herbs carried about as air fresheners or possibly herbal medicines, which were ineffective. Ashes, or Atichoo, depending on the verse you learned, were either the ashes of the funeral pyres of burned victims of the plague or sneezes of the infected. Certainly at this point you can figure out why “we all fall down.”

So there you have it, all of those nursery rhymes that we used to recite when we were young, and the girls used to “skip to”, are revealed in a different light, I hope you enjoyed this history lesson into nursery rhymes.

christmas pudding

Keep Calm and Have a Very British Christmas

As Christmas approaches, a funny thing happens to us Brits. Amidst all the holiday chaos, the desire for a ‘Marks and Spencer’s’ mince pie (or three) reaches breaking point and we feel the urge to carry on those British traditions that separate our Christmas celebrations from those here in the US.

Boxing Day has to be my favorite British Christmas tradition. You speak to any Brit and they’ll tell you they know the history of Boxing Day, but they’re probably wrong!

The day when you throw all your empty present boxes out for the bin men and the day when a big boxing match was held are two of the most unlikely explanations, with most believing it to be the day when servants would be given boxes from their employer containing gifts and leftovers, along with the day off to spend with their family, since they’d been so busy the day before waiting on the family they worked for.

Nowadays, Boxing Day means shopping. Similar to the US’s ‘Black Friday’ after Thanksgiving Day, Boxing Day gives shoppers the chance to grab a bargain in what used to be the January Sales. But trust me, you won’t catch me standing outside ‘Next’ at 5am in the cold!

The food we choose to stuff ourselves with is another major difference. Whilst most American families have had their fill of turkey from Thanksgiving, we Brits think it a necessity.

On top of that, pigs in blankets, Christmas cake and Christmas pudding make for a delicious festive feast.

And what would Christmas be without mince pies? The ingredients for mince pies date back to the 13th Century as European crusaders would bring back Middle Eastern recipes containing meats, fruits and spices. The addition of meat in the pies became an afterthought as the Victorians concentrated on perfecting their fruit and spice fillings, preparing them months in advance.

But it’s not all delicious; brussell sprouts always make an appearance, even though nobody ever seems to want them to!

While we’re at the dinner table, something else you’ll see at every place setting on Christmas Day is the Christmas cracker. The sight of Brits sitting around the dinner table with little paper crowns on can come as quite a shock to anyone unfamiliar with this Great British tradition.

Originally invented in 1847 by an English confectioner, crackers were originally known as ‘bon-bons’ but over the years they got bigger and more colorful and they developed their onomatopoeic name as other manufacturers cottoned onto the idea that these little cardboard tubes would eventually become a British Christmas staple.

Another bizarre tradition is our Christmas music. Like our American cousins, we still love the classics, but you won’t find a Christmas party in the UK that doesn’t feature ‘Slade,’ ‘Wizzard’ and ‘Shakin’ Stevens’. And although the rise of the TV talent show seems to have the Christmas Number 1 spot sewn up, I bet Sir Cliff will have another crack at it at some point!

And finally, while the President pardons a turkey each year for Thanksgiving, the Queen give a speech. And the day wouldn’t be complete without it. Started in 1932 by George V and originally heard via radio, the Queen’s speech is now broadcast via television, radio and the internet.

So by New Year, when you’re all mince pie’d out, remember that you’re part of a group given the important task of continuing a set of long standing British Christmas traditions.

…and maybe I’ll have just one more mince pie.

If you can think of any more British Christmas traditions, feel free to drop Jordan a line at

Jordan has lived in Orlando on and off for 5 years and is currently the US Country Manager for Mone

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Cricket on the Coast

When you think of the most watched and played sports in the USA the ones that spring to mind will likely include baseball, basketball and even more obviously American football. You may even think of golf or maybe lacrosse. With America a melting pot of nationalities and Florida a huge draw for International visitors due to its climate one sport with British origins that is yet to bowl over America is cricket and please excuse the pun!

Traced back to 16th century England it may be hard to believe but cricket is now the worlds second most popular sport. Hugely popular in the UK, Australia, South Africa, South Asia and the Caribbean the USA has yet to take cricket to its heart and for it to become as main stream in the same way that soccer (or football as I still call it) has become over the last 10 years.

