Wednesday, 22 November 2017

A Century in Advertising - Part 10

A Century in Advertising - Part 10

My look at some of the advertisements and products of yesteryear. Some weird and whacky, some surprisingly still around today. Here are their stories.

1927 - Kodascope

Kodascope is a name created by Eastman Kodak Company for the projector it placed on the market in 1923 as part of the first 16mm motion picture equipment. The original Kodascope was part of an outfit that included the Cine-Kodak camera, tripod, Kodascope projector, projection screen, and film splicer, all of which sold together for $335

Kodascope Library, which operated from 1924 to 1939, and offered both educational and commercially released films on 16mm film and, from 1932, on 8mm film.

One of the great silent movies, “The Lost World” became a victim of its own popularity and the death of silent films. In the late 1920s when 16mm was introduced, 'Kodascope' digest versions were made of some popular silent films, for the home movie market. The Lost World was one of the first. The full version of Lost World was junked, and only recently pieced together from some Czech copies.

1928 - Aspironal

The website Nostrumopia comments:

Aspironal was a purported cold remedy manufactured by Aspironal Laboratories in Atlanta, Georgia, around the period of 1919 to 1921. The name obviously played on the name of Aspirin, as the medicine, which was a liquid solution, contained a solution of sodium salicylate and other ingredients. Salicylates are compounds from which aspirin is derived.

The advertisements for the medicine claimed it was "better than whiskey" for the treatment of colds or flu. Of course, although whiskey can provide some relief from the symptoms of a cold, it is not a cure, by any means. Neither are salicylates or any of the other ingredients in the Aspironal. Although the labels claimed that the solution contained 10% alcohol, it probably contained much more.

When federal prohibition tool place in 1920, some states had already enacted their own prohibition laws. Druggists and patent medicine makers took advantage of a loophole that allowed the sale of "medicinal Whiskey.”

You can imagine in what for this 'immediate relief' and 'quick warm-up' might come for a person in dire need of a drink! The dose instructions on the bottle were essentially to keep taking 1 teaspoonful until the desired effect. In other words, drink until you feel the desired buzz. Of course, they were careful to give the dose for children as drops.

For more information, see:

1929 - Turtle Soup

Jack Hitt, on his blog, comments on this now rare delicacy:

I wanted to find out what had happened to turtle soup, which was among the most sought-after and popular dishes in all of American history. Accounts in the 18th and 19th centuries of massive parties known as “turtle frolics” suggest they were more popular than hog barbecues and oyster roasts, with descriptions of servants bearing three-foot-long upturned turtle shells filled with hot turtle stew for large crowds.

No early cookbook lacked a recipe for turtle, terrapin, or snapper stew—made from sea turtle, snapping turtle, box turtle, or diamondback terrapin, all of which, in Southern slang, became “cooter” in the pot. But some 50 years ago, turtle soup disappeared and, to most palates, now seems almost improbable verging on unacceptable. What happened?

For centuries, the flavor was legendary, and, really, nothing said American democracy like turtle. The poor man could often find a few slow-moving specimens hanging out at the backyard well, even as the privileged man sought out its refined flavor. Two days after voting for independence in Philadelphia, on July 4, 1776, John Adams celebrated with a bowl of turtle soup; when the war was over, George Washington met with his officers at Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan for a farewell frolic; and Lincoln celebrated his second inaugural with terrapin stew. Before Aaron Burr murdered Alexander Hamilton, both were members of the elite Hoboken Turtle Club.

The thing about an average turtle is that once cleaned, it will yield about three or four pounds of meat, so it's easy to see why it was once the workingman's meal. At any house with a well, there might be one or two turtles hanging out in the nearby puddles. I ran across accounts of people finding turtles here and there and tossing them into the water barrel at the well until there were enough to invite friends over for a frolic.

There was a big shift in tastes somewhere after World War I, Freedman told me. It's hard not to note the sheer variety of what was available before then, not just of turtle, but of all manner of meats.

Menus from that time routinely offered everything from roasted snipe and plover to rabbit hash, mutton cutlets, and oxtail. The decline of the family farm and the rise of mechanized factory farming, a process described as the “Eden Crash” in Christopher Leonard's Meat Racket, meant that by World War II, American taste for meat had bottlenecked into chicken, pork, and beef, all three of which could be grown, fed, quartered, and slaughtered according to the efficiency demands of Henry Ford's assembly-line theories. And I can testify that gutting and cleaning turtle is a big hassle and a poor candidate for any kind of industrial streamlining.

