Isle of Man TT

Can you believe it, Saturday’s superbike race was cancelled due to heavy rain? What! We finally get to go to the Isle of Man’s TT race for what should be the main event, the superbikes, and the weather lets us down! Then, rubbing salt into our wounds the race got postponed to Monday when we would be back at work. Doh! 😥 Work Sucks! And so does the weather! :angry:

Anyway, it gave us much more time to explore the island’s attractions and spend time with Laetitia’s sister and family.

Laxey Wheel
Laxey Wheel
Cashtal yn Ard (Castle of the Heights)
Cashtal yn Ard (Castle of the Heights)
Kirk Maughold Parish Church Cross Shelter
Kirk Maughold Parish Church Cross Shelter
Kirk Maughold Parish Church Cross Shelter
Kirk Maughold Parish Church Cross Shelter

Sunday turned out sunny. But the traditional Mad Sunday being what it is, a chance for everyone to ride the famous TT circuit, racing was still not an option. But, the biking entertainment at Peel was still on, and with glorious weather at last, off we went to save some biking action from the weekend…

Peel Day
Peel Day

Steve Colley was amazing. This guy has clearly got masses of skill on a bike. But he also gives the impression – with his running commentary of his stunts – that he’s also got an ego to go with it! I lost count of just how many times he had to tell us this trick or that was “really difficult” or “just about as hard as it gets”.

Steve Colley at Peel
Steve Colley at Peel

On the other hand, the Purple Helmets have got no ego what-so-ever, having fun with just about everything including themselves! 😆

The Purple Helmets at Peel
The Purple Helmets at Peel

We even had time for a bit of bouldering on the beach at Peel…

Bouldering on Peel Beach
Bouldering on Peel Beach

We should have checked in with Mike Caine’s IoM Rock Climbing site before we went though, there’s loads of climbing on the island. Ah well, plenty of detail there for next time…

Now of course we are back home so after work I’ll have to watch the TT superbike race on the TV tonight…

A route down south

Down in the Big Smoke I did a climb with my non-climbing friend Kay who, some years ago, was so enthralled by “Touching the Void” that she lent it to her gran. Gran was so enthralled that she nearly set her flat on fire: she put the dinner on, and promptly forgot it until the smoke alarm went off!

Kay and I went up the….

monument-001
… Monument, all 311 steps of it.

the-monument

There are great views from the top and here is one of them:
tower-bridge

After a trip roundthe Sir John Soane Museum – a must if you have not been, and free – and another round Fortnums we ended our day at a patisserie.

london-patisserie

Best not to dwell on how Ian and I got on at Sunbury climbing wall. To think that once we could do multiple non-stop ascents of the vertical left hand wall crimps….. (Then again, in those days we climbed frequently, not once every few months.) (And probably ate fewer cakes.)

Hello Grampians

We had one day to climb in the Grampians so we chose a popular route on Mt Difficult – Epaminondas. The path up to the crag was quite strenuous compared to the approaches for routes at Arapiles, but it was well worth it.

A "strenuous" walk...
A "strenuous" walk...
Ian on <i>Epaminondas</i>
Ian on Epaminondas

As well as completing an excellent climb we did a bit of sight seeing including some fascinating Aboriginal paintings at Manja Shelter.

Burnt gum trees
Burnt gum trees
MacKenzie falls
MacKenzie falls
Aboriginal <i>Manja</i> shelter
Aboriginal Manja shelter

Stonehenge & Avebury

Laetitia listens to the complimentary audio information
Laetitia listens to the complimentary audio information

We thought we’d escaped the torrential rain at home in Cumbria with a trip to Portland for help celebrate the CC’s launch party of the acclaimed new Portland guidebook. Unfortunately the wet weather had caught us up by Sunday morning and even the “promised” sunny south coast was wet!

So, having travelled so far we thought we check out some local tourist attractions … Stonehenge and the stone circle at Avebury.

"I wonder if they'd notice if I climbed this one?"
'I wonder if they'd notice if I climbed this one?'
Avebury stone circle
Avebury stone circle
Who thought it was 'okay' to put a road through an ancient monument?

Venues

London; not so bad as a tourist…

We normally only go to London for work – which is pretty dull, not only because it’s work (which sucks 😉 ), but because it is also very busy, dirty and not by choice. So, thanks to our opportunity to be in London (at IBM’s expense; a big thank-you for Laetitia’s hard work) we took the chance to visit a few tourist attractions that normally don’t get a look-in between rushing to the office and back to Euston to get back home again.

We kicked off with the Science Museum (having seen the National History Museum already). This was interesting, but to be honest, a bit of a let down. We had expected a far far more interactive experience, and a lot more “how stuff works” than simply endless display cases of historical gadgets.

Next on the hit list was the Millennium Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral.

St Paul's Cathedral from the Millennium Bridge
St Paul's Cathedral from the Millennium Bridge

The bridge was great. Views in London are tricky, always blocked by bloody great big buildings, but from the bridges over the Thames it all looks much more impressive.

However, St Paul’s Cathedral was a big let down. Not the building – that’s a fantastic piece of architecture! They have started charging a £10 entrance fee! That’s a lot of money. Sure, as they say it costs £7m a year to maintain the cathedral. But they also say that they get 1.5m visitors a year. By my reckoning that is somewhere near £15m in entrance fees (maybe a bit less because of concessions etc.). So, even after staff costs for operating and securing the entrance cash desks, there’s surely a fair profit in there to visit a church!!! :angry:

Back across the Millennium Bridge is the Tate Modern, which is free. 🙂 Shown below is the massive exhibit that made me feel like I’d walked into a scene from the “War of the Worlds”! Not sure I’d call it art, but it was certainly creative.

Tate Modern
Tate Modern

Walking back towards Covent Garden we passed this little piece of home… 😎

Australia House
Australia House

Eating with Dinosaurs

Pre-dinner drinks with an extinct giant sloth anyone?
Pre-dinner drinks with an extinct giant sloth anyone?

Friday evening was a bit special; we got to eat (not be eaten) with the dinosaurs at the National History Museum in London. This year’s IBM ball was a Halloween themed black tie affair! Our table was right next to the famous Diplodocus skeleton right in the centre of the imposing entrance hall – amazing.

National History Museum entrance hall set for dinner!
National History Museum entrance hall set for dinner!

Shap Abbey

The cold weather and early finish gave us an opportunity to explore. We decided to take the road that explicitly says “No public right of way”. Well, we’re not public, so that obviously doesn’t mean us.

We had no idea where it would take us, and imagined we’d find ourselves at some dead end, but it turned out to be a really good short cut back to the A6. As we travelled along it we had a fantastic view of the remains of Shap Abbey, looking very atmospheric nestled in an isolated spot. When we got to the end of the road we decided to turn round and make our way back to Keld and then onto the Abbey for a closer inspection.

The ruins are pretty amazing. There is the huge west tower and then plenty of bits and pieces for you to get the feeling of the size and shape of what used to be there. The grounds are really well maintained, with a few plaques dotted around to tell you what you’re looking at – church, chapter house, dormitories, and cloisters – and amazingly it’s all FREE!!

The Abbey was built in 1199, the last Abbey to be founded in England, and the last to be dissolved by Henry VIII in 1540 – probably because he couldn’t find it! It was founded by the Premonstratensian order, also known as the White Canons from the colour of their habits. They liked to contemplate in solitude. Most of the buildings are 13th Century and the west tower is early 16th Century. Most of the stone was taken and re-cycled into other buildings – Shap Market Hall and Lowther Castle.