Africa, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, Pilgrimage, UK

Happy Jewish New Year

Rosh Hashanah, Happy Jewish New Year, and because we want to see off this bloody year, and pray to Yahweh for a better new year, here is when and where all our cultures see out the old and bring in the new.

Hello, Chinas


The Chinese New Year: And sitting down for our annual Chinese New Year celebration with Wendy Wu Tours in Dublin in January at Chai Yo we gave sympathy and Chinese tea (and every food known to man that you can eat with chopsticks) for the plight of the poor people of Wuhan.

Little did we know, of course, that we would be suffering too within weeks. The Year of the Rat should have been a warning.

And what are you all having?

Next year when it will be celebrated in February will be the Year of the Ox and he is much more our reliable carrier of all our human burdens.

And rest assured I’ll be back in Chai Yo next year with Wendy’s friends, the Two Johns, before hopefully we follow The Son and Heir out to Wuhan’s neighbour Chongqing.

Iran the bells

Smiles from Iran.

Nowruz (Iranian New Year): And there is a diary date in my calendar which I can’t bring myself to delete – my trip to Iran which was deferred after the Americans fell out with them again and then this virus came along.

I do hope that when I do get out there it’s in a March when they celebrate Springtime when it coincides with the Northward Equinox.

They trumpet in the day, colour eggs and eat a hearty soup, Ash-e-Reshteh noodle soup.

Sri Lanka is my cup of tea

Sri Lankan New Year: And here we have two Sri Lankan cultures celebrating a date, April 14.

Aluth Avuradda, the Sinhalese New Year, marks the end of the harvest and is one of only two occasions when the sun is directly above Sri Lanka.

You’ll be eating small oil cakes called kavum and plantain dishes.

The Tamils of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka celebrate with new clothes, music, sweets and rice colour kolams (street art).

The Tamil Diaspora too celebrate April 4… so Malaysia, yes, and The Maldives too where one pasty-faced Scotsman once became an honorary member of the staff’s football and cricket teams. Yes, Mr Jim is coming back to Kuramathi.

While if you’re Irish (lucky you) you’ll know about the greatest Sri Lankan-Irishwoman, my old friend Tess De Kretser and her Olcote in Ceylon resort.

Ethiopia will take years off you

Enkutatash, Ethiopia: And this has become a fixture on my calendar in Dublin over recent years thanks to my friends at Ethiopian Airlines.

It, of course, takes years off you, not just the meaty food which you scoop up with your bread, and wine and Ethiopian coffee.

But also because it’s on the Julian Calendar which means that this will take seven years off you.

Scotland, the home of Hogmanay

Scottish Hogmanay: And in the words of the greatest dustman in television soap opera Norman ‘Curly’ Watts who decided the Scots owned New Year.

Well, they do own Hogmanay. And why Hogmanay which is what we call New Year’s Eve.

An early reference to the term is from The Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence as deriving from the Greek word agia mine or ‘holy month’.

More like a hooley though as many libations are taken to keep out the cold.

Which is probably where the tradition of bringing coal, shortbread and whisky with your when you go first-footing, being the first person to cross someone’s threshold (first-footing).




Countries, Culture, Ireland

City delights – Dublin

Just a city boy
Born and raised in West Glasgow
Took the midnight bus
Going all the way


With apologies to Journey, but I am a city boy and these are my city delights.

Kicking off with Dublin where I have worked for the last 13 years (and hope to do so again) here is my occasional series City Delights on my favourite cities.

There will be no science to this.

I’ll just dip in and out of the cities I’ve visited and loved, ones I hope to see, and some I’m not that keen on.

The Four Courts: Photo by Picography on

The History

Dublin should really be called Blackpool, but thank goodness it’s not.

Not that the English pierside city hasn’t got its charms. But!

Black pool (dubh linn) was the name given to the settlement founded in 888.

Where the Poddle stream met the river Liffey to form a deep pool at Dublin Castle

The Vikings, the Normans, the British, the Irish, the buskers have all sampled her pleasures.

And hers too…

The Tart with the Cart.

Sweet Molly Malone

Molly Malone. She never existed.

And she was probably an amalgam of many Scottish/English/American and Irish traders of the 18th and 19th centuries anyway.

