March 21st 2009
We left the house at about 4:15 and went to wait for the 471. I call this the Bus That Never Comes and today it lived up to its reputation. In the end we took the N38 to Holborn and changed.
At Waterloo we looked around for breakfast but every kiosk was still closed. There was not so much as a cup of coffee to be had.
We boarded the 5:20 for Portsmouth. We were in the last carriage seated near a chap who turned out to be an off-duty police officer on his way home after a shift. When the ticket inspector arrived, one passenger had no ticket nor the means to buy one. The police officer intervened in support of the inspector and when the train reached a station, the passenger was conveniently expelled from the train.
A short while later, an announcement requested the police officer’s attendance in the next carriage where another dispute had arisen. It seems that a police officer is never really off-duty.
It was quite chilly when we set out and I had made the right decision in wearing my winter coat. As the train ran through the countryside. everything was white under a heavy frost. The moon appeared as a brooding dark orange sliver near the horizon, lightening as it rose higher and the sky brightened. at last the sun rose like a glowing red ball.
The train stops many times en route and we do not reach Portsmouth until 7:40. There is no buffet nor even a trolley service. We will have to wait until we reach the ferry port before we can think of breakfast.
Arriving at Portsmouth we made our way quickly to the station and the taxi stand. At this time of day there were few people about and we got a taxi straightaway, an 8-seater, no less. It was the same picture at the ferry terminal with no more than about a dozen people waiting to embark.
We breakfasted – finally – at the only refreshment place open, which had only sandwiches, pasties and the like though these could be heated. We promised ourselves to make up for it at lunch.
Aboard the ferry we pampered ourselves by buying tickets to the quiet lounge which is situated at the front the vessel so you can see where you are going.
It was a beautiful sunny day and the sea was calm and sparkly. Tigger’s compass misbehaved, no doubt because of the surrounding metalwork, so we amused ourselves checking the ferry’s course changes against the changing angle of shadows cast on the carpet whose regular pattern made this easy.
I bought tea from the cafe bar and received 2 Guernsey pound notes in my change. I don’t remember how long it is since I have seen pound notes in circulation.
At 11:39, my phone chimed: a text message had been received. I was surprised we even had a signal out here. It said “Virgin Mobile welcomes you to France.” Makes sense, just about…
Lunch was announced at midday. We had pea soup with a bread roll, the best part of the meal as it turned out, and the vegetarian special of the day, pasta with vegetables and covered with cheese. I would call it about average and rather expensive for what it was but, then, on a ship in the middle of the sea, you don’t have much choice and they don’t need to try too hard.
There’s not much to see at sea
By 3:15 more land was visible in the haze: small islands with lighthouses and larger masses looming further away and we were soon manouvering to enter the port at Guernsey.
Here we had to wait while passengers for the island disembarked and those travelling from Guernsey embarked.
When the restaurant opened for the evening meal, we asked what they could do for us and settled on a cheese and mushroom omelette with peas and chips. This was much better than lunch and we enjoyed it more.
During the next leg of the journey the light declined and this, together with the haze made it difficult to see anything clearly. We no longer had our “sun compass” to measure changes in the direction followed by our ship.
Eventually, as twilight deepened, we made out land and realized we were arriving at Jersey. Night had fallen completely by the time the ship rounded the south-west corner of the island and made its way along the south coast to St Helier. I would have liked to take photos but the light level was too low for hand-held shots (as you can see from this example).
To embark and disembark, foot passengers are ferried between the ship and the terminal by minibus. At the terminal we had to wait for our heavier items of baggage which we had given in charge to the baggage handlers. Reunited with our bags, we emerged from the deserted customs shed into the public area.
As we stood planning our next move, we were approached by a man who asked whether we were going to the Beachcomber Hotel. We said we were, whereupon he seized our luggage and led the way to a minibus. In this he transported us to the hotel. Handy, we thought.
“How much do we owe you,” asked Tigger upon arrival.
“Nothing to pay,” was the emphatic reply.
“Bonus!” said Tigger.
So here we are, drinking tea in our hotel room in Grouville, Jersey, after a day at sea but otherwise none the worse for wear.
March 22nd 2009
Jersey is divided into 12 parishes, roughly corresponding to English borough councils. 10 are named after saints, the exceptions being Trinity and Grouville, which is where we are staying.
