Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Things you may not know about the New Year












It is New Year’s Eve, a time for partying and celebration. Well, actually, not always. As Borgna Brunner notes:

“The celebration of the new year on January 1st is a relatively new phenomenon. The earliest recording of a new year celebration is believed to have been in Mesopotamia, c. 2000 B.C. and was celebrated around the time of the vernal equinox, in mid-March. A variety of other dates tied to the seasons were also used by various ancient cultures. The Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Persians began their new year with the fall equinox, and the Greeks celebrated it on the winter solstice.”

James Frazer, in “The Golden Bough” constructed a Celtic New year, which began at the festival of Samhain, better known as Halloween. Modern pagans follow this.

And as genealogists know, you have also to be very careful when looking at family trees, even in fairly recent times, as a family tree information site notes:

“In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII determined that the Julian calendar was incorrect: each day was just a little bit too long and the human calendar wasn't keeping up with nature's calendar. To solve the problem, Pope Gregory XIII created what is known as the Gregorian calendar. This new calendar changed the first day of the year to January 1 and also jumped ahead by 10 days to make up for the lost time.”

“At the time of the settling of New England in America, the New Year began on the 25th of march. Thus, March 24th was in 1599 and March 25th in 1600.”

“Later, a new form of designating the New Year was adopted and the first time it was used was in the General Court of Connecticut as "this 20th day of March, 1649-50, or 1650 by our present system of reckoning. This style prevailed for almost 100 years. Due to an error in the calendar, the dates in all months between 1600 and 1700 should be carried forward ten (10) days. Thus, July10 was realy July 20, according to our present system.”

"The British Parliament changed the calendar from the old style to the new, the one used today, and changed the date of September 3rd, 1752 (old calendar) to September 14, 1752 (new calendar) thus dropping eleven days.”

Why did the British take so long to change their calendar? The Encyclopedia of Genealogy explains:

“The problem was caused by the fact that non-Catholic western countries, particularly England and all of her colonies, were exceedingly disinclined to accept the scientifically correct, but "Roman" created calendar, they being suspicious of anything decreed by a Catholic Pope.” “

“After a delay of one-hundred-seventy years, England finally accepted the Gregorian calendar by a 1751 Act of Parliament. September 2, 1752 was set as the last day of the Julian calendar, and the following day was declared to be 14 September -- a deletion of eleven days. The eleven days came about because the long delay included the year 1700, introducing one more erroneous Leap Year day from the Julian calendar. Thus genealogists have to deal with a long period of ambigous record dates for English and colonial records from 1 January through 24 March, in years prior to 1753.”


References

http://usgenweb.org/research/calendar.shtml
http://www.eogen.com/CalendarChange16thCentury

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

RIP: Suzanne Vincent













I went to the funeral of Suzie Vincent yesterday at St Aubin on the Hill Church, which was packed. The sun shone and the church was full to bursting with so many people - and dogs! - who wanted to celebrate her life.

Her dogs were, as Mark Bond told us in his funeral address, as much part of her life as people, so it was fitting and right that they should be there. Sometimes they barked, and at the end, they briefly whined as if in sorrow.

I have never been to a funeral where dogs have been present before, but it felt right. How can one celebrate someone’s life if something so dear is excluded?

One thing which came through, both in the service, and in talking to anyone who had met Suzie was how selfless she was, how kind she was to people, and how she gave love, and everyone loved her. And yet she had known more than her share of sorrow, losing both her parents to cancer at a relatively young age, and have battled with cancer herself once before.

I remember her as a young girl helping with Sunday school, along with her sister Kate, and again as a helper with La Baguette, regularly and cheerfully turning up to help with the packing nights.

And on Easter day, I remember she would come to the very early 6 o’clock morning service in the Fisherman’s Chapel, at the great Easter day when Christian’s celebrate the risen Christ. May she rest in peace with her beloved Lord.

Partings

Somehow the dogs know, and bark,
As if angels passing, gave their hark,
At the parting, saying farewell;
Now this ending, sorrow, time so fell;
And yet as candle flame flows bright
We see her once more in our sight:
Memories, anecdotes, our own and
Others, each sketching with their hand;
Brave, scared, at the last of her days
Before she left on those strangest ways
From which none return, a veil drawn
Until the joyful resurrection dawn;
Time’s sands run out for each and all:
However brief the life, how great or small;
But she was loved, and that must be
A sign of joy for all there to see;
I knew her but briefly in her short life,
But grief still cuts through like a knife;
At the ending of a life, the end of the day
Light a candle in the darkness, pray.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Port Galot: Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.












The Chief Minister has made a decision to give public support to the Port Galot development. I’m not sure, given the new “collective responsibility” of the Council of Ministers, that is a very responsible thing to do. It is almost like an outside judge weighing in on one side of a Court case before the jury has heard both sides, and before the presiding judge has given his view.

Rather like Plemont, this is a divisive issue, and it is possible more important than Plemont, because it strikes at the heart of historic St Helier and its harbours.

The comments on Facebook about the issue also show a worrying detachment of the Council of Ministers, and indeed the States themselves, from the public.

“How many more tales must we listen to? Are our leaders just completely misinformed or are they determined regardless of the truth and public opinion”

The comments coming from the Planning Minister, and the Planning Officer, about how they will not be swayed by numbers are also destroying public confidence in the States. The end result might not be agreement, but there should at least be an honest attempt at engagement rather than offhand dismissals.

“Just typical and simply saying they are going to ignore public opinion and do what we want to do and hate to say but probably the people in favour of it will benefit from it !!”

“I think it’s too late. Someone somewhere has made a commitment and in too deep to back out now. Just makes me sick that another view of the sea will be lost. So many arguments why not to build here but no one is listening”

“How can the states vote to keep Plemont which is not only somewhere nobody ever goes, but most of the population don't even know where it is, but want to destroy a coastline and view that at least 60per cent of the population see every day (and that is a very conservative percentage) not to mention the preservation of la folie which is so important in our sailing history as the sailors left here for ports all over the world for many years, my grandfather being one of them?”

It is not clear whether the Chief Minister’s comments were made after the Chief Fire Officer’s objections to the site of a restaurant and residential unit. The JEP has a habit of sometimes posting stories outside strict chronology, but he should certainly now make a statement which addresses those very pertinent objections, or perhaps review his position:

“So I take it that the Chief Minister is going to ignore not only the large public opinion against this development but also the advice of the Chief Fire Officer. I fear for our Island.”

“Amazing how deafening their silence is! How different it might have been prior to elections !”

“If he has been reported correctly, he's made a grave error of judgement and will regret it in due course., Quite apart from the commercial aspects of this monstrous project, the proposed buildings are of an unparalleled hideousness. Do something with La Folie. If there's a covenant on it, lift it ! We had the same idiotic argument about developing St. James. Meantime, we must all keep up the pressure on our individual Deputy and Constable. Don't stop fighting !”

“When I first moved to the island I lived in Grouville and would drive to work via Mount Bingham everyday just to see that view. Building wooden shacks that will be over priced, under maintained and built on the cheap will destroy the entire area. Sounds like someone in the decision making area is going to be making a nice retirement fund.”

“Has anyone looked at the end user's view? The person that is going to live in one of these buildings? Will be in shadow, living in an industrial area and one direction has a nice view... Not somewhere I would want to live.”

“Whatever the people of the island want is totally ignored by the government of the island. All the election promises get forgotten and they all follow the megabucks for their own interests.”

“I have been fortunate enough to travel a fair bit and have seen many harbour/dock areas sympathetically developed that have enhanced the whole areas, I'm sure many of our States members have as well. What puzzles me is why Jersey insists on building out of character monstrosities against the will of the people time and time again.”

Fundamentally, if I was cynical, I would take the view that the States acceptance of this development will weigh in the balance not just the new HQ for the sea cadets, but also the fact that it is a private development, and therefore not eating into States budgets.

In other words, it is something free. Evidently very few members of the States have either had a classical education or benefited from it, or they would be aware of the aphorism “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes”, loosely translated as “beware of Greeks bearing gifts”.

When a developer offers a wonderful wooden structure for the Sea Cadets, and the price is extra wooden buildings for accommodation, and a restaurant, perhaps it would be wise to remember a wooden structure of the past, offered as a gift. Developers are not usually philanthropists, but they are excellent builders of Trojan horses.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Michael Vibert Harrison

From the 1987 edition of "The Pilot" is this obituary of Michael Harrison. I met him on a number of occasions as he organised "quiet days" at St Ouen's Manor, where there was an opportunity to get away from the rat race, and just sit and enjoy the lovely gardens and grounds.

Michael Vibert Harrison
Rector of St Mary, 1972-1986
by Barry Giles
 
"AND be thou a faithful dispenser of the Word of God and of His Holy Sacraments." That seems to sum up the person and character of Michael Harrison. Knowing him for some fourteen years, I cannot but believe that those words were true of almost the whole of his life.
 
