America, Asia, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

Our world is ever changing

Our world is ever changing but not according to the cork map I’ve been sent.

OIt has taken me, in truth, the best part of a week to realise that this world at my fingertips was the one of my schooldays.

When Britain was still in denial about the loss of Empire.

Pin sharp

A different world

It was only after I’d stuck the pins in (I’d expected them to include them as in the picture) that I’d realised.

I’d covered Western Europe in red, blue and a spot of Irish green.

And adapted as your sticky pins only seem to come in the primary colours.

Red, white and blue

Don’t tell the Indians

So you end up pinning the Oranje Netherlands in red which to be fair is one-third of their flag.

And Italia in verde green the same, though Il Bel Paese is more associated with sporting azzurro.

Some countries have spent generations fighting not to go red so it seemed wrong to pin Germany red, but hey ho.

Red, of course, means different things, in different places and America and the Arab World proudly flashes red.

We will pin them on the beaches

And it can’t be a Beijing Duck

Of course it’s not just travel-longing Travel Editors who pin stickers to an atlas.

And world leaders are probably doing the same as we speak.

I’ve seen it too first hand at Winston Churchill’s War Rooms in Whitehall in London.

Now I’m thinking that I must have been delivered one of Winnie’s maps when I turned my attentions to Asia.

It can’t be a Mumbai mix

It’s not Queenstown any more: Cork

And saw that my mapmakers are still clinging to old British names of Bombay (Mumbai) and Peking (Beijing).

Before scanning back to Ireland to check that the names were correct.

It truly would not have surprised me if their cartographers were working to a 20th Century template.

I should have known when they insisted that my purchase was for a Queenstown map of the world.

Rather than a Cork one.

Our world is changing for sure, it’s just some are stuck in the past.

 

 

 

 

America, Countries, Europe, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Who is beerier than Prague?

Whisper it around the Czech capital but they’ve relinquished their boozy crown. So who is beerier than Prague?

In a word Asheville. Ashe-where?

Asheville is a city in western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

And it’s renowned for its arts scene.

Carolina on my mind

Asheville: In the Blue Ridge Mountains

Well they know already that they have more breweries per capita than any city in the US… that’s roughly 100 local beers.

But now they can add the prestiguous title of Best City in the World for Beer Drinkers as compiled by money.co.uk.

The researchers mark the cities on breweries per 10,000 people, bars, pubs and clubs per 10,000 and average price per pint in sterling.

Asheville scores 2.80, 7.86 and £3.58 from which I can only draw the conclusion… get me out there!

Czech out the beer

In the Strahov Monastery Brewery in the Czech Republic

Particularly as second and fourth on the list are beer cities I know well, Prague and Fort Collins, Colorado.

While the third beeriest is one The Son and Heir knows well, Krakow, Poland.

Where it was more ale than hail when he was a youth leader for World Youth Day.

While in Prague the most exercised you’ll get is walking back up from Wenceslas Square to The Castle.

But get this… £1.34 a pint.

Wade in with Colorado beer

Beertown Fort Collins

In Fort Collins you’ll be required to do some white water rafting although you’ll get the reward of a local brew at Paddler’s Pub.

And in FC that’s £2.87 a pint although you’d probably double that with the American tip.

It wouldn’t be a beery list, of course, without Dublin, and the Fair City comes in eighth.

Pure Genius: Guinness Storehouse

The Guinness Storehouse is on every tourist’s list in Dublin’s capital.

Although some local knowledge here and pick your way through tourist trap Temple Bar.

Where you can pay nearly double the £4.70 money.com relays.

Islands of beer

Auld Boozie: In Auld Reekie, Edinburgh

It seems we’re well off too in my local city Edinburgh too although the doors are only a few weeks reopened.

Auld Reekie comes in 16th and will glory in coming in well ahead of London, back in 39th of 40.

Beer bucket list

Blowing a trumpet for Denver

So, who is beerier than Prague? Well, maybe the question should be let’s set a beer bucket list.

And tick off all 40.

Amsterdam, Boston, Denver, Philadelphia, Rome (all again) and a number of others.

We’re only here for the beer.

Africa, Countries, Ireland, Sport, UK

Lions in Siya Africa

Now I know a thing or two about  Lions in Siya Africa.

The Lions are on the Mount Camdeboo Game Reserve in the Great Karoo in the Eastern Cape.

Which is just around the corner from where the British and Irish Lions are playing their Test series with the South African Springboks.

Well, a rather big corner, the Cape of Good Hope.

Heroes in Capes

OK, it’s a cheetah but the Lions were hiding

Cape Town‘s beauty and its Table Mountain are legendary.

Less well known, at least outside of South Africa, are the charms of the Eastern Cape. 

From where Springboks captain Siya Kolisi, Pride of Port Elizabeth, hails.

You’ll see his influence in the oldest township in South Africa from where he set out on his heroic journey to become Springboks skipper.

South Africa needs leadership

The pack: With SpringJock Iain and pals

And to place that in sense of importance within the Rainbow Nation…

Didn’t the Eastern Cape’s own, Nelson Mandela don a Springboks jersey to greet Francois Pienaar at the 1995 World Cup final against New Zealand?

South Africa could do with Madiba now as it wrestles with social unrest in the wake of Jacob Zuma’s imprisonment, and its Covid crisis.

But in Kolisi it has a champion.

A different Test

Panorama: With South Africanophile Rachel

It is of course a matter of regret that the Lions aren’t touring South Africa.

And an even greater one that Port Elizabeth, where the Lions have a decent record, hasn’t hosted a Test match against the Lions since 1980.

The Eastern Cape is solid rugby territory and a visit to the township reveals that the Boks are now embraced by all its peoples.

A Scot in exile

Rugby fans: Siseko, Nelson Mandela and your Bandanaman

Now mine host Iain is a proud Springboks fan and thinks nothing of taking his Jeep out to travel across country to watch his rugby.

But as his name reveals despite living in solid eastern Southern Africa his roots lie up here in Scottishland.

However the series evolves he will take take great joy from a healthier than usual representation from North Britain.

And we are not immune either from adopting Afrikaners either with Dusan Van der Merwe.

We call them SpringJocks.

It should be a great old journey with the Lions in Siya Africa.

 

 

 

America, Countries, Ireland, Music, UK

Tapestry 50 years

My life has been a tapestry

Of rich and royal hue

An everlasting vision

Of the ever-changing view

Carole King (Tapestry for 50 years) 

The richest of rich tapestries and officially the best-selling by a female artist, Tapestry, was cut 50 years ago.

Rainy Days and Songdays, our weekly music feature that transports us in our minds to exotic places, today celebrates Tapestry.

Brooklyn’s finest

Brooklyn Bridge

Proud New Yorker Carole had gone west in 1971, following the break-up of her marriage to Gerry Goffin.

Her pal James Taylor had urged her to put her own voice to her tracks after pumping out classics for others through the Sixties.

Gerry Days: With Gerry Goffin

The push and pull of home and away informs Tapestry as Carole takes us on a journey we all can share.

And Californian too

The Angel of LA

Making a new home for herself in Laurel Canyon in the Hollywood Hills, Carole pines for home in the early tracks.

In Far Away a clearly homesick Carole asks:

‘Doesn’t anybody live in one place any more/It would be so nice to see your face at my door?’

Further down the line back playing in NY she elicits home support with a nod to Brooklyn.

A Real Homebody

Early days: Making songs for others

But showing how timeless Home Again is Carole updates it here for our Covid times.

Of course Carole occupies a place for her listeners which is universal.

Which is where You’ve Got A Friend resides and that friend is ours too, James Taylor.

Still rockin’ it: Carole now

Oh heck here they are again in another place we all know and all go in Will You Love Me Tomorrow?

We’ll Love You Tomorrow

Carole and James: Legends

And, of course, she famously wrote it when she was 17, gave to The Shirelles, took back, slowed down, and dropped the ‘Still’.

Carole professes that she ‘always wanted a real home with flowers on the window sill but if you want to live in New York City, honey you know I will’.

Amusingly Carole confesses she went cold on the song as she grew and considered Where You Lead belittling.

Momma and daughter

Me and my girl: Carole and Louise

Until she reinvented it as a duet with her daughter Louise Goffin.

For her Hyde Park concert which was the same year as me and my Natural Woman, my Sadie, rocked up for her musical Beautiful in London’s Theatreland.

It’s as is she was shouting out to us with her ‘If you wanna live in London, England, honey you know ai will.’

The Richest Tapestry

Our Carole started early

Yes, 50 years on Carole King, where you lead I will follow.

And I’d urge you if you haven’t got Tapestry your collection go out and buy it.

