“You ran all this way with that bag on your shoulders?”

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you just leave it at the camping spot, pick it back up after the race?”

“You could do that? Fuck me.”

I make a lot of mistakes. I guess everyone makes mistakes, it’s just that I put myself into difficult situations as often as I can, put myself under pressure, what you get is more mistakes than average. Mistakes are fun though, I doubt I’ll change.

The latest in a long line of mistakes I call life, was my plan to follow the boys.

“We’re gonna go try some new places to watch the race from.”

“I’ll come with you.”

“We are on cycles, you are on foot, with a giant bag on your back.”

“I’ll attempt to come with you.”

I had imagined that there would be some sort of a path running right along side the course that you could take, it made sense that people wouldn’t really want to get trapped at one point, so there should be something to help them move. I had forgotten I was in Isle of Man.

The boys were up and gone by the time I had loaded myself with the bag, they were on mountain bikes, and their bikes were at home. I started my slow and steady walk back down to Hillberry, taking the same path I had taken this morning to avoid running on the road during the final stretch to Creg Ny Baa.

As I approached the end of that path, I noticed the guys were lined up in front of a gate. There was a huge farm behind the gate, with a few cows grazing in the distance. They were discussing something, and as I reached the gate, I noticed them picking up their bikes and tossing them across the gate.

Oh shit.

The gate was big, probably some 8 feet high. I could probably climb it, but if I jumped down the straps were sure to break, and my shoulders with them. I watched them climb up, pick up their bikes, and keep going, one by one. Once they were all done, it was time to make a decision.

The place where I found myself now wasn’t too bad. I had a decent view of the course, and I could have just sat here till the end of the race. But of course I didn’t.

There was a small gap in the hedge near one of the gate posts, if I was somehow able to make it to that point, the jump would be about half the height, and I probably would survive. My first concern was that I was trespassing, and someone was bound to come and shout at me. My second concern was even if I somehow made it inside the farm, what would I do to get out again?

The good thing about making so many mistakes so regularly is that you’re quite confident digging your own grave.

I climbed up the gate, slowly, looking around for anyone running towards me, dogs included. The gate swung more the higher I got, but I did manage to climb onto that gap through the hedge. All that needed to be done now was to slide myself and the bag through the gap, and climb down the other side, I only realized once up there that a jump wasn’t a good idea.

I made it, although it did take a lot of pushing and pulling through the hedge. The bag straps started making love to the hedge branches as soon as they touched each other, and it was rather tough to separate the lovers. The climb down was uneventful, and now I stood inside someone’s private property.

“Those are some big cows.” 

That was the first thought that came into my head when I turned around. Cows in India look cool, pleasant, loving, these looked like direct imports from the most brutal bull fighting arenas across the world. They had looked harmless from behind the gate, once I was inside, trapped with them, things were a bit different.

On top of that I noticed that the boys themselves had stopped in the middle of the farm, a giant herd of cows blocking their path.

I had 2 options:

  1. Climb back up and out
  2. Run to the boys and hope to go across with them

Frodo, while entering Shelob’s Lair said, “I cannot go back.” So did I. It was time to run again.

I did a weird walk-run type thing, didn’t really want to spook the muscular cows. I could see the cycles getting closer, they were still trapped. As I got closer to them, I noticed a strange sensation inside my shoes. It was cold, very cold, and then I realized how truly fucked I was.

The grass was all damp, wet patches everywhere. My shoes were soaked, my socks were dripping, my feet were wet with ice-cold water.

Where did it come from? Probably the rains of the last week, or it was just the regular water tumbling down the mountainside. By the time I understood what was happening, it was already too late. I was soaked to the flesh, and chilled to the bone. This was not good.

No point stopping though, running feet are as wet as standing ones.

Just then I noticed one of the track marshals shooing away the cows, opening up the path for the bikers, and me following them at a distance. I was a bit farther away than I would’ve liked to be, but once I saw the marshal scaring the cows like it was no big deal, I got a bit of confidence myself.

I couldn’t run anymore, I had to dodge any deep pockets of water that I could, and running made a weird noise, like someone was shagging inside my shoes. I was tired, so I decided to wait by the marshal’s post to rest a bit. The boys had carried on, and I could see them pushing their bikes over the gate on the other side.

“Would you like some lemon tea?”

“Yes, please.”

“Here you go.”

The marshal opened his thermos, poured out a steaming cup of tea into the cap, and handed it to me. I took off my bag, leaned onto the gate, and sipped.

“Where are you from?”

“India.”

“Oh you’ve come all the way from India for this race?”

“No, no, I’m staying in Milton Keynes, that’s where I’ve come from.”

“Ah, coming from India sounds much more exciting, doesn’t it?”

He introduced to me to the other marshals sitting around, told me he’s been marshaling this event for 20 odd years. I asked him if he was interested in motorcycles, he said no, it wasn’t motorcycles he was interested in, it was the event, the people it attracted, and passion of the participants. Couldn’t argue with that.

