Saturday, 23 July 2016

The Dark Dimension

Of late, the world has seen some very evil men engaged in the destruction of fellow human beings. This rather bleak poem reflects this reality. I remain optimistic. In Munich, a hash tag was used meaning "open doors", ordinary people offering refuge and shelter to those caught up in the terror attacks. There are more "good samaritans" than we might think, but we should not be naive in our optimism: there are also those consumed by evil, reflected in the images of this poem.

The Dark Dimension

Onward, death comes riding,
marching as to war
A skeleton in armour
going on before
Death, the final horseman
Turning friend to foe
Forward into battle,
Lets destruction flow

There can be no triumph
And innocents to flee
Bullets flying, bomb explodes
There is no victory
Hell ‘s chains are unbound
False the shouts of praise
The crying of unholy voices
As the death tolls raise

Dark the unseen army
Following their god
Plotting, planning, killing
Blood where children trod
Make the world divided
Distrust twixt you and me
The shadow angel’s doctrine
Ending charity

Onward, fleeing migrants
Seeking happy throng
Want to escape the bloodshed
That evil triumph song;
False glory and no honour
Cold comes the Grey King
No wisdom and no sages
Death his anthem sing.

Friday, 22 July 2016

The Observatory – Claims to Fame

The second, and final, part of the article in the Jersey Catholic Herald:

The Observatory – Claims to Fame
By Father Pere Ray

Father Dechevrens did not wait until the observatory and tower had been completed before beginning his weather investigations, as the first published readings are dated January 1 , 1894.

A 'Stevenson' screen was erected nearby to house the thermometers, thermograph, hygrograph, evaporimeter, etc. The Stevenson Screen or thermometer screen is a standard shelter (from rain, snow and high winds, but also leaves and animals) for meteorological instruments, particularly wet and dry bulb thermometers used to record humidity and air temperature

Later inside the observatory building, the barometers, barographs, terrestrial magnetism instruments were placed, and in a special room, the fiat roof of which could be lifted, a transit instrument was put on a pillar, as, at that time, before wireless telegraph, the only means to keep the right time was to observe the passage of the sun or stars on the meridian. 

Soon the top gallery of the tower received the wind instruments, connected to the observatory itself by a multicore conductor, transmitting the electrical impulses to the recorders. A wind vane and anemometer were also installed on the top of the observatory.

Father Dechevrens made a very extensive study of the wind at two different levels. It is amazing to see how he has used all the data. making graphs calculating averages, percentages, for direction, speed, frequencies. Later a very complicated wind vane was put on top of the mast, crowning the tower, registering the direction and the horizontal and vertical current, of air, as well as their velocity.

This invention which he had realized in his workshop, Father Dechevrens had built by an instrument maker in Paris (not without arguments between the master mind and the craftsman!) and proved very efficient.

The director of the observatory was helped in his work, which at some moment involved readings day and night, by another Father his own age, and of course by young students of the Maison Saint Louis training for their future work in other observatories

From personal experience, between 1917 and 1921, I know that it was not always an easy job to climb the 250 steps of the tower to adjust an instrument on the small top platform, in all kind; of weather.

Being always on the alert to find new grounds of investigations, Fr. Dechevrens began a study of some electrical phenomena, known as telluric currents (from Latin tellūs, "earth") measured by galvanometers, between two electrodes pegged in the soil, showing the existence of an electrical tide, connected with the sea tides and the insulation. The Island had not then an electricity supply, and it was a choice place for such investigations.

Apart from regular detailed yearly bulletins, the work of Fr. Dechevrens and his colleagues is represented by some 130 memoires and contributions to scientific periodicals. The amount of copy books filled with column after column of figures in his small clear hand writing, preserved at the Observatory, is amazing. A few months before he died in 1923, he saw the publication, by the Office Meteorologique National de Paris, of his Etude du Vent a Jersey , 20 annees I' Observations: 1895 - 1914 a I'Observatoure Saint Louis. He died on December 6, 1923, awed 79.

Before we come to the work of his successors, a few words must be said about a machine invented by Father Dechevrens, the Campylograph, now exhibited in the mathematical section of the Palais de la Decouverte, in Paris.

By means of the horizontal movements of a pen on a revolving platen, complicated curves could be produced, according to mathematical formulae, on the principle of Lissajous designs. When Father Dechevrens had worked out on paper all the shapes arid sizes of the pieces, he sent the detailed specifications to an instrument maker, who insisted that the machine would never work. After assembly, however, it proved to be a very clever piece of machinery.

