A Dunlop Girl

I still surprise myself when it comes to my passion with the TT and the Dunlops in particular.
I thrive on any excuse to talk to someone new about the TT, about the Isle of Man, about the riders, my experiences. And how it changed my life.

I find it can be a little intimidating. Being a woman who is into the sport, who isn't just about "oh, I like men in leathers" but to be someone who is actually passionate about the sport. Someone who will talk and talk and talk about it until someones ears are bleeding.

I hated bikes.
I wasn't interested at all at going to watch them. I knew the names of two riders, and their uncle and dad who died doing their passion, and that was it.

But the person I am today, knows a lot more.
I want to understand the sport. I feel passionate about it. When I'm on the island I don't want to miss a race.
I get slightly moody and grumpy if Michael or William retire and are no longer in the running. I still support other racers but my heart lies with the Dunlops. Because they unknowingly, changed my life.
Watching them, watching video footage of their father and their uncle, made me understand the sport. To forget about my initial thoughts of them being selfish and putting their lives at risk thinking only of themselves.
They made me understand that this is their life. This is what they want to do, and people around them support it.
And even more so...they have an amazing talent.

There is something about watching them throw themselves around a bike at a ridiculous speed on normal roads with lumps, bumps, hills and corners that makes you stand in awe. They seem almost super human.

This year I met other riders, I didn't want to meet Michael and William again (wait, I wanted to but chose not to because I met them last year and had a good experience) and it gave me the opportunity to widen my thoughts and to understand others passions and abilities a little more.
There are other riders I now support, other riders that in some races I supported and thought deserved to win, but heart will always belong to the Dunlops.
That family who changed my life for the better. Unknowingly.



Euphoria #tt2016

When I think back to 3 years ago....well...3 and a half years ago....and my attitude and thinking towards motorbikes, and road racing it was completely different to how I feel now.
I thought it was selfish. How could these men, and women, risk their lives, put their families through the anxiety and nervousness of the dangerous speeds they travel on these machines. I didn't understand the thrill.

My brother has a motorbike and has done for years. I never really wanted to think about the dangers of it. I've always thought, and still do, that he is a safe rider, and seeing these riders involved in Road Racing made me feel a bit sick really. So I avoided it.

I watched Road. And I fell in love a bit with their passion. However, I also felt heartbreak at the sadness of the loss of lives involved in the sport.
In fact, I struggled to see it as a proper sport. How is it a sport when it is so dangerous?! When they are riding these bikes at such ridiculous speeds. On normal roads. Normal roads with tight bends, blind spots, humps and bumps.
I'd never enjoy it. I would never understand it, not properly.
I knew of the Dunlops, I loved their passion...but would never understand it.

Until I went. Until in 2015 when the first bike came past. I've written so many times about how the sound, the speed, the atmosphere, the adrenaline filled my body and pierced its way through my skin and into my blood and my heart.
At that point I didn't fully appreciate it. I still felt it was selfish. I still didn't understand it completely.
But the thrill....as a spectator. As a fan. I understood that thrill.
With only 5 days there, I think I was pretty overwhelmed and had a lot to take in. The dangers of it seemed to be more prominent to me than anything else and I tried so much to get my head around who was racing, how the racing worked and so on. I was only there for practice week so a lot of my days were filled with exploring the amazing island.
I had a few personal things going on too which filled my head. But I knew one thing for sure.....I wanted to get to know this sport some more and I knew I would be back.

Then in 2016, when I first planned this post. And edited the photo. Set the title and the plan of the post. I got it. I got it all.
I understood it.

Despite the danger, the end result, not even just the winning but the actual TAKING PART and succeeding. Completing the 37.73 mile race is enough. Of course, winning and getting a podium, being recognised for being one of the best, setting records and so on is surely everyones main aim and dream. However, just completing the circuit is an amazing achievement.

This year, 2017, I was lucky enough to be treated by my amazing brother and to get a seat in one of the grandstands. The one we were sat on was the one that saw all the riders come in at the end of the race. It amazed me how many people walked away from the stand once the "big boys" came in. However, we stayed until the last bike came in.
It was a massive wake up call for me to see the reactions of the racers as they came in.
A group of three stuck in my mind. As they came in they stopped and accepted the praise and applause from the crowd, and their reaction was enough to give me goosebumps.
They looked liked winners.
They celebrated like winners.
Because they had completed the course.
That was enough for them.

So many people, who are not into road racing or bikes, seem shocked at the deaths and the injuries sustained by the racers. And 3 years ago, I would have been shocked too. But looking into it, and experiencing it, it's almost the norm. The deaths, the injuries, the accidents, the sadness, the heartache...it's expected.
It's not what anyone wants, of course, but tragedy, it is inevitable. 

In an interview Robert Dunlop said he would rather die doing the sport he loves than to be ill for 6 months and to end up dying.
And at first although I thought it was selfish, I then got it. I understood it.
I now understand it.

