Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Isle of Man

I was toodling around on Wikipedia because of a project I'm working on, and I ended up having to look up the Isle of Man, where they speak a surviving Celtic language called Manx.

I'd heard of Man before, but I'd never thought it through properly. This place is a tiny island off the coast of England with a population of 80,000 and it's a country of its own!! It's got what some people say is the world's oldest continuing parliament (the Tynwald, in operation since 979!) and its culture is a special fusion of Nordic and Celtic elements.

Has anyone ever been there? Now I'm dying to go. I guess I'll have to put this on my List of Crazy Islands to Visit for Random Reasons. (Not a short list.)


Charlie Stross said...

There's currently a bit of a fuss going on because although the Isle of Man is technically in the EU, homosexual acts are illegal there (unlike the UK and Ireland). They're also still in the throes of trying to abolish feudalism (in the technical, legal sense -- it only went out in Scotland about a decade ago).

Haven't visited it (despite doing Jersey and the Channel Islands) -- won't be going there until they drag themselves kicking and screaming into the 20th century. A shame; I gather the Isle of Man TT race is one of the truly great motorcycle road races.

pacatrue said...

I love the name of your island list. I've got a bunch of them on there too.

Conduit said...

Blimey, this is a long comment - you just unleashed a truckload of memories for me...

My earliest memories, which come in fragments like torn up photographs, are of a holiday to the Isle of Man. My family went there several times when I was little. It used to be a favourite holiday destination for people from Northern Ireland because it was a relatively short trip by ferry, and cheap. It's not so popular now that more working class families can afford to fly to Spain or Greece, or even Florida, for their vacations, but I imagine the little island will see an upturn in tourism as the recession kicks in and the cost of flying rises. Douglas, the island's capitol, is a popular destination for stag and hen weekends (I think you guys call them bachelor or bachelorette parties?), and quite a few older folks retire there. The biggest event is the Isle of Man TT, one of the world's greated and most dangerous motorcycle road races. It's also a tax haven, with many wealthy people claiming residency.

Here's some random stuff I know or remember...

One of those early memories I mentioned is of the mountain railway. I can just about picture the train itself and the interior of the car. Apparently I was two years old during that holiday. Another fragment is of chasing pigeons along the seafront.

The last time we went there I was six years old, and I annoyed my mother greatly by hailing every taxi I saw, forcing her to make a small journey each time out of embarassment - I just loved riding in the little vintage cabs. I also loved the horse-drawn trams, which still run to this day.

During that holiday I got a bad case of sunstroke (this would have been the late 70s when such a thing was still possibe in our climate) and spent at least one day throwing up all over the single room my entire family shared in a little guest house. The reason my parents, who were very poor, went to the expense of getting the ferry to the Isle of Man that year was because we'd gone to Portrush on the north coast of Northern Ireland the year before, and spent a good portion of the holiday sheltering under our beds as the IRA inflicted a bomb blitz on the town. I would have been five that year, and I remember crying and begging my mum to take us home as the windows shook with the blasts, and the next day holding her hand as we walked past a fire crew spraying down a burning church on the next street.

I remember the ferry from Belfast (or was it Larne?) to the Isle of Man got hit by freak storms, with mountainous waves, and I remember every single passenger, including me, puking all over the place. The toilets were jammed full of people trying to find somewhere to throw up, and I remember having to step across running streams of vomit - nice image, eh? As I recall, we were very glad to reach Douglas.

Sorry to leave it on such an unpleasant note, I've got a bunch more recollections, but I think that's enough from me!

Lisa said...

I don't know anything about it other than the fact that it's home to the kitties with no tails.

JES said...

Whew -- saw the title of the post and thought this was going to follow the theme of the previous one. :)

I used to know a lot about the Isle of Man, for a book I was working on years ago. Have pretty much forgotten it all and anyhow, Stuart's got the goods. (But also -- I think there's still an active... monastery? on the island... partially the subject of Tony Hendra's Father Joe book, if I remember aright.)

cindy said...

i actually just came across the isle of man during my research on sea myths and folklore. i asked the hub if he's been, but he has not. i know my pen pal from england has gone for sure.

don't you love coming across something totally new but so old and different? yay for research! you can add it to your list of countries to visit. =D

Cakespy said...

What other islands are on the list?

moonrat said...

well, i'll try not to bore you TOO much, but some of them include

the Orkneys
any of the Filipino

that's a quick smattering. but i can't go into reasons here. except in the case of zanzibar.

when i was 6 there was a song that played on public radio as we were driving to a relative's house on thanksgiving. it went like this:

zanzibar, zanzibar
zanzibar is really far
you can't get there in a car
it's too far to zanzibar

in zanzibar they grow tea
why they do, don't ask me
it's off the coast of afrikee
in zanzibar they grow tea

in zanzibar they grow cloves
what they're for, i don't know
[something something something something'
in zanzibar they grow cloves

needless to say, it must have caught a 6-year-old's imagination, because i still, um, remember pieces of it.

Mags said...

Yeah, when I was six or seven I started hankering to go to Bora Bora just because of the name.

I still do, for many reasons, but primarily just because of the name.

JES said...

Ha ha, after that rendition of the Zanzibar song I'm kinda glad you're limiting the descriptions of the others.

I always loved the sound of "Madagascar"; haven't been able to bring myself to see the movie because I'm afraid they're going to work the word into some song which will be etched in my brain.

Charles Gramlich said...

I used to watch the Isle of Man motorcycle race every year. Does that count?

Bookbogan said...

I visited for about a week a number of years ago for Christmas. It is beautiful, and I look forward to taking my fiancé back there to visit next year. We visited Tynwald (or however you spell it) and had high tea with the Prime Minister in his house. We went to midnight mass and visited one of the most amazing early grave sites I've ever been to. The Manannan museum is one of the best in the world, and there's a chippie down the road that can't be beat. We stayed in a little cottage (about twenty teenagers. It was a bit of a raucous event!) with a resident Manx cat, and had kippers for breakfast. I had a couple of lessons in Manx (of which only 400 people in the world still speak) from a local teacher. It was a pretty amazing Christmas all in all, although I too remember that evil ferry ride!

How Publishing Really Works said...

Funny that Charlie Stross made the comment about the IOM and homosexuality: that was my first thought, too.

I used to live on the Isle of Wight, which is a gorgeous place to go AND which doesn't discriminate (at least, no more than most other places in the British Isles) against homosexuality. That makes it far more appealing to me.

And Cindy, if you're still researching into sea-myths, did you know that there's a museum in Cornwall which contains the pickled body of a sea-monster? It's on my to-see list.


lucy said...

If you're interested in the Isle of Man, there's a wonderful novel about lighthousekeepers that is set there:Margaret Elphinstone's Light.

Colleen_Katana said...

The boyfriend! and I are going to Ireland for research for his next graphic novel in a few weeks and we were planning on checking it out!

sylvia said...

I've got an island list too with Isle of Man on it. I've been there before but I've never flown there, which is the point of my list. Your list has a much better name although it applies to most of the British Isles. :)

Conduit's memories made me smile.

Sheri said...

For some reason while reading your description, I was reminded of the movie Wicker Man.. Maybe go with at least one buddy!

Julia said...

The Zanzibar song is by the amazing Bill Harley!

Easter Island is sheer awesomesauce. I have a list of wacky islands, too, which matches yours to a certain extent. You don't have Pohnpei or St. Pierre and Miquelon on yours, though.

cindy said...

i have been to crete, it was lovely. i wanted to go to madagascar for our 10 year wedding anniversary, but i read that political situation may have been a bit volatile?

writtenwyrdd said...

I lived in Hawaii for a year and a half. Scuba diving!!! But haven't been to any others. I think I suffered a case of 'island fever' living on Oahu, and I really don't want to go visit islands particularly after that. But tropical oceans are so lovely...

Chumplet said...

If you ever want to see the Isle of Man in a movie, check out Waking Ned Divine. It's a sweet movie about a man who won the lottery, and died from the shock. The village members elect one of their own to pose as Ned so they can claim the prize as their own.

It's chock full of beautiful scenery and wry humour. Oh, and GREAT music!

Chumplet said...

Add the island of Mallorca (Majorca) to your list. I lived there for a year when I was sixteen.

Conduit, your memories are amazing!

Sheri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sheri said...

I saw that movie too Chumplet. I forgot that took place there. I loved that movie.

mlh said...

I just read about this, but never been there. I also once had a manx cat (a stubby) who hopped on his back legs, which is why I named him Rabbit. He was a wonderful cat...I had him for almost fourteen years.

sally said...

i went to IOM when I was very young (around 3 or 4) and have photographic evidence of my mum trying to feed me to chickens...sadly I'm not joking!

L.C.McCabe said...

One of the riders in the Tour de France that has won several stages is Mark Cavendish who is from the Isle of Man.

He has a strange accent that doesn't sound quite British or Scottish. It's a weird skater dude-Brit combo.

I guess I'll just chalk it up to the "special fusion of Nordic and Celtic elements" to explain his unique language style.

There are some Youtube videos of his being interviewed, but the only ones I've seen posted there are with Brits and Aussies. His accent gets muted when you have them as a filter. It's more distinct seeing him being interviewed on Versus (which is the American network covering the month long cycling event.)

Anyway, thanks for the synchronicity as I was talking about the Isle of Man due to Cavendish.

Juan Maddrell said...


Just stumbled across your post and am pleased to be able to correct you on one or two points. I'm from the Isle of Mann and am not proud of how long it took us to legally accept homosexuality - however it was decriminalised back in 1992 and in 2005 the Tynwald (Manx government) voted to equalise age of consent for gay and straight couples; to recognise same-sex partnerships; and to remove the ban on promotion of homosexuality by public bodies, bringing us into line with the EU.

Secondly, we've never had a feudal system...not sure what you mean by that - perhaps you're talking about the figurehead Governor, who now has no power in Tynwald? Feel free to correct me:) What we do have is direct access to our politicians (all their home phone numbers are in the book) and a democracy that's been conservatively ticking over for 1000 years. That's not to say that some of them aren't crooks or idjits, but you get what you vote for eh.

So get yourselves to the TT, or the Manx GP...it's one of the few places left in the world you can see truly awe-inspiring daredevil feats of riding, plus it's a great party for two weeks.