Like many clergy, he received his vocation to the priesthood at a very early age. There is evidence that as a young boy he was already taking services in his playroom - and taking collections! Michael's love for His Lord and His Church, for music and for Jersey and South Africa rose out of his home and family background.
 
His mother made the not-inconsiderable voyage from South Africa in 1919 in order that her child would be born in Jersey. His grandmother and aunt took Michael to St Mark's Church, where he learnt his faith, and the beauty of music. He used to tell of cycling to various churches, including St Mary's, to ask if he could play the organ. His organ scholarship to Exeter College, Oxford, after being at Victoria College Prep and Westminster School, and later his training for the priesthood at Lincoln Theological College, all gave intellectual depth to his vocation, and breadth to his musical gifts and ability.
 
After a curacy in Surrey, his priestly vocation called him to mission; and that was expressed in twenty years of solid work and witness in the Diocese of Cape Town, in South Africa. They were not easy years, politically. The twenty years after the Second World War saw the rise of Apartheid, which would not have made ministering to congregations of Anglicans of all races and colours normal. Nor was the parochial arrangement of scattered churches, some many miles apart, the sort of work known to English parish clergy, in those days.
 
His love for Christ's people, and his love for South Africa bore fruit, certainly among his flock, and supremely in the love which he found for and in, Joan. That meant leaving South Africa, and in 1967 he returned to England and he and Joan were married, in St Mark's Church, Jersey. Their love, and team-work, were the basis of his ministry thereon. After four years in the Diocese of Newcastle, they came to Jersey.
 
There is a sense in which Michael Harrison and the Parish of St Mary were made for each other. His faithfulness and diligence in visiting; his preaching and teaching; the way in which he did not always `suffer fools gladly' and in honesty and straightforwardness would say so, made him an ideal priest in a small country parish, steeped in Jersey life and ways.
 
His love for God, his love for Joan and their children, his love for Jersey and South Africa, all came together as it were, in his love for St Mary's.
 
But he was not blinkered. His work with and for the Jersey Council of Churches Faith & Order Committee showed the breadth of his vision. His activity in the musical world of Jersey, in the Organists Association, with the foundation of the Haydn Singers, and his membership of the Jersey Gleemen, came together in the marvellous tradition of Music at St Mary's, where he encouraged musicians of all ages and kinds to make music in that parish church on Sunday afternoons.
 
We shall miss Michael, from our fellowship here on earth. Over the past years he had endured much ill-health, with major heart operations, until finally another operation, but this time an abdominal one, caused his valiant heart to stop: although Joan was able to bring him back from Paris to his beloved Island. To her, and to Christopher and Amanda we extend our love, and our prayers and support. For Michael we give thanks, praying for the repose of his soul in that heavenly place where love and music come together, with the choirs of angels and saints.
Two `texts' come to mind: first an adapation of an ancient antiphon; the other quoted by the Dean at Michael's funeral:
 
Behold, a great priest who in his days pleased God: well done, good and faithful servant: enter thou into the Joy of Thy Lord.
 
Barry Giles

Saturday, 27 December 2014

A Jar of Thoughts













A Jar of Thoughts

Faith is the thought of trust
Friendships that are so dear
Those treasures do not rust
And bring us so much cheer

Hope is the thought of time
That all will be well one day
However hard the hill to climb
And faltering steps upon our way

Love is the thought of unity
Of hands across the universe
Reaching out in community
However different or diverse

Sometimes when life is rather fraught
Open the jar, and let out a thought

Friday, 26 December 2014

Nanny Knows Best












According to the BBC, "Relatives of elderly islanders in care have been told to list items bought with Christmas vouchers from philanthropist Sir David Kirch."

One letter tells them to keep itemised receipts and make these available to the “States of Jersey Registration and Inspection Department"

Apparently these letters have been sent out at the instigation or approval of Senator Andrew Green, who has said:

“I think it's perfectly reasonable if someone is spending money on behalf of someone who a third party has a responsibility of care for, that we must be able to account for their assets.”

Perhaps so, but this seems to be an initiative from the Health Department without consultation with Sir David Kirch. If Mr Kirch has made no such stipulation, why should pen-pushing bureaucrats take it upon themselves so to do?

It does seem a very high handed way for the department to behave, and it assumes that most people cannot be trusted, and may use the vouchers for themselves rather than their relatives.

And what, precisely is, the “States of Jersey Registration and Inspection Department"?

Nursing Homes are registered in Jersey under the Nursing and Residential Homes (Jersey) Law 1994 and the associated Orders which are the Residential Homes (General Provisions) (Jersey) Order 1995 and the Nursing Homes and Mental Nursing Homes (General Provisions) (Jersey) Order 1995.

Citizen’s Advice notices that details of current registrations are available from Mrs Christine Blackwood, (Registration and Inspection Manager), Public Health Department, Maison La Pape, The Parade, St Helier, Telephone 445798.

This is a part of Public Health, not a Department in its own right. No such department can be seen on the States website. So the letter itself is highly misleading, citing something which does not in fact exist, although perhaps the bureaucrats who initiated the letter have delusions of grandeur.

Lack of trust, and a desire to control, are evils which can so easily beset government. The Nanny State is alive and well, unwilling to accept that most people are responsible and trustworthy, and burearcrats become mired in a culture of suspicion. We do not want a system where overprotection and intrusion become too overbearing. I am very disappointed in the Heath Minister's attitude..

I heard on BBC Radio of one elderly lady (quoted often) who could go and visit her relatives at Christmas because of the vouchers. Clearly, they enabled her to spend less on food, and use the money saved to travel to visit her children and grandchildren in the UK, whom she would otherwise not see in the year.

So she wasn’t using the money for food that she otherwise would not have, to supplement her purchases of food, but instead of usual expenses, so she could use the money saved for air fares. In effect, she was able to convert the vouchers into a means of paying for travel costs.

Thank goodness there is no official telling her she cannot do that.

“God bless him”, she said of Sir David Kirch.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Christmas Tales

Near Corbière, 3000 BC

It is dark, and cold, and we walk to the hilltop together. A sharp, biting wind cuts me like a knife. Now is the time, when the year has grown cold, for us to come together, and celebrate the sun return.

We are at the stone table now, overlooking the bay below. Waves glisten, reflecting the moonlight as they break upon the rocks below. The priest is ready, the earthen bowls around the table ablaze with a thick smoky flame, and my father, as an elder of our tribe, places the lamb, feet firmly bound, upon the table.

Last month was the blood month, the time of slaying, when the sheep and lambs are culled for the winter. There is barely enough food for the tribe in these harsh winters, and that month, on the cusp of winter, is the time to kill some of the flock. I have seen these dried, and salted, and kept to sustain us through the worst months to come.

But one lamb is held back, and it is this lamb that the priest will sacrifice today. He will take the sacred knife, and ask the gods for mercy, and that the sun will return again. Then we will feast, in dawn's grey light, and have warmth in our bellies, a token of the ending of the shortening days, and the returning of the light.

Now it is my time, my part as first-born, and I step forward, and chant the words I have been taught by my father, and before him, his father, and so, for many generations in the mists of time, back to the great word that was spoken by the gods themselves.

Dark the night falls,
A canopy over the land
Cold death breaks stone walls
Reaches out her bony hand

Let us here offer her a life
A word and a sacrifice made
Signs of hope, of ending strife
The ransom has been paid

Sunlight is reborn this day
Light that lightens the dark
This is our truth, our way
A kindling of the spark


Then the whole tribe joins in the chant,

Eat in night, long for light
Let it be, we pray it might.


And now the priest steps forward, tall and grey, and there is silence. All our fears are gone, all our hopes risen high, and this will be a time of joy.

1852, La Rocque

The wind is rising, and it is not yet dawn, but we must depart, even if a tempest threatens. The boat is ready, and we are dressed in our oilskins, ready to brave the tidal flow. The rain falls in a torrent, a curtain of water drenches us, but we need the fish.

My wife has mended my nets, and my thoughts turn to her, sitting peacefully beside the fire in our small cottage, knitting steadily to help our livelihood. In a few hours, the farmers will be taking their cows to the fields, and the bell will toll at the new chapel for morning prayer. Let them pray for those in peril on the sea, and those weaving in and out of these treacherous rocks.

Now we are past the witch's rock, and the strange moaning, as the wind whistles through the trees. On our return, the thirteenth fish must be given up to the seas around this point, a sacrifice to the spirits of air and water, that we may have safe passage home.

Christmas approaches, and I think of my own newborn, suckling milk at my wife's breast, unaware of the hardship that is our lot, of the perils that beset a fisherman. Will my son follow in my path, and hear the cry of the lone gull across the sea, the song of the waves upon the rocks, and know the tossing of the boat in life's stormy sea?

On shore, the beacon's light is lit to guide us home, even through the gales, even when our sight is lost in spray and storm, so that we might come to a safe harbour once again, and thank God for safe haven and warm hearth. Landfall is a time of joy, and on Christmas we shall leave our nets, and give thanks to the Lord who called fishermen to follow him.