And you’ll have a friend. For me it’s Tapestry for 50 years.

 

Countries, Culture, Ireland, Music, UK

Song for Ulster

The 12th of July means something in Northern Ireland and its hinterland so today it’s Rainy Days and Songdays Song for Ulster.

No, not the songs you would hear on the marches and matches but the best of Ulster from the charts.

Alternative

SLF: Belfast bravado. http://www.imdb.com

Stiff Little Fingers (Alternative Ulster): And first up is the pride of Ulster punk.

Belfast boys SLF used the backdrop of The Troubles for material and recorded the first single Suspect Device disguised as a suspect bomb.

The producer thought it was real and contacted the band for a real one. Instead we give you the brilliant Alternative Ulster.

Get your kicks

Call them up on the telephone: The Undertones

The Undertones (Teenage Kicks): It is the stuff of punk legend that SLF and Derry’s finest The Undertones did not get on.

The Undertones accused SLF of sensationalising The Troubles and the violence.

Teenage Kicks famously initially had the line: ‘I wanna hold it, hold it tight’.

An Ode to Derry

Star composer: Phil Coulter

Phil Coulter (The Town I Loved So Well): When a composer speaks with honesty and experience about his world (Derry)then the results are memorable.

Phil, of course, had musical pedigree before this, his signature song, having written Eurovision classics Congratulations and Puppet On A String.

Comedy classic

Harmon harmonies: Divine Comedy

The Divine Comedy (National Express): And you’ve got to love a band with a lyric: ‘And it’s hard to get by/when your arse is the size of a small country.

Derry’s Neil Harmon also penned an album The Duckworth Lewis Method. Geinius.

Van the Belfast Man

Hat’s the boy: Van the Man

Van Morrison (Madame George): The poet laureate of Belfast, Van may be a grumpy old sod but he’s never forgotten his roots.

You can still see him at one of his legendary cabarets at the Europa Hotel although, alas, characters like Madame George are long gone,

And a special mention too to the three Ulster counties in the Republic of Ireland

The Republic Counties

Name of the game: Clannad

Donegal and Clannad and Harry’s Game over Daniel O’Donnell.

Hipsters Cavan and The Strypes and Blue Collar Jane.

And Monaghan with their history of Country music and ‘Big Tom’ McBride and his Gentle Mother. And my Country Roads.

Raff, you handsome prince

Can I be in your band: Michael and Travel set

But the last word goes to the North’s finest… my pal Michael Rafferty who has been playing covers of our favourites every night through lockdown.

And Michael is locking it down, deservedly at 500.

Check out his Handsome Princes and Michael tells me he’s the handsomest of them all.

It’s my Rainy Days and Songdays Song for Ulster.

Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Ireland

Tobago Chocolate Tea

Let me introduce Carion Baird-Job. She’s going to show us how to make Tobago Chocolate Tea.

Or as Carion puts it Chaclit (or chocolate to us) tea.

Now Carion will make your tea with a song in her heart ‘There we go to To-ba-go.’ (hint to the Scary One).

Drink it in

With SLM and Marsha in Tobago

Now I’ve had the pleasure of sampling Cocoa Tea myself where it’s best… the Caribbean.

And the Tobago Cocoa Estate which definitely knew which buttons to press with me with its LAURA chocolate.

Choccies away

My cup of tea

Although I didn’t see much of the complimentary chocolate they gave me

As my own Laura, Daddy’s Little Girl. bagsed that once I got home.

Auntie Ali and Uncle Kenneth at the Blue Crab

Now don’t take my recommendation or theirs (although do, really do).

A month before I chilled with the Tobagonians in the last months before Covid left its sour taste in our months.

Estate of the nation

And the Tobago Cocoa Estate was rightly celebrating its Silver at the World Chocolate Awards in Guatemala.

Friends of Tobago

And there’s a working assignment we’d all put down what we’re doing to attend!

So why is Carion sharing the secrets of her chac-lit tea?

Well, it was to mark World Chocolate Day which if you missed it was earlier this week.

Who are we kidding? Nobody needs to tell us when it’s Chocolate Day.

Best bar none

Fruits of the Caribbean

Every day is Chocolate Day!

Food and wine travel is a way of life for many of us and we have all explored kitchens, breweries and distilleries.

Irie Tobago Chocolate Tea

And include among them chocolate factories.

