America, Asia, Countries, Europe, Sport

Marathon mania

Men and women in spacesuits and the front and back of horses, it’s Marathon mania on London Marathon Day.

So we’re going right back to the start to 490BC and Philippedes who famously ran 26 miles 385 yards to warn Athens the Persians were coming.

Because, of course they didn’t have social media back then.

And they’re off: On the Marathon

Nor sat-nav, cars or even signposts which of course we all have now.

Marathon, signposts for which you can see in the Greek capital, obviously makes a big thing of Philippedes.

And his modern-day successor Spiridon Louis, the first Marathon gold-medallist of the 1896 Modern Olympics.

All at the Marathon Run Museum.

Phil steam ahead

Cool it: On the run

Of course the most authentic experience of all is to run Philippedes’s route.

Which you can do in the Classic Athens Marathon Race which runs in 12-13 November.

Maybe best not reminding you here of Philippedes’ fate after he’d crossed the finishing line of the first Marathon.

Phil, by which we’d know him now, had just enough puff left in him to write out the word ‘Nenikikamen’ or ‘we won’.

Before he collapsed and died of a heart attack.

Better maybe try a less severe Marathon.

Run the world

Homer run: But staying the course

Maybe warm up with a London, Boston (the world’s oldest annual Marathon dating vack to 1897), Berlin (the fastest course).

Or if you really want to get left field then make a bucket list holiday out of it in say, Tahiti.

Where you can join the 1,000 runners in the Moorea Marathon, The Islands of Tahiti.

And pound the pineapple plantations and along the pristine white beaches.

So maybe you want to avoid today’s London Marathon mania well just choose your location.

Because everybody wants to run the world.

 

 

America, Countries, Food, Food & Wine

The Streets of Boston

Now I’ve experience of the streets of Boston and the difference a turning can make, albeit 35 years ago.

So when I’d overshot Chinatown in Washington Street yesterday.

And found myself crossing the Mass Turnpike bridge I knew I was off course.

Way to go Shojo

Chop, chop: Shojo

I had been personally waited on by restaurant manager Jim at Shojo on Tyler Street.

And licked my lips and fingers tearing through his Wu-Tang Tiger Style Ribs, Jasmine rice and Japanese Saison Du beer.

And heavy of tummy had decided to take a walk down Memory Lane to my old workplace, the Black Rose, on State Street.

Now the proliferation of Asian spellings and smellings ought to have alerted me that I was on the wrong scent.

The Black Rose

Get on your bike: The Godfrey

So I doubled back, span into a vortex and was suddenly back in 1987.

With the singer, Irish Terry, singing The Dubliners’ standard Fiddler’s Green.

I waited patiently, cradling my Guinness, for the favourite when I tended door and bar here in the Eighties.

And was glad to put bread in his jar for a rendition of Black Velvet Band.

Filled with the best type of fuel I rolled home and let the tiredness of a three-country, 17-hour Aer Lingus journey drift me to sleep.

And dream of days gone and to come on The Streets of Boston.

Before hitting the Streets of Boston again and checking out its famous T trams.

And a tea party.

 

America, Countries, Europe, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays Carols

Woah, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, in excelsis deo (wherever that is), it’s Rainy Days and Songdays Carols.

And particularly with the choir of carol singers from the high street in our town now having dissipated.

Sing-a-long: And we love a carol

But church services go on unabated and the original spirit of Christmas sometimes sneaks past Mariah Carey and Michael Buble.

And so a celebration of carols, their origins and the destinations with which they’re associated.

Stille Nacht

The Other Salzburg: With the Scary One

Or Silent Night which originates in Oberndorf bei Salzburg.

No, not that Salzburg of Mozart and The Sound of Music in Austria but the small city north of Salzburg.

It does though have it’s own blessed place in music as the birthplace of one of our favourite carols.

Mohr and Grober may not be as recognisable as Gilbert & Sullivan, Rodgers & Hammerstein, King & Goffin, Lennon & McCartney or John and Taupin.

But the assistant priest, and the schoolmaster and organist certainly hit on one with this classic on the Christmas Eve of 1818.

It travelled around the world and got the ultimate seal of approval when Bing Crosby sold 10 million copies in 1935.

Feliz Natal

In her working clothes: With the Scary One again

Feliz Natal as they say in Portugal.

Or O Come all ye Faithful (except they say it in Portuguese) and not this southern US draw… though Carrie on Ms Underwood.

