Countries, Culture, Sport, UK

The City of Jute, Jim and Journalism

My old colleague ‘The Gadge’ (Scottish dialect for working man) would often say that he’d never met a good boss yet.

I’d mostly share his opinion, and the best advice is that when you get one hold on to them for dear life.

Boss of bosses

My old Sports Editor Donald from Edinburgh days was one such, and this genius headline was all his.

Oor Wullie and Oor Jimmy in Dundee

As it is a play on the moniker given to the City of Dundee.

Jute is for linoleum for which the city on the River Tay in the East of Scotland was known.

Jim is a twist on jam for which Dundee is famous.

But in this case refers to the legendary manager of Dundee United Jim McLean.

The Great Man: Jim McLean at Dundee United

And journalism after DC Thomson, the city’s newspaper company.

Among being one of the world’s oldest spawned its most famous boy, and family.

On a pedestal

Oor Wullie and The Broons.

Tay to go: The Tay Bridge

Wee Jim, which was how Mr McLean was known, but never among his players had to manage his players like scamps,.

Like they were Oor Wullie or his pals Soapy Soutar, Fat Boab and Wee Eck.

One such was Duncan Ferguson who went on to fetch the then biggest transfer in Scottish football history, from Rangers.

I’m a Broon: Grandpaw, The Bairn and the Big Bairn

And then went on to become a fans’ favourite at Everton where he is now Assistant Manager.

But who while at Tannadice paid the price literally in club fines for not following Wee Jim’s rules.

Jim’s rules

While in a more old school form of punishment Wee Jim, who would maybe smile once a year and never in public, had Big Dunc washing his car.

Dan the Man in Dundee

Wonder how that would go down with Neymar, Pogba and Ozil.

Wee Jim may very well be laying down the law to St Peter and the Apostles by now.

But they will be better for it.

Like his players whom he led to a league title, two League Cups, a European final and famous wins such as against Barcelona in the Nou Camp.

Scotland’s National poet Robert Burns

Richer and funnier anecdotes will be told today about Wee Jim,

Funtime and Glumtime Jimmy

But this Jim will always remember him as taking my calls when I was a cub reporter in Aberdeen.

And even getting an apology from him after he cut our call short because of a fire drill.

Minnie and Me

Wee Jim had probably been lighting a fire under Big Dunc.

Now we’ve all agreed that Wee Jim deserves to be put on a pedestal along with Desperate Dan, Oor Wullie and Robert Burns,.

It’s been in the planning and is slated for next year… and it will surely be among these favourites of mine.

Countries, Culture, Deals, Music, Sport

Maradona, you’ve been Tangoed

And to the million reasons I’m proud of the Son and Heir this year I’m adding a radio show, Radio Buena Vida, on Argentinian music with donations to Homeless charity the Simon Community.

To mark the passing this year (although the World Cup Final winning goal aside, he rarely passed) of Diego Maradona.

The Wee Man, as we all know, loved a party, and we loved The Wee Man.

And being Argentinian he had natural rhythm which he brought to the dancing floor.

El Glitterball

Taking in the Christmas Strictly show yesterday, and having listened to my son Ally’s radio show, got me thinking how good it would have been to see him Tango.

I’d put him with somebody similarly small, probably the gorgeous 4ft 11in Cuban-Floridian Janette Manrara.

Diego also had a strong voice and to tempt you into Ally’s prog, here’s a taster of Maradona’s singing.

There are a million reasons too to visit Maradona’s beloved Argentina

My two favourites would be football and football and a match and tour at Diego’s beloved Boca Juniors would be high up on my list.

Pampas and polo

But obviously the music, and I know a man who knows his Argentinian music,

While there’s also the pampas and the polo, which I know they, and an old schoolmate of mine, play on the fields of England.

The former US First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said of The Iguazu Falls which spills a quarter of a million gallons of water a day: ‘poor old Niagara.’

And while the bustling cities of Buenos Aires, Cordoba and Mendoza are a must, the southernmost city on Earth, Ushuaia is too.

Water, water everywhere

We’d suggest the 12-day Wendy Wu Essence of Argentina & Brazil tour from €4390pp with flights.

While G Adventures pairs Argentina and Chile, ten days Santiago to Buenos Aires from €1317 which is down from €1549.


Adventure, Africa, Countries, Sport

Owed to Joy – a celebration of Beethoven and Europe

And isn’t it timely that as Britain extricates from Europe we pay tribute to Beethoven today? An Owed to Joy if you will.

This month marks the 250th anniversary of Ludwig’s birthday of the Great Man and we would have been there in Bonn with him.

But instead we will be doing the next best thing tonight… listening to the composer and an expert panel.

