A Malay in Manxland
I am a Malaysian who grew up in Kuala Lumpur – a city full of skyscrapers and shopping malls, city roads chockablock with hundreds of cars and motorbikes, and bustling streets sprawling with food stalls that smell like heaven.
Never, ever in a million years would I have imagined living on an island in the Irish Sea, called the Isle of Man.
But then somehow, somewhere, I met a true-blue Manx – and I not only fell in love with the man, but also the Isle – this curious, quirky, wonderful place where the tallest building I’ve seen are the apartments blocks in Ramsey, which are probably less than ten storeys high.
The longer I live here, the more I learn about the Manx people – their history, culture and idiosyncrasies. This journey has been such a disarming one that I’m finding myself making notes, and wanting to share these experiences and observations with everyone!
So here you are, musings of a Malaysian, in my own journey of getting to know this land and people, that I am slowly also calling my home.
Wet, wet, wet
From what I can see, Manxies are generally an optimistic bunch who are insanely proud of their nation and will vaunt and defend it whenever a non-Manxie lays into it, but amongst themselves, they will deride it and pick at all the smallest flaws (anything from ASBO seagulls to calorie count in red squirrel pies).
It is not surprising that they are proud of the Isle of Man, given the Island’s beauty and its rich heritage and history. The weather, hmmm… well, that’s a different story altogether!
The first time I set foot on the Isle of Man, was many moons ago, when my boyfriend, who was Manx, persuaded me to visit the Island for a weekend. It was springtime.
“It’s an amazing place – you will not be disappointed!” he said.
We were here for three days and two nights – it rained every day!
You see, where I come from we get amazing torrential rain with thunder and lightning, but after an hour or two of hard pouring rain, the sun will shine again. Also, I’ve lived in London for several years, so I’m accustomed to the dreary British weather – but this was just taking the mick!
It was wet, cold and grey throughout our ‘weekend away’ on this little island in the Irish Sea – not quite the romantic getaway I had in mind…
Despite that, my boyfriend was adamant to show me around the Island. He drove me everywhere. He would stop the car and pointed at the mist and say, “Behind that mist is the most amazing view of the hills,” or, “If it wasn’t raining, you would be able to see the sea and Ireland from here,” or, “If it was a clearer day, you would get the best views from here.” He was clearly very proud of the Island – too bad all I could see was the mist or sea fog.
When I told him that, he replied, “Well, actually that is not just any sea fog, it is Manannan’s Cloak. Manannan is the Lord of the Sea, and it only comes down to protect special people.”
Yup, only a Manxman would be proud of sea fog and attempt to flatter me with it!
Needless to say, I had little to go on beyond rain, mist or fog to be ‘wowed’ by the Island on my first visit. However, my mom always said to give everything a second chance, so I returned.
I found that the weather plays a huge part in the daily lives of those living on the Island – it is literally a life or death matter – because if a big storm hits the Island (which happens a good few times in a year), it gets totally apocalyptic here as Tesco and Shoprite shelves would be empty for days!
But even if it is rainy or windy (yes, it gets SUPER windy here!) Manxies just seem to find something to do to amuse themselves, even during the most extreme of weathers!
For example, when it is ‘blowing a hoolie’ here as they say, they don’t just hunker down and stay indoors. They brave the elements and… wait for it, drumroll please…. they watch the waves!
Yes, you heard me – they watch WAVES – the surface of the sea that bobs up and down, pretty much e-v-e-r-y-d-a-y!
Once we drove to six different places on the coast – Gansey, Chapel Beach, Castletown Beach, Scarlett, Niarbyl and The Sound – to compare which waves were the biggest and most magnificent (Chapel Beach by far had the coolest collection of waves and The Sound had the biggest waves, in case you were wondering…)
I have to say wave-watching is not something I’d ever thought I would do, but after partaking in this unique pastime, I have to admit I found it immensely fascinating, definitely beats watching Britain’s Got Talent on the telly. In fact, I’m not sure why wave-watching is not a TV show already…
The view beyond the mist
After spending some time on the Island, I can safely say that although it does rain a hell of a lot here, it doesn’t rain every day, all year round (phew!)
And when the sun starts to shine everyone just tends to forget the wet and cold days (so they either have a very bad memory, or they are under some sort of magic spell…which adds to the mystery of the land: *enter enigmatic background music here*)
To conclude, I agree with the Manxies – the Isle of Man is a beautiful place. I have been back to all the places that my boyfriend wanted to show me and yes, indeed, without the mist or fog, the views are absolutely stunning.
After some time, I have even learnt to ‘see’ beyond the mist, and can now conjure up each detailed curve and crag of the landscape almost as well as the most enthused Manx (case in point: the boyfriend) can… well, I can try, at least!