Learning To Drive

Here in the UK, most people can start learning to drive when they are seventeen years of age. But there are strict rules and regulations which must be adhered to when driving on UK roads. You must do several things before you drive a car or ride a motorcycle. These include getting a driving licence, registering, insuring and taxing your vehicle, and getting an MOT. Before you drive or ride, you must have the correct driving licence, be the minimum driving or riding age and meet the minimum eyesight rules. What I wasn’t aware of were all the differing rules for driving and for riding age, though I knew some. There are different categories, these being for a car (category B), motorbike (categories A1, A2 and A), moped (category P or AM), medium-sized vehicles (category C1), large vehicles and lorries (category C), minibuses (category D1), bus (category D), agricultural tractor (category F), quad bikes (category B1), motor tricycle (categories A and A1) and other specialist vehicles (categories G, H and K). Specific details are on the government website What kind of vehicle do you want to drive? – Vehicles you can drive – GOV.UK, but for example you cannot drive a tractor until you’re 16, but once you’re 16 you can apply for provisional tractor entitlement (category F) then take a tractor test. You will then be able to drive smaller tractors less than 2.45m wide and tow trailers less than 2.45m wide with 2 wheels or 4 close-coupled wheels. Alternatively you can wait until you’re 17 then take a tractor test to drive any size of tractor. If you get a full car licence you can drive a tractor without having to take a special tractor test. As for eyesight, you must wear glasses or contact lenses every time you drive if you need them to meet the ‘standards of vision for driving’. This guide is also available in Welsh (Cymraeg). You must tell DVLA if you’ve got any problem with your eyesight that affects both of your eyes, or the remaining eye if you only have one eye. This does not include being short or long sighted or colour blind. You also do not need to say if you’ve had surgery to correct short sightedness and can meet the eyesight standards. You could be prosecuted if you drive without meeting the standards of vision for driving. You must be able to read (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) a car number plate made after 1 September 2001 from 20 metres. You must also meet the minimum eyesight standard for driving by having a visual acuity of at least decimal 0.5 (6/12) measured on the Snellen scale (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) using both eyes together or, if you have sight in one eye only, in that eye. You must also have an adequate field of vision, your optician can tell you about this and do a test. Lorry and bus drivers must have a visual acuity at least 0.8 (6/7.5) measured on the Snellen scale in your best eye and at least 0.1 (6/60) on the Snellen scale in the other eye. You can reach this standard using glasses with a corrective power not more than (+) 8 dioptres, or with contact lenses. There is no specific limit for the corrective power of contact lenses. You must have an uninterrupted horizontal visual field of at least 160 degrees with an extension of at least 70 degrees left and right and 30 degrees up and down. No defects should be present within a radius of the central 30 degrees. You may still be able to renew your lorry or bus licence if you cannot meet these standards but held your licence before 1 January 1997. Incidentally, I have learned that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) still exists, holding more than 50 million driver records and more than 40 million vehicle records. They collect over £7 billion a year in Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). DVLA is an executive agency, sponsored by the Department for Transport. But on 28 November 2013 a new agency with responsibility for maintaining vehicle standards was launched as the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). So the DVLA is in charge of licensing and collecting taxes, whereas the DVSA is in charge of rules and testing.

Anyway, back to the rules. At the start of your practical driving test you have to correctly read a number plate on a parked vehicle. If you cannot, you’ll fail your driving test and the test will not continue. DVLA will be told and your licence will be revoked. When you reapply for your driving licence, DVLA will ask you to have an eyesight test with DVSA. This will be at a driving test centre. If you are successful, you will still have to pass the DVSA standard eyesight test at your next practical driving test. It is essential to have read through the Highway Code, in fact it is essential reading for all road users, including pedestrians, mobility scooter users, cyclists, horse riders, drivers and motorcyclists. The code applies to England, Scotland and Wales and guidance for Northern Ireland is available. Nowadays you can order a copy of The Highway Code book online, or buy a copy from most high street bookshops. It is essential though to stay up to date, so it is now possible to sign up to get email alerts when the rules change or alternatively to follow The Highway Code on Facebook. The Code covers many aspects, like who The Highway Code is for, how it is worded, the consequences of not following the rules, self-driving vehicles, and the hierarchy of road users. There are rules for pedestrians, including general guidance, crossing the road, crossings, and situations needing extra care, rules for powered wheelchairs and mobility scooters, including on pavements and on the road, rules about animals, including horse-drawn vehicles, horse riders and other animals, rules for cyclists, including an overview, road junctions, roundabouts and crossing the road. There are rules for motorcyclists, including helmets, carrying passengers, daylight riding and riding in the dark, rules for drivers and motorcyclists, including vehicle condition, fitness to drive, alcohol and drugs, what to do before setting off, vehicle towing and loading, and seat belts and child restraints, general rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders regarding signals, stopping procedures, lighting, control of the vehicle, speed limits, stopping distances, lines and lane markings and multi-lane carriageways, smoking, mobile phones and sat nav. Also rules for using the road, including general rules, overtaking, road junctions, roundabouts, pedestrian crossings and reversing. I have also learned that there have been recent changes to rules relating to pedestrians and their priority at road junctions! There are of course rules for driving in adverse weather conditions, including wet weather, icy and snowy weather, windy weather, fog and hot weather, for waiting and parking, including rules on parking at night and decriminalised parking enforcement. Further changes are now in place with rules for motorways, including rules for signals, joining the motorway, driving on the motorway, lane discipline, overtaking, stopping and leaving the motorway. A number of the rules for motorways also apply to other high-speed roads. In addition, rules apply to breakdowns and incidents, road works, level crossings and tramways, light signals controlling traffic, signals to other road users as well as those used by authorised persons, including police officers, people controlling traffic, Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency officers, traffic officers and school crossing patrols.

A selection of just a few of the many roadsigns!

Drivers should all know the meaning of the various traffic signs, including signs giving orders, warning signs, direction signs, information signs and road works signs as well as the various road markings. There are even specific vehicle markings that are used, including large goods vehicle rear markings, hazard warning plates, projection markers and other markings. Even bicycle and motorcycle rules must be known and adhered to. Something I learned whilst researching this was that there are special rules which apply to drivers and motorcyclists for a period of two years from the date of passing their first driving test. Where a person subject to the special rules accumulates 6 or more penalty points before the end of the 2-year period (including any points acquired before passing the test) their licence will be revoked automatically. To regain the licence they must reapply for a provisional licence and may drive only as a learner until they pass a further full driving test. The code also gives information and rules about vehicle maintenance, safety and security as well as about first aid on the road, including dealing with danger, getting help, helping those involved, and providing emergency care. But it still has a code of practice for horse-drawn vehicles! There are also rules whilst learning to drive. For example you must have a provisional driving licence for Great Britain or Northern Ireland and you must be supervised when you’re learning to drive a car. This can be by a driving instructor or someone else who meets the rules, for example family or friends, but even they have rules they must follow, for example anyone you practise your driving with (without paying them) must be over 21, be qualified to drive the type of vehicle you want to learn in, for example they must have a manual car licence if they’re supervising you in a manual car and they must have had their full driving licence for three years. You can be fined up to £1,000 and get up to six penalty points on your provisional licence if you drive without the right supervision. It is illegal for your friend or family member to use a mobile phone whilst supervising you, or for you to drive on the motorway when practising with family or friends. In addition, you need your own insurance as a learner driver if you are practising in a car you own. Your family member or friend will usually be covered on this. If you are practising in someone else’s car, you need to either make sure you are covered by the car owner’s insurance policy as a learner driver, or take out your own insurance policy that covers you driving in the car as a learner driver.

