Yes, it’s that time of year again.
And it is a bit of a stinker. We’ve been hit by the lurgy and both of us have had time off work over the last week.
Food intake has gone down, as has the respective levels of consumption of beer, cider or gin.
Still, there’s New Year to look forward to!
More copy to come your way too.
Short hiatus is down to applying for and getting a new day job after leaving the last one behind in 2013.
Yes, it’s back in retail, but it’s proving to be a good choice so far – have even got used to commuting again!
A very fine day on Isle of Man, but we were heading home!
The packing for our visit to Isle of Man was definitely a last minute affair.
I’d been tracking the 10 day forecast for Douglas and surrounding area for a week or so and as the departure date loomed, so did the prospect of rain (and plenty of it!).
Things did look good for the first three days of the nine day break, so we had to balance the packing between clothes for sunny days, clothes for overcast days and clothes for days when there was the potential for heavy rain.
We’d also caught the tail end of a TV programme about walking on Isle of Man and had seen Julia Bradbury sheltering besides the trig point on the summit of Snaefell and trying to do a piece to camera about the weather conditions being experienced.
Words weren’t actually needed, because the visuals provided enough evidence of what she and the television crew were experiencing!
Now this wouldn’t have been a problem if we were pointing the car towards Liverpool or Heysham to catch the ferry to Douglas, but we weren’t.
We’d booked rail tickets to Liverpool, seats on the Manannan sea cat to Douglas and were then heading around the island using a mix of a five day Heritage Travel Card and feet.
We were also using a hotel/guest house mix of accommodation and were eating out rather than using hostels and self catering facilities, so there was a need to take some smarter clothes as well of those that could be used as a layering system during the more inclement weather conditions.
There was also one more thing to consider – after reading up on the reviews of the guest house we were using as our base in Douglas, the potential for washing and wearing was going to be restricted to undies rather than shirts, t-shirts or fleeces.
The main bags were our usual weapons of choice – 2013 vintage Osprey Farpoint 40 travel packs, but as these were packed to capacity, second bags were brought into play.
In Caroline’s case the second bag was her handbag for the trip, a brightly coloured small size Healthy Back Bag. In my case, it was my Rohan Stowaway 20, a packable day sack that normally is packed into the Osprey and brought into play as and when it’s needed.
We did get creative with our choice of clothing and footwear for the trip and whilst we would have busted any size and weight restrictions on a budget airline for instance, we took a good look at our travel and outdoor clothing and kit and put together a mix that covered all eventualities.
Both my jacket and my windproof fleece gilet came from The North Face. The jacket is a longer length HyVent waterproof one with a hood that goes into the collar, has pit zips for ventilation and the kind of pockets that will take guidebooks, bus timetables, camera, iPad Mini and my reading specs too.
The gilet is a ten year old TNF Windwall with a chest pocket for the phone and handwarmer pockets that will take the camera and specs case.
Tops came from a couple of sources. Crew neck fleeces and zip necks came from Rohan, as did a couple of Core Silver t-shirts, Stratum long sleeved polo shirts and a couple of merino wool based t-shirts.
These, coupled with a Peter Storm merino wool long sleeved zip neck formed the basis of the layering system employed on the trip to combat the expected bad weather.
A Rohan Stronghold shirt also came into play as a wind shirt and a secure place for my passport that may have been required for ID purposes.
Two out of the four pairs of trousers were the usual suspects – Rohan Goas – and these were complemented by a couple of pairs of Craghoppers Kiwi style cargo pants.
Socks and underwear were largely Rohan, but sock choices also included a couple of pairs of M&S trainer socks with a silver content and a couple of pairs of Bridgedale Light Hikers for the days when boots were needed rather than trainers.
And footwear? One pair of Merrell Mesa Ventilator shoes were packed whilst a five year old pair of Hi Tec casual/hiking boots were worn en-route and on various days out.
Whilst the mix of clothing and footwear was much more than I would normally pack for a week to ten days away, it worked and coped with all that was thrown at it – sunshine, wind, rain, squalls and downright filthy weather.
The wash kit and meds combo was the usual one with Lush shower gel, tea tree oil (good as a shaving oil IMHO), sample size toothpaste (courtesy of the help yourself boxes in my dentist’s) along with a disposable razor and my ViaSonic battery powered toothbrush.
