I must have been one of the very few kids in Glasgow to be lullabied to sleep with old Republican songs… and because of that and my own journey I’m an avowed internationalist republican which is why today I say Vive La Republic of Barbados.
And Bim, as it is affectionately known (hence me being known on the island as Bim Jim) is the talk of the Scottish and British Travel scene with the Bridgetown route rolling out from Edinburgh next month.
Now to celebrate Barbados becoming the latest country to throw off the shackles of monarchy and go out on their own, here’s to all those nations who have taken their destiny in their own hands.
And decided to be governed by one of their own.
Now a true republic, just like a true democracy or a true anything these days in double speak, is a moveable object.
But you’ve got to start somewhere which is why we’re going with 160 (now Barbados have signed up).
All republics lead from Rome
And if you know you’re Classic History, and my Latin is better than my Ancient Greek then you’ll know that republic derives from the two Latin words res and publica (public thing).
So that’s one of the famous things that ‘the Romans did for us’ although, of course, if you’re British then it’s an experiment from which we’ve run far away.
Apart, of course, from a brief period from 1649-1660 when these islands of Britain and Ireland entered into a Commonwealth which was really a theocracy.
But while Westminster claims to be the mother of all parliaments (doubtful, and Europe’s oldest in Iceland might have something to say about that).
It’s Rome which is the mothership of all republics, and we have the good fortune that the Forum, the hub of Roman public life is still there.
No fools those Ancient Romans though with their togas as I found out when I almost fainted in the Eternal City heat in my modern clothes.
An Italian fixture
Now where Rome led the rest of Italy followed.
And chief among them was the 1100-year Venetian Republic which still styles itself thus and is hewn into every gondola and the very bricks of the Campanile.
Florence, Siena, Amalfi, Pisa and Genoa all saw what the Doges were doing and how fetching their hats were and followed suit.
But the republicaniest of all the republics and the longest-standing is San Marino.
And so what they lack in football skills (0-10 v England) they more than make up for in their political skills.
La Republique, mais oui
Ah, yes, the French. like so much, would have us believe that they are the shining light of Republics.
So much so that they have had five of them ever since Corsican Napoleon got le ball rolling.
Notre ami soon decided though that L’empereur sounded so much better…
And he did that with one arm behind his back (or affectedly tucked in his jacket then).
It must be a poncey royal thing because the UK’s Prince Charles who very graciously decided to attend the signing-over papers to the Bajans (and bag himself some sun at the time) does pretty much the same thing.
And on a tangent we’ll not say anything about the carbon footprint, Prince Save The World.
None of us are perfect, of course, it’s just the rest of us don’t bleat on about it and preach to the rest of us who do hop on planes.
Middle Ages and Middle Europe
The breeding ground for republics in the Middle Ages was what we now know as Germany.
And a quick count chronicles 62 in the northern European powerhouse.
All of which would be a good exercise and excuse to traverse modern-day Germany with a Michael Portillo type notebook.
I’d have to start in my favourite German city Hamburg first of course.
There are some who have gone the opposite way to the Bajans and jumped from republic to monarchy like the Dutch.
Others who have had a brief dalliance with republicanism, Catalonia, and still have hopes of a return to those halcyon days.
Battle hymn of the Republic
Yes, their eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
And while the North eulogised its Republic, the South too held its close to its bosom, albeit for just five years.
That said the Confederate States of America still exist in the hearts and minds of many in the Deep South.
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.
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
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.