America, Asia, Australasia, Canada, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

The ten homes of whisky

It’s the golden seal every country strives for, to be the home of something… so where are the ten homes of whisky?

You’d probably not to be surprised at the top five.

And so it’s more of a case of shuffling that pack to see who is tops.

The next five though is a bit more surprising.

So on this World Whisky Day join me for a distillery tour.

But do me a favour please, don’t ask about distilling or the mashing process.

It just holds us up on our way to the sampling.

Scotch Wahey

Fergie’s dram: Sir Alex’s bottle in his cabinet near Aberdeen

Scotland: And the reach of Scotch (just whisky in Scotland) became clear when the distillers held a whisky-tasting in Barbados.

Now we can blind you with science and stats… 44 bottles of whisky are exported from Scotland every year.

There are five designated whisky regions… Cambeltown, Highland, Lowland, Speyside and my own fave Islay.

They’re all heavenly and 

But my No.1 is Laphroaig. It’s so peaty, just like a bowl of water in an ashtray but stick with me here.

After all you have tried haggis.

United Nips of America

Mark of a whiskey drinker: Kentuckian Mark, Cath and Mum

USA: And, of course, when the Scots left home they took their whisky and its secrets with them.

And adapted it to the new world of America and went on to produce nectar such as Kentucky’s Woodford Reserve bourbon.

But US whiskey isn’t restricted to the Deep South… branch out to Oregon.

Where Westward Whiskey have released a reimagined single malt for World Whisky Day.

Green, malt and gold

The oul’ sod: The oldest distillery in the world

Ireland: And Teeling only made it into our Barbados tastings.

While Bushmills lays claim to being the oldest distillery in the world, established in 1608.

They were also responsible for the extra ‘e’, well the Irish are the masters of using two words when one will do, and more letters too.

Land of the Rising Suntory

Made in Japan: Suntory

Japan: Now this is a love story that drams are made of.

And is the result of a relationship between a Japanese chemistry student at Glasgow University Masataka Takaretsu and Jessie Roberta Cowan.

Masataka had been dispatched by the Settsu Shuzi liquor company.

A love Suntory if you will.

Maple leaf

We’re in the Club: Canadian Club

Canada: Right, we’re told that Canadian whisky has its origins not in its big Scottish diaspora.

But because the natives, the First Nations, got a taste for what they called the traders’ firewater.

It was a meld of rum and ‘high wine’ which developed into Canadian whisky, of which Canadian Club is the most recognised.

Sikh beatha

Basket of goods: Indians love their whisky

India: Or Sikh of life, my twist on the uisce beatha which is Gaelic for water of life and is what Scots call their favourite drink.

And long may the Indians keep up their love affair with whisky which they have been producing since 1948 since Amrut entered the market.

More than half of all whisky drinkers in the world come from India. 

Wizards of booze

Bonzer: Aussie whiskey

Australia: And we should have come to expect this with our ne’er-do-wells sent over there as convicts.

Specifically Tasmania is whisky haven with the best Aussie whiskies Sullivans Cove, the best Single Malt at the world awards, and Lark based there. 

A Swede whisky

That way, Sweden

Sweden: Now here’s something you don’t get at your local Ikea with your meatballs but should.

Mackmyra was Sweden‘s first distillery and the Swedes got it right first time, winning the First Edition Gold Award in 2013.

The Isle of Tai

Gold standard: Taiwanese whiskey

Taiwan: You see what we’ve done there. Yes, Taiwan‘s connections with the West probably plays its part here.

Kavalan whiskey won the World’s Best Single Malt at the awards in 2015 and the island’s distillery produces 9 million bottles a year. 

Ja beauty

Dram busters: Germans on the whisky

Germany: Now some of us have ripped it up in Germany at the Oktoberfest where it’s lager obviously but also schnapps chasers.

The Germans though are open to everything and they have around 250 distilleries and around 130 of them are focused just on whisky production.

So, on this World Whisky Day a big Slainte to the ten homes of whisky.

