Thursday, 30 April 2015

The No Blame Culture

A “retcon” is described as follows: (in a film, television series, or other fictional work) a piece of new information that imposes a different interpretation on previously described events, typically used to facilitate a dramatic plot shift or account for an inconsistency.

Having some experience of film series, with the responsibility as Minister for Economic Developments for throwing £200,000 at a fantasy film whose production turned out to be a fantasy, the Treasury Minister has come up with his own “retcon”.

We are now being told that the marginal rate will increase to 27%, which is understandable given the need for a larger tax base. But the “retcon” is in the explanation given by Senator Maclean that the reduction in 2014 to 26% should only have been a temporary decrease anyway. Is that there in the original budget proposals? I think you would have trouble finding it. This is a “retcon”, plain and simple, but don’t be conned by the smooth talking of Senator Maclean:

It’s worth noting the words of John Boothman in last night’s JEP: “At the Treasury, a Minister who specialised in sleight of hand has been replaced by one whose main reputation is for niceness and pliability.”

All the indications were that it was permanent, and indeed it appears that Senator Ozouf would have like to reduce it to 1% in an election year but was prevented in doing so:

"The assistant minister and myself strongly maintain our position on this important and landmark decision. We have also have signalled our desire to go further to a rate of 25%."

Speaking of Senator Ozouf, Richard Pirouet has a few comments to make on the profligate way he wasted money on fanciful schemes. In the JEP, he writes:

“The ‘road improvement’ schemes in St Aubin and St Mary have been publically ridiculed but now we discover that the former Treasury Minister allocated £500,000 annually for those and similar schemes”

Well, Richard, you might add millions spent on Plemont to that list, because I for one do not believe the Treasury Minister was clueless about the state of the pending deficit in States finances when he proposed spending money on that. Strangely, when critical of spending on the Jersey Care Inquiry, Senator Bailhache forgot he had backed spending four million on Plemont last year, and a blank cheque in his previous attempt.

As John Boothman notes: “We pay the price for years of wishful thinking and the lack of restraint that could have saved us from our present predicament

And the Waterfront Scheme has still not ruled out a sunken road, despite an answer being given to Constable Philip Rondel in June 2013: “An indicative estimate of £500,000 per year was put forward at the time for the overall tunnel maintenance which would have included the running and maintenance costs of the extract system. No detailed design was finalised nor approved for the extract system but it was conditioned to meet the appropriate air quality standards.”

A sunken road means an extra £500,00 a year sunk without trace. We just don’t have that money to spend, although apparently the States of Jersey Development Company does. Perhaps they could save the money and increase their paltry return to the States. For the past few years, it has been just £816,400. Not a lot when profits are £2,783,456 and the company receives £759,000 per annum from the States in respect of a licence to operate the Esplanade Car Park. Not to mention the salaries of the Executives in charge, and Mark Boleat trousering another odd £40,000.

The following letter in the JEP earlier this week gets to the nub of the problem: “our system doesn't link action and responsibility.”. Instead we have a "no blame culture", and a "retcon" when it comes to who made decisions in the past, and why they made them. Who do they think they are conning?

Letter from Tim Godber.

How did we get it so wrong? (JEP 22 April). I was waiting for the first `told you so' ever since the above headline - it could have been anyone from a large cast. I was sorry then that it came from Richard Murphy, traditionally no friend of Jersey.

I just took a look at my own letter of July 2007, and I said something similar. In short, we voluntarily gave up a source of revenue which was abnormally high for a population our size, but ignored the consequence of failing to adjust our cost base. I see that I noted that the case for abandoning: that income was far from clear cut, that the consequences would be painful, and it would come from the man in the street.

So, back to your headline and its accompanying picture of a forlorn Finance Minister and a puzzled Chief Minister. Each bear their own responsibility, and each will hide behind the same excuse, it didn't happen while they were in charge.

The first point, regularly thrust down their throats by my good friend Mr Boothman, is that our system doesn't link action and responsibility. The above three gentlemen will no doubt say it wasn't them, but collectively they are part of a system that has ignored all those obvious signs that something is very wrong.

The second is that we are stuck in a merry-go-round where the only solution will be to increase taxation, while the real answer is to address the main issue of cost. Why is that the only solution?

Because the real solution is deep in the too difficult pile. We have a civil service based on far larger population bases, and it is beyond our rather lacklustre politicians to control those who control that system, the senior civil servants.

How did we get there? Well, we were a rich society (see the first paragraph), and like lottery winners we didn't need to worry about cost, so when the answer given to the politicians was to increase staffing, particularly at management levels, rather than taking a closer look at how we could perform better, the answer was simple. We got it so flaunt it. We haven't altered that thought process despite throwing away the income base.

Take just one example. We have a minister that considers we should address the outside world as though we were a real country. Answer, a Foreign Office. Yes, I know it isn't called that, but that's what we have, fully staffed with very senior people and attached pensions. Will someone please cost that, and come up with a more viable alternative? Well that would have to be done by the department itself because nobody else will. Makes you think of Christmas and turkeys doesn't it?

Now, it would be nice to be able to look on the bright side. We can now see the problem, we have excellent people advising, Kevin Keen, for example, so will the politicians act to control costs? I don't believe so because the tail now wags the dog. We have a bunch of -politicians that barely rate the description who have hired a team of civil servants that will beat them every time. So, the only alternative will be to increase the tax take, and that means us.

It's started already, and will first manifest itself soon in property taxes, see how you feel about it then. I will end, as I did in 2007. If you have been, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

An Occupation Diary – Part 13

In 1972, the Pilot magazine began an exclusive serialisation of private letters from the late Mrs G Luce de Pre, which had taken the form of letters written to her absent children and grand-children, covering the period July 9 1940 to June 6 1945.

I suspect it has not been read much since then, 45 years ago, so here is a second chance in this special 70th Anniversary year to read some of it.

An Occupation Diary – Part 13
July 18, 1943

I have not felt like writing in my diary all this time, but must try and remember what has happened in the interval.

At last we know where Kathleen is with her little family. Violet Beer had a letter from her brother Harold who was deported to Germany and he had a letter from Kathleen, giving her address, which was in Hereford. We always thought she was in Scotland. Now I know, I shall be able to write to her. How she must miss Eric, who is in India and soon getting his third pip.

Major Ogier was released some time ago and allowed to return home, but his son was detained and is under observation as an interesting case. But last week a dozen people were arrested and sent to Germany, - Major Ogier was one of them.

I had a letter from "Daisy Coy" last week in reply to one from me. She said it was a lovely place they were in, and that her health was much better. She is in a large room with thirty other women, and she spends most of her time sewing for herself and others. Their food is very little and poor -but they get good parcels from the "Red Cross". What an awful life it must be, with no comforts, and herded together like that.

Some time ago we were told that the Germans had done a lot of damage to "Moorings", so 1 went there to see, and was appalled at what had been done.

We had an oil container in the shed, and it had been taken into the kitchen and filled with explosive and set alight. The "cook-and-heat" stove was smashed to atoms, the chimney hanging into the lounge, all the windows blown out, huge holes in the floor and ceiling, and debris all over the place. All the doors have been taken away, and also every bit of woodwork in the place. The bath is gone and everything taken from the bathroom. You can imagine how awful I felt to see our poor little Moorings in such a state, and we don't know if we shall get any compensation or not when the war is over.

It's terrible to see all the houses that have been wrecked, and what the people will do when they come back and find their homes gone, I really cannot think. There is nothing but the chimney left at Hedges' bungalow.

The Misses Staniforth have had to leave their house, which was their own property, as the Germans said it was in their way, and they have knocked it down. In fact, there is no end to the destruction done. Black Market prices continue to soar; tea is now £20 per lb., meat 15/- per lb, butter 25/- to 30/- per Ib.,' vegetables are very scarce, and what the Germans don't take people keep for themselves, and by ten o' clock the shops are empty. We are fortunate in having Emmie's garden, and are growing a lot of beans and onions for the winter. Sugar is 16/- per lb.

