America, Countries

Drive for Martin Luther King 55

They are the gift that keeps on giving, the National Civil Rights Museum who are running a blood drive for Martin Luther King 55.

This year marks 55 years since Dr King was assassinated.

On the balcony of his Lorraine Motel room which is now incorporated into the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee.

While tomorrow, January 16, is The Great Man’s birthday.

When Stevie Wonder, who championed a day especially for the Civil Rights leader, invited us…

‘To have a world party on the day you came to be.’

It runs through the blood

Marching to victory: The Civil Rights movement

Only for those who need blood for health conditions every day is a challenge.

And Dr King would be proud that the Museum are putting the plight of ordinary people first as he did.

I’ve seen first hand too how the NCR Museum holds firmly to Dr King’s inclusive vision for his society, all colours, and all classes.

The museum is encouraging guests to bring non-perishable food items to support the Mid-South Food Bank.

And the blood drive for Martin Luther King 55 is all to support the Vitalant blood drive.

King Day will kick off a year of observances themed ‘Freedom Can’t Wait’.

As the Museum focuses on major civil rights milestones with anniversaries in 2023.

With, of course, the 60th anniversary too of his I Have A Dream speech from the March on Washington.

King Day

Sit next to me: With Rosa Parks

There will be time too to mark the 55th anniversary of his assassination (I was there in the year of the 50th) on April 4.

But for tomorrow, January 16, the doors of the museum will be thrown open free for those who give.

With a full day of entertainment on The Main Stage, including performances by Karen Brown, Gerald Richardson and the Cordova High School Choir.

And remember that Dr King was a music nut and friend of all the legends of the time.

While I’m glad to see too that the Satellite Band of Stax Music Academy.

And whom I broke bread with and listened to their performance around MLK50, will be singing too.

Fun for the family

King and I: With MLK in Washington DC

And he was also a family man, down to his shiny shoes.

So he would welcome too that the children are being entertained too.

‘And that his dream come true that “black girls will be able to join hands with little.’

That will all play out on The Pavilion.

With activities and entertainment including magic shows, balloon making, face painting, African drumming, craft activities, music, community resources, and more!


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.





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.

Africa, America, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, South America

Fannie Lou to Putin a sweep of statues

Celebrating 35 years of one and the toppling of another… from Fannie Lou to Putin a sweep of statues.

Bandanini and Bandanettes will recognise this as a pet subject here.

And how we prefer to champion statues of extraordinary ordinary people (and animals) than dubious war leaders and slave traders.

Fannie Lou Hamer died this day 35 years ago and is marked in the fist-clenched statue in Ruleville, Mississippi in the Deep South.

The Civil Rights activist who ‘was sick and tired of being sick and tired’ and upstaged LBJ at the Democrat Convention.

And Putin, the imperialist whose waxwork has been removed from the Paris Grèvin Museum’s gallery of world leaders.

The erection of statues and their deselection and destruction are a touchstone of where we are in society.

So it’s timely to ask where we are with totems of tyrants.

Putin on a podium

Gotcha: Vladimir Putin

Few things say narcissist more than erecting statues of yourself or having someone do it for you.

And if your palm has been greased to the tune of $1.2million by a Russian-sponsored development agency.

Then you’ll be happy to put up a statue of the Russian megalomaniac in your ski resort in his puppet state of Kyrgyzstan.

Stalin structures

Go away you little people: Joseph Stalin

To the rest of us he was the perpetrator of the deaths of millions in the Soviet Union.

To some fellow Georgians (though not my old pal George, their ambassador in Dublin) Joseph Stalin is still a favourite son.

As he is in Russia, Mongolia and even more frighteningly outside a nursery school in Asht in Tajikistan.

Mao how

Clap of thunder: Mao

But in a game of Top Trumps psychopaths even Stalin would lose out to the master of the Cultural Revolution in China.

And yet Mao Zedong is still revered in Tianfu Square, Chengdu, Sichuan.

Where he is larger than life, a 100ft statue of the despot still looking down on the little people.

Chavez on high

Time to go, Hugo: Hugo Chavez

The further south you get in the Caribbean the more interest the locals show towards dystopian Venezuela just a few miles across the sea in South America.

Particularly the Spanish Ladies who make Trinidad & Tobago their home.

Venezuela is depending on your viewpoint a brave resistor of American imperialism or a tinpot Latin American dictator.

