I woke up this morning in York and looked out on a beautiful Autumnal day as the leaves on the trees were a multitude of colours. My mind drifts back to half term trips to The Isle of Man at this time of year with my late mother. Rides upstairs on the bus from Douglas to Ramsey as we go through Laxey with its beautiful trees with leaves of many colours.
Watching the TV last night, I came across an unexpected programme about the Isle. A trip from Heysham to the summit of Snaefell. Having not been to the Island since September 2013, the sight of the boat smoothly moving out of Heysham harbour as the passengers stand on deck in the sunshine is hard on the heart. When it arrived in Douglas harbour, the commentary did not help my humour as it described the beautiful sweep of the bay as the seagulls flew over head. I was rocking at this point as he climbs on the Horse Tram for a ride along the front, yes this show really should have had a health warning before it was broadcast, warning, this show may have a bad effect on your bank balance in due course as the Island calls you home.
The ride up the Snaefell Mountain Railway was in thick fog that would have done the job at any time in the Isles history as we hear once more the Mannanan’s cloak story. There is just time for the presenter to get out at the top, because he has to, it says so in his contract, declare he can only see one of the seven kingdoms that the guide has just told him about, and he is back inside like a shot and heading down to sea level. It was one of those days where the sheep are not keen at going out.
I must admit that I have had my fair share of, shall we call them “inclement” weather days on the Isle , others I am sure could describe them more creatively. One trip on the bus down to The Sound to allegedly see The Calf of Man was very interesting. The gulls had packed up for the day, not that there were any ice creams around to swoop down on and steal. The wind was horizontal and if you lost grip of anything , including elderly relatives, then I suspect the place to start looking for them would have been Ireland. Still, I was here now, I had to get out, its traditional, I don't get here that often enough to be picky. A quick 2 minutes followed taking the air as I take a few quick photos, I abandon the idea of going in the old cafe there and I dive back into the sanctuary of the very welcome warm double decker bus to spend the next period trying to get the rain out of my Canon camera.
I recall another day when we went up Snaefell on a dodgy weather day. Mother stood proudly at the top of Mann in her purple rain mack and inside out umbrella doing a fair impersonation of Mary Poppins. The thing is though, when you return to Man, the weather whilst you want it sunny tends to be irrelevant as the clock is ticking until your return to reality on the other island. This shone through with her smile on the top of the world, well the top of Man whilst she hung onto the brolly for dear life. It is soon time to look for comfort in the guise of a nice hot cup of tea, maybe with a buttered scone and jam if we are lucky.
For me when we make a sea trip to the Island, there is nothing more exciting than that final 20 minutes as you approach the Isle. Ages of looking for the first glimpse of the Manx coastline just builds up the anticipation as you see land, maybe it is Maughold in the North ? We have all done this, and at that moment we are all kids again and dreaming of a big Isle of Man Ice Cream as soon as possible, in those days, that being Manx Ices. Once you get to see Onchan with its white bungalows on the headland, the boat seems to go across the bay at breakneck speed, like it is as keen to get to the Island as we are. We are home again.
When travelling around the Island I would always keep an eye on the clock in the late afternoon to see if we might get a glimpse of the boat arriving from England. Many a trip on the bus from Ramsey to Douglas has been spent looking out to sea rather than looking at the countryside. Our last trip to the Island in 2013 was a real privilege as we stayed on the front near Derby Castle and I could watch the boat depart for England at 8.45am and then sulk if I just missed seeing it. The Horse Cars would start clip clopping past soon after, it was a heavenly place to stay and just chill and get back into the Manx rhythm of life. This is all good for the soul.
By contrast, the departure from the Isle I find can be quite a downer. As you stand on the top of the boat or stare out of the window, you know that your magical week is about to end as the boat edges slowly away from her berth. Many a time I have stood on the back of the boat trying to soak in the last moments of looking at the Island. As we move past the lighthouse, we are on our way from our island. You stand there for as long as you can see the slightest sign of Mann until eventually, you have to give in to the inevitable and go inside to the warmth of the boat. When back on the UK roads, the cars feel to be so much faster , far less well mannered and you are back in reality with a big joult.
So another adventure is over until the next time. But the memories of the glorious weather, (lets forget the rain) , stays with you forever.