We have made some new friends this spring, Major and Mrs Tennant, who called to see us and brought some nice books for us to read. We returned the call, and now we are quite neighbourly. We were also invited to Dr Stapleton's house to tea, and they came here the following week.

Also, through Jim, we have been to a Miss Arm's, who has a very nice house at the top of St Aubin's Hill, overlooking the bay. I told you about Mrs Deverell Walker being turned out of her house on the Park Estate - well she took another at First Tower and after a few weeks she was turned out of that, and now she is living at the Wesleyan Parsonage.

August 10

I came here a week ago, and am staying another week. I have every day taken up for lunch and tea, until I leave here. Last Thursday I spent the day at Maryland with Gertrude and Wilfrid, and had such a nice time with them. Friday, Auntie Flo was to have come to tea, but the weather was bad, so Nancy and Jennifer invited me to tea in the nursery, and we had quite a merry time. In the evening Jennifer took me out in my chair through the lanes. The fields look so lovely with all the oats and wheat which is grown now in place of the tomatoes we used to see.

On Saturday I went to Cape House to tea, but it does not look as nice as when we lived there. Sunday we all went to Percy Maine's to tea, and had a lot of community singing. On Monday I went to Mrs Le Quesne's for lunch, in the afternoon Nancy took me to La Rocque for tea at Doris de Faye's.

The weather has been rather bad so far, and this morning it poured. I was going to Auntie Flo's for lunch, so Dulcie packed me up well in mackintosh, capes, rugs and umbrella, and I arrived perfectly dry.

August 16

I have been out so much that there seemed no time for writing my diary. I spent a very happy day at "The Little White House" last Wednesday: Flo was there as well, but unfortunately she missed the last bus and was obliged to walk home. Harold brought me back. On Thursday Dulcie took me to Mrs Bailhache's. It was a perfect day and we had tea in the garden, and what a tea; I haven't seen the like since the occupation. It was Mrs Bailhache's birthday. and she had quite a party, Mr Blampied and Auntie Rose were there, and several other old friends.

On Friday I went to Les Genets to tea, but it was very wet, so could not go round the garden. Eileen is expecting a little one in October, and everyone is so anxious that everything should be all right this time, and she is being very careful and not building on it too much.

I have not mentioned the railway which the Germans have remade all along the coast, and in many places crossing the main roads. They actually ran it through the Willcox's garden, and cut down trees to make way for it.

Dulcie is taking me to see Elsie Le Blancq this afternoon. She is living at Grouville now, having sold her house in town, and has just become engaged to a Mr Herbert Labey. i will tell you all about it on our return;

Later:. We have had a lovely afternoon with Elsie, and congratulated her on her engagement, but did not see Mr Labey. Elsie lives in a charming old-fashioned house which is furnished with beautiful things from her old home.

This evening I have been sitting outside watching a lovely high tide. and a lot of children bathing. Then we saw a convoy of ships, escorted by balloon barrage, crossing the bay and taking away troops from here to Russia.

I am returning home to-morrow, and so ends a delightful little holiday.

August 27

I have been home a week now, and quite settled down to our usual quiet life. Father was very glad to have me back again, as I think he had been bored and lonely.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Freezing Out the Workforce

“States workers have been offered a one-year pay freeze for the year, as ministers make a quick start on trying to tackle the deficit in States finances. Unions were told on Friday that there would be no pay rises for the 7,000 States employees this year, apart from a small rise for nurses.” (Bailliwick Express)

“A pay freeze for public sector staff has been announced by the States of Jersey.The one-year settlement, discussed with unions earlier, excludes nurses and midwives.” (BBC News)

It is hardly surprising that nurses and midwives have been excluded. There is a severe shortage of nurses, despite new programmes being promoted to train up more nurses locally.

The increase for nurses is in fact modest: “All Nurses and Midwives will receive a consolidated increase in their basic rates of pay and attached allowances of 0.4% with effect 1 January 2015.”.

But I suspect that the general strategy appears to be not just a pay freeze, but also to “restructure”, much along the lines of the BBC model. Let me explain how this works.

In the past, the BBC made TV programmes. It had producers, directors, script editors who would oversee scripts, and develop new programmes. This has all changed. In fact, it was John Birt who began the change in 1992 in line with new guidelines from the government forcing it to outsource at least 25% of its production.

The BBC Television Centre increasingly became just a commissioning body, where all the administrators remained, but most of the creative staff were gone. All the creative elements – those involved with design, special effects, radiophonic workshop, composing, costumes – have all gone, outsourced along with production, the creative teams of producers and script editors coming up with new ideas for TV.

The BBC mainly buys in programmes, although some programmes can be bought in from the BBC regions, but Television Centre is no longer a central hub of front line programme makers.

I’ve outlined that development in some detail, because that seems to be to be the model the States are looking towards – administration remaining, but deciding on bids and procuring outsourcing instead. Now sometimes outsourcing can be much more expensive – nursing staff being a case in point – where there are not local suppliers at an economic rate.

But in other areas, such as cleaners, road works, garden maintenance, staff working at Bellozane and the Incinerator, I suspect there is a drive to replace the frontline staff with outsourced staff.

This is the real meaning of those key points:

“Ceasing to provide some services and redesigning others”

“Working with staff and unions to restructure the public sector”

The pay freeze while necessary as part of the desperate attempts to plug the black hole, is one part of that. Outsourcing is another, and a pay freeze also puts pressure on existing staff to leave for better paid work elsewhere, especially those on lower incomes. It is freezing them out.

Now it may seem prudent financially to outsource cleaners, but it depends where the cleaners are. But evidence is mounting that outsourcing cleaning in places like hospitals can actually prove to be detrimental to health, because they do not share the ethos of working within the institution, and the professionalism that goes with that.

As Jane Lethbridge, director of the Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU, noted:

"Cleaning became very low paid. Contracting out pushes wages down, creates a high turnover of staff and problems with general recruitment. Other processes that result from outsourcing - particularly the pressure on time and the focus on specific tasks - also lead to a very fragmented way of delivering the cleaning service.”

“What is required is good teamwork between infection control teams and the cleaner. Before cleaning services were outsourced, the cleaners would have taken more time, talked to nurses, chatted to patients, and there would have been a much greater degree of teamwork in the ward and hospital.”

The result of outsourcing in the UK has been to seen rates of MRSA infections soar, and continue to remain high, even though improved practices have seen some reduction in recent years, but Scotland and Wales abandoned outsourcing gaining a considerable reduction in infection.

It was reported in the financial times this month that Serco has been stripped of work sterilising equipment at a hospital in Australia, adding to a run of botched contracts by the outsourcing provider.

In schools, however, it may be possible to make savings while outsourcing. Cleaners are not part of the core function of a school, in the same way that they are in a hospital. Context is important rather than simplistically outsourcing without looking at a wider picture than a narrow one of economy.

But even hear, determining how cleaning can be outsourced, and how this process can take place and treat existing States employed cleaning staff fairly is important. A rush to make economies should not trample over the poorer sectors of the workforce.

And finally, the States remuneration body is to make recommendations on the States own pay, including whether Ministers should be paid more than other States members. As it was Ministers who appear to have got us into this black hole, I certainly don’t think they should be rewarded for it, and as for a general increase, at a time of economic stringency, I think the States really have to lead by example rather than wringing their hands and saying the process has to be independent.

The Remuneration body may have independence, but its members were appointed by the States, and I didn’t notice any Union representatives, any elderly pensioners, or indeed any ordinary people there. Most of that august body are well off individuals, including retired States Chief officers who have little or no idea how ordinary people manage on their earnings. When the cards are stacked one way, it does not really matter how they are dealt; we know the outcome.