Around the Middle of the 20th Century, The Institute
It does no good to hide in a corner weeping, but I can't help it. Today was a day of Christmas cheer, and visitors came to see us, and the Warden and his assistants were beaming, full of false smiles, showing how kind they were to us. But after the last visitors left, the smiles faded as fast as night fell, and all the freedom, the laxity was gone, and woe betide any boy who did not follow their iron rule of discipline.

But we are boys, and we cannot behave like mindless machines. Of course we have our fun, we play games, we are mischievous on occasion, because we forget. The mind blots out the pain, the beatings, and for some, much worse. They are the ones taken away to the other part of the building, and we hear the odd cries, even from as far as that, and they return, tight lipped, biting back the tears, and mute, shocked into silence by whatever brutality has been inflicted on them. I am lucky. I only got a flogging for cheeking the assistants. That is getting off lightly. Some return with scars, and others with scarring inside, deep wounds that do not heal easily, if at all. I fear their fate, and I try to be good, but I am only a small boy, and it is very hard to do so all the time. Sometimes one wants to have fun, to laugh, to joke and play freely. I forget, and take my punishment.

This is the darkest night, the shortest day, but for many here, midnight never ends, and they that love the darkness ply their cruel deeds. I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was naked, I was a stranger, and I was imprisoned in this institute, and where were the visitors then? When did they see me hungry and feed me, thirsty and give me drink, naked and cloth me, a stranger and welcomed me, and imprisoned and set free? I pray that one day my tale will be told, and the truth will blaze forth like the light of the world, and justice will again be found in the courts, and all righteous people will support it.

1943, A Hidden Room in a House, St Helier

It is time, the special time of year, and more than ever, I pray for light. The curfew is in place, and it is a dark time that we live in. I cannot even go out by light, because the shadow of a great evil has fallen upon this Island. And yet I am kept safe by those who keep alive a flame of hope, who hide me at great cost to themselves, and go without to feed me; even in their hardship, they give to those in greater need.

I dream of the beach, and the sun, and the waves upon the shore, of the laughter of children, the holidaymakers lazing their days away, sprawled out, and enjoying the balmy sun. The fresh breeze, the cool of the water on a hot day as I splashed around with my friends, such, such were the joys, but now just memories, thoughts to hold on to, that I may one day be free again to walk down to the coast, and look across the bay to the yachts, fleet in the summer breezes as they glide across the blue water. Now, I am told the beaches are cold, forbidding places, full of mines and barbed wire, and only fisherman are permitted to go out upon the sea, while the ever seeing, watchful eye of the gunner looks over his domain.

I take out my single candle, saved each year, lit only for a few precious minutes each day, and I take the makeshift tinder box, and strike the flint upon the firesteel. The sparks catch on the charcloth, which glows warmly, and I ignite the wooden splint, and take light the candle from its taper, taking care to extinguish the box for days to come.

This is my celebration of the kindling of the lights, my festival of lights, my Hanukkah. And I softly sing the hymn Ma'oz Tzur, which tells of divine salvation, and events of persecution of our peoples, and I remember how Maccabees fought so all of us could be free, and pray that others will fight the cause of justice now, and free us from this oppression, in which this Island is occupied. And in a low voice, I sing the psalms for here our people have known of sorrows and joys, and the generations past speak to us this day. And now I blow out the candle, and the first day has passed, and I wish the light of the Lord will come again, with justice flowing like a river, to bring peace upon this blighted earth.

2014, A Church on Christmas Eve

I drink to forget, and I've probably drunk too much this night. And as I walk home through the rain, dripping wet, somewhat unsteady on my feet, I hear the peal of bells, the Christmas bells, bringing memories of times past, of childhood hopes, of the excitement of gifts, the waiting expectantly.

Somehow I make my way into the Church, I don't know why, but it is Christmas, and at this time of the year, I want to be among other people, to share that warm glow, to sing carols. In the cold light of day, it may seem like nonsense, but on this night, this special night, there is a joy.

Time for the lost sheep to come back to the fold, even if for a few hours, and hear once more the Christmas story, of the child born this day who still gives a spark of hope, even now, even to someone drunk like me. I settle in a pew, and I look at all the bright and shining faces, all the happiness, and I am glad. Wouldn't it be so bleak if it was always winter and never Christmas?

And reverently, I stumble very carefully, very slowly forward in procession, and take that bread and wine. And tomorrow it will be the soup kitchens for cheer. Eating and drinking is an act of reverence, this day, not what you believe, and I don't know what I believe, but I am happy to eat at this table, even if I am unworthy.

And I leave to the glad cries of "Happy Christmas", returning to the dark streets, not quite so dark now. The rain has stopped, and I have glimpsed that everlasting Light, just briefly, and known how the hopes and fears of all the years have been met there tonight.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The Other Side of Christmas

 From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.

“Oh, Man! look here. Look, look, down here!” exclaimed the Ghost.

They were a boy and girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.

“Spirit! are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more.

“They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. “Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And bide the end!”


“A Christmas Carol” is not just a story of one individual’s journey, as Dickens also forces his readers to look at the darker side of Victorian London, the poverty and also the crime. We do not like to dwell on that too often at a time of cheer.

Indeed “Mistletoe and Wine”, the chart topping song by Cliff Richard originally started, shorn of its more overtly religious trappings, as a song in a musical about “The Little Match Girl”, the story by Hans Christian Andersen, of a girl selling matches to relieve her poverty, and eventually dying in the cold and snow. The song was to be sung ironically, as a song of cheer accompanying the well-fed as they ejected the girl from the warmth of a dwelling, out into the misery of the cold.

But the song was taken over, and sweetened, and became instead almost a hymn of praise, losing the biting irony in the process.

A recent poem has also stirred up uncomfortable images. Romsey Town Christmas also looks at the bleaker aspects of Christmas. Reactions in Romsey have been mixed, between those who do not see their town there at all, and those who think that this does truthfully explore the underside. The crime statistics, should you take the trouble to look them up, as I have done, indicate a town that is not a hot-spot of crime, but one none the less where this is antisocial behaviour, drugs, possession of weapons.,

Much the same, I suspect could be said of Jersey. Jersey is a wonderful Island, but we should not be blind to the darker side of Jersey life, the slum dwellings, the vandalism, the drugs, and the occasional incidents with weapons. Even this year, we have had one very brutal murder, which lifted the veil on another side of Jersey, and our own Lieutenant-Governor has remarked on the surprising amount of poverty and deprivation for such an affluent island.

In the BBC play, “The Nativity”, there is a very strong emphasis that the birth of the Messiah has come for the shepherds, for the poorer, for the outcasts, not for the mighty on their thrones, not for Herod or Rome.

That good news is also present in Hilary Jolly’s poem:

Romsey Town Christmas
by Hilary Jolly

Lord, are you here in narrow, grubby streets?
Dogs bark, babies cry
Drunks on hunches watch the world go by
And don't like what they see.
And do you lurk with foul-mouthed little boys
Who smoke and spit
In alleyways, but find no joy in it
And trail home listlessly?

And do you walk when beauty's promise dies,
Hope dims, night falls,
Strange, uncouth graffiti climb the walls
And money's tight?
And will you die for sad-eyed little mums
With sullen brats.
And lads with airguns taking aim at cats?
Yes for tonight
Above the sullen streets. a star looks down
And angels bring good news to Romsey Town


Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Review of the Year's Blogs - January










As Trevor and Shona Pitman are declared bankrupt, I take a look at other jurisdictions and bankruptcy, most of which have a mechanism for politicians to leave office.

http://tonymusings.blogspot.com/2014/01/some-notes-on-political-office-and.html

“On the duration of disqualification from office, while Jersey has a period of five years, in the UK it is until the individual is discharged from bankruptcy, which may be as little as 12 months (or less, if they come into sufficient funds to discharge all debts). But it can be extended if required”

A look at political clichés, starting with Testicular Fortitude, a favourite among one Jersey politician, and its origins in the USA

http://tonymusings.blogspot.com/2014/01/political-cliches-testicular-fortitude.html

“Freya Jones provided a strong feminist critique of the phrase. She wrote:

"Paul Gipson's introduction of Hilary Clinton back in 2008 where he said (of political leaders) that 'I truly believe that that's going to take an individual that has testicular fortitude.' Gipson was inherently saying that to be a successful female political leader one must have "balls". One must think, talk and act like a man would in that same situation and Clinton couldn't have been happier to hear it. Why is it that at a time when women are finally beginning to rank amongst the world's most powerful, that they must adopt a masculine approach?”

A look at drink driving limits in Jersey

http://tonymusings.blogspot.com/2014/01/reviewing-drink-driving-limits-in-jersey.html

“One of the problems with reducing the limits is how it will effect the margin of error on breathalyser results. If the margin of error is an absolute, reducing the limits means that the likelihood of error may increase. This is very much what happened in British Columbia in 2010, when stricter drink driving regulations were introduced”

A look at Ian Gorst and Rob Duhumel, and how the conflict was resolved

http://tonymusings.blogspot.com/2014/01/a-study-of-conflict-resolution-in-case.html

“The resolution lacks the spectacle of a political punch-up, and let's be honest, it is pretty clear that there was a certain voyeuristic element in the impending vote of no confidence. How could it be otherwise, with a public weaned on the "Celebrity" game shows which thrive on sadism? Some of the comments I have seen suggest that the public feels cheated of the fight”

The Anglican Church in Jersey’s oversight was transferred from Winchester to the Bishop of Dover (under the Diocese of Canterbury). I look at how trivial this is compared with the Reformation split fom Coutances:

http://tonymusings.blogspot.com/2014/01/jersey-splits-from-diocese-after-700.html

“The thrust of the headlines are that "Jersey's church is breaking away from the Diocese of Winchester - ending 500 years of historic links between the two institutions." But it is only five hundred years, compared with the split from Coutances after seven hundred years, and Jersey is staying within the Church of England, so the effect on the average man or woman in the street will not be noticeably different. The services will remain the same, christenings, marriages and funerals will take place as before, and very little will really change.”

Tony’s Newsround looks at “The Internet of Things”

http://tonymusings.blogspot.com/2014/01/tonys-newsround_27.html

Smart refrigerators will let you know when the milk is on the turn, or when you need to buy more ketchup. Smart toilets will monitor the frequency and consistency of your bowel movements, and tell you whether you ought to book an appointment with a dietician – or worse, a clinician. Meanwhile, the microprocessor manufacturer Intel last week unveiled a circuit board named Edison, so small that it can be sewn into clothing, ensuring that you will never wear odd socks to work again.”

The worry is that such devices can be hacked.

A look at the latest in the Canbedone Productions saga, which would go on, with no one – Minister or Chief Officer taking the blame for the fiasco:

http://tonymusings.blogspot.com/2014/01/can-it-be-done.html

"Film producers Canbedone Ltd have been given a £200,000 grant of taxpayers' money towards the costs of creating 'Knights of Impossingworth' in Jersey and could start filming within months."

It never happened.

A look at events in Ukraine:

http://tonymusings.blogspot.com/2014/01/freedom-is-precious-look-at-ukraine.html

“Russia evidently feared an EU-Ukraine trade deal would damage its economy, and that it is being sidelined by the EU. It has the potential to restrict fuel supplies to Europe, and sees the increased expansion of the EU as a threat, not perhaps without cause. The EU has been expanding into the former Soviet territories and brings with it an internal protectionism, while a recent study suggests that Russia has intensified its own protectionist policies.”

“Ukraine is caught up in the middle, a pawn between the two power blocks, and the recent political turmoil in that country reflects the attempt to stifle internal debate on the matter. The ending of the anti-protest laws should not, however, lull the outside viewer into a false sense of security. While the repeal has eased tensions for the moment, the economic and political battleground fought over Ukraine may well reignite protests.”

Guest post on population by Daniel Wimberley

http://tonymusings.blogspot.com/2014/01/guest-comment-on-population.html

“Readers might like to consider why, on this issue, what we get is not an honest debate but a succession of lies. It is almost as if the purpose is to ensure that the policy of increasing the population is so important to the ruling group that nothing will turn them from that course.”

My look at immigration, and why the debate avoids difficult areas:

http://tonymusings.blogspot.com/2014/01/ponzi-economics-immigration-and.html

“It is an illusion to assume that adopting a strategy of immigration to curb problems over an ageing population. Assuming the bulk of the immigration is within the working age span, that will increase the total in that bracket and mitigate the problem of support for the retired people. But in time, those new immigrants will increase the retired population, because they themselves age. But now there are more within that age bracket to get older and retire, and the only solution is more immigration.”

“It's rather like taking out loans to replay loans plus interest, and the interest cumulating, so that higher and higher loans are needed. The more the size of the loan increases, the greater the interest to pay, and the greater value that another loan would need to be to repay it.”

“If we follow the adoption of a migration strategy to mitigate ageing population, then at 2050 we would be left with exactly the same challenge now of adjusting to an ageing society, but with a vastly greater population. In the long term it is a Ponzi scheme, paying dividends for the present by burdening the future with the real task of tackling the problem.”

Monday, 22 December 2014

Burning Questions











It is interesting to note that Jersey’s Crematorium actually came into existence quite late. The Family Search website notes that:

“Jersey came late to the idea of cremation - the States did not pass a law permitting in until 1952, and the crematorium was finally opened at Westmount in 1960. However, neighbouring Guernsey opened a crematorium at Le Foulon in the early 1930s, and more than one local funeral director was willing to send bodies for cremation there, with the ashes either being scattered in Guernsey, returned to Jersey, or in a few cases scattered at sea.”

However, like much plant built in the 1960s and 1970s, it has been stretched to the limit, and variously adjusted to meet modern standards.

Emissions

In 2003, a report to the Health and Social Services Committee stated that the “Crematorium is over 30 years old and does not comply with the UK Environmental Protection Act process guidance note PG5/2(91). There is a proposal to replace the existing cremators in the next 12 months with 2 new units.”

In detail, it stated that it did comply with the UK Environmental Protection Acts 1990 process guidance note PG5/2(91) and noted that pollutants produced from crematoria could include:- dioxins and furans, mercury, particulates, hydrogen chloride and carbon monoxide. Mercury, it is believed came mainly from fillings in teeth. A problem with odour was also noted, along with the fact that there were around 500 - 600 cremations a year.

It said there was a “proposal to replace the existing cremators in the next 12 months with two new units. The new cremators will meet the current UK process guidance notes standards”

In 2008, the Air Quality Review noted that:

“The 2003 report identified that the crematorium on the Island was not operating to standards that would be expected elsewhere in the UK in terms of its emissions. Since then new plant has been installed such that the crematorium now meets current standards.”

However, the “Jersey Air Quality Strategy and Action Plan, 2013” had this to say about “The Island Crematorium”:

“The crematorium is over 30 years old. Pollutants produced from crematoria may include dioxins and furans, mercury, particulates, hydrogen chloride and carbon monoxide. It is probable the Jersey’s crematorium is the main source of mercury on the island. Odour can also be a problem. Since the publication of the Air Quality Strategy 2003, new plant has been introduced that meets current UK process guidance notes emissions standards. There is currently no specific local legislation to regulate emissions from this facility, however, the crematoria are operated, as a requirement of Statutory Nuisances (Jersey) Law 1999 by the Health Protection Service, to the standards set out within the UK’s Process Guidance Note 5/2 (04), Secretary of State’s Guidance for Crematoria”

“Annual testing is required to ascertain the emissions of total particulates, Hydrogen Chloride Carbon Monoxide and organic compounds excluding particulate matter expressed as carbon”

So while some work has been done, there still seems to be much to be done, and it is notable that (1) there is no legislation to regulate emissions, so one wonders exactly how well they operate, or what would happen if they were not. (2) Odour is still listed as a problem, ten years after first identified, and nothing has changed.

While pollutants are mentioned, facts and figures which would give some idea of comparison with other jurisdictions are lacking, despite the annual testings. Will this be rectified in the near future, I wonder? Or will they require a request under Freedom of Information?

Charges for Cremation

An “under the radar” Ministerial decision means that cremation charges are set to rise in 2015:

“The Minister requests the Treasurer of the State to approve a proposed 7% increase in cremation charges, and a 7% increase in Books of Remembrance charges and memorial cards charges. The proposed increase would take effect from 1 January 2015.”

The reason is given as follows:

“The proposed increase in charges is due to the increase in fuel costs which are going up by 2.9%. There has also been a shortfall in achieving our income target by 4.25% by the end of October 2014.”

I was wondering about this, and trying to find out exactly what fuel is used in the cremation process in Jersey. Wikipedia notes that:

“Modern cremator fuels include fuel oil, natural gas, propane, and, in some areas like Hong Kong, coal gas. However, coal and coke were used until the early 1960s.”

Now some sources of fuel, such as oil, have fallen since the start of the year, while others, such as gas, have risen, so I assume it is largely cremation by gas. There is, however, no online documentation I can find at all about what source of fuel is used, and all that I have is anecdotal, about oil tanks by the building, which could just be used to heat it for those attending services.

The last huge rise was in 2010, when the BBC reported that:

“The cost of cremations in Jersey is to rise by 69% in 2010, following approval by the treasury minister. The move will see cremation costs rise from £317 to £535 at the Westmount Crematorium, St Helier. It follows a request by the health department, which said cremation charges had been below the actual cost of the service for several years.”

But that was not enough, and the BBC reported in December 2010 that:

“The cost of cremation in Jersey is to go up in 2011. There will be an £11 increase from 1 January, taking the overall fee for cremation from £535 to £546. The 2011 rise was in line with inflation, and was described as minimal compared to a £218 increase introduced at the start of 2010.”

Looking back:

In 2010, from 317 to 535, 69% increase of £218

In 2011 from 535 to 546, 2% increase of £11

In 2012, it went up from £546 to £600, 10% increase of £54

In 2013 from £600 to £615, 2% increase of £15

In 2014 from £615 to £676.50, 10% increase of £61.50

And now it is set to rise again by 7% to £723, increase of £47.

There is no great consistency, but it is worth noting that the increase has generally been greater than inflation, by a significant amount. The death grant is now £785.68, and so most of this will be gobbled up by cremation fees.

It is interesting to note that Bedford Borough Council, faced with above inflation cremation fees, did an “Equity Analysis” to see the impact on different segments of society, and concluded:

“Increase in fees and charges may have an adverse impact on low income users of the service. To mitigate any potential adverse impact of the increase in fees and charges, the Council are looking into the feasibility of instalment plan, online debit and credit card payment and to identify organisations that may be able to give financial help to those who require it.”

Shouldn’t Jersey be looking into this as well?

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Dickens and Christmas
















From “The Pilot”, 1994, comes this piece by Tony Keogh on Dickens and Christmas, as a suitable posting for today.

I love “A Christmas Carol” and have done ever since I read a small version, barely large enough to fit in a hand, but small enough to smuggle upstairs, and read in bed, under the covers by torchlight, when I was supposed to be fast asleep.

The version with Alastair Sim is of course one of my favourite versions, but the version with George C Scott is still a very faithful adaptation, very close to the script, wonderful performances throughout. The Patrick Stewart version, probably the longest, is the only one to have sequences like the lighthouse, out at sea, on Christmas day. And the Muppet’s Christmas Carol is again a wonderful rendering, with a superb performance by Michael Caine. Even the brief “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” captures something magical from the story.

As Tony Keogh explains, the Victorians resurrected Christmas as a festival, and most of what we regard as a “traditional Christmas” (though not all) does not go back much further than Victorian times. But the longevity of Christmas since shows they laid a sure foundation, and their recreation and renewal of the Christmas celebrations is, I think, something worthy of praise.

There are some elements of Christmas which remain and are Mediaeval in origin, but very few which could be considered overtly Pagan. The Saturnalia festival, for example, as well as feasting,  involved the conception of more children (or at least activities intended to lead to that). That doesn't feature greatly in modern Christmas celebrations!

The identification of feasting as something wholly pagan is a false attribution, for while the ancient Pagans had festivities, we must not forget that the Christians also did before the Puritans took over, abolished Christmas, and gave us a lingering legacy that it was two feasts, a religious Christian one and a pagan (and more secular) one. Miracle plays, as well, abolished by the Reformers, used to poke fun at the Church, and combine religious stories with ribald humour and irreverence.

Dickens and Christmas
By Tony Keogh


It was October 1843 that Charles Dickens began the writing of one of his most popular and best loved books, "A Christmas Carol." It was written in six weeks and finished by the end of November, being fitted in between the intervals of writing the monthly parts of "Martin Chuzzlewit," a work which was causing him some financial anxiety because the public did not seem to have taken to it as readily as to his earlier serials, "A Christmas Carol" would, he hoped, bring in a better financial return.

John Forster, biographer, noted how the story, once conceived, gripped Dickens. "He wept over it, and. laughed and wept again, and excited himself to an extraordinary degree: He walked thinking of it fifteen and twenty miles about the black streets of London," often at very late hours of the night. He kept Christmas that year with an extraordinary zest, "Such dinings, such dancing, such conjurings, such blindmans buffings, such theatre going, such kissing-out of-old years: and kissing-in o£ new ones, never took place in .those parts before."

Savouring the atmosphere of Christmas in London became part of Dickens' annual routine. Every Christmas Eve, he went to visit the Christmas markets in the East End between Aldgate and Bow, and he liked to wander in poor neighbourhoods on Christmas Day, "past the areas of shabby genteel houses in. Somers or Kentish Towns, watching the diners: preparing or coming in."

"A Christmas Carol" captures in many places what Dickens so acutely-observed, “The brightness of the shops where holly sprigs and berries crackled in the lamp-heat of the windows made pale faces ruddy as they .passed. Poulterers and grocers' trades became a splendid joke, a glorious pageant, with which it was next to impossible to believe that such dull principles as bargain and sale had anything to do."

There is the doubt that. "A Christmas Carol" is first and foremost a story concerned with the Christian Gospel of liberation by the grace of .God. Dickens intended it as such and it was received as such. It is, about an incarnational religion which refuses to drive a wedge between the world of the spirit and the world of matter.

The cornucopia of Christmas food and feasting reflects both the goodness of creation and. the joy of heaven. It is a significant sign of a shift in theological emphasis in the nineteenth century from the Atonement to the stress on the Incarnation; away from Good Friday and Easter to Christmas, which, I think, pertains to this day. It was a stress which found outward and visible expression in the sacramentalism of the Oxford Movement, the development .of richer and more symbolic forms of worship, and above all, the-revival and increasing centrality of the keeping of Christmas itself as a Christian festival.

For centuries, Christmas as a festival was neglected and took a very poor second place to the Christian Passover of Good Friday/Easter. In fact, when the Westminster Directory was substituted for the Prayer Book under the Commonwealth of Cromwell, Christmas was abolished. The rubric stated, "There is no day commanded in scripture to be kept -holy under the gospel, but the Lord's Day, which is the Christian Sabbath," therefore, "festival days, vulgarly called holy days, having no. warrant in the work of God, are not to be continued." It has to be said that the abolition was not universally accepted.

However, there can belittle doubt that the popularity of Dickens' "A Christmas. Carol" played a significant part in changing the consciousness: of Christmas and the way in which it was. and still is celebrated;

The popularity of his public readings of the story is an indication of: how much it resonated with the contemporary mood and contributed to the increasing place of the. Christmas celebrations in both secular: and religious ways which was firmly established by the end of the nineteenth century.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Songs of Distant Earth

Today's poem is inspired by looking at the night sky, Arthur C Clarke, and James Blish.

Songs of Distant Earth
 
Starlight breaking through the cloud
Regulus and Jupiter dance side by side
The moons encased in misty shroud
Before the darkness comes to hide
 
And there, we look back upon one star
A smallest spec in the dark night sky
From whence we came, and now so far
And looking back, with wistful sigh
 
Parsecs away, we still sing the songs
Our songs of distant earth, our home
And over there our heart belongs
However much we leave and roam
 
Earthman, come home, the cry, the cry
Come home, to rest those bones and die

Friday, 19 December 2014

Yarn Swapping














From the 1964 “Pilot” magazine, an unusually charming and whimsical piece by G.R. Balleine. Most known for his historical interests, this little curiosity reveals quite another side of the man, warm and humorous – and I would not mind betting that the “clergyman” of the final story was G.R. Balleine himself.

Yarn Swapping
By G.R. Balleine

Picture a hotel lounge full of holiday folk. They have had a strenuous day. They have eaten a good dinner. They have gathered in the lounge to listen to the news. They are comfortable and disinclined to move.

A blood-curdling shriek from outside spoke of a cat on the war-path. Somebody quoted: "My sister had a Thomas-cat that warbled like Caruso. A neighbour threw a cricket bat, and now it doesn't do so." This set them off repeating silly rhymes. They made quite a collection of parodies of Mary and her little Lamb :

"Mary had a little lamb.
Its feet were black as soot;
and into Mary's bread and milk
its sooty foot it put."

"Mary had a little lamb.
Her father killed it dead;
and now it goes to school with her
between two chunks of bread".

"Mary had a little lamb,
which she washed in kerosine.
One day it got too near the fire.
Since then it's not benzine."

"Mary had a wad of gum.
She chewed it long and slow.
And everywhere that Mary went,
that wad was sure to go.

She carried it to school one day.
That was against the rule.
So teacher took the gum away,
and chewed it after school."

And so on, each variation getting further and further from the original.

A husband and wife were present, who ragged one another unmercifully. He accused her of thinking more of her dog than of him. And she gently replied, "Well, dear, he growls less." He retorted by telling how, when their little daughter was saying her prayers, her mother suggested, "As Daddy is away, you might say, `Please watch over Daddy'." "Please watch over Daddy," she lisped, "and, since Mummie is all alone, please keep an eye on her too."

Someone told of a little girl, who had been so naughty that her father had sent her to her bedroom. When her mother later came to tell her that she might come down to tea, she found her writing a letter. I hope you are writing to Daddy to tell him you're sorry," she said. "No," the sweet young thing replied, "I'm writing to the Archbishop of Canterbury to see if I can get a divorce from both of you."

