Culture, UK

London’s Crowning Glory

If like the millions of others watching the Queen’s Funeral you would like to get up more close and personal to the British throne then of course you can at London‘s Crowning Glory.

The Crown Jewels which you see on the Queen’s coffin won’t, of course, be going with her to her final resting place.

As they’ll be needed to put on Charles’s head at the coronation.

While in between they’ll be encased back in the Tower of London.

Royal watchers will see the significance that the new British king has kept his birth name of Charles (he didn’t have to).

Because the crown jewels which we all gawk at were first put on the head of Charles II (his dad Charles I had his chopped off).

The new Crown Jewels

What a gem: The Crown Jewels

The Crown Jewels were destroyed at the Tower after the Civil War.

But they were remade for Chuck’s Coronation in 1661, which more respectfully was known as the Restoration.

Royalist or Republicans alike can marvel at the aesthetic of the Crown Jewels.

And the greater collection of 23,578 gemstones.

As we have on our travels in Britain’s capital.

Many of which are still used in royal ceremonies today such as the State Opening of Parliament.

And for those who want a greater insight into the new King then his coronet from his investiture as Prince of Wales from 1969 has also been on display since 2020.

It’s gold and platinum and set with diamonds and emeralds with a purple velvet and ermine cap of estate.

Yes, it’s true that Charlie has been preparing for this job all of life and he really will be down with the kids as the King of Bling.

Now if you let your imagination run away with you.

And wonder what they would look like on you, better keep it in your head rather than try and put in on it.

Because security though you might not see it is off the scale.

An Irish heist

Pocket it: Blood and his pals

Not that that stopped Colonel Thomas Blood (I guess the clue is in the title) try to make away with the crown in 1671.

Yeoman Warder Darren Hardy will tell you the whole dastardly story of London’s Crowning Glory on YouTube.

Of how the turncoat and his companions managed to outwit the Jewel House Keeper in the Martin Tower and snatch the jewels.

Blood, nicknamed ‘The Father of Treasons’ was Irish (naturally) and as they might say in modern parlance was ‘known to the authorities’.

A parliamentarian during the Civil War he had his lands taken after the Restoration and did not take that well.

He and his accomplices tried to seize Dublin Castle only for their plot to fail and his pals get executed…

Blood got away, well they do say Blood will out!

Obviously a man of derring-do he took it to the crown again.

When he hatched his plot to make away with the Crown Jewels.

Bloody Hell

Casing the joint: In London

On May 9, 1671, Blood, disguised as a priest duped the Jewel Housekeeper to hand over his pistols.

His three accomplices then emerged and forced their way into the Jewel House.

Only to be caught by the keeper’s son who raised the alarm.

One of the gang shoved the Royal Orb down his breeches.

While Blood flattened the Crown with a mallet and tried to run away.

The gang was arrested and Blood was brought before the king.

Who lucky for him was in a good mood that day…

Perhaps Nell Gwynn had lavished him with oranges or more.

And far from punishing Blood, Merry Monarch Charles restored his estates in Ireland.

And made him a member of his court with an annual pension.

Now we wouldn’t advise testing this Charles as the outcome might be very different this time.

A bit of Blarney

To the Tower: With a Beefeater

Blood, who had obviously used some Irish Blarney to win Charles around became a bit of a celebrity of his day.

And when he died his body had to be exhumed because the public didn’t believe he was dead.

This and much more, of course, you can find out.

From exploring 1000 years of English and British history at the Tower.

It is without doubt London’s Crowning Glory.




America, Music

Detroit callin’ out around the world

Here’s Detroit callin’ out around the world… and to us, Scotland’s travel elite, to get back to Motor City and Pure Michigan.

And follow in the Fingertips of Stevland Judkins who 60 years ago next year exploded into our musical consciousness.

We know him best as Stevie Wonder although back in 1963 he was just 12 and was introduced to us as Little Stevie Wonder.

Walking in Stevie’s Fingertips

Candy baby: Stevie’s candy machine

His debut release for Motown label Tamla, the jazzy Fingertips, still stands the test of time.

With Stevie wowing us with his mastery of bongos and harmonica.

Stevie became the youngest artist to reach No.1 in the Billboard charts.

And the world wanted to know more about the boy wonder from Detroit.

Stevland was born in Saginaw near Lake Huron and an hour and a half’s drive south to Detroit.

Where his musical Motown family took him to their hearts.

And to his favourite candy.

Best bar none

The Wonder of you: Stevie

Stevie, who in a different Bluesier age, would probably have gone by the moniker (or harmoniker in his case) of ‘Blind Boy Stevie’, loved a nutty nougat Baby Ruth bar.

And staff at the Hitsville USA House would be sure to leave the bar in the same place in the machine so he could feel for the slot.

And they were even said to leave coins there for him too.

The Hitsville House has undergone major million-dollar changes completed this year to accommodate ever-increasing numbers of visitors.

All of which our friends from Visit Detroit and Pure Michigan updated us on as we renewed our friendships.

At the plush Dakota Hotel in Glasgow.

And where Michigan State’s greatest ambassador Kelly revealed how she would regularly pass the blind school.

Where Stevland would learn to be Little Stevie.

The next generation

Marching to Freedom: Berry Gordy with Martin Luther King

At Hitsville they are still inspiring the youth, the next generation and practically as well as aesthetically.

Founder Berry Gordy is 92 years young and still as wide-eyed about music as ever he was.

And he vowed: ‘Not only will the expanded museum entertain and tell the stories of talented and creative people who succeeded against all odds, but it will also inspire and create opportunities for people to explore their dreams the way I did mine.

‘I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of that.’

And that’s where Hitsville NEXT, the educational center of Motown Museum’s newly expanded campus comes in.

In the Motown Museum‘s words it is the hub of our programming efforts, it is the place in Detroit for talent cultivation, entrepreneurial training and empowerment, music making and professional development for those aspiring to be in the music industry.

Are you ready for a brand new beat? Martha Reeves

I’ve seen first hand on my travels in the States how bringing young musicians from challenging backgrounds and giving them back opportunities can yield huge awards.

And the joy in the young artists’ performance on stage for a group of European travel writers at the Stax Music Academy in South Memphis.

And their euphoria as we broke bread with them afterwards when they were told they were to tour Europe.

The water city: And the Motor City too… Detroit

Just the same glee I feel every time I know I’m going America, every bit of which the Vandellas name check in Dancing in the Streets.

And with Martha Reeves championing the Hitsville reconstruction this year.

And Detroit callin’ out around the world I definitely won’t forget the Motor City.










Countries, Culture, Europe, Music

Be a part of it Tenerife

Start spreading the news, our favourite Canary Island is going New York New York for its carnival next year… be a part of it Tenerife Tenerife.

While the Americas and the Caribbean grab the limelight for carnivals, we have the second biggest in the world here in Europe.

And you thought it was the Notting Hill Carnival.

There’s no denying that Rio is the world’s biggest carnival with two million people taking to the streets but a quarter of a million attend the Santa Cruz carnival on the island.

So what’s it all about and when is it?

Well, it’s rooted in Christian tradition and so that’s two weeks before Ash Wednesday.

And for those of you who forgot that man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return then that’s January 20-February 26.

And now for the history

Party Girls: Bandanaman and his walking troupe

The history of the Carnival falls into three distinct periods…

The Iberians’ religiosity, the more spirited Twenties-orientated festival and the reinvention of the party from 1961 when it took on many of the features we enjoy today.

Now for a timetable of event and what it all mean we got the Tinerfenos to do the heavy lifting.

And with memories of our hike on the island with CanariaWays and our walk through the ages we know they do it far better than us.

So over to them.

The Queen of Tenerife

Spanish meal anyone: And preparing the dish of the day

And that would be Eva from our walk up to Afur which she took in her stride and then did yoga up at the Franco-themed bar (don’t ask).

And I’d vote for her for the Carnival Queen.

15 February – Carnival Queen Election Gala

The Carnival Queen Election Gala is when the Carnival Queen is crowned, who is chosen amongst over a dozen candidates.

The contestants wear the most spectacular costumes, made mainly of feathers, plastic, metal and rhinestones and weighing up to 400kg.

And this year we will see the first-ever junior Gala King.

Reign on our parade

Queen for a day: The carnival

And what would a carnival be without the sing-song?

17 February – Opening Parade of the Carnival

The carnival is a sea of colour, featuring the lead Carnival Queen.

Murga street music groups, comparsa bands and rondallas playing traditional old carnival songs parading down the streets of Santa Cruz.

All in it together

Take to the streets: On Tenerife

And that means a dance.

21 February – Big Carnival Parade in Santa Cruz

The Coso Apoteosis is arguably the highlight of the entire festivities.

Visitors from all around the world flock to Anaga Avenue in Santa Cruz to witness the spectacle.

It features all the Carnival Queens and Carnival groups, floats, incredible dance routines and musical performances.

Catch of the day 

Packed in like… sardines

Now Spaniards and Canarians have their own particular take on carnivals which means:

22 February 2023: Burial of the Sardine – A humorous and grotesque procession of mourners saying goodbye to the carnival celebrations.

19 February & 25 February 2023: Daytime Carnival – A popular event for children and families, featuring plenty of activities to keep all entertained.

26 February 2023: Parade of Vintage Cars, Piñata and End of Party – And there’s nothing like whacking a bag of sweeties to get the juices flowing.


Me-me and Dee-Dee at Crop Over in Barbados

In addition to the ticketed official carnival events, there are a number of spontaneous street events/activities to enjoy for free.

We’re advised that one of these night carnival parties is a must.

And we know all about what dancing in the dark is all about from Crop Over in Barbados.

And a glossary

Echoes of the Canaries: And special wine

Of course, when you’re in Espana then it helps to have a couple of words.

And I’m reminded on my landing in Galicia that my Camino guide gave me two words that helped me along my 100km to Santiago de Compostella.

Albergue, meaning hostel, and pulpo, the Spanish word for octopus.

Carnival Groups

A carnival group is a group of people who work together creating ideas, costumes, music, choreography, who all march together in the parade.

Tenerife Carnival features hundreds of different groups but two of the key ones to look out for are below:

Murgas: The Murgas are Spanish carnival groups that feature satire artists, performing songs about current political and world events.

Comparsas: The “comparsas” represent the Brazilian influence on Tenerife’s Carnival, filling it with rhythm, colour and joy.

Nowadays, the comparsas own the street with the undeniable quality of their live performances to surprise even the most frequent carnival-goers on their nights out.

Rondallas: The Rondallas are carnival groups that consist of only guitars, bandurrias, lauds and octavinas.

And of course there is a museum celebrating it all…

At La Casa Del Carnaval, located in Barranco de Santos next to the bridge Puente Galcerán

Maybe add to that glossary for next year Noo Yoikas… because they want to be a part of it Tenerife.

America, Countries, Music

Dancing in streets again

Dancing in streets again. In Detroit now with the reopening of the Motown Museum.

Hitsville USA is undergoing a $50m two-phase to transform three Motown-era homes and provide a “new front porch” for Martha Reeves to dance on.

And dance she did just as she and Motown’s finest had done back in their Sixties heyday.

When our favourite singers actually mingled with their fans rather than charging hundreds of quid for meet and greets.

The Motown family

Sweet Stevie: Stevie Wonder

Hitsville’s success was, of course, predicated on great tunes and magical performers but also the priceless family spirit in the studio.

All of which is evidenced by a story oft-told about Stevie Wonder.

Ever wondered how Stevie got that honeyed voice… well it might all come from his sweet tooth.

Stevie had a particular penchant for a Baby Ruth candy bar and he could feel for the button on the machine.

And crew at Hitsville would always make sure the nutty nougat was always in the right place and money was left to be put in the slot.

Sweet Stevie

Candyman can: Stevie’s sweet treat

A real nugget of nostalgia you’d think which you would be dying to share when commissioned to write an article.

Only that passed the twenty-something recipient of my largesse by.

Instead she was dancing in the street to a flashmob.

And now that I’ve calmed down over that writer’s omission I’m thinking Martha might have forgiven her.

Although Rachel would probably have missed out that she was leading the routine.

Summer’s here and the time is right

Everybody gather round: Martha and the Vandellas

So when you’re planning your next US visit, don’t forget the Motor City.

Because they’re.. dancing in the streets again in Detroit.


America, Asia, Australasia, Countries, Culture, Europe, South America, UK

The Highland Games are back

They were forced indoors to toss their cabers in lockdown, but now we can gawp at them showing off their special skills in public again… the Highland Games are back!

