Two-minute tales from history, myth and fiction, accompanied by word games, grammar games and writing practice, all based on traditional school textbooks.

A to Z Index

Latest
Michaelmas
two-part story
Music: George Frideric Handel
A celebration of St Michael, captain of heaven’s angel host, courteous warrior, and healer.

“THE Michaelmas daisies,” says the old rhyme, “among dead weeds, Bloom for St Michael's valorous deeds.”

Michael’s valorous deeds are described in the Bible. St John tells us that there was war in heaven, and Michael and his angels fought against the devil and his angels, and cast them down.

Continue reading ›
Five Posts
Aaron’s Rod
Music: Johann Baptist Cramer
The Victorian practice of hanging sugared nuts on a Christmas tree was bursting with Biblical symbolism.
By Elfric of Eynsham
(955-1010)

GOD bade Moses, the leader, take twelve dry rods from the twelve tribes of the people of Israel, and lay them before the holy ark within the great tabernacle: and he would by those rods declare whom he had chosen for bishop.

Continue reading ›
Wassail and Twelfth-Cake
Music: John Playford
When England’s Christians absorbed the pagan traditions of ‘wassailing’, they kept the fun and cast out the fear.

IN Anglo-Saxon times, the New Year greeting ‘wæs hāl’ (‘Be well!’) was followed by ‘wassail’, spiced mead or cider, and wassail-songs.

Continue reading ›
Mothering Sunday
Music: George Butterworth
Mothering Sunday is a peculiarly British celebration of Christian faith, close family and responsible freedom.

CONSTANCE Smith worked in a Nottingham dispensary for the Girls’ Friendly Society, helping young women without family support. In 1920, her experiences led her to campaign for the wider observance of Mothering Sunday.

Continue reading ›
The Return of Plum Pudding
Music: John Playford
The Puritans said it was unfit for God-fearing men, but George I thought it fit for a King.

RICH and luxurious plum pudding was banned as “unfit for God-fearing people” by the republican Puritans in 1647, prompting riots in Kent.

Christmas celebrations returned with Charles II in 1660, and in 1714 King George I requested plum pudding for his first Christmas in England, making it fashionable once again.

Continue reading ›
The Sunday of Palms and Willows
Music: George Frideric Handel
For centuries, northern countries from Russia to England have laid the catkins of the willow tree before Jesus as he enters Jerusalem.

PALM Sunday commemorates the occasion when Jesus entered Jerusalem seated on a donkey, in deliberate fulfilment of the prophet Zechariah’s promise that one day Israel’s king would return to her capital in just that fashion.

His excited followers laid palm fronds in his path, and called him their King, crying “Hosanna to the son of David”.

Continue reading ›
No more posts
AZ Index

See a complete A-Z List of all the stories on this website.