We have King John IV to thank for it becoming Anglicised (the Portuguese are England’s most enduring ally).

The clue to King Johin IV’s musicality is in the moniker he was given King John The Musician.

His works (he is also said to have written a setting for a Good Friday standard Crux Fidelis) alas were destroyed in the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755.

Of course Portugal is full of secrets just waiting to be discovered.

Crowning Bethlehem

Philly Christmas: They love a carol

Talking of secrets, I’ve just been watching the original Jesus.

Well the blockbuster televisual one, anyway, Robert Powell retracing Our Lord’s steps on the Smithsonian channel

And spoiler here.. he may not have been born there but rather his childhood home Nazareth.

The song would be very different, or would it be? Nazareth scans too.

The carol we so love, is actually an American construct.

With it written by Phillips Brook, an Episcopalian minister, then a rector in Philadelphia, and later of Boston, in the 19th century.

And sung beautifully here by The King himself.

Ding Dong Merrily On High

Roger Bravo: Roger Whittaker

Sounds very English village hall, but mais non, Ding Dong Merrily On High is a French Joyeux Noel, ditty.

The tune was originally recorded in the 16th century by Dijon‘s finest Jehan Tabourot in his study of French Renaissance social dance called Orchésographie.

Ca va, English composer and campanologist George Ratcliffe Woodward updated it with the old ding dong that we all enjoy.  

Now randomly we can’t think of anyone better to sing or rather trill it than Roger ‘The Whistler’ Whittaker.

Deep pan crisp and even

On the King Charles Bridge in Prague

OK, we’ll get the old Christmas Cracker joker out first.

What pizza does Good King Wenceslas like?

Deep pan crisp and even.

Whether the Good King first looked out on the Feast of Stephen and the snow laid round about deep and crisp and even we don’t know.

But Wenceslas Square in Prague is usually packed at this time of year, and on most days.

It might be different this year with Covid which is all the more reason to toast our Czech friends with an Urquell. Na Zdravi.

Take it away Bing… 

Merry Christmas and sing along to yourself with your Rainy Days and Songdays Carols.

 

 

 

America, Countries, Sport, UK

Women football ban

In a previous life I scribbled about saaacer but the women football ban never came up then.

Nor years earlier when I dated Bostonian Carol at university in Aberdeen who left the foot in with all the men she tackled.

On the football pitch you mucky devils!

While any adolescent Scot from the early 80s will identify with the rite of passage film Gregory’s Girl.

Although we in our all-boys school could only have dreamt of a keeper like Dorothy.

If we’d been allowed to play football competitively rather than on the playground. 

Michelle and Matthews magic

Prize girl: Michelle Akers

I confess too that I wasn’t as star-struck as I should have been when I met American soccer legend Michelle Akers, also in the Granite City.

Because England great Sir Stanley Matthews was there with her.

All of which reminiscences have been sparked by today’s woman’s FA Cup final.

When they will reflect on the first showpiece, between Southampton and Scots Stewarton Thistle, (more a back pitch) 50 years ago.

Male chauvinists

Team of all talents: The Dick, Kerr Ladies

Still it must have felt like Wembley where Arsenal and Chelsea will compete today for the players in 1971.

The women’s game in the UK quite amazingly and disgracefully had been in abeyance for the previous 50 years.

And not because it wasn’t popular, though that shouldn’t matter either.

Tens of thousands turning out to see the lassies play.

No, because the chauvinistic chiefs of the FA banned women’s football in 1921 stating that it was ‘quite unsuitable for females’.

Despite the legendary Dick, Kerr Ladies and St Helens Ladies playing before 52,000 the previous Boxing Day.

Female pioneers

Equal pay: How the times have changed

The FA were perhaps worried that their women would swap their pinnies for boots.

But the Dick, Kerr Ladies were not to be put off.

And they took on a US tour and played men’s teams over there.

Whether that inspired the grandmothers of Carol Terry or Michelle Akers.

They did start an American revolution in women’s saaacer.

And that has made them the force in the game though the English are now catching up.

Football family

Yanks very much: US superstar Megan Rapinoe

I’ll maybe give Carol some thought if I do return to Beantown next year after 34 years away.

When I hope to revisit Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, and the Celtics, their basketball team.

In the absence of a Boston team, I’ll adopt NWSL champions Washington Spirit from DC out of east coast solidarity.

Out of respect for Carol.

As no self-respecting Bostonian, or friend, would plump for a New York side (in this case Gotham).

