part of becoming an adult.
Anyway, the three university terms are only ten weeks each, and dur
ing vacation times families are reunited.
Freshers When they first arrive at college, first year university students are
called “freshers”. A fresher’s life can be exciting but terrifying for the first
Often freshers will live in a Hall of Residence on or near the college
campus, although they may move out into a rented room in their second or
third year, or share a house with friends. Many freshers will feel very home
sick for the first week or so, but living in hall soon helps them to make new
During the first week, all the clubs and societies hold a ‘freshers’
fair’ during which they try to persuade students to join their society. The
freshers are told that it is important for them to come into contact with
many opinions and activities during their time at university, but the choice
can be a bit overwhelming.
On the day that lectures start, groups of freshers are often seen walk
ing around huge campuses, maps in hand and a worried look on their faces.
They are learning how difficult it is to change from a school community to
one of many thousands. They also learn a new way of studying. As well as
lectures, there are regular seminars, at which one of a small group of stu
dents (probably not more than ten) reads a paper he or she has written. The
paper is then discussed by the tutor and the rest of a group. Once or twice a
term, students will have a tutorial. This means that they see a tutor alone to
discuss their work and their progress. In Oxford and Cambridge, and some
other universities, the study system is based entirely around such tutorials
which take place once a week. Attending lectures is optional for ‘Oxford’
After three or four years (depending on the type of course and the
university) these students will take their finals. Most of them (over 90 per
cent) will get a first, second or third class degree and be able to put BA
(Bachelor of Arts) or BSc (Bachelor o f Science) after their name. It will
have been well earned!
8. Sports Sports and games have always been popular in England. The English
are great lovers of sports and when they are neither playing nor watching
games, they like to talk about them or when they cannot do that, to think
about them. Almost all young Englishmen go in for some kind of sports.
Every college has athletic and football clubs. Many people come to watch
major sporting competitions, they are discussed as the greatest events of the
England is the birthplace of many modern kinds o f sports. This is
why many games that are popular all over the world have English names:
football, tennis, boxing and badminton rules were invented in England.
Basket-ball and volley-ball come from the United States o f America.
In England many traditional sporting competitions take place at ap
proximately the same time every year. The most important among them are
boat races, horse-races, car rallies, football and cricket games. These sport
ing events usually have greatest audiences. Rowing is the most popular of
all kinds of sports at the oldest English universities. The University Boat
Race is a traditional sporting competition between Oxford and Cambridge.
Now it is held at the end of March or in early April on the River Thames.
The Boat Race is a festival in London and on Boat Race Saturday the banks
and bridges of the Thames are crowded with people.
Some people say that horse-racing is the king o f sports in Great Brit
ain, but others call it the sport o f the kings. Only rich people can afford go
ing in for this kind of sports. And only the rich can afford buying tickets for
the most famous races. If you want to attend Royal Ascot races, the major
sporting event, you must first ask the Queen of England's permission to be
present and only then buy the tickets.
The royal family is not always among the spectators of these compe
titions. Princess Anne was once the champion of Europe. No matter how
great the popularity o f horse-racing is, football beats it. It was probably
brought to England by Roman soldiers almost two thousand years ago.
They called the game "Harpastum" and the rules were very much like mod
em Rugby football.
Rugby football is played by teams of fifteen or thirteen members.
The ball is oval, not round, and a player is allowed to take the ball in his
hands and run with it. He is also allowed to attack his opponent, to hold
him by the shoulders, or by the legs. Rugby is a violent game and it is
highly popular in many regions of the country, especially in Wales.
But soccer, the game played under F.I.F.A. mles, is the most wide
spread. Apart from the professionals, there are a million and a half people
who play football in Britain with amateur status. This well-known to you
game is also called Association Football. In the early days of the Football
League professionals were not allowed to take part in the competitions. But
many sports clubs secretly paid their players who played best in the game.
After the match, when players changed into their ordinary boots, they
found the money. After several years o f struggle the league for the profes
sionals was set.
