Wednesday 5 July 2023

tynwald day (10. 860)

Originally held as Midsummer Court from 979 until 1753 when the Isle of Man switched to the Gregorian calendar a year after Britain adopted the New Style but the passage of the calendar reform stipulated that the legislative session “shall be holden and kept according to the same natural Day upon or according to which the same should have been so kept or holden in case this Act had never been made”—thus preserving the Julian date and honours one of the world’s oldest parliaments and members of the House of Keys (Yn Kiare as Feed, Manx for the Four-and-Twenty, referring to its membership, and mishearing by English overlords) and Legislative Council, in traditional garb, convene to swear in officers and enact bills granted royal assent. Moving from the usual seat of government in Douglas, the representatives, lieutenant governor (often accompanied by guests of honour, the Lord of Man him or herself, or by Nordic nobility in deference to the population’s Viking origins, the clergy and the judiciary—called the Deemsters, all wear a sprig of mugwort and parade along a path to the hill strewn with rushes—a custom meant to appease the Celtic demigod Manannan (Mannรกn mac Lir, “Son of the Sea” and name-giver of the island). Following the laws being read into the record with the Captioning ceremony, the public has the opportunity to air grievances, petitioning the parliament directly.

Monday 30 January 2023

7x7 (10. 510)

loft apartment: a unique flat inside St Louis’ City Museum up for rent—via Miss Cellania  

relaxed minimalism: a happy medium combining clarity and comfort  

namensverbreitungskarte: an interactive maps illustrating the distribution of surnames in Germany  

nocebo: even when the patient is aware of taking an inert pill, a substance designed with no therapeutic value can lessen feelings of guilt and loathing—via the new shelton wet/dry  

synodic and sidereal: the question of lunar standard time is a challenge—particularly with multiple missions operating at once—via jwz 

kurashi: tidying guru Marie Kondo have accepted messiness after the arrival of her third child  

arragon mooar: the purportedly the most complicated home ever built—by inventor John C Taylor—on the market—via Things Magazine

Friday 30 December 2022

quis? (10. 373)

Via TYWKIWDBI, we are directed towards a trio of general knowledge challenges, including the latest edition (see previously) of King William’s College Winter Break Quiz near the Manx Castletown plus a brief, one page puzzle from the intelligence service GCHQ that seems like one of those Last Starfighter type recruitment initiatives. Set since 1904 and no longer is the former sat formally by pupils since 1999, but is rather sent home for students and their families to ponder over the holidays. More details at the links above.

Thursday 23 June 2022

scheduled territories

Also known as the above legal entity the sterling area came into being in 1931 when the pound was unpegged from the gold standard and a number of countries, mostly Commonwealth nations, either employed the £ or had a fixed rate of exchange with it, effectively came to an end on this day in 1972 when the British government unilaterally applied exchange controls to all its participants—with the exception of the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands—with the departure of forty-five members from the economic bloc in protest of UK monetary policies. Once the most robust and coherent currency areas, the realisation trade with the continent was more important that historical preferential trading with former parts of the empire prompted the UK to seek closer ties with the European Communities—the Common Market—and devalued, floated the pound ostensibly to halt outflow and flight to the US dollar but many saw it at the time as a concession to France’s objection to UK membership in the organisation that would go on to become the European Union, which repealed its veto the following year. Coincidentally, this day also marks the 2016 anniversary of the Brexit referendum.

Friday 31 December 2021

old year day

With origins of the celebration unclear and etymology uncertain, Hogmanay (HOG-mษ™-NAY) rhyming with the last line of the post), now understood as the Scots word for the last day of the old year, is kept in a variety of ways with various local and family

traditions but most include the custom of gift-exchanges (usually symbolic ones like salt, coal, a type of fruit-cake called a black bun, a coin and uisge/whisky for security and prosperity) and visiting neighbours with special honours reserved for the first-foot (ciad-chairt or Manx qualtagh) the first guest to cross the threshold into a home on the cusp of New Years’s Day as presaging good fortune for the coming year. Traditional Hogmanay carols include Auld Lang Syne and “Haste ye Back”:

Haste ye back, we loue you dearly,
Call again you’re welcome here
May your days be free from sorrow,
And your friends be ever near.

Though not uncontested and to a degree fanciful, some linguists believe Hogmanay comes from the Norman aguillanneuf, dialectically hoguinanรฉ, which is itself a rebracketing of the Old French phrase “[A rendezvous] under the New Year’s Mistletoe”—another traditional present—Au gui l’an neuf! Haste ye back on friendship’s way.

Sunday 25 April 2021


Venerated on this day in the Roman Catholic Church (31 July on the Anglican calendar), the late fifth century saint also known as Mawgan or Macc Cuill is the patron saint of the Isle of Man, was an Irish princeling of sorts and leader of a band of marauding freebooters who frequently derided Patrick and Brigid and their followers as fools and simpletons. According to one local legend, wanting to expose Patrick as a charlatan, Maughold presented a living man in a shroud and presented him to saint to revive and restore to life, only to find out that their decoy had in fact died in the interim. Patrick later resurrected him, and impressed and repentant, Maughold followed the advice to leave his career of piracy and to make amends for his past behaviour by committing himself to the mercy of the elements in a wicker boat set out to sea. The boat drifted to the Isle of Man, coming to rest in the pictured coastal headland, and a Christian community already established by Patrick’s disciples and was eventually acclaimed bishop.

Friday 9 April 2021

The “strength and stay” of Queen Elizabeth and prince consort for seventy-three years, His Royal Highness Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh (*1921) passed away, aged ninety-nine peacefully in Winsor Castle. As is traditional, official notice of his death was posted on the railing of Buckingham Palace, though promptly removed to avoid drawing a crowd. Counter to the strange, immediate praise by the Prime Minister for the Prince’s carriage driving skills, the public figure was first to deprecate himself as a “discredited Balkan royal of no particular merit or distinction” but was nonetheless a pivotal institution in civics and support roles, with the walk-on role that fell onto the shoulders of an individual whose career path seemed to be a naval one, which had he attained the rank of First Sea Lord he would have been required to walk several feet behind his wife according to the protocol of the Admiralty.  The Commonwealth mourns with the Royal Family with further announcements to be made in due course.

Monday 1 February 2021


Traditionally celebrated as one of the four Celtic, Gaelic seasonal festivals and marking in the Northern Hemisphere the beginning of Spring—complete spring-cleaning, well-dressing with weather divination and forecasting to watch for serpents or badgers to emerge from their dens, directly informing Groundhog Day customs. Displaced and ensconced with the Christianisation of the ancient lands were these rituals emerged, Saint Brigid of Kildare, the co-patron of Ireland, is regarded as a syncretion of the goddess of the same name associated with the light half of the year, smithing, healing, poetry and fertility, attributes which are reflected in the saint’s patronage—plus the state of Florida.

Saturday 23 January 2021

bounty day

Celebrated on this day, the anniversary of the arrival of the mutineers (previously) on the remote, uninhabited island of Pitcairn in 1790, the population of four dozen decedents of the original settlers hold a re-enactment of their landing and burn effigies of the ship and one of the eight surnames (the McCoys died out in 1973), is honoured with the title “Family of the Year,” with the ceremonies concluding with a communal feast and ball. One of the smallest polities in the world (the community of the International Space Station I suppose would best the Pitkerners), the British Overseas Territory is governed by a representative of the Queen based in Wellington, New Zealand (over five-thousand kilometres distant) and a mayor appointed by a citizens’ council. Electricity is provided by diesel generators for fifteen hours daily and all residents share one internet connection (.pn—with Norfolk—being the top-level domain, the most traffic generated when a marketing campaign for Hunger Games presented it as the country code for Panem). Since 2015, same-sex marriage has been legalised, although there are no known people in such a relationship.

Saturday 16 January 2021


Manx illustrator Jay Cover has created a uniquely triangular series of stamps for the Royal Mail, Isle of Man Post Office, which celebrates the Lunar New Year and upcoming Year of the Ox (see previously). This set of hopefully postage is the distillation of some earnest research and illuminating fact-checking undertaken by the artist into the Chinese zodiac to ensure he was making the most of his embracing and honouring new traditions on a tiny yet representative canvas.