With a Sanex roll-on anti-perspirant thrown in for good measure, all I needed to buy locally was a can of Lynx body spray and some baby wipes.
Not convinced about the need for the baby wipes? Trying eating a freshly cooked kipper bap from the kiosk down by the pier in Peel or a bacon buttie down by the beach in Port Erin and you will be convinced about how useful these things can be!
My main bag also had the paperwork – rail tickets, ferry tickets, hotel booking info, the paper only guidebook and travel insurance documents.
Why travel insurance documents for Isle of Man?
Although there’s an agreement regarding health care between the Isle of Man and mainland Britain, there’s no repatriation agreement between the two, so any repatriation after a medical emergency or an accident, has to be covered by travel insurance.
The other thing that needs to be taken into account is that the EHIC card isn’t valid on Isle of Man. Why? Because the Isle of Man isn’t in the EU…
But what about Caroline’s bag? By and large, the contents of her bag reflected my choices, even though we hadn’t really talked about what should be taken.
Her Nike Pac-Lite Gore-tex came into play along with her TNF Windwall jacket, a recently purchases lightweight Rohan hoodie, a zip neck fleece from the same brand and another zip neck fleece from Craghoppers.
A couple of Rohan Stria tops were also packed along with merino base layers, Ultra Silver camisoles, a few pairs of M&S socks,two pairs of Endura cycling socks, her Rohan Trailblazer trousers and a pair of their travel jeans. Footwear? Merrell trainers and two pairs of Ecco Biom shoes.
Did everything work? Yes, is the answer to that one.
We both had more clothing than we would normally have on a break when we’re not using the car to get around, but that was down to the potential weather conditions we were due to face. Out of the six full days we had on the island, only two were rain free.
Was everything used? Just about…
I had one t-shirt that wasn’t worn and a bit of washing to do once we got home, but that was a thankfully minimal task given the properties of the items taken with us and the decision to stick with a couple of colour pallets in the clothing choices.
We did forget one thing though. Weighing those bags!
Grabbing the bull by the horns?
Just spotted this one whilst looking through the newspaper websites a few minutes ago.
Also found the official announcement from Ryanair regarding their hand luggage policy.
Link to Ryanair announcement first, then to The Guardian’s story….
One of the little trains that helped inspire a certain tank engine…
Sea, sun and a sandwich by the beach – Port Erin
And the last day in Douglas
The term Three Legged Race was our name for the basic plan for our recent visit to Isle Of Man.
The decision to head there was made at relatively short notice as Caroline and I had a two week break coming up, but hadn’t planned anything.
I’d held up a road book with a circle indicating four hours driving time from Wisepacking Towers, but wasn’t expecting Caroline picking out Isle Of Man as a destination for this upcoming trip.
By close of play two days later, we’d got return train travel booked to Liverpool, a night in Liverpool before the outward ferry trip, two return seats on the fast cat running between Liverpool and Douglas, , seven nights in Douglas, found out about smart cards for use on our travels and made sure that travel insurance was also in place.
With no motor sport or other festivals taking place over our visit, we did have to amuse ourselves, but we’d got a few things sussed.
Some came from the only guidebook we could find, some of it came from the Tourist Board’s brochure and website, but there was also some prior knowledge coming into play too as Caroline had made two visits to Isle Of Man about thirty five years ago.
More to come over the next month or so!
Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not. have been to a few places that were rated by guidebooks or websites that were not as good as described.
Now tend to lump descriptions such as ‘Art Deco’, ‘Cosy’ and ‘Quaint’ into other categories – ‘In need of renovation’ or ‘Requires redecoration’.
Chuggers, lavender/selfie stick/sunglasses sellers, timeshare touts
Usually have an avoidance mechanism that’s more nimble than a rugby player heading for the touchline in order to score a try.
Always amuses me when sunglasses sellers approach those already wearing sunglasses – either specs that have Transitions lenses (i.e. mine) or those wearing Ray Bans…
How hard is it for accomodation to provide good coffee at breakfast time?
