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.

 

Countries, Europe, Music, Sport

Favourite Euros anthems

Chances are we’ve only been able to hum along to a few… it’s Rainy Days and Songdays’ Favourite Euros anthems.

Vive La France

Allez Lea Bleus

La Marseillaise, France: And the proof is whether your song will last the test of time.

Claude Joseph Rouger de Lille is long forgotten.

Long after be penned this revolutionary rouser in 1792.

Charlie wrote his classic, not on the French Riviera but in Strasbourg.

And it is easy to see why he was so inspired by this Medieval cobbled town on the banks of the Rhine.

There is a spoof version rugby song.

About a Frenchman going to the lavatory with the pay-off (and sing along here… ou est le papier?).

Germany Wunderbar

Ja beauty

Deutschland Uber Alles: And on the right side of the Rhine the Teutons will be belting out this tune.

And when you boast the composers Germany has (they do classical music as well as der fussball) then you pick from them.

This ditty is a Joseph Haydn composition.

And, yes we know he’s Austrian but not of the sane ilk as that wee madman Austrian we’ve all came to loathe.

Azzurri Azzurri-eyed

Forza Italia

Il Canto degli Italiani, Italy: No, it’s not Nessun Dorma as stirring as Andrea Bocelli’s rendition was at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

This 19th-century call to arms gained traction around the Risorgimento and unification.

It got bumped by the monarchy for the Marcia Reale.

But thankfully was endorsed by the new republic after World War II.

The Russians are coming

The Beautiful Game: A Russian fan

Gosurdastvennyy Gimn Rossiyskoy Federatsii, Russia: And another revisionist anthem which oozes Russian eastern mysticism.

This stomper replaced another classic The Internationale because it’s more Russian-centric.

And in typical Russian fashion it has become deStalinised along the way.

Winning in the Valleys

Flying the flag: For Wales

Hen Wlad Fy Nadau, Wales: With three home nations from which to choose it had to be the Welsh anthem over the English and Scottish dirges.

Better too with it sung in Welsh.

And isn’t it heartening too to see all the Wales players, even those of who are only Welsh by grandparentage, giving it a go.

Which is more than arch-Brexiteer and former Wales Secretary of State John Redwood can muster.

So there’s our Rainydays and Songdays’ favourite Euros anthems…

Now if only Scotland and England could change theirs.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Countries, Culture, UK

Happy May Day you dancer…

Handkerchiefs and shin bell pads aren’t just for May Day. But I’m digging out my drawers all the same, so Happy May Day you dancer!

We’ll leave the red flag waving and marching to others. Today we’re all about little doylies and skipping.

Now wouldn’t the world be a more peaceful place if we all just waved hankies at each other and clapped wooden sticks and swords?

Morris dancing will for ever be associated with English village life.

And, of course, they don’t just don the shin bell pads on May Day or St George’s Day.

English village life

Spending many a tipsy afternoon with my own English village girl on festival days they seem to get the shin bell pads out whenever the sun shines.

Of course it is a dance craze which dates back to 1448 (specific) and clearly even earlier than that.

And it has outlasted the Lindy Hop, the Jitterbug, the Lambeth Walk, the Mashed Potato, the Monster Mash and the Loco-Motion.

Learn to Morris dance

So you want to learn. Well here’s how.

All for one: The Cadi Ha dancers

You don’t have to go to the Motherland to see some good old-fashioned Morris dancing.

But why wouldn’t you, and, of course, cider or warm bitter beer is almost obligatory.

A Welsh spin

Anywhere around the workd the English took their culture and their cricket they packed their hankies and shin bell pads.

Best foot forward: The Rutland Morris Men. http://www.morrismen.org

We last tapped feet and made a laughable imitation of the Cadi Ha experts who were performing for us in Northern Wales.

And now our leaders have been good enough to allow us to move around the UK again I know one English village girl hankering for an English summer.

So, it’s the Royal County of Berkshire for us and a little canalside pub, the Dundas Arms for us.

The Dundas Arms: A part of Chez Murty

And if the high-heid-yins don’t allow dancers who have been clip-clopping through wars and national crises then here’s the food news.

Now we’ve followed the video above we can put on our own performance.

My English village girl is, of course, pretty handy with a wooden sword, or any other sharp implement, for that matter.

 

America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy days and Songdays – Holyday favourites

And because of the holyday season we’re in this week’s Rainy days and Songdays today celebrates Holyday favourites.