For more, see

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Breakwater Blues

Breakwater Blues

In Guernsey news, BBC news reports that “The Alderney breakwater ‘remains vulnerable’ despite the £23m. Guernsey has spent maintaining it in the last thirty years, according to the president of Environment and Infrastructure.”

“Deputy Brehaut said the future of the breakwater had to be handled sensitively. However, a long-term strategy is needed that is more than just ongoing repairs. In many ways, he said the breakwater is a ‘metaphor for the protection that Guernsey provides Alderney’. ‘[The level of investment] does seem to be something of a folly, but to the people who live and work in the bay it provides them with protection.’ In powerful storms the breakwater is vulnerable to significant damage and in its current state it would be ‘difficult for someone to invest in’. “

‘The last time an option was put forward it cost £26m. to demolish part of the breakwater, shorten it and strengthen what was left,’ said Deputy Brehaut.

But in the Guernsey Press, Alderney representative Graham McKinley has accused Environment & Infrastructure of being less than supportive of the island’s most important assets.

One of the comments by Annette Curtan has some interesting historical background:

“Just for clarification .....When the French built a breakwater at Cherbourg in 1842, the British Government decided that a 'Harbour of Refuge' to protect the British fleet was needed. In 1847 work began on the Alderney breakwater and thousands of tons of granite had to be transported from the east of the island and from Portland. Irish workers escaping from poverty at home arrived in their hundreds to work on the project”.

”By 1864 at the western breakwater at 4,827 feet long was complete, but had cost an astonishing £1.5 million. However within a year, 1,780 feet was abandoned to the seas following heavy gales and as relations with the French had improved, the eastern arm was not continued with. “

“By 1871 all maintenance had ceased but as the old harbour was silting up, (allegedly because of the breakwater), Alderney appealed to the UK for financial assistance for its upkeep, this was granted in 1874.”

“This arrangement remained in place until the 1980s when Guernsey agreed to its upkeep in lieu of Defence payments. (Jersey pay approx £5 million per year to the UK for Defence.) Something of a folly eh Barry!”

In fact, a missing part of the history is that Guernsey’s troubles with the breakwater are Jersey’s fault.

After the Falklands War, mindful of the way the UK Government had helped with Jersey's post-war economy, and the help also provided by the Red Cross, the States decided (following a proposition by Senator Ralph Vibert )to make a one off payment to the Falkland Islands to help with their economy, island reaching out to island.

A gift of £5 million pounds was made "towards the expenses incurred in the recovery and rehabilitation of the Falkland Islands", of which £250,000 was made available straight away to the Falkland Islands Appeal, and the rest was originally going towards a jetty.

In fact, the balance was not used for that purpose. When Peter Crill, the new Bailiff, reported back to the States on 28th January, 1986, he noted that:

"I discussed the matter with Senator Vibert and we decided that the most appropriate items would be the provision of new housing and a renovated and expanded water treatment and supply plant. Accordingly, I informed the Home Office and the Executive Council of the Falklands now proposes to use the balance for these two projects. The housing development will be known as the Jersey Estate within which streets will be named after places in Jersey."

But the outcome of the donation had another effect. The Island's generosity had been seen by Whitehall, and the UK had noted that no defense contribution had been previously forthcoming since 1920, when after a protracted dispute, a single 'voluntary' payment of £300,000 was paid, on the grounds that Jersey had fiscal autonomy, and no representation in the UK Parliament.

Accordingly, both Jersey and Guernsey were now asked to pay their part in the defense of the realm. It was not hard to see why. If Jersey was capable of an act of generosity of £5 million pounds (the equivalent today of around £12,600,000) it clearly had money to burn.

The way in which the initial decision was made - like Ministerial decrees, this was decided without any discussion in the States - generated a lot of anger. The consensus was that the States, by acting precipitously, had woken up the UK Government to an extra source of revenue. Guernsey people, in particular, were even more annoyed by having to contribute as a result of Jersey's action.

There were several proposals on the table for defense, the most popular (especially with the Ministry of Defense in the UK) being a minesweeper, which would be supported in costs by Jersey, and which would hark back to the Island's maritime legacy.

The Special Committee consistently was recommending a Minesweeper as the contribution, although Deputy Rumboll favoured a contribution to search and rescue helicopter for the English Channel. In the end, Deputy Dereck Carter's proposition of a Territorial Army Unit, itself harking back to the Jersey Militia, managed to win the day, in the teeth of strong opposition.

Pierre Horsfall had won for the Special Committee the mandate (on 28th January, 1986) that "the Special Committee should enter into detailed discussions with the United Kingdom authorities regarding the feasibility of establishing in the Island a Royal Naval Reserve Unit, together with its attached minesweeper, the costs therefore being borne by the Island; and report back to the Assembly."