We’ve lost count of how many times we’ve had bad coffee at guest houses, hostels and hotels – even at U.S. based name chain hotels or five stars!
Mind you, a few cafes that have had business from us following bad coffee mornings, usually just after we’ve left our accommodation.
Or when guidebooks get it wrong. We’d checked two guidebooks about the opening times for a leading museum earlier in the year and both said that it was closed on a Monday.
It wasn’t, as we found out when we walked past it and found an open door and a full set of opening times that looked like it had been there for a while…
We’ve found that this usually means you go a shorter way around into security to find that there’s a long queue at security because other passengers haven’t bothered to read the does and don’ts of what they can or can’t take in their hand luggage.
Note to self – stop booking Fast Track and use the money to get a coffee or a meal deal at either WH Smith or Boots when airside and in need of something to eat that doesn’t cost the earth at airport bars/cafes/restaurants or cost twice as much as it does on the plane.
Yes, it’s those jobsworths who are determined to put a spanner in the works when it comes to shopping, visiting a museum or wanting to put your bags in left luggage lockers.
Step forward that supermarket in Paphos and the museum in Belem who wanted me to deposit my day bag and the bloke who didn’t know what had happened to the luggage lockers, even when we were at the office that a sign on the wall had pointed us to!
Yes, those irritating people who walk along the street glued to their phones who are oblivious to everything else that’s going on around them.
Blocking the pavement or other walkway is one irritation, trying to sent a text whilst pulling a wheelie bag along is another and then there’s those who insist on taking selfies or photograph their food before eating it.
One phone user did come unstuck earlier in the year whilst visiting the Alhambra in Granada. She was so intent on taking a photo whilst walking forward that she didn’t notice the step down.
Cue scream and a badly damaged/potentially broken ankle… Ouch!
It rained four days out of seven whilst on Isle of Man last week.
We’d gone prepared as we’d taken decent rain jackets, but it did put a dampener on proceedings. Had the same problem in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Portugal and Spain too!
Restaurant rip offs
Step forward the place in Cordoba that tried to charge us for bread, even though we hadn’t asked for a bread basket and hadn’t eaten anything from it.
Same place claimed that they weren’t doing tapas, even though there was a rather well done set of tiles outside with the word tapas at the centre.
Restaurant or tour touts
Those who try standing in front of you as a means of getting you into their cafe, restaurant or onto a tuk-tuk.
Answer is always ‘No’ and if they don’t take the hint then it’s ‘No, no, no, no, no and no!’.
Which really brassed off one bloke in Malaga in March this year.
We walked passed that establishment later on and there weren’t many in it.
This 1940s classic has it all – Bogart and Bergman, a script full of quotable quotes and As Time Goes By.
Seen it many times now both at home and in cinemas on Valentine’s Day at art house cinemas in both Glasgow and Bradford, but missed out on seeing it in Lisbon by four days back in 2015…
Sicily, film, love and the Catholic Church’s local censorship of feature films all play their part in this DVD and occasionally TV screened delight.
There’s fun, pathos and social commentary, all in the same movie. My DVD copy came free with a weekend newspaper. My iPad copy cost a bit more…
Want an over the top action film to watch while you eat pizza and sink beers?
Well Con Air has it all once the initial few minutes are out of the way and Nicholas Cage’s character ends up in jail.
Is it loud? Certainly was when I saw it on the big screen on Saturday night in Middlesbrough a few years ago.
I’d gone to see Pulp Fiction, but the wrong film had been delivered – and that wrong film was Con Air.
A good night out, even though it took a couple of days before the hearing returned to normal. Someone had turned the volume up to eleven!
Yippee Kai Aye!
I’d passed up the chance to see this in Geilo, Norway when it was first released back in the 1980s, but finally caught up with it at the National Media Museum in Bradford on Christmas Eve a few years ago.
Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, more action than you could shake a stick at and some great one liners too.
It may have been Christmas Eve, but the cinema was packed!
Chicago takes over from Islington as the setting for the film of Nick Hrnby’s book with John Cusack in the lead and a scene stealing Jack Black as one of the workers in Championship Vinyl record shop.
It’s pretty faithful to the book, has a great soundtrack and a cameo appearance from one Bruce Spingsteen.
