Z is for Zoo

I can’t believe that this is the last day of the A to Z Blog Challenge! I hope you enjoyed reading about the Isle of Man and are as excited as I am about The Manx. On this last day I want to share one last bit about the Isle of Man and it’s zoo.**

Currahs Wildlife Park is located in an area of wetland in the north-west of the island. It houses meerkats, pelicans, mongoose, lemurs, big game, primates, and much, much more. It was founded in 1963 and formally opened in 1965

In the 1970’s there was a grand escape of a couple of wallabies. One would expect to see wallabies wandering freely in Australia or Tazmania, but the Isle of Man? Believe it or not, they now have a feral population of about 120 wallabies.

How do they survive so well in a place so different form the warm temperatures of their native Australia? There are no predators and plenty of food. Wallabies thrive on the grasses, and are beneficial to the environment. Until the great escape of the 1970’s, cattle were brought in periodically to graze the grasses back. Now, they leave it to the wallabies.

They are pretty shy too. You are considered lucky if you spot one. Maybe it’s the start of a new Manx folklore…The Luck of the Wallaby.

**It is actually a wildlife park and not a zoo. What can I say? I needed a word that started with ‘Z’ so I cheated a little bit. [she grins and is joyous to finally reach the end of A to Z].

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This post inspired by – Z

Wrapping it Up

Witches of Slieau Whallion

Slieau Whallion is a hill located on the Isle of Man near St. John’s just off of Gleneedles Road. It has a grisly history of being the execution place of accused witches. They would be put into a barrel with spikes driven into the sides of the barrel, pointing inward. Then the barrel, with the accused witch inside, were rolled down the hill. Murderers were also punished this way. Quite a cruel way to die.

In my book, The Manx, Slieau Whillion is actually the name of a witch who befriends our heroine, Kaitlin and her side kick Donal. My Slieau Whillion does not take on the gruesome traits of the hill she was named for. She is a mix of Mrs. Whatsit, from A Wrinkle in Time, with a little bit of Dr. Who (think Peter Capaldi), and a dash of Winifred Sanderson (Hocus Pocus). She is eccentric with all the bells and whistles, plus a few added quirks that I have yet to discover. 

I am looking forward to finishing Kaitlin’s story so I can write one starring Slieau Whillion. She will be a blast to write.

Until next time!

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This post inspired by – W

X is for X

V is for Vampire

Vampire Grave in Malew churchyard.
~~Photo courtesy of: Peter Killey, Manx Scenes Photography

In a churchyard in Malew parish, Isle of Man, there is a grave that is said to be that of a vampire. It is eerie to look at photographs of the strange grave, and not surprising that a vampire legend would be born from it. It is interesting to have the juxtaposition of a vampire buried in a grave on consecrated ground in a parish named for a saint (Saint Moluag).

The person buried here went by the name of Matthew Hassel. It is said that after he was buried wails and other odd noises could be heard from his grave. It was declared he must be a vampire so his grave was opened, a stake driven through his heart, then reburied. The grave was covered with a slate slab and chained off to prevent him from rising from the dead. His wife Margaret is buried with him.

In truth, as best as history buffs can find, it is thought he may have committed suicide. If that is the case then he would not have been allowed to be buried on consecrated ground, but instead was interred by way of the wall at the head of the grave. There doesn’t seem to be a reason why they went to such lengths to bury him in the churchyard, but I’m sure it had something to do with saving his soul. Suicide was (and still is) considered a mortal sin.

The story that he was a vampire is fun for any writer. We look for those odd things that make for a good book to send shivers across our reader’s back. I am tucking this story into my “Idea” file to look at for a possible short story. Until then, let’s hope Mr. Hassel continues to rest peacefully.

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This post inspired by – V

W is for Witch of Slieu Whallian

T is for Tourist Trophy Races

My main character in The Manx, Kaitlin Manning, and her father, Charles, are on the Isle of Man to photograph the TT races when Kaitlin stumbles across the first piece of a puzzle that takes her far from the races. I became fascinated by these races when looking for a reason for Kaitlin to visit the island. I thought about having her on vacation or just visiting family, but that was almost too simple of an idea. I came across these races and knew I had my reason for her to go to the Isle of Man. Here is what I learned about the races.

The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy races, commonly referred to as TT, are time trial motorcycle races that take place on the public roads around the Isle of Man.  It is a 200 MPH street race over treacherous twists, turns, hills, and bumps. To race on this course is to put your life on the line; a very thin line.

The races started back in 1907. Rem Fowler won in the twin-cylinder class with speeds averaging 36 MPH. Today, the races have expanded to five classes of bikes that can average upwards of 130 MPH. The fastest average speed was set in 2016 by Michael Dunlop at nearly 134 MPH. The race record for the Sidecar TT was set in 2017 by Ben and Tom Birchall. They completed the 37 mile twisting course an average race speed at just over 116 mph.

Racers have nerves of steel to drive in what is known as one of the most dangerous races in the world. It is not just the roads themselves, but the obstacles alongside them. Some of roadways on the Isle of Man are narrow with brick walls and buildings that will come right to the edge of the road. A driver can come out of a tight turn heading headlong toward the side of a building. Fans sit just feet away from the riders who are screaming by at 200 MPH. One tiny error, any small unseen obstacle can turn deadly for both drivers and fans alike.

After reading so much about the TT I am looking forward to attending my first motorcycle race. I am a fan of quiet walks on the beach and hikes to astounding vistas (like to top of Mt Snaefell), but I am sure I’ll take time to see these monster bikes fly across the roads of Isle of Man.

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This post inspired by – T

S is for Mt. Snaefell

I had to giggle – just a little bit – when I first learned about Mt. Snaefell (see this map for location). When I looked at photographs of the mountain I scratched my head and thought, “That’s not a mountain…it’s a big hill.” I live near the Rocky Mountains and am used to the high peaks here (12,000-14,000 feet). The joke’s on me because it really is classified as a mountain; it stands tall at 2,037 feet.

There are a couple of ways to get to the top, and when I go to Isle of Man I will be taking the foot trail up. There is also the Snaefell Mountain Railway that takes passengers all the way to the summit. After working up a hunger from the hike, there is a cafe at the top. I’ve heard that taking a packed bit of food is a nice way to go as well. Dress appropriately. I’m told the summit is usually windy and cool. You could get snow, or rain, or both.

You might actually experience the summit on a clear, bright day! There is a well-known saying in the Isle of Man that on a clear day six kingdoms can be seen from the top: the Isle of Man, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Heaven.

In the summer of 1883 William Wordsworth toured Scotland. During this trip he went to Isle of Man and wrote a series of sonnets about his trip. Included is one from his stop on the island a snippet for Mt. Snaefell:


TYNWALD HILL
“Once on the top of Tynwal’s formal mound
(Still marked with green turf circles narrowing
Stage above stage) would sit this Island’s King,
The laws to promulgate, enrobed and crowned;
While compassing the little mount around,
Degrees and Orders stood, each under each;
Now, like to things within fate’s easiest reach,
The power is merged, the pomp a grave has found.
Off with yon cloud, old Snaefell ! that thine eye
Over three Rhealms may take its widest range;
And let, for them, thy fountains utter strange
Voices, they winds break forth in prophecy,
If the whole State must suffer mortal change,
Like Mona’s miniature sovereignty.

If you go to Mt. Snaefell, I hope you drop me a note and tell me about your adventure there. Maybe we’ll get lucky and bump into each other at the summit.

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This post inspired by – S

T is for Tourist Trophy

R is for Rhumsaa (Ramsey)

Rhumsaa is the Manx term for Ramsey which is located on the northern end of the Isle of Man. It was named by the Norse (hrams-á) as the “Wild Garlic River” due to all of the wild garlic that grows nearby. Ramsey is the second largest city only bested by Douglas. It is also where Donal and his mother have a home.

When I was looking for a destination for Kailtlin when she arrived to the Island I turned to Google Maps. I knew I wanted Ramsey in my book, but I wasn’t sure exactly where within the town she would be. I “virtually” wandered the streets of town looking for that perfect house. After torturing myself for a few hours I went back to my old friend Google Search.

“Homes for sale in Ramsey, Isle of Man” turned up the best results and then I found it! What a perfect place! The listing was complete with descriptions, footage, photographs, and, to top it off, a stunning location. Dare I show you what I found? I think not. Now, don’t get mad. This is not an easy decision. When you read The Manx I prefer you form your own vision of the house, rather than me just handing the keys over. 

Now that I had the house that Kaitlin and her father would stay in, the rest was easy. Ramsey is a great coastal town that hugs the edge of a bay. It isn’t so big that Kailtlin would be lost in the bustle, but it is a nice size for a colorful backdrop in The Manx.

I wonder if anyone makes Queenies there?

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This post inspired by – R

S is for Mt Snaefell

Q is for Queenies

On the Isle of Man they have a delicacy called Queenies. I have never tried them, but when I get to the island it will be one of the first things I’m going to taste. What are they? They are Queen Scallops also called Manx Queenies. The scallops are fished around the island starting in June, locally processed and sold either fresh or frozen.

There are many ways to cook Queenies and doing a quick Google search I found several resources. Mind you, I live in the USA so I have not tried Queenies, nor any of these recipes. I just picked ones that tickled my taste buds. Here are just a few:

  • The Fish House– Not only do they have recipes, they also have a post where you can learn more than you ever wanted to know about Queenies.
  • In the Gentleman’s Journal’s Recipe of the Week you will find a tasty sounding recipe. I may try this for our sorry selection of locally frozen scallops. The sauce might make them edible.
  • The Manx Voice has a great recipe that might be difficult to make in the USA, but anyone who has access to Stilton cheese might like this one.
  • One last one uses Aryshire Bacon which is made in Scotland. This recipe caught my eye because of BACON. Everything is divine with bacon – everything. I am sure that the Aryshire bacon can be substituted with any type, just like the scallops, but be aware – it just won’t be the same.

Cooking tip:  Don’t overcook Queenies. It only takes 4-5 minutes to reach perfection (maybe even less). Remove them from the heat quickly to prevent further cooking. If you find you have over done them? All I can say is, enjoy your rubber hockey pucks.

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This post inspired by – Q

R is for Ramsey