The Derelicts Tour the Isle of Man
And So it begins… Let loose the dogs of Tour
The sedate old seaside town of Douglas had never seen anything quite like it. The Tour bus had just disgorged onto the pavement along the seafront a barking, yapping, wagging, bouncing array of what could best be described as excited dogs.
There were no pups, these were older hounds. Guard dogs, pet dogs, working dogs, retired dogs, boy dogs, a couple of lady dogs, tall dogs, small dogs and even a sick rather distempered dog. And they were falling over themselves and turning tricks as they grabbed their luggage from the bus, playfully growling as they bounded up the slope to a pair of the finest Isle of Man hotels that, fortunately, took dogs.
The pack of hounds, mostly cross-bred, were under the loose control of a pair of handlers – a tall pencil-shaped canine called SatNav and Nozza the Scottie with a penchant for chasing motorcycles. The pair, with the assistance of a slightly drooly Old English Setter called Jonah had organised the whole trip from start to finish with plenty of walks and treats, games of fetch and guess the butt-hole laid on so that nobody got bored or was tempted to escape or destroy their bed or foul in the lobby.
What could possibly go wrong? Exactly. Nothing could possibly go wrong. The Isle of Man is, after all, home of the TT weekend where motorcycling meets the third circle of Dante’s Inferno … the bit where participants are damned for degradations including gorging on food, drink and other worldly pleasures. Making it a top touring venue surely?
After an early start at Gatwick lapping up the fermented yeast by-products, the pack sat panting patiently in steerage for the short flight into the middle of the God-forsaken Irish Sea, before emerging in the 1970s. “Is this Greenland?” asked Jerry – a Jack Russell type – proclaiming “Not quite such a hole as the Isle of Wight, but close.”
“Let’s play bite yer ear,” suggested a gnarled old doberman called Botty, who along with Dave the talkative farm dog, fun-loving lurcher DC, Rodley the disobedient beagle and a dishevelled St Bernard from Reigate called Mikey, formed a breakaway band of clever dogs. For if not enough entertainment was provided, they simply made their own… from ransacking bins to unlocking cars and rolling over and over and over in fox poo. Not all the other dogs liked to play with the clever dogs, for fear they might miss dinner or cop for some of their chaos.
“To my right,” somebody barked and Raymondo – a schnauzer-pug cross in a certain light – obliged by downing his freshly-poured pint. “To my right,” he burped… and so it went on round and round the bar until everybody was downing their drinks with gusto, and the party began to gain speed in the fashion of a fairground octopus ride. Which would be thrilling. And possibly vomitous.
“Right, listen up,” said Margaret some hours later, “we meet for lunch at Jak’s at 1, it’s just down there and after that you’re free to go for colonic irrigation, a pedicure or decent scratch…
“I’m going to eat my lunch and chase girls… hoy hoy hoy. Bonkers!” declared Brendan, an excitable hound new to the rules of Tour. “Is baked bean juice an aphrodisiac… hoy hoy hoy?” Eyebrows were raised.
Lunch was voted agreeable and we ventured back to the bar area where, sure enough, the clever dogs had spent the time smearing most of their lunch over themselves while DC had liberated a large black eye-liner pen to adorn himself and anyone within reach.
The afternoon games of chasing tails and fetching items lobbed across the bar had petered out, the beer mat challenge had been won by the junior wolfhound Wolfie who unhinged his massive jaws to somehow wedge 64 mats between his fangs. Runner up Shenton-the-Acceptable looked bewildered and with his chihuahua features, not unlike a chocolate chip muffin.
Fed, watered and giddy, the pack were shooed out hoping to get the scent of fox but were quickly diverted by the whiff of other interesting smells and mischief and dancing, lapping up a steady succession of irresistible beverages around Douglas before staggering back to the kennels to breathe garlicky naan breath over the stragglers in the hotel bar who, alarmed by the dishevelled condition of the clever dogs, promptly declared they were going dancing. There was a stampede for the exit.
And by the time they returned to their beds the clever dogs had long ago passed out twitching in their dreams and snoring. Unluckily for Huggy hound, there would be no rest. He’d been forced to share with that mongrel Mozza. Arriving home Huggy had been confronted by the rattling of window panes. He repeatedly barked “shut up you noisy twat”. But to no avail.
Match Day… Mad dogs and Englishmen
Dawn broke, as dawn does when you’ve given the liver a full stress test, like being welcomed into a raging storm of panic by a piercing scream. Many of the dogs fled towards the front where mercifully a warmish breeze blew gently off the millpond-flat sea beneath a sky as blue as crystal meth. And soon we were back in business.
A hearty breakfast was woofed down over discussions of the night before where clues emerged, dimly remembered, via unexplained stains, missing garments and ribald anecdotes. Greedy, a cheerful-natured retriever who shared a taste for chasing motorbikes with Nozza, thought he’d finished the night off with a pillow fight with Margaret. “That’s the only explanation I can find for the feathers stuck to my anus,” he said proffering a bemused smile of approval.
Then it was time to go and board the coach to take us to Peel. Then apparently it wasn’t. So back to the bar for sharpeners where Brendan declared “I’ve just eaten an entire apple… hoy hoy hoy” and bounced off to count the optics behind the bar. “Did you know I once found a magic ring hidden in a cave… hoy hoy hoy. Bonkers!” Eyebrows were raised.
To describe the coach driver as lack lustre would be most unkind. And inaccurate. To be precise he was monstrously deluded. After describing the umpteenth bland, modern-looking nondescript home as a former pub we sort of got the picture. The island it seemed once consisted mostly of pubs, but now consisted mainly of dullards driving tourists around in coaches. Or something.
And then he strayed onto his specialist subject of the Isle of man TT where on one stretch we passed he declared “bikes are flat out here and cover a mile in 10 seconds”. At which point those dogs who were not completely barking did the maths. “That means riders are going at 360mph,” scoffed Doc dog and questioned: “Should a medicated man really be in charge of such a big passenger vehicle?”
At the mention of the TT, Nozza’s ears pricked up and he took control of the mic to silence Mr Boring Trousers. Noz’s eyes then glazed over as he regaled us with tales of chasing extremely fast bikes and the technicalities of chasing them without getting run over, helped in his narrating by his Highland Terrier chum Bruce who had eagerly joined the pack as translator.
And the journey almost flew by as we passed non-pub after non-pub, punctuated by moments in TT motorcycle history with no discernible sign of motorcycles. Nor pubs. Broomy, a Welsh terrier and our resident publican was unimpressed. “What a joyless dump,” he declared.
And then we were in Peel marvelling at a pub that, mercifully, had remained a pub and not been converted into a retirement home or prison or walk-in clap clinic or bunker for sad people who once ran pubs. And it transpired the harbour-side hostelry doubled as the Western Vikings’ clubhouse. Huzzah! Only trouble was, no pitch. So, gasping for refreshment, we were dropped up the road at a building which probably had a bar when it was a pub, but didn’t now that it was a modern secondary school. Luckily the Vikings – a very agreeable bunch – pre-empted any mutiny and got supplies in via a pitchside van to keep the spectators hydrated, while the playing contingent went off to change.
Due to logistical problems it seemed that the Derelicts would field a side consisting mostly of forwards. Elderly dogs mainly, led in spirit as they had been for decades by Skip – a lurcher – still wry, spry and plying his trade in the second row unfettered these days as ever before by style or strategy.
And before long the cheerful hum of badinage had been infused with the whiff of hot sauce ointment liberally applied, smears of Vas and miles and miles and miles of electrical tape to hold creaking limbs and joints together. Bushey – a rogue staffy – took his extra padding precautions especially seriously and waddled around the changing room like a lagged tank. In short, we were ready.
The view from the pitch was as good as any in the world, not unlike that from the Big Field as we look north. The playing surface was firm, yet soft and unusually for the island it was bathed in sunshine as battle ensued. And what a battle it was. Two sides consisting mainly of fat, bald and soon to be bald and fat men playing with enthusiasm and out of position. The Derelicts have, it is fair to say, come up with more cunning plans over the years, but “get it to Will” had something about it. In this case, the young fella’s speed and strength proved just the ticket as each time the Vikings muscled forward, turnover ball came back to the Derelicts got spun to Wolfie Jnr in the centre who crashed through to feed Will the working husky who proceeded to meep-meep his way in Roadrunner fashion through the back field to score. Something like that.
There were some outstanding passages of play and the commitment was immense from everybody. Everybody! The Cartaahh Brother collie-crosses were on form, none more so than Cartaahh The Larger in only his second full game ever showing great skill and power. Brendan was bravery personified diving headfirst, arguably foolishly, onto a loose ball surrounded by flying boots. “Ouch… hoy hoy hoy!”
Dave the farm dog was up to his usual tricks. “In that last ruck my finger went right up the big bloke’s nose. Here look at that bogie.” Greedy, Doc and Margaret put in strong shifts and Rodley the disobedient beagle controlled everything from scrum half. “I think that calls for port,” he declared after the first 20-minute session, and again after the second and indeed the third… by which time the Derelicts trailed 22-29 thanks to Will’s wheels.
The ref had had an immense day, shaking off signs of early onset dementia to marshall the elderly gents most effectively and thoroughly enjoying himself, unfettered by the need to keep score. “That’s 13-16 to Vikings,” Sir asserted. “No it’s not Sir, it’s 22-29 to Vikings.” “Oh, thanks ever so…”
With moments to spare it fell to Jerry to wriggle over the line for the decisive levelling try and bragging rights that would see him barking and yapping all night about that golden moment. Nobody paid much attention.
So 29-all probably and off to the pub for a nosh, a decent singsong and some ridiculous game dreamed up by Botty, DC and wily old terrier Citizen Kane that involved forfeits. Either drink a half pint or have your nose flicked four times by everyone around the table, the choice somehow being out of the victim’s hands.
Singing continued on the coach back followed by another curry, notable for the fact Skip failed to finish – for the first time in Derelicts’ memory – his mountainous plate of pilchard masala. “I wasn’t happy with the balance of turmeric and clove,” he mused.
And from there we wobbled back into Douglas to find Nozza’s most favourite bar on the island ever, which proved slightly problematic because some bastard had moved the streets into the wrong order.
Eventually we landed in an alarming neon-lit establishment. Here all the troubled boys and girls at school who sniffed glue or wore spider fringes or wiped bogies on windows or ate nothing but chicken nuggets were destined to end up socialising as adults with black-eyed girls dressed as smack addicts or part-time pole dancers or Alice In Wonderland extras.
Noz eventually toddled back from the bar with a tray containing an eclectic selection including a schooner of sweet sherry, a half of Guinness, two Dubonnets with ice, a pair of pickled eggs… and a pint of cloudy cider that tasted of onions but smelled of piss… which on closer inspection appeared to be the years-old juice from the pickled eggs’ jar. His puzzled eyes tried manfully to focus on what he’d inadvertently purchased. “You sure this is the right place Noz?” “Well um… not sure these folk were here last time,” admitted the biker boy. “Have an egg!” And with that we turned on our heels and caught up with Greedy – sporting a selection of tulips from his waistband – and the rest of the crew in something called The Courthouse, a bar boasting the stickiest floor in the British Isles, and proceeded to dance awkwardly with abandon and shiz until the small hours..
Day three of Tour – One step beyond… Let sleeping dogs lie
Grown men are sobbing. It is the day of tour when chaps are broken and prone to revealing their life stories. And indeed rewriting them. “I was a mad sad little lost boy with no eyebrows but here with you guys I finely feel I’ve been accepted into the gang,” sniffled White Rabbit whippet. “Me and my twin brother were Page 3 fellas in The Sun once,” Skip revealed with dewy eyes. “All I’ve ever asked for in life is a nicely pressed pair of slacks and a proper explanation of string theory,” mused Jonah. “I think I’ve lost a toe,” shrieked Reigate Mike, then realising it was in fact hidden in the shade of his table.
Brendan: “I’ve managed to wear three pairs of underpants today. Isn’t that bonkers… What’s the correct reply when someone calls you a cock thistle?” Eyebrows were raised.
The rest is hazy. We were certainly on the coach with our peculiar friend pointing out the obvious. “House… used to be a pub.” Someone may or may not have put up a bounty to silence him. We arrived at Laxey to see the famous wheel, which sounded massively underwhelming so a breakaway group took a precarious journey to the top of the island in a rickety wooden train. Nice views, fresh air, brazen shysters charging marooned tourists ten quid for a bowl of tinned soup.
Wolfie’s distemper was by now quite severe so the lads did the decent thing and blanked him for his attention-seeking behaviour, Jerry observing: “Thanks for looking like that Wolfie, makes the rest of us look quite decent.” Which was, of course, a matter of conjecture.
Sobbing inwardly, tails between their legs, ears flat, eyes mad… their throbbing cerebral cortexes pumped electronic alarm signals throughout their raddled bodies and minds. Feelings of anguish, loss and nausea competed for attention with sweats and shakes… and one central thought repeated over and over in a loop of doom. “What have I done to myself? Oh dear lord what have I done?”
Squad: Wolfie Jr, Doc, Botty, Broomie, Tumtum Le Bushe, Get Cartarrhh, Cartarrhh the Larger, DC, Bruce On the Loose, Greedy, Glenda, Jerry the Oompa Loompa, White Rabbit, Huggy, Jonah, Senior Citizen Kane, SatNav, The Millar’s Tale, Mozza, Nozza, Reigate Mike, Rodley, Shenton The Acceptable, Wolfie Sr, Will.I.Am, Raymondo, Roz, Barmy Brendan, Ave Maria, John The Bassist, Farmer Dave, Twizzle, Otis, Skip