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100 Questions Answered: Sports, Leisure, Food and Drink (Q20-Q33)

Q20. What is the most popular food in Britain?

fish and chips

Britains most popular "fast food" has got to be fish and chips. Fish and chip shops first made an appearance at the end of the 19th century and since then have been a firm favourite up and down the country. The dish is simplicity itself: fish (usually cod, haddock or plaice) is dipped in a batter made from flour, eggs and water and then deep fried in hot fat. Chips are made from thick batons of potato and deep fried.

Fish and chips are served over the counter wrapped in paper, and traditionalists prefer to eat them straight out of the paper because they taste better that way!

The best-known British dish eaten at home has been roast beef, traditionally eaten on Sunday. The dish used to be so popular in England that the French still refer to the British as "les rosbifs"! Roast beef is served with roast potatoes, vegetables and gravy - a sauce made from meat juices and stock, thickened with flour. Yorkshire pudding - batter baked in hot fat in the oven - is a favourite accompaniment to roast beef.

Q21. Why do the British like drinking tea?

Everything in Britain, says a popular song, stops for tea. Its certainly true that tea is the most popular drink in Britain - far more popular than coffee, which is favoured throughout Europe and America. The Dutch brought the first tea to Europe in about 1610, but it was not until 1658 that the first advertisement for tea appeared in a London newspaper. By 1750, tea had become the principal drink of all the classes in Britain, yet at that time a pound of the cheapest tea cost about one-third of a skilled workers weekly wage! Tea was jealously guarded by the lady of the house, and kept in special containers called tea-caddies, often with a lock, and carefully doled out by the teaspoon.

Gradually, tea-drinking developed into a fashionable social ritual and tea gardens blossomed in places like Vauxhall and Marylebone in London, where couples could stroll in the afternoon and enjoy a cup of tea with bread and butter and cakes. Tea parties were also popular at home, and soon the ritual of "afternoon tea" was firmly established. Today, throughout the homes, tea-shops and hotels of Britain, the custom of tea-time continues, and it remains a feature of any cricket match or summer fête.

High Tea is a more substantial evening meal, popular in northern England and Scotland.

Tea in Britain is traditionally brewed in a china teapot, adding one spoonful of tea per person and one for the pot. Great importance is attached to the use of freshly boiled water, which is poured onto the leaves and then the tea is left to "brew" for a few minutes. Most people in Britain prefer a rich, strong cup of tea with milk, and sugar is sometimes added to taste.

Q22. What is haggis?

Haggis is Scotlands best-known regional dish, a rich, spicy concoction made from lambs offal (lungs, liver and heart) mixed with suet, onions, herbs and spices, all packed into a skin made of plastic, or, traditionally, a sheeps stomach.

Traditionally served on Burns Night, the haggis is often accompanied by mashed potatoes and mashed swede or turnips. Although the haggis neither sounds nor looks appetising, most people brave enough to try it agree that it is extremely tasty!

Q23. Is it true that a lot of British dishes are named after places?

The rich variety of British regional cooking is reflected in the names of our favourite dishes. Many regions have their own particular speciality of sweet or savoury fare, or are famed for their local produce.

Cheeses are produced in many regions, although Cheddar cheese, a strong-flavoured, salty cheese is the most popular variety. It originates from a village in Somerset in western England, also famous for its gorge. Other types of cheeses include Cheshire, Lancashire, Stilton and Wensleydale.

Cornwall in south-west England is famous for its Cornish Pasties - a pastry case filled with meat, potatoes and vegetables, which was the traditional midday meal of workers in the region.

The town of Bakewell in Derbyshire has a rich pastry tart named after it. The Bakewell pudding or Bakewell tart was said to have been invented by accident, when a cook forgot to put jam over the custard filling of a pudding - instead she spread it straight onto the pastry case and poured the custard on top. Thus a new dish was born!

Welsh cakes, a kind of sweet cake cooked on a griddle, were originally served to hungry travellers when they arrived at an inn for the night while they waited for their supper to be cooked.

Many other dishes are named after places - everything from Lancashire hotpot (a casserole of meat and vegetables topped with sliced potatoes) and Scottish shortbread (a sweet, buttery biscuit) to Welsh rarebit (nothing to do with rabbit, but melted cheese on toast!), baked Ulster ham, and Bath buns (a sweet bun containing spices and dried fruit, originally made in Bath, western England). Indeed, dedicated gourmets could happily munch their way from one county to another!

Did you know that HP sauce is thus known as it was created by the chef at the House of Parliament?

Q24. Where can I look up the rules of cricket?

cricket ball

Wisden Cricketers Almanack, published annually for the last 133 years, is a mine of information about cricket and the years season. It also contains a summary of the rules of the game - known as "the Laws of Cricket". Wisden Cricketers Almanack is published by:

John Wisden and Co. Ltd.
25 Down Road, Merrow, Guildford, Surrey GU1 2PY
Tel.: +44 (0) 148 357 0358 Fax: +44 (0) 148 33 3153

The MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club), which was responsible for cricket throughout the world from the late 18th century to 1968, still remains the official "guardian" of the Laws of Cricket. A copy may be obtained from:

Lords Cricket Ground, London NW8 8QN
Tel.: +44 (0) 171 266 1818 Fax: +44 (0) 171 266 1777

Q25. Where can I find out about the origins of British football clubs?

For information about English clubs buy football tickets write to:

The Football Association, 16 Lancaster Gate, London W2 3LW
Tel.: +44 (0) 171 262 4542 Fax: +44 (0) 171 402 0486

Those interested in a particular football club may also visit the Football Association Library at their headquarters in London. Please telephone first for details.

The respective organisations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are:

The Scottish Football Association, 6 Park Gardens
Glasgow G3 7YF
Tel.: +44 (0) 141 332 6372 Fax: +44 (0) 141 332 7559
The Football Association of Wales, 3 Westgate Street
Cardiff CF1 1DD
Tel.: +44 (0) 122 237 2325 Fax: +44 (0) 122 234 3961
Irish Football Association, 20 Windsor Avenue
Belfast BT9 6EE
Tel.: +44 (0) 123 266 9458 Fax: +44 (0) 123 266 7620

Q26. Why does Britain have four teams in international sporting tournaments?


In some international sporting tournaments, including hockey, football and athletics (Commonwealth Games) Britain sends four separate teams, representing the countries of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In Football, each team is representative of a separate national sporting association, affiliated to FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) which controls world football. Since 1972 a British football team has not competed at the Olympics, as the four countries of the United Kingdom wish to maintain separate national teams, and under Olympic rules Britain is only allowed to send one team to the Olympics. Similarly, Scotland, England and Wales each have their own hockey team, and the countries compete separately at international events.

The rugby union touring team, the British Lions, represents England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The side which toured Australia back in 1899 was the first to be totally representative. It is said the British Lions title was given to the team on its tour of South Africa in 1924 when local journalists coined the phrase because of the lion symbol the players wore on their ties.

Q27. What are the origins of the Wimbledon tennis championships?

tennis ball

The famous international tennis tournament at Wimbledon in south west London had humble beginnings as a small championship competition for some 20 players (all men) who paid an entrance fee of one guinea each to enter.

That first Lawn Tennis Championship was held at Worple Road, Wimbledon in 1877, home of the All England Croquet Club later to become the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (originally croquet was considered a more important sport than tennis!). Spencer Gore became the first mens singles champion, winning 12 guineas and a silver cup. In 1884 Miss Maud Watson became the first womens singles champion.

In 1922 the Club moved to its present ground at Church Road, Wimbledon, with its famous Centre Court building designed by Captain Stanley Peach. Centre Court currently has a capacity for over 13,000 spectators.

Today Wimbledon fortnight takes place in June each year, with most of the worlds top-class tennis players competing for honours. During Wimbledon fortnight over 12 tons of salmon, 23 tons of strawberries and 285,000 cups of tea are supplied by caterers, together with 12,500 bottles of champagne!

Tickets for Wimbledon are issued to the general public by ballot. A Stamped Addressed Envelope (SAE) must be sent for an application form by the end of December. To enter the ballot, contact:

The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club
Church Road, Wimbledon, London SW19 5AE

Q28. What are the Highland Games?

The popularity of the Highland Games dates back to Queen Victorias patronage of them, which began in the middle of the last century, although before that time many Highland clans had long held annual gatherings which included traditional sports and games.

One of the most famous gatherings is held each year at Braemar in Aberdeenshire during early September, opening with a spectacular march of kilted clansmen accompanied by pipers playing the bagpipes.

The Games at Braemar and elsewhere in Scotland usually feature displays of highland dancing and hard-fought contests for players of the bagpipes, as well as gruelling athletic events. These include "throwing the hammer" - flinging an iron ball on a chain as far as possible, and "tossing the caber" - tossing a long and unwieldy wooden pole, like a tree trunk, said to have originated as a way of heaving felled tree-trunks over ravines or streams!

Q29. How do the British spend their leisure time?

Britains most common leisure activities are home-based or social. Watching television and videos, and listening to the radio are by far the most popular leisure pastimes, with an average of 20 hours a week devoted to these. Britains regular weekly dramas or "soap operas" such as "EastEnders" and "Coronation Street" have more viewers than any other programme.

Listening to music is also a popular pastime, with nearly 140 million compact discs (CDs) bought in 1995. Pop and rock albums are the most common type of music bought, and pop is by far the most popular form of musical expression in Britain.

The most common free-time activity outside the home amongst adults is a visit to the pub. Other popular leisure activities include visits to the theatre or cinema. There are over 1,500 cinemas in Britain, and in 1995 nearly one in five adults visited the cinema two or three times. Britain also has about 300 theatres, of which about 100 are in London. Britains most famous theatre company, The Royal Shakespeare Company, performs in Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeares birthplace, and in London.

Of all sporting activities, walking is by far the most popular for men and women of all ages. Whilst men tend to dominate golf and cue sports such as snooker and billiards, women generally prefer swimming, keep-fit classes and yoga.

Q30. Why do the British like going to the pub?

One of the main attractions of the pub for all regular pubgoers is that it offers good company in friendly surroundings. Where else can you appear as a complete stranger and at once be able to join in a conversation with a diverse group of people? Often the style of the pub and its locality will dictate the kind of clientele you can expect to find there. Village pubs with their country furnishings and real ales attract not only local folk but citydwellers out for a drive, hikers fresh from a long days walk and pensioners enjoying a pub lunch. City pubs tend to have a more mixed clientele - businessmen and women discussing the latest deal, theatregoers or groups of friends enjoying a drink together before going off to a restaurant or nightclub.

Good conversation and good beer are two essential items provided by the pub. The drinking of beer in a public house is not compulsory, but as any publican will tell you, beer remains the mainstay of the trade. It is said that beer is the perfect drink for the pub - it comes in large measures (one pint glasses) so that just one drink provides plenty of conversation time! Many pubs also serve food, from snacks to full meals.


Other attractions offered by city and country pubs alike include a game of darts (short, weighted steel darts are thrown at a circular dartboard numbered in sections) and snooker, a game similar to billiards.

The lure of the pub can lie in the variety of pub names; each pub has its own name, depicted on a painted inn sign hung outside the premises.

A pub name can refer to historical events, landmarks, sundry beasts or its meaning can be a complete puzzle. Some include references to animals, many with their origins in heraldry - The White Hart, the Nags Head, the Black Bull, and the Bear to name but a few!

Q31. What and when are the Proms?

Proms magazine

The Proms or Promenade Concerts are an annual series of music concerts sponsored by the BBC and held at the Royal Albert Hall and other venues in London. They are called "Promenade Concerts" because originally the audience "promenaded" or walked about during the concerts, although now they stand or sit.

The Proms originated in 1895, and since that time have become a hugely popular event. The programmes are usually of classical music, and reflect popular taste as well as more original and adventurous pieces. These days jazz, world music and other musical styles also feature on the concert programme.

The Proms take place each year, from mid-July to mid-September, although the most popular evening is the Last Night of the Proms, when concert goers fill the Hall and stand tightly packed in the arena in front of the orchestra for an evening of stirring music.

A proms guide for the current years concerts is available from May in large bookshops, or it can be ordered from:

The Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, London SW7 2AP
Tel.: +44 (0) 171 589 8212 Fax: +44 (0) 171 584 1406

Seasons of orchestral and choral concerts are also promoted every year in many large towns and cities, while in central London the principal concert halls (including the Royal Festival Hall and the Barbican Hall) draw packed audiences.

In addition to possessing a thriving interest in classical music, British music lovers have a passion for all other areas of music, from opera to folk and jazz, from rock to the latest chart topping pop group.

Q32. What is British "humour"?

The British sense of humour is often a source of mystification for other nations, and visitors to Britain may claim that our humour is incomprehensible; however, possessing "a sense of humour" is usually regarded as a favourite virtue of the British.

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact components of our "sense of humour", but it may be loosely defined as an attitude of mind which is readily responsive to the incongruous and ridiculous. Thus the humorous qualities of Dickens novels lie in the fact that many of his characters are "larger than life" - their appearance and personal qualities are highly exaggerated. This is also true today of many of our favourite television comedies, where the lead characters are often wonderfully eccentric and "over the top" - for example, Patsy and Edina in "Absolutely Fabulous", played by Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders.

Bawdy or slapstick comedy can trace its roots back to Chaucer and Shakespeare, and continued through the early films of Charlie Chaplin, the "Carry On" film series of the 1960s and 1970s and is found today in characters such as Rick and Eddie in the television comedy "Bottom", played by Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmonson, or the long-running Benny Hill Show.

More subtle humour can be found in the satire of Thackeray, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, which highlights the faults and weaknesses of the society of the period, and is found today in the novels of Kingsley Amis or the popular television comedy series "Yes, Minister" and "Yes, Prime Minister", and currently in the quiz show "Have I Got News For You".

Finally, British humour has an ever present but hard to define appreciation of the absurd, originating in programmes like "The Goon Show", a radio comedy of the 1950s starring comedians Michael Bentine (1922-1996), Peter Sellers (1925-1980), Spike Milligan (b. 1918) and Harry Secombe (b. 1921) and continuing in televisions legendary "Monty Pythons Flying Circus" and "Fawlty Towers".

Q33. What is the Edinburgh Festival?

The Edinburgh Festival is an annual arts festival held in Edinburgh during August and September. The Festival, first held in 1947, has gained an international reputation, and is widely recognised for providing opportunities for avant-garde theatre groups and emerging new talents to showcase their work as part of the Edinburgh Fringe - performances staged at smaller venues and theatres outside the main programme of events, often of a more experimental, "offbeat" nature.

The quality of the Festivals professional productions of music and theatre attract an international audience, and it is widely acknowledged that every hotel and guest house in the city is full to capacity during the festival months.

For further information contact tourist information in Edinburgh:

Tel.: +44 (0) 131 5571700
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