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Letter From England Number 2

29 June 2009

Well, a week has flown past but as the good correspondent that I am, the midnight oil has been burnt and here in all it's glory is my second letter.

All About Money

I thought a little bit about money might be a bit enlightening.

In the left hand column I have put a small conversion table which I thought might be useful. It really doesn't need any explanation as I am sure you can figure it out.

The currency of England and Britain is the Pound. This is made up of 100 pennys (plural pence). This is actually comparatively new as Britain decimalized 15th February 1971. Before that it was a lot more interesting with 12 pennys in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound. It had to go I know but still it has a bit more character. Also all old slang names have gone with no new ones appearing. The only one left is "a quid" that means a pound.

Below I have put images of the 4 notes in circulation.

All The British Banknotes

The people on the back are: £5 Elizabeth Fry (prison and social reformer), £10 Charles Darwin, £20 Adam Smith (political economist), and £50 Sir John Houblon (the first Governor of the Bank of England).

If you visit here one thing you ought to know is the £50 note is not a very handy thing to have. Well obviously it's worth the most but a lot of places especially small shops will not take them as there a lot of forgeries around.

The designs change every few years but they are all quite distinctive, unlike the United States where all the notes look the same.

Now for the coins, I have made a montage to show you. This is not in scale to the notes above, otherwise we'd be walking around with very large pockets!

Current British Coinage

These are new designs and I DO NOT like them. If you look at the pound coin at the top you will see the Royal Shield. Now, with coins beneath arranged the way I have, you have it again. Well sort of. Individually they look as they they haven't been struck right.

There is one coin left the £2. The picture I have doesn't quite do it justice, I think it is rather handsome. Also just to let you know all the coins bear the Queen's head on the obverse side.

British Two Pound Piece

So that's a brief introduction to our money. Just one more thing to say. Most of the European Union member states have a unified currency called the Euro. Britain whilst a member opted out of the single currency. There is much debate here about membership of the European Union and even more so the Euro. To be honest some of the arguments especially economic I don't follow but my gut instinct is this. There is no point half-joining a gang. Either you go it alone or join in fully. I would by nature tend to say go it alone but it's too late to do that now, so surely we'd be better off embracing the whole package and fighting our own corner within the gang, including the Euro.

The Ashes

The summer game in England is cricket, a game that you may or may not be familiar with. If you don't know anything about it don't worry you are not alone there are many people here who don't understand it as well.

Over the next few months I'll tell you bits about it but beware it is notoriously difficult to explain. Actually the principles are quite straightforward. Here is an old joke explaining the game:

You have two sides, one out in the field and one in.

Each man that's in the side that's in goes out, and when he's out he comes in and the next man goes in until he's out.

When they are all out, the side that's out comes in and the side that's been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.

When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in.

There are two men called umpires who stay all out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out.

When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game!

There clear as mud. This weeks post is about the Ashes. Not many nations play cricket, the ones that do are ex-colonies who were introduced to it during the Empire. One of these countries is Australia.

In 1882 Australia beat England on an English ground for the first time. This calamitous event meant that an obituary was published in The Sporting Times.

Obituary From The Times Regarding The Death Of English Cricket

From this the Ashes was born. The history of the urn is rather cloudy, but legend has it that it contains the cremated remains of a pair of bails. These are a couple of small turned bits of wood that are integral to the game. Beneath are the Ashes.

The Ashes Urn

Now every few years England and Australia meet to play for the Ashes. They play 5 games of cricket to decide the winner. I ought to mention that each game can last up to 5 days, and then maybe there might not be a result. I will repeat that 5 games, each taking 5 days and there may not be a winner. The prize a tiny urn of unknown origin. If the series is drawn the current holder retains the Ashes.

Here are those damned Aussies holding a replica of the Ashes (the original is very fragile) just so you can see how small they are, and how foul and ugly the Australians are.

Australians Celebrating Winning The Ashes

What's News

Michael Jackdon With Ronald And Nancy Reagan

Until a couple of days ago I wasn't sure what would make it into this section. Then the news broke.

Personally, I was not a great fan of the guy or his music, and I am not going to dwell on the more unsavoury aspects reported about his life.

I just have a 4 thoughts to share.

Firstly, it is strange to think of Jackson as a 50 year old man.

Secondly, I was very surprised when the original 20 date tour was announced. When it was increased to 50 it just seemed unachievable. The guy was quite obviously a wreck and wasn't up to it physically or mentally. He was doing the tour because of his financial problems, apparently owing an estimated $500 million (£300 million). The biggest irony is that, as I strongly suspect this contributed to his death, it will indeed generate millions with music channels and radio replaying his hits, reissues and downloads. No doubt Jackson will dominate the charts for some time.

Thirdly, why was the tour scheduled for England? Is this the best place for an artist like Jackson to make money?

Last, where the hell did all his money go?


Andy Murray Playing Tennis

Andy Murray

So we are now in Week Two of Wimbledon, and unfortunately my predictions have come to pass. Well, to be honest, it wasn't difficult to predict. Britain had eleven players at the start of the competition, and after the first round there were ... um two.

But we did break a record! Alex Bogdanovic is now officially the worst player in Wimbledon singles history. I really don't want to pick on the poor boy but here is his record: played in eight Wimbledons and has never won a match. This year he picked up a cheque for £10,750 bringing his Wimbledon "winnings" over time to £75,830.

To be fair both Josh Goodall and 15 year-old Laura Robson made a fight of it. Robson winning the first set against Daniela Hantuchova. Mind you she was an Australian citizen until early 2008 when she qualified for a British passport, but as she has lived in Britain since she was 6, I think that it would be churlish to make an issue of this.

Ding-ding start of round two, whoops there goes Elena Baltacha with her cheque for £17,750.

So last man standing is Andy Murray. He's made it to the last 16, and the sport back pages of all the newspapers here.


Right, so that is the end of my second letter. Next week I thought that maybe we'd have a little look at food.

I hope you have a good week!