America, Canada, Countries, Cruising, Deals

New York Princess

They start out a wide-eyed wanderer but end up a New York Princess. And may it always be so.

And for every Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) there’s a Josephine from Monaghan, Kathleen from Donegal and Celia from Galway.

My Irish aunties could only have dreamt of beginning their new lives in America off a cruise.

And spend 11 nights in luxury accommodation with entertainment and the best food and drink.

All of which you’ll get aboard Princess Cruises on September 24.

Cassidy Travel will fly you out from Dublin and stay in an inside cabin in this majestic fleet with full board basis from €1,099pp.

And, of course, this isn’t just a one-stop to Ellis Island.

The itinerary

Ronan reigns: Saoirse Ronan

You’ll sail from Southampton and visit Corner Brook and Sydney in Canada (no, me neither).

And Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and then New York.

Southampton, we know, it being the cruise capital of England, and it is that tbf, a through town.

September is the best time we’re told to see Corner Brook in Newfoundland with the trees just starting to change colour.

Captain Cook it

It’s there: Captain James Cook

But did you know that Captain Cook (yes, him) was here?

He made his name, of course, discovering Australia, although to be fair the Aborigines knew about it for thousands of years already!

Sydney we all know is Thomas Townshend, Baron Sydney, the-then UK Home Secretary at the time of Sydney’s foundation.

One can only baulk at the thought of some poor immigrants shack town in Rwanda being built with the signpost Pateltown (or Palace).

Another Sydney

Another string to its bow: Sydney, Canada

Sydney found himself in the post at a special time of change with the American War of Independence raging at the time.

And the Canadians, or more specifically the Nova Scotians, found themselves on the wrong side and ended up with the Brits… and the Home Sec.

In keeping with its Scotianess you won’t be surprised to see the Cape Breton Highlanders Museum.

And I guess that’s what The Big Fiddle is all about, the largest in the world.

Mad George’s wife’s town

Skip to it: King George

 

Charlottetown, named for Mad King George’s wife, has echoes of an olde world, with what looks suspiciously like jarvie racing (they call it harness racing) at the Red Shores Horsetrack.

Don’t hang around though, get a gallop on, because you know the ship won’t wait for you.

And the Big Apple

Laddie and Lady: On the Hudson

Whether you’re a prince or a New York Princess.

The Big Apple is waiting and there’s no time to waste.

 

 

America, Countries, Food & Wine

Hoppy 4th July

Hoppy 4th July… let’s celebrate American Independence Day the way the founding fathers would have, with good ale.

Because while we think we can drink we have nothing on Washington, all the Adamses, Franklin and Co.

Colonial Americans drank roughly three times as much as modern Americans, primarily in the form of beer, cider, and whiskey.

And uisce beatha (Gaelic for water of life) is probably what the Spirit of 76 was all about.

Our old friends at Westward Whiskey in Portland, Oregon, have already been on.

And they’ve been showing off their wares with a new product for Independence Day.

And they remind us (OK, we didn’t know) that they begin their process by brewing an artisanal American Ale from scratch.

They use locally malted barley, ale yeast, and a slow, low temperature fermentation.

We love our American whiskies and we will return to them in due cours.

But to make the tortured pun in the title of today’s blog work it’s all about the beer on today’s Independence Day.

Drunken Sam

A bucket of booze: In boozy Boston

Sam Adams: Now the great Bostonian rabble-rouser spent so much time swigging ale in radical public houses that his enemies nicknamed him Sam the Publican.

Sam, of course, took it as a badge of honour, and the Bostonians repaid him by putting his badge on their beers.

Now there is no one Sam in Boston.

And you will be able to digest a range of his ales in the Samuel Adams Tap Rroom next to Faneuil Hall in Old Boston.

As well as Tap room merch, and I am already seeking out where they might sell Old Fezziwig for my can holder I bought there recently. 

There’s also Oktoberfest (the next beer date on my calendar).

And St Paddy’s Day as well as any number of other reasons to swill.

Sam’s namesake, John, the first vice-president, and a future president is cited in a letter to his wife during the days of British overtaxation.

He wrote: ‘I am getting nothing that I can drink, and I believe I shall be sick from this cause alone.”

He died at 90 of old age.

By George

Hail to the Chief: Issy, George, and Jim

George Washington: Now America’s first president and its saviour on the battlefield was more of a wine and whiskey man than beer.

But we dare say he imbibed ale as a chaser.

Washington even boasted one of the largest whiskey distilleries in the country at Mount Vernon.

And it produced 11,000 gallons in 1799, the year he died.

Mount Vernon in Virginia even boasts a small beer recipe the Great Man wrote up.
 
And he had produced for his soldiers during the French and Indian War during the 1750s.
 
And that’s a blend the Virginians still swear by today.
 
They put it on for their visitors with their Battlefields and Brews tour in Northern Virginia.
 
And I, of course, road tested it for you while out there.

Revere for the beer

Can I sign up? Outside the Green Dragon Tavern

Paul Revere: And probably because he was talking to children, although they drank too, Longfellow played down how boozy Revere’s ride was.

But it was effectively a pub crawl, starting out from the Green Dragon Tavern, a version of which exists to this day.

Revere isn’t just immortalised in poetry.

He’s also commemorated in pewter with Liberty Ale, named for him.

First brewed on 18th April 1975, it celebrates the 200th anniversary of his Midnight Ride.

The tasting notes tell us it is brewed as a single hop beer, Cascade, with 2-Row pale malt and a top fermenting yeast.

Franklin my dear

A Bell’s: Whiskey or Beer in Philly

Benjamin Franklin: Now not to let the truth get in the way of a good story.

But Ben likely didn’t say ‘beer is living proof that God loves us and wants to see us happy.’

Instead his letter to a French noble waxed lyrical about wine.

That was his favoured tipple. But it got lost in the translation and is now the accepted version.

A brewer and distiller in his own right, Ben gave us too The Drinker’s Dictionary.

It has over 200 euphemisms for getting tore up including Piss’d in the Brook, Wamble Crop’d, and Been too free with Sir John Strawberry.

Although a proud Bostonian, he came to be associated more with Philadelphia which he made his home.

A good choice as they’re blue-collared people who love their sport and know Sir John Strawberry only too well.

Now we’re not sure if it still exists but our gurgling googling turned this up

A Three Horshoes pub in Northamptonshire in the English midlands with a brewery with his name.

There is a connection you see with Franklin’s Uncle Thomas and a forge… happy horshoeing.

Martin Van Boozen

Drink up: But Martin Van Buren had a boozy Presidency

Martin Van Buren: And one from left field here.

The eighth President was said to have been born on the floor of his father’s tavern and got a taste of ale there.

The New Yorker is quoted as saying: “If you’re asking if I’d rather be president or not get drunk I think you damn well know the answer to that.”

And that is probably among the reasons he didn’t get re-elected.

Worth noting that the Founding Fathers all drank.

And most of the 45 presidents, bar George W Bush and Donald Trump…

And the latter at least could probably do with a pint just to calm him down.

Rewind too now to the drafting of the US Constitution and the 55 signers celebrated the birth of the fledgling nation with a full-bore blowout.

They put away 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, eight bottles of whiskey (phew)

Twenty-two bottles of port, eight bottles of hard cider, 12 beers and seven bowls of alcoholic punch.

The punch was said to be large enough that one observer said: ‘ducks could swim in them.’

So cheers, and a Hoppy 4th of July to y’all.

 

  
 

 

 

America, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Food & Wine

Chocs away on Easter Sunday

And for many it’s what today is all about… Chocs away on Easter Sunday.

And thoughts away of dem sweet places where I’ve savoured the treat of the Gods.

We have the Central and South Americans to thank for extracting the cacao which makes our chocolate.

And when we want to know more on anything our go-to people are the Smithsonians in Washington DC.

Jumping for joy: It’s Choccie Day

And Hayes Lavis, cultural arts curator for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian has the skinny on chocs.

He tells us that ancient Olmec pots and vessels from around 1500 B.C. were discovered with traces of theobromine.

And for those who know their chocs they’ll recognise that as a stimulant compound found in chocolate and tea.

So now we’ve done the science let’s sample the choccie tastes of the world.

ChocolaTobago

Ground force: In Tobago

And the way to a man’s heart is the love of a daughterie.

So when you come across a chocolate called Laura in the West Indies then you get that special rush.

This Tobago taste of heaven is a French-Caribbean collaboration and named for the manufacturer’s matriarch Laura.

Sold in high-end shops like Harrod’s it’s still best sampled where it’s made, Tobago Cocoa Estate.

Swiss sweet

The Scary One is here: In Switzerland

We all know about Swiss sweets… Toblerone and it’s mountain triangular shapes.

And Lindt which is everywhere of which I was reminded from the minute you arrive in Geneva.

You’d have to tell me if SWISS airline still gives out comp choc to it’s passengers…

I like mine, my Lindt, though like the Asians who love to take selfies at the top of Europe.

