Adventure, America, Countries, UK

John Muir, the wild Scots-American

And in a celebration of John Muir, the wild Scots-American, a quote from his dad, Daniel.

Bairns, you needna learn your lessons the nicht, for we’re gan to America the morn

Scots explorer and conservationist John Muir’s faither Daniel Muir

My own uncles had a similar spontaneous tale to tell just like John Muir, the wild Scots-American.

They had taken shelter in the opening of the American Embassy from the pouring Glasgow rain.

And they then decided to seek their fortunes anew in the States.

The Muir story

The Muir statue in Dubar: And Murty

Millions have followed a similar path.

With those from my own homesteads, Scotland and Ireland, up there proportionately with any of them.

John Muir’s story has crept up on me where, of course, it ought to have been front and centre of my Scots education.

And now I’m living in the East Lothian of his informative years, his presence is more visible.

And a playground: For my Luminous Laurie

But it is true that the Great Conservationist is more celebrated in his adopted America where he and his family went to live when he was 11.

Than in his own homeland of Scotland although he would visit here in later life.

And he would write lovingly, and often, about how Dunbar, 30 miles east of Edinburgh, had shaped his life.

Where it all began

The Muir house: And the two flags fly proudly

You can learn all about John Muir at his birthplace in the main street of the once fishing and farming town where the population would be split between Shories and Streeties.

Dunbar has reinvented itself around Muir with a statue in the high street of the Great Man exploring nature.

And a country park and adventure playground on the way out of town.

It is as Muir, the great protector of Yosemite National Park  in California would have wanted it.

Again, rather than waffle here, pick out the John Muir birthplace museum in Dunbar, or better still visit it, to learn more about this remarkable man.

The Scot and America

Epic: Muir’s 1,000 miles

This month, but for the vagaries of our airlines, I would be making my annual pilgrimage to the States for their Travel Fair , this year In Las Vegas.

It was while at a previous Travel Fair in Washington DC that I spoke to a delegate from America’s National Parks 

Her eyes lit up when she heard my Scottish accent and the first words that she spoke were ‘John Muir’.

She would go on to tell me about a celebrated Ranger who had been interviewed on American television.

Taking on the world: John Muir

When asked if someone were to put to him that he only had one day to visit Yosemite what would he do, he shot back: ‘Cry’.

I told the very same story to the guide at John Muir’s Birthplace and it was about the only thing that Elaine didn’t know about the Dunbar man.

I left with my Muir passport, determined to walk the 134 mile John Muir Trail from Helensburgh on the west coast of Scotland to his birthplace Dunbar.

And have my book stamped along the way.

Walk this way

Going for a walk in Tenerife

Sure, I’ve done it all before.. the Camino, the Via Francigena, the Canaries.

Still, even if I do it, it will be as nothing compared to Muir’s 1,000 mile jaunt from Indiana to Florida, his much-celebrated 1,000 mile walk to the Gulf.

 

His five days trekking in America’s Great Outdoors with President Theodore Roosevelt, he of the Teddy Bear.

Or the circumnavigation of the Earth which you can track on the globe at his old birthplace.

That’s John Muir, the wild Scots-American.    

America, Australasia, Countries, Europe, UK

North South Seas and Treasure Island

So what do the North Sea South Seas and Treasure Island share in common?

The author Robert Louis Stevenson who I’ve got to know these last 18 months.

Since moving to North Berwick, south of Edinburgh.

Where his grandfather, the eminent Scottish engineer of his time (also Robert) made his mark.

Robert’s piece de resistance was the Bell Rock, the world’s oldest surviving sea-washed lighthouse, built on an outcrop of the Inchcape reef and accessible at low tide. 

Young Robert might have expected to follow in the family lighthouse design business.

The real Treasure Island

Treasure Island: Long John Silver

Robert Louis (originally Lewis) though did base his Treasure Island on the Fidra Island in the Firth of Forth.

Where David and Thomas Stevenson built theirs which has been automated since 1970.

And which the Scottish Seabird Centre has its cameras set on to keep an eye on its seabird population.

Travel bug

Wall art: In a North Berwick alley

It was here then that Robert got his Travel bug which would see him circumnavigate the globe.

Stevenson’s love of Travel was both lyrical and practical as he sought warmer climes more conducive to his bronchial problems.

And he would say: ‘We are all travellers in the wilderness of this world.’

That and. his marriage to American Fanny Van De Grift led to him seeking out many of the familiar, but also the wildernesses of this world.

Travel books

Samoa the merrier: A recreation of RLS’s rooms in Western Samoa

 

And so he gave us a rich legacy of Travel books as well as his bumper fiction books. 

With his entry into this world showing what a master he was with his 200km hike in south-central France, Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes.

