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

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

I’m listening – Seattle and other sitcom worlds

Frasier’s returning which means more Seattle.

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

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

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

Here’s to Cheers

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

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

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

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

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

Mork calling Boulder

Rev it up for Boulder

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

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

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

And check out the bluegrass music and the food tours.

Golden Girls’ Miami

Mexing it up in Miami

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

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

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

I suppose I better share with my Golden Girl!

The Liver Birds

The Liver Boys: With my Al

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

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

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

Derry life

Writing on the wall: In Derry

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

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

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

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainydays and Songdays – the American musical

Give my regards to Broadway, Remember me to Herald Square, Tell all the gang at Forty-Second Street, that I will soon be there.

Because it’s come to my notice that they’re making a movie out of Hamilton for release next year and we’ve been binge-watching musicals during lockdown.

I’m taking a Yankee Doodle Dandy dander through the American musical with a stop-off in London’s West End and Dublin’s Theatreland too.

Come all: Come From Away. www.broadway.com

Away, away, away, away

Come From Away: Which is all visitors coming into North America anyway.

These ones, of course, were the 38 planeloads who had to land in the small Newfoundland town of Dander after 9/11.

And found out a lot more about each other as I did when I saw it in Denver.

We all come from far away and have become friends over the years at IPW, the American Travel Fair, who bring the best of Broadway to whichever town is in town.

And here’s one from the show worth coming for…. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=p8JI70eXjG8.

Peak form? Wicked. https://www.wickedthemusical.co.uk/

Wicked stuff

And this one cones to you from Dublin and New York and Oz.

Which is, of course, the thing about musicals, they transform you to other lands.

Dublin was where Disney on Broadway invited us to take in Wicked.

But if you can’t get to the show this will warm your heart up… https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=HEnQY_66GZc

She’s all heart: The Carole King Musical. www.broadwaydirect.com

King of London City

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical: I felt the earth move when I caught the story of the greatest female songwriter of all time in London.

And that was just from my kids holding an unsanctioned party back in Greystones in Co. Wicklow in Ireland.

And our next-door neighbour texting us to tell us they had called the Gardai

Didn’t stop me throwing shapes though. It could wait until I got home before I threw my weight around!

And Carole.., What a natural woman!

All you need is…, Las Vegas. www.cirquedesoleil.com

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE

The Beatles LOVE: And this being Cirque de Soleil you just know it will be an interactive experience.

With trapeze artists and dancers twirling about… Vegas, baby!

All to the background of Liverpool‘s finest, the Fab Four.

And you’ll be lucky and see a guy in the sky with diamonds (or sequins at least).

Of course, the best musical is the one about a half-Scottish New Yorker who made good and led his country to great things.

This is my pick from the various productions out there.

America, Canada, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Lennon’s revolution… 80 years a working class hero

Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans – John Lennon

We could pick any number to define our times as we mark John Lennon’s 8Oth birthday this week. Suffice to say his was a life lived.., and how.

We’ll never know for sure how he would have spent the last 40 years since his murder outside the Dakota Building in NY.

Blue for you. www.johnlennon.com

But it would be safe to assume he would have been at the forefront of all the great struggles of our day.

The Fall of the Wall, Apartheid, Black Lives Matter, Freedom from Covid.

Lennon bestrode his world, leaving his imprint, and still does.

And as his adopted New York celebrated his legacy by turning the Empire State Building blue, here are four Lennon cities.

Liverpool Lou Lennon

Liverpool 4

Oh Liverpool Lou, lovely Liverpool Lou, why don’t you behave like other girls do?

And we have Yoko Ono to thank for knowing this, that John would sing this song, his Mum’s fave, around the house.

John’s statue stands alongside his pals on the Liverpool waterfront near the Beatles Story museum.

Lennon is everywhere in his home city and the under-threat Cavern Club is a good first stop while let someone else do the work for you on their Magical Mystery tour.