Football is a winter game in Great Britain, because winters are never
too cold. The Football Association Cup is considered the best prize a team
can get, and the Cup Final is the most important football event. It is played
in May, at the end of the season, at Wembley Stadium. 120,000 spectators
gather at the stadium, they sing and shout and wave flags. The same scene
takes place practically in every city and town in Britain, for soccer is a na
Cricket is the most popular English summer game. It has been played
here since the beginning of the 18th century. Do you know how to play
cricket? If you don't spend at least five summers at the cricket field in Eng
land, you will never understand the game. But English children learn it at
school. Nearly every village has its cricket club.
Every Sunday morning from May to September many Englishmen
get up early and their wives make lots of sandwiches for them. This is nec
essary, because the games are very long. The most important ones last for
several days. If you play cricket, you must wear a white shirt and white
trousers. Boots are also white. And the game itself is very much like Rus
sian iapta, it is played with a ball and a short flat stick called the bat.
Cricket players are very popular, some of them are known better than film
stars. But professional players are less respected than amateur ones. Ama
teurs are called "gentlemen", and professionals are called "players".
Though they often take part in the same game, they have separate dressing-
rooms, and even separate doors to enter the stadium.
You must remember that cricket and croquet are two different
Golf is another kind of sports that is considered truly British. You
need special field for that game, so golf is rather expensive. Now it is
played mostly in private clubs and is the sport of the rich.
Lawn tennis was also bom in England. The modem rules o f the game
were invented in England at the end of the last centuiy. The game soon
spread all over the world. Now it is not necessarily played on lawns, though
the English still prefer this classical variant. England remains the unofficial
capital of this game.
Wimbledon, the home of All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet
Club, is the town where the most important world tennis tournament takes
place. It has been the unofficial world championship for many years. The
role of this tournament has still grown since tennis became an Olympic
kind of sports.
England hosted the Olympics twice: in 1908 and 1948. Who knows
maybe London will become an Olympic capital for the third time.
9. The English
Almost every nation has a reputation of some kind. The French are
supposed to be amorous, gay, fond of champagne; the Germans dull, for
mal, efficient, fond of military uniforms, and parades; the Americans boast
ful, energetic, gregarious and vulgar. The English are reputed to be cold,
reserved, rather haughty people who do not yell in the street. They are
steady, easy-going, and fond of sports.
The foreigner's view of the English is often based on the type of
Englishman he has met travelling abroad. Since these are largely members
of the upper and middle classes, it is obvious that their behaviour cannot be
taken as general for the whole people. There are, however, certain kinds of
behaviour, manners and customs which are peculiar to England.
The English are a nation of stay-at-homes. There is no place like
home, they say. And when the man is not working he withdraws from the
world to the company of his wife and children and busies himself with the
affairs of the home. "The Englishman's home is his castle", is a saying
known all over the world; and it is true that English people prefer small
houses, built to house one family, perhaps with a small garden. But nowa
days the shortage of building land and inflated land values mean that more
and more blocks o f flats are being built, and fewer detached and semide
tached houses, especially by the local councils.
The fire is the focus of the English home. What do other nations sit
round? The answer is they don't. They go out to cafes or sit round the cock
tail bar. For the English it is the open fire, the toasting fork and the cere
mony of English tea. Even when central heating is installed it is kept so low
in the English home that Americans and Russians get chilblains, as the
English get nervous headaches from stuffiness in theirs.
Apart from the conservatism on a grand scale which the attitude to
the monarchy typifies, England is full of small-scale and local conserva
Most English people have been slow to adopt rational reforms such
as the metric system, which came into general use in 1975. They have suf
fered inconvenience from adhering to old ways, because they did not want
the trouble of adapting themselves to new. All the same several of the most
notorious symbols of conservatism are being abandoned. The twenty-four
hour clock was at last adopted for railway timetables in the 1960s - though
not for most other timetables, such as radio programmes. In 1971 the pound
sterling was kept as the basic unit of. currency and was divided into 100
Temperatures are given both according to the Centigrade scale and
the Fahrenheit scale, although for general purposes most people use the last
The famous English sense of humour is known to everybody. Its
ideal is the ability to laugh at oneself. "He is a man o f humour" or "He has
no sense of humour" is often heard in Britain, where humour is so highly
10. English People as They are One o f the most striking features o f English life is the self-discipline
and courtesy of people of all classes. There is little noisy behaviour, and
practically no loud disputing in the street. People do not rush excitedly for
seats in buses or trains, but take their seats in queues at bus stops in a quiet
and orderly maimer.
