Saturday, 31 January 2015

The Bulldog Breed

What could today's poem be, but one to commemorate Churchill? So here is a look back at a man who had flaws, but despite those, was still a very great leader, and a leader who, don't forget, remained in London when the bombs fell. Which politicians would do that now?

The Bulldog Breed

We shall fight them on the beaches
Rationing, no bananas and no peaches
Austerity of war, means so, so slender
But the bulldog said, never surrender
In times when hope was lost, despair
He knew the black dog, doubt, fear
But overcame those, his spirit strong
Even when he could be in the wrong
Let them starve, when we asked for aid
Our dear Channel Islands would have paid
No Red Cross Vega, no help come here
The people would die, and disappear
But it was not to be, the Red Cross came
Yet his words remain, to his great shame
For he was a great man, a bulldog breed
Who came to Britain in her hour of need
The Battle of Britain or negotiated peace
He would not surrender, would not cease
Until Europe was free from the Nazi yoke
Think concentration camps, burning smoke
As so many perished, whole families died
Who could negotiate? Who even tried?
Churchill would have none of this at all
Called upon the Home Guard to stand tall
On the beaches, and in the fields and streets
Never surrender, despite minor defeats
Dunkirk spirit, of the little boats who came
To the field of conflict, of bombs and flame
Rescued many, who would have been lost
Never minding the danger, or counting cost
Churchill inspired the many and the few
Brave fighters in the air, those valiant crew
And now we remember, a great man in deed
Flawed but brave, last of the bulldog breed
In the darkest hour, a voice of courage and hope
Words that could help all who heard cope
And on VE day, we listened, rejoiced indeed
And our dear Channel Islands shall at last be freed!

Friday, 30 January 2015

Street Names of St Helier – Part 2

More on street names from the Pilot of 1972. As I stated before, the author of this piece is not named, but I suspect on stylistic grounds, it was probably unpublished writings left by G.R. Balleine who had died some years before.

And for those who missed part one, it is here:

Street Names of St Helier – Part 2: From French to English

Last month we saw that all our streets once bore French names. Some of these still survive, and retain a memory of almost forgotten things.

La Pouquelaye reminds us that a dolmen once covered that hill, for pouquelaye is old Norman-French for a cromlech or dolmen. The learned derive it from petra poculata, stones with cup-markings, which in French would be pierres gouquelees. The popular derivation is Puck stones or fairy-stones. The dolmen was standing, when Morant wrote in 1761, but soon after was broken up for building material.

La Motte Street, too, may have prehistoric memories, for Motte means "mound", and a conspicuous mound was often a Neolithic burial-place. Whether that long-vanished mound was natural or artificial, no one can now say; but it gave its name to one of our medieval manors.

At the bottom of Grosvenor Street is a door marked Old Government House. (It is the house in which Moses Corbet, the Governor, was seized by the French on the eve of the Battle of Jersey.) This is the old Manoir de la Motte, the Manor of the Mound, which in the fifteenth century was one of the chief manors of the Island. In those days there were no houses nearer than Hill Street, and its manor grounds stretched as far as Colomberie, where stood the colombier or pigeon-tower, a highly-prized privilege. The possession of a colombier raised a manor in Jersey to the highest rank; and in this respect La Motte was unique, for, when it was advertised for sale in 1797, it was stated that it had "the right to two colombiers"

Racquet Court is probably the site of the tennis-court of the manor, real tennis played within walls, not lawn tennis.

Georgetown preserves the name of another Manor, on whose fief it stood, the Manoir de Georges, later known as Bagot. In 1442 we read of Jean Bagot, Seigneur of Gorges. It is strange that more of the old Fief names were not given to the streets built on them. La Rondiole Road, La Houguette Street, Meleches Lane, Surville Street, Debennaire Road would be more attractive than meaningless repetition of names of English towns, Brighton Road, Croydon Road, Hastings Road, Oxford Road, Windsor Road, Richmond Road, etc.

Havre des Pas recalls an ancient chapel, which stood at the end of Green Street. Occasionally marks are found on a rock, which took like human footprints. Everywhere these have been attributed to supernatural causes. The most famous pilgrimage centre in the world is Adam's Peak in Ceylon, where one such impression can be seen. Buddhists claim it as a footprint of Buddha. Hindus as a footprint of Siva, Mohammedans as a footprint of Adam, and the native Christians as a footprint of St Thomas. Four great Religions send throngs of pilgrims to worship at that spot. The Buddha's footprints are pointed out all over Burma and Siam, Vishnu's all over India. Every Roman Catholic country shows footmarks of the Virgin. England, I regret to say is more famous for hoofmarks of the Devil. But Havre des Pas boasted two of these footprints of the Virgin, and built a little chapel over them, The Chapelle des Pas, The Chapel of the Footprints.

In the fifteenth century this had a Fraternity attached to it, with its own cemetery under the shadow of its chapel. At the Reformation, like other chapels, it was confiscated by the Crown, and became a dwelling house. In 1814 it was blown up by the military authorities on the ground that it afforded cover to an enemy attacking Fort Regent. It must have been a solid structure, for ten mines were necessary; and with that explosion vanished our hopes of ever inspecting those footprints.

Two names just outside the town remind us of another bit of ecclesiastical history. In 1198 a knight named Hugh de Gornaco founded a monastery in Normandy, and called it Bellozanne Abbey. He must have been a good beggar, for he got a subscription out of that blasphemous little infidel John, who later became King of England. His gift consisted of 20 livrees of land in Jersey, and this remained the property of the Abbey for centuries. Hence that hill was known as Mont a I'Abbe (Abbot's Mount), and the valley behind as Bellozanne Valley.

And, while thinking of ancient things, let us not forget the Dicq. A dicq was an embankment to keep out the sea, like the dykes in Holland; and from early days there must have been one round St Clement's Bay to prevent the spring tides from flooding the low-lying land.

About 1790 the great switch over from French to English began. In many cases the French name was merely translated into English. The Rue des Vignes (so called from its vine-covered houses) became Vine Street; the Vieux Chemin, Old Street; the Rue Verte Green Street; the Rue du Petit Douet Brook Street; the Rue des Sablons Sand Street; the Ruette de la Commune (a memory of days when the land from St Mark's Road to Belmont Road was an open common) became Common. Lane.

But often the new name .had no connection with the old. We can sympathize with residents in the Rue des Helles, if they wanted a new address, though the old name had nothing to do with the Infernal Regions - the Helles were a Jersey family, who held the Fief es Helles at St John's and property in the town -but Ann Street was not an inspiring alternative to have chosen.

The craziest feature in the switch over was the borrowing of names from London, which were generally allotted as inappropriately as possible.

Cheapside, the hub of business London, was given to an outlying street of suburban villas; Drury Lane, the centre of Theatre Lane, to a rural back-lane off Rouge Bouillon; Bond Street, the fashionable shopping-centre, to what was then a four-foot muddy alley; Vauxhall, London's glamorous pleasure-garden, to a road whose most conspicuous ornament was a brick-kiln.. Covent Garden in Jersey was an insignificant street without Convent, Opera House, or Vegetable Market; and St James's Street, London's most aristocratic address, was a cul-de-sac near the Cattle Market. (Later, when St James's Church was built, the name was transferred to the street that passes that church, and the other became Old St James's Street, and then plain James Street.)

Snow Hill at any rate is a hill, though very unlike the one at Holborn down which the Mohocks rolled women in barrels. Of all these London names. only one seems appropriate; Newgate Street does at any rate contain the prison. A chance was missed when they failed to turn into Rotten Row the Ruette Pourriture, where the steps now lead from Snow Hill to Regent Road.

In some cases after a struggle the old French name survived. For a time Colomberie was called Dove Street; Lemprière Street, Sligo Street; and Journeaux Street, John Street. But in each case the older name came back to its own.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Question Time – Part 2

Question Time – Part 2

I continue my report on the “Question Time” event at St Brelade’s Parish Hall, organised by James Rondel and Christian May of Change.Je, and with chair Ben Querée and panellists Steve Pallett, Judy Martin, Ben Shenton, Vicky Boarder and Ian Gorst.

A questioner asked whether the States would actually listen to what people say, or go through the motions of pretending to do so, hence the voter apathy.

Vicky Boarder said that she had been told not to be so emotive by a politician over the Port Galots site, but she though the lack of emotion among some politicians was part of the problem. She was passionate in her love for the Island of Jersey, and if more people had passion about Jersey’s heritage, there would be a greater voter turnout.

Judy Martin noted that the States had recently changed the 1802 law regarding Parish Assemblies to make it harder to call them. She thought that the Constables in particular, as Father (or Mother) of the Parish should use Parish meetings more to sound out and see what the people wanted and thought about States policies and actions. They should listen to their parishioners more.