Growing up in Hamburg

I didn’t grow up in Liverpool, I grew up in Hamburg.

Not that John was dissing his home city, it was just that he was giving an honest reply to a reporter.

Lennon and the boys (five of them then, with Stuart Sutcliffe on board and with Pete Best instead of Ringo Starr) lived in Hamburg between 1960-62.

And Stefanie Hempel’s Beatles Tour Das Original will take you all over their favourite haunts.

John was his favourite and she had his poster above her bed.

She will take you to the St Pauli door where he posed for a shot later used for the Rock ‘n’ Roll covers album and much, much more.

John’s New York

If I’d lived in Roman times, I’d have lived in Rome. Where else? Today America is the Roman Empire and New York is Rome itself

While we all know that John died in NY let’s dwell on his life in the Big Apple.

John loved its vibe, its people, its energy and put it down in song on New York City off the album Some Time in New York City.

Dakota Building and the Strawberry Fields memorial where the music never stops are obviously on the itinerary.

For the rest, check out this video.

The Lennon wall in Prague

The Lennon Wall, Prague

What to make of it when you’re told that the Lennon Wall in Prague now has ‘Fuck Trump’ messages on it?

It put off my Czech guide who remembers the wall well from the days when it was an organic centrepoint of protest against the Communist.

‘Appen though John would approve.

And let’s not let Amsterdam and Montreal lie

Of course, this is where John and Yoko had their Bed-ins for Peace.

At the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam and the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal.

And I hope that John would approve as I find myself compiling my thoughts here bolt upright in my bed.

While waiting to get back out there travelling again.

Countries, Culture, Music, UK

Britannia? Yacht to try these UK sites instead

You know when you live somewhere but never visit that famous site, like me and the Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh.

It can’t be because I take a stand against lavish palaces or ostentatious wealth… I love Rome and the Vatican.

Comfort is the watchword

So, I’ll need to get myself along and see how the other half live.

One would like tea for two

Heck, who am I kidding? It’s how I like to live when our killjoy leaders aren’t closing down all the borders.

But for now, and in the spirit of the Which survey of the best of the top 50 most-visited attraction I give you…

My entirely scientific and undeniably definitive five UK attractions.

Cottage industry

Anyone know a poem? Burns Cottage

Alloway, Ayrshire: Well, if it was good enough for Wordsworth and Shelley and Muhammad Ali to visit!

Robert Burns’ home village in Ayrshire, the centre point of which is the cottage in which he was born in the 18th century, is a truly spiritual place.

Check out the statues of Tam O Shanter, Souter Johnny, Burns’ father’s grave, the statue of a mouse and Brig o’ Doon.

Robin reliant

Boy and the Hood: Nottingham

The Robin Hood Experience, Nottingham: It takes an outlaw to know an outlaw.

You’ll immerse yourself in Sherwood Forest in an un prepossessing building near Nottingham Castle and get a chance too to twang your arrow.

While actors dressed in costumes of those heroes of legend interact with you.

Chocs away

The best bar none for chocolates

Cadbury World, Birmingham: And you thought Willie Wonka was an invention, you Willie Wonka.

You can take a cart through the history of cocoa in this chocolate heaven in Bournville (yes, really), Birmingham.

On your tour, you’ll see how chocolate is made and best of all are sent away with a handful of bars.

Daddy’s Little Girl took two handfuls.

Churchillian speech

Mapping out a day out… in the War Rooms

The Churchill War Rooms, London: And deep within the vaults in Whitehall in the heart of London, Winston and his pals waged the Second World War.

You can see his bedroom, the map room, the decoders.

And when we found all the other sites were closing up for the day they let us in. Well, we were on the right side!

Get back!

Fab Four in Liverpool

The Beatles Story, Liverpool: If The Beatles had been American then they’d have turned their home city into a visitors’ attraction.

Which may seem like a step too far although it does work in Graceland because it is outside of Memphis.