General Music Director Dirk Kaftan, the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn and guests will be discussing his legacy.

Listen up

We’re reliably informed that you need to be on this link at 8.30pm tonight, Wednesday, December 16 and from 8.30pm.

And while we’re being transported to his childhood home to Bonn he has moved on and is spending eternity in Vienna.

Well his bones are… for his death mask, go to Teplice in the modern-day Czech Republic.

Room for Beethoven

Visit the room he stayed in in the Beethoven Spa, and see said death mask and the hearing horns he tried when he was here.

Heard about the Beethoven mask in Teplice

You may even be inspired to pen some music when you visit the cafe there where a piano is the centrepiece.

Ludwig was, and he wrote his Seventh Symphony here.

The Beethoven celebrations continue digitally tomorrow night, Thursday, December 17, with a rendition of Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto.

Move over Ludwig: In Teplice

And his Symphony of Fate No. 5.

By pianist and conductor legend Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

Classical cities

And if all this gets your creative juices flowing then here’s a couple of recommendations of classical music cities from my travels.

What a picture: With The Scary One in Bergen

Bergen for Edvard Grieg, on your MSC cruise, Salzburg for Mozart with Topflight Bergamo forDonizetti with Omio and


Adventure, Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Ireland, Sport, UK

Rossmeister, Braywatch and Andorra’s Box

You know Christmas is coming when… the latest Ross O’Carroll Kelly book hits the shelves and he coins another killer pun like Game of Throw-Ins of Andora’s Box.

And as it happens the new Ross book hits the shelves this Friday… and I’ve already told Santa that, roysh, I want that.

The Ledge is back

As well as a Beamer with one of the Seoige sisters (or both) sprawled over the hood.

Andorra was where Ross decamped when he had to get out of town.

From the looks of it Ross is having to make the most of things these days in Bray, the old-fashioned Co. Wicklow resort I know so well.

Although I prefer the luxury of leafy Powerscourt in nearby Enniskerry.

The Sugarloaf frames Bray

Back to Andorra.

And In truth if you do during the winter you’ll not be able to hook a T bar or ride a gondola without bumping into someone you know from Dublin 4..

If you want a taste of Dublin’s Rugbyland and walk in the Rossmeister’s footsteps then the InterCon is where you’ll stay.

And he’ll no doubt have a thing or two to say about Ireland’s win yesterday against Scotland.

Pyrenees please

Andorra is an ideal country to get the skiing kick.

And Pierre & Vacances are all over the Pyrenees with more than 455 rooms and apartments.

It is adding to that with two new residences in the Pyrenees, Hotel Austria and Residence Andorra Degas.

Deal me in

Hotel Austria… but in Andorra

Hotel Austria boasts 62 rooms and is just 1km from the Peretol ski resort.

The Degas Apartments are right on the doorstep to the skiing, just 750m from the Grandvalira slopes.

A seven-night stay at the Hotel Austria at a flexible rate, arriving on March 13 is from €395/£358 for a double bedroom with breakfast included.

And a week at the Andorra Residence Degas is from €757/£685 for an apartment that sleeps up to three. Flights and transfers not included.

I’ve looked up at those Pyrenees from my post-Lourdes tour so this is unfinished business.

Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – Kitmastime

And for many a parent the go-to Christmas present for kids (and maybe vice-versa) was a football top.

My most memorable was, and this is pertinent in a week when we lost Diego Maradona, La Albiceleste.

Or the sky blue and white stripes.

Truth was that my attempts at long hair never came close to the chic cool of the hero of that year’s World Cup, Mario Kempes.

And physical evidence still exists in a picture album of a rather angst-ridden teen standing by the tree.

In truth I hadn’t asked for Argentina and would have preferred the Dutch shirt.

And I did rue the day I left the World Cup winners’ top behind in a changing room.

So in recognition of Diego and also to flag up a very good cause comedian Mark Watson’s Kitmas appeal for donations of old football tops here are my five faves.

Which will, of course, draw you to these countries.

Dutch of class

Argentina and the Netherlands in the World Cup final in 1978.

The Netherlands: And it was probably just as well that my parents didn’t give me the Dutch top in the Glasgow of the Seventies.

Because an orange top is identified in Scotland with King William of Orange and the Protestant team Rangers.

And that wouldn’t have gone down well in my Catholic school.

Thing was though that as an eight-year-old and uncluttered by such nonsense I was dazzled by that colour.

And the Netherlands of Cruyff and Krol.

And I did manage to blend in with the Oranje Army when I treated the-then Miss F to a night out.

Amsterdam to Rotterdam where the Dutch beat the Greeks 1-0.

