Countries, Europe, UK

Life’s a tent pitch

We had to pack up our tents and leave town by order of the local youth gang after I had moved in on the leader’s moll. Life’s a tent pitch!

These badlands you ask? Well, Castle Douglas, near Stranraer in the south-west of Scotland.

I was 15 and it was an unpromising start to my camping days.

A year later I would be sleeping outside the tent on the French Riviera.

And under the stars because the four of us thought a two-man tent would fit us all (and our rucksacks).

There have been scrapes aplenty in the subsequent years.

Like the time when Daddy’s Little Girl slugged from my whisky hip flask in Donard, Co. Wicklow when she was 8.

She then blamed me saying I’d said it was water.

Canvassing opinion

The camping has evolved into glamping, or at least better canvassed accommodation.

In Morocco and in Jordan.

Mind you I saw precious little of my bed in the Sahara Desert after a run-in with a dodgy Atlas Mountains tagine.

My G Adventures expedition through Jordan was much more palatable although again I had a sleepless night.

With tootache… and earache as my neighbour in our party had the snores.

All of which reminiscing is prompted by news from my old friend from our unforgettable trip to Tobago, Yogi SLM.

About the camping craze taking over the UK.

Carry on camping

SLM tells me that such is the demand for camping breaks in the UK that tents are in short supply.

As well as gas barbecues, Calor gas bottles and camping tables and chairs. And electric bicycles!

Over to Matt Sims, managing director of the Motorhome Holiday Company, cites Brexit as one of the culprits.

He said: “We are observing how the new customs regulation following Brexit has affected the import of essential camping equipment.

“That mean that many large retailers are now out of stock as their bulk buying power has been impacted.

“However these goods can still be purchased by smaller independent camping equipment retailers as they are less affected.”

Deal us in

Matt has been busy doing the homework for us and estimates that more than 50% of campsites will still have availability over the summer season.

For Ceredigion and Powys in Wales, the Isle of Wight, Leyland, Lancashire and St Columb, Cornwall.

Matt is expecting a 700% rise in demand for its motorhome rentals this summer, compared to two years ago, yet is keeping prices frozen at 2019 levels.

All Wight on the night: The Isle of Wight

A three-night rental with the Motorhome Holiday Company starts from £400 and includes rental, Camping and Caravaning Club Privilege membership for the duration of the hire.

You also get fully comp insurance for the first driver, unlimited mileage, breakdown cover, complimentary essentials and telephone support.

A week in the summer holidays from £1260. Shorter breaks are also available in the summer priced from £180 per day.

Life’s a tent pitch… so get out and enjoy your summer.


Asia, Countries, Culture, Flying, Ireland, UK

Travel to the Promised Land Israel close

And travel to the Promised Land Israel close before the end of the year.

Israel, as we all know, has been the real leading light in vaccine roll-outs.

With half its population now having had their second jags.

And boy have they been celebrating with this year’s Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day a real cause for celebration.

It has brought people out on the streets to sing, dance and watch the fireworks display.

Dublin is El Al City

Israel, of course, was the shiny new El Al route from Dublin for 2020, only for it to be interrupted by Covid.

The good news is that Sharon Bershadsky, Director at the Israel Tourism Office in London made real connections on her visit to Dublin last year.

And she is keen to get the Irish out to Israel as soon as we can.

A land of our childhood

From May 23 vaccinated groups of international travellers will be allowed out to Israel initially in a pilot scheme and then through a phased approach.

And don’t we all want to get out there but again our political leaders continue to drag their feet.

I’ve said it before that I’ve got real close to stepping on holy land.

I have seen Israel from Mt Nebo, Moses’s last resting place, and by the Jordan where John the Baptist baptised Jesus with G Adventures.

Israel is over there: Atop Mt Nebo

And I’m determined to step across into Israel. And yes, you can do countries with G Adventures.

