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.

 

 

 

 

 

Countries, Culture, Europe, Pilgrimage

Holocaust Memorial Day

It was a moral dilemma to test the wisdom of Solomon himself, if bombing Auschwitz would justify the loss of life.

A major consideration was that Hitler’s Third Reich would paint the Allies as anti-Semitic.

History tells us that bombs did rain down on Auschwitz but the damage and deaths to inmates and guards were collateral damage.

Behind the wire: Auschwitz

From a raid on a nearby industrial installation.

It was the Soviets who eventually liberated Auschwitz. 76 years ago today, January 27.

And in the the aftermath of the War the Poles decided to preserve Auschwitz.

Dramatic Dachau

Lest We Forget Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen and Dachau and the 20+ other Third concentration camps in tbs Third Reich.

Dachau may seem a strange inclusion in a Topdeck Oktoberfest bus booze tour.

But the first German concentration camp left a lasting mark on the Aussie and Kiwi (and one Scot) hard-drinkers.

Manassas battlefield in Virginia

War tourism is not for everyone and its critics decry it as mawkish, but it is for me.

And I would much rather visit the Flanders Fields and the Somme, the American Civil War Manassas battefield, Anne Frank’s House and Dresden than sit on a beach.

Although thankfully they’re not mutually exclusive for the curious visitor.

Old Town Krakow

My passion for history has thankfully been taken up by my family (they had little choice).

And the Son and Heir sought out Auschwitz on his trip to Krakow for World Youth Day.

Of course, you can only truly appreciate the gravitas of these concentration camps by visiting them.

But since we all can’t go we must rely on the witness testimonies of those who survived its horrors.

And those of us who pay our respects.

Africa, America, Asia, Australasia, Canada, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

VE Day – The unknown soldiers

They make easy targets for class warriors but on days of military commemoration, like today VE Day, the British Royal Family are entitled to raise their heads high.

Prince Philip was first lieutenant (second-in-command) on board the HMS Wallace during the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1942.

When the Luftwafffe began their bombardment of the waters.

 

Another war… but the same sacrifice

Yeoman Harry Hargreaves revealed back in 2003 how Philip duped the enemy and saved the ship and all on it.

By persuading his captain to drop a raft overboard, set it alight, and deceive them into bombing that instead.

And so as Prince Charles, whose own military career is distinguished, laid a wreath today at Balmoral to the Fallen, and the Queen spoke to the Nation…

It is well to remember that we wer all in the same fight in World War II. And now.

 

My Great-Uncle Willie

What we all do after we get out of this we’ll have to wait and see, and there will be a clamour for sun and sand.

My friends in the Caribbean take note.

While some will seek remote holidays, others adventure, while still others walking holidays.

And all are on my list.

But I will, as I’ve always done, continue to visit the places and commemorate those who fell in war around the world.

 

Cavernous destruction… in Flanders

Like I did when I was invited to lay the wreath at the daily Last Post commemoration at the Menin Gate in Ieper (Ypres).

Where my Great Uncle Willie lies in a graveyard of identically-sized crosses (no hierarchy in death).

And where I was the first of his relatives to see him, plant a wooden cross and say The Lord’s Prayer.

His brother Patrick has his name inscribed among the tens of thousands of missing on the arch at Thiepval.

 

Everyone a hero: Great-Uncle Pat and the Missing at Thiepval

I have been fortunate enough to trot the globe but I have never felt as moved.

Or deeply grateful than when I knelt before Great Uncle Willie’s grave.

And though I never knew him, or those he fought with or against, I commend them and those who care for their last resting places.

And not just today but every day of every year.

 

Trench warfare: At The Somme

I visited the World War I battlefields, Ieper and The Somme with GTI, the Group Travel Specialists https://gtitravel.ie and In Flanders fields.

And also visit www.visitflanders.com and https://www.visit-somme.com/great-war

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Trawling the graveyards of history

I’m dying to share this… how one woman is remembered in the Caribbean.

From the inscription which marks the span of her life.

From sunrise to sunset…

You have to think that Emily was a ray of sunshine herself.

Well, she was from Tobago, an island where rain is known as liquid sunshine… www.visittobago.gov.tt.

Insert your own caption here

And I left with a mountain of memories… It’s Robinson Crusoe’s very own Tobago and I should cocoa – Christmas in Tobago.

I was thinking about death today (no, not a heavy Saturday night) but a regular occurrence.

After visiting the ancient burial ground of Glendalough, Co. Wicklow, near my home here in Ireland.

 

It’s a mystery: In Tobago

I may well have inherited my fascination for graveyards from my Dear Old Dad who I’ll meet there one day.

The Tobagonians have a unique way of seeing life… and death.

