A Very Different A3!

intro    next

Day 1 - Friday 1 September

Bit of a damp morning, but not actually raining at this moment.

We have a coffee and a bite to eat for breakfast, but nothing worth getting excited about.

Amanda's been concerned that the battery on her Garmin running watch is starting to die and it's now getting very marginal whether it will last long enough for a marathon, so she's been thinking about a new one. Garmin naturally are putting most of their promotional effort into the silly-money high-end models that have more features than anyone other than a gadget-obsessed freak could possibly use, but clearly there are enough such people to be a very profitable market.

In the techie toy shop there's a Garmin section, and it seems they have a few older models reduced to clear, including one by the snappy title of "Venu Sq Music". Its original price was about £180, which is not the cheapest model but still pretty low in the range, but here it's marked at thirty quid off. At that price, with not too many pointless frills, it's definitely worth buying. It's even more pleasing, then, to find that at the till it's reduced again, so we end up paying an almost reasonable £120!

Right, time to fly.

As we push back, a man walks along holding a string attached to the plane. We don't know why.

This will be the first outing for my new hat, and as we have a rather less than full plane, it can even have a seat to itself next to us.

The flight is uneventful and Douglas Airport is not a big place, so it's quick to get through. Mind, we are slightly confused by the sign that says "Arrivals from the EU" over the only exit from the baggage hall. Hasn't anybody told them?

This is the car we've hired. It's small and possesses an even smaller engine: a hot hatch this is not! We don't expect to do a huge amount of driving anyway, but it is convenient given that we need to get to the other side of the island via a supermarket shop-up, and we have a few trips planned that will be a bit far to do by bike. (We've also arranged bike hire, with the bikes to be delivered to our cottage and collected when we leave.)

And in fact, "Douglas" airport is actually something like a twenty-minute drive from the town itself. As we will find, the island doesn't have many flat spots, and even fewer big enough for a runway.

The car doesn't have its own sat-nav, but that's no problem, the Google Maps app on our phones will do fine. We are most surprised, though, when we start getting distances in metres and kilometres. Our digital floozy is clearly a bit confused: "Europe; not UK; therefore must be metric system".

[We had previously noticed during our planning that Google Maps' coverage of the IoM is a bit weak compared to OpenStreetMap, but more surprisingly, even Ordnance Survey didn't seem to have the 1:25,000 scale maps that we would normally have bought, only 1:50,000.]

Not a big deal. The only problem in practice is the usual one that Google sometimes sees the roads differently to a human and you do sometimes find the voice instructions seemingly at odds with the displayed route. We have a perfect example just a minute from home, as it happens. The A309 out of Esher towards the A3 becomes a fork off what is then the A3 slip road, but Google doesn't know that. It will not tell you to fork left if you need to stay on the A309, and it will tell you to fork right if your route is continuing straight ahead. The former would be particularly annoying to a non-local who wasn't aware of the problem because there's no easy way back off the A3 once you're on it.

Anyway, we navigate successfully to Tesco, which is the only really full-sized supermarket on the entire island. It's funny, but this is almost exactly replicating the start of our Orkney trip last year (blog here) where we hired a car from the airport and stocked up at Tesco. Yet back home, the big Tesco at New Malden somehow makes us lose the will to live after about ten minutes, so we almost never go there.

Because we never normally go to Tesco, we don't have a Tesco Clubcard, so naturally when the checkout lady asks me, I say no. "Why not?!" she cries, and I explain that we don't shop there at home. But she can't let us go without the discounts we'd be entitled to if we did so she scans the card of the chap in the queue behind us! On reflection, I think this is a total win-win: we get money off our bill, he gets the points-mean-prizes benefit of something like three hundred quid's worth of shopping he didn't have to pay for.

We've got a few hours before we need to get to our cottage, so we have a little stroll around Douglas.

As we walked up towards this bridge, we realised that there were red lights flashing and barriers descending to stop the traffic, and then the whole bridge lifts up to allow a yacht into the marina.

And down it goes again.

A curious art deco building built in, err, 1998!

A little web research finds this for example:

Royalty House [...] was built in 1998 to a design by Kellett and Robinson [...] in the Art Deco style[...] on the site of the Royalty Cinema which was also built in the Art Deco style.

The exterior of the present building features Egyptian flower motifs and is said by some commentators to have more than a hint of the famous Chrysler Building in New York.

In "An Introduction to the Architecture of the Isle of Man", Patricia Tutt describes Royalty House as follows:

"The design references are to the former Art Deco Royalty Cinema that stood on this site and to the iconic Chrysler Building in New York. The Egyptian lotus flower motifs are pure Art Deco and, whilst the chrome figure echoes those on the Chryslet Building, it also suggests characters from sci-fi movies. The Stylised flower bud in the parapet above the figure, the terracotta details and the shallow mouldings and groves reinforce the Art Deco character. These are all applied detail with no functional purpose - other than decoration, reinforcing the ironic nature of Post-Modern architecture."

It appears to be the location of a company called "Utmost Wealth Solutions", whose website tells us, "Our primary focus is the use of life insurance solutions to help protect the wealth our clients have accumulated." Insurance and other financial services are key to the island's economy, and slightly to our surprise, tourism is not really that important.

Aha! We have a WH Smith's where Amanda can buy a notebook for writing her diary, and also the tourist information centre where we will find we can buy the 1:25,000 scale maps we didn't think existed!

This curious castle in the sea is built on a tidally submerged island which used to be a real danger to shipping. At particularly low tides, it's possible to walk out to it, and sponsored walks to raise money for the RNLI have become a thing in recent years.

Learn more at wikipedia

Apropos of nothing, we just love the sound of "bun-troggalys". It's a government department, and the photo is of the side of an official van.

This grand entrance is obviously no longer in use, but the station itself is still going as a heritage steam railway.

We walk down for a closer look, and although there are signs saying "ticket holders only", the station master tells me to just stroll onto the platform if I want to take some pictures.

To attach the loco to the rest of the train involves a bit of maneouvering: back out of the shed past the points, then change the points to go forward onto a link that joins the nearer parallel track, then reverse back on that nearer track.

Connect them up and it'll be good to go.

Amanda will be pleased they have polished their brass well.

We'll have more time in Douglas at the end of our holiday, so we shall most certainly put this on our list of things to do. We ask at the ticket office, but they don't sell advance tickets, you just turn up and get on.

And now it's time to head West to our cottage.

Here we are, the entrance to the farm estate from the A3. This is not our A3, not in the slightest!

And this is our little cottage.

Very nice: rustic but not too fussy.

It's still only mid-afternoon, about 3 o'clock, so we think we'll take a little walk.

Just across the road from us is a nature reserve.

This is the first of many many fuchsias we will see. The island seems almost covered with them.

It was introduced to the Isle of Man from South America in the 1820s, we gather, but has become naturalised to the point that it's almost the national flower now.

Me looking up...

...at Amanda coming down.

The trail leads us towards the coast, via a campsite that isn't interesting enough to bother with any pictures.

We pass brick pillars which must obviously once have supported a bridge, but there's no sign of it now.

And here we are by the seaside. It's not exactly perfect beach weather, but even so, there's scarcely a soul to be seen anywhere.

A Manx cat, but not a Manx cat, if you get my drift. We haven't seen any of the eponymous tailless cats yet.

And at the entrance to the farm when we get back, what do we see?

Well there's a thing!

"This plaque commemorates the 150th anniversary of the introduction of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to the Isle of Man by John Taylor on September 16, 1840, and John Cannon, who acquired Cooilshellagh in 1689, which was his and his descendants' home, and his descendant George Cannon, who, with his wife Ann Quayle and family, as new members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, emigrated to the United States in 1842.

Dedicated by the George Cannon Family Association, descendants of John and George Canning who number more than 20,000 persons.

September, 1990"

Some fine sunset colours through the trees.

We have sat Gu-Vu in a small herb forest to help him feel at home.

intro    next