While I was enjoying the tea and talking to the marshals, one of the cows had decided to eat my bag. The marshal shouted at her, and she moved aside a bit. They look big for sure, but in their eyes you see the same type of harmlessness as their Indian versions. A few more sniffs and licks of the bag, and she quickly lost interest.

The tea was hot, it took me a while to finish it. The marshal said I should volunteer to be a marshal next year, you get to be close to the action, and it’s all good fun. I washed the cap the best I could with my bottled water, and gave it back. This random person who gave me a hot beverage while my frozen feet were dragging me into depression, was also part of this island’s personality.

“You carried that bag all the way from Douglas to here?”

“Yeah.”

“Wow, you should be in the SAS!”

The marshal told me that once I crossed the other gate, I could have to take a different route as there would no longer be a path next to the course. Nothing could’ve bothered me now, I had nothing to lose. A quick goodbye to them all and I was on my way again.

There was a lot more water than before in certain sections, a lot of it probably was cow piss, but by this time any sort of warmth was welcome.

I made it to the gate, and noticed that the cycles were parked right next to it, outside. I climbed up to see their owners standing on a nearby mound, watching the race.

“You are quick! I thought we’d lost you.”

“I was right behind you guys all the way.”

This was a new point to watch the race from, and a very interesting one. You could hear them speed up from Creg Ny Baa, shifting all the way up to 6th, and then downshift one gear to take a slight left corner right in front of us. We could see them come sliding in, pick up, accelerate, shift up, shift down, down, down, and take the Hillberry turn. It was scary, one of the riders almost high-sided in front of us.

A lot is talked about just how dangerous this race is. I’m sure it looks very different from the point of view of the rider, but from the outside it looks like everyone is on the edge, and if you go beyond, there is no margin for error. If you crash on a track, you have run-off , tires and air-fences to protect you. If you crash here, you go into an electricity pole, or a tree.

You notice one more component of the Isle of Man mindset in these poles and tress, most of them exposed to the track are covered by a sort of foam, red colored, tough padding.

“There’s an electricity pole by the road, someone could crash into it and die. Let’s cover it with a thick, old, fat pad that offers no protection, and mark it red so it’s easy to target fixate on.” 

They know what they are doing.

The boys wanted to keep watching from this new place, I decided to carry on to Hillberry. They were much faster than me, I had to get a head start.

It was a long way to Hillberry, the distance was nothing if I could go straight, but I had to go in the opposite direction for a while, then run parallel to the track, and then turn the right way. I did get to go through some deserted sections of the island, saw some more spectacular houses, but by the time I made it to Hillberry, the race was almost over.

People were already getting ready to start leaving, so I found a good place to watch the last lap from.

It was quite beautiful, watching the riders push it till the very end, spectators giving them a standing ovation.

The race finally ended, the marshals then did a final lap, boy do they fly. After a long wait the road was opened again, and we all started walking towards the pits. I hadn’t managed to catch a cab in the lazy morning, it was obviously impossible to get one in the crazy now.

I saw two young boys fondling an electricity pole on the way. They were more drunk than Seth MacFarlane when he created The Orville. The world is much more fun when you watch it through beer goggles, I wish I knew how to put them on.

I have the opposite of a drinking problem, I have a can’t-start-drinking-even-though-he-really-wants-to problem.

Made it back to the pits, which were just getting ready for the party. I gave some more money to the island, bought a few t-shirts, and a hoodie. I was just walking around the shops looking for something else to pick up, when I noticed a small line in one corner of the shop. I crossed that line a few times trying to reach different parts of the store, it was probably the 4th time that I turned my head to look at the source.

Fucking hell that’s John McGuinness signing books.

There were just a few copies of his autobiography left, I instantly bought one and stood in line. It was kinda sad how small the line was, if this was a Youtuber, the line would probably have curved on itself like an anaconda, here I was, waiting to chat with John McPint, with 4 people in front of me. The world is full of stupid.

People were talking to him, taking photos with him, joking with him. What was I going to say? What could I possibly say to John McGuinness that would make sense?

I hope you get better soon? I bet he hopes that himself more than I ever can.

I am a big fan? He’s got fans like I’ve got dandruff.

How does it feel to be a 23 time TT winner? Dumb, dumb, dumb.

“Hi John, could you please make it to Aki, A, K, I?”

“Sure my friend.”

“Good luck John.”

“Thanks.”

I took no photos, and that’s all I could say to him. At least I didn’t stammer.

I had initially booked the 3 pm ferry out to Liverpool, but at the last moment I had changed that to 11:45 pm. It was a good decision, if I had to leave at 3 I would’ve missed the Senior TT, wouldn’t have got the signed copy of McPint’s book, and wouldn’t have had the lemon tea. My feet would probably have been dry, but that’s not important.

This meant that I had to lot of time to pass, so I started walking towards the ferry terminal, zig-zagging my way through Douglas. I tried to find a good restaurant where I could chill out for a bit in the warmth, but ended up eating a burger and some fries outside a takeaway, fighting with the cold wind for every bite.

It was dark, and I had nowhere else to go, so I entered the ferry terminal and things were better. The ferry was late though, due to bad weather, and I watched the crowd grow as the time went by. This was the most crowded time to take the ferry, everyone has had the same idea that I did. The good thing about being in the UK was that the size of the crowd didn’t matter, these guys love beer only slightly more than they love queues.

The ferry finally arrived, the check-in gates opened, and I went in.

“This ferry is overbooked, you will have to put your bag in the hold.” 

“Oh, let me take out some items.”

Out came the contact lens case and my charger, and we were done. I climbed on the ferry, found a seat inside the movie room with a charging point close by, put my phone on charge, took my lenses out, and instantly fell asleep. I have no memory of the voyage back home, the ferry could’ve dodged 100 foot waves, it could’ve been abducted by aliens, experimented on, and put back into the sea, I couldn’t care less. I hadn’t slept in 48 hours, had pushed my body beyond the limit. Those 3 hours of sleep were mine.

We arrived in Liverpool at 3 in the night.

I took my bag, and walked out, the city was deserted. It didn’t make sense for me to spend money to get a hotel, the plan was for my wife to join me in the morning, and we’d go some place else. I had tried to find a camping spot around Liverpool for the night, but there didn’t seem to be one. The wind was flying here just the way it was when I had left. I found a corner in front of a closed building door, took the new t-shirt that I had bought, took the new hoodie I had bought, and put them both on.

What to do now?

I saw a few taxis coming my way, and an idea came along with them.

“Hello, could you take me to the Liverpool Lime Street station please?”

I had expected that such a big station should have trains running throughout the night. I would just find a bench somewhere, catch some more sleep, and wait for wifey to arrive in the morning. I reached the station, found a bench, wore all the dry socks I had on top of each other, covered myself with my sleeping bag, and went to sleep.

“Hello, don’t you have a train to catch?”

“What? Oh, hi, no, I am waiting for my wife.”

“Your wife? Where are you from?”

“Milton Keynes.”

“So you aren’t taking any trains right now?”

“No, she’s arriving in the morning, I thought I’ll just spend the night here.”

“We’ve got the close the station, it needs to be locked up.”

“Oh, of course. I’ll pack my stuff and go outside.”

I wasn’t wearing my lenses, so I couldn’t see her face clearly, but she looked beautiful. I guess everyone looks beautiful when you are half-asleep and legally blind. She was the station manager.

I peeled myself out of the sleeping bag, she was looking at me. She either thought I was a homeless person, or that I was a security risk. My plan was to move out the gate, and sleep on the floor immediately next to it. It was raining outside, I wasn’t going anywhere far.

“Do you think you could just sleep here if I lock the gate?”

“Absolutely.”

“You’d be alone in the entire station for some 3 hours.”

“That would be OK.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

She locked me inside. I spent a night inside a giant railway station, completely alone. It’s at times like this that it helps to be an atheist. No god = no ghosts.

I was woken up around 6 am by the sound of people walking about. I decided another hour of sleep would be good. I ended up sleeping till 8 am. I was woken up by 2 more security guards, they were either concerned that I had died inside the station, or they thought I was a terrorist. I told them the same story I’d told the lady yesterday night, and they let me sleep.

I woke up finally, packed everything, and put on my shoes. They damn things were still wet. I made my way to the paid washroom, brushed, cleaned up, and put on my contact lenses. The cleaner looked at me funny, but didn’t interrupt.

I was ready by 8.30, called my wife, and she hadn’t even woken up yet. I couldn’t wait for 4 more hours for her to come, I told her to keep sleeping. Had a weird avocado sandwich at a restaurant inside, and then it was time to go back home.

“One ticket to Milton Keynes, the fastest one you’ve got.”

“That’ll be 60 pounds.”

I do not remember the return journey either, I didn’t sleep, at least not all the way, but my brain was switched off. I got off the train at Milton Keynes, and then walked 40 minutes to home. I could’ve taken a cab, but I didn’t. I guess I forgot, or that my body liked the punishment. Either way, I collapsed on the bed at home, and didn’t wake up till night.

I could have done this trip much more comfortably, but for some reason I did not. I made a series of choices, most of them to save money, that ended up with my body being destroyed. But I liked it, that I could trust my body. It complained, almost died on me a few times, but it got the job done.

The trip was over, the ring was in Mount Doom, it was done.

This is what I like to collect, this was an achievement. Whenever things go bad in life, which they always do, I remember the good times I’ve spent, remember the adventures I’ve been to, and that helps put some perspective on the immediate problems. Life is stupid, existence is a pain, the world is unfair, doing what you want to do is the only way to live. 

comments (4)

  • Reply

    January 18, 2018

    You have the writing skills !! Used to follow Dilip Bam for his style of writing and humour. Like your choice of words 🙂 🙂
    BTW when are you back from the UK?

    • Reply

      January 18, 2018

      Thanks 🙂 Not sure if I would be back, no reason to. Would rather travel to other places and see new cultures.

  • Reply

    January 17, 2018

    I like the fact that people there are friendly and let you sleep inside the station. If it was in India, they would have probably kicked people out in the rain. And not to forget, the stations are clean, unlike ghutka stained ones back here.

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