Portuguese man of awe

Team of all talents: Portugal in 1986

Portugal: And while it’s mostly always the top you get sometimes you need the whole shirt and shorts ensemble.

So that Portugal‘s red top with the addition of green shorts becomes the Portugal flag.

Our guide Jose Madomis told us from the off that Portugal in the days of the dictator Salazar was run on Football, Fado and Fatima.

So much so that among all the stands of Our Lady merch in Fatima you’ll find the Portuguese shirt and Cristiano Ronaldo towel!

Moroccan roll

Green is the colour: Morocco

Morocco: And not just because they were Scotland’s last opponents in the finals of a major competition, a 3-0 defeat in 1998.

But because of the lengths I went to to get myself a Morocco top

On my travels in Marrakech. I picked the green one rather than the red.

Where I got roped in by a trader after some pointless bartering.

To buy his threadbare top off his stall for more than its worth.

Which set in motion a tragical mystery tour from Jemaa el-Fna around the souks.

And that was just the start of my rocky Moroccan roll.

Roman holiday

Hotti Totti: Roma legend Francesco Totti

Roma: And we’re still waiting to get to see the Gods of calcio after Dad here promised the Son and Heir a match only to forget his passport.

But we did get a Giallorossi (red, more of a maroon, and yellow piping) top snd pencil case.

Calcio too is a religion in Rome

And as you come out of the Vatican you’ll find the shops on one side of the street bedecked in yellow and white, the other in Roma red.

Dynamic Zagreb

Blue for you: Dynamo Zagreb

Medjugorje: And, no, you didn’t read that wrongly…. the Balkans Wars just across the Croatian border in Bosnia & Herzegovina is solidly Croat.

Particularly in the Irish Centre, the focal point for your Marian tour.

Where your barman cranks up the volume when his faves Dynamo Zagreb play.

And with my Croatia friends on World Cup final day in 2018

And will accompany it with a tape of his best supporters’ songs.

Outside on the stands and in the shops and the only thing competing for space with Our Lady is…

Yes, you guessed it Croatia’s distinctive red and white checked tops.

And one just for me

Put your shirt on me

Quinta do Murto; And a postscript here… before I was invited out to Quinta do Lago to visit the hi-tec Campus.

I was asked my shirt size.

And when I was taken into the changing rooms where English Premier League sides set up camp there on the peg was…

My own black top with white sleeves with my name on the back.

Adventure, Africa, America, Countries, Sport

JFK remembered

We have a long-forgotten aide of John F. Kennedy’s to thank on this day as JFK is remembered.

This is why the iconic US President’s grave being open for us to pay pilgrimage.

Kennedy had spoken to the aide from Robert E Lee’s house looking down on Arlington Cemetery in the weeks ahead of his assassination.

He said, with some prescience, that he would like to spend eternity looking down on this view of Washington DC and the Potomac River.

Jackie Kennedy had wanted to bury her husband in the Kennedy family homestead of Hyannis Port in Massachusetts.

The sentry never sleeps

Sentinels have continued to stand watch at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

There at Arlington House throughout the pandemic, albeit without tourists.

For history tourists it is a must as part of a visit to General Lee’s house.

You can see the recreated office where he contemplated on whose side to fight on during the Civil War.

The Arlington grounds on which the cemetery now stands was used as a military camp.

It served as a resting place for soldiers by Union forces.

A family affair

Kennedy’s grave is a simple. solemn stone, beside the eternal flame and his family

And movingly his and Jackie’s still-born child Arabella and their infant son Patrick, born in the months before his death.

Kennedy’s Irish visit in 1963

Jackie is buried here too.

She lies near his brothers Robert and Edward, and all are tended too beautifully and respectfully by the groundsmen.

Today on the 57th anniversary of his assassination focus will switch to Dallas, his Massachusetts home, and perhaps too his Irish homestead.

A view for immortality onto Washington DC

And all resonant to the man and his legend.

But today I will be reflecting on gardener Old Jorge tending the graves the day I visited.

And how Kennedy would have come to represent his champion.

Africa, Countries, Europe, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – Subbuteo, yabbuteo!

It seems the more technological we get the more we hanker after more simple pleasures which is why the sporting toy hit this Christmas is Subbuteo.

Table football where you flick a football piece on a semi-circle stand at a mini-ball to a fellow player, on up the green felt pitch and into the goal is back.

It’s not as real as the latest FIFA iteration but that’s much of the charm.

Teams of all talents

I first learned about other countries through sporting competitions and replicated that through Subbuteo.

Why we had the Uruguay team I still don’t know other than the Brazil team was probably sold out.