Englishmen are naturally polite and are never tired of saying "Thank
you", "I am sorry", "Beg your pardon". If you follow anyone who is enter
ing a building or a room, he will hold a door open for you. Many foreigners
have commented on a remarkable politeness of the English people.
English people don't like displaying their emotions even in danger
ous and tragic situations, and ordinary people seem to remain good-
tempered and cheerful under difficulties.
The Englishman does not like any boasting or showing off in man
ners, dress or speech.
The Englishman prefers his own house to an apartment in a block of
flats, because he doesn't wish his doing to be overlooked by his neighbours.
"An Englishman's house is his castle".
Many Englishmen are very good to their wives at home. They help
their wives in many ways. They clean the windows when they are at home
on Saturday afternoon. They often wash up the dishes after supper in the
evening. Sunday is a very quiet day in London. All the shops are closed,
and so are the theatres and most of the cinemas. Londoners like to get out
of town on Sundays. The sea is not far - only fifty or sixty miles away and
people like to go down to the sea in summer or somewhere to the countiy
for skiing in winter.
English people rarely shake hands - except when being introduced to
someone for the first time. They hardly ever shake hands with their friends
- except when seeing them after a long interval or saying goodbye before a
long journey. Whether to shake hands or not in England is sometimes a
problem, even for English people.
Englishmen rarely embrace one another - except after scoring goals
in football matches. Fathers do not even embrace their sons - except when
they are very little.
Britons drink a quarter o f all the tea grown in the world each year.
They are the world's greatest tea drinkers. Many people drink it on at least
eight different occasions during the day. They drink it between meals and
at meals. They drink early-morning tea in bed - some early-morning tea
drinkers have automatic tea-making machines connected to their alarm-
clocks. These are some interesting English customs.
11. A Shopkeeper in Machynlleth
Machynlleth (pronounced Mac-hun-thleth) is a small town in central
Wales. It's not too far from the sea - about 10 miles - and is just south of the
Snowdonia National Park, one of the wildest and most dramatic areas in the
British Isles. Wales is a countiy of mountains, lakes and forests. Once you
travel away from the heavily-populated areas of the south - cities like Car
diff and Swansea - you can travel for miles without seeing anything but the
smallest of villages and countiy towns.
Machynlleth itself lies on the River Dyfi (pronounced Duwy), a
river famous not just in Britain but world-wide for its salmon and trout
fishing. I travelled to Machynlleth one beautiful October day to visit Dave
and Irene Davies. The leaves on the trees were turning yellow and brown,
and the sun showed off the glorious autumnal colours on the distant moun
tains. Dave and Irene own a small shop just on the edge o f town. Essen
tially, it is a newsagent's, but they sell a large range of other goods - basic
food items, household goods, sweets, ice-cream and, in the summer, a vari
ety of equipment for people on holiday, suntan oil, beach toys for children
and so on.
I joined Dave for a cup of coffee while he was taking his midmom-
ing break. Dave's experience sounded typical o f the boss of that very typi
cal British institution, the "corner shop" (so called because they are often to
be found on street comers - in even the smallest of villages).
I wanted to know more about the Welsh language, which is com
pletely different from English. I managed to have a word with both Dave
and Irene later in the day.
NM: Irene, I've heard Welsh being spoken in the streets, and you can
see it on all the street signs - in fact, the very first thing you see when you
drive into Wales is a sign saying "Croesu ap Cymru" (Welcome to Wales).
Do you speak Welsh?
ID: I don't - well, I can understand it but I'm not fluent. Down in the
south, where I come from, Welsh isn't spoken as much as in the centre or
the north of the country. But Dave can, he's bilingual -and the kids all study
it at school. NM: Really?
ID: Yes. In fact, in this area you can choose whether your children
will study Welsh or English at secondary school. Whichever you choose,
they still have to learn English, of course. NM: It doesn't sound to me, from
what you were telling me earlier, that you have much spare time. But when
you do have a few hours or even a day off, what do you do?