Yes, it’s great to have the museum down by Albert Dock in Liverpool, the bus tour, Penny Lane and the Eleanor Rigby statue.

But the idea that the Cavern Club should be in danger of closure because of financial troubles is a local and national disgrace.

Over to you Paul McCartney… don’t let it be!

Africa, Countries, Europe, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Hungry and Thursday – Liverpool scouse

And if you’ve felt too silly to ask what it is, the food that gives its name to Liverpudlians as in Liverpool scouse, this week’s Hungry and Thursday is all about Liverpool scouse and stews around the world.

Scousers have been getting their voices heard (and what’s new there?) these past few weeks, culminating in their fireworks party as they lifted the Premier League title at Anfield yesterday.

But seeing this is a food and drink post, and I already give you a sporting post, My Sporting Weekend every weekend, I’ll stick to scouse.

In a Stew

Which will stick to you teeth or in them. Because it’s really just stew with extras.

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Ally in red, naturally

I first had myself a plate of scouse in Albert Dock, Liverpool, as I waited for my interview at the Liverpool Daily Post back in the 1990s.

I had pulled a sickie to attend and was to go on and stare inside the studio where the British morning magazine programme This Morning was televised, only for the camera to turn on me.

Just the job

Which is when I got a shiver down my back as I thought of my boss’s wife watching from up in Aberdeen and reporting to Jim that I was really down on Merseyside when I should have been at my desk.

Still, I got the job so it wouldn’t have mattered.

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Back to the scouse and the word derives from ‘lobscouse’ which was a Scandinavian and Northern German stew brought to Liverpool by sailors.

The Liverpudlians, of course, reciprocated and sent exports of their own to these parts… The Beatles. And you can hear all about that in the city they made their home, Hamburg.

Hamburgers… and stew

On Stefanie Hempell’s Beatles tour (and you won’t get better).

While scouse isn’t the only comfort food that the Hamburgers have exported with great success. See Hamburgers and ships.

IMG_1350
A Star in Hamburg

So what’s in Scouse?

Scouse consists of mutton, lamb (often neck), or beef with vegetables, typically potatoes, carrots, and onions. Serve with pickled beetroot or pickled red cabbage and bread.

Ethiopia and the world

While I leave my Liverpool-born son to make his way back from the festivities to Scotland, or indeed the phone call to bail him out of jail, I’ll take you on a gristlestop tour around the world of stew.

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With the queen of Ethiopia, Meseret

Meat of Africa

Ethiopian chicken stew: And I’ll miss those Ethiopian  New Years in Dublin which I shared with my friends Carole, Lorcan, Tony and my Queen of Ethiopia Meseret.

Because Enkutatash runs to the old calendar which means that you actually lose time. I, of course, lose all sense of time when the wine starts flowing which I only do to soak up the Ethiopian stew which you eat with your hands soaking it up with bread.

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And you can get a fancy dish too

Balkan bellies

Bosanski Ionac, Bosnia & Herzegovina: And they love their homely food in the Balkans and it unites the different cultures and traditions.

Whether you’re with the ultra-Catholic Croatians of Medjugorje of Marian Pilgrimages  or in Muslim Sarajevo in the Bey Mosque district What’s the story, Medjugorje? Wouldn’t you like to know?.

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Let’s waffle on about Belgian stew

Belgian bulge

Carbonnade, Flanders, Belgium: And the brave soldiers who went to the Front in the First World War would take their pleasures where they could.

So that meant wine, women and song… or in Ieper, dark beer (there’s lots of it in this dish), women (they’re the same the world over) and drinking shanties. All right up a Tommy’s street and the best people to go with are GTI Travel and Visit Flanders.

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Catch of the day: Fish stew

Portuguese please

Caldeireada, Portugal: And if you’ll eat anything as long as it swims in the sea then Portugal and Quinta do Lago SPORTUGAL and Portugal Centro  is the place for you.