Whew! There is more yet. The car you learn in must display proper ‘L’ plates. You can drive at any time, day and night. But you can only drive on motorways if you are driving in England, Scotland or Wales, you are with an approved driving instructor and the car is fitted with dual controls. You must also complete a theory test, and there are some important things to know, for example you must take your UK photocard driving licence to your test. If you have a licence from Northern Ireland, bring the photocard and paper counterpart licence. Your test will be cancelled and you will not get your money back if you do not take the right things with you. However you can choose whether or not to wear a face covering at your test. If you have a paper licence, you must bring a valid passport as well as your paper licence. If you do not have a passport, you need to get a photocard licence. In addition, you will not have access to your personal items in the test room, things like bags, earphones, mobile phones and watches. You will usually have to store any personal items in a locker, but if your test centre does not have lockers, then you must turn off your phone before you enter the test centre and put your belongings in a clear plastic box that will be given to you – this must be stored under your desk during the test. The test centre staff will check if you have anything with you that could be used to cheat. Your test will not go ahead if you do not let them check. It is illegal to cheat at the theory test. You can be sent to prison and banned from driving. When you take the actual test, you must take your UK driving licence, your theory test pass certificate, if you have it and (of course) a car. Most people use their driving instructor’s, but you can use your own car if it meets the rules. These are different to when I took my test, but that was many years ago! Now, your car must have no warning lights showing, for example, the airbag warning light, have no tyre damage and meet the legal tread depth on each tyre. You must not have a space-saver spare tyre. The car must be roadworthy, be fitted with an extra interior rear-view mirror for the examiner and be fitted with a passenger seatbelt and a passenger head restraint for the examiner (slip-on types are not allowed). The car must be able to reach at least 62mph and have an mph speedometer, be fitted with L-plates (‘L’ or ‘D’ plates in Wales) on the front and rear and have 4 wheels and meet the maximum authorised mass (MAM) of no more than 3,500 kg. It must be taxed, have a current MOT (if it is over 3 years old) and be insured for a driving test. It is wise to check with your insurance company. Some cars cannot be used in the test because they do not give the examiner all-round vision. This is also because not every model has been used in a test before, and some may not give the examiner all-round vision. You can check if your car can be used by contacting the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). Having said all that, you can start driving as soon as you pass your driving test. But you must have an insurance policy that allows you to drive without supervision.

All this is to give you an idea about the rules and regulations. It should not be used as a definitive guide. More detailed information is available from the website Learn to drive a car: step by step – GOV.UK. I feel I must also mention that passing this test means you can legally drive. But with more accidents being caused by drivers in their first few years of driving, there really is no substitute for experience. Please, drive carefully!

This week…as seen on Twitter the other day:
“When stopped by the police for an offence, if you are telling a friend in a foreign language what you’ve just done, it is a good idea to check first that the officer isn’t fluent in that language. Driver reported for using mobile phone whilst driving. No excuses.”

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The Book Of Common Prayer

The Book of Common Prayer is the name given to a number of related prayer books used in the Anglican Communion and by other Christian churches historically related to Anglicanism. The first prayer book, which was published in 1549 in the reign of King Edward VI of England, was a product of the English Reformation following the break with Rome. The work of 1549 was the first prayer book to include the complete forms of service for daily and Sunday worship in English. The 1549 book was soon succeeded by a 1552 revision which was more ‘Reformed’ but from the same editorial hand, that of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. It was used only for a few months, as after Edward VI’s death in 1553 his half-sister Queen Mary I restored Roman Catholic worship. Mary died in 1558 and, in 1559, Queen Elizabeth I reintroduced the 1552 book with modifications to make it acceptable to more traditionally minded worshippers and clergy. In 1604, King James I ordered some further changes, the most significant being the addition to the Catechism of a section on the Sacraments and this resulted in the 1604 Book of Common Prayer. Following the English Civil War, when the Prayer Book was again abolished, another revision was published as the 1662 prayer book. That edition remains the official prayer book of the Church of England, although throughout the later twentieth century alternative forms (which were technically supplements) have largely displaced the Book of Common Prayer for the main Sunday worship of most English parish churches. Various permutations of the Book of Common Prayer with local variations are used in churches within and outside the Anglican Communion in over 50 countries and over 150 different languages. In many of these churches, the 1662 prayer book remains authoritative even if other books or patterns have replaced it in regular worship. Traditional English-language Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian prayer books have borrowed from the Book of Common Prayer and the marriage and burial rites have found their way into those of other denominations as well as into the English language. Like the King James Version of the Bible and the works of Shakespeare, many words and phrases from the Book of Common Prayer have entered common parlance.

Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556), editor and co-author of the first and second Books of Common Prayer.

Only after the death of King Henry VIII and the accession of King Edward VI in 1547 could revision of prayer books proceed faster. Despite conservative opposition, Parliament passed the Act of Uniformity on 21 January 1549, and the newly authorised Book of Common Prayer was required to be in use by Whitsunday (Pentecost), 9 June. Cranmer is credited with the overall job of editorship and the overarching structure of the book, though he borrowed and adapted material from other sources. The prayer book had provisions for the daily offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, scripture readings for Sundays and holy days, and services for Communion, public baptism, confirmation, matrimony, visitation of the sick, burial, purification of women upon the birth of a child, and Ash Wednesday. An ordinal for ordination services of bishops, priests and deacons was added in 1550. There was also a calendar and lectionary, which meant a Bible and a Psalter were the only other books required by a priest. This represented a major theological shift in England towards Protestantism. Cranmer’s doctrinal concerns can be seen in the systematic amendment of source material to remove any idea that human merit contributed to an individual’s salvation.

Thomas Cranmer’s prayer book of 1552.