This ancient land of Israel, and all its previous incarnations, is the one country we all know from childhood.

Even if we have never been there, through our religious classes.

So it’s a real challenge to present it anew but one which Sharon succeeded in consumately.

Best of both worlds

No place like dome

The appeal of the Promised Land is obvious, it’s not called that for nothing.

And its historical and religious sites will always draw us there.

But Israel is a diverse country of peoples, cultures, geography… and of course culinary.

There is more than milk and honey although both are to be recommended and used in many of their best dishes.

Tel Aviv and Jerusalem is a combined trip which will give the traveller the best of both worlds.

Modern hip beach Mediterannean Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where three religions meet.

Hotting up

Good to go

Jews, Muslims and Christians all come together too in Haifa on the northern coast in a model of co-existence.

Israel really is a country of contrasts with the traveller able to lie back and think of…

Well, nothing on the Dead Sea, or take a boat out on the Dead Sea and snorkel or tuck into the barbecue and Israeli wine.

In fact the water may just be a blessed relief.

From the heat of an Israeli summer with temperatures hitting the high 40s… great for me, I must admit.

Because of the year that’s in it, it may be the Autumn or Winter when we all get out there which is real good by me.





Asia, Countries, Food & Wine, Music

Rainy Days and Songdays – the Big Rapper in Jordan

With lockdown bringing a revival in camping, what’s your campfire song? You’ll go some to match the Big Rapper in Jordan.

There must be something about the desert that brings out the entertainer in me… and it transpired in St Lucian Big Jerry too.

I came late to rapping…

When I slipped my ‘A Wake Up For The People’ into the set of our poetry performance group The Forth Stanza’s show at the Edinburgh Fringe

Bandanaman, RapperMan

A line or two of which I reprise for you here….

Wham, bam/Come home Uncle Sam/Bored of Ford/Get Carter/Shelter the Shah/Hostages to barter/Joni warned us of the Devil’s bargain/And told us to get back/Get back to the garden… We are stardust, we are golden/And we’ve got to get ourselves/Back to the garden

It’s a ramble through Modern Western History which I sang heartily among a company of Berbers by a Moroccan campfire.

Before sidling off to be violently sick (dodgy beef tajine in the Atlas Mountains. Honest!).

Moroccan roll

Still I saw the most wonderful light show in the sky

With Happy Hannah in Petra

We weren’t even on the booze in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan, a mostly dry country, some 15 years later.

Not that you missed it with the fruit and rosehip teas.

The post-banquet entertainment in our G Adventures was by the man I tagged Big Rapper.

Carry on camping

You see I was holding him to his promise of a rap which he had made the day before by the Dead Sea The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time.

Now I’d say Jerry has a career awaiting in the music business if he fancies it.

Judging by his rap which conjured up the spirit of the Middle East and Jordan’s place in the region as an honest broker.

The perfect couple

Jerry and his girlfriend Hannah are the type of young people you would choose for your own son and daughter.

Only they found each other and are due their first child any month soon.

The Little Rapper

Good luck guys with your Little Rapper. And if you want a song to send your baby to sleep I can send you a video.

Of Bandanaman sampling Joni Mitchell in my ‘A Wake Up For The People’.

Australasia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – Rugby’s back in New Zealand

It was a rite of passage at my rugby-playing school in Scotland…. going to watch the touring New Zealand All Blacks in Edinburgh.

And I was counting down from weeks out to see Graham Mourie’s all-conquering rugby team finish off their itinerary at Murrayfield.

And listening to Timmy Teague’s promises that he would go onto the pitch and do the pre-war Haka war dance with the players.

How I felt on a rugby field

I got a flashback of Timmy as I heard of the return of rugby to the Land of the Long White Cloud with the Highlanders beating the Chiefs 28-27.

Highlanders’ fling

A thrilling match with the Highlanders stealing it at the end.

And best of all it was played out in front of 20,000 rugby nuts, with no need for face masks or social distancing.

