The Alamo – endorsed by the UN

2A3F5E1100000578-0-image-a-45_1436120530230The Alamo receives world heritage status from the UN. The United States has succeeded in its bid to ‘Remember the Alamo,’ after the U.N. cultural body approved its status as a world heritage site on Sunday 5th July 2015. 

The Alamo was one of five Spanish Roman Catholic sites, known as the San Antonio Missions, to receive the coveted label likely to ‘boost tourism.

Now – I get it, the UN is a glorified International Travel Agency Commission! And here was I thinking they maintained international peace and security by taking military action against aggressor’s – amongst other piss poor Functions & Powers  (Sarcasm button is on!)   Yours_Aye.    

No slur intended against the actions at The Alamo.

Britain to America-12,400 mile highway

The 12,400 mile superhighway from Britain to America: The vast Trans-Eurasian Belt Development would span half the globe’s circumference, making it possible to get on the Channel Tunnel and drive all the way across Russia to Alaska. The Russian Academy of Science has put forward the plan to President Vladimir Putin. The longest road in the world is the Australian ‘Highway 1’ at 9,000 miles.UK to Alaska Road map.jpgBy jumping on a Channel Tunnel train – you could get all the way from London to Alaska by road under plans for a 12,000 mile superhighway linking Europe and western Russia to the Bering Strait

I’m up for a one way adventure during the summer months – with a chilled out return cruise back to dear old Blighty. BUT! They’ll have to sort out the road of bones first… Yours Aye.

Twelve weeks leave and the 80’s

Twelve weeks accumulated leave – a six berth hired motor home – with eight Marines travelling around the white sandy beaches of Devon & Cornwall – on a mission. What could possibly go wrong – absolutely nothing as it happened… Except; returning the motor home on time to save the loss of a hefty deposit. The Friday deadline of 12:00hrs loomed ahead – and we were just leaving St. Ives en-route to Plymouth some 75 miles away along narrow winding roads heaving with summer traffic. Why ruin a perfectly good weekend rushing hither and thither; “All those in favour of blowing the deposit and deadline by returning the truck on Monday say ‘aye’ – “AYE!” So we ventured on to Looe for the weekend. It was the late 80’s and a pint of best bitter was the princely sum of 75-pence, foolish not to really… ‘Huzzah!’

Quite aptly ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’ was played endlessly?      Yours Aye.

Monsanto – ‘aka’ – Boulder village

MDRUM_BOULDER_VILLAGE-10.jpgMonsanto, the stunning medieval Portuguese village built-in and around gigantic 200-tonne BOULDERS (and a few smaller ones.) In the mountaintop village of Monsanto, Portugal; homes are sandwiched between, under and even in the 200-tonne rocks. The enormous boulders have been utilised as walls, floors, and most astoundingly, as roofs for houses that date back to the 16th century.  Monsanto, a stunning medieval Portuguese village1415098889154_wps_9_MONSANTO_PORTUGAL_A_view_For those that haven’t had the chance to visit Portugal… “DO IT – SOON!” In my book it shouldnt be classed as part of Europe, as it’s far too culturally different and breathtakingly beautiful. In addition to the fact that the Portuguese are the most friendly and hospitable of people found around the Mediterranean. 800px-Castelo_de_Monsanto_-_Porta_principal Several years back I visited Monsanto, mainly to walk around the granite ruins of ‘Castelo de Monsanto,’ which was built under the guidance of Gualdim Pais the Grand Master of the Knights Templar. Having spent a cracking day and one (alcoholic) night around the mountain village – I found the only down side to the trip was waking up with a hangover 2,486 feet above sea level. (Something never to be repeated, and annotated with four stars in my Grand Book of Hangover’s!)      Yours Aye.

Un-politically bloody correct!