Monday, 27 April 2015

An Occupation Diary – Part 12

In 1972, the Pilot magazine began an exclusive serialisation of private letters from the late Mrs G Luce de Pre, which had taken the form of letters written to her absent children and grand-children, covering the period July 9 1940 to June 6 1945.

I suspect it has not been read much since then, 45 years ago, so here is a second chance in this special 70th Anniversary year to read some of it.

An Occupation Diary – Part 12
March 9, 1943

Jim and Harold came out to lunch today, and we had such a nice time together. Harold sang to us and it was a treat to hear him. Father had killed a rabbit and cooked it beautifully - and I made a Queen of puddings which was also much appreciated.

March 15

This is my dear John's 23rd birthday, and how I have thought of him all day, with very loving wishes and anxious thoughts for his safety. It is almost a year since we heard from him, and I am longing to have a message from him again, and to know he is still in England, for I dread the thought of him being sent overseas.

It has been such a lovely spring day, and I. have been out in my wheel chair, and called to see Miss Nicholson, who is ill. She has been so sweet in visiting me, although she is 83, and it's quite a long walk for one of that age.

Auntie Annie is coming to lunch tomorrow. She has not been here since before Christmas, as it has been such a wet winter, and she has had to keep in a lot.

April 3

My 72nd birthday, and such a lovely day, I have had lots of telephone wishes and several nice presents. Dulcie and the children came this afternoon and brought no end of presents, flowers, eggs, asparagus, cake, pudding and fudge, all most acceptable. Father gave me a bottle of cordial, and I had one from Percy and Queenie. Jim gave me a pretty sleeping cap, and Gertrude a gold flexible bracelet. Our maid also brought me some eggs.

Auntie Flo was not able to come as she sprained her ankle, but hopes to come at Easter, as they are all going to stay at Holmhurst for Easter. Gertrude came to lunch today.

April 11

I am so pleased to hear from Emmie today with a message from Kathleen and Peggy to say they each have a son, Eric Houguet Poole and Thomas Christopher Beales. We had heard from Kathleen about her baby, and were so sorry to hear he was delicate.

We had also heard a rumour. of Peggy's expecting, but thought it must be false as she had said nothing about it, and I was so very disappointed, so you can imagine how delighted I am that she has at last got a son, and I am so pleased with the name. She has kept it very quiet, as I have not heard from her since last October.

April, Easter Sunday

Such a lovely day, just like summer. I have been to St Brelade's Church this evening, as Father had taken his Choir there for an Easter Festival; it was very lovely, and I did enjoy it all. Beryl took me in my Chair as Father had to cycle to be early -the church was packed and the singing was lovely.

Sitting there in the old church brought back memories and made me sad; Laddie and Dilys were married there, also my dear Babbo.

The German Cemetery is quite a feature of St Brelade's and is most beautifully laid out, and such a number of graves there, all planted with pansies. Several more ships have been sunk round the coast lately, three yesterday, so I expect there will by many bodies washed up.

April 28

On Easter Monday Father and I were invited to a van picnic by Percy and Queenie, at Brown's Cafe, St Brelade's. Unfortunately Father was not well enough to go he had a bad gastric attack which got worse, so sent for Doctor on Tuesday morning, and now he has to stay in bed several days and take nothing but milk and water, and we are allowed a pint of extra milk a day, also a little rice.

Dulcie as usual came to the rescue and brought half a dozen eggs and other things, so I am able to carry on for myself for a time, and Jim is coming on Friday. It was a lovely picnic, and we had a fine lunch when we got there, and a good tea later on.

Lorna Macintosh was there with her Mother; she has just become engaged to John Dupre (Percy's boy). He proposed by Red Cross Message, to which she replied and accepted. John also wrote to his Father asking him to buy a ring, which he did, and what a beauty it is ! They are all very pleased and like her very much. We have just heard that Miss Elsie Morley died yesterday, also Mr Arthur Balleine. The old Rector died last year, so now the Rectory is empty.

May 20

There has been nothing much to relate recently, except that Father's illness lasted quite a long time, and though he is better, he still -feels very weak and gets terribly tired. He was able to resume his duties at Church last Sunday, but the walk back up the hill tires him very much. The trouble is, one cannot get enough food to strengthen him; we have to be so careful with the bread and there are no vegetables until the new ones come in.

We were so pleased to receive a message from Peggy last week, telling us about her little son. I am longing to hear from John; it seems so strange we have heard nothing from him for over a year.

May 30

It is the anniversary of our darling Babbo's death today, and brings back all the sadness of a year ago. She is always in my thoughts, and I am wondering what happened to take her off so suddenly, for she could not have been too bad to be able to take the journey with the intention of taking the " Baths ". I was glad to hear from Essie that Babbo did not know she was going to die, for I know how it would have distressed her to know she was leaving her children.

Sunday, 26 April 2015


“After prolonged suffering the eyes become dull and lack expression, and are often slightly suffused with tears. The eyebrows not rarely are rendered oblique, which is due to their inner ends being raised. This produces peculiarly-formed wrinkles on the forehead, which are very different from those of a simple frown; though in some cases a frown alone may be present. The corners of the mouth are drawn downwards, which is so universally recognized as a sign of being out of spirits, that it is almost proverbial.” (Charles Darwin, The Expressions of the Emotions in Man and Animals)

When we read about disasters across the world, there is often a distancing effects. These do not happen to us or to people whom we know; indeed, were it not for the news stories, we would barely know about them at all.

Every so often there are images, as in the past, which reach out to us in the pain of those individuals, whether caught in natural disasters, or suffering from the results of human atrocities – caught in the crossfire of warfare, or trying to flee dictatorial regimes.

There is a strong appeal in the face of an individual, a child, scared and crying, those of fugees worn down and weary, or battle scarred and full of despair.

A lot of people know Charles Darwin for his seminal work “Origen of Species”. But just as important was his ground breaking work “T he Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals” published in 1871. In this book, he traces the commonality of expressions, and how our range of expressions have developed from our evolutionary past.

It is the result of the collation of vast amounts of material, including responses across the world, to a set of photographs which Darwin had taken depicting human facial expressions. It as probably the largest study of its type. And what Darwin found was that most human facial expressions are universal and not cultural. It was also a milestone in the history of photography, the first time that it had been used in a scientific study like this.

Darwin also found that facial expressions are part of a whole behavioural response, which may include vocalisation, posture, gesture, skeletal and muscular movements, as well as physiological responses. That, incidentally, is how a fake smile from a politican or salesman betrays itself. It mimics part of the expression, but not the whole emotion, so lacks the range of changes in the facial phisionamy.

The dominant position is psychology was that facial expressions were culture-specific, which, of course, fitted in well with the slave owning which was still prevalent elsewhere after its abolition in the United Kingdom.

The “Abolition of the Slave Trade Act”, making it illegal to trade in slaves within the British Empire was only passed in 1805. In 1815, Britain pays Portugal £750,000 to cease their trade north of the Equator. Abolition in France lingers until 1818. The actual abolution of the ownership of slaves in the British empire does not come until 1834 which legally frees 700,000 in West Indies, 20,000 in Mauritius, and 40,000 in South Africa.

But in 1850, in the United States, the Fugitive Slave Law requires the return of escaped slaves to their owners! Abolition does not finally come until the end of the Civil War (1861–65) with the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

In South America, visited by Darwin on his voyage on the Beagle, slavery was still rife, and he encountered slave owners. He was, even then, a committed abolitionist. In 1839, he noted the following:

“While staying at this estate, I was very nearly being an eye-witness to one of those atrocious acts which can only take place in a slave country. Owing to a quarrel and a lawsuit, the owner was on the point of taking all the women and children from the male slaves, and selling them separately at the public auction at Rio. Interest, and not any feeling of compassion, prevented this act.”

