My sister has the loveliest hair in all the world; it is thick and silky and always looks perfect, except for the time she had it permed and looked like a poodle. Unfortunately for Angela, we had a family portrait during her perm phase, so her poodle-do has been immortalized for all to see on our parent’s wall.
The portrait is a bone of contention in the family, with all us kids fighting over who will get it when our parents pop their clogs. Angela and I insist it should go to Mathew, but his wife Emma won’t have a bar of it. To make matters worse, someone had the bright idea of having a second portrait taken 20 years later, so now there are two in the family estate (by estate, I mean a silver-plated soup tureen and two portraits).
Lucky for Angela, her perm grew out. I’d dearly love to show you a picture of what it looked like, but I am too scared – Angela might have a pretty face, but she could strip the paint off the Sistine Chapel with just one look. It’s fair to say the whole family are scared of her (except Dad). Her husband Neil pretends he’s not, but I liked to see him have the nerve to post a photo of her perm.
Not only does Angela have lovely hair, she is also clever and kind and lives in Cambridgeshire with Neil and their talking cat – I’m not lying, it once said Hello (Angela heard it, but Neil denies all knowledge of the incident). The rest of the clan live on the Isle of Man, which is great for Angela – as she’s close enough to visit, but far enough away to not be bothered by us all. It also means it’s a bit of a novelty when she does come over, and we each, in our own way, try to make her trip special. Mathew and Emma provide a first-rate drinking service, popular with all their guests, which consists of sitting around and getting trolleyed; Ma has home cooking and Dad for entertainment; and me – without a fondness for drink or an aging patriarch at home – I have to be creative. As such, for the trip in question, I decided I would take her on a Magical Mystery Tour – when I say I, I mean Mathew, as I don’t have a car, and Angela is too fancy for a wheelbarrow.
The Island has lots of nice places – like Castletown, Laxey, the Sound and, of course, Peel. If Ma had her way, we would definitely be going to Peel, because she is from Peel, and takes everyone who visits us, there, even if they’ve been 100 times before (which Angels probably has).
While all these locations have their merits, there is only one place on the Island filled with Magical Mystery, and that is the North, specifically Jurby – which boasts a prison, motor museum and topnotch shopping.
The evening before the tour, Angela availed herself of Mathew and Emma’s drinking service, and, when she and Mathew arrived at my place blurry eyed the next morning, it appeared she had made the most of it. Not to worry thought I, my fun-filled tour would soon jolly her along. After collecting Ma, the four of us set off for the first stop on the itinerary.
Poo Beach is where the North’s detritus is pumped out to sea – sadly, not far enough to avoid the occasional wash back. To remedy this shortfall, a new location has been found, and work on a new pumping system has begun. First, however, the old system has to be dug up.
As fascinating as this digging up process may be, it wasn’t actually what I had taken Angela to see. Rather, Poo Beach is also the site of a recently discovered World War II bomb. No doubt, showing someone a bomb would be the highlight of any tour, but, unfortunately for Angela, the Poo Beach bomb exploded some weeks before and there was nothing to see. Still, I pointed out the general vicinity of where it was found, and she seemed very impressed.
As we continued on our journey, I handed Angela her in-car entertainment…
I know what you’re thinking: how was she meant to find a wallaby on the Isle of Man? Well, it so happens, a pair of wallabies escaped from the Wildlife Park in the 1970’s, and estimates are, there are 100 or so roaming the north. There are sightings of them now and then, and rumor has it they’re gigantic. It is also rumored they are working for the government (indeed, a certain fellow, who shall remain nameless, was knocked off his bike by one, which did rather seem like a public service).
Angela, thrilled with the chance to win a prize – which, unbeknown to her, was only a KitKat (due the Magical Mystery Tour Company’s liquidity constraints) – managed to find a sheep and a cow before we arrived at our next destination.
Northern Civic Amenity Site
The Northern Civic Amenity Site (fancy for dump) was opened in 2012 at Balladoole Farm, next to, coincidently, the new Poo Beach pumping facility – otherwise known as the Northern Sewage Treatment Works. As far as dumps go, it’s pretty flash; it is always neat and tidy, with separate bins and skips for all kinds of crap, and a section where you can leave your fancy crap for other folk to riffle through.
I thought Angela would like to go there, not least because the surrounding countryside is so pretty (not that she noticed, as she was too busy looking for a Wallaby). In order to give her an authentic experience, I brought a bag of cans for her to recycle. Strange to relate, she seemed underwhelmed by the whole affair and didn’t even join me for a riffle through other people’s crap. It was her loss, as I found a pretty pottery bowl, that matched one I had at home.
Ballagennie Visitors Centre
Next we made an unscheduled stop at the Bellagennie Visitors Centre. It wasn’t on the itinerary, but Mathew said it was the scene of some goings on in his friend Chris Ewan’s book, Dark Tides, and we should stop for a nosy. Once there, we asked Mathew what precisely those goings on were, and he said that someone met someone there and then something happened in the clump of trees in the distance. Not exactly a Times Book Review, still, we all piled out the car and took a photo near the Visitors Centre.
Isle of Man Prison
The Jurby Hilton, as it is known locally, is home to the Island’s scallywags and ne’er do-wells. Situated in rolling countryside, affording fabulous views, the prison is a vast improvement on the old Victorian one, which was so cramped, inmates had to go home on weekends. Building for the new prison began 2005, and was due for completion in December 2007 – but it rained and then it was Christmas, so it opened in August 2008.
The prison received a shakeup in 2011, after an inspection revealed inmates were subject to boredom and rampant drug use; on the plus side, they got on very well with the guards. To counter this, and to combat boredom, inmates can now take art classes, earn a degree or learn a trade, and have an X-Box in their cells (though only 360’s – prison being punitive and all).
Sadly, the prison is not open to tourists, so we just sat in the carpark. Still, I could tell Angela thought it was pretty cool.
Isle of Man Motor Museum
Next we went to the Motor Museum. Opened in 2015, the Museum – covering an area of 70,000 sq ft – is home to 150 motorbikes and 150 motor vehicles, including a Greyhound Bus and a fire engine. Unfortunately, the price of the entry tickets far exceeded the Magical Mystery Tour Company budget of one KitKat, so we had to make do with looking in the window as we drove past – twice as in happens, because we got lost.
Next stop was the must have Island Shopping Experience: Jurby Junk. With the clue in the name, a whole heap of junk can be found there. Locals recommend tucking your trousers in your socks as a form of affordable flea repellent; and, if the smell of cat pee is not to your liking, a peg for your nose is advisable. Apart from that, there are some real treasures waiting to be unearthed in the cluttered aisles, where hoarding is artfully wed to commerce.
Now, I wouldn’t say Angela is a snob (at least not in earshot), but she is definitely more boutique than bargain when it comes to shopping. Nonetheless, I was perplexed she wasn’t excited when we drove into the Jurby Junk car park; rather, if I recall, shook her head, rolled her eyes and refused to go in (something she pobably deeply regrets, as Jurby Junk has since gone out of business). Still, she soon perked up when Ma bought her a vintage (read tatty) Ladybird Book on computers.
Our last stop, before heading back to Ramsey for refreshments, was Dad’s allotment – where he had spent the morning pottering, rather than join us on the Magical Mystery Tour. Dad has grown vegetables since I can remember, and has had his current allotment for the last 10 years. It’s a wee ramshackle idyll; with its lush vegetation and clean country air, it’s no wonder Dad spends most of his free time there.
My favourite thing about Dad’s allotment is seeing Quackers the duck. Quackers and her friend Nomad showed up there a couple of summers ago and made it their home. Soon after, Nomad came to a sticky end (thanks to some polecat goings on). Quakers remained, making friends with the gardeners, especially Dad. She always waddles over and says hello when he arrives, and enjoys eating out of his hand.
The Mitre Hotel
Having bid goodbye to Dad and Quackers, we headed back to Ramsey for refreshments at the Mitre Hotel. Situated in the heart of town, and sprawled over 3 floors, the Mitre is the day drinker’s paradise. With comfy seats, a pleasant view of the Harbour and fine ales on tap, one can away fritter away one’s dole money in no time.
Ange seemed pensive as she sipped her pint of lemonade; whether it was sadness that the Magical Mystery Tour was over, or the effects of her enthusiastic availment Mathew and Emma’s drinking service the night before, I can’t be sure. Either way, to cheer her up, I presented her with the KitKat – even though she had failed to find all the things on the sheet, the wallaby and skeleton having remained elusive.
Once refreshed, we took a stroll through Ramsey town, then said goodbyes and went our separate ways.
All and all, the tour was a great success, as I am sure Angela would agree. So, the next time you visit the Island, and fancy the non-stop excitement of a Magical Mystery Tour, be sure to drop me a line!