Friday, 18 April 2014

Harry Birthday Happy!

Almost unimaginable that it could be three years today since Lucy's twins, Harry & Christopher were born and that the premature tiny sack of breathing bones could have grown to be a fully fledged monster with such alacrity!

Last Saturday, Irene, Harry and I made the trip to Silverdale Glen which is situated probably about a mile outside Ballasalla (which is a 20 minute drive from The Welbeck) and it's a lovely walk via Rushen Abbey if you've travelled by bus or train.

There is a boating lake, (not yet open last Saturday) a mixture of businesses (more of which later) a large field with picnic area, some pretty areas to walk around and of course the main purpose of our visit, the children's play area, the main feature of which is a Victorian Carousel built in 1890. This roundabout is powered by a water wheel originally from the Foxdale mines.

Not the best picture, I'm afraid but most of my time was spent chasing Harry, so it was a matter of positioning myself to block the routes of escape/danger rather than finding the best photographic angle.

The buildings are part of an old mill and there has always been a cafe which has enjoyed varying degrees of success. They make their own ice cream but their menu is somewhat limited at the moment.

Our view while we enjoyed a pot of tea and an ice cream outside

Over the course of the last ten years or so other businesses have opened and there is a gallery: run by local artist, Karl Garrett.

There is a studio where you can paint your own ceramics and pottery:

On the level of the boating lake is Dolittle's which houses a small selection of animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs that you and the children can stroke as well as a big selection of toys for the little ones who haven't the slightest interest in small furry things (no names mentioned ;) )They had a little puppy too. The cost was £2 per adult and £1 per child.

There will also be a shop selling hand made and second hand toys opening in the near future.

Whilst I was trawling the internet looking for information, links and perhaps some photos better than my my feeble efforts with my phone, I found a virtual tour of Silverdale. Have a look:

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Mayhem in the Curraghs Wild Harry Park

It's a hard job being a grandparent as I referred to a few weeks ago but as we find it marginally easier to have our monster out of the house rather than creating mayhem inside it, it is giving us opportunity to keep current with our various tourist attractions.

A few weeks ago, we added to the Wildlife Park at the Curraghs by visiting with Harry. We did leave it a little late in the day but I suggested that we had to go because we'd told him we would. Irene didn't think he'd really be bothered because last time we had been, albeit a year earlier and not nearly three, he took no notice of them whatsoever.

I was on the verge of agreeing with Irene, a moment later a voice piped up from the back seat, "Amnals! Amnals! I want to see the amnals!" and off we went, 'Amnals, Amnals!' all the way and he didn't seem to believe we were going there at all!

(New website coming later this week on )

Of course, people who have read my previous blog will probably have already gathered what happened next.

A portrait of our Grandson Harry.

Having shelled out the best part of £20, we had a look at the first display which is the Humboldt penguins and his next words were, 'Gaddad's car! Gaddad's car! I want to go to Gaddad's car!' (Note I am 'Daddad' no more!)

'You will see the blooming Amnals and you will enjoy it!'

I think we lasted just over an hour before his determination to take us in every direction but the one we wanted to go and see everything but the 'Amnals' in wore us down.

However, there is a lot to see and on Sundays, there is also a mini railway run by volunteers.

The play park is now a much bigger and in a new area than when we used to take our children and they have extended the outside area of the cafe.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Journey to The Tower of Refuge

Most people who have been to Douglas will have seen the castellated structure in the bay built on Conister Rock or St Mary's Isle as it also known.

The scheme to construct it was orchestrated by William Hillary who moved the the Isle of Man in 1808, later founding the RNLI whose very first boat was housed at Douglas in 1824. He had witnessed some ships lost on the rocks and following the wreck of the St.George* in 1830 when despite being washed overboard, he helped rescue the entire crew with no loss of life.

< Sir William reasoned that the Tower of Refuge would give sailors shelter while they waited for help, so fresh water and food was provided and the building was completed in 1832 and almost 200 years later it is still standing firm, welcoming all sea visitors to the Island .

We've had the shocking weather with huge waves and high tides earlier in the year but at around this of the season, there are also very low tides and a handful of times in the calendar, it is actually possible to walk the Tower of Refuge is built.

Quite different from the last time I was there, a brat looking for adventure one morning having stayed out all night some 33 years ago, on Wednesday there was an organised walk, sponsored by local company, Tower Insurance in aid of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

Apparently, some 3400 people took the opportunity and one gentleman even proposed to his girlfriend.