To show off to family back home, at the top of the Jungfraujoch.

In Bruges

Flowing nicely: Easter in Bruges

Was I the only one who wondered why a restless Colin Farrell didn’t cure his boredom through chocolate and beer?

Mind you, it would have been a very different movie.

Yes, go up to the cathedral and also check out St Anthony’s tongue.

But the best taste of all in Bruges is their oh-so-tasty chocolate.

Cadbury’s and Brum

Smiles better: Cadbury’s

Now you might not immediately link Bruges in Belgium and Birmingham in England.

But they’re both canal cities, major historical trade hubs.

And they are both hooked on chocolate.

It is no exaggeration to say that Brummie Joseph Cadbury was a chocolate evangelist.

As a Quaker and teetotaller he saw chocolate as a healthy alternative.

Joseph was a general good egg all round (or Cadbury’s Creme Egg) if you will

He set up a village in Bourneville for his workers and provided for all their social, health, education and sporting needs.

And a great pacifist, he even took on Queen Victoria over the Boer War.

All of which you can discover in the excellent Cadbury’s museum.

And finally, a Big Chocolate Apple

The Big Bunny: At Jacques

I’ve always been a great advocate of only having friends in cool places or jobs, or preferably both.

And in return they get the pleasure of hosting me.

Kate is one such, a New Yoiker and food and drinks editor who took La Famiglia Murty around Manhattan.

Chinatown, her own office kitchen on Production Day, and Jacques Torres Chocolate factory.

Now Willie Wonka’s got nothing in Kate or Jacques.

I mean bacon-flavoured chocolate… you read it here first.

Enjoy! Chocs away on Easter.

 

 

America, Countries

Honeymoon in Vegas

If you’ve seen the movie and visited Neon City you’ll know you’re never too far from finding yourself on Honeymoon in Vegas.

Whether you’ve been ‘volunteered’ to get hitched like Martin and Peter at the Graceland Wedding Chapel.

Or you’ve been won over by Cami from Utah at Harrah’s party bar on the Strip then Vegas can tempt you into sealing a deal.

Cami here, love: In Vegas

Vegas has become inexorably linked with a spontaneous and over the top wedding and honeymoon destination.

And unsurprisingly it’s many Americans’ go-to honeymoon holiday according to website Lovehoney who have listed the Insta faves.

And, of course, when you’re romancing in Vegas then you cuddle up with your loved one on the gondola.

Take a gondola 

Hooray for Harrah’s: And The Whip-Its

If you’re lucky enough, and surely your sweetheart deserves the best, you’ll be staying at The Venetian or its sister hotel The Palazzo.

Where clearly the Italian theme continues with fabulous frescoes.

We all know fireworks go off when you’re in love, and fountains spring up.

And in Vegas the nightly Bellagio Fountains display is where the magic happens.

While you shouldn’t miss out either on that Insta must, the Grand Canyon photo backdrop.

While Vegas scores for many, what Americans love most on honeymoon is a bit of hula-hula.

A Hula of love

Aloha Kitty: Hawaii

And a Luau which is an evening of Hawaiian traditional music, dancing and culture.

While a dawn trip up to the summit of Haleakala will give you that earth-stopping moment with your sweetheart.

And it’s what 28,000 snap-happy honeymooners have done.

We heart New York

Lady Liberty: New York

And is there a more romantic setting in the Oo, Es of Eh than Central Park from a horse-drawn carriage.

Unless, of course, you’re at the top of the Empire State Building.

And if you are in an Empire State of Mind and have some music in you then of course you have to head for Broadway.

For Hamilton or whatever else is hot these days.

From Maui to Miami

Another Little Havana: In Biscayne, Miami

And Maui, in second with 7,900 Insta hashtags sits in the archipelago of Hawaii.

It is famed for its volcanic black sand beaches, and I can vouch for the black stuff from Tenerife.

But also its beautiful gardens and the trail to Waimoku Falls.

You’ll not be surprised either to see Floridian favourites Orlando and Miami hashtagged too.

By the experts obviously who know the difference between Little Havana and a Cuban restaurant in Biscayne.

And that top ten again

So if you’re thinking of America for your wedding holiday then go for bust and choose a Honeymoon in Vegas.

Or Maui or New York or Miami or any of these must-visit destinations.

 

 

 

America, Countries, Ireland

Mother’s Day Mother’s Way and New York

It was inevitable. Mother’s Day Mother’s Way and New York and The Happy Wanderer knew just how to play me.

The bould Teasy had taken me as her Plus One to my cousin Eddie’s wedding in the Big Apple.

Where she would preen her feathers and not just those on her hat.

The Irish Diaspora, of which I am of the Scottish variety, know well the awe in which the American wave is held.

And growing up in the Grey Glasgow of the Seventies New York City and my relatives were always held up as the idyll.

Alongside, of course, my Mum’s homeland of Ireland.

Broadway Mammy

This year’s blond: With ‘The Donald’ in New York

I’m in a New York State of Mind today after my old friends from Click&Go flagged up their NY offer to give your Mum for Mother’s Day.

To stay for three nights £619pp in the 4* Row NYC Hotel in the heart of Broadway in May with return flights Dublin to NY.

Give my regards to Row NYC: Broadway

My wee Mammy will be right at home too as she is the biggest diva of them all.

The rule of Mum

Double trouble: And two of my Irish Mammy

But some ground rules this time…

As a seasoned travel professional I know my way around an airport (OK, she doesn’t know the truth so indulge me).

And when your relatives offer to put you up don’t think for them or look a gift horse in the mouth.

It’s an Irish thing! As is demanding to pay the dinner bill.

And I’m reminded of the Irish advert where two oul’ ones batter the hell out of each other for the right to pay.

Shop till you drop

Shopped out: And the only time she’s quiet

Shopping too with any woman is a Herculean ordeal.

And in NY where that means Macy’s then my modus operandi is get in, get out.

Particularly as you can get lost in there.

And there’s no use denying that you had any part in choosing The Scary One’s souvenir.

BTW she still uses the candy pink Guess handbag.

While there’s no talking to a woman who insists on wearing her stilettos on the hop-on, hop-off Manhattan bus.

An Irish homecoming

Donegal calling: At Ballybofey’s Jackson’s Hotel

And as I alluded to The Diva is even more empowered in her homestead of Ireland and her village of Brockagh, Co. Donegal.

Where she was wont to stride down the road with her sisters in her fur coat back on their return to the Bogs of Donegal back in the day.

And all of us, the next generation, revert to (or are reverted to) childhood when our parents have been around. 

A Ballyhoo

Green, green, grass of Ireland: And two peas in a pod

Such as in our old stomping ground of Jackson’s Hotel in Ballybofey.

When in the hotel where here, not Shannon, was where Irish Coffee originated she shared this gem with my Dublin cousin Monica…

‘I’ve four brothers, a husband and three sons and James (my Sunday name) is the most selfish man of them all.’

And this after I’d taken time off and driven her all the way up from Greystones in Co. Wicklow!

Silly old woman had forgotten.

That with her hearing aid in she was speaking louder and I could hear her.

Happy Mother’s Day for Sunday, ye mad thing. 

And for context think Catherine Tate’s alter ego Nan from Nan The Movie.

Meanwhile I’ll daydream about Mother’s Day Mother’s Way and New York.

And much, much more.

 

 

 

America, Countries

This is Wicked and more like Storm Elphaba

Don’t know about you but I don’t think Eunice covers it… this is Wicked and more like Storm Elphaba.

I mean Eunice IS the best Kennedy of them all, JFK’s sister who founded the Special Olympics.

In honour of their sister Rosemary who was institutionalised after a frontal lobotomy.

Or Timothy’s mum from the Bible, a spring nymph from Greek mythology, or randomly Eunice Tate from the sitcom Soap which spawned Billy Crystal.

No, this is Wicked and more like Storm Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, from the musical Wicked.

Life’s a witch

Coven love-in: The Wicked Witches

How Gregory Maguire came up with the idea to give the witches, Elphaba and Glinda. a back story one can only wonder.

But Wicked the Musical is a delight and probably best to wait.

Until the storms subside before visiting your theatre to take in the spectacle.

And it’s playing at the Apollo Victoria in London’s West End.

It was thankfully a clement evening when we were invited by Disney on Broadway to attend the show at the Bord Gais Theatre in Dublin.

We were very glad we dropped in (if you’d indulge us in a Wizard of Oz reference).

The Wizard of Oz, of course, is imprinted in our cultural lives, but alas overlooked by those who name their storms.

I mean did nobody in the think tank put Dorothy forward instead of Dudley?

Wham Baum

Puppy love: Dorothy and Toto

L. Frank Baum’s masterpiece, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, has layers.

And had them long before Shrek, although we’re in no way disparaging the Ogre.

But Baum is credited with satirising American populist politics of the late 19th century.

What we do know is that the author did borrow from a real storm.