A passion we both share for Southern France and hiking. And Robert was to return to France and Belgium for another venture, canoeing this time, in An Inland Voyage. 

The Amateur Emigrant, Across the Plains and the Silverado Squatters covers RLS’s American peregrinations and there is a museum there too in the Napa Valley in California

And then we get In the South Seas, a celebration of Samoa where he set down roots and lived out his days.

RLS truly loved the South Seas island of Samoa and championed their rights in the face of exploitation from the super powers in letters to The Times.

In RLS’s footsteps

From the author’s mouth

And the West Samoans loved him back erecting a museum to the man they called Tusitala ‘Tale Teller’ on the 100th anniversary of his death in 1994.

Check out their excellent site with its Following in the Footsteps of RLS.

Western Samoa is a three and a half hours flight from Auckland, New Zealand

So let’s hear if for North South Seas and Treasure Island.

 

 

 

America, Countries, Europe, UK

Madonna Holiday

If we took a holiday/Took some time to celebrate/Just one day out of life/It would be/It would be so nice Madonna Holiday

And that’s why I’m pushing for a public holiday for us all on Madonna‘s birthday which is as it happens is today.

And to mark The Queen of Pop’s 63rd birthday (really?) here’s five belters from her catalogue which transport us to magic worlds.

Matadoronna

Birthday girl: Madonna

La Isla BonitaAndalucia, Cuba, San Pedro, Belize: And this is where Madonna goes all Hispanic on us.

Or more specifically Andalucian.

Madge fans like to identify La Isla Bonita as San Pedro on the island of Ambergris Caye, Belize but she says it is generic.

Although it is heavily infused by Cuban rhythms.

Go-on-delier

Venice dancer: And no danger of falling in the Canal

Like A VirginVeniceAnd Madge certainly announced herself on the scene with this bells, whistles and Venice lions vid.

Of course, a nod here to Signorina Ciccione’s Italian heritage.

With her dancing around on a gondola in front of The Bridge of Sighs.

And well ducked La Madonna.

California Praying

Racy: Madonna

Like A Prayer – San Pedro, Los Angeles Mission Maria Stella Maris church: You might associate this with the Deep South.

But the church where all that Jesus being reborn as Madonna’s fantasy figure happened in this Latin Church in California.

And while LA is ahead of the times and trends it grew out of a small Spanish settlement… Nuestra Senora La Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula.

Or Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of Porciuncula.

Oh what a circus

Miss American pie: But with an Argentinian twist

Don’t Cry For Me Argentina ~ And Madonna’s life’s dream, to play Eva Peron in a musical.

Naturally it’s shot in Buenos Aires but also Hollywood… and Budapest!

Time goes by so slowly

Raunchy: And with all the moves

Hung Up, London – And this was during Madge’s English phase of her life as she likes to call her marriage to Guy Ritchie.

London shows itself off with the Trocadero being used for the games arcade scenes and also approximating Paris, The Bronx in New York, and Chinatown for Shanghai.

All of which fits with Madonna’s status as a world icon.

And which is why we should all get the day off for a Madonna Holiday.

 

 

America, Australasia, Countries, Music, UK

Keep On Running

And as the Olympics really kicks in with track and field, the songs on my running machine… Rainy Days and Songdays Keep On Running.

Go ahead

Jump, Van Halen: And a random story to accompany this slice of Californian rock.

From my schooldays and a sadist PE teacher.

Hessy would take pleasure from spanking our arses with a sandshoe if we forgot our kit.

And in the long jump heats for sports’ day he swiped his foot when he was taking off for the pit.

Bar, bar, bar

Raise the Bar, Bonnie Anderson: You’ll know her better as Bea Nilsson from Neighbours.

But Bonnie (and she is) was marked out from stardom early when she won Australia’s Got Talent at 12.

There’s lots of good Aussie music that never comes to our shores.

Not sure this is it but she looks Bonnie.

Born To Run

Born To Run, Bruce Springsteen: Baby, we were born to run and I was too.

Although my specialised discipline Cross Country Running isn’t one of the sports included which is quire hard to do.

Not sure either if muddy public school grounds was what New Jersey‘s Bruce had in mind either.

Nae havering now

I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) The Proclaimers: And I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more for Fife‘s finest.

And there are some who do, the waddling Olympian penguin people.

Now having been a member of a running club as a kid walking was giving up.

Put it there

Big Shot, Billy Joel: The Wee Noo Yoiker might struggle to lift, never mind twirl that big iron ball.

Billy is more in his element tinkering ivories than the shot put.

But who knows, he could have nailed it because it’s still track’n’roll to him.

Keep on running.

America, Countries, Europe, Music, UK

Get Bach to The Beatles

There have been many candidates for the Fifth Beatle, George Martin, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston. But we want to Get Bach to The Beatles.

