Ringo Starr’s Boyhood Home In Restoration ‘Limbo’

Ringo Starr
Wikimedia Commons

Back in 2010, we reported that the birthplace of Ringo Starr was threatened with demolition. The rowhouse, located at 9 Madryn Street in Liverpool, England, has fallen into disrepair. As you can see from this photo, it hasn’t been lived in for some time and is all boarded up.

It’s not alone. The BBC reports that many of the homes in the neighborhood are abandoned and crumbling. The city government approved a £15 million ($24.4 million) plan to rework the neighborhood, building 150 new homes, knocking down 280 others, and restoring 37, including Ringo Starr’s. There have been calls to preserve the home as a bit of music history. While John and Paul’s childhood homes are now preserved by the National Trust, Ringo’s place doesn’t even have an historic plaque.

Now the city’s plan has been put on hold by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, who has called for a full review. That’s bad news for the few people still living in the area. They don’t know whether they should move, or pay their own money to restore their homes, or do nothing. It all depends what happens with the government funding, and nobody can answer that at the moment.

So will the homes be knocked down or will Ringo’s birthplace become yet another of England’s historic homes? We’ll just have to wait and see.

It may be a long wait.

David’s Discoveries: The Beetle-Loving Calligrapher Of Paris

David Downie, AOL

For the last 26 years, calligrapher extraordinaire Eric de Tugny has lured the curious into his magical bolt-hole of a stationer’s shop in Paris, on the Rue du Pont Louis Philippe.
Long down at the heel, part of the crumbling old Jewish district, this short, straight road is on the western edge of the Marais. Most of the traditional businesses have gone elsewhere, though the nearby Shoah Memorial remains the neighborhood’s soulful anchor. Now a chic shopping enclave, indigenous bobos and visitors crowd the sidewalks to gaze at the handmade papers in the accessory-filled boutiques, do the photo gallery and tea salon, and open their wallets wide in the chocolate or specialty food shops that stand cheek-by-jowl between the Seine and Rue Francois Miron.

The shop’s name – “Mélodies Graphiques,” meaning “Graphic Melodies” – gives nothing away. What might it really mean?

The melody of beautiful writing, or the graphic quality of music? Inside, Bach or baroque chamber music plays softly on the sound system. The only other sound is that of Tugny quietly penning sinuous lines of his inimitable script letters – creating invitations and announcements, or love notes, wedding menus and anything else clients can imagine where the beauty of the penmanship and the composition are essential to the message. Perched behind his working surface – it doubles as the cash desk – Tugny merges village scribe and New Age seer.

He has far too much work for one calligrapher to do. Fan mail from friends and clients in Helsinki, San Francisco, Casablanca and London is pinned to the wall behind.


But there’s more to the shop than first meets the eye. All may seem proper and normal: pens, pencils, wrapping paper, agendas, book plates, cards and suchlike are carefully displayed, with an artistic yet orderly sensibility. Look closer and you might recoil. Real, preserved bugs adorn the shop windows, or perch near the cash register. The book of bugs, a richly illustrated volume with Tugny’s illustrations, is displayed nearby.

What makes the middle-aged Tugny so extraordinary is not merely his talent with quill pen, ink and rag paper. Insiders know the impish Frenchman as the City of Light’s most bug-wild, beetle-mad collector, an intrepid hunter, preserver and illustrator of creepy crawlies, coleopteran many-legged, horned, fanged, stinging, biting, dangerous, deadly, gorgeously weird-looking insects from around the globe.

If you’re lucky you might step in as he’s drawing a scorpion he caught, most likely in the Cote d’Ivoire, and brought home triumphantly, pickled and floating in a mason jar.

Ask the affable Tugny what he has in the old-fashioned folders propped up on wooden crutches at the front of the shop and you will be treated to beetle mania. Green bugs with antennae that would put Big Ears to shame, locust-like monsters with translucent wings, giant yellow beetles with chocolate-brown bottoms seemingly dipped in chocolate – dozens and dozens of exquisite drawings done by Tugny. Each is a labor of love requiring, on average, 60 hours of work with loupe, caliper and the ink-filled tools of his trade.

Born in Morocco to French parents, brought up and educated in Lyon, Tugny’s first profession was biologist, with a specialty in entomology. His expertise: the coleopteran of North Africa. In the last 30 years he has captured – or been sent – every known species, and has immortalized each with the precision of an Audubon. Astonishingly, the modest, soft-spoken Tugny is self-taught, his hand and mind driven solely by passion.

“It all started 15 years ago,” he told me recently, one rainy Paris day as spring turned to summer, his mirth contagious, “with an invitation to a bar mitzvah.”

A local Marais resident came to buy paper supplies, admired his handwriting – the store hours are in calligraphy – and asked him to write out names and addresses for a celebration. Soon the Jewish community was beating a path to him for personalized invitations: bar mitzvahs, weddings, funerals, anniversaries, special events, art exhibitions and more. Word spread. Now photographers, authors, movie directors, fashion designers and wealthy new neighborhood denizens beeline to Tugny’s shop. He is in such demand that, with evident regret, he refuses clients who don’t give him a long enough lead time. I watched as several came in, one begging for the scribe to write a letter, another to create a menu for a soiree.