Ben Shenton noted that the States had a bad record, that after the referendum on option A, B or C, the States asked the public what they wanted, and then rejected it. It was no wonder the voters turned away from voting, especially, he thought, working class voters in St Helier. The States just paid lip service to listening to people over that and a lot of people decided that voting was just a waste of time.

He also questioned the proposed change to the Waterfront, and said the States, in his view, by accepting something very different from that passed by the States – with retail outlets and a winter garden, was breaking the planning law. The end result would be uninspiring blocks of offices, the removal of parking, and at weekends and evenings that area would just be a ghost town. He wondered if in 20 years time, people would be asking just how on earth they let this happen.

Ian Gorst said that we had to be real about the challenges that we faced. He said “We don’t always get it right”, and with the Port Galot site, for example, they could see that the public had spoken, and they would have to find another site for the Sea Cadets. He pledged that the Council of Ministers was committed to do this and pledged that within the next 3 ½ years, a site would be found.

Vicky Boarder wondered why, if a private site development was considered, rather than Port Galots, it could be done at the old derelict swimming pool site. This was a prime site, just being left to decay, and the States could get a return by having the luxury buildings there.

Tony asked (that’s me, by the way), whether as it was the 70th Anniversary of Liberation Day, and it fell on a Saturday, whether the public should be liberated with an extra days holiday.

Steve Pallett thought that as it was 70 years, a special occasion, the States should give the public an extra holiday.

Judy Martin agreed.

Ben Shenton said that as far as he was concerned, the 9th of May was Liberation Day, and he would not celebrate it on any other day.

Vicky Boarder agreed, and Ian Gorst said there should not be another day.

Tony just came back with the point that Ben Shenton had given a misleading answer. An extra day didn’t mean celebrating Liberation day on that day, any more than Christmas day falling on a Saturday meant celebrating it on the Monday bank holiday.

He later found out, in conversation with Ben, that the overseas businesses like his found it more difficult when it fell on a weekday, as their staff took the day off, and the management had to provide cover – which may also have explained why he was so keen to misunderstand the question!

A question was asked about how students could afford to go to University in England, as the costs were now prohibitively high, and she could not afford it. She wanted it to be made easier to bright children to go on to University, and make the most of their talent.

Judy Martin wondered if a loan system would be the answer as in the UK, but also noted that a loan system could lead to burdening a student with a very heavy debt to repay.

Ian Gorst said that a lot of people were struggling to make the decision whether they could afford to send their children to university or not. He said “this cannot be right”. He wanted to see young people have that opportunity, and there would have to be a change to the system as it stands.

Ben Shenton said that his daughter had just gone to University, and acknowledged that it was very expensive, and he was lucky enough to be able to afford it. He thought a loan system was the way forward, and the Co-Op Community Bank had assets of £800 million in cash, which could be used for loans. It was there, it was available, and if the political will was there, “something could be sorted out by Friday”!

The Waterfront reared its head with another question. When would the States actually see a return for this investment? Was it a good plan, or should it be private sector? What had happened to the original Masterplan?

Ian Gorst said the change in direction was the right one. Harcourt had been dropped, and the only other developer, Dandara, was doing their own thing. For such a big project it was important to proceed in an incremental manner, so as to reduce the risk which the public were obviously concerned about.

Judy Martin asked where the Winter gardens had gone in the new plans. We had been left with a few office blocks, hardly making the promised vibrant part of St Helier, she thought.

Steve Pallett thought there had been enough delays and something was needed to get up and running.

Vicky Boarder noticed that other places which had reclaimed land would put good restaurants and facilities there. What had the States done? Put a KFC on the site!

Ben Shenton wondered when the supposed amount of £50 million would be returned to the States. He thought the attitude regarding risk was risible – the States of Jersey Development Fund’s chairman had said “we are borrowing the money from the banks, and the banks would not lend money to a development if there was any risk”. He asked if the record of banks was such that people would believe they would not lend to risky property developments.

Ian Gorst thought that was unfair, that the banks had looked at the finance hard before agreeing to lend the money. He was convinced that to deliver economic growth we needed Grade A office space. The new Dandara site had been more or less filled. The Le Masurier Broad street site seemed to have stalled. We needed to get on with it.

I noticed that the question of when the States would get a return of their investment was never answered by Ian Gorst.

A question was asked about the drugs policy and whether it should be reviewed with new drugs

Ben Shenton noted that when in the States, he had brought a proposition for extra funding for drug rehabilitation unit but the States had rejected that, and it had been swept under the carpet. There was a major problem with underfunding, and there were 900 registered heroin addicts in Jersey. More need to be done, or this problem would take away some of our kids lives, and he noted that suicide was often related to drug use.

Steve Pallett thought that more should be done for drug users, but decriminalising some drugs was not the answer. Drug use was not the only invisible problem; homelessness was also another huge issue.

Ian Gorst said that he was sorry about banging on about extra resources for health, but this question showed exactly why it was important, and we needed more money.

Christopher Davy asked about the condition of the roads, and wondered if the public would be more amenable to the tax element on their fuel if that was put back into roads.

Steve Pallett noted that the situation regarding potholes and bad road surfaces mainly applied to public roads, and the Parish kept their roads in pretty good condition. He pointed out that if more money went to roads, it would have to come from some other department.

Judy Martin thought that if some of the money taxed on roads was earmarked for road maintenance people could appreciate any rise. She also wondered why whole roads were resurfaced. When 80% of a road was fine, why did TTS resurface the whole road rather than just the part that needed doing?

Ben Shenton said that “you can tell a lot about a country by the state of its roads”.

Ian Gorst said that 3 million a year was spent on roads, and local roads were actually often better than those in the UK. He thought the way forward was the Street Works Law, which had been in the pipeline for a long time, and this would ensure the utility companies would have to repair roads to better standards, to be in good repair longer after their trench work. He pledged that TTS would bring this forward in the next two years.

The evening ended with a rapid – yes / no question session with two or three questions just thrown out as time was almost at an end. To watch politicians having to say yes or no was the kind of wicked delight that anyone who watches Jim Hacker’s attempts to get a straight answer from Sir Humphrey Appleby would appreciate.

Thanks were given by James Rondel to the Chair and the Panellists, and the next Question Time would be at St Clements Parish Hall on Tuesday 24 February at 7.30.

Final notes – this was a very entertaining evening – part of which had to do with the mix – two politicians in the States, one former politician, and one ordinary member of the public, all of whom were articulate and lively. There was a good amount of humour from the panel, including the Chief Minister, which also lightened the tone from time to time.

Unlike a hustings, there was never the feeling that the candidates were trying to sell the audience anything to get a vote. All the panel came over well, and it was certainly brave of the Chief Minister, Ian Gorst, to put his head above the parapet in that way. The audience was friendly, but that didn’t mean that they asked easy questions. And the ex-politicians and current politicians in the audience didn’t dominate matters, as Ben Querée often chose ordinary members of the public in preference to them.

For those of us hard of hearing, some more amplification would have been useful at times, as it was occasionally, especially at the start, hard to hear some of the responses clearly. That is why I don't usually attend public events like this.

And as before, apologies for anything I got wrong or omitted in my report. One day after the event, and my notes look even more like some kind of chaotic bespoke shorthand, or the results you would get by dipping a spider in ink and letting it run across a blank page.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Question Time – Part 1

A very good “Question Time” last night, arranged by the Change.Je group, Christian May and James Rondel. There was a Parish Hall of about 70 people at St Brelade, and unlike the Hustings, this was lively.

Part of the credit of that must go to the Chair, Ben Quérée, so that he would alter the order in which he posed the question to the panellists, and also warned the politicians, and ex-politicians in the audience from getting speeches in place of questions. As a result, the whole atmosphere was very different from the stuffy Hustings meetings of last year, and while the answers were interesting, there was also a sense of fun, which came out in the odd humorous ripostes from the panel.

Another advantage over Hustings was that the panel was specially selected to be diverse, while at the same time consisting of people who could speak well. That was as well, because there was no microphone in use, and I had to strain the odd time and adjust the volume of my hearing aid up a bit.

The Panel consisted (going left to right, but not necessarily politically!), Constable Steve Pallett, now sporting a beard, Deputy Judy Martin, former Senator Ben Shenton, Vicky Boarder of the Fresh Fish Company, and Senator and Chief Minister Ian Gorst.

What is more, the less formal atmosphere, meant that certain asides slipped out, which would probably not have actually come to light. Judy Martin, for instance, when Ben Quérée said that she had chosen not to remain as an Assistant Minister, told the audience that it had not been her choice; she had been pushed out.

