No, Mad Sunday has got nothing to do with my mood, or my state of mental health – it’s all about motorbikes and where we spend about six months of each year … The Isle of Man.
The Isle of Man is only about 36 miles x 12 miles at its longest and widest points. Today, about 85,000 of us perch on this rock in the middle of the Irish Sea, and every summer we are subjected to hundreds of motorbikes racing through the streets of our towns and villages and around the island on the 37.7-mile Snaefell Mountain Course. Their average speed is over 130 mph and in places they exceed 200mph!
Tens of thousands of fans flock to the island every year to watch this spectacle. Sometimes these visitors crash into one another, sometimes they fly off cliffs, sometimes they collide with parked cars or light poles, sometimes they forget we drive on the left and sometimes they don’t just kill themselves but also the locals going about their lawful business. This has been going on since 1907. On the Isle of Man every May/June, death is business as usual.
Never mind the visitors, the TT races themselves are extremely dangerous (over 250 rider deaths to date on this circuit). Imagine riding at over 200 mph on tiny, narrow, twisting streets, roads and lanes flanked by stone walls and buildings, dodging manhole covers and stray dogs! Some, including a few former competitors, have called for the race to be banned, but for the most part the riders love the TT. They know it’s dangerous, but they also know it’s the absolute pinnacle of motorcycle racing. It’s the ultimate, and if you’re good enough – and you’re brave enough – then you go for it, regardless of the risks. Personal responsibility and the love of speed triumph the desire for safety here.
As current record-holder John McGuinness said, “People seeking to ban the TT are a load of do-gooders … We all know and accept the risks. Maybe we’re a bunch of hard-nosed bastards.”
As for us Manx islanders, we’re generally supportive. While some understandably complain about road closures, litter, irritating spectators and the death toll, others realize the race is a part of our tradition (and essential to the local economy). Plus, though we may not always admit it, we enjoy the spectacle too. They’ve been doing it this long. Why stop now?
We now live in a world where people file lawsuits over spilled coffee and put helmets and knee pads on their kids during playtime. If you ask me, it wouldn’t hurt if we had more places like the Isle of Man where insanity is a cherished tradition.
Oh yeah – I almost forgot about “Mad Sunday.” One day every year at the TT, they open up the 37 mile course to the public. That means anyone on a motor bike can try his or her luck trying to match the professionals for speed (and insanity!). Imagine, if you can, a Formula 1 or NASCAR event where they let 50,000+ fans onto the track, charging around in whatever vehicle they came in. In recent years, to try and reduce the carnage (and maybe also to give the visitors even more thrills!) the roads have been made one-way for about 8 miles over the mountain section of the course. Big, powerful road bikes hitting their top speeds of 170mph-180mph is not unusual on this section.
Today is Mad Sunday and it looks like we’ve scraped by without a mortality! As I have been typing this post, over 1,000 bikes have roared past my window, on their way home having enjoyed ‘a day at the races’. So it’s Mad Sunday over with for another year… lots of happy campers and still some empty beds in Accident and Emergency – doesn’t get much better than that!
Oh yes, food!
Last Saturday evening, we invited our neighbours, Terry and Julie plus Dominic and Kate from over the road for a meal. We decided to mix the best of the Isle of Man with the best of France (as you do!) so (after polishing off a couple of bottles of Champagne with the aperitif) we started the meal with one of our favourites – beautiful fresh Manx scallops, and prepared the excellent Trio of Scallops washed down with an amazing 2007 Château de la. Gardine – a white Chateauneuf du Pape.
We followed this up with a whole Leg of Lamb in Rich Gravy which I have mentioned before on this blog (March 2013). Fortunately we had a couple of bottles of the matching 2007 Château de la. Gardine – only this time the more typical red Chateauneuf du Pape. Unfortunately, we only had two bottles so, as we descended on the cheese, I opened the reserve bottle – a 2005 Boisrenard – also a good Chateauneuf du Pape.
As we always do, we served the meal French style (dessert last) and I dug around in M-D’s wine cooler and came up with a really nice bottle of 2008 Côtes de Bergerac. The Côtes de Bergerac is a deeply smooth sweet white wine that complimented our Raspberry and Caramel Crunch (better known in France as Gratin Framboises au Speculoos) superbly.
So with six satisfied diners, I found myself asking, was it the food or was it the wine? Two bottles of Champagne with the apperitif, a bottle of white Chateauneuf du Pape with the starter course, three bottles of red Chateauneuf du Pape with the main course and the cheese. A bottle of Côtes de Bergerac with the desert, and then several glasses of Sheridan Coffee Layered Liqueur. Oh dear, did we overdo it again?
Maybe we should have christened it “Mad Saturday”! After all, as John McGuinness said, “… We all know and accept the risks…”.