As evidenced by this riddle on what has become the most famous grave on the island.

Riddle me this: In Tobago

So that you don’t have to strain your eyes too much the gist of the inscription on the 1783 grave in Plymouth reads in part:

‘She was a mother without knowing it, and a wife without letting her husband know it except by her kind indulgences to him.’

Riddles in Tobago

Now we were asked by our hosts the same question they pose to every visitor: ‘What the heck does it mean?’

My answer, the obvious one, is it’s a woman, whoever knows what goes on in their minds.

Marilyn and me: LA

I keep my eyes open for graves and final resting places wherever I go.

Just this year I discovered that Marilyn Monroe’s final resting place is off a busy street in LA… www.visitcalifornia.com and www.discoverlosangeles.com.

Where she is forced to spend eternity with her old nemesis Hugh Hefner which I tell you all about on this blog… My weekend with Marilyn

 

You can’t pick your neighbours

Of course, graveyards have strong personal connections to those who are related to, or are friends of the deceased.

World War I battlefields

Such as when I was the first of my family to kneel at the graveyard of my Great Uncle Willie who fell in Ieper, or Ypres.

While on that tour of the World War I battlefields In Flanders fields with www.gtitravel.ie and www.visitflanders.com and http://www.visit-somme.com I visited the Canadian and German memorials.

The Canadian memorial with its Caribou statue has a special resonance for my family as Grandpa George fought for the Canadian Army.

And met Granny Mary, a nurse, when he returned to Scotland.

A South African tale

War and graveyards tend to go hand in hand.

And in a visit to the Eastern Cape in South Africa at the start of the year What’s new pussycat? I braved the cold and the damp…

And the big game to visit the graveyard of an Afrikaans resistance fighter from the Boer War…

Of course hanging around graveyards at this time of year you’re liable do get some spooky vibes.

And the lines between this life and the next can become blurred.

Make of me and my colleagues from that trip to South Africa what you will… www.southafrica.net.

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Every day’s a poppy day

Take up your quarrel with the foe.

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with those who die.

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant-Colonel John McRae, Canadian Expeditionary Force

Shadows of history

This week I will wear my red poppy cufflinks with pride, pride that my paternal grandfather fought and was gassed out of the front.

And returned to Scotland to marry an Irish nurse.

If he hadn’t my father wouldn’t have come along and wouldn’t have met his own Irish nurse.

Who herself hailed from a proud Irish Nationalist family who gave two sons, my Great-Uncles, to the cause.

My story will be a familiar one, a heroic one, of extraordinary, ordinary people, Irish, Scottish, English, Canadian, American, German… from all around the world.

In the trenches

I stood by my Great-Uncle Willie’s gravestone in Ypres, the first of my family to pray by his cross since he fell.

I found Great Uncle Patrick’s name too among those of the missing on the Thiepval arch.

And I also visited Canadian and German cemeteries, a lake made out of the crater from the bombs, and a trench.

All on my GTI The Group Travel Specialists https://gtitravel.ie trip to Flanders https:www.visitflanders.com/en/?country=en_GB and the Somme https://www.visit-somme.com/great-war.

GTI offers a four days WW1 Flanders & The Somme, price from €697pps. Dates available 07 Apr 2020 – 10 Apr 202024 May 2020 – 27 May 202025 Jul 2020 – 28 Jul 202010 Sep 2020 – 13 Sep 2020

Mu Great-Uncle Patrick

I have had to defend my wearing of the red poppy while living these past 13 years in Ireland, which I’m happy to do, for my Grandpa and my Great-Uncles.

A symbol of peace

The objection is that the red poppy is worn for the fallen of all British soldiers across all conflicts.

Which includes the Troubles and also raises the thorny subject of Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972.

I understand the difficulties for some over that, my Grandfather having lived a large part of his life there.

Many of my aunts, and an uncle, having been born there, and Grandpa having run pubs there over a period which also covered The Troubles.

The Canadian cemetery

I have also fielded criticisms from friends (they’re still friends) who say the red poppy has been appropriated by big commerce and narrow nationalism.

I can only say that I have had similar journeys of conscience regarding the red poppy.

But my visit to Flanders and the Somme have focused me on the universality of the human sacrifice there.

How all the crosses regardless of social status are the same size and pristine white.

I was touched by the respect shown by the youths of so many nations there.

Man-made crater

And was honoured to be picked with my good friend Dominic Burke, MD of Travel Centres, to present the wreath at the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate, Ieper.

I will light my candle on Sunday and watch it flicker, blow it out and then reflect on the fragility of life and the permanence of death.

And the greatest sacrifice any human can make, to give up their life for their friends.

Here is my tribute… In Flanders fields.