Adventure, Africa, America, Countries, Europe

My Sporting Weekend – Records

Talk Sport Radio has been a Godsend these past few months.

And my ears pricked up that little bit more with the latest cricket Test match.

Between England and South Africa coming from my old stomping ground of Port Elizabeth.

And they love their rugby in SA too

Now I’m not putting myself on the same level as Shoaib Akhtar or Brett Lee.

The pace aces bowled over 100mph there in the World Cup.

It’s just that the less-vaunted PE in South Africa is a city I fell in love with last year…

It got me thinking too about other destinations that have become tied in with world records.

You want a 401… call on Murty

Brian Lara, 400 not out, St John’s, Caribbean, 2004:

Any excuse to showcase the Caribbean I hear you say but there is a tale here about Lara and me.

My old university pal Jevan had taken me to Foreday Morning on my first visit to Barbados.

And introduced me to his old Trinidadian pal Brian.

I’m a Bajan: I don’t give a damn

He told me he was over for the cricket and I naively asked if he played.

I didn’t expect the greatest modern-day batsman would ever wear anything other than cricket whites or one-day burgundy!

Olympic champions

Stefan Kraft, Vikerssundbakken, Norway:

Now there are some sports we all do and those that are just death wishes.

Where’s the peloton?

Me, the Tour de France, 2019: Yes, here I am atop the 6,939ft Col du Tourmalet, the Tour de France’s most used climb.

And I’m not even out of breath. No wonder I needed some magic muscle-soothing water.

Climbing mountains is in the genes for Scots… I give you King of the Mountains Robert Millar.

Where’s the next record?

Me, white water rafting, Colorado:

The record for staying in the water tub long enough on the Poudre River…

Of course British Columbian Hazel Amos puts me to shame as the oldest rafter in the world at 96.

And yes, it’s another from the Wild West, but hey, I was born to be a cowboy.

Waltzing to the next title

Samuel Groth, world’s fastest serve, Busan Open, 163.7mph:

No, nor me, but this is it…

Of course my on serve after being coached by Judy Murray at The Campus, Quinto da Lago wasn’t chronicled.

That’ll be then.

Michael Austin, world’s longest drive: At 515 yards that’s some power.

Mike gripped it and ripped it at the Winterwood Golf Course in Las Vegas in 1974.

Blasting it 65 yards past the flag on the par-four 5th hole.

Vegas, baby: And Murty hits it into the next state

Me, I drunk it and sunk it… that’s my pitcher of beer at Topgolf in Las Vegas

On my Vegas trip a couple of years ago… Strip… the light fantastic.

While I also showed them how to do it in Quinto…

And hopefully I’ll be back to break my own record at the American Travel Fair


Africa, America, Countries, Culture, Europe

Putting these statues on a pedestal

All joking aside about Zlatan ‘The Ego’ Ibramovich being cut down to size.

But is it right that the Sweden soccer superstar should befall the same fate as Lord Nelson here in Dublin and Saddam Hussein in Baghdad?

The fallen Zlatan

Now I’m all for sportspeople, celebrities, actors and even, and particularly, animals to be put on a pedestal.

Because haven’t the aristocracy and the war leaders had their day in our affection and deference?

So here are is my unscientific list of my favourite statues.

And please let me know who I’ve missed out.

Greyfriars Bobby, Edinburgh

Bobby’s boy: With Greyfriars Bobby in Edinburgh

Well, if Bobby’s tale was good enough for Walt Disney then it’s good enough for me.

Bobby is buried not far from here in Greyfriars Kirk next to his master John Gray on whose grave he slept every night.

And he was then awarded the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh.

You’re advised though not to kiss his nose for luck as many started doing… it’s not lucky for Bobby as it’s wearing away.

For more on Edinburgh and Scotland visit and

And, of course, I always like to flag up ma wee hame country. And here’s a wee sample of what we eat and drink…

With and

Fannie Lou Hamer, Ruleville, Mississippi

A little big woman: Fannie Lou Hamer in Mississippi

Sometimes it’s the design that catches you and stops you in your tracks.

And so it is with this remarkable little woman,

The President of the USA, Lydon Baines, Johnson took extraordinary measures in stopping her saying her piece at the Democratic Convention by having television change its schedule.

Fannie Lou Hamer’s life was extraordinary, born into a sharecropping family and picking cotton from the age of six, she was later forced out of her home, threatened with her very life and beaten.

All because she wanted to sign on on the voting register.

She summed up her struggle in the Civil Rights Movement thus, and of course nobody could say it better: ‘I got sick and tired of being sick and tired.’


