Oh, Kirk Michael!

Some years ago, Douglas Adams and John Lloyd co-wrote The Deeper Meaning Of Liff: A dictionary of things that there aren’t any words for yet.

As far as I can tell, it was inspired by a travelling game, where odd place names became the names for equally odd pursuits and objects. There is a single Manx entry in that book, for Jurby, which is ‘a loose woollen garment reaching to the knees and with three or more armholes, knitted by the wearer’s well-meaning but incompetent aunt’.

Ever since, certain Manx place names have become, to me, a shorthand for the kind of person or activity most associated with the area. For example, there is a kind of person who wishes they had retired to Greece or Spain, where they could start drinking at noon while looking out to sea through a large window and cursing anyone dark-skinned for their misfortunes until too plastered to lift the bottle or string a sentence together. Inevitably this person was too incompetent in business to retire in the sun, so they are reduced to muttering incoherently to themselves from an Onchan conservatory.

Similarly, Kirk Michael is shorthand to me for boorish folk who settle into a small community and make no attempt to fit in or contribute, treating their house as a weekday dormitory and jetting away at weekends to London or on holidays to South Africa. Having moved here from a place where the natives resented them in more militant ways, they never walk anywhere and even a trip to the village shop is done in an armoured vehicle. Their sole Manx social activity tends to be horseriding, done on farms or green lanes which they never travel to on the horse, so the armoured vehicle is often tethered to an empty horsebox and both can be found prominently parked in the narrow main street on any Saturday.

This, then, perfectly explains the scene I witnessed yesterday while driving through Kirk Michael. The side of the road closest to most shops and pub was packed with parked cars for about half a mile, despite the double yellow lines. Driving down the free side of the road, I was startled to be confronted by a large MPV driven by a fully Barboured platinum blonde woman of Ronsealed complexion and indeterminate years. Thankfully, but astonishingly, she was not coming towards me but backing her tank down the entire length of the street until she reached a horse tackle shop on a street corner where, rather than park in the public car park opposite, she mounted the pavement (blocking it off to pedestrians coming either down the main road or the side street), fell out the passenger door and staggered into the tack shop.

That was pure Kirk Michael. On a good day. Two such ‘locals’ coming in opposite directions at any time after breakfast does not bear thinking about.


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