The services for baptism, confirmation, communion and burial were rewritten, and ceremonies hated by Protestants were removed. The 1552 prayer book removed many traditional sacramentals and observances that reflected belief in the blessing and exorcism of people and objects. In the baptism service, infants no longer received minor exorcism. Anointing was no longer included in the services for baptism, ordination and visitation of the sick. These ceremonies were altered to emphasise the importance of faith, rather than trusting in rituals or objects and many of the traditional elements of the communion service were removed in the 1552 version. The name of the service was changed to “The Order for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion”, thus removing the word ‘Mass’. Stone altars were replaced with communion tables positioned in the chancel or nave, with the priest standing on the north side. The priest was also to wear the surplice instead of traditional Mass vestments. The service therefore promoted a spiritually presented view of the Eucharist, meaning that Christ is spiritually but not corporally present. The burial service was removed from the church. It was to now take place at the graveside. In 1549, there had been provision for a Requiem, prayers of commendation and committal, the first addressed to the deceased. All that remained was a single reference to the deceased, giving thanks for their delivery from ‘the myseryes of this sinneful world.’ This new Order for the Burial of the Dead was a drastically stripped-down memorial service designed to undermine definitively the whole complex of traditional Catholic beliefs about purgatory and intercessory prayers for the dead. The 1552 book, however, was used only for a short period, as King Edward VI had died in the summer of 1553 and, as soon as she could do so, Queen Mary I restored union with Rome. The Latin Mass was re-established, altars, roods and statues of saints were reinstated in an attempt to restore the English Church to its Roman affiliation. Thomas Cranmer was punished for his work in the English Reformation by being burned at the stake on 21 March 1556.

Nevertheless, the 1552 book was to survive, as after Mary’s death in 1558, it became the primary source for the Elizabethan Book of Common Prayer, with subtle, if significant, changes only. When the accession of Queen Elizabeth I re-asserted the dominance of the Reformed Church of England, there remained a significant body of more Protestant believers who were nevertheless hostile to the Book of Common Prayer. Under Queen Elizabeth I, a more permanent enforcement of the reformed Church of England was then undertaken and the 1552 book was republished, scarcely altered, in 1559. The doctrines in the Prayer Book and the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion as set forth in 1559 would set the tone of Anglicanism. The conservative nature of these changes underlined the fact that Reformed principles were by no means universally popular, a fact that the Queen recognised. Her revived Act of Supremacy, giving her the ambiguous title of supreme governor, passed without difficulty but the 1559 Act of Uniformity, giving statutory force to the Prayer Book, passed through the House of Lords by only three votes. It made constitutional history in being imposed by the laity alone, as all the bishops, except those imprisoned by the Queen and unable to attend, voted against it. After these innovations and reversals, the new forms of Anglican worship took several decades to gain acceptance, but by the end of her reign in 1603, 70–75% of the English population were on board. However, beginning in the seventeenth century, some prominent Anglican theologians tried to cast a more traditional Catholic interpretation onto the text as a Commemorative Sacrifice and Heavenly Offering, even though the words of the Rite did not support such interpretations. Thomas Cranmer, a good liturgist, was aware that the Eucharist from the mid-second century on had been regarded as the Church’s offering to God, but he removed the sacrificial language anyway, whether under pressure or conviction. It was not until the Anglican Oxford Movement of the mid-nineteenth century and later twentieth-century revisions that the Church of England would attempt to deal with the eucharistic doctrines of Cranmer by bringing the Church back to “pre-Reformation doctrine.” Another move, the “Ornaments Rubric“, related to what clergy were to wear whilst conducting services. Instead of the banning of all vestments except the rochet for bishops and the surplice for parish clergy, it permitted “such ornaments as were in use in the second year of King Edward VI.” This allowed substantial leeway for more traditionalist clergy to retain the vestments which they felt were appropriate to liturgical celebration. The rubric also stated that the Communion service should be conducted in the ‘accustomed place,’ namely facing a Table against the wall with the priest facing it. The instruction to the congregation to kneel when receiving communion was retained. Amongst Cranmer’s innovations, retained in the new Prayer Book, was the requirement of weekly Holy Communion services. In practice, as before the English Reformation, many received communion rarely, as little as once a year in some cases. Very high attendance at festivals was the order of the day in many parishes and in some, regular communion was very popular; in other places families stayed away or sent “a servant to be the liturgical representative of their household.” Few parish clergy were initially licensed by the bishops to preach and in the absence of a licensed preacher, Sunday services were required to be accompanied by reading one of the homilies written by Cranmer. Many were not alone in their enthusiasm for preaching, which was regarded as one of the prime functions of a parish priest. Music was much simplified, and a radical distinction developed between, on the one hand, parish worship, where only metrical psalms might be sung, and, on the other hand, worship in churches with organs and surviving choral foundations, where music was developed into a rich choral tradition. The whole act of parish worship might take well over two hours, and accordingly, churches were equipped with pews in which households could sit together (whereas in the medieval church, men and women had worshipped separately). Many ordinary churchgoers would own a copy of the Prayer Book, at least, those who could afford one, as it was expensive. There is a story of parishioners at Flixton in Suffolk who brought their own Prayer Books to church in order to shame their vicar into conforming with it! They eventually ousted him. Between 1549 and 1642, roughly 290 editions of the Prayer Book were produced but before the end of the English Civil War (1642–1651) and the introduction of the 1662 prayer book, something like a half a million prayer books are estimated to have been in circulation. The 1559 Book of Common Prayer was also translated into other languages within the English sphere of influence. A retranslation into Latin was made in the form of ‘Liber Precum Publicarum’ of 1560 and was destined for use in the English universities. The Welsh edition of the Book of Common Prayer for use in the Church in Wales was published in 1567. Then, after his accession, King James I called the Hampton Court Conference in 1604. It was the same meeting of bishops and Puritan divines that had initiated the King James Bible. This was in effect a series of two conferences, the first between James and the bishops and the second between James and the Puritans on the following day. The Puritans raised four areas of concern, these being purity of doctrine, the means of maintaining it, church government and the Book of Common Prayer. Confirmation, the cross in baptism, private baptism, the use of the surplice, kneeling for communion, reading the Apocrypha and subscription to both the Book of Common Prayer and Articles were all touched on. On the third day, after the king had received a report back from the bishops and made final modifications, he announced his decisions to the Puritans and bishops. The business of making the changes was then entrusted to a small committee of bishops and the Privy Council and, apart from tidying up details, this committee introduced into Morning and Evening Prayer a prayer for the Royal Family, they added several thanksgivings to the Occasional Prayers at the end of the Litany, altered the rubrics of Private Baptism limiting it to the minister of the parish, or some other lawful minister whilst still allowing it in private houses (the Puritans had wanted it only in the church) and added to the Catechism the section on the sacraments. The changes were put into effect by means of an explanation issued by the king in the exercise of his prerogative under the terms of the 1559 Act of Uniformity and Act of Supremacy. But the accession of King Charles I (1625–1649) brought about a complete change in the religious scene, in that the new king used his supremacy over the established church “to promote his own idiosyncratic style of sacramental Kingship” which was seen as a very weird aberration from the first hundred years of the early reformed Church of England. He questioned the populist and parliamentary basis of the Reformation Church and unsettled to a great extent the perceived consent of Anglicanism. These changes, along with a new edition of the Book of Common Prayer, led to the Bishops’ Wars and later to the English Civil War. With the defeat of King Charles I in the Civil War, the Puritan pressure, exercised through a much-changed Parliament, had increased. Puritan-inspired petitions for the removal of the prayer book and episcopacy, the latter being the role or office of bishop. This resulted in local disquiet in many places and, eventually, the production of locally organised counter petitions. The parliamentary government had its way, but it became clear that the division was not between Catholics and Protestants, but between Puritans and those who valued the Elizabethan settlement. The 1604 book was finally outlawed by Parliament in 1645, to be replaced by the Directory of Public Worship, which was more a set of instructions than a prayer book. How widely the Directory was used is not certain and there is some evidence in churchwardens’ accounts of its having been purchased, but not widely. The Prayer Book was certainly used clandestinely in some places, not least because the Directory made no provision at all for burial services. Following the execution of King Charles I in 1649 and the establishment of the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector, the Prayer Book was not reinstated until shortly after the restoration of the monarchy to England.