But the TA unit gained support, both with the public (who felt that if Jersey had to pay, at least this was not just writing a blank cheque) and the States. On 21st January, 1987 the States (including Pierre Horsfall) voted against the Minesweeper.

Looking back on the saga, Geoffrey Rowland, Bailiff of Guernsey, commented, that in 1984, when the Secretary of State in London raised with the Channel Islands the question of a financial contribution:

“It followed the Falkland Islands War and objective observers are of the opinion that the request was precipitated by Jersey making a voluntary contribution to Her Majesty’s Government. The outcome was that in 1987 a compromise was reached. Guernsey assumed, amongst other things, liability for the Alderney breakwater without giving an undertaking to Her Majesty’s Government that Guernsey would maintain it. Conspicuously Her Majesty’s Government had never over the years given any undertaking to Alderney that it would maintain the breakwater.”

So the cost of the Guernsey breakwater was part of a bargain struck which was precipitated by Jersey’s initial donation to the Falklands. Is it any wonder it is difficult for the politicians of both Islands to co-ordinate their affairs?

Recently, the matter of the Aircraft Registry, and now that of splitting the role of the Information Commissioner, show that a stance of short-sighted mutual belligerence is all too often the way ahead.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Nominee Directors: Still in the Frame

Nominee Directors: Still in the Frame

“A Latvian pensioner has emerged as one the World’s richest men – on paper. The 73 year old, appears to be a billionaire with an empire that has interests in hundreds of businesses including banks, investment funds, pharmaceuticals and shipping. But they are not his. He is revealed today as the stooge nominee director of “brass plate” companies from London to the Caribbean. He and others have also served on companies linked to a series of financial scandals. The stooge directors would have signed away rights to any powers and been unaware of any alleged fraud. “
--The Times, London 16 June 2013

The recent “Paradise Papers”, as reported in Radio 4’s “File on Four”, showed a web of companies from Nambia to Mauritius to Hong Kong. As the BBC reported:

“The fishing company in Nambia was Atlantic Pacific Fishing (APF), 51% Namibian owned. APF signed a deal with a company called Brandberg to manage their affairs, in return for 4% of the company's revenues. But despite being named after a Namibian mountain, Brandberg is based 4,000 miles away - in Mauritius. Why? Well, because of the island's double taxation treaties with Namibia, signed more than 20 years ago. In theory, this agreement means that companies operating in two countries can avoid being taxed in both by deciding which one would get the tax. In this case, it is Mauritius which gets the money.”

“The BBC went looking for Brandberg at its registered address in Port Louis, Mauritius. Only, it couldn't find the company. Where it should have been, we found instead an office for Appleby, one of the world's largest providers of offshore legal services. In fact, Brandberg the company that manages the Namibian fishing operation is actually based in Hong Kong. It was set up by Pacific Andes - one of the world's biggest fishing operations.””

“They show that Brandberg appears to have no economic activity in Mauritius. The only two directors of the company based in Mauritius both work for Appleby. And an email from a firm of auditors asking for the physical address of Brandberg is told in reply: Hong Kong.”

It appears these are nominee directors.

Another case in the Paradise Papers is equally instructive

Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais was trying to invest offshore but was having a hard time finding a place to put his money.

As ICIJ reports:

“First, Bastos tried Appleby’s office on the island of Jersey, a popular offshore financial centre in the English Channel. But Appleby employees there balked at his 2011 request to set up a shell company without being told why it was needed or what assets it would hold. One thing that concerned Appleby’s Jersey lawyers was the possibility that the shell company would own a shipping port in corruption-prone Angola.”

“Next Bastos, an amateur tennis player who runs an asset-management firm, Quantum Global Group, tried Appleby’s office on the Isle of Man, in the Irish Sea. Appleby’s management there decided that Appleby would require a seat on the offshore company’s board of directors to exercise some supervision over what they described as his high-risk business. The arrangement did not go ahead.”

“Finally, in 2013, after Angola’s sovereign wealth fund entrusted Bastos with $5 billion, he turned to another Appleby outpost: Mauritius, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, 1,200 miles off the east coast of southern Africa.”

“We are pleased to be able to act on your behalf,” Appleby’s top lawyer in Mauritius, Malcolm Moller, wrote to Bastos’ Quantum Global in October 2013.

The Affinex Group notes that:

“An offshore company registered in Mauritius must have at least one director. If you do not want to be the company director for any reason, you can use the services of a nominee director.”

