June Bug

The Children’s Book wot was written and drawn by me and my brother Paul finally hit the shelves. Were dead excited by it and fink it’ll be dead edukational for kids and stuff.

Here’s the low down from the publisher and link:


cheetahblurbThemes: Facing up to unwelcome change, help seeking, accepting help, managing adversity, having to wear glasses.

Cheetah runs really, really fast, the trouble is he can’t see what’s in front of him! It takes quite a few mishaps and a friendly bird to help him before Cheetah figures out a way to solve his problem.


As documented in the last post, a chunk of the month was spent in Ireland so you’ll need to scroll down for that but let’s see what’s also been happening this month before you hit that slider!


There were a few little cultural interludes to cover this miserable, damp month of June.

First up was The Turning to See exhibition at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

Intending to explore the physical and metaphorical turning in portraiture, the exhibition was arranged around the recently-acquired self-portrait of Anthony van Dyck. The gallery walls were lined with celebrated names from the world of art – Rembrandt, Rossetti and Picasso, as well as some new photo collages by the curator, John Stezaker.

Also on show were the Burne-Jones sketches for the Pygmalion series from Birmingham’s own collection – these are not usually on display as they are too fragile.

NPG Supplementary Image

Self-portrait by Anthony van Dyck, c1640 National Portrait Gallery

Also on this month’s cultural roadshow were:

Captain America: Civil War


X-Men: Apocalypse

Accompanied with a coffee and a fragile (endangered, even) family bag of Minstrels. Verdict: Very enjoyable but maybe Revels would have been better.



Tennis at Edgbaston this year featured two singles, two doubles and some great hair by Sian.

First up, Madison Keys beat Carla Suarez Navarro: 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, then Barbara Strycova put paid to CoCo Vandeweghe: 3-6, 6-3, 7-6.

In the doubles, V King/A Kudryavtseva beat H Chan/Y Chan: 6-2, 6-1, followed by Babs again partnering K Pliskova in defeating the Brits Naomi Broady and Heather Watson: 6-2, 6-4.



Great Hair by Sian


Time for a walk and Adrian was leading the next one – a satisfying yomp in the Peak District. The great thing about Adrian’s walks is the detailed description he always sends before the walk, which saves me tarting it up! So here it is with a few photos:


Grid reference: SK149665

Post code for Sat Nav: DE45 1JH

In his own words:

Ladies & Gentlemen, Others,

What’O! – This walk starts from Monyash in the heart of the beautiful Peak District. You should know where that is by now, we have been that often you should be able to drive there reading a book like I do. It is cheap costing nothing to park there, and there are some very good walks to be had.

We plan to meet in front of the café on the Village Green near the pub, The Bulls Head.

We have done this walk before. It is very beautiful. From Monyash we go down lovely Lathkilldale to the river. If lucky, the springs will be sprouting on the way down (they weren’t). We then follow this marvelous walk along the river to the edge of Alport where we then cut back to Youlgreave and the pub. At the George Hotel opposite the Church they do pies including a Mint and Lamb Pie, which sounds interesting –  unless you’re vegetarian. The well-dressing should be on as well around the place, and you might get a lovely ice cream as we did last time.

After Youlgreave, we go down for a lovely walk along the river where hopefully there will be some wild life to be seen. Eventually we cross an ancient bridge and have a climb up. Near the top it will be time for:

Den, den, den, der, der, der, der, dena, dena, dena…

This walk’s surprise feature, which should be on your left hand side, is near the top (it was a picnic bench!) Having done the walk before, I was struggling for a surprise feature. Someone suggested me getting a round in at the pub – I said it’s meant to be a surprise feature – not a paranormal event Derek Achorah would want to investigate. Anyway, last time I put my hand in my pocket for a round three people fainted and a fourth had a heart attack, so that’s out. You might have noticed I have changed the music for the surprise feature this time.

After this one and only climb up on the walk, it is then flat or downhill apart from when we cross a small gorge on the way back to Monyash, which we have a short climb out of.

Nothing for the steam-heads, nowt much in the way of archaeology, little in the way of tarmac for Roy; a bit of geology for the rock-heads. But it is a very picturesque, scenic walk all the way through with great river walks and views up top, it really will be worth the effort.





A recording of a new Radio 2 comedy at the Midland Art Centre was a good way to end the month – a very funny and enjoyable evening watching Janice Connolly & Co put through their paces for Barbara Nice, which should be broadcast in September.