The Land of the Long White Cloud

Nirvana, and a country where we’ll all be flocking to when we get the chance.

I have a hankering to visit Mangaotaki and the other locations used by Peter Jackson for Middle-Earth in Lord of the Rings.

Where my old colleague and singing partner from Rising Star Karaoke Bar and Aaawlando… Orlando, the rollercoaster capital Eoin played rugby.

Lord of the throw-ins?

‘Mr Brightside’ loved it and also learned the Haka… every rugby team in New Zealand practises it in training.

Stick your tongue out

Timmy could have done with some practical too… he was hopefully out of sync.

But he did do it. And the police allowed him back in to watch the second half of the game.

Hakademic really

He’d have been as well missing it. Scotland were hammered.

The All Blues: Not quite the same and Scotland take a beating in Dublin

But there’s nothing new about that.

Now you want to explore how to get out there.

Jimbo and Tommy Bowe.

Well, I’d always recommend G Adventures while check major airlines for flights and conditions.


Adventure, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – cow fighting breaks out

Lockdown has stopped us humans competing against each other but animals continue to do it, well, naturally.

I got to hear of the strange sport of Combat de Reines In Switzerland where cows fight each other and Swhisskey on the rocks.

And I intend to make it my mission to seek out this ultimate moortial (sorry) arts duel on my travels as well as these other animal v animal contests.

Kicking seven cow bells out of each other

A bit of stewarding doesn’t go amiss

Combat de Reines, Switzerland: These contests date back to the 1920s when the skiers were on a break in the summer.

And they attract as many as 50,000 spectators across the season.

Although I’m assuming the cows are happy to fight behind closed doors (or in the open field) without us there.

The mootivation (ouch) for the cows is herd dominance although some need jivvying up and prefer to munch the grass.

Camel ye, come all ye

And in the red corner.

Camel wrestling, Turkey, Middle East, Asia: And your otherwise loping humpy desert dweller will bear his teeth…

If you try to jostle him along. Or put a female camel on heat between two males.

So not that different from humans then really.

The season is November to March so there’s still hope.

And here’s some Turkish delights and Jordanian japes to tantalise you… and Wham bam, thank you Hamam. And, and Wham bam, thank you Hamam.

Herd up your haggises

Haggis hurling, Scotland: OK, this isn’t actually a sport but try telling that to the young Irish group I was with a couple of years ago.

Dry-witted Aberdonian Stevie informed our party that because we were running late he’d have to take the haggis farm off the agenda.

Distracted by another question Stevie might not have returned to the subject.

Had I not reminded him and warned him that this might yet appear in their articles as fact.

Invented in 1977 by a Robin Dunseath in 1977 it is still going strong. And check out and Aberdeen – a light in the north and

One for the puperazzi

Catch that wave

Dog surfing, Huntington Beach, California: And to think I might never have learned about this sport of canines had I not pried.

The good folk of HB had invited me out for breakfast in Dublin to tell me about their new hotels and I probed them for info about their beaches.

I discovered that they have a popular annual dog surfing competition and that Garrett McNamara and his Brazilian labrador Bono lead the way.

And no, I never did hear if this Bono wore shades too all the time. Maybe the next time I get out to HB I’ll check it out.

Visit, and

I haven’t heard if September’s big surf is going ahead but the Pacific is a big ocean.

Acting the goat

Goat racing, Tobago: And a skill I got me, Marsha.

Marsha had gone through our coach asking us what we were good at, with housebuilder Antony scoring highest and me lowest.

But I showed her! Me and my goat Bandanaman only beat Antony and his kid in the goat race.

The big event is held in Buccoo at Easter and if there’s any justice myself and Bandanaman will be at the starter’s gate.

Although I might pass on the crab race.

Visit and

Countries, Culture, Europe, Flying, Ireland, UK

Give us this Day – charity begins abroad

The collection plate has for a long time been coming around twice.

