Recently, a mate asked how many times I had been to Britain and/or Europe, and when I answered ’20’, he said I should write a book.
I’m not in the mood for that, and for those who follow this website, you will be aware that I regularly post stories from those travels.
But, with time on my hands, with this ‘Chinese flu’ having kept my wife, Marie and I largely housebound, I thought I would file a 20-part series on those trips, under sub-headings.
PURPOSE OF TRIP
European and British holiday with my wife, Marie.
Italy, France, England, Scotland, Ireland.
Cinque de Terre Coast, Italy, particularly around Vernazza.
Dove Dale. A lovely walk through this Derbyshire/Staffordshire gem with local, Jane Rodgers. We stayed in the Peak District with Jane and her husband, Cliff.
The Tipperary countryside.
St Peter’s, Rome. Marie and I attended Sunday Mass, which was quite moving, despite a lack of respect shown by some tourists, particularly the Japanese. Wonder what would have happened if we were similarly ignorant in a Shinto Temple?
Tissington Estate Village in Derbyshire’s Peak District. The Estate is the historic home of the Fitzherbert family.
Holy Cross Abbey, County Tipperary, a 12thC Cistercian structure, which is now a working parish church.
FIRST MEAL THAT I CAN RECALL
Fresh asparagus, Tagliata Porcini and Ewe’s cheese at Restaurant Enoteca Le Vie Des Gusto, near the Duomo, Siena, Italy.
Greasy Fish and chips at Bulkington, Warwickshire, after two futile pub stops for food. Greasy, but nice.
Home cooked lasagne at Marie’s niece, Kellie Kelly and her husband, Alan’s place at Fantane, County Tipperary.
MOST MEMORABLE MEAL
Fresh fish at a small, family run restaurant at Rio Maggiore, on the Cinque de Terre – Sword Fish (moi), Sole (Marie).
Sardines, followed by crab pasta at Flying Pizza, Leeds. Marie had veal. We dined with friends, Andrew and Sandy Varley, who lived locally.
FIRST PUB/BAR STOP
Bar Nero, Rome near Tiber River, just across from Castle St Angelo.
Samuel Barlow, a ‘new’ pub, overlooking the Alvecot Marina and Fazely-Coventry Canal, Warwickshire. Marston’s Pedigree was my choice of beer.
Tom Maher’s Pub, Templemore, where there was live music.
BEST PUB/BAR STOP
Quayside bar, Rio Maggiore on Cinque de Terre. Our waitress looked like a young Olivia Newton John.
Louis Armstrong pub, Dover. Late night drinks with 68-year-old female licensee; local pub sales reps and members of CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale). Just before closing time, the licensee lit up a cigarette. “Enjoy the naughtiness of it all,” she said.
ONE SPORTING EVENT
Finish of Tour of Tuscany (cycle) leg in Piazza de Campo, Siena, Italy.
Rugby league Third Test at JJB Stadium, Wigan. Great Britain defeated New Zealand 26-22 in a thriller, with Rob Burrow scoring a try and kicking four goals from six shots for the home team. Britain, coached by Australian, Tony Smith, won the series 3-0 against the Gary Kemble coached Kiwis. Marie and I attended with Paul Richards, the son of prominent English league writer, Martin Richards. I had a drink beforehand at Orwell’s pub, on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, where I caught up with another prominent league writer, Dave Hadfield.
Hurling, Tipperary County B final between Ballingarry and Killea at Boherlahan, to the north of Cashel. It finished a draw, with a replay in a fortnight. The skill level was exceptionally high. Alan Kelly, the husband of Marie’s niece, Kellie, was our expert comments man. He is a hurler himself.
EVENT OTHER THAN SPORT
Marvellous Market at Fumel, in the Lot-et-Garonne region of France, where we stocked up on fresh supplies, such as fish, cheese, mushrooms and radish. We were based at Villeneuve-sur-Lot at the home of English couple, Terry and Joyce Holmes.
‘Shadowlands’ play at Wyndham’s Theatre, London, with Janie Dee and Charles Dance in the lead roles.
The Dordogne Valley around Bezenac, (where we took in the views from the castle grounds) and the village of Domme.
Saltburn-by-the-Sea, on England’s north east coast, to watch surf board riders do their stuff on a cold, autumn day.
Sacred Heart Church, Borrisoleigh, County Tipperary, for Sunday Mass, with the local Kelly family.
MOST UNUSUAL EXPERIENCE
Spending a night in Nice, France with All Blacks rugby union supporters in full cry, in the city. France was hosting the World Cup.
Well-oiled patrons in the Exchange Pub, Hawick, Scotland, singing Irish songs. We were there with Hawick locals, Elliot and Linda Gibson.
A day out with Alan Kelly in his concrete truck. The family quarry business was heavily involved in road construction, and Alan took me on a concrete run to a stretch of new road at Loughmore. On the way back, he parked this huge thing in a narrow street, as he got some supplies from a general store/off licence.
1 Vernazza, Cinque de Terre, Italy
2 Dove Dale, Derbyshire, England. Steve Ricketts with Jane Rodgers
3 Kellie Kelly and her daughter, Emma, with Marie Ricketts in Tipperary
4 Steve and Marie Ricketts in Rome
5 Tissington Village, Derbyshire, England
6 Steve and Marie Ricketts at Saltburn-by-the-Sea, where the surf was up.