Thursday, 9 September 2010

Quocunque jeceris stabit

Or "whichever way you throw, it will stand" (Isle of Man motto)

Without doing the whole 'bucket list' there are very many things I would like to do before finally expiring. I (quite erroneously I'm sure) believe that by keeping the list long and difficult I will somehow cheat the inevitable.
Visiting The Isle of Man was one such thing 'to do' and being rather partial to motorcycles it had to be at the time of The Manx Grand Prix, a quieter event than the world famous TT held earlier in the year. A virtual monopoly of sea crossings is held by the Victorian sounding Isle of Man Steam Packet Company and booking early is advisable. I wasn't at all prepared for the beauty of the place, helped immeasurably by a week of glorious weather...vast expanses of high, wild moorland, rocky glens and lush meadows in the lowlands. Standing at Snaefell the views are stunning - you can see the Mountains of Mourne, The Solway Firth and Wales.
The beauty of The Manx GP is that racing is held on alternate days...which as racing is over some 37 miles of public roads, means that the rest days allow travelling all over the Island rather than being confined to either the inside or outside the track. From the beauty of the Calf of Man at the southernmost tip to the purple heather moors of the mountains it's difficult to believe what gladitorial mayhem is acted out on racedays.
Bear in mind that the TT lap record is some 130+mph average speed over narrow, less-than-perfect country roads and you'll get some idea of what I mean. Young men (the eldest of whom this year was 71) are flagged off at intervals and essentially race against the clock as well as each other at what can only be described as an insane pace. I have never seen two wheeled devices travel so fast and furious, made all the more breathtaking by their being on not much more than country lanes. Our group of MGP 'virgins' were so affected by these sights that we needed the following day to get over the adrenalin high...mostly by walking and in some instances circulating the course as pillion passengers on my elderly British 'bike at a less than breakneck speed.
Watching the racing means that you need to duck down country lanes to reach suitable viewing points. One such is Hillberry which has a pure 1950s feel to the facilities offered to spectators...plenty of nice fried food sandwiches and glasses of orange squash. Within feet of your nose 'bikes career past at 170mph which has the ultimate effect of driving one to the excellent 'Trafalgar' pub in Ramsey after racing's over for the day. Here I met the gentleman pictured with the ancient Norton and double adult sidecar - he arrived with two young daughters in the 'chair' and long suffering wife on the pillion having dragged the whole plot up from Gloucestershire behind an ancient bus at a stately 46 miles per hour.
One last nice touch is the way the race timings, rather like 'I'm sorry I haven't a clue's' laser display board, are offered to the public in the grandstand...a real signwriter in overalls with a bucket of whitewash, writes them up!
I think I might return.