In a search for jazz n blues in Davenport, St. Louis and Nashville.

Davenport, St. Louis, Nashville

Arriving in Davenport after a three and a half hour drive, Davenport looked kinda desolate. I drove in from Chicago so it was quiet a big difference, few people in the streets not a lot bars or traffic. The reason I passed by Davenport is that the guide I’m using for my ‘Midwest’ travels, The Blues Highway, pointed me out here promising me some Jazz and Blues landmarks.  Upon my arrival Saturday evening I drove straight to Cols, which is a big ballroom where a lot of great jazz legends used to play in the ‘old days’.

Col's Ballroom DAVENPORT

Col’s Ballroom DAVENPORT

Legends such as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton etc. made the dancers’ feet hot in the swing jazz era.

It was a beautiful venue still but when I entered I was a bit surprised seeing/hearing a band playing ‘Only You’, a PLatters song if I’m not mistaking? The average age of the people present was 68 I guess. So there wasn’t a lot of dancing fun for me. The ballroom looked great though 😉

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pedestrian bridge Davenport

pedestrian bridge Davenport

So after my short visit at Cols ballroom I continued my trip to another jazz landmark called The Dancehall. This is a place were Bix Beiderbecke used to play a lot. In fact, Davenport is the Bix Beiderbecke town. He used to live here and there are some nice landmarks to be seen such as the house where he used to live, his gravestone in the Oakdale memorial grave.

Bixs' Grave stone

Bixs’ Grave stone

There even is an annual festival in his honour. So back to the venue. A bummer. Upon my arrival there were a lot of Mexican people outside, all dressed up. Inside a Mexican wedding party was going on… My Bachata moves aren’t great so no dancing for this fella, again 😉

Davenport has got a blues scene though, kept alive by Hall Reeder, owner of a bar called The Muddy Waters. He even has got a magazine talking about the blues stuff in and around the Quad cities (Davenport, Bettendorf, Moline, East Moline, Rock Island).  Another music ‘institute’ is the River Music Experience.

River music experience

River music experience

I must say that cops in this town seemed pretty strange to me. I’ll tell the whole story. I rented a car in Chicago and drove it up to Davenport. I parked myself on the parking space of the Col’s ballroom to check it out. When I came back in my car I started looking up the details on the next venue I wanted to visit. Car was running, lights were on. I must say I rented a little jeep thing, a bit bigger than a normal car just in case if I needed a couple of hours of sleep I could just do it in the car. Anyway, looking in my book, found the details on the venue and wanted to take of when a cop all of a sudden runs to my car and stops me from taking of…. I was a bit nervous, you’re in strange country with different rules, I lowered my passenger window where the cop stood. He asks me if I could turn on the lights on the roof of the car. Are there lights on my roof I wondered? Ok, I tried every possible knob and thing that I could explaining him I just rented the car (trough Relayrides, highly recommended for cheaper renting) and didn’t know how to turn on those lights. Just then I discovered a little thing I didn’t try…. Bam; lights went on. The cop takes a few steps back to look at them and nods. He comes back to the car explaining he has the same jeep and was looking to buy those lights on the internet to put on his roof as well….. He wished me a pleasant stay in Davenport.

An hour later I found myself in a bar talking to a guy with a real nice pimped up Harley, drinking beers, having fun… Turns out to be the deputy Sheriff of Davenport. Hopefully nobody stopped him to take an alcohol test when he was riding his bike 😉 at least I didn’t feel so fresh in the morning after those beers we had 🙂

Jay's bike ;)

Dep.s’ bike

Perhaps a little intermezzo on the mo’ (mustache) I’m wearing. I’ve got two hints on former legends that wore the same mo; there’s still hope for me 😉 First one is a former baseball pitcher called Rollie Fingers. I hope I don’t look as dorky with my mustache as Rollie does 😉 Second one and of course more my look-a-like :)) is John L Sullivan, a former boxer from the late 1800’s, died in 1918.