The second of the Cornetto Trilogy sees Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as police officers in the sleepy town of Sandford where strange things happen in the name of “The Greater Good“…
Nothing is quite what it seems in what appears to be the perfect example of Small Town England, and you’ve never heard a former James Bond swear so much, especially in the blooper reel!
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play two comic book guys heading out on a road trip around alleged sites of close encounters.
A car accident sees them having their own close encounter with Paul (a Seth Rogen voiced CGI alien) and it isn’t long before they’re being chased by men in black suits, The Big Guy and a bible-toting father with a shotgun who wants his daughter back.
I still haven’t seen this on the big screen, but there’s more than enough going on via the small screen to keep you glued to it.
Royale with cheese, Dusty Springfield on the soundtrack, Harvey Keitel in the role that he riffs on in the current batch of Direct Line adverts and Big Kahuna burgers too.
Shakespeare In Love
Yes, it’s that award winning film with a strong cast, witty script and Gwyneth Paltrow’s closing walk on Holkham Beach.
It’s a classic, and rightly so!
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
This is a film I can watch over and over again and one of the few that I will still watch if I happen to chance upon it once it’s already begun.
The strong cast and script deliver the goods and whilst I was surprised that there was a follow up, I’m pleased that they didn’t go the whole hog and make a second sequel.
And one for a potential film list later in the year is Victoria And Abdul. Seen yesterday at Broadway Cinema in Douglas, Isle of Man, Stephen Frear’s film is sad, funny and engaging. Judy Dench plays Queen Victoria for the second time on the big screen.
A very good way to spend a very wet afternoon just off the Promenade in Douglas. Back home tonight!
One of the most successful acts of all time and this CD/DVD collection has all of the hits that you either heard at the time or reminded of the last time you watched Mamma Mia the movie or had a night at the stage show…
Dark Side Of The Moon – Pink Floyd
One of the best selling albums of all time that still sounds innovative more than forty years after it was first released.
One suspects that there’s a few successful albums from the last decade that won’t be held in such high regard in forty years time!
Hits Collection – Dusty Springfield
There’s a documentary that keeps reappearing on BBC4 that tells the story of Dusty Springfield and it makes for interesting viewing.
Almost all of Dusty’s hits are on this CD (the ones with Pet Shop Boys are missing), but it makes for a fine reminder of a singer that didn’t need Autotune or other modern recording techniques to commit a great song to analogue tape.
Hotel California – The Eagles
Yes, it’s that 1970’s classic album – the one you either like or hate (one of my University house mates hated it with a vengeance).
Can go a couple of years without playing it and then put it in the CD player and sing along with it all over again.
Live And Dangerous – Thin Lizzy
Thin Lizzy in fine fettle a few years before I blagged my way in to photograph the band.
I have both the CD and DVD versions of this album and it’s interesting to hear the stories regarding the finished album that are related by band members in interviews on the DVD.
No Sleep ‘Till Hamersmith – Motorhead
One of heavy metal’s heaviest bands caught live with the bomber lighting rig on the cover and their best tracks on the CD.
We Are The Road Crew was recorded at Newcastle City Hall – I know, because I was there!
I also know what the dedication was for the song No Class on that night….
Real To Real – Marillion
This is the Fish era live album from the 1980’s that sounds good thirty years on from its original release.
Garden Party and Market Square Heroes still hit the spot, especially when the car stereo is turned up to eleven!
The Essential Nina Simone
Name checked at least once in an episode of CSI Vegas and featured and mentioned in the Bridget Fonda film The Assassin, Nina Simone has one of those voices that pre-dated modern recording techniques.
The Collection is a three CD box set that mixes studio and live recordings that showcase one of the best singing voices of all time.
Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors – Fish
This was the former Marillion singer’s first solo album and I’d still rate it as his best so far.
All of the songs were heard first live in a mix of club, town hall, village halls and small cinemas in the Highlands & Islands of Scotland a couple of weeks before Vigil was released and there’s still memories of that rather hectic week lingering years later.
(What’s The Story) Morning Glory – Oasis
One of the few albums that really caught my attention when I was a student writing for a student newspaper back in the mid-1990s.
Others may disagree, but it is still Oasis’ finest album to date…