But Irish fishmongers did yell ‘Cockles and Mussels Alive, Alive O.’

Today you’ll find Molly, who is known locally as ‘The Tart with the Cart’, outside the Irish Tourist Information Centre.

The Dubs have a way with words, a sharp sense of humour and a healthy mockery of their celebrities.

The Ace with the Bass: Phil Lynott

Feet of clay

The Fag on the Crag: Oscar Wilde in Merrion Square.

The Prick with the Stick: James Joyce on North Earl Street.

The Crank on the Bank: The cranky poet Patrick Kavanagh.

The Ace with the Ass: The much-loved Thin Lizzy rocker Phil Lynott.

And when the Dubs come to honour their Greatest Ever Citizen…

The Smart Ass in the Sunglasses.

Look out for the bullet holes: O’Connell statue

The fighting Irish

Dublin still bears the scars of its wars for independence.

On the plinth of the statue of Daniel O’Connell, ‘The Liberator’, the entry point to Dublin’s most historic city.

Along the street to the General Post Office where the Easter 1916 leaders proclaimed independence and holed themselves in and

Against the bullets of the British Army,

And at Kilmainham Gaol where the leaders were shot, among them James Connolly who was strappped to a chair on account of his gangrenous leg.

The craic

The Champ and his Dad at Mary’s

The party spirit is indistinguishably Irish but the word ‘craic’ is borrowed from the Scots, even referenced in Robert Burns.

Before making its way over the Irish Sea to the Ulster Scots.

What’s most important though is where to find it.

The simplest answer is: every day on the streets of Dublin.

But here are a few pubs where it’s in great supply.

O’Donoghues, Merrion Row

Where The Dubliners, Ireland’s most famous folk band were formed and where you can still hear the best trad music.

Mary’s Bar & Hardware, Wicklow Street

It’s something of a country thing, a multi-purpose business, Mary’s doubling up with WOWBURGER upstairs.

And you can have a beer and a burger. And then downstairs again for another, and some live music.

The Workshop, George’s Quay

I admit a vested interest here… my cousins run The Workshop On George’s Quay looking out on to the Liffey.

It’s the one with the squirrel mural and it’s handily placed next to Tara Street DART (train) station.

Which I and generations knew as Kennedys.

It has transferred itself into a gastropub in response to our changing tastes and how it does taste.

With the most beautifully presented and sumptuous dishes.

Get some food in you

Chai high

It may be in the national psyche because of the Potato Famine. Irish people are obsessed with food and can talk for hours on the subject.

I have been lucky enough to be wined and dined in a few..,

Chapter One, Parnell Square

Dublin is not short of Michelin-starred restaurants and Chapter One is my pick.

Don’t ask to have your steak done ‘your way’ as an amateur diner posited unless you want a dismissive, lip-curling look from your waiter.

You’ll agree though when you eat it.

Chai Yo Teppanyaki, Baggot Street Lower

Teppanyaki at its best as it should be as it’s the venue for the annual Wendy Wu brochure launch.

And Wendy. Queen of Asian high-end Travel, should know.

All the Teppanyaki dishes are served with soup, fried rice and mixed vegetables.

I often go for the Chef’s Special as I reckon they know best.

King Prawns, Chicken Teriyaki and Fillet Steak. I’m stuffed. Oh, go on them.

Pizza Yard, Sanford Road, Ranelagh

When you’ve been cycling through town on one of those multi-cycle party trucks (and do) then you’ll get a hunger up.

Just as well then that we got to stop off at Pizza Yard where they will slap down a two-yard long pizza on the table.

Of course I went for the al funghi (with mushrooms). Wash it down with Italian lager.

A little local knowledge

My kind of mess

The Hugh Lane Gallery

Messier than any student bedsit.

But it was that organised chaos that inspired artist Francis Bacon.

So when he died he bequeathed that his studio be recreated back in his native Dublin.

But skip…

The Book of Kellls, Trinity College

Maybe because I’d been dragged along to see the ancient scripts when I was a kid.

But I remember the queues being long and I couldn’t understand any of it.

And finally

Don’t say ‘Top of the mornin’ ’

Do say: ‘What’s the craic?’

Really, this is finally. And my favourite hotel in Dublin

And if you love Ireland like I love Ireland then how about Thirteen years an Irishman – My five Irish homes.