Whether it’s the factory at the centre of a village built for the Cadbury’s workers in Bourneville, Birmingham.

Hershey’s in Pennsylvania or out in the woods of the Tobago Cocoa Estate ‘tis sweet.

And Tobagp Chocolate Tea looks as sweet as  it comes.

 

 

 

 

 

Countries, Cruising, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

Something written in the heart of Denmark

Here’s something written in the heart of Denmark. Who’s to say if he once was an ugly duckling but the world flock to Copenhagen now because of Hans Christian Andersen?

I meet an old university pal Tom off my cruise ship.

No, not by The Little Mermaid which is some way out from Copenhagen’s main square, but by Andersen’s statue.

Red and white dynamite

Once upon a time we…

No, you don’t want to read our story but Andersen’s and Copenhagen’s which are, of course, so richly entwined.

Hans was an only child, schooled in Elsinore, yes that Elsinore made famous by a certain prince.

Hans across the water

But it was to the sophisticated capital of Denmark that he made his life.

As first an actor and then a prolific writer of salutary children’s and adult books.

He took up residence in Nyhavn which is the big hub of Copenhagen today and a magnet for tourists.

You can’t help feeling his fairytale world all around you in Copenhagen’s chocolate box buildings.

Fancy a twirl?

A royal city

Probably because you’re in the Tivoli Gardens.

It was opened in 1843 and is the world’s second oldest operating amusement park.

And was the inspiration for Disneyland.

Swinging time at Tivoli Gardens

The best view that you can get of Copenhagen is from the 80m swing-carousel Star Flyer, one of an abundance of thrill rides in the park.

Twirling around with only air, the park and Tom and Sarah below I feel like one of Hans’s characters.

And there in the distance is my ship to whisk me off to a far-away land.

Street entertainment

And my little mermaid wants a swim.  

Yes, just something written in the heart of Denmark.

And for more scribbled on a ship on the way to the fjords with MSC…  

Countries, Europe, Ireland, Sport, UK

We’ll always stay friends Croatia

And while all those of a Scottish variety will be hoping we beat them today we’ll always stay friends Croatia.

Scotland’s Euro 2020 hopes hang on them winning against the Balkan belters.

In 2018 Croatia’s international dreams were far higher.

As they prepared for the World Cup Final against France.

One Dalmatian

Pearl of the Adriatic: Dubrovnik

The Croatians who I’d got to know and love while living in Ireland.

As a guest of their embassy and Croatia Tours were filled with excitement.

And good Dalmatian wine.

All of which I helped them imbibe on the morning of the World Cup Final.

Before, and this is to my eternal shame, I switched camps and saw the game and celebrated with the French at their embassy.

The World Cup Final

Shout it from the rooftops: Croatia

And this allows me to say that I watched France win the World Cup Final in France.

The embassy land always belonging to that country.

And the Croatians being the good eggs that they are they didn’t hold any of that against me.

And put out the red and white checked carpet for me when I went on another different type of pilgrimage, to Medjugorje.

Now geographic pedants will point out that Medge, as it’s known to devotees to the Marian site, is in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

And yes it is, but try telling that to the Croat-daft residents of that village for whom the only religion to rival Catholicism is football.

The Gods of Medge

Dressed to kill: Medjugorje

Captain Luka Modric is something of a God in Medge with tops with his name emblazoned on them hanging from every shop.

And it is a familiar aspect of other countries I have visited for religion and football to coexist in such harmony.

I saw it first hand in Rome where Francisco Totti is as omnipresent as the Pope.

And again in Fatima in Portugal where Cristiano Ronaldo is a deity.

I witnessed just how passionate the Croatians are about their football when we were taking downtime from church in Medge.

And we were watching the Champions League in the Irish Centre.

Dynamic Croatians

If onlys: Beaten World Cup finalists Croatia

Which for ‘Elvis’ the name our group had given the owner meant his beloved Dynamo Zagreb.

Apologies again for not memorising the club song he blasted out on the speakers before the game.

So that’s twice I haven’t taken up the Croatians’ clarion call.

And national identity and an accident of birth means I again will have to make my apologies when Scotland eliminate Croatia.

I hope though we’ll always stay friends Croatia.

 

Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

Father’s Day memories of mine

And for the day that’s in it… Father’s Day memories of mine.

It’s funny what you remember from your childhood days but the European Championships from 45 years ago springs to mind.

And not just because it was the first Euros I remember watching.

