Sunday, May 21, 2017

The King: Elvis Presley


His childhood: 
Elvis Presley was born on 8th January 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi. He was the only child of a Christian working-class family. He received his first guitar at the age of 11. When he was 13 years old, they moved to Memphis, Tennessee. Elvis had a very close bond with his mother so, in 1958, when she became ill and died a few days later, Elvis was devastated. 

What aspects of Elvis’ career made him so famous and even “immortal”?

His songs:

First of all, many of his songs are never-ending classics. The genres Elvis sang were rock-and-roll, pop, blues, country, gospel, rockabilly and R&B. But he did not write most of his songs himself. He did write a couple though such as "You'll be gone", which was the last song he wrote. “Can't Help Falling in Love”(blues) is one of his most famous love songs. “Jailhouse Rock” (rock-and-roll) was used for a movie that takes place in a prison. “Always On My Mind” was originally a country song written by Wayne Carson and his band, which Elvis covered.

"Can't Help Falling in Love"

"Jailhouse Rock"

"Always On My Mind "

Military service: 

Furthermore, Elvis entered the U.S. Army in 1958 and was sent to Germany after his training. He charged the U.S. Army until 1960 when he was discharged.

His acting career: 

Secondly, despite his achievements as a singer, Elvis’ dream was to become a motion-picture actor. Still, he was never considered as a real actor because he always had a singing part in the films he made. Love me tender, his most famous movie, is a family drama.



Elvis’ career had its ups-and-downs. The songs he released in 1967 and 1968 were not very popular. In 1968, Elvis negotiated to make a Christmas special. It was Elvis’ first live performance after 7 years of absence.


During his life, The King, as was his nickname, won three Grammy awards for gospel music. He is still regarded as one of the most important figures in the popular culture of the 20th century. 

General features: 

Elvis was seen as a sex symbol because he was good-looking and his performances were charismatic.
The wild haircut, known as “La Banane”, was part of the persona he developed. An interesting fact is that the charming, dark-haired man we know, used to have blond locks.


Nevertheless, Elvis had good memories of his military service in Germany because that is where he met Priscilla Beaulieu, the love of his life, when she was only 14. They married in 1967 in Las Vegas. Nine months later, she gave birth to their daughter, Lisa Marie Presley. Unfortunately, they divorced in 1973 and his health started to deteriorate due to his drug intake. 


He always had problems of drug, obesity and an enlarged colon. He died from a cardiac arrhythmia on 16th August 1978 at the age of 42. At the end of his life he weighed 102 kg. At the autopsy, the forensics found traces of 14 different medicines in his blood. His gravestone is in the garden of his house, Graceland, and can be seen by tourists.


Written by Elisa Etienne, Ophélie Malcolm and Morgane Lemaître. 


Hot Toddy

Hot toddy

Spring is soon to come. Birds are singing and the sun is peeking through the clouds more and more often. But before the sun decides to stay with us permanently and before the weather starts to be warm, we all have some more cold days to get through. Which means that some of us might still catch a cold during those few days. Most of you will then turn to your local pharmacist for medicine. There is a better solution; of course it is the hot toddy. This warm drink has cured many flues and colds for decades. Medicine usually help you get some sleep, which is essential when you want to heal from a cold. Well, a hot toddy not only helps you get to sleep, but also prevents you from being groggy in the morning. When you thought it did not have anymore advantages, here are some more: the hot toddy is a natural remedy, plus it helps fighting infections in your body. What more could we ask for?
Nowadays, people drink the hot toddy warm, as indicated by its name. But it was not always the case. This famous drink was once drunk cold. Where does the hot toddy come from and what are the origins of its name?

History of the drink and the name

There are many different theories about the origin of the hot toddy. Of course, a lot a them are more absurd then others. We shall focus on the more plausible and popular one as the true origins are a big mystery.
The word toddy gets its origin from the early seventeenth century. It comes from the Hindi word tārī. It was a drink. The fermented sap from many toddy palms was used to make this drink. The British discovered it and could not stop drinking it. Eventually, they continued to spread it and made it their own. At this time, the toddy was different from the hot toddy we know today and it was drunk cold. A derivation from this toddy that made its way across the ocean to America was called bombo or bimbo. It was made out of rum, local sugar and local spices.
When did the toddy become warm then? In Scotland, the population started to add warm water to the toddy to use it as a remedy to a cold. That is where the hot toddy as we know it today gets its origin. Of course, Scottish people did not only drink the hot toddy in these conditions but that was its first purpose.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, the hot toddy was considered as THE cure for cold. It was even considered as a “cure-all” in the Burlington free Press in 1837 according to the VinePair website.

Other theories of the name

We have mentioned earlier that there were many origins attributed to the name of hot toddy. Here are a few of them:
  • In the eighteenth century, pubs became very popular in Western Europe, especially around the city of Edinburgh which is the capital of Scotland. There, they supposedly served scotch with warm water coming from Tod’s Well. The word toddy should then be derived from the name Tod which gave the drink its name. Spices were soon to be added to make the drink more drinkable for women.
  • This next theory is more of a legend, as we can not confirm that this really happened and that the name gets its origin here. Apparently, in the middle of the nineteenth century, a physician named Robert Bentley Todd who worked in Dublin used to heel his patients by giving them a mixture of brandy, sugar and hot water. People assumed that the name came from him.
  • Another legend states that in America during the revolutionary war, colonists used to drink a toddy to bring them courage. The only difference with the Scottish toddy is that they used rum or brandy instead of whiskey.
It is very likely that the name hot toddy gets its origin in a mixture of these theories or that they are linked in some way. Perhaps the physician heard of the drink and started prescribing it to his patients.


We have been talking about the hot toddy for a little while now, but how is a toddy actually made? Is there a basic recipe to follow?
Of course, because the hot toddy is so famous, there are many variations of the drink and different ways to make it. Here is however the most simple and most common recipe to make a hot toddy. You will only need a few ingredients:
  • some kind of whiskey
  • warm water or warm tea
  • regular sugar or brown sugar
  • spice such as nutmeg or clove
  • lemon
Now let’s take a look at some variations of the basic recipe.

  • The Yule Tide Toddy. This version of the drink adds maple syrup and a lot of cinnamon to the basic recipe. It makes it sweeter and therefore, impossible to let go off. Garnished with cinnamon sticks, it will be a pleasure for your mouth.
  • The Mexican Buttered Toddy. The kind of toddy is a “punch-in-your-face” kind of drink. It is very strong. In fact, the basic hot toddy is mixed with cocoa-infused tequila and buttered batter. This drink has a creamy texture thanks to the butter.
  • The Zen Chai Toddy. This toddy involves many kinds of tea including zen green tea and black tea. Added to this mixture, the Chai spices which are made out of cardamom. This drink also has more of a creamy feeling than the others.
  • Chamomile Toddy. This kind had more fruit and sweetness to it because of the orange slice, the lemon juice, the honey and the chamomile that are added to it.
  • The Beale End All. Rum, sugar syrup, and orange are added to create this last recipe that we are going to present to you today.

Fun fact

January 11th is the national hot toddy day, mark your calendars.


Manon Amel, Pauline Hurez and Magali Walrant

Vicky Pollard

Vicky Pollard

      Victoria, nicknamed « Vicky », Pollard is one of the most popular characters of the TV series Little Britain, and is played by Matt Lucas. In the series, Vicky is 15, lives in Bristol, and she is mainly known for her famous yet annoying catchphrases that she babbles in a strong dialectical accent, such as “No but yeah but no but yeah but no”.
Matt Lucas, who plays Vicky, is also one of the two creators of the series with David Walliams. But Vicky is not his only role in the show, since he has played no fewer than sixteen different characters since Little Britain started. He has also had his own radio show since 2010, entitled And the winner is, in which he hands out fictional awards based on nominations by his guests.
Little Britain has been broadcast since 2003, and is made of sketches involving amplified, stereotypical parodies of unsophisticated British people.  The name of the series is a wordplay on “Great Britain” and “Little England”. It has had a lot of success because Brits can usually relate to the everyday-situations the characters are in, or else it can remind them of other people they know.
Vicky Pollard represents the most extreme “chav” ‒ which is a stereotypical type of anti-social youth typically dressed in sportswear ‒ that you can find on British television, and she also represents most of today's youth, in a way. Indeed, the list of her wrong-doings includes swapping one of her babies for a band’s CD – and having 12 babies throughout the show ‒, dropping out of school when she was 11, getting arrested several times for shoplifting, wearing a terrible pink tracksuit all the time just like the rest of her family, and so on. She is clearly far from being a model and is, like the BBC would describe her, a “common-or-garden teenage delinquent”.
Matt Lucas got the idea for Vicky Pollard when he was studying at the university of Bristol, where he had to do a survey for one of his classes, and he got the idea of asking random people in the streets the question: “how are you?”, and wait for their responses, expecting them not to answer in an honest way. Then a young boy came along who must have got really frustrated by the question because he just said in the most inarticulate manner: “yeah but no but yeah it's like, it's kind of er..”, and that triggered Lucas' imagination for the character and he immediately told David Walliams. But Lucas got the idea for Vicky's appearance only after seeing the cover photo for Time Out Magazine in 2001, on which the young modelling duo of Nikki Carpenter and Stacey Bennett appeared wearing the same kind of outfit and hairdo you would find on Pollard.
Vicky is one of the most important characters of the show, having appeared in all episodes except for one. She has become one of England's most-known characters, and one of her quotes even made it in the Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations, alongside John Lennon and other influential people.

Mélissa Steck, Sophie Koukaras, Blanche Marchal

Sources :

Friday, May 19, 2017


Bono, whose real name is Paul David Hewson, was born on 10 May 1960 in Dublin, the capital of the Republic of Ireland. He is the singer and the guitarist of the rock band U2. He grew up with his older brother, his father, and his mother, who passed away when he was only fourteen. He had always been interested in singing and at the age of 22, he got married to Alison Stewart, an Irish businesswoman who is a real inspiration to her husband. For example, he wrote the song “Sweetest Things” thinking of her. They have four children together: two daughters, Eve and Jordan, and two sons, Elijah and John. More than 20 years ago, Bono was diagnosed with a disease called glaucoma. It is a disease that reduces your vision and makes you more sensitive to light. That is why Bono always wears sunglasses. 

U2 is an Irish rock group formed in 1976 and constituted of Bono (who sings and occasionally plays the guitar), The Edge (who plays the guitar, the piano and who also sings), Adam Clayton (who plays the bass) and Larry Mullen Jr (at the drums). 

The four men, at the time still teenagers, were in the same school and, except for Paul / Bono, they were all part of “Lypton Village”, a small group of amateur artists.  Bono joined the group later: because his personality had impressed them, they decided to recruit him as a guitarist even though he couldn’t play the guitar. He first became the singer of the group, and later became their lyricist. 

Since that time, Paul has gone by the nickname of “Bono” in reference to the “Bono Vox” sign he once saw in a hearing aid store in Dublin (one of his friends having claimed that Bono sung so loudly that it was as though he was singing for the deaf).

 The members of the band decided to rename the group several times. It was first called “Feedback”, then it became “The Hype” and, finally, “U2”, in 1976. They soon began building a strong local reputation, and then rapidly became an international group in the 1980’s thanks to their album called War, which defends human rights. 

Bono got involved in many political causes and has supported many humanitarian organisations such as Amnesty International (an organisation that fights to protect human rights) or Greenpeace (an organisation that fights for environmental protection). 

His first involvement in charitable causes happened in 1986, before he took part in the Conspiracy of Hope tour, (which was a tour of concerts on behalf of Amnesty International); he was invited to Ethiopia by World Vision to create an education program in order to teach children more about hygiene and health. He also created an organisation named DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) in 2002, which had had his named written on Forbes Generous Celebrity List, and he has committed himself to fighting against the debts of African countries or against the AIDS epidemic. 
Furthermore, he has helped to create the ONE campaign or the (RED) association, which also works with the giant brand « Apple » or even « Nike »; by buying a RED Product phone or a pair of shoes, you can help women and children affected by AIDS in Africa.

 Thanks to these altruistic commitments, Bono was elected Person of the Year in 2005 and he was even proclaimed Knight of the Legion of Honour and Knight of the British Empire by Queen Elisabeth II in 2007. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times. In 2006, U2 released a cover of the Skids’ “The Saints Are Coming” with the punk band Green Day in order to raise funds to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Actually, Bono contributed to around forty charities and foundations like Oxfam, Unicef, Zero Hunger, and many more.

To conclude, U2 is considered as an English icon because of their influence on the world. Indeed, they don’t only form a rock band but they are also activists who used their power for good. 
They distinguished themselves from the others thanks to their simple way of making music without any provocation. They didn’t need to expose their private life to become famous because they were liked for their music and involvement in the society through generations.  

Mathilde Lecocq, Eléonore Minette, Loïc Servais


AGA Cooker

AGA Cooker

The Aga Cooker is the first heat-storage cooker in the world in which you can cook many meals at the same time, invented by the Swedish Nobel Prize-winning physicist Dr Gustav Dalén in 1922. It is an icon of Britain because it has been manufactured in Coalbrookdale (south of Manchester) for a long time, which was an important place in the Industrial Revolution, and generations of craftsmen are still working there. A BBC survey in 2000 designated the AGA Cast Iron Range as one of the three design icons of the 20th century.