Then the men started telling stories about wives. One told how the head of a college addressed the students who had finished their course : "Many of you will marry. Be patient with your wives. Don't worry, if your wife isn't ready at the appointed time. Have a good book handy, and read it while you wait. I assure you that you will be amazed at the amount of information you will be able to acquire."

Another spoke of Mrs. Macdougal, who looks on the dark side of things. Her husband had a slight touch of influenza, and the doctor sent him to bed, and told his wife to cheer him up. She sat by his bedside wrapped in thought. "Janet, girl," said her husband, "what are you thinking about?" "I'm wondering," she said, "however we'll get your coffin down yon awkward stair."

A lady then began to illustrate the deceitfulness of men. A worried looking man in a florist's shop was asking for some potted geraniums. "I'm sorry," said the girl, "we're out of geraniums, but we've got some nice potted chrysanthemums." "They're no good," said the man, "I promised my wife I'd water her geraniums while she was away."

The clergyman in the corner sat puffing his pipe, and they challenged him to tell them some amusing experience of his own. "Well, the other night," he said, "I was called out of bed to visit a sick man. After giving what comfort I could, I said to the wife, `You don't come to my church, do you?' `Oh no, Sir, we're Baptists.' `Then why didn't you send for your own Minister?' `Oh, we couldn't let our Mr. Brown risk it, for the doctor says this fever's terribly catching.' "

But, if I go on like this, people will begin to say that the sober pages of The Pilot are getting frivolous. And that will never do, will it?

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Jersey and the Cyber Planner

















“Jersey campaigners are gaining momentum against controversial plans for a maritime hub and 18 apartments on the harbour in St Helier. The thousands of Islanders petitioning to stop the Port Galot plans are hoping People-Power will win the day. But the Planning Minister says the development will be assessed on its merits and shouldn't become an emotive issue.” (1)

Are merits and emotive issues exclusive? Certainly when the States were deciding on funding for the National Trust to buy Plemont, the arguments were very emotive. And why shouldn’t an objection both be well-founded and emotive.

I’ve been looking through the objections, and while factual issues – road safety, lack of parking, density and scale of buildings also occur, the aesthetic merits of something over-large and out of scale with the area have also been put forward.

Now aesthetic considerations are often emotive, or at least, involve emotions. How we respond to a beautiful coastline, or a coastline marred by large ugly buildings (as at Portelet) is always going to be in part an emotive response. Not wholly so, because in seeing the bigger picture, something large which stands out will unbalance the architecture that is already in place. But even that, the way the old harbour has charm, is an emotive matter. We are human beings; we have an emotional reaction to beauty, and we can see when something does not fit.

Of course, there are also artists like Francis Bacon, who buck the trend, and present paintings of unmitigated ugliness. They want to reflect life, and they see life as, by and large, unpleasant and ugly. But they are themselves reacting against an aesthetic which prizes beauty – they do not say that their own paintings are items of beauty and a joy forever.

When it comes to architecture, the aesthetic is harder to judge. I personally tend to like buildings that fit well with their surroundings. In a London milieu, the art deco style of the block of flats seen in the TV series “Poirot” are right for their locale. Placed on Plemont, they clearly would be out of place. So my own aesthetic judgement does not see architecture in term of universals, but in terms of situations.

But however one judges architecture, any judgement on scale, for example, is at heart, an emotional judgement. There are no hard and fast rules. And so the Planning Minister really shouldn’t come out with such false dichotomies.

To suppress emotions, or to try and put them on one side, is really as much a fable: we cannot exclude the aesthetic from planning decisions. We are not machines, following rules mindlessly.

In “Doctor Who”, the monsters who do this are the Cybermen, who have suppressed emotions, and are often guided by a Cyberplanner. And there is something very monstrous about them precisely because they have lost touch with what is important in humanity by turning themselves into logical machines who regard emotions as weakness.

Like G.K. Chesterton, I’m a great believer in the “horse sense” of the common man and woman. The fact that thousands of Islanders have lodged objections is worthy of consideration, and to brush it to one side (as the CTV report suggests) displays a degree of contempt for those people and their own aesthetic judgements.



Links
1) http://www.itv.com/news/channel/topic/jersey/

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Lost Hearts












Words are inadequate, what can one say about the tragic events in Pakistan? But something must be said, however weak the vessel those words are.

Lost Hearts

I hear a wailing cry of those who mourn
The children’s bodies, torn, bloody, dead
We weep, for what frail words can be said
Light a candle, for families so forlorn

Lives so shortened, promises stillborn
Madmen came, and hope they bled
I hear a wailing cry of those who mourn
The children’s bodies, torn, bloody, dead

Going into dark places, the final bourn
Ariadne weeps at her broken thread
A time of shock, a time of dread
On the coffins, flowers, the dead adorn
I hear a wailing cry of those who mourn

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Geological report on the Faldouet Dolmen









Today's piece is from a trawl through the archives. It is an article by Dr Arthur Mourant, published in 1932. It is a companion piece to that on the archaeology and history of the dolmen published by Major Rybot, which you can read here.

http://tonymusings.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-dolmen-de-faldouet-by-n-v-l-rybot.html

Rocks - Some Notes on Terminology.

A few notes on the geological terms used by Dr Mourant

The term 'granite' applies to a group of intrusive igneous rocks with similar textures and slight variations on composition and origin. These rocks mainly consist of feldspar, quartz, mica, Intrusive rocks are where magma gradually pushes up from deep within the earth into cracks or spaces or pushing existing rocks aside. Because it forms deep underground, these rocks are often known as plutonic rocks, after Pluto, the god of the underworld.

As the rock slowly cools into a solid, the different parts of the magma crystallize into minerals. Granites can be predominantly white, pink, or gray in color, depending on their mineralogy. Mica is the black in granite, feldspar the pink, and quartz the white.

A granitic rock with a porphyritic texture is known as a granite porphyry. Porphyritic is an adjective used in geology, specifically for igneous rocks, for a rock that has a distinct difference in the size of the crystals, with at least one group of crystals obviously larger than another group. Some of the rocks at Faldouet dolmen are of this type.

The extrusive igneous rock equivalent of granite is rhyolite, which Dr Mourant also notes as present at Faldouet and the surrounding coastline.

Rhyolite can be considered as the extrusive equivalent to the plutonic granite rock, and consequently, outcrops of rhyolite may bear a resemblance to granite. Due to their high content of silica and low iron and magnesium contents, rhyolite melts are highly polymerized and form highly viscous lavas

Extrusive refers to the mode of igneous volcanic rock formation in which hot magma from inside the Earth flows out (extrudes) onto the surface as lava or explodes violently into the atmosphere to fall back as pyroclastics. This is as opposed to intrusive rock formation such as granite, in which magma does not reach the surface.

Porphyritic rocks are formed when a column of rising magma is cooled in two stages. In the first stage, the magma is cooled slowly deep in the crust, creating the large crystal grains, with a diameter of 2 mm or more. In the final stage, the magma is cooled rapidly at relatively shallow depth or as it erupts from a volcano, creating small grains that are usually invisible to the unaided eye.

Geological report on the Faldouet Dolmen
By Dr. A. E. Mourant.

The uprights, with four exceptions, are composed of dark red granite of the Mont Orgueil type. There is one upright each of coarse porphyritic granite slightly porphyritic granite (No. 3), granite porphyry (No. 23) and diorite (No. 22),

The cap-stone (No. 52) consists of brecciated non-porphyritic flow-rhyolite.The Mont Orgueil granite is a very well-defined type, only known at Mont Orgueil and on the foreshore for less than half a mile to the south-west. Blocks of this rock now in the Dolmen must have been carried about a quarter of a mile, and raised at least 130 feet.

The nearest known diorite is about a mile south-west of the dolmen, at the edge of the high ground on which it stands. The coarse porphyritic granite probably came from the foreshore, over a mile and a half to the south, and the slightly porphyritic granite from the high ground the same distance away to the south-west. Granite porphyry is known at a number of places a short distance to the south of the dolmen.

The country rock underlying the dolmen and out-cropping near it is rhyolite, but it differs essentially from the materials of the cap-stone in being porphyritic. The nearest outcrop of non-porphyritic rhyolite is a quarter of a mile to the north, almost on a level with the dolmen. It will be seen that, while the lighter uprights were brought uphill, the massive capstone was probably moved along level ground.

Monday, 15 December 2014

The Christmas Visit

Trawling though the archives on an old removable hard drive, I came across this short story, penned by a friend of mine, Rosie Kemp, and it seemed suitable for this season. It was written in 1999, and while most of it is fictional, I can attest that the ghostly element was based on her personal experience at Hurel Farm in Jersey as a young girl.

The Christmas Visit
by Rosie Kemp

Stonylane Farm had been Lucy  Hillwing's home for almost thirteen years now.  She would walk home from school,  making her way past brick cottages,  and there would be the old farmhouse, nestling  between the sycamore tree on one side and the old wash-house on the other.  It's thick strong walls had withstood many storms, had kept the family warm through many a cold winter,  while the tiny windows had seen many Spring days, when the apple trees were full of blossom and the surrounding fields ploughed and planted with early potatoes.