And Ian Gorst was clearly struggling at times not to reveal too much of the forthcoming plans of the Council of Ministers, or to commit his fellow Ministers to do particular things, despite saying that the he was “not going to avoid difficult questions but to face up to them”.

Denise Waller asked a question about property taxes – should they change, or stay with the Parishes.

Steve Pallett, not surprisingly, came out strongly for the Parishes retaining control of the rates. He noted – accurately – that Parishes are extremely well run, and “we only raise what we need for rates”. He suggested that the Parish rates should be left well alone, as it was unlikely that central Government could run the Parishes as frugally as they did.

Judy Martin was also in favour of the Parish Rates system. While Council Tax was not the same as rates, so it was “apples and pears” when it came to a comparison, she could understand people’s concerns, and remembered packed Parish meetings at Fort Regent when St Helier had excessively high rates. Fortunately the current Constable had managed to bring the rates down to more comparable levels with other Parishes. She did think that the States should pay rates on public buildings in St Helier. That made me wonder if they should also pay rates on the Prison on St Brelade, by the same principle.

Ben Shenton said the rates system worked well, and there were a lot of people, especially the elderly, who were asset rich but income poor, living in their own houses, and fearful of some revamp of the system which would increase rates.

Ian Gorst concurred that the Parish rates system would stay with the Parishes, noting the adverse reaction at the Hustings last year in respect of the Property tax reform consultation. He did say, however, that commercial rates should be looked at, as reform there might enable the States to get money back from overseas owned retailers who paid no tax locally except the rates. But that would also effect local retailers, struggling from the recession.

Ian Le Sueur asked about how the 12 million projected deficit was going to be tackled, and was a freeze on jobs the right way to go.

Ian Gorst said that the government were going to have to do things differently, and where jobs were replaced when they became vacant, this should not be automatic. He also wanted to centralise administration, so that under one roof, there would be opportunities to be more efficient rather than have more administrative staff. “The departmental structure we have is a monument to last century’s problems” he said, and savings were needed because of the need to pay for growing health care demands.

Ben Shenton who had been Health Minister around 2003-2004 noted that when GST and 20 means 20 were brought in, the deal was also to cut the States overall budget but that had not happened. He thought the Treasury Ministers notion of cutting 2% off every department’s budget was a bad one, and that the States should look holistically at the system, and see what was essential, and what could be pruned. By way of analogy, he cited the private sector, where a business cutting back will look at what can be done without, and what cannot be lost – the core areas. He suggested that what would happen with a 2% policy on cuts would be that rather than removing layers of middle management, the civil service proposals would be to cut front line staff, and cause conflicts with the Unions, concern from the public, and nothing would get done – as had happened so often in the past.

Ian Gorst said that “to be fair, in the past, Ben was right”. But he suggested that centralising the States administration meant that redundancies could be made in middle management, and the States needed to increase front line staff like teachers and nurses.

Caroline Hathaway asked if the gradual loss of parking spaces, and the recent loss in Green Street and the Esplanade would be a major factor in stopping people coming to St Helier.

Judy Martin said that this was a problem, also if visiting people in town where they would become more isolated. She thought that the solution would be a park and ride scheme, like that successfully run before. There was not likely to be more space for parking on the street or in car parks, but the park and ride scheme at La Collette had increased commuters and shoppers coming to St Helier.

Vicky Boarder noted that the result of less parking was that people went to shops where they could park, either in town, or out of town. This did not help footfall in the centre of St Helier.

Ian Gorst commented that planning in the past had followed a policy that you did not need so much parking for new developments in St Helier, and we were “paying the price for that policy”. It will be interesting to see if those comments effect the proposed Gas Place development, which has no visitor parking, and fewer spaces than flats.

A question was asked about whether the unelected States members should remain.

Steve Pallett thought the Bailiff should stay, but wondered about the role of the Dean. Why should be have on particular denomination? He also suggested that the Dean sometimes was not quite as impartial as he should be when speaking – “comes close to going over the line”.

Judy Martin agreed with the Carswell report on a separation of powers. The Bailiff should be replaced with a Speaker. And the Dean only speaks, but he can be political. She thought that religion and politics should be kept apart.

Ben Shenton thought there should be an elected member of the States, and a separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive. A modern democracy should not have the Bailiff in the States, and was it really a good use of taxpayers’ money to have a Bailiff sitting in the States listening to some very long boring debates, and being paid £300 an hour to do.

Ian Gorst thought that while there was an established church and house of Bishops, it made sense for the Dean to sit in the States. He was less comfortable with the Bailiff there. He noted that most members of the public were probably not that interested in the States discussing the matter. However, the separation of powers was an important principle, and how Jersey was seen by the International Community, should also be considered. The question was how the Bailiff would be a Civic Head of Jersey if removed from the States. What exactly do we want from the Bailiff? How would he fulfil his role, and who would replace him in the States. This was a conversation where the States needed to talk to everyone, as the matter was complex. Removing the Bailiff from the States was the way forward, but what this would entail was another matter.

I will be posting more from my notes later, but for now, I’m off to bed. It was a very enjoyable evening, a good format – let’s hope the BBC don’t charge royalties – and I think that most people found it made politics come alive in a way that we have not seen in the past, and certainly not at the hustings. My apologies for those panellists whom I may have not reported enough on, but I can’t always read my own writing.

The one question I failed to ask was about Steve Pallett’s beard. Now that Rob Duhamel has left the States, is there a secret policy that the States members put their names in a hat, and the one who is drawn out has to grow a beard? We may never know.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Rewriting History

‘Well, I say things,’ said Father Brown in a weak voice, which could alone convey the weakness of the words. ‘I say things, but everybody seems to know they mean more than they say. Once I saw a broken mirror and said “Something has happened” and they all answered, “Yes, yes, as you truly say, two men wrestled and one ran into the garden,” and so on. I don’t understand it, “Something happened,” and “Two men wrestled,” don’t seem to me at all the same; but I dare say I read old books of logic. – G.K. Chesterton, The Scandal of Father Brown

I must be reading the same old books of logic, because I’ve just been reading the latest BBC News posting about the call for the publication of the Dame Heather Steele enquiry.

The report states that:

“Reverend Key was suspended for two months in March 2013 for allegedly failing to properly investigate the treatment of the 26-year-old woman. He was reinstated after apologising for anything he might have got wrong in the handling of the abuse complaint.”

And the timeline also has this:

“April 2013 - Dean Key is reinstated after apologising for anything he might have got wrong in the handling of an abuse complaint”

But when you look at the original report, it says the following:

Dean Key said: "I regret mistakes that I made in the safeguarding processes and I understand that, upon reflection, it would have been more helpful if I had co-operated more fully with the Korris [safeguarding} Review."

Now my old books of logic tell me that if I said “I apologise for anything I may have got wrong”, which is implied by the recent reporting, that does not mean the same thing as “I regret mistakes I made”.

The new story is saying that there may or may not have been mistakes, and if there were, an apology is being issued.

But the old one said – and quoted the Dean as saying – that there were mistakes that he did actually make.

That’s not anything he might have got wrong, but an apology for things he did get wrong.

It is very important that we should not rewrite history to suit our own slant on matters, and I don’t know where the new story comes from, but it directly contradicts the Dean’s own words.

If the Dean has retracted his apology in the form it was made, I think we should be told.

Meanwhile, the retiring Bailiff, Sir Michael Birt, has said on BBC Radio that he regrets the Dean’s suspension, the disconnect with Winchester, and the failure to release the Steele report.

He also stated words to the effect that it was certainly not about a personal conflict between two individuals, the Bishop of Winchester and the Dean.

While the whole matter has mushroomed, rather like the Dreyfus Affair, with people taking sides, and the Church becoming polarised between Winchester and Jersey, there can be little doubt to outside observers that it is precisely a quarrel or disagreement between two individuals which has led to the whole split.

It is rather like trying to remove Henry VIII and the Pope from events that led up to the English Reformation. Now I would not cast either protagonist in those roles, but cite it just to show how conflicts and separations are often caused by disagreements between individuals. In those cases, and in this case, it would be a mistake to downplay the role of the personal conflict in the events which transpired.

As an outside observer, what seems to have happened is that a series of rash decisions caused an estrangement between the Bishop and the Dean, which can been seen (for example) both in the Korris report being published, the suspension of the Dean, but also the Dean’s refusal to participate in the enquiry even before there was any notion that it would be made public (as stated in his apology).

This escalated, as other Anglican individuals, particularly in Jersey, seem to have sought not a reconciliation between the two sides, but a division between them. I won’t name anyone as the possible contender for Thomas Cromwell, but I suspect there are at least two individuals who would easily fit that role. Wolf Hall casts a long shadow.

