America, Central America, Countries, Europe, UK

Out the box pugilist statues

And ahead of the unveiling of the Ken Buchanan statue in Edinburgh we’re thinking today. Out the box pugilist statues.

Tartan terrier: Ken Buchanan

Rock’n’roll in Philly

Rocky, Philadelphia: And with apologies to Tim Witherspoon, Bernard Hopkins and Philadelphia Jack O’Brien (the clue is in the title…

It’s all about Rocky Balboa… and you can get your selfie with the Great Man at the top of his steps in Philly and you don’t have to the run.

On a pedestAli

Let’s Rumble: Ali and Frazier

Muhammad Ali: And the best Ali statue is in sports-mad Philly which immortalises the great duel with adopted Philadelphian, Joe Frazier at the Joe Hand Gym.

Being Ali, we’ve counted 85 statues of Ali around the world, and of course you’ll want to see him in his hometown of Louisville.

And that means the Muhammad Ali Center in the Kentuckian town.

Alexis the Great

On the shoulders of giants: Alexis in Nicaragua

Alexis Arguello, Managua, Nicaragua: And the late great Nicaraguan was a man difficult to worked up to dislike.

No trashtalking here with Alexis always making a point of asking his opponents how their family is… before beating them up.

And on one occasion, Glasgow’s own, Jim Watt, who I’d fanboyed in a record store and wished good luck for his next fight.

Which was… Alexis Aguero.

The Merthyr Matchstick

Here’s Johnny

Johnny Owen, Merthyr Tydfil, Wales: And we’d probably never have heard of Merthyr Tydfil, 23 miles north of Cardiff, were it not for one brave Welsh fighter.

Owen was given his idiosyncratic nickname on account of him being 5ft 8ins and 8st.

And his courage was his undoing when he was knocked unconscious in a world bantamweight title fight in LA and died from his injuries.

Johnny though lives for ever in the hearts of Merthyr (population 50,000) where he shares centre stage with Howard Winstone and Eddie Thomas.

Classical fighters

Fighting Romans: Boxer at Rest in Rome

Boxer at Rest, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome: And, of course, we’ve been boxing the ears off each other since when Cain struck Abel.

And our Greek (Olympics) and Roman friends loved their prize fighters.

With the statue Boxer at Rest still captivating and informing us about the ancient Romans.

Of course, the Romans were bare-knuckled fighters and it’s how we all start in the playground.

Knuckle down: The Bareknuckle Hall of Fame in NY

Of all places Belfast is where you’ll find the Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame… Belfast, New York, that is.

The most famous stock of bare-knuckled boxers on the planet are, of course, the Fighting Furys.

Now it’ll probably take years to sculpt a 6ft 9ins and 20st statue.

Just the Jab: Tyson Fury and his statue

But we rather like this interpretative statue of the Gipsy King in his hometown of coastal Morecambe in Lancashire.

Just a sample then of our faves. Out the box pugilist statues.

And remember none of us are free of anachronistic statues until all of us are free of anachronistic statues and we get the icons we want.

America, Asia, Canada, Central America, Culture, Sport, UK

Queer how offside Qatar is to the world

It’s become a fixture on the party and social calendar in the West but, of course, Pride is a revulsion elsewhere in the world, and in this World Cup year isn’t it queer how offside Qatar is to the world?

Now the football world (a different universe, of course) turned a blind eye to the Emirate’s discrimination and criminalisation of the LGBTQIA community when awarding Qatar the hosting of this winter’s World Cup.

Flagging up an issue: With Qatar

And quite what that’ll mean to LGBTQIA football fans who are wanting to follow their countries’ fortunes then we’ll try here to decipher.

While we all know too that of the hundreds of footballers, coaching staff and officials taking part not one will be LGBTQIA.

And that will get FIFA off the hook… and there won’t be anybody queer in that organisation either.

A word from the sponsors

Take that: The Qataris

Football’s World Cup is, of course, more than a sporting event.

It is a cultural, educational example and the tourist trip football fans have been planning for years.

So make of these welcoming words if you will from Qatari official Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Ansari

‘If he (a fan) raised the rainbow flag and I took it from him, it’s not because I really want to really take it to really insult him.