“Nominee director - natural person EUR 400 a year (including one general Power of attorney verified by a Notary with Apostille and an undated resignation)”

The Guardian notes that “nominee directors” in some jurisdictions have no legal status but are “fettered” – it gives an example of a BVI company. The mechanisms used are:

·         A promise by a nominee director only to do what the real owner tells them – “I hereby declare that I shall only act upon instruction from the beneficial owners."
·         A "general power of attorney" – handing back power to the real owner. "To transact, manage and do all and every business matter … To open any bank account and to operate the same … To enter into all contracts … To collect debts, rents and other money due."
·         A signed, but undated, director's resignation letter – this can be used if the director acts in a way that the beneficial owners do not desire, but which may be part of his general fiduciary obligations as a director.

There used to be lots of nominee directors in Jersey, as noted in Mark Hampton’s 1996 book “The Offshore Interface”. But when the company law was changed in the Companies (Jersey) Law 1991 ("Companies Law"), it made directors far more responsible in law, and a lot of companies which had provided such services thought long and hard about it and ceased to do so.

Under the 1991 Law, as in the UK Company Law – there is no such legal entity as a “nominee director”. Indeed as Collas Crill point out, under the law:

“In general, a director may not fetter his discretion by contracting with other directors or with third parties to act in a certain way in the future. In other words, a directors obligation to act in accordance with his fiduciary duties would usually take precedence over any course of conduct he may have previously agreed with co directors or third parties.”

In Hawkes v Cuddy (2009) EWCA Civ 291 Stanley Burton LJ stated that:

"In my judgement, the fact that a director of a company has been nominated to that office by a shareholder does not, of itself, impose any duty on the director owed to his nominator. The director may owe duties to his nominator if he is an employee or officer of the nominator, or by reason of a formal or informal agreement with his nominator, but such duties do not arise out of his nomination, but out of a separate agreement or office. Such duties cannot however, detract from his duty to the company of which he is a director when he is acting as such.

That is not to say that nominee directors may not exist in Jersey or even in the UK. TCS Group UK says:

“We can provide UK or overseas nominee directors.”

Although it adds the caveat:

“A nominee director is not recognised by law and as such has the same legal obligations as a client providing their own directors. Where we are requested to provide nominees we will therefore require a full understanding of the nature of your business and also want to know who the beneficial owners of the company are, we will require certified copies of the passport and a recent utility bill or other proof of address for all beneficial owners of the company. This information is provided to us in the strictest confidence and we would only disclose it if required to do so by law.”

Comsure cite a case looking at “Duties of nominee directors faced with fraud” in the case of Central Bank of Ecuador and IAMF v Conticorp SA and others (2013). It notes that:

The Court “found the defendants guilty of dishonestly assisting and procuring the ‘nominee director’” to act in breach of his fiduciary duties, who acted at all times on the instructions of the other defendants.”

The Privy Council held: “Mr Taylor was in breach of fiduciary duty to IAMF because he failed to exercise any independent judgement.”

Comsure note that:

“The law relating to nominee directors’ duties is broadly speaking the same in the UK as it is in the Bahamas. As Lord Mance put it, “A nominee director is not entitled to forego, or surrender to another, any exercise of his discretion, however paltry the amount he may be paid.” In short, a nominee director is in no different a position to a normal director when it comes to the exercise of this duties.”

In the UK, in 2013, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) noted that in the UK alone:

“Assuming that an individual acting as the director of over 50 companies is almost certainly acting as a nominee director, it estimates that 1,175 individuals are nominee directors and that 141,600 companies have nominee directors on their boards ‒ many of which are of course perfectly legitimate.”

Valetime Group notes that “nominee director” has no legal status, and yet can exist. However, they point out that: “Nominee directors share the same level of legal responsibilities as any other director. These responsibilities cannot be signed away to others or be treated as non-existent.”

And they state:

“We can provide directors and other nominee services, support to business processes & office services; and much else to present an UK face to a company’s image.”

And notes that:

“It must not be overlooked that nominee directors share the same level of responsibilities as do normal directors.  Their obligations cannot simply be signed away and directors cannot treat responsibilities as being non-existent (an accusation known in law as “abrogation”.)”

The OECD book “Behind the Corporate Veil: Using Corporate Entities for Illicit Purposes” comments that:

“Nominee directors and corporations sewing as directors [“corporate directors") can also be misused to conceal the identity of the beneficial owner and their use renders director information reported to the companies registry less useful. Nominee directors appear as a director on all company documents and in official registries (if any] but pass on all duties required to be performed by a director to the beneficial owner of the company. In many jurisdictions, the nominee or corporate director is not required to own shares in the company in which it serves as a director.”

