Sometimes you meet a person and, whilst you may never share another day with them, they will stay in your heart always.
Day three at the Isle of Man TT and I sit on the corner of Ballacraine. Joined by my partner, his first day, I know he is about to witness something he will never forget. His first TT practice. He doesn’t recognise it yet, that emotion is about to hit him. His anticipation, I can feel it amongst every one of us sitting in the crowd, it is electricity. But until that first bike comes past, and he feels it punch through his chest, he doesn’t know.
My first article in this series, The Pendulum, focussed on the raw essence of this event. Life and Death. But to understand the TT you have to go beyond that. You have to connect with some of the characters, the spectators, the marshals, the fans.
Don’t worry, you won’t have a choice. Awkward moments where you have to find words to strike up a conversation rarely happen here. The words find you. It is impossible not to look at the human sitting next to you and bare your soul to them. You, in this moment, are both stripped back to your innocence. Excited, in awe, desperate to share the electricity pumping through your veins. Your eyes will scream everything your soul has experienced.
Starting with the look it progresses to an ‘Oh my god’ and from there? You will discover the next piece of magic the IOM TT offers.
For me? I found that magic in Phyllis.
At 76 years old, Phyllis had been attending TT races since before I was born. As a pillion to her husband Henry, or as she fondly referred to him, Ned.
Ned had worked with Jim Curry in his early years and was an avid motor racing fan. Phyllis dedicated her life to Ned’s work and passions. Hoisting on her leathers and following him to circuit upon circuit. The pair never flew on a plane together. Phyllis had never gone further than the IOM, never seen Ireland or Paris. She hadn’t had a pint of Guinness or eaten a curry. Until this year.
Ned past away. A loss for Phyllis I can’t imagine and another story within the TT which highlights that pendulum. For Phyllis she was left having to learn so many things. Her husband had organised everything for them. Her life was planned to the minute. A few weeks after his death, her close friend suggested they get out to the IOM TT as a tribute to Ned. One last time. In his honour.
And here they were. Two women, in their autumnal years, driving a 20 foot motor-home. Celebrating the life and passion of a man they both dearly loved.
I watched Phyllis as she spoke about the practice that day. Telling me who was coming, getting excited as she heard the 2 stroke of Lougher come tearing up from Greeba. The light in her eyes as one of the riders took the corner whispering a knee on the ground. Age did not define us that day. They say the eyes are the window to the soul and looking into her eyes as we talked of past TT’s, stopping with each bike that rode straight through our hearts, Phyllis and I were the same, we were life fuelled children. Excited, free.
I cannot think of a more fitting tribute from a wife to her husband. What touched me was it was more than just a tribute. You could see that this wasn’t a trip she had made just to honour Ned. This trip was as much about her as it was anything else. She adored it. She was captured by it. She was living it. And whilst I did not know of Ned other than the stories we shared that evening, I felt him there too. In her.
What a more wonderful thing could there be for a husband than to look down on this earth and see his wife truly loving his life lived passion. Loving it in her own right.
This is what the TT does to you. It bites. Rides right up to you and doesn’t stop. It collides with you and shoots straight through you leaving a tiny bit of itself forever riding around your blood stream. You cannot resist it. And until you have experienced it, you cannot describe it. Or understand. It doesn’t care about age, race, class. These things don’t exist on the Isle of Man.
Whilst Phyllis and Ned will stay with me in my memories and as a firm part of the TT, my passion for the characters here are not exclusive to them.
I laughed with a Harley Davidson rider as we both jumped out of our chairs when an unexpected Norton kicked us in the arse with its unmistakable roar. I sat dumbstruck with a Fireman after learning of the death on my first night. I shared stories of life with the three trial bikers I sat and ate my breakfast with every morning. Our normal lives and our passion for styles of riding and types of bike, couldn’t be more different. But for this fortnight, for this race, we were all the same.
Place two humans next to each other and show them something truly amazing or truly horrific and you’ll struggle to define them. Things that truly hit the soul remove all barriers, all differences, all definition.
You will just find humanity.
That, as over emotional as it sounds, is the TT.
As for Phyllis? She’s coming back next year. She’s been on her first plane, drank her first pint of Guinness, in Ireland, whilst eating a curry. And I can guarantee she took Ned with her.
The original post is here: Ned – Huffington Post