Either way you can see Hugo Chavez’s likeness marked everywhere in Venezuela in the 17 or more statues and busts and countless tat.

A good Korea mood

Here’s to me: Kim

And in North Korea it was even something of an export industry until the UN and their sanctions stepped in.

You get the Kims (obvs) but our browsing threw up a trade in statues for abroad.

From the Mansuade Art Studio in Pyongyang.

Where they do a roaring business to dictators, particularly in Africa.

Shake on it: Robert Mugabe

The hold that dictators can have on us was brought home to me by a Ranger on our game drive.

In Mount Kamdeboo in the Eastern Cape in South Africa where when I asked the Zimbabwean emigree his thoughts on Robert Mugabe.

And he surprised me by saying that in Zimbabwe the people still respected their elders.

Come on your Rangers: And a Zimbabwean in South Africa

And where there is a demand the capitalist communists of Mansuade were always happy to oblige.

Something to dwell on as we recap today on where we are now. From Fannie Lou to Putin a sweep of statues.

America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

A kick in the baubles

A kick in the baubles… I’ve lost my battle with The Scary One and her apprentice.

It’s five years since our MLK50 group was serenaded with Merry Christmas Everyone by a Southern singer at an antebellum guesthouse.

The Southern Ball

Southern baubles and belles: Mississippi

And every year when I see the Fairview Inn bauble from Jackson, Mississippi, I think of that Deep South Family…

Her, her husband and their eight kids.

This year though I have to crane my head around the back of the tree to see the Mississippian bauble.

Because The Scary One and her mini-me have decided to hide it there behind glittery shop decorations.

It is a daily ding-dong to get my baubles on the tree…

My belle and her baubles

Masked ball: In Venice

We both love Venice so the Grand Canal bauble makes it.

Greening up: A touch of Irish

While my Irish harp (an extra greening this year didn’t go down well).

Countered, of course, by the red phone box, a symbol of Englishness.

Hat’s a decoration: The Sorting Hat

And a sorting hat and Harry Potter’s Gryffindor scarf.

He’s got bounce: Tigger

Tigger doesn’t deserve to sit below Potter but I expect him to get up the tree.

He has the bounce after all.

A Christmas laaf

Game for a laaf: A touch of Dutch

Up there and deservedly so are my favourite urchins, the Laafs I fell in love with in Ireland.

But who hail from the Netherlands.

Baubles were born in Germany as was the Christmas tree.

So if you were able to get to one of their Christmas markets then you know how tinseltastic they are.

Birthplace of baubles

Birthplace: Lauscha

Lauscha is the birthplace of the bauble and celebrates it every November with its kugelmarket.

Yes, you guessed it, it translates as bauble market.

And it all started in the glassworks of this German mountain town near the Czech border.

With craftsman Hans Greiner moulding the ornaments into the shape of fruit and nuts in 1847 and exporting them to Britain.

Neither of which would work with Santa’s little helper in Chez Murty who clears the tree of hanging chocolate every year.

Before moving my keepsake… it’s a real kick in the baubles.





America, Countries, Sport

Walking in Vegas and Memphis

And WC Handy will still look down on him… Rainy Days and Songdays celebrates Tyson Fury as he goes Walking in Vegas and Memphis.

The Gypsy King has become as big a headliner in Vegas as Celine Dion, Elton John and The Osmonds (yes, really).

The World Heavyweight champion brought the house down when he adapted another American classic in the ring after defeating Deontay Wilder, who really ought to have had the home fans in the palm of his destructive hands.

Memphis history

That’s Handy: In Memphis

Now we’ll forgive Tyson for being disorientated.

And not quite knowing his surroundings after Wilder put him on the seat of his pants during the fight.

Because WC Handy was an Alabaman, who made his name in Memphis, Tennessee, as the Father of the Blues.

A couple of feet: Off of Beale

Tyson would be a thousand miles away though if he had touched down in the land of the Delta Blues.

The Delta being the juncture in the Mississippi.

Although we will give him his Beale (Avenue) in Las Vegas which we stumbled upon in Neon City.

Although the Beale which Marc Cohen was referring to was Beale Street in Memphis.

On the Strip

VIP: With the Rat Trap

Mind you Vegas can recreate anywhere in the world in their own image.

Head down the Strip and you will almost think you have been transported to Paris or ancient Egypt.

And an anecdote here to prove my point.

