Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The lovely Isle of Man

We've been away in the Isle of Man, house-swapping. Indeed, house- and cat-swapping. As I've sighed before, it's hard to go away if you a) have cats and b) are too soft-hearted and neurotic to put them in a cattery. We used to house-swap when the children were small, even though we didn't have cats then. (Some bloggy friends may remember that we became feline slaves only after a sustained get-a-cat campaign by our son - who quite shortly afterwards left home.)

We used to house-swap because we couldn't really afford to go interesting places very often with three offspring but in fact we quite liked it. It's fun living in someone's house and trying to work out what they're like... and seeing how other people organise their lives. It's hard work before you go, especially if there are lots of you, since you have to make up all the beds on the day you leave home (and clean your oven and the darker recesses of your cupboards, just in case your visitors have a look there). However, with only two of us it was much easier.

The cats we looked after, Ginger and Laxey, were Manx - what I mean is not just that they live on the Isle of Man (obviously) but that they have no tails, or just a tiny stump, which they waggle just as if they had proper swishy ones. (They were born tailless - they weren't victims of tail chopping.) They were very sweet and friendly. I think our cats are always just as happy to see our various catsitters as they are with our ministrations, which is good but slightly insulting.

We were in Douglas - above and below - which is a pretty seaside town with a long promenade...

... and an impressive gardening department.

The weather was pretty good - Mr L had to wear his sunhat -

 ... except this day, when we went to a very historic village down by the sea, with beautiful views. Apparently.

Look at this scenery, though. Isn't it pretty?

We visited lots of historic sites including Peel Castle, originally built by Vikings in the 11th century, though added to a lot here and there, sometimes as recently as the 14th. Positively modern, those bits.

It has nice views over the town of Peel...

... and also in the other direction. This, of course, was the point, since it was built for defensive purposes.

We really loved the island. It's only slightly bigger than Arran in Scotland - but a lot further out into the sea and much more populated. Arran has about 5000 people living in it while the Isle of Man has over 83,000. Most of them are in four main towns, though, so there's a lot of lovely emptiness in the middle. But it felt like a real community. The Manx language is a form of Gaelic, though there are no native speakers any more. There is a movement to revive it and all the signs are in Manx as well as English, but it doesn't seem awfully likely to become a living language again. There exist recordings of native speakers but I can't imagine anyone becoming really fluent by just learning it without being surrounded by it. I hope I'm wrong.

Meanwhile there are phrase books to teach holidaymakers or children or any interested parties a bit of the language. For example, there are various responses to "How are you?" The one I like best is translated as "Going and grumbling". I plan to adopt this phrase. Sometimes it's how one feels.


  1. that looks lovely! I used to work with a guy from the Isle of Man and he would rave about it ... and given I named my first born Douglas I'll have to take him there too :)

  2. Oh, THERE you are-- you've been missed! Glad you are having a nice time. We also were lumbered with cats once the nest emptied, but they are nine now and I quite like the company.

  3. Hi Isabelle, Thank you so much for the mini travelogue on the Isle of Man - I didn't know there was so much history, and that so many people live there. Ken would love to go there one day, just for the bike races mind you, but if I went along for the ride (scuse the pun..), having read all this on your blog, I could see myself happily touring around all the interesting spots.

  4. Yes! Going and grumbling - I love it. Thank you!

  5. Wondered where you had wandered off to...
    I've always been intrigued with living on an island, though perhaps a long visit would be enough for me of being an 'outsider'. It seems odd that the signs are bilingual and that there are phrase books. Did you try any of the phrases on the locals? You might have got some blank stares!

    and as an odd co-incidence, this week my cemetery post features a Manx family

  6. I like 'going and grumbling'. It says it all, doesn't it, and is so much more expressive than 'Not too bad' which has always struck me as a very British glass-half-empty kind of comment! Looks like you had a good time - nice pics.

  7. Looks and sounds lovely!

  8. Oh Wow! It looks like a wonderful place to visit Isabelle. And how did Sirius and Cassie do in your absence? I hope Sirius is holding his own. We have Manx cats here in the states -- I'm assuming they originate from the Isle of Man? And now that I'm back from vacation too, I'll also be going and grumbling! ;-D

  9. Oh, and for the record, I never looked in any of your cupboards! Well, except for the one that had the drinking glasses -- and the refrigerator to get the prawns for the catlets. I do, however, confess to snooping in the bookshelves. I looove looking through other's books. It was so fun to see that you had many of the same books that are on mom's or my shelves. So, next time, skip the cupboard cleaning and just concentrate on the books! ;-D