Culture, UK

London’s Crowning Glory

If like the millions of others watching the Queen’s Funeral you would like to get up more close and personal to the British throne then of course you can at London‘s Crowning Glory.

The Crown Jewels which you see on the Queen’s coffin won’t, of course, be going with her to her final resting place.

As they’ll be needed to put on Charles’s head at the coronation.

While in between they’ll be encased back in the Tower of London.

Royal watchers will see the significance that the new British king has kept his birth name of Charles (he didn’t have to).

Because the crown jewels which we all gawk at were first put on the head of Charles II (his dad Charles I had his chopped off).

The new Crown Jewels

What a gem: The Crown Jewels

The Crown Jewels were destroyed at the Tower after the Civil War.

But they were remade for Chuck’s Coronation in 1661, which more respectfully was known as the Restoration.

Royalist or Republicans alike can marvel at the aesthetic of the Crown Jewels.

And the greater collection of 23,578 gemstones.

As we have on our travels in Britain’s capital.

Many of which are still used in royal ceremonies today such as the State Opening of Parliament.

And for those who want a greater insight into the new King then his coronet from his investiture as Prince of Wales from 1969 has also been on display since 2020.

It’s gold and platinum and set with diamonds and emeralds with a purple velvet and ermine cap of estate.

Yes, it’s true that Charlie has been preparing for this job all of life and he really will be down with the kids as the King of Bling.

Now if you let your imagination run away with you.

And wonder what they would look like on you, better keep it in your head rather than try and put in on it.

Because security though you might not see it is off the scale.

An Irish heist

Pocket it: Blood and his pals

Not that that stopped Colonel Thomas Blood (I guess the clue is in the title) try to make away with the crown in 1671.

Yeoman Warder Darren Hardy will tell you the whole dastardly story of London’s Crowning Glory on YouTube.

Of how the turncoat and his companions managed to outwit the Jewel House Keeper in the Martin Tower and snatch the jewels.

Blood, nicknamed ‘The Father of Treasons’ was Irish (naturally) and as they might say in modern parlance was ‘known to the authorities’.

A parliamentarian during the Civil War he had his lands taken after the Restoration and did not take that well.

He and his accomplices tried to seize Dublin Castle only for their plot to fail and his pals get executed…

Blood got away, well they do say Blood will out!

Obviously a man of derring-do he took it to the crown again.

When he hatched his plot to make away with the Crown Jewels.

Bloody Hell

Casing the joint: In London

On May 9, 1671, Blood, disguised as a priest duped the Jewel Housekeeper to hand over his pistols.

His three accomplices then emerged and forced their way into the Jewel House.

Only to be caught by the keeper’s son who raised the alarm.

One of the gang shoved the Royal Orb down his breeches.

While Blood flattened the Crown with a mallet and tried to run away.

The gang was arrested and Blood was brought before the king.

Who lucky for him was in a good mood that day…

Perhaps Nell Gwynn had lavished him with oranges or more.

And far from punishing Blood, Merry Monarch Charles restored his estates in Ireland.

And made him a member of his court with an annual pension.

Now we wouldn’t advise testing this Charles as the outcome might be very different this time.

A bit of Blarney

To the Tower: With a Beefeater

Blood, who had obviously used some Irish Blarney to win Charles around became a bit of a celebrity of his day.

And when he died his body had to be exhumed because the public didn’t believe he was dead.

This and much more, of course, you can find out.

From exploring 1000 years of English and British history at the Tower.

It is without doubt London’s Crowning Glory.

 

 

  

Countries, Cruising, Europe

France, somme-nous déjà-la?

And it is the question every English Francophile child in Dover is asking: France, somme-nous déjà-la?

Only we doubt whether improving their French is top of the prep just now.

And for those who do have any French they’re more likely to shout: bâtards Francais.

Because nothing turns you against a country more than waiting hours and hours to get into it.

Do the English hate the French?

Francophobe: Rees-Mogg

 

Of course the Francophobia is there already… in spades.

With Dickens character Jacob Rees-Mogg weighing in.

Even suggesting that the French want to make life difficult for British tourists?

Pourquoi?

Now where once the favourite car game was I Spy now it’s phoning in your radio station to Bash the French.

This is a quintessentially English obsession, a neighbourly dispute which sustains both but which disrupts the hood.

Good neighbours

Tres bien Monsieur Bean: Franglais

My own wee country of birth, Scotland, has a historical alliance with the French, the Auld Alliance.

Born out of mutual interest, to be fair, and a suspicion of the neighbour.

As is the case with those across the road, the Irish, who have often let the French in, to try to oust the English from their plot.

The mad thing though is that if the English dislike the French so much why are so many flocking to get over there.

Walking on water: In France

There are, of course, a multitude of reasons why there’s such gridlock in the English ports.

And no one party is to blame.

Maybe though if it’s possible not everyone head for the coast at the same time.

And if it’s because of school holidays, well, you don’t have to go in the first week.

Camp brand new

Plain sailing: And at least the boat is moving

The good news is that when you get there.

And your Stena or Brittany Ferries crossing will be smooth, comfy and good value, you’ll get a fab break.

France, particularly Nord, Normandy and Brittany are all about La Famille.

And their campsites are a long way from the basic scrub land we tried to pitch a tent in back on that post-school break to Saint-Raphael.

So the kids may ask France, somme-nous déjà-la?

But it will be worth it when you can say Enfin.

 

 

 

Caribbean, Countries

TUI can play underwater in Cancun

I’m dangerous enough above ground so how I’d fare among the watery statues is a scary thought now TUI can play underwater in Cancun again.

I will go peaking into the ocean depths again… and maybe soon enough.

Water surprise: Under Cancun

And that would certainly give me the shot of confidence I’d need to explore Cancun’s underwater museum.

It’s hard to think my forebears emerged from the sea when you consider my attempts at snorkelling.

Snorkel shmorkel

Right behind you pal: Snorkelling

I hurt myself more than scared the heroes in a half-shell when I cut my feet on the coral in Kuramathi in the Maldives.

Then I went chasing them twice in Barbados off our catamaran.

Though to be fair the first time my rum breath probably put the turtles off.

Turtley awesome

Ruby do: With Ruby in Barbados

I did see me Mr and Mrs Turtle on my return a year later.

And I hope they’ll remember me when I roll into Bim in the next couple of days for their Barbados Celtic Festival.

More of which when I negotiate the myriad regs required to clear the gates.

Do the Cancun

Maraca catta: In Cancun

Cancun, where we started talking about snorkelling today is a favourite Caribbean destination for Americans and Europeans.

And as well as being a great party hotspot it boasts something rare in its Underwater Museum of Art.

Now, this does exactly what it says on the tin, though that would be like no tin you’ve ever seen before.

Under the sea

Full steam ahead: Driving the boat

Musamexico.org suggests a choice of scuba diving options.

A snorkel at the gallery of Punta Nizuc at $47 or a glass-bottom boat snorkel paradise adventure for the same price.

Well, you pays your money and takes your choice and my choice is the glass-bottomed boat.

It was a great view of shipwrecks off Barbados and Malta.

And I dare say it would have been the best compromise in Jordan where my bushy moustache clogged my nasal passages.

And The Scary One did badger me to tidy up my beardie before I left for Barbados this time.

TUI Mex my day

Get ahead: Wear a hat

If you do want to check out the underwater statues then TUI has non-stop flights from Dublin to Cancun from next June.

So pencil into your calendar… every Monday from June 5 for seven weeks.

That’s a fortnight at any one of their range of more than 70 hotels along the Caribbean Coast.

Adult prices at the Riu Lupita, Playacar on an All Inclusive basis for 14 nights from €1,799 per person. Booking deposit is from €150 per person.

So yes, TUI can play underwater in Cancun.

 

 

 

 

Countries, Culture, UK

Banksy, Murtsy and a history of graffiti

If my school had had a more liberal attitude to wall art, folks would be talking now about Banksy, Murtsy and a history of graffiti.

After all I was only following in a Classical tradition that dates back to the Romans and Pompeii.

For yesterday’s lewd diagrams to denote their red light district think today’s cock and balls.

Whether the graffiti great of the Classics world had the same celebrity though as Banksy has been lost to history.

An exhibition of yourself

Banksy’s capital: The Flower Thrower

But the shadowy scribbler’s notoriety is richly deserved and are celebrated at a special exhibition in Covent Garden, London.

The Art of Banksy is the world’s largest touring collection of Banksy artworks, boasting over 100 original works.

And it has already been shown in Melbourne, Tel Aviv, Auckland, Toronto, Miami, Gothenburg, Chicago, San Francisco and Sydney.

Whether they have the rat and briefcase piece he drew when I took la famiglia to New York for the first time I’ll have to go along to Covent Garden to discover.

The exhibition highlights works made for charities all over the world.

From the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation to international activists Greenpeace.

Showing pieces from private collections, The Art of Banksy showcases his most iconic pieces.

Alongside rare works never seen by the public before.

American Graffiti

With bells on: Liberty Bell, Philly

Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, lays claim to being the modern-day home of graffiti.

Although, as in most things, New York contests this and insists the City that Never Sleeps is an upgrade.

If you’re a city break fan and seek out the places where the ragged people go then you’ll always glory in graffiti.

Graffiti always explodes where repression reigns and the Berlin Wall was probably the most graffitied surface in history.

Czech this out

Imagine: Prague

We saw it too elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe and particularly in Prague.

Where the John Lennon Wall came to represent the uprising against the Soviet invasion of the Czech capital in 1968.

Put the boot in

The bad guy: Putin

Of course these challenging times have inspired an outpouring of creativity to reflect our support for Ukraine.

And our revulsion at the invasion and our belief that the writing is on the wall for Putin.

The good guy: Zelenskyy

So you have my permission to make your mark on history.

And maybe I’ll get my spray paint out and get my name out there.

It’s got a ring to it, doncha think for the next exhibition…

Banksy, Murtsy and a history of graffiti.

How to get there

Icons: The exhibition

The exhibition at 50 Earlham Street is on Thursday and Friday: 10.00 – 21.00, Saturday: 9.30 – 19.00, Sunday & Monday: 10.00 – 18.00.

And if you don’t know London, the nearest stations are Covent Garden (3 minute walk), Leicester Square (5 minute walk), Tottenham Court Road (8 minute walk) Holborn (8 minute walk) and Charing Cross (10 minute walk).

Tickets are priced from £14.50 and can be booked online at artofbanksy.co.uk or over the phone, on 08440 412001.

Countries, Culture, UK

How many Ukrainians can Buckingham Palace take?

You do the math, but with 775 bedrooms how many Ukrainians can Buckingham Palace take?

The Queen has moved back, of course, to Windsor Castle in Royal Berkshire.

Which means it’s free.

A room for free: For Ukrainian Vlodomir

And even someone of her considerable wealth could do with the £350 per month government payment for taking in a Ukrainian family.

It would all help to pay her second-born’s settlement with Virginia Giuffre.

A day at the palace

Don’t go out on the balcony: The Royals

Of course nobody gets into Buck House for free, unless your titled or entitled.

So it’ll be £30 of your pleb money for a visit to the State Rooms or £55 when it’s Combined with a Royal Day Out.

And that’s the State Rooms, The Queen’s Gallery and the Royal Mews.

We’ve been down this route before flagging up the royal palaces around the UK which you can visit.

With the Palace of Holyroodhouse at the foot of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh an old favourite and former neighbour.

How to explain the British reverence, fascination and obsession for the Royal Family?

It’s a combination of tradition, pomp, ceremony and soap opera.

Tourist magnet

Snap happy: Get your pic how you can

And it is perhaps the biggest draw for tourists to the UK.

The experts, of course, are the guides who have an unrivalled knowledge of the history.

Whether they’re the Beefeaters at the Tower of London or the guides at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

And while your Beefeater is stiff and proper there’s a twinkle in the eye of your Edinburgh guide.

A bloody royal tale

Maneater: Saoirse Ronan as Mary Queen of Scots

And he will cheerfully walk you through the story of the murder of Mary Queen of Scots’ favourite David Rizzio.

You’ll be invited into the Queen’s Chamber where the Scots lairds (that’s lords) killed the Italian in front of the queen.

And wend your way down the spiral stone staircase where the guide will point out to you and the impressionable American and Asian party…

Of the blood embedded in the stones.

I swear I saw a brush protrude from his satchel.

Haggis farms

Winging it: The haggis

Us Scots are noted for our dry deadpan wit and another example springs to mind of how the guides play with their party.

When Stevie apologised to the Irish party I was with in Aberdeen.

That we were running late and would not be able to visit the haggis farm.

And I had to prompt him later to put them right in case they wrote about the haggis farm in their articles.

Armoured and dangerous: And knowing smiles

So maybe it’s best to leave that question I set at the outset to the guides who know as much about the royal residences as the queen.

How many Ukrainians can Buckingham Palace take?

 

America, Asia, Countries, Europe, Music, South America, UK

Olympic anthems

It’s not always the official song, so as we all zone in on Tokyo, here’s Rainy Days and Songdays Olympic anthems.

You go, Subo

In the pink: SuBo

Wings to Fly (Tokyo): Were you surprised too to see Scottish nightingale Susan Boyle trilling out Wings to Fly to accompany the release of those doves in the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo?

Not bad for a wee lass from Bathgate, Scotland, where the birds disturb the peace by dropping their stuff on you.

Houston, we have an anthem

Smile and style: Whitney

One Moment in Time (Atlanta): Now there was no female singer in the world in the 1990s than Whitney Houston.

And the warbler was the obvious choice for the signature tune for the 1996 Olympics in Georgia. Alas, this had all the saccharine of the city’s most famous soft drink.

What Katy Did Next

And she’ll be in Vegas soon

Rise (Rio)Katy Perry too was stellar, and still is, at the last Olympics in 2016 but she didn’t rise to the occasion with this overproduced piece of schtick.

Too earnest, we’d have far preferred Fireworks. And there are plenty of them in Rio by the sea-o.

Dream Small

Small wonder: Heather

Proud (London): Big hair, big smile voice, Heather Small was Big in the late 80s with dance band M People.

And big again when Heather re-released her solo song Proud as the anthem of the London Olympics in 2012.

We see Heather more now on reality TV, Strictly, the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage but would rather hear That voice.

Barcelonaaaaaaa

Catalan cantatas

Barcelona, Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé: And one we definitely see, overblown opera with Fandango Freddie and Spanish Soprano Montserrat.

All against the backdrop of brilliant Barcelona.

Your Olympic anthems

But what would be Freddie’s discipline? A lover of ballet, we’re thinking rhythmic gymnastics.

But what are your Rainy Days and Songdays Olympic anthems?

 

America, Asia, Countries, Europe

Olympics Flag Day

It’s a vexillologist’s dream, Olympics Flag Day… and there were 206 of them at the opening ceremony.

Of course the majority of them will never be seen again on the podium.

Now flags are really just the costume a country dresses itself up in.

Olympics Flag Day

So just like women and dresses it would never do if you turned up with your best flag.

And then you saw somebody there with the same drapery.

But that is exactly what happened at the 1936 Games in Berlin.

See the Leichtenstein flag

When Leichtenstein turned up for their first Games proudly displaying their blue/red split horizontal flag.

Only to see Games veterans Haiti flying theirs.

And so they did what every lady does… accessorise by adding a crown while Haiti added their coat of arms.

And Haiti has had a redraw

Of course the Olympics are the chance for every country and its athletes to meet people they’d never encountered before.

So just a couple of words here on some flags we’ll see a lot more of in the next couple of weeks.

Made in Japan

Nice one sun

Japan: The Rising Sun flag is one of the most distinctive and easiest to draw… if you’re Giotto.

Japan is said to have been founded by the Sun goddess Amaterasu in the 7th Century BC.

And is an ancestor of first emperor Jimmu… and surely a relative.

Chinese stars

Keep the red flag flying here

China: We all associate China with the Reds but, of course, Communism only dates back 70 odd years.

Not being political here but we prefer an earlier iteration, the Yellow Dragon Flag used by the Qing Dynasty.

Betsy’s bunting

And how it was

USA: The world’s most famous seamstress, you can learn the whole story of the American flag in the City of Brotherly Love.

Of how Betsy Ross sewed the definitive Stars and Stripes in Philadelphia.

And persuaded George Washington to agree to five-pointed stars rather than six because that was easier to sew.

UK OK?

Look who’s dropped in: Boris Johnson

UK: So, you thought you know the story of the Union Jack, actually the Union Flag, the Jack is naval.

It encompasses the St George’s flag of England and its then vassal territory Wales, the Scottish St Andrew’s Cross and the St Patrick’s Saltire.

As was inevitably the way of it the English wanted to tuck the Scots flag up in the corner and the Jocks to have their ceoss dominate.

Until they came up with the drape we all know.

Uber alles

Go for it Gretschen

Germany: The German black, red and yellow horizontal bands derive from the 1848 Year of Revolutions.

And are inspired by the black uniforms with red facings and gold buttons of the Lutzow Free Corps who fought Napoleon.

Happy to share

Pole position: Scotland or Tenerife

Scotland and Tenerife: Vexillologists everywhere know that Scotland and Tenerife share the same flag.

But for those who need a reminder I unpicked the threads of it.

You’ll not see the Saltire fly at the Tokyo Games unless, of course, it’s draped around the shoulders of Jock winners.

That would be a twist on Olympics Flag Day.

But it should have been me, it should have been me.

 

America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Green Lighting megamix around the world

It’s one of those annoying Government buzzwords so let’s claim it back with a Rainy Days and Songdays Green Lighting megamix around the world. Our favourite songs with ‘green’ in the title and the countries where they transport us.

Wales boyo

Green, Green Grass of Home, Tom Jones, Wales: Down the road I look and there runs Mary, hair of gold and lips like cherries.

Now I dare say most homes have green, green grass unless you live in a very hot country and the land is baked brown. But this just feels Welsh.

That is until you get to the rest of the song and realise that it’s a man on Death Row dreaming of home.

Maybe, Mary had a narrow escape after all. We, though will just imagine it as the beautiful Welsh valleys.

Green Cash

Forty Shades of Green, Johnny Cash: Arkansas and Ireland: The legend is that Johnny was inspired to write this County classic when he looked down from the plane at the patchwork fields of green of Ireland.

As a recruiting call for Ireland our pals at Tourism Ireland would have been proud as in true singer style Johnny namechecks everywhere on the Emerald Island.

Quite who the girl from Tipperary town with the lips like eiderdown is Johnny would never say, perhaps because June would have killed him.

Green Burns Country

Burns Cottage, Alloway,Scotland. https://www.nts.org.uk/visit/places/robert-burns-birthplace-museum

Green Grow The Rashes O, Eddi Reader: Burns and Ayrshire: The sweetest hours that e’er the old poet and ploughman prowler spent were spent among the lasses O.

The old rogue Burns was pure rock’n’roll and could pen a lyric and a tune which is probably why he is held in such high regard by the greatest singer-songwriters of the latter half of the 20th century.

With Bob Dylan, no less, crediting the Scot as his greatest inspiration.

And Henry VIII I am

Greeensleeves, King Henry VIII/Ralph Vaughan Williams, Berkshire: And another old lothario here with King Henry VIII said to have written this for Anne Boleyn.

What better tune then for an English rose to walk up the aisle to in her home county of Berkshire.

My Scary One has lost her head plenty of times since… but that’s been with me.

Vini Verde

Night at the opera: In Prague

La Boheme, Giuseppe Verdi: Prague: No, a non-green tune didn’t slip through. Giuseppe Verdi would actually be Joe Green in English.

The Milanese Verdi had the support of Gaetano Donizetti from nearby Bergamo whom he visited in Vienna which, of course, was the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

And that included Bohemia, or the current-day Czech Republic where the thing to do when you’re in Prague is take in a production at the opera house.

Poppies and Green Fields

No Man’s Land

The Green Fields of France, The Fureys and Davey Arthur, The Somme: And in the mud of the Somme the soldiers’ minds would drift off to some verdant pasture and memories of precious moments with a loved one.

Every nation sacrificed its most promising generation in No Man’s Land but for those from the furthest outposts of Empire… well, it just seems to be all the more pointless to modern sensibilities.

Eric Bogle, a Scots-born Australian, explores the pyschological cost to one survivor ‘young Willie McBride’. And it was all the more poignant after I’d seen the statue of the Scots soldier in northern France.