While there’s always someone at the church door with another charity box.

You might recognise them from coming around your house.

We have, of course, been given a reprieve during lockdown.

Give a little bit

Doctor’s orders… my Dear Old Dad

Of course charities are having it tough right now with many of us left cash-strapped by the Covid crisis.

But while there’s less to go around just now we’ve been here before and found an enduring solution.

Tithes, integral in Islam, used to be a central plank in Christianity.

But they’ve not gone way.

Going through my Dad’s personal effects I came across documentation from his contributions to the Church.

A percentage of his income.

Middle Eastern culture

A design for life: In Jordan

One of the joys of visiting the Middle East is immersing yourself in Islamic culture.

And it is heartening to find holiday providers who feel the same.

Such as G Adventures and http://gadventures.iewho through their Planeterra Foundation help build community projects in their destinations.

Which I found when I visited Jordan

We can often be suspicious when we hear of the biggest companies allying with charities.

And Celebrity Cruises and Malala Yousafzai didn’t initially seem to be ideal bedfellows.

A very young Godmother

But the Nobel Prize winner has lent great credibility and authenticity as Celebrity’s Godmother I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out To Here to their involvement in the destinations they visit.

Now I’m as guilty as the next man of glossing over Liam Neeson et al’s message to give on airlines… and then failing to fill those little envelopes.

But once I get back on a plane (and I mean that to be soon) I will ensure I empty my pockets into the envelope.

There are some out there who need no pricking of their conscience.

The Scots who give 

And a square meal for all around the world

Such as Scots Magnus and Fergus MacFarlane who were so moved by an article in The Glasgow Herald on the Marian apparitions in a small Bosnian town that they went out there.

And then began a charity drive through the Balkans Wars which grew into the phenomenon that is Mary’s Meals

Which helps give a square meal to those in less developed countries to provide a springboard and which you can see out in Medjugorje.

Where I visited with Marian Pilgrimages and What’s the story, Medjugorje? Wouldn’t you like to know.

And Sarajevo’s rebuild

Christians and Muslims: In Sarajevo

You can also take a day out to Sarajevo where Muslim and Christian have come together over time.

But where still the human instinct to give through charity has helped rebuild the central city of Sarajevo  Sarajevo revisited: Arnie’s story.

Adventure, Asia, Countries, Culture, Uncategorized

G – I miss my Jordan pals

Zuhair Zuriqat is quite a mouthful of a name for a Western audience.

But our Jordanian G Adventures guide made it light-hearted for us.

By telling us we’d remember it by thinking of an animal sanctuary and what’s on the top of our head.

Sophie’s choice companion

It’s been a year this week since I first met and last hugged Zuhair.

And Jerry and Hannah, Beatrice and Banni, Sophie, Rick and Harry.

The memories are never far away The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time.

But they were heightened yesterday when founder Bruce Poon Tip caught up with us by video call.

And told us why we’ll all be reunited soon.

It’s all about the group

Hannah Mirabilis: With Hannah in Wadi Rum

Because it is in our human make-up to come up with the technological solutions.

And adapt to our changing circumstances.

And because the desire is there to connect again with each other and the destination.

Most importantly though it’s the communities we form and meet when we travel.

Beatrice, a boatie and a beardie

G Adventures puts the group dynamic at the heart of much of what it does (although they now have an independent traveller arm too).

And I was encouraged to share a room like the others when I travelled to Amman last year.

I got into the bedroom early in the morning and was met with a bare bum hanging out of a duvet, the bum belonging to Aussie Harry.

And the camels are the friendliest locals of all

We came face to face a couple of hours later when the phone went and I handed it to him… it was a wrong number.

High jinks

It set the tone for the trip from the Dead through to the Red Sea with stop-offs in Petra and Wadi Rum.

West Indian Jerry joked that there was no point in him blacking up with the mud in the Dead Sea as he browned me up.

