Sunday, August 14, 2016

Day 45 -- Exploring Man

Yesterday on the ferry I read an article about a journalist who was heavily criticized because she labeled Isle of Man a “tax haven.” Apparently, the Manx (that’s what residents of this island call themselves) believe they are paying their fair share of taxes, and if they choose to set up a system that has no capital gains tax, no inheritance tax, and a top income tax rate of 20%, that’s nobody’s business but their own – and labeling their island as a tax haven unfairly suggests that there is something inherently corrupt about a government that doesn’t bleed its citizens dry. They are probably correct, so the last thing I’m going to do is label Isle of Man a tax haven.

But I will label it a fantasy world that no longer exists anywhere else – except in theme parks like Disneyland. Of course, the Isle of Man is not a fantasy world for its residents who go to work every day, struggle to make ends meet, and face real world challenges like the rest of us. But it is a fantasy for us tourists, where, for a brief time, we can immerse ourselves into a lifestyle that no longer exists anywhere else – if it ever did.

The first thing that caught my eye was the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway – trolleys drawn by draft horses along rails up and down the middle of the main promenade. They operate according to a published timetable, and last week celebrated their 140th anniversary. (I’ll concede that San Francisco operates nostalgic cable cars, but horses??)

I couldn’t resist taking a ride on the horse drawn tramway to the end of the line – and what do you suppose I found there? The terminal for the Manx Electric Railway. This is an electric trolley, powered through overhead cables, that runs 17½ miles between Douglas and Ramsey, an hour and a quarter ride – and it runs according to a published timetable!  At this time of year, it makes fifteen round-trips a day, leaving every hour or half-hour depending upon time of day (there are several trolleys). This isn’t just a tourist ride; it is public transportation.

At the other end of Douglas is the Isle of Man Steam Railway that runs 15½ miles to Port Erin, at the southwest corner of the island – once again, according to published timetables and with several engines. The carriages are nicely maintained and refurbished – like you would find at Disneyland, not on a typical public conveyance – but it, too, is public transportation.

I shared the carriage to Port Erin with a couple living on Man and their friend visiting from England.

Mike, Barbara and Brian

Among other things, we discussed life on the island – a few days ago, they had gone to a local agricultural show where farmers showed their sheep and cattle. (Sorry, Iain and Shayne, they didn’t mention alpacas.) Mike showed me some pictures of Loaghtan Sheep – 4-horned sheep that appear to have come straight from a Dr. Seuss sketch.

                                                     Image courtesy of Michael Cook

Perhaps I’m jumping to conclusions about a fantasy world. After all, I’ve been here only one day. I’ll update my report if I find anything more about this subject during the time I’m here. But one thing’s for sure: I’m not going to the library to research the tax structure, because affixing some labels is taboo.