‘But to protect him. Because if it’s not me, somebody else around him might attack (him).

‘Watch the game. That’s good. But don’t really come in and insult the whole society because of this.

‘Reserve the room together, sleep together – this is something that’s not in our concern. We are here to manage the tournament.

‘Let’s not go beyond the individual personal things which might be happening between these people… this is actually the concept.’

Right, where do we start? The Major General’s assertion that he really wants to protect ‘them’?

Qatari protection

Sheikh it off: The Qataris

So, protecting them then would be not exposing them to a punishment of up to seven years in prison and a fine.

And the possibility of death penalty if you are indigenous.

Of course this is for men because just like in Victorian Britain lesbianism wasn’t even considered thing despite upper-class society’s obsession with all things Classical where the Sapphists were chronicled.

Maybe here too Major General you might think.

About criminalising the people who would attack an innocent person simply because which sex they love.

And then what about their concession to gay visitors that they can ‘reserve the room together, sleep together’?

Well evidence this very year has shown that FIFA recommended hotels in Qatar are actively refusing to accommodate same-sex couples.

Or ‘these people’ as the Major General calls them.

Of course it’s not as if we hadn’t been warned.

Bla, bla Blatter

Out of touch: Sepp Blatter

That bastion of integrity, former FIFA chief Sepp Blatter had thought it all a big joke.

When he was asked about a lack of gay rights in Qatar shortly after they were selected in 2010… ‘They should refrain from any sexual activities.’

And the Qataris, naturally, must have seen this as a green light.

Because three years later the head of Qatar’s World Cup bid team, Hassan al-Thawadi, said that everybody was welcome at the event, so long as they refrained from public display of affection.

‘Public display of affection is not part of our culture and tradition’.

To which you can justifiably add… and particularly not when you’re holding hands with, or kissing, a member of the same sex.

American continental LGBTI army

The right path: Pride in West Hollywood

We can console ourselves somewhat that the next World Cup will be held in the USA, Canada and Mexico.

Where people are allowed to express themselves and love each other how they want.

Let’s hope too that by then there will be more than one openly gay professional footballer in the English league structure.

And that this is replicated throughout the country.

And that the sports whitewashing by Middle Eastern and Gulf countries who are buying up, or have bought up Europe’s biggest clibs, does not deter LGBTQIA players from coming out.

Now we’ll leave this heavy but necessary subject.

To get back to checking out where I can get my best Pride experience around here in sleepy North Berwick, near Edinburgh.

A Dutch of class

The future is Oranje: The Oranje Army

But before we go, big hats with feathers off.

To the Dutch politician who suggested that the Netherlands national team play in pink rather than their traditional orange, in solidarity with the LGBTI community.

We’ve not heard whether that this is being taken up by the Dutch football federation.

But having partied with the inclusive Oranje Army on the way to Rotterdam to see them play Greece a number of years ago…

We know the supporters’ only rule is that you love Total Football.


America, Central America, Countries, Culture, UK

Fantastically Great Women

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World.

That’s Daddy’s Little Girl, The Scary One and my Dear Old Mum, and Emmeline Pankhurst, Rosa Parks and a host of others.

And showing here that women aren’t just for International Women’s Day but should be valued daily…

We’re flagging up a celebratory musical which has been touring the UK.

And which is dropping in on our own wee capital, Edinburgh here in Scotland.

Bus boy: And I’d have given Rosa my seat

Premiered last Autumn it is running at the King’s Theatre from April 25-30 .

FGWWCTW is based on the popular books by Kate Pankhurst who realised while writing them that she was related to the Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst.

The sisterhood of women from history are brought to life on stage.

From Civil Rights heroine Rosa to Marie Curie to Frida Kahlo and more when inquisitive heroine Jade discovers the Gallery of Greatness on a school trip.

All of which allows us to do a deeper dive into these Fantastically Great Women.

Rosa Rising

Sit where I want: Rosa Parks

The most famous bus passenger in history was seamstress Rosa Parks who refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, to a white passenger.

