Living Arrows 38/52

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth

Kahlil Gibran

I had been thinking we haven’t been up to much since we got back from our USA holiday but then I remembered we did something great at the weekend. We went to the World Superbike Race in Portimao at the weekend. The track is only a little over an hour away from us here in Portugal and the weekend paddock and stand tickets were cheap as chips.

BattleDad and I have been to the Isle of Man TT twice before but this was our first WSB meet. It was also someone’s first big motorbike race meet. We brought him to Aberdare Races last year but WSB is on a whole other level. He wasn’t sure of the noise at first but soon got into it. And he even got a picture with the Yamaha pit girls, although he doesn’t look overly fussed does he!

We are thrilled that we have a race track so close to us here in Portugal. Just another advantage to add to the list. All we need now is for a MotoGP race to be sceduled for Portimao and we’ll be as happy as Larry. That said, Jerez is only two hours away!

living arrows - BattleKid with the Yamaha pit girls at Portimao living arrows - An excited BattleKid at WSB at Portimao

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Aberdare Bike Races – BattleKid’s First Motorbike Race Meet

On Saturday 30th July this year we went to Aberdare Bike Races. Now BattleDad and I have been quite a number of years ago on a Sunday afternoon and it was really good. We quite enjoyed it and, as it was our first race meet before we went to the TT for the first time, it gave us a good idea of what to expect when going to the Isle of Man. We decided to take BattleKid this year because he is two and a half years of age, motorbike mad and we thought this year would be a good time to take him to see whether or not he would enjoy it.aberdare bike races

We decided to go early in the morning in case BattleKid didn’t enjoy it, as there are still times that he gets a little uneasy when BattleDad starts up his own bike. If he did enjoy it we could stay until lunchtime and still be back in time for BattleKid’s nap at the afternoon, if he didn’t then we could leave early enough. We arrived about 9:30 in the morning and made our way through the gates into the park.

We had booked our tickets online which was really handy. When you first go into the park, if there are bikes going around the track, you need to wait by the gates until the bikes have completed their laps. Only then do the Marshalls let you through into the middle of Aberdare Park where spectators are allowed and where the merchandise stands and food stalls are located.

We waited with everybody else by the gates until the bikes had completed their practice laps and this gave us a chance to see how BattleKid would take to the noise. Lolo was over visiting us from Ireland so he took him up into his arms and made a game of the bikes going around. By doing this, not only did BattleKid get really excited but it calmed any nerves he had. He did get a little fright when one of the bikes backfired but he soon got over it.

Once the bikes had finished their laps, the Marshalls opened the gates and let us through, and the first thing we hit was the playground. BattleKid had an absolute ball going up and down the slides, having fun on the swings as well, all while the bikes were doing their practice laps. The morning session is practice session and race laps are in the afternoon.aberdare park races

After a couple more goes on the swings we decided to make our way to the merchandise stands because BattleDad wanted to see a friend of his who would be on the Institute of Advanced Motorists stand. Unfortunately his friend wasn’t there yet but this gave us a chance to check out some of the clothes stands. I picked up a lovely Honda jacket for him for next year.

We also had time for BattleKid to have his first ever carousel ride on his own. He had a very serious face on him going around. After that we took another walk around the stands, stopping by the quad bikes track for the two boys to have a ride together. I think it was more for BattleDad than BattleKid, if we’re being honest!

BattleKid had a very serious face on him again as he and BattleDad were going around the track. It was quite funny looking at his little serious face with the very big helmet they had put on his head but they both seem to enjoy it.

After that we had another little wander around before walking around the lake and stopping by the side of the barriers to watch some more of the bikes doing their practice rounds. BattleKid had been getting a bit tired before this. However once we got to the side of the barriers he got a second wind and started really enjoying watching the bikes going round and round doing their laps. We watched a few more rounds of practice before we decided to head for home.aberdare park races

aberdare park races

aberdare park races

 

Although we didn’t spend too long at Aberdare Bike Races this year, it was a good introduction for BattleKid and he seemed to really enjoy it as did Mum, Dad and Lolo. We will definitely be taking him back next year when we will probably spend most of the day there as he won’t need his nap. Going to Aberdare Bike Races this year gives us a good idea that BattleKid will enjoy motor racing in the flesh. He enjoys watching the TT and MotoGP on the TV but seeing bikes up close and personal is a different story. This year’s visit to Aberdare Races also gets us excited for when we finally get ferry tickets for the Isle of Man TT, which we haven’t managed to do this year! One year soon we’ll get ferry tickets! They are the hardest part of trying to attend the TT.