The book of Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach died on this day 171 years ago more than a hundred years before The Beatles formed in Liverpool.

Bach in Liverpool

A German composer, you say

But Paul McCartney credits the great Saxon (no, not the band but the state) for inspiring his work.

Merseysider Macca cites Bach in Blackbird while the trained ear will pick up a Bach piccolo trumpet on Penny Lane.

That Baroque sound is also unmistakable on the orchestral section in All You Need Is Love.

But it wasn’t just The Beatles who caught the Bach bug.

New York Bach

Simon and Bachfunkel

If it feels like Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water and American Tune are timeless.

Then it is because it has its roots 100 years before as Rhymin’ Simon tells us on a US chat show.

In the Liepziger’s four-part chorale O Sacred Head Now Wounded.

A Whiter Shade Of Pale sounds like the title of something Bach would rattle it out.

Californian Bach

The Bach Boys

Because it pretty much is and repackaged as Procul Horum’s Sixties classic.

While The Beach Boys’ melodies from California also borrow from Saxony’s finest.

You’ll hear it in their reworking of his Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring for Lady Linda.

Of course, a good toon is a good toon and we’re sure if Bach has done words he’d have found a rap rhyme to Toccata and Fugue in D minor.

Modern-day Bach

Baaa, Baaa, Baaa, Bach

Detroit’s favourite rapper Eminem sampled the great German in Brainless.

Only to be followed up (upBached) by Bonkers from Yonkers Lady Gaga and her Bad Romance and its harpsichord intro.

So Get Bach to The Beatles and a host of music royalty.

So think on it the next time you’re going to write a classic… dig out Johann Sebastian Bach.

 

 

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.

 

Africa, America, Australasia, Countries, Culture, Europe, UK

Route 66 in an electric car

It’s the world’s favourite road trip… but get your kicks on Route 66 in an electric car.

In the style of this site, of course, I’m working backwards!

I’ve forgotten something

At the end of Route 66, Santa Monica Pier, Southern California, on a scorching summer day.

Or a motorbike

Rev up: For Route 66

Your motorbike, the cooler choice, will have to pull up before the pedestrianised pier, and landmark.

We were first introduced to Route 66 from the classic song where we were encouraged to get our kicks.

As an introduction we are told it’s 2000 miles from Chicago to LA.

Smalltown America

There are bridges too

And in time-honoured American songs fashion a list of smalltown US follows and states.

We get Saint Looey, Joplin Missouri, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Gallup, New Mexico, Flagstaff Arizona, Winona, Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino…

You get the picture.

And yes, I still have to get those stickers for my luggage.

Although I have a clunking keyring to fool people into thinking I‘ve done the hipsters’ highway.

Why am I flagging up Route 66 today? Well, why not?

But it also tops a survey commissioned by Continental Tyres for the new Extreme-E.

The Great Road Trips

Drive your ass off: On Route 66

Route 66 holds off Pacific Coast Highway and the Great Ocean Road in Australia for the top spot.

Wild Atlantic Way

While a cursory glance of the top ten also highlights Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way and South Africa’s Garden Way.

Now like all of those with adventure in out blood I have relished getting out on the road though perhaps not the iconic ones.

Snow in Mississippi

Rocket man: In Mississippi

And so I drove/was driven through the flatlands of the Blues Trail in Mississippi on my Deep South odyssey.

Where I fell asleep through the repetition and woke up with the fields covered white.

And, no, I wasn’t dreaming. Mississippians call cotton Snow.

Driven around the bend

Magical mystery tour: In Baviaanskloof

Or our own circuitous route around Monaghan’s townlands trying to find the Patrick Kavanagh Centre.

And being driven aimlessly around a South African park in the Eastern Cape late at night.

And that’s why the Lord gave zebras white stripes

Continental Tyres runs down the top 10 UK road trips and Scotland takes the plaudits with its North Coast 500.

While it’s good to see the Coastal Circuit in Northern Ireland getting a namecheck too.

The vital spark

Now electric cars are to be commended but I’m not sure how popular they would be with the Route 66 set.

I mean how many charging points would you need over that 2,000 mile expanse.

Never mind keeping up the cool quotient.

But the highway’s going nowhere and you’ll get longer to enjoy it.

So Get your kicks on Route 66 in an electric car.

 

 

 

America, Countries, Culture

A flight of fancy on Superman’s Day

And doesn’t he still look good for 87… it’s a flight of fancy on Superman’s Day.

This day in 1934 The Man of Steel burst into public consciousness in DC Comics’ Action Comics Series issue #1.

As we all know Kryptonite Kal-El exploded into the Mid-American wheat fields if Smallsville.

Only it wasn’t Kansas in the Oo Es of Eh but Beynon, near Calgary in Alberta in Canada.

A man can fly

Top man: Superman

The Beynon Canyon is pivotal in the Clark Kent story.