Jim and Jerry

Wadi Rum in the desert was where one of our number who will remain nameless emerged from our canvas-thin tents.

To complain about the snoring the night before.

Zuhair the hero

What’s your headwear of choice?

One I will own up to was my flirtation with snorkelling.

When the group could barely hide their anticipation about swimming through the coral to see a sunken tank and aeroplane.

I was in and out quicker than you could say Zuhair Zuriquat… my bushy top lip was stopping the air from getting to my nostrils.

G – I wish I could be back there in Jordan

Bruce almighty

And for the best take on how Travel will move forward…

Read Bruce’s e-book Unlearn: The Year the Workd Stood Still on Apple Books or Kobo in Canada.

Asia, Countries, Culture, Deals

My Sporting Weekend – Good Korea move

How will COVID-19 alter our interactions with the Far East… well, in this household it is just bringing us closer with the Son and Heir bound for China in October?

To teach English as a foreign language.

And the football nut that he is, I dare say, he will look out some games.

I’ll have a Meeeowcha then

If he was out in the Far East, South Korea in this case, this weekend he could have watched live football.

Albeit on the TV with the South Koreans first out of the blocks, to mix my metaphors, to resume games.

G Whizz

South Korea falls behind Thailand as a favourite destination for backpackers and Asianophiles but will this spotlight tempt us to put it on our list?

In the pink: Korea’s natural treasures

With all things long haul I place my trust in G Adventures who took me out to Jordan this time next year…

And owner Bruce will be telling us travel professionals next week how they’ll get us back out there soon.

The real deal

They are still promoting offers on their site with an eight days Seoul to Seoul package catching the eye.

Valid on October 2 the Korean trip was £1749 but is now £1487.

Fly the flag

Now some of these places might sound familiar from the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan.

After arriving in the capital Seoul, you’ll take a bullet train to the seaside town of Busan on the tip of the peninsula.

My body is a temple

Where you’ll stay in a temple.

You like your temples? Then G Adventures offers you the chance to a 14th Century temple hidden in the rocks Haedong Yonggungsa.

Who put a windmill there?

You’ll also get to check out the 500-old UNESCO site, the Yangdong Folk Village

Continue to the next UNESCO site of Bulguksa Temple on the slopes of Mount Toham for the Dabotap and Seokgatap stone pagodas, Cheongun-gyo, and two gilt-bronze statues of Buddha.

Cold War history

Almost not enougb time to check out the football.

No trip to South Korea would be complete without a trip to the Demilitarised Zone between South and North Korea.

The Demilitarised Zone

With more than a million soldiers on watch each day, it is one of the last remnants of the Cold War.

The buffer zone is 4km wide and is 250km long which means that the wildlife has pretty much taken over… and they’re more sensible than the humanlife.

You’ll need a good three-four hours at the Demilitarized Zone before heading to The War Memorial of Korea.

Seoul music

Before you return back to Seoul for another night in the city.

A city with heart and….

Talking of the Demilitarised Zone and teaching English as a foreign language my old Northern Irish flatmate Ian went out to North Korea to do just that in the 90s.

Funnily enough I haven’t heard from him for a while.

But the top rugby player that he was, who knows he may have ended up teaching the oval-ball game to Kim and his pals.


Countries, Culture, Europe

My Italian stage

What did you do during the Coronavirus War of 2020, Daddy? Well, I returned to my career as an Italian heartthrob actor obviously.

While Thomas Trabacchi kept house, home and sanity together in North Berwick, south of Edinburgh.

And Thomas rockin’ the Bandana look in North Berwick

My thanks to one of my oldest friends and Italian-Scot per excellenza Cello for flagging up Thomas (er, me).

My biggest fan: Miriam Leone

And his hit television series Thou Shalt Not Kill – Non Uccidere opposite former Miss Italy Miriam Leone who plays Detective Valeria Furio.

