Kick starting the week with an upbeat selection of news nuggets.
Thousands of acres of England have been earmarked for rewilding after some of the country’s largest landowners committed to boosting biodiversity on their estates. The National Trust, National Parks England, the Duchy of Cornwall, the RSPB, the Soil Association, and the National Church Commissioners for England are among the organisations that have agreed to create woodlands, reconnect rivers, restore peat bogs, and improve public access to nature on their land. The pact also commits them to shifting to renewable energy, cutting agricultural pollution and making buildings more energy-efficient.
Why do we eat mince pies? Mince pies were known as Christmas pies, or crib pies, as their oblong shape was meant to resemble Jesus’ cradle. The pies were initially made of meat, usually mutton, and influenced by crusaders who came back from the Middle East with spices. Samuel Pepys wrote about them, but in his time they were much more savoury than we are used to now. In the 18th century the pies became sweeter, with the import of sugar from plantations in the West Indies.
Everyone needs a friend like Larry! A Massachusetts man recovering from open-heart surgery won a $1 million lottery prize given to him by a friend in a get-well card. Alexander McLeish received three scratch-off tickets in a get-well card from his friend, Larry. As McLeish scratched off the first three letters on the crossword lottery ticket, his first glimpse of good luck was revealing his initials: A, W and M. As he continued matching letters to words, he revealed the word "heart" on the bottom row of the puzzle. McLeish ended up winning $1 million. Perhaps even more remarkably, this is the second time Larry has gifted McLeish a lottery ticket that turned out to a be winner. The first time was for McLeish’s 60th birthday, and he won $1,000. McLeish said (as you might expect) he plans to give some of the money to Larry.
Excessive use of plastic packaging is regularly making headlines and many companies are looking to set an example by transitioning to more sustainable packaging materials. One of the frontrunners is Ikea, which recently announced that all of its new products will come in plastic-free packaging by 2025, with a few exceptions related to food safety reasons. Its existing products are also expected to be packaged without any plastic by 2028, a move that’s part of Ikea’s broader goal to become a fully circular company by 2030.
A disused red phone box has been transformed for the 10th year running to bring festive cheer to a village. The defunct kiosk in Prickwillow, Cambridgeshire, has become a steam train, a giant bauble and donned a facemask in a "Covid" makeover. Designer Cary Outis said he chose Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer this year to give "real workers a look-in". "Delivery drivers have helped us cope in the past couple of years and this is a little homage to them," he said. The telephone box was bought by the parish council in 2010 and turned into a miniature art gallery. Members of the Ouse Life Drawing Group have "blinged up" the box since 2011.
Israel’s Tel Aviv has leapfrogged Hong Kong and Singapore to become the world’s most expensive city to live in, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. The Israeli city climbed from fifth place last year to top the Worldwide Cost of Living 2021 report for the first time, pushing Paris down to joint second place with Singapore. Zurich and Hong Kong rounded out the top five.
The small Danish Island of Aero has been awarded the title of the EU’s most sustainable island in 2021. The island has been experimenting with renewable energy since the 1970s, and today, produces more electricity than it uses. Aero seeks to become carbon neutral and self-sufficient on renewable energy by 2025.
On this day: 6 December 1928 is the fictional birthday of Hagrid; in 1897, London became the world’s first city to license taxicabs; 1933: in what was considered a landmark ruling, a U.S. federal judge held that James Joyce's Ulysses was not obscene, thus allowing for greater freedoms in literary works.
Christmas Cracker: Which author steals train sets from under the Christmas tree? Nick Hornby.
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Be a Friend
Wise, uplifting poem by Edgar Albert Guest (1881 - 1959), beautifully read. A stirring way to start the week.