We have what is described as a “Superior” room but there are one or two things wrong with it, such as a broken lamp on my side of the bed and a toilet flush that jams, preventing the cistern from refilling. Then again, hotel rooms are like people: they all have their faults.
Our room is at the top of two flights of stairs, 32 steps in all, and although this isn’t as bad as the Isle of Man, we find it convenient to get ready for our day out and then go down to breakfast with all our kit.
As the weather had been warm in London prior to our departure, I had hesitated to bring my winter coat and scarf with me but this morning when we started out under a grey sky with a moon-pale sun struggling to shine through the cloud cover, it was so cold that I was glad of them.
We walked along the road to the village of Gorey and on the way had an encounter that illustrates a difference between Jersey and impatient London. I was about to cross the road when I saw a youth on a bicycle coming towards me. I continued walking, waiting for him to pass but after a while as he had not yet passed I turned to look back. I then saw that he had stopped and was waiting for me to cross!
I hurried across the road and was so surprised that I forgot to thank him as I should have done. I remembered that yesterday evening, our cab, powering along the main road, had halted to allow a vehicle out from a side road. Later, in the village of Gorey, similar thing happened when a car stopped to let us cross the street.
Some of us remember a time when such courtesy was experienced on the highways of the UK.
We reached the sea in the bay at Gorey Harbour, picturesquely situated beneath Gorey Castle, also known as Chateau Mont Orgueil, and had tea in a hotel restaurant facing the beach.
The next task was to buy a 3-day bus pass. Unfortunately, these cannot be bought on the bus as they can in some places, so, on the advice of the bus driver, we bought 1-day passes as these would enable us to travel to St Helier where we could pay the difference and swap them for 3-day passes.
St Helier’s bus station, incidentally, has an interesting arrangement that I haven’t seen anywhere else. The display shows the times and destinations of buses and the “stands”, labelled from ‘A’ to ‘O’, from which they leave. When you reach the stand, you are confronted with a blank wall with a sliding gate in it. The gate does not open until the bus is in position to take passengers aboard. When the gate opens it is exactly opposite the entrance to the bus.
Armed with our 3-day passes, we took the 23 bus to Durrell. If you have not heard of this place you might still guess what it is. Remember Gerald Durrell, writer and animal conservationist? This is the zoo that he established on Jersey to provide a refuge for endangered species and which still seems to be going strong, maintaining the high standards that he set.
After a cold, grey start to the day, the sun had at last broken through and we enjoyed exploring the zoo in springlike sunshine. I wasn’t intending to take photos as I think taking photos in a zoo is like shooting fish in a barrel. However, some animals were sufficiently interesting or charming, or both, to make me want to photograph them.
In order to economize, we had bought bread rolls, cheese, tapenade (an olive pate) and fruit for a picnic lunch. We ate this at a picnic table on the grass near the Bat House before continuing our explorations.
On Sunday, relatively few buses run on Jersey. This means your options are limited if you want to move about the Island and that you need to plan your outings carefully to ensure you can get home again before the service closes for the night. We had learnt this lesson in Cornwall where buses often cease running from about 5 pm. Always remember to check the time of the last bus back!
A satisfied customer at the zoo cafe
After a cup of tea in the zoo cafe, we left just in time for the 3:45 bus towards St Helier. We had some idea of returning to the hotel for a rest before setting out to search for dinner but things didn’t quite work out that way.
The first leg of the journey went perfectly well. We had a little walk in St Helier but practically everything was closed so we returned to the bus station to pick up the number 1 for Gorey which goes past our hotel. We started the journey and ran along happily enough until we reached St Clement.
Serene view of the evening sea
At this point, Tigger’s usually reliable ‘inner pigeon’ seems to have gone haywire. The bus stopped, we got off, the bus departed, and there we were… miles from home. Oops! There would not be another bus for an hour, so we thought we might as well start walking. That way we would at least see some scenery and get a little exercise. In fact, it was quite a pleasant walk with serene views of the evening sea.
The main problem was that this was a main road, quite busy and in many places there was no pavement. Some vehicles came awfully close to us before veering away, especially when there were vehicles coming the other way.
The usual procedure on roads without pavements is to walk on the right, facing oncoming traffic. That makes sense until you approach a bend to the right. You realize then that you cannot see the oncoming traffic which means that oncoming traffic can’t see you, either. Motorists, even courteous ones like those in Jersey, tend not to expect pedestrians on the open road so the risk is obvious. On such occasions, we switched to the left, as we could then see further round the bend. When the road straightened, we would cross to the right again.