And everytime those bikes speed past, or there is an accident...either a small one, or a fatal one, I remind myself that they are doing what they love.
They know the risks.
And they take the chance.
I realise how thrilling it is for me to watch, and how much more thrilling it must be for them.
I can't even imagine how it must feel to be on that bike. How through each section of the course they must have this feeling of achievement, but also of knowing the toughest parts are yet to come, or have just gone past.

I now understand it as a sport.
I have masses of respect for each and every rider, for their families, for the sport.
And especially respect for the fallen riders...and have hope that before they died, they managed to feel and experience Euphoria. At least once.

 noun: euphoria
a feeling or state of intense excitement and happiness. 
"in his euphoria, he had become convinced he could defeat them"
synonyms:elation, happiness, joy, joyousness, delight, glee, excitement, exhilaration, animation, jubilation, exultation

Quote taken from the film Road. Photo my own.



Mann Cat Sanctuary | TT2017

This year I was spending two weeks on the Isle of Man, longer than the previous 5 days in 2015 and 8 in 2016. And was able to explore the island after deciding to drive over in my car. With that in mind I came up with a list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to visit when the racing wasn't on.

As a Crazy Cat Lady and a mummy to two cats I had to visit the Mann Cat Sanctuary. Now, to be honest, I like dogs as much as I like cats. I only really have my two cats because of my ex-husband, cats would never really have been my choice of pets. However, after reading about the Cat Sanctuary I really wanted to visit to see what it was like.

The sanctuary was founded in 1996, by Sue Critchley and Carole Corlett, to provide a safe and peaceful haven for unwanted, disabled and traumatised cats.
There is no entry fee, but a suggested donation of £5 or a gift of a box of cat food pouches. I went to the supermarket and ended up taking a big bag of cat food tins instead of just a box of pouches.

I had this idea that it would be all magical and beautiful. As I pulled up in the car park I was immediately made welcome....by a couple of cats which was lovely. I loved that they were there straight away, even if I was a little nervous at driving with them so close to my car. After a stroke and giving them some love I walked up towards the Sanctuary and saw a member of staff. Not knowing where to go or what to do with the food I lifted the bag up and happily said "I came with gifts" *massive cheesy smile".
I was told quite bluntly "Up in the Sanctuary" and felt slightly deflated. No "thank you" or "welcome". Nevermind, more of a welcome in the Sanctuary surely. Again, I didn't get it.
They took the bag of food, placed it on the counter and then I was free to have a look around. I guess I kind of expected a bit more of a welcome, a bit more of a "this is what we are, this is what we are about, these are the places you can go" but nothing.
A little deflated and overwhelmed I headed outside. Although there were volunteers around again, I wasn't really acknowledged which was really disappointing.
I sat for a while and felt better by having at one point a little queue of cats waiting to jump on my lap for a cuddle and some attention. It was one of those moments when I wished I had more hands.

After around 45 minutes I decided to leave. I walked inside, again hoping for some acknowledgement, but nothing.
I also felt like it was missing a hygiene element and as I left I was surprised there was no facility to wash my hands. I thought a bottle of antibacterial gel would have been a necessity. Especially when some of the cats are clearly poorly.

Despite being disappointed by the Sanctuary I did fall in love with one of the cats and if I could have done, I would have stolen it. I loved how it looked like it posed and smiled.  He/she would have been the ultimate souvenir.



Isle of Man 2017 | Fairy Bridge

I remember when I first went to the Isle of Man. My brother told me that on the way to the campsite the taxi would be taking me past the Fairy Bridge and told me I had to wave and say hello to the fairies for good luck.
The taxi driver pointed the bridge out to me, I saw bikes parked on the road and leather clad men stood looking down at the stream and reading the tree and the messages on the stones. I didn't wave, it felt a bit silly to be honest, although the idea was sweet and I certainly didn't expect to see grown men in leathers, big beards...proper MEN, standing saying hello to fairies.

My brother took me along to the bridge the following day and we had a look. The tributes were lovely, but I didn't really pay too much attention to what was there. Last year being the same.

This year though, I had a day of exploring by myself and I went along in my car and decided to take my camera...and thankfully took my sunglasses to hide the tears that filled my eyes.
I decided to really take time to look at what was pinned to the trees, the special items people had hung from branches, the etched marks in the stones, the stickers on the Fairy Bridge sign. The plaques rested by the stream, the bike gloves laid in tribute to a fallen rider.

The more I go to the island, the more I watch the sport, the more I learn about it, the more I feel this emotional, mental link to anything to do with the island and with the sport itself. Not even the sport, just bikes too I suppose.

Reading the tributes made me think back to who I was back in 2015 when I thought it was all a bit silly. The Fairy Bridge to me, now, brings everyone together. It gives everyone, of all ages, race, nationality or belief, a little hope and comfort.

As I stood there, longer than others, watching people come and go, I realised the change in how my body felt. My head felt lighter, my body felt lifted. Because although a lot of what you read and see is sad, the atmosphere at the Fairy Bridge is beautiful. Truly beautiful.

And now everytime I drive past that bridge, I wave and say hello to those Fairies. For good luck, and for respect.

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