 

 

 

 

Countries, Europe, Ireland, Pilgrimage, South America

Mary’s month of May

And I have good reason to honour Our Lady and honour Mary’s month of May.

Like much with the Catholic church the early leaders gleaned from existing culture.

And that meant transferring the worship of Artemis, the goddess of fertility, to Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Mary, of course, is venerated for her matriarchy and May is the month when Spring is in its fullest bloom.

Now we all have much to be grateful for or reflect on after these past two years.

And what better way than visiting any one of her Marian sites?

Marian sites

Bandanaman and Bernadette: In Lourdes

Now growing up an Irish-Scot in Glasgow the focus was always on the most famous of them all Lourdes, and Knock in Ireland.

And little did I know that Mary has shrines from A-Z around the world.

We probably shouldn’t be surprised because as the old saying goes… when you want something done ask a busy woman.

And so I made the pilgrimage to Knock in the West of Ireland as a child, where Our Lady appeared with St Joseph and St John.

Lourdes above

Our Ladies: She’s everywhere in Lourdes

I don’t know what the sell-by date is on prayers but 40 years later I was back for more favours this time, the mothership.

Lourdes is the Holywood of Marian sites.

And yes it has more candles than on a Meatloaf video (ask your parents).

Waxing lyrical: About the candles

But there is something ethereal about grasping a candle with a cardboard square holder so as the wind doesn’t blow it out.

At the vigil mass at the grotto.

While the huge candles with inscriptions carved out by small Italian and Irish villages reminds us that Lourdes was once just that.

Each Marian site clearly has Mary at its heart but each has its own USP.

Fatima faith

On a podium: Our Lady

My own Dear Old Mum was moved by her own experiences in Guadeloupe in Mexico.

Where she recalled a worshipper climbing the steps of a church on her knees.

And I saw it too at Fatima, though the pilgrim was saved the incline as the altar is situated in a square.

Magic Medge

Mother of God: In Medjugorje

Medjugorje in Bosnia & Herzegovina in the Balkans holds ambitions to be endorsed by the Vatican as a Marian site.

Without getting too liturgical the Papacy accepts organised pilgrimages to Medge are OK by them.

Although it does fall short of their authentication of Marian sites. Very Jesuitical.

This year promises to be a special one with suggestions of a Big Reveal.

And pilgrims who crowd around the Blue Cross to hear Our Lady talk through one of the original visionaries are agog with expectancy.

Prayers from Brazil

Whether the Brazilian I broke bread with at breakfast who had made his way to Ilsa will be there to hear it who knows.

But as with all pilgrims he planted a seed for the next Marian traveller (me) to visit the next shrine, Aparecida.

 

 

 

 

Food & Wine, Ireland

Ballymaloe BallyMasterChef BallyMurty

If your interest was piqued by the wonderful cookery school where the season finale of MasterChef is taking place.

Over three episodes this week it’s, er, Ballymaloe BallyMasterChef BallyMurty.

No the heat from the kitchen isn’t getting to me.

It’s just I fancy I should be mentioned in the same Ballymaloe breath as the master chefs who have been teasing us with their creations.

Their efforts have been beamed into the homes of around 7.5 million people across Britain airing on BBC One yesterday.

Although my artistry at making pasta in Ballyknocken, Co. Wicklow, seen only by readers of this blog (just slightly less).

Yes, that was when I joined a cookery class in association with Top Flight a couple of years ago.

Catherine the Great

Do you want a hand: With Catherine Fulvio

And I was supervised by the force of nature that is Ballymaloe Catherine Fulvio.

Nor was it my first stab at cooking in Ireland with a more than passable attempt at Spanish pulpo (octupus) in Dublin some time earlier.

Ole: With the Spaniards

Back to the special Ireland MasterChef cooking challenge.

And it took place last year and was supported by Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland.

What a Corker

Girning Gregg: He must have seen mine

Viewers saw the final four contestants travel to Cork, together with judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace.

