Firstly, may I welcome you aboard to
my the all-inclusive Shrinky Tour, and thank you for your gullibility discerning taste in choosing to book with "us" again. Please note, all fees are strictly mine now non-returnable, and any whining complaints to the Manx Tourist Board shall be given my undivided follow-thorough, via a personal visit to your loved ones our full consideration.
I am in receipt of all the signed disclaimers, yes? Great. Hang on, who's Mickey Mouse?? You at the back, yeah, near the table, Choco, will you please, kindly pass Chewy along a fresh form from there, to re-complete..? Thank you.
Okay, so a little background to orientate you to this place from tip to tail. The entire isle is approx. 35 miles long, and 15 miles wide - effectively, that means the farthest drive away you can ever be from the coast, is around 10 minutes.
Put simply Al, car theft is rendered redundant here, we just wait by the ferry to catch you.
The cross on the map is Douglas, where I live, the red dot on the map is Kirk Michael, where my lil' sis', Lainee, and her family lives.
Huh? Well, of course it's relevant, RC. The clue is in the tour name.
Our island is a tax haven, a bit like the Cayman Islands, but without the sun. Being self-governing, we
can get away with this, elect our own parliament to set the laws and levy taxes. We even have our own separate flag from the Union Jack, as well as our own Manx currency, (which is a right pain in the bum, since it needs to be exchanged over to British sterling, before taking any trip over to the UK mainland, and likewise to Euros, for any jaunts over to Ireland) but don't let that trouble you, as I'll gladly accept everything from the Euro right through to the Yen, okay?
No, sorry Dan, it's still a no to those slot-machine tokens.
The overall population here is circa 75,000, and Douglas is the Isle of Man capital, with by far the highest population at over 25,000. Douglas may be not the prettiest part of the island, but it is the island hub for shipping, transport, shopping, and entertainment (did you notice how I convincingly managed to keep a straight face in saying that last bit?). It is also the home of the government, and a main finance sector. Banks from all over the world hold offices here.
Sorry? Yes Skunk, 'fraid I'm pretty sure the banks do have adequate security systems in place, it's not like we're that backward, y'know?
Right, that's the boring bits over, let's move on.
If any of you (Bone) should find yourselves
ditched for some reason parted from the group, please make your way back to this gathering point at the top of my drive, and wait for Jake to come find you. Under no circumstances whatsoever stray down the drive (hubby thinks I'm at the gym).
Those of you who took the last week, "Shrinky Residence Tour" may be surprised to find I'm not actually situated in the rural back of beyond, after all. In fact, I live only a few minutes drive from the centre of town.
Before we venture out there, if we take this left, and continue straight on up, one mile along lies the famed TT Grandstand, and the start line for the super bikes, those which relentlessly whizz past our drive on race days, effectively holding me and mine hostage for the duration.
This also happens to be Sweet Sam's most favourite place in the whole wide world.
"The Paddock" lies directly behind the Grandstand, where Sam and I chase down autographs, to add to his burgeoning collection. As his officially appointed photographer, I wear the
No biking Royalty is safe, here he is ambushing Michael Dunlop (again).
But I'm getting distracted here, and giving too much away - this diversion really belongs on the, "Shrinky TT Tour" (tickets for which can be purchased in advance at a very reasonable price, on any week day hubby is out of town).
Do keep your eyes peeled for any cats on our travels, we're quite famous for our tail-less pussies. It's thought it was originally a genetic defect which overtook most of the island's population, throughout generations of inbreeding. Um, yes, there is a part of this isle (rumour has it) where certain human defects have also similarly been passed on.. but, er, probably best to leave that one for another tour - we'll be having no careless talk of this in Douglas.
So, if we retrace our steps, taking a right will head us towards the town.
The Railway station sits in front of my Tesco Supermarket (well, not mine as such, though I wish it were, no, I simply get my on-line grocery weekly shop delivered to me, from there). When the weather is rough and the ferries can't get through from the mainland, the shelves there are often bare. Most of us tend to lay in a good store cupboard, 'cos in truth, you just never know in this place when you might have to hole up and make do for a bit.
