2.9.19

Five Things: Isle of Man TT 2019

I had booked my ferry journey for the Isle of Man last year and ended up selling it thinking I wouldn't go. I had a boyfriend who wasn't keen on going and we had plans to go to other places so I sacrificed what I loved for that. Having not gone last year and the state I was in due to that (seriously, the sport and island mean that much to me) I knew it probably wasn't the best idea to not go but I really thought it would be worth it.
I still had the TT week booked off work and with the relationship ending I instead planned to take the boys away on a caravan holiday in the UK. Except a month before I had an email from the ferry company saying there were still spaces to be able to get over to the Isle of Man for TT week. I checked and there was availability for half term week. 
Despite always saying it was "my" thing and that I wasn't sure I would take my boys I went ahead and booked. I booked camping for the three of us at the usual camp site. Then phoned them in tears of happiness and excitement to tell them. 
They were surprisingly excited too (Charles more than Harry) which really made me feel like I'd made the right choice.
The holiday there was going to cost less than a caravan in England, plus with the added bonus of them experiencing the sport and getting to visit my favourite island, it was the most sensible decision really. 
Here are five of my highlights from this years Isle of Man TT.




The First Day

We stayed in a hotel in Liverpool the night before our ferry. The journey to Liverpool is around 6 hours and I didn't fancy doing that super early in the morning. We'd heard that the weather wasn't great over on the island and even the night we travelled up the weather was drizzly so I wasn't holding out much hope.
We ended up being super lucky. The sun was shining, hardly any clouds in the sky. Ideal for a ferry crossing and the task of putting a tent up! We were actually really lucky that a fellow camper put our tent up for us. He had the same tent and said we were doing it the difficult way so came over and took over! 
As soon as the tent was up we headed straight to the grandstand and paddock. I wanted the boys to see what it's like up there and to maybe see some of the racers and to see the bikes being built and prepared. 
We were really lucky that we got to see Michael Dunlop working on his bike!
How many more times can I say we were lucky?!
I look at the photos now of my children stood in the paddock. My children stood near the course car, in front of the bikes as they are being built and worked on. My children in front of signs and riders trucks. It just seems so surreal.
We had planned to buy matching tshirts but when we went to the merchandise stands we all fell in love with camouflage TT hoodies. I didn't have a coat and needed to buy one so I bought myself a coat and treated the 3 of us to matching hoodies.
We drove around the island a little bit before heading to the spot we would watch the practice race from. I knew where I wanted us to go and with snacks and drinks we headed there, maybe a little bit too early.
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Practice (the only race the boys witnessed)

One of my favourite places I have ever watched from is Conker Trees. I think it's called various other things too but that's what I've always referred to it as. I knew this was definitely somewhere I wanted the boys to watch from not only because it is a great viewing spot, but also because if they got bored or if there was waiting around there was enough space for them to play and explore, and go to the toilet if necessary!
We got there 2 hours before we needed to which was maybe a little bit too keen of me however, it meant we had a really good spot. In fact it was the exact same spot I had watched from 3 years ago! The exact same tree we rested against, the exact same view, only with the added bonus that there were two new pairs of eyes to watch, two new bodies about to be hit by the excitement and adrenaline as the bikes, one by one, flew past us at speeds these two new visitors, two new fans, had never experienced before. 
We had so much fun waiting. We played games, we talked, we ate and we cuddled, and at the point the bikes left the grandstand and started their journey around the course and tears fell from my eyes my heart felt like it was going to explode. I felt nervous. What if the boys didn't like it? But at the same time, if I, in this big body of mine, struggle to contain how I feel to the point I cry and can't control my emotions or my legs resulting in the nicknamed 'Dunlop Dance' then what about my children, in their smaller bodies?
"HERE THEY COME BOYS!" And there. That moment. As the first bike went past, as one child said "They are going so fast! I feel sick!" and the other had a face of pure wonderment, horror and shock at the speed, noise and bravery of the riders, and eyes which matched mine, watery with tears of happiness I knew that they had just experienced the feeling I did in 2015. 
The TT had pounded it's way into my childrens hearts. 