“Certain jurisdictions, including most OECD Member countries and OFCs such as Cyprus. Isle of Man. Jersey. Malta. and the Netherlands Antilles, do not recognise nominee directors. Consequently a person who accepts a directorship is subject to all of the requirements and obligations of a director, including fiduciary obligations, notwithstanding the fact that he is acting as a nominee. “

“In certain jurisdictions, directors cannot be indemnified by the beneficial owner. Non-recognition of the concept of nominee director has one indirect benefit — those furnishing or acting as professional directors are likely to take greater precautions to ensure that their client - the beneficial owner - does not misuse the corporate vehicle for illicit purposes. “

And it gives an example:

“In the Netherlands Antilles, which does not recognise the concept of nominee directors, reputable trust companies that are asked to serve as directors will conduct a rigorous background check on their clients and. in the case of bearer share companies, will insist on the immobilisation of those shares as a condition to accepting a directorship. “

To curb the availability and use of nominee directorships certain jurisdictions, such as Ireland, impose a limit on the number of directorships a person may hold. In Ireland, a person may hold a maximum of 25 directorships. In the United Kingdom, the Companies Act requires disclosure of the identity of "shadow" directors, who are defined as persons on whose instructions the directors of a company are accustomed to act.

Even Mauritius does not recognise the concept of “nominee directors”, but it seems that some jurisdictions are better than others at ensuring directors face the full legal responsibility of their office. Jersey and the Isle of Man seem far better than Mauritius at ensuring that any directors acting as nominees do so as if they were not nominees, but properly appointed directors and not just stooges for the beneficial owners. 

But it would help to strengthen the case against nominee directors if the directors were made to declare by law, if they had any promissory notes, powers of attorney or unsigned resignation letters as outlined by the Guardian’s piece above so that their nominee status could be exposed in public.


Sunday, 19 November 2017

On Being a Christian

On Being a Christian

What is distinctive about being a Christian? A Christian is someone who is a “follow of Christ”, but if a non-religious person wanted to identify a Christian, how would they do so? I would like to explore this is greater depth.

One approach is to search the New Testament for various “proof texts” about Christians. Here we might look at the words of Jesus on his followers - “by their fruits you shall know them”, and also consider, for example, the “fruits of the spirit” mentioned in Paul, in Galatians 5:22: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control.

The problem with this approach is that it is not showing what is distinctly Christian. A thought experiment may help here: you could have two people, one atheist, one Christian, both caring, compassionate, self-giving (like Mother Teresa). It would be impossible to tell from outward appearances who was a Christian and who was an atheist, unless there was some specifically Christian practice in which beliefs were also enunciated. Of course whether Christian or not, such actions should be commended.

If we look at the New Testament again, but not using proof texts, but simply marking out the broader picture which emerges, we can see that there are certain indicators, present in the early Church, which mark out Christians as different. There may be more, but I think one can safely single out at least five.

1.     What in modern terms we would call “lifestyle”, the way in which we live, and the values by which we live our lives, which are an ideal aspired to, even if we fall short of this. It is hear that we locate the “fruits of the Spirit” mention in Paul’s letters. The idea of “conforming to Christ” can also be located here.
2.     Coming together on "the Lord's day" and celebrating the "Lord's supper", which is again clearly denoted in Paul's letters as a tradition “handed down”, and is clearly very early. This may be termed “Mass”, “Eucharist”, “Holy Communion”, or even simply just “The Lord’s Supper”, but the core of the celebration remains the same. Again, this indicates that being a Christian is not, as a rule, a private matter, but a community matter, and also that it is not just about belief, but at its heart also involves the body in what might be understood as a form of “re-enactment”.
3.     Use of the "Lord's prayer" in liturgy and private prayer - this seems to have formed a part of early worship, and is also presented in the gospels as the prayer Jesus taught his disciples when asked how they should pray.
4.     Assenting to a an early credal statement like the Apostle's Creed, even if not explicitly spelt out in this form, as this is implicit in the New Testament writings, and places the elements of belief in proper harmony, not promoting one at the expense of others.
5.     Being baptised, as this forms part of the early tradition, and is a sign of joining and belonging to the Christian community. As with (2), this is a community practice, not a private social event.

I think if you just had (1), you would be possibly closer to Confucian or Socratic ethics than Christianity, in that it would not be distinctly Christian. The thought experiment of Mother Teresa shows that lifestyle, while necessarily a part of being a Christian, is not sufficient to mark out what is distinctly Christian. Equally, if you just had the ritualistic element of (2) to (5), this could all too easily become habit, losing sight of what Christianity is all about. Baptism (5) can degenerate into a social event, which is a ritual of a society with no beliefs but only  vestigial, pseudo-magical,  notions that certain rites must be followed. The Eucharist (2) can become just a community event, participation in which forms part of polite society and is expected.

