But Neil Diamond first. Three of us went to see Mr Diamond. Catherine (my sister – I was going to say my older sister, but she wouldn’t like that, so I’ll just say sister), Loreto and me. We got there around 7.30, parked the car and went in. Obviously, when you get there early you have to go to the bar. Catherine didn’t want a drink, Loreto got a wine and I asked for pint of Guinness. Sorry sir, we only have Murphys. I said OK, I’m sure it wont kill me. We finished the drinks by 8 and went in. We were warned to be on time because it would start at 8 sharp with no support and no break. 8 came and went and it started just before 8.20. I can tolerate a 20 minute delay, but not one and a half to two hours like with Cher and Michael Flatley. I vowed never to go to their concerts again.
Neil sang all his old favourites, ‘Forever in Blue Jeans’, ‘America’, ‘I’m A Believer’, ‘Red Red Wine’, ‘The Art of Love’, ‘Sweet Caroline’, ‘A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You’, ‘Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon’, and ‘Hello Again’ to a backdrop of a huge electronic diamond that changed colour and shape. It later turned into a screen to show us some old home videos of a very young Neil during ‘Brooklyn Roads’ and ‘Coming to America’. He gave us the story of two generations ago when his grandparents came to America from Russia, how he grew up over a butchers shop and was reared in an area in Brooklyn that nothing was expected from anyone. I couldn't find any decent videos of the dublin gig to show you. Instead, you can see the Cologne one from June. Even that one isn't great. Ours was a half an hour longer and the crowd was better.
At 10 o’clock, he started to wind up the show with I Am I Said and I said to myself, 'self that was a bit short', but he kept going for another 10 minutes. He came back for an encore and left again. The crowd started singing ole ole ole. He had a surprised look on his face when he came out again, sang Cracklin' Rosie and tried to wind it up around 10.30, but again, he wasn’t allowed leave the stage, so he sang some more and eventually would it up around 10.45.
We made our way out of the Point, I mean 3Arena, and I decided I wanted a hamburger. I joined a short queue and paid a fiver for the most rubbishy hamburger you could buy. Eventually, we found the car and dropped Catherine home before we went out to Skerries.
We drove out to Skerries and the plan was that when we got to Blakes Cross, I was to ring Tommy & he’d organise a taxi to meet us at his house and bring us to the pub. It went perfectly to plan. Taxi waiting at 11.30 & he brought us to Joe Mays in the harbour in Skerries.
On the way, Coke (that’s the taxi driver) told us about the accident during practice at the races. It was a horrific accident with one of the doctors. In fact THE doctor, the main one. Dr John Hinds, aka the Flying Doctor. There was more than one, but he was an intensive care surgeon and trauma surgeon who can operate on the side of the road as well as an anaesthetist. The drill is that he does a lap before each race to check the track. Then there is a single warmup lap and he does that with the riders too in order to keep the temperature up in his tyres. When the race starts he stays. Now, there is something about all these riders and their bikes. There are only two speeds – flat out and stop – and John kept up with the riders. A couple in our party, Paul Boakes and Gill Sleigh (it was Gill’s first time in Ireland), actually witnessed the accident. John’s bike wobbled and he lost control. Normally, when a rider comes off a bike, he goes one way and the bike goes another. Not in this situation. Paul and Gill actually had to step backwards in order to avoid being hit.
Naturally, all practice was called off for the night and it was doubtful whether it would take place at all on Saturday.
We made our way into Joe Mays, had a few drinks and met everyone that we hadn’t seen for a year. I think half of England must travel over for the races. Then Coke brought us home to Tommy & Annette’s.
The following morning the roads closed at 9am and the bikes started, but there was no racing, just practice. The powers that be were trying to decide whether to continue with the racing. That’s a decision I would not like to have made. However, at 11.30 they decided to continue. The racing was very subdued and didn’t have the normal sparkle.