Load your plate up with shellfish and don’t be liberal with the squids and octopus.

You’ll need a rich base of onions, white wine, olive oil, and tomatoes, and season with a variety of fresh herbs and spices such as saffron and nutmeg.

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They’ll be the dumplings then

Cesky goulash: Not to be mistaken for Hungarian goulash. All right, it is quite similar. Mop it up with the obligatory Czech dumplings and sauerkraut.

And, of course, Pilsener Urquell.

They had a big post-lockdown feast on the Charles Bridge in Bohemian Prague recently and I[m hoping there were leftovers!

And with apologies to Irish stew and other meaty greats from around the world.

Heck for fear of being force-fed vegetarian I’ll return to this subject.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asia, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – You’ll Never Walk Alone

Unless you’ve been living under a rock then you’ll know by now that Liverpool have won their first league title for 30 years… you’ll never walk alone.

Which is of course their salute to each other and when I say ‘their’ I do of course mean ‘our’.

Because we used to live in Liverpool www.visitliverpool.com and the Son and Heir was born there and took the team with the city’s name in it as his club.

Setting the pace

Little would Gerry & The Pacemakers know when they released their cover of the Rogers and Hammerstein song from the musical Carousel in 1964…

The Celtic Way. www.uefa.com

But this song would become the most famous ‘football’ song in history.

Interestingly too it is shared with the first British winners of the European Cup, Celtic.

Liverpool may be obvious because Marsden is a Liverpudlian.

Celtic tribe

And the-then manager Bill Shankly is said to have swooped on the song when he met the singer.

But Glaswegian giants Celtic https://peoplemakeglasgow.com is less obvious and in fact dates to 1966 when the two teams met in European competition.

Yellow wall: Borussia Dortmund. www.bvbbuzz.com

There has never though been any rivalry over the song between the two clubs whose fans have enjoyed a long bond with each other.

The anthem has been taken up by teams abroad with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s former club Borussia Dortmund playing it.

Ja beauty

And as you know my mantra when going anywhere is to seek out where they play and pray… https://www.germany.travel/en-mobile/index.html.

And whisper it around the Westfalenstadion but my football education in Germany has been in Munich.

The Feyenoord Legion www.feyenoord.com

There are of course two teams in the city and 1860 also play at the Allianz Arena along with Bayern.

The Dutch too have embraced YNWA.

With the Liverpool stadium speaker George Sephton giving FC Twente the song when they moved stadiums.

Dutch of magic

While Feyenoord and SC Cambuur have also taken the song to their hearts.

I’ve been all over Dutch football since I adopted them as my ‘second team’ after watching Johan Cruyff’s side of the mid-Seventies.

In Bruges

And Dutchland since I became old enough to organise my own holidays Pictures of Amsterdam and George Clooney and Amal’s Amsterdam hotel and www.iamsterdam.com.

In fact wander around Europe (as I do for you, dear reader) and you’ll find more nationalities walking on with hope in their hearts.

Belgian waffling

Brugge is a delightful Medieval city of canals, culture, chocolates and churches In Flanders fields and https://gtitravel.ie https://www.visitflanders.com/en/?country=en_GB.

But it also has a link to Liverpool as it was Brugge who lost to Liverpool in the English club’s first European Cup final in 1978.

But who came away with a song, You’ll Never Walk Alone.

The others are more random but the destinations are right up my street.

Walk this way

I guess it makes sense that CD Lugo, in Spain’s Second Division, should have taken it as their song.

As they hail from Galicia, Camino heartland www.CaminoWays.com and A pilgrim’s prayer.

Why it’s the song of PAOK in Thessaloniki, Indonesia’s Bali United and Japan’s FC Tokyo then that’s one more reason to check out…

Athens’ https://athensattica.com My Greek odyssey little brother https://thessaloniki.travel/en/, https://www.bali.com and https://www.gotokyo.org/en/index.html.

