OVER THE YEARS
Over the years that I have been a TT Fan, there have been occasions when I thought I would not get to the Isle of Man.
It was easy when I was a young schoolboy in 1947 when I came with my parents, but as I got older, exams reared their ugly head. Some of them fell in the TT period so what was I to do ???
I made sure I revised hard, then pleaded for "brain-cooling time". This could be a short break when I could refresh and then face the exams. I began coming over for most of practice week with my parents, flying back, doing the exams then returning with the local motorcycle club overnight day trip for the Senior. It also worked some years when I came over for the long weekend and race week with the exams behind me..
One or two years when exams allowed me two weeks away, I still passed my exams !!
When I could drive officially I would journey up to Liverpool and leave the car in a car park opposite the Pier Head and boat over and stay in a hotel on the sea front. Then I would walk everywhere. Of course there were coaches taking us to vantage points in those days.
At work, I preached TT to my colleagues until I organised a group of unbelievers to come over to see the TT..Many of them still make the pilgrimage with their friends and family in tow.
When I started courting seriously I would bring the girlfriend over but this would be by aeroplane and after a week of motorcycles, motorcycles and more motorcycles, she was glad to return home. Often I flew back with her but returned for the Fridays races by motorcycle club trip.
In the 70s I persuaded my wife (yes I had got married by this time) and new son, plus my Mum and Dad to come over to see how things had changed. Mum and Dad had to give up coming over in 1961 when Dads job precluded him from a June holiday. Dad had been a TT Fan himself, starting in 1928. It was not a totally successful arrangement with all the family wanting to do different things for by now I was deeply involved, assisting riders, writing bits for magazines and being a 24 hour TT Fan. On returning home I was given permission to attend the TT on my own " as long as you organise a family holiday for wife and son in September" which was most acceptable. It has been like this ever since and my wife gets a quality holiday abroad.
In 1985 I was made redundant....was the TT out that year ?? No it wasn't because I qualified for a superb redundancy package which made us all very happy. I spent some time going round the continental circuits to follow my friend Margret Lingen. The TT was only a part of a wonderful year which had started off bad.
The driving on the continent exacerbated a back problem so I went into private hospital to have discs removed and vertebrae fused. I went from 6 feet 7 inches to 6 feet 5 inches almost overnight!! After that I had no more pain and had a full two weeks on the Island in 1986 seeing my tip for the top Roger Burnett win the TT. I tipped him in my articles in the TT Programme to which I was now contributing. Good years followed for I was now doing work for local motorcycle dealers. one of these was Brian Gray who drove Sidecar in the TT. I was all booked up to go when Brian stated that I must stay back to man the shop while was racing and I could go over for the Senior. I suppose I would have been content with this since I could still keep my sequence running. However in the first practice Brian drove through the gateway at Union Mills and crashed putting himself out of the TT. He returned to High Wycombe, and told me I could go over since while unfit to race, he could man the shop, besides most of the High Wycombe motorcycle fraternity had gone to the TT to see him race..
My father took ill in 1995 and we were told to prepare for the worst. He said to me to get myself over for a couple of days to continue the TT Fan run so with his blessing I made a quick dash again by day trip, this time one of the Motorcycle News runs.
Dad died later that year and going through all his things, I found all the letters and information I had sent him when he couldn't get over. They were all in sequence and had been filed. I used some of them when I wrote for a magazine as a "son to his father"
series of articles. Since then I have used these as skeletons for my reminiscences.
There were a couple of years when I did practice week and the middle weekend by car, drove back home and then was able to hitch a seat in a private 'plane for the Senior thanks to long time friend Doug Randall and his pal JJ. It was great flying over the Island being able to look forward as the Island came out of the haze. You don't see that in a commercial 'plane !!
Latterly, I have kept up my two week visits by car.......However in 2000, the year of foot and mouth also the year out for Joey, I nearly missed out. But for another dedicated TT Fan who has not been going as long as I have but wants to beat my run.. I'm sitting twiddling my thumbs suffering terrible withdrawal symptoms and the phone rings. " I'm going to the Island on business, do you wanna come with me ??" .....
So I put foot to Manx soil, albeit briefly.
Since my first visit in 1947 I have managed to keep up the sequence, the interest and the love associated with an event held on a little island in the middle of the Irish Sea. I hope to continue for a few years yet........