Keeping Up on the Rent, Even When the Property is Lost

For 800 years the city of London has been careful to make sure it pays its annual rent for two pieces of land it leases from the Crown. In its determination not to fall delinquent in payments, it unfortunately overlooked one thing: the location of these properties. It continues to pay the rent, even though... Continue Reading →


Using Pennies to Keep Big Ben Accurate Makes Good Cents

Aside from the monarchy, one would be hard-pressed to think of anything more iconically British than the clock in the Elizabeth Tower of Westminster Palace. Its massive bell, Big Ben, has been keeping Londoners on time for over 150 years. In fact, it has maintained almost freakishly accurate time. It is the biggest, most accurate four-faced... Continue Reading →

The Gift That Didn’t Please His Wife

Cecil Chubb (1876-1934) was in the market for the perfect gift for his wife and thought he found just the thing. Apparently thinking that her love for "big stones" meant something other than diamond jewelry, Chubb purchased Stonehenge for her. The world-famous landmark became his for £6,600 (£477,000 or $624,000 in 2016 values). He was rather... Continue Reading →

Meet the Feathered Guardians of the United Kingdom

Permanent residents of the Tower of London include six ravens. They have been seen in and around the tower since being built in 1078. They have been officially-sanctioned since the days of Charles II (r. 1660-1685), who had been told that if the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will... Continue Reading →

What Happens If They Have a War, But Everyone Forgets About It?

Hostilities broke out in 1651 between the Netherlands and the Isle of Scilly. While the details are a bit sketchy, it appears that Dutch Admiral Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp arrived at Scilly to demand compensation for damages incurred by Dutch ships during the Second English Civil War. Scilly was the last holdout for the royalists, so... Continue Reading →

Want Their Autographs? It Will Take a While To Write All of It

Daniel Knox-Hewson and his friend Kelvin Borbidge of Nottingham, United Kingdom, decided in 2011 to have their names reflect their love of sci-fi and comic books. Daniel formally changed his name to "Emperor Spiderman Gandalf Wolverine Skywalker Optimus Prime Goku Sonic Xavier Ryu Cloud Superman HeMan Batman Thrash." He goes by "Emperor Thrash," for short.... Continue Reading →

Welcome to the Heat Ray of Death Building

One of the newest additions to the London skyline is the skyscraper at 20 Fenchurch Street. Popularly known as the "Walkie Talkie" because of its shape, the building is rapidly becoming better known as the "Walkie Scorchie." Because of the concave, reflective shape of the structure, light is reflected and focused in an intense beam... Continue Reading →

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire. Really. As in, “Help! Fire!”

Every year the firemen of Gillingham, in Kent, England, would construct a makeshift house out of wood and canvas for the popular fire-fighting demonstration at the fundraiser for St. Bartholomew's Hospital. As part of the festivities  several local boys would typically be selected to help out by playing the parts of members of a wedding... Continue Reading →

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream

Got a craving for ice cream? Try one of these distinctive flavors from around the world: Honey Jalapeño Pickle from Sweet Action Ice Cream in Denver, Colorado Goat Cheese Cashew Caramel from Black Dog Gelato in Chicago, Illinois  Raw Horse Flesh from Namja Town in Tokyo, Japan. While you are there, you can also sample... Continue Reading →

Need Extra Days for Christmas Shopping? Move to Foula

The island of Foula in the Shetland Islands of Scotland operates off of a different calendar than the rest of the United Kingdom. When Great Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, Foula chose to remain on the Julian calendar, except it did not observe leap year in 1900. As a result, the date in... Continue Reading →

You’ve Heard of Flying Reindeer; What About Pollyanna, the Reindeer of the Deep Seas?

The British submarine HMS Trident had an unusual crew member for part of its World War II service: a reindeer named Pollyanna. The Trident was among a fleet of submarines and supply ships that the British Navy sent to support the Soviet Union after the Nazis invaded in June 1941. The Trident was based at... Continue Reading →

The Christmas Truce of 1914

  On Christmas Eve, 1914, many German and British troops sang Christmas carols to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing. At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached... Continue Reading →

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