We eventually decided to cease walking and wait at a bus stop. We knew when the bus left St Helier but had to guess when it would reach the stop. In fact, Tigger’s estimate was pretty good and the bus turned up more or less when expected.
Jersey bus stop
(Text the number for bus times)
Incidentally, the Jersey bus service runs a neat scheme for informing you of the times of buses from any stop. It works as follows. Every bus stop is numbered with a 4-digit number. At the bus stop (which might not have a post and plaque) the word “BUS” is painted in the road together with the number of that stop. If you use your mobile to text the bus stop number to 66556, you receive an answering text giving the numbers, destinations and times of the next few buses from that stop. This is very useful and also reassuring when you find yourself waiting at a stop in the middle of nowhere.
Once aboard the bus, we decided to continue to its terminus at Gorey Harbour and have supper there. There are about half a dozen places in the harbour where you can eat in the evening. We chose the Seascale Hotel Restaurant which is where we had had tea in the morning. We had pizza and tea.
By the time we emerged to catch the 8:01 bus, it was dark. The harbour was pretty with its lights and the castle, which is illuminated with powerful projectors, stands out dramatically above the buildings. These pictures are a little blurred because they are hand-held.
We asked to be put off at the bus stop nearest our hotel. The night was dark and the stars shone out clearly. There was Orion, the Little Bear and many others. There was no moon to distract from our view of the sky. For that matter, there was no light at all and it was then that we remembered that out in the country at night if you want to see where you are going, you need a torch! Oops!
There were some cars on the road and whenever one came by and lit up our path, we hurried along. In some places there were lights from buildings but elsewhere is was pitch black. Fortunately, the digital pocket watch that Tigger bought me a couple of years ago has a single LED light on it. We found it produced sufficient light for us to follow the pavement. This time Tigger’s “inner pigeon” behaved itself and took us straight to the hotel. Tomorrow, I must remember to take our little Maglite torch with us.
Today is Mothers’ Day and at the restaurant they gave each female diner a bunch of daffodils. Tigger isn’t one for flowers and I never buy her any for this reason. Nevertheless, she was given her bouquet and we carried it solemnly back to the hotel. In the bar Tigger asked if they had a vase to put them in. The barman went away and came back with a flower bucket, the sort of thing florists stand bunches of cut flowers in. He promised to find a smaller one tomorrow.
When we reached our room, we were pleased (or perhaps “pleasantly surprised” says it better) to find that the two problems we had reported this morning (the broken lamp and the malfunctioning toilet flush) had both been put right. Brownie points to the management!
March 23rd 2009
Today started sunny but soon lapsed into grey skies with occasional flashes of sun. The plan was to go into St Helier and visit the museum.
According to the timetable, there should have been a bus at the bus stop near the hotel a little after 8:30, so we went and waited. As usual out of town, the bus stop is just the word “BUS” painted on the road surface. At this point, there is a turn off from the main road into a smaller road beside us.
This gave rise to more examples of Jersey courtesy. Motorists stopping to turn right saw us standing on the side of the road and assumed we were waiting to cross. They therefore kindly halted and waved us across. To explain, we pointed to the word “BUS”, and they smiled and drove on.
According to the timetable, there should have been two buses within a few minutes of one another but after half an hour it was obvious that neither was coming and we resorted to sending a text for bus information. They reply indicated that the next bus from the stop was still over an hour away.
Just as we were discussing what to do, we saw a bus approaching in the opposite direction and decided to take it. We waved and he kindly stopped. There was traffic on the road but I hurried across taking my life in my hands and trusting to the courtesy of Jersey motorists. They did indeed refrain from running me over…
The bus route was a circular one so we still got to St Helier, despite going in the “wrong” direction, though it took a little longer than it would have done going the other way.
In St Helier and other towns, some streets are named in French and some are named in English. Still others are named in both languages. In these cases, the oddity is that the French and English names are completely different, not merely translations of one another. Here is a clutch of examples. The French often has more character than the English.
Today, everything was open, hurrah!, so we had a walk round and visited the beautiful Central Market, where we had coffee and took photos.
We were surprised at the number of jewellery stores there were in the Market but soon discovered they were even more numerous in the surrounding streets. Either we had discovered the Jersey equivalent of Hatton Garden or the people of Jersey are particularly keen on jewellery, clocks and watches.
