Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Guest Posting on People's Park as Possible Hospital Site

Today I'm pleased to put up a guest posting taken from the West of Town Community Association Facebook page, and make it available for a wider audience.

People's Park as Possible Hospital Site
by Christian May

As Chairman of the West of Town Community Association and a resident who has spent over 30 years living in various properties overlooking People's Park, I will reiterate now what I have said in today's Jersey Evening Post.

I cannot in any way support the development of a new Hospital on People's Park. I hope that the Council of Ministers and Parish of St Helier will confirm next week that this is NOT an option that is being seriously considered.

People's Park is the heart of our community, and to rip that heart from the people of St Helier, and the Island as a whole, is an idea I find completely abhorrent.

The land that comprises People's Park was gifted to the Parish of St Helier for the enjoyment of the residents and Islanders and is protected by legal covenant which can be found in the Jersey Archive. This is a protection that both Mary Ayling-Phillip and I have sought to apply in the past and remains very much in force. It would take a full Parish Assembly vote or a forced change in legislation by the States Assembly to remove it.

People's Park has sustained Islanders (as allotments) during the Occupation, has seen rapturous celebration of the Liberation, and is a site for concerts, charity events, festivals and funfairs. It is a busy sporting ground, a mecca for sunbathers and a peaceful view for elderly residents and nearby nursery-goers. It is used every day by dog walkers and joggers alike. It simply cannot be replaced.

To countenance building over it would be akin to building on Hyde Park in London. What precedent would this set? Is Howard Davis Park to become public housing? Shall we build offices in Royal Square? No. A line must be drawn!

Whilst I fully understand that a site must be found soon for the new Hospital, I would urge the Council of Ministers to very carefully consider the message that a decision to develop People's Park would send to Islanders. To build on a much-loved piece of public land, whilst other viable sites are available, speaks of a fundamental disconnect with the people they were elected to represent.

I must add that I do NOT support the development of People's Park even if an "alternative public space" is found to replace the park. Any provision of that alternative will likely take decades to become available (if the old General Hospital site is being considered) and will not replace this beautiful peace of natural parkland to which many Islanders have a strong emotional connection.

I hope that all residents, parishioners and Islanders will likewise oppose any development of People's Park. To that end, should it be confirmed that the Park is being considered as a viable option, I will launch an online petition which can be completed at www.savepeoplespark.com. I hope that such a step is not needed and common sense will prevail.

Nonetheless, I want to inform the Health Minister and Council of Ministers, and to reassure all residents and other Islanders, that I will exercise every single legal and political recourse to ensure that any proposed development does not take place.

Christian May

Monday, 5 October 2015

Migrant Crisis: A Few More Comments

Don’t Rubbish the Migrants

I’ve heard criticism made of the “jungle” in Calais. Why don’t they at least try and be tidy and clear the rubbish away? Yes, serious criticism of all the heaps of garbage that there are, without stopping to think why that should be so. In fact, the general comment from those is that the people at Calais just don’t care – like litter louts writ large, they couldn’t care less about piles of rubbish.

So it was good to read Glenys Newt on the subject, as she makes it clear why the rubbish does not get cleared easily, and answers those questions:

“I had gone as part of an organised clean up operation and together with about 120 people we set about with bin bags, shovels, rakes and a fortified sense of humour to try and clear up some of the piles of rotting rubbish that has accumulated.”

“Why don’t the people clear it up themselves you might ask? For a start there is not a single bin in the whole place and with around 5000 people sharing the space it doesn’t take long for rubbish to accumulate. The local authorities refuse to clear any of the rubbish away although by the end of the week we had forged relations with the local authorities and they actually came and cleared some of the 1500 bin bags of rubbish that we filled in just 2 days.”

“There are 2 industrial sized skips but they are a long walk for most people and they had no bin bags to put rubbish in anyway. As soon as we started we were immediately surrounded by people wanting to help. We handed out thousands of bin bags to people who were so grateful that we were coming to try and improve the squalor in which these people live. We cleared away areas where children were playing in raw sewage. We cleared the water pipe areas where sewage, rats, rotting food and rubbish all mix. Attempts had been made to burn piles of rubbish but piles of wet clothes and tins do not burn easily.”

Need for Clamp Down on People Smugglers

The boats coming from Turkey to Lesbos are designed to hold eight to 10 people, but smugglers pack them with up to 60 migrants, each paying as much as $1,500 to make the trip. The smugglers do not make the journey. They choose a migrant to steer the boat, point out a direction — sometimes a light in the distance, if at night — and send them on their way.

If people are smuggling heroin or cocaine and hard drugs into a country, they face both arrests and heavy fines and prison sentences. There are intelligence services working behind the scenes to determine what is going on, and make those arrests. It doesn’t stop all drugs smuggling, but knowing you will be spending the next ten years in prison sends a strong message to others. It usually makes headline news.

In fact, many of the traffickers used to smuggle illegal drugs, but have shifted their focus to people since the refugee crisis began.

Austria has recently arrested five people smugglers. "We are seeing that the smuggler gangs are acting in ever more brutal and ruthless ways and we must counter them with stronger and harder measures," said Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner.

In August, Libyan authorities arrested three people on suspicion of involvement in launching a boat packed with migrants that sank off the country's Mediterranean coast, killing up to 200 people.

The German "Bild am Sonntag" newspaper reported on Sunday that more than 2,300 suspected smugglers had been arrested in Germany since the beginning of the year - a 40-percent increase on the same period last year.

A week ago, the European Union on Monday announced that it will be able to go after suspected migrant trafficking and smuggling vessels in the international waters of the Mediterranean as of next week.

As the New York Times reports:

“Monday's EU statement said Operation Sophia will allow naval personnel of EU nations "to board, search, seize and divert vessels suspected of being used for human smuggling or trafficking on the high seas, in line with international law" as of Oct. 7.”

The Daily Beast reports that:

“Since the beginning of the year, Italian authorities say they have arrested more than 950 human traffickers, including one who was commandeering a boat that went down with as many as 800 people on board last April. “

“Many of the smugglers go on trial in Italy and are given harsh jail sentences. Others are let go due to lack of evidence. Almost all apply for political asylum once they are rescued. “

After a 12 week mission, the crew of the LÉ Niamh handed over to Italian authorities around 30 people smugglers during the ship’s tour of duty in the Mediterranean Sea, which resulted in the rescue of 4,127 refugees.

Apparently Italian authorities said the increasing number of people arrested for allegedly smuggling refugees across the Mediterranean in latest months had a role in making traffickers change their routes to avoid the country. Intercepted phone conversations between people suspected of leading migrant smuggling rings showed that traffickers worried about the increasing danger of being detected and arrested once landed in Italy.

Egypt is now taking a very hard line. A 35 page bill sets out measures against smugglers. Smugglers would face life sentences if anyone died during a journey that he or she ran or organized. The government also sets a higher fine for these cases - the equivalent of the smuggler’s profit. Those found to be complicit in any way could also face time in prison.

But there is a paucity of news about fines or prison sentences anywhere on the media. That must be happening, and only once we get solid information about successful prosecutions can we assess exactly how measures are taking are working.

Moreover, as the case of Italy shows, where news is global and travels fast, that could well affect the volume of migrant smugglers, and some may even pull back out of the market. There needs to be the same level of intelligence and evidence gathering that goes into drugs and the corresponding money laundering.

Attacking the smugglers at both ends of the scale: by heavy fines and imprisonment, and on the other, by freezing assets, may not prevent people smuggling, but it would be a start. These are callous people, who have no regard for human life, and seek to profit from the misery and suffering of others. It is about time justice was meted out to them.



Sunday, 4 October 2015

The Samaritans by Terry Hampton

From "The Pilot" of 1992 comes this article by my good friend Terry Hampton. It perfectly captures his inimitable chatty style. Reading this brings back great memories of him, both as Vicar at St Aubin on the Hill, and as Rector of Grouville. He was evangelical, but not fundamentalist, religious but also fun. Some of that humour comes over in this article.