Ours, in North Berwick, east of Edinburgh, is on August 6.

And it corresponds with our Fringe by the Sea, our offshoot of the Edinburgh Fringe.

The Highland Games have, of course, their origins in the training of the clans for warfare.

Although what use lifting a trunk and then heaving it forward is anyone’s guess.

Piping hot: Livin’ it up in Glasgow

Unless, of course, you wanted to land it on a gentrified Englishman’s slippered foot.

If some of the events look familiar from Olympic Games you’ve watched then it’s because they are those events…

The stone put, the Scottish hammer throw and the weight throw.

Because Baron Pierre de Coubertin was influenced to renew the Olympic Games after watching a Highland Games Exhibition in Paris in 1889.

The Heelan’ Games

Kilt it: The Heelan Games

The Heelan’ Games, as we Scots like to call them, are celebrated around the world.

Ours in my youth were the Luss Highland Gathering which we would regularly attend in the summers.

The Cowal Highland Gathering in Dunoon in the West is held in August.

And it is thought to have the most competitors in the world, at 3,500.

Cowal kids: The Worlds

The Americans though naturally do it bigger in terms of numbers of spectators.

We’re told the New Hampshire Highland Games & Festival is the go-to Games in North America.

New Hampshire being in our favourite New England… go figure.

Dance away

Glasgow Green: The World Piping Championships

The Cowal Games does though host the World Highland Dancing Championships.

I must give it a fling, particularly after attending the World The World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow Green back in the day.

With my wee Irish dancer herself, my Dear Old Mammy.

Now because us Jocks are a peripatetic people you’ve probably heard us coming before you even saw us in our wee skirties.

And that’s why they still have Celtic festivals around the world…

And may I recommend plenty of water when doing Eightsome Reels in the Barbados sun.

Games around the world

Braziliant: Samba Highlanders

Of course Commonwealth countries and the English-speaking (well their English) USA are obvs to the fore.

But there are Highland Games too from Rio Janeiro to Jakarta with Brazil and Indonesia both getting into the twirling and the swirling.

While Central Europeans get in on the act too.

Well where there’s beer you’ll find Czechs, our meaty stews will go down a treat with goulash-loving Hungarians.

And well the mountainous Swiss already have a head-start on us for the fells running.

The Belgians are somewhat of an outlier in Western Europe.

But there are few more Brit-loving countries in the world… and again there’s the beer.

So get your Scottish vibe on and don’t worry if you don’t know the steps.

There will always be someone there to teach you how to do a Gay Gordon’s or a Dashing White Sergeant.

Aye, the Highland Games are back.



America, Countries, Music

Caught in a trap in Elvis’s wardrobe

Can you just help me leaving… I’m caught in a trap in Elvis’s wardrobe?

Anybody who has been to Graceland (and you should) will know that you can get lost.

In the warehouses that stock his jumpsuits and his planes, bikes and cars.

Or was that just me? And I must admit I had a suspicious mind about my party leaving me there on my own to get lost.

Movie masterpiece 

Jump to it: Late Elvis

We get glimpses of Graceland in the epic Baz Luhrmann biopic of Elvis which we sang all the way through at the cinema.

But what you can’t appreciate until you actually get there is just how homely and remarkably unremarkable it is.

Sure, we’ve heard of the Jungle Room, but it’s really just a man cave with some Seventies wildlife furnishings.

Scary stuff: The Jungle Room

While the dining room is a presentable front room where a family and their friends would feel comfortable.

It is here that Lisa Marie would say that Elvis would hold court in his hearty Deep South droll and they would all eat soul food.

The upstairs are roped off as that’s Priscilla, Lisa Marie’s and their family’s quarters.

Lisa Marie’s memories 

Seventies chic: Graceland

But Elvis’s only child leaves us with a lasting image of the King in an audio reveal in the house.

When she explains that they would hear Elvis before they saw him come down the stairs.

On account of his clinking jewellery.

  1. Butterfly collector: Elvis on stage

Elvis the icon, the superstar, of those jumpsuits and cars and planes, and guitars, pianos and platinum discs we already know.

But only in visiting Graceland and Memphis will you get an insight into Elvis’s home life and downtime.