* The St George was the flagship of The St.George Company, the earliest rivals to the present Steam Packet.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Dans Leg Revisited

Those of you that have been following my blog for a while, may remember the story a couple of years ago, during an alcohol fuelled Facebook conversation when I felt everyone was going completely over the top just because a 'Friend' had lost her dans leg (whatever that was) in the post.

And so your 'hero' waded in taking the mickey only to realise gradually that I had misread the situation and it was actually Wendy's son, Dan's prosthetic leg that disappeared in transit to the Island and perhaps my facetiousness, like the errant limb had been a little misplaced.

Although the family was very understanding regarding my witless attempt at humour (though Wendy called me an old fossil for suggesting that she had contributed to my error by not using the necessary apostrophe)tonight, I had opportunity for complete redemption.

Dan is an extremely capable sportsman and competes with the best in the Island at hockey and also does athletics, so today his Mum put a plea on Manx Harriers' page for a right foot spiked athletics shoe to be cut up and fitted to the bottom of his blade.

I knew that I had kept our Terence's pair despite him quitting the sport some years previous, so I immediately contacted Wendy sensing that chance to turn finally from zero to hero and we arranged for Wendy to come round to my house to collect it.

However, the God of Prosthetic Limbs thought otherwise and that I still had time to serve as a perceived idiot.

Somehow, during a rare clear-out a couple of weeks earlier, I'd managed to throw one of them away and you guessed it......I had only a left foot.

Thankfully, Alan Corlett has stepped in to save the day and my complete rehabilitation will have to wait a little longer.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The Joys of Grandparenthood!

With Irene on the boat the other Sunday, it was decided that I would attempt to get Harry, our 2 year old grandchild back to sleep when he blessed us with a 3.00am wake-up call.

And so began my solo babysitting day. Instead of 'Snuggles Daddad,' it was kicks to various parts of my anatomy though I did eventually get him back off for a while.

Still, it was too early for Match of the day (like I'd be allowed to watch it instead of 'Peppa Pig') but I managed to survive breakfast, even persuading him to use his cutlery to eat most of it.

He spent the rest of the morning bringing out his toys etc. including Irene's Hula Hoop which he always rolls out to me accompanied by the phrase, 'Skipping Daddad.' Usually this activity includes about 5 minutes of gyrations for me whilst he bounces his blow-up cylinder off it.

Aah. A chance to relax for a while he watches a little TV? Daddad! Daddad! And he's in the cupboard under the stairs and I have to extract his toy vacuum cleaner for him. It gets worse. 'Yours Daddad! Yours Daddad!'

When normally, I'm either lying in bed or watching MOTD, preparing to race, there I was with Henry in hand cleaning the dining room and kitchen at 8:15am!

I'd already decided to take him swimming but I didn't want to use my ace card too early in the game, so I decided it would be fun to take him to watch the 20 miles race on the N.S.C. perimeter road and that's when I made my big mistake by parking next to the main building, so that he could see the pool.

'Swimming Daddad! Swimming Daddad!' 'Later Harry. Let's go and watch the race.'

Well, I just about pulled that one off and attempted to negotiate our way through the race to Manx Harriers clubhouse without Harry rugby tackling any of the athletes where he started attacking the biscvquits and throwing cake on the floor when he decided he didn't like it.

'Swimming Daddad! Swimming Daddad!' was the every two minute refrain and at this stage I decided to try and walk the rest of the way round but he wouldn't believe me and threw his first tantrum across the river from the well known fast food place where there was an audience of people witnessing my child abuse! I couldn't persuade him to go the short way back to the car, so we had to go the long route back whence we'd came, though now he'd decided that every 100m he was going to stop dead and sit on the wet grass bank.

Frazzled is the description of how I was beginning to feel but eventually, we made it back to the swimming pool which would have been fine if we didn't have to move away from the building to get the bag from the car. This time it was full on kicking and screaming and there was just no explaining that I had to take him in the wrong direction. For a nearly 3 year old, he's very strong and I gained another few observers, probably on the verge of calling the Police to report an abduction!

He escaped as I queued to pay and I was caught in the 'No Man's Land' between controlling the child or never actually getting in to the blooming baths and luckily, he caused no damage to himself, others or the Reception and eventually I made the changing area.

Battling to tog him him and half dressed myself, I made the shocking discovery that in the bedlam of the morning so far, I had forgotten to pack my swimming shorts!

I calmly explained my predicament to Harry who listened attentively and replied that he understood that I'd made a simple error and it didn't matter anyway because we could easily slip home and grab them.

Actually, I was frightened that he was really going to injure himself because he just went wild but eventually we made it back to the front desk where I realised I could buy a horrible pair of budgie smugglers for £16 and once again we were heading downstairs.