Jetlagged on my arrival in Vegas I laid down on my triple bed in The Palazzo in the afternoon.

And against my better judgment I fell asleep.

Only to be woken up by a call from our host Tryphavana to say the party was sitting down for dinner at the Venetian.

The Grand Canal

The one in.., Vegas

Wiping my eyes, still in sleepy mode, I passed by gondolas on the Grand Canal.

And walked through to the restaurant and an Italian feast.

Looking up I saw a fresco of the Creation of Adam.

Sure, Vegas can recreate the world in their own image.

So go ahead, me and Tyson Fury love Walking in Vegas and Memphis.

Africa, America, Asia, Canada, Countries, Europe, South America, UK

World Rivers Day and the flow of life

We can’t survive without it so it’s only right today to celebrate World Rivers Day and the flow of life.

With the publication of B-WELL CBD’s most loved European rivers on Instagram, we’re stretching it out to include the world too.

Of course you can’t ignore European waterways so I’ll dip my toe in them as well.

Top ten Euro rivers

On the Elbe, Dresden

The oils and cosmetic products company has tracked our habits and unsurprisingly namechecked this top ten.

1 Thames, 2 Danube, 3 Elbe, 4 Seine, 5 Ural, 6 Douro, 7 Loire, 8 Rhine, 9 Vistula, 10 Tiber.

Wading through it I’ll definitely sing the praises of London’s Old Father Thames, its towers, bridges and the country towns it dissects.

The Danube has remained just along the river if you will when I’ve visited Central Europe.

I’m pleasantly surprised to see the Elbe more popular than the Seine.

And I would recommend taking a river cruise in Dresden to see the fine riverbank houses and enjoy a fireworks display.

Wine and Rhine

Disney it look magical: The Disney castle in Neuschwanstein

I daresay if a dacha along the Ural is good enough for Russian communists and oil billionaires I should pay it a visit.

And I’ll confess I know more about the Tagus from Praia do Ribatejo in Portugal Centro than the Douro in Portugal and Spain.

The flow of the Loire is only bettered by the running wine from its vineyards.

But I confess a soft spot for the Rhine and its fairytale castles, especially The Wonderful World of Disney‘s opening title. Neuschwanstein. 

The Vistula in Poland is still a pleasure to enjoy as is Polska unless being hosted by the Embassy in Dublin counts which it does!

While just squeezing into the top ten (and I feel like DJ Alan Freeman here pop pickers) is a river I feel is a friend, the Tiber.

When in Rome

The holy of holies. At the end of the Francigena in Rome

Just walk the Via Francigena into Rome and your final long stretch to St Peter’s Square will be along the Tevere.

While staying in the bohemian Trastevere you’ll soon get to know the river well by taking wrong directions.

And the bridges of Rome stand comparison with anywhere in the world.

Particularly the Ponte Sant’Angelo, its statues on the railings and its centre point, the magnificent Castel Sant’Angelo,

A notable exception on the list was the Vltava through Prague with its magnificent Charles Bridge.

The World

Tis Grand: With Tara and Tryphavana at the Grand Canyon

Now I know I promised you the world.

So let me show you the river of rebirth, the Jordan between the country and Israel.

Where pilgrims go to be baptised where the Israelis claim John baptised Jesus.

It’s a different type of water activity along the Colorado river.

Take the bird’s eye view from a helicopter through the Grand Canyon.

Or do like the Americans and use it as your playground.

Water is our most precious commodity and America’s West survives and thrives because of one of my Modern Wonders of the World, the Hoover Dam.

Although, incredulously it has not been recognised as such on the official list.

Quality of Mersey

The boat comes in: The Mersey

So I’ll throw in another couple of favourite rivers which speak for themselves.

The Mississippi, with its Dolly Parton bridge in Memphis (think about it) and the Hudson and the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.

Of course the Amazon, the Nile, the Congo, the Ganges, the Yellow, the Makong and many others deserve our attention.

And so I’ll be patient in getting back out abroad.

And I will continue to enjoy the rivers and bridges where I am.

I spent the last week walking by and sailing on the Ferry Across the Mersey.

So a thought… where would we be without our waterways.

Let’s hear it for World Rivers Day and the flow of life.





America, Countries, Culture, Music

The Deep South have a lot to sing and write about

‘Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy… that’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’ And doesn’t Harper Lee’s state Alabama and the Deep South have a lot to sing and write about.