And so she became the symbol and the headline name for a legal action which struck a key victory for the Civil Rights Movement.

She has a museum dedicated to her in Troy University in Montgomery

And much more besides including name checks in the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee.

Where this male, pale and stale dude was honoured to share a seat with her statue.

Vote for Women

Let’s here it for the women: And give them the vote

Like all injustices, it is only when they have been corrected.

With the passage of history their sheer ludicrousness hits home.

And of course at the time the protesters have to take desperate and self-sacrificing measures.

And they are often pilloried for it.

Stand up and stand proud Emmeline Pankhurst.

And her Suffragettes who went on hunger strike, chained themselves to railings.

And one even threw herself in front of a royal’s horse and was killed.

All so that they could come out of the kitchen and vote.

And yet too few of us are made aware of The Pankhurst Museum in Manchester where she lived. Mmm, plus ca change.

And now for the science bit

And now for the science: Marie Curie

Now time was, and still is to a certain extent, when science was considered the preserve of menfolk.

Try telling that to Maria Skłodowska (you’ll probably know her, erm, by her married and Francocised name Marie Curie).

Well, the two-time Nobel winner and radioactivity pioneer, is celebrated the world over with her trust is active in the field of Cancer care.

But to get right to the heart of her and her story visit the Museum of Maria Sklodowska-Curie in Warsaw in Poland.

And art too

Face of women’s art: Frida Kahlo

And yes, if you were to ask most men (and probably a few women too) to name a female artist they would struggle.

They’d probably not get past Tracey Emin, great artist though she undoubtedly is,

Of course a greater modern appreciation for Frida Kahlo is changing that.

And not just for opening up the folksy world of Mexico to us.

But also as a champion of the Chicano Movement of Hispanics in the USA, feminism and the LGBTQ+ rights.

Visit the Frida Kahlo Museum, or La Casa Azul or Blue House as it is known, in the Coyoacan neighbourhood of Mexico City.

Edinburgh’s creme de la creme

Pottering about: JK Rowling

And what about the city itself which will be hosting the musical Fantastically Great Women at the King’s.

Scandalously, and this is the case with statues the world over which is one of my pet subjects, there is scant recognition of women.

Unless, of course, you are a queen which is the case in Edinburgh’s port town of Leith where Victoria is immortalised.

We should take our lead from the working-class neighbourhood of Craigmillar.

It has marked the social activist Helen Crummy with a statue.

And where she leads educationalist Mary Erskine, suffragist Elsie Inglis or writer Muriel Spark.

I dare say though that if any woman will be placed on a podium it will be an adopted Edinburgh celeb.

JK Rowling, who her public profile aside, would deserve it for giving us Harry Potter.


Africa, Australasia, Central America, Countries, South America

Today 190 years ago Darwin set out

It’s all a globetrotter can do these days… watch Around the World in Eighty Days on TV which is timely as today 190 years Darwin ago set out on his own global journey.

Took him a bit longer to get around Earth (five years) than oul’ Phileas Fogg.

And barring stopping the assassination of the French President and saving a podgy Italian kid’s life (OK, I’ve only finished the first episode) it just seems to be jolly japes.

Darwin, for his part, unveiled the Evolution of the Species.

Tortoises and slow tourism

And met the Giant Tortoises of the Galapagos.

Now you can be doing without spending five years on the choppy high seas aboard the Beagle (and yes we know it has long since been scrapped although the site of its last home in Rochford is marked).

Instead get on a G Adventures trip to the islands off the western coast of South America.

Where our pals tell us that there is a nine-day trip from Ecuador from £1,499 which is a saving of £500.

And furthermore they’ll take care of your flight bookings in and out of Quito — with the cheapest flight cost possible. 

In the pink with the flamingoes 

Bird’s eye view: In Tampa

You’ll get to see the flamingoes… and believe me you’ll be in the pink as I was in Busch Gardens  in Tampa.

Hike up Sierra Negra volcano… tick, again done in Tenerife, but there’s always more.

Like Tenerife Galapagos boasts black beaches.

I’m reminded too of my pal from my Greek Odyssey, Gullaume Le Roux who only stayed overnight in the crater of a volcano!