My leading lady

Non Uccidere is set in Turin in Piedmont which is often overshadowed by its big neighbour Milan.

Shine a light on Turin

But Turin has its delights too…

Yes there are the grand squares Piazza Castello and Piazza San Carlo .

While the biggest attraction (away from the ‘Grand Old Lady’, the football aristocrats Juventus) is the Shroud of Turin.

Shrouded in history

Which is kept in the Cathedral of St John the Baptist.

Built during 1491-1498 and designed by Guarino Guarini the Chapel of the Holy Shroud was added in 1668-1694.

Another beardie legend

If it’s John the Baptist history and curios you want then why not get out to where John baptised Jesus.

And on the banks of the Jordan

Which is either inland in Jordan or on the banks on the Israel side. You choose in your G Adventures trip and

Turin too is home to the National Cinema Club which brings us back to my starring part in Non Uccidere.

Where I have some raunchy scenes with Inspector Valeria Ferro (you’ll know better than me how to access Italian TV series).

My leading Sadie

It’s a price that Mrs M is more than prepared to pay for getting me the rest of the time.

Turin and Italy ‘Il Bel Paese’ is slowly coming through its lockdown.

If the buildings could talk

And on Monday parks, factories and construction sites will reopen.

We look forward, of course, to when we can get back out to Italy.

Il Bel Paese

With our favourite holiday providers, the Italian specialists, and FrancigenaWays

And our special places Small roads lead to Rome and Rome on €50 and

And Turin where I am something of a celebrity.


Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Flying, Food, Food & Wine

Flyday Friday – your lockdown Captain speaking

And when he can’t tell you you’re cruising at 15,000ft with the skies clear what does he do?

Our friends at Etihad have taken an alternate course for us while we are confined to barracks.

And the captain has got the cabin crew to do what they always do, excel at keeping the restless passengers occupied.

And so the purple-suited ones are encouraging us to learn a new language. Arabic anyone?

Etihad style: And plenty of room

It’s the first language in 25 countries around the world.


It’s just a taster but a great idea nonetheless and it might just give me precious time when I am put on the spot.

One of our own

Like when I was off to the Black Sea and the crew member started talking Bulgarian to me because they thought I was a local.

With time hanging heavy on us all Daddy’s Little Girl has been badgering me to teach her Italian.

It is la bella lingua and one that I have dipped in and out of but I have little excuse now to get the tapes oit again.


And particularly if my Laurie helps me with my Italian cooking.

Rusotto… in all its forms

I had already been given a crash course in making pasta from scratch by Italian specialist Catherine Fulvio.

At her Ballyknocken Cookery School in my old stomping ground of Co. Wicklow in Ireland.

In the company of Italian tour specialists Topflight

The joy of ceps

Etihad also offer cooking tips with their in-flight chef rustling up a quick mushroom risotto…

Fun guy him… and I do love an oul’ risotto Rome on €50.

I’ve seen first-hand on an inspection tour of their fleet at Dublin Airport just how they look after the little ones.

And you can download a number of family activities from their site.

Jet-propellled: In Jordan

Which is all good to know as we’ll want to occupy ourselves in our own seats as much as we can.

When we take to the skies again.

Are we there yet? Well, I’m in no hurry… I’m on an Etihad airplane.

Shukran Etihad.

Jaunty Jordan

And shukran too to my Jordanian host Zuhair, G Adventures and Visit Jordan who took me a whip-crackin’ away to Petra,.

And also the desert and the Dead and Red Sea last year The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time.

Give a little bit

Keep flying high: Virgin Atlantic

Now there’s always a bit of resentment that creeps in when we see someone as visible as Richard Branson asking for a dig-out.

But before we jump on the bandwagon it’s worth remembering the work that he and other airlines have been doing for years for charity.

In the Third World.

We may all be strapped for cash just now but when, and if, we can we should remember that when we next board a flight.

To fill the envelope.