The Sound and Joey

The Isle of Man is really special to me. I can't quite describe it but it feels like home to me. 
There is one place in particular that makes me feel so overwhelmed and grounded and that is The Sound. It is the most beautiful spot to look over the Calf of Man and to watch seals playing and swimming in the sea. 
This is also the spot in 2016 that I was called by my solicitors to be told my divorce was finalised. 
I've visited The Sound on a clear, hot day, and on cloudy, misty, rainy days and it is always so magical and beautiful. I knew that it didn't matter what the weather was like, we would definitely be visiting.
We went to the cafe to have a drink and I managed to sit near a plug socket. This, when camping, is the dream....fnding a plug socket you can use and so we sat, had 2 coffees and cake, the boys had hot chocolates, made friends with the staff at the cafe and went outside with binoculars to look out over the sea and to look for seals. 
After an hour (and 100% battery) we went for a walk and watched the seals for a while. It was miserable weather but it didn't make the visit any less special.
Another place on the island that has a special place in my heart is the statue of Joey Dunlop up on the mountain. I've visited it every time I've been to the island, again no matter what the weather is like.
In fact, in 2017 I sat in a lay by on the mountain crying uncontrollable tears for almost an hour. No one ever knew this. My depression was hard to cope with and this one day it had hit me really hard. After an hour of sitting in my car I had the strong urge to go up to see Joey. So I drove. The long way round, getting lost a few times, but I found him. I parked up and walked up the hill and just stood there for a while. And my tears dried up. The pain left me. I didn't feel alone anymore. And I'll never forget that feeling.
This day though, with the boys, the fog and mist was the worst I've ever seen it. You couldn't see much in front at all but we still went to see Joey. Taking a photo of them both stood with the statue made my eyes fill with happy tears and again it was a surreal moment. One that only now I can truly share and not just keep locked in my heart. 

Glen Helen

One of my other favourite spots to watch from is Glen Helen. We spent the day there back in 2016 watching on race day and it was beautiful. A great atmosphere and a really good viewing spot (in my opinion). 
We stopped there briefly because Harry and I needed the toilet and we knew there was a toilet block there. As we were walking I spotted two men I recognised, one from meeting before and one from Facebook! Both friends with my brother. I took a photo of Harry and then got chatting to these men and it's funny to me still, how accepting people are in the biking community. How I can stand there and talk about bikes, racers, the sport and be accepted. To be one of them, without even owning a bike. 
We were going to watch the practice from this point if it went ahead but it didn't that day. We returned another day, thinking practice would happen then, and decided to go for a walk whilst we waited for the race to start. 
Despite watching raving from here I have never explored the actual Glen and WOW!!! I'm so glad we did. 
We were hot, tired and not very well prepared for how long the walk would be, but it was absolutely stunning. I love discovering hidden waterfalls on the island and it was definitely the highlight of the walk. 
Racing didn't happen again that night but I was glad we'd at least had an excuse to go for a walk and to discover the beautiful area.

Discovering New Riders

I think for me personally, to not just make it all about the island and the boys being with me, a highlight this year was to discover new riders. Maybe not even discovering new riders, but even appreciating those that I had seen race before but who, due to injury or whatever, were not quite as in the forefront as they were in 2015/2016/2017. 
It was also the first year without William Dunlop and it was hard. It was hard to be at Conker Trees and to not picture him riding along that road, just as he is in the photo that is my email background at work. 
I appreciated Ian Hutchinson this year. I've always respected him as a racer before but not really liked him, but this year it felt odd that he wasn't one of the main players. The rivalry between him and Michael Dunlop wasn't a big thing and I missed that. 
John McGuinness as well, every year I feel like I love him more and more and this year his friendship with Michael Rutter was pure entertainment and proof of how incredible the sportsmen are.
One of my favourite bikes is the Norton and so I looked to see who was riding for them this year. I knew John McGuinness was one and then saw who the other rider was. Davey Todd. I remember seeing him in interviews last year and hearing his name and thinking he was one to watch and so to see him riding for Norton was amazing. I've been following his other racing and am definitely a fan of his and can't wait to see how he gets on at the TT in 2020 also. 
And the other main person I discovered this year was Dominic Hertbertson. Again I'd discovered him through interviews, you can't not notice him due to his accent and fantastic humour! Again, I've become a real fan of his and love following his career and races elsewhere also. 
I've always been a full on Dunlop fan so it has been nice to expand my knowledge on other riders and to even branch out to learn about other races that take place in Ireland, England and the Isle of Man. 
I love this sport and I can't imagine it ever not being a part of my life now. 
And I got myself two additional tattoos to prove it. 

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