The adjacent outhouses were home to potato barrels, tomato crates, bales of straw along with the two farm cats, Brownie and Mischief. Three large greenhouses on the other side of the yard housed in turn, geraniums of every hue, sweet scented carnations and tomatoes.  The old pig sties  were home to some ageing pigs, since Lucy's father had been too soft hearted to send them to market.

The old house itself, though, had always held her in it's magic spell, and today was no exception.

 Lucy made her way along the lane, the holly bush was heavy with berries, that could mean a cold winter ahead.

"Mum,.Dad!", she called,  her voice echoing through the scullery, "I'm back!"  The ensuing silence meant that they were still out in the fields, probably picking Brussels sprouts, ready for the Christmas rush. Her parents worked hard on the farm, it wasn't always an easy life , but they were happy.  Lucy lit the gas for her cup of tea and went up the three small stairs and along the passage to the front room, where Toby their labrador was lying in front of the fire. "Hello old fellow,  Fifi is coming around later, isn't she?"  The old dog sighed and lowered his head deeper into his paws.

"Yes, I'd tried to forget", she thought, sadly. Fifi and her  owners, Philip and Celia Rockway were coming to see her parents tonight.   

 Mary Hillwing came indoors.  She looked tired from her long day.  "Do you want me to get the tea ready?", Lucy asked her.  She knew that her mother would be as miserable and worried about tonight as she was, but unlike her rather feisty ( and somewhat stubborn!)  daughter she was more accepting of what life threw at her, and seemed to have resigned herself to what she felt was the inevitable.

One thing was for certain, if they didn't get help soon, what was  now a strong possibility would become the inevitable.  She would talk to her old friend who always had a way of easing any of Lucy's worries and cheering her up. Old  Millie had been intimidating  initially but once you got to know her she really was very sweet.   

"That was it, she must talk to Millie as soon as possible".  Meanwhile it was time to prepare tea for them all.

Roy Hillwing, Lucy's father, came in from the yard and washed his face and hands at the stone kitchen sink.  "There'll be a good lot of sprouts to take to the market stall tomorrow", he said ,but Lucy knew that his mind was on other matters, just as hers and her mother's .

The clock struck eight all too soon and there was a knock at the door.  The Rockways had arrived, they gushed their way into the house, you could almost feel the door cringe as they  went through it.  Philip Rockway was a man who was used to getting his own way, he had made up his mind about this house and was ready and able to pay a high price for it.  His manicured wife simpered next to him, no doubt imagining herself idling the time away in one of the luxury flats which her husband planned to build on the site.  Roy Hillwing was beginning to waver. Some fast thinking was called for.

"It's far too late to decide anything tonight,"  Lucy heard herself saying, " Why don't you come for Christmas lunch next week, you can sleep over in the guest room on Christmas Eve. We can give you our decision after the Christmas pudding !"  Her parents looked at her in amazement, they knew how she felt about the Rockways. " Now, if you'll excuse us, my parents are both very tired.."

The week up to Christmas passed all too quickly.  There were so many preparations to make, as well as all the usual work on the farm. Even the impending visit of the Rockways couldn't dampen the Christmas spirit for the Hillwing family though.  Cards thudded onto the doormat, the smell of mince pies wafted from the kitchen and Great-Uncle Ernie turned up with an enormous Christmas tree which reached the ceiling. However, in all of the excitement, Lucy was thinking about Millie.

On the morning of Christmas Eve Lucy still hadn't managed to contact her friend.  Perhaps she had upset her in some way, if only she knew..  She came out of her bedroom and  went into the guest room;  it was all prepared for tonight, fresh bedclothes,  winter flower arrangement, guest soaps and towels.. " Oh Millie, I need your help!" she exclaimed, looking out of the large window to the lane below.

Millie was in her own bedroom, thinking things out.  She felt so old and tired.  Many  changes had occurred over the years, people had come and gone from the area. Some folk had taken an instant dislike to her , they didn't take time to get to know her, not like dear Lucy had.  She sensed that her young friend needed her now.

The Rockways had arrived, in spite of Lucy's desperate wish for a snow storm, punctured tyre, their precious Fifi to go into quarantine - anything, in fact to put off the dreaded decision time.  But there they were, ensconced in the front room, sitting on the sofa, doing their best to exude goodwill to all men.  She almost felt sorry for them, they were like fish out of water.

At 10 o'clock they had both yawned loudly and decided to go up to their room.  It was a relief to Lucy and her parents to have some time to themselves.. Lucy helped her mother to prepare the vegetables for the next day and made some apple and chestnut stuffing for the turkey.  At 11 o'clock, it was time for the candle-lit carol service on BBC 2. 

Celia Rockway was snuggled under her duvet, she had been trying to go to sleep for the last two hours although  her husband had no problems and was snoring soundly next to her.  It was a lovely guest bedroom, she was impressed by Mrs Hillwing's homely touches, but thought that she might have put a heater on in the room as it was so awfully cold..  At least the duvet was warm. Then, Celia felt the end of the bed sink down , " There's a good girl Fifi, come and snuggle on the bed with Mummykins"  She put her hand out to stroke the pampered pooch,  but no warm , furry dog responded, she moved her hand over the bed,  there was nothing there.  Celia sat up and put on the bedside light.  Fifi was nowhere to be seen.  The wooden floorboards creaked and the bedroom door slowly opened...

Celia  sat bolt upright in bed, she tried to speak, but no words came out, just a frightened squeak.

The bedroom door continued to open until she could see out onto the landing.  There was nobody there.

***

When Mary Hillwing knocked on the guest room door she was met by an exhausted and pale faced Celia, who was already dressed.
Philip Rockway was throwing clothes into a case. "I'm sorry" he said, "we've  had a change of plan. We really ought to be heading back".  The couple looked unusually flustered.

Roy and Mary Hillwing  had never wanted to leave the farm, not for all the money in the world, but they hadn't been able to stand up to the Rockways,  not without some help.

The large car  roared away up the lane. Neither Celia, Philip or even Fifi gave a backward glance.  If they had looked up at the guest room window they would have seen the figure of an old lady smiling down triumphantly at them. Millie turned back into her room, which was the Hillwing's guest room. "I think that my job here is completed now.." she whispered softly to herself, and  gradually faded away.

At Christmas lunch, the Hillwings sat around the dining table.  It was a grand spread, turkey with all the trimmings, crispy roast potatoes and of course, home-grown Brussels sprouts.  The pudding was  lit , the family raised their glasses in a toast. "Merry Christmas !"

  "Thank you, Millie, you gave us the best Christmas we ever had", whispered Lucy.  Her parents looked puzzled. "What's that dear?" they said. " Happy Christmas, here's to the new Millennium, Mum and Dad"

THE END

Sunday, 14 December 2014

And so to bed…

And so to bed…
 
I always end each day with a quote on Facebook. Here are three recent favourites.
 
And so bed, quote for tonight is from Robert Louis Stevenson:
 
When I was a boy, Treasure Island was one of the stories that captivated me. The blind beggar, rapping with his stick. The black spot. The hidden treasure. Long John Silver. Ben Gunn. It was one of the best adventure stories I read, full of descriptions and enthusiasms.
 
But it was not until I became a parent that I came across his "Children's Garden of Verses". Such a different tone, but such genius to capture the soul of childhood. Here is one of my favourites.
 
The moon has a face like the clock in the hall;
She shines on thieves on the garden wall,
On streets and fields and harbour quays,
And birdies asleep in the forks of the trees.
 
The squalling cat and the squeaking mouse,
The howling dog by the door of the house,
The bat that lies in bed at noon,
All love to be out by the light of the moon.
 
But all of the things that belong to the day
Cuddle to sleep to be out of her way;
And flowers and children close their eyes
Till up in the morning the sun shall arise.
 
And so to bed... quote for tonight is from T.F. Powys:
 
"Modern Short Stories" was part of my reading at Secondary school, although I used to dread the reading around the class – not that I had any problems, but listening to the poor unfortunates speaking one word at a time, and losing the flow of the sentence was sheer torture. I am perhaps more sympathetic to their plight now, but it is still something I would avoid.
 
One of my favourite stories in there was "Lie Thee Down, Oddity" by T.F. Powys, and I found it captivating, and have now read many of his books and short stories – "Fables" is a particular favourite collection. This comes from his philosophical ponderings – "Soliloquies of a Hermit", and for once, he is as explicit as he ever was in describing his thoughts about the deeper meanings of life:
 
"I will tell you what my soul is. My soul is a waiting, hesitating, longing silence; it is the most delicate, the most ethereal, the most ready to die of all the silent noiseless feet that we feel moving in our lives. And my soul waits, and often its flame goes out while it waits. It is not chained to the moods; it is the waiting silence in us that is free."
 