A newspaper editor (only the best), Baum was inspired by the twin tornadoes that ripped through the town of Irving, Kansas in 1879.

With one of the victims none other than a Dorothy Gale.

The originals

Straw deal: The Scarecrow

Other aspects of the story relate to Baum’s perigrinations… the community of Castle Park near Holland, Michigan, where he lived during summers.

The yellow brick road was said to have derived from one such in Peeksill, New York.

And Baum knew that from having attended Peekskill Military Academy.

And the characters?

Well, the young Baum, confessed that he was haunted by the thought of a scarecrow chasing him across the fields.

The Tinman was also from his imagination, from shop window displays, while the Lion, well, was just a lion really.

Uncle Henry was Baum’s father-in-law Henry Gage and Auntie Em his mother-in-law.

While the witches were from Auntie Ems’ research, although the modern-day ones do have a hint of my own mother-in-law.

Treading the boards

Ride on: And she looks like a witch

As is the way of these things there is usually an anniversary and this year is no exception.

While Baum’s classic was written in 1900, it first took to the stage on the Chicago Grand Opera House in 1902, before touring the Upper Mid-West.

And then going to the Majestic Theatre in Broadway in NY.

Oz came to most of us, of course, through the 1939 film.

And for one wide-eyed country girl in the bogs of Co. Donegal in the north-west of Ireland it truly was a life-changing experience.

Her first time in a cinema, in Derry, and a life-changing moment when she learned how Travel can change a monochrome world into a technicolor fantasy.

And she has been living that life ever since and passing on that joy of travel to those of us who are blessed to call her Mum.

 

 

 

 

Africa, America, Countries, Culture, Music, South America, UK

Paul Simon, 80 years young today

I often think I was born out of my time… not ahead of it, more behind it, which is why when my peers were expressing their angst through Joy Division I was finding meaning through Paul Simon, 80 years young today.

As the youngest of three boys with a five and eight year gap between us my early influences were The Beatles, The Stones, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Pink Floyd, Heavy Metal… and Simon & Garfunkel.

And as a gangly shy adolescent I find solace in the longing, introverted, wanderer music of Paul Simon… I still do.

The man: Paul Simon

Now there have been rockier, wilder concerts (The Killers, The Proclaimers), equally as iconic singers (David Bowie). and more celebrated venues (OneRepublic in Red Rocks, Colorado) but there have been no more rewarding gigs than Paul Simon on his farewell tour which touched down in Dublin.

So how does your favourite Travel blog mark the 80th birthday of the Poet Laureate of Pop?

Well, by shining a light on the places Rhymin’ Simon loved the most and whose musical influences burst out in his timeless songs.

Apple of his eye

Remember him: ‘The Donald’ in New York

New York: A proud son of Queen’s borough, Simon’s songs about New York are some of the most recognisable about the Big Apple.

The Boxer is a plaintive exploration of down on your luck New York life which includes a reference to the ‘whores on 7th Avenue’.

Simon told the story at a concert of a fan who told him she would sing the song to her child only she changed the words to ‘toy stores’.

There’s something quite playful too about the 59th Street Bridge Song and I referenced it too on my route to the RDS for that 2019 concert.

You’ll find, in truth. New York references in numerous Simon and Simon & Garfunkel songs, some with NY in the title as in The Only Living Boy In New York and the Statue of Liberty in my own favourite, American Tune.

Rainbow Simon

Cool for cats… in the Eastern Cape, South Africa

South Africa: Now, how many of us, hand on heart can say that they knew much South African music before Paul Simon introduced it to a Western audience with his seminal album Graceland.

And, before we get to that, let’s just reference the titular song Graceland, a tribute to Elvis, which Simon revealed was his favourite piece of song-writing (few arguments here).

Of course none of us outside of South Africa knew of Ladysmith Black Mombasa either… but once heard never forgotten.

Simon also opened up the joy of South Africa at a time when understandably we associated the country with injustice, bigotry and hopelessness.

But which lit a fire for many of us to go visit the Rainbow Nation. We give you Simon and the band’s Under African Skies.

Samba music

Get into the beat: In Brazil

Brazil: And once Simon had got on a roll (or a rock’n’roll if you like) he was off to South America.

Who can forget those huge drums on The Obvious Child. Nothing obvious though about the drummers’ talent or Simon’s songwriting.

And finally in an English train station

He was here: Widnes Railway Station plaque

Widnes, England: And, of course, unless you’re a Rugby League fan, you’ll never have been to Widnes in Merseyside.

