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

Forget Black Monday it’s Craic Monday

If someone has pinned you down to tell you that this is the unhappiest day of the year, tell them Forget Black Monday it’s Craic Monday with these great escapes.

They, of course, will be full of woe and be all too quick to tell you.

About how today has the worst of the weather, the longest of nights and how you’ll be skint after Christmas.

Thank the heavens then for my friend Rachel.

For she brings sunshine into my life with a steady stream of far-off exotic destinations some of which I’ve still to tick.

Dip your toe in

Poolside party: In West Hollywood

The London West Hollywood, California, USA: Now I made a splash in West Hollywood when I would jump from breakfast to the lobby swimming pool.

But today’s offering is a different inn, The London West Hollywood which houses a gorgeous rooftop pool and cabanas.

Just imagine swimming towards panoramic views of LA and Beverly Hills.

Your garden oasis sweeps from downtown LA all the way to the Getty Centre and beyond.

Blue skies

Go Broncos: Sporty Denver

Denver, Colorado, USA: Now closer to the skies was I 1600 metres up in the sky in the Mile High City.

And the sun too with 300 days of the big yellow ball every year.

The RiNo neighbourhood is the hip area, while it’s a great sporty city too.

The home of the Denver Broncos, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Rockies and Colorado Avalanche.

The air being thin up there in Denver the locals will tell you it takes half as much time to get twice as drunk.

All of which appeals to the thrifty, but partying Scot in me.

Lakes and rivers

The Romans were here: Heviz Spa

Lake Balaton, Héviz Spa, Hungary: The gift of Travel is in the people we meet, more magical than any sunset.

It is beholden on us too to all be ambassadors for our individual countries.

And that is why I’ll always believes Hungarians must be as charming as my Topflight for Schools pal Edina.

I dare say this Magical Magyar would be better at talking you through the inner sea, Lake Balaton.

It is home to picturesque landscapes surrounded by ancient fortresses, underwater cave galleries, vineyards and historic towns.

But don’t just take our word for that (well, actually do) but visitors have been relaxing here since the Ancient Romans.

Héviz Spa is a hotspot in Europe for relaxation and mineral treatments.

Shimmering seas

Tomori Beach, Kyushu, Japan: Now we’re probably more used to images of its bustling cities and cherry blossom parks.

But it’s the sunny seaside which we’ll focus on here and in the island of Amami, ‘the Blue Angel.’

Tomori Beach in Kyushu is considered the best on the island and just ten minutes from the airport.

And it is also a haven for snorkellers.

Blue murals and sculptures

Sacramento, California: Now for those who think California is only about the Big Two, Los Angeles and San Francisco had to sit up and take notice.

When Greta Gerwig wrote a ‘love letter’ to her native Sacramento, the multi award-winning Lady Bird, starring Saoirse Ronan.

Fans of the rites of passage movie will instantly recognise the American Market & Deli in the hip Midtown neighbourhood.

And its exterior mural depicting a Lady Bird-appropriate peacock with a large fan of feathers.

Store co-owner Gurpreet Singh makes a cameo appearance selling Lady Bird cigarettes, a lottery ticket and a Playgirl magazine.

Having just turned 18, she is buying every previously forbidden item now legally available to her.

I can identify with that and I know you fun Bandanini and Bandanettes do too.

And that is why today you’ll forget Black Monday it’s Craic Monday.






America, Countries, Europe, UK

Here’s Jimmy shining a light on Halloween

Yes, here’s Jimmy shining a light on Halloween and spooktacular high points I’ve enjoyed and which have been recommended.

Full disclosure first… horror films wouldn’t be my first genre of choice and there are many iconic scary Hollywood films I’ve yet to see.

Between my fingers, of course.

And seeing that Stephen King has written all of them then he’s a good place to start.

Who’s at the door?

Did you order room service: Jack Nicholson as Johnny

The Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite: This was the inspiration for The Overlook hotel in The Shining – right down
to the red lifts.

Architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood’s 1920s Californian hotel hosted presidents, royalty and a few ghosts.

While the Stanley Hotel was the inspiration for Stephen King’s bestselling book the recognisable
interior sets of the movie hotel, The Overlook, were heavily influenced by Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel.

Inside the lobby, visitors will find the cavernous ceilings, Native American-inspired patterns,
and even the frightening red-doored elevators from the movie. 

In a right old flap

Pride and joy: West Hollywood

Sunset Tower, West Hollywood: And I certainly was in a right old flap in the chic town on the doorstep of Beverly Hills.

My easy charm and friendliness had got the better of me on the plane over when I got talking to a Californian on her way home.

And listen to her story of eating an airport egg sandwich and then handle her sick bag.

She’s behind you.. the flapper girl

But my 24-hour sickness bug came after I’d enjoyed the delights of West Hollywood.

Can’t say though that I saw too many flapper girls, more flapper boy in this out, out, out, joyful town (and yes, my captain’s hat drew some smiles from the queens getting ready for Pride). 

Back to more scary things and the art-deco Sunset Tower has  become synonymous with the ghost of a beautiful flapper girl, known to ride in the lift with unsuspecting guests.

The Wailed West

Bill’s Bones: And will Buffalo Bill rise up again

Colorado: And if you imagine a spur a-clicking or a horse a-whinnying in Colorado it’s probably because the Wild West heroes are still keeping an eye on us all from beyond the grave.

Whether that’s Buffalo Bill at Lookout Mountain or the regular cowboy, prospector and dreamer in the Red State’s ghost towns, the Wild West is all around you.

St. Elmo, located west of Buena Vista, is one of Colorado’s best-preserved ghost towns. With wooden storefronts and a dusty main street, it looks straight out of a John Wayne movie.

After exploring St Elmo, visitors should make their way to the nearby infamous town of Tin Cup. One of the more rowdy towns, sheriffs didn’t last very long here, and you can see echoes of their sorry fates lingering at the town cemetery.

Slovenia trumps them all

Scary: Melania Trump

Haunted castles in SloveniaNow the first thing we associate Slovenia with is Melania Trump, and that is one scary looking image.

Slovenia though is a magical land with rich history and superstition which lends itself to ghostie stories. 

Built within a cave in the middle of a towering cliff, Predjama, which dates back to 1274, is imposing by most standards.

Spooky: Predjama Castle in Slovenia

Add in local legend and you’ll be hard pressed not to get spooked:

Once the residence of knight Erazem Lueger, Predjama has hidden passageways and was reputedly a site of torture and treachery. Lueger was betrayed by his servants and killed in the castle, and is said to still haunt it today.

Dragons and ghouls

The Bride of Frankenstein: No, weddings at Fonmon too.

Haunted trails in the Vale of Glamorgan, South Wales:

Yes, and back on this island and in an old stomping ground, Wales, where they defer to an old dragon (make up your own punchline) Halloween is all the rage.

Throughout October, Fonmon Castle and Gardens are offering several spooky experiences for visitors, including Halloween Haunted Gardens through to 31 October between 5-9pm inviting brave souls to test their nerves through an interactive garden of horror.

There’s also ghost tours on offer through the castle grounds from 6-13 October from 7pm. Walk and explore the grounds with an experienced guide and participation in paranormal activities is encouraged.

For the wee ones, there will be games  fancy dress and entertainment from 10am. Entry from £14.50 for adults and £9.50 over 3’s.

Now if you’re back out on the road, and more and more of us are, then watch your ghoulies.

Because around the corner the souls of the dead are rising up. 

I, of course, put my faith in the locals in such circumstances such as the Galacians who invited me to join them in the Quiemada fiery brew ceremony.

And I swear I saw an image of my mother-in-law emerge from the flames.  

Me? Watch out when you’re opening the door.

Here’s Jimmy, shining a light on Halloween.