Title page of the 1662 Prayer Book.

The 1662 Prayer Book was printed two years after the restoration of the monarchy. Attempts by the Presbyterians to gain approval for an alternative service book failed. Their major objections were firstly that it was improper for lay people to take any vocal part in prayer (as in the Litany or Lord’s Prayer), other than to say “amen” and secondly that no set prayer should exclude the option of an extempore alternative from the minister. Thirdly, that the minister should have the option to omit part of the set liturgy at his discretion and fourthly that short collects should be replaced by longer prayers and exhortations. Finally, that all surviving ‘Catholic’ ceremonial should be removed. The intent behind these suggested changes was to achieve a greater correspondence between liturgy and scripture. The bishops gave a frosty reply. They declared that liturgy could not be circumscribed by scripture, but rightfully included those matters which were generally received in the Catholic church. They rejected extempore prayer as apt to be filled with ‘idle, impertinent, ridiculous, sometimes seditious, impious and blasphemous expressions.’ The notion that the Prayer Book was defective because it dealt in generalisations brought the crisp response that such expressions were “the perfection of the liturgy”.

A Collect for 5 November in the Book of Common Prayer published in London in 1689, referring to the Gunpowder Plot and the arrival of King William III.

All the way between 1662 and the nineteenth century, further attempts to revise the Book in England stalled. On the death of Charles II, his brother James, a Roman Catholic, became King James II. The latter wished to achieve toleration for those of his own Roman Catholic faith, whose practices were still banned. This, however, drew the Presbyterians closer to the Church of England in their common desire to resist ‘popery’, so the talk of reconciliation and liturgical compromise was thus in the air. But with the flight of James in 1688 and the arrival of the Calvinist William of Orange, the position of the parties changed. The Presbyterians could achieve toleration of their practices without such a right being given to Roman Catholics and without, therefore, their having to submit to the Church of England, even with a liturgy more acceptable to them. They were now in a much stronger position to demand changes that were ever more radical. By the nineteenth century, pressures to revise the 1662 book were increasing and following a Royal Commission report in 1906, work began on a new prayer book. It took twenty years to complete, prolonged partly due to the demands of the First World War and partly in the light of the 1920 constitution of the Church Assembly, which it seems some wished to do the work all over again for itself. In 1927, the work on a new version of the prayer book reached its final form. In order to reduce conflict with traditionalists, it was decided that the form of service to be used would be determined by each congregation. With these open guidelines, the book was granted approval by the Church of England Convocations and Church Assembly in July 1927. But it was defeated by the House of Commons in 1928 and the effect of this failure resulted in no further attempts being made to revise the Book of Common Prayer. Instead, a different process, that of producing an alternative book, led to the publication of Series 1, 2 and 3 in the 1960s, the 1980 Alternative Service Book and subsequently to the 2000 Common Worship series of books. Both differ substantially from the Book of Common Prayer, though the latter includes in the Order Two form of the Holy Communion a very slight revision of the prayer book service, largely along the lines proposed for the 1928 Prayer Book. Order One follows the pattern of the modern Liturgical Movement. As for me, having not attended regular church services for a few years I was unaware of these Common Worship changes. But we still pray to the same God.

This week…turn a blind eye.
This is often used to refer to a wilful refusal to acknowledge a particular reality and dates back to a legendary chapter in the career of the British naval hero Horatio Nelson. During 1801’s Battle of Copenhagen, Nelson’s ships were pitted against a large Danish-Norwegian fleet. When his more conservative superior officer flagged for him to withdraw, the one-eyed Nelson supposedly brought his telescope to his bad eye and blithely proclaimed, “I really do not see the signal.” He went on to score a decisive victory. Some historians have since dismissed Nelson’s famous quip as merely a battlefield myth, but the phrase “turn a blind eye” persists to this day.

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Lundy Island

Lundy is an English island in the Bristol Channel which forms part of the district of Torridge in the county of Devon. It is about three miles (five km) long and five-eighths of a mile (one km) wide, it has had a long and turbulent history, with a frequently changing of hands between the British crown and various usurpers. In the 1920s one self-proclaimed ‘king’, Martin Harman, tried to issue his own coinage and was fined by the House of Lords. In 1941, two German Heinkel He 111 bombers crash landed on the island, and their crews were captured. But then in 1969 Lundy was purchased by British millionaire Jack Hayward who donated it to the National Trust. The island is now managed by the Landmark Trust, a conservation charity that derives its income from day trips and holiday lettings, with most visitors arriving by boat from Bideford or Ilfracombe. A local tourist curiosity is the special ‘Puffin’ postage stamp, a category known by philatelists as ‘local carriage labels’, a collectors’ item. As a steep, rocky island often shrouded by fog, Lundy has been the scene of many shipwrecks, and the remains of its old lighthouse installations are of both historic and scientific interest. Its present-day lighthouses are fully automated, one of which is solar-powered. Lundy has a rich bird life, as it lies on major migration routes, and attracts many vagrant as well as indigenous species. It also boasts a variety of marine habitats, with rare seaweeds, sponges and corals. In 2010, the island became Britain’s first Marine Conservation Zone.

Lundy’s jetty and harbour.

