Dial Square FC Win the FA Cup


Dial Square FC Win the FA Cup

Woolwich Warren and a Rather Famous Football Team

 

The Woolwich Arsenal used to be called the Woolwich Warren, due to being built on a Tudor house which had a warren (as in, a place that rabbits were raised for food). It then became the place gunpowder was made, and is now a swanky place to live. I popped in there for a quick inspection, and decided it was a rather lovely place to be.

Woolwich Warren Tudor tower

Photo: Kleon3
The tower of the Tudor mansion.

The original Tudor house was defined by a tall tower, which feels appropriate now the site has several high-rise buildings which are seen as you approach Woolwich.  The owner of the original mansion was later Lord Mayor of London. There are now several very new, rather exclusive apartment blocks, with balconies and views across London, mingled with some ancient squares and old army buildings. It is one of those places that England does best—modern architecture muddled up with ancient history. I was interested to learn a little of the history, so after wandering through squares with bubbling fountains and past yuppy pubs and wine bars, I stopped to read a few of the signs.

After the mansion was demolished, the Woolwich Warren was built to make armaments. In 1695, an ammunition factory was set up, making gunpowder, shell cases, gun cartridges. One of the original pavilions still exists:

A Pavilion at Woolwich Arsenal

Photo: Barrabus1312
One of the original pavilions.

Woolwich Arsenal guard house.

Photo: Kleon3
One of the guard houses at the entrance from the river.

By 1777, the warren covered 104 acres, conveniently placed next to the River Thames. In the 1700s, convicts were used to build a high wall (8ft high) around the boundary, and later (1814) they dug a canal along the eastern border. There were hexagonal guard rooms either side of the main entrance from the river. We walked past them, but there were no signs, so we had to guess what they were. They look a little like over-sized kiosks that sell newspapers (so I clearly guessed wrong.)

In 1886, the men working in the workshops around Dial Square formed a football team. They were called the Dial Square club, and their first game was against the Isle of Dogs club in December 1886. The club still exists today, is now known as Arsenal FC — even I have heard of that one!

By the time of the First World War, the warren had expanded, and now employed 80,000 people. I love thinking of the secret manufacture of cannons and gunpowder, all guarded by the military. Did the people living nearby have any idea how explosive the area was? After the war, most factories closed, and they produced steam engines for the railway instead.

The arsenal no longer produced gunpowder in the second world war, which is probably good as it was a target during the Blitz, and lots of buildings were destroyed. It was still involved in the manufacture of weapons, but mainly guns and bomb cases. After the war, the machines were modified to manufacture the knitting frames for silk stockings (bit of a change then!)

Gradually, the arsenal ceased to be an arsenal. The wall was dismantled, the buildings sold to the council—one was even used by the British Library to store books. (Note: I rather resent these books stores, as if you publish a book, you are required, by law, to send a copy to the library, so it can be placed into a store and never seen again. Rant over.)

Today, as you wander around the area, you can still see many of the historical buildings, and many have signs, explaining what they were. It’s a nice place to visit, you wander through squares, and walk next to the Thames, staring at the muddy banks looking for treasure (and finding washed-up shopping carts!) The other side of the main road, is the bustle of real life, with small shops and tiny markets and people from every corner of the world. Not a bad place to visit on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Thanks for reading.

Counting Stars continues on Wednesday.

Coniston Water-gsd-lake district

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Walking to Stanley Ghyll Waterfall


Family Walk in the Lake District

More sheep, bogs and views

lake district fellsThe weather was dry (not to be assumed in the Lake District) so we went for another walk. Bea and Gee (The Bee Gees) weren’t working today, so there more of us, which meant it took even longer than usual to leave the cottage.

We decided to drive back to fell we walked on the day before, and walk in the opposite direction, towards Stanley Ghyll waterfall. We parked on Austhwaite Brow, found a footpath, and set off across the empty space. All the sheep on this side of the road were white, and they looked like they’d been washed because we’re used to seeing grey sheep and black lambs. Everyone wore boots or wellies this time, so bogs were less of an issue.

As we approached the waterfall, there were lots of warning signs, and I wondered whether Anne-who-hates-heights would actually manage to see anything. Am not keen on walking along rock edges with sheer slopes and long drops.

