Thursday, 11 February 2016

Jersey Hospital Construction Costs: An Industry Comparison

Are Jersey Hospital
figures plucked out
of a hat?

I’ve been reading the International construction market survey 2015, and it makes for some interesting reading, and obviously trends reflects Jersey's own construction industry. In particular, it can be used as an instrument for understanding why different nations and regions have different building costs, and also by comparison where Jersey's hospital figures fit into the scheme of things.

Their survey shows construction activity is increasing, but recovery is patchy.

Construction profits – and costs to the end consumer – are driven by market forces. Where there is little in the way of demand, there is increased competition in the tendering process, and that drives prices to the end consumer – be it the private or public sector – downwards.

But where there is a lot of demand for building, the cost of building tends to rise, as it is now the end consumer who is competing for availability. The construction companies, given a choice between two building projects, will inevitably take the more lucrative one.

The situation in Jersey is further complicated by restrictions on imported labour, both for short term and for long term projects. This means that Jersey operates with a presumption against outside companies tendering, and a presumption against large increases in outside labour. These restrictions will tend to drive prices upwards.

The global trend in construction markets shows a patchy recovery, where sometimes there is more commercial property being built or refurbished, and sometimes the housing market is more vibrant. It varies both across nations and across regions. An example is given in the survey:

“London, the south of the UK, New York, Seattle and Tokyo are hot, benefitting from increased activity in residential and commercial property. However there are hotspots elsewhere for particular sectors. For example, while the overall construction market in Toronto and Sydney is only lukewarm, they have particularly strong levels of residential construction underway.”

The survey describes the markets as cold, lukewarm, warm, and hot. The hotter the market, the better for the construction company, but the worse for the end consumer. But it is not totally clear-cut. If there is too much competition, and a very moribund market, there is always the risk that the construction company may underbid, and be at potential risk of going bankrupt.

In a “warm” market, contractors are finding they can pick and choose which jobs they bid for, with more projects starting up. But the majority of global markets are described as “lukewarm” meaning there is still eager bidding to win jobs and price rises will be moderate.

Their experts predict that construction activity will increase in 17 markets, which means less competition for tenders and rising construction costs. 10 will be unchanged, and 8 will see a decrease in the number of construction projects, leading to greater competition on bids and, generally, lower rates of construction cost rises.

Regarding investment in infrastructure, once key problem is public budget sector constraint, something we also have in Jersey, but if the market is sufficiently lukewarm, it is actually a good time to invest in infrastructure and avoid the risk of construction costs escalating.

While it is not like-for-like, queries have been made on the costings on the dual-site option which seem to have escalated quite rapidly.

Jersey is however at present undergoing an increase in local construction work. Andium Homes is busy building houses, plans have been passed or submitted for a number of private sector housing projects (Gas Place Site, Co-Op by Grande Marche, Ann Street Brewery); vacant business property is being converted into residential accommodation (Charles Street, La Motte Street).

Meanwhile, large scale commercial or public projects are also being put in place – for example, the new police station, the Jersey International Finance Centre, the Dandara development near the Grand Hotel.

This is clearly a “warming market” and as the survey points out, “warming markets will see increased construction costs while cooling markets will see a decrease”.

The survey notes: "All regional construction markets should continue to improve during 2015–16, with the south leading and Belfast at the rear. Gradually, trade skills shortages are likely, contractors will cherry-pick which projects they bid for and construction costs will increase, rippling out from the south east."

The survey also includes a detailed comparison of building costs by different nations, and while Jersey is not there as on a global scale it is small in the construction industry, it does supply some figures by which we can make an educated comparison. These costs are higher in London because of the higher preliminary costs in making ground ready, working in close proximity to other buildings etc, and because of high demand.

As hospital sizes vary, the survey gives international building costs per m2 of internal area

In 2015 these UK ones were as follows.

For London:

Day centre (including basic surgeries) £ 2,300
Regional hospital £2,900
General hospital (e.g. city teaching hospital) £3,400

Central UK

Day centre (including basic surgeries) £ 1,400
Regional hospital £2,300
General hospital (e.g. city teaching hospital) £2,850

North UK
Day centre (including basic surgeries) £ 1,400
Regional hospital £2,400
General hospital (e.g. city teaching hospital) £2,850

Northern Ireland

Day centre (including basic surgeries) £ 1,430
Regional hospital £2,200
General hospital (e.g. city teaching hospital) £2,600


Day centre (including basic surgeries) £ 1,500
Regional hospital £2,400
General hospital (e.g. city teaching hospital) £2,850

South UK

Day centre (including basic surgeries) £ 1,750
Regional hospital £2,450
General hospital (e.g. city teaching hospital) £3,000

So let’s look at the figures we have for Jersey, for example, for the Waterfront site and the People’s Park.

Waterfront: cost £471,000,000, area as per the letter from Andrew Green - 49,623 m2, gives us a cost per m2 of £9,492!

People’s Park: cost £444,000,000, areas as per the letter from Andrew Green, 48,797 m2, gives us a cost of £9,099 per m2!

Clearly this is nonsense, as a London central hospital comes out at £3,400 per m2! And remember that includes the higher “preliminary costs” of a build in a capital city.

So let’s reverse this and ask how much it would cost if it was built at London rates. If we do that, the Waterfront comes out at £168,718,200 and the People’s Park at £165,909,800. That leaves a respective difference of £302,281,800 and £278,090,200. So what does that represent? What is that buying?

If part is the cost of equipping the new hospital, then that should be removed from the figure and shown separately so we can see at least something of what is going on. That's such a general bulk figure it cannot be commercially sensitive. 

And we also know that part of the cost for the People's Park goes towards compensatory purchases, but is it that high? And what does the Waterfront difference represent? Surely decontamination is not as high as that! And there is presumably in the case of the People's Park, purchase of land? But what of the Waterfront? Is the States of Jersey Development Company expecting to be paid for land which was ceded by the States to them for £1?

In answer to the question from Christian May, Andrew Green replied as follows:

“Your Committee may appreciate that the breakdown of costs is commercially confidential and the public release of this information could significantly and detrimentally affect subsequent procurement in relation to the Future Hospital.”

“For these reasons, the breakdown of costs is being made available to the relevant political Scrutiny Panels and their advisors and to your States Members under appropriate confidentiality agreements, but will not be made public.”

Quite honestly, we should have some idea where the hospital sits within the range of UK hospitals, and taking a London case scenario, we can calculate the cost element. To hide behind confidentiality the extra surplus costs, which clearly cost far more than the hospital build itself, is to treat the public with contempt.

We deserve better than a smokescreen of confidentiality, which is what we always see nowadays, and some better transparency on where the taxpayers’ money is going to. To bundle up all the costs so that comparisons with UK hospitals cannot be made is not the way to inspire confidence.

It reminds me of those investment packages which bundled up good money with bad, prime with sub-prime, so that no one really understood what was going on. As it stands, the figures given might as well have been plucked out of magicians hat, for all the sense anyone can make of them.

Senator Green advises that “the costs relating to the Future Hospital have been developed by professional quantity surveyors within the Gleeds Management Services”.  We are being told to take their figures on trust, or rely on Scrutiny to check them. I'd feel happier if Ben Shenton was able to check them independently as well, as part of an independent review.

As it is we can see the kind of figures for hospitals Gleeds provide elsewhere - Bridgewater Hospital, construction cost £16,000,000 in 2014, client Somerset PCT NHS Trust / Gleeds Management Services. The costings I give for the Jersey hospital above based on London costs for hospital builds per m2 are not far off this. So why can't we have these figures?

I would have more faith if Turner and Townsend reviewed the figures, and gave us some idea where the base hospital building cost lay by comparison to those in the UK. We would have some evidence that the figures given are accurate. We need that comparison; we haven't been given it.

As it stands, we have meaningless figures upon which we are suppose to make some sort of meaningful choice. And told to take all the figures on trust! Do we have to be treated with such contempt?

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Another Brick in Trump's Wall

In America….Donald Trump is on the campaign trail. On immigration, Trumps’ solution is to build a fence on the border.

“Now, we have to build a fence. And it's got to be a beauty. Who can build better than Trump? I build; it's what I do. I build; I build nice fences, but I build great buildings. Fences are easy, believe me. I saw the other day on television people just walking across the border. They're walking.”

“The military is standing there holding guns and people are just walking right in front, coming into our country. It is so terrible. It is so unfair. It is so incompetent. And we don't have the best coming in. We have people that are criminals; we have people that are crooks. You can certainly have terrorists. You can certainly have Islamic terrorists. You can have anything coming across the border. We don't do anything about it. So I would say that if I run and if I win, I would certainly start by building a very, very powerful border.”

The fence has now become a wall which would be 35-40 feet high.

So what is the border with Mexico like? The total length of the continental border is 1,954 miles (3,145 km). From the Gulf of Mexico, it follows the course of the Rio Grande (Río Bravo del Norte) to the border crossing at El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua; westward from that binational conurbation it crosses vast tracts of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Desert, the Colorado River Delta, westward to the binational conurbation of San Diego, California, and Tijuana, Baja California, before reaching the Pacific Ocean

There are an estimated half a million illegal entries into the United States each year. Border Patrol activity is concentrated around big border cities such as San Diego and El Paso which do have extensive border fencing.

This means that the flow of illegal immigrants is diverted into rural mountainous and desert areas, leading to several hundred migrant deaths along the Mexico–U.S. border of those attempting to cross into the United States from Mexico illegally and vice versa.

But how do you patrol those rural mountains and deserts effectively? For all his rhetoric, Trump has not come up with any real solutions. As the Washington Post notes:

“The hurdles include environmental and engineering problems; fights with ranchers and others who don’t want to give up their land; and the huge topographical challenges of the border, which runs through remote desert in Arizona to rugged mountains in New Mexico and, for two-thirds of its length, along rivers.”

And when it is built, how on earth do you police it? And if you cannot police it, it will not halt immigrants. Any physical barrier can be tunnelled under or climbed over or otherwise circumvented - even partially destroyed.

And finally, from a completely different election....

I really liked the story in BBC regarding the Irish Elections

Mary Lou McDonald, the deputy leader of Sinn Fein - the fourth-biggest party in the last Irish parliament - wanted to be quoted invoking the spirit of one of the figureheads of the Irish Republican movement, Bobby Sands, the IRA hunger striker who starved himself to death in the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland in 1981.

However, somewhere along the way Bobby became Booby and nobody noticed until the leaflets were printed and were starting to be distributed. Not surprisingly the error has caused some amusement and awful punning on social media.

She wins the booby prize for making a blunder with election material!

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

A Letter from Save People’s Park

Today I'm publishing (with kind permission) the full text of a letter from Christian May, Chairman of Save People's Park, to Senator Andrew Green. Parts of this letter have been quoted in the media, but this is the complete letter.

It raises a number of issues which I am sure will be taken up by a Scrutiny panel, and also begs the question of compensatory costs. The proposal for the People's Park includes a map which shows the hotels and other buildings next to the old Hospital site being included in the new Parade gardens. It also includes an extension to the Millennium Park.

We have no breakdown of the costs for the amount given for those compensatory green spaces, or whether they have in fact been included in the People's Park proposals, so no way of knowing if they are accurate.

In fact, all we have are end figures, with no "workings out". When I was at school, we were awarded no marks if we got the correct answer in a mathematics problem, unless we showed our workings out. Otherwise we could be cheating.

As these are actual sites, and the Revere has in fact been offered at a cost to the States for a hospital extension, we need to know what figure Senator Green is in fact using, and also with the Millennium Park, how much would be paid to take away a site which has been passed for development of around 250 flats? 