Lundy is the largest island in the Bristol Channel and it lies ten nautical miles (19km) off the coast of Devon, about a third of the distance across the channel from Devon to Pembrokeshire in Wales. Lundy gives its name to a British sea area and is included in the district of Torridge with a resident population of 28 people in 2007. These include a warden, a ranger, an island manager, a farmer, bar and house-keeping staff, and volunteers. Most live in and around the village at the south of the island and almost all of the visitors are day-trippers, although it does boast twenty-three holiday properties and a camp site for over-night visitors, most at the south of the island. In a 2005 opinion poll of Radio Times readers, Lundy was named as Britain’s tenth greatest natural wonder. The island has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and it was England’s first statutory Marine Nature reserve. It was also the first Marine Conservation Zone, because of its unique flora and fauna.

Map of Lundy by Henry Mangles Denham (1832).

The place-name ‘Lundy’ is first attested in 1189 in the ‘Records of the Templars in England’, where it appears as (Insula de) ‘Lundeia’. It appears in the Charter Rolls (administrative records) as ‘Lundeia’ again in 1199, and as ‘Lunday’ in 1281. The name means ‘puffin island’, from the Old Norse ‘lundi’, meaning ‘puffin’. The name is Scandinavian, and it appears in the 12th-century Orkneyinga saga as ‘Lundey’. The name is known in Welsh as ‘Ynys Wair’, or Gwair’s Island, in reference to an alternative name for the wizard Gwydion. Lundy has evidence of visitation or occupation right from the Mesolithic period onward, with Neolithic flintwork, Bronze Age burial mounds, four inscribed gravestones from the early medieval period and an early medieval monastery possibly dedicated to St Elen or St Helen.

Four Celtic inscribed stones in Beacon Hill Cemetery.

Lundy was granted to the Knights Templar by King Henry II in 1160. The Templars were a major international maritime force at this time, with interests in North Devon, and almost certainly an important port at Bideford or on the River Taw in Barnstaple. This was probably because of the increasing threat posed by the Norse sea raiders, however it is unclear as to whether they ever took possession of the island. Ownership was disputed by the Marisco family who may have already been on the island during King Stephen’s reign. The Mariscos were fined, and the island was cut off from necessary supplies. Evidence of the Templars’ weak hold on the island came when King John, on his accession in 1199, confirmed the earlier grant.

Marisco Castle, Lundy.

In 1235 William de Marisco was implicated in the murder of Henry Clement, a messenger of King Henry III. Three years later, an attempt was made to kill the King by a man who later confessed to being an agent of the Marisco family. William de Marisco fled to Lundy where he lived as a virtual king. He built a stronghold in the area now known as Bulls’ Paradise with 9-foot (3-metre) thick walls. In 1242, King Henry III sent troops to the island. They scaled the island’s cliff and captured William de Marisco and sixteen of his ‘subjects’. Marisco Castle was built by King Henry III in about 1250 high up on the south-east point of Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel and this was in an attempt to establish the rule of law on the island with its surrounding waters. In 1275 the island is recorded as being in the Lordship of King Edward I, but by 1322 it was in the possession of Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster and was among the large number of lands seized by King Edward II following Lancaster’s execution for rebelling against the King. At some point in the thirteenth century the monks of the Cistercian order at Cleeve Abbey held the rectory of the island. By 1787 cottages had been built round the small courtyard inside the Keep. (In recent times these have been rebuilt by the Landmark Trust for holiday rental.) Over the next few centuries, the island was hard to govern. Trouble followed as both English and foreign pirates as well as privateers, including other members of the Marisco family, took control of the island for short periods. Ships were also forced to navigate close to Lundy island because of the dangerous shingle banks in the fast flowing River Severn and Bristol Channel, with its tidal range of 27 feet (8.2 metres), one of the greatest in the world. This made the island a profitable location from which to prey on passing Bristol-bound merchant ships bringing back valuable goods from overseas. In 1627 a group known as the ‘Salé Rovers’, from the Republic of Salé (now Salé) in Morocco occupied Lundy for five years. These Barbary Pirates, under the command of a Dutch renegade named Jan Janszoon, flew an Ottoman flag over the island. Slaving raids were made, embarking from Lundy by these Barbary Pirates, and captured Europeans were held on Lundy before being sent to Algiers to be sold as slaves. From 1628 to 1634, in addition to the Barbary Pirates, the island was plagued by privateers of French, Basque, English and Spanish origin targeting the lucrative shipping routes passing through the Bristol Channel. These incursions were eventually ended by Sir John Penington, an English admiral who served under King Charles I, although in the 1660s and as late as the 1700s the island still fell prey to French privateers. In the English Civil War (1642 to 1651), Thomas Bushell held Lundy for King Charles I, rebuilding Marisco Castle and garrisoning the island at his own expense. He was a friend of Francis Bacon, a strong supporter of the Royalist cause and an expert on mining and coining. It was the last Royalist territory held between the first and second civil wars. After receiving permission from King Charles I, Bushell surrendered the island on 24 February 1647 to Richard Fiennes, representing General Fairfax. Then in 1656, the island was acquired by Lord Saye and Sele.

Exterior of St. Helen’s Church, taken prior to the 2018 renovations.