There they met with Darina Allen and Rory O’Connell of Ballymaloe Cookery School.

For a whirlwind education in local Irish produce and the ethos of ‘farm-to-table’.

The finalists were challenged to prepare a celebratory dinner.

For some of Ireland’s finest food producers, food historians and relatives of the late, great patron of Irish cuisine, Myrtle Allen.

The second episode of this season’s MasterChef ‘Finals Week’ airs this evening and the third episode will air tomorrow.

Publicity and broadcasts like this are a key element of Tourism Ireland’s programme of activity.

To encourage travellers in Britain, and elsewhere around the world, to put Ireland on their holiday wish-list for this year and beyond.

Julie noted

Pasta master: Your bolognese will be with you soon

And so over to Julie Wakley, Tourism Ireland’s Head of Great Britain.

She said: “Tourism Ireland was delighted that MasterChef chose to film in Cork and Ballymaloe Cookery School, as part of its ‘Finals Week’.

“With viewers across Britain waiting with huge anticipation to find out who will be crowned the champion of MasterChef 2022, this is a superb opportunity for us.

“To showcase our delicious local produce, wonderful culinary offering and beautiful landscapes to an audience of around 7.5 million.

“It will remind viewers across Britain that Ireland is a great choice for a ‘foodie’ holiday.”

Food for thought

And, I can vouch for that and though the best meals can longer be eaten in Applewood Heights, Greystones, now Mrs M has taken her recipes back over to Scotland.

But should you be in Dublin then Chapter One, The Ivy and One Pico were some of the faves I pushed my return to the office desk for.

While I must also mention my cousin’s The Workshop by the Liffey.

Although I haven’t quite forgiven my old restaurant critic writer Tom Doorley for giving them a less than favourable review.

What he’d have thought of Ballymaloe BallyMasterChef BallyMurty is anyone’s guess.

And an equally great Catherine

Here’s to you: With Catherine Murphy in Val D’Isere

A word here too to a great pal, the one I have come to know as Murphski, Catherine Murphy.

Catherine, who was good enough to be my ski writer and won that award year after year, has just been named Ireland’s Travel Writer of the Year.

I have been lucky enough to have joined her on some of those trips, from Las Vegas to Tenerife to just last month Val D’Isere.

My only regret is that I wasn’t in Dublin to clink Champagne glasses and say Slainte with Ireland’s best Travel Writer.

 

 

 

America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Mayday Bravo

And whether you’re keeping the red flag flying here, celebrating the Internationale or just twirling around a maypole it’s Mayday Bravo today.

It was, of course, an Irishman, Jim Connell, who came up with the emotive words in 1889 to go with the tune O Tannenbaum.

He had been travelling by train, where you can do a lot of your thinking, in London.

So to mark May Day we’ll revive our Rainy Days and Songdays occasional series with these May Day tunes.

Way to go, Joe

Folk champion: Joan Baez

 

Joe Hill – Joan Baez: And this workers anthem relates to a union leader, framed on a murder charge and executed in Salt Lake City.

But the organiser stands for everyman and of course returns to the narrator in a dream.

And in typical American storytelling style it covers the geography of the whole country… from San Diego up to Maine.

Lennon doctrine

Comrade Lennon: And Jimmy in Prague

Working Class Hero – John Lennon: They were more Lennon than Lenin in Prague during Soviet rule.

When they would congregate at the Lennon wall to protest.

Lennon, the Working Class Hero from Liverpool, has influenced as many if not more around the world from Hamburg to New York and beyond.

Tennessee tunes

Music town: Memphis, Tennesse

Sixteen Tons – Tennessee Ernie Ford: This ditty of a song with the catchy refrain derives from Kentucky’s Merle Travis in 1947.

And the line ‘You load sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt” came from a letter written by Travis’s brother John.

We’ve taken Tennessee Ford’s 1955 version which hit the top of the Billboard charts and was inducted into the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry.