Unless you’re a budding New York musician (Paul Simon) who was feeling homesick here and penned the classic Homeward Bound. There is a plaque there now.

Or if you’re another budding wordsmith, en route to Liverpool from Scotland (you have to wait here for the next connection) to take the next rung in his celebrated writing career.

But that’s another story.

Happy Birthday Paul Simon, 80 years young today.

 

America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Green Lighting megamix around the world

It’s one of those annoying Government buzzwords so let’s claim it back with a Rainy Days and Songdays Green Lighting megamix around the world. Our favourite songs with ‘green’ in the title and the countries where they transport us.

Wales boyo

Green, Green Grass of Home, Tom Jones, Wales: Down the road I look and there runs Mary, hair of gold and lips like cherries.

Now I dare say most homes have green, green grass unless you live in a very hot country and the land is baked brown. But this just feels Welsh.

That is until you get to the rest of the song and realise that it’s a man on Death Row dreaming of home.

Maybe, Mary had a narrow escape after all. We, though will just imagine it as the beautiful Welsh valleys.

Green Cash

Forty Shades of Green, Johnny Cash: Arkansas and Ireland: The legend is that Johnny was inspired to write this County classic when he looked down from the plane at the patchwork fields of green of Ireland.

As a recruiting call for Ireland our pals at Tourism Ireland would have been proud as in true singer style Johnny namechecks everywhere on the Emerald Island.

Quite who the girl from Tipperary town with the lips like eiderdown is Johnny would never say, perhaps because June would have killed him.

Green Burns Country

Burns Cottage, Alloway,Scotland. https://www.nts.org.uk/visit/places/robert-burns-birthplace-museum

Green Grow The Rashes O, Eddi Reader: Burns and Ayrshire: The sweetest hours that e’er the old poet and ploughman prowler spent were spent among the lasses O.

The old rogue Burns was pure rock’n’roll and could pen a lyric and a tune which is probably why he is held in such high regard by the greatest singer-songwriters of the latter half of the 20th century.

With Bob Dylan, no less, crediting the Scot as his greatest inspiration.

And Henry VIII I am

Greeensleeves, King Henry VIII/Ralph Vaughan Williams, Berkshire: And another old lothario here with King Henry VIII said to have written this for Anne Boleyn.

What better tune then for an English rose to walk up the aisle to in her home county of Berkshire.

My Scary One has lost her head plenty of times since… but that’s been with me.

Vini Verde

Night at the opera: In Prague

La Boheme, Giuseppe Verdi: Prague: No, a non-green tune didn’t slip through. Giuseppe Verdi would actually be Joe Green in English.

The Milanese Verdi had the support of Gaetano Donizetti from nearby Bergamo whom he visited in Vienna which, of course, was the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

And that included Bohemia, or the current-day Czech Republic where the thing to do when you’re in Prague is take in a production at the opera house.

Poppies and Green Fields

No Man’s Land

The Green Fields of France, The Fureys and Davey Arthur, The Somme: And in the mud of the Somme the soldiers’ minds would drift off to some verdant pasture and memories of precious moments with a loved one.

Every nation sacrificed its most promising generation in No Man’s Land but for those from the furthest outposts of Empire… well, it just seems to be all the more pointless to modern sensibilities.

Eric Bogle, a Scots-born Australian, explores the pyschological cost to one survivor ‘young Willie McBride’. And it was all the more poignant after I’d seen the statue of the Scots soldier in northern France.

And another one to make you cry

Memphis Blues

Green Onions, Booker T. & the MGs: Memphis: In the home of the Blues, Memphis, Booker T & the MGs came up with their signature instrumental tune.

The story goes that the Stax house band were waiting around for the Sun artist and rockabilly singer Billy Lee Riley to turn up and developed the song.

And why Green Onions? Well Booker T. Jones self-deprecatingly said it was because green onions were the nastiest thing he could think of and something you could throw away. We never would.

Ol’ Green Eyes… well, Blue, but!

Little Green Apples, Frank Sinatra: New Jersey and New York: And a lot more digestible with this old standard covered by all the crooners.

But of all the crooners, none compare with the Boy from Hoboken, New Jersey who made it there in New York, and elsewhere.

And just like Johnny Cash from another song, Frank does his best to include the whole country, in this case America.

So a shout-out to Disneyland, Doctor Seuss in Springfield Massachussetts.