Here’s the blurb:

Barbara gets a radio series!

BBC Radio 2 has announced the commission of a new comedy sitcom series, Barbara Nice, which is to be recorded in Birmingham and Salford this summer.

Due to be recorded in front of a live studio audience, the 4×30 minute series is about a couple with very different ideas on how to spend the golden age of retirement. The pilot programme which was originally broadcast in 2015, will kick off the series, followed by four new episodes.

Set in Stockport, the mum-of-five from Kings Heath is worried she and her husband, Ken, played by John Henshaw, (Cilla, Cradle To Grave), are at risk of adding to the numbers of silver splitters. With Ken recently retired, Barbara is starting to realise they have nothing in common. His idea of retirement involves a marathon session of the daytime television quiz show Pointless, which doesn’t fit with Barbara’s idea of a well-spent golden age.

Janice Connolly says: “The sitcom is about being a certain age, reaching retirement and being in a long-term marriage. Barbara is a big character who is always trying to invent things for her and her husband to do, but invariably it always backfires.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be recording two of the episodes in Birmingham. It’s a great city and I have been proud to be part of the artistic community of Birmingham for many years. The wonderful work that is being produced at Birmingham Rep and the world class facilities at The Hippodrome alongside independent venues like The Hare And Hounds mean that the city is bursting with culture.”




Giant’s Causeway and Donegal

I wanted to go to the Giant’s Causeway so I went.


Donegal is way up in the north of Ireland, and I stayed in Letterkenny, a handy base from which explore this stunning part of the country. Letterkenny is an old market town with its own cathedral, a little river running through it, plenty of pubs and an old workhouse, which now presides as the county museum.

I expected to have a splendid time, which I did. What I didn’t expect was the superb weather – torrential sunshine all the way!

Here’s a little montage of Letterkenny, which includes St. Eunan’s Cathedral named after the Abbot of Iona who hailed from Donegal.


By AnGael – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Donegal Town itself is a former Gaelic kingdom controlled by the O’Donnel Clan (the clue’s in the name) and sits at the mouth of the River Eske and Donegal Bay. Obviously not content with just this, Donegal also teams its cathedral with a castle and then throws the Bluestack Mountains around it for good measure.

Apparently, Charles and Camilla had been over here the week before on an official visit, which culminated in a tweed shopping- spree. You can’t have too much tweed. Before an obligatory swan-around, I took the Waterbus for a cruise of Donegal Bay, which featured an interesting on-board commentary as well as a (perfectly normal) sing-along on the return leg of the trip.

We passed the Old Abbey with its crumbling ruins and scenic graveyard, and the embarkation point of emigrants to Canada and North America during the famine years of 1845-1847. My own great, great grandmother or something escaped during the famine but only got as far as Bolton.



The Old Booking Office of the White Star Line popped up along the shoreline, as did the Old Coast Guard Station where British forces looked out from the tower during the First World War. On the sandbanks, several seals were hauled up enjoying the sun.


White Star Office on the left!

In the distance, Mullaghmore could just about be made out. It was here where Lord Mountbatten was blown up in the seventies by the IRA.

In Donegal, you can’t get away from Red Hugh O’Donnell who was king of the county and led a rebellion against the English government in 1593. A statue of the man is located on the pier to commemorate his achievements.


St Patrick’s

Back in Letterkenny, I couldn’t get away from McGinley’s, a friendly pub at the top of the hill with local musicians, essential pints of Guinness and some grand banter from the locals.


Finn McCool was ultimately to blame for creating the Giant’s Causeway.

After exchanging insults across the tumbling sea with his Scottish rival, another giant named Benandonner, the Irish giant McCool built the causeway from the coast of Antrim to the Scottish island of Staffa so he could settle things once and for all.

However, it soon became apparent that Benandonner was a giant more than equal to the task when it came to the whole settling things. In fact, he was twice the size of Finn McCool. Unseen by his rival, McCool ran away back to his wife with his enemy soon pounding along after him in pursuit. McCool’s wife quickly dressed him up as a baby in a bonnet and nappy (that was their story and they were sticking to it) so that when Benandooner saw the huge size of the infant, he could only imagine the size of the daddy. Suitably spooked, Benandooner ran back across the causeway, tearing it up as he went to prevent McCool from following.

Legend also claims the Giant’s Causeway was created when Antrim was subjected to intense volcanic activity, when molten basalt intruded through chalk beds to form an extensive lava plateau. As the lava cooled, a series of horizontal contractions occurred, which fractured the surface and produced polygonal columns of layered basalt.

