Countries, Culture, Ireland, Music, UK

Song for Ulster

The 12th of July means something in Northern Ireland and its hinterland so today it’s Rainy Days and Songdays Song for Ulster.

No, not the songs you would hear on the marches and matches but the best of Ulster from the charts.

Alternative

SLF: Belfast bravado. http://www.imdb.com

Stiff Little Fingers (Alternative Ulster): And first up is the pride of Ulster punk.

Belfast boys SLF used the backdrop of The Troubles for material and recorded the first single Suspect Device disguised as a suspect bomb.

The producer thought it was real and contacted the band for a real one. Instead we give you the brilliant Alternative Ulster.

Get your kicks

Call them up on the telephone: The Undertones

The Undertones (Teenage Kicks): It is the stuff of punk legend that SLF and Derry’s finest The Undertones did not get on.

The Undertones accused SLF of sensationalising The Troubles and the violence.

Teenage Kicks famously initially had the line: ‘I wanna hold it, hold it tight’.

An Ode to Derry

Star composer: Phil Coulter

Phil Coulter (The Town I Loved So Well): When a composer speaks with honesty and experience about his world (Derry)then the results are memorable.

Phil, of course, had musical pedigree before this, his signature song, having written Eurovision classics Congratulations and Puppet On A String.

Comedy classic

Harmon harmonies: Divine Comedy

The Divine Comedy (National Express): And you’ve got to love a band with a lyric: ‘And it’s hard to get by/when your arse is the size of a small country.

Derry’s Neil Harmon also penned an album The Duckworth Lewis Method. Geinius.

Van the Belfast Man

Hat’s the boy: Van the Man

Van Morrison (Madame George): The poet laureate of Belfast, Van may be a grumpy old sod but he’s never forgotten his roots.

You can still see him at one of his legendary cabarets at the Europa Hotel although, alas, characters like Madame George are long gone,

And a special mention too to the three Ulster counties in the Republic of Ireland

The Republic Counties

Name of the game: Clannad

Donegal and Clannad and Harry’s Game over Daniel O’Donnell.

Hipsters Cavan and The Strypes and Blue Collar Jane.

And Monaghan with their history of Country music and ‘Big Tom’ McBride and his Gentle Mother. And my Country Roads.

Raff, you handsome prince

Can I be in your band: Michael and Travel set

But the last word goes to the North’s finest… my pal Michael Rafferty who has been playing covers of our favourites every night through lockdown.

And Michael is locking it down, deservedly at 500.

Check out his Handsome Princes and Michael tells me he’s the handsomest of them all.

It’s my Rainy Days and Songdays Song for Ulster.

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

I’m listening – Seattle and other sitcom worlds

Frasier’s returning which means more Seattle.

And New York‘s finest, Friends while Will & Grace are with us already.

All of which means we get to peer into their sitcom worlds.

It’s no exaggeration to say that I chose Boston as my destination for my post-university summer because of Cheers.

Here’s to Cheers

Cheers, Boston: As is the way of such things there was a little less Boston than I’d have hoped for.

The exterior and the stairs are what you see on the show.

And there was an actual pub in Beacon Hill, near Boston Common, which was serving Beantown beerflies since 1969.

When the telly people turned it into the phenomenon it now is after launching it onto our screens in 1982.

What Cheers did was use Boston as the conversation to draw me and my pals out with one even working on a merch cart.

Mork calling Boulder

Rev it up for Boulder

Boulder, Colorado: And it would be as easy to pick out Mork’s planet Ork back in the day than it would have been Boulder.

The Coloradan town though is a must-visit for Mork & Mindy fans.

Boulder is everything you would imagine an artsy, outdoorsy Colorado town to be.

And check out the bluegrass music and the food tours.

Golden Girls’ Miami

Mexing it up in Miami

Golden Girls, Miami: Florida is, of course, the state where America’s golden oldies go to live out their retirement.

In a case of life imitating art the girls‘ Miami house was put up for sale for $3m at the turn of the Millennium.

I might have missed the boat then but as we approach our retirement years Miami is on our list…

I suppose I better share with my Golden Girl!

The Liver Birds

The Liver Boys: With my Al

The Liver Birds, Liverpool: The opening credits when you see Beryl and Sandra skipping with the Royal Liver Building as the backdrop sets the scene.

And without a doubt Liverpool, Liverpudlians and their humour mark this show as the pioneer of a new genre…. the Scousecom.

We’ve had Bread, Watching, Boys from the Blackstuff and Jim Royle. A lorra, lorra laughs!

Derry life

Writing on the wall: In Derry

Derry Girls, Derry, Northern Ireland: And like The Liver Birds, Derry is very much a key cast member.

Set in Derry around The Troubles in the Eighties, this coming of age sitcom has been embraced beyond the city.

And isn’t it great to see Old Derry’s Walls boasting a mural of schoolgirls and not political symbols for a change.

Culture, Deals, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

My Derry Girl

If my Mum had only been the fourth, and not the fifth of ten children, then my Dear Old Mum would have been a Derry, not Donegal Girl.

Her Dad’s fingerprints remained all over the city where he had a pub and rented out houses, well into the Seventies.

Not that I need a reason to love the cult TV comedy Derry Girls but…

Love a duck… a Hastings duck

Hastings Hotels have launched a tour package experience, following in the footsteps of Erin, Michelle (my favourite) and the English Fella.

Wall, what is it good for? A Derry mural. www.derry.com

The menu features a cream horn, a cone of chips, the famous Derry sausage roll baps, a classic Tayto Cheese and Onion crisp sandwich and a cocktail.

Now, few are bigger fans than me of Hastings’ rubber ducks.

And Hastings has unveiled a Derry Girl duck, modelled on Michelle, as a memento for those taking part.

The Girls. www.channel4.com

A duck in the lobby of the Everglades Hotel has been transformed by designer Chris Suitor into a large fibreglass artwork.

With a Derry Girls uniform, curly brown hair and hooped earrings.

The Derry Girls Tour Package, which includes an overnight stay at the Everglades Hotel, Afternoon Tea and the walking tour is from €115 per person sharing.

Old Derry’s Walls. www.derry.com

The package is available without the walking tour for €96 per person, while Afternoon Tea alone is €36 alone is.

For more information see www.hastings.com.

And for a taster of Hastings Hotels, here’s my take on the anchor hotel in Belfast, the Grand Central Hotel… Belfast Chilled.

And for more on Derry and Northern Ireland, see www.derry.cim and www.discovernorthernireland.com.