And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Eugene Field:
 
"I love books, so this one is a good choice to end with. I usually end reading a book until I fall asleep and it falls from my hands."
 
All good and true book-lovers practice the pleasing and improving avocation of reading in bed ... No book can be appreciated until it has been slept with and dreamed over.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Les Trois Rocques













This picture above of a stile in Winter was the subject of a poetry challenge in a group I belong to, and as there is a style of sorts leading to the neolithic site known as Les Trois Rocques, that became the theme and title of the poem.

The stones are something of a mystery. They are clearly neolithic, but lack the supporting trig stones at the base of single standing stones or menhirs. There is no archaeological material to place them. My own guess is that they are the last remaining stones from a much larger dolmen or passage grave which stood on the site.

Les Trois Rocques

Cows graze in summer, but now bare:
Soft Winter Sun, not Summer glare;
And I climb the stile, into the field:
Beyond such treasures yet to yieldl
The field is fallow, green, green grass,
Not many come this way to pass;
But I do, for here is one chance,
A sacred site to come and glance;
In the field beyond, lo it is there!
From long ages past, many a year,
Since the tribe put up these stones,
And now they are but dust and bones;
Once so many stones, but not so now,
And I don’t know either when or how,
They were destroyed, but now alone:
There are but three, mark sacred zone;
Huge granite rocks, set along a line:
Why were they built? Perhaps a sign?
And I come here on the Winter’s day,
Over style and field, along old way;
They call to me, from time long past,
These three stones, now just the last;
And once a year, I touch the stones,
Lost legacy, so many unknowns,
And then return, across the grass,
For even these, will come to pass






Friday, 12 December 2014

Some Thought Experiments in Collective Responsibility












In 2004, I penned this piece, which never actually saw the light of day. Now that the Council of Ministers have finally moved to "collective responsibility" (in 2014), it is perhaps more pertinent than when it was first mooted as part of Ministerial government - something that actually never happened in 2005 but was supposed to!

I'm not wholly convinced that the new "collective responsibility" deals with all these scenarios.

Some Thought Experiments in Collective Responsibility

The States change to a Ministerial style of Government will involve the concept of “Collective Responsibility”. However, it seems that this is being pushed through "in principle" without spelling out the fine print, and looking at how it would work in problem scenarios.

As I understand it, the basic principle of Collective Responsibility as proposed can be understood as follows:

· A person might grant that collectives can bear responsibility for a state of affairs even in situations where one or more of its members fail to bear responsibility for the same state of affairs.

· In these situations some members of the collective may play a dominant role and others a subordinate role in bringing about a state of affairs.

· While those who play a subordinate role may not do enough to warrant the ascription of responsibility for this state of affairs, they are indirectly tied to the responsibility by their membership in a collective which is responsible for this state of affairs.

I would like to consider this with respect to three thought experiments.

Scenario One:

Let us say a minister was part of a Government.

A majority agreed with a decision to pass laws widening access to conditions for abortions, or altering the time scale of abortion, or permitting genetic experimentation on foetal material (or such material to be sent from Jersey for experimentation).

Would the minister be able to exercise a right of conscience to abstain or object without resigning?
How would the "right of conscience" be worked out in principal?

Scenario Two

A member is elected on a particular mandate. They are elected by the States as a minister.

The government later decides to take actions which contradict specific and important policies from their mandate.

Would the minister be able to exercise a right of conscience to abstain or object without resigning - despite the fact that this contradicts the government’s “collective responsibility”?

After all, they could ague that they have a moral duty to keep faith with the electorate.

Scenario Three

A member is elected on a particular mandate. They are elected by the States as a minister.

They are a deputy. They are asked by their Parishioners to take a petition to the States objecting to a Government decision/policy which adversely effects the Parish.

Would the minister be able to exercise a right of conscience to abstain or object without resigning? Would they be able to take the petition to the States

Conclusion

It seems to me that what is needed is not Collective Responsibility as a blanket system for agreements, but details of circumstances where a minister can legitimately abstain or declare an opposing viewpoint, and orderly procedures for doing so in such a manner as not to disrupt good government.

For example, warning ministerial colleagues that you disagree, and as a matter of conscience, you will be objecting in the States.

However, what is needed is to consider and test the proposals against thought experiments. I have given three examples, and clearly many more can be considered.

The lack of such considerations suggests undue haste, and problems arising because not enough attention has been given to the "fine print".

Thursday, 11 December 2014

A Tide is Rising











A Tide is Rising

A lot of scary stories about rising sea levels in the JEP recently, coupled, of course, with photos of flooding because of the tide.

In fact, the tidal range has hardly risen at all over the last 10 years, and not by any significant amount at all. So why do we see more flooding now?

What we have, I believe, is a higher incidence of strong winds. Strong winds, when they are coupled with high tides, often cause flooding, and that is nothing new. But the prevalence of high winds has increased, and so the coincidence of high wind with high tide has become more likely.

So that does mean we need to improve coastal defences, but that’s not against rises in sea level, but a against high tides and winds bringing flooding. It is still a problem to be tackled, but it is not quite the same problem, so the solutions might be slightly different. It is flood defences that are needed, not higher sea level defences.

The reason nothing happened in the past was that the coincidence of wind and tide was much less frequent, and people just lived with the occasional event. And given its rarity, politicians – as you might expect – buried their heads in the sand. That’s not an option now, because a wind is rising, and the tide is coming in.

Rise of the Dictators

In the Roman Republic, the dictator (“one who dictates”), was an extraordinary magistrate (magistratus extraordinarius) with the absolute authority to perform tasks beyond the authority of the ordinary magistrate (magistratus ordinarius)

Dictator, noun: A person invested with or exercising absolute authority of any kind; one who assumes to control or prescribe the actions of others; one who dictates.

In Jersey, the ministerial powers to decree orders has a resemblance to the trappings of power of the Roman dictators, used in a technical sense. This was not in the sense of someone seizing control, but rather – as in the Republic – one who legitimately has a measure of absolute power bestowed upon them.

Ministerial decisions, such as that by Susie Pinel, seem very much like that. They are brought forward without any States debate, which they simply bypass. It is notable that laws are now often framed in such a way that Ministers can amend something in place by a Ministerial order, whereas in the past, they would have had to brought significant changes in a law to the States.

As a recent example, Susie Pinel has just extended by Ministerial decree the period from 6 months to 12 months with respect to allowing unfair dismissal claims.

Now it could be argued that this will help the economy. The problem of unfair dismissal claims has almost certainly driven the move to zero hour contracts, where there is effectively little provision for unfair dismissal.

So doubling it might encourage employers to take on more staff on permanent contracts rather than zero hour ones. But, of course, we don’t know, as this kind of economic decision is more a matter of guesswork than hard science. Nevertheless, this is a case which could I think be made, as Deputy Pinel does:

"I also believe that this change has the potential to motivate employers to offer more permanent terms and conditions of employment to employees, rather than entering into casual staffing arrangements."

That’s a nice supposition, but it would have more merit if some kind of poll backed it up statistically with employer intention on permanent contracts. Getting lists of employers who sign up to change their employment practices before making a change would have also been a good move, especially if it was known that the information could be released into the public domain; that would ensure employers kept their pledges.

But what I find wholly reprehensible is for a Minister to make such a radical change without putting it before the States to debate. This is the kind of decision making which calls for arguments for and against to be aired, and a measured debate, whatever the vote.

The way in which Ministers can simply effect change by Ministerial Decree, even with the approval of the Council of Ministers, is something I find profoundly disturbing. There should be guidelines in place to suggest a kind of threshold as to when something can be passed by decree, and when it should go before the States.

That would be democracy, but it is worth noting that even the city state of Athens, with its democratic assemblies, was troubled instead by those who came, took power away from its citizens, and simply dictated to them. I think we are in danger of losing the democratic sovereignty of the States.

Liberation Day: Will Islands Diverge?

“In Guernsey, the anniversary of the liberation is celebrated on 9 May, the day in 1945 the German garrison surrendered during World War Two. But that is a Saturday in 2015, so seven deputies have called for Friday 8 May to be a public holiday in lieu.” (BBC News)

And the BBC news notes:

“The last time Liberation Day fell on a weekend, in 2010, the States agreed to make Monday 10 May a public holiday in recognition of the momentous event in Guernsey history.”

I seem to remember that there were Scrooge like mutterings and nothing like that happened over here. The general argument was that it was celebrated on one day, and that was it regardless of which day that was. So there! These are no doubt the same pedants who celebrated the new century on 1st January 2001, a year after the rest of us.

The notion that liberation might just also give rise to a spirit of generosity, of exuberance, of celebration, that might be best recognised by an extra weekday, much as when Christmas or New Year’s day falls on a weekend, seems to have passed by in Jersey.

The economic argument, I recall, was that it was another day of business lost. Or to put it in terms that Ebenezer Scrooge would have approved of: "A poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every time Liberation day falls on a weekend.”