While ritualistic element (2) and (5) can lend themselves to empty formalism, I don't think these can be remove them from the equation. The nearest to a Christian group without ritual would be the Quakers or Salvation Army, and even they meet together on Sundays, and conduct their own form of worship.

Historically, there is little evidence of Christianity from the earliest without these rituals, centred upon Jesus; Christianity is not purely ethical like the practices of the Stoics or Epicureans. Obviously there are exceptions, and there is a ascetic tradition of retreat, of being a hermit, as can be seen clearly with some of the desert fathers. But this is not taken as normative practice, although it is taken as permissible, of belonging within the boundaries of Christianity.

Of course, at the heart of Christianity, as at the heart of any faith tradition, is not just statements or practices, but an existential element. I remember a Druid friend of mine saying that rituals without engagement are just empty words and actions. At the heart of Christianity is God, and God is love in relationship:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Co 13:1-13)

Saturday, 18 November 2017

The Tide is High

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the local dispute with the RNLI, the singular action by the RNLI to lock their building and remove the lifeboat, rather than allowing an interim arrangement, is putting lives at risk. Will the RNLI take responsibility if lives are lost because of their precipitate action? This poem looks at what might happen. They need to put something else in place soon, either the existing crew or a new one.

The Tide is High

Waves crash on rocks, gulls cry
Dark storm clouds across the sky
The siren call, the song that calls
Poseidon’s deep, shipwreck falls
A call goes out, come aid me now
The waves crash thunder over bow
She dips and falls, then rises high
Swell so turbulent it meets the sky
But no one came, no listener heard
No listening radio, to hear a word
It is all locked up, and empty still
Heeds not despair, the cry so shrill
Up she goes, the boat once more
Down much deeper, ocean roar
The tide is high,still worse to come
The heavy rain pounds like a drum
Their faces white, and full of fear
And rocks grow every closer, near
No lifeboat now, was taken away
And how those sailors rue that day
Abandon ship, she’s sinking fast
And on the deck, a broken mast
The water is cold, freezing, ice
Bodies caught as within a vice
Another boat coming, with delay
Their distance just too far away
Find they bodies, floating, dead
Now words of comfort must be said
To relatives of those, they mourn
The passing to that final bourne
First duty: to save lives at sea
No one heard the dead men’s plea
Just too busy scoring points to care
Now commit to the deep, in prayer

Friday, 17 November 2017

Jersey Our Island: The Years of Darkness – Part 1

Published in 1950, this is an interesting snapshot of the Island and its customs as it was in the immediate post-war period, and not without humour. Most guide books of the time give the tourist information, or give the impressions of an outsider to the Island, but this is in "inside view", which is rarer.

Jersey Our Island: The Years of Darkness – Part 1
by Sidney Bisson

A TABLET set in a circle of grass at one end of the North Marine Drive dedicates it `To the Men and Women of Jersey who suffered in the World War 1939-45.'

In Jersey the ultimate consequences of the evacuation from Dunkirk were overshadowed by its immediate results. The potato season was in full swing. The harbour should have been full of ships to take the precious crop to England. Where were they? Long strings of lorries waited on the quays for cargo steamers that did not arrive. Angry farmers demonstrated in the Royal Square against the incompetence of the authorities. They cursed at the waste of time and petrol as they drove their full loads back to their farms at night. The problem of the moment distracted their thoughts from the future.

Only with the fall of Paris came a general realisation that the island was in danger. Many English residents closed their homes and returned to England. The mail boats were crowded. Large numbers of British troops landed and began preparing defensive positions. The sound of gunfire was heard from the Continent.

On June 19th the comparative calm of the population was shattered by an announcement that the British Government had decided not to defend the Channel Islands. All troops would be withdrawn, and civilians who wished to leave the island would be evacuated the following day.

For two days panic reigned. Over 23,000 people decided to go, and joined a vast queue to hand in their names at the Town Hall. Shopkeepers closed their shops; farmers turned loose their cattle; hundreds drove to the harbour and abandoned their cars on the quay.

Thirty-one ships sailed with 8,500 passengers. A few more continued to leave on the following days, but well over half of those who had registered for evacuation changed their minds and stayed. Official announcements that the civil authorities were staying at their posts helped to restore calm. If they had been made earlier, the panic might have been avoided. Those who remained had a busy weekend looking after the effects of the evacuees. The police collected perishable food from evacuated houses. Relatives and friends removed or buried valuables, collected abandoned cars, cattle, poultry, and household pets, made arrangements to re-open businesses.