Jersey Museum occupies 4 floors and the attic of the building. First you take the lift to the 2nd floor which is set out as the early 19th century Merchant’s House. The rooms are furnished as they might have been in his day, with the main rooms on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the building with the nursery and schoolroom in the attic. I would say that this gave an impression of the houses of the time rather than being a true-to-life replica.
(The chain around the cow’s horns is a local feature)
The main part of the Museum concerns the history of Jersey, told through archaeology for its ancient part and through relics and documents for the modern part. The Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles that were invaded and occupied by Nazi forces during WWII. The occupation lasted for 5 years and ended amidst great rejoicing.
After the museum visit we decided to go for a bus ride. We took the 14:15 to Corbière, in the southwestern corner of the Island. Battered by the sea and the strongest winds I have experienced for a long time, Corbière is reminiscent of both Land’s End and Dungeness.
On a sunny day (and by now the sun had come out, fortunately), the place has a wild beauty to it. The only signs of wildlife, however, were rabbit droppings. Even the usually ubiquitous gulls were absent. Perhaps the wind was too strong and gusty even for these master flyers.
I thought it wise to jam my hat well down on my head and attach it with a hat-anchor. Although at times the brim fluttered like the wings of a bird, the hat never actually left my head but it was a relief to step inside the Corbière cafe and restaurant where we had coffee.
When we left the cafe to go to the bus stop, the wind had dropped slightly and we began to see wildlife. The first we saw were two wood pigeons sheltering in the bush. Then we saw some rabbits running about between the gorse bushes. A few more birds appeared, a crow near us at the bus turning point and, finally, some gulls wheeling over the buildings.
We boarded the bus and rode it as far as St Brelades where we disembarked for a look around. There would not be another bus for an hour, so we decided to start walking. Once more we found ourselves on a busy road without pavements so when, after about half an hour, we found a footpath going off the St Aubins, we gladly took it. We thought we might pause there for dinner.
St Aubins is quite a pretty town with a harbour and at least one Indian restaurant. We made a beeline for this and had an enjoyable meal.
By the time we had finished eating, night had fallen so we walked a little way along the seafront enjoying the view of the bay sparkling with lights. On returning to the bus stop outside the restaurant, we found that on this occasion we timed things well: within a couple of minutes, a bus came.
This deposited us at the Liberation bus station at St Helier. There would be a bus in 40 minutes for Grouville, where we are staying, so we retired to a cafe called La Pomme d’Or for double espressos.
At Grouville, we were faced once more with a walk along unlit roads to the hotel but this time we had our little Maglite torch to help us see the way. At the Museum, I had bought a keyring with an LED torch attached and this gives an impressive amount of light as well. This time, then, we had no trouble finding our way home.
Back at the hotel, I found a small box waiting for me on the bed. “What’s this,” I enquired but Tigger merely responded with a mischievous smile.
When I wake up in the night I like to know what time it is. Aware of this, Tigger bought me a gift today when I wasn’t looking. It is a talking alarm clock: press the button and it speaks the time. It can be set to speak automatically every hour or to do so just when you press the button.
I just hope that my checking the time at night does not disturb Tigger’s slumbers.
March 24th 2009
Today turned out sunny, a good day for sightseeing. After breakfast, we caught the bus into town because, as we now realized, all expeditions start there, at the Liberation Bus Station.
For our first trip of the day, we travelled to the fancifully named Devil’s Hole on the north coast. The bus stops, conveniently enough, beside a pub run by an Irishman. There is nothing odd about that as many accents are heard on the Island, particularly Scottish, for some reason.
A hand-painted sign advises that the Devil’s Hole is 10 minutes away along a footpath. The path is quite steep, which means that going down is easier than coming back up. As you descend, you soon see a sculpture standing in a pond. I was unable to discover whether the sculpture had been made elsewhere and brought to this spot or whether it had been carved in situ from a tree growing in the pond. Judging from its appearance, either origin is possible.
The sculpture represents a humanoid form perhaps 8 feet tall with horns. Is it supposed to be the Devil or is it pan? Given the name of the place, the former seems more likely. Either way, its appearance is suitably dramatic and impressive. The sculture’s feet are at water level which gives it the eerie appearance of standing on water, an illusion enhanced by the fact the duck weed have rendered the surface of the water opaque as if it were a green carpet.
