America, Asia, Canada, Central America, Culture, Sport, UK

Queer how offside Qatar is to the world

It’s become a fixture on the party and social calendar in the West but, of course, Pride is a revulsion elsewhere in the world, and in this World Cup year isn’t it queer how offside Qatar is to the world?

Now the football world (a different universe, of course) turned a blind eye to the Emirate’s discrimination and criminalisation of the LGBTQIA community when awarding Qatar the hosting of this winter’s World Cup.

Flagging up an issue: With Qatar

And quite what that’ll mean to LGBTQIA football fans who are wanting to follow their countries’ fortunes then we’ll try here to decipher.

While we all know too that of the hundreds of footballers, coaching staff and officials taking part not one will be LGBTQIA.

And that will get FIFA off the hook… and there won’t be anybody queer in that organisation either.

A word from the sponsors

Take that: The Qataris

Football’s World Cup is, of course, more than a sporting event.

It is a cultural, educational example and the tourist trip football fans have been planning for years.

So make of these welcoming words if you will from Qatari official Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Ansari

‘If he (a fan) raised the rainbow flag and I took it from him, it’s not because I really want to really take it to really insult him.

‘But to protect him. Because if it’s not me, somebody else around him might attack (him).

‘Watch the game. That’s good. But don’t really come in and insult the whole society because of this.

‘Reserve the room together, sleep together – this is something that’s not in our concern. We are here to manage the tournament.

‘Let’s not go beyond the individual personal things which might be happening between these people… this is actually the concept.’

Right, where do we start? The Major General’s assertion that he really wants to protect ‘them’?

Qatari protection

Sheikh it off: The Qataris

So, protecting them then would be not exposing them to a punishment of up to seven years in prison and a fine.

And the possibility of death penalty if you are indigenous.

Of course this is for men because just like in Victorian Britain lesbianism wasn’t even considered thing despite upper-class society’s obsession with all things Classical where the Sapphists were chronicled.

Maybe here too Major General you might think.

About criminalising the people who would attack an innocent person simply because which sex they love.

And then what about their concession to gay visitors that they can ‘reserve the room together, sleep together’?

Well evidence this very year has shown that FIFA recommended hotels in Qatar are actively refusing to accommodate same-sex couples.

Or ‘these people’ as the Major General calls them.

Of course it’s not as if we hadn’t been warned.

Bla, bla Blatter

Out of touch: Sepp Blatter

That bastion of integrity, former FIFA chief Sepp Blatter had thought it all a big joke.

When he was asked about a lack of gay rights in Qatar shortly after they were selected in 2010… ‘They should refrain from any sexual activities.’

And the Qataris, naturally, must have seen this as a green light.

Because three years later the head of Qatar’s World Cup bid team, Hassan al-Thawadi, said that everybody was welcome at the event, so long as they refrained from public display of affection.

‘Public display of affection is not part of our culture and tradition’.

To which you can justifiably add… and particularly not when you’re holding hands with, or kissing, a member of the same sex.

American continental LGBTI army

The right path: Pride in West Hollywood

We can console ourselves somewhat that the next World Cup will be held in the USA, Canada and Mexico.

Where people are allowed to express themselves and love each other how they want.

Let’s hope too that by then there will be more than one openly gay professional footballer in the English league structure.

And that this is replicated throughout the country.

And that the sports whitewashing by Middle Eastern and Gulf countries who are buying up, or have bought up Europe’s biggest clibs, does not deter LGBTQIA players from coming out.

Now we’ll leave this heavy but necessary subject.

To get back to checking out where I can get my best Pride experience around here in sleepy North Berwick, near Edinburgh.

A Dutch of class

The future is Oranje: The Oranje Army

But before we go, big hats with feathers off.

To the Dutch politician who suggested that the Netherlands national team play in pink rather than their traditional orange, in solidarity with the LGBTI community.

We’ve not heard whether that this is being taken up by the Dutch football federation.

But having partied with the inclusive Oranje Army on the way to Rotterdam to see them play Greece a number of years ago…

We know the supporters’ only rule is that you love Total Football.


Central America, Culture, Europe, UK

The totemic Mexicans off to COP26

The world is coming to Glasgow at the end of this month which gives us a reason to focus on the totemic Mexicans off to COP26. Every day is a school day.

Why totemic Mexicans I hear you ask.. well, why not?