Our railway was the inspiration for all the Thomas the Tank Engine stories, and the author, Reverend W Awdry, set each tale in the mythical "Isle of Sodor" which everyone knows is just a euphemism for us - well, we even have our own Bishop of Sodor, don't we, what more proof do you need?
We've never seen the need to update our rolling stock, and this is the only mode of train to be found on our island.
It doesn't just serve the tourists, as the line runs throughout the island, and is a regular service from A-B, over the summer months.
This station exits on to the North Quayside, and to the odd pub and restaurant. Coaster's is where Matt, my eldest, held his first ever (crappy, minimum wage) job, bless him, washing up endless giant pots and pans, after school. It was handy for him, being within walking distance from home.
And it paid his rent.
Ack, blow your nose, Babs, I'm only kidding (it went towards his school fees).
The restaurant faces directly over the marina, and on to the South Quayside. Actually folks, this is probably as good a place as any to stop now, for that all-inclusive meal of ours.
What, where for the love of sweet Jesus, do you shower of feckless moron's think you're stampeding off to? Get your assorted arses back over here, right this minute. No, I didn't mean Coasters - why on earth would anyone be wanting to closet themselves indoors for lunch, when there's perfectly good tin-foil wrapped, chilled bacon sandwiches to be had, right out here in the fine, fresh air? Look, I've even made you up some nice fruit squash, to help swill it down with.
Oh, there's always ONE vegetarian, isn't there? Yeah, yeah, Veggie-Assassin - no worries, look, see? There's still a bit of lettuce left, once you remove the bacon, alright? Yeah, and bon appetite to you, too. Any more of that kind of language, and you'll find yourself fast marching back to that aforementioned meeting point, me lass..
Whoops, yeah, sorry about the gulls, they've no manners at all, have they? Best for you that's got hoods, to maybe wear them up for now? And I'd advise us all to eat discreetly, shielded beneath the safety of our coats, these thieving banshees are known to get vicious.
Cheer up, Secret Agent, I've brought the bandaid's.
Ah, isn't this grand? There's nothing can beat a good picnic.
This is where Sam and his friends sometimes crew a sailing boat, provided and supervised by "Sailing for the Disabled", a brilliant charity in aid of kids and young adults, with physical or learning difficulties.
True, X-Dell, it is in for repair a lot..
Follow the road around the South quay, and it'll lead you on up to Douglas Head, one of the highest points in the town, which provides sweeping views over Douglas.
If you continue on, the road winds upwards and along to the lighthouse. I occasionally used to take Jake up here for a run, but no, not so much recently, Vince, not since he confused himself as a lemming, and tried inventing that shortcut down to the sea.
This is perched just along the way from The Union Camera Obscura. A single lens and mirror in a revolving turret, above the darkened room there, projects a picture of the surrounding area. It was first built in 1887, but burned down within the same year, proving that the youth of the island have ever long been a problem around these parts. It was rebuilt in the1890's, and for all I know, has had an invisible armed guard round it ever since.
The camera was originally used to spy on tourists at the bathing baths, or at the locals making out on the headland, and provided a popular form of fun and entertainment at the time. Kinda' proves nothing much changes, doesn't it, Hilary? Hilary? (Sigh) It'll turn you blind, it will.
Retracing back now, we're entering into the town proper, and to where the main shopping centre lies. Yes, I know you must be quite envious now, you amongst us of the huge Plazza's and Mall's, sure, it's not every day you get to experience
The nearest we have to a department store, is the over-priced and under-stocked, local branch of Marks & Spencer's (termed, "Markies" by some of us in the know), where we buy our knickers and "Meals for Two" at. It lies behind from where this shot was taken, but trust me, Bill, you're not missing very much. They charge you a quid, just to push the trolley round.
See past the pub on the left? That's the little art supply shop I use to frame and mount my pictures, lovely couple they are there, husband and wife team, both artists.
Perhaps you understand now why I'm such a big fan of this on-line shopping malarkey?
Take any small side street off to the right, and it'll lead you straight down to the prom, and the open seafront.