What’s special about G Adventures is how much they put back into the local community.

As I saw fist hand in Jordan.

And here you’ll get to put something back in the supported community guesthouse in Floreana

In the slow lane

Horsing around: The giant tortoises

The highlight of your stay will be on Day Six.

Firstly, you’ll view breeding white-tip reef sharks, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, rays, and penguins.

And that’ll prepare you for a unique experience, a visit to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre.

Darwin’s odyssey

And here is a rundown of Charlie Boy’s five-year journey…

Chapter I: St. JagoCape de Verde Islands (St. Paul’s RocksFernando Noronha, 20 Feb.., Bahia, or San Salvador, Brazil, 29 Feb..)

II: Rio de Janeiro

III: Maldonado

IV: Río Negro to Bahia Blanca

V: Bahía Blanca

VI: Bahia Blanca to Buenos Aires

VII: Buenos Aires to St. Fe

VIII: Banda Oriental

IX: Patagonia

And there’s more

Hero in a half-shell: And Tahiti has its stars too

X: Santa Cruz–Patagonia

XI: Tierra del Fuego

XII: The Falkland Islands

XIII: Strait of Magellan

XIV: Central Chile

XV: Chiloe and Chonos Islands

XVI: Chiloe and Concepcion

XVII: Passage of Cordillera

XVIII: Northern Chile and Peru

XIX: Galapagos Archipelago

XX: Tahiti and New Zealand

XXI: Australia (Van Diemen’s Land)

XXII: Coral Formations (Keeling or Cocos Islands)

XXIII: Mauritius to England


Africa, America, Asia, Australasia, Canada, Caribbean, Central America, Countries, South America, Sustainable Tourism

Where to drink the water

And all the focus on COP26 just along the road in Glasgow has got us all thinking about water, the source of life… and prompting us to bring you Holidos and don’ts where to drink the water.

And particularly when we think back on how we were always warned against drinking the water when we were abroad (mostly in those days, Spain).

Sup up: And something to clench your thirst

The fact though is that Spain is safe to drink from the tap and so there is no need to buy plastic bottled water from the supermercato.

Even better, of course, is to find yourself a stream in the country, and better still if you can stumble upon a Camino along the way and follow it through the Santiago.

Water of Rome

Flask resort: Flasks are always better

The same applies incidentally in Italy where you’ll find crystal clear streams on your Via Francigena into Rome.

La Citta Eterna, of course, prides itself on its water.

The fountains which are around every corner and in every piazza.

But also the beautifully adorned taps with carvings of Romulus and Remus and their wolf mother which proliferate around the city.

Wolf down the water: With La Famiglia underneath the wolf and Romulus and Remus

In the cloying humidity of a Rome heatwave you’ll be glad of a tap to fill up your flask.

And didn’t Silvio Berlusconi just know it when our guide told us that he wanted to start charging the locals for the water… something not even Benito Mussolini dared try.

Back to our friends at Globehunters and they reflect that the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Northern and Western Europe, the US and Japan have the best water.

All of which means that you need to take more care in south-eastern Europe, much of Asia, Africa, Central America and South America and it pains me to say the Caribbean (although ‘rum is mi only medicine’ there).

Holy water

Water of life: In the Pyrenees

There are, of course, parts of the world, those where Our Lady has visited, where the water is straight from Heaven.

And yes, I know, that all water comes from the heavens, although a politician in Ireland when I was living there didn’t.

When he railed against the idea of water charges by saying just that ‘that it was’t as if water fell from the heavens’.

The Maryest of Marian sites is, of course, Lourdes, where the Pyrenees water in Cauterets is among the purest and spirited of anywhere.

So be sure to sup from the streams and the waterfalls.

Your own water

Wait for it: Guinness and its magic Irish water

It was always a matter of great pride that your own country had the best water.

And this has always been credited as the magic ingredient of Ireland’s famous Guinness stout.

And Scotch and Irish whisk(e)y.

So now we’re all back out on the road then look out for the taps in towns, and the streams and waterfalls in the country.

And fill up your flasks.