The most riotously un-PC travel guides ever! The informed, detailed, authoritative and unguardedly rude Baedeker’s.  An Englishman on holiday in Spain a century ago found a country with little to recommend it. Waking up on the first morning and consulting his guide-book, he would have read the following description: ‘Spain is a bleak and often arid land, with few traces of picturesqueness.’  Heh-Heh; Some things never change…!1408921700822_wps_7_Edwardian_tourists_ridingThe towns, the guide continues, are wreathed in tobacco smoke and the cafes are ‘very deficient in comfort and cleanliness’. The guide further warns that the service from waiters, chambermaids and porters is generally very slack and that the traveller should always count his change. In the Spanish countryside there is great danger of highway robbery, while in the cities the police will arrest anyone they can lay their hands on. The railway carriages and omnibuses are so filthy that a clothes brush, a duster and some insect powder should always be at hand. As for the national sport of bull fighting, it is ‘the most unsportsmanlike and cowardly spectacle’ a civilised man will ever see.Baedekers

This is the account of Spain given in the 1914 Baedeker Guide. These small, red books, bound in leather, were the first recourse for an Englishman abroad in the late 19th and early 20th century. The tone of the Baedeker guides is informed, detailed, authoritative — and riotously, unguardedly rude. “The Spanish are indolent, the Greeks filthy, the Italians dishonest and the ‘Orientals’ as stupid as children.” 

“In Syria, you are advised to ward off stray dogs with an umbrella and in Egypt it is acceptable to hit a cab driver with your walking stick.” Germany, of course, is beyond reproach. But what of Great Britain? “As for the British themselves,” Baedeker observes “that the country is a place of parsons, puppy dogs and peculiar people”images  

The Baedeker’s guides reflect an imperial attitude that would be unthinkable today. For a century, Baedeker’s — founded in 1832 by German publisher Karl Baedeker — was the indispensable guide to Europe, the Middle East and beyond.  The most riotously un-PC travel guides ever! The informed, detailed, authoritative and unguardedly rude Baedeker’s

Oh for a time machine to return to the age of pre-digital, pre-policitcal correctness, and pre-health & safety.            Yours Aye.

A brief encounter, a life long passion

In search of a Brief Encounter! Railways named most romantic mode of transport… as one in 10 admit falling in love on the train. Train travel is Britain’s most romantic form of transport… with one in 10 people admitting falling in love while riding the railway. More than a third of rail travellers said they believe rail travel is synonymous with romance. And a further 20 per cent say they met someone who became a friend while on a train journey, according to a new survey.1407746269015_wps_3_BX2WXB_couple_resignation

The real-life Brief Encounters often mean that chance meetings and conversations with complete strangers in railway carriages often lead to something more permanent. The study is to mark, I Love Trains Week, an initiative by East Coast Trains, launched by TV presenter and actress Donna Air who agreed with the findings. Donna said: ‘I think there is something very romantic about a train journey – it’s the perfect opportunity to share some time with a loved one. ‘There’s a real sense of adventure, somehow you’re in your own little bubble, and conversations and feelings become more memorable and intimate as you speed through the lovely British countryside. I love trains. They’ve been a huge part of my life.’ Railway Romances thriving in one-10-train-travellers.images

I can vouch for such a ‘chance meeting’ that formed a life long passion. At 16-years-old I found myself travelling down to the Royal Marines Depot, Deal, Kent; in 2nd class on the ‘Darlington to  Kings Cross London’ train, en-route to sign on as a Junior Marine entry into RM Commando training. I was both apprehensive and hungry. As I made my way to the British Rail buffet car, I cast my eye over the most beautiful sight that almost made me drool. On a chilled shelf before my very eyes sat a large curvaceous Melton Mowbray pork pie, which happened to be the last one on sale. Within minutes she was mine (as well as a pot of tea, and a dollop of mustard), unbelievably she tasted better than she looked. Since that day we meet up at least once a week, some times twice when needs must… 😉       Yours Aye.                   ‘Brief Encounter’

No place like home

1406890858396_wps_6_Auctioneer_Tom_Watson_wit‘It’s ideal if you like peace and quiet’: Holiday home with no running water, gas, electricity or toilet in 1.5-acre field has become one of the country’s most sought after properties after going up for auction for £75,000.