So, ok, I had my first Jeep sleep in Hannibal. A small little town  on my way to ST. Louis. If it wasn’t for the writer Mark Twain probably no one would have known this town. Desolate place. Nice riverside though…..

Checking out asses at Fast Lane, St Charles

Checking out asses at Fast Lane, St Charles

At the art museum ST.Louis

At the art museum ST.Louis

Destination St.Louis. My second day in St. Louis and the weekly social takes place. Hosted by the wonderful Christian and Jenny, my hosts for the next seven days…

Christian: he the man ;)

Christian: he the man 😉

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Lazy sunday afternoon on the Mississippi…

The DJ for that night is John Bedrosian, an old-timer in swing, specializing in St.Louis shag. You can tell by the bpm’s of his songs he’s dj-ing that he likes St. Louis-shag. Super friendly guy. All of a sudden he asks trough the mic if anyone has not been on the social before. That’s probably me. So I go up to the dj-booth and receive a cd compiled by John himself 😉 Sweet.

St.Louis is a really nice place to stay, if you’re not in the city centre. Christian took me for a bike ride to discover a bit of areas that have a lively young atmosphere. There’s definitely an effort from young enthusiasts to get the town on the right track.

Saxquest has it's own sax museum, wonderful!

Saxquest has it’s own sax museum, wonderful!

Gotta love street art

Gotta love street art

Printshop with own style

Printshop with own style

Nice bands, bars, shops, all very creatively set up. Seen some nice bands play, I’ll list them a bit lower.

Just 'eat'

Just ‘eat’

Landmarks will be, for sure the Scott Joplins house.

Playing Scott Joplin at the Scott Joplins' house ;)

Playing Scott Joplin at the Scott Joplins’ house 😉

The Thaxton, a building built in the early 1920’s by Kodak, the plan was to build 50 but only 10 were build because of crisis. The one in STL is the only remaining.

Thaxton speakeasy

Thaxton speakeasy

The City Museum, what a bizarre yet fun experience this was 😉

The Arch of St.Louis

The Arch of St.Louis

The  Big Muddy Blues Festival is worth visiting. Three stages, of which two are free of admission. Soul, jazzy, rock and off course, ze blues…

Bars n bands

Schlaffly’s bottleworks (good beer brewery), with Miss Jubilee

Miss Jubilee, just great!

Miss Jubilee, just great!

Beale on broadway, with Marquise Knox: damn he good!

Marquise Knox!!!

Marquise Knox!!!

BB’s, withLeroy Pierson, Rick Mcdonough and the rough grooves

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The Oyster bar

Blues City Deli, with Little Rachel

Little rachel, still wonder why? But what a voice...

Little rachel, still wonder why? But what a voice…

Joe’s Bar (BYOB), with Tom Mc Dermott (brilliant piano player!)

Tom Mcdermott, check him.

Tom Mcdermott, check him.

Thaxton

The Big Muddy Blues festival, withMarquise Knox, The Reverend Horton Heat, etc.

Nashville

Quite a change if you’re in a search for jazz and blues. Country it is in Nashville, nothing but country music. It’s really nice to see people enjoy this music and dance. Some of them have boots with metal plates underneath (much like tap shoes) to tap on the country music. That was new to me 😉

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Get your boots on baby

Broadway, live music all day long

Broadway, live music all day long

The most important thing here for me was the Johnny cash museum. It’s a great historical museum, lots of insights (letters, personal stuff etc.). I takes you about two hours to see it.

The museum of the 'man in black'

The museum of the ‘man in black’

Boots and hats all over, no McDonalds on Broadway. I think people eat hats or boots instead.

As country music is so big here, a lot of record companies have headquarters here making billions of dollars each year. The only remark I have here that there’s so many really good musicians that it becomes difficult to find like a really, really great band. Cause everybody is great at what they do. Broadway is literally packed with bars playing live music from 3 or 4 pm.

