Those of you who’ve been reading our blog for a while will know that Mark is a big fan of frugality. He’s a very happy camper this week, having discovered the bargains section at the Shoprite store in Ramsey.
Checking out the local supermarkets is, of course, one of the secret pleasures of many a nomadic motorhomer 😀 Shoprite is the Manx supermarket chain (no connection to Shoprite in the USA), with a number of branches across the Isle of Man. Their claim to fame is that they were the very first supermarket in the British Isles to install barcode scanners (in the early 1980s).
Mark is very enthusiastic about their marketing slogan “Shoprite. Where the riders shop”. In fact he refers to the place as “where the riders shop” as in “do we need anything from where the riders shop when we’re passing?”. The Co-op (which is the same chain as the Co-op in mainland Britain) is unlikely to be seeing much custom from us I’m afraid.
I like Shoprite because it’s slightly odd….. None of the Shoprite stores I’ve seen look like much from the outside:
To be honest, they don’t look like much on the inside either (I guess every nationality has different subconscious signals when it comes to supermarkets; to my British eye this just yells “discount store”):
Here’s where things get more interesting. Shoprite carries Waitrose own-brand products. Oh, and Iceland own-brand products. That’s a bizarre combination if ever I saw one. For the benefit of those overseas, Waitrose is the most expensive of the big supermarket chains in the UK (they do sell extremely nice, good quality food though…). Iceland is… well… the best I can say is that from their advertising I associate Iceland with very highly processed frozen foods at rock-bottom prices.
Mark did come a bit of a cropper with some corned beef from Shoprite the other day, which turned out to have been sliced at a thickness normally measured in microns. He had, of course, accidentally picked up the Iceland-branded corned beef. I don’t think he’ll be making that mistake again 😂
Anyway, back to the special offers. Last week, we picked up two lovely sirloin steaks from the Shoprite bargain section (where they sell food off as soon as it passes its “best before” date) for £1.83 each. This had obviously made an impression on Mark; we’d only done the fruit & veg section of the shop on Friday morning when he suddenly squealed very loudly “Oops! We ordered too much!” (which is what the sign on the bargain shelf says) and set off at full speed with our trolley, scattering old ladies in all directions.
When I finally caught up, I found him rummaging frantically. Our haul this time was a mini haunch of venison (reduced from £10 to £1), a pack of 12 Edwards of Conwy meatballs (reduced to 20p) and a pack of smoked mackerel (again, reduced to 20p). Crikey, that’s good 😎
The Isle of Man really is a wonderful place, and it’s very cost-effective too once you get over the price of the ferry ticket to get here. We’ve already mentioned the two motorhome parking permits that we got for £20 each (and that are valid for the whole summer season) at Mooragh Park in Ramsey and Sulby Claddagh.
On Friday we went one better and drove up to our absolute favourite TT viewing spot. Keppel Gate, between the 33rd and 34th mile markers up on the mountain section of the TT course, is a beautiful spot. It’s publicly owned land and you can park up there to watch the racing for nothing. That’s right, no money at all. You get a fabulous view of the riders swooping round two bends, and all from the comfort of your own motorhome (or your chair placed in front of your motorhome). It’s not even very busy up there (probably due to the fact that there’s no catering van and the mountain section of the course reopens about an hour later than the rest – so for those showing up on motorbikes it’d be a very long day without a burger).
We saw the final practice session on Friday night from Keppel Gate, then stayed overnight so as to be there for the first day of racing on Saturday.
Saturday’s Superbike race was a real nail-biter. Dean Harrison pulled ahead by a good margin over the first two laps but had to withdraw on the third lap with clutch problems leaving Michael Dunlop to lead the rest of the field home by a country mile. You have to wonder what would have happened if Harrison hadn’t had bike problems; Michael Dunlop certainly isn’t a man to give up without one hell of a fight….
It was a great victory for Tyco BMW, particularly following the tragic death of their other rider, Dan Kneen, during Wednesday’s practice session. Photos posted online show an uncharacteristically emotional-looking Michael Dunlop on the podium after the race. I can’t imagine how much was flying through his mind as he stood there…. Did “I wish dad could have seen this” even get a look-in given recent events? (dad Robert Dunlop was also a bike racer, killed in practice for the North West 200 in Northern Ireland in 2009).
This TT lark can be a bit hectic. As soon as the road re-opened just after 9pm on Saturday evening, we left Keppel Gate and drove down to Peel on the West coast of the Isle of Man to bag ourselves a parking spot for the night.
Peel’s a lovely little place. There was a row of motorhomes parked up on the far side of the harbour, so we joined them.
The next day, Sunday, was “Mad Sunday” on the Isle of Man. This is the Isle of Man at its busiest, and there are events going on right across the island. Before heading into Peel, though, we walked out to the breakwater; according to the grapevine on “motorhome alley”, a basking shark had been spotted. Mark had never seen a basking shark, despite having spent 18 years at sea!
We did eventually see two basking sharks, but unfortunately too far away to get a photo. At least we saw them though 😀
Peel holds “Peel Day” on Mad Sunday, with lots of stalls and free entertainment right along the promenade.
You can see Peel Castle in the background of the photo above; it’s another originally Viking-era castle. We didn’t have time to visit on Sunday with everything else that was going on in Peel, but we’ll definitely be going back to Peel later in our stay on the Isle of Man.
Naturally, this being the Isle of Man, much of the entertainment involved motorbikes. Motorcycle stunt riders aren’t really my cup of tea, but the guy below (a chap called Lee Bowers) was pretty impressive. He must have an incredible sense of balance.
The main draw of the afternoon, though, wasn’t any of the professional stunt riders but rather the proudly amateur Purple Helmets motorcycle display team.
This is wacky Isle of Man humour at its best; lots of silly capers peripherally involving motorbikes. The commentary relies on a set of well-known catchphrases: “at speeds approaching one hundred miles an hour” (whenever they’re doing something particularly slow and wobbly), “with no regard for his own safety…. or yours” and so on.
Quite a lot of their escapades involve props: wheely bin racing (wheely bins towed behind motorbikes), piano man (fat man towed around playing a piano), and so on.
One of the funniest has to be “Monster Bird”. Monster Energy sponsors the TT and the dolly-birds parading around wearing very little at the start of races are the “Monster Energy Girls”. So the Purple Helmets have created “Monster Bird”. It’s a very fat guy in a blonde wig, bit of a strappy top (from which his beer belly protrudes and wobbles alarmingly), g-string and tutu. Monster Bird pole-dances (after a fashion) whilst being towed around by a motorbike…. Since I first saw the Purple Helmets in 2016, I haven’t been able to look at the Monster Energy dolly-birds without thinking of Monster Bird……
The Purple Helmets like to describe themselves as “total sh**e”, but we beg to differ.
From Peel we’ve driven back North to Mooragh Park at Ramsey. The van is fully fettled again (all tanks emptied / filled as appropriate) and we’re ready for the next installment of racing tomorrow….