The New Boss

Something to say: The Who

Won’t Get Fooled Again – The Who: And the Cockney Four whose shows were as much about menace as music nail it here.

And they captured the working class fascination of the Mods in Quadrophenia in their odyssey to Brighton.

But it’s this anthem against The Man and its clarion call: ‘Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.’

Lady Donna

Summer time: Donna Summer

She Works Hard For The Money – Donna Summer: Now you might not associate the Queen of Disco with a societal message.

But the New Yorker penned this after seeing a toilet attendant asleep on her shift at a post-Grammy event in West Hollywood.

And a reminder too for all that while music is replete with messages of working men, working women have had it just as bad and worse.

 

 

 

 

America, Countries, Ireland, UK

High, fly, this American sky

And with apologies to Don McLean (and Tyson Fury) but my head is in the clouds… and high, fly, this American sky.

Because I’m trying to get all my (Donald) ducks in a row and get over to the States tomorrow.

And what was once a breeze through the gate 40 years ago the first time I visited is now akin to a military operation.

Of course there is always the danger of jinxing any forthcoming trip but I think I’ve most of my prep done.

Start up the band: Visit USA in Dublin

In truth it all started last November with a Thanksgiving get-together with Visit USA in Dublin.

When I reacquainted myself with my friends from Boston,

Rhode Island and New England and made new ones in Connecticut.

Now if you’re thinking of travelling Stateside then the rules may seem quackers but here goes.

Esta visa

A lot to do: But finish it and you’ll be purring

Yes, it’s an ESTA visa which is an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation.

It will last for two years, take 72 hours for you to get back.

And it will be the best $14, or equivalent, you’ll spend.

Double vaccinate

 

And you’ll be doubly protected with a double vaccination and a booster.

So get your health board to send you documented evidence.

You can scan too through an app, although if this trips you up and your daughterie isn’t around then a print will be your fallback.

Pass the supervised test

Concentrate: And get twirling

And while we wait for Joe to lift this requirement we’ll all need to take a supervised antigen test.

Now you need to take this no longer than 24 hours from your flight time.

And you’ll need to book a Zoom test to go through the nose swab test.

Before you then photograph it and go through the step by step digital endorsements.

And wait up to three hours for hopefully the confirmation of your negative result.

And I’d recommend Prenetics who walked me through it all.

While the Scary One held my hand, the one that wasn’t squeezing my swab into the tube.

And they had my results back in half the three-hour timespan they promised.

Almost ready to go

Call the pilot: Airline staff

And if you’re flying Aer Lingus, and why wouldn’t you, you’ll want to check out their Verifly app.

They will give you a four-point checklist.

With an attestation check, a vaccination review which you can tender manually or digitally.

Then there’s the Covid-19 Test review, or Proof of Recovery.

Both of which they’ll contact you with the results of within a couple of hours.

Now for a tea party

Or something stronger: Like a Sam Adams

There’s no guarantee, of course, that that’s the last of it.

We’ve twice missed our flight before to Dublin, our through passage to an America with pre-clearance.

Now not pointing the finger particularly after she helped me today.

Hop on board: My old friends Aer Lingus

But she was involved in both… going back to check the heating was off, and banjaxing the car en route to the airport.

So, it’s a good night’s sleep, set two alarms.

And see you on the other side in Beantown (God, Jehovah, Allah and Buddha be praised).

 

America, Countries, Europe, Ireland

Outsourcing travel to libraries

The move from the office to the house means we now do our own IT and are now outsourcing travel to libraries.

A simple task such as signing documents relies on a working home scanner.

But what do Fiftysomething technophobes do when theirs break down?

Just off to the library: North Berwick

Lean on Sarah (no, not mine, she has enough to do) at North Berwick Library who is fast providing me with a lifeline.

Libraries have, of course, come a long way since cardboard xrefs and filing cabinets.

But thankfully at their best they still preserve their majesty and mystique and the following are among my best.