By Monday the 24th the island had returned to a semblance of normal life. But the Battle of France had ended, and the question that was upper- most in the people's minds was, `When will the Germans come?' During the next few days their planes flew high over the island. On the 28th they came low and dropped bombs near St. Helier's harbour. A few small boats caught fire, but most of the damage was to private houses and business premises in the vicinity. Six people were killed. La Rocque harbour was also bombed and various parts of the island were machine-gunned, causing further, but not heavy, casualties. After the raid the ships remaining in the harbour sailed for England and a B.B.C. broad- cast proclaimed the island an `open town.' There was no more bombing, but on July 1st messages dropped from the air called on the island to surrender.

There was no possible alternative. A silent crowd gathered to watch workmen painting a white cross on the Royal Square, where the last invader of Jersey was defeated in 1781. For the first time in her history the island surrendered without resistance.

Everyone I have spoken to agrees that the first thing that struck them about the German troops was their good behaviour. Those who expected an orgy of rape and atrocities were disappointed.

There was merely a spate of official proclamations. A curfew was imposed, weapons were confiscated, the use of private cars was prohibited, the sale of spirits was banned.

One of the most curious orders was that which permitted the continuation of Divine Worship in Churches and Chapels. One wonders if Hauptmann Gussek doubted the efficacy of prayer or just wanted to create a good impression when he decreed that `Prayers for the British Royal Family and for the welfare of the British Empire (my italics!) may be said.' At any rate he was having no proselytising. When the local Evening Post started an English-German vocabulary column for the benefit of readers who wanted to understand the invader, a correspondent suggested that a translation of the Lord's Prayer might be `a means of helpful contact and sympathy.' But the German Commandant forbade its publication.

My father and mother were amongst those who remained in the island. Like many other people with ties on the mainland as well as in Jersey, they found it difficult to make their decision. Relatives and friends in England proffered contradictory advice.

Those who visualised the enemy as a devastating arch-demon suggested immediate flight and offered accommodation. Others, like myself, who expected that the bombing of England would be intensified now that France had fallen, regarded even a German- occupied Jersey as a place of comparative safety. In fact, only a sense of duty prevented us from packing up and going to join my parents.

In the end Fate decided for them. The strain of that heart- swelling evacuation week proved too much for my mother's health, which broke down completely. They had to stay. For us, then, anxiety prevailed over duty. Or if you are a cynic, say that we were glad to have an excuse for going to what we thought was a better ‘ole! Anyway, we decided to go to Jersey. But we had left it too late. When I tried to get tickets, neither the steamship companies nor Jersey Airways would consider bookings to the Channel Islands. A last exchange of telegrams, then silence unbroken save by an occasional Red Cross message for five long years.

How we looked forward to those Red Cross messages. And how little real news their twenty-five words conveyed, much as we tried to read between the lines. For of course they had to be strictly confined to personal matters. Sometimes our anxiety made us read too much into them. When my sister-in-law wrote that she was very tired and needed a holiday we were almost convinced that the Germans had conscripted her for their Labour Corps. Only after the Liberation did we realise that every housewife was tired by the ceaseless search for food and the difficulty of cooking it when it had been procured.

At first the Red Cross messages were few and far between. Then we heard of a scheme devised by Thomas Cook's. For a small fee they provided you with an accommodation address in Portugal, posted your letters in that country, and re-directed the replies when they arrived there. At the risk of mystifying our relations in Jersey, who were bound to wonder what on earth we were doing in Portugal, we decided to try it. But no replies came, for the simple reason, as we discovered afterwards, that our own letters never got through. I only know of one other person who tried to get news this way, and one of his letters has just reached Jersey after over five years of travel. There is a chance that ours may get here yet!

Later, particularly in 1943 and the early part of 1944, messages were more frequent, and our scanty news was supplemented by the Channel Islands Monthly Review. This excellent little magazine, published by the Channel Islands Society at Stockport, printed not only any interesting Red Cross messages received by its readers, but also longer letters from internees in Germany full of Channel Islands news.

It is one of the minor mysteries of the censorship (or perhaps of the Rules of War) that although the islanders could only write twenty-five words for transmission to England, they could communicate freely with internees and prisoners of war in Germany, who in turn passed on the news to relatives and friends in England. Those in Germany could also send to the islands food and cigarettes which they received in parcels from England, yet nothing could be sent from England to Jersey.