And why not read my American Trilogy…, and

Anne Frank, Amsterdam

The flower of youth: Anne Frank in Amsterdam

Us journalists like to think of ourselves as hard-bitten but I had to choke back the tears walking through the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam….

The audio narrative dwelt on a passage in her diary where she mentions that she wants to become a journalist when she’s older.

And what a journalist she would have been… ethical (yes, some of us are), prying and fearless.

Amsterdam is one of the world’s great cities and Anne one of history’s greatest figures…

And here is proof of that… and

Piss, Prague

Statues should be provocative and the Czechs have this one down to a T.

‘Piss’ is the good people of Prague’s commentary on the politicians who have urinated all over their country.

You’ll not see it here but once the water gets flowing they pee all over the map of the country.

The Czechs as well as being the world’s biggest lager drinkers, per population, with some of the world’s best beers, are wonderfully anti-establishmentarian.

Visit and here’s some other musings on the Czech Republic

Phil Lynott, Dublin

The boys are back in town: With my old pal Al

There are statues to musical giants all over the world but while former Thin Lizzy lead singer Phil Lynott isn’t the best or most famous singer of them all, try telling that to Dubliners.

It is a tradition now for visitors to Dublin to have their photo taken outside Philo’s statue off the main Grafton Street shopping thoroughfare.

That other statue, the Tart with the Cart, Molly Malone? Well you can leave that to the uninitiated.

And seeing you’ll be in town here is where you want to stay…

And this site will point you in the direction of other goodies…

Nelson, Bridgetown, Barbados

You can stay: Nelson in Bridgetown

He’s obviously not the only Horatio or the biggest, and as I’ve alluded to already some not too far from here even blew him up.

But he was a survivor, except when he was killed obvs, and he lost an eye and an arm.

Death might even have been a better gig too as he was transported home in a vat of rum… a good way to go and one that the Bajans would have approved of.

Until, of course, his old shipmates drilled a hole in the vat and drunk the rum!

Statues are a controversial subject but my Bajan hosts were keen to tell me that Nelson was part of their story too.

And so ignore the white liberals who like to speak for black people, they’re glad to have him keeping his one eye open on what’s going on in Bim.

For more on Barbados see And and

Martin Luther, Dresden

Closer to God: Martin Luther in Dresden

Some statues can withstand anything.

Martin Luther stood as a defiant symbol of Dresdeners refusal to see their city disappear after the Allies’ firebombing at the end of the Second World War.

The Dresdeners rebuilt the obliterated Frauenkirche sixty years later, after they had got rid of the Communists, using as the plans photographs they had asked the public to send in from their weddings.

Dresden was known as the Florence of the Elbe and it is one of the great architectural stories of our age, or any age, to see how the Dresdeners have rebuilt their city to the same grandeur of its renaissance days.

For more information on Dresden and also take a trip through the ages with me with

Hans Christian Andersen, Copenhagen

With Tom and My Little Princess in Copenhagen

Yes, the Little Mermaid is more visited, but personally I prefer the top-hatted Hans in the heart of Copenhagen.

Hans was an eccentric all right and once decamped on Charles Dickens, walked around the house in the starkers, and made it difficult for Charlie to show him the door.

Very Scandinavian and it just makes me want to revisit Denmark… and digging out my Scandinavian wanderings

Nelson Mandela Voting Line, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

March to Freedom: In Port Elizabeth

Statues shouldn’t just stand there. No, really. And this is a moving symbolic Voting Line which sums up South African democracy.

This is our host Sisseko and beside him a kid as he would have been back in 1995 when South Africa had its historic vote.

It is also immersive and you don’t have to climb up a plinth to get next to it as they do in Glasgow when they put police cones on the Duke of Wellington.

It is the way I should imagine that Nelson, a native of the Eastern Cape, would have wanted it.

And for more on South Africa’s Eastern Cape visit and And this is how I tries to do it justice…

Martin Luther King, Washington DC

Unfinished business: Martin Luther King in Washington DC

We’ll never stop building statues, of course, and I expect a Bandanaman up in my name when my Travelling days are done.

This statue of Dr Martin Luther King is never meant to be finished though.

Until the Civil Rights struggle has been finally met which, of course, it never will be, alas.

But what genius and how moving. For more on my favourite capital city visit http://Easy DC and


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.



Trawling the graveyards of history

I’m dying to share this… how one woman is remembered in the Caribbean.

From the inscription which marks the span of her life.

From sunrise to sunset…

You have to think that Emily was a ray of sunshine herself.

Well, she was from Tobago, an island where rain is known as liquid sunshine…

Insert your own caption here

And I left with a mountain of memories… It’s Robinson Crusoe’s very own Tobago and I should cocoa – Christmas in Tobago.