Commercial sensitivity is often the smokescreen behind which the Council of Ministers hides, especially when Freedom of Information requests are made, but unless there is transparency on how costs are broken down, how on earth can we have any faith that these figures are accurate?

A Letter from Save People’s Park

Dear Senator Green,

Further to your announcement on Tuesday 2nd February 2016 that Ministers would be undertaking a two month public consultation period on the location of the future hospital, the Committee of Save People’s Park wish to raise the following urgent queries with respect to the information provided to the public in order to assess the suitability of each location.

1. We have grave concerns that despite public assurances that the Future Hospital team and Ministers would not express a preference for one of the four shortlisted sites, there is clear and strong bias towards the use of People’s Park. Please confirm:

a. Why the first image that appears on the website is not randomly generated, but is always that of the proposed People’s Park development?

b. Why the proposed locations are not listed in alphabetical order on the same website, but with People’s Park at the head of the list?

c. Why the website has been coded to provide the image of the proposed People’s Park development whenever any page is shared on social media?

d. Why the Director of Future Hospital, Bernard Place, who created a Facebook profile page to comment on public postings about the shortlisted sites, used the proposed People’s Park development image as his cover photo (attached)?

e. Why the fact that the development of People’s Park would not be in keeping with the Island Plan was not included in the table of factors considered when shortlisting sites, when this very fact was included against the Waterfront proposal?

f. Why the table of costs for each shortlisted site was removed from the FAQ section of the website?

2. We are equally concerned that the date People’s Park was first considered as a location for the hospital was not in July 2015, as has been stated by you in the States Chamber and in the media. Given that source coding from the website shows the image of the proposed People’s Park development was uploaded in November 2014, please confirm:

a. The date that the Future Hospital team began investigations of the use of People’s Park as a location for the hospital;

b. The date that the imagery showing the proposed People’s Park development was produced, and by whom;

c. The date that the imagery showing the proposed People’s Park development was uploaded onto the website, or any of its previous unpublished formats.

3. There is a lack of particularity provided in the proposals shown for each shortlisted site on the website. Please provide:

a. The total height of each proposed shortlisted site;
b. The total floor area of each shortlisted site;
c. The breakdown of floor area between various departments, communal areas and staff services.

4. All shortlisted sites, save for the proposed People’s Park development, have an image on the website showing the perspective from a street elevation. The People’s Park image is shown from above. This again, would suggest bias as under point 1. The images provided for the proposed People’s Park development do not show the impact on properties in the immediate area with respect to light and scale. Please can you provide:

a. A street elevation view from outside the entrance of the proposed People’s Park development;
b. A street elevation view from Kensington Street looking towards the proposed People’s Park development;
c. The view from the first floor of the new Dandara Westmount development, looking towards the proposed People’s Park development.

5. The figures provided to the public to understand the total costs of the proposed People’s Park development do not include an appropriate breakdown, given the multifaceted aspects of this option. Please provide a breakdown of:

a. The cost of construction and commissioning of the new hospital if People’s Park is utilised;
b. The cost of the purchase of land required for an extension to the Millennium Park;
c. The cost of demolition of the old General Hospital;
d. The cost of the purchase of private property on the proposed ‘Parade Grounds’ site and development of that new park.

6. We are concerned that clear details have not been provided as regards compensatory space that would be offered were People’s Park to be developed. Please provide:

a. Clear confirmation that you intend to purchase the additional private property on the proposed ‘Parade Grounds’ park, including the Revere Hotel and adjoining properties;
b. An explanation of how it is intended the Council of Ministers will bind future States Assemblies and Ministers to ensure the compensatory park space is actually provided;
c. A timeline for the demolition of the General Hospital and creation of the ‘Parade Grounds’ park, allowing for issues of site contamination and archaeological surveys.

We look forward to your timely response to queries contained within this letter, copies of which have been provided to the local media.

Monday, 8 February 2016

The Wind and the Trees

As the Island gets battered by Storm  Imogene, I thought it might be nice to tie in a piece about wind and trees - and political thinking.