The late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were years of lawlessness on Lundy, particularly during the ownership of Thomas Benson, a Member of Parliament for Barnstaple in 1747 and also Sheriff of Devon, who notoriously used the island for housing convicts whom he was supposed to be deporting. Benson leased Lundy from its owner, John Leveson-Gower, 1st Earl Gower (1694–1754), who was an heir of the Grenville family of Bideford and of Stowe, Kilkhampton, at a rent of £60 per annum and contracted with the Government to transport a shipload of convicts to Virginia, but diverted the ship to Lundy to use the convicts as his personal slaves. Later Benson was involved in an insurance swindle. He purchased and insured the ship ‘Nightingale’ and loaded it with a valuable cargo of pewter and linen. Having cleared the port on the mainland, the ship put into Lundy, where the cargo was removed and stored in a cave built by the convicts, before setting sail again. Some days afterwards, when a homeward-bound vessel was sighted, the ‘Nightingale’ was set on fire and scuttled. The crew were taken off the stricken ship by the other ship, which landed them safely at Clovelly. Sir Vere Hunt, 1st Baronet of Curragh, a rather eccentric Irish politician and landowner, and unsuccessful man of business, purchased the island from John Cleveland in 1802 for £5,270 (£500,600 today). Sir Vere Hunt planted in the island a small, self-contained Irish colony with its own constitution and divorce laws, coinage and stamps. The tenants came from Sir Vere Hunt’s Irish estate and they experienced agricultural difficulties whilst on the island. This led Sir Vere Hunt to seek someone who would take the island off his hands, failing in his attempt to sell the island to the British Government as a base for troops. After the 1st Baronet’s death his son, Sir Aubrey (Hunt de Vere, 2nd Baronet, also had great difficulty in securing any profit from the property. In the 1820s John Benison agreed to purchase the island for £4,500 but then refused to complete the sale as he felt that the 2nd Baronet could not make out a good title in respect of the sale terms, namely that the island was free from tithes and taxes. William Hudson Heaven purchased Lundy in 1834, as a summer retreat and for hunting, at a cost of 9,400 guineas (£9,870, or £1,009,200 today). He claimed it to be a “free island”, and successfully resisted the jurisdiction of the mainland magistrates. Lundy was in consequence sometimes referred to as ‘the kingdom of Heaven’. It belongs in fact to the county of Devon, and has always been part of the hundred. Many of the buildings on the island today, including St. Helen’s Church, designed by the architect John Norton, and Millcombe House (originally known simply as the Villa), date from the ‘Heaven’ period. The Georgian-style villa was built in 1836, however, the expense of building the road from the beach, with no financial assistance being provided by Trinity House, despite their regular use of the road following the construction of the lighthouses, the villa and the general cost of running the island had a ruinous effect on the family’s finances, which had been damaged by reduced profits from their sugar plantations in Jamaica. In fact, in 1957 a message in a bottle from one of the seamen of HMS Caledonia was washed ashore on a Devon beach. The letter, dated 15 August 1843 read: “Dear Brother, Please e God I be with y against Michaelmas. Prepare y search Lundy for y Jenny ivories. Adiue William, Odessa”. The bottle and letter are on display at the Portledge Hotel at Fairy Cross, in Devon, England. ‘Jenny’, reputed to be carrying ivory and gold dust that was wrecked on Lundy on 20 February 1797 at a place thereafter called Jenny’s Cove. Some ivory was apparently recovered some years later but the leather bags supposed to contain gold dust were never found. William Heaven was succeeded by his son the Reverend Hudson Grosset Heaven who, thanks to a legacy from Sarah Langworthy (née Heaven), was able to fulfil his life’s ambition of building a stone church on the island. St Helen’s was completed in 1896, and stands today as a lasting memorial to the Heaven period. It has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade II listed building. Revd Heaven is said to have been able to afford either a church or a new harbour but his choice of the church was not however in the best financial interests of the island. The unavailability of the money for re-establishing the family’s financial soundness, coupled with disastrous investment and speculation in the early twentieth century, caused severe financial hardship.

A Puffin coin of 1929, bearing the portrait of Martin Coles Harman.

Hudson Heaven died in 1916, and was succeeded by his nephew, Walter Charles Hudson Heaven. With the outbreak of the First World War, matters deteriorated seriously and in 1918 the family sold Lundy to Augustus Langham Christie. In 1924, the Christie family sold the island along with the mail contract and a merchant vessel named ‘Lerina’ to Martin Coles Harman, who proclaimed himself a king. Harman issued two coins of Half Puffin and One Puffin denominations in 1929, nominally equivalent to the British halfpenny and penny, resulting in his prosecution under the United Kingdom’s Coinage Act of 1870. The House of Lords found him guilty in 1931, and he was fined £5 with fifteen guineas (£5 + £15.75) expenses. The coins were withdrawn and became collectors’ items. In 1965 a ‘fantasy’ re-strike four-coin set, a few in gold, was issued to commemorate forty years since Harman purchased the island. Martin Coles Harman died in 1954 and his son, John Pennington Harman was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross during the Battle of Kohima, India in 1944. There is a memorial to him at the VC Quarry on Lundy. Residents did not pay taxes to the United Kingdom and had to pass through customs when they travelled to and from Lundy Island. Although the island was ruled as a virtual fiefdom, its owner never claimed to be independent of the United Kingdom, in contrast to later territorial “micronations“. Following the death of Harman’s son Albion in 1968, Lundy was put up for sale in 1969. Jack Hayward, a British millionaire, purchased the island for £150,000 (£2,627,000 today) and gave it to the National Trust, who leased it to the Landmark Trust. The Landmark Trust has managed the island since then, deriving its income from arranging day trips, letting out holiday cottages and from donations. In May 2015 a sculpture by Antony Gormley was erected on Lundy. It is one of five life-sized sculptures, ‘Land’, placed near the centre and at four compass points of the UK in a commission by the Landmark Trust, to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary. (The others are at Lowsonford in Warwickshire, Saddell Bay in Scotland, the Martello Tower at Aldeburgh, Suffolk and Clavell Tower, Kimmeridge Bay, Dorset.)

As you might expect, over the years there have been a few wrecked ships and some aircraft. For example, near the end of a voyage from Africa to Bristol the British merchant ship ‘Jenny’ was wrecked on the coast of Lundy in January 1797. Only her first mate survived. On 27 January 1797, Lloyd’s List confirmed that Jenny had been lost on Lundy Island as she was returning to Bristol from Africa and the only survivor was the first mate. The underwriters attempted to salvage what they could and the place where Jenny was lost is now known as Jenny’s Cove at 51°10.87′N 4°40.48′W. Whilst steaming in heavy fog, the Royal Navy battleship HMS Montagu ran hard aground near Shutter Rock on Lundy’s southwest corner at about 2:00a.m. on 30 May 1906. Thinking they were aground at Hartland Point on the English mainland, a landing party went ashore for help, only finding out where they were after encountering the lighthouse keeper at the island’s north light.

HMS Montagu during the failed salvage attempts of the summer of 1906.

