Matt Butler: Fetch me my cords, the TT bikers have taken the island

View From The Sofa: Isle of Man TT, ITV4

There's an old joke where Lord Nelson is standing boldly on Victory. He demands a telescope ("so I can see my enemy's eyes"), then a red jacket ("so the enemy cannot see my blood") – before the true horror of battle dawns on him. He then says, "Fetch me my brown corduroy trousers..."

In the Isle of Man TT a few pairs would not have gone astray – in the commentary box and for the spectators, as much as the riders. The race that is billed as one of the most dangerous in the world lived up to its reputation and ITV4's coverage more than did it justice.

The TT is an anachronism in motor sport. Apart from the inherent danger, it is held on the bumpy roads of an idyllic island, with sweeping views of the cold, grey sea. And a decent proportion of the riders – many from the North-west, with the odd Irishman or Antipodean thrown in – give the impression that they are merely middle-aged motorcycle enthusiasts who fancied a blatt around the land of the Manx at speeds that demand the aforementioned trousers.

The highlights coverage from ITV portrayed the peculiarities of the race – and the danger – brilliantly. From camera angles that made you duck each time a bike went past, to addressing Friday's crash, when Jonathan Howarth's bike bounced off the kerb ("near the burger van", according to Gary Thompson, the clerk of the course) and injured 10 spectators, the tone was right. It almost made you want to don the leathers, pack a tent and join the party next year – and it begged the question why the races aren't shown live.

Craig Doyle, the epitome of a pleasant frontman, hosted the shows. When surrounded by his TT cohorts – all ex-riders – he provided an island of normality in among the madness. On his own, the twee quotient would have been off the scale, but he provided welcome balance. It was unnerving to hear his voice flogging windows during the advert breaks, but hey, we all have to pay the mortgage.

During the races, the commentators, Steve Parrish and James Whitham, made their love of bikes plain. Every few minutes they remarked at how "beautiful" the engines sounded – to these untrained ears they resembled mosquitos, wasps or a squadron of Spitfires, depending on the cc-rating – and forgot themselves on more than one occasion with a "wheeee!" or "woohoo!" when a rider got airborne.

But even this pair of ex-riders did not focus relentlessly on the bikes. They allowed themselves an aside ("absolutely perfec' ") whenever a glimpse of the stunning scenery was caught on camera in the wilder sections of the course.

And during the week there was time for travelogue segments and brief interactions with fans clad in leather, looking like they took bourbon chasers with their real ale and had the entire Steppenwolf and Blue Cheer discographies on vinyl back at home. But for all the distractions from the races, the danger was never far away.

Take Wednesday's Supersport race, as we watched through Michael Dunlop's (left) on-board camera as he chased his fourth win of the week. Parrish gingerly said, as the Northern Irishman hurtled toward a hump in the road: "Do we want to ride with him?" Whitham replied, with a distinctly shaky voice: "We don't..." Dunlop did negotiate the hump without incident, but it was comforting to hear that the experts were also on the edge of their seats as the riders cheated death.

And nobody would have spoken ill of them had they demanded a pair of brown strides at the beginning of the week. Many viewers probably needed a pair by Tuesday.

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine