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Sunday Read Preview

We hope you will enjoy this excerpt from The Sunday Read where we talk about everything associated with natural fibers. We learn how nomads have survived for centuries in the High Himalayas raising cashmere goats., and we travel to Afghanistan to learn how two generations of war has impacted the silk trade.  We learn how cultural traditions evolve and why they fade.  We also spend time exploring the obscure, but no less fascinating.

 

As New Yorker editor Harold Ross used to say, the magazine's objective is to engage and entertain. 

Our goal is to do just that. 

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The Isle of Man
By Linda N. Cortright

Most of my summer has been spent aboard an expedition ship. I am reluctant to use the term “cruise ship” because that evokes images totally contrary to this ship’s size and mission. This is not a vessel with passengers in the thousands bent on imbibing, dancing, and gambling. Instead, we are approximately one hundred hearty and adventurous souls, climbing in and out Zodiacs to explore remote destinations, from Iceland’s Grimsey Island (which is bisected by the Arctic Circle) to the Isle of Gough (pronounced GOO) at the western tip of the English Channel.

 

On paper, we have an itinerary—and then we have Mother Nature. Although people often associate rough weather with the Drake Passage, the North Atlantic can deliver her own brand of “excitement,” which is exactly what makes landing on St Kilda, for example, an ongoing challenge. There is no land mass to the west of St Kilda to buffer the prevailing direction of the wind, making access possible only under conditions benign enough for a Zodiac ride. On one voyage this summer our itinerary was continuously rearranged over four days (and an additional 600 miles) to ensure a landing on St Kilda … and we did.

 

By contrast, landing on the Isle of Man, is much less problematic than St Kilda. Although it floats similarly unprotected in the Irish Sea nearly 80 miles from the English coast, it is 220 square miles as opposed to St Kilda’s 2.5. There is no need to launch Zodiacs, there are a multitude of piers large enough to accommodate our small vessel.

 

Suffice to say that when I wrote to the shepherd of the largest flock of Manx Loaghtan sheep, Jenny Shepherd, the night before to confirm my arrival time in Peel the following morning, I had little doubt as to the integrity of my plan.

 

And then the winds blew and blew hard … from the north. I woke-up to the news that we would be unable to land at Peel. Instead, the ship would be traveling to the opposite side of the island to Douglas, the capital city. I was now 30 miles away from where I needed to be. But that was the least of my problems.

Manx Cat

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Manx Loaghtan ram

In some circles, the Isle of Man is noted for their unusual felines, the tailless Manx cat (often referred to as a “stubbin”). And then there are those of us who are similarly enchanted by their unusual ovines, the multi-horned Manx Loaghtan sheep. Sometimes the horns scroll like the head of a violin while others look like they have been bred from a narwhal.

 

There are others still (no judgment here), whose interest is solidly grounded in the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, TT for short.

 

The TT is a week-long series of motorcycle races drawing hundreds of thousands of both spectators and motorcycle racers to the island. It is a grand pilgrimage in search of speed. The race is held along the island’s regular road system at speeds surpassing 130 mph. Up until now, the TT had escaped my purview, which is surprising because it has been running since 1907 and is responsible for 266 fatalities—six alone in 2022.

 

Understandably, the TT is controversial, which probably drives up ticket sales. Personally, I think anyone traveling at excessive speed better have flashing red lights and a siren. But my interest in the TT suddenly becomes personal when I discover the road I must travel on to reach my interview in Peel is closed because of these inane daredevils.

 

Immediately, I reach out to Jenny to explain the change in weather, and ports. As luck would have it (or not), she had woken-up with terrible laryngitis and could barely get through a sentence or two. Conducting an interview would have been both futile and cruel.

 

It seemed the angels were sending me a message and I was in no mood to listen. I decided I would go online and search for another farm that might have Manx Loaghtans and might not mind if a crazy American showed up that afternoon to ask questions and take pictures, and most importantly, who might not live along the TT course. But as I have often mentioned, the ship’s Wifi is sub-optimal on a good day. I needed to go ashore and find the nearest coffee shop.

 

A double latte can cure a multitude of ills.

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