But to be honest, that last bit does sound a little far-fetched.

Either way, visiting the causeway is a tremendous experience, with trails leading along the lower slopes of the cliffs, and always those peculiar basalt columns sticking up everywhere. Lots of photo opportunities so here’s a few coming up:








Traveling in Ireland is always rewarding with little nuggets being thrown up as regularly as basalt columns in this part of the world (see what I did there?)

We ventured through Londonderry/Derry (it was referred to as Stroke City by a local radio DJ), a place steeped in history and serenely settled on the River Foyle.

Just north of Derry, at Culmore, we nodded appreciatively at the field where Amelia Earhart landed her plane after her famous trans-Atlantic flight. When a farm-hand asked, “Have you flown far?” She replied, “From America.”

Not only the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic but a fantastic name-dropper in her own right.

Along the coast are the seaside resorts of Portrush and Portstewart, the latter having an impressive Dominican convent with a college that was perched on the edge of a cliff. Dunlace Castle, a ruined medieval castle surrounded by steep drops, was well worth a look, its rubble and weathered stone featuring in the Game of Thrones as well as on Led Zeppelin album inside-covers! The famous distillery town of Bushmills was briefly dipped into as was Coleraine as we made our way along the coastal roads.


Dunlace Castle


Then it was off to McGinleys again for another well-earned session. Tsk!


When blight hit the potato crops, the Great Irish Famine kicked in and the population of Ireland fell from a population of six million to four million between 1840 and 1841. The Doagh Famine Village illustrates the struggle for existence of a community living on the edge, surviving when sustenance could only be gleaned from the isolated and remote surroundings of a rich but unforgiving landscape.

Limpets and seaweeds were the usual bill of fare throughout many of these testing times. Doagh also had a Wake House, where relatives and friends would congregate around an open coffin hoping the deceased would either wake up – or be truly dead.



There was plenty more to see on the site, much of it exploring historical diversity with a Republican Safe House complete with hidden doorways leading to places of sanctuary, and an Orange Hall with several artifacts of a vibrant Protestant culture. Life size models of tenants were shown being evicted by callous landlords, a gypsy camp was similarly staged and a dizzying array of displays and info boards were set along all the village.

After the village, we headed on up to Malin Head on the Inishowen Peninsula.

This is the most northerly point of the island of Ireland familiar to all who follow the BBC shipping forecast, and such is the splendour of the Donegal coastal scenery, such a journey is anything but a chore.

Lots of highlights along the way: we passed through Buncrana where Irish revolutionary Wolfe Tone was arrested and taken prisoner on Lough Swilly; Mount Errigal seemed to pop up several times as we explored the peninsula; Moville, a pretty town and coastal resort, laid claim to Field-Marshall Montgomery’s ancestry.

As in keeping with much of this county’s epic coastal scenery, Malin Head comes equipped with the usual stunning cliff caverns and sandy stretches, plus a nice line in history and folklore. If you throw into the mix a little location filming for the latest Star Wars franchise, there’s something for everyone.


Glenveagh National Park was next on the Agenda.

Lying along the Derryveagh mountains, the Glenveagh National Park is naturally cut in two by the valley of Glenveagh. The park also features the two highest mountains in Donegal, Errigal and Slieve Snacht.

Towards the southwest is the Poisoned Glen, which lies at the foot of Errigal, and is possibly the most photogenic area in Donegal. Cameras can point up towards the mountain, over Lough Dunlewey or down into the valley where the Old Church of Dunlewey holds sway.

The name ‘the Poisoned Glen’ is a mistranslation of the Irish name. It was originally called ‘Gleann Nemhe’ – The Heavenly Glen, the Irish for heaven being Neamh, and the word for poison being Neimhe.

Anyway, it’s dead good and real nice.

Presiding over some splendid views in its own right is Glenveagh Castle, a large castellated Mansion House surrounded by plush gardens and back-dropped with the usual Donegal array of mountains, glens, lakes and woods.




The castle was built by Captain John Adair, a member of the minor gentry and not a very popular chap by all accounts. Having made his fortune by land speculation in the United States, he returned to Ireland and bought up vast tracts of land in Donegal.

On the heels of the Great Famine, Adair went about evicting 224 tenants from their homes on his land – not for financial gain but to improve the aesthetic appeal from the castle.

Here’s some more photos of the national park to cheer us up…