So on My Sporting Weekend as I watch the Women’s FA Cup final I will reflect on the women football ban.

And did I say that I have the pinnie on today while The Worker, she’s out in the field?

 

 

America, Countries, Deals

Boston T

Anybody who has spent any time in Boston will know that the locals get round by T… Boston T.

No, not an abbreviation for the drink for which it is most associated but rather the Tram, or trolly.

Which in my time working in Beantown in the Eighties I found started overland in my neighbourhood in Tremont Street before duckign down into the Subway.

And I got the whole authentic experience returning at night of seeing the long-tailed residents of the reclaimed harbour run around the tracks.

A real Bostonian experience for this traveller.

America is built on its rail networks which criss-crossed the coasts and coast to coast and which I dare say my Irish navvy antecedents helped build.

And while there is something romantic about a Greyhound or a Peter Pan coach, the same can be said for the train.

And particularly when our friends at Travel Department are at the controls.

The Rail East

East Coast USA by Rail incl. Boston, New York, Philadelphia & Washington DC: This 10-night holiday allows you plenty of time to enjoy each city with guided tours and free time to explore at your leisure.

You’ll begin your journey in Boston, and visit America’s oldest & most prestigious university on an excursion to Harvard.

For those who suffer under the misconception that America lacks history then visit Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall.

And immerse yourself in Boston Tea Party history down by the Bay.

Lady Liberty and Laddie Liberty: NY

Your next stop is the Big Apple where the locals know if you’re a tourist because we’re the ones who look up.

And you’ll find too that New Yorkers while tarred with always having an angle (true) are a friendly bunch.

Ring the bell: Philly

And one in fact came back through the turnstiles in the subway to help mia famiglia with our map and directions.

Next, history enthusiasts will be in their element as you take a tour of Philadelphia’s key highlights like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.

And the news from the Capitol: In Washington

The final stop on this whirlwind tour is the capital and jewel, Washington DC.

Where, of course, I’ve got a hotline to the White House and have already had the red carpet laid out for me.

Deal us in

Priced from €3199 pp and Including flights, transfers, that ten-night accommodation on a B&B basis and expert guides.

Departures on 20th May and 4th November 2022.

For more information https://www.traveldepartment.com/holiday/east-coast-usa-by-rail-incl-boston-new-york-philadelphia-washington-dc

 

 

America, Countries, Culture, Europe

Rainy Songdays – Young Man, er, the US President!

Young man, there’s no need to feel down, I said young man pick yourself off the ground, I said young man ’cause you’re in a new town, There’s no need to be unhappy – Y.M.C.A. , The Village People

It’s more Dancing Grandad than Dancing Dad – the US President Donald Trump jigging to Y.M.C.A. at his rallies.

The irony isn’t lost on any of us though with the 74-year-old Donald Trump vying with the 77-year-old Joe Biden for the White House.

So what of Y.M.C.A.? And Greenwich Village in New York from where the band hailed.

I was slightly disappointed that I wasn’t greeted by a policeman, an Apache Indian or even a Construction worker when I checked in to my YMCA.

But it was just the ticket for getting over the jet lag and the hangover from the Comedy Club the night before.

Village life

And the Village with its bohemian, artsy and gay history, live entertainment and culinary treats is a great place to kickstart your NY journey.

Back to our story though and they did roll out the broad sweep of American life at my next Y.M.C.A.

In Boston, in the shape of black, white and Chinese firemen.

Although no flash dancing here, they had arrived to attend to the fire alarm I had set off.

As I stood in the line to check back in for another night in the Bean Town hostel.

Hostel hostilities

And it was the last straw for the patient Y.M.C.A. staff.

As good as the words in the song ‘started me back on my way.’

By suggesting that I find a new billet after I had caused two nights of carnage.

A Colombian boarder had only complained to them that I had taken his bunk the previous two nights.

After I had arrived back drunk.

And a member of staff was called on to avert a major international incident.

After Escobar’ had raised the hue and cry over ‘zis crazy Scotsman.’

The Combat Zone

But it was all the making of this Young Man.

As myself and my pal Neily followed up on the advert on the noticeboard for an unfurnished apartment in Boston.

They had neglected to say that it was in an all-black area known as ‘The Combat Zone’

Where my first sleep was interrupted by the blare of rap warnings from the ghetto-blasters outside.

Isaac and the Brothers

In the morning as we made our way into work we passed by Isaac who was holding sentry at the bottom of the steps.

Punching fists with the brothers and passing them tin-foil pouches.