As you continue down the path, views of the rocky coast become visible and these are truly spectacular, especially on a sunny day when the sea is blue with white breakers crashing against the rocks. At the bottom of the walk is a terrace affording views of the sea and the cliffs and, further along, a viewing platform where you can look into the Devil’s Hole itself. This is a deep pit with tumbled rocks and the entrance to a cave. I do not know how deep the cave is as you cannot see directly into it from the platform. It is a dark and eerie place.
There are traces of steps and railings to be seen, so in the past it was presumably possible to climb down into the pit and visit the cave. This is no longer permitted because of the danger of falling rocks.
We climbed – slowly – back up the path and had coffee in the pub while deciding our next move.
We decided to make for the quaintly named Bonne Nuit Harbour. One way was to walk roughly southeast until we intercepted the road to St John’s and there take the bus that first looped back over part of the way we had come and then carried us a little way forward to where we hoped to pick up a bus for Bonne Nuit. The plan worked, all except for catching the final bus. We just missed our connection owing to delays en route so ended up walking the rest of the way to our goal.
Bonne Nuit turned out to be a very pretty harbour, We sat in the sun on the sandy beach and ate the filled rolls we had bought in St Helier. After this we climbed the hill to the bus stop and thus returned to St Helier.
We waited there for an hour and took a number 8 bus to Portinfer, in the northwest corner of the island, the only part we hadn’t visited. As the evening was drawing on and it was getting cold, we could have stayed aboard the bus for the round trip but Tigger thought up a variation.
The bus route makes a sharp elbow southwards towards L’Étacq on the west coast. We got off the bus at this point and walked south to meet the coastal road. According to the timetable, there should have been a 12a on the way to L’Étacq, where it would turn around and return to St Helier. We wanted to catch this bus, go with it to L’Étacq and then travel back with it to the capital.
Unfortunately, we were a few yards short of the bus stop when it appeared. I waved hopefully at the driver but he just made a circular gesture with his hand and carried on. I took this gesture to mean that he would turn around at the terminus and pick us up on the way back. He perhaps did not realize that we also wanted to see L’Étacq. He did pick us up and thus we returned to the bus station at St Helier. If we are to see L’Étacq, it will have to be on a subsequent visit.
Opposite the bus station is an Indian restaurant called Jaipur and we repaired here for our evening meal and were not disappointed.
Back at the hotel I enquired about transport to the ferry terminal tomorrow. As we had been collected at the terminal on our arrival, it seemed reasonable to think that we would be taken thither from the hotel, even though no one had mentioned the fact. We wanted to be sure of this and also find out what time the taxi would be taking us. Our sailing is at 9 pm and we obviously do not want to spend the day at the terminal, nor did we want to have to return to the hotel in the evening, just to be picked up. On the other hand, we do not want to drag all our baggage around with us throughout the day. It appears that there is no Left Luggage facility at the terminal, surely a rather obvious fault.
The clerk was unable to tell us anything about transport, so we shall have to wait until tomorrow, when the clerk can phone the travel company and ask.
How much simpler it would be if there were a Left Luggage office at the terminal! It is so often the case that an otherwise excellent service is spoilt by lack of attention to such small but important details.
March 25th 2009
Today is the day we start back for London. I say “start back” because the journey runs over 2 days. The ferry sails from Jersey at 9 pm and reaches Portsmouth at 6:30 am the following morning, Thursday.
We do not know whether transport to the terminal has been arranged for us and our luggage. The hotel clerk is going to phone the travel company to find out but can do this only at 9 am when their office opens. We do not want to waste our last day here but we don’t want to have to cart our luggage around with us, either. We have been told that there is no left luggage service at the terminal.
In the meantime we will have breakfast and then chill out in our room until we hear about transport.
Today is also Tigger’s birthday. We awoke to rain on the window and blustery winds but now the sun has broken through. If we can get the transport sorted out, we could spend a pleasant day in town before going aboard the ferry.
At 9:45, we heard that transport had indeed been organized for us, though no time had been set. The hotel clerk phoned the taxi company and asked them to come straightaway. We were a little surprised at the vehicle they sent – a 40-seater bus – but there was at least plenty of room in it for us and our luggage.
The driver was willing to take us wherever we wanted to go but also said he thought there was a left luggage service at the terminal, provided by company called Ace, so we thought we might as well go there to start with.