“Indeed, I do not believe the inhumanity of separating thirty families, who had lived together for many years, even occurred to the owner. Yet I will pledge myself, that in humanity and good feeling he was superior to the common run of men. It may be said there exists no limit to the blindness of interest and selfish habit.”

And he also commented:

“Those who look tenderly at the slave owner, and with a cold heart at the slave, never seem to put themselves into the position of the latter; what a cheerless prospect, with not even a hope of change! picture to yourself the chance, ever hanging over you, of your wife and your little children – those objects which nature urges even the slave to call his own – being torn from you and sold like beasts to the first bidder!” “

“And these deeds are done and palliated by men, who profess to love their neighbours as themselves, who believe in God, and pray that his Will be done on earth! It makes one's blood boil, yet heart tremble, to think that we Englishmen and our American descendants, with their boastful cry of liberty, have been and are so guilty: but it is a consolation to reflect, that we at least have made a greater sacrifice, than ever made by any nation, to expiate our sin.”

The culture of the times, which believed that slaves were somehow not human, who didn’t feel like the rest of humanity, was one which educated people against their natural response, which is to recognise those emotions in the faces of others. And of course, a subject people, those fearful of bringing down punishments will also conceal their emotions.

But those expressions which we see in the faces on the news – “Low Spirits, Anxiety, Grief, Dejection, Despair” are universals, shared by all of us, calling on us for fellow-feeling, to reach out to other people. The refugees who stare out from the newspapers, and the television screens, are faces calling for a response.

We can learn to turn the other way, and try not to see, or we can respond. The choice is ours. We can leave the distance between us and our fellow human beings, or we can reach out to them, and look at those faces, and begin to listen to their stories.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Armenian Odyssey, 1915

At St Lukes, Exeter, my mathematics tutor Dick Tahta was an Armenian, whose father had decided to leave the country with his family and go to England before the massacre of the Armenians, probably seeing the way the wind was blowing. Some of his other relatives remained. They died.

Yesterday (24th April 2015) marks the 100th anniversary of the day the Ottoman Turkey authorities arrested several hundred Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople, today's Istanbul, most of whom were later killed.

Armenians regard this as the beginning of the Ottoman policy of mass extermination of Christian Armenians suspected of supporting Russia, the Ottoman Empire's World War One enemy. The total number of people killed has been estimated at between 800,000 to 1.5 million

Turkey still denies that it was genocide, but even the Pope Francis has used the term. Turkey promptly recalled its envoy to the Vatican. It is illegal to call it genocide in Turkey. Turkey needs to come to terms with its past.

This poem was originally written by me in 2006, after seeing the film Atom Egoyan's move Ararat, and reading Dick's book reflecting on the film and his own family's past.

It is about one of the ways in which the killing was carried out: the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on forced marches leading to the Syrian desert. Driven forward by military escorts, the deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to periodic robbery, rape, and massacre

Armenian Odyssey, 1915
Journey's end, the weary traveller's hope:
But for now resettlement, a trial to cope
Along the desert path, a dry and arid land,
Towards the heat and dust, desert sand;
This was the year of exile, year of lying,
Because Turkey's leaders wanted dying,
And sent us into a wilderness, a death
Without shelter or provision, the breath
Of life cannot be sustained; but memory
Of those who escaped, who could see
The parched pilgrimage to destruction,
Because we were in the way, obstruction;
And we still are, Turkey lives in denial
Without justice, and with no fair trial,
To hear the voices of innocent abused,
But the graves ring out to the accused;
An Armenian odyssey, time to mourn,
For families, and children yet unborn,
Bearing witness for them, and for all,
Who trod that road, and came to fall,
Trampled by officialdom, by decree;
Pray that the world may someday see
Ravaged orchards, the houses in ashes,
And a people taken, a terror that lashes
Out, destroying. Agony remains still
In our blood, a testament, a living will,
To all whom we lost, of love and hope,
And future robbed. Perhaps time heals
The blooded history, the scars that feel
Old and sore. And let our God be there,
In the wounded story, in all our fear,
And feel the pain, the deaths, the hate,
And destroy the strands of cursed fate:
That at last forgiveness may be given,
That be our destiny for so long striven.

Friday, 24 April 2015

An Occupation Diary – Part 11

In 1972, the Pilot magazine began an exclusive serialisation of private letters from the late Mrs G Luce de Pre, which had taken the form of letters written to her absent children and grand-children, covering the period July 9 1940 to June 6 1945.

I suspect it has not been read much since then, 45 years ago, so here is a second chance in this special 70th Anniversary year to read some of it.

An Occupation Diary – Part 11
January 12, 1943

I am home again after a very pleasant little holiday. Jim and Harold were so good to me, and I was sorry to leave them. Wilfrid came to take me to Maryland in the "chair ", and it poured with rain all the way. I was well protected with rugs, mackintosh cover, and another over my head, and did not get at all wet, but Wilfrid did, and had to change everything. It's the second time he has had such a wetting through taking me in the chair.

Gertrude gave me a very warm welcome, and a fine lunch of sausages and mashed potatoes, with a steamed pudding and custard to follow. The afternoon passed all too quickly, and the car came for me at five o'clock. I stopped to see Auntie Flo, who was up for a few hours, not looking too well and feeling very weak. Mrs Pearce had come in to see me too, and they thought I was so brave to come in such bad weather, but I am none the worse for it.

Father was very pleased to have me home again as he had not been feeling at all well. He has gone to town today, and always brings me some library books and plenty of news, mostly rumours, but yesterday there was very disquieting news.

All the senior officers, Regular Army, have been called up to be taken to Germany, and probably all " Freemasons ". I am afraid there is a bad time ahead of us, as they seem to be tightening things up, now that the war is going against them. There has been a great number of letters received from the deportees "which are very pitiful to read - many are ill and all almost starving - in fact they seem to be no better off than the Russian prisoners here. It has cast a terrible gloom all over the island, especially as they say the rest of the English-born people will be taken next.

Yesterday an American bomber flew right over the town, and all the big guns let go at it, but did not hit it. I will wait now and see what news Father brings back from town.

The American bomber that came over strewed mines all round the Harbour, so now no boats can get out till they are all cleared away, and they will not be able to send away any deportees.

February 7

Nothing much has happened lately until last week.

When we got up on Friday morning we found that thieves had visited us, not in the house fortunately, but in the sheds which were locked, but they managed to get in, and simply ransacked the place. We had a lot of trunks packed with pictures, china and curtains, also a lot of dried beans, which form a great part of our diet as there is so little else.

All our seeds for sowing had gone which we had so carefully saved. My velvet curtains had gone, and lots of china and pictures broken. They seem to look mostly for food and clothing and tip everything out on the floor; you never saw such a mess. There isn't a house round here that hasn't been burgled; all the evacuated houses have been stripped, and this house would have been the same if we had not been here. It has made me feel very nervous, as I fear they may get into the house, and if Father heard them and got up, they would probably attack him. One cannot get help, and no one is allowed out after curfew, which is nine o'clock now.

We hear that about fifty men are being sent to Germany this week, mostly people who are in the Germans' bad books. As the news gets better, the more they retaliate on us. Lots of farmers take their seed potatoes up to their bedrooms at night, also their food and valuables, and lock themselves in.

Last week Dulcie and Ada came to see us and told us about a German ill-treating a Russian who was using a spade at the time, and he turned and hit the German such a blow that it cut off his head - another German guard came up . and he too got his head cut off. Then the Germans arrested forty Russians, hung them up and shot them.

Several people still have their wireless sets and listen into the news, and some are caught, but only when someone gives them away. Jennifer's form mistress has been arrested and imprisoned for spreading the news, but I do not know for how long. Anyway she will now be on the "black list ".