Isaac became a friend and we signed off our post-university stay with a night’s drinking in Alfie’s shebeen.

All in the company of welcoming locals.

Where the only other white man was the Double Bass in the Jazz band!

America, Countries, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – slam dunk, the NBA

I was immediately marked out as a spectator and not a player.

When my cousin Maura threw me into a game of pick-up basketball with her boyfriend John in Queens, New York.

Basketball had always been a novelty game for milk bottle white Scotsmen whose only connection with the game was The Harlem Globetrotters.

A free throw anyone?

Until I got to America.

And saw the importance of the game on that visit to see my cousins in New York and then four years later in Boston.

Where I would pass by the statue of Boston Celtics’ legendary coach Red Auerbach.

Outside Quincy Market at Faneul Hall where I was a bus boy at GuadalaHarry’s and ice cream salesman at a parlour.

Anyhoos I had myself my basketball team.

And despite warming to all the teams in North American cities I’ve passed through in the years since.

The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors, Denver Nuggets, Washington Wizards, Philadelphia 76ers, Memphis Grizzlies, LA Lakers and Clippers, Miami Heat and Orlando Magic.

nba-orlando-magic-mickey-mouse-basketball.jpg

I was a Celtics fan. Which wasn’t a huge jump from my young days following a football team, Celtic in Glasgow.

This was my year for my long-awaited return to Boston 33 years but COVID has stalled that on the plate.

When I would also fulfil an ambition I didn’t even know I had.

The home of baseball: Fenway Park

To walk the Fenway Park Green Monster perimeter where I’d seen the Red Sox hit their home runs that 1987 season.

The NBA play-offs are playing out in a DisneyWorld bubble in Orlando.

And you should catch it on whichever channels you pick up.

MEET YOU ON THE COURT

Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

Jocktails… the Strawberry Daiquiri

A sweltering hot summer in Boston after Aberdeen University, three jobs, and a thirst on me like a blindfolded man in the desert.

And a party of office workers unwinding in Quincy Market with a jug of Strawberry Daiquiri.

I was in… and from that moment the slushy, ruby-red rum cocktail has always ben my go-to.

It doesn’t have to be a cruise ship although here I am again…

I know where I’ll put this

I’ll bring you more Jocktails from around the world as I go but here’s the recipe.

And you might be surprised to hear that I’m the one who makes them around Casa Bandana while the Scary One is the one who devours them.

Strawberry Daiquiri

Zesty flavour

5 cracked ice cubes

1 measure of white rum

A half measure of strawberry liqueur.

A quarter measure of lime cordial

Garnish with a strawberry.

Jocktail tip: Stick some strawberries in the blender too for extra fruitiness.

Method: put the rum, strawbs and lime liqueur into the blender for 30 seconds. Pour into a margarita glass with the cracked ice in it and decorate with a slice of strawberry. Oh, go on, stick in a cocktail brolly and stick with a couple of maraschino cherries on it.

And because I’m writing about Boston visit http://www.visitbostonusa.com and http://www.visitusa.ie.

Want to know the best places to drink one. On a Royal Caribbean cruise… A Royal Party and www.royalcaribbean.co.uk.

Boston is well served by the major airlines from Ireland… look out for best deals in Flyday Friday.

And…

MEET YOU IN THE BAR

Africa, America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Hungry and Thursday – the off-sales

It’s what I use my one walk a day for… to go to the offie,

No. that’s not a misprint… I’ve been isolating from the office for nigh on a year since branching out on my own.

You may know it in your country as the liquor store or the wine store.

I was relieved then to hear that the offie ranks along the chemist and the supermarket as one of the stores that can stay open during the Coronavirus crisis.

Ned in Glasgow and NZ

Now we each do things a little bit differently and, at its rawest, the Glasgow offie is a cultural touchpoint in itself.

Now unsurprisingly I never saw a bottle of this New Zealand Cabernet Sauvignon, The Ned, in my offie when I was growing up.

It has gooseberry tastings don’t you know.

The drink du jour of The Glasgow Ned (the Non-Educated Delinquent) was, and still is, I dare say, Buckfast tonic wine.

Buckie is best drunk from out of the bottle and wrapped in brown paper while sitting on a park bench.

Not perhaps what the monks in the West Country of England had invented it for I should imagine.

The sight of a Ned. or Dublin gurrier, or whatever you call them in your country, swigging booze on a park bench might not be what you’d want to see…

When you’re pushing a pram.