DD: Oh, we never have any trouble finding things to do. It's a won
derful area round here. We're keen walkers so we often go off to the moun
tains. Owen and I are keen fishermen, and this must be one o f the best areas
in the country for fishing. There's a local male-voice choir - that's very
Welsh, you know - in the town, and Irene and I are keen supporters of that.
And then there's the rugby...
ID: I'm not so keen on that! No, really, I don't mind watching the
game. We always try to go to Cardiff Arms Park as a family every year to
see the Wales team play an international match. It's a great atmosphere, so
happy and friendly - we wouldn't miss it.
I had noticed signs to "The Centre for Alternative Technology" in the
town, and I asked Dave to tell me a few things about it.
DD: Well, it's very interesting, really. They study various forms of
technology there which do not harm the environment - recycling waste,
wind power and so on. People come from all over the world to see it. The
people are a community o f scientists and their helpers, and they grow all
their own food and exist without doing any environment damage. It really
shows you how we could all live if we put our minds to it.
The next day, after I left the town, I went to the Centre for Alterna
tive Technology. Dave was right - it was interesting. Very.
From there I took the winding mountain road which would eventu
ally lead me back into England. Machynlleth: a place to which I will return
as soon as opportunity allows.
I want you to read this name. I think you'll find it difficult. Here it is:
church of St. Mary in a wood of hazel trees near a rapid whirlpool and near
St. Tysilio’s cave not far from a red cave). This name is not by any means
typical Welsh name, but more for a tourist curiosity.
The Welsh love music: some play the harp. Most Englishmen say
that they like harp music more than bagpipe music (people in Scotland play
The Welsh are famous for their singers. Welsh people love singing
together. Every village has at least one choir. They sing in competitions, on
special occasions - and whenever they feel like singing. Welshmen sing
louder than anybody - especially when they are going to a rugby match in a
bus (they sing in the stadium as well, of course).
12. Holiday Making It is the sea that dominates the holiday programme in Britain. With
no place in Britain more than 70 miles from the coast anyone can easily get
to a sea-side resort of some kind in a day's travel. Probably more people be
tween 35 and 64 than any other adults go to the sea, some because they
have become used to it, and many because it is the best easiest way of
keeping the children happy. Tent life has enormous appeal to many. An
English family with five children think nothing of taking their fifthhand old
car and ragged tent all the way down to Cornwall from London every Sat
urday in order to sleep under canvas for the very few hours left after getting
there on Saturday night. Very few people in Britain have summer-houses to
visit for holidays and week-ends. However caravans (or, as Americans
would call them, "trailers") are very popular. Some people bring their own
caravans pulling them behind their cars, others hire caravans already in po
sition. A caravan, pulled by the family car, can provide good opportunities
for holiday making in solitude, but many people also like the friendly at
mosphere generated in an organized caravan site.
The amusements are largely of an energetic kind. The accent is
heavy on competitive sport; with all facilities for tennis, bathing, golfing,
boxing, cricket, football, skating, billiards, etc.
Many people in Britain spend week-ends and holidays travelling
along beautiful rivers and canals. The canals which connect the main rivers,
were built about two hundred years ago. They were very useful before
railways were invented. Some of the canals are still used for transporting
goods. But many British waterways are now used for sailing.
For young people who work in the big industrial towns the beauty of
the canals has special interest at week-ends. Sailing round the coasts is very
popular. But it is better to travel along the inland waterways. It is because
even in bad weather you can move easily on them.
13. Parks and Gardens of London
Londoners do not have to go far to find green fields and flowers, for
London is very rich in parks and gardens. There are lawns and flowerbeds,
fountains and avenues in the parks, but mostly the parks consist of trees
and grass and water. They are planned to look very natural. You can spend
your time between early in the morning till late in the evening in the coun
try - without leaving London.