Czech this out

On the King Charles Bridge in Prague

Or that it gave rise to the Panenka when Antonin Panenka chipped Sepp Maier for the decisive penalty in sudden death.

The first occasion when a competition was settled thus, and probably the last time the Germans missed one!

Sport was our thing Dad and I.

As it is for generations of men and their sons, and always the go-to subject for me and The Son and Heir.

A different Europe

Dad and lad: And look at that fancy footwork

But what set the 1976 Championships between West Germany and Czechoslovakia apart was that it was Father’s Day.

The fact that neither of those countries exist any more shows you just how long ago it was.

A 10-year-old at the time, I was just exploring one of the other great passions in my life (girls were to come later) – history.

For the people of the lands of East Germany and Czechoslovakia it is a relief that those countries have been consigned to history.

But it is refreshing too that Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia still mark that period of their history.

A new Europe

Wunderbar: With Ingrid in Dresden

Which I have seen first hand in east, Dresden, and west Germany, Hamburg..

Where our host Ingrid reminded us that when we try to airbrush history we condemn ourselves to repeat it.

While in Prague Martina gave a US family, with brattish kids, a history lesson they’ll never forget in the Astronomical Clock.

Now you’re smarter than me (not hard) if you’ve worked out who will play in this year’s final.

And no, I don’t know if Germany and the Czech Republic could meet in the final.

They did in the last game of Euro 1996 when Germany got some revenge.

And now for Slovakia

With Katarina in Bohemian Switzerland in the Czech Republic

They might, of course, meet Slovakia a pleasure still awaiting me.

Although I have enjoyed making a friend of Slovakian Katarina, who heads the Czech Tourism team in London.

We, my Dear Old Dad and I, loved spending two hours in the company of the Germans, Czechs and Slovaks 45 years ago.

When we munched on a quarter of midget gems (Scottish for bag of boiled sweets) which I’d bought him.

A treasure trove of memories

Life is just a bowl of cherries: Jim Snr

I made him find them in a treasure hunt around his usual places in the house.

So however you mark the day and I’m not expecting much, just a trip to the Caribbean, then savour them.

Just as I have with my Father’s Day memories of mine.

 

Countries, Cruising, Deals, Europe, Ireland, UK

Irish Ferries across La Manche

You won’t be the first Irish to cross the sea from England to seek a fortune but will be the first on Irish Ferries across La Manche.

The Irish have a long-standing historic friendship with La France.

From the Flight of the Earls from Donegal to France.

To Napoleon sending his troops to help one of those ill-fated Irish rebellions.

The Wine Geese

Best seat in the house: Isle of Inishmore

And the Wine Geese, the Irish wine manufacturers who made their millions in France.

And the next time you’re cradling a glass of Hennessy then toast Corkonian Richard Hennessy who conquered the French and global market.

Irish men of letters too were drawn to France with James Joyce and Samuel Beckett domiciling there.

Men of letters

French style: On the Riviera

With Beckett’s signature play Waiting For Godot originally written in French as En Attendant Godot.

While WB Yeats spent many un jour in France most notably at his muse Maud Gonne’s chateau.

And spent his final days in the Hôtel Idéal Sejour in Roquebrune Cap Martin on the French Riviera.

Where we’re told his wife George AND his mistress Edith Shackleton Heald are said to have took turns at his bedside.

Ooh-la-la. It’s the French way.

And so when we learned that Irish Ferries would be sailing across the English Channel we hoped WB Yeats would be taking the journey again.

WB Yachts

Lyrical: The WB Yeats

WB Yeats being the pride of the Irish Ferries fleet, its most recent acquisition which they invited their passengers to name.

And which I’m still smarting about not winning my lifetime of free journeys with my suggestion WB Yachts.

Fear not though you will be sailing on the newly refurbished Isle of Inishmore.

Fares are from £69 one way for a car and up to nine passengers, with up to ten sailings daily.

Channeling my inner mariner

Shoo till you drop: On the Isle of Inishmore

As impressive a feat of engineering ingenuity as The Channel Tunnel is tunnels have their place.

And it’s romantic to consider that we are sailing too in the ripples of all these great Irishmen and others.

I’ll maybe leave out that the last time I sailed La Manche I couldn’t keep my baguette down.

But that was more down to overindulging on Belgian beer.

So here’s to Irish Ferries across La Manche.

MEET YOU ON THE SEAS