Sunday, 26 March 2017

Lenten Reflections - Part 4

The 2006 Desert Southwest Annual Conference of United Methodists in the USA directed the Conference Board of Church and Society to provide a way to study the issues we face concerning immigration.

As part of this, they went to Mexico to explore, on a personal face-to-face level, what the issues were, what economic pressures the Mexicans faces, how Mexico and the USA were interlocked together, what effect trade deals had on Mexican farming, and all this comes out in their report. Below is the third part.

This was long before today’s troubled issues about immigration, but it opens up some good ethical questions with each section. I’m not giving my opinions; I’m leaving it for the reader to look and make up their own minds.

The Desert Southwest Conference Board of Church and Society
Borderlinks Trip Reflection - Part 3

After our trip to the desert, we visited a casa de huespedes, a hospitality house.

Hospitality houses are inexpensive rooms provided to migrants for one to three nights as they make their preparations to cross the desert. As we entered the courtyard of the rooms, we were an instant attraction.

Many migrants gathered around us as Poncho and our Borderlinks guide explained that we were representatives from the Desert Southwest Conference’s Board of Church and Society, and that we had come seeking to attain a better and more comprehensive understanding the migration issues.

What we experienced immediately were responses filled with anger. The migrants could not understand why we, in the United States, would be so mean and hurtful toward them. They only wanted to come and be productive, helpful people in our country. They could not understand why we would place the kind of restrictions and have the kind of attitudes that we did toward them. We believe their deeper question was, and is, “Why would you treat us as less than people, and why would you cause us to place our lives at risk, when all we want to do is work and contribute to your country?”

After 15-20 minutes much of the tension subsided, and we asked them to tell us a little about themselves and why they were making such a long and dangerous trek. In nearly every case, the reason they were migrating was to earn enough money to provide their families with enough food and adequate shelter, to give those they loved a little higher quality of life. As we listened we realized that they simply were trying to do for those they loved the same things we do for those in our hearts.

One man was leaving a wife and six children behind. There was a 14-year old girl, a 16- year old girl and 16-year old boy as part of the group preparing to cross. Several of us who had daughters that age became very quiet as we thought about our own daughters preparing to make this journey.

We asked if they planned to permanently live in the United States. Approximately 90% of the group shook their heads and responded that they were only going for one to three years.

Poncho then reminded us that because of American policies and actions, many people who simply wanted to come and spend just enough time away from family to earn enough to live a better quality of life decided to stay because it was becoming so hard to make the crossings. So, again, our policies are creating the very scenarios we are trying to prevent.

After about an hour of some very frank, very emotional conversations and the promise that we would take their stories back with us, we closed in prayer. We prayed for the migrants and their safety, we prayed for an end to the policies that created the economic issues that diminished life, and we prayed for the families left behind without a father, mother, daughter, or son.

What do you believe are the economic impacts of these migrants upon our economy?

Do you believe we should revisit our policies in light of the fact that many people simply want to come to our country for limited periods of time to make enough money to bring a better quality of life to their families?

How do we respond to people who want to know why we create and support policies that threaten the lives of others?

Saturday, 25 March 2017

An Act of Terror

For those caught up in the attack, those of us who read it, saw how it unfolded, those who were mained and injured, those who died, and those who mourned, the world changed with the attack on Westminister Bridge. And for some more than others, caught up in the violence, nothing will be the same again.

An Act of Terror

Nothing will ever be the same again
The world fractured and broke apart
Pedestrians left dying, so much pain
Death drives a car, madness to impart

In the beginning, this came to start
A young man, and the mark of Cain
Nothing will ever be the same again
The world fractured and broke apart

The thread is cut, just a broken skein
Sorrow weeps with a broken heart
A crack in time, poor souls depart
Mourn those dead, so cruelly slain
Nothing will ever be the same again

Friday, 24 March 2017

Raise a Glass to Drink to Lost Heritage

Raise a Glass to Drink to Lost Heritage

In 1985, Glenn George, who was then “mine host” at the Old Smugglers Inn at Ouaisne Bay, produced a small booklet called “Jersey Pubs and Inns: A Souvenir Guide to the Local Pubs, Inns and Bars of Character”.

Some of those he described are still around, like the Smugglers itself. Some have changed their name, like L’Auberge du Nord, which is now the Farm House. But others have fallen away, and are either closed or demolished. Here are a few mentioned in the booklet, along with Glenn’s descriptions which bring them vividly back to life.

Of these, the only two I have visited was the Lillie Langtry Bar, which also used to be a favourite watering hole for beer drinking teachers from Victoria College, and the Harvest Barn, which was indeed providing good food at reasonable prices, as Glenn says.

La Folie Inn, South Pier, St Helier

There are few pubs where you can rub shoulders with a French fisherman, talk to a Jersey sailor, and then buy a live crab or lobster to take home for supper. But then locals like La Folie Inn are few and far between.

Tucked away in a sheltered corner of St Helier Harbour this tiny pub oozes character - right from its authentic nautical decor to its authentic nautical clientele.

It's the meeting place for the Harbour folk - the fishermen, seamen, sailors, pilots and dockers. To them, drinking and conversation are a serious business, so you won't find any pub games, television or juke box at La Folie - just good honest company and good honest beer.

The pub has been this way since 1733, and it will take more than the twentieth century to change its habits. It sells beer in a rather unusual way. To make things easier for the many foreign sailors and yachtsmen, all the beers are numbered. You simply order a pint of `Number 3', thus eliminating the language problem.

Outside the Fo'c'sle Bar is the area where the local fishermen sell their catch. It couldn't be fresher. and the range of fish, crabs and lobsters are always well below town prices.

Mermaid Tavern, St Peter

Sitting on the beer patio, looking out over the ornamental lake, it's hard to imagine that the Mermaid Tavern is just a few hundred yards from bustling Jersey airport. True, the illusion is shattered when an occasional jet takes off, but otherwise this tranquil sun trap provides a peaceful and welcome retreat.

Now part of a larger hotel complex, the Tavern dates back to the sixteenth century when it was a typical farm-house. In fact, it still boasts one of the few remaining `Witches' Rests' on its chimney.

Local folklore states that superstitious farmers built these resting places so that any witches flying by on their evil business could sit down and rest their weary broomsticks. By providing them with this welcome relief, the farmer and his family were then left free from any curses.

The main fireplace inside the Tavern is a superb example of granite workmanship, and the hearth is made from an old cider press wheel. Above the fireplace do note the 'genuine' stuffed mermaid in a glass case -apparently caught by local fishermen!

The Mermaid offers quite a range of food - good pub grub in the Tavern itself and a really high-class menu available next door in the Grill Room. 

Lillie Langtry Bar, La Motte Street

This tiny town bar is named after Lillie Langtry, the famous `Jersey Lily', who attained fame and fortune in the late 1800s as an actress, and some notoriety as mistress of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

Born Emilie Le Breton in St Saviour's Parish, Lillie enjoyed success in England and America until she passed away in Monaco in 1929. She is buried locally in St Saviour's Churchyard.

The bar itself is a favourite meeting place for many St Helier businessmen, drawn by the good company and excellent food, enhanced by an Edwardian decor.

The Harvest Barn, Vallee des Vaux

Many years ago the only customers at the Harvest Barn would have been a contented herd of Jersey cows. But following extensive renovations, the granite barn and cowshed were skilfully converted into a thriving pub with several bars and restaurants. Today it enjoys a reputation second to none on the Island.

Rurally situated in the Vallee des Vaux, the Harvest Barn is still only a mile or so from the centre of St Helier. The drive to the pub, along a pleasant winding country road flanked by a stream, is a delight in itself and the pub's two large car parks make life easy for the visiting motorist.

Once at the Barn you have the choice of two low-beamed rustic bars: the appropriately named Granary Bar or the Barn Bar itself, and each of these has a restaurant situated above. Quick service and keen prices are the hallmark of the pub's catering success, and it is possible to have a meal for two, with wine, for under £5. Bar snacks are also available for patrons not wishing to use the fully licensed restaurants.

During the summer months tables and chairs are placed outside in the courtyard, which is a real suntrap. Children are welcome to join their parents in the courtyard or eat in the Restaurants, but don't forget the Chef's day off is Sunday.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Shape of Things to Come

Five people have died and 40 people have been injured in a terror attack near the Houses of Parliament. These kinds of attacks, involving cars and knives, what are seen as "low tech" attacks, seem to be the new way terrorists are unleashing murder on the world. We mourn those who have died, we pray for those injured, and we look for the courage to face a future that is more uncertain, more full of fear.