It was Nigel's birthday last week, and I am sure he is a fine little fellow- Violet Beep has had a message from Kathleen giving the date of baby's birth, and his name. We are very amused that she has called him "Eric Houguet " as that makes three " Erics " and three "Kathleens ". There has been such a lot of letters come in, but we haven't had any, and I am now anxious to hear from Peggy, and if her baby has arrived yet. I do hope it's not a false report, as we have not heard of it from any of the family.

February 14

Dear Emmie's birthday today, and I am wishing her many more happier days - how I miss her and long for her return.

It is also Doreen's Philip's birthday, and our loving thoughts go out to them all, hoping it will not be long before we see them.

I do hope they are getting on well in their new home, but perhaps Ray has had to join up. Dulcie has had a letter from Olive who says Dick has not to go abroad again, which we are very glad to hear, and that the children are still with Essie. I should like to hear from Essie.

February 22

Last week Major Ogier's son Dick was arrested by the Germans. It appears he got talking to someone and showed them a map of the Island on which he had marked all the big gun emplacements. It was reported and he was arrested as a Spy and is liable to be shot. His Father went to the Commandant and told him the boy was "mentally deficient ". The reply to that was, the Father was responsible, and he also was arrested, and now they have both been sent to Paris for trial.

Jennifer's form mistress and Mother have got ten months' Imprisonment, and the Father twelve months.

Quite a number of people have lately been sent to Germany, and I'm sorry to say Harold Poole is one of them. It makes one very anxious, as one never knows who will be the next to go.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Past and Present: A Review of Senator Ozouf's Statements

“"We are keeping our spending targets, we can trim some budgets because of lower inflation and we are delivering on our strategic plan priorities." (Senator Philip Ozouf, July 2014)

My thanks to former Deputy Sean Power for pointing this out on Facebook. Below is an extract from the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel, dated 18th July 2014. It shows Senator Ozouf saying that Deputy Le Fondre was wrong to suggest a projected £100 million deficit, and the position was not nearly as bad. In fact, it was very much worse.

A sign of the times, however, was the proposed cut in the marginal rate which was shelved from the 2015 budget presented just before the election 2014. This should have been a warning sign that the States finances were deteriorating.

Read the Scrutiny Panel dialogue carefully in full and ask this: how can Senator Ozouf have been so positive about the budget in July 2014 and now we are facing a projected £130 million deficit? I think he certainly has a lot of explaining to do because this £130 black hole did not appear overnight, and it certainly did not suddenly appear after the election last year.

Did you vote for him? Would you have voted for him if you had known the scale of the problem? Why didn’t he mention it in any election speeches?

Is it amazing that we didn’t get told this before? Did he mislead the electorate? And did he mislead the Scrutiny panel? These are questions which need answers.

According to the JEP, “Former Treasury Minister Philip Ozouf remains adamant that his record at the Treasury is unimpeachable, and that Jersey is still in a very strong economic position that few jurisdictions could dream of.”

It is rather a pity that States members cannot be impeached!

Read this, and ask yourself - where is any sight at all of the looming black hole in Philip Ozouf's replies?

"Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel

Draft 2015 Budget Statement -

FRIDAY, 18th JULY 2014

The Minister for Treasury and Resources:

....Yes, income forecasts are slightly down. They are slightly down from where we thought they were in terms of that dotted line. We are always prudent, that is the right thing to be...

Senator S.C. Ferguson:

...Yes, there are what? Let us not go into details, it is only £100 million here or there, is it not?

The Minister for Treasury and Resources:

Sarah, please, do not add up figures and cast aspersions like that. You have added up, as Deputy Le Fondré did, 3 numbers, this is a number that was an extrapolation that is wrong. Deputy Le Fondré was wrong to add those figures up and somehow come up with another £100 million problem. Because of planning, because of these measures we are taking we are not going to have a £34 million deficit. We are going to be running a surplus this year and we are planning to have a balanced Budget next year .....

Senator S.C. Ferguson:

I do not think we are ever going to agree on this one, Minister, but thank you for your time...."

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Making Waves

Deputy Steve Luce @DeputySteveLuce on Twitter:

Travelling to Alderney today with @MurrayNorton to discuss CI Renewable energy...hoping for some electrifying discussion....‪#‎workingtogether

Rob Duhamel talked a lot about renewable energy, but I don’t recall him every going to Alderney. It’s good that Steve Luce is going to see what is happening, because this kind of renewable energy could well be part of Jersey’s future as well.

The three main kinds of renewable energy sources available for Jersey are:

Solar – needs light, sunlight is best, but in fact any light can generate electricity, as people with watches or calculators powered by light will testify. This is the photoelectric effect which uses the property that some metals emit electrons when light shines upon them.

Light can eject electrons even if its intensity is low, a fact explained by Einstein in a paper published in 1905, and for which he received the Nobel Prize for Science in 1921. C.P. Snow attributes this to the theory of relativity (special and general) being relatively too new for the Nobel committee at the time.

The advantage of solar power is that it requires relatively little maintenance, as it has no moving parts.

Wind power – which is dependent on the fickle nature of the weather. That’s the main drawback, as well as the fact that it has moving parts, which are likely to wear out.

Wave power – the tides and currents follow pretty regular patterns, so tidal power systems are much more ideal as they can supply a much more regular power than wind. They do have parts that can wear out, and cabling is needed undersea to carry the power, so the technology has tended to lag behind wind turbines, which are relatively easy to throw up and connect into existing land systems.

Regarding Alderney, in June 2014, Michael Lewis, project managerof development projects, OpenHydro, stated that:

“OpenHydro and Alderney Renewable Energy (ARE) have recently formed Race Tidal Ltd to do just that. Together, these two companies intend to harness the energy in the waters around Alderney in order to generate enough electricity to power 150,000 homes. The formation of Race Tidal is the first step in a complex and challenging process to develop a 300 MW tidal energy array. This will be one of the largest tidal energy arrays in the world when it is constructed in 2020.”

The engineer also throws in a fascinating nugget of history:

"Taking advantage of the energy stored in the tides is certainly not a new concept. In fact, there is evidence that tidal barrage-style mills were in operation as far back as Roman times. These mills made use of the tide by trapping water in reservoirs when the tide was high, and then allowing the water to exit through waterwheels as the tide went out. The waterwheels provided the mechanical power to mill grain.”

The difference is that the new system uses “in stream” tidal power generation. It is explained as follows:

“These turbines are located in the tidal flow, where they extract energy from the flow of water associated with the tides. This resolves many of the environmental issues associated with barrage generation, as there is minimal impact on the flows around the turbines and there is no requirement for significant civil works like dams or reservoirs. In the case of the OpenHydro technology, no infrastructure is visible above the surface of the water.”

How is the project planned?

The first thing to do is to put down “acoustic doppler current profilers” around Alderney – these are tidal flow measuring devices which look at the waves and turbulence and build up a picture of what is going on beneath the surface. The data collected can - with modern technology - feed into 3D models to see where it is best to site turbines.

The seabed will also be checked by surveys which use multi-beam echo sounders, side scan sonar and magnetometer. This means that a picture can be built up of the underwater depth of the sea floor (which is termed “bathymetry” and the geological characteristics of the area can also be noted. It will also look for the presence of any metallic objects on or under the seabed, such as cables, shipwrecks or unexploded ordinance!

And over a two year period there will also be a baseline assessment of the marine environment, looking at marine life on the seabed, the abundance of seabirds above, different kinds of fish and mammals in the waters, and general marine traffic through the area. Any sites of archeological interest will also be noted. It is important to make sure that there is minimal environmental impact resulting from the project..

The power generated would be far in excess of that needed for Alderney, and most of the electricity will go to the South of England and France via an interconnector link.