Oh yeah, the police over here is pretty harsh, got two parking tickets. One that was obvious just didn’t see the sign. The other was a bit dubious. As I got my first ticket I was very keen on parking on the right spot. After seeing a band the day after my first ticket I found another ticket on my window. A parking violation for 10 dollars stated; ‘Other’ on the parking ticket. Still don’t know what for 😉 Must have been the Chicago license plate in Nashville 🙂

Back to Chicago it is 😉

Two days Chicago before I leave to NYC.

State fair in Sandwich on saturday, wiii. Omg, just amazing, tractor pulling, animals, fair, weirdo’s, root beer, corn dogs, you name it!

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I’ll leave you with this joyous feeling 🙂

Chicago, The Windy City, where it all happens.

Washington Dulles Airport was my first foot on American ground and it gives already a good impression of the States; a lot of food corners like Mc Donalds, Dunkin’ Dougnet, … 😉

Anyway, after arriving in Chicago and getting to the hotel, an early bed it was for me. I traveled for more than 16 hours, that should be sufficient for one day 😉

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Chicago airport is one of the biggest in the US.

Sunday morning, rise and shine. Taking a bus downtown (I’m situated in the south so a 40′ bus ride gets me downtown) and hitting the wonderful Grant Park and Millennium Park with the amazing Institute of Art of Chicago close by. In the modern wing of the institute there was a great collection on Impressionism and a great story on one of the paintings from Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (post-impressionist).Lautrec

Millenium park, on wednesdays there's free movies ;)

Millenium park, on wednesdays there’s free movies 😉

Chicago is all about big buildings (financial district) and architecture that comes with these amazing buildings. One that impressed me fairly enough was the Board of Trade. The Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT), established in 1848, is the world’s oldest futures and options exchange. Since 1930, the Chicago Board of Trade has been operating out of 141 West Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, in a building designed by architects Holabird & Root that is 605 feet (184 m) tall, the tallest in Chicago until the Richard J. Daley Center superseded it in 1965. This Art Deco building incorporates sculptural work by Alvin Meyer and is capped by a 31 foot (9.5 m) tall statue of the Roman goddess Ceres in reference to the exchange’s heritage as a commodity marketCeres is faceless because its sculptor,John Storrs, believed that the forty-five story building would be sufficiently taller than any other nearby structure and as a result that no one would be able to see the sculpture’s face anyway. Amazing at night when the building is lightened.

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Board of Trade

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The watertower, one of a few buildings still standing after the Great fire in Chicago.

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Pretty isn't it? ;)

Pretty isn’t it? 😉

So, shining my dance shoes and I’m off to a place called The Honky Tonk BBQ. This is where I get to meet my wonderful host for the next couple of days. I won’t share any details on my host cause then I would probably not have a spot in the house next time I’m back in town 😉 The band that’s playing there is absolutely amazing; these guys are very keen on producing the exact sound as 80 to 90 years ago. The Fat Babies are playing on a weekly basis at The Honky Tonk BBQ and it’s worth to check them out there. They often bring guest musicians on the stage, all having the same quest, playing like the early years. Even though the bands members are all very young ( 20-30 years of age) they write own compositions of known songs and again the sound needs to be perfect.

probably the best 'vintage' drummer in the US

probably the best ‘vintage’ drummer in the US

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Fat Babies with Paul Asaro at work 😉

Alphonse Gabriel Capone, Al Capone to his ‘friends’, is probably one of the most know people in Chicago. In his early twenties, he moved to Chicago to take advantage of a new opportunity to make money smuggling illegal alcoholic beverages into the city during Prohibition. He also engaged in various other criminal activities, including bribery of government figures and prostitution. The Green mill, once owned/co-owned?, by Capone or one of his fellow gang mates, is where you can hear the Fat Babies as well. A nice looking art deco bar, serving nice drinks in an 20’s-30’s atmosphere. Check it!