And Indianapolis where it don’t rain in the summertime and Minneapolis where it doesn’t snow when the winter comes. All of which it does to

Beret good

Ballad of the Green Beret, Sgt Barry Sadler/Dolly Parton: Take your pick, the clean-shaven All-American Boy, soldier turned actyor Barry Sadler or Miss American PIe herself, Tennessee’s Dolly.

Either way it’s flag-waving, Americana. And even if you don’t know the song you’ll recognise the tune.

Particularly if you’re a fan of Celtic FC who famously play in green and white hoops and who have adapted the song and lyrics into a favourite fans’ song With a Four-leaf Clover on My Breast.

The evergreen Cliff

Green Light, Cliff Richard, India, England, Portugal and Barbados: And there are few more wholesome and clean-cut than Our Cliff.

The evergreen Cliff belts this one out from the Seventies.

The Peter Pan of Pop who was born in India, grew up in England, and has had homes in Portugal and Barbados, though he is selling up in Bim (and yes I’m interested).

When it gets the Green Light.

 

 

 

 

 

Africa, America, Countries, Europe, Music

Rainy Days and Songdays my Oscars favourite songs

In no particular order, and for the day that’s in it, it’s Rainy Days and Songdays – my Oscars favourite songs.

It was something daring, I guess, to award a Best Original Song at the Academy Awards in 1934.

But it was probably a dancing shoe-in for Hollywood superstars Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ The Continental.

Dance away

If Fred and Ginger were around today then they’d glide easily down the fabled stairs of the Dolby Theater.

But they are there out front in the Walk of Fame.

All of which we can channel, and which every waiter dreams of aspiring too, in Los Angeles and his environs.

The Continental is one of my Oscar favourite songs and set the standard for every Best Original Song to come.

And in truth for every Over the Rainbow and White Christmas there is a Chim-Chim-Cheree and an I Just Called To Say I Love You too.

Gong with a song

The standard is off the chart which is why the usual Fab Five becomes a Top Ten this week for My Oscars favourites.

10 When You Wish Upon A Star, Pinnochio (1940): 

Pure Disney, and what’s wrong with that.

But this is the craftmanship of Florentine Carlo Collodi so let’s give the Tuscans a shout-out as ‘anything your heart desires will come to you.’

Take it away Cliff Richards as Jimmy Cricket.

9 Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, Song of the South (1947): 

One of Disney’s more forgettable films and ‘containing outdated language’ though I just dwell on the Deep South music.

James Baskett’s deep anthem is about as happy a song as you’ll ever hear.

And in a cutesie overload Mr Bluebird’s on James’s shoulder too. Everything truly is satisfactual!

8 Three Coins In The Fountain (1954): 

No me neither, nor the singers Clifton Webb, Dorothy McGuire and Jean Peters who each sang the titular song.

But anyone who has ever been to the Trevi Fountain in Rome will either hear someone singing it there while throwning coins over their head into the water.

Or they will be encouraged to do so.

Singing Cowboys

7 Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969):

And if you love the Wild West  then you’ll love the scene where Paul Newman (Butch) and Katharine Ross (Etta) mess about on the bicycle in Utah.

And Burt Bacharach’s velvety lyrics and BJ Thomas’s smooth delivery set it all off.

6 The Time Of My Life, Dirty Dancing (1987): 

The beauty of a good song is trying to recreate it in your bedroom which is what hairbrushes were made for, although Patrick Swayze’s quiff just came naturally.

But if you truly want to channel your inner Johnny and Baby then you’ll want to get out to Lake Lure Inn & Spa in North Carolina.

And have Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes on the boom box.

5 The Streets of Philadelphia (1993): 

You’re probably exhausted after that (I know I am) so let’s slow it down with the Boss’s evocative and powerful Streets of Phladelphia.

Of course, the actual streets of Philadelphia aren’t as gut-wrenchingly emotional as this song and are actually fun-packed as this vid shows.

Better still if you go to Philly the City of Brotherly Love, and find out for yourself.

Drum roll please

4 Born Free (1966): 

And another to pull on your heartstring with the story of Joy and George Adamson, played by real-life couple Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers.

They released Elsa the Lioness into adulthood and released her into the wilds of Kenya.

All of which brings back warm memories of meeting our lioness out in the Eastern Cape in South Africa.

And yes, I sang Matt Monro’s classic in my head then… I didn’t want to stir my lioness.

3 White Christmas, Holiday Inn (1942):

Many of us are probably unaware of Irving Berlin’s inspiration for the best-selling song of all time (I was).

Berlin, a Jew, who didn’t celebrate Christmas had all the more reason to get maudlin on December 25.

His three-week-old son died on that day in 1928. Bing Crosby gives it a timeless uplifting feel.