They’re in the Bible but... .
The Samaritans by Terry Hampton

"AT LAST, something from the Bible we have heard about! They were the people who looked after drunks, down-and-outs: and beaten-up travellers."

Well, not quite! What is strange is that a group of people that most first century Jews loathed and looked down on, should have given their name to a caring group made up of all sorts of people, who are dedicated to counselling the hurt. Let's first get sorted out as to why the Jews and Samaritans got so ratty with each other.

We all know that when. Israel came into the Promised Land of Canaan (later called Palestine, after the Philistines who lived there=eyes, yes, we do read these articles, Reverend. There were twelve tribes of Jews.

After the death of King Solomon, who had taxed and virtually enslaved much of the population for his building projects (see forthcoming article on Solomon) the country split into two sections, called the Northern Kingdom and the Southern:. Ten tribes ceased their allegiance to Jerusalem as the capital, and after some moving about, they agreed to make Samaria their new capital city. All went well for several hundred years.

Then came the threat of Assyria. Under King Shalmaneser V, Samaria was attacked and after a tremendous siege lasting three years, Samaria fell in 721 BC (one trembles to think what death many of the brave defenders endured).

Over 27,000 people were taken away into slavery in Assyria, and some of their names have been found on bits of pottery (ostraca).

To replace these people, the Assyrians moved in peoples from other captured places, and so the Samaritans became a racially mixed people.

Jerusalem was itself to fall in 587 BC to the Babylonian army, and the people of the Southern Kingdom became captives in Babylonia. On their return they began to rebuild their capital city and the Temple. The Samaritans offered to help, and were told to clear off sharpish! They were not racially pure: look up Nehemiah 13: 23ff for details.

Without Jerusalem for worship, the Samaritans built their own Temple on Mount Gerizim. They accepted the first five books of the Old Testament (the Torah) as their Bible, and had their own priests.

Warning to others

But relationships with their Jewish neighbours were often explosive and there were raids. At one point the Samaritans murdered the Greek governor of Syria and so it was destroyed by Alexander, the Great as a warning to others.

One Jewish King conquered the area and forcibly circumcised all the men, which did not endear him: to the people with those part: By the time of Jesus, most Jews avoided going through Samaria, unlike Jesus who several times went with His disciples through this territory..

Herod the Great did some superb rebuilding of the capital city and called it Sebaste (the Greek version of Augustus, the Roman Emperor and his overlord).

So we have seen how in one sense it is fitting that a nation made up of all sorts he given their name to a group made up of all sorts who care for others.

But, not so fast, where does the caring Samaritan connotation come in?

Readers of Luke's Gospel, chapter 10, will know well the story there told by Jesus to answer the question, "Who is my neighbour?" And to the amazement, and possibly fury of some, the hero of the parable was a Samaritan. (The usual adjective "Good" is not part of the original)

So: a word which was used by first century Jews as a term of abuse, "Are we not. right to say that you are a Samaritan and have a devil?" said to Jesus in John 8:48 was chosen by the founder of the movement Chad Varah - to describe the quality of caring that he wished to be given.

I wonder if any modern-day traveller has  told the small Samaritan community of  this delightful modern-day usage of the  ancient name? Perhaps the forthcoming  trips to Israel led by Fathers Wastie and  Giles will see to it that this information is  imparted?

So, what spiritual value is there in this sorry tale of destruction, deportation and racial bigotry?

There is the challenge to us to look again at any person or group that for whatever reason we "write-off." Jesus used a Samaritan as his hero in one, perhaps the most famous parable he told. He preached there (John 4), and later the young church would send disciples there, as Jesus had commanded them to do.

And the modern-day usage of the word Samaritan challenges us to care for all and any in need - because Jesus said "Go and do thou likewise." 

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Eclipse of the Moon

As might be expected this week, my poem is about the lunar eclipse. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did if you stayed awake in the early hours. Clear skies, a rather mild night, no wind to speak off. We were so lucky. This poem was actually written in May 2004, the last time I saw an eclipse.