Boston, full of beans

And I was reminded of how the good folk of Boston deal with that dilemma when I was watching the movie Ted 2 the other night.

Mark Wahlberg was drinking his can, which was wrapped in brown paper, with his Teddy bear on Boston Common.

And it took me back to the English guy who had attached himself to our group, Nick, on our post-University summer in Boston.

And didn’t know about the rule about drinking in public and the need to cover it in wrapping which he had some trouble in explaining to the cops.

‘OK to throw tea into the harbour and blame it on the Indians but God help you if you drink a can of beer without the brown paper covering it!’ Officer.

That Boston summer remains a glowing memory and Beantown came back on the radar yesterday when I was invited out for August, COVID-19 allowing.

With a tour of Fenway Park included and the chance to sit on the Boston Red Sox Green Wall. See https://www.boston.gov/visiting-boston and https://www.discovernewengland.org.

South African township

Of course while I say that every country’s off-sales is different my eyes were opened by the familiar grill bars at the South African shebeen.

In the Port Elizabeth New Brighton township in South Africa where we stopped off for a braai Day in the life of a township and https://www.southafrica.net/uk/en/.

And a braai is a barbecue and a shebeen what started out as an illegal Irish drinking den.

More high-brow perhaps is the Tenerife wine shop https://www.visitingtenerife.com on our walking trip with CanariaWays www.CanariaWays.com where we ordered Shakespeare wine…. A walk through the ages… Tenerife

Is that a Malmsey I see before me?

That’s the court wine Malmsey, or Malvasia, which the Bard references in his plays and is still sold there.

Me, I’ve finished off my Ned wine and have resorted to draining the schnapps miniatures in my globe drinks trolley.

From the schnapps shop in Ehrwald in Austria https://www.tyrol.com.

So whether it’s Prost, Failte, Salute, Na zdravi or just Cheers I’m looking you right in the eye and toasting our holiday providers… #DontCancelPostpone.

Africa, America, Countries, Culture

#DontCancelPostpone

I was supposed to have been driving around the Florida Keys https://www.fla-keys.co.uk this weekend… #DontCancelPostpone.

And San Francisco https://www.sftravel.com and Las Vegas www.lvcva.com and Strip… the light fantastic in May/June #DontCancelPostpone.

Chicago some time in between. #DontCancelPostpone.

While there’s St Helena, Napoleon’s final refuge, squeezed between. #DontCancelPostpone.

And New England for this year’s Mayflower celebrations #DontCancelPostpone.

And a number of other planned adventures… #DontCancelPostpone.

#DontCancelPostpone is the Travel industry’s response to the worst possible thing that can happen to it… the suspension of Travel.

And it is a mantra that I and my fellow Travel scribes will be taking up.

Because for anybody who has stepped out their door (something we no longer take for granted) then there has been a Travel provider there to hold your hand.

So this is what we’ll do… our friends in the Travel industry will keep sending me their destinations and we’ll make a pinkie promise to advise people #DontCancelPostpone

I’ll satisfy myself with the memories of times spent in California last year… www.discoverlosangeles.com and www.visitcalifornia.com.

As a post-University bus boy in a Mexican restaurant in Boston https://www.bostonusa.com and visiting Manchester, New Hampshire https://www.visitnh.gov and New England https://www.discovernewengland.org

St Helena, for those who didn’t get their atlases out at school, is off the coast of South Africa and my trip to the second most inhabitable island in the world will involve…

A stop-off in South Africa where I dipped my toe in the Eastern Cape… https://www.southafrica.net/uk/en and

Chicago https://www.choosechicago.com/explore/chicago-style/first-time-visit/? Well, the lure of it has only grown as it is dangled in front of me and then draws further out of my grasp.

My second attempt at going out to Windy City has stalled because of that COVID-19.

After my first invitation had to be turned down because of the sheer selfishness of an oul’ woman who only went and turned 90 the day of the trip.

I checked in on her yesterday on a business (remember that) trip to Glasgow https://peoplemakeglasgow.com where there is restricted visiting.

It didn’t happen because I was too late but God help the nurses there… they’ll be praying that THEY could self-isolate.

The statues in Glasgow, my home city, were standing proud, the buskers singing their hearts out.

And the chippies who fed the populace during the War still dispensing fish and haggis suppers (that’s with chips).

More tales of that oul’ woman tomorrow with a Mother’s Day special.

Now back to home life and the Scary One wants me to do some chores… #PostponeDontCancel.