Strenuous efforts by the Royal Navy to salvage the badly damaged battleship during the summer of 1906 failed, and in 1907 it was decided to give up and sell her for scrap. Montagu was scrapped at the scene over the next fifteen years. Diving clubs still visit the site, where armour plate and live 12-inch (305-millimetre) shells remain on the seabed. Years later, during the Second World War two German Heinkel He 111 bombers crash landed on the island in 1941. The first was on 3 March, when all the crew survived and were taken prisoner. The second was on 1 April when the pilot was killed and the other crew members were taken prisoner. This aircraft had bombed a British ship and one engine was damaged by anti-aircraft fire, forcing it to crash land. Most of the metal was salvaged, although a few remains can be found at the crash site to date. Reportedly, to avoid reprisals, the crew concocted the story that they were on a reconnaissance mission. There is more that can be written about this island, for example the vegetation on the plateau is mainly dry heath, with an area of lichens towards the northern end of the island. There is one endemic plant species, the Lundy cabbage, a species of primitive brassica. By the 1980s the eastern side of the island had become overgrown by rhododendrons which had spread from a few specimens planted in the garden of Millcombe House in Victorian times, but in recent years significant efforts have been made to eradicate this non-native plant. Also two invertebrates are endemic to Lundy, with both feeding on the endemic Lundy cabbage. These are the Lundy cabbage flea beetle and the Lundy cabbage weevil Another resident invertebrate of note is the only British species of purseweb spider. Meanwhile the population of puffins on the island declined in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries as a consequence of depredations by both brown and black rats and possibly also as a result of commercial fishing for sand eels, the puffins’ principal prey. Since the elimination of rats in 2006, seabird numbers have increased and by 2019 the number of puffins had risen to 375 and the number of Manx shearwaters to 5,504 pairs. As an isolated island on major migration routes, Lundy has a rich bird life and is a popular site for birdwatching. Large numbers of black-legged kittiwake nest on the cliffs, as do razorbill, common guillemot, herring gull, lesser black-backed gull, fulmar, shag, oystercatcher, skylark, meadow pipit, blackbird, robin and linnet. There are also smaller populations of peregrine falcon and raven. Lundy has also attracted many vagrant birds, in particular species from North America. As of 2007, the island’s bird list totals 317 species. Lundy is home to an unusual range of introduced mammals, including a distinct breed of wild pony, the Lundy pony, as well as Soay sheep, sika deer and feral goats. Other mammals which have made the island their home include the grey seal and the pygmy shrew. In 1971 a proposal was made by the Lundy Field Society to establish a marine reserve, and the survey was led by Dr Keith Hiscock, supported by a team of students from Bangor University. Provision for the establishment of statutory Marine Nature Reserves was included in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and on 21 November 1986 the Secretary of State for the Environment announced the designation of a statutory reserve at Lundy. There is an outstanding variety of marine habitats and wildlife, and according to my research there are a large number of rare and unusual species in the waters around Lundy, including some species of seaweed, branching sponges, sea fans and cup corals. In 2003 the first statutory ‘No Take Zone’ (NTZ) for marine nature conservation in the UK was set up in the waters to the east of Lundy island. In 2008 this was declared as having been successful in several ways, including the increasing size and number of lobsters within the reserve, and potential benefits for other marine wildlife. However, this NTZ has received a mixed reaction from local fishermen. On 12 January 2010 the island became Britain’s first Marine Conservation Zone designated under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, designed to help to preserve important habitats and species.

The Harbour porpoise is probably the most common cetacean in the waters around Lundy.

Three species of cetacean are regularly seen from the island; these being the bottlenose dolphin, the common dolphin, and the harbour porpoise. There are a few others, but these are seen rarely around Lundy, most especially off the more sheltered eastern coast and only during the warmer months.

The Lundy ferry ‘Oldenburg’ sailing into Ilfracombe harbour, past inflatable ThunderCat powerboats waiting to begin an offshore race.

In terms of transport, there are two ways to get to Lundy, depending on the time of year. In the summer months (April to October) visitors are carried on the Landmark Trust’s own vessel, MS Oldenburg, which sails from both Bideford and Ilfracombe. Sailings are usually three days a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, with additional sailings on Wednesdays during July and August. The voyage takes on average two hours, depending on ports, tides and weather. The Oldenburg was first registered in Bremen, Germany, in 1958 and has been sailing to Lundy since being bought by the Lundy Company Ltd in 1985. But in the early 1960’s I happen to know that a paddle steamer named the ‘Bristol Queen’ used to have trips from (as I recall) Bideford to Lundy and back. Sadly she hit Penarth pier on 20 August 1966, damaging the pier head. Then she damaged her paddle wheel on 26 August 1967 and was scrapped the following year. In the winter months (November to March) Lundy island is served by a scheduled helicopter service from Hartland Point. The helicopter operates on Mondays and Fridays, with flights between 12noon and 2pm. The heliport is a field at the top of Hartland Point, not far from the Beacon. A grass runway of 435 by 30 yards (398 by 27 m) is available, allowing access to small STOL (Short Take-off and Landing) aircraft. Alternatively, properly equipped and experienced canoeists can kayak to the island from Hartland Point or Lee Bay. This takes four to six hours, depending on wind and tides. Entrance to Lundy is free for anyone arriving by scheduled transport, but visitors arriving by non-scheduled transport are charged an entrance fee, as at May 2016 this was £6.00, and there is an additional charge payable by those using light aircraft. Anyone arriving on Lundy by non-scheduled transport is also charged an additional fee for transporting luggage to the top of the island. In 2007, Derek Green, Lundy’s general manager, launched an appeal to raise £250,000 to save the 1-mile-long (1.5-kilometre) Beach Road, which had been damaged by heavy rain and high seas. The road was built in the first half of the nineteenth century to provide people and goods with safe access to the top of the island, some 394 feet (120m) above the only jetty. The fund-raising was completed on 10 March 2009. As for staying on the island, Lundy has 23 holiday properties, sleeping between one and 14 people. These include a lighthouse, a castle and a Victorian mansion. Many of the buildings are constructed from the island’s granite. The island also has a campsite, at the south of the island in the field next to the shop. It has hot and cold running water, with showers and toilets, in an adjacent building. The island is popular with rock climbers, having the UK’s longest continuous slab climb, “The Devil’s Slide”. Lundy has been designated by Natural England as a ‘national character area’, one of England’s [natural regions. I have also learned that owing to a decline in population and lack of interest in the mail contract, the GPO (General Post Office) ended its presence on Lundy at the end of 1927. For the next two years Harman handled the mail to and from the island without charge.On 1 November 1929, he decided to offset the expense by issuing two postage stamps (1⁄2 puffin in pink and 1 puffin in blue). One puffin is equivalent to one English penny. The printing of Puffin stamps continues to this day and they are available at face value from the Lundy Post Office. One used to have to stick Lundy stamps on the back of the envelope; but Royal Mail now allows their use on the front of the envelope, but placed on the left side, with the right side reserved for the Royal Mail postage stamp or stamps. Lundy stamps are cancelled by a circular Lundy hand stamp. The face value of the Lundy Island stamps covers the cost of postage of letters and postcards from the island to the Bideford Post Office on the mainland for onward delivery to their final destination anywhere in the world. The Lundy Post Office gets a bulk rate discount for mailing letters and postcards from Bideford.

A final link to Lundy that I have always liked. One of the BBC Radio 4 shipping forecast weather areas is mentioned between ‘Sole’ and ‘Fastnet’ in the forecast is named after Lundy.