Eclipse of the Moon

The moon was in eclipse last night
In past, a portent giving fright
But now a sign of wonder yet
Dance of planets in minuet 

The crescent shrinking with each hour
Through clouds, so thin and wispier
Until at last is seen a final sliver
A sight that awes, and gives a shiver. 

In its place is seen a glowing coal
As if a giant here had stole
The whiter moon away as abductor
Replaced it with its redder sister.

Friday, 2 October 2015

The German Cemetery at St Brelade's Church - Part 1

From the pages of "The Pilot", in 1991, comes this article about the German cemetery in St Brelade's Church.

A note about the  SS Schokland mentioned in the text. There are two Youtube videos of a visit to the wreck taken by Trevor Richomme.

Diving the SS.Schokland. 19/5/13.

The Schokland, a Dutch freighter which sank after hitting a reef in 1943 while under the command of the German forces. She now sits upright, 225 feet long.

Tony Titterington discovered the wreck of the ss Schokland in 1964. Here is an extract from "Master of the Wrecks":

"The Schokland was an 1100-ton merchant steamer, built in Holland in 1915 and used by the German forces during the occupation to carry cargoes between the islands and France. In January 1943 she headed for St Malo as part of a convoy, carrying building materials and large numbers of German troops going home on leave. In the hands of an inexperienced master she ran onto rocks south of the island and sank in half an hour with the loss of 136 lives. Tony discovered the wreck’s rough position by transit marks and then pin pointed it with a primitive echo sounder. This process took only half an hour and he now laughs when he remembers how long that seemed at the time. The wreck was in a very good condition and was intact except for the removal of its guns, presumably by German divers during the war. Tony recovered a number of items including the ship’s bell, telegraph and maker’s plate."

The German Cemetery at St Brelade's Church during the Second World War
By Michael Halliwell and David Ling
Part 1

The first part of a serialisation of the booklet compiled by David Ling and the Rev Michael Halliwell on the Occupation and how it affected the Church of St Brelade.


The year 1940 brought the first invading army since the French landed on Jersey in 1781, and for five long years the Island became part of the Third Reich.

Before that, during the First World War, while an exiled German was working on the wall paintings in the Fishermen's Chapel, some of his compatriots were held as prisoners of war in a camp nearby, and the bodies of those who died in captivity were brought to the cemetery for burial. It was natural, with their compatriots already buried here for the German authorities to choose St Brelade, and its church and cemetery, for further interments.

The first such burial took place in July 1940, only ten days after the arrival of the first occupying forces. The First interments were alongside the graves of those who died in the First World War, but from February 1942 burials were located in two large blocks separated by a gravel path.

In the following month the cemetery was designated a Heldenfriedhof or Heroes' Cemetery. Trees were planted, rough granite paths laid, and wooden gates with large representations of the swastika within the Iron Cross were installed in facing entrances to the cemetery and the Rectory garden. Bushes were planted to separate the civil from the military sections.

The sinking of the SS Schokland

In 1943, a Dutch cargo ship of 1,500 tons, the SS Schokland, was taking some 200-250 Germans on leave, to St Malo.

The ship foundered close to the southern shore of Jersey, in the early hours of 5th January, with heavy loss of life. This was due to crowding too many passengers, for the short sea crossing; into the stern hold, below a twenty foot vertical ladder and under a 50 cm square hatch. This deplorable bottleneck lead to the high number of casualties.

For days afterwards a number of bodies was washed ashore and locals recall them being "stacked like timber" on the Albert Pier, awaiting burial. The ship's captain swam ashore and was later court-martialled for losing the ship. She lies in 23 metres of water some 2,000 metres off Noirmont Point, but is rapidly breaking up

Suddenly the-Heroes' Cemetery had a large-input of new graves and by the end of the year the first block was nearly full. The second block was full by February 1945 when the first of sixteen burials was made in a new area in the Rectory garden.

The Strangers' Cemetery

The German cemetery at St Brelade was, as already stated, a Heldenfriedhof and was not available for the burial of non-Germans in their employ. The Strangers' Cemetery at the top of Westmount, St Helier; was opened in 1865 replacing an earlier strangers' burial ground. It had been used for soldiers of the Jersey garrison and for temporary residents who died while staying or serving in Jersey.

