I must have been one of the very few kids in Glasgow to be lullabied to sleep with old Republican songs… and because of that and my own journey I’m an avowed internationalist republican which is why today I say Vive La Republic of Barbados.
And Bim, as it is affectionately known (hence me being known on the island as Bim Jim) is the talk of the Scottish and British Travel scene with the Bridgetown route rolling out from Edinburgh next month.
Now to celebrate Barbados becoming the latest country to throw off the shackles of monarchy and go out on their own, here’s to all those nations who have taken their destiny in their own hands.
And decided to be governed by one of their own.
Now a true republic, just like a true democracy or a true anything these days in double speak, is a moveable object.
But you’ve got to start somewhere which is why we’re going with 160 (now Barbados have signed up).
All republics lead from Rome
And if you know you’re Classic History, and my Latin is better than my Ancient Greek then you’ll know that republic derives from the two Latin words res and publica (public thing).
So that’s one of the famous things that ‘the Romans did for us’ although, of course, if you’re British then it’s an experiment from which we’ve run far away.
Apart, of course, from a brief period from 1649-1660 when these islands of Britain and Ireland entered into a Commonwealth which was really a theocracy.
But while Westminster claims to be the mother of all parliaments (doubtful, and Europe’s oldest in Iceland might have something to say about that).
It’s Rome which is the mothership of all republics, and we have the good fortune that the Forum, the hub of Roman public life is still there.
No fools those Ancient Romans though with their togas as I found out when I almost fainted in the Eternal City heat in my modern clothes.
An Italian fixture
Now where Rome led the rest of Italy followed.
And chief among them was the 1100-year Venetian Republic which still styles itself thus and is hewn into every gondola and the very bricks of the Campanile.
Florence, Siena, Amalfi, Pisa and Genoa all saw what the Doges were doing and how fetching their hats were and followed suit.
But the republicaniest of all the republics and the longest-standing is San Marino.
And so what they lack in football skills (0-10 v England) they more than make up for in their political skills.
La Republique, mais oui
Ah, yes, the French. like so much, would have us believe that they are the shining light of Republics.
So much so that they have had five of them ever since Corsican Napoleon got le ball rolling.
Notre ami soon decided though that L’empereur sounded so much better…
And he did that with one arm behind his back (or affectedly tucked in his jacket then).
It must be a poncey royal thing because the UK’s Prince Charles who very graciously decided to attend the signing-over papers to the Bajans (and bag himself some sun at the time) does pretty much the same thing.
And on a tangent we’ll not say anything about the carbon footprint, Prince Save The World.
None of us are perfect, of course, it’s just the rest of us don’t bleat on about it and preach to the rest of us who do hop on planes.
Middle Ages and Middle Europe
The breeding ground for republics in the Middle Ages was what we now know as Germany.
And a quick count chronicles 62 in the northern European powerhouse.
All of which would be a good exercise and excuse to traverse modern-day Germany with a Michael Portillo type notebook.
I’d have to start in my favourite German city Hamburg first of course.
There are some who have gone the opposite way to the Bajans and jumped from republic to monarchy like the Dutch.
Others who have had a brief dalliance with republicanism, Catalonia, and still have hopes of a return to those halcyon days.
Battle hymn of the Republic
Yes, their eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
And while the North eulogised its Republic, the South too held its close to its bosom, albeit for just five years.
That said the Confederate States of America still exist in the hearts and minds of many in the Deep South.
On the road again, I just can’t wait to get on the road again, the life I love is makin’ music with the my friends, and I can’t get wait to get on the road again.
And when I was asked by woman-of-many-trades (she asked me to write this) Aileen Eglington to pick my song for her Destinations Anywhere show on Dublin South FM I plumped for Willie Nelson’s classic to the Open Road.
And so continuing my top roads I’ve been on (or hope to trudge) which included the Appian Way, Rome. Beale Street, Memphis, The King’s Highway in Jordan, the Royal Mile, Edinburgh and Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem On the Road again… I give you five more.
The arc of angels
Avenue desChamps-Elysees, Paris: And, yes, you are taking your life into your own hands when you cross the road here.
The Arc de Triumph with its record of French victories is, of course, the centrepiece although there hasn’t been an inscription on it for many a year. Either in war or the Tour de France which passes through it. See https://en.parisinfo.com.
O’Connell Street, Dublin: And if you like your streets lined with historical statues then this is for you.
At one end is the Liberartor Daniel O’Connell, with bullet holes from the Easter Rising, and at the other ‘The King of Ireland’ Charles Stewart Parnell. There’s the modern-day Centennial Spire but my favourite is the statue of workers’ hero Jim Larkin. See http://www.visitdublin.com.
The long, long road
Yonge Street, Toronto: And why let the facts get in the way of a good story. The Guinness Book of Records tagged it as the longest in the world until it became clear that they were conflating the Downtown Street with Ontario Highway 11 to make it 1,896kms.
When it’s actually 56kms long. And this being Toronto it’s cleaner, safer and with a laid-back vibe than New York which it is often unfavourably compared to. See http://www.seetoronto.com and Canadian high.
It’s a Shambles
The Shambles, York, England: The Old York, as it’s never called, has something the New York has.
This has overhanging timber-framed buildings that date from the 14th century. And if you like your trains there’s also the National Railway Museum. See https://www.visityork.org.
A night on Der Town
And if it’s good enough for the Beatles then…
This is where the Beatles grew up and George Harrison got his first taste for mud-wrestling Germans. It’s the Reeperbahn in Hamburg. And let Stefanie Hempell who runs the best music tour you’ll find.