That is why it is being described as a “temporary” arrangement. If there was a new Bishop of Winchester, and a new Dean, much of the original cause of the conflict would be gone. Whether Jersey can get back to Winchester is another matter, and much would depend on the good will of the other participants who, so far, seem to have been more content to stir up disunity than to look for a rapprochement.

People tell me that they  find it quite amazing that two grown men cannot sit down together, and sort out their difficulties, or if they are unable to do so on their own, that a mediator cannot be found. Is there no ecclesiastical equivalent of relate? The fact that other grown men have also got in on the act, with what appear to be silly power games, will not endear the Church of England in Jersey to outsiders.


Monday, 26 January 2015

Question Time in Jersey

Any questions?

Chief Minister Ian Gorst will be one of three politicians in the spotlight in the first of a new series of Question Time-style debates, beginning later this month.

The Chief Minister will join the assistant minister in charge of sport policy, St Brelade Constable Steve Pallett, and the States longest-serving Deputy, Judy Martin, at the event at St Brelade’s Parish Hall on Tuesday 27 January from 7.30 pm.

The event is being hosted by independent pressure group Change Jersey, who say that they want to get people engaging with politics and politicians on real issues.

Organiser James Rondel said: “We want to do this once a month, and we want it to be lively and engaging.

“The idea behind the sessions is to expose our politicians to some real questions from the public – we don’t want to get stuck into the same old issues and the same old faces, we want to get right into things that actually matter to people.”

The events will be held monthly, and Change Jersey want a mix of politicians and non-politicians at each one. The full line-up for the first event – which will be chaired by Bailiwick Express news editor Ben Queree, and for which the panel will also include at least two people who are not States Members – will be announced soon.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

A Restored Palimpsest of the 4th Century

A Restored Palimpsest of the 4th Century

In the days of the Emperor Constantine, there was once an Island called Quaqua, off the coast of Neustria. The people of Quaqua were fiercely independent, and one day, a priest called Clavis fell out with the Bishop of Dol

During this time, a monk called Fraxinus stirred up the people of Quaqua to seek to move from the Bishopric of Dol to that of Coutances, and there was a great conflict, and much anger fermented among the goodly Christians in Quaqua.

And there was no reconciliation, and so it was that Quaqua became part of the diocese of Coutance.

But having caused such unrest, and being unwilling to seek any reconciliation with Dol, the monk Fraxinus decided to take his leave to Cyrnacia, which was a troubled land, and seek to reconcile the peoples there.

And he told the people there to look at their own faults, and quoted the scripture which said:

“Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

And all this was noted by the historian Acutus Criticus, whose scribe annotated the margin of his manuscript, noting that it was truly strange that the monk Fraxinus had gone south to help a people find peace and reconciliation, when it was so wanting in his actions in Quaqua.

Saturday, 24 January 2015


Socks was the theme for the week in a Poetry group I belong to, so here is my contribution. Please note the photo above is by way of illustration, and those are neither my socks nor my feet! It was a chance to do a more humorous poem, and I hope you like it.


Never a matching pair, I exclaim
But who on earth should I blame?
It is Gremlins, said my Uncle Sam,
Ones who eat green eggs and ham;
A space warp swallows them said
My sister, searching beneath her bed
The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling says,
By a mysterious stranger, wearing Fez;
But go they do, one sock stays still:
The other vanished, for good or ill;
And so unmatched, all in a heap,
Should I throw out, or should I keep,
Perchance I find another pile?
I keep on hoping all the while!
Does God exist? a question bold
But I’d prefer to just be told
Where all my socks go every day,
And how they vanish swift away;
A quantum puzzle, like that cat
Schrödinger’s socks, I quite like that!
In the drawers, place a pair:
But look, and one is never there!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Street Names of St Helier – Part 1

This comes from The Pilot in October 1971, and I have been unable to find the author. The style, however, is very strongly that of G.R. Balleine, who died in 1966, and I wonder if this was a reprint of on old article or a print of an unpublished article. It is still very interesting.

Street Names of St Helier – Part 1
Has it ever occurred to you to ask how your street got its name? This is quite an interesting study. But, before we embark on it, just a word about the streets themselves.

If we could be transplanted back into the town, of say,1800,our first surprise would be its smallness. It was only a narrow strip of houses from Snow Hill to Charing Cross with a bulge at the Charing Cross end embracing Hue Street and Old Street on one side and Scale Street and Sand Street on the other. And this bulge was comparatively new, for the two oldest houses in Hue Street bear the dates 1756 and 1767.

In breadth the town merely stretched from Hill Street to Hilgrove Street and from Broad Street to King Street. The back windows on the north side of King Street and Hilgrove Street looked out over green fields, the back windows on the south side of Broad Street over sand-dunes to the sea.

Our second surprise would be the extreme narrowness of the streets. King Street, Queen Street, Hill Street and Library Place were Chemins de huit pieds, eight feet across from house to house, while others half that breadth., Chemins de quatre pieds, like Bond Street.

The third surprise would be the number of streams you had to cross on planks. All the valleys and hills that surround the town pour streams down into the plain, and these have to find their way to the sea. Today they flow underground through sewers, but then they flowed on the surface. There was a water-mill in Bond Street and another in Dumaresq Street. Innumerable rivulets ran down the streets, and the planks that crossed them were familiar direction-points.

Advertisements in the early "Gazettes" constantly describe houses as being near the Planque Billot or the Planque Godel. I will not pretend that St Helier was then a northern Venice, but it was certainly a town of running waters.

I have spoken of the streets by their modern English names; but in 1800 all the street names were, of course, French. The Royal Square was le Marche. The old name of Church Street must have begun as a joke; but it became official. A stream ran down the middle of the road, and apparently there was no plank; so ladies wishing to cross to church had to tuck up their skirts and jump. Hence someone named the street Rue Trousse Cotillon (Tuck-up-your-petticoat Street), and the name stuck. It is found in Acts of the Visite des Chemins and in contracts passed by the Court.

A more recent example of a joke-name that nearly became official is Crackankle Lane (a gorgeous inspiration), which, till the College was built, was the name for College Hill.

It is a pity that Bond Street lost its pretty name of la Rue de la Madeleine, which preserved the memory of the mediaeval Chapel of St Mary Magdalen, which was only pulled down in the eighteenth century. The old name of Broad Street was the Rue d Egypte (Egypt Street). I cannot imagine why. Nor can I suggest why La Chasse was for time called the Rue de Madegascar. (La Chasse, by the way, has nothing to do with hunting, but is an old Norman-French word for a small by-way.) Hill Street was at first the Rue des Forges.

In 1674 an Act of the Court forbad the inhabitants of the Rue des Forges to throw their soapsuds into the brook, as this defiled their neighbours' drinking water. But later, from a tavern where the lawyers dined, it became known as the Rue des Trois Pigeons. Queen Street was the Rite as Porcqs. This had nothing to do with pigs. The Le Porcq family owned the land on which the street was built.

King Street was the Rue de Derriere (Backdoor Street), because at first it contained only the backyard gates of the houses in Broad Street and the Square. St Peter Port still has its Back Street; and one of the best known walks in Cambridge is called The Backs. Dumaresq Street and Le Geyt Street were spoken of as es Hemies. Hemie is Jersey-French for a five-barred gate; so these no doubt were private roads shut off by gates.

The country lanes round the town all had their French names, which they retained when they were built upon. St Clement's Road was the Rue es Ronces (Blackberry Bushes Road). Regent Road was the Rue de Froid Vent (Cold Wind Street).

Roseville Street was the Rue de Long Bouet I am not sure what this means, though St Peter Port has two streets called Le Bouet and Le Grand Bouet, and there is a valley in Alderney called Le Bouet. As Roseville Street runs through low-lying land, it may have some connection with boue, mud.

Vauxhall was the Rue de la Dame. At its David Place end there was a field known as the Piece de la Dame with a well in a grove known as the Puit de la Dame. This was haunted ground. A white lady walked here at night. de la Croix wrote: "Concerning the Piece de la Dame there exist a thousand superstitious stories of apparitions; nevertheless the mothers of the town go there (by day, be it understood, for by night they would not dare to approach it) to wash their garments and hang them up on the quickset hedge to dry."

Val Plaisant is a mystery. It may have been pleasant, before the houses were built; but it can never have been a valley. David Place is nowhere more than a.few feet higher than Val Plaisant, and on its other side the ground slopes downward to the sea. Can Val in old Norman French have had some different meaning.? This is the case with Rouge Bouillon, which has nothing to do with either broth or boiling. Bouillon in Norman-French means a marsh. It is found all over the Island. St Brelade's has a marshy field called Le Bouillon. There is a Clos de Bouillon at St Ouen's, and another at St John's, and a Trinity farm called Les Bouillons. Guernsey, too, has a district called Bouillon and a Rue du Bouillon at St Peter Port. The stream which flows down Queen's Road formed a marsh or bouillon at the bottom and the oxide of iron that was carried down from the clay higher up gave the mud a reddish colour.