This week…
A great deal has been joked about marriage. One is “Marriage is like a deck of cards. At the beginning, all you need are two hearts and a diamond. But there may be later times when you wish you had a club and a spade”…

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Rhyming Slang

Rhyming slang is a form of word construction in the English language. It is especially prevalent amongst Cockneys, a term used to describe a person from the East End of London, especially if they are born within earshot of Bow Bells. Over in the United States, I understand especially with the criminal underworld of the West Coast between 1880 and 1920, rhyming slang has sometimes been known as ‘Australian slang’. The construction of rhyming slang involves replacing a common word with a phrase of two or more words, the last of which rhymes with the original word which is then often omitted from the end of the phrase. The rhyming word is thereafter implied, making the origin and meaning of the phrase elusive to listeners not in the know. An example of rhyming slang based on sound is the Cockney ‘tea leaf’, meaning thief. An alternative is phono-semantic rhyming slang, for example the Cockney ‘sorrowful tale’, for (three months in) jail), in which case the person coining the slang term sees a semantic link, sometimes jocular, between the Cockney expression and its referent. The use of rhyming slang has spread beyond Cockney and some examples are to be found in mainstream British English, though many users may be unaware of the origin of those words. For example the expression ‘blowing a raspberry’ comes from ‘raspberry tart’ for ‘fart’. Another example is ‘berk’, a mild pejorative used widely across the UK and not usually considered particularly offensive, although the origin lies in a contraction of ‘Berkeley Hunt’, as the rhyme for the significantly more offensive word. Another example is to “have a butcher’s” for to have a look, from “butcher’s hook”. Most of the words changed by this process are nouns, but a few are adjectival, e.g., “bales” of cotton (rotten), or the adjectival phrase “on one’s tod” for “on one’s own”, apparently after Tod Sloan, a famous jockey. Historically, as mentioned rhyming slang is believed to have originated in the mid-nineteenth century in the East End of London, with several sources suggesting some time in the 1840s. It remains a matter of speculation exactly how rhyming slang originated, for example, as a linguistic game among friends or as a ‘secret’ language developed intentionally to confuse non-locals. If deliberate, it may also have been used to maintain a sense of community, or to allow traders to talk amongst themselves in marketplaces to facilitate collusion, without customers knowing what they were saying, or by criminals to confuse police. One academic has even suggested that rhyming slang was invented by Irish immigrants to London, so the English wouldn’t understand what they were talking about! Many examples of rhyming slang are based on locations in London, such as Peckham Rye, for ‘tie’ which dates from the late nineteenth century;. Then there is Hampstead Heath, for ‘teeth’, which was first recorded in 1887, and Barnet Fair (usually shortened to Barnet), for ‘hair’ which dates from the 1850s. In the twentieth century, rhyming slang began to be based on the names of celebrities, for example Gregory Peck (cheque), Alan Whicker, as “Alan Whickers (knickers), Max Miller ( [pillow, but pronounced by Cockneys as ‘pilla’), Britney Spears (beers), Scooby-Doo (clue). There are more, and many examples have passed into common usage. Some substitutions have become relatively widespread in England in their contracted form. “To have a butcher’s”, meaning to have a look, originates from “butcher’s hook”, an S-shaped hook used by butchers to hang up meat, and dates from the late nineteenth century but has existed independently in general use from around the 1930s simply as “butchers”. Similarly, “use your loaf”, meaning “use your head”, derives from “loaf of bread” and also dates from the late nineteenth century but came into independent use in the 1930s. Conversely some uses have lapsed, or been usurped (“Hounslow Heath” for teeth, was replaced by “Hampsteads” from the heath of the same name, starting c.1887). In some cases, false etymologies exist. For example, the term “barney” has been used to mean an altercation or fight since the late nineteenth century, although without a clear derivation. Rhyming slang is used mainly in London in England but can to some degree be understood across the country. There are some constructions, however, which rely on particular regional accents for the rhymes to work. For instance, the term “Charing Cross“ (in London), used to mean “horse” since the mid-nineteenth century, does not work for a speaker without the accent common in London at that time but not so much nowadays. A similar example is “Joanna” meaning “piano”, which is based on the pronunciation of “piano” as “pianna”. Unique formations also exist in other parts of the United Kingdom, such as in the East Midlands, where the local accent has formed “Derby Road”, which rhymes with “cold”.

Outside of the UK, rhyming slang is used in many English-speaking countries, with local variations. For example, in Australian slang, the term for an English person is “pommy“, which has been proposed as a rhyme on “pomegranate”, pronounced “Pummy Grant”, which rhymed with “immigrant”. Rhyming slang is continually evolving, and new phrases are introduced all the time; new personalities replace old ones—pop culture introduces new words, as in “I haven’t a Scooby” (from Scooby Doo, the eponymous cartoon dog of the cartoon series) meaning “I haven’t a clue”. Rhyming slang is often used as a substitute for words regarded as taboo, often to the extent that the association with the taboo word becomes unknown over time. For example “Bristol Cities” (contracted to ‘Bristols’) is well-known. “Taking the Mick” or “taking the Mickey” is thought to be a rhyming slang form of “taking the p*ss“, where “Mick” came from “Mickey Bliss”. Rhyming slang has also been widely used in popular culture including film, television, music, literature, sport and degree classification.

“Geoff Hurst” (First class honours)
“Attila the Hun“ (Upper second class degree)
“Desmond Tutu” (Lower second class degree)
“Thora Hird” (Third class degree)

In the British undergraduate degree classification system a first class honours degree is known as a “Geoff Hurst“. An upper second class degree (a.k.a. a “2:1”) is called an “Attila the Hun“, and a lower second class (“2:2”) as a “Desmond Tutu“, whilst a third class degree is known as a “Thora Hird”.
There is also rhyming slang used in film and television. Slang had a resurgence of popular interest in Britain beginning in the 1970s, resulting from its use in a number of London-based television programmes. It was also featured in an episode of ‘The Good Life’, where Tom and Barbara purchase a wood-burning range from a junk trader called Sam, who litters his language with phoney slang in hopes of getting higher payment. He comes up with a fake story as to the origin of Cockney rhyming slang and is caught out rather quickly, whilst in a different tv series, a person explains Cockney rhyming slang in that “whistle and flute” means “suit”, “apples and pears” means “stairs” and “plates of meat” means “feet”. In music too it has been used, for example the 1967 Kinks song ‘Harry Rag’ was based on the usage of the name Harry Wragg as rhyming slang for “fag”, i.e. a cigarette. Another contributor was Lonnie Donegan, who had a song called “My Old Man’s a Dustman”. In it he says his father has trouble putting on his boots “He’s got such a job to pull them up that he calls them daisy roots”. In modern literature, Cockney rhyming slang is used frequently in the novels and short stories of Kim Newman, for instance in the short story collections “The Man from the Diogenes Club” (2006) and “Secret Files of the Diogenes Club” (2007), where it is explained at the end of each book. Even in sport it can be found, for example in Scottish football, a number of clubs have nicknames taken from rhyming slang. Partick Thistle are known as the “Harry Rags”, which is taken from the rhyming slang of their ‘official’ nickname “the Jags”, whilst Rangers are known as the “Teddy Bears”, which comes from the rhyming slang for “the Gers”, a shortened version of Ran-gers. Hibernian are also referred to as “The Cabbage” which comes from Cabbage and Ribs being the rhyming slang for Hibs. It is also found in rugby league, where “meat pie” is used for try. There are many more, though as has been said some have fallen out of use – but they are still widely heard in Cockney London!

This week… another film quote I like.
“I know engineers; they love to change things…”
~ Dr Leonard McCoy, Star Trek.

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