Aberdare Bike Races are held on an 0.9 mile demanding circuit which winds it’s way through the trees in the local town park. First raced in 1950, it has seen not only local racers participate but also TT stars such as Ian Lougher and John McGuinness. This year it cost £12 per adult for a single day pass, or £23 for a full weekend adult pass. Under 13’s went free when accompanied by a full paying adult and children between 13 and 16 years of age cost £5 for a day pass.

There are numerous food stalls, plenty of merchandise stands and some fairground-type attractions for kids. There is no car parking at the park, although there is some limited space for bikes at the entrance. There are car parks in the town, less than half a mile away and you might be lucky to find some street parking around the park.aberdare park races

So if you are a biking family and plan to visit South Wales in July, I’d recommend you visit when Aberdare Bike Races are on. We’ll definitely be attending again next year. I also recorded a little vlog of our visit to the races this year which you can view below.

Thanks for reading.

Cath x

*We were not asked to write this post.

 

What TV does your toddler watch?

BattleKid is 23 months old and hasn’t really paid too much attention to TV at all until a few months ago. If it happened to be on he might look at what was on the screen for a minute or two and then he would carry on what he was doing. He used to watch BBC Breakfast in our bed during morning bop time but aside from that he hadn’t really ever shown much interest in television. Apart from one thing.

In June BattleDad and I were watching the highlights of this year’s Isle of Man TT and everything suddenly changed. BattleKid stopped dead in his tracks, forgot what he was doing, backed in to sit with us and watched it for 20 minutes before getting bored. That had never happened before. 2015-06-23 14.45.01We thought it might be a once off but the next time we had a MotoGP race on he stopped playing and sat down with us to watch almost a full race!

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Watching our idol Valentino Rossi do a post-match interview!

Since then he has become motorbike mad and is always asking for bikes on the TV in the sitting room where we tend to watch motor racing on a Sunday. So much so we’ve taken to recording BSB and WSB races too for weekends when MotoGP isn’t on. You’ll often hear a little “oh no” as someone crashes or runs off the track from a small person in the room. It’s very cute. We always knew we’d have some influence over motorbikes in BattleKid’s life but never imagined he’d take to them as passionately as he had at such a young age!

Aside from motorbike racing he hasn’t bothered with anything else. Not Doc McStuffins (on of my favourites of modern kids tv), not Disney films, not even Cbeebies. That is until his Nan sent him George during the summer and he discovered, by accident, that George is also on the TV, talking and doing things. 2015-07-30 18.12.10Now he’ll happily sit in our snug room or lie on our bed to watch an episode of Curious George, or “Jorge”, often with his own George firmly planted by his side.

It’s quite sweet to see him get excited when George appears on the TV and also funny how everything goes quiet once the opening credits stop and the episode begins.

I’m actually grateful that he doesn’t watch more TV at this young age and that he’s more interested in playing with his bikes and cars than sitting in front of the TV for hours on end. I’m sure it won’t last forever and that TV will probably become a battle ground over number of allowed viewing hours. But for now I’m happy that he catches the odd episode of Curious George here and a motorbike race there.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to reliving my childhood on the sofa under the blanket with popcorn when BattleKid becomes interested in movies. The Disney classics are on our shelves ready for those days ahead. Until them I’m happy with what he chooses to watch and how much.

What TV programmes do your toddlers watch, if any?

Isle of Man TT

It’s that time of year again when the best road racing event in the world takes place. The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT) was first started in 1907 and has become a firm favourite of mine!

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BattleDad and I first attended the TT in 2011 during the centenary year of the mountain course, and it literally sucked me in and refused to spit me out. It is a time trial race, run typically at the end of May/beginning of June and its course takes place over a distance of 37.73 miles on closed public roads. Riders set off 10 seconds apart, complete 3, 4 or 6 laps depending on class of bike, and as well as various classes of motorbikes, there are also side cars as well.

You may think this a strange thing for a female to be so passionate about but I simply love it. Ever since BattleDad and I watched the highlight dvd of the 2010 TT, when Ian Hutchison became the first rider to win all five solo races, I’ve been hooked with the excitement and madness that is the IoMTT!

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Soon after watching that dvd we booked to go the next year for 3 days, when the most prestigious race would be on, the Senior TT race. We had such a great time in 2011, that as soon as we got home we pre-booked the ferry to go for the whole of race week in 2012. And what a week it was. As per usual, the weather was as unpredictable as the race winners themselves. We had glorious sunshine, fog, high winds and driving rain all mixed into one week!

Waves on Ramsay seafront in 2012
Waves on Ramsay seafront in 2012

The Isle of Man is a great place to visit, even outside of the TT fortnight. While there we have toured the island and my two favourite places are Peel and Ramsay, both on the coast, with fishing harbours (my love of fishing boats again). So even if you don’t like motorbikes there’s still things to see and do.

Having stayed near the Grandstand at the start/finish line the year before, we decided to stay at a campsite near the famous Ballaugh Bridge in 2012. I also bought us tickets to watch the races from Creg-ny-Baa fan stand with friends who were also attending. That was a great day. It was also the first time I’d watched side cars in action and I developed a new found respect for them. They are crazy loons, the pair of them. What possesses someone to hang off the back of a side car is beyond me, let alone race inside one, but I’ve total respect for them!

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Meeting Gary Johnson at Ballaugh Bridge 2012
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Gary stopping to sign BattleDad’s jacket

The 2012 week was great. We got to meet and share a beer with Gary Johnson after he broke down at Ballaugh Bridge during the Superstock 2 race. Plenty of pictures were taken.

BattleDad also got meet quite a few of the other riders too when I surprised him with tickets to the VIP tent on Senior Friday. Unfortunately the weather was so bad that they postponed the race to the Saturday (and subsequently cancelled it for the first time ever due to more bad weather on the Saturday), so many if the riders showed up at the tent and got a chance to relax. We had lunch there and many of the riders did a meet-and-greet round of the tent after lunch, during which time BattleDad got them to sign a bike jacket of his while I took pictures. He managed to get quite a few signatures including John McGuinness, Bruce Anstey, Guy Martin and also Cal Crutchlow of MotoGP!

Cal Crutchlow, riding them for the Tech3 team
Cal Crutchlow, riding then for the Tech3 team

It’s hard to explain why I love the TT so much. I guess it’s partly down to the thrill of the races, the great almost festival like atmosphere, and the fact that everyone attending is friendly and is there for the same reason as you. For that short period of time every year, you all have one big thing in common; your love, passion and respect for the IoMTT races and those on two wheels navigating public roads at speeds of up to 200mph.

And they are just that, public roads with all their faults and the potholes that go with them. I’ve driven a lap of the course and even feeling the road underneath you in an Audi A5 is nothing compared to what the riders can feel underneath them at high speeds.

They are crazy.
They are mad.

It’s scary just to watch it but also exciting at the same time. All of our friends who have attended have come away loving it like we have.

And we all have our favourite riders. Personally, I have two. King of the Mountain John McGuinness who has won 21 TT races up to the time of writing, only 5 behind the TT legend that was Joey Dunlop. He’s an all-round, genuinely nice guy. And Wolverine himself, Guy Martin who has yet to win a TT. He came across as an unsociable, arrogant guy at the 2012 meet-and-greet when he refused to walk around the tent. But having read his autobiography I understand and respect why he was like he was. I still love him as a road racer.

James Hillier bottoming out at Ballaugh Bridge 2012
Ian Hutchinson bottoming out at Ballaugh Bridge 2012

BattleDad loves John McGuinness but also likes Cameron Donald (top bloke, very friendly guy) and Bruce Anstey, another great rider.

The one to watch this year is Michael Dunlop, of the Dunlop riding dynasty. He did really well last year, with 4 wins and a third out of the 6 solo races. Currently on 11 wins, he is the one everyone will be watching over the next 10 years to see if he can equal or better his uncle Joey’s record of 26 wins.

The Isle of Man TT is like no other event in the world. As well as the road races, the IoM incorporate a festival into the fortnight, with events on in Douglas seafront every night, music, and air demonstrations over Douglas. We witnessed a Vulcan B2 bomber show off its aerial skills during 2011. The end of the festival and races culminates in a spectacular fireworks display in Douglas.

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The atmosphere all over the island is electric and it really is a great place to be during those two weeks each year. The only down side is trying to book your ferry for when you want to go and the cost of it. You need to try to book a year before you want to go as soon as pre-booking opens, and if you’re going by car like we did, dates are few and far between due to preference given to bikes, and therefore limited spaces for 4-wheeled vehicles. As for accommodation, as long as you don’t mind camping, you’ll pretty much find a space to pitch your tent somewhere.

We haven’t been since 2012 due to being in Cuba in 2013 and the arrival of BattleKid in 2014, but we do plan to bring BattleKid to his first TT in the next few years. In the meantime he’ll get an introduction to it from the highlights on ITV4. If he takes to it like he has MotoGP, we’ll be two very happy parents!