Lisa's week

lisas week teaser

Lisa's week: The sound of London

What is 157 years old, weighs 13.7 tonnes, has a diameter of 2.7 metres, rings out in the note of E when struck and can be found 96 metres high above the rooftops of London? It’s one of the most well known sights and sounds of London and yet, many of us have never seen it.

I am of course talking about Big Ben!

When we talk about Big Ben, most people automatically think of the infamous tower at the north end of the British Houses of Parliament, which holds the second largest four-faced chiming clock in the world. But did you know that the tower is in fact called Elizabeth Tower, and the name Big Ben actually refers to the nickname for the largest of five bells that are housed inside?

The only way to actually see Big Ben itself is a guided tour, which is offered to permanent residents of the UK and must be sponsored by a local Minister of Parliament (MP). If you’re lucky enough to fall into that category (and I’m rather sad that I don’t, to be honest), you have to be quick to organise your tour, though, because the Elizabeth Tower is to be closed to the public for three years starting at the beginning of 2017.

According to the official website, “Overall the project’s aim is to repair and conserve the Tower, upgrade facilities as necessary and to ensure its integrity for future generations.”

In addition to essential maintenance work to the tower structure and the repair of the clock mechanism, health and safety enhancements including the installation of a lift and the introduction of energy efficiency improvements will be made.

With the tower covered in scaffolding during the period of restoration, there will be times when even the clock will not be visible and there will also be a phase of several months when the wonderful chimes that give London its voice will not be heard. I can imagine that the sale of postcards from the many tourist shops a stone’s throw from the Palace of Westminster will increase dramatically during those three years and luckily, modern technology allows us to hear the bells online or even download them to your mobile phone to use as a ring tone! The official website ( offers a video tour too along with plenty of facts and figures.  

The Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben have arrived in the 21st century, it seems.


What is Lisa's week?

"We’ve (hopefully) been entertaining you so far with the meaning and background of a weekly English idiom and now we’ve decided to expand that a little to give me the chance to share some details that come my way in my daily life as a Business English teacher. I hope to find weekly tidbits of information and experience to tell you about such as British traditions that I (or we) celebrate, or typical mistakes made when speaking English, or even some of the funny things I come across in my daily life. We hope that you’ll enjoy the insight into the life of a Brit in Germany!"

Episode 1: The Queen's 90th birthday

Episode 2: What did you do last Sunday?

Episode 3: What's the best way to answer?