Happy clappy California

Whoopi

Oh Happy Day (Oakland/San Francisco)

Oh happy day, oh happy day, when Jesus washed, oh when He washed, When Jesus washed, He washed my sins away – The Edwin Hawkins Singers/Sister Act

They don’t need much invitation to unleash a Gospel Choir on you in California.

And Hallelujah there was one waiting for us on the first day in Anaheim for our American Travel Fair, IPW.

Elvis sings Gospel

Full of Graceland

How Great Thou Art (Memphis)

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation. And take me home what joy shall fill my heart. Then I shall bow in humble adoration. And then proclaim, my God how great thou art – Elvis Presley

And it is worth remembering that Elvis first learned to sing in church.

And during his residencies in Las Vegas he would invite his friends up to his room for impromptu Gospel singalongs

It’s better to imagine Elvis’s heart being joyful at the moment God came to take him home that day in Graceland.

All God’s Children

Whenever God Shines His Light (Belfast)

Whenever God shines his light on me. Opens up my eyes so I can see. When I look up in the darkest night. And I know that everything is going to be all right – Van Morrison/Cliff Richard

And aren’t we all God’s children anyway even Van the Man, the grumpiest man in rock?

Religion is all around you in Belfast where Van is known to put on occasional jazz cabaret shows at the Europa Hotel.

It’s always best though with a Celtic soul twist.

Welsh worship

Bread of Heaven (Cardiff)

Guide me, O thou great Redeemer, Pilgrim through this barren land. I am weak but thou art mighty. Hold me with thy powerful hand. Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven. Feed me till I want no more. – Bryn Terfel, Cardiff

And Cwm Rhondda (The Rhondda) is the unofficial anthem of Wales.

And is a favourite of Welsh rugby fans.

It scores too as it celebrates God rather than the popular policy of God celebrating said country.

Mississippi music

Grammy loves you

This Little Light of Mine (Mississippi)

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine, let it shine, all the time, let it shine – Sister Rosetta Tharpe

And you’ll find a lot more about Sister Rosetta and all the wonderful Gospel and early Rock singers at the Grammy Museum Mississippi in Cleveland.

And the significance of This Little Light in a room of reflection on your Civil Rights visit to the Two Museums in Jackson.

Africa, America, Asia, Australasia, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

Liam Neeson will find you, and he WILL green you

What I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career – Bryan Mills (aka Liam Neeson), Taken.

And make no mistake Liam Neeson will look for you, will find you, and WILL green you.

Irish eyes are smiling: Liam Neeson

Yes, Big Liam is fronting a new online video for St Patrick’s Day with footage shot around Ireland.

A Giant was here: The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland

At locations like Dingle, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Dunluce Castle, Kilkenny Castle, Derryclare Lough, Newgrange and Titanic Belfast.

Taken with a green filter

The Greening Tower of Pisa

The footage will be interwoven with images from Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening initiative.

That will see famous landmarks and iconic sites illuminated in green each year on St Paddy’s Day, Wednesday, March 17.

The Taken actor waxed lyrical about his native country.

London calling

He said: ‘This year, more than ever, seeing the world turn green for St Patick’s Day will help to bring positivity and hope to millions on 17 March.

‘This is a reminder of the beautiful island that awaits when it is safe to travel again.’

The man himself

The announcement of the new landmarks to be greened around the world has always been a highlight of the year and this year is no exception.

And may even be more dramatic with the absence of us to spoil the view.

An Irish Opera: Sydney Opera House

The Tourism Ireland initiative began on March 17, 2010, when the Sydney Opera House was bathed in shades of green.

And it quickly caught on with The London Eye, Niagara Falls, the Colosseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Pyramids, the Great Wall of China...

Phew (pause for breath) Rio‘s Christ the Redeemer and the One World Trade Center in New York among the more than 300 around the world going green.

Viva Green Vegas

I’ll put it all on green: Vegas

While the Welcome sign in Las Vegas will be emerald too…

Hopefully in preparation for the delegation of Travel professionals from this island going out to their American Travel Fair in the Autumn.

Our friends at Tourism Ireland earlier this month announced details of those famous attractions and reminded us too of the debt we owe to Wales.

It is after all the birthplace of St Patrick, where the village of Portmeirion will green up.

The Mannekin Piss in Brussels

Over the coming week, Tourism Ireland will roll out its St Patrick’s film in 12 markets around the world.