2 Over The Rainbow, The Wizard of Oz (1939):

And the ultimate in what Daddy’s Little Girl so beautifully puts it, a Happy Sad Song.

And layering on the sentamentality it was the first movie my Dear Old Mum saw in her nearest big city, Derry.

She recalls the switch from black and white to colour seemed like magic to an 11-year-old country girl.

A country girl like Kansas lass Dorothy.

And the winner is…

1 Moon River, Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961): 

Tiffany’s in New York is no more magical than any other jewellery store methinks.

But perhaps that’s because I’m an alpha male bloke, while Breakfast to me is a bagel.

Put them together though and Breakfast At Tiffany’s carries you off to a wonderful escapist world.

It’s the adventurer in me andyou had me Audrey Hepburn at ‘there’s such a lot of world to see.’

So these are my Oscar favourite songs. Now what about you? 

 

 

America, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Watching the Detectives

Just like watching the detectives don’t get cute, just like watching the detectives, I get so angry when the teardrops start, But he can’t be wounded ’cause he got no heart. Elvis Costello, Watching the Detectives

And with apologies to the Poet Laureate of New Wave.

But it’s not the bespectacled one but the new run of Line of Duty, shot in Belfast, which has got me thinking.

About my favourite detectives in the cities they are associated with.

So here are seven deadly detective shows, their music and their cities.

Van’s the man

žCan I be trusted on a bike? In Amsterdam

Van der Valk, Amsterdam: So good they kept a sample of the Simon Park Orchestra’s original score ‘Eye Level’ for the reworking of the original series.

And even then purists lambasted the modern version and Marc Warren’s ‘Piet’ as opposed to Barry Foster’s.

And don’t you just love the cluttered narrow bars they all drink in.

Hutch more New York

My New York

Starsky & Hutch, New York: Starsky & Hutch was the breakthrough police show for young people more used to oldie cops.

Good, yes, like the lollipop-sucking Theo Kojak. And, yes, we loved you, baby, too!

But Starsk and Hutch and Huggy Bear brought a street vibe, slapstick and more New York life.

As did the Stiller and Wilson remake with Snoop Dogg as Huggy Bear captured the excitement and warmth and music of the original.

Glasgow is No Mean City

Glasgow wit

Taggart, Glasgow: And who would have thought they could have made grey post-industrial Glasgow cool in the Eighties?

But they did and you knew you were in for something different when the credits rolled.

And Maggie Bell gave us a smoky, bluesy No Mean City, a homage to a gangster novel about Twenties Gorbals Glasgow.

London, you’re nicked

Two English and a Scotsman

The Sweeney: Regan and Carter were the Line of Duty of their day, the water-cooler show before water coolers.

Again another they made a remake of, with only Ray Winstone able to reprise John Thaw, while Plan B took on Dennis Waterman.

The Winstone opening scene had a car chase around Trafalgar Square while Thaw’s played out more on wasteland.

But London sizzled from the moment the Thames TV with its iconic St Paul’s graphic came up… and who can forget the theme tune?

Monsieur Bean?

Maigret, Paris: And it was always going to require us to make a shift to see Mr Bean as Monsieur Maigret.

Mais oui, Rowan Atkinson pulled it off, with that brooding sense of contemptuous arrogance we so love about Parisians.

And who doesn’t love an accordion?

Naturellement, you would want to show off the City of Lights if you set your show here.

Which is why it was shot in Budapest with Szentendre doubling for the Montmartre.

Across the Channel

Sunny Jersey

Bergerac, Jersey: And a little bit of sun came into our lives in the Eighties.

In the only part of the UK where they get sun… in Jersey, on the doorstep of France.

As none of us can identify a Jersey site from a Jersey cow then their first image was a map of the island.

Before we get action clips of dunes and John Nettles running after high-end crooks.

Old at the time, Johnnie then retired to Midsomer.

Deadly Caribbean

Nylon Pool, Tobago

Death in Paradise, Guadeloupe: No mon, it’s not Saint Marie, but Guadeloupe.

It lies halfway down the eastern Caribbean chain between Dominica and Antigua.

And it has some of the features you’d expect in a West Indian island, a volcano, sandy beaches obvs and a rainforest.

And you’ll get some of this and more of the other in Tobago and Barbados

All good and varied locales for misdemeanour and murder.

And all set against an uplifting score and, if you know your stuff, homages to the film The Harder They Come.

So to cheer your day up here’s some Jimmy Cliff ‘You Can Get It If You Really Want‘.