Around lunchtime, there was a longer than normal gap between races and then we heard that Dr Hinds had died. You could sense the pure feeling of sadness everywhere. May he RIP.
The programme was upset at this stage and racing finished around 4.30 with the Grand Final, which also didn’t have its sparkle. And there was no victory lap. I like the victory lap because the riders see me and put on a wheelie show for the camera.
I take loads of photos of the races, about 460 this year. Less than half of them are any good and I met another photographer there, Tony Murray, who is even keener than me at photography.
Throughout the day, all the English gang arrived together with enough beer to sink a battle ship. Annette made a ton of sandwiches, which were scoffed at various times throughout the day.
For dinner in the evening, Annette organised loads of salads. Tommy bought pork and chicken and I made a half a ton of burgers and baked a salmon. For dessert, Ciara made a banoffee pie and Cal made flourless brownies which were gorgeous.
I’m in charge of all the barbequing and Ciara arrived around 7.30 with her stuff. There was so much food that if everyone was weighed on their way home they would have put on a few kilos.
On the Friday night when Joe’s closed the English gang brought a few bottles of spirits back to the B&B. Now I have to explain that this is no normal B&B. It won the award for being the best B&B in Ireland for 2014 and they are famous for their afternoon teas and it is located in a spot to die for. During their drinking and general merriment, they helped themselves to the kitchen before going to bed. Now it seems that one of them, and I’m not naming names here, doesn’t remember going to bed and found himself in the morning half in and half out of the bed with his trousers and jocks down around his ankles. When they went down to breakfast, the lady of the house was furious. It seems that for the afternoon tea on Saturday, she had made a speciality of hers, which is a glass with special jelly and vodka and fruit. Somebody had taken all seven of them and put the empty glasses neatly back in the fridge. Everybody said that they didn’t touch them, but our friend with the trouser problem didn’t remember a thing, so he assumed that he took them and apologised, even though he had a memory problem. I asked him did he enjoy them?
On the Sunday, the lady of the house got her mojo back and made them an elderberry jelly each for breakfast.
Sunday is going home day and Alison, Frank, Nigel, Darren, Bernie and Alistair all arrived up to the house on their bikes in full gear. They had a coffee, reminisced a bit on what they could remember and headed off to Belfast to get the ferry home. On the way home, they were stopping in Carlingford for Guinness and Oysters and I believe they stopped in Fibber Magees in Belfast.
When we left Tommy & Annettes, Loreto, Ciara, Cyril and I decided to go down to the harbour for some ice cream. There is a little café in the harbour called Storm in a Teacup. It has to be the smallest café in Ireland. Any time I have passed by, summer or winter, cold or warm, wet or dry, there is a queue outside for ice cream. So we took our place in the queue and got ice cream and lattes.
At the harbour, there were around 20 or 30 people doing a round the head swim. It was absolutely fr-fr-freezing, but they got into the water like it was the Mediterranean. It was well organised because they had a few canoes and boats with them. The wind was strong(ish) and there were currents when they turned the corner. Ciara and I walked to the finish point and looked for St Patricks footprint, but couldn’t find it. Maybe next time.
We could hear the last person to finish in the water talking to her boat support “are we there yet”. She was swimming and swimming and she wasn’t going anywhere. She was knackered, but she wasn’t giving up. I remember many years ago during my diving years, I was that same soul when I was doing my exams.
Then we drove home, back to reality.
This video was added on 9 July. It was where John gave a talk to Social Media and Critical Care Gold conference. This is worth looking at. It shows his great sense of humour and knowledge of the sport as well as his skill.
This video was added on 10 July. Such was the respect for Dr Hinds and his work that over 1000 motorcyclists and hundreds of cars, vans and buses formed a cortege for his funeral from Dublin to St Patrick's Church, Ballyphillip Road in Portaferry after they did a final tribute lap of his favourite circuit the Tandragee 100. In addition, there was an ambulance on every bridge and flyover on the route.
One of the resounding phrases used to express his achievements was "It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission"