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The words “English” and “eccentric” are often found in the same sentence and the history of our country is full of larger-than-life individuals whose offbeat antics and whimsical ways have aroused comment among their contemporaries. In some instances, particularly if they were wealthy or of high social standing, they left behind evidence of their quirks and idiosyncracies in the shape of follies, epitaphs on gravestones, unusual bequests or some other surviving memorial.

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Question: What do the following all have in common: "Top Hat"; "Follow the Fleet"; "Swing Time"; "Royal Wedding"; "Easter Parade"; "Funny Face"?

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I know that many English people, at home and abroad, like to celebrate St. George’s Day with family and friends, and over the years I have received many delightful photographs of special parties, lunches, dinners - and even barbecues - that This England readers have organised to mark our country’s special day on 23rd April. If anyone reading this attends such a get-together this year, please be sure to send us a picture of the event (either by post or email) and we can then create a colourful, patriotic feature for a future issue.

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Well, this has been quite an eventful week and one that certainly demonstrates the decision-making benefits to be gained on a walking holiday in Snowdonia! The Welsh mountain air clearly does wonders for solving a dilemma. Here at Evergreen, though, we’re steering clear of the political hullabaloo of the past few days to focus specifically on today, Friday 21st April, which is a particularly noteworthy date because it is Her Majesty The Queen’s birthday.

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As well as articles about places to visit, such as the West Somerset Railway, The Hardy Way, Hadrian’s Wall and Southwold in Suffolk, our latest edition of Explore England has a section listing various attractions in different parts of the country. The following selection (with locations in their traditional English counties, not the modern administrative areas!) might be helpful if you are looking for somewhere to go over the Easter period.

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A few years ago I visited a local senior school to talk to the Media Studies students about This England and Evergreen. While I was there, we also looked at the subject of national identity and I was especially interested to find out from the students what England and Britain meant to them. It was an enlightening afternoon for me: hearing the thoughts of the next generation and discovering their views. Among the many comments, one of the students said he was proud of the fact that an island of Britain's size had such an important role in the world - as one of the eighth most powerful nations. Another added that, in geographical terms, Britain might only be a small country, but it certainly had an impressive history and reputation. Wise words indeed!

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My mother used to say:

“Spring has sprung,
The grass is riz,
I wonder where the birdie is?”

No, I don’t know where it comes from either, but looking out of my window to the garden below I can see where the birdie is. In fact it’s a blackbirdie, and it’s bumping along a stretch of riz grass like an aeroplane on a runway struggling to take off. Here are a few other quotations about spring that I hope you will enjoy.

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Visitors to the Gloucestershire village of Bibury last weekend could have been forgiven for thinking that they were watching the enactment of some curious local custom. On Saturday afternoon, the streets of this picturesque place, which William Morris described as “the most beautiful village in England”, were filled with a convoy of cars. There were a hundred of them in total, all different makes and models, and they had one thing in common: they were all yellow.

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On Saturday, when a member of your family told you, with a straight face, that the body of the Loch Ness Monster had been found and showed you a photograph of the strange-looking creature, did you rush round to a friend’s house to share the exciting story with them? And later in the day, when another friend handed you a ticket bearing the words: “Tower of London: Admit Bearer and Friend to view annual ceremony of Washing the White Lions on Saturday, April 1st, 2017”, were you on the next train to the capital, eager to witness this unusual event? If you did, then no doubt you would also have been enraged to hear the news, on the same day, that owing to an EU directive relating to “tubular foodstuffs” the producers of Polo Mints would no longer be allowed to manufacture their famous “mint with a hole” and that to satisfy the regulation all existing stocks of Polo mints were to be fitted with a special “conversion kit” comprising 20 small “Hole Fillers” to be inserted into each mint.

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Here we are then in the glorious month of April and, as tradition tells us, it is time to listen out for the cuckoo serenading us with his spring song. (Do let me know when you hear one.) I must confess I can hardly believe that we are already a quarter of the way through 2017. Of course, as your handy Evergreen Diary will tell you, the fourth month of the year brings us the Easter celebration, St. George’s Day, ANZAC Day and The Queen’s birthday to name but a few noteworthy dates. Speaking of which, I trust that you weren’t caught out by the April Fool over the weekend (read Stephen's blog for more on that subject). We featured a story in Evergreen's spring 2014 issue about a little-known place called Rumgovia, situated high in the Etceteras range of mountains, which was famous for its treacle mines. As you might expect, its national day was 1st April!

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