QR Code contains TinyURL of this article.Island Life

Port Mooar near Maughold in the Isle of Man
Port Mooar near Maughold in the Isle of ManCredit: . License: CC BY-SA 3.0

As 2014 drew to a close, I received an intriguing email via LinkedIn, the business-oriented, social network. This one, like innumerable others, invited me to consider a new software development position.

However, this email didn’t follow the usual recruiter boilerplate. It came directly from the employer. It had a friendly tone. There was a little ego-boosting flattery. Most importantly though, it was obvious that the employer had actually considered my particular skill-set, a small detail you might think, but it makes a heck of a lot of difference to a company’s credibility in my eyes.1

There was also the tantalising suggestion of a relocation to the Isle of Man.

For the two years up to January 2015, I lived and worked in Manchester, England. I had never lived in a city centre, prior to moving there, and wanted to try the experience for myself. It is a great city, with a lot to do and see.

Manchester has an incredible industrial heritage and history. As a result, the city boasts some pretty cool architecture and artefacts, amongst which I strolled for hours. There are two world-class football (soccer) teams, Manchester United and Manchester City. The city also has a significant influence on British popular culture: on screen, in the musical sphere and in literature.

One thing Manchester is lacking, however, is green space. It’s the cliched “concrete jungle” and one has to travel some way outside of the city in order find any open landscapes.

I missed the green spaces.

Like a lot of people, I’m drawn to the sea. Ever since I was a child, I’ve dreamed of living somewhere coastal. The joy of opening my curtains first thing in the morning and gazing out across a dramatic seascape was one that I never thought I’d be able to attain, outside of the occasional vacation. I love water-sports, boating, swimming, diving… and never miss an opportunity to get into the water. Furthermore, I’ve always wanted to learn to sail, something that’s pretty difficult to do in a landlocked metropolis. The sea then, played a large part in the life that I aspired to.

So, with this context, the prospect of relocating to the Isle of Man was incredibly appealing.

Isle of Man seascape
Peaceful NeighbourhoodCredit: . License: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The island is small: ~33 miles long, ~14 miles wide. It is in the middle of the Irish Sea, almost equidistant from England, Ireland and Scotland. It has a population of ~100,000. It’s a self-governing, British Crown Dependency. It relies on Britain for its defence and for its stake in some international affairs.

It’s principal claims to fame include: Tynwald, the oldest continuously governing parliament in the world; kippers and the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy or TT.

I’ve been here for a couple of months now (I arrived on the 16th January, 2015) — a blog entry is long overdue — time then to record some of my thoughts.

The IOM is incredibly beautiful. Most of the island is open, unspoiled, wild landscape. There’s a lot of green space here. I have settled in Douglas, the island’s capital (pop. ~30,000). It’s a small enough town that I can take a half-hour walk and be in the open countryside, or on a beach with nobody else in sight.

There is a strong sense of community here, people talk to each other and know each other’s business. Not long after I arrived, I had three cards from neighbours welcoming me to my new home. I lived in Manchester for two years and the most gripping interaction with my neighbours was a shared grunt of acknowledgement should our paths cross in the corridors of my building, or out on the streets.

The term “rat race” has little meaning here. Things move slowly (I had to wait weeks for a broadband installation, that was painful). Having said that, the administrative offices seem to be prompt and efficient: I had my IOM work permit after a week and my driving license localised in just two days!

The rock2 is definitely not a place for the shopaholic.3  There are no department stores as such and no sprawling shopping malls. But there are lots of speciality shops (IOM fudge for the win) and the standard faire of small towns: the butcher, the baker, the fishmonger… Also, being a small island, most goods arrive by sea, usually via England. This additional expense results in a cost of living that is a little higher than in the UK (although this is offset somewhat with lower taxes).

Shopping and shipping are dependent on each other. I ordered some furniture for my new flat from a local supplier, then waited — through one delay after another — for delivery. The reason for the delay? Bad weather prevented the ferry from sailing.

There are of course more serious consequences when the ferry stops running: it brings everything over, including food and other essential supplies. So when the ferry can’t sail, the stores quickly run out of goods. That’s an adventure in itself (and a reason to keep a well-stocked pantry and freezer).

There is little in the way of crime on the island (if we discount a recent island-wide spate of burglaries). As a result this means the local newspapers often have front-page headlines that hardly seem newsworthy at all, like a report about a man arrested for stealing a bottle of milk off someone’s doorstep, or the fact that the police are trying to trace a vandal who overturned some bins in the street!

Traffic congestion is virtually non-existent. I am still staggered, when I leave work in the evening, to not see queues of angry commuters in their fume-belching tin cans, waiting for the traffic to ease. The roads are incredibly quiet here. This seems strange to me, a biker and all round petrol head, as the island is perfect for the enthusiastic rider/driver. Much of the road network has no speed restrictions. There are no highways either, just mile after glorious mile of twisty country road, through some of the most incredible scenery you can imagine. It’s a biker’s paradise.

Before I came to the island, one of my friends made the comment that “it’s like England in the fifties.” I know what he meant. Life is different here. It’s slower, more friendly, more peaceful. People look out for each other. People still leave their houses and cars unlocked… I understand that this lifestyle wouldn’t appeal to everyone. I happen to like it. At this time in my life, it really suits me.

These first months have been a period of my getting settled in, establishing myself in my new job, making a home and walking the streets of Douglas to familiarise myself with the town. This is my excuse for why my blogging (and social media in general) have been so barren. Now that spring is here I intend to take up sailing. I am also planning to buy a motorbike so that I can properly explore all that this beautiful island has to offer. Both of which should give me something to write about.

The biggest highlight of the coming months though will almost certainly be the 2015 IOM TT, the “greatest show on Earth,” something I am looking forward to experiencing at first hand.

Dainese Superbike TT - 2012 #3. Guy Martin
Dainese Superbike TT - 2012 #3. Guy MartinCredit: . License: CC BY 2.0

See Also

  1. This is something that recruiters need to take more care with. If my LinkedIn (or whatever) profile makes no mention of “.Net” (for example), then I’m probably not the ideal candidate for the “.Net” position you’re recruiting for. ↩︎

  2. Do all islands get called “the rock” by their citizens? ↩︎

  3. Fortunately amazon.co.uk deliver to the island. ↩︎