This is, of necessity, a long term project, not an instant one set up overnight, and OpenHydro is also working on two other similar projects in Northern Ireland and Scotland. But it is important to lay secure groundwork, as Michael Lewis says:

“In an environment such as the Alderney Race, preparation is absolutely integral to the overall success of the project. In devoting time and resources to the development phase, we can harness the unique conditions that the Alderney Race provides and in doing so provide renewable energy that is silent, invisible and predictable, for generations to come.”

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Planning Thoughts

Deputy Steve Luce, the Planning Minister has recently spoken about some very good changes which he intends to make at Planning. I propose to look at three of these in turn.

Planning Creep

“On too many occasions I see plans approved only for applicants to come back later with amendments. If you want something then apply for it. If you play the system by continually trying to modify your approval you may be in for a surprise.” (Steve Luce)

Stricter controls on this would be a great improvement. Here is how the drip, drip process of planning creep works:

1. Proposals are put in to planning, and ultimately ‘toned-down’ after lobbying.
2. The mass and scale of a developed is reduced, to make it seem more tolerable
3. The revised scheme is recommended for approval by the Planning Application Panel on that basis.

And then we get phase two, because the developer and architects are not content with the revised plans.

4. Submission of a revision which in effect increases the footprint or height.
5. A series of additional revisions over a year or more all of which were approved.

The result is that bit by bit the scheme is brought back to close to the original application which had raised concerns in the first place.

Because the revisions are gradual, and work does not start at once, each is reviewed by a different body of people; and the planning officer is often different

The small increments are assessed in relation to the scheme approved so far, rather than by relation to the original plans approved, so that only small changes are perceived instead of a widening gap.

As a result, the developers get what they want one way or another.

A proper mechanism to stop playing the system would be to assess any revisions not against the last approved step, but always against the original scheme approved. It will be interesting to see if Steve Luce introduces controls like that.

But credit to him for seeing it this process of planning creep. It makes you wonder what the previous planning Ministers did and why no one else raised it – either the Minister (Cohen, Duhamel) or the members of the previous Planning Application Committee.

Planning gambles

The other method of playing the game, of course, is for the developer to go for more than you want in the hope of modifying the application to a “compromise” which really gives the developer exactly what they want!

Allegedly the housing estate in St Lawrence was an example of that, and I’m sure numerous other instances come to mind. It is less likely with smaller developments or smaller single houses, and more likely with large-scale developments, where the number of residential units allows a reduction to still keep a profit.

It’s a kind of gamble – where the player has a fall back position which they are sure they will eventually appear to be driven to, but which they are actually content to accept.

As far as game theory goes, it’s a good strategy for the developer, but one which wastes time of the planning department and those protesting, as they have to go over the protest again after the reduced plans have been put in place.

It’s difficult to see what mechanism could prevent this, but if it is a modus operandi of particular architects or developers, at least the culprits can be exposed by the number of times they have done this.

Time Limits on Planning Applications

According to the JEP, Steve Luce has said that “the current five-year time-limit under which a planning permission remains active could be reduced to deter speculative development that left sites empty.”

“Extending permissions currently does not cost anything and is a ‘rubber stamp’ exercise, according to Deputy Luce. Now, he is also considering adding a charge for planning permission extensions.”

That’s another area – look at Le Masuriers – keeping planning permission on those St Brelade sites opposite the La Moye school open for decades, and then deciding to use them – no appeal because permission had been given, regardless of what other changes might come along

And changes there were, as the Links Halt development must have changed the value of the land opposite it – from a run-down and tired pub to residential and shop.

Le Masuriers also have Milano Bars as an “open site” but have problems there because the permission is restricted to another hotel, and they’d like housing!

The question is how many “long term” planning permissions are out there, forgotten about, just awaiting the opportune moment to be re-activated?

When I wanted to a garage conversion, incidentally, I was given one year to do it, with no extensions. Evidently the five year limit doesn’t apply to small minnows!

My correspondent Adam Gardiner has some interesting ideas for dealing with long term plans kept on ice, and I finish with his suggestions, which I think have considerable merit:

Sites kept empty for protracted periods should also be discouraged in some way. Personally I would consider:

1. A rates surcharge on a brown field site with existing buildings while it remained undeveloped and/or unoccupied and

2. An incremental charge applied to any development site if an planning application was not submitted within 2 years.

I believe that some parts of the UK local authorities apply surcharged rates on re-development projects to discourage what are called ‘holding applications’.

Tesco have recently fallen foul of this - plans approved for supermarkets that have never been built. The reason is surprisingly simple. Holding applications deny the local authority the rateable value from the site had it been developed. I don’t see why that strategy could not be adopted in Jersey.

Monday, 20 April 2015

An Occupation Diary – Part 10

In 1972, the Pilot magazine began an exclusive serialisation of private letters from the late Mrs G Luce de Pre, which had taken the form of letters written to her absent children and grand-children, covering the period July 9 1940 to June 6 1945.

I suspect it has not been read much since then, 45 years ago, so here is a second chance in this special 70th Anniversary year to read it.

An Occupation Diary – Part 10

December 22, 1943

I have not told you that we have a "baby grand" piano. It belongs to the Parsonage at St Aubin's, and, as the Vicar evacuated, Mr Balleine said we might borrow it. You can. imagine what a pleasure it is to have some music especially since we had to give up our wireless. Both Nancy and Jennifer play and sing so nicely,

We were to have gone to Les Vagues on Boxing Day, and Frank was going to hire a car for us, but the Commandant would not allow any cars out for the holidays,, so we are going in the New Year.

One afternoon a little while ago, we heard some very. sharp and heavy shooting quite close, but we did not know till afterwards what had happened.

If we had only -one across the road, and got on the bank, we should have had a front seat view of a wonderful sight, There was a convoy of ships passing St Brelade's Bay, and a flight of eight RAF planes came over, dropped bombs and machine gunned tlne ships, sunk two and set another on fire. It was all over in a few minutes and hundreds of Germans were drowned.

Last week Gertrude and Wilfrid came to spend a day with us. Father made some lovely bean rissoles and we had quite a nice lunch. Wilfrid brought his flute and the two men spent most of the afternoon at the piano playing and singing.

Last Saturday, Jim came and brought a few pounds of white flour, which one cannot get except by black market, and it is such a treat to have some.

Dorothy came after lunch in pouring rain, to bring me a present from Mrs Pearce, such a beautiful foot muff, which she had made, in ruby velvet lined with fur, and trimmed with skunk. I don't know why she should give me such a lovely present, and I feel quite overwhelmed with it. Dorothy also brought a pudding and some jam from Auntie Flo.

December 23

This morning a German came to the door and asked to see Mr Dupre. I was rather nervous, as, generally when they came like that, it is to arrest someone, or to look at the house, but he was quite harmless and wanted Father to play the organ for them at St Aubin's Church on Christmas Day, an hour before our own service. He was quite a young clergyman, and Father consented. It would not be prudent to refuse, as one would very likely be on their Black List at once.

December 27

Christmas is over once more, and I would hardly believe it was Christmas Day until Father played some carols before he went to Church. We were quite alone, and had a small piece of pork for dinner in the evening, which was a bit of black market, and cost a pretty penny. Mrs Le Neveu sent us a fowl as usual, and we are having that next Tuesday, as we are expecting Percy for the day. Flo was to have come as well, but is not well enough to do so - we are very disappointed, for it had been a long-standing engagement.

They are all spending Christmas at Holmhurst with Harold and Jim as well, and I hear they are having a lovely one.