It is here that Martha and Clark bury his adopted father Jonathan and the young Kent decides to leave for Metropolis.

Another better-known canyon, the Grand Canyon, hoves into view when Superman saves the day.

And Daily Planet photographer Jimmie Olsen from the crumbling Hoover Dam. And trust me a good Press photographer is hard to find.

On the right track

The Rail Thing http://www.imdb.com

We all know too that Superman flew through the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

While Metropolis we all automatically associate with New York.

How could we not when Clark and Lois go for a night-time spin around the Statue of Liberty?

And we would be right to see NY as Supes’ town… in parts.

Dam impressive

The Hoover Dan set up. http://www.superman1978.com

The Daily Planet where Clark works can be found at the art deco News Building, 220 East 42nd Street.

Moved, though, from the Los Angeles City Hall, 200 North Spring Street. Yes, La La Land.

Lex Luthor’s lair we are led to believe is below the Grand Central Station although whisper it it is Pinewood Studios, Berkshire in England.

Superman’s origins may lie somewhere entirely different, the Eiger in Switzerland and Friedrich Neitzsche’s imagination.

Man of Letters

Is it a Bird? No, it’s Bandanaman in Orlando

Of course we have all channeled our own Superman on the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride at Universal Orlando.

Before back to work as the pictures show.

And as then as now… of course Superman is a man of letters too, a journalist.

So I’ll continue to be inspired by The Man of Steel and enjoy a flight of fancy on Superman’s Day.

America, Countries, Culture

Pride and joy

The Tarts and Tramps was always a rite of passage for Aberdeen University Freshers students in the Eighties, and I dare say it’s their Pride and joy still.

Quite whether students get a chance to glam and glum it up in a meaningful Freshers week in September remains to be seen.

Hugs around the world

But encouragingly Pride events will be held around the world this month.

Changed from last year when we all rallied together to make the most of it all digitally.

My attention was drawn by one of Las Vegas’s finest music acts, Imagine Dragons, championing Pride.

Flagging up Pride

It just so happens that I’m at my campest in the Oo-Es-of-EH and the 

Cariqueen and it’s that love of a good pun which makes me fit right in.

By rights we who travel for a living would have been boogieing it up in Party City.

That is of course Las Vegas, where I should be now at the US Travel Fair.

My beardie matches: In California

Their Pride party is legendary as is their entertainment.

With the Beach Boys and Snoop Dogg entertaining us last time up in Anaheim.

And OneRepublic rocking Red Rocks in Denver the year before.

Red Rocks in Denver

We’ll hopefully do the American Travel Fair all over again in the Fall.

Where, yes, Pride will be behind us.

But I know someone from my last Vegas trip, Cami from Utah.

My Pride and joy, who I might just still be married to!

 

 

America, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Ireland

The summertime is coming

The summertime is coming and the trees are softly blooming. And the wild mountain Jim rolls around the blooming heather.

I’d rather be rolling around the blooming beach though I’ll settle for my front garden, North Berwick, until I get back out to the Caribbean.

But to mark the sun coming out, although I might jinx it, here’s some summer sizzlers to lift your Rainy Days and Songdays.

I remember that summer

And my summer girl in her autumn years

Summer in Dublin, Bagatelle: And this was the soundtrack of 1980 which is where he would always spend my summer.

I can’t remember the Liffey stinking like Hell but I was one of those young people looking so well on Grafton Street in Dublin.

Rock’n’roll never forgets, nor us, and singer Liam Reilly who was taken from us last year will always be a sound of our Dubliners summer.

It’s summer Irie

Irie Barbados: With Jevan and Donna

Money Well Spent, Biggie Irie: It’s the last day of Crop Over and I still have room for Bacchanal.

The Crop Over carnival, to be fair, lasts all summer and is the only thing Bajans devote their attentions to.

California, the best trip

Sloop John B, The Beach Boys: And it may have been the worst trip Brian Wilson ever went on.

But visiting SoCal, Southern California, and being entertained by the Boys, Snoop Dogg et al, was the best trip I’ve ever been on.

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Here comes the Sun, The Beatles: And The Beatles light up any summer.

Whether in Liverpool or Hamburg where I’ve followed in the Fab Four’s footsteps and I suggest you do the same.

Espana por favor

Going for a walk in Tenerife

Y Viva Espana, Sylvia: And Swede Sylvia’s song falls into the summer anthem category along again with Typically Tropical’s We’re Going To Barbados.

And, of course, it’s Britons and Irish go-to summer hotspot and ours too.

All of which brings us back to el hobby horse: why are the Canaries, off the coast of Africa not a special case.

After all those Tenerife trails won’t walk themselves.

So, seeing the summertime is coming then we should all blooming get out in the sun and sing and dance.