Featured Topic
Tagged ‘Railways’ (23 posts)
page 1
1 Japan’s First Railway
As Japan’s ruling shoguns resist the tide of progress, a Nagasaki-based Scottish entrepreneur steps in.
2 Thomas Brassey
The unsung surveyor from Cheshire, who built railways and made friends across the world.
3 A Leader by Example
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
George Stephenson won the admiration of French navvies by showing them how a Geordie works a shovel.
4 The Liverpool and Manchester Railway
Businessmen in Liverpool engaged George Stephenson to build one of his new-fangled railways.
5 The Train of a Life
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)
In Charles Dickens’s tale set around Mugby Junction, a man sees his life flash by like a ghostly train.
6 Russia’s First Railway
Sixteen-year-old John Wesley Hackworth brought a locomotive over to St Petersburg, and Russia’s railway revolution was ready for the off.
page 2
7 A Monument to Liberty
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
Samuel Smiles explains why the London and Birmingham Railway was an achievement superior to the Great Pyramid of Giza.
8 The Rainhill Trials
To prove that steam power was the future of railways, George Stephenson held a truly historic competition.
9 India’s First Railway
The opening of the Bombay to Thane line was the real beginning of British India.
10 Britain’s Best Gift to India
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
Samuel Smiles reminds us that until we brought the railways to India, we had little to boast about as an imperial power.
11 The Railway Clearing House
All but forgotten today, the RCH was one of the most important steps forward in British industrial history.
12 Ireland’s First Railway
The Dublin to Dun Laoghaire line opened in 1834, and proved a remarkable testimony to the speed of technological progress.
page 3
13 Sir Sandford Fleming
What George Stephenson was to the railways of England, Sandford Fleming was to the railways of Canada.
14 The London and Birmingham Railway
The textile moguls of Manchester and Liverpool engaged the Stephensons to complete their link to the capital.
15 Burning Daylight
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
George Stephenson argued that his steam engines were solar-powered.
16 The Genius Next Door
William Murdoch’s experiments with steam traction impressed his next-door neighbour, with world-changing results.
17 The Hat that Changed the World
Young William’s hat caught the eye of Matthew Boulton, and the world was never the same again.
18 The Stockton and Darlington Railway
George Stephenson and his son Robert created the world’s first passenger railway.
page 4
19 The Gift of the Gab
There was one form of power that self-taught engineering genius George Stephenson never harnessed.
20 The Iron Horse and the Iron Cow
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
Railways not only brought fresh, healthy food to the urban poor, they improved the conditions of working animals.
21 The Tanfield Railway
Opened in 1725, the Tanfield Railway is one of the oldest railways still operating anywhere in the world.
22 The First Train Journey by Steam
Richard Trevithick’s boss hailed the engineer as a genius. Today he’d have been fired. (Oh, and the train was delayed.)
23 Timothy Hackworth
Timothy Hackworth (1786-1850) turned steam locomotives into a reliable commercial success.
which is ‘English Style’ ?

Word Play: Opposites

Suggest words or phrases that are opposite in meaning to the words below.

Wealth. Find. Last.
JB Cramer was one of the finest pianists of his day, though his reverence for Mozart made his own music more popular in the drawing room than the concert hall.
By Percy Bysshe Shelley
(1792-1822)
Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley says that the pinnacle of political achievement is the government not of others, but of ourselves.
By John Keats
(1795-1821)
Poet John Keats speaks of the beauties of Autumn, her colours, her sounds and her rich harvest.
By Percy Bysshe Shelley
(1792-1822)
Poet Percy Shelley calls on November’s sister months to watch by the graveside of the dead Year.
Cut
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Polyword ‘Pied’
Make as many words as you can with the letters below. All your words must be at least four letters long, and must also include the highlighted letter. What’s the nine-letter word?

SEE how many words you can make using the letters below. All your words must be at least 4 letters long, and must include the letter (change).

We found commonly used words, plus one 9-letter word. Can you do better?

Use each letter only once. But if there are e.g. two As, you can used them both.

Don’t count proper nouns such as April, Zeus, or Newcastle (pretty much anything that has to be spelled with a capital letter at the start), or acronyms like HMRC.

Don’t just add -S for plurals or third person singular verbs, e.g. CAT → CATS or SPEAK → SPEAKS.

Note: You can find more Polywords and other games on our Nine Lives puzzle page, and most of our stories are accompanied by games with words, grammar and numbers.

More Puzzles
Try writing complete sentences using these verbs in either the active or the passive voice.
Do you know ‘popular Asian chilled fruit drink’ (7 letters), and ‘bear witness’ (6 letters)?
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.
Add, multiply, divide and subtract six numbers to reach a set target.
Do you know ‘knock over and scatter’ (7 letters), and ‘a measure of length equal to 45 inches’ (3 letters)?
See if you can guess these words letter-by-letter.
A word-making and word-searching game with a dash of strategy to it.
top topics
History (379)
Fiction (82)

letters game

What is the longest word you can make using these letters?

Press enter or type a space to see feedback on your word.

More like this: Longest Word (Letters Game) Games with Words

numbers game

Make the total shown using two or more of the numbers underneath it. You can add, subtract, divide and multiply. Use any number once only.

More like this: Target Number (Mental Arithmetic Game) Mental Arithmetic