1406890885697_wps_7_Auctioneer_Tom_Watson_witThe Chalet – a secluded one-bedroom property which boasts an earth toilet in a neighbouring shed – is set in the idyllic North York Moors National Park. The property offers a back-to-basics lifestyle and there are no nearby houses.

Holiday home, no running water, gas, electricity or toilet, on sale for £75,000- ($126,196-) Staintondale  Staintondale, Scarborough, North Yorkshire Moors National Park  I’ve walked the coastal path and the disused railway line that passes close by to this property a hundred times or more since I was a youngster, and like many others I had no idea of its existence. A beautiful rugged piece of countryside in summer, but an absolute barsteward of a place in winter as the wind comes straight in off the North sea, which is just a mile away.  I’d buy it in a heartbeat… Yours Aye.        Below ‘North Yorks Coast’ by Richard KnoweldonMINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Hotel top tip secret

Some thing for the benefit of all jet setters, as well as those who overnight in hotels. A simple video that reveals how to override your accommodation’s thermostat.  article-0-195E50D000000578-994_634x413  Never boil – or freeze – in a hotel room again! The trick of the trade allows you to get into the VIP mode on an INNCOM thermostat, which overrides its temperature range and turns off the motion sensor. Chances are the hotel your staying in has an INNCOM system, as they are installed in more than 1,000,000 hotel rooms worldwide To override the thermostat hold down the ‘display’ button and at the same time press the ‘off’ key. Release ‘off’ while continuing to hold down display, and press the ‘up’ arrow button. Then release all of the buttons.

Wished I had known about it a year ago, when I spent some time sleeping in an igloo masquerading as a hotel room.            Yours Aye.

Quick Fact

Redheads are harder to sedate than any other group. Using common anesthetics they require 20% more anesthesia. They also have a high tolerance for pain than normal people other types. This is because the Melancortin 1 receptor mutation that gives them red hair also triggers the excess release of Pheomelanin, which among other things stimulates a brain receptor related to pain sensitivity.ThreeScottishWarriors

Which now explains how my Irish Gran could pick up red hot cinders spat from the fire (with her bare hands) before throwing them back onto it again. It also explains why the fighting Irish and the Scots were so hard to knock down… It is staggering to read that research reveals that there are 20MILLION red hair gene carriers in the UK. Even more staggering, is that Yorkshire is as redheaded as Ireland (I was born in County Durham, and originally dark Auburn, until nature took its course)! article-2401346-1B7041FC000005DC-552_634x757 Map produced by the UK’s DNA showing where redheaded genes are concentrated. In Mediaeval times, red hair was associated with moral degradation, and intense sexual desire. images-2 Redheads with green eyes were regarded as vampires, werewolves and witches. The Spanish inquisition singled them out for persecution, believing their hair to be a sure sign that they stole the fires of hell.

Through personal experience I can state that redheads are my Kryptonite, and with that I will bid you all a goodnight!

Yours Aye.

Blonde Stewardesses Make My Day

I’m wide awake at 0200 in the morning after arriving in Japan in one piece. And I am compelled to share this great conversation I had with two stewardess on the plane. In uniform, they did not work the flight, but rather just sat like (semi) normal passengers for the duration. They were both tall and very blonde and very desperate looking.

Me: (Leaning over the seats) Hey guys, is everything okay? What did you lose?
One blonde stewardess: Her pocketbook!
Me: (Crouching and peering under the seat) A pocketbook?
The other blonde stewardess: Yes.
The first blonde stewardess: Hey, it’s on your arm!
The other blonde stewardess: (Grinning) Ohhhhhhhh. . .
Me: (Getting up, at a loss for words) Ah. 

And with that they disappeared, more sheepish than two Merinos.

The Art of Caring

I am sitting in the lounge at a hotel in Seattle. It is just me and about thirty businessmen, one family, and football highlights on a television too far away (is that Pittsburgh black-and-yellow perhaps?)

I am feeling mellow after a lazy thirty minute workout on the elliptical. Every time I stepped up, I was within an half inch of the ceiling. Did they not think to maybe raise the roof a little?