The calligraphy led him to indulge his twin passions: drawing and insects. Now he’s preparing to sell limited editions of his prints. “Oh, I never sell the originals,” he answered when I inquired politely. “Those I will always keep.” Alongside the mounted pickled bugs – and his inimitable, wry sense of humor.



Author and private tour guide David Downie’s latest critically acclaimed books are “Paris to the Pyrenees: A Skeptic Pilgrim Walks the Way of Saint James” and “Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light,” soon to be an audiobook. His Paris Time Line app was published in April: www.davidddownie.com and www.parisparistours.com.

Rio Carnival 2012: A playlist of traditional Carnival songs

During Carnival, the city of Rio de Janeiro pulses with the sound of percussion. Music is an integral part of the Brazilian festival, and it doesn’t seem like you can turn a corner without hearing the infectious drum-driven beats of samba music or the sounds of drunken celebrants singing traditional marchinhas at the tops of their lungs. Particularly in the blocos, music is a binding force, bringing together people from all walks of life — young, old, rich, poor, black, white — in nostalgic beats and familiar lyrics.

In Rio, the spirit of Carnival doesn’t disappear on Ash Wednesday; the native cariocas manage to embody it year-round. With the following playlist of musical hits from Rio Carnival 2012, you can too.

Unidos da Tijuca 2012 Marchinha
The winner of Rio’s famous samba school parades composed this song particularly for Carnival 2012.

Monobloco Marchinha
The band from the Monobloco bloco became so popular, they now perform year-round in music venues across Rio.

Batucada
A sub-style of samba, Batucada incorporates African drumbeats. This track, mixed by a popular DJ, will make you hit repeat.

Bloco do Sargento do Pimenta
Beatles, Brazilian-style? The Sargento do Pimenta (Sgt. Pepper) bloco specializes in Fab Four hits with a samba beat.

Marchinha Medley
Still don’t have enough samba? This one-hour medley has you covered.

Check out Gadling’s full range of Rio Carnival 2012 coverage here.

Get your Beatles-Style Abbey Road picture in five simple steps

Abbey Road

When I emerged from the tube at St. John’s Wood and felt my way over to Abbey Road, I didn’t know what to expect. Like everyone of a certain age, I’d seen the album cover with the “Fab Four” striding across the street by their London studio. I’ve heard the songs and sung along (when nobody was around). The mystique had grown in me over decades, and I figured the Abbey Road crosswalk would have the feel of a holy place.

Well, it didn’t.

If you’re a Beatles fan, Abbey Road is certainly a mandatory stop on your next trip to London, and doubtless, you’ll want your own shot in that iconic crosswalk. I’m guilty of this brazenly tourist act, and along the way, I gathered a few ideas for making it easier to get your shot.

Are you headed to Abbey Road? Here are five ways you can make it easier to become one with music history:

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1. Watch the traffic: there is no traffic light, and Abbey Road is in a residential neighborhood. Cars come zooming past, except when Beatles fanatics get in the way (and even then …). Spend a few minutes watching the flow of traffic, which is influenced by lights farther down the road in both directions. Get a sense of when the natural gaps occur.

2. Note the horns: even if you pick a good time to cross, you’ll likely get in someone’s way. Be aware of what’s going on around you, and try not to be too much of a pain to the locals. They have places to go, too.

3. Make a trade: you need someone to take your picture. Someone else probably does, too. Help each other out, and be patient while waiting for an opening. Fortunately, you probably won’t be the only person in this situation, so finding a new photo buddy won’t be too hard.

4. Plan your walk, especially if you’re with a group: line up ahead of time, and e prepared to move when there’s a break in the vehicular action. You won’t have long when you’re in the street, especially if you want to be considerate of others looking for their moments in the middle of Abbey Road.

5. Instruct your photographer: when you hand over your camera, tell your new friend what you want: it will make it easier for him or her to deliver. When it’s your turn to return the favor, ask for instructions so you can do a good job, as well.

[photos by Laurie DePrete]

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Beatles infest cruise ship, give back

Beatles cruiseBut this is a good thing.

Beatles Tribute Cruise 2011 is on sale now and for fans of the fab four it doesn’t get any better than this. “8 days a week” is exactly how long fans will sail on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas along with pretty much anybody who’s anybody in the world of Beatlemania.

Sailing from Miami with tribute-band The British Are Coming! and other special guests, fans will visit St Maarten, St Thomas, San Juan and Royal Caribbean’s private destination of Labadee in Haiti where Royal Caribbean is still helping, a year after a devastating earthquake rocked the island nation with donations of supplies each week.

Along for the ride is two-time Grammy award winning guitarist Laurence Juber, Beatles artist Shannon, TV and radio personality Tony Perkins, Beatles historian Tony Bramwell and Joe Johnson, the host & creator of the nationally syndicated radio show “BeatleBrunch“.

An annual event, this year’s cruise will be a fundraiser for Thrive/Survive Los Angeles to support young adult cancer survivors. On-board, a raffle will be held with close to 100 Beatles-related items to be given away during the sailing including a special Ultimate Weekend Tickets To Ride package for Abbey Road on the River along with autographed DVD’s from assorted post-Beatles artists.

For donation or ticket information contact Woody Lofton or register online.

Photo: Beatles Tribute Cruise