I was thinking about death today (no, not a heavy Saturday night) but a regular occurrence.

After visiting the ancient burial ground of Glendalough, Co. Wicklow, near my home here in Ireland.


It’s a mystery: In Tobago

I may well have inherited my fascination for graveyards from my Dear Old Dad who I’ll meet there one day.

The Tobagonians have a unique way of seeing life… and death.

As evidenced by this riddle on what has become the most famous grave on the island.

Riddle me this: In Tobago

So that you don’t have to strain your eyes too much the gist of the inscription on the 1783 grave in Plymouth reads in part:

‘She was a mother without knowing it, and a wife without letting her husband know it except by her kind indulgences to him.’

Riddles in Tobago

Now we were asked by our hosts the same question they pose to every visitor: ‘What the heck does it mean?’

My answer, the obvious one, is it’s a woman, whoever knows what goes on in their minds.

Marilyn and me: LA

I keep my eyes open for graves and final resting places wherever I go.

Just this year I discovered that Marilyn Monroe’s final resting place is off a busy street in LA… and

Where she is forced to spend eternity with her old nemesis Hugh Hefner which I tell you all about on this blog… My weekend with Marilyn


You can’t pick your neighbours

Of course, graveyards have strong personal connections to those who are related to, or are friends of the deceased.

World War I battlefields

Such as when I was the first of my family to kneel at the graveyard of my Great Uncle Willie who fell in Ieper, or Ypres.

While on that tour of the World War I battlefields In Flanders fields with and and I visited the Canadian and German memorials.

The Canadian memorial with its Caribou statue has a special resonance for my family as Grandpa George fought for the Canadian Army.

And met Granny Mary, a nurse, when he returned to Scotland.

A South African tale

War and graveyards tend to go hand in hand.

And in a visit to the Eastern Cape in South Africa at the start of the year What’s new pussycat? I braved the cold and the damp…

And the big game to visit the graveyard of an Afrikaans resistance fighter from the Boer War…

Of course hanging around graveyards at this time of year you’re liable do get some spooky vibes.

And the lines between this life and the next can become blurred.

Make of me and my colleagues from that trip to South Africa what you will…


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:



Dog days… It’s International Dog Day

Right, just to address a false impression, particularly on this International Dogs Day. I don’t dislike dogs.

I probably prefer cats but there are some doggies I have fallen in love with.

The first was Dinky, the Welsh corgi at Shovlin’s guesthouse in Narin-Portnoo, Co. Donegal.

A real prince of dogs, his is the breed so beloved by the Queen.

We would regularly sit on the craggs and I would throw balls to him so he could run on the wide golden sands.

Yes, that beach is all mine: Dinky

My Dear Old Dad, not the biggest animal lover, even took to him.

Narin-Portnoo was a favourite family holiday, my Mum’s parents and sister Nora lived just up the road in Brockagh, near Ballybofey.

And, of course, it was the first place I took the Scary One, when she was merely a little daunting, and the Son and Heir.

Visit and

Like people, I suppose we all have our types, and I venture for the loyal, sparky types. It helps if they’re cute too.

The best friend a man ever had was Greyfriars Bobby who I make no apologies in bringing up again and whom Disney made a film about.

Bobby slept on the grave of his maister (that’s Scottish for master) in Edinburgh’s Greyfriars Kirk (a graveyard). And their graves lie next to each other now.

That’s my pub too: Greyfriars Bobby

There is a statue outside the kirk, and a pub, in his honour too.

Every time I’m back in Edinburgh I make a pilgrimage up to see him, and just for research have a dram (a whisky) in the pub.

Ever work with pets

They say never work with pets or children… but television and the movies always fall back on doggies and kids. They are a sure-fire earning winner.

The best dog on TV because he is, and because he’s on the best television show ever made is Eddie, Martin’s best pal, on Frasier.

Sahara bumpety: With Sahara in Algoa Bay, off Port Elizabeth, South Africa

And because of that I always have a soft spot for Jack Russells.

Sahara. the South African Jack Russell is the mascot of Raggy Charters whale and dolphin-watching boat firm in Port Elizabeth.

Heck, I don’t think owner Lloyd would object to me saying it’s Sahara who runs things around there.

Here he is pointing out the bottlenose blue dolphins to us in Algoa Bay… it’s the bottlenose dolphin capital of the world. And, of course, check out all that PE and South Africa has to offer and

I know there is a certain irony in begging up dogs as my South African article What’s new pussycat? was in praise of cats

But all God’s creatures have a place in the choir… and this blog.


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.