Thursday, 23 December 2010

Christmas Greetings - from December 1940!

I've just been perusing the Christmas 1940 "Editor's Window" from "The Islander". This was "Jersey's Monthly Picture Magazine", and the editor was a Mr E.H. Brenam. The price was one shilling. This was published when the German military forces had been in Occupation of the Channel Islands for around six months.

The editorial starts by berating "the gossip and scandalmonger" in a manner which makes one think of the criticism heaped on bloggers by some (but not all) of the writers in the Jersey Evening Post. But the giveaway is that the mention of "international and local events", which surely refers in part to the German confiscation of radio sets - which had been ordered towards the end of November. Equally, there probably was, as is usual in Jersey, the usual Jersey "grapevine" spreading tidbits of news, some true and some false. What is interesting is that the international and local aspects are conflated, so that the editor gives the impression that any spread of gossip, even if it is British news, is bad, and that only an indirect mention is made of the confiscation orders ("local events").

The editor then turns his eye on fuel and food. Nowadays, fuel and food is still subject to a kind of rationing, but instead of everyone getting an equal share under rationing, under GST, those who can pay most have comfortable warm heated homes, and plentiful food, while those who cannot afford it do not. It is the new kind of "black market", except that it operates openly and legitimately.

It is interesting that the sugar ration is increased for children, presumably on health grounds to provide nutrition for growing bodies, while we have had cut backs on free school milk for primary school children, despite studies showing it helps healthy bones.

Lastly, there is an interesting comment on raising the school leaving age. Today, as then, there seems to be young people "kicking their heels at home, there being as it is, a surplus of both skilled and unskilled workers in the labour market", and the fiscal stimulus fund has been used to increase available places in education at Highlands. The November figure this year was 1,310 people unemployed, and Alan Maclean, the Economic Development Minister said that the figures would have been worse had the States not agreed to invest fiscal stimulus funding into training initiatives and capital projects. But sooner or later, the training initiatives will end, and will we be out of recession then, or will there be an even greater rise? How much greater would it have been without more young people still in education?

How much of our misery is because of the world recession, and how much have we done to make it worse? Some local businesses are hanging on by their fingertips above the precipice. GST at 5% may be the last little nudge to send them off it. And more and more local businesses are being snapped up by UK shareholders (who have to pay nothing on profits), and thereby place an ever greater tax burden on the local taxpayer. So far, all we have had is promises that Philip Ozouf will do something; not unlike Mr Micawber in Dickens, saying "something will turn up".

Anyhow, here is a brief window into Christmas 1940, where the soup was not on offer to raise money for charity, but to be charitable, and where freedom of speech would be obliquely criticised as "odious", and people who spread news from the BBC would be sent to prison for breaking the law.

The Islander - Editor's Window
Christmas 1940

Both international and local events have brought to the fore that interesting but odious specimen, the gossip and scandalmonger. No Act can be passed without a comment, which is always far-fetched, rash and frequently imbecile, made up of general reflections containing no thought and scarcely a phrase that has not been overworked. His ears are long and his eyes are quick, but especially so with regard to perceiving faults which are often than not increased by his intermeddling. Rumours sweep through the town and country-side with an amazing rapidity and cause many nervous or highly strung people quite unnecessary fears, anticipations and worry. We think that this form of amusement should cease.

The. dark, long, winter nights are approaching and, the black-out and curfew tending to anchor people to the fire-side, there are in this particular, two main commodities which will be required : fuel for the fire and fuel for the mind.

We hope that the States' Schemes of peat cutting and wood felling and also the import of coal and coke will be sufficient to satisfy the demand in the first case while the Public Library will no doubt do its best to satisfy most people in search of reading matter. Owing to the limited size of the fiction section, habitual novel readers would be well advised to realise that biographies and books of travel can be just as entertaining. To this end, we propose, in next month's issue of the " Islander," to give short reviews of some non-fiction books obtainable at the Public Library which might
be of interest to readers.

With the limited resources at one's disposal, it is only the expert cook who can concoct a tasty dish. For those devoid of the " culinary art," we strongly recommend the daily Communal Meal served at the Technical School in Phillips Street. Here a splendid hot meal of soup and meat or vegetable dish may be obtained for 6d. For an additional 1d. or 2d, a dessert of some kind is served. We understand that many of the vegetables used at the Communal Kitchen are obtained from the products of the Stadium Scheme mentioned in last month's " Islander." The Communal meals are planned by Miss Fraser, who is the cooking instructress at the School, while the efficient service is performed by an enthusiastic body of voluntary helpers, who together with Miss Fraser, deserve all praise. If we make one small criticism, it is that there seems to be somebody entrusted with the seasoning who is inordinately fond of pepper and peppers on the same principle as the Duchess in " Alice in Wonderland " who said " he can thoroughly enjoy pepper when he pleases."

The tobacco rationing has started a lot of unjustified grousing. Whilst not condemning smoking as " a custom loathsome to the eve, hateful to the nose, harmfulle to the braine, dangerous to the lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomless " as King James I did, we feel that the regular amount of tobacco allowed per week is ample.

"To smoke more is to take it as tinkers do ale, 'tis a plague, a mischief, a violent purger of goods. lands, health, hellish, devilish and damned tobacco, the mien and overthrow of body and soul " as sour-minded Burton remarked. We should smoke a cigarette as we smoke a cigar, on an appropriate occasion, after a meal or last thing at night, not, as so often happens, when we have nothing to do for a moment.

It is with great pleasure that we learn that the sugar-ration for children has been increased to 8 ounces per week. In these times, when attention is concentrated on the war, we ought to be extremely thankful to the authorities concerned for having had such foresight with regard to the generations who will, we hope, inhabit a more peaceful and prosperous world.

This attention to the health of children brings us to another aspect : their education. Many boys and girls who would normally have left school and obtained employment are now kicking their heels at home, there being as it is, a surplus of both skilled and unskilled workers in the labour market. Might this not be an opportunity of extending the school leaving age, thus equipping the man and woman of the future with an education which will be a real use to them in playing their part as citizens ?

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