“the flames are silent,
Peace is violent,
Tears are frozen
’cause massacre was chosen.

~~ 26/11– Mumbai terror attack memories”
― Ankita Singhal

The fundamentalist seeks to bring down a great deal more than buildings. Such people are against, to offer just a brief list, freedom of speech, a multi-party political system, universal adult suffrage, accountable government, Jews, homosexuals, women's rights, pluralism, secularism, short skirts, dancing, beardlessness, evolution theory, sex. There are tyrants, not Muslims.

How to defeat terrorism? Don't be terrorized. Don't let fear rule your life. Even if you are scared.”
― Salman Rushdie, Step Across This Line: Collected Nonfiction

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
― Nelson Mandela

“I have accepted fear as part of life – specifically the fear of change... I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back....”
― Erica Jong

Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
― Franklin D. Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's First Inaugural

"What separates us from the animals, what separates us from the chaos, is our ability to mourn people we’ve never met.”
― David Levithan, Love Is the Higher Law

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
-- W.H. Auden

“Just above our terror, the stars painted this story
in perfect silver calligraphy. And our souls, too often
abused by ignorance, covered our eyes with mercy.”
― Aberjhani

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Guernsey Watch

Guernsey Watch

Alderney Transport Links

Looking at the Bailiwick of Guernsey, the news from Alderney is not good. Guernsey Press reports that:

“ALDERNEY’S need for a runway extension has been sidelined, the president of the island’s Chamber of Commerce has said, as he and an Alderney politician said ‘unmanageable’ transport links were making local businesses unsustainable. Alderney States member Louis Jean said transport issues ‘would continue to worsen’ without intervention. ‘Plane fares are rising every year and it is now around £120 just to get to Guernsey, and I believe those increases will continue without bigger planes because of customer resistance and there being less seats available,’ he said”

But a number of residents do not believe that the runway is the cure-all it is suggested, and call for simply making sure the existing one is fit for purpose:

“The misconception that a longer runway will sort out all our problems has wasted 4 years, during which time our runway has been reduced in width to 18 meters and the surface has deteriorated daily as more and more of it is swept up as FOD. The States of Alderney now need to really get behind a push to encourage Guernsey to get on with the essential work of widening back to 23 meters, full resurface, and installation of centre line lighting. More delay and argument over wishful thinking could cost us the whole airport.”

Alvin, another Alderney resident, comments that:

“The repairs to Alderney's runway are indeed essential and that should be immediately carried out. But an extension would be of no benefit. If the runway is repaired, then the airport could accommodate the existing small passenger aircraft that are being operated in the UK... the Islander, Dornier 228, Let 410, Twin Otter etc etc.”

“A runway extension would basically be a complete rebuild of the runway - up to 1200 - 1300 metres could be possible but would need a lot of additional land being purchased, re-alignment of the flight path, new navigational aids and lighting, enlarging and strengthening of the taxiways and aprons, extension and upgrading the terminal and ancillary services, such as security, fire services...  We are talking about almost a brand new airport! Cost? £50 million? £ 80 million? More?? Why?”

“Because whilst the above-listed aircraft can operate into Alderney with its existing runway length, the next step up in passenger aircraft are basically the Saab 340/2000s, ATR 42s and 72s, Dash 8s etc etc. These aircraft take 48 - 78 passengers but need a much longer and stronger runway as well as all the other facilities of a larger airport.”

“And it still would not do any good for Alderney. Back in its heyday, Alderney used to attract 80000 passengers a year, now it has fallen to around 57000. Two daily rotations from Alderney to Guernsey using the smaller ATR42s would give an annual seat capacity of almost 70000! Using ATR72s, then over 100000! Alderney would land up having just two daily flights to Guernsey and none to Southampton, or, if the ATR42s were used, maybe a three times a week route to Southampton. Better for Alderney Airport is just to repair the runway and encourage more flights to more destinations such as a Jersey and a Cherbourg route.”

And another comment:

“I’d love to visit Alderney but for the same money as flying there I could travel to 5-6 other interesting places in Europe. Why isn't any effort being put into a viable ferry service? I assume this has been asked a million times but I can't find many clear answers.”

I personally remember visits to Alderney on the small Condor hydrofoil, which went directly from Jersey, arriving early, leaving late, ideal for a day trip. The Aurigny planes used to have a direct flight to Alderney from Jersey as well, although they were much pricier. I can’t help feeling that the last two comments are right.

Alderney has too narrow a gateway primarily via Guernsey, and opening up air and cheaper sea routes might encourage people to visit, especially day trippers, for whom a boat journey from Guernsey or Jersey would provide a better option. As it stands, those critical links are gradually being eroded, and with the falling population on Alderney – almost certainly because it is almost a transport cul-de-sac – I do wonder how much longer Alderney will be viable as a place to live.

Reciprocal Care Agreement

Guernsey Press reports that:

“WORK to implement a medical insurance scheme to cover Guernsey and Alderney residents visiting the UK has moved one step closer and could be in place by next summer. Employment & Social Security was directed in 2015 to investigate the options for replacing the former reciprocal health agreement, which ended in 2009, with an insurance scheme covering hospital treatment.”

A comment follows:

“Three years from States direction to implementing this scheme. This speaks volumes about the way this island is run. What a shame the island doesn't have a group of people who understand how to implement an insurance scheme such as this”

The Reciprocal Health Agreement came into being in the heyday of Tourism, so that the UK would pay Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man for treating visitors, and in return visitors to the UK would be treated as UK citizens if they required health care.

As tourism declined, those in charge must have been aware that the arrangement was not equitable, but it was an extra boost to the health budgets so they kept quiet about it. Neither Chief Officer Mike Pollard not Minister Stuart Syvret did anything to alter this status quo in Jersey. There was a £3.9 million a year imbalance in the system in Jersey’s favour made it inherently unstable and unsustainable. But action which could have averted the loss of the RHA never took place.

Of course, the UK government woke up to the fact that they were now paying money for almost no return. The Isle of Man, which had an intensive lobby of contacts with Westminster, was able to hang onto its RHA, albeit without any money now changing hands.

Jersey and Guernsey lost theirs on 18th September 2008 after a decision made by Minister for Health, Dawn Primarolo. Health Minister Ben Shenton was surprised by the decision, which suggests that either Ministers were being kept in the dark by their Chief Officer, or they were turning a blind eye to the imbalance in funding.We will probably never know.

In the interim, health insurance was required for trips to the UK, which sometimes was not available or available at a reasonable cost for elderly people wishing to visit their children. In the background, better links were being forged, and credit where it is due, both Senator Sir Philip Bailhache and Senator Philip Ozouf had a great deal to do with that. It was restored on 1 April 2011.

It was realised that Jersey had not the same links which had proven so advantageous to the Isle of Man. While some may criticise Senator Ozouf for the time spent commuting to London, this is an essential strategy which helped the case for reinstating the RHA for Jersey, and also improved Jersey’s financial standing in Parliament.

The new RHA simply had no money passing either way; it was a straight quid pro quo, just as the Isle of Man had successfully negotiated. Obviously, Health Minister Anne Pryke was in on negotiations, but it was the behind the scenes work in the UK which did the trick. 

Guernsey has evidently failed to see this and as a result, they are still without an RHA, which must be something of a nightmare. As one correspondent to the paper wrote:

“The absence of the RHA and the high cost of travel insurance, or indeed the inability to obtain it because of age or medical history, means that no prudent person, unable to afford or obtain insurance, can leave their island. It was one thing to be imprisoned for five years by German occupying forces, quite another to be imprisoned here by our own government. Many would love to be able to visit friends and relatives in the UK or have them visit here, but cannot run the risk.”

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

A Digression on Cats

From the Pilot of 1965 comes this rather nice piece by G.R. Balleine. When he was not writing history, he was editor of The Pilot, and in that capacity, he penned both religious pieces, and other odds and ends that seem to have been written as much for his own pleasure and that of the reader than anything else. Here is a piece which has only a marginal connection to Christianity, but it is very interesting.

One thing to note. Cats are not quite as colour blind as he suggests, and don't see the world in shades of grey. Both cats and dogs are partially colorblind. Specifically, due to lack of L-cones they have trouble with differentiating between red, orange, and chartreuse shades, though they can do things like distinguish red and blue and distinguish between the various shades of blue and the like.

However the notion that they were just seeing the world in shades of grey had scientific backing and Balleine, widely read as he was, would have been aware of that. An experiment 1915 at the University of Colorado seemed to demontstrate they they could not see colours, but a retest in the 1960s showed that they could see colour (and were only partially colourblind), but also that colour was not terribly significant for them: colour simply does not really factor into the daily life of a cat

Know Your Pussy
by G.R. Balleine

Who would live in a cat less home? The old ideal of a cosy home was at cat and a fiddle, though today I suppose for the fiddle we would substitute the television.

But there is no real substitute for a cat. Among civilised men cats have always been treated as one of the family, though curiously enough tame cats are never found among savages. But from Ancient Egypt four thousand years ago, where, when the cat died, the whole household shaved off their eyebrow s as a sign of mourning, and the little body was mummified and preserved in a Temple, to modern France, where every door has its chattier, a little opening through which the cat can pass in and out at will, Puss is a personal friend: though we do not all go as far as the person who advertised in a recent paper: "Wanted by a lady for adequate remuneration – a few well-behaved and respectable dressed children to amuse a cat two or three hours it day"

But, though you have kept a cat for years, there are probably things you do not know about it. How many toes has it? Count- and you will find five on the front paws but only four on the back. What colour are its eyelashes? It has not got any. When does a kitten officially become a cat? When it sheds its first teeth, usually when eight months old. How long should your cat live'? Its normal life is from twelve to eighteen years, though some live to be twenty-four. Do you know that tortoise-shells are never males, and orange cats hardly ever females, and white cats generally y deaf? Why does Puss claw the furniture? Because its claws are drawn inside its paws, and, unless it exercises them regularly by thrusting them out against resistance, it becomes lame.

Why does it cat turn round and round before it lies down? Because in its wild state it is a jungle beast- and has to smooth the long grass into a bed, before it can he comfortable, and it has never lost this habit. Why does it cat put up its tail and arch its hack and spit when it is frightened? Because in the jungle every beast is terrified of a serpent and so the cat pretends to be one, and often saves its life.

Why is it almost impossible to teach a cat tricks? Dogs are easily taught to beg, to sham dead, to fetch and carry. But you hardly ever find a performing cat. Again the answer comes from the jungle days. The dog belongs to a stock that has always lived in packs, and obeyed the orders of its leader. By nature it is accustomed to do as it is told: But the wild cat lives by itself, thinks for itself, chooses its own course, and in its absolute independence is more like Man than any other animal. If you want to he friends with a cat you must respect its independence. You can strike a dog and it will fawn at your feet: but it cat never forgets a blow.

Do you know that cats are colour-blind? All colours to them are different shades of grey. But they are very musical. High shrill notes make them nervous: but they adore rich, deep tones, such as those of the cello: and they love a stirring march with a strong bass.

Indeed, almost the only trick that it is easy to teach them is to come for milk, when a certain note is struck on the piano, and to ignore all others.

In many ways a cat's intelligence is very mysterious. It has a strong sense of the difference between right and wrong. If it commits an offence its uneasy conscience gives it away, before its crime is discovered. It has an extra-ordinary sense of time. There are well authenticated cases of cats which, winter and summer (so they cannot depend on the light) never failed to return at ten. And everyone has heard of their amazing sense of direction, how they can be carried a hundred miles in a closed basket to a new house, and yet find their way back to their old home across utterly unknown country.

Do you know that a cat's stomach can only consume half-a-pint of food? So she is a dainty and delicate feeder. Never tempt her to eat more than she needs. More cats die of overfeeding than of starvation. Cats are by nature meat-eaters. So give them all the meat you can. And they simple adore asparagus. Two things are absolutely essential to their health: plenty of clean fresh water and plenty of grass. The latter is nature’s way of enabling them to get rid of the fur that they swallow when they wash.

There is only one thing more essential, and that is lots of love. No cat can keep health without it. It looks to its owner for love and pines when this is lacking. In one of the Apocryphal Gospels the Gospel of the Holy Twelve, we read this story: "As Jesus entered a certain village, he saw a young cat that had none to care for her; and she was hungry and cried. And he took her up and she lay in His Bosom. And, when he came into the village, he set food and drink before her. And some said. This Man careth for all animals. Are they his brothers and sisters?' And he answered 'Yea, and they are your brother and sisters too. Whosoever careth for the least of these doeth it unto me." This Gospel is a late one, and is not thought to have much authority; but this particular story sounds very much like Jesus.