We rounded a corner, and there was a tightrope, and a group of people practising. I’ve never seen a ‘real’ tightrope walker before, so we watched for a few minutes. This is a skill I could never, ever, learn. They were so co-ordinated, so perfectly balanced. Even when they fell, they pulled themselves back onto the rope and sat there, feet crossed in front, arms outstretched. Very impressive.

tightrope walking, stanley waterfall, lake district,

We followed a path down some steep rock steps, to the bottom of the waterfall. It wasn’t scary, as there was a rail for support in the most difficult places, and there were so many plants that if it was a sheer drop, you were never aware of it. The bottom of the steps was wonderful—like being dropped into a rainforest. It was very sheltered, and the spray from the waterfall made the air moist. The cliff edges were covered in rhododendrons, which must be beautiful when they’re in flower.

There were bridges over the river, but the walkway the other side had been destroyed by a rockfall, and was no longer safe. (I think this means that if you plan to walk to the fall from the town, the signs say the path is closed).

Spent the evening eating and playing games and packing. I took Kia for a last walk up the hill behind the cottage. I stood, looking over the valley, with The Old Man of Coniston looming behind me. There are sheep, and rivers, moss-covered rocks, ferns and trees standing like deformed old men as they struggle to grow against the wind—all so beautiful. I don’t want to go home.

I hope you have a good day. Thanks for reading.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

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Anne E. Thompson-Lake District-The Old Man of Coniston-Little Arrow

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Quarantime to Read. . . Counting Stars: Chapter Eight


Chapter Eight

 

Maps and Plans

A new cover for the 2020 edition. Available from Amazon.

 

Counting Stars by Anne E. Thompson is available from an Amazon near you. UK Link Here!

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Hills of the Lake District

Walking in The Lake District


Seat How

Apparently Someone Counted All The Hills

We had a lazy morning. I took Kia to Coniston Water, which is about half an hour from the cottage. It’s very strange having an old dog—if you remember, until earlier this year she behaved as if she was still young, but then an operation for a twisted stomach added all her 13 years, and she can now only enjoy fairly short strolls. I miss walking with a dog when we go on long hikes, so it was lovely to walk through fields of sheep, under the gaze of mountains, to the lake.

This was our first properly warm day—I suspect the Lake District perpetually has autumn or winter temperatures. The walk was very typical, with lots of grey sheep, each one with a black lamb, and stone walls covered in moss with ferns growing next to rivers. It is such a pretty place. Kia collected sticks next to the river, and we watched a man trying to launch a canoe (and I was really glad we don’t own one, and Husband said how much he’d have liked to own a boat).

toadstools, Lake District,

Each dollop of poop had a toadstool growing in it. It was a feature of the walk.
They are possibly Coprophilous fungi, which have spores that can survive being eaten by herbivores and then grow after being expelled.

After lunch we drove back to the fells we drove through yesterday on our way home from Wast Water. We parked next to the road, and walked towards one of the large rocks. I later read that it was Seat How, which is hill number 3710—apparently someone counted all the hills. It’s in Thornthwaite (good luck with pronouncing that after a glass of wine!) which is basically a big empty space with boggy patches and mounds of moss and sheep trails through the grass. Husband and Jay climbed the rock, of course, because they are blokes and it was there.

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I decided I didn’t fancy scrabbling up another hill, so walked round it. I walked over the grass, trying to avoid boggy patches, disturbing sheep who were sunbathing on the stones. Then, as I rounded Seat How, a valley stretched out in front of me, with a lovely view of Devoke Water, and if I squinted at the horizon, I could just about see the glint of the sea. I stood for a few minutes, soaking up the smell of heather, listening to the bleat of lambs (and the shouts from above Seat How—my family are not known for being quiet). A little patch of peace.

Seat How, Devoke Water, Lake District,

View of Devoke Water.

We met up again, and set off in the direction of the car (which we couldn’t see). Husband used his ‘Jack Reacher skills’ and strode off in one direction. I was pretty sure he was wrong, and marched off in a slightly different direction. Jay walked somewhere between us, muttering: “Story of my life, both parents completely certain they are right, striding off in different directions. . .” But then, he had left his wellies at home, and was hopping over the boggy bits, so we don’t need to listen to him!

