It’s anyone’s guess which of the conflicts currently in the headlines sparked off Hugh’s idea for a new type of ski mask. Unfortunately, there are many: the Ukraine, Gaza, and Iraq are the most prominent at the moment, at least in headline news. 

The Guardian has mentioned fighters in masks on various occasions, for example here

Hugh is referring to an old saying, ‘a fly in the ointment’. It means a small flaw or defect in something pleasant or useful. However, Herman Matthews' tweet and picture suggest a different point of view. 

With the next leg of the tour due to start on July 9th in Istanbul, Hugh is off traveling again. Here he is referring to a poem by William Butler Yeats, entitled ‘Sailing To Byzantium’:

and therefore I have sailed the seas and come

to the holy city of Byzantium.

(Byzantium is the ancient name for the Eastern Roman Empire. After Rome fell in 410 C.E., the Empire split in half. The Eastern half called themselves Romans, while the Western Empire first called them Greeks or Orientals, and then later Byzantines, after the previous name of the Empire’s capital, Constantinople [today: Istanbul]. For more information on the Eastern Roman Empire, this entry from Fordham University is most helpful.)

Yeats’ poem can be seen as a metaphor for growing older in a society that values youth and materialism, and outlines the struggle required to remain creative and contribute works of mind and hand as the body ages and grows weak. In the poem, Yeats dreams of going to Byzantium, where he hopes the wise men of the ages will appear to take him away from the natural world to a place where he and his works will never die. 

Yeats wrote in a draft script for a 1931 BBC broadcast:

'I am trying to write about the state of my soul, for it is right for an old man to make his soul, and some of my thoughts about that subject I have put into a poem called 'Sailing to Byzantium'. When Irishmen were illuminating the Book of Kells, and making the jeweled croziers in the National Museum, Byzantium was the centre of European civilization and the source of its spiritual philosophy, so I symbolize the search for the spiritual life by a journey to that city.’ (quoted from the Wikipedia entry on the poem)

It is possible that in congratulating Brazil on their win over Colombia at the World Cup football quarter-finals, Hugh is referring to the book ‘Little Black Sambo’, written by Helen Bannerman. In the story, a South Indian boy named Sambo has his new clothes stolen by tigers. Through a clever ruse Sambo tricks the tigers into chasing each other around a tree until they turn into butter, which he takes home to his mother (who uses it to fry pancakes).

For some years now the original story has been removed from children’s reading lists and library shelves, as it is considered a racial caricature. However, a version with new illustrations and new names but an unchanged text, published in 1996 by the illustrator Fred Marcellino (‘The Story of Little Babaji’) has been a bestseller. 

(For more information on the history of the story, this article provides excellent resources. All opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Decoders; we offer this link for anyone interested in pursuing the path the story has followed over the decades since it was first published. Thanks to @booshouse for providing the link.) 

Many thanks to @booshouse and @SueG4th for finding the reference, we are indebted to their quick intelligence!

Brazil team photo credit: Alexander Joe/Getty Images

The ‘bald bloke’ our man refers to is featured, with two other young football players, in a series of short commercials for Santander Bank, showing off his skills and applauding the other players. The commercial Hugh mentions specifically can be seen here

Keepy-uppy’, also called ‘kick-ups’, is the game of juggling a football with anything but your hands and keeping it from touching the ground - as seen perfectly illustrated in the Santander ad. Pelé, who also features in the ad, is something of a master of ‘keepy-uppy’ - or ‘freestyle football’ as it is called occasionally. You can see him here

It’s just another day at the Fifa World Cup in Brazil. Or is it? 

Not quite business as usual, or not as you’d expect anyway. The incident Hugh is referring to happened during the Italy vs Uruguay game in Natal, where Uruguay’s Luis Suarez bit Italian Giorgio Chiellini in the shoulder. No card was shown to Suarez, different from previous incidents which resulted in Suarez being banned from playing for several games at a time. A short video of the incident can be found here

Hugh’s exclamation, ‘Jings’, is Scottish slang used to indicate dismay or shock. It’s similar in use to American slang such as ‘cripes’ or ‘good grief’. 

Photo credits: Tony Gentile/Reuters, Clive Rose/Getty Images

After a bit of confusion (James Hansen? the musical group Hanson?), we’ve learned that our man is referring to Alan Hansen, the Scottish BBC football commentator and former football player. It is possible Hugh refers to this column written for Hansen’s Telegraph column on 21 June 2014, about England’s defeat against Italy and Uruguay in the FIFA World Cup games. 

Like many others, Hugh has been following the Fifa World Cup

The song he mentions is being used on the UK channel ITV - it is by Thiago Thome (composed by Ary Barroso) and can be found in full length here. It is being used as bumper music, or a ‘bump’—a tradition brought over from radio programming, used to cover up dead air or empty spots in the transition from commercials to show and vice versa. Bumper music is used mainly with live tv programs, such as sport events.

Many thanks to our friend @Moomoo1471 for helping us find the channel and the music to which Hugh’s referring.

Hugh’s visiting Austin, Texas, renowned center of culture, arts and most especially, great music—in this case, provided by the brilliant Paul Oscher (former harmonica player in Muddy Waters' band, also a singer/songwriter). Check out a sampling of Paul's latest album here, or give this vid a try. 

Hugh also took in Copper Bottom Band member Gaby Moreno's concert with Gina Chavez.

Photo credits:

Paul Oscher: via his website

Austin: Lonely Planet Productions

Gaby Moreno:

Gina Chavez: still from her music video,’Todo’

Hugh’s just discovered Tim Minchin, ‘an Australian musician, composer, songwriter, actor, comedian and writer’. He compares Minchin to ancient trickster gods of mischief—Pan, Puck, Loki—as well as Christopher Hitchens, the British-American author, debater and journalist.  

Tim Minchin is indeed worth a look and listen - you can find one of his videos here and plenty more on his own website.