Africa, America, Countries, Europe, Music

Rainy Days and Songdays my Oscars favourite songs

In no particular order, and for the day that’s in it, it’s Rainy Days and Songdays – my Oscars favourite songs.

It was something daring, I guess, to award a Best Original Song at the Academy Awards in 1934.

But it was probably a dancing shoe-in for Hollywood superstars Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ The Continental.

Dance away

If Fred and Ginger were around today then they’d glide easily down the fabled stairs of the Dolby Theater.

But they are there out front in the Walk of Fame.

All of which we can channel, and which every waiter dreams of aspiring too, in Los Angeles and his environs.

The Continental is one of my Oscar favourite songs and set the standard for every Best Original Song to come.

And in truth for every Over the Rainbow and White Christmas there is a Chim-Chim-Cheree and an I Just Called To Say I Love You too.

Gong with a song

The standard is off the chart which is why the usual Fab Five becomes a Top Ten this week for My Oscars favourites.

10 When You Wish Upon A Star, Pinnochio (1940): 

Pure Disney, and what’s wrong with that.

But this is the craftmanship of Florentine Carlo Collodi so let’s give the Tuscans a shout-out as ‘anything your heart desires will come to you.’

Take it away Cliff Richards as Jimmy Cricket.

9 Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, Song of the South (1947): 

One of Disney’s more forgettable films and ‘containing outdated language’ though I just dwell on the Deep South music.

James Baskett’s deep anthem is about as happy a song as you’ll ever hear.

And in a cutesie overload Mr Bluebird’s on James’s shoulder too. Everything truly is satisfactual!

8 Three Coins In The Fountain (1954): 

No me neither, nor the singers Clifton Webb, Dorothy McGuire and Jean Peters who each sang the titular song.

But anyone who has ever been to the Trevi Fountain in Rome will either hear someone singing it there while throwning coins over their head into the water.

Or they will be encouraged to do so.

Singing Cowboys

7 Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969):

And if you love the Wild West  then you’ll love the scene where Paul Newman (Butch) and Katharine Ross (Etta) mess about on the bicycle in Utah.

And Burt Bacharach’s velvety lyrics and BJ Thomas’s smooth delivery set it all off.

6 The Time Of My Life, Dirty Dancing (1987): 

The beauty of a good song is trying to recreate it in your bedroom which is what hairbrushes were made for, although Patrick Swayze’s quiff just came naturally.

But if you truly want to channel your inner Johnny and Baby then you’ll want to get out to Lake Lure Inn & Spa in North Carolina.

And have Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes on the boom box.

5 The Streets of Philadelphia (1993): 

You’re probably exhausted after that (I know I am) so let’s slow it down with the Boss’s evocative and powerful Streets of Phladelphia.

Of course, the actual streets of Philadelphia aren’t as gut-wrenchingly emotional as this song and are actually fun-packed as this vid shows.

Better still if you go to Philly the City of Brotherly Love, and find out for yourself.

Drum roll please

4 Born Free (1966): 

And another to pull on your heartstring with the story of Joy and George Adamson, played by real-life couple Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers.

They released Elsa the Lioness into adulthood and released her into the wilds of Kenya.

All of which brings back warm memories of meeting our lioness out in the Eastern Cape in South Africa.

And yes, I sang Matt Monro’s classic in my head then… I didn’t want to stir my lioness.

3 White Christmas, Holiday Inn (1942):

Many of us are probably unaware of Irving Berlin’s inspiration for the best-selling song of all time (I was).

Berlin, a Jew, who didn’t celebrate Christmas had all the more reason to get maudlin on December 25.

His three-week-old son died on that day in 1928. Bing Crosby gives it a timeless uplifting feel.

2 Over The Rainbow, The Wizard of Oz (1939):

And the ultimate in what Daddy’s Little Girl so beautifully puts it, a Happy Sad Song.

And layering on the sentamentality it was the first movie my Dear Old Mum saw in her nearest big city, Derry.

She recalls the switch from black and white to colour seemed like magic to an 11-year-old country girl.

A country girl like Kansas lass Dorothy.

And the winner is…

1 Moon River, Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961): 

Tiffany’s in New York is no more magical than any other jewellery store methinks.

But perhaps that’s because I’m an alpha male bloke, while Breakfast to me is a bagel.

Put them together though and Breakfast At Tiffany’s carries you off to a wonderful escapist world.

It’s the adventurer in me andyou had me Audrey Hepburn at ‘there’s such a lot of world to see.’

So these are my Oscar favourite songs. Now what about you? 




Life in a township

Xhanti would save a morsel of bread for his bold visitor. The little bird who perched faithfully between the bars of his cell.

During his solitary confinement in the Armed Struggle.

Now Xhanti is as free as a…

And spending his weekends chasing birdlies on a golf course.

And his days showing tourists around the sprawling township of New Brighton on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth.

Us, a party of Irish (and one Scot) travel writers with the South African tourist board. and

He invites us to join him in South Africa’s national pastime.

No not rugby, nor cricket, the traditional African sport.

Although one local is proudly donning a Springboks top, or soccer, the blacks’ sport.

No, everything stops for food in South Africa, and more specifically a braai (barbecue).

On game reserves, in parks, in back yards, on beaches and in KK’s ‘butchery’ or bar.

We are laden down with meats, mutton, beef, chicken and corn on the cob…. the salad is just dressing.

Which can only be truly savoured with a Castle beer… or three.

Everywhere we go in the township and the ramshackle Red Location, its oldest and poorest port we are met with kindness.

It has been a long road to freedom for Xhanti and his fellow Freedom Fighters.


But looking around the dirt poor corrugated roofed sheds they look no better than outhouses.