It was mainly from this news traffic via Germany that we learnt to discount the more sensational newspaper reports of conditions in the Channel Islands. When the Daily Blank announced that the islanders were reduced to boiling cat skins for food, we took comfort in the reports of people who were `quite cheerful,' `all fit and well,' or `busy growing vegetables,' and who mentioned cycling, concerts, and amateur theatricals as the principal amusements.

If Mr. A missed his golf and Mrs. B complained of the cost of living, Mr. C said his children were healthy and Mrs. D spoke of a successful Harvest Festival. We smiled when the same newspaper reported that the latest fashion, born of necessity, was to go about dressed in an old sack. For did we not know from the Review that a well-known resident kept up his pre-war custom of wearing a carnation in his button-hole on his daily walk to business. And surely not even the most ardent dianthophile would insult the product of his horticultural art by displaying it on a background of sacking.

There were those, it is true, who contended that Red Cross messages and internees' letters alike were dictated by the enemy at the point of the bayonet for propaganda purposes only a position hard to maintain in view of the many scarcely veiled references to the enemy. The British censors must have been amused at the number of islanders who had an Uncle Jerry. According to Godfrey, one old lady who could not understand this addition to the family pedigree wrote back `Who is Uncle Jerry e' The reply 'Uncle Joe's new neighbour'- must have puzzled her still more...

The truth lay somewhere between the two pictures thus presented. Newspaper reports based on information smuggled out of the island were usually exaggerated; messages sent openly from the island were forcedly cheerful. No one who was not there or who has not talked freely to people who remained can imagine the conditions that prevailed during the occupation. I hope that someone will be tempted to write of his or her personal experiences.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

And so to bed...

And so to bed... my regular collection of inspiring quotes posted last thing at night, collected here.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from James Hilton:

For London, Blampied claimed, was of all cities in the world the most autumnal —its mellow brickwork harmonizing with fallen leaves and October sunsets, just as the etched grays of November composed themselves with the light and shade of Portland stone. There was a charm, a deathless charm, about a city whose inhabitants went about muttering, "The nights are drawing in," as if it were a spell to invoke the vast, sprawling creature-comfort of winter.”

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Philip Johnstone’s 1918 poem called ‘High Wood’:

In the fighting for this patch of wood
Were killed somewhere above eight thousand men,
Of whom the greater part were buried here,
This mound on which you stand being ...
Madame, please,
You are requested kindly not to touch
Or take away the Company’s property
As souvenirs; you’ll find we have on sale
A large variety, all guaranteed.
As I was saying, all is as it was,
This is an unknown British officer,
The tunic having lately rotted off.
Please follow me – this way ...
the path, sir, please.
The ground which was secured at great expense
The Company keeps absolutely untouched,
And in that dug-out (genuine) we provide
Refreshments at a reasonable rate.
You are requested not to leave about
Paper, or ginger-beer bottles, or orange-peel,
There are waste-paper-baskets at the gate.

British lieutenant John Stanley Purvis, who wrote under the pseudonym of Philip Johnson, was invalided out of the army after been wounded during the Battle of the Somme. Following the war he returned to Cranleigh School in Surrey where he had previously taught. He then took holy orders and at the age of 50 he settled in York

And so to bed... quote for tonight was written in 2009 by James Jeffrey, a thirty-two-year-old Captain serving with the Queen’s Royal Lancers, in Afghanistan

The Last Supper

A supper when we shared a table
Secure beside the bomb-blast walls
The ketchup bottle a reminder of home
Stands out from many others
I remember your humour, the polite bearing,
Explaining that insane job with zeal
Each day spending hours defusing bombs
Lying on dirt tracks, staring through sweat at wires
I sat wondering how it must feel
Almost asking the unquestionable
Might it be a matter of time with the numbers?
Perhaps you’d already thought this through.
Yet you never deterred in protecting others
All the way to where you could not turn back
From the blinding hot blast demanding sacrifice
Taking away the scruffy cheerful calm
Leaving another picture in a morose mosaic

And so to bed.. quote for tonight is from David Lloyd-George:

We cannot feed the hungry with statistics of national prosperity, or stop the pangs of famine by reciting to a man the prodigious number of cheques that pass through the clearing-house.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from John F Kennedy:

Now the trumpet summons us again--not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need--not as a call to battle, though embattled we are-- but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation"--a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.

G'Quon wrote, There is a greater darkness than the one we fight. It is the darkness of the soul that has lost its way.

The war we fight is not against powers and principalities – it is against chaos and despair. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams. Against this peril we can never surrender.

The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation.

No one knows the shape of that future, or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain.