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

X is for X Words

We are getting down to the last letters of the A to Z Blog Challenge. Through the challenge I have been writing daily about the Isle of Man where my book, The Manx, takes place.  Besides all the wonderful characters and the folktales, I also included posts about visiting the island and some of the basics about the Isle of Man.

Now we come to the letter X. In my 1932 edition of 20,000 Words there are only three words listed that start with X: Xanthippe, xenon, xylophone. None of these really relate to my book so I have been at a loss as to how to make X work for the A to Z Challenge.

Next out is Roget’s International Thesaurus, 4th Edition, 1977. There are a few more words listed which are: X (as in a cross), Xanadu (remember that movie?), xenophobia, xerography, Xerox, X Ray, xylography, and xylophone.

An X is also seen as a symbol like a railroad crossing, a mathematical symbol, and a signature. Love letters are signed with an XO for kiss and hug, or XXXOOO for lots of kisses and hugs.

The X is Gebo (Gifts) in Futhark Runes. The gift as in the sense of both generosity and sacrifice indicating balance and all things relating to exchanges, including contracts, personal relationships and partnerships.

Why is the X always pronounced like a Z? Why have the X at all? Just turn all the X-words to Z-words. Except, if that was done than an X-Ray would become a Z-Ray and then you have a weapon that shoots death rays rather than a camera that shoots death rays. Wait…..what? Yeah. That’s what goes on sometimes with my grey matter. It gets a little weird up there.

Have an X-cellent weekend!

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This post inspired by – X

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

U is for Universe

When the sun goes down and the stars come out, how many can you see? Where I live the night sky is getting filled with flood lights from shopping centers and parking lots. 18 years ago we could go out in our backyard and were able to see quite an abundance of stars. Today the numbers have dropped.

Isle of Man is considered one of the leaders Dark Sky sites in the British Isles. There are 26 sites given the status of Dark Sky Discovery. These are areas are so dark that the Milky Way seems to envelop the viewer. You can reach out and hold the universe in the cup of your hand. I’m told it is breathtaking.

The Isle of Man Observatory has a great photo montage that compares a night sky in an urban area all the way to a Dark Sky. Scroll down further on their site and you’ll find a calendar that shows the best viewing days for Dark Sky. Weather is a factor no matter where you star gaze, and the Isle of Man has it’s fair share of rain and clouds.Be sure to check the forecast before you make plans.

There is a wonderful inspirational piece by Nancy Willard that I keep by my desk:

Be hopeful…
I haven’t a clue as to how my story will end.
But that’s all right.
When you set out on a journey
and the night covers the road,
that’s when you discover the stars.

 

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This post inspired by – U

V is for Vampire Grave

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