I'm told that the Isle of Man is visible from Cumbria's west coast on a clear day. Having set sail from Whitehaven to that destination on Friday morning, I'm doubtful that our boat was visible twenty feet from the West Cumbrian coast. Suffice to say it was not a clear day. We took an overnight trip to the island aboard the 'MV Balmoral', a classic cruise ship built in 1949. We've taken the day trip version before and been lucky enough to spot a pilot whale but unfortunately didn't see anything this time. As there was no way that I would manage a day trip we opted for an overnight stay in style at The Sefton Hotel, a real treat. Arriving in the Isle of Man the heavy sky was brightening.
A short while later the sun made a valiant effort and we celebrated with the most enormous ice creams that were a work of art. As was eating them before they melted. As an ice cream connoisseur of many years' experience I can confirm that these are the best Mr Softees ever tasted.
Lulled into a false sense of summer we abandoned our wet weather boat gear at the hotel and went walkabout. Well, electric trainabout to be precise. Right up to the top of Snaefell where there is an awe inspiring view. Or so we are told. The only two passengers, we actually ascended into dense wet cloud shortly after departing from the train station. The train guard's incredulous shout of 'Bloody lunatics' and 'on a night like this' that we had heard prior to boarding began to hold some meaning as we realised he was talking about us. With good reason. Arriving at the summit, the cloud had thickened into a hostile white-out, and our lunacy was confirmed as we alighted into the low moan of the biting wind and zero visibility. We thought better of moving more than two feet away from the train and being swallowed up and lost forever at the highest point of the island and climbed back aboard under the contemptuous gaze and sorrowful head-shaking of the guard. Fortunately the driver took pity on us, poor fools that we were and took us back to civilisation. Once there we discovered that we had missed the last tram back and had to go make our way back to the hotel at my snail's pace in the now torrential rain. Oh how we laughed! Or not... but distance, a luxurious hotel,some rather nice wine and a top class meal restored our equilibrium and humour as we eventually dried out.
As is always the case there was a good side to the tempestuous weather. It offered some lovely views of dramatic skies from our hotel room as the storm swept across the bay;
The following day saw some tentative sunshine.
We sat at pretty Port StMary as the tide went out and the briny air wafted the scent of seaweed around us. I saw my first Manx cat and was surprised to learn that many have a stubby tail rather than none at all.
And then we sailed home, once again treated to some spectacular cloud effects as the sun set over the receding island.
I have always loved to travel, to visit different places and meet new people. To have new experiences. Even a short trip like this is an adventure, more-so these days and I confess to a new sense of nervousness when travelling. Will I be able to do it? Will my restricted mobility spoil the experience, both for me and my travelling companions? And when all is ok the sense of relief and achievement enhances the enjoyment. Being away from home these days is scary but wonderful and liberating and makes me appreciate home even more. There is something so centering and grounding in coming home. Where tonight the full moon put on her own show.