Wholly Trinity

Irishhhhh: Quiet at TCD

Trinity College Library, Dublin: The time was, of course, when there were only a couple of tomes, and one in particular.

And that Good Book is still the biggest draw for visitors to Dublin.

Probably because it’s the biggest draw, with all that fancy calligraphy from patient monks in AD 500.

Reading habit

In the Strahov Monastery Brewery in Czechia

Strahov Monastery, Prague: Now the word was that there was a pub called The Library and the Office for that matter.

So you could have an excuse for not coming home.

The monks of Strahov Monastery, of course, need no such excuse…

They just saunter in from their unique place of learning to join you at their Brewery restaurant in the Castle overlooking Praha.

Dutch of education 

žCan I be trusted on a bike? In Amsterdam

Rijksmuseum Library, Amsterdam: While the calligraphy is an art in itself, for library art there are few better than the Rijksmuseum.

Rijksmuseum holds over 350,000 auction, exhibition, trade, and collection catalogues, in addition to numerous books and periodicals.

Yes, indoor Amsterdam is about the brown cafes, bars, museums and art but it’s also about libraries.

Holy writ

Read the walls: And the Vatican library

Vatican Library, Vatican State: And Vatican watchers will be quick to tell you that for all the wealth and splendour out front…

There are even more riches around. So try these numbers in the library.

It holds mor than 1.1 million books, 75,000 manuscripts, and over 8,500 incunabula.

And fittingly, it boasts the oldest complete manuscript of the Bible.

Classic Capitol

And the news from the Capitol: In Washington

Library of Congress, Washington DC: Now it’s no stretch to say that Washington DC’s institutions were built in the image of ancient Rome.

And no more so than on Capitol Hill in Washington DC.

Where, of course, you’ll find the USA’s oldest federal cultural institution.

And because everything is bigger in America then we’ve saved the biggest numbers for the last.

It has more than 61 million manuscripts and a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence.

One of only four perfect vellum copies of the Gutenberg Bible in the world, over one million newspapers from the last three centuries.

And over five million maps, six million pieces of sheet music, and more than 14 millions photos and prints.

So, as of days of yore we’re in safe hands outsourcing travel to libraries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

America, Countries, Ireland

Mother’s Day Mother’s Way and New York

It was inevitable. Mother’s Day Mother’s Way and New York and The Happy Wanderer knew just how to play me.

The bould Teasy had taken me as her Plus One to my cousin Eddie’s wedding in the Big Apple.

Where she would preen her feathers and not just those on her hat.

The Irish Diaspora, of which I am of the Scottish variety, know well the awe in which the American wave is held.

And growing up in the Grey Glasgow of the Seventies New York City and my relatives were always held up as the idyll.

Alongside, of course, my Mum’s homeland of Ireland.

Broadway Mammy

This year’s blond: With ‘The Donald’ in New York

I’m in a New York State of Mind today after my old friends from Click&Go flagged up their NY offer to give your Mum for Mother’s Day.

To stay for three nights £619pp in the 4* Row NYC Hotel in the heart of Broadway in May with return flights Dublin to NY.

Give my regards to Row NYC: Broadway

My wee Mammy will be right at home too as she is the biggest diva of them all.

The rule of Mum

Double trouble: And two of my Irish Mammy

But some ground rules this time…

As a seasoned travel professional I know my way around an airport (OK, she doesn’t know the truth so indulge me).

And when your relatives offer to put you up don’t think for them or look a gift horse in the mouth.

It’s an Irish thing! As is demanding to pay the dinner bill.

And I’m reminded of the Irish advert where two oul’ ones batter the hell out of each other for the right to pay.

Shop till you drop

Shopped out: And the only time she’s quiet

Shopping too with any woman is a Herculean ordeal.

And in NY where that means Macy’s then my modus operandi is get in, get out.

Particularly as you can get lost in there.

And there’s no use denying that you had any part in choosing The Scary One’s souvenir.

BTW she still uses the candy pink Guess handbag.