Prior to 1880 all burials in Jersey church graveyards had to be carried out using the rite of the Church of England. Book of Common Prayer, with the Rector as officiant. Thus, ministers of other denominations would sometimes use the Strangers' Cemetery which fulfilled the function of a free cemetery as it was owned by the States of Jersey,

In 1880 the law was changed in England, and effectively in Jersey, prohibiting the Rectors of the Parish Churches from refusing ministers of other denominations using their own liturgy. The Mont-a-l'Abbe cemetery was opened and the Strangers' Cemetery became the place of burial for the very poor, and for unknown strangers. This is the site of the present crematorium which was opened in December 1961. Prior to that, cremations had to be performed at Le Foulon, Guernsey, the the only Channel Islands cemetery with a crematorium.

With the advent of the German occupying forces in 1940, the Strangers' Cemetery became the burial place for all the non-German deceased and it was renamed the Westmountfriedhof. Russian impressed labourers, some Polish, French and Algerians, were buried here, each in the plot for his own nationality, carefully allotted by the Germans.

Violent Deaths

Two German soldiers, buried in the St Brelade cemetery, had committed suicide. Their bodies, later deemed unfit for a heroes' burial, were exhumed and re-buried in the Westmountfriedhof, the first German nationals in the Strangers' Cemetery. The body of an Italian soldier made the opposite journey, being exhumed from Westmount and re-buried in the Heldenfriedhof, the Heroes' Cemetery at St Brelade, in a plot set apart for Italians, their allies. Another exhumation was that of a Russian prisoner who had escaped from Elizabeth Castle and whose body had been found floating in the sea. He was buried in the Russian section of Westmount. His escape and death perhaps tarnished the official records, for his body was exhumed, examined again for nationality, and re-buried in the French section.

By Liberation Day twelve more German soldiers had been denied burial at the St Brelade cemetery, six more deaths through suicide, five executed. by firing squad, and one through an illness not stated.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Unhealthy Choices

Tom Brossman's Panoramic view of the People's Park

I’ve just been reading the leaked information about the real choice about the new hospital.

“The final report is due in around ten days on where Jersey’s new hospital – expected to cost up to £400 million – will be. Health Minister Andrew Green says that there are four sites in the running: Overdale, the current site, the Waterfront and Peoples’ Park. But Bailiwick Express has learned that the real choice boils down to the Waterfront and Peoples’ Park – and there’s already a public backlash building about the idea of building on one of St Helier’s few open green spaces.” (Bailiwick Express)

Like Christian May, who was with me reviewing the papers last Sunday on BBC Radio Jersey, I was appalled by that suggestion. Who on earth came up with that as an option? Not only is the People’s Park a green space, which I understand is gifted under covenant to the Parishioners of St Helier; it also has a green backdrop.

Unlike the Millennium Park, whose central location always means that there are buildings every way you look, when you look at the People’s Park, as you drive through, or walk there, and look west, you see a green hillside and trees. That’s not the area where people walk, but it provides part of the total “green lung”, and makes the park feel as if is on the edge of the urban built up area. I cannot imagine any other St Helier site within easy walking distance which will have that backdrop.

Regarding the hospital, I’m glad to see the dual site has been rejected, and wish that somehow Senator Ozouf would apologise for coming up with such an expensive and costly option. I doubt if he will, however, as he has moved on to greater things, and is now basking in the reflected glory about the finance industry.

He certainly is spending as if the States will benefit from this. Never mind austerity! From January to November Minister Ozouf spent £16,576 in his role as Minister of Treasury and Resources. He then became Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister's office and spent £10,697 from November to the end of the year.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m very pleased if the finance industry is showing signs of recovery, especially since that news is breaking at the same time as the news breaks of 63 bank jobs at risk in Jersey. What is needed, however, is for the boost to the economy to transfer into tax take into revenue, and since the advent of zero-ten, that just doesn’t seem to be happening enough to clear the black hole.