New Year's Day, January 1, 1943

We have had a party today, Father invited all his young choir boys and girls to come and sing their Christmas carols to me, just a dozen of them, and we gave them tea. I managed to make a cake, and Father made a lot of chocolate biscuits, and we gave them bread and butter. jam and potted meat, which they seemed to enjoy very much. We used three pounds of bread and a quart of milk, and so had to economise the rest of the week. They sang beautifully and I did enjoy it all, but feel very tired now. January 6

We heard today that a boat was sunk last night, just off Portelet; there were three hundred and fifty Germans on board, and only seventy saved. It was a very dark night, and they struck a rock and sank in a few minutes, as they had a cargo of cement on board. They are using the Star Hotel as a mortuary - I suppose they will all be buried at St Brelade's churchyard.

January 8

We spent yesterday at Les Vagues; Frank sent a lovely comfy car for me, and Father came on his cycle, as he wanted it for getting back home today. I broke my journey at Samares to see Auntie Flo, who I am sorry to say has been ill with bladder trouble, and had to stay in bed and keep warm, and you may be sure that she has had the best attention from Dr and Dorothy. I quite envy Flo having a daughter at home. We all hope she will soon be quite well again, but she will have to be very careful. She and I are getting to be quite old ladies, but I don't feel like one.

We had a very warm welcome from all at Les Vagues, and the dinner was simply lovely, just like pre-war. We had roast chicken with all the etceteras except hang and sausages, then a wonderful mock plum pudding which Nancy had made, and a room. rich trifle, and coffee afterwards in the sitting room.

Nancy gave me a pair of mitten gloves which she had made, the backs were rabbit skin and the inner part was knitted. They are just what I wanted, as I cannot get proper gloves on. my hands being so crippled. Jennifer gave me a bottle of lavender water, which I am very fond of, and Dulcie gave me a lovely silk scarf and hankie.

We were a big party for tea, as Dulcie had invited Gertrude and Wilfrid and Jim and Harold. We had a very fine tea.

Jim had very kindly asked me to spend a long weekend with them, and I am now at " The Little White House ". I am being thoroughly spoilt here, a fire in my bedroom, and waited on hand and foot, I don't like giving so much trouble, but Jim insists on doing it, and I must say I can stand a lot of spoiling.

Father spent the night at Uncle Wilfrid's and expect they sat up talking nearly all night. He was going home today and fears he will be very quiet and lonely. It is such a nice change for me, and I am thoroughly enjoying myself.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

The Chimera of Potential

There are so many self-help books out there, all about how you can reach your full potential, and I always think they are missing something. Potential is actually a noun derived from an adjective, and as an adjective it makes a lot of sense.

For instance, if I said that someone should reach their full potential as a tennis player, or someone failed to reach their potential as a piano player, I am saying something quite definite. You have a standard, a goal, and the potential as opposed to the actual is to reach that goal. It implies moving towards a limit.

We all know individuals who are focused on doing something. They have a set goal – to be the best footballer in the world, to be Prime Minister, to walk on the moon.

But in the world of wishy-washy pop-psychology, “potential” is co-opted as a noun, and it is a very bad noun, as if it is always something positive. You could say of a schoolboy – he has a wicked glint in his eye – I think he could be a potential troublemaker. Would you encourage him to live up to that potential? Of course not! To paraphrase Chesterton, potential is a comparative of which we have not settled the superlative.

The best safeguard against all the pop-psychology about “reaching your full potential” has to come from comedian Dylan Moran, who suggests that the reality of our potential may well not live up to expectations. Alas, I am not going to ever be a world class pianist, or even a second rate one. And here is what he has to say about potential:

“You should stay away from your potential. I mean, that is something you should leave absolutely alone! You’ll mess it up! It’s potential, leave it! And anyway, it’s like your bank balance, you know - you always have much less than you think. Leave it as the locked door within yourself and then at least, in your mind, the interior will always be palatial. “

“Wonderful gleaming marble floors, brocaded drapes. Mullioned windows, covered in mullions, whatever they are. Flamingos serving drinks. Pianos shooting out canapés into the mouths of elegant men and women who are exchanging witticisms... "Oh yes, this reminds me of the time I was in BudaPESHT with Binky... We were trying to steal a goose from the casino, muahahaha..."

“But it won’t be like that! You don't want to find out that the most you could possibly achieve, if you gave it your all, if you harvested every screed of energy within you, and devoted yourself to improving yourself, that all you would get to, would be maybe eating less cheesy snacks.”

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Now What

A poetry challenge on the theme of "Now What?", this poem of mine is about endings, reflections on the past as we enter old age, and death.

Now What?

The sunset touch, the whisper of death
Speaking softly with darkling breath
Clouds drift across lives, and intersect
A time to act, and a time to reflect
Thunder groans, lightening flashing
The waves upon the rocks splashing
And children have long left the sand
Elderly couples walking hand in hand
As grains of time fall away, and down
Chimney smoke rising from the town
As dusk descents, shadow of night wings
And far out to sea, the siren sings
Fishermen fear the call, that last song
Wishing to be home where they belong
With fire blazing in hearth, blazing bright
Old gnarled hands kindle the candle light
Trees fall in the gale force, roofs creak
Hear the drip, drip of the water leak
The ship is wrecked, timbers breaking
Old limbs tire at the end of the making
The last word is spoken, and an end
Into the darkness alone, we descend
The unravelling of the Gordian knot
Into darkness, death - now what?

Friday, 17 April 2015

Ramblings through Leafy St Lawrence and elsewhere

The Poetic Bailiff

“In deep and leafy St Lawrence, above the Millbrook reservoir, La Ruelle de St Clair winds its harmless way down from Le Mont Cochon to Waterworks Valley. Unfortunately, in this quiet and peaceful part of the Island a dispute between neighbours which has been rumbling for many years has erupted into litigation which, had there been any sensible efforts made at compromise, ought to have been capable of being settled without access to the Court becoming necessary.”“

“We have not, of course, seen any without prejudice correspondence which has passed between the parties or their lawyers; but what we are left with is in essence a plaintiff sitting on what she perceives to be her legal rights as a result of which her immediate neighbours have not been able to enjoy the occupation of a property which they acquired, apparently in good faith and ignorant of the potential for conflict that lay round the corner.”

William Bailhache, displaying an unusually poetic turn of phrase in the introduction to this Court case which is in the public domain in the list of Royal Court Judgements. I rather like that; it makes a change to the usual dry preambles of a Court judgement.

The rest of the judgement is rather technical, and all is about contracts and boundaries, the grist to the Jersey legal system, and would probably bore the reader; it does show, however, nice clarity in the thinking behind the judgement. The good thing about most judgements like this is that the reasoning is laid out like the workings in mathematics. It may be hard at times to follow, but it can be followed.

Maybe next time, the judgement will be delivered in rhyme. Who can tell?

On boundaries, voisinage, and contract law
There's many a vintage legal saw
And legal eagles cast sharp eyes
As neighbours give despairing sighs

Double, Double, Liberate us from Trouble

“The budget for this year's Liberation Day events in Jersey has nearly doubled. The original £90,000 has now grown to £165,000. That is because Occupation survivors asked for a change in plans. They weren't happy that all the day's activity were based in People's Park so the celebrations are now spread across two sites.” CTV

There is more at Liberation Square, but not a huge amount more, and it has to be asked exactly how these events are budgeted, and if there is a breakdown of costs. Of course sound equipment, if it is installed in two places, can be significant, and I suppose transport for the dignitaries from one place to another costs, but it still seems excessive. Rather like witchcraft!

Will they publish accounts giving sufficient breakdown so we can see exactly what proportion relates to the Liberation square site, and what it is for? Or will we get a “Yes Minister” set of accounts?

Jim Hacker: All these payments have been identified.
Journalist: What as?
Jim Hacker: Commission fees, administrative overheads.
Sir Humphrey: - Operative costs, managerial surcharges.
Jim Hacker: Expenses, miscellaneous outgoings.