In Elizabeth's reign this district was known as the contree du Rouge Bouillon, the land of the Red Marsh.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Some Jersey Eccentrics

Some Jersey Eccentrics

This is the peculiar house of Bob Bisson, which was painted with all kind of religious slogans. In this blog, I want to celebrate people’s memories of Bob, and other Jersey eccentrics. Bob I actually met, but some of the others, like Berger and his mummified mother, I had only heard of from others.

My own anecdote about Bob is him parading in the Royal Square when the States were sitting with a placard which stated “Con men in session”!

There’s a kind of oral tradition that goes around regarding these people, and it seemed a shame that it should be lost, so I have put some of the comments relating to that photo on Facebook, to preserve them for posterity. All identification of commentators has been removed.

Jersey Eccentrics – Some Comments

Bob Bisson

Mr Bisson’s house may he rest in peace ,,he was a god man ...he kept painting these versus around his house and when they cleaned it up he did it all over again is now gone and new houses there.

It was jersey's blot on the landscape!

True but was his property to do as he crazy as it seemed!

Dear old Bob Bisson. A strange Jersey eccentric if ever there was. Quoted from the King James Bible, regularly attended (as a viewer) the Magistrate's court. We don't have many eccentrics like him (and Berger) around anymore.

Not a blot, this guy was a true eccentric! I saw him on the bus most days, life needs people like him! Didn't do any harm

Kind of miss seeing that place, was so interesting, unlike today’s buildings

Yes I used to work for a stockbrokers and he often used to come in. I think he used to dabble with the Stock Market. As you say quite harmless

I met this guy in the Royal Square and he told me to give up smoking as it was slow motion suicide and I did

I remember Robert Bisson too, eccentric but kindly. He had very blue eyes I was a bit in awe of him as a child, admire him now for his honesty.

I sat next to him once on an Aurigny flight and ended up giving him a lift back to this place, he usually walked everywhere, but it was raining heavily.

Sandals whatever the weather !

I had forgotten the sandals remember now bless him

Robert Chalmers Bisson. We lived just down the road from him in our early married life but he always stopped and spoke to us and our children. Just a bit eccentric but harmless!

He was an oft viewed figure as far as I know. He sat next to me on the bus once when I was on the way home from school and started to talk about Jesus, not knowing I was already a pretty convinced atheist. I have to say he seemed a nice enough chap though.

Robert Chalmers Bisson, the house has been known as The White Lodge and The Retreat.

I seem to remember he had quite an upper crust voice, sounded educated which I'm sure he was.

The house was semi detached.. 20 years ago we were shown the other half of the property joined on behind it , looking to rent / buy..

What was weird is that the house had a basement, you went down the stairs & the basement was an old church, like a full on church under the house.. The church was split in 2 with a wall separating the properties, but needless to say it was obvious that he had the other half of the church on his side, so as much as it seems like one of his eccentricities, I’m sure it goes a little deeper in to why he wrote all that stuff.. It was a little creepy to be honest, so we politely declined. I'm sure most didn't realise he had a chapel in his basement & that the whole thing was built on a church. ?

He had a Canadian accent.

I think he was originally from Canada, either that or he lived in Canada for a long time.

This was owned by Mr. Robert Charmers Bisson who was a bit of a religious fanatic as can be seen by the biblical verses quite a rich Canadian but very articulate.......

I like him. He was a little strange but nice enough, he used to walk down to the beach with two buckets and fill them up with seaweed for his vegetable garden.

I knew this man very well, in fact had a tea chest full of bibles from him, eccentric but heart of gold

He was known as Barmy Bisson and used to cycle around the island wearing a raincoat with biblical quotations painted on the back.... also I believe a brilliant chess player

He also was a grand master at chess

A wonderful character with a zest for life, totally harmless apart from his booming voice, he spoke to me several times about beliefs and stuff a genuine 42 carat character the world is a less richer place without him what do you see driving up Mont Cochon nothing bland bland and more bland I miss the old chap he was very wealthy I’m lead to believe and was harmless if he’d of ever done anything as folk have said I’m sure he would of been dealt with just an eccentric and very kind man by all accounts

I seem to remember something many years ago, when his neighbours complained about his house being an eyesore, and covered in writing, in response, he wrote the word 'fool' ( or was it 'fools?) on the previously-pristine chimney stack!

I believe he was Canadian by birth. My favourite saying was that he liked to feed the pigeons in the Royal Square, so they would shit on the politicians.

The house was demolished a good few years ago now and a few new houses built on the site.

Certainly beats conventional decorating of the front of your house!!.....remember this well, even blue coaches used to take tourists to see it!!

He was very intelligent. We gave him a lift to church once. Had Canadian links if I remember rightly and often wore a shirt with red stains on it!

I had a friend who lived next door and would play chess with him.

Me and my mate were digging bate at west park in the mid 70s, it was summer, and we were kids, following the tide out as the sun started to rise, about 5am, he came wading out of the sea in front of us, scared the c***p out of us, he'd been sitting on the rock with the pole on it, to the right of Elisabeth Castle, all night reading his bible and waiting for the tide to go out again, I told my dad when I got home, he just laughed and said, "that’s old man Bisson, he won’t harm you". A talking point amongst us kids for quite a while after lol!!

I remember him getting on the bus, always in a long beige raincoat, and he would just start randomly taking to no one in particular !!

Does anyone remember when Mr Bisson was given a court order to re-paint his house as it was such an eye-sore? He obeyed the letter of the law by carefully refreshing all the writing with a new coat of paint. Hence the word 'fools'!

The states wanted him out for years and couldn't make him move, in the end they committed him, took his house and money.

Berger, Hawkins and Paisnel

Somebody on this stream mentioned old Mr Berger, eccentric maybe but I believe there was a connection between Berger and Florence Hawkins, mistress of Edward Paisnel

Wasn't Mr Berger the one who used to take his mother for a Sunday afternoon drive every week in a Rolls Royce, and continued to do so months after she had died? Was always fascinated by the story as a kid. Was it really true? Also was there a connection with Berger paint?

Florence Hawkins lived at the side of Berger's house in Savile Street. I think there must have been a flat there. Paisnel used to park his car in the car park in Elizabeth Lane when he visited her. We lived in Parade Road in the house on the corner of the lane. There were rumours that Berger & Paisnel were involved in some form of devil worship, I don't know if there was any truth in it. I know Paisnel had some kind of concealed area at his place at Boulivot that the police discovered.

Mr. Berger owned a lovely old house in Waterworks valley before it burnt down, as a kid I used to play in the burnt out ruins with friends

Is that the house, about halfway up Waterworks Valley on the left, that's burnt down more than once and is reputed to be haunted?

Seem to remember Mr Berger had a house on the Parade that backed onto Savile St....more or less where Health and Social now have offices....and used to hang a skeleton in one of the back windows...believe he was connected to Berger's Paints

Ahh yes, Westaway Court is on the site of the former Westaway Crèche that I am pretty sure was acquired from a Mr Berger who loved books & had them everywhere. Used his staircase as a bookcase! Hadn't realised until now that it was the same guy! I thought Berger who drove around with a corpse in the passenger seat was from Rozel?

I once took a misdialled phone call from Florence Hawkins wherein she asked to speak to Mr Berger about the time that Paisnel was on trial...she'd misdialled by one digit...and I recall wondering whether or not the police were aware of these connections....believe there may also have been a connection to a house at Leoville that had a dark painted ceiling with stars painted on it ??

Yes it was, it was a fantastic place to run about in. It was indeed supposed to be haunted and we used to frighten each other making noises.

Any more info on this Mr. Berger? The story sounds fascinating!

Yes Mr. Berger used to take "mummy" out for a drive

Was he not one by the police for this? It's illegal to prevent a burial. Was she embalmed? What happened to them? What's the story? X

I know of a few people who witnessed Berger's Sunday drives, it happened

Other Odd People

Does anyone remember the two brothers that use to walk round St Helier >>one was called bobby they both wore flat caps?? And then there was the guy us kids use to call Windy Miller' because he always walked like he was walking into a force 10 gale..And then there was' Archie’ who was always sat on the benches in St Helier' he was famous’ for a certain thing!

Yes best leave Archie well Don’t remember shaky George or Mary'' maybe I was too young at the time' like you say very sad..When you think about it..

Archie was given a two wheeled truck by the dockers , he used to go around the agricultural stores where he was given vegetables which he sold to the public...The dockers also used to buy him a new suit every year and send him to the murattie in Guernsey......

