Sunday, 31 May 2015

Dispelling Modern Witchcraft Myths

“We call to the Great God this night of longest day. Join us as the Sun, fiery Lord of the Heavens who blesses our land with the sunshine that makes our world grow! Join us as the Creator who joins with the Great Mother to bring forth new life! May your purifying light and fire bless us this night and drive away all that is negative in our lives. Be a part of our rites as you are a part of our lives! Hail and Welcome!” (from a Midsummer Ritual, Patheos)

Gavin Ashenden, speaking about baptism, says that “we need to reinhabit a metaphysical world in which repentance from the reality of sin is the way into the Church, and the struggle with the reality of the devil and the demonic are the marks of authentic pilgrimage.”

His blog explains why he is upset with the changes approved by the Church of England. As Trevor Grundy notes in “Religious News”:

“In the traditional service, godparents are asked whether they are ready to renounce the devil and all his works for the sake of the child being baptized. The new wording, approved Sunday (July 13), only asks whether parents and godparents will “turn away from sin” and “reject evil.”

And another member of the local clergy says that the devil is very real, and the Island of Jersey is rife with witchcraft.

Now this can easily make people prejudiced. Someone else I know says they have seen witches at the dolmens.

The problem is that what is happening is that a model of witchcraft is being applied in a modern setting to people who are definitely not witches in the traditional sense, in popular folk-beliefs.

This is the witchcraft that was the focus of one of the worst mass panics in history – the period of the 16th and 17th centuries which were the time of the witch-craze, when thousands were burnt or hanged after accusations that they were witches.

The model story, which invariable proved to be true in the confessions - made after duress or torture had been applied – was of witches meeting in secret in covens (usually of  unlucky 13), to partake in a black mass – an inversion and perversion of the Christian Eucharist – and worship the devil. That itself betrays the cultural background of the story. 13 is not universally unlucky; in Italy, for example, it is 17.

Of course, in these stories were fantastical elements, of witches flying to their meetings, or flying out to sea, and conjuring storms while riding the wind. These elements are usually expunged from the kind of narratives that Gavin Ashenden would have us believe, or they are explained away as hallucinations caused by ointments. Although it would be strange if Gavin Ashenden did so, as his main argument is that we should not be restricted to the limitations of our world-view.

In fact, as Norman Cohn pointed out in “Europe’s Inner Demons”, there was originally an accusation made against the early Christians by Pagans on dark rites that was almost identical in form to that attached to witches later on by Christians!

Most accusations against people accused of witchcraft were in fact done not by witch-finders – Hammer films have a lot to answer for – but by neighbours who wanted to settle grudges.

Such accusations could be deadly, once people found themselves caught in the net, but it should be noted that it was the civil and not the religious authorities who tried people for witchcraft, and if found guilty sentenced them to death. It was the Civil Courts in Jersey and Guernsey who sentenced many people to be strangled and burnt.

That dark period seems to be omitted in Philip Bailhache’s book “A Celebration of Autonomy: 1204-2004 800 Years of Channel Island's Law”. It was the relative autonomy of the Channel Islands which allowed the Island’s judges to sentence people to death for witchcraft, which was perhaps not something to celebrate.

Accusations from neighbours with grudges can be seen more recently. When we look back at the Occupation years, as the BBC points out:

“Dozens of letters were sent to the German Field Commander informing on other islanders who were selling or hoarding food, helping escaped slave workers, or listening to the radio. The post office tried to intercept as many of the letters as they could - steaming them open and destroying them. Letters that got through often led to death or deportation for those that were informed on.”

Louisa Gould was denounced to the Germans for helping a Russian slave worker; she died eventually in the Gas Chambers in Ravensbruck. Who denounced her? Her neighbours.

This is the pattern of the witch trials, as documented in historian Robin Brigg’s “Witches and Neighbours” in which accusations come from neighbours, and as Briggs shows, contrary to popular notions about men persecuting women, most of the accusers tended to be women themselves.

What has this to do with modern witchcraft at the dolmens? It is true that rituals are performed at the dolmens, but these are by modern day pagans – such as Wiccans or Druids. Calling them witches, and attributing to them all the baggage that is the legacy of the witch craze is not only mistaken, but also betrays a mindset that can be seen clearly in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”., where it is also alluding to what was called a witch-hunt of Joseph McCarthy and panic about reds under the bed.

In other words, it fosters fear and panic and superstition, and a frame of mind in which people are demonised. It begs the question: where is the devil? With the Wiccans and Druids and their earth-magic, with their ethical beliefs against doing harm, or those who would cast them in the role of witch, and drum up hatred and fear?

We should have learnt by now that demonising a group of people, like the Nazis did with the Jews, or in more recent times, in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, leads to violence, murder, and a disregard for justice.

The Hebrew Bible and the New Testament call the figure of Satan, “the accuser”. It seems to me that those who accuse others of dark witchcraft which has its roots in blind prejudice and fear have far more in common with Satan than those who practice peaceful earth rites.

Here’s part of a Wiccan ritual:

Oh great Goddess and God,
All nature vibrates with Your energies
And the Earth is bathed with warmth and life.
Now is time of forgetting past cares and banes,
Now is the time for purification.

Oh fiery Sun,
Burn away the non-useful, the hurtful, the bane,
In Your glorious power.
Purify me! Purify me! Purify me!

There’s not much there about evil and devil worship, not surprisingly, because neither Wicca nor Druidry have anything to do with that either now or historically. They are pagan, but not Christian perversions, they have no concept of  a devil, and as can be seen, both here, and with the quote from which I started, they actually have a lot in common with Christianity in this desire for purity and purification.

And here’s part of another one:

Take the Herb Pouch and hold above your head, saying:

By thy power, oh sacred herbs, may the Lord of the Sun
Burn away the hurtful, the troublesome, and the painful,
Leaving me purified through His warmth and Light.

It is about time that the fog of ignorance and fear was dispelled. I’ve written this post to try and dispel some of that ignorance.

Renouncing the accuser (Satan) in the baptism service should also mean renouncing the very human impulse to accuse and blacken others.

When you hear people taking about a lot of witchcraft in Jersey, when you hear about people talking about devil worship, you may understand why local pagans don’t make a big show of their beliefs and rituals.

I’ll finish with the close of another Pagan Midsummer ritual, which as you can see, has high ethical principles underpinning it and rather like baptism, uses water for purification.. 

I would point out that the use of water in rituals for purification is very widespread in many religions, including ancient and modern paganism, and not the monopoly of Christianity. Examples can be seen, for instance, in the ancient Babylonian Tablets of Maklu. Purification by water was an important part of Greek and Roman personal religious practices predating Christianity. And in 632 BC, Epimenides of Crete purified the entire city of Athens with water. So this part of the ritual is looking back to a precedent in ancient paganism, not Christianity.

Dip the forefinger of your right hand into the cauldron water, and trace a pentagram on your forehead, saying: Let my mind be open to the truth. 

Anoint your lips saying:
Let my lips always speak the truth.

Anoint your heart area, saying:
Let my heart seek the ways of the Goddess, now and always.

Anoint the centres of your palms, saying:
Let my hands be gifted to work in magical ways.

Anoint the soles of your feet, saying:
Let my feet ever walk upon the sacred paths!

Saturday, 30 May 2015


This poem has a little bit of mythology, and was born from a dream. It's a sonnet, or it could be an incantation.


Awake, powers of earth and stone
The powers of the sacred mound
Awake, spirits of the ancient bone
Who lay deep beneath the ground

Embrace the stones, feel the way
Cup marks carved upon the rock
No songs remain, no ancient lay
This ritual key to open lock

Awake, the dragon fast asleep
Under earth, below the mound
By this charm, within this keep
Awaken now, and be unbound

Let the dragon breath forth fire
And magic our souls now inspire

Friday, 29 May 2015

St Simon's Church

From the pages of "The Pilot", in 1981 comes this article about St Simon's Church. The article is unattributed to any author.