Sunday 27 December 2020

general knowledge paper

Via both Nag on the Lake and TYWKIWDBI (with lots more on offer as well), we are introduced to a new tradition coming just ahead of the holiday break that has been issued to students at King William’s College near Castletown on the Isle of Man (and to make one feel worse—that’s college in the sense of a finishing school for pupils to eighteen years of age) since 1904 in the form of a quiz—now voluntary and shared with the broader public—of notorious difficulty that the students are expected to research over the break and present once classes resume in the new year.

The annual paper is introduced with the Latin motto: Scire ubi aliquid invenire possis, ea demum maxima pars eruditionis est—that is, “the better part of erudition is knowing where one can find anything.” The answers are not quite at one’s fingertips, and of course it’s impossibly difficult but nonetheless something I feel we ought to have been assaying all along. While a few of the clues and prompts did seem adjacent to something we knew, I really couldn’t get any of these right off the bat. How about you? The quiz can be found at the links above as well as on the college’s website—where the answers will be published next month.

Saturday 15 June 2019


Among the items and lots going under the hammer this summer, auction-watcher Messy Nessy Chic reports is this pristine 1964 Peel Trident, a British microcar and a product of Manx engineering, the estimated forty-five to fifty-five models made mostly going to the mainland.
Originally priced at £190 and with fuel efficiencies of just under three litres per one hundred kilometres and touted as nearly cheaper than walking, the smallest car in the world was perhaps a little ahead of its time and interest waned among the driving and dashing public (the car had a detachable shopping basket and was primarily meant for quick city errands). Manufacturing operations resumed in 2011 in Nottingham, creating custom electric and petrol models for individual clients. Learn more and inspect other lots and properties up for auction at the link above.

Wednesday 6 February 2019

the valley and bailiwick

Having declared independence once before only to have it reigned back in, the Caribbean island of Anguilla held a second referendum whose votes nearly unanimously favoured disassociating itself from the colonial governor of Saint Kitts and proclaimed itself a republic on this day in 1969.
The chairman of the freshly constituted Island Council expelled the British envoy and for about forty days basked in its freedom. On 18 March, a contingent of paratroopers and London constables peacefully occupied the island and restored order. Disappointed by this denial for self-determination, negotiations ensued and Anguilla was granted the right to “secede” from Saint Kitts, which ironically gained full independence as the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis in 1983 while Anguilla remains an overseas territory. The triskelion of dolphins on the flag and coat of arms reminds one of the Manx flag, itself a crown dependency and neither part of the United Kingdom nor a part of the former empire.

Thursday 31 March 2016

swan song or pangloss

As classical and liturgical music has done a good job of preserving Latin—and how antique sounding constructs are fossilised in Christmas carols, some ethnographically-minded composers are doing what they know best in order to try to help save some snatches of the estimated three-thousand languages that are threatened the vanish or become moribund over the next century.
The New York Times has fascinating coverage of this global collaboration, which does not aim to set obscure and unintelligible speech to music necessarily but rather transform them into music. Sadly, many of the resulting compositions are dirges as the quarry and quiver available to linguists is limited and the world is a bit poorer for the loss of the last native speakers of Bawm, Karaim, Chamling, Faroese, Istriot or Manx. Languages have always been subject to extinction but a few dominant languages and mass communication have accelerated the process and lingual diversity has probably never been so meagre since before the Tower of Babel. Some creative minds, nonetheless, are employing interesting and hopeful strategies to promote learning, curiosity and perhaps conservancy. The European Day of Languages (all two hundred twenty-five of them), promoting plurilingualist, is observed on 26 September and UNESCO celebrates International Mother Language Day on 21 February but any day is a good day to safeguard a rarity by any means at one’s disposal.

Monday 6 February 2012

sexagennial or diamond jubilee

Her Majesty, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor Batten-berg,  Queen of Ireland and the British Dominions Beyond the Seas, Defender of the Faith, Lord of Man, Duke of Normandy, &c. is celebrating the beginning of her sixtieth year on the throne, and plans extensive tours this year to celebrate her legacy and reconfirm her commitment to her subjects. She has seen and overseen a great deal of transformation in her domain, public and private, and has remained dedicated and engaged, reserved and steadfast, and bound as much by ceremony and traditions which certainly bear further study, continues to be an inspiration. That an institution and a personality can weather with grace and determination six decades of change that has over-turned many others is certainly an impressive feat.  Joining millions of other well-wishers, I hope that the Queen's professionalism and service endures for years to come.