I remember buying veg off Archie great old character

There were two strange ladies. One of them, Francis Heuze was sectioned as she was desperately mentally ill. The other lady is still around.

Oh and shakes George was a mad alcoholic - believe it or not, he dried out quite a few years ago!

The veg that Archie used to sell was mostly borrowed on the basis of 'non return' from farmers lorries waiting for the weighbridge or for unloading at one of the packing stores. There was a George who used to hop about and kick out who was reputed to have been 'shell shocked in the First World War. Another ex first WWI soldier used to play records from a cart outside Woolworth's in the 40's and early 50's.

Then there was old Lemuel who always carried an imaginary butterfly in his hands

I remember Lemuel from the Sacre Cour he was an odd job man always talking to his hand.

Anyone remember the chap that owned Jumbo's Joke Shop in New Street, where the Charity shops are now? I remember thinking as a kid that considering he worked in a joke shop, he was probably the most miserable bloke I'd ever met!

I remember when it caught fire - a stray firework I believe?

Also remember a big man called Ken I think, had deformed hands and pushed a homemade hand cart around collecting people's empty pop bottles to reclaim the deposit...also played a mean harmonica

I remember George Le Sueur who used to kick his legs out. He had lots of white hair. They say he used to do the goosestep behind the German soldiers and got away with it as they thought he was mad.

Archie was Archie Nolan

Anyone remember "Welsh Casey", he put a Christmas tree on the transmitter at Les Platons, the police wouldn't go up and get him, instead waited for him to sober up and come down. He was a true character often seen in the Finsbury and the Great Western

He was a good mate of my dad's and I used to go around with his three daughters who are no longer with us. Casey was always the "life and soul" of any pub he went into. Shame these old pubs no longer exist. Harry the manager of the Finsbury was always barring him 'till the next day

You can’t make it up sadly the characters in life are thinning out and there is a conspicuous lack of replacements.

On the subject of characters does anyone remember the chap who used to walk down New Street in an overcoat and his brief case in the middle of the road, or the flap cap twins (got a photo of the two of them standing in front of the Foots dog and gramophone or Mr Bird the Baker. Haven’t been home in 11 years but I'm guessing there aren't too many characters like those guys anymore

That was George Le Sueur. I remember him well, along with the short twins and their caps.

I remember the chap your on about, he used to walk in front of the traffic with his brief case n brolly in the early 80s, very slowly, sumat t do with him hating cars/traffic someone once told me, don’t know what the full story is though!!?

The guy who walked in the traffic, I believe, had a wife who was knocked down by a car and it was his little protest. He was always very smart but had long since worked.

That would make sense, I was working in the market in 83/4 and I remember him turning and whacking his brolly on the bonnet of Ken Jesty's delivery van that had beeped him to get out the way, but most people just seemed to accept it, suppose they must have known the story!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The Shape of Things to Come

Geoff Southern is bringing a proposition to nullify the Ministerial Decision by Susie Pinel which to extended the qualifying period for unfair dismissal complaints from 6 months to one year.

By the time this blog goes out, he will almost certainly have lost the vote, but the matter is important to consider because of what else it tells us about how Ministerial government works, and how it is shaped more by perception that fact.

Whatever one may think of the merits of a shorter period, and I am undecided on that myself, it is noteworthy that he quotes the Employment Forum as one of his arguments:

“The Forum has found no evidence that a longer qualifying period would have a positive impact on employment and job opportunities. The Forum considered whether the consultation revealed any other reasons that might support a longer qualifying period. The Forum has concluded that the potentially detrimental impact of a longer qualifying period outweighs the potentially positive factors to such an extent that the Forum cannot recommend a longer qualifying period. The Forum recommends by way of a majority decision that the qualifying period for protection against unfair dismissal should remain at 26 weeks.”

He asks the very pertinent question –

“The body tasked with the duty to advise the minister and the States on employment issues has clearly decided against the decision of the current Minister. One has to ask what has changed so significantly over the past 18 months to justify the Minister’s contrary decision.”

In other words, why bother with an employment forum if you are simply going to toss their reports into the waste paper basket?

In her comments, Susie Pinel says that:

“Employers and their representatives had expressed clear concerns that Jersey’s 26 week qualifying period was a significant factor in preventing or discouraging them from taking on more staff. While it is not possible to quantify the significance of the qualifying period in recruitment decisions, this perception nevertheless exists. Lifting this restriction is expected to boost employers’ confidence.”

That’s fine as far as it goes – provided that some kind of mechanisms are in place to quantify if changing the period will boost recruitment, and long term recruitment, rather than simply taking on staff on a temporary basis for under a year.

Retail outlets probably have a fairly consistent pattern of sales, but service companies – electricians, plumbers, carpenters, builders, etc may well have fluctuating demands on employment, and while this may enable them to take on more staff for a short term, they may well find that it is advantageous when planning short term projects to take on staff, and let them go in slack periods.

Of course, any work for someone unemployed has to be good, but the patterns of recruitment and dismissals should be carefully monitored to see exactly what are the unintended consequences of this change. There seems to be no provision for this.

The Minister’s reply stated that:

“While the Forum found no direct evidence that a longer qualifying period would make a difference to job opportunities, it also found no direct evidence that it would not make a difference, or that 26 weeks is the correct qualifying period.”

So the change is being made on the basis of employers’ perceptions, and comparison with other jurisdictions, and the Minister’s point is a valid one. But it highlights the problem in the lack of data. How do we know that the Minister’s change will make a difference, and one for the better? The same lack of evidence that allowed her to circumvent the forum would surely also apply.

And why having quoted with approval the Chief Minister that “In order to remain aligned to our competitors I will propose pilot exemptions to the Employment Law for small business starting with an extension to the qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims.” – she then goes ahead with a blanket change, not one helpful to small businesses?

It is noteworthy that other jurisdictions have no trouble with this kind of distinction. For instance, the Fair Work Act in Australia defines the minimum period to be 6 months at the time of the dismissal, unless the employer is a small business employer, in which case a 12 month qualifying period applies. If the argument is that 12 months applies in other jurisdictions, which is cited with approval, should we adopt a pick-n-mix attitude, or look at other aspects of their legislation?

But probably the most significant part of the reply by the Minister is encapsulated in the following paragraph:

“The report accompanying the Proposition states that to bring this: “by order rather than by regulation is a deliberate attempt by the Minister to avoid debate”. The change was made by Order because the Employment (Jersey) Law 2003, as adopted by the Assembly in 2003, gives the Minister the power to prescribe a different qualifying period by Order. This structure is how we ensure that legislative matters are dealt with quickly and efficiently, with 140 Ministerial Orders made in 2014.”

The way in which legislation is now framed is increasingly designed so that changes can be made by Ministerial decision, without recourse to the States Assembly. A framework is put in place, and orders can be taken by Ministerial decision to widen the scope of the legislation and put flesh on the bare bones.

It is true that it does ensure that legislative matters can be dealt with quickly and efficiently, but it also provides an avenue for by-passing the democratic accountability of bringing the matter to the States. Of course a States member can bring a motion to rescind a decision, but it is much harder to roll back a decision made than for a Minister to have to win the Assembly over with a proposition.

When it was just a small track, this was perhaps not so important, but now Ministerial decisions have become more of a large highway. They are quick, efficient – and lack accountability.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The Founding of St James Church

St James, 1829

St James was built on the east side of town. The Garrison at Fort Regent regularly attended Church Parade here, and the Regimental Band would often play after the service. The church has now become a venue for arts events.

In 1983, the vicar at St James, the Reverend Jeffrey Hollis, began adding to his Pilot notes extracts from the records relating to the building of the church.

It is fascinating to see, one the one hand, how the pews were divided up, to rent out, or for personal use, and I rather suspect that those pews freely available to the public were at the back.

The mercenary nature of the rationale for building the church is also interesting. The population of St Helier had grown, and existing Anglican churches could not accommodate all their members, hence there was a fear that they might go elsewhere – to “dissenter” chapels, such as the Methodists. It was the same kind of reasoning which led to the building of the Anglican chapel at La Rocque, to keep the fishermen there in the fold. It is an attitude which modern sensibilities may find sits badly with spiritual aims.

I’ve compiled all the history into one document, but Reverend Hollis originally had it split up over four months.

St James Church - History of its Foundation
by Jeffrey Hollis

My Dear Friends,

Each month I thought it might be a good idea to tell you a little of the history of St James Church.