Here is how the story of the Aga began. In 1922 the physicist Dr Gustav Dalén had the idea of creating a new type of range to help his wife in the kitchen. It was soon manufactured in Smethwick (Britain). From the 1930s onwards, the popularity of the Aga Cooker expanded so much that it soon conquered the USA. It became a symbol of modernism. During the war, the British government ordered Aga Cookers to help feed hospitals and soldiers. A second factory opened in Shropshire. In the 1950s, all the production was moved to Coalbrookdale, which started a new decade of success, especially thanks to the new models and colours that were then introduced. The 1960s mark a period of fewer demands because of the increasing popularity of gas and electricity, whereas Aga cookers still used solid fuel. In the 70s, the Aga Rangemaster Group developed a new colours and models of cookers. In the 1980s, the 50th anniversary of the brand was celebrated, with the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visiting the factory in Coalbrookdale. The Aga Cooker then continued to develop, and its popularity was by then so widespread that it even entered literature,  with the so-called ‘Aga-sagas’. These are romance novels in which Aga Cookers are described and used by the characters. In 1985, the first electric model was launched. In the 90s, Jan Bochall, a housekeeping writer, described the Aga Cooker as the “epitome of country-kitchen style”1. Mary Berry, a famous British cook and food writer, who presents cook shows on BBC 2, wrote The Aga Book. It is a guide book on how an Aga Cooker works. In 2011, the first model that can be switched on and off was introduced, as opposed to the older ones which were obliged to be kept on.

Everybody knows an Aga Cooker is very expensive – the cheapest ones cost £3,000 –, but the high price is counterbalanced by the machine’s many advantages. First, the wide range of colours and models allows the Aga Cooker to fit in a lot of different kitchens. Moreover, it can cook every kind of food in a gentle way, so that it keeps its flavour and good taste, and in large quantities so it is perfect for family meals. The Aga Cooker becomes part of your home life and you get attached to it (and your pets too). Plus an Aga can also be used to warm the room and to dry clothes. Eventually, its most important advantage is the investment, because even though it is expensive the Aga Cooker is programmed to last a lifetime. If some used to complain about the high gas bill, because the Aga had to be kept on constantly, it is no longer relevant thanks to the new model with an on/off switch. In addition, it is made of 70 % of recycled materials, and once disused it can be recycled again. 
However, the Aga Cooker also has loads of drawbacks. One is the fact that you cannot really choose the heat at which you cook. It also causes a lot of environmental damage, e.g. the annual carbon footprint of a 2-oven gas Aga is two thirds that of an entire average British house. But the main disadvantage is the high price, which still increases with the extra costs, such as the installation and possible repairs. 

In conclusion, despite the price problem, the Aga Cooker remains an iconic heritage of Britain because of its history and its popularity.

Martine Ernst, Emma Joveneau, Noa Nicolaï



Thomas the tank engine

Thomas the tank engine

To understand the origins of Thomas the tank engine, we have to go back in 1942. Christopher Awdry, a  two-year-old British child, caught the measles. In an effort to cheer him up, his father, Wilbert Awdry, stared telling him stories in rhymes about engines. The first three stories introduced respectively Edward the Blue Engine, Gordon the Big Engine and Henry the Green Engine. One year later, Wilbert decided to submit his three stories to Edmund Ward for publication. This one asked Wilbert a fourth story in order to continue The sad story of Henry and to finish on a happy ending. The four books were published in 1945 in one volume under the name The Three Railway Engines. Only one year later, Wilbert published Thomas The Tank Engine which was highly requested by Christopher. Nowadays, Thomas is undoubtedly the most popular character of the entire railway series. The stories about Thomas were even adapted for television in 1984 under the name Thomas and friends.
In the Railway series Thomas is a station pilot who was sent to Sodor due tosome wars. Over time he builds his own branch line and earns two coaches whose names are Annie and Clarabel.
In the television series, Thomas is sent to Sodor with the aim of directing coaches for The Main Line engines.
In both series, Thomas is an insolent but kind engine, and he always behaves well. He loves teasing other engines and especially the big ones, such as Gordon. Thomas has some faults such as being forgetful, impatient and boastful. He is lucky to have the Fat Controller and his two coaches to bring him back down to earth and draw the moral for him. But he has also some qualities, such as being optimistic and idealistic.
Percy is Thomas’ best friend. They have the same personality. The role of Percy in the series is to teach the difficult words to viewers. He often makes mistakes and he also makes many accidents, certainly because of his own silliness or his tricks backfiring. However, he always tries to do his best by learning from his mistakes.
There are plenty of parodies of Thomas the tank engine on the internet.  A lot of people have remixed the original theme song of the cartoon. The first remix was made in 2005. Many other songs have been uploaded since then.  ErnestEngine is a Youtube channel which works as a parody of the children’s program. Other well-known Youtubers have also made videos about Thomas.
Thomas was voiced by 2 different people. Ben Small played him between 2010 and 2015 and John Hasler has done it since 2015.
There are lots of marketing products with Thomas on it. You can easily find toys, clothes, sheet, cups, party kits, and other things at various prices. An educational video game launched in 2006. Moreover, Thomas is also the “star” the Thomas Land area in the Drayton Manor theme park.