Your traditional Subbuteo box came with Scotland and England teams and here’s where this gets current.

And Scotland’s greatest ever goal

John Motson, the doyen of English TV commentators is plugging Subbuteo and he is the ideal man for the job.

Because he, and his sheepskin coat, are instantly recognisable and made the perfect accessory for your kit.

You could also get grandstands, fans (remember them), floodlights, the World Cup, and probably a wee VAR room now too.

And England’s glossy kit

The beauty of Subbuteo is that you could get it in other sports too.

And I would often play out the-then Five Nations Rugby Championships.

Anyone for rugby

And the iconic touring New Zealand All Blacks, Australian Wallabies, South African Springboks and Argentine Pumas.

The passing behind made it a little pedestrian but the rugby kicker and scrum machine more than made up for it.

Subbuteo offered cricket too which obviously had its challenges for bowlers but they uses a chute?

While they even did hockey and, get this, soeedway.

And there were some sports which obviously beat the imagineers such as swimming and horse racing!

Watch the lampshades… it’s cricket

There is a Subbuteo World Cup which was lined up for Rome this year but will now take place next year when Spain will defend their title.

And maybe I’ll combine it with a trip to the Olympic Stadium to see Roma after arriving with the Son and Heir there a few years ago without my passport.

We did get to play giant fusbol outside the stadium… but that’s a whole different game.


America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Sport

My Sporting Weekend – a tale of two Georgias

And the result is not long in from Georgia… at this rate we’d have had a winner of the Masters before the Georgians plumped for Trump or Biden.

As it is they decided to go for Joe who wouldn’t look out of place as the honorary starter.

As it goes 85-year-young fitness fanatic Gary Player and Mighty 80 Jack Nicklaus, the most successful golfer of all time, gripped it and ripped it.

Now as it happens I know all about Gary’s legendary fitness having struggled to keep up with him around Royal Liverpool (Hoylake) 25 years ago.

After I’d been invited to accompany him as he shot a piece for Japanese television.

A November Masters has dressed Augusta National in its autumn colours which is different but just as pretty.

Still we can only hope that the famous old major will be back in its spring date next year and that we’ll get to be there.

Golfbreaks offers a selection of flight-inclusive packages for the event which is pencilled in from April 8-11 from £2999.

With the option to extend your stay at Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head or Kiawah Island.

With bespoke packages and a round of golf or an extra day at Augusta.

And as you can see my swing only needs a tweak from when I impressed them all at the Paul McGinley School in Quinta do Lago.

While if you’re more interested in the Open.

Then you don’t have to be this year’s Champion Golfer to enjoy the oldest major of them all.

You can just pose up in the golf village which I did at last year’s Open in Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.

A packed Sandwich

This year’s competition was due to have been played in Sandwich (Royal St George’s) and will be next year.

Which means Kent on England’s south coast, and stop me here if I’ve told you this story already.

But when I worked full-time running a newspaper sports desk…

The secretary was tasked with getting accommodation for the golf writer.

Next year: At Sandwich

Let’s call her Kate and him Paul because that’s their names.

Kate came over to the desk all excited saying she had found Paul a place just 25 miles from the course…. in France.

Which is probably as wayward as one of my tee shots.

The other Georgia

Flag happy: With Ambassador George in Dublin

Not to be mistaken for the other Georgia.

Georgia of the Caucuses and Black Sea, boasts a fascinating history.

With perhaps its biggest claim to fame being wine is first recorded here.

I left with a more recent vintage from lunch at George Zurabashvili, the Georgian ambassador’s, residence in Dublin.

With the vow that I would visit one day (and I will).

And that I would support their rugby team unless of course they were playing Scotland or Ireland.

And it was easy yesterday because they were facing England, although I didn’t bring them much luck.

Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Sport, UK

A Wales of a good time

It was more lock-in than lockdown in my year in Wales with many a night spent back drinking after last orders in Kildare’s.

Yes, Kildare’s in Cardiff city centre, with its Brain’s bitter and dance floor with a darts board on the wall is where I’d be spending their two-week ‘fire break’.

Cardiff has changed considerably since I learned how to report proper back in the late 80s.

Cardiff Bay

But to me it will always be 1987 and 1988.

When on the first night there a local in the pub next to my college enquired of my origins. As we stood peeing in the loo.

‘English bastard are you?’ asked Taff.

‘Scots bastard actually,’ said I as I hoped a bit of Celtic brotherhood would get me out of a tight scrape.

‘Just as flipping bad. You cheated us out of two World Cups, you bastard,’ he shot back without taking a breath.

At which point I turned to meet his eye, shook myself and left.