And the proud hombres have never been backward in coming forward… Pancho Sanchez anyone?

And so to the mission in hand..

An indigenous community in Mexico is sending a message to Biden, Johnson, Putin, Xi Jinping, Merkel, Macron et al and let’s hope they stand up and take notice.

And it is shaped in the form of a hand-carved totem that is travelling 9000km from the Totonacapan region.

A little bit of Mexico

Things are looking up: The totem

Totem Latamat is travelling to cultural hubs across the UK before being placed in The Hidden Gardens in Glasgow which will host Indigenous elders and the Sacred Fire for the duration of the conference.

Who knew?

Well, the totem is cut from a single cedar tree and stands 4.5m tall.

After COP26 the totem will be returned to the earth in a ceremony hosted in Dumfries.

All of this is part of ORIGINS, a year-long Indigenous and art and culture festival showcasing the work of leading  artists and activists exploring the themes of climate, Covid and colonialism.

And the man behind it all is artist Jun Tiburico, a painter, earth sculptor, and poet in the Indigenous language of Totonac.

A language apart

I’ve got my eye on you: Mexican culture

Jun has exhibited his work across the globe and is the ambassador of the Totonac language.

And if that’s not enough, he is also the founder and artistic consultant of the Cumbre Tajin Papantla Cultural Festival, in the state of Veracruz (and, no she’s not Penelope’s sister).

So, a lot to absorb there.

And as usual, I suppose you want me to fill in the gaps.

And it’s one of 68

Looking at you Xi: And a warning to the world leaders

Totonac is one of 68 native languages in Mexico with more than 350 linguistic variants.

Just so you know should you think that a burst of La Bamba or an arriba, arriba andale arriba, will draw some interest from the central Mexicans.

And the Cumbre Tajin Papantia Cultural Festival?

Well, our amigos (and excuse me for falling into lazy Spanish) give us the lowdown.

‘Cumbre Tajin is an annual spring equinox festival that takes place in Papantla, Mexico. It’s a celebration of Totonac culture as well as indigenous cultures from around the world.

‘With more than 5,000 activities and 300 artists, it has workshops, craft shows, holistic healing, music, dance, and spectacular light shows at the El Tajin archaeological zone.’

A word on the totem

Blessings on you: The ritual

And maybe a word from Jun: ‘For the Totonac people, birds are our messengers.

‘In the totem, they tell us that we must take care of all life…

‘At the top of the totem are hummingbirds, representing the aspiration for a new consciousness: they are messengers of peace between humans and nature. And I’ll vouch for that as I found in Tobago.

‘The face on the reverse represents the state of emergency in the world.

‘We are so close to reaching the peak of this crisis and the raised arms of the Totonac culture represent the
balance that we must find in the mind and the heart.

‘We need to act quickly to care for the world through prayers, thoughts, connections, and laws.’

Mexican wave

Give it a shake: The maracas

So we’ll be keeping an eye on the passage on their way, the totemic Mexicans off to COP26.

And here’s where it’s going…

18th – 21st October
Rollright Stones, Oxfordshire

21st – 24th October
Manchester University

24th – 27th October
Hexham Abbey

27th October – 14th November
Hidden Garden, Glasgow

From 14th November
Return to Earth Ceremony
The Crichton, Dumfries

Speedy ye back: And it had to be Senor Gonzalez

And we expect to see them in Dumfries when they meet up with the totemic figure of travel.


America, Countries

Snowbirds down to Florida

If little birds fly south for winter then why, oh, why can’t I…

With apologies to Judy Garland who I’m sure joined the snowbirds down to Florida.

In any normal year getting away from the dark and the cold of a Northern European winter to Florida is a no-brainer.

Which is why our Floridian friends would always make a point of getting me and my Travel professional friends out there then.


American Holidays know me only too well… and you too.

And they are luring us (it doesn’t take much) back out to the Sunshine State with this goodie to sample.

Now President Biden is making positive noises.

He is vowing to have all American adults vaccinated in the next few months.

And vaccine passports on the way, with me with my ten-year American visa in place, then I’m all good to go.


Love a duck: At Epcot Centre, Florida

And both these offers have Orlando at their heart.

They have a ten-night getaway to Orlando and Daytona Beach.

We know about magical Orlando but what about Daytona...? Well, for starters, it has 23 miles of sandy coastline.