It was not to be a very successful commercial proposition, though we do know that another one was ordered by an Indian Prince. It could have been of use for the design of intricate regular patterns, as printed on currency notes. The inventor used it for science, as we can see from a memoire presented to the Société Astronomique de France, dated February 1907, entitled 'The Movement of the Planet Venus, in Relation to the Earth, Traced by the Campylograph Dechevrens, and Seen in Space with the aid of a Stereoscope.'

After the death of the founder of the Observatory, it seemed that his intensive work could not he continued on the same scale. At that moment the Zi-Ka-Wei Observatory needed more instruments and some were sent there from Jersey and as it was felt that to keep two important observatories was too onerous, China would have the preference. Therefore the local observations were reduced and would have ceased altogether when in 1924 someone interested in science always ready to help and undertake new tasks came again in Jersey.

He was Father Christian Burdo who with much enterprising courage and with the help of the mathematics and physics master at Maison Saint Louis kept the Observatory going. Ingenuity, skill and patience were rewarded and soon the recorders ticked away again and more students came to help and be trained.

Unfortunately the tower had suffered much from lack of paint and repair during the war years. In 1920 I undertook with some fellow students to hammer out rust and repaint the metal, beginning at the top as no workmen could be hound to undertake this somewhat perilous job. Later, when the working level was nearer to the ground plenty of labour was available and it seemed that the tower still had a long spell of life. It was not to be. The expenses of' keeping it in good condition of repair were too high and it was decided that it should be pulled down. There was at some moment a hope of reprieve. Only the top part, the most unsafe, would be taken down, leaving the structure two thirds of its original height. Messrs Hunt Bros, of 35 Commercial Street in a letter dated October 5 1928 stated that after due consideration they did not feel disposed to do the work. The Morning News on January 28 1929 wrote under the heading 'Going, going’:

'If you wake up one morning and can't see what we call the Jesuits' Tower (for want of a better name) don't imagine your eyesight has gone wrong. This old landmark has apparently outlived its usefulness, due no doubt to wireless(!)--for I hear that the owners are seeking suitable offers to have the tower taken down as far as the second tier. Demolishing such a structure from the top is not an easy business short of pitching it over in section, and doubt if the material saved would pay for the gear and labour needed to demolish it piecemeal.

The demolition was performed by A.O. Hill of the Dockyard, Dover. It proved to be a tricky operation as can be read in the Jersey Evening Post of February 20.

'The Jesuits' Tower has gone for at 11 this morning one of the finest landmarks the Island possessed swayed after a couple of seconds as the cables and tackle were tightened and then begun to fall, finally to crash in the exact place which had been marked out for its fall. So that in spite of several failures yesterday today has crowned the work of those responsible for the demolition with complete success.

Several other attempts were made yesterday evening but the tackle broke and eventually it was found necessary to produce new gear. This morning in addition to the new gear the two legs which had not been completely cut through had a little more cut away. At 11 o'clock the attempt was again made and this time as described met with success.

"So the Tower which was erected nearly 35 years ago is now nothing but a mass of twisted iron. The work of erecting it was carried out by a Belgian firm in 1894 . the work of demolition occupied just 24 hours but a great deal of breaking up requires to be done before the iron can be shipped to England. There is believed to be 40 odd tons."

"We understand that before the final decision to demolish the Tower was taken Maison Saint Louis offered it to the States of Jersey 'if the States were willing to defray the actual cost of keeping it in repair an amount expected to be somewhere about £120 every four years. The offer was declined."

The Climatological reports published annually in the Bulletin of the Société Jersiaise show the name of Father Christian Burdo, Director of the Observatory up to 1933. In 1934 another name appears and remains the same until now.

The successor to Fattier Burdo started his training under Father Dechevrens between1917 and 1921.

He gained more experience in another Observatory, in Madagascar, during two different periods, 1921-1924 and 1929-1932. That year the difficult task of positioning a new transit instrument for the verification of the longitude of Trananarive, posed too much for his sight and he had to return to Europe.

Within it year he had arrived back in Jersey, and was put in charge of the Observatory where no astronomical work was done. In Madagascar one of the duties of the new Jersey Observatory Director had been to look after the seismographs.

He undertook this new line locally, and in June 1936 made the first recordings of an earthquake, at precisely 15 hours 11 minutes, 45 seconds, some 90 minutes after the final adjustment had been made to the instrument and the recording mechanism put into action. This first record was that of a seism near the Kamchatka Peninsula, 5,450 miles away!