Memorial to General Sir George Don (detail)
He was right: Ace could look after our bags until 5 pm when they closed. While we were at the terminal, we upgraded our ferry tickets to a cabin. As the crossing is overnight it makes sense to try to get some sleep.
Having concluded our business at the terminal, we walked back into town and took a last look around. We went into the de Gruchy department store and found that they have a very nice cafe restaurant in the acade area. It has tables outside the cafe but under the glass roof of the arcade so you can be “outside inside”, so to speak.
Cafe, de Gruchy department store
We had coffee and chatted and felt so comfortable there that we decided to stay for lunch. This was very good and not all that expensive so we felt it was being a good birthday so far!
We went for another ramble around town, taking our last photos, and ended up once more in the Market. By about 3 pm we were ready for further refreshment and so we went to the market cafe and had a “Jersey Cream Tea”.
We chatted with Natalie, who runs the cafe, and learned from her that the market is, sadly, in decline. Jersey people like having a market but unfortunately do their shopping at the supermarket instead.
We also asked if she spoke the patois or had ever thought of learning it. Her answer was no, as she knew no one who spoke it and felt it more useful to learn modern languages such as French and Spanish that are spoken by tourists.
Bronze cows (note traditional chain around the horns)
As Ace closes at 5 pm, we had to return to the terminal before then to reclaim our baggage. This unfortunately means spending 4 hours there until the departure of our ferry. There is a cafe at the terminal but that closes a 5 pm too. How helpful is that?
At 5 pm everything closed except the Condor Ferries enquiries desk. We passed the time as best we could, reading, chatting or occasionally walking about.
The ferry docked at about 7:30 and after some time a single foot passenger emerged. When car drivers were requested to return to their vehicles we moved closer to the departure gate. By about 8:40, 20 minutes before we were due to sail, we had still not been called so I went to enquire. I was told we would be called “soon”.
It must have been no earlier than 8:45 when we were finally allowed through the gate but then had to put all our gear through the X-ray machine before being taken out to a van. This took us a certain distance then sat and waited for a signal to proceed.
Once aboard we went to Reception to claim our cabin, We have an outside cabin which has 4 berths. The top ones can be folded up to make more space. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the cabin has en suite facilities. How chic is that?
My bunk is long enough even for my long legs.
We went to the brasserie (which they pronounce ‘brazzerie’, for some strange reason) for tea and then sat in the Quiet Lounge for a while, watching the stars and the lights on the other islands.
As a result of the high winds we have been experiencing over the last couple of days, the sea is a little choppy but nothing to worry about. In fact, it is rather pleasant as the movement of the ship reminds us that we really are at sea, sailing through the darkness towards an invisible goal, leaving behind us a land that was completely unknown to us until 4 days ago but from which we are carrying away living memories.
We hope to return to these islands again in a couple of years, perhaps to Guernsey on that occasion, though that remains to be seen.
March 26th 2009
“Boong bong,” said the public address system, “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, breakfast is now being served in the brazzerie bar.”
As I like to take a run at the day, I was already up and doing.
We decided to have coffee and toast in the “brazzerie” and a “proper” breakfast ashore later. Our train tickets are valid only from 10 am so we have over 3 hours to spend in Portsmouth. Having a solid breakfast is a good way to spend some of it.
The ferry has come to a halt and we are now awaiting the announcements. As foot passengers, we shall be called last so we have a while to wait yet.
HMS Warrior in Portsmouth Harbour
Once ashore we took a taxi and asked the driver to take us to a good cafe. He knew one near Portsmouth Harbour station, he said, that was always full of workmen so must be good. When we got there, however, it was closed. There was a newsagents with a cafe in the back but the door was still locked.
On the station, we found a Pumpkin cafe open and made do with lukewarm cheese and tomato croissants and coffee. And a couple of muffins to help keep our spirits up.
We now had three hours to wait before we could take the train, so we sat and waited. Tigger read her book, which seems quite gripping, while I watched what was going on all around and went out to take a few photos.
Time passed as it eventually always does and at 10 am we went over to platform 4 to find the 10:12 to Victoria awaiting us. The journey passed without incident and the number 73 bendy bus completed our journey. Tigger is feeling a little tired and has gone for a nap while I finish off this account and collect my email. Later we shall go out for a leisurely late lunch.
The flat seems a little empty without a certain furry person who, were she here, would probably be ecking away 19 to the dozen. I will go and fetch her tomorrow as planned, then we shall be complete once more.