While there’s no talking to a woman who insists on wearing her stilettos on the hop-on, hop-off Manhattan bus.

An Irish homecoming

Donegal calling: At Ballybofey’s Jackson’s Hotel

And as I alluded to The Diva is even more empowered in her homestead of Ireland and her village of Brockagh, Co. Donegal.

Where she was wont to stride down the road with her sisters in her fur coat back on their return to the Bogs of Donegal back in the day.

And all of us, the next generation, revert to (or are reverted to) childhood when our parents have been around. 

A Ballyhoo

Green, green, grass of Ireland: And two peas in a pod

Such as in our old stomping ground of Jackson’s Hotel in Ballybofey.

When in the hotel where here, not Shannon, was where Irish Coffee originated she shared this gem with my Dublin cousin Monica…

‘I’ve four brothers, a husband and three sons and James (my Sunday name) is the most selfish man of them all.’

And this after I’d taken time off and driven her all the way up from Greystones in Co. Wicklow!

Silly old woman had forgotten.

That with her hearing aid in she was speaking louder and I could hear her.

Happy Mother’s Day for Sunday, ye mad thing. 

And for context think Catherine Tate’s alter ego Nan from Nan The Movie.

Meanwhile I’ll daydream about Mother’s Day Mother’s Way and New York.

And much, much more.

 

 

 

Countries, Cruising, Ireland, UK

P&O no no, Stena’s who to know

We’re loath to diss operators here but there’s no defending torpedoing of staff… it’s P&O no no Stena’s who to know.

Like many of the Fiftysomething Irish-Scots variety I knew my way around a ship long before I stepped on a plane.

And Townsend Thoresen from Cairnryan to Larne were as familiar a transport provider to me as the 44 bus across Glasgow to school.

P&O took over TT in 1987 by which time I had disembarked to England and started flying to Ireland.

A different ship

Land ahoy: But one more for the road

And with Ryanair emerging to fly us at budget prices ferries were reserved for family holidays and house moves.

When Stena had emerged as the protectors of la famille Murty from Scotland to Ireland and back.

Now ships have certainly upgraded from the Seventies when I would run the toy cars on deck which I had bought from the ship shop.

I have been fortunate enough to be hosted by Stena in dock in Dublin, viewed their cabins and cinema hubs, bars and restaurants.

Treat your staff well

Child’s play: Better than running toy cars

I pride myself on the courtesy I was taught by my parents never to look down on staff.

If only the same could be said for P&O.

Stena offers a sample three-day return from Cairnryan to Belfast from £119.

Alas, The Scary One insisted our last Stena trip to Scotland was a single!

If you tolerate this

Big kid: And I’m not getting off

So, if you want to protest against P&O, and in the words of Manic Street Preachers…

‘If you tolerate this, then your children will be next.’

Film on the sea: All the entertainment

Then sail with our go-to ferry company, you won’t be disappointed.

So from us it’s P&O no no Stena’s who to know.

 

 

 

 

Africa, America, Countries, Ireland, UK

A town called Patrick

Happy St Patrick’s Day everyone and here off pat around the world we celebrate you if you’re from a town called Patrick.

And there are surprisingly few too.

There are only eight Patricks across three countries.

McCool kid

My cup of TT: The Isle of Man

And even more startlingly none are in the country where St Patrick is most celebrated, Ireland.

But in an island in the Irish Sea, all right, the Isle of Man.

Patrick (population 1,576) is in fact more of a parish, in the west of the isle, than a town.

The Isle of Man, of course, is a well-trodden soil for the Irish…

Mighty craic

Giant helpings: Finn McCool

And the craic there is always 80.

Of course it was invented when Irish giant Finn McCool was chasing a Scottish giant across Ulster.

He picked up a handful of earth and chucked it at him…

The sod created the Isle of Man and the crater he left behind is now Lough Neagh.

Moving on, and such was the footprint that the Irish have left on the USA that you won’t be surprised to see some Patricks there.