The seismograph the same as the instruments of Tananarive, is a Mainka, weighing more than a ton, set deeply on the rock in the basement of the Observatory. The static mass weighs half a ton, and the recording is made by means of levers which amplify the local movement of the soil 150 times, on a sheet of smoked paper progressing at the rate of a yard per hour' under a fine tracing pen.

Lent by the Faculte des Sciences de Strasbourg the centre of the International Union of World Geophysics for a period of at least two years, the seismograph is still here. It is estimated that since June 1936, some 4,000 earthquakes from all over the world, have been recorded locally, 'read' and interpreted.

A monthly bulletin is prepared and sent to Strasbourg and Kew Observatory, for publication, and classification in International Summaries, of some 700 stations.

During the German Occupation, the Observatory was kept going. (the seismograph had to be idle for lack of recording paper), not without untimely and unwelcome visits of' the Gestapo, the Feldgendarmerie, and officers of the Konmiandantur 515. By special permission the wireless set was allowed to be kept with the specification that it could be used only for scientific purpose.

One result of this unique (in the minds of the occupants) wireless set in existence on the Island was that the Observatory was put officially in charge of' giving the correct time to a jeweller's firm in town, in order that it could be shown to the public on a dial specially displayed. Thus according to the Germans, the public had no excuse not to know the correct time, when caught outdoors after curfew!

So, the work which Father Dechevrens began in 1894, with observations high up in the air at the top of the tower, has been continued, more humbly now, even underground, with seismology, with much reduced staff, especially since the occupation, and the end of the Maison Saint Louis, indeed, reduced to only one now, the writer of this historical account.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

The Observatory – Early Years

From "The Catholic Herald", I unearthed this little gem. Part one today, part two on Friday.

The Observatory – Early Years
By Father Pere Ray

Recent publicity in the Jersey Evening Post made readers of the Herald realize how little most people know about what goes on in this rather Mary Poppins type house called the Observatory.

There is no big telescope as you would expect, but a wealth of other research instruments that has made Jersey famous in scientific circles. Father Charles Rey, SJ the Director since 1934, let us take a look round, and continues his story of The Jesuits who lived at the Hotel de France (printed in December 1971 and January 1972) with this present chapter on the Observatory.

It was in 1893 that the founder of the observatory arrived in Jersey. Father Marc Dechevrens, born in Switzerland in 1845, went to China in 1873 to take charge of the newly founded Jesuit Observatory in Shanghai, in the town district of Zi-Ka-Wie (located in the Xuhui District), where the missionaries had established their residence.

He gave that Observatory a reputation which remained undisputed and acclaimed over the whole world, until the Communist Government took it over, expelling all the Fathers and their faithful helpers.

In 1887, Father Dechevren's health compelled him to return to Europe, and in 1893 he arrived in Jersey at the Maison Saint Louis, a house established since 1880 as a training college for young Jesuits studying philosophy and science.

Soon he discovered that Jersey was an ideal place to install an Observatory, and had a very encouraging response from his superiors to begin his work, with the double aim of studying the weather and taking general observations already inaugurated in China: and secondly to train young Jesuits for their observatories in the Mission lands.

The rest of his life was to be spent here, till he died in December 1923. His first task was to build an Observatory, on top of the property, on a site well exposed to the wind. Ile drew the plans with the help of another Jesuit Father who had been an architect, for a building, simple in its interior arrangement, comprising a central room well lit from above, surrounded by six smaller rooms for living quarters, library, darkroom, transit instruments, magnetic recorders, workshops, etc.

The central room was to house all the meteorological recorders placed on shelves all round the walls. The top part of this room forming a flat roof, made of one inch thick rolled glass slabs, supported a gallery, on each corner of which were secured wind instruments for direction and speed. There was also a sun recorder, some 30 feet above the ground, and 170 feet above sea level.

We still have the specifications given by Mr. S. Cuzner, of 22 Great Union Road, for the building, some details of which are interesting. The foundations' walls were to be ten inches thicker than the respective walls above, and these were to be eighteen inches thick. The work was to be completed not later than the 15th day of September of the same year, 1894, with the penalty not exceeding £4 per week after that date. Unfortunately we do not know how long it took to build as the month was not mentioned on the tender. A receipt, dated November 21, 1894 mentioned the sum of £493, as per the contract, plus extras, making the total cost of £531.15.2d; the 15 shillings 2 pence being graciously ignored.

But, to make a proper study of the wind, Fr. Dechevrens was dreaming of a high tower, far away from surface disturbances. With the help of another Jesuit who had been an engineer in the French Navy, he began his enquiries and had a voluminous correspondence with metal frame builders in England, France and Belgium. The problem was complex and full of difficulties, concerning the kind of material to use, the solidity of the foundations, its resistance to the wind, its weight and height, and price.