Elvis’s Memphis

I’ll have what Elvis is having: Memphis diner

In the diner where he would come to eat his banana and peanut butter sandwiches.

And where he would leave his golf buggy outside.

There is still staff there who will say they met him and that they would exchange good wishes to each others’ families.

Where it began: In Sun Studio

You can visit to landmarks in Elvis’s life… Sun Studio where he cut That’s Alright Mamma, and Lansky Bros on Beale Street.

And they proudly proclaim they are Clothier to the King.

All of which you’ll see in its glory in the jumpsuit warehouse I’m happy to be stuck in.

Elvis’s legacy

We all will be received: In Graceland

Elvis Presley continues to bring colour to our lives 45 years after he died, aged only 42.

And you get stuck in a trap in Elvis’s wardrobe.

I’ll take that, particularly if his music is on a reel, and I’m in great Graceland in magical Memphis.


Culture, Europe

They’re having a laaf in the Netherlands

It’s the best theme park you didn’t know you knew about… they’re having a laaf in the Netherlands.

Efteling is the happiest place on Dutch Earth particularly this year, its 70th birthday.

How do I know? Well, my laaf pals, Robert, Lillian, Fiachra and Morne told me.

My fun four have been with us since Wicklow days.

When we took them in from their previous home in the National Garden Exhibition Centre in Kilquade.

Let’s laaf together

Laafiest place on Earth: Efteling

The laafs are the naughty kids in the garden ornaments’ class with their menacing, mirthful faces.

The other best place in the world to see them rather than our back garden is Efteling.

Dive in: To Efteling

And that’s an hour 45 minutes from amazing Amsterdam.

And just over an hour by train (they work there and are cheap) from Rotterdam or Eindhoven.

Return Eurostar tickets from London St Pancras International to Amsterdam Centraal  are for £277pp (based on departing 12-14 July).

Fairytale forest

Cinderella bella: In Efteling

At the heart of the park is the Fairytale Park inspired by Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault.

Where you’ll meet Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Pinnochio.

And for the rollercoaster junkie in you, and I have itchy feet having missed out on this year’s IPW American Travel Fair in Orlando…

There is the dive-coaster Baron 1898 which plunges 37.5m into a mineshaft.

The grass is greener

My green-fingered gal will lap up Efteling’s beautiful gardens.

Even more so as they can be seen via steam train or boat.

While there’s something special this year, Alice in Wonderland, for Daddy’s Little Girl (OK, she’s 23).

Where she will get to play an active role in the mad birthday tea party, hosted by the Mad Hatter and March Hare.

The temporary fairytale will be open until October.

Deal us in

Bloomin’ wonderful: Lilian in the garden

A two-night stay for a family of four at Efteling Village Loonsche Land in a six-person themed room priced from £788 based on arriving 12 July.

The price includes breakfast and three days of unlimited access to Efteling Park located 15 minutes away from the village.

They’re having a laaf in the Netherlands. Come and join them.

Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe

On the up, highfull in Paris

On the level here… the best view of the City of Light, any city, is by skyline, and so we’re on the up, highfull in Paris.

But this time sans famille.

Louvre is all around: And time to check out the Mona Lisa

It’s a dozen years since we stayed in a room without a view, a basic attic in Paris.

Booked through on Boulevard Jules Ferry, and for four nights for €1,274 for the four of us.

Tower de force: And Laurie and Ally in Paris

And like all women Mrs M, still gets dewy-eyed about Paris.

Only her Paris, every woman’s Paris, is a rooftop balcony with an eyeful of a certain tower.

Peninsula awe

Salut: Your table is served

Comme Le Peninsula peut-être?

Life for high-end Parisians is spent on the balcony.

Whether it‘s a la carte dining and that starts like the best Parisian at le petit dejeuner.

The Peninsula Paris’s rose-filled rooftop garden is now open for guests for breakfast with a view over the city skyline for the first time.

Dormez vous: In your Paris bed

Le Rooftop will serve fresh bakery items, including croissants and pains au chocolat, and cafe, naturellement.

There’s also a new ‘light-bite’ summer menu designed by chef David Bizet and Antoine Guichard.

For visitors wishing to enjoy small plates with their evening cocktails.

La famille de triomphe: By the arch

Menu highlights include Ume plum served with honey from the hotel’s beehive.

Et Pugliese burrata with basil oil, smoked piquillo and black garlic; and courgette carpaccio with sauteed fiddleheads.

Or the two-Michelin-starred French gastronomy restaurant, L’Oiseau Blanc with panoramic views.

Secret rendezvous

Cocktail set: And it’s drinks o’clock

But then your mademoiselle wants (and deserves) to be treated as the only femme in la monde.

And so the Peninsula has the ‘Secret Table’ for your romantic rendezvous.

It’s a private terrace at the highest point of the hotel building.

With views of the Sacré-Cœur, the Eiffel Tower, and the rooftops of the City of Light.

Beret good: The Notre Dame

And with a dedicated butler for a sumptuous seven-course tailor-made dinner with paired wines and – of course – fine Champagne.

Guests can also get out on the city with a private chauffeured driving tour of Paris in the hotel’s own Rolls Royce Phantom.

You’ll take in the Eiffel Tower, the Pont Alexandre III, the Place de la Concorde, and the Arc de Triomphe.

Deal us in

City of lights: And there are fireworks

Stays include a daily American breakfast for up to two persons to be enjoyed in the garden of a suite.

‘Peninsula Time’ – flexible check-in and check-out times, unlimited use of fitness centre and swimming pool, and a bottle of French rosé from Château d’Esclans.

Stay in a Garden Rooftop Suite at the hotel on 19 Avenue Kleber from €1,550 until 31st August.

Mais oui, you’ll be on the up, highfull in Paris.

America, Countries, Music

Get Mac with 80 years of Paul McCartney

Being a globetrotting superstar means you adopt fave destinations around the world, and so on the day that’s in it, we Get Mac with 80 years of Paul McCartney.

In My Life (and there will be a few of these) I’ve followed in a few of the Great Man’s footsteps.

So here’s Something Macca-related to add to the Rainy Days and Songdays catalogue from around the world.

Live and Let Liverpool

In my ears and in my eyes: Penny Lane

Liverpool: And back in my days in Liverpool in the Nineties, alas a dilapidated McCartney’s Bar sign was all that advertised that Paul had even been born here.

Liverpool City Centre is all Beatled up now to go alongside the Beatles Story at the Albert Dock and the Cavern Club.

Need a singer? The Cavern Club

And there are no shortage of Beatles coach tours to take you around Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, and even Macca’s family home.

And passing the baton along, Holly Johnson’s brother takes the Magical Mystery Tour.

Hamburg on the run

Der Star: The Beatles in Hamburg

Hamburg: And Hamburg is the city where The Beatles became men.

And where Der Fab Four honed their skills with five-hour sets in the bierkellers.

Ja, and when they were leather jacket-clad Teds.

Let the ukulele-strumming Stefanie Hempel take you down Memory Strasse and give you a Beatles set in St Pauli.

Mist rolling into the sea

Mull of Kintyre: When Scotland claimed the Irish-Scouser as their own.

And Macca gave the kids a taste of Highlands life.

If it’s isolation you’re looking for then the peninsula in the west of Scotland is perfect.

And you can belt out the song yourself on Saddell Bay about seven miles from Macca’s old stead, High Park Farm.


I’m all right Jack: Macca with Jack Sparrow

Jamaica and the West Indies: And we immediately associate Macca with Jamaica because of James Bond and Live and Let Die.

And The Green Grotto Caves on the north side of the island.

Macca has become a great fan and supporter of the islands.

Even playing Jack Sparrow’s uncle in Pirates of the Caribbean.

And holidaying with Nancy in St Bart’s at the the Eden Rock Hotel (not shabby).

Sings over America

American girls? Macca’s type

USA: We know, of course, that Macca has a thing for American women (who hasn’t?)

And while we know too that Jo Jo left his home in Tucson, Arizona, Macca and Linda saw out her last days there on the family ranch.

McCartney and The Beatles, of course, wowed cities the length and breadth of the States including the Hollywood Bowl and Red Rocks.

They are probably most associated with Shea Stadium in New York.

Strumthing else: Macca on form

The site US Discover Music will give you a more definitive guide.

And so now we’ve travelled with Macca across the universe and just let it be.

And get the records out because we should all Get Mac with 80 years of Paul McCartney.


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.