Off Pat in the USA

Doll’s house: In Mississippi

And so you’ll see a Patrick in Mississippi, Nevada, Arkansas, South Carolina, Kentucky and Texas.

Whisper it but the Patrick commemorated isn’t our snake-chasing saint.

The Nevada one is an American soldier Patrick McCarran, who bought the land and also begat a US senator.

The Texas a postmaster Patrick Gallagher.

Both obvs Irish-American.

Flagging it up: Lesotho

Now we can only imagine Patrick and its region St Patrick (see we got one) in Lesotho is the Irish missionary influence in Africa.

The land-locked mountainous country is completely encircled by South Africa.

But it is timely to mention that it resisted the interference of South Africa and continues to do so.e

Even if it that means a continuing water dispute.

Water of the good life

Ruby do: With Ruby in Barbados

Of course, today is more about the Guinness than the water.

And so if you’re a Patrick, come from a place called Patrick, or a region St Patrick’s.

As in the region north-west of Sir Grantley Adams Airport, Barbados.

Then you’ve got an extra reason to celebrate today on St Patrick’s Day.

We celebrate you if you’re from a town called Patrick.

Flying, Ireland, UK

Aerland’s Call

Jock Tamson’s Bairns (that’s Scots) come in all shapes and sizes and some with tartain troos (not guilty) and Irish rugby fans too who come from far and wide to answer Aerland’s Call.

Firstly, the Jock Tamson bit… well, the Rev. John Thomson was the minister of Duddingston Kirk in Edinburgh at the turn of the 19th century and referred to his congregation as ‘ma bairns’.

And even my former editor and rugby nut and those fellow Scotland rugby fans who take it that bit further by dressing up like extras from The White Heather Club (ask your grandpa).

It was, in truth, hard to watch the rugby at the Aviva through the glare of his garish garb.

But, of course, he was hard to miss and we did bond over our disappointment at Scotland captain Stuart Hogg dropping the ball in sight of the line and gifting the hosts victory.

Something which he reprised against France in this Six Nations campaign too.

Aer Club competition

Fly high with Aer Lingus

Hey ho, the Ireland v Scotland rugby contest has a special place in my heart as it was my last outing in Dublin, courtesy of my friends at Tourism Ireland at the end of my thirteen years working there.

Before the Scary One dragged me back to Jock Tamson’s land.

Now the Irish and Scots rugby fraternity pride themselves in their Gaelic commonality.

And that, of course, extends to their support of a second team… anyone who plays England.

Aer to help: Aer Lingus

All of which throwing the ball around at the back leads me somewhat and characteristically and circuitously to an Aer Lingus Aer Club competition.

The national airline has a pair of tickets to give away for Saturday’s final round of Six Nations matches.

With the Boys in Green still in with a shout of winning the championship.

And whisper it here but they need England to win on this occasion, against leaders France.

You know the answer

Bandanaman on the run: At the Aviva

As is the way of such competitions the question is as easy as what is your own name.

Where is Ireland’s last match of the 2022 Guinness Six Nations with the options being the Aviva, Twickenham and Murrayfield.

Aer Club members have until midnight tonight, March 15, to enter.

And the good news is that the second prize is 20,000 Avios points which is enough for two return flights to Scotland, equally as good a prize.

Now Aer Lingus remain a favourite airline and friends from those 13 years in Ireland and pals still.

Touchdown

Get the point: Avios

And I can’t leave today without mentioning their generosity in giving me comp tickets for their biennial Aer Lingus College Football match at the Aviva.

All of it was going swimmingly, apt really as the rain was falling, until The Scary One pipes up in the third quarter:

‘Are you allowed to throw the ball forward?’

Maybe stick to the rugby.

The next time we’re back to answer Aerland’s Call.

Breaking news

And right off the oul’ teleprinter.

Aer Lingus is offering €20 off return flights to Europe and the UK.

Book now and have the craic in London, paint the town green in Bordeaux or shamrock and roll in Barcelona!