At school we were always encouraged to take part in extra-curriculur
activities, so why not at work?
I work hard. I’m up at 6am for a full days work, and then go home and work
some more, often till 11pm. (I do value the benefits of sleep – a rule which I
have forced myself ot keep since leaving university). That leaves me no time for
my hobbies, interests and distractions. Recently, I did take the step to start
clawing back some of this time for myself. Not for my existing hobbies or
I have always been interested in languages, particularly rarely used
languages or academic languages. Tolkien’s languages are an interest to me.
Living in the Isle of Man, it’s native language has also interested me. Manx was
a near-dead language until about 10 years ago when real effort was exerted to
try and rescue it and reintroduce it to people’s speech. Manx is a Gaelic
language, hailing from the same roots as Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, Welsh
So it was with some trepidation I enrolled on a Manx course at the Isle of
Man College, taught by Brian Stowell. I’m an intelligent chap, and am able to
pick up the words scattered around the island on street signs and corporate
promotional literature, but taking the course would really help me put something
more structural than pointing out “chalvane”, “traie”, etc. Of course, such
extra-curriculur activities are met with incredulity by my colleagues. Not only
because they wonder why I don’t just sit down and collapse in front of the TV,
but also because I am learning what is widely regarded as being a pointless
It’s not the pointlessness that attracts me, it is the act of learning and
developing myself into Manx culture. I moved on to the island 3 years ago and I
feel like I should contirbute something to the island. And this is how I chose
to do it. I get back at 10pm, after which I have to have my tea, do the washing
up and then get ready for the next day – along with quickly address work issues
that may have arisen. That’s a hard slog. So why do it?
After realising how difficult this schedule was, I then joined a Salsa
dancing course held in one of the better bars on the island. I’m told my
heritage is in dancing, I’m not entirely convinced, and nor are the ladies with
whom I have conducted my random spasms I like to call the Mambo. This, also,
results in me being tired, and wondering where it will all end.
I think I do it for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s a great conversation
piece. I’m still a newcomer to the island, and as such, I need to ingratiate
myself to people – and besides, on a small island, this can benefit all parties!
“Oh, I am learning Manx” goes really well after someone gives you that “Why are
you taking Manx jobs away from the Manx” after they learn you are a “come over”.
Also, it gives me an “extra string to me bow”. It builds character. I don’t want
to be that person who does the 9-5 day, then disappears into a suburbian void. I
want to be out there, whether working or playing.
I firmly believe these acitivities also provide great “value added extras”
for employers. If you are pitted against others of similar calibre (which, let’s
face it, is most likely given most job positions), you need to give that little
bit more. You need to be able to get that hook in to the interview panel that
maybe relaxes the situation a little and creates a shared experience that they
will remember. My “pointless” Manx lessons then quickly turn into a contirbution
to Manx society, which immediately gives my [potential] new employer something
to chat about in the kitchen on my first day!