Including Britain, the United States, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Canada, the Nordic countries, the GCC (Gulf Cooperaton Council), the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland.

Seth’s magnus opum

For a broader sense of Ireland’s Greening of the World, check out the beautiful book of that name by renowned Irish journalist Seth Linder.

And because every picture tells a story, here is a further selection from his book.

Rio de Greeneiro

Should it not be Moulin Verde?

I Greensterdam

Colossal: The Colosseum

Empire state of green mind

A little bit of Scotland

The Kelpies in Falkirk

Of course, there will be a corner of North Berwick, here in Scotland which will be Forever Green.

 

Countries, Culture, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – singing in the Welsh Valleys

The old land of my fathers is dear to me, A land of poets, singers, famous celebrities; Her brave warriors, ardent patriots, for freedom they lost their blood Welsh National Anthem Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Land of My Fathers)  

Dydd, Gwyl, Dewi, Hapus as you need to say in a North Wales pub today, St David’s Day…

Only they’re not open (probably) because of lockdown.

I know more about Wales’s lock-in rules than their lockdown regulations.

I spent much of my year in Cardiff as a post-graduate student in lock-ins in Kildare’s Bar.

Capital stuff: Cardiff

There was much singing there.

And as a Scots fan at the rugby, although we were drowned out by the Welsh chanting before our biennial drubbing.

So on this day of days for the Welsh, and with a rugby victory over England fresh in their memories from the weekend…

A celebration here of Welsh singers.

You can count on Bassey

Ultimate diva: Shirley Bassey

Shirley Bassey: And what better introduction to life for a new-born baby boy than Shirley Bassey belting out at you?

And Son and Heir you can thank me later for playing the Queen of Tiger Bay to you when you came out of hospital.

You were put on Earth to be, a part of this great world is thee, and thy life.

The Jones Boyo

Tom Jones: Take a Biblical story, give it a Mariachi feel and employ a Welsh heartthrob crooner.

And you’ve got Tom Jones’s Delilah.

The Jones Boyo is, of course, legendary in Las Vegas.

But, in truth, has a residency at any and every party around the world.

And on cruise ships wandering aimlessly around the English Channel.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

Welsh Preachers and Phonics

Design for life: The Manic Street Preachers. http://www.manicstreetpreachers.com

Manic Street Preachers and Stereophonics: Tread Caerphilly, the Manics are pure rat-a-tat-tat rock.

With a skill for a title which we love…

Motorcycle Emptiness, A Design for Life, If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next.

While the Rhondda Valleys’ finest, the Phonics make it on the list.

For raspy Kerry Jones and his rendition of the old classic Handbags and Gladrags.

Daddy’s Little Girl called it the Black Black Song… ‘four and twenty blackbirds in a cake and bake them all in a pie.’

Church music

Smile: Charlotte Church

Charlotte Church: Only the Voice of an 11-year-old Angel can sound good over the telephone on TV’s This Morning.

Charlotte went on to sing at Rupert Murdoch and Wendy Deng’s wedding and had a celebrity marriage herself to rugby star Gavin Henson.

The Llandaff, Cardiff lass’s signature tune… Pie Jesu.

Time to say

Give us a song: Katherine Jenkins

Kathrerine Jenkins: Beauty, grace and gravitas, that’s Neath‘s finest Kathryn and Pisa‘s Andrea Bocelli.

And their haunting Time To Say Goodbye.

Of course Time To Say Goodbye is inexorably ties up with Italy.

And it played out in the piazza in Bergamo the last time I was allowed out of the country.

Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Sport, UK

A Wales of a good time

It was more lock-in than lockdown in my year in Wales with many a night spent back drinking after last orders in Kildare’s.

Yes, Kildare’s in Cardiff city centre, with its Brain’s bitter and dance floor with a darts board on the wall is where I’d be spending their two-week ‘fire break’.

Cardiff has changed considerably since I learned how to report proper back in the late 80s.

Cardiff Bay

But to me it will always be 1987 and 1988.

When on the first night there a local in the pub next to my college enquired of my origins. As we stood peeing in the loo.

‘English bastard are you?’ asked Taff.

‘Scots bastard actually,’ said I as I hoped a bit of Celtic brotherhood would get me out of a tight scrape.

‘Just as flipping bad. You cheated us out of two World Cups, you bastard,’ he shot back without taking a breath.

At which point I turned to meet his eye, shook myself and left.

Oh, I’ll have them all then

The loos were safer but more used when Brains allowed us an hour free bar at the end of our tour… I think we broke the record.

I’d probably not be sitting here jotting this out if I hadn’t got out of my tent in my pal’s back garden in time for my final exams.

There were other highlights too. Such as scoring the last-minute equaliser in the semi-finals of the University of Wales Interdepartmental Cup semi-final.

And getting my first Press pass, into Cardiff Arms Park… Wales robbed Scotland with a kick from inside their own half.

Kings and Queens of the Castle

All these and more.

You’ll make your own memories when their politicians allow us all back in.

Like Cardiff Castle, with its Banqueting Hall, the picturesque chapel and clock tower.

The arcades, my pick is St David’s with its statue of its most favourite sportsman, Gareth Edwards, among a range of spectacular art throughout the city.

And you know how much I love my statues, and my cultural icons.

The perfect pass: Gareth Edwards

Cardiff Harbour is the focal point for the city’s regeneration while you’ll want to learn more about Tiger Bay, home to the city’s favourite daughter, Shirley Bassey.

Yes, Cardiff’s changed and Wales play their internationals at the futuristic Millennium Stadium now.

Where Scotland still lose… and don’t even get close.

Now there’s a Cardiffian bar fly who is searching for a new victim in the Woodville Bar.

Meet you on the road…

CWRDD A CHI AR Y FFORD

Adventure, America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

Let the train take the strain

As we’ve been planning a wee train trip when we can again, and I don’t mean North Berwick to Edinburgh, I’ve been checking out my friends’ recommendations.

And I’m indebted here to my old friend Aileen, who is more Roaring Twenties than Boring Twenties, for her shout in Paris.

With Aileen flagging up Le Train Bleu Restaurant (formerly the Buffet de la Gare de Lyon) located in the Gare de Lyon railway station in Paris.

Better than a burger joint then?

So I’ll pull up to the bumper, baby, and give you my fave trainy-related places I’ve been.

And all those Eastern European and Central Asian palaces will just have to wait.

The only way is up

An Alpine hand

The Jungfraujoch, Kleine Scheidegg, Switzerland: They had me sold when they said my ears would pop.

The journey from Kleine Scheidegg up to the Jungfraujoch is Adolf Guyer-Zeller’s major feat of engineering.

That’s 9km up to the top of Europe between the Bernese Highlands and the Valais.

And you’ll get an ice bar with Swiss whiskey, a Tiso watch shop, and a Bollywood restaurant to accommodate those sari-clad ladies on the peaks.

Next stop, the Gold Rush

Golden touch

Golden, Colorado: And the Wild West was built on the railway.

The Colorado Railroad Museum gives you an insight into what life was like for those pioneers puffing through the plains.

With a guided tour. The only thing that’s missing is Butch and Sundance standing down on the banks.

Also check out the Art Deco frontage railway station in Mile High City, Denver where dreams of the Gold Rush were hatched.

What’s in a name?

A Wales of a time

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Anglesey, Wales: And far from being a party pooper here but this long Welsh name is a Victorian Age contrivance.

It used to stop before the ‘wyng’ bit but a tailor from the village added the rest to form the word.

Which means: ‘St Mary’s church in the hollow of white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the church of St Tysillo near the red cave.’

Alas, the bigger they are the harder they fall.

And the jobsworths have closed the station because the platform is too small because of social distancing.

And ten minutes later you’ll be on the water

Water way to travel

Padova to Venice, Italy: Now I grant you there are more romantic ways to first see the Grand Canal.

By water, of course.

But for most of us we’ll first approach the city on the lagoon by train and through that bottleneck at the station.

But the thrill when you enter Venice is worth it.

Just bear in mind the erratic Italian trains, and forget what Mussolini said.

And leave yourself enough time if you have a cocktail reception to get back to in Padova’s Botanic Gardens.

Particularly if you’re in your boardies, Dragon, and haven’t brought a change of clothes.

Keep your eyes on the view

A familiar trip

Dublin to Greystones, Co.WicklowA: And as much as I gave out about the DART through Bray Head on my daily journeys to work…

No matter how I felt about going into work. this is a stunning stretch past Dublin Harbour.

It is not for nothing that it is compared with the Bay of Naples and used as a film substitute. And that Bono bought the view.

And, of course, it has the ultimate seal of approval in that Isambard Kingdim Brunel built the tumnel.

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