So what’s the story of the ‘Windy City’? Well, I can tell you this; there’s not much wind around here, that’s for sure 😉 The story I’ve heard about it, but there are still others stories to be found on Wikipedia, is one of a rather political angle. After the city being completely burned down in 1871 nobody in the country would ever believe Chicago could be a great city again. Because of the lobbying from a lot of politicians, and the lobbying was of a more then average amount to say it in a soft tone the politicians were having the nickname of Windy people. The others politicians became rather fed up with the Chicago politicians being so ‘windy’ and this where the name should come from. But no matter what, Chicago became a great city once again.

Another remarkable thing in Chicago is they reversed the direction of the Chicago river because of sewage problems. Started of in 1887 and finished the works in 1900. Now the river runs from Lake Michigan to the Mississipi river instead of the other way.

A city of different levels. I find it rather special, it seems you have several levels in the city. There’s the Chicago River with the boats, you have ‘ground floor’ for pedestrians, above you there are trains running and on top of that you’re looking at the skyscrapers 😉

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I should mention that Chicago once became the home of many people from the south seeking a new/better life. These people brought a lot of their own culture (african-americam population) with them so making Chicago probably at that time, 1900’s, the mecca of jazz and blues. It still is today. The raw sound of the south got refined in Chicago and this is where we find a lot of well known blues and jazz-musicians playing in town such as Jelly Roll Morton, Tony Jackson, The Original Dixieland Jazz Band, louis Armstrong, Joe ‘King’ oliver, Kid Ory, the Dodds brothers, Johny St.Cyr, ….

The blues came more known in Chicago after WW2. Some names; Big Bill Broonzy, Papa Charlie, Tampa Red, Muddy Waters….. You can still hear a lot of jazz and blues being played in about every bar. Every evening there’s dancing and live music so there’s no excuse for you to stay indoors 😉 So I tried not to and found myself dancing in the park (summer dance Chicago), listening and dancing to The Boilermakers Jazz Band at The Untitled, I’ve seen the Fat Babies three times this week (cause they are so good 😉 ), and I was spinning some tunes at the social dance at Fizz. Not to forget I got my first steps in Balboa taught by the wonderful Nicolle, to be continued…. 😉

Dancing in the park with a couple of hundred other people. The boilermaker Jazz Band set our feet on fire...

Dancing in the park with a couple of hundred other people. The boilermaker Jazz Band set our feet on fire…

 

Dj-ing at the social dance at Fizz

Dj-ing at the social dance at Fizz

 

I cannot forget to write a little on the mecca I discovered. On East Illinois you’ll find a spot to spend all your time and for sure all your money. It’s called Jazz Record Mart, man, that’s something, the stuff you find over there! It’s bread and water for me the next couple of weeks, spend a fortune but found some treasures there 😉

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One of the mecca rooms ;)

One of the mecca rooms 😉

Home of the Cubs and the White Sox, baseball it is 😉 On saturday I had walk in the most beautiful graveyard ever seen ( a bit morbid I know 😉 ) and after that I found myself close to the Cubs stadium so I had a little look at the match. I’ve heard they haven’t won the series in 100 years. They are not doing so well the Cubbies 😉

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And last but not least I’ve discovered, thanks to my host, a fine cocktail bar. A very speakeasy-ish place that’s dark on the inside, just a few candles giving some atmospheric light. It’s hard to adept at first but after a minute or two your eyes get used to the dimmed light…. Cocktails were well made by crafted bartenders… Here’s the Violet Hour 

 

That’s it for now, feel free to add or correct where needed 😉

Ghent, hometown of the ‘Gentse Feesten’.

Saturday before the 21st of july. 21st of july is our national holiday in Belgium. So saturday it’s kick-off time. A ten day street-festival in the city centre of Ghent with shitloads of bands, animation, theatre, art, buskers, you name it. 10 days! Gentse feesten; you better not miss it 😉

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What is so special for me during these ten days? Well, not only the variety of stuff going on but since 2012 there’s a special place in Ghent called Swing Cité. A Swing palace you could call it. Ten days of swing, ten days of sweat and fun. This year the organizers had the brilliant idea of combining all the different scenes from Belgium and even abroad to lift the event. Every day was build up with dance initiations, spectacular shows, games, amazing live bands. Every day another ‘scene’ was hosting. Everyday great fun. There were the people from Ghent hosting, Antwerp, Brussels, Kortrijk, Utrecht (Nl), and so on. Every scene had made up a nice program for everybody to enjoy, dancers and non dancers.