Countries, Culture, Food & Wine, UK

Opening time – my Five best English pubs

Whose round was it?

It will be seventy-six days since the pubs shut their doors when they reopen on July 4.

So why is that important? Well because that was how long it took Wuhan to come out of lockdown.

And it will be the same number of days between the UK lockdown and us emerging blinking into the sunset.

And, of course, July 4 was the day your Nostradamus of a travel blogger predicted it would take for us to get back to some kind of normal.

So in celebration of that here are five English and Welsh pubs I know and will toast…

While I’m waiting for the Scottish pubs to reopen.

Ye Olde boozer

Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, Nottingham: The oldest pub in England, dating back to 1189.

Carved into Castle Rock, upon which Nottingham Castle is built, it’s sad that pilgrims would stop here on the way to Jerusalem.

And you know how I love a good pilgrimage, and tankard of ale A pilgrim’s prayer, Small roads lead to Rome, www.CaminoWays.com and www.FrancigenaWays.com.

Nooks and crannies and history and if you want to make like your a local they call it ‘the Trip’. See https://www.visit-nottinghamshire.co.uk.

A masterpiece

The Dundas Arms, Kintbury, Berkshire: Sitting proudly in Chez Murty I commissioned this painting from a photograph of The Scary One’s local.

The grumpy owner, David, was of Scottish origin and cartoons hung up behind the bar of him and his Dad.

The counter had polished copper coins embossed into it, while at the bar were an eclectic bunch.

Including the 6 O’Clock Club, off the train, Terry, the spoons player, Chris the estate agent and horse tipster and me and Miss F. Visit https://www.dundasarms.co.uk and https://www.visitsoutheastengland.com/places-to-visit/berkshire.

No show without Punch

The Punch and Judy, Covent Garden, London: Covent Garden is a mix of trader, buskers, kerching shops, office workers and tourists.

And the Punch and Judy spans generations for me.

From us travellers taking a pit stop and drinking on its balcony to a return visit to take in Beautiful: The Carole King Story with The Scary One.

Great memories… and more to make https://www.visitlondon.com, https://www.coventgarden.london/pubs/punch-judy and https://www.google.ie/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/29/carole-king-youre-beautiful-londonwestend-musical/amp/.

The apple of Liverpool’s eye

Flanagan’s Apple, Liverpool: Now you’re not wanting fancy-dan wine bars… this is Liverpool after all.

And being an Irish pub I had to seek it out the first time I visited Liverpool for a job interview.

And on many occasions after in the year we spent in Liverpool and brought a Son and Heir and Liverpool’s greatest fan into the world.

See https://www.flanagansappleliverpool.co.uk and https://www.visitliverpool.com.

Grapes of froth

The Grapes, Sheffield: And another Son and Heir related hostelry.

And where his favourite band The Arctic Monkeys played their first gig in their home city.

And which we had to seek out on a return trip where we namedropped to try to get a free drink… the father-in-law, of course, who hails from Steel City.

Visit http://www.welcometosheffield.co.uk/visit, http://thegrapessheffield.com.

And www.visitengland.com.

MEET YOU IN AN ENGLISH BAR

Countries, Culture, Europe, UK

Five British beaches

I’ve always lived on the edge, so following on from my five best world beaches here are my five top British beaches.

The A+ of beaches

Breathe it in

Aberdeen beach, Scotland: No, this is not the Caribbean, but I have swum here, in the frozen north-east of Scotland.

Miles and miles of sand stretching from the Brig o’ Balgownie to Footdee (Fittie) and its quaint fisherman’s cottages.

Aberdeen’s beachside and Queen’s Links have grown since I lived and worked here.

There’s now a cinema complex, but old fave Codona’s Amusement Park is still there. See www.visitabdn.com and Aberdeen – a light in the north.

Lush

Gang of four: Gavin and Stacey and Nessa and Smithy

Barry Island, Wales: And long before these guys washed up on our television screens I was down on Barry Island.