One such place that is hoping to change this is the Sarasota International Cricket Club. This club has built up a world presence due to its unique story and the vision, hard work and support of many people that have a common love of the great sport that is cricket.

In 1982 British visitors to The Salty Dog, a well known watering hole on Siesta Key near Sarasota, challenged some American friends to back to back games of baseball and cricket. The results are long forgotten but the events led in 1983 to the founding of Sarasota International Cricket Club. For 10 years the club played at a ground on Wilkinson Road, graciously provided by the Fraternal Order of Eagles. The ground had a character all of its own. A huge live oak provided a club house capable of sheltering 60 people from the sun and rain. The slow grass wicket humbled even the quickest bowlers. A 40 yard mid-wicket boundary, defended by a neighbors fence and two rather ferocious pit bulls, boosted both the run rate and the budget for balls.

The fixture list expanded as the club became known in the broader cricketing fraternity. Visits from English and Caribbean teams were added to those from Florida. However the club decided to abandon league play in favor of friendly games which have tended to be mainly at home.

In 1993, Lakewood Ranch offered SICC the use of a laser leveled, full size ground on University Parkway opposite the Sarasota Polo Club. The move was accompanied by raffles and fund raising dinners to finance a clubhouse and a low maintenance cement wicket, covered by carpet. The members gave generously with money, time and skill.

Parry Field about one mile further east on University Parkway is now the clubs permanent home. The last game was played on the old field in May 2002. The club house was moved to the new location in June 2002 and work progressed through the summer on roto tilling and re-seeding with drought tolerant Bermuda grass on what had been a cattle pasture. New ICC aproved Notts Sport artificial turf wickets, both match and practice, from the UK were installed in late September 2002 and the first match played in October 2002. In September 2003, new drainage and further leveling of the field were completed.

The club offers you the opportunity to join as a player, bring a team or sit back in the Florida sunshine and watch the action only minutes away from the world famous West coast beaches.

For the last 18 years the club hosts a Thanksgiving tournament with teams traveling in from all over the USA as well as the UK, South Africa, Caymand Islands, Australia, India, Pakistan and Canada. This is a must see for not only the cricket lover but also ideal for a family looking for fun activity and great way to avoid the black Friday shopping traffic and get outside during this fantastic time of year in Sarasota.

James Donovan


Agony Aunt – Dear Carol

Dear readers,

The lovely Justine Assal asked that I write an Agony Aunt column for this great magazine.

Am I qualified for such a task? You bet I am. Not in a  “been there, done that, got the t-shirt” kind of way but in a “child of the 60’s , teen of the 70’s, disco diva, married to my own Alvin Stardust, (who’s tragically turned into Phil belly bust), four kids, moved to another country” kind of way.

Like you, I’m working my way through this wonderful blessing that is life.

As my daughter pulls up the latest family vacation photos  on the computer I  do a double take. Is that lady with the glasses and proud muffin top and the gent with calf length white socks and Jesus sandals standing so proudly in front of “Carnival Imagination”  really me & Phil?  My God it is and it’s official, we’ve turned into our parents! When did David Bowie & Madonna turn into Peters & Lee?

For a fleeting moment I think we’ve got to move back to the UK, where a sandwich is two slices of nimble and a piece of see through ham, a four ounce steak makes you bloated and the waitress at Pizza Hut guards the salad bar with her life to prevent anyone taking an extra tomato as the menu clearly states ‘salad bar: one trip’. No ‘unlimited’ here people! Ok, perhaps not.

What I  love about America is the fact that its family orientated, kids are kids longer,  you walk into a bar with your friends an the bar tender asks for your ID.  The song “we are young, we are free” (to be read in Supergrass) springs to mind…God Bless the USA!  But then the next day I walk into Marshalls, feeling good, looking fine, just got my hair did, all is good.  As I approach the register the girl sweetly asks if i’m over 65? …………. I want to punch her lights out, the confidence from the night before destroyed in a millisecond. I compose myself and tell her she just spoilt my day. She retorts “Sorry, its just that seniors get a discount on Mondays.” I smile sweetly, pay and leave.

The car journey home is filled with things I should have said but didn’t and to add insult to injury, what is the radio blasting?  “I get knocked down, but I get up again”… Yes, really.