After five minutes of sitting and not one of the six or seven underworked servers coming by my table, I holler one over. I already have the restaurant pegged. I’ve waitered in a dozen places, I know how it works. The prima donna server who won’t say hello to customers outside her station. The busser who won’t make eye contact. The manager who’s in love with the sound of his footsteps. I’ll stop right there, I won’t bore you with a rundown of each server, but for an expensive hotel near the airport, the place needs serious training. No one cares. This joint could use an Anthony Melchiorri or a Robert Irvine.

When I was a server, I cared about people. I made sure with each table, my customers, enjoyed their meal. My weakness was education about wines and exotic foods. And I did not care enough to get into it. After trying restaurant leadership (supervisor and assistant manager), I got burnt on the field. Fortunately, the Navy took me. But my point is, I cared.

Another story on caring, albeit an interesting (possibly misplaced) caring, is this tale about a model named Carley Watts. She met a Muslim gentleman named Mohammad Salah who changed her life:

A British model and mom is ditching her life of posing in lingerie for one of modesty and obedience as a Muslim wife, said U.K. reports on Monday.
“Meeting Mohammed has made me really look at my life,” Carley Watts, a model who regularly bares almost all for publications such as Elite Online Magazine, told the Sun about her lifeguard boyfriend, Mohammad Salah. She added, “My friends think I’m mad and that this is just a phase.”

You know how many Mohammad Salah’s I’ve seen? Many. As for caring, tomorrow I fly to Japan. And I’ve heard the place has unparalleled customer service and no tipping.

Good things & small packages

As far as properties go, big is no longer a beautiful thing.article-2367293-1ADC5173000005DC-864_634x856 At under eight feet wide, most people would automatically pity the owners of this narrow house. But far from being cramped, this home gives a new meaning to the phrase ‘good things come in small packages’, as behind its thin door is a sprawling property that actually spreads along.
Welcome to the wedge! 90in-wide house which expands to over 22ft at the back is transformed into £800,000 luxury home
Tom and Sarah Tidbury of Clapham, South West London, have really made the most of their space after they purchased the period property in 2009.

That’s London for you, along with its crazy prices. But, you could save your self £75, 000 and buy this cheeky little abode in Ogleforth, York YO1 A unique piece of city centre heritage situated in the exclusive and most central location, sat in the shadow of The York Minster itself. The oldest part of this property is believed to date back to the 1700s with a wealth of unique features including the tower, and one of the last remaining gas lights in York. The property stands at the end of Ogleforth a short 100 yard walk along a medieval cobbled street to The Minster and beautiful Minster gardens. Just doing my civic duty. Yours Aye.

Lendal Tower where curiosity killed the cat

Lendal Tower, YORKWhen travelling to York I vary my route to take in the volume of historic scenery. Often I travel across Lendal Bridge, which of late I have observed work going on and around Lendal Tower, a place that has always held a deep fascination. As youngsters my mate and I once sat and ate sandwiches on the steps at the right hand side of the Tower, after which my mate give me a ‘shin up’ to look over the brick wall on the left hand side. As the phrase goes, ‘curiosity killed the cat‘ or ‘inquisitiveness can often lead one into dangerous situations‘… Which in this case was true, as it got me a ‘cuff’ around the ear from a bloke on the other side who was gardening!753068656_adaac1367c

Well my little kittens, ‘be thee curious nay longer’ Lendal Tower, YORK. Particulars__ Has stood on the eastern banks of the River Ouse since 1299 and was historically part of the city’s defensive system which also controlled traffic on the river. In 1677, the tower was leased to the York Waterworks Company for 500 years. Originally used as a pumping station to supply water to the city, of which some mechanics still remain, it later became the company’s headquarters. Despite having served as everything from a military bunker to a company boardroom, the building had never been lived in prior to its conversion by the current owner, who has meticulously renovated the Scheduled Ancient Monument, providing a completely unique, private and comfortable living space in the very heart of the vibrant city of York.   And it’s yours for the Princely sum of £1,350,000 ( Sterling: One million, Three Hundred and Fifty Thousand Pounds).