We found the car (one of us was right) drove home and ate apple pie.

Dinner was fish and chips from ‘Our Plaice’ in Coniston. It was actually haddock, as they don’t sell plaice. Husband collected them, and talked about the experience all evening. I think the highlight of his trip was the woman who kept pausing in serving the extremely long line of customers so she could answer the phone to tell the caller they were not taking phone orders. Apparently they were exceptionally busy, probably due to people finally venturing on holiday but not wanting to risk eating in pubs/restaurants (especially if their experiences are similar to our ‘not-Covid-safe’ meal in last week’s blog).

We watched a film (Rock n Roller) on Netflix, while Jay dried his shoes on the aga (so much I am not writing here).

Another happy day at the lakes.
I hope your day has a little patch of peace too. Take care.
Love, Anne x

Coniston Water

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Hills of the Lake District

Off to The Lakes. . . Second Day


Fell Cottage, Near Coniston

Fell Cottage, near Coniston.

Kia woke me to say she fancied going into the garden. Let her out, and woke Husband. Went for a quick run, down the road to Torver. We saw a Tesco delivery van, which I was sure must be the one due to arrive at our cottage, but he denied all knowledge. The run was mostly lovely, running down a hill, past fields of pretty cows, and streams, and trees, and low stone walls. The run back was not as easy, as it was mostly uphill. I am thinking of buying a defibrillator—must be able to buy a small portable one for hill running.

Sheep shearing.Took Kia for a walk. She’s too old now for a really long hike, so although we’d planned to walk in the afternoon, she would need to stay at the cottage. We took her along a disused railway, towards Lake Coniston. We passed sheep being sheared, and watched while a collie rounded them up and separated the herd. Kia was very attentive, and clearly wanted to join in/give advice. Kept her on the lead.

Walked to where we could see the lake, but not the entire way there as it was longer than we thought (and Kia is now quite old, with dodgy joints).

Lunch of left-over picnic from yesterday and new stuff that the Tesco man delivered. Husband tried to organise KitKat allocation. He failed.

At 2:30 (very precise time) we attempted to set off for our hike. Kia was left in the house, which caused some angst (but when I sneaked back to check, she was asleep, so she wasn’t worried for long). Bea appeared in a sparkly skirt and bare legs; decided her wellies would be uncomfortable and went to change. Emm appeared with no coat; decided it was colder than expected, and went to change. I felt I was in a time warp, and nothing much was different to twenty years ago, except now the clothing decisions were not mine and therefore it took longer before we were ready to leave. Said nothing.

We planned to walk up a hill (mountain) to Goat Water. I was told it would take about 2 hours (it didn’t).

Walked for several hours, mostly up. It was very beautiful (see previous description and add an abandoned quarry and piles of slate) but I was too tired and got cranky (I am now quite old, with dodgy joints). Bea complained about length/camber of walk, while Jay filled her hood with rocks (really, nothing changes). Husband eventually noticed I was staggering several miles behind everyone else, and decided to change the plan. We rested on a little stone bridge, and looked across the valley. Very beautiful.

Walked back (mostly down) and managed to somehow lose the path. This was in spite of the fact that Husband has downloaded a very detailed map from Ordinance Survey site, which showed is exactly where we were (so we did know we were on the wrong path). Found a way past the quarry without having to walk too near dangerous sheer drops. Saw a nearly naked man poised on a rack. Wondered if he needed help (of the psychological kind). He jumped. We hurried to see whether he was drowning, whilst not being entirely sure what we would do if he was. He was swimming. He was with a group of friends, and they were all taking turns to fling themselves into the water-filled old quarry. Each to his own. . .

Arrived at cottage 3 ¼ hours after we set off. Next time I will take water and snacks. Dog was asleep. Cottage wonderfully comfy. Had tea and played ‘Bananagrams.’

The power went off just as I was about to cook dinner, which added to the adventure. All the chip shops seemed to be shut on Sundays, and all the pubs were fully booked. Power came on. Cooked salmon in chilli sauce and heaps of mashed potato and slightly too mushy broccoli.

Spent the evening playing games and laughing.

Slept well.

Coniston Water-gsd-lake district

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Off to The Lakes


Fell Cottage, Near Coniston

The family decided to risk a holiday in the Lake District. We consulted maps and agendas, and booked a dog-friendly cottage near Coniston.

Saturday: Drove to Cambridge to collect Emm and Aitch. They had prepared a champagne breakfast, which made an excellent start to the holiday. Finished with coffee, which I was cautious about drinking too much of—would the service stations be open if I needed the loo??

Set off for the Lake District. Aitch informed us they are near Sheffield, so easy to find. Turns out the Peak District and Yorkshire Dales are all very near to Sheffield, so if you’re lost, follow signs to there. Luckily, we had a SatNav.

Stopped at services. Lots of people were there, but I was the only person wearing a mask. Washrooms had every other cubicle, sink, and dryer, blocked off as an attempt to prevent the spread of covid. But there were no obvious signs of them being cleaned.

Outside, there were picnic tables, and people were eating take-away food and picnics. I had prepared a picnic, and thought it would be nice to sit at a table, as the dog could be with us. But again, the tables weren’t cleaned between one family finishing their lunch, and the next one taking their place. I worried the we might take a table right after a Covid family, considered the possibility, decided that eating in the car would be more relaxing. Ate picnic in car.

Arrived at Little Arrow, near Coniston, in Lake District. The house is lovely, and has plenty of room for seven adults and a big dog. I discussed the possibility of living in the kitchen with the big dog. She informed me that she intended to live in the kitchen and the hall area where she could keep an eye on where everyone was. We compromised: I decided living in both the kitchen and the hall area was a good idea. Placed her bedding in the areas she indicated.

Went for a short walk up a hill. Beautiful views, roaring waterfall, moss-covered rocks, ferns and foxgloves bordering the pathway. It was raining, but not heavily—just enough for the ferns to brush against our legs and the water to seep through our jeans, but not enough to be dripping off our noses.

Returned to cottage, and Bea and Gee (The Bee Gees?) had arrived. They seemed happy enough with the room we’d left for them (all the rooms are pretty, though some are bigger than others. None have an en suite bathroom, but there were two bathrooms upstairs, and a shower room downstairs. One bathroom is a fancy wet room with exciting shower, the other is an old-style bathroom with a big free-standing bath. I was so delighted when a photo appeared on Messenger of all my three children, fully dressed, sitting in the bath tub. It is a very long time since all three were last in a bath together!

I washed the bath tub.

Cooking dinner was quite an adventure in a posh kitchen with fairly small saucepans. One cooker was an aga (no idea how to use that) the other cooker was a conduction hob, and kept flashing messages at me. Jay helped (with both vegetable chopping and cooker translation) and we eventually prepared pasta and veg for everyone to eat. Finished the champagne, and the world felt less stressful.

Went to bed. Slept well.

More tomorrow. . .

Thanks for reading. Have a fun day.

Love, Anne x

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I recommend a visit. . . don’t wear heels


I was supposed to be in Jersey, exploring the island while Husband worked. But Kia had her emergency operation, and Coronavirus seemed to be rampaging, so we cancelled. Shame—I have never been to Jersey. Maybe later in the year.

Instead, we went to Rye. Probably not quite as exciting, but it’s one of those places I pass every time I go to Camber Sands, and yet I have never explored the ancient winding streets, or peered through the leaded-light windows of the sweetshop, and the day was sunny, so off we set.

As you enter Rye from the north, there are car parks, right on the edge of town. Leave your car there, otherwise you will have to navigate narrow streets and steep hills, bumping over cobbles, and very few streets are wide enough to park on any way. If they are full, there’s more parking near the train station. Really, you have to explore Rye on foot.

Rye is built on a rock, a huge lump of sandstone that rises up from otherwise completely flat land. In Medieval times, it was almost completely surrounded by sea, but now is two miles from the coast. It has a river, with a lock, at the bottom of the rock and some terraced cottages elbowing for room next to a road that is too fast and busy, especially in the summer. We found a bench next to the river (and a dead rat, actually, but we’ll skip over that detail) and ate our sandwiches listening to seagulls and staring at the narrow river flowing through thick banks of mud. When the tide is in, the river swells, and big boats use it to reach the sea; they were all stranded on the mud when we were there.

You leave the river, and walk up roads named things like Mermaid Street, pebbled cobblestones underfoot, ancient houses on either side. The houses have wonderful names too, like The House With Two Doors (a house, with two front doors, right next to each other) and The House With The Seat (you can guess that one). Some have plaques with the date. Although some of the cellars date as far back as 1156, the houses all seem to have been rebuilt in 1421. I am guessing this is due to the French, who burned the town to the ground on June 22nd, 1377. (We should probably have forgiven them by now, but I’m not so sure myself.)

In the 1700s, Rye was a thriving port, and the infamous Hawkhurst Gang ran a smuggling ring, using the cellars of local houses and pubs to escape the authorities. We drove through Hawkhurst on the way to Rye, and it’s now a pretty village of middle-class cottages, so maybe the smugglers all moved away or were hanged. If you visit the Mermaid Inn in Rye, you can walk the dark corridors, under the heavy beams, and imagine that they are still there, discussing evil deeds next to the fireplace.

Not everyone in Rye was bad, and there are two churches, right next to each other (which feels somewhat confrontational). The older, Anglican Church, is worth a peek inside. Hanging from the ceiling is a huge pendulum, ticking backwards and forwards. You can climb the clock tower to see the view, but I managed to avoid that. There was piped choir music, which created a nice atmosphere. The church is old, but with signs of modern activity: a collection for a food bank, and a prayer board for Zimbabwe, and a library of second-hand books. I expect it’s a nice church to belong to.

Outside is the old vicarage, and a memorial to the last town crier (though you can almost see him walking though the streets). There is also the curved brick wall of a water tower, with pump attached, for the townsfolk to collect water.

We popped to the Ypres Tower (where there’s a museum, but it’s shut until April). The tower was part of the Cinque Ports—Edward the Confessor built five ports and two forts. There are more benches at the tower, and it would probably be a better spot for a picnic than our dead-rat bench, as there are lovely views.

When you pass Rye (as we have many times) you notice the old stone gate, built in 1329 and home to many pigeons and doves—though I’m assuming that wasn’t the original purpose.

We spent a happy two hours wandering round, then returned to the car and drove home. We could have spent longer there, especially in the summer when more would be open, or after the Coronavirus scare when we may have felt more inclined to eat in a cafe. I recommend a visit, don’t wear heels.

Thank you for reading.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

PS. Thank you everyone for your kind wishes, Kia continues to improve and is regaining her bounce.

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Lazy Days on the Isle of Man


Wednesday was gloomy, a thin veil of rain spoiling the view, so we decided to go for a drive. We drove to the little village of Strang, then headed north on the B22. The road (excellent, because all roads on the Isle of Man are excellent) took us along the top of a mountain, looking down into steep valleys. There were lots of random sheep, patches of snow, plantations of pine trees. We passed reservoirs, crossed cattle grids and narrow stone bridges. Tried to find an ancient stone cairn, but failed.

Drove to the Motor Museum in Jurby. It is shut on Wednesdays.

We then had to decide: pop to look at a nearby prison, or drive to a car park near the sea at Sartfield. We chose the car park near the coast (at least, Husband did, which is the same as us both deciding. I voted for the prison.) Turns out that Sartfield is where the septic tank lorries empty the poop into vats, and a long pipe carries it the length of the footpath, to the sea. I have visited better smelling beaches. Wasn’t tempted to swim.

Drove along the A10, through the northern edge of the island. It was very flat, with fields of cattle and trees twisted by the cold north wind. It has echoes of Dungeness, where weird houses face the the elements in the shadow of a power station.

Drove to the village of Bride, passed an open tea-room and as it was 2.30 and we hadn’t eaten lunch, we stopped. It was perfect. I had red wine and goulash, and Husband had a cup of tea and a burger. People at other tables seemed to be ordering food that wasn’t on the menu (I definitely saw a lasagna!) but I was happy with my choice.

The guide book said there was a Celtic cross in the Parish church, so we went to look. We wandered among the graves, but no Celtic cross. I decided to look inside the church, and there it was! The black stone, engraved in the year 900 was still ornate, though it exuded old age, somehow the black stone managed to look ancient. The son who created it over the grave of his mother would never have guessed that we, in our modern clothes, with cars and houses, would one day trace the markings with our finger, and think about those long-ago people.

We drove home via Ramsey, simply so that Husband could drive the A18, which is the TT course across Snaefell. I am so glad we didn’t hire anything faster than a Corsa!

On Thursday, we went to Castletown. In the town square is the ‘Candlestick’ which is the plynth intended to hold the statue of Governor Cornelius Smelt (1805-1832). But the town people refused—and still refuse—to pay for the actual statue, so the column stands there, empty, looking like a giant candlestick!

I had read that Castletown had the plug to an old volcano, and I was interested to see it (to be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what a ‘plug’ was, but I like volcanoes). We set off for the visitor centre. It was shut (everything is shut in March) but there was a helpful sign on the wall, which explained the geology of the beach. Now, I do not usually have any interest in geology, but this was rather amazing. There were slabs of limestone, which had been mined, and the remains of the lime kilns. Right next to the lime was a ‘storm beach’—fat pebbles washed up during a storm; and behind it all was the volcano plug, which was a hill of rocky volcanic larva from about a million years ago. It was, surprisingly, very interesting.

We finished our trip to Castletown with tea and cake. There is of course, a castle in the town, but I felt the teashop would be more fun.

I hope you make some good choices today.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

The Cafe at the Sound


Our guidebook was, to be honest, pretty useless. It told us things like “There is a Celtic cross at Bride, which is very interesting.” Not a huge amount of information or background in that statement. However, some of the places it mentioned (whilst giving absolutely no information about) were rather splendid. The Cafe at the Sound was one of these.

We drove across the island, me giving directions, Husband ignoring them and pretending he was a racing driver. I was in an excellent mood, having enjoyed another breakfast at our favourite cafe: The Tea Junction. Every morning I had porridge, sprinkled with slices of banana and cinnamon, with local honey in a tiny pot at the side. Perfect.

However, the cafe we were heading for was not recommended for its food, but for the view. And oh my word, what a view! Perched on the side of the cliff, overlooking waves that crash over rocks, and sea that races between the Isle of Man and the tiny island of the Calf of Man. The weather was wild, which is absolutely the best time to visit, and we walked up to the cafe and sat at one of the tables next to the curved window, watching the sea and the weather and the wonderful strength of it all.

We ate sandwiches, which were very nice (though nothing could compare with the view) and I lingered over some rather tasty-looking cakes sitting under their glass domes in a tempting manner. Husband reminded me about my cholesterol levels (sometimes I hate him) and we left and went for a walk.

There were paths below the level of the cliff, and we dropped down out of the wind, and everything felt calm and peaceful (apart from the sea, which was still whooshing through the gap between the islands). I thought I could hear a hoarse bark, over the sound of the wind, and peered across to the Calf of Man. It was slightly too far away to be in focus, but I could make out rocks in the little cove. Then one of the rocks lifted its head, and I realised they were seals. We weren’t near enough to see them properly, but every time one of them moved, or a new arrival humped its body out of the waves, we could discern they were seals. It was terribly wonderful. We sat for a while, watching them flop their bodies across the beach, then we drove back across the island.

We passed a big church, with an area lined with flag poles, and a tiered hill like a green wedding cake. We stopped. This was Tynwald, the parliament hill I told you about in an earlier post. We walked around for a bit, trying to imagine how it would have been 1,000 years ago when it was established.

We drove home via Peel (home to those kipper-burgers from yesterday, which I can still taste by the way!) Peel is beautiful, with a quay full of fishing boats, and a castle from a storybook. The castle was possibly Avalon, from the King Arthur legends, and it used to be on an island but now it’s attached to the town by a little road. It was closed (everything was closed the first week of March) but there was a hill opposite, so we sat at the top in the sunshine, staring at the castle and thinking of stories (well, I was. Husband was probably thinking about the cost of renovating it) while the wind pushed against our backs and froze our bones.

Then we left, driving back (racing-driver style) to Douglas, where our Airbnb is. Another nice day on the island.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have a nice day too.
Take care.
Love, Anne xx

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The Island with the Best Roads in the World


The back view is definitely the best! Front view has steamed-up glasses and a very red face.

I am sure you will have guessed by now which island we visited, but here are some more clues:
Each morning, we ran along the quay. I use the term ‘run’ lightly, but it was a lovely way to exercise, watching the ferry appear over the horizon, listening to the seagulls, watching the waves heave seaweed onto the beach. Just beyond the harbour is a tiny island with a tower on it. At night, it lights up with different coloured spotlights, and looks magical.

I went to one of the many shops selling ‘tourist trash’ and spent a happy time looking at fridge magnets and sticks of square rock (because that’s a thing here) and T-shirts with TT Racing emblazoned on the front (because that’s a BIG thing here). I bought a T-shirt. (TT actually stands for Tourist Trophy.)

The TT race is massive here. The island has a tiny population of about 80,000 and about 50,000 people arrive for the race. The race course is on the actual roads that cross the mountains, with start and finish in the towns. Which means that if the roads have even the smallest pothole, they dig up the whole section and resurface it properly, making all the roads fabulous for driving on. This island possibly has the best roads in the whole world.

While I was buying my T-shirt, the person in the shop told me a little about how crowded the island becomes during race season. Most residents have a room they can rent out, and farmers use fields as campsites, and all the restaurants are completely full. The week before the race, the road across the mountain is made one-way, and people with expensive cars come to zoom along the road. Of course, it is still open to normal traffic, and if Mr. Ferrari happens to get stuck behind Granny Slow-Boots, then there is a ginormous traffic jam. Possibly, I was told, the most expensive traffic jam in the world as it is full of the very best, fastest cars.

We were not on the island for racing season, but Husband still enjoyed the roads, and I was glad of seat-belts. As we drove through the mountains, we saw patches of snow and beautiful views and we frequently stopped to enjoy where we were. It was always freezing!

We drove up to Laxey, which is an old mining town. There is an huge waterwheel, made into a monument to the miners. My recommendation would be to visit this out of season, otherwise you might be forced to walk up some very scary steps, right to the top. Or to be asked to “Take a photo when I’m up there,” which will involve a long cold wait at the bottom. Much better to visit in March, when everything is closed and you can simply peer through the gates!

On the side of the Laxey Wheel is the triskelion. This is the emblem that is on the flag, and on practically everything else on the island (even hanging from street lights). I could not, to be honest, quite get my head around it. No one seems to really know where it comes from. It’s a three-legged swastika (nothing to do with Nazis) and I found it uncomfortable to look at. Each leg is dressed in armour, and it’s associated with the motto: Quocunque Jeceris Stabit (‘Wherever you throw it, it will stand’). The museum has several ideas about where it originated from, but no one is quite sure.

The island is also famous for a breed of cat. The Manx Cat has no tail, and the back legs are apparently slightly longer than in other breeds. I say “apparently” because we never saw one. I dragged Husband along residential streets, peering over garden walls and into bushes, but we didn’t see a single one. Personally, I think they do not exist (unlike the fairies, of which we saw many potential candidates).

Our first evening on the island, I ate Queenies—the Queen scallops that are a local delicacy.

We also ate some Manx kipper-burgers. These are smoked kippers, served in a bap, and the best place (according to the locals) is a small kiosk next to the castle in Peel. We drove there, dodged the extensive roadworks, and ordered our kipper burgers from the harassed-looking woman behind the counter. Then we climbed some steps, to an eating area above the kiosk and sat on a wooden bench, looking out to sea. The kippers were freshly cooked, the juices dripping from them when we took a bite, the bread fresh and soft. We ate them watching seals in the sea—or rather, with seals in the sea bobbing up to watch us! Kipper burgers are a sort of once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. Glad I did it, never need to do it again. It was a hard-to-forget experience, as the taste lingered long, long after the last bite was swallowed. . .

I am sure by now you know that we were on the Isle of Man. I will tell you more tomorrow. Thanks for reading. Eat something tasty today.
Love, Anne x