In the record book of St James Chapel, as it was then called, we read the following: - "1826. June 3. A meeting was this day held, William Le Breton Esq. in chair, for the purpose of taking into consideration the necessity of erecting a Chapel for the performance of divine worship, according to the liturgy of the Church of England; the undersigned unanimously approved of the measure, and consented and agreed, to the following Twelve Resolutions, provided each Subscriber to one Share or Twenty Sittings, shall not be called upon to pay more than One Hundred Pounds, British Sterling, for his proportion of the cost and expense of the building of said Chapel according to the plan proposed. 1st. Resolved -

That the under Subscribers engage to build a Chapel, within the Parish of St Helier, for the exclusive performance of Divine Service, according to the form and order of the United Church of England and Ireland, either in English or French, or in both languages, as soon as permission can be obtained from the Diocesan.

2nd. Resolved - That Baptism, Matrimony, Churching of Women, and the Burial of the Dead, shall not be administered, solemnized or performed, in the said Chapel, which Offices shall be left, as are in fact acknowledged exclusive privileges of the Parish Church.

3rd. Resolved - That the right property and patronage of the said Chapel, shall be invested, and belong to the original Subscribers, or Founders and to their Heirs or assigns for over, whose number shall be limited to Thirty-One.

4th. Resolved - That the Founders shall elect and appoint by secret Ballot, either in person or by proxy the Chaplain, Clerk and Organist and other inferior officers of the said Chapel.

5th. Resolved - That the Chaplain shall hold his situation quamdiu se bene gesserit or during the space of Five years, when the period of his term shall cease - There shall be a new election and the former Chaplain may be re-elected, and continue for five years longer, and so on at every future election.

6th. Resolved - That the Chaplain shall be remunerated for his exertions by a certain allotment of Pews as hereafter stated."

7th. Resolved - That on the same principle of remuneration the Clerk, Organist, etc. shall have in the same manner, a proportionate number of Pews, allotted to each, which they may respectively let, or the Subscribers for them..

8th. Resolved - That One Hundred and Sixty free Sittings shall be appropriated to the sole use of the Public, during Divine Service.

9th. Resolved - That the Rector for the time being, shall always be entitled to the benefit of Fifty Sittings, which he shall have the liberty to let.

10th. Resolved - That the Founders shall draw respectively by Lot for the best Pews, and each to select his own particular Pew, and only one Pew.

11th. -Resolved - That after the selection shall have been made, the remaining sittings to. be allotted thus - Viz. To the Chaplain, 150; Clerk, 25 ; Organist, 30; Beadle, 10; Incumbent of St Helier, 50; 265 Founders, 265 =530 total, said Five Hundred and Thirty Sittings to be allotted in a fair and equitable manner, in proportion to the number of each.

12th. Resolved - That the further remainder of Pews shall be equally divided by the Founders, with the exception of four, marked No. 1,2,3,4. which will be sold for the benefit of the Chapel."

There then follows the list of the founders, which .was to be limited to thirty-one, each with one share. The total number of Sittings was 1,205.

Founders as inserted in the Contract were - Sir Thomas Le Breton; James Hemery; Philip Raoul Lempriere; Thomas Le Breton; William Le Breton; James Robin; Clement Hemery; Francis Janvrin; James Hammond; John De Veulle Jun,; Matthew Amiraux; Charles Pipon; John Callas; Clement Le Breton; Francis Godfray; John Matthews Jun.; Hugh Godfray Jun.; John Benest; Francis Bertram; John Lewis Janvrin; Lewis Poignand Jun_; Philip Godfray; Isaac Hilgrove Gosset; William Le Brocq; Philip Le Gallais; Robert Brown.

Now we see what action they took in preparing for the building of what was to become the Island's Anglican church with the largest seating capacity.

On June 3rd, 1826, the following Subscribers were requested to act as a committee to select "a proper spot for the erection of the said chapel, and to ascertain the cost thereof, and to report the same to the general meeting of subscribers. William Le Breton; John Matthews Jun.; Francis Bertram; Francis Janvrin; Lewis Poignand Jun."

On June 8th, 1826, the committee reported to the Subscribers that they had received an offer of a plot of land at La Motte from Thomas Le Breton Esq. Amongst other conditions, such as not opening any windows on the south side of his house, the said Thomas Le Breton agreed to widen the public highway by ten feet. The total cost of the plot and the road widening was "Four hundred and twenty-five Louis."

On June 28th,1826, the Subscribers "unanimously approved of that which the committee have selected, as also of the terms and conditions in their report. They have in consequence directed that a contract shall be immediately prepared, and passed in the usual forms agreeable thereto as soon as permission can be obtained from the Diocesan, for the establishment of the said Chapel, according to the resolutions entered into on the 3rd inst, copy of which Resolutions, together with the following petition to the Diocesan, they have requested the Very Rev the Dean to transmit together with the plan of the proposed Chapel, and to request the Dean be pleased at the same time to give his support to the said Petition."

The Petition to the Diocesan was sent on July 31st setting out the reasons for the erection of the Chapel. "The population of the Town and Parish consists at present of upwards of 12,000 souls and is in a state of rapid increase. The Parish Church and St Paul's Chapel, the only places where Divine Service is performed according to the forms of our Liturgy, cannot accommodate one quarter past of this population. Therefore with the best disposition to attend the service of the Church, many persons from the present want of sufficient room in the existing places of worship and are obliged to repair to conventicles of dissenting houses, amounting already to seven in number, besides those now erecting."

As we continue the story of the history of St James' Church we find that the Bishop's Licence for the building of the church was "given under our Episcopal Seal this fourteenth day of August in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-six, and in the seventh year of our Translation."

It was received by the Founders on August 21st. They then "examined and approved of the Contract for the purchase of the ground, and have fixed on next Saturday, the 26th inst., for passing the same in the usual form."

A committee was elected to "examine plans prepared by Mr Way and to obtain the opinion of professional men on the said plan," and on October 21st the order for "foundations five or six feet thick to be laid as soon as possible" was given.

The founders having decided that the ceremony of laying the foundation stone should take place on the First Day of January, 1827, "accordingly met at No 1, The Terrace, together with the Very Reverend Corbet Hue, D.D., Dean, Sir Thomas Le Breton Bailly, Philip Marett, Esq., Lieutenant Bailly, the Jurats of the Royal Court, the Reverend the Rectors, Thomas Le Breton, Esq., King's Procureur, John W. Dupre, Esq., King's Advocate, Philip Le Gallais, Esq., Depute Viscomte, and Francis Godfray, Esq., Greffier of the Royal Court, and proceeded in procession to the spot marked out for the erection, where the principal inhabitants and an immense concourse of People had assembled to assist at the Ceremony.

Sir Colin Halkett, K.C.B., the Lieutenant-Governor, who was unable to attend, had ordered a Guard of Honour on the Ground. On the approach of the procession, the Band of the Town Regiment played "God Save the King". The Ceremony commenced by singing the 84th Psalm.

A Brass Plate, on which was inscribed the Names of the Authorities of the Island was placed over a cavity in a stone containing different Gold and Silver coins. The stone was then lowered and adjusted. James Hemery, Esq, who had been requested by the Founders to perform the Ceremony, struck the stone three times with a mallet repeating "May God prosper this our Work." The other founders having individually performed the same ceremony, the Very Rev the Dean offered up a Prayer, after which the 100th Psalm was sung, followed by the Benediction.

The Ceremony was concluded with the National Anthem by the Town Band.

Monday, 19 January 2015

The Challenge

"It's far too early to give detailed proposals. The broad strategy is to cut ruthlessly at waste while leaving essential services intact." 

The word “challenge” and its variant “challenging” were dominant in Ian Gorst’s speech at the Chamber of Commerce. At times, the casual listener could have been mistaken for thinking that he was reading from a “Yes Minister” speech, as it was full of generalities, and it was hard to prize the substance from it. There are challenges ahead in education, health (with an ageing population), finance, tourism.

Part of the substance, we were told, would be revealed in detail next week, and more would come in the Medium Term Financial Plan.

That the States are no longer thinking “for the short term” seems, on paper, a good idea. How well it turns out in practice is another matter. The raid by means of a dividend from Jersey Telecoms to balance the books (according to their MD) was apparently not exactly planned, and may delay the speed of gigabit Jersey. The under the radar flogging off by Property Services of States properties all over the place, done by Ministerial decision – a wonderful way of keeping it out of States debates – does not seem to have been planned either, but helps balance the books.

The problem I have with the Medium Term Plan is that it is an administrative and financial programme. What it is not, except as a consequence, is a legislative programme. In most other jurisdictions, a legislative programme – the Queen’s speech, for example – comes first, and the administrative and financial consequences follow from that, with changes in legislation as well. We don’t have that in Jersey, and if anyone was expecting something of the sort for the Chamber speech, they will have been disappointed.

But there was fire in the question time. Asked about the proposed Jersey International Finance Centre at the Waterfront, Senator Gorst hit back sharply. It was like seeing those cuddly lemurs suddenly bare their teeth. He was strongly in favour of the plan. It would have pre-lets, and not cost the States a penny (although he didn’t mention who was paying for the tarmac on the temporary car park while it began).

