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25 January 2018

Return of a food tradition

People in the UK drink quite a lot of milk – we put it in our cups of tea and coffee and pour it on our cereal. 30 years ago, every house had a special delivery of milk most mornings.

The "milkman" had a special electric van (called a milk float) which was designed to carry lots of boxes of milk bottles and travelled very quietly. This was because the milk was delivered very early in the morning, before most people were awake.

The milk came in glass bottles with foil caps. The milkman would leave full milk bottles on his customers' doorsteps, taking away the empty ones to be washed and reused. Customers would leave notes for the milkman with the empty bottles to say if they wanted to change their delivery.

This all changed when supermarkets started selling milk in large plastic bottles, and by 2016 under 3 percent of milk was being put into glass bottles.

But now more people want milk to be delivered again, as people try to cut down the amount of plastic they use. Dairy UK, which delivers milk, says it is now delivering a million bottles of milk every day (compared with 800,000 two years ago) and has had lots of people getting in touch this week about getting milk delivered. "It's great for us," they said.

Return of another food tradition

Have you heard of gin? It is an alcoholic drink, like vodka or whiskey, which was traditionally made in the UK and very popular with lots of people.

Sales dropped for a long time, and gin became something that older people drank (with tonic, which is a fizzy, slightly bitter, mixer drink). But in the past five years, gin has become very fashionable and the number of people making it has doubled.

There are now 315 gin distilleries in the UK – twice the number of five years ago – and sales are up 20 percent in the last year. The distillers sold 47m bottles last year, enough for 1.32m gin-and-tonics.

The rise in sales is in small, locally-produced gins (called craft gins) which often have interesting flavouring. Sales of these rose 167 percent at one supermarket last year – compared with a sales rise of just 30 percent for gin made by major companies. And 180m bottles were exported last year.

Children's book characters mostly male

An analysis of the UK's 100 most popular picture books of last year has found that they are twice as likely to have leading male characters as female ones, and the male characters are more likely to speak in the book. There are no female characters at all in 20 percent of the books.

Dragons, bears and tigers were more likely to be male characters, while birds, cats and insects were more likely to be female.

One publisher said that many new books had strong female characters in lead roles. The problem was that parents were more likely to buy books they remembered from their childhood. "They should seek out recommendations for new titles. If anybody wanted to put a weak girl in one of our books, I'd whack them over the head," she said.

However, the best-selling children's book last year, the Detective Dog, has a female dog helping out a male dog and a male teacher.

Politician suggests a new crossing from the UK to France

Boris Johnson is a politician who has made his name with big ideas. When he was London mayor, he ordered a modern version of red London buses, and he also pushed the idea of rental bikes around the city.

His latest idea seems a bit less likely to happen. He has suggested that a new crossing should be created between the UK and France – a bridge. There is currently one tunnel linking the two nations, with railway lines that can carry people and vehicles.

The sea between the UK and France (called the Channel) is very busy with ships and it is also at least 22 miles wide. It would, therefore, be very tricky to make a bridge happen.  

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