That great novel, To Kill A Mockingbird was 60 years old last year.

And it is regularly listed as one of the public’s favourite books and Harper Lee is rightly celebrated in the Deep South state.

So much so that the good residents of her own Monroeville homestead live the story every year.

With the locals actually becoming part of the cast alongside Jem, Scout, Boo Ridley, Atticus Finch and Tom Robinson.

Part of the cast

Every April and May, a version of Mockingbird  is put on by people from the community.

And you’ll see the jury preside over Tom Robinson’s trial is selected from the audience before each performance.

While just a short drive away lies Montgomery where Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald lived from 1931-32 and where Scott worked on Tender is the Night.

You can visit the Jazz Age couple’s Felder Avenue home is now the site of the F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum.

And a two-bedroom apartment that can be booked by literary lovers on Airbnb.

The Sound of the South

With Rosa Parks in Jackson, Mississippi

It is no coincidence that Hollywood mines the Deep South for epic movies.

William Faulkner, the Poet Laureate of the South says it better than ya’ll could.. certainly this scribbler.

Faulkner is the author of the classic The Sound and the Fury.

And he opined: ‘I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it.’

And you can learn much more about Faulkner and other alumni from the Magnolia State including Richard Wright and Eurdora Welty on The Mississippi Writers Trail.

All of which is a good bookend to the Mississippi Blues Trail which of course is richly infused through the Civil Rights Struggle.

While Faulkner will forever be linked to the Deep South, that too is the case for Tennessee Williams. Well, how could it not as he carried it around the state in his name?

Good ole Southern Boys

Graceland: And a reason to believe

Like many famous Tennessee legends, like BB King and Elvis Presley he is in fact a Mississippian.

The Deep South includes AlabamaKentuckyLouisianaMississippi & Tennessee.

And to immerse yourself in the region is to step right into the pages of these great storytellers.

Yes, truly, the Deep South have a lot to sing and write about.


Africa, America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Oceania, 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, Music

Remembering Hooker and the Blues Brothers

Boom Boom Boom Boom, today’s Rainy Days is Remembering John Lee Hooker and The Blues Brothers.

And giving Hooker, 20 years dead today, headline status in our list of Bluesmen (and women).

By Hooker by crook

BB and Me Me: In Beale Street, Memphis

John Lee Hooker, Boom Boom: And John Lee sets the scene with a live Chicago street riff outside Nate’s Deli in The Blues Brothers, 40 years old this week.

Memorably Jake and Elwood prepare to enlist Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy despite the objections of Aretha Franklin.

And here’s where to channel your inner John Lee by recording Boom Boom at the Grammy Museum in his native Mississippi.

Mississippi Crossroads

At the Crossroads: Dockery Farms

Robert Johnson, Crossroads: And the most enduring legend in Blues surrounds Robert Johnson.

The bould Robert is said to have sold his soul to the devils at a crossroads in exchange for musical success.

A bit of an oul divil himself Johnson is said to have been poisoned by his lover’s husband.

This and so much more you can l van earn at the Dockery Plantation where he worked and played.

Lady Sings The Blues

Warrior: With Medgar Evers’ widow Myrlie in Mississippi

Billie Holiday, Strange Fruit: And we’re grateful here too to Diana Ross for playing Billie in the movie, and introducing her to a modern audience.

Strange Fruit is a haunting inditement on Deep South racism with the lynching of blacks compared to fruit on trees.

All of which you can explore at the Two Mississippi Museums, the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, in Jackson,

Mama knows best

I got the Elvis moves: At Sun Studio

Big Mama Thornton, Hound Dog: Now Deep South women are, of course, a force of nature.

And Willie Mae who gave the world (and Elvis) Hound Dog is all Mama.

And if you’re in the mood (course you are) then rock your best Elvis at Sun Studio in his home town, Memphis, Tennessee.

BB meets Bono

Bluesing it up: At BB’s Club

BB King and U2, When Love Comes To Town And when anyone comes to Memphis town they come to BB King’s Blues Club, Beale Street.

BB was thus named by a DJ. I’ll leave you to come up with an epithet for the bould Bono (oh, there’s one).

BB, of course, is much storied and he called all his guitars Lucille after a woman two dudes were fighting over.

In a burning building he’d been playing a concert in and he’d gone back into to save his guitar.

So of course we’re happy to be remembering   Hooker and the Blues Brothers.

And all the Bluesmen and women.