Harry was ready again quickly and kept trying to unlock the changing booth and I was just about to slip into my new purchase when I noticed that the lady had left the security tag on them. I could have cried but I quickly decided that I'd prefer to be mistaken for an idiot or a shoplifter than go through the whole rigmarole of returning to Reception.

It was with immense relief that we eventually made it into the water and I could finally relax a little.

Five minutes later, 'Tout Daddad!' 'Daddad's car!'

I growled, ' There is absolutely no way we are getting out of this pool for at least 45 minutes after all I've been through to get you in here!'

There was a little more chasing about and of course when I wanted to take him home, he didn't want to go but despite forgetting to bring a spare nappy, we made it back without any more major mishaps and I even managed to have the security tag removed from the trunks.

By the time I handed him back to mum at 15:45, there was only one place Daddad was heading to and it took a good few of Dr. Okells finest to restore my equilibrium (Perhaps slightly over restored if the truth be told ;) )

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

All Change at Tripadvisor!

As a Hotel owner, you ignore Trip Advisor at your peril.

Many in our industry certainly do not enjoy the constant scrutiny to which it subjects us. A lot are sceptical, fearing that it can be manipulated by rivals and being the subject of someone with a grudge to bear can also be worrying.

However, not withstanding the odd outstanding court case, it seems to be here to stay, so I feel that we are better working with it than against it, as few travellers leave home without having read up on their destination, although I believe most people use it for validation rather than the source of where to choose their accommodation.

Most of us have our gripes about it. A friend of mine was unable to have a review removed which even actually stated that the author hadn't stayed in his hotel! Some of the posts cannot be genuine as they contain huge inaccuracies about the surroundings and one establishment of which I am aware had so many by one time reviewers, so that doesn't ring true either.

It is not just Trip Advisor but grading in general that is my personal hobby horse as B&Bs, guest houses, hotels etc. are all lumped together, so it is very confusing for the customer differentiating between star ratings in the various categories.

Until this weekend that is, when I looked to see that finally, it became little easier to to navigate the places to stay in Douglas.

And the reason for me blogging after all this time away? Well I have to admit that modesty has never been my strongest suit and I wouldn't want the light under my bushell to make it catch fire.

Anyway, Irene & I are very grateful for all the positive feedback that enables us to currently occupy this position and hopefully we can justify your kind words by staying there for some time to come.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Saving St Patricks

Somehow, the day after I won the End to End Walk this year, we once again ended up on the same route along the North West coast of the Island, though it has to be said, this time in the car.

Driving past the turn off to St Patricks Church Jurby, we noticed that there was an exhibition of paintings and photographs on that day.

It was an 'Off the cuff' sort of day, so whilst turning the vehicle, we ended up in a farmyard that sold its own produce and we were able to buy beetroot, cabbage, potatoes and apples for a fraction of what we would have paid in the supermarket.

As we walked towards the church, it occurred to me that whilst I visited here 9 times during the Parish Walk, never once had I journeyed through the gate.

The pictures turned out to have been painted by local artist, Peter Lloyd-Davies who was actually there in person. We are still using some of the trays and table mats that he unfortunately is no longer able to produce but this was our first meeting.

His son Tony (who somehow is a friend of mine, as Facebook moves in mysterious ways) was the photographer and they were exhibiting to try and raise funds for necessary renovations for the building.

St Patricks although not the most spectacular piece of ecclesiastical architecture has a tower and dominates the scenery from many miles around (I should know having also walked past it in the many other races ;)) It also has historical links with the Second World War because of the nearby airfield.

The Bishop of Soda and Mann has recently brought the plight of many of our Island's churches into the media spotlight with his comments about who is going to pay for their upkeep.

The subject was featured on 'Talking Heads,' the Manx Radio, 'Phone-in Show'and the weight of opinion seemed to suggest that it was up to the Church to maintain its own property though with congregations dwindling in number this would not seem to be sustainable.

Better usage and Government help seemed to be the Bishop's proposals and though it is good to see that the CoE is being pro-active with the provision of pre-schools, it is hard to see how our rulers will be able to justify spending huge amounts whilst we are in our current predicament.

Unfortunately, I have no magic wand to wave but I think it would be an awful shame if we are to start to lose some of these wonderful edifices that adorn our towns and countryside and help to display our heritage. I also suspect that though the queue may be short of benefactors willing to part with their money, the queue to criticise the people that allowed them to be lost will be long.

Good luck to the Parish of Jurby in the quest to preserve St />
br />