Gentle and Fierce is a new book of illustrated memoir essays by Vanessa Berry. 

The Curragh/ Isle of Man Postcard

For a long time all I knew about the Isle of Man, besides the fact it is a small island in the middle of the Irish Sea, was that it was home to a particular breed of tailless cat, known as the Manx cat. A Manx cat appears at the very start of Virginia Woolf's 'A Room of One's Own', making its way across the university quadrangle, and pausing "as if it too questioned the universe". Of the many literary cats, this has always been one of my favourites.

Soon after you arrive on the Isle of Man, if you board a bus at the airport, and set out north towards Douglas, the capital city, you hear a recorded announcement as the bus goes along: "Please observe the Manx tradition, and say 'Hello Fairies' as we cross the Fairy Bridge". Failure to perform this greeting is said to be bad luck. The bus crosses a low stone bridge, and the same pre-recorded woman's voice says "Hello Fairies", just in case visitors are too shy to voice it.  

Naturally, I greeted the fairies, hoping for luck. By this time, I knew a little more about the Isle of Man, including the surprising fact there was a wetland in the north of the island, where there was a population of wild wallabies. Decades ago, wallabies had escaped from a nearby wildlife park and a population of them became established there, and I planned to go in search of them.      

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