Yours Aye.

Defensive gardening and entertaining eccentrics

This afternoon I took my lunch and a tin mug of tea out into the meadow and idly caught up some well-deserved sunshine. I thought I heard voices, which is unusual unless ramblers decide to come off the beaten track, I rarely get to see anyone close up. With my back against the large felled tree logs, I sat and pondered about life in general. Suddenly a voice called out (the shock of which almost left my teeth prints in the lip of the tin mug). Turning toward the call; and not more than thirty feet away, was an elderly gent who was walking towards me, his skinny white legs protruding from a pair of baggy safari shorts looked like two lengths of cotton dangling down! “I hope you don’t mind, my wife has been admiring your beautiful ‘Pinus Sylvestris’ for the last few minutes,” said he, with a big smile on his face.

I stood up, as I had no idea what he was talking about (though I was wearing a pair of faded black rugby shorts, in true ‘commando’ style). Then his wife appeared with a beaming grin, and said, “Your ‘dwarf Pinus Sylvestris’ is absolutely stunning“! ~ “Is it” I replied, wondering if the local asylum was missing two of its inmates. They then went on about the beautiful wild meadow we all found ourselves in, the warmth of the sun, etc, etc, upon which I stated it was actually ‘my private meadow’, and that they were fortunate not to have walked through it when my dogs were out letting off steam (must not encourage them, such delights pass like wildfire among the rambling community). Not content with climbing my high five bar gate that was clearly signed ‘PRIVATE LAND-NO TRESPASSING’ they also disregarded the two black outlined bull terrier heads as well.

After introducing ourselves I done the decent thing and made them a nice pot of tea and offered them home made ‘tiffin’, which we all enjoyed as we sat with our backs against the logs. Then they were gone, just as they came, but in reverse! Two slightly eccentric people, who have been married for sixty years, whose children and grandchildren live in Australia, who they fly out and visit three times a year. Who have now managed to get rid of the blight that was affecting their green house tomato plants? Two academics that taught at various Universities around Yorkshire, before retiring to tend their garden, as well as to enjoy their twice weekly ramble. A lovely couple who were as mad as a bag of frogs. (Incidentally, my dwarf ‘Pinus Sylvestris’ is apparently my small Scots Pine tree). Phew?West View 1

Unless you include ‘cam & concealment’, gardening is not my forte, and having just looked at the digits on my hands, I can assure you that not one is green! Although I do have a decent garden within the inner fenced boundary that surrounds my home, it’s taken care of twice weekly by a hobby gardener who knows about such things. I take my pleasure from walking around my rough three-acre pasture/meadow, which I access through an old garden gate, where I often plonk my rear end on the felled tree logs, to sit and quaff tea. From the sanctuary of my three acres I can see far into the distance looking West, across rolling undulated multi coloured countryside that flows idly through a long twisting valley, which is interlocked with sown cultivated fields, ancient hedgerows, and woodlands.West View 2

Through my pocket binoculars (click to enlarge above), what I see in front of me are ‘enfilade and defilade’ shoots, ideal for co-ordinated long & short range anti/tank systems, with natural funnelled routes leading to choke points; providing enriched enemy killing areas. Routes for advance and withdrawal using cover from view through dead ground. Open wide countryside for artillery and mortar fire, with areas interlocked for a deadly beaten kill zone. On my flanks on the high ground I have heavy MG’s positioned ready to unleash deadly arcs of cross fire. And here, I stop; as I need to self medicate, and forget that I am no longer a serving Royal Marine 😉 (Did I mention the blizzard of information relating to target indication points)?