The Island did not have enough Grade A Office space. But what is Grade A office space? We hear it often enough. According to Office Broker:

“The most prized and sought-after is Grade A or Class A office space. Typically, office buildings within the Grade A bracket are brand new or have been recently redeveloped, or experienced a thorough refurbishment. The properties are prestigious and usually occupy prime locations within major cities such as Central London, Manchester and Birmingham.”

“Along with the standard of the building itself, Grade A offices will also possess high-quality furnishings, state-of-the-art facilities, and excellent accessibility. The property will be finished in order to compete for premier office users, typically appealing to an international market, and will usually demand rents that are above average for the area.”

“The Urban Land Institute, an organisation committed to commercial land use policy and practice, provides examples of Grade A office space as: ‘the office buildings that you see in the heart of the financial district with lots of brass and glass fixtures and huge, expensive lobbies. These properties are also said to be ‘often occupied by banks, high-priced law firms, investment banking companies, and other high-profile companies with a need to provide the trappings of financial success.’””

You might also consider that Grade A office space is “show-off” office space, posh but often ugly big buildings, some like cubes, some like parts of giant pin-ball machines, that proclaim to the world that the company that is using them is important, like for instance the offshore divisions of the four main banks.

It is rather like the modern equivalent of a Georgian House, a wonderful façade, behind which may or may not be anything of substance. It needs to spell out the message: "we have arrived, we are important". Behind the scenes, of course, as we have seen in the past, there may be casino banking, interest rate fixing, selling dubious financial packages, and goodness knows what else.

It is interesting to note that the architecture of Grade A is the steel and glass style frontage, whereas earlier generations would have seen granite with ornamentation as giving an impression of Victorian solidity, and it shows the change of style which is valued so much in today’s culture.

The esplanade has become the new Financial Centre, so it is it that location that the glass fronted Grade A building must be sited, and it must be sited there because suburban buildings, good office space, but not at the heart of that district, would by definition be designated Grade B. In part, it is a geographical definition. Grade B falls below Grade A in terms of location.

But back to the talk itself,. Ian Gorst noted that a large business had nearly not come to the Island because of this, but by a States department moving, the business had been secured for a location in Jersey. He did not say which one. Now that is important. We do not want to turn business away. We depend on our finance industry. And despite what I have just said about banks, the regulatory framework is ensuring better and tighter controls on finance sector businesses, especially where tax evasion, aggressive tax avoidance, and money laundering are concerned. And as we heard from the regulator on BBC Radio this morning, the new EU assessment does not just look at the framework, but tests how well it works.

Regarding Grade A space, the Council of Ministers is in a quandary. If it admits there is not enough office space in the prestigious location of the esplanade, business may not relocate to Jersey, on the other hand, if that is kept quiet, the Waterfront scheme looks more like a gamble. The notion of pre-lets is a safeguard, but the absence of solid figures on the value of the pre-lets so that the public can see it is financially viable (and not, for instance, discounted in some fashion) is deemed to be commercially sensitive.

The message is more or less: trust us, but past records show that the public is more often right not to trust government to deliver as stated, rather than to change goal posts so it gives an appearance of success. By not giving a clear breakdown of how viable the scheme is in terms of projected return and cash flow, it is hard to gauge whether or not it will be a success. Expect, however, funding to be channelled in some ways to the Jersey Development Company, from that remarkable economical magicians hat called contingency funding.

Ian Gorst also stated that the Island needed the population to grow in a controlled fashion in order to grow the economy, while at the same time, talking of reducing public sector costs. The standard economic solution is to implement more stealth taxes, and threaten to reduce front line services, hence protecting administrative sinecures. I suspect we will see both of those as the demands of an increasing population threaten an infrastructure in education and health that is already creaking at the seams.

My own question was about the policy on agriculture and food security, neither of which had been addressed. Senator Gort’s reply was that they would be implementing the Rural Strategy policy, and in particular, look to target funding where it is needed rather than to large conglomerates.

Was this a reference to the fact that two of the largest agricultural businesses have recently been taken over by UK companies, and pay no profits locally? Should we still be subsidising them rather than individual growers, and locally based, and locally taxed growers? It was not spelt out in detail, but perhaps that is what was meant, that funds would not be given to non-tax paying businesses but to local tax paying growers where it is most needed. I certainly hope so.

And as to the States becoming more efficient, and the notion that reducing public spending will be the key to healthcare reform,  I leave you with this gem, which is probably not a million miles from the truth in Jersey...

Interviewer: I just wanted to confirm that you are now this country's chief bureaucrat.

Hacker: That's nonsense. This government believes in reducing bureaucracy.

Interviewer: Figures I have here say that your department's staff has risen by 10%.

Hacker: Certainly not.

Hacker: Interviewer: What figure do you have?

Hacker: I believe the figure is much more like 9.97.

Interviewer: Well, it has been suggested that your department is less interested in reducing bureaucracy than in increasing it.

Hacker: Well, yes, but that's because we've had to take on more staff in order to reduce staff.

Interviewer: I beg your pardon?

Hacker: It's common sense. We need more doctors to cure more patients, more firemen to extinguish more fires.

Interviewer: How will you extinguish local government bureaucracy?

Hacker: It's a challenge I'm looking forward to.

Interviewer: Would you agree there's even more bureaucratic waste there than in Whitehall?

Hacker: Yes, that's what makes it a challenge.

Interviewer: How will you meet the challenge?

Hacker: It's far too early to give detailed proposals. The broad strategy is to cut ruthlessly at waste while leaving essential services intact.

Interviewer: That's what your predecessor said. Did he fail?

Hacker: Let me finish. Because we must be absolutely clear and I'm going to be quite frank with you. The fact is that, at the end of the day, it is the right, the duty, of the elected government in the House of Commons to ensure government policy, the policies on which we were elected and for which we have a mandate, the policies for which the people voted, are the policies which, finally, when the national cake has been divided up... And may I remind you we, as a nation, don't have unlimited wealth? We can't pay ourselves more than we earn. ...are the policies... I'm sorry, what was the question again?

Interviewer: I was just asking you whether you would agree that your predecessor had failed.

Hacker: Certainly not. On the contrary. It's just that this job is an enormous...

Interviewer: Challenge?

Hacker: Exactly!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

The Slaughter of the Innocents

Did the slaughter of innocent children by King Herod ever happen? There is no mention of it in Josephus, but on the other hand, he mentions that Herod perpetrated numerous killings. Would those particularly stand out in an age when tyrants committed many atrocities, or simply left unsaid.

But when Matthew uses it in his gospel, it is to show who fearful Herod is of any challenge to his rule, and how much he would fear a Messiah. It also means Jesus can be taken to Egypt, and this ties up with another of the allusions to the Old Testament – “out of Egypt” that Matthew uses as prophecy. So is it simply prophecy historicised, as some scholars suggest?

"Joseph got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

“Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 18 “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

But historical credibility is not just pertinent in the ancient world. The photo above shows the murder of 375 Christians murdered by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria.

That is one of the stories featured in the retrospective edition of “More or Less”, the BBC Radio 4 programme looking at numbers.

Now there is no doubt that Boko Haram has killed countless people, and taken women and children into captivity. But this photo is a fake.

The photo has been blurred over the bodies because it is extremely distressing, nonetheless.

Africa Check looked into this, and noted the following:

“This report was published in July 2014. It investigated claims that an image circulating on social media networks showed the burnt corpses of 375 Christians massacred by Boko Haram militants. In fact, the image showed the aftermath of a fuel tanker explosion in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

“The tragedy, which occurred exactly four years ago today, killed at least 230 people and injured 190. The fuel tanker apparently overturned while trying to overtake a bus. By-standers were attempting to collect leaking fuel from the truck when the fuel ignited, possibly as the result of a lit cigarette. Many of the dead had gathered nearby to watch a World Cup soccer match.”

“In January 2015 the image went viral once again amid reports that dozens, hundreds or possibly as many as 2,000 people had been massacred in Boko Haram attacks centred on the northern Nigerian town of Baga and surrounding villages. “

“While the image - as evidence of a massacre - was false, the killings around Baga were all too real. Amnesty International described the slaughter as the "deadliest massacre" in the history of Boko Haram and there were disturbing reports of bodies strewn among bushes and in village streets nine days later. “

It comments that

“Faked images and pictures of purported atrocities make for powerful propaganda tools on social media sites. Often they go ghoulishly viral.”

Falsifying news stories to gain support is in the long run, self-defeating. No one will believe anything, and cynicism will rule. That is why it is important to check facts before repeating stories.