Every evening a live band made our feet stomping and jittering. We were proud to welcome; Birds of Swing (Waso De Cauter), One-eyed Sam and the Jam Knights, The French Rag Dividers, Monkey Business, Combo Swing In, Remus Rag and the Slow Drag Gang, The Hot Sugar band (Fr) and many more…. Man, these cats were hot! See you’all next year, hopefully 😉 A special act during Swingcité (and the rest of the Ghent festival); The Dipsy Doodles (dipsy doodle), an amazing collective of dancers making you wish you were Fred Astaire himself 😉

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some Dipsy Doodles fun

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Some Dipsy Doodles fun

A very special person a came across with; Jan Torfs. In the 50’s this guy owned a music magazine called ‘Juke Box’. Later he sold it and it became ‘Joepie’. Interestingly enough this Jan Torfs-guy got to interview all the greatest in the Swing Jazz World at that time; The duke, Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton… He even met Elvis! (OK, Elvis is not a jazz musician but I’m still impressed that this guy interviewed them all….) It was nice meeting you Jan 😉

And last but not least there’s JIGGERS. A speakeasy as it should be, great cocktails nice atmosphere, skilled bartenders…. A place to be kept hidden, it’ll become too crowded otherwise 😉

Jiggers

Dublin, Guinness and chips.

Discovering Dublin is not that difficult, it’s not that big. The main area’s in the city are situated round the Liffey, the river that crosses the city. So you either visit the north part or south part, depending on which site of the river you are.

It’s a very vivid and lively city, live music in every pub, even starting from midday on. A typical Irish folk sound is what you’ll hear in every speaker in every pub. The typical drink in Dublin would be the Guinness, a dark ale.

AfbeeldingTasteful, a bit bitter and rather heavy on the stomach after a few of them 😉

I discovered some Belgian beers as well, some pubs have some Belgian drafts to sell. Stella Artois for instance is a beer that’s easily found. Locals call it ‘the wife-beater’, because of its high percentage of alcohol. 5,1%, a regular ale in England would be 3,5% to 4%. Afbeelding

And….. finally got to do some dancing…YES!

For those who don’t know me well; I’ve always been passionate about music. I like almost every style of music as long as it is good, as long as they’ve put some effort in the song 😉 So, a couple of years ago I wanted to start dancing and so I started looking around to see what options there were. Like this I discovered the ‘Lindy Hop’. It’s a partner dance that has roots in the african american dances from the early 1900’s. I’m not going to go into details about it’s history and stuff but I just add some links so feel free to explore them.

Lindy Hop 

Frankie Manning

the dance

I might as well add a few names of the music so you’ll get an idea what it’s like.

Duke Ellington

Ella Fitzgerald

Sam Price

Sidney Bechet

Billie Holiday

Please note in the above list are just a few examples of the music that is danced to. There are hundreds of other bands, even new ones that are out there to leave you wet in the sweat 😉

While in Oxford there was not much going on dancing wise so all my bets are on Dublin 😉 I got in contact with the DubLindy scene via the FB group and found out about the social dance on wednesday and a picnic dance on saturday in ST.Stephen’s Green, a lovely park in the city centre of Dublin.

First of, the social on wednesday, held in The Turks Head. TTH is a pub situated in the busy part of Dublin, the Temple Bar area. The social dance was a success, lovely people, great dancers. I even got to DJ there on the social dance, thanks guys, it was fun 😉Afbeelding

After the social I’ve had a pint with my host Wim at Doyle’s, nice bar and after a few ales I found myself in contact with the dj playing at Doyle’s. Great guy, Carlos Irie. We agreed to do a back to back the day after, after all I had my laptop and music with me 😉 What a great night thursday was at Doyle’s. Thanks to Mr. Carlos Irie for the great music and hospitality 😉

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Finally, saturday…. After buying some drinks and food for the pic-nic it’s off to St.Stephen’s Green.  If possible take care to avoid the OVER crowded Grafton street. A lot of young musicians/dancers/entertainers are situated in Grafton to show their skills to a real audience.  It’s a very busy shopping area as well.