It is safe to say that I am not the gardening type. My dream garden would have a six-foot high border of thick Blackthorn hedging as an outer defence, the base of which would have low tangled Firethorn bush, with an internal six-foot wide border of pea gravel, that crunches underfoot for the dogs to react to. The grassed garden would be dug up and replaced throughout with Yorkshire stone-slabs. Under each ground floor window I would have savage Wild Rose bush growing to windowsill level, with a 3’ wide border of raked sand running parallel to capture footprints. My only compromise for a single green growth would be a huge ‘Golden Barrel’ cactus plant, placed within the centre of the stone patio to act as a focal point and a lure for the ‘ill disposed’ to hide behind, thus allowing my hidden CCTV full observation. There are more wild plants I could name and use, but they are a natural poison, and to fit within the genteel parameters’ set by NavyOne, I will decline to do so here. They say an Englishman’s home is his castle. Ahhhh, blissful thoughts! 

‘Up here’ in the North-East (as opposed to ‘down there’ in the South), we have our fair share of Castles and Fortresses, the majority I have often visited over many years since childhood. Last year a good mate of mine (another ex-bootneck) brought his family ‘up’ from ‘down–South’ to travel around the county of Northumberland. Their intention was to walk part of Hadrian’s Wall as well as take advantage of the various country cycle paths. The grand finale was to visit Alnwick Castle (pronounced ‘Anick’), as his young girls wished to visit Harry Potter’s ‘Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry’ (where part of the films are set). I was pinged to act as the days taxi driver, though I may have volunteered after a few beers a couple of days before.DownloadedFile-1

Alnwick Castle is more than just a fortress; it is a cracking day out for every one of all ages. Steeped in traditional history, there is every thing from deeply informative Castle tours, a host of top class eateries, and a huge garden, which also includes a ‘Poison Garden’ secured behind high walls and a heavy-duty steel palisade fence. (I personally had to visit it, just for a look-see, not for ideas)!

Alnwick Garden | A contemporary garden attraction and events …


The Alnwick Garden’ is more than a garden; it is a registered charity that places people at its heart, whether they be individuals or part of a community. As well as standing for contemporary gardening excellence, The Garden stimulates change through play, learning, the arts, healthy activity, addressing disability and the economic renaissance of a rural community.

And while I am forever pushing the values and sights of the City of York, North Yorkshire; I would also like to endorse visiting Northumberland, and stopping off half way to walk through Durham City, and visit the huge historic Durham Cathedral. 

York to Durham = 70 miles = 1 Hr 10 Min. Durham to Alnwick = 53 miles = 1Hr –. Hogwarts Express York

So come on over, what are you all waiting for, ‘old steady hands’ (yours truly) is the unofficial taxi driver, and a rock steady guide to boot!

Yours Aye.

Hey, I Know that Cambridge House!

I spent a sweaty summer in Cambridge, Massachusetts attending Harvard Summer School. It was a good experience from an academic standpoint, challenging and well-taught. There was no indoctrination that I remember, mainly because the study of intermediate physics is set. There is little social engineering in the hard sciences.

O'Reilly Spite House
O’Reilly Spite House

I used to ride the several miles down from Medford, through Somerville, to Cambridge on my bike. I memorized the houses along the path, even though I tried to take different paths for variety.

In an interesting turn, I was browsing this mental floss article on Spite Houses, or houses that were:

constructed to make someone mad. Sometimes they block a neighboring house’s view. Sometimes they’re built especially to thwart city planners or challenge city ordinances. In many cases, they’re an odd shape, or are built on a very small lot. Sometimes the houses are already in existence, and are altered to get revenge, like the Australia homeowner who painted his house pink and added a pig snout and a tail to protest a denied building permit.

And I recognized one. The O’Reilly Spite House. It sat right along my bike route. This may make me sound slightly batty, but I remember a particular smell this block had. The aroma of a cheap, gas station incense. I’ll bet it was from the lady who owns the place, Annie Hall, or an artist in the area:

What is it about spiteful landowners in Massachusetts? In 1908, Francis O’Reilly got angry when the owner of the adjacent parcel of land refused to buy his land for a good price—so he built a house measuring 8 feet wide. The interior designer who now occupies the space has said that the building is like a three-dimensional billboard for her work

And for the Bostonians amongst you, a virtual satellite map showing the neighborhood.