And that means watersports… so a deep breath, hold your nose and jump in.

There’s paddle boarding, surfing, kayaking and parasailing.

With the last of those the only one I’ve not failed at, and only because I’ve not tried it.

Florida winter sun

I’m safer on a watching brief, checking out the dolphins and manatee on a tour.

They also recommend renting a bike (no guarantee of me not messing that up) and experiencing the thrills of the Boardwalk & Pier.

And tour Daytona International Speedway… and remember this is a state that loves its thrills.

While if you just want to take it all in from up above then climb to new heights at Ponce Inlet Lighthouse.

Tuck in: Biscayne in Miami

Check out the package Orlando & Daytona Beach,which comes in at, from €999pp

Areeba to Mexico

And don’t shoot me but I’ll be hoping to spend this December in Florida like I have before… and looking out over to the Gulf of Mexico.

Miami is always a must-see and you can spend three nights in the Art Deco city while also taking in South Beach, one of America’s best loved beaches!

Colourful Miami

Spend time exploring the sultry neighbourhood of Little Havana, home to a large Cuban community, and it’s not the one I thought it was, Biscayne.

If you’re not partied out (and even if you are) then take in seen nights all-inclusive in Mexico.

So you’ll be back in the water for those wet sports.

But if you prefer a shot of culture (and Tequila) then explore the Mayan archaeological sites, including the ruins at Tulum.

Then there’s tbe pyramids at Uxmal and the temple of Chichen Itza, one fo the New Seven Wonders of the World.

The package comes in at €12399pp.


America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Music

Rainy Days and Songdays – Si Senor, we can boogie

We all need a certain song and for us Scots that certain song is Spanish disco classic Yes Sir, I Can Boogie.

The story goes that one of the Scottish footballers who qualified for the Euros, Andrew Considine, had sung the song on a bachelor’s party while dressed in drag.

And the squad adopted it and partied to it after they beat Serbia to qualify for the finsls.

Boogie nights

All night long: Andrew Considine (centre)

It’s not unusual for Scottish men to wear skirts, of course.

And some of us have even twirled the skirt in destinations from Ireland to France to Turkey.

And all the better when it’s to a Spanish beat.

Mad Madrid for it

Yes Sir I Can Boogie (Baccara): And Mayte and Maria are two Madridistas.

Who reached No.1 in the UK in 1977 for a week at a time when Scotland were again on a roll and preparing for a World Cup.

The two senoritas went onto represent randomly Luxembourg at Eurovision.

Where they finished seventh behind winners Israel but two places ahead of the Spanish entrant.

Maracca cracka

Where’s the hat?

Y Viva Espana (Sylvia): That’ll be Sylvia Vrethammar to you and me.

Sylvia Vretwho… well, yes, she was the chirpy Swede who held her Spanish hat coquettishly before launching into this party favourite.

Which every family sang on their way to Spain, and yes, guilty as I tagged along with my family to Ibiza.

The track which Sylvia took to No.4 in the UK charts was actually written by a couple of Belgians and did the rounds in Europe in a number of languages.

Macarena in the arena

Macarena (Los del Rio): Always better in the Spanish with Los del Rio meaning Those from the River… and Macarena, well the name of a woman

And these guys hail from Dos Hermanas, near Seville in Andalusia.

This duo, Antonio Romario Monge and Rafael Ruiz Perdigones, were formed in 1962 – and remember The Beatles first charted in the UK that year.

It took the two amigos 33 years to get their ten minutes of fame and Billboard named the best one-hit wonder of all time.

Though they had to settle for No.2 in the UK.

Wham bam Bamboleo

Bamboleo (Gipsy Kings): And this literally means wobble although it is slightly more sensual to describe it as swing.

The band are Gitano-French, Romani or gipsies, from Arles and Montpelier in the French Riviera, hence the title they gave themselves,

Can’t find the chart position here for Bamboleo, a bit of a wobble here on my part then.

And La Bamba too

La Bamba (Ritchie Valens): Ritchie Valenzuela achieved immortality through this song.

Born in LA, the son of Mexicans, Ritchie’s life was snuffed out in the same plane crash that claimed the lives of Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper.

Lou Diamond Philipps played Ritchie in the 1987 biopic where Los Lobos had a No.1 international hit with the song (Ritchie had only got to No.49).

So in tribute to the Spanish sound I’m off to practise my boogie ahead of the Euros.