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3 January 2017

New money for the UK

We're having to get used to new money in the UK. Last year we got the new GBP 5 note. It's made of plastic, not paper, and feels and looks very different to the old one.

This year we will get a new pound coin. If you're studying in the UK, you're probably used to the thick round coin we have been using since 1983. The new coin looks very different, with 12 sides. It is meant to be very difficult to fake.

The new coin will be issued in March and will completely replace the old pounds by the middle of October. The Government is warning people to make sure they take all old pound coins to the bank: it thinks around GPB 1bn of pounds are being saved in people's homes.

The change will also affect parking meters and vending machines selling drinks and snacks. It will probably cost at least GPB 15-20m to adapt them to the new coin.

This is not the only change to our money. This year there will be a new plastic GBP 10 and a GBP 2 coin. For the first time ever, the same famous British person will be on both. That person is Jane Austen, who lived over 200 years ago and wrote much-loved books including Pride and Prejudice.

Dinosaur leaves London

If you've ever visited London's famous museums, you'll probably have heard of Dippy the dinosaur. Dippy is a skeleton of a Diplodocus which has stood in the entrance hall of the Natural History Museum since 1979.

But this weekend was Dippy's last at the heart of the museum, and there are no plans for it to return. The dinosaur is being replaced by the skeleton of a blue whale which was washed up on a beach in Ireland in 1891.

This is because the Natural History Museum wants to put more stress on conservation, looking after different types of animals and plants. The Blue Whale almost died out because of hunting, and was saved because people decided to ban hunting whales. Another reason for the change is that the Blue Whale is a genuine skeleton, but Dippy is an exact copy of a complete dinosaur.

You may get a chance to see Dippy the Dinosaur close to where you are studying English. It is going on tour [] round the UK, and will go on show in eight different areas next year – starting on the coast not far from Bournemouth.

British cyclist retires

Sir Bradley Wiggins, who was the first British winner of the Tour de France cycling race, has announced that he will not race any more. Sir Bradley has won more Olympic medals than any other British athlete. He has eight, of which five are golds.

You might notice that he is called "Sir" Bradley Wiggins. This is because he got an "honour" from the Queen for his work in sport.

Honours are a UK tradition to recognise work that people have done. They are announced in a special list at New Year and the Queen's birthday. This week tennis player Andy Murray, and Olympic athletes Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis-Hill were among sports stars to get honours. They are now called Sir Andy Murray, Sir Mo Farah, and Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill.

Later in the year, people getting honours go to special ceremonies at Buckingham Palace where they get a medal. Some honours give people a new title, like Lord, Dame or Sir (think about Sir Elton John, Dame Judi Dench, and Sir Ian McKellen). Those people kneel down before the Queen or another member of the Royal Family who touches them on the shoulder with a sword.

Other types of honour let people put letters after their name. Victoria Beckham, the fashion designer, got one of these honours, and is now Victoria Beckham OBE.

Names of people who might deserve honours can be suggested by political parties, government officials and ordinary people, and there are then discussions by a special group to make sure it is a good idea.

Honours are complicated and not everybody thinks it is a good system.

Royal Family in the news

The Queen and her family have been in the news quite a bit over Christmas. This is partly because they always go to their family house in the East of England for the holiday. People go there to see them walk to church on Christmas morning and again in the New Year.

But this year the Queen has been ill, with a cold. She has missed church twice, which she has never done before.

She is now 90, and other members of her family are taking on more of her jobs. Prince William's family are moving to London because Prince George will go to school there, and he will do more Royal visits.

The Queen and her husband Prince Philip have also stopped working with some organisations they have been close to for decades. Other members of the Royal Family will take on those roles. However, the Queen still has a big workload. She has given up working with just 25 organisations, carrying on with more than 600 others.


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