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Entries from August 1, 2010 - August 31, 2010


Peebles to Isle of Man

We were up early to get packed, have breakfast and get on the road. As usual I checked my elderly mothers room after she said she had everything with her and promised me £5 for anything I found left behind; I came out with her handbag and toothbrush and toothpaste. We were the only family members at breakfast after having to wait ten minutes for the restaurant to open. We did see a couple of family members as we were setting off; most of them were staying a few days longer and it was my cousin Chris' birthday today.

We had our usual stop at the excellent Tebay services and made Heysham in good time. As it was Manx Grand Prix week there were hundreds of motorbikes waiting to board the boat as well as the usual load of cars and freight vehicles. Being Manannan Executive members we are usually boarded first but this time a load of bikes and cars went on before us. I was a little puzzled by this until it was out turn and I then realised that they had been loaded on to the upper deck and we were in pole position on the main vehicle deck and would be first off in Douglas. 


Over the Forth Bridge

We set off this morning to look for some of the tourist places we’d seen signposted the day before but failed to find any of them and ended up driving over the Forth Road Bridge.

According to my iPhone there was a Forth Bridges Museum in a nearby hotel, which we set off to find. We eventually found the hotel and went to ask it reception about the museum but the reception was full of eastern European people, all dressed in kilts, attending a wedding reception at the hotel.

I eventually managed to ask a receptionist about the museum and she sighed and said the museum hadn’t been there for at least five years. Thye had tried to get the owner of the website to update the information without success so they had a steady stream of people like me looking for the long gone museum

We were slightly at a loss as to what to do next, and decided it would be interesting to take a train ride over the Forth Bridge so we set off to the nearby station. I left the car in the small station park, bought tickets from the machine and boarded the next train to Edinburgh.

The view from the train as it crossed the bridge was impressive. But you didn’t really get much of a view of the bridge itself. We soon found ourselves at Waverly Station, which is where we’d taken the tour bus from yesterday, and set off for a walk around Edinburgh.

We had lunch in the upstairs room of The Abbortsford; I remembered having the “Scottish Experience” meal last time I ate here but settled for a light meal this time around. I also washed it down with a pint of bitter and was about to order a second when I remembered I’d left the car in a train station somewhere north of the Forth estuary. 

We headed back to the station to get the next train north and after crossing the bridge again were soon back at the station where we’d left the car and were soon back in Peebles. Before going back to the hotel we had a wander around Peebles and I found myself in a shoe shop spending £350 pounds on three pairs of shoes -  not the kind of thing I’d normally do!

In the evening there were even more family members present as it was Rachel Caine’s 50th birthday celebration. This involved a few drinks and dressing up in something “funny” – in may case I was provided with a glittery bustier and a shower cap – before heading in to the rather staid dining room and a mixture of smiles and disapproving glances for the other diners.

As usual Peter Kay’s father was on the piano and he included a few suitable birthday songs. I didn’t stay up too late as we had an early start in the morning.


Firth of Forth

After a good hotel breakfast we drove to the park and ride terminus just south of Edinburgh and took the bus in to Edinburgh. I’d booked a Bus & Boat Tour and we were soon on the tour bus to South Queensferry where we waited a short while for the tour boat to arrive.

Photo: The Forth Bridge

We had a spectacular view of the famous Forth Rail Bridge and could see men working on it. Part of the bridge was covered in scaffolding and tarpaulin to protect the men while they maintained the bridge and every so often a train would make its way over the bridge.

Photo: The Forth Bridge

We were soon boarded on to the tour boat and it made its way out into the Firth. We had even better views of the road and rail bridges and then the boat headed down the firth to the small island of Inchcolm where some people for off to look around the small island with it own abbey and other people from a previous trip boarded the boat for the trip back.

Photo: Inchcolm Abbey

Once back in Edinburgh we took the park and ride bus back to collect our car and head back to the hotel where by now more family members had turned up and we had our evening meal together.


Isle of Man to Peebles

My mother and I were heading off for another annual Caine family get together in Peebles, Scotland. My wife can't make it as it's in Manx Grand Prix fortnight and she can't get time off from her job at the hospital.

This meant an early start to take the Ben My Chree sailing to Heysham and after the obligatory stop at Gretna to buy some whisky and lunch we turned off the motorway at Moffat to take the scenic route to Peebles.

There were only two other people in the Manannan Executive lounge. They were going to a reunion which was normally held in the same hotel we were going to but this year it was big reunion and it was being held in Edinburgh. Coincidentally they were also going to return on the same sailing as us.

Unlike last year when torrential rain had flooded and closed some of the roads this year the weather was fine and I enjoyed “making some progress” in the Porsche Boxster.

If my wife had been with me it would be all white knuckles and "slow down!" but my 84 year old mother was in the passenger seat and she was fast asleep after a good lunch. Once she briefly woke up and asked how fast we were going. I told her about 80 and she said "Oh, I thought it was faster than that" and then went back to sleep.

After checking in to Peebles Hydro we in to Peebles town and looked at some shops; I may buy some shoes. My mother then wanted to look at a church so I enjoyed a pint in pub next door. Such a convenient arrangement! In the evening we had our meal with six of the family.


Mark King, Level 42, reunited with his old Mini 

My friend Ian, a classic Mini enthusiast, owns a number of Minis including one of the first 500 made and also one of the last 500 made. He also owns a number of good examples of Minis spanning the years in between.

One of these first 500 Minis was bought new by the grandmother of Mark King, bass player with Level 42, and he and his sisters learned to drive in it. Level 42 were appearing at the Villa Marina in Douglas on the Isle of Man and Ian had taken the chance of emailing Mark King to see if he’d be interested in seeing his old Mini again.

Not really expecting a reply he was pleasantly surprised when within about 15 minutes Mark had enthusiastically replied saying he’d love to see his old Mini. An afternoon meeting was arranged at the Mount Murray hotel on the day of the concert and Ian asked me to come along at take some photos.

We arrived early at the hotel and took the cosseted Mini off the trailer and attached L plates to the car for a laugh as Mark had learned to drive in it. As we were still early we went in to the hotel for  coffee and at the appointed time we went to the reception to wait for Mark. We had expected him to be arrive late, possibly with some of “his people” but were pleasantly surprised to find him already there, waiting by himself.

Photo; Mark King and Ian Sim discuss the Mini's history

We headed out to the car park to see the car and Mark and Ian chatted about all things Mini (I’m not really al that into them so a lot of it was over my head) and Ian caught up on the early history of the car.

Photo: Mark King rips up the L plates

Mark then had a quick drive around the hotel car park and then Ian declared he’s passed the test again and Mark then ripped up the L plates.

In the evening Ian, Mary (Ian’s wife) and I went to the Villa to see Mark and Level 42 in action. I’d never really been into Level 42 but I did recognise some of the tracks; the bass player of the support band had worked with me many years ago and had been a huge fan of Mark’s unique playing style. I did download their greatest hits album off iTunes the next day.