A favourite day out from Cardiff the beach is more compact than you might imagine but that gives it its intimacy.

Jackpot: Oh, try it out

Memories of a day out of my own after my old friend Whitey took me there when I’d failed an exam, and eating ice creams on the beach, come flooding back.

You can, of course, do a Gavin and Stacey tour www.visitwales.com.

Beach babes

Just standing around: Blundellsands

Blundellsands beach, Liverpool; Parents everywhere will appreciate a good long stretch of sand to take their toddlers.

They’ve put up these statues from Antony Gormley called ‘Another Place’ since we were building sandcastles with the Son and Heir.

And that just enhances the view. Like the statues I was looking over to Ireland, hoping that one day I would live there. Visit https://www.visitliverpool.com/things-to-do/another-place-by-antony-gormley-p160981.

Porty spice

Just what Porty types want

Portobello Beach, Edinburgh, Scotland: ‘Wall, huh! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Let’s say it again.’

With apologies to funkster Edwin Starr, this piece of graffiti embodies what Porty, where I spent ten years, is all about.

A city beach which also draws folks from across the Forth in Fife, and west from Glasgow, it boasts traditional swimming baths.

And Sean Connery was a lifeguard in the outdoor baths where the five-a-side pitches are now. Visit https://porty.org.uk/visit/ and https://edinburgh.org.

Brighton rocks

Train rides: On Brighton beach

Brighton, England: A pebble beach but you’ll get over that quickly because of the buzz around the place.

Although I have been worried about the throngs there at the moment.

A traditional day out for Londoners, you’ll recognise it from the Mods film Quadrophenia.

But for me it’s a day down there when I was living in Reading and hooked up with friends, and some Spanish exchange students, which live long in the memory.

See www.visitbrighton.com.

And Bitchin’ Beaches… five around the world.

MEET YOU ON THE BEACH

Adventure, America, Canada, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

My Sporting Weekend – at the races

You should never beat the local pool champion in his local… and you should never beat your sister-in-law at the races in her home city of Toronto.

But I did one of them, in a close finish at the Toronto races https://www.seetorontonow.com.

Racing abroad is always a thrill

Livepool lose

I’ve had mixed fortunes at the Aintree Grand National, losing in a photo-finish in my year working in Liverpool https://www.visitliverpool.com..

But returning years later to stay with my brother and sister-in-law I used some local knowledge to get a 1-2.

And repay their hospitality with a slap-up meal.

Have a night out on the town in Liverpool

A foot in the Algarve

Myself and The Scary One, back when she was just Slightly Intimidating, holidayed in the Algarve https://www.visitportugal.com/en.

Where we met two brothers, one of whom was a racing nut.

Terry hit the jackpot at The Derby and took us all out for dinner.

I don’t think I’ve had as good a meal out in Portugal on any of the occasions I’ve been back and I’ve had some good ones… Secret Portugal.

Cheltenham week

All of which ramblings is because I’m prone to drift like an unbroken horse when I should be sticking to the subject matter… the Cheltenham Races.

Which are on from Tuesday to Friday… https://www.cheltenhamfestival.net.

When, of course, Ireland empties for rural Gloucestershire.

Now if, on a whim, you decide you want to go then you’ll struggle to get accommodation but whether you want to go out of season or for next year…

Plum draw in Barbados

And a paintathon too

Then here’s what you want to check out… https://www.visitcheltenham.com.

They have 25 festivals in all throughout the year including a Literary Festival, a Music Festival and a Paint Festival…

And I’m up for that having painted Barbados purple at Foreday Morning as part of Crop Over… Let’s rumba in Barbados and www.visitbarbados.org.

Now maybe I’m doing myself down because I put Issy through her paces in Colorado a couple of years ago… The New Frontiersmen and https://www.colorado.com.

While if it’s goat racing you want then it has to be Tobago… www.visittobago.gov.tt.

MEET YOU AT THE RACES