And another one to make you cry

Memphis Blues

Green Onions, Booker T. & the MGs: Memphis: In the home of the Blues, Memphis, Booker T & the MGs came up with their signature instrumental tune.

The story goes that the Stax house band were waiting around for the Sun artist and rockabilly singer Billy Lee Riley to turn up and developed the song.

And why Green Onions? Well Booker T. Jones self-deprecatingly said it was because green onions were the nastiest thing he could think of and something you could throw away. We never would.

Ol’ Green Eyes… well, Blue, but!

Little Green Apples, Frank Sinatra: New Jersey and New York: And a lot more digestible with this old standard covered by all the crooners.

But of all the crooners, none compare with the Boy from Hoboken, New Jersey who made it there in New York, and elsewhere.

And just like Johnny Cash from another song, Frank does his best to include the whole country, in this case America.

So a shout-out to Disneyland, Doctor Seuss in Springfield Massachussetts.

And Indianapolis where it don’t rain in the summertime and Minneapolis where it doesn’t snow when the winter comes. All of which it does to

Beret good

Ballad of the Green Beret, Sgt Barry Sadler/Dolly Parton: Take your pick, the clean-shaven All-American Boy, soldier turned actyor Barry Sadler or Miss American PIe herself, Tennessee’s Dolly.

Either way it’s flag-waving, Americana. And even if you don’t know the song you’ll recognise the tune.

Particularly if you’re a fan of Celtic FC who famously play in green and white hoops and who have adapted the song and lyrics into a favourite fans’ song With a Four-leaf Clover on My Breast.

The evergreen Cliff

Green Light, Cliff Richard, India, England, Portugal and Barbados: And there are few more wholesome and clean-cut than Our Cliff.

The evergreen Cliff belts this one out from the Seventies.

The Peter Pan of Pop who was born in India, grew up in England, and has had homes in Portugal and Barbados, though he is selling up in Bim (and yes I’m interested).

When it gets the Green Light.

 

 

 

 

 

Culture, UK

VC Day at Churchill’s Blenheim Palace

Just as the Great Old Man would say ‘We will never give in’ which is why May 17 will be celebrated as VC Day at Churchill’s Blenheim Palace, which is, of course, Victory for Churchill Day.

I spent the early part of the week visiting Blenheim Palace in Southern England.

Which is as it should be, how it was, and how it will be again.

Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire is, of course, the childhood home of the Second Greatest Ever Briton.

And it is throwing its doors open again to us now Covid restrictions have been relaxed.

It looks just like him

And we can all enjoy Winston Churchill’s beloved homestead again.

Churchill was born here

Winnie will be there to meet you himself.

In the guise of a newly commissioned model of the Old Bulldog which Jethro Crabb has sculpted for us.

Horsing around

There’s a model too of Young Winston’s childhood horse Rob Roy in The Stables Exhibition.

Where you can dress up and attempt to ride side saddle.

Whoa horsey: Rob Roy

Churchill, never short of a quip, said that the two most important decisions he made in his life happened at Blenheim.

‘To be born and to propose marriage to Clementine.’

McChurchill

Churchill, as well as being an MP for Dundee between 1908 and 1922, has other strong connections to us Scottish-type people.

The boy who would be PM

He came into this world on our national day, St Andrew’s Day, in 1874, when his parents were attending a ball.

And it was in Jockoland where he said ‘it was in Scotland I found the three best things in my life: my wife, my constituency and my regiment’.

Making an exhibition of himself

The Churchill Exhibition is the centrepiece of the new Blenheim Castle reopening.

And it is housed in the area of the Palace overlooking the Water Terraces which he used as an artist’s studio.

Man on the stomp

You can visit too the room in which he was born.

Probably with gnarled face and holding a pacifier between index and middle finger.

And for all the romantics out there you can take a stroll to the Memorial Garden and Walk in Churchill’s Footsteps.

You’ll discover his favourite places and the Temple of Diana, where he proposed to Clemmy.

Smokin’: Clemmy says yes to Winny

Wonder too at gardener par excellence Capability Brown’s work on your travels.

Have a cigar

The house itself is of course a treasure trove of history and thanks to Blenheim Palace and historian Dan Snow for filling us in on the gaps in our historical knowledge.

For VC Day at Churchill’s Blenheim Palace.

You can see the diamond-encrusted cigar box (with cigars) given to Churchill by the King of Yugoslavia.

And the snuff box Clementine gave her beloved husband.

While you can also gaze on Churchill’s well-thumbed passport which acts as an inspiration to all us travellers.

Portrait of a Princess: Princess Margaret

Blenheim Palace, of course, is a magnet to all manners of culture.

Takes some Beaton

And you can also enjoy the Cecil Beaton, Celebrating Celebrity Exhibition which will run from May 17-August 1.

And feast on images of Picasso, Dali, Marilyn, Mick Jagger and the Queen, Princess Margaret and Prince Charles.

See you on VC Day at Churchill’s Blenheim Palace.

Countries, Europe, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Mersey mix

And to celebrate the test event nightclub gigs for 6,000 people in Liverpool the past weekend Rainy Days and Songdays gives you our Mersey mix.

Fab Four

Across the Universe, The Beatles:

And the original and the best sung dreamily by John Lennon.

I’m sure the weekend’s DJs could put some bass and drums beat on this.

But I’m happy enough with George’s tanpura and Ringo’s skins.

I dare say Stefanie Hempel can do Across the Universe on her ukulele.

On der Beatles tour in Hamburg too but this is one she prepared earlier

Of course no trip to Liverpool would be complete without a trip to The Beatles Story on Albert Dock.

And pictures outside the Cavern Club, Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields.

Of course there is no shortage of Beatles tours around the city but we’d recommend The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour of course.


We’ll never send you away: The Ferry

People around every corner

Gerry and the Pacemakers, Ferry Across the Mersey:

There are iconic river trips, and ones personal to me, and we’ll deffo return to this.

But a ferry across Liverpool’s River Mersey is certainly right up there.

It became a favourite attraction to show visitors in our time living in Liverpool.

While Gerry’s other anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone is for ever associated with football team Liverpool FC or the great Celtic in that other great British port city Glasgow.

The sweetest song: The Real Thing

Real Liverpool

You To Me Are Everything, The Real Thing: As important in their own way to Liverpool at their time in the Seventies as The Beatles were in the Sixties.

The Real Thing were the first all British black band to make it and in those days that was a challenge.

Of course good music has no colour and travels across the world and time.

And it is the soundtrack of the Whiskey Muhle in Söll in Austria.

The Fab Five

Power of Frankie

The Power of Love, Frankie Goes to Hollywood: And, of course the Eighties in Liverpool and across the UK belonged to Frankie.

I’ll leave the grinding of Relax to the Liverpool gay nightclub scene, great song though it is.

And the political zeitgeist theatricality of Two Tribes to the boxing Reagan and Chernenko (ask your parents).

It’s the Three Wise Men from the East on the video which gets me every time. It’s the camels you see.

That takes the Biscuit

Look into my eyes: Dickie Davies

Dickie Davies Eyes, Half Man Half Biscuit: Birkenhead, Liverpool’s wee brother across the Mersey.

And where the Ferry docks is colloquially known as the One-Eyed City.

Because it always has one eye on Liverpool.

But Birky on the Wirral punches above it’s weight (sometimes literally, it can be rough) with its musical output.

It spawned synth gods Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, The Teardrop Explodes and the wonderfully inventive alternative cult band Half Man Half Biscuit.

The Birkenhead quartet have given us some of the most unforgettable song titles in pop…

All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit, Trumpton Riots, and my own fave, Dickie Davies Eyes.

Dickie Davies was an Eighties British TV sportscaster.

With a grey flash in his bouffant black hair and a manicured moustache not unlike my own at the time.

And different coloured eyes, like David Bowie had.

And I was giddy with excitement when I got the opportunity to interview him when I lived in Aberdeen.

HMHB were geniuses in channeling popular cultural reference points.

And celebrated Dickie in a pastiche of the Kim Carnes’ song of the tune, Bette Davis Eyes.

Of course I remember nothing of my interview with Dickie… I was too busy looking at Dickie’s Eyes.

Sit back and enjoy… Rainy Days and Songdays Mersey Mix