Some of the estimates offer interesting information. From Archibald D. Dawney of London Bridge House, London E.C.:

"A small structure for £1,564 delivered in eight weeks, to be erected by Mr. S. Cuzner,” from Les Etablissements Baudet-Danot, Paris, an uninteresting project costing 40,000 francs (£1,600) which led indirectly to the final decision, from the Société Anonyme des Fonderies d'art et de Batiment, Paris, a proposal to build a structure like the Eiffel Tower (erected in 1889), but with doubts expressed about its resistance to the winds of the Channel. They preferred a chimney like structure well anchored to the ground, and maintained by wire strands if the layout of the property permitted. The structure would be 50 metres high with tests being carried out at the famous Le Creusot works; cost: 60,000 francs (£2,400).

A British firm, Malher and Co. of 21 Water Street, Liverpool sent a great amount of letters, written in beautiful French, and many plans, but in a second letter asked cautiously: 'How would Mr. Dechevrens intend to pay as the final amount would be very high?'

They insisted on the ornamental aspect of the tower and intended to keep strictly to Board of Trade Regulations. Their plan was grandiose. The tower would weigh 90 tons. When Father Dechevrens raised an objection they suddenly dropped the whole project, as 'they do not want to undertake a work which would not be to the credit and reputation of the firm'.

Another firm, Newton Heath Ironworks of Manchester, Contractors to the Admiralty, insisted on their great reputation since they had built the 507 ft Blackpool Tower (1894), weight 3730 tons, and were working on the project of' the London Tower, which was to be 1,150 ft high, the highest tower in the world!

'I am the only man in England who has experience in building towers. I submit that you should have the base of tower not less than one fourth of its total height, that would he forty feet. I suppose that you would want the design as simple as possible, without any ornamentation whatever. It should weigh at least 200 tons, and the cost would be between £6,000 and £7,000 sterling, erected painted, and finished complete.'

Another letter, dated February 20, 1 894, stated:

'Of course we know our business and we strongly advise you to consult some civil engineer of undoubted repute.'

A few lines below the letter continued:

'Last Sunday week it blew such a gale at Blackpool that the steel flagstaff standing on the tower, 555 ft high, was bent over like a whip. The dimensions of the flagstaff were 20 ft high, 6 inch steel tubing, 1/4 inch thick, tapering to three inches at the top.'

Later in the correspondence the firm stated:

'I never pretend to do cheap work, but I will guarantee good work, which is always cheapest in the end . As I said before, if you mean business, I will run down and see you, and could commence deliveries six weeks from now. My price at such a distance must be £30 per ton'

A letter dated March 19 begins:

'What have you done about your tower? If you would like to run the risk of getting it erected in Jersey, or possibly you can get the work done cheaper locally than I could, being on the spot, and acquainted with the district, I will design you a tower, and deliver free on trucks in Manchester, at £20 a ton, giving it all one coat of paint. You shall pass the drawings before I start work.'

The correspondence did not go further.

In a long correspondence with a Monsieur Zeigler an old boy of one of the Jesuit Colleges in Paris, the name of Monsieur T. Seyrig, who built the bridge on the Duoro River appears for the first time. He is mentioned as a first class engineer in the Société Anonyme de Construction et des Ateliers de Willebroeck, in Belgium. He was to be the architect of the Jersey Tower. The specifications are given in a long memoire dated April 2, 1894, and long studies and discussions follow.

It was finally decided that the tower should be 50 metres high, on four stone pillars, 4 metres deep underground, two and a half above ground level, with a cavity and gallery so that the four bolts fixing the metal tower to its foundations could be tightened from below.

The structure was to be twelve metres wide at the base, tapering to two metres at the top supporting a large platform capable of hearing the weight of twenty people. A hollow mast at the centre would then support another smaller platform, to which access could be gained by mean, of two ladders.

The blue prints of all the details are kept at the observatory, with the studies of the strength of the metal, which was to be of mild steel, the whole structure conforming to the logarithmic curve which it had to have to support its own weight of 37 tons and resist to the force of wind calculated at 300 kilos per square metre. The tower would he assembled in sections at the Willebroeck works, dismantled, and shipped from Antwerp to Jersey, with all the bolts and rivets.

The price was fixed at 31,500 francs (£1,260) including the stone foundations and pillars, payable in French currency, 60%° when the parts arrived, 30% at the end of erection, and 10% at the end of a one year's guarantee. The contract was signed in Paris on April 6, 1894.

On May 16 a start was made on digging the foundations: September 18 saw the first horizontal beam in place and by November 3 the erection was complete.