But they house whole families and you sense that there is a long way still to go.

The billboards remind us that a general election is around the corner next month.

And the country is looking to President Cyril Ramaphos to continue to try to heal the wounds left by Jacob Zuma..

What would Mandela think?

Everyone visits for a photograph with him.

And we are still following.

As an adjunct to this article the Port Elizabeth township’s most famous son Siya Kolisi lifted the Rugby World Cup six months after my visit...


My faces of the year… South Africa

My teachers would always tell me not to talk back but I always did.

Just like recently when The Scary One reminded me that I’d been away 10 times this year…

I reminded her that it was actually 11 if you count my trip up to Northern Ireland for the Open Golf Championship.

Which I definitely do.

Ian mighty: Boers and beasts

For all the trips I’ve had it has been an exceptional year after I struck out on my own after 30 years as a wage slave.

And while every one of the destinations boasted a beautiful vista or historical site or activity they all shared one thing in common.

Unforgettable people… and animals!

Sahara Port Elizabeth’s Raggy Charters doggie

Because it really is faces, not places, that make a holiday for me.

So if you want sunsets and sand, pools and paella then I’d suggest another site.

Or gated community (or asylum)!

So where do I start? Lost (again) in a national park in the Eastern Cape of South Africa… and


Leopard print

With local guide Alan who knows the land like the back of his hand.

Only it can’t be this land as we discovered going around in circles and only arriving back in our Port Elizabeth hotel at midnight.

After the bar had closed… never a good look for an Irish party!

Ian had more of a handle on things when he took us out on safari.

And helped us track down a leopard!

Township pals: With Xhanti

And all the time the ever-patient and always T-shirted Siseko kept us on track all across the Eastern Cape.

Our English host Rachel added smiles and youth to an old man’s photographs.

Rhino. Howiya?

And Xhanti put on a braai (or barbecue) for us in the biggest township in South Africa…

While telling us stories from the armed conflict when he used to hide under the bed from the authorities.

When he wasn’t locked up in a prison cell.

Where the guards would give prisoners a Bible for redemption.

Only the Good Book is replete with stories of how the oppressed will rise up.

Good planning there!

Our South Africa: Host Rachel, Bandanaman and Jimmy

Of course there’s always one on every trip.

And as my good friend and doyen of the Travel circuit Eoghan Corry says: ‘if you don’t know who that is: it’s probably you.’

You see I wasn’t being woke enough for my thirtysomething Itish colleague about something or other.

Braii time: We’re all pals

Hey ho, it wouldn’t be the last person I’d fall out with over the year.

Still we made up by the end of the evening and back in Dublin we met at a function and it was air kisses all round.



South Africa’s prize boy from the township

Iain Buchanan was uncharacteristically unSouth African when I asked him in February if the Springboks would win the Rugby World Cup.

No, man!

Well, Iain and the gang will be breaking out the Cape white wine.

With ice, like they do in South Africa, today in the Mount Camdeboo Game Reserve

The All Boks

Iain was more definite and enthused when asked about what Nelson Mandela had done for South Africa… What’s new pussycat?

‘A great man, a great man.’

You can’t separate the Rainbow Nation and the modern Springboks story. Nor should you.

And I somehow think that Mandela will be smiling broadly up there today for Siya Kolisi.

Braai high: In the Port Elizabeth township

The boy from the Port Elizabeth township.

Which I visited on that same trip to PE and the Eastern Cape… Day in the life of a township and

And had a braai (a South African barbecue) in the type of shebeen Kolisi referenced in his victory speech.

We’re all Springboks here. In the township

Where I met a resistance fighter, Xhanti, who now spends his weekends on a golf course until recently a whites preserve.

A resistance fighter and a fine golfer, Xhanti

Growing up and watching from afar you couldn’t support South African sportsmen because of apartheid.

Now it’s hard not to.

And today as Kolisi testified they will be celebrating as much in the townships as on the farms.


And some important websites:



Here’s to beer

It’s beer o’clock… who am I kidding? Any hour of the day is beer time on this International Beer Day.

And that’s why I’m saying… here’s to the Brewery and Two Goats Deli in Nieu Bethesda, Dulf’s Burger in Hamburg, Tom’s Bierhaus in Ieper in Belgium.

And where ever your local boozer is.

But firstly would you let me take you to a dusty Karoo town in the Eastern Cape of South Africa?

Because it was there that I spent a very pleasant afternoon in the baking sun, drinking samples of stouts and ciders.

And before falling asleep on the swing bed.

That said, they are good memories that I hark back to on this International Beer Day.

Bok to the beer

This is where I sampled South Africa out of a glass… or five.

For more visit And check out my review of the Eastern Cape…

And here’s a couple of other pics of me drinking beer…

Burger and beer

In Germany, obviously, with a local Astra Pilsener lager and a hamburger. It must be Hamburg. Let’s relive it…

Belgian beer

And a large one with Simon in Tom’s Bar in Ieper in Belgium.

It was a poignant trip finding my Great Uncles who fell in the War.

But this was downtime… and I bet Willie and Patrick drunk the beer too.

The Virginian

Virginia in the US: And this is a blonde I picked up in Bristol. A beer that is. visit

So why don’t you join me on my day out in Virginia which was billed as Beer and Battlefields and took me back in time to the days of Stonewall Jackson.

We’ll leave it at that for just now… I’m thirsty.

Dear Jesse

Apart from to say, a big thank you to Californian Jesse Avshalomov for giving us the excuse.

Because it was Jesse who founded the thing in 2007 in Santa Cruz, Southern California.

And since its inception it has grown into a worldwide phenomenon (which I’m catching onto now) spanning 207 cities, 80 countries and six continents.