Archive | December 2015

2015 Top 10



Spotting this sculpture in Lisbon in July – a British TV ad for a brand of instant mashed potato sprang to mind…

Travelling light and staying dry in Porto after spotting a red weather warning on the BBC forecast before we flew out. Took good waterproofs with us to combat the rain, but once the storm passed, it was back to t-shirt weather and dining outside at one of the city’s riverside cafes…

A day in the Douro Valley – travelled by train from Porto, lunch on a cafe’s terrace and a river trip with a glass of port as part of the experience.

Bangers & mash and a beer on the terrace of the University Of Coimbra‘s student/staff cafe. A quick lunch and a cheap one too – didn’t even get asked if we had student cards!!! Caroline had a salad and an orange juice by the way.

A couple of nights in Averio Rossio Hostel in Averio, Portugal – one of the best hostels we’ve stayed in around Europe so far. All this and a ride on a gondola on the nearby canal too. Cheaper than Venice? You might think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment!

Taking time out to visit Somerset in May. Spent time in Wells spotting some of the locations used in the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost film Hot Fuzz, had a day in Glastonbury and spotted a former M.P. taking lunch in the same cafe as ourselves. Oh, and we bought a dragon too…

Sitting just off the beach at Seahouses in October in a vain attempt to spot The Northern Lights. We showed up, they didn’t!

Wandering around London with a group of fellow contributors to Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum and a trio of Lonely Planet forum moderators too. Some new places visited along with some old haunts from years ago.

Wandering around Newcastle-upon-Tyne with Caroline in November. More old haunts, some good food and a little bit of retail therapy thrown in for good measure. And no parking ticket either (touch wood) – we lost track of time and arrived back at the car an hour after the ticket ran out!

Taking time out to see Roy Wood (of The Move, E.L.O. and Wizzard fame) playing in Last Of The Summer Wine country at The Picturedrome in Holmfirth. Good meal at Brambles before the show, decent drinks prices at the venue and a good show by Roy and the band too. And yes, a certain Christmas themed classic rounded off the night!

And our plans for 2016? That would be telling!

Not on my iPad/iTunes… allegedly

After listing a few names whose songs will be hitting my iPad via iTunes in the not too distant future, here’s an alleged list of names whose songs won’t be hitting my iPad via iTunes…

Sorry, but that’s just the way it is as Bruce Hornsby once sang!

And yes, it’s all done in the best possible taste…



Michael Ball

Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican (seen live last night)

James Brown

Michael Buble



David Hasselhoff

Jay Z

Jesse J

John Lennon (after 7 nights of the same CD in a hotel bar in Andalucia)


Steven Seagal

Ed Sheeran

Sam Smith


Vanilla Ice

Paul Weller (apart from his work with The Jam of course – mint!)

Kanye West

Destination iPad/iTunes

So, what’s going on?

Music on the iPad that is…

Well, here are just a few of the artists that will have at least one, if not more, of their songs on the iTunes section of my iPad:

David Bowie

Kate Bush

The Cure

Emerson, Lake & Palmer


Marvin Gaye

Iron Maiden

Led Zeppelin


The Mission


New Model Army




Pink Floyd


Roxy Music

Nina Simone

Status Quo

And many, many more…

Tune in on Friday 18th December to see who WON’T be on my iTunes!


And yes, it’s all done in the best possible taste!

Taking the tablets?

For many years,  I’ve always associated the words tablet/tablets with something that you take when you’re ill, got a hangover or are on preventative medicine.

Or with the name of a distinctive Scottish confection that I indulge in when I’m north of the border or in an enlightened shop that’s below that line…

In recent years though, it’s come to mean something else. Caroline and I first looked at Apple iPads and Kindle Fire tablets back in 2012 when we were wandering around Glasgow for a few days.

We decided to give them a miss though as we couldn’t justify the purchase of one or two such items at the time. We both had smartphones, we used guidebooks, Kindle e-readers and digital compact cameras, so we didn’t need tablets.