The masonry was done by Mr. Cuzner; the foreman for the metal work, a Mr. Mest who had come over from Belgium with his team of specialists.

Apart from some controversy about the salary of the men who claimed an increase as the work went higher, it appeared to be a straightforward job. There were no accidents recorded, nor any record of festivities for the opening ceremony which consisted of a blessing given by the Father Rector of the Maison Saint Louis.

The gradual appearance of this metallic frame against the skyline attracted the attention of journalists. On October 23 the Jersey Express reported:


Great interest is being manifested in the erection of an observatory which is now being constructed by the Jesuits on their property in St. Saviour's. The tower, which is built of iron, has already reached a great height, from the summit of which a splendid view is obtained not only of the town but also of the country.

It is stated that when the observatory is completed it will be possible to see what is taking place in the armoury of Fort Regent. Should the observatory he opened to public inspection we doubt not that many will eagerly embrace the opportunity of witnessing an indescribable coup d'oeil which must well repay any difficulty incidental thereto.'

The Nouvelle Chronique dated October 24 reported:


As we have already said the Jesuits are at present constructing a real Eiffel Tower in Jersey. This tower, an observatory, is built completely in iron, and even today, although it is not yet finished, has reached such a great height, that from the top it is possible to have a most splendid view, not only of all the town, but a large part of the country as well. We are told that when the tower is completed it will be possible to see what is taking place in the armoury of Fort Regent. We wonder how the army feel about the prospect of prying eyes noting their movements. If only by curiosity our readers should take a walk up Wellington Road to have a look at this tower.'

After the erection of the tower Father Dechevrens invited Mr. Seyrig to visit Jersey to sec his work.

In a letter dated February 1 896, the architect thanked the Father for a photograph of the tower, and said that he was pleased to know that the tower was giving every satisfaction. He wrote: but there is only one point where I do not entirely agree with you it is that the structure is elegant. I am afraid I don't always find that my constructions are smart and graceful. I hope that other qualities make up for this. I am not at all enthusiastic about architecture in metal, but as you declare yourself satisfied, I am delighted.'

Was the Jesuits' Tower a beautiful asset to Jersey? At that time there was not yet a Comite des Beautes Naturelles to give the final verdict!

Though built for science, the tower was on some occasions used for a very different purpose. On June 24, 1897, the Jersey Evening Post reported the illuminations for Queen Victoria's Jubilee:

'A magnificent searchlight that could be seen from miles around, gleamed from the top of the Eiffel Tower-like observatory. The tower itself being also gaily decked mill lights throughout the whole length.'

In 1919, for the peace celebrations, it was used as a giant flagstaff, with bunting on the four corners from top to bottom, with the Allies' National flags displayed from the top of the tower to the roof of Highlands College.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

A Tourist’s Eye View of Jersey

A Tourist’s Eye View

I struck up a conversation with a tourist at the bus stop at St Aubin on Sunday. She was heading towards the airport, luggage with her, and waiting for the 15 double decker.

It turned out that she was a regular visitor to Jersey, having come here about once a year over the last 20 years. Where she stayed varied, and she had to change from some hotels she had been in the past because they had closed down. She had currently been staying at the Bonne Viveur which she said was very nice, although she only did bed and breakfast as she enjoyed eating at different places. The breakfast was, however, the traditional full English, and very well done.

One of the things she had noticed was the closure of hotels, and even more than that, the loss of visitor amenities. There was no nightlife to speak of: Caesar’s Palace, Les Arches, and all the other venues for dance and cabaret had gone the way of Durrell’s dodo. They had either shut down or been demolished. There was far less to do at night that there had been in the past.

Now perhaps in part that was a cultural change: the modern tourist no longer liking the old style cabaret song and dance shows put on so successfully, especially by Dick Ray. Probably one of the best outsider’s views of that scene is by John Nettles in his first book on the Island, “Bergerac’s Jersey”.

And all the other sites on the tourist map had been disappearing. The Living Legend had gone. The various craft shops at L’Etacq had vanished. Jersey Potteries had gone to make way for flats. She couldn’t understand why Jersey Potteries could still keep the name for a product that was now made in England and shipped over, and quite frankly, neither could I.

Being based in St Brelade, she had noticed that the Shell Garden had gone, and wondered why. When I explained that it had been gifted to the National Trust, who then decided to sell it, she wondered if the National Trust would get given any more legacies like that. The Shell Garden was a tourist attraction, with its own postcards, and holiday coaches would even stop so tourists could take photographs.

On shops, she felt St Helier had enough shops, but was a bit of a mess, with lots of construction all over the place. She found Red Houses had fewer amenities over the years, which is probably true. There was a small enclave of shops which included a paper shop, a Chinese takeaway and a chip shop. There is now a chip shop across the road, but the Chinese takeaway has gone. And there seem to be more betting shops over the years in St Brelade.

The Red Houses Le Riche complex not only had a food hall, but places selling records and CDs, children’s toys, a hairdresser, and a dentist as well as a cafe. The new Waitrose does have a cafe and a shop selling some of the John Lewis range, but there is less than there used to be at Red Houses.

On the more positive note, the bus service was very good. A seven day explorer ticket at just below £30 enabled her to go anywhere in the Island, unlimited numbers of trips each day. The buses to and from St Aubin where she was staying were suitably frequent, and she found it a reliable service.

The new layout at St Aubin was another thing she found very much better. Instead of having to wait to get across to a central isle for gaps in traffic, which could be troublesome, especially at busy times, the zebra crossings were a great improvement, and they were well placed strategically – by the corner, by the Parish Hall, by the car park – so that people using them did not have to walk far. The 20 mile and hour zone around the Village was also welcome. She also admired the floral displays at the Parish Hall, and the new boat display in memory of Mark the Fish, and the flowers by the Pétanque area.

One thing it emerged she had never done was to walk the railway walk. She had seen the path by Les Quennevais Parade but didn’t know that it would take you all the way down to St Aubin. That seems to be a gap to be filled. While tourists may seek out walking routes, promoting the railway walk by a map in hotels in St Aubin would surely be a good idea too.

On the whole I got the impression she had enjoyed her stay, found St Aubin to be an excellent venue for staying and for good bus routes, and would probably be coming back, despite the changes which have taken place over the tourism landscape in the past twenty years.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Fantasy Island: The Fallacy at the Heart of My Jersey

Imagine being asked where you would like to live, where you would like to go on holiday, what kind of house – and grounds you would like, what car you would like to drive, and even what boat you would like. Money is no object. You can spend what you like. What is needed from you is to find out what you want in the future: what kind of lifestyle you would like.

It is all a bit of a fantasy isn’t it, unless one wins the UK lottery. And yet just such a fantasy is being perpetrated by the My Jersey Survey when they ask people about the quality of life, without considering population. This is their rationale, and it is pretty thin:

“The My Jersey survey is about the quality of life we want in Jersey. This isn’t determined by setting an arbitrary population target. Let’s think first about the difference we can make on key issues that influence population policy such as improving the skills of our home grown workforce, creating more rewarding jobs, making the best of our built environment, improving our health, and managing our demand on our natural resources. Then we will be able to develop an informed population policy that puts migration into a proper context.”

That’s like saying you have unlimited funds, so let’s think first about what kind of life you would have, rather than the more mundane and prosaic task of saying: this is our annual income – how can we live within our means. It is putting the cart before the horse. It is nonsensical. It is Fantasy Island, where people from all walks of life could come and live out their fantasies, presided over by the Chief Minister in the role of Mr Roake.

Incidentally, the Survey conceals its authorship very well, but it would appear to be coming from Jersey Business Limited. Jersey Business launched its services from premises in Gloucester Street taking over a lease from its predecessor, Jersey Business Venture, and appears to be another semi-automonous government Quango.

It’s 2014 Enterprise Plan, presented by Senator Alan Maclean, states:

“Given the constraints on population in Jersey, enterprise and the achievement of economic growth will require a specific focus on firms having the potential to make a significant impact on the Island’s prosperity, primarily utilising the skills and experience of local employees.”

It is strange the survey ignores the “elephant in the room” which the Jersey Business team are acutely aware of, an omission which is so blatant it was spotted by the people asked by Radio Jersey to comment on the survey!

Deputy Murray Norton, in his role as Assistant Minister, asked me to send him my concerns over the survey, and I suggested starting with this. He said he would get back to me, and I'm hoping that he will, although it was the 4th July when I asked the question, and so far I have heard nothing.

And that brings me to this little piece by Sarah Ferguson:

A prophet is seldom without honour save in his own country
By Sarah Ferguson

Priority 5 of the Strategic Plan stated specifically that there should be a limit on population growth. Last week, at a briefing on the Medium Term Financial Plan Addition, the Chief Minister was asked for the population size used to calculate the Plan. The answer was not specific and it appears that each Department used what figure it considered to be appropriate.

There are a number of statistics required to plan the future of the Island and population is a vital one. Given that land is limited, the availability of it dictates the possibilities for providing housing for a growing population. If the population keeps growing at the present rate then there will always be a housing shortage.

Allied to this is the intention of the Education Department to ensure that the population is sufficiently skilled to provide a workforce for both new and existing businesses within the Island.

Some of the required skills can be learned within the on Island system but some, by their very nature must be learned off Island. These are usually so skilled that both the qualification and the experience must be acquired off Island before the individual returns.

One of the major problems in this is that the expansion of the Population makes it so difficult for these individuals to afford housing should they want to return to the Island yet it has been a strategic aim to ensure that many of the job opportunities available can be filled by Island natives.

We therefore have a situation where a lack of coherence between policies means that we educate youngsters and send them to university using the taxpayers’ money and then, by this lack of coherence between the operation of policies, we make it extremely difficult for them to return. This difficulty is compounded by the ingrained attitude to new ideas and change which can often be found in a small community such as ours.

There is currently an extremely strong report by the Complaints Board and the only reaction by the SEB and the Health Minister is to rubbish the Board’s report.

It is worrying that there is no specific comment about the apparently deficient manner of handling of the recruitment. It has been mentioned elsewhere that the level of absenteeism in the States is highest in Health. On the basis of these two factors alone it seems that SEB and the HR function may not be carrying out the responsibilities which are expected of a good employer.

We are assured that lessons have been learned and procedures improved. It would give the public confidence that this is the case if the workings of the SEB and HR in the States were thoroughly examined by Scrutiny or the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Monday, 18 July 2016

The Attempted Turkish Coup: A Comment

The Attempted Turkish Coup

Watching the attempted Turkish coup unfolding was extraordinary. I was following the hashtag #Turkey and every few seconds, another 18 tweets would be posted.

Most were serious, but some flippancy crept in, mostly with reference to Boris Johnson making a statement, and usually accompanied by pictures of him looking ridiculous on the trip-wire. It is uncomfortable seeing humour creeping in at a time when events are kicking off, and there is genuine fear, and people have actually been killed.

I suspect that some of that has to do with this distancing effect of Turkey. No one made jokes about Nice, or the Paris attacks earlier in the year.

The Bishop of Dover had rushed out, presumably by email, a prayer concerning the atrocities in Nice. But one couldn’t help thinking that Turkey was somehow missed off his agenda, even though the events had taken place on Friday night, and there was plenty of time for notice to be taken.

It seems that once one leaves Europe and probably mostly Western Europe at that, the news agencies and the churches tend to regard events as outside of their radar. The crash of the Egyptair plane involved Europeans and did get mentioned; the bombing in Iraq was mentioned briefly once, and then just pushed under the carpet.

There was a sketch in the “Not the Nine O Clock News” that parodied the respective weightings that the news gave to various nationalities during natural disasters. It basically consisted of one of the team as a BBC presenter reading out a list of disasters around the world with a disclaimer of "fortunately no Britons were killed". It was a very blunt satire, but I can’t help feeling that it hits the mark.

The same was true of the terrorist attack on Ataturk airport a few weeks ago; it made the news, but rapidly vanished into oblivion.

The coup in Turkey lay on the fault line between the secular Turkish state established by President Atatürk after the end of the First World War, when the Ottoman Empire lay in ruins. But President Erdogan has brought back into being a more Islamic state, in which Sunni Islam is the dominant party, and which has not only attempted to backtrack on the reforms of Atatürk but also become increasingly repressive, imprisoning journalists and vocal critics of the State.

It was no doubt with that in mind that some of the Military leadership attempted to follow the designs of President Atatürk and depose Erdogan in order to reintroduce, at some point, the secular democracy.

But the attempt failed. It is a moot point whether it would have failed ten or fifteen years ago. I think it might well have succeeded. There is an old Simon Templar TV story called “The Reluctant Revolutionaries” where Simon Templar helps democratic revolutionaries overthrow a dictatorship by the simple expedient of taking over the media and broadcasting that it has already happened.

Something of the same seems to have happened here. The leaders of the coup took over the State broadcaster and began a series of messages about a curfew, about the military takeover, and about the President being deposed.

Fifteen years ago there was no social media so to speak of, and no smart phones. The control of the flow of information was much easier. But as the plotters found out to their cost, the global reach of modern technology meant that President Erdogan could send out a video message on Facetime, to be multiplied a thousand fold on Facebook and Twitter, giving a lie to some of the news being broadcast.

Some people on Twitter mocked him being reduced to this means, but in fact it was an extremely clever move. It meant he could stay in charge, he could give messages to the ordinary people to defy the coup in the name of democracy, while at the same time planning to return to Istanbul.