Ditch the plastic

Heat map: Of where is best to drink your water

It also tastes better when it’s not out of a plastic bottle.

And the fishies in the seas, my old pal Mother Turtle Vanessa in the Maldives, and our future generations will thank you.

Be warned too that now we’re all travelling again I’m hardly going to stop here with Holidos and don’ts where to drink the water.

And I’ll back with more Holidos and don’ts… in the blog that’s not all blah, blah, blah.

Well, at least, not the type of blah that will destroy our beautiful blue planet.



Central America, Culture, Europe, UK

The totemic Mexicans off to COP26

The world is coming to Glasgow at the end of this month which gives us a reason to focus on the totemic Mexicans off to COP26. Every day is a school day.

Why totemic Mexicans I hear you ask.. well, why not?

And the proud hombres have never been backward in coming forward… Pancho Sanchez anyone?

And so to the mission in hand..

An indigenous community in Mexico is sending a message to Biden, Johnson, Putin, Xi Jinping, Merkel, Macron et al and let’s hope they stand up and take notice.

And it is shaped in the form of a hand-carved totem that is travelling 9000km from the Totonacapan region.

A little bit of Mexico

Things are looking up: The totem

Totem Latamat is travelling to cultural hubs across the UK before being placed in The Hidden Gardens in Glasgow which will host Indigenous elders and the Sacred Fire for the duration of the conference.

Who knew?

Well, the totem is cut from a single cedar tree and stands 4.5m tall.

After COP26 the totem will be returned to the earth in a ceremony hosted in Dumfries.

All of this is part of ORIGINS, a year-long Indigenous and art and culture festival showcasing the work of leading  artists and activists exploring the themes of climate, Covid and colonialism.

And the man behind it all is artist Jun Tiburico, a painter, earth sculptor, and poet in the Indigenous language of Totonac.

A language apart

I’ve got my eye on you: Mexican culture

Jun has exhibited his work across the globe and is the ambassador of the Totonac language.

And if that’s not enough, he is also the founder and artistic consultant of the Cumbre Tajin Papantla Cultural Festival, in the state of Veracruz (and, no she’s not Penelope’s sister).

So, a lot to absorb there.

And as usual, I suppose you want me to fill in the gaps.

And it’s one of 68

Looking at you Xi: And a warning to the world leaders

Totonac is one of 68 native languages in Mexico with more than 350 linguistic variants.

Just so you know should you think that a burst of La Bamba or an arriba, arriba andale arriba, will draw some interest from the central Mexicans.

And the Cumbre Tajin Papantia Cultural Festival?

Well, our amigos (and excuse me for falling into lazy Spanish) give us the lowdown.

‘Cumbre Tajin is an annual spring equinox festival that takes place in Papantla, Mexico. It’s a celebration of Totonac culture as well as indigenous cultures from around the world.

‘With more than 5,000 activities and 300 artists, it has workshops, craft shows, holistic healing, music, dance, and spectacular light shows at the El Tajin archaeological zone.’

A word on the totem

Blessings on you: The ritual

And maybe a word from Jun: ‘For the Totonac people, birds are our messengers.

‘In the totem, they tell us that we must take care of all life…

‘At the top of the totem are hummingbirds, representing the aspiration for a new consciousness: they are messengers of peace between humans and nature. And I’ll vouch for that as I found in Tobago.

‘The face on the reverse represents the state of emergency in the world.

‘We are so close to reaching the peak of this crisis and the raised arms of the Totonac culture represent the
balance that we must find in the mind and the heart.

‘We need to act quickly to care for the world through prayers, thoughts, connections, and laws.’

Mexican wave

Give it a shake: The maracas

So we’ll be keeping an eye on the passage on their way, the totemic Mexicans off to COP26.

And here’s where it’s going…

18th – 21st October
Rollright Stones, Oxfordshire

21st – 24th October
Manchester University

24th – 27th October
Hexham Abbey

27th October – 14th November
Hidden Garden, Glasgow

From 14th November
Return to Earth Ceremony
The Crichton, Dumfries

Speedy ye back: And it had to be Senor Gonzalez

And we expect to see them in Dumfries when they meet up with the totemic figure of travel.