As we said before Thomas was the most popular character in the railway series and became then an icon from which a lot of marketing is derived. Nowadays he’s an essential into the British culture. Thomas is very popular among the children but also among the parents thanks to the educational characteristics of the book. In fact as we saw before, each character shows a specific trait which lead to a moral.

Estelle Culot, Céliane Collignon, Anne-Lise Maréchal




Billy Bragg is a singer, a songwriter and a musician. He is also a political activist. He plays the guitar and he is known for his folk-rock music. His full name is Stephen William Bragg. We also call him ‘The Bard of Barking’. He was born on 20th December 1957 in Barking, a little town in England. He is married to Juliet Bragg and they have a son named Jack.
Billy Bragg


Billy Bragg wanted to get out of Barking because he knew that if did not, he would have a career at the car factory in Barking. He joined the band Riff Raff in 1977. A few years later, he decided to take a different direction and joined the British Army in 1981. However, he soon hated it and returned to his parents’ home. He then worked at a record store. While he was working, he wrote songs. He wrote lyrics about politics and love. He was inspired by Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. In 1983, Billy finally came back to the scene as a soloist. He had the opportunity to share his talent thanks to John Peel, a famous DJ in Britain, who played Billy’s record Life’s a Riot with Spy Vs Spy, that was Billy’s first radio play. A few months later, he began a British tour. He played whenever and wherever he could perform. He sang one of Bob Dylan’s song and criticised Donald Trump, saying that “Martin Luther King is spitting in his grave”, according to the Rolling Stone website.

In 1987, he made a compilation of his three releases named Back to Basics, which was a great success, according to the AllMusic review. The songs demonstrate themes like critical commentary on Thatcherite Britain. In 1990, Nora Guthrie, the daughter of Woody Guthrie, the American singer who has always been one of his sources of inspiration, contacted Billy and she asked him to collaborate with an American band called Wilco. He accepted and sang the songs written by Woody before his death. They released an album called Mermaid Avenue and it is a part of the 1001 albums that you have to listen at least once in your life, according to Billboard. He achieved considerable success with them.
Billy Bragg and the band Wilco


It is important to mention that Billy supports many humanitarian causes because it means so much to him. He was a member of Red Wedge; a socialist musician collective of which Paul Weller and Tom Robinson were members too. The musicians wanted to help people to engage with politics, especially the young. During the 1987 general election, they particularly wanted to convince people to vote and expel the Conservative government led by Margaret Thatcher. He is not in favour of the British National Party, the Labour Party and the Brexit. Billy militates against racism, homophobia, sexism and many more such intolerant beliefs and ideologies.
You can found below one of Billy Bragg's political songs called " There is power in a union"

Billy Bragg travelled a lot and Mr Bragg goes to Moscow is a documentary about his trips to the Soviet Union when he made a series of concerts in Tallinn, Estonia and Moscow. Here you can see the first part of his documentary.

Billy Bragg is very interested in the notion of English identity. In 2006, his book The Progressive Patriot was released. In it, he talks about what patriotism means to him and replies to the events of 7th July 2005, when four bombs exploded in London, killing 52 people and injuring many more.

FROM 2011 TO 2017

In October 2011, he released Fight Songs, a compilation of political songs that he had uploaded on his website as free downloads. In September 2016, his album Shine a Light was released. Billy made the album with the American songwriter and producer Joe Henry. They began a tour in September 2016 in the USA. They continued in the UK in November and January. The tour ended in April 2017 in Australia.
Click here to have a look at their website. You may also see Billy Bragg's website here.