Some funny peeps to be seen there as well 😉

Some funny guy at Grafton Str.

Some funny guy at Grafton Str.

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Of course I can’t keep away from lovely places with excellent drinks so here’s another treat for you and highly recommended when in Dublin. The Vintage Cocktail Club. VCC. Rather difficult to find but I think that’s part of the whole ‘Speakeasy‘ concept.

A LITTLE NOTE: PLEASE FEEL FREE TO ADD SOME MORE INFO OR RELATED STUFF AS I’M WILLING TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS STUFF 🙂

The Vintage Cocktail Club

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And we’re off, back to Belgium for the 10 day festival in Ghent, the ‘Gentse Feesten’

First stop: Oxford, land of the Hobbits.

Well, not exactly the first stop but I like the sound of the title 😉

Real first stop was London.
I met up with Matt and Dee, two friends I made while Lindy-dancing. They recently bought a house in Oxford (while living in London) and I promised them to come over and help out a bit when I would start my trip. So I did 😉

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One of the masterpieces 😉

While in London Matt took me to a brilliant cocktail bar called ‘Nightjar’. He didn’t know at that time that one of my focal points of my trip was finding nice Jazz bars or related ones. The Nightjar is exactly what I was looking for!
Have a look on their website, an amazing place with live bands and stuff… http://www.barnightjar.com
The served cocktails are real pieces of art, every single one of them. As a customer you’ve got the impression of being important, clients first must be their motto cause when it takes a little while to get your drink (because of a crowded bar or because of the work they have to put in the ‘masterpiece’) you’ll get served a glass of cava and the words ‘sorry to keep you waiting, here’s a little something from the house’. Brilliant.

After a hilarious and ‘dangerous’ bike ride in the city centre of London at nighttime it was time for bed, cause Oxford would be next on the list.

Sunny sunday morning. Hot as hell, it’s been very nice weather the last couple of days in Europe, and we’re off to Oxfordshire. The Shire as Tolkien said/wrote it. http://www.tolkiensociety.org

And my first day of work for a new boss 🙂 Matt and Dee’s house, a ruin at the moment 🙂 (sorry Matt and Dee, it’s not as bad as I write it 😉 ), needs some work. A lovely house, a few minutes away from the ancient city centre of Oxford. But everything needs to be refurbished . Five days of painting, helping out with the floor heating, plastering windows and stuff its time for a beer, Matt knows some nice places. the trout oxford pub,freud oxford cafe,

Oxford has the advantage of having a busy city centre and some lovely meadows where there’s the peace and quietness that makes you want to write a book about Hobbits 😉 Looking around in the countryside you can actually see where Tolkien got his writing material from. It’s easy to see a Hobbit’s house in the countryside of Oxford. Beautiful, just beautiful. Afbeeldingen van oxford countryside

One should definitely visit one or more Universities in Oxford, amazing buildings, nice greens….. In the Christ Church university you can enter the dining room where students and profs have their daily meals and there’s something special about this one. Besides it being impressive to see it’s also used in a film. Perhaps you can tell me in which one?..

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On saturday it’s auction time! Jeej! Never been to a real auction before in my life so I thought it was pretty special. As I’m traveling, there’s not much I can bring along from the auction but still, I did find some special things. 5 children books from Grimm, dated ( from 1905_1910 ) and signed for a little boy  as a present for good behavior and attendance in school. Nice.

And a little note if you should travel brittish railways for longer distances; seat reservation is just the thing you might need. Good thing I booked my ticket to Dublin in advance… 😉