Saturday, 20th May 2006
In fact, even that is an understatement, as the Promenade and Douglas Bay, over which our hotel room looks, is presently being lashed with rain, the ferocity of which leaves only one word to describe the day: sodden.
As I stand at the window watching a jogger in shorts and running vest battle his way head on into the wind, two thoughts simultaneously pass through my mind. First, whether all tourists are mad and, second, that the view looks depressing like the seafront at Brighton, or Cleethorpes or even Blackpool for that matter, which is to say, grey and depressing.
The crossing yesterday afternoon was not so bad. The Irish Sea was officially described as ‘moderate’, which means you have to walk in a staggering, zigzag fashion but can still make headway without clutching the nearest secure object. It is also sufficient to subdue the majority of passengers without causing a mass outbreak of vomiting. Overall, ideal conditions for people like me, who, unaffected by the rise and fall of the waves, simply wish to convert the enforced three and a half hours at sea into a valuable reading opportunity.
For some time, I have been meaning to read some of the late Dame Iris Murdoch’s work. I have a small selection in Yorkshire, harvested from Waterstone’s bookshop in Harrogate one idle afternoon last year. I did start to look at The Sea! The Sea! which won her the Booker Prize. However, for some reason I never quite got into it. I am now trying a different tack: that of reading about the author before reading her works. I do believe that it is often helpful to understand something of the writer in order to fully enjoy the literary output of that person. John Bailey’s memoir of his wife, simply entitled Iris, is easily accessible and paints an endearing picture of their life together. The crossing of the Irish Sea yesterday enabled me to get through about one third of the book without interruption. Perhaps The Sea! The Sea! will be given a second chance.
That is to say more than I would give the Hilton Hotel in Douglas. I hope that the lack of hospitality, culinary standards and choice of malt whisky will be compensated for by other attributes of the island.
At least there is now a suggestion of a break in the clouds…even if it is still raining.
* * *
Clear blue skies, a calm blue-watered bay, golden sands and the promise of a splendid sunset.
As I stand at the window, a horse-drawn tram slowly trundles its way along the Promenade, as such trams have done ever since the late 19th century. The scene is most attractive and nothing like that of this morning. To be fair, the weather improved from about mid-morning as did the hospitality of the islanders, for we have met with nothing but friendliness and courtesy ever since.
As the words of the song say, what a difference a day makes.