Jersey was an interesting experience and we enjoyed it. I think we shall certainly return to the Channel islands in a couple of years, perhaps to visit Guernsey and possibly other islands. While the pace of life on Jersey is gentler than in London, I didn’t get quite the same feeling of going back in time that I got in, say, the Isle of Man.
The people were generally polite, friendly and helpful but the interesting point about this is that the population of Jersey has in recent times been swelled by immigration and so a lot of the people we had dealings with were not Jersey born and bred. This seems to indicate that where you are from is less important than the pace of life and the culture of the community, how you view life and interact with others.
There are some beautiful places on the Island. The Devil’s Hole was particularly spectacular but other places all around Jersey compete with it for beauty and interest. We were impressed by the bus service which, though running to the winter schedule was reliable and ran on time: the bus companies of Cornwall in particular might like to take a leaf out of Jersey’s book. Fares were reasonable too.
There seems to be a huge amount of building work going on. At least some of this appears to be the building of plush accommodation for the affluent. Now, I recognize that the rich, like anyone else, have to live somewhere, but what I think is a bad idea is when they are allowed to build their monstrous dwellings slap bang in the middle of beautiful places, spoiling these for the future.
Tourism is declining in Jersey as it is in the UK. There are hopes that the famous credit crunch will encourage Britons to holiday nearer home but I am dubious about this, personally. The Channel Islands have the disadvantage of remoteness from the UK: if you are going to travel that far (and at that cost), why not go to France or Spain or other favourite locations? Jersey once had the advantage that tourists could buy cheap goods there but that advantage has now disappeared. Some things are cheaper, some more expensive, but I would guess that they average out to about the same as the UK. On the other hand, the pound has fallen badly against the euro and this might still give the Channel Islands the edge.
How is Jersey and its companion islands to survive in the modern world? I saw a notice at the terminal which underlined the fact that the economic climate is cooler than it used to be. The notice warned Jersey citizens travelling to the UK that the arrangement with the UK NHS was being “switched off” (their words) from April 1st and that travellers should take out their own medical insurance. The question at the beginning of this paragraph is therefore an important one. Jersey’s money markets will continue to be important but will they suffice, especially under pressure from the EU and the US to make their dealings more transparent?
On a more pleasant note, I was fascinated to learn about the Jersey language, variously called “Jersey French”, “Jersey Norman”, “patois” or Jèrriais. From being a generally spoken language up until the early decades of the 20th century, it has suffered a disastrous decline. According to the 1989 census, 3.3% of the population spoke it, largely older folk. That percentage has surely declined further although today the language is being taught in schools.
So what is this language, exactly? It is a descendant of the Norman language taken to the Islands when these were claimed by the Duchy of Normandy in about CE 933. This language is still spoken on the mainland, in Normandy, alongside the French language. It is important to understand that this Norman language and the languages spoken in the Channel Islands are not corrupt versions of French. They are a genuine family of languages that developed in parallel with the dialect that we today call “French” from the Vulgar Latin of Roman times.
What gives the languages of the Channel islands their distinctive quality is that they have evolved in isolation both from Normandy and from one another. For example, it appears that the language of Sark derives from that of Jersey but that today, speakers of the Sark language and of Jèrriais hardly understand one another. The incomer, even a native speaker of French, would therefore find these languages barely comprehensible, though a speaker of Norman from the mainline could make some headway. Even in Jersey itself there are about 6 “linguistic pockets” showing local variations, though all are intelligible to speakers of each variety.
The language is interesting both in its own right and because it is intimately bound up with the history of the Channel islands. I am glad it is being taught (though I wonder which variety, exactly, is being taught and whether it is being modernized to make it usable in today’s world) because it deserves to be preserved and studied and, if possible, revitalized. For too long, it has been regarded as an inferior language so that parents did not bother to pass it on to their children, thus depriving them of an important slice of their heritage. I hope the current generation can recover the same pride in it seen by young Welsh and young Cornish people in their own native languages.
As you can see, I am interested in the Channel Islands languages and concerned for their future but I will not bore you further with this. If you are really interested, there are Web sites that describe it and books on it as well as books on the history of the Channel Islands. The Islands were occupied for 5 years by German forces during WWII and this marked a very important phase in their history and one that still has importance and an influence on Island life today.
I will for a long time remember my stay and carry in my mind’s eye pictures of the beautiful places on Jersey that we visited. Jersey is a special place and I hope it may long remain so.