There have been quite a few times when we’ve seen people using them in hostels, around town, in the grounds of stately homes and in museums such as The National Motor Museum in Hampshire (Old Hampshire, UK, not New Hampshire, USA!).

We’ve also taken the mickey out of some users as they try to use their iPad whilst watching a movie on a big screen in a hostel (and while also checking out anti-social media on their iPhones at the same time).

So why have I just gone out and bought an Apple iPad Mini 2?

Because it’s got to the point where I need to be able to view or update when we’re on the road.

Or check out emails, the news or weather forecasts before we move on towards our next destination.

Or need a back-up camera just in case the Nikon digital compact packs up when we’re on the road (like the Lumix that stopped short, never to go again when we were in Portugal back in 2013).

Or when I/we fancy listening to some music on iTunes.

Some hostels, guest houses and hotels have computers for residents to use, but more have Wi-Fi. As do various shops, cafes, tourist attractions trains and buses.

The iPad Mini is a Wi-Fi only one, so usage is going to be for research purposes rather than bookings or purchases at this moment in time.

My iPad Mini has just one extra app on it at the moment and that’s the Kindle one. Whilst most of my Kindle books are on my basic 2012 Kindle, I’ve downloaded some of my travel books onto the iPad Mini 2 to evaluate the usefulness of having such books on the machine.

Whilst navigation is easier than the push buttons on that basic Kindle and there’s colour photos and maps to look at and pull or pinch as needed, I’m going to give it a little bit of a test against the Kindle and the paper version of at least one guidebook in the coming weeks to see whether it’s easier to check information out electronically or on paper.

As it stands at the moment though, two things spring to mind…

The paper guidebook may mark you out as a tourist if you whip it out in the middle of the street or in a bar or cafe, but the hardware may (or may not) mark you out as a tourist with a target on your back for the ne’er do wells/thieving barstools of this world.

The other one is much more basic though.

Paper guidebooks don’t need to be recharged – unlike the iPad Mini (around 10 hours use before charging according to what I’ve read so far) or that elderly basic Kindle (at least two weeks of use between charges if I’m in a heavy reading mood and there are books to match the mood).

So, time will tell, but one thing’s for certain.

You can’t watch a Noel Gallagher concert on a guidebook or a basic Kindle, but you can on an iPad Mini 2 if you click on the iPlayer button on the BBC‘s website…

I’ll come back to this subject in the New Year by the way.

And just in case you’re wondering why I went for Apple and not Android, it’s quite simple.

I’ve used Apple machines for around 26 years now and had an Android phone for four years. The Android smartphone was switched off and laid to rest in April 2015 when it was replaced by a more basic talk and text phone.

The result? Less hassle and a week between battery top ups!



Great t-shirt…

Took time out to read The Observer newspaper on Sunday and spotted a great t-shirt advertisement.

“I may be old, but at least I got to see all the good bands”

Great sentiment and one that I can relate to given the music review work that I did a few years ago.

Starters for ten include Thin Lizzy, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Madness, The Housemartins, The Chieftains, Dire Straits (in a hall, not an arena), REM, Nirvana (in the legendary Mayfair Ballroom in Newcastle) and The Levellers…

Gone are the days of seeing over 160 bands in a year though!

Overcast, but no fog on the Tyne


A few of the bridges between Gateshead and Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Keith Rickaby

Nikon Coolpix S3100 digital compact camera

On the beach…


Bamburgh Beach, Thursday 26th November 2015

Keith Rickaby

Nikon Coolpix S3100 digital compact camera

Bamburgh – the morning after…


Bamburgh Castle from the beach, Thursday 26th November 2015

Keith Rickaby

Nikon Coolpix S3100 digital compact camera using B & W menu option



Bamburgh Castle as the sun goes down, Wednesday 25th November 2015

Keith Rickaby Nikon Coolpix S3100 digital compact camera