The leaders of the coup also misjudged the President. They attacked when he was known to be on holiday, away from capital cities. In the past, some coups have succeeded in other countries because the President involved thinks their number is up, and flees into exile, hope to reclaim their power at some later stage. That almost never happens; removed from the mechanisms of command, they live out a lonely exile as a guest of some neighbouring country friendly to them, or prepared to shelter them for a price.

Erdogan decided to fly back to Istanbul and be present and not to run away. He was by now in contact with the military who had not taken part, and with the police forces, and coming back to the heart of the nation meant he was still present and not deposed: a symbolic act, and possibly an element of a gamble, but probably the best strategic move he could have made.

The problem now comes in the aftermath. The coup has failed, but the opposition parties all opposed it publically at the time and came out in support of their rival, the President. Will he now see an opportunity to seek rapprochement and heal those divisions, or will Turkey become an even more divided and repressive government.

And the President told a crowd that Turkey would consider reinstating the death penalty. He said: "In democracies, decisions are made based on what the people say. I think our government will speak with the opposition and come to a decision. We cannot delay this anymore because in this country, those who launch a coup will have to pay the price for it."

Turkey has arrested 6,000 people after a failed coup, with President Erdogan vowing to purge state bodies of the "virus" that caused the revolt. Despite calls for “unity and solidarity”, the omens are not good for a united country which respects the rights and freedoms of all its people.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

A Nation's Greatness Depends On Its Leader

This is a week in which Theresa May emerged as the only candidate for Leadership of the Conservatives and also by default Prime Minister, and Jeremy Corbyn faces a challenge for his Leadership of the Labour party.

It seems therefore appropriate to look at the nature of leadership, and this passage by Suzy Kassem, a poet and philosopher, from her book “Rise Up and Salute the Sun” sums up for me the ideal qualities we need in a national leader.

It is an ideal, but shouldn’t we aspire to ideals?

A Nation's Greatness Depends On Its Leader
By Suzy Kassem

To vastly improve your country and truly make it great again, start by choosing a better leader. Do not let the media or the establishment make you pick from the people they choose, but instead choose from those they do not pick.

Pick a leader from among the people who is heart-driven, one who identifies with the common man on the street and understands what the country needs on every level. Do not pick a leader who is only money-driven and does not understand or identify with the common man, but only what corporations need on every level.

Pick a peacemaker. One who unites, not divides. A cultured leader who supports the arts and true freedom of speech, not censorship. Pick a leader who will not only bail out banks and airlines, but also families from losing their homes -- or jobs due to their companies moving to other countries. Pick a leader who will fund schools, not limit spending on education and allow libraries to close. Pick a leader who chooses diplomacy over war. An honest broker in foreign relations. A leader with integrity, one who says what they mean, keeps their word and does not lie to their people. 

Pick a leader who is strong and confident, yet humble. Intelligent, but not sly. A leader who encourages diversity, not racism. One who understands the needs of the farmer, the teacher, the doctor, and the environmentalist -- not only the banker, the oil tycoon, the weapons developer, or the insurance and pharmaceutical lobbyist.

Pick a leader who will keep jobs in your country by offering companies incentives to hire only within their borders, not one who allows corporations to outsource jobs for cheaper labor when there is a national employment crisis. 

Choose a leader who will invest in building bridges, not walls. Books, not weapons. Morality, not corruption. Intellectualism and wisdom, not ignorance. Stability, not fear and terror. Peace, not chaos. Love, not hate. Convergence, not segregation. Tolerance, not discrimination. Fairness, not hypocrisy. Substance, not superficiality. Character, not immaturity. Transparency, not secrecy. Justice, not lawlessness. Environmental improvement and preservation, not destruction. Truth, not lies.

Most importantly, a great leader must serve the best interests of the people first, not those of multinational corporations. Human life should never be sacrificed for monetary profit. There are no exceptions. 

In addition, a leader should always be open to criticism, not silencing dissent. Any leader who does not tolerate criticism from the public is afraid of their dirty hands to be revealed under heavy light. And such a leader is dangerous, because they only feel secure in the darkness. Only a leader who is free from corruption welcomes scrutiny; for scrutiny allows a good leader to be an even greater leader.

And lastly, pick a leader who will make their citizens proud. One who will stir the hearts of the people, so that the sons and daughters of a given nation strive to emulate their leader's greatness. Only then will a nation be truly great, when a leader inspires and produces citizens worthy of becoming future leaders, honorable decision makers and peacemakers. And in these times, a great leader must be extremely brave. Their leadership must be steered only by their conscience, not a bribe.