Meanwhile, on BBC Radio Jersey, Senator Maclean was talking about a "trickle down" effect. Economist Kenneth Galbraith said the older term for this was the horse-and-sparrow theory: "If you feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows." That probably accounts for the Senator saying there would be a time lag before we all would benefit.

While the States are talking about austerity measures, and cutting expenditure – which strangely seems to translate very visibly to front-line staff like police or fire fighters, rather than back office middle management, the recent survey sent out to businesses paints a very different picture.

Cutting States expenditure is not on the agenda, and the question is extremely biased towards two alternatives – increasing tax or increasing the population. This is the question:

“7. The States has confirmed that Jersey is faced with an increasing welfare burden as a consequence of the changing demographics of the Island's population attributable to an aging population, with fewer people working and fewer people paying tax, but with greater demands on our health and pension services and other related welfare services.”

“To what extent do you believe that this challenge should be addressed by increased taxation or by an increase in population? “

“On a scale of 1 - 10 where 1 indicates that the challenge should be addressed solely through increased taxation, and 10 indicates that the challenge should be addressed solely through an increase in population.”

No room for comment, either, if you wanted to suggest other ways of meeting the challenge! Who devises these forms? I think they should own up. This  is what is known as a bipolar question - one having two extreme answers written at the opposite ends of the scale.

Unidimensional concepts are generally easy to understand. You have either more or less of it, and that's all. You're either taller or shorter, heavier or lighter. But, if the concept you are studying is in fact multidimensional in nature, a unidimensional scale or number line won't describe it well.

Because this survey uses unidimensional scaling for this question, it is assumed that the concept it wants to measure is one-dimensional in nature. But dealing with an increasing welfare burden does not have two solutions on a line, even though the question forces respondents to choose as if that were the case.

It palpably is not a set of two alternatives, and I would have hoped they would have learned not to do this since the fiasco of Imagine Jersey some years ago, in which questions were full of biased alternatives just like this one.

Publishing the results from this survey as if they mean something would, in my opinion, be grossly irresponsible and totally unprofessional. 

They will probably still publish, but when you read the published statistics, bear in mind that they come from a very biased set of assumptions that force people to take particular cards, rather like a clever magician cheating with sleight of hand in a card trick. Of course some people will believe it, especially when it is reported in the media, just as some people believe you can actually bend spoons.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Tide is High

This year we have seen more of what are called "super high tides". February 21 saw tides of 12.15 metres (39 feet, 10 inches), and on 31st August there was a tide that was 12.1 metres (39 feet,8 inches), while on 28th September we saw a tide reach 12.2 metres (40 ft, 0.3 inches).

These high tides result from an unusual alignment of the sun, moon and Earth so that the gravitational pull on our oceans is higher than usual five more times this year. But is there is risk of flooding? That depends more on pressure and wind.

The tidal gauge in St Helier at Albert Pier is the source of the information that gives us the exact readings of high and low tides.

This records the actual tide as opposed to the forecast tide, which can vary.

Barometric pressure affects the height of the tide, if the air pressure is low the tide will be higher than the tide table prediction. Wind speed and direction is also a prime factor on how such tides will affect the island's coasts. Strong winds can pile up water on coastlines and low pressure systems can also cause a localised rise in sea level.

Fortunately high air pressure and low winds meant no flooding. Instead, we could just enjoy the tide, very high, lapping at the sea wall, which is rather magical.

Jersey marine biologist Andrew Syvret explained there is a common misunderstanding about how the tides work.

He said: “People think the tide rises and falls in the English Channel; that it floods and empties.

“The reality is you have a huge see-saw of water, with high tide at one end and low tide at the other. This massive bulge of water moves backwards and forwards twice each day.

“When it arrives in our corner of the English Channel this bulge of water really hasn’t got anywhere to go. We then find ourselves in a giant anti clockwise tidal gyre – a great whirlpool.”

And gravity over the surface of the land and sea varies due to differences in the subsurface and surroundings -- the greater the mass, the greater the gravity

In addition to that, there is a very small but significant rise in sea levels in recent years. This is measured in millimetres, not metres.