Since that incident, politically correct I am not, which is why we thought it would be a great idea for you to write to me with your problems, complaints and life observations.

Nothing is off limits, lets knock ‘Dear Deidre’ and ‘Dr Phil’, off their pedestals and answer some real problems with some real answers.

Bye for now,


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A Real Life Billy Elliot Makes His Mark in Sarasota


Iain Webb accepted the job as Artistic Director of the Sarasota Ballet in 2007 and in the short time since then, he has certainly put the Company on the map, in more ways than one.  But who is the man behind this success?

I interviewed Iain at his Union Jack bedecked office in Sarasota.  He had just returned from a trip to England and proudly shared his latest British memorabilia, with pride of place being given to a pair of Union Jack Dr.Martens boots – a far cry from the ballet shoes one might expect!

Iain was born in Scarborough, of a fireman dad and a ballet teacher mum.  His talents as a dancer were spotted, and Iain and his mum moved to York where he could get better training.  His dad sacrificed family life, staying in Scarborough and working four jobs to keep his young son in ballet school.  In York, the young dancer attended a public school in a not-so-nice area.  Every day he carried his dance clothes and shoes to school wrapped up in brown paper and string, and lived in fear that the other kids would find out what he did each day after school.

At 16, he moved to London and auditioned for the Royal School of Ballet.  They turned him down.  Later, he was offered a place to study in Stuttgart, at which point the Royal School of Ballet saw the error of their ways and invited him to be a student there.  This was followed by an apprenticeship with The Sadlers Wells Royal Ballet, where he was offered a full time position.

During his 18 years at Sadlers Wells, Iain will tell you he developed a reputation as “the bad boy of ballet”, not least because he paid no heed to their unwritten political rules.  His disregard for the “rule” that junior dancers could not mix with more senior members of the company led to him start a relationship with then principal dancer, Margaret Barbieri, his now wife of 30 years.    In addition to his professional achievements, Iain also founded an organization to help his fellow dancers who were victims of HIV and AIDS.

In 1989 Iain transferred to the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, where he remained until his retirement in 1996.  This was followed by a period working as rehearsal director for the London, L.A. and Broadway seasons of Swan Lake.  In 1999, he joined the newly formed K-Ballet Company in Japan and was appointed assistant director two years later.

So how did Mr. Webb find his way to Sarasota?  He says it was “purely happenstance”.  His brother-in-law happened to be in Miami and heard that the Sarasota Ballet was looking for a new director.  Iain was selected for the role, and has made it his own.  During his relatively short tenure here in Sarasota, Iain has made substantial changes to the company, and among his many achievements he can cite:  vastly improved artistic quality of productions, favorable national and international critical reviews, bigger audiences and financial stability.

More importantly, Iain has truly put the Sarasota Ballet on the map. His vision for the company to achieve national and international recognition continues to be realized by his “move with the times” approach.  During his time at the Royal Ballet, Webb became close to Sir Frederick Ashton and Dame Ninette de Valois, two of the founding pioneers of English ballet, and he has brought their work to Florida.  The Sarasota Ballet has been acknowledged as “… America’s foremost exponent of Ashton Ballets” and has been invited to perform Ashton’s Les Patineurs at the Kennedy Center in June 2013.  They are one of only nine regional ballet companies to be invited to perform there, as part of the Ballet Across America series.

Iain is able to use his personal contacts in Great Britain to enable the Sarasota Ballet to perform English ballets to the highest standards – he rents sets and costumes from British ballet companies for instance, and tells how it is strange to see his dancers wearing costumes he himself wore on stage many years ago.

But Mr. Webb is not about to sit on his laurels.  Not content with bringing English ballet to the west coast of Florida, he is about to give a classic ballet a truly Sarasota flavor.  In December, the Sarasota Ballet will perform The Nutcracker – not unusual for a holiday season, but this is The Nutcracker with a twist.  Working with long time British friends, choreographer Matthew Hart and set designer Peter Docherty, Iain and his wife Margaret Barbieri developed a new circus themed production of The Nutcracker.  The performance will be true to Tchaikovsky’s original score, but will integrate history of the Ringling Circus and their winter home here in Sarasota.  I, for one, cannot wait to see this traditional story interwoven with our history and circus heritage.

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