Stand and Deliver

“Drivers could face up to ten years in prison for causing death by careless driving as ministers move to close a loophole that allowed a man to get off with a £750 fine and a 12-month driving ban after a crash that killed a young woman. Transport Minister Eddie Noel wants to introduce a whole set of new offences covering causing death or serious injury while driving carelessly, dangerously, or under the influence of drink or drugs.” (Bailliwick Express)

I asked Eddie Noel at the end of March whether anything would happen, quoting the JEP of 17 December 2014 which noted: "JERSEY could have a death-by-careless-driving law as early as next year, according to the manager of transport policy in the Island."

I was looking at proposed changes to laws which came up in 2014 for bringing forth in 2015, and seeing how they are progressing. The absence of a provision for death by careless driving is a significant gap in our legislation, and I wondered when it was likely to be on the Statute books, and if there was a deadline that was being aimed for.

Eddie told me that he was waiting for advice from the law officers, but it would be progressed soon, and he has now moved the process to the public domain.

“Transport Minister Eddie Noel said that that he wanted to get draft legislation in front of the States as soon as possible to get the law change through. He said: ‘I am pleased that law drafting process can now start and I know everyone will be working to get draft legislation for States debate as soon as possible’”

We haven’t got an exact timetable yet, but it is clear things are moving. Eddie isn’t letting things slip, and credit where it is due. I’ll be keeping a watching brief, though, to make sure things it doesn’t get forgotten, but so far, very good.

It would be good to see some progress on a few other matters from his fellow Ministers:

Andrew Green - The options for the new hospital - note the April or May timetable

“The hospital site (and Kensington Place) remain one option, as does developing Overdale, but he was waiting for the feasibility study to come back to him, hopefully this week, on the costs of the different options. The next stage would be public consultation, probably in April or May, and also probably involving some meetings in the Parishes, and if lucky, the States might actually debate the preferred solution in July. (told to me by the Minister at the Consultation Evening at Communicare in March)

Rod Bryans - The options for Les Quennevais School - and a week has certainly gone by.

“Property Holdings are providing a feasibility study which should be out within a week, and following this there would be a public consultation on the options at Communicare, a vote in the States, and the development of the option chosen, which should take between 2 – 3 years to complete.” (told to me by the Minister at the Consultation Evening at Communicare in March)

And I hope the new Street Works Law is on target - for the final time - for January 2016 at the latest. See here for a saga of delays…over years and years.

Before January 2016, it has been promised to Kevin Lewis for January 2015! Shades of Yes Minister, which is recommended viewing for all aspiring politicians:

Sir Humphrey Appleby: When Ministers have gone, we can wipe the slate clean and start again with a new boy.

And of course, Eddie Noel, is the new Minister for TTS. But Yes Minister is fiction, isn't it? Something like that could not happen in real life, surely?

Thursday, 16 April 2015

An Occupation Diary – Part 9

In 1972, the Pilot magazine began an exclusive serialisation of private letters from the late Mrs G Luce de Pre, which had taken the form of letters written to her absent children and grand-children, covering the period July 9 1940 to June 6 1945.

The Pilot at that time was facing major financial problems, and printing this diary helped to win back readers.

I suspect it has not been read much since then, 45 years ago, so here is a second chance in this special 70th Anniversary year to read some of it.

An Occupation Diary – Part 9

August 30, 1942

As you see, I am now staying at Holmhurst. Queenie very kindly invited me, as Flo, Percy and Dorothy are here for a week. It's so lovely to be all together again, and we are such a happy party. Percy sent his van for me yesterday, and today being Sunday, Father came to lunch.

We have been able to borrow a chair, and so I have been able to get about a little. I went to have tea with Auntie Annie one day, and twice to town, which really looks awful; all the big shop windows are boarded up, and nothing to buy except a few second-hand goods: I tried to get a cigarette lighter for Father's birthday, but there wasn't one to be had anywhere, nor even a watch.

September 9

This is the 47th anniversary of our wedding-day, so Father and I have celebrated by going out to lunch at the Marina Cafe at Portelet; not much of a lunch, but we enjoyed the outing and the little change.

September 16

This is a very sad day for Jersey, and indeed for all the Channel Islands. Yesterday an order came direct from Berlin that all English people between 16 and 70 not born in the Channel Islands would be taken to Germany, and we think this is a reprisal for all the bombing done by the R.A.F. in Germany; and that all who are taken from here will be placed in a district likely to be badly bombed. I cannot tell you of the sorrow and indignation of the whole Island, for there has been nothing here to warrant such an action.

The worst of it is, an Englishman has to take all his family with him, and there are so many who have little children. They only had twenty-four hours' notice, and were only allowed to take. a small suitcase and one blanket, a knife and fork, spoon and small bowl for food, and not more than £1. A great many English girls were married today to Jersey boys in order to remain here.

Father went to town this afternoon, and said it was a pitiful sight to see little families walking to town and to the boat. No one was allowed on the Pier to see them off, and the whole place was alive with German guards. They even had machine-guns on the route in case of a rebellion, but what would have been the use ? Nothing could be done -- one simply has to obey. Six hundred left today and it is estimated there will be three thousand more. So many of our friends have to go; we are very thankful that many evacuated before this.

September 23

A great many more have gone since the first lot, and our friends the Cradwicks were supposed to go and had packed up and left their home and gone to the Pier, when fortunately for them the two boats were full up, and quite a number of people were left and told they could go home as no more were wanted.

You can imagine the joy they felt to be free again - even though so many had broken up their homes, and came back to empty houses late at night, but the neighbours were very kind and helped all they could.

We were delighted that the Cradwicks did not go, and they came to see us the next day, but our poor little Daisy Cracknell had to go with her husband, and I hear she was so wonderfully brave over it.

October 19

In the midst of all this terrible business we have had our share of trouble and trial. The death of our darling Babbo has been a shattering blow to us all, and I cannot realize that it is true. Father feels it terribly, too, and has been so sweet and comforting to me. I don't know what I should have done without him. We have had heaps of letters of sympathy, which have also helped, but I feel heart-broken, and longing so for you all to come home again, but my darling Babbo will never come again. I am not at all brave, but cry and cry.

The day before this news came, I was so happy, as we had had three Red Cross letters, one from Emmie, one from Doreen and one from Babbo, in which she said her health was poor and that she had received no news from home.

Since then I have felt it so that she never received my letter after she left Jersey, and I fear that she fretted over it. It is so awful not to know any details, and we are just longing for the next batch of letters to come. Poor Dick ! What a blow for him ! for I know how he loved her, and how awful he will feel that she was taken when he was not with her, and the children too my heart aches for them, and am wondering what has been done about them. To think all this happened over four months before we heard of it. When will this dreadful war be over, and when shall we be able to get proper letters from you ?

November 28

I have not had the heart to write lately, but must try and remember all that has happened. Everything is very quiet here, and a lot of soldiers have gone away -- but the Russians are a trial - poor things; they are half starved and very badly treated by the Germans, and so they come round begging and stealing when they get a chance. We are not allowed to give them food, and it's so distressing to have to refuse them.

There have been such a lot of robberies lately, and the other night a Russian got into a house, and the owner attacked him and was killed by the Russian, and the man's sister also badly hurt. We have to keep all the doors locked, and if I am alone I don't open to any Russians. There is still a lot of Black Market, and people are paying terrific prices; for instance, £6 for one pound of tea,£1for a pound of sugar, 15/- a lb.for pork,3/- a lb. for beans, £1 for lb. of butter, and so on.

December 9

We have had two Red Cross letters today, one from Emmie saying Ivan and Douglas both have a son. Also one from Melville sympathizing about Babbo. Dorothy rang up today, they had one from Olive, and that Kathleen has a son. We are so pleased that all is over and well, and wonder what they will call him.

We still do not know where Kathleen is living -- Dulcie has put the announcement of the birth as "Somewhere in Great Britain !".