The horse-trams run the whole length of the two mile promenade, with frequent drop off and pick up points along the way. When the kids were younger, we regularly used to ride free on these. It wasn't until a couple of years back I found out we'd been dodging our fare. Gospel truth, there'd never ever been anyone there to collect it from us, I swear.
If you're looking for a scenic, coastal route up to the mountain, the electric tram is the way to go. It also has several scheduled stations it stops at, and I used to often catch it through to Laxey, before the embroidery supplies shop I used there closed down.
The Sefton Hotel on the Prom is where my eldest worked as a barman, on his breaks home from University (until his boss opened a new place in Peel, and took him with him).
This is a sculpture of the comedian, Sir Norman Wisdom, one of our island's more colourful resident's, who sadly died a couple of years back. He was quite a well known character, everyone knew to jump well out of the way when they saw him peeking up over that bonnet of his Bentley he drove.
When the Queen came over one Tynwald Day, he and my neighbours, amongst some others (very notably not me), were invited to attend a formal dinner with her. She tells me (not HRH, no, my neighbour) all throughout the meal, she kept having to kick him under the table, in an attempt to stop him from removing his dentures each time the Queen addressed him . Ever the clown, he was.
We also have George Formby clutching his Uke, leaning against a lamppost, and mutely serenading passers-by, on another of our street corners.
The Sefton statue is only on loan to them from the borough, though it's never actually sat anywhere else.
The hotel gets a lot of trade from The Gaiety Theatre, next door, and Matt served drinks to many of the rich and famous who've passed through there.
Which is where I'll be found on Saturday, to see this - wheyhey!
Over the road,, a pedestrian walkway runs the full length of the beach,
Lined with sunken gardens. Yes Chantel, I'll bet there are some fine cuttings to be had here, when no one is looking.
This spot on the beach is where I used to take Jake for his daily run.
But since his arthritis, he needs use of a ramp now to make it into the car - and being such a huge brute, it takes a very long, long ramp indeed, to coax his hairy Lordship up a gentle enough incline.
I need to ensure space for almost the length of three cars to unfold the darn thing, and sadly the Prom isn't one of the best of places to find ample parking there, so I've recently taken to using the glens more now, where I can always guarantee space for the ramp.
Further along the way, is the Tower of Refuge. At first glance, I thought it was just an ornamental folly, but seems I was mistaken, and it serves a very real purpose.
When the Lifeboat Service was founded in the 1800's, they soon discovered many shipwrecked sailors often drowned, mistakenly believing they could make the swim to shore. They built this on a reef, and stocked it with blankets, and a supply of fresh bread and water. I'm told it's briefly accessible from shore, during certain tides and times of the year.
Where the Prom ends is the Ferry Terminal (I'll be parked at the front, Leslie, for you to head over to, when you dock).
Built in the 1960's, it looks as if it could double up as a giant lemon- squeegee-implement, but it seems it's still fit(ish) for purpose, and as there's certainly no money left lying around to replace it (not since the UK government stuffed us over the VAT), I guess we're stuck with it for the foreseeable future.
And this here behind it, is the harbour.
Which I am happy to say is blissfully close to where I live. It's wonderful to pile off the ferry, and to be warming my toes before my own fireplace, within a few minutes.
Yeah Furtheron, there is an airport, but it's further on (sorry), in Castletown, and we're only doing DOUGLAS on this trip, remember? You want Castletown, it costs extra.
So there we have it folks, this is almost a wrap. Talking of which, kindly take your tin foil wrappers with you as you go, please, or you won't be finding yourselves invited back here in a hurry.
Maybe I WILL cover Castletown at some point, it is a much bonnier spot (it gets prettier the further south or north you get). I know it well, as my kids attend school there.
Here's a taster. Gorgeous building to attend lessons in, isn't it?
Okay, next stop we might do the "Castle and Museum Tour", what do say?
Cheer up, Sully, I'll be sure to throw in a few visits to the odd Pub and Inn along the way - just so long as you promise to buy in an occassional round for the tour guide?
Alright, leave it with me.