Londoners love their parks and are proud of them. The air in the
parks is full o f scents of flowers and plants. You may walk on the soft
green grass among ancient oaks. Between the trees you can see the gli
ttering water. If you are in Richmond park, you see the Thames flowing
past and the boats on it. Regent's Park is famous for an open-air theatre
where every summer Shakespeare's comedies are performed. St. James's
Park is very beautiful with its graceful trees and flowerbeds. But probably
best-loved of all is Hyde Park where you can find many outdoor entertain
Every Sunday, Hyde Park sees the start of a series o f world revolu
tions: speaker after speaker talks about religion, the arms race, East-West
relations, and life's inequalities.
Excited orators stand on stepladders, milk crates, or even upside-
down buckets, to address their audiences. Surrounded by a noisy crowd,
they discuss anything they feel concerned about, ignoring the police who
may be walking by. The job of the police is to stop any physical violence
that may occur: they don't interfere in the speech-making.
The "people's p a rk" Why do these speakers stand there, exposing
themselves to insults, the weather, and the occasional threat of violence?
Why do they do it? It isn't bravery, more a form o f egotism: it isn't for fi
nancial gain (that would be against the law), and I doubt if many o f the
speakers honestly believe they can change anything. So why bother? Well,
what else is there to do on a Sunday afternoon?
Situated at the Marble Arch entrance to Hyde Park, Speakers' Comer
has existed as a meeting place for many years. Hyde Park, London's biggest
and most central park, is regarded by many as the "People's Park", and has
been used as the starting point for many demonstrations, as well as being a
useful place for holding large meetings.
Speaking at Speakers’ Comer needs no qualification other than abil
ity to deal with hecklers. It's difficult to describe exactly what hecklers are.
Basically, they are people in the audience who shout out comments and re
plies to what the speaker is saying. They do more than this, however: they
are often quite witty, and sometimes much more entertaining than the
speaker. They also function as a kind of "safety valve" - an amusing remark
can stop a crowd from becoming aggressive, and change the general mood
to one of amusement.
14. The Role of Tradition
There is no other nation that clings to the past with the tenacity of the
British. The Briton has a sense o f the continuity o f history. He loves to go
through his ancient ceremonies as he has always performed them, with the
consciousness that he is keeping faith with his ancestors, that he is main
taining the community they created. He does not often change his manner
of carrying out official acts, and if ever he does, the new method at once
becomes the tradition.
Queen Elizabeth the First provided one of these examples of discard
ing the old and supplanting it with the new. She was knitting when the list
of nominees for sheriff was brought to her. Tradition decreed that she
should take up her quill and make a check in ink against the name of each
person whom it was her pleasure to appoint. There was no pen handy. So
Elizabeth the First, with one o f her knitting needles, pricked a little hole in
the parchment beside each favoured name. That is the reason why today
Queen Elizabeth the Second appoints sheriffs of England by pricking holes
in the listing of their names.
Even the casual visitor to London can view without effort many of
the brilliant parades spectacles in which the colour of medieval times has
been preserved for ours. And if you wish you can also enter the visitors'
gallery of the House of Commons and participate in the ceremony that has
ruled the Commons as long as it existed. If a speaker steps across the line
on the floor that marks the point at which he would be within sword's
length of his adversaries on the opposite side o f the Chamber, the session is
automatically suspended. If a rebellious member should seize the great
mace, the symbol of authority that rests on the table before the Speaker's
chair, and make off with it (this happened at least once), no legal business
can be transacted until the mace has been restored to its position. You can
also go into the House of Lords, where the glitter is more pronounced, the
royal scarlet more in evidence, and where your own back will begin to ache
sympathetically at the spectacle of the Lord Chancellor, so uncomfortably
seated on the edge of the enormous woolsack.
15. British Ways
Did you know that in Britain:
- strangers usually don’t talk to each other on trains?
- it is polite to queue for everything: buses, theatre tickets, in shops,
- people say “thank you” when they give money to a shop assistant?
- people open presents in front of people they receive them from?
- people don’t take their shoes off when they enter a house?
- people wash in their own bath water?
British people are said to be good listeners. In other words, it is not
considered polite to interrupt the person who is just speaking. Do you?
Understatement is another character trait of the British. It is a very
complex concept. George Mikes, a Hungarian by birth, knows a lot about
it. Read this funny passage, which he wrote more than forty years ago.