Oh, I’ll have them all then

The loos were safer but more used when Brains allowed us an hour free bar at the end of our tour… I think we broke the record.

I’d probably not be sitting here jotting this out if I hadn’t got out of my tent in my pal’s back garden in time for my final exams.

There were other highlights too. Such as scoring the last-minute equaliser in the semi-finals of the University of Wales Interdepartmental Cup semi-final.

And getting my first Press pass, into Cardiff Arms Park… Wales robbed Scotland with a kick from inside their own half.

Kings and Queens of the Castle

All these and more.

You’ll make your own memories when their politicians allow us all back in.

Like Cardiff Castle, with its Banqueting Hall, the picturesque chapel and clock tower.

The arcades, my pick is St David’s with its statue of its most favourite sportsman, Gareth Edwards, among a range of spectacular art throughout the city.

And you know how much I love my statues, and my cultural icons.

The perfect pass: Gareth Edwards

Cardiff Harbour is the focal point for the city’s regeneration while you’ll want to learn more about Tiger Bay, home to the city’s favourite daughter, Shirley Bassey.

Yes, Cardiff’s changed and Wales play their internationals at the futuristic Millennium Stadium now.

Where Scotland still lose… and don’t even get close.

Now there’s a Cardiffian bar fly who is searching for a new victim in the Woodville Bar.

Meet you on the road…


America, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – my sporting New York

And as the best golfers in the world hack their way around Winged Foot on the outskirts of New York I’ll drive you around one of the world’s great sports cities with my sporting New York.

Anyone for Tennis

Flushing Meadows, Queens: And we’ve just put down our rackets at the Billie Jean King Center

Home to American tennis’s biggest tournament since 1978 it became a big deal to the residents of Queens obvs and especially my NY rellies.

To whom it gave casual work when they would dream of booming down winning serves.


The US Open is a treat awaiting me when I next pitch up there. And it’s hot dogs rather than strawberry and cream.

The Garden

The Mecca for boxing before Vegas and in many traditionalists’ eyes still the place to trade punches.

But I’ve not come here, to Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, for a fight, but a dance.

It’s a Halloween and we’re staying in SoHo and I’ve brought my nine-year-old daughterie here for an ice-skate. Like a real New Yorker.

And like a real New Yorker you’ll be wanting to follow the Rangers in the Garden.

It means something else in New York than in Glasgow, and it’s ice hockey so that’s OK.

Knickerbockers… how sweet!

You’ll know them as the Knicks, New York’s basketball team but the original name was the Knickerbockers.

Knickerbockers are what Americans call plus-fours.

Father Knickerbocker was the symbol of New York, channeling the Dutch influence because they too wore their trousers to just below the knee.

Now all you need is one of those vests (hell, the Americans call them waistcoats) but you know what I mean. And a big foam finger.

Yes, they too play at the Garden.

And Brooklyn has a team too

Brooklyn Nets, Brooklyn: Brooklyn is a proud borough (aren’t they all?) which we probably know best for its bridge and the now defunct and romantic baseball team, the Brooklyn Dodgers.

But here they have a basketball team too. And the name that jumps out from their roster here is All-Star Kevin Durant.

So that leaves the Yankees and the Mets

New York Yankees, The Bronx, and the New York Mets, Queens: And what they all dream of in New York is a subway series which is a derby to you and me.

Although obviously it turns into a nightmare if you end up on the losing side. My old New York brother and sister friends Tom and Kate informed me that if we were to remain friends then I’d have to pull for the Mets.

I even have the baseball bat and ball here with me on my desk to remind me.

While Kate has few illusions about her beloved Mets who lost the World Subway Series of 2000 to the ‘Damned’ Yankees. ‘They always break your heart, those Mets,’ she sighed.

Their football

Even before we got into the Kevin James sitcom, the King of Queens, I was already being pulled this way by my Uncle Eddie on my first trip to New York, after school.

Uncle Eddie, a proud son of Donegal, now living in Long Island supported the neighbouring Queens teams and particularly the New York Jets.

Whisper it but they’re no longer a Queens team, playing their games in New Jersey. As do their great rivals, the New York Giants. Yes, the same stadium, and that’s another subject we’ll get into sometime.

Then there’s ours

And the New Yorkers look to have embraced our football having flirted with it back in the day with Pele, Beckenbauer and the New York Cosmos.

New York City only has the one team their fans will be quick to tell you, in much the same way that their sister franchise Manchester City supporters will inform you that is the case in Manchester, with United playing in Salford.

New York Red Bulls, the older club, play their games in New Jersey.

This tie-up is as close to a grudge soccer match as you’ll get in the US.

You want more New York… then check out this Old New York piece of old.