One of my formative political influences was G.K. Chesterton. His political views often seem surprisingly different from the more formal politics of left and right, and while he said that he was a liberal, with a small "l", he also said that "there was a time when I once believed in Liberals". I used to hunt for copies of Chesterton's essays in second hand book shops, now, of course, they are all easily accessible online.

The causes of that distrust of the Liberal party were manifold but related certainly to the split in the Liberal government caused by Lloyd-George and the Coalition with the Conservatives, the corruption within the party itself over buying shares in Marconi - what we would term insider trading - which when exposed by his brother - led to a court case and damages (although minimal) being awarded against his brother in what many later historians see as a miscarriage of justice.

But as a founder of a political theory called "distributism", a believer in what is term subsidiarity rather than central government, he was very much breaking with traditional political boundaries. This can be seen in this article which appeared in his collection of essays "Tremendous Trifles"

And I hope very much we survive the storms hitting our Island, physical and political.

The Wind and the Trees By G.K. Chesterton

I am sitting under tall trees, with a great wind boiling like surf about the tops of them, so that their living load of leaves rocks and roars in something that is at once exultation and agony. I feel, in fact, as if I were actually sitting at the bottom of the sea among mere anchors and ropes, while over my head and over the green twilight of water sounded the everlasting rush of waves and the toil and crash and shipwreck of tremendous ships. The wind tugs at the trees as if it might pluck them root and all out of the earth like tufts of grass. Or, to try yet another desperate figure of speech for this unspeakable energy, the trees are straining and tearing and lashing as if they were a tribe of dragons each tied by the tail.

As I look at these top-heavy giants tortured by an invisible and violent witchcraft, a phrase comes back into my mind. I remember a little boy of my acquaintance who was once walking in Battersea Park under just such torn skies and tossing trees. He did not like the wind at all; it blew in his face too much; it made him shut his eyes; and it blew off his hat, of which he was very proud. He was, as far as I remember, about four. After complaining repeatedly of the atmospheric unrest, he said at last to his mother, “Well, why don’t you take away the trees, and then it wouldn’t wind.”

Nothing could be more intelligent or natural than this mistake. Any one looking for the first time at the trees might fancy that they were indeed vast and titanic fans, which by their mere waving agitated the air around them for miles. Nothing, I say, could be more human and excusable than the belief that it is the trees which make the wind. Indeed, the belief is so human and excusable that it is, as a matter of fact, the belief of about ninety-nine out of a hundred of the philosophers, reformers, sociologists, and politicians of the great age in which we live. My small friend was, in fact, very like the principal modern thinkers; only much nicer.

In the little apologue or parable which he has thus the honour of inventing, the trees stand for all visible things and the wind for the invisible. The wind is the spirit which bloweth where it listeth; the trees are the material things of the world which are blown where the spirit lists. The wind is philosophy, religion, revolution; the trees are cities and civilisations. We only know that there is a wind because the trees on some distant hill suddenly go mad. We only know that there is a real revolution because all the chimney-pots go mad on the whole skyline of the city.

Just as the ragged outline of a tree grows suddenly more ragged and rises into fantastic crests or tattered tails, so the human city rises under the wind of the spirit into toppling temples or sudden spires. No man has ever seen a revolution. Mobs pouring through the palaces, blood pouring down the gutters, the guillotine lifted higher than the throne, a prison in ruins, a people in arms–these things are not revolution, but the results of revolution.

You cannot see a wind; you can only see that there is a wind. So, also, you cannot see a revolution; you can only see that there is a revolution. And there never has been in the history of the world a real revolution, brutally active and decisive, which was not preceded by unrest and new dogma in the reign of invisible things. All revolutions began by being abstract. Most revolutions began by being quite pedantically abstract.

The wind is up above the world before a twig on the tree has moved. So there must always be a battle in the sky before there is a battle on the earth. Since it is lawful to pray for the coming of the kingdom, it is lawful also to pray for the coming of the revolution that shall restore the kingdom. It is lawful to hope to hear the wind of Heaven in the trees. It is lawful to pray “Thine anger come on earth as it is in Heaven.”

The great human dogma, then, is that the wind moves the trees. The great human heresy is that the trees move the wind. When people begin to say that the material circumstances have alone created the moral circumstances, then they have prevented all possibility of serious change. For if my circumstances have made me wholly stupid, how can I be certain even that I am right in altering those circumstances?

The man who represents all thought as an accident of environment is simply smashing and discrediting all his own thoughts– including that one. To treat the human mind as having an ultimate authority is necessary to any kind of thinking, even free thinking. And nothing will ever be reformed in this age or country unless we realise that the moral fact comes first.

For example, most of us, I suppose, have seen in print and heard in debating clubs an endless discussion that goes on between Socialists and total abstainers. The latter say that drink leads to poverty; the former say that poverty leads to drink. I can only wonder at their either of them being content with such simple physical explanations. Surely it is obvious that the thing which among the English proletariat leads to poverty is the same as the thing which leads to drink; the absence of strong civic dignity, the absence of an instinct that resists degradation.

When you have discovered why enormous English estates were not long ago cut up into small holdings like the land of France, you will have discovered why the Englishman is more drunken than the Frenchman. The Englishman, among his million delightful virtues, really has this quality, which may strictly be called “hand to mouth,” because under its influence a man’s hand automatically seeks his own mouth, instead of seeking (as it sometimes should do) his oppressor’s nose.

And a man who says that the English inequality in land is due only to economic causes, or that the drunkenness of England is due only to economic causes, is saying something so absurd that he cannot really have thought what he was saying.

Yet things quite as preposterous as this are said and written under the influence of that great spectacle of babyish helplessness, the economic theory of history. We have people who represent that all great historic motives were economic, and then have to howl at the top of their voices in order to induce the modern democracy to act on economic motives.

The extreme Marxian politicians in England exhibit themselves as a small, heroic minority, trying vainly to induce the world to do what, according to their theory, the world always does. The truth is, of course, that there will be a social revolution the moment the thing has ceased to be purely economic. You can never have a revolution in order to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy in order to have a revolution.

I get up from under the trees, for the wind and the slight rain have ceased. The trees stand up like golden pillars in a clear sunlight. The tossing of the trees and the blowing of the wind have ceased simultaneously. So I suppose there are still modern philosophers who will maintain that the trees make the wind.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Everyone Matters

Jersey has 13 Parishes!

That’s what I though on reading this, printed very recently on an online biography:

“The Rev’d Canon Dr Gavin Ashenden, is at presently a part time parish priest, looking after a small parish on the Island of Jersey, part of the Channel Islands, just off the coast of Normandy France, where he took semi retirement in order to be able to write a little more.”

As far as I know Vicar of Gouray is not the same as Rector of St Martin or Grouville, and Gouray is a district church rather than a Parish Church. But perhaps that doesn't look so good on a CV!

Gavin regards the practice of homosexuality as sinful, and sees this as “always there in the Bible and in the ‘lived experience’ of Tradition “ On a blog posting which has since been removed, he said this:

“‘God spoke to me’ about the practice of homosexuality; (though His views were always there in the Bible and In the ‘lived experience’ of Tradition if I had not come at them both skewed to provide a different answer;)- so I went to my friends, and told them that while still being deeply fond of them, I was going to take a different view of the practice of homosexuality.”

He regards more liberal wing of the Anglican church as misguided and ensconced in “vapid self indulgent spirituality”. According to him, liberal Anglicanism is “defined by a decadent liberalism – a spirituality that celebrates the nice without being able to deliver it; a spirituality that surrenders to secular narcissistic hedonism its the authority to make ethical analyses”

So I want to tell you a true story about someone I know about how these attitudes feed through to pastoral care. This is recounted in “Journey Round Jersey’s Parishes”, and the individual concern recently died, so I think it can be told to a wider audience. You can find his full name in that book when he tells his story to Robin Pitman, but here, I shall refer to him just as “RF”.

You can decide for yourself where it is the more self-righteous churches who either ostracise or (almost as bad) marginalise gay people are making the better ethical analysis, or those who accept and include and welcome those people.

This happened in Jersey, and not so very long ago.

He was married, but discovered that he was gay, and his marriage deteriorated, and he left the family home. Here is what he told Robin Pitman:

RF makes no secret of the fact that he is gay, but I knew that he had been married and with children. He spoke openly and poignantly to me about this: `I was married in 1959 and in subsequent years we adopted a son and a daughter and then had a daughter of our own. Within our marriage there were problems, and one day my wife told me that she was never going to have sexual intercourse with me again. From that day our marriage deteriorated and I then left the family home.

“I recognised homosexual tendencies in myself, but during my marriage there were no one night stands or anything of that nature. I now lived alone, moving from one flat to another. Eventually I met my current partner, David, and we have been together now for seventeen years.'”

RF described his faith as follows: “It has been as solid as possible, despite some of my distressing encounters with various church authorities. It is my faith that has kept me going. I needed it and it has seen me through. It has kept me on the straight and narrow. I believe in the creed that we say each week and I pray at night. Truly I cannot not go to church on a Sunday.”

“As a young single man RF was a very active member of the congregation at St Peter. After his marriage came to an end he was a popular churchwarden at another of the Island's churches where he assisted at Communion, took Communion to the sick and read the lessons. `I went to discuss my situation with the Rector and was honest with him about myself and my sexuality. The Rector said that he would ask God what to do with me. God, according to him, answered and said that I was not suitable for any of my church duties.“

“Later I had what for me was a worse experience at another church where I was on the church committee and an active member of the congregation. A powerful lady churchwarden came up to me and said, "Are you a homosexual?" I replied in the affirmative and she answered, "You see, we have a problem."

“I rang the Vicar and sought his help. He supported me and told me that he did not want a member of his church pilloried in this way. He persuaded me to return to the committee for its next meeting. At that meeting the same lady pronounced, "I would like to say this: we all know that RF is very popular but we don't like his lifestyle." I felt that I had no alternative but to get up, put on my jacket and go home.'

“Another sad succession of events followed at yet another church where RF was quickly asked to read a lesson by the lady who drew up the rotas. He had only met the vicar each Sunday as he shook hands at the door. He then received a letter from the vicar, telling him that he should undertake no further duties at the church and that he should make an appointment to come and see him. RF took advice from friends, declined the instruction and went elsewhere. “

Someone suggested that he went to St Brelade’s Church, which is an inclusive church, and he was accepted, welcomed, and became once again part of the Church community: “I am not only tolerated but accepted wholeheartedly. I could not ask for anything better.”

Pitman concludes:

“RF has actively for many years raised funds for the Church of England Children's Society, and he is a volunteer on the General Hospital's chaplaincy team. It is a fair guess that RF has made a greater contribution to Christian living than some of those who have been too ready to turn him away from their own places of worship.”

Saturday, 6 February 2016

The Shining Stars

As Jonathan Renouf is speaking tonight - all welcome by the way, you don't need to be a member of the Astronomy Club - at St Brelade's Church Hall on "Behind the Scenes at the Sky at Night", I though it appropriate that my Saturday poem should reflect an astronomical theme.

The Shining Stars

I look at the night sky full of stars
How vast the universe all around
Shining now, Venus, Jupiter, Mars
I hear their glorious music sound

Patterns weaving across the night
The Winged Horse, the Great Bear,
And Orion hunting, belt drawn tight
Now shooting stars so briefly flare

And such we wonder, gaze with awe
So many generations looked above
Pondering the shining stars they saw
Seeing signs of war, and signs of love

Such blessings of the cloudness night
And all the shining stars in sight

Friday, 5 February 2016

Guide Book: St. Saviour.

St. Mannelier School

The 1834 Guide Book mentions the school of St Mannielier, St Saviour, in decline but still open. So where was it and what do we know about it?

In 1477 a report to the Island's first Governor, Sir Richard Harliston, stated that there were no good schools in the island and no suitable premises. He offered some land adjoining the Chapel of St Mannelier in his parish and promised to build a house for the Master, with a field as an endowment to finance the school. The school was duly built, and attendance at the school was free, even for boarders, winter and summer lessons lasted from 6 am to 6 pm, and it was a grammar school, which meant the teaching of Latin grammar.

The decline in the two grammar schools after the opening of Victoria College left the States with a dilemma. Could St Mannelier and St Anastase continue, or should they be closed and the funds diverted elsewhere? In 1864 a committee was appointed to consider the options, but four years later no conclusion had been reached.

On 29 February 1868 the committee came to the States with a re-commendation that the schools be closed and that Mr. Mallet be given a pension of £80 for life and Mr. Poingdestre one of £45. The matter was hotly debated and finally the Rector of St. Mary proposed an amendment instructing the committee to try again to see if they couldn't make the schools succeed. This was carried by 14 votes to 13 whereupon several members of the Committee resigned.

The British Press and Jersey Times in a leading article advocated the closing of these schools and the use of the balance of their revenue, after compensating the two Regents, to provide scholarships to Victoria College for boys who could not otherwise afford the fees. This suggestion was finally adopted in 1919.

Today its endowments provide bursaries to send boys to its victorious rival. The old schoolroom is now a tomato-box store. But the name lives on in the St. Mannelier & St. Anastase Medal for top marks in the Entrance Examination at Victoria College, and in La Rue De St Mannelier, St Saviour.

Quirky facts:

Regent: The usual mediaeval title in France for a schoolmaster, given in Jersey to the Headmasters of the Grammar Schools of St. Anastase and St. Mannelier.

Guide Book: St. Saviour.

St. Saviour.—The Government House is in this parish on the left, on ascending the hill from the Town, and is occupied by the Lieutenant Governor.

In ancient and more turbulent times these officers principally resided in either Mont Orgueil or Elizabeth castle, and in latter times some house has generally been granted to them. When the Island was invaded by Rullecourt in 1781, La Motte house was the seat of the Lieutenant Governor, and it was there that Major Corbet was taken prisoner.

Since that time the house now occupied by Mr. Ramier Le Brocq was the Governor's dwelling, and the new row of buildings called Halkett-place, opposite the market, has been raised on the site of the garden; this property having been sold in 1823, the present more commodious and appropriate residence was purchased of F. Janvrin, Esq., by whom it was built: nearly opposite is d'Hautree, the property of Colonel Touzel.

On the summit of the hill stands St. Saviour's church; it was consecrated on the thirtieth of May, 1154.

The cemetery of this church, from its high situation, is the favourite burial place of most of the respectable part of the English residing in St. Helier's of its neighbourhood, is the largest of the country churches, and, though the building is somewhat defaced by the bad taste displayed in many of the alterations and repairs it has undergone, it still possesses considerable beauty.

Its situation is picturesque, and from the church yard, which is ornamented with some fine and luxuriant trees, an extensive view, comprising the Town of St. Helier's, the bay of St. Aubin's, and the rich scenery of the surrounding country is obtained.

At no great distance from the church, on the same side, is the Manor house; this property belongs to the Poingdestre family.

In one of the bye roads that leads towards the North of the parish, is the free school of St. Mannelier or St. Magloire, founded and endowed in the reign of Henry the Seventh, by John Neel, a native of the Island, and Dean of the chapel to Arthur, Prince of Wales. The endowment consists of a house, with a small portion of land, and thirty quarters of wheat rent. The number of scholars is usually not great

Near the school, at a spot called Les Landes Pallot, there formerly stood a rocking stone of a large size, and so accurately balanced that it was moved with the slightest effort: it was destroyed some years ago and broken up for building purposes. The population of St. Saviour's parish is two thousand one hundred and ninety-six persons.