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4.6 The London Underground

The first underground railway system in the world was in London. It opened in 1863 and ran 6.5 kilometres from the west of London to the City in the east. The first lines were built close to the surface and used steam trains. They then built deeper tunnels and the electric underground railway opened in 1890. This system was called the Tube, still the most popular name for the London Underground. Some of the Tube stations are so deep that they were used as air-raid shelters during the Second World War when hundreds of families spent nights in the stations.

One million people commute into central London every day. Sixty per cent of these people use the Tube, mainly because the London Underground system extends far into the suburbs: the Northern Line, running from north to south, covers 28 kilometres, the Piccadilly Line, running from east to west is 76 kilometres long.

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4.7 Food in Britain

Britain has some excellent traditional food: lamb from Wales, shellfish and fresh salmon from Northern Ireland, fresh or smoked fish from Scotland, cheeses from England and Wales. Unfortunately, good English food is difficult to find. Only 2 per cent of restaurants in London serve British food and they are very expensive. You can eat a good and cheap “British” meal in a pub. Most pubs now serve good value hot and cold meals.

A traditional English breakfast is a very big meal – sausages, bacon, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and bread. But nowadays most people have for breakfast cereal with milk and tea or coffee with a toast with marmalade or jam. Marmalade is made from oranges and jam is made from other food.

British people if they go out for a meal or buy a takeaway, go to an Indian, Chinese, Italian, Thai, Turkish, Greek or other restaurant. There are 8000 restaurants in Great Britain, which cook everything from spicy national dishes to vegetarian food.

Fast food became very popular, too. Traditional British fish and chips and American hamburger are examples of it.

Now people spend less time cooking. They bring home already cooked food in packets and pots and heat them up in the microwave.

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4.8 British Homes

About 80 per cent of British people live in houses. Detached houses are usually in expensive suburbs, far from the town centre, near the countryside. Semi-detached houses are in suburbs too, but nearer the town centre. Blocks of flats are mostly found in town centres. They can be small with one or two bedrooms or large with five bedrooms.

About 67 per cent of the people in Britain own their houses or flats. The rest live in rented accommodation and are called council accommodation. Council flats and houses are built by the local council, they can be as high as 20 storeys. Near the houses there are play areas for children. By 1993, 1.5 million council houses were sold, but only 5000 council houses were built to replace them. This means that it is now very difficult to find cheap housing for rent – a real problem for the poor and unemployed.

English people like gardening and you can see gardens everywhere you go: in towns, villages and in the country. Some are very small, just a tree and a few flowers, others are big with fruit trees and vegetables and certainly many flowers.

The saying “An Englishman’s home is his castle” is well-known. It illustrates the desire for privacy and the importance attached to ownership.

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