St Simon’s Church
The Pilot 1981

The youngest of our parishes is St Simon's. When Jurat Charles Le Quesne, author of the Constitutional History of Jersey, died in 1856, he left a legacy of £700 to build a new church in the Great Union Road District, on condition that all seats should be free, his heirs being ordered to reclaim the money, if a single seat should ever be appropriated.

In 1858 Philippe Filleul, Rector of St Helier's, launched an ambitious scheme for dividing his unwieldy parish into ten separate incumbencies, all to be financed by an unusual Investment Trust. There was at this time a tremendous boom in sheep farming in New Zealand, and two of his sons had large sheep-run there. In “An Earnest Appeal to the Stewards of the Lord's Goods”, he invited Jersey Church-people to buy sheep to be placed on his sons' farm, to be content with 5 per cent interest on their capital, and to allow everything over that amount to go to the New Churches. For a time all went well. The first year's dividend was 18 per cent, the next 22 per cent. Prospects seemed rosy.

In 1860 he set apart one of his curates, S. B. Brasher, to visit the Great Union Road district, and gather a congregation with the aim of ultimately building a church as Le Quesne had suggested. From the start this was known as the St Simon's District though why they chose as Patron so obscure an Apostle I have not discovered.

At first the only building in which Services could be held was the Cannon Street Ragged School, which lay outside the district, and Brasher did not make much progress, and after a few months resigned. His successor was Josiah Mitchell, another of Filleul's curates, whose wife was a Lys, a grand-daughter of the man who saved the Town from destruction, when the powder-magazine caught fire.

Mitchell, who was so we are told, "full of youthful zeal," was the real founder of St Simon's..At his first Service he had no instrument, but a few of the congregation did their best, and though we sometimes made two or three attempts before we got into tune, we eventually succeeded," He was however determined to have a full choral Service, a thing at that time unknown in Jersey, where in every church the responses were said (often by the clerk alone), Psalms and Canticles were read, and only the hymns were sung.

With the help of a young man named Pirie he formed a good choir, and at the end of six months the Ragged School could no longer hold his congregation.

They moved to an upper room in the Town Hall, which then stood in Don Street, for which they paid £62 a year, and fitted this up as a chapel. The singing was a great attraction. The Services were the brightest in the Town, and on Sunday evenings large numbers had to be turned away.

But there can have been nothing yet advanced about the ritual, for part of Mitchell's stipend was provided by the Evangelical Church Pastoral Aid Society.

All went well for three years; but then came a slump in the New Zealand wool trade. The bottom fell out of Filleul's Sheep Fund, and most of Mitchell's stipend disappeared. But he had gathered round him a group of enthusiastic laymen, of whom the leader was his youthful Churchwarden, W. L. De Gruchy, the future Jurat, and they formed the St Simon's District Association, and guaranteed to raise enough to keep things going.

By 1865 they felt that the time had come for using Jurat Le Queen's money, and building a church of their own. In April a well-attended meeting in the Prince of Wales' Rooms carried unanimously the Dean's motion, that "the work in the district of St Simon's can only be continued by the erection of a church"; and 1750 was subscribed on the spot. An Appeal for further funds was issued, which stressed strongly Le Quesne's resolve that the church should be free to all: "In St Simon's there will be no such abomination as the pew system."

Things then moved rapidly. The site was bought, and on July 27th the foundation stone was laid by Dr Jeune, who had been Rector of St Helier's and now was Bishop of Peterborough. This was a great function, beginning with Holy Communion in the Town Hall at 10.30, a procession to the site, where stands had been erected for spectators, the laying of the stone, a public lunch in the Yacht Hotel with 150 guests, followed by much speechmaking, then a public tea in the Vegetable Market at a shilling a head, at which 650 people sat down. Thus the stone was well and truly laid.

The committee was fortunate enough to secure the services of G. F. Bodley, the greatest ecclesiastical architect of the time. He had built scores of beautiful churches in all parts of England, and for St Simon's he drew plans for a very enchanting church. But unfortunately, when the chancel, nave, and south aisle were finished, the money ran short; and the north aisle, for which the foundations had actually been laid, the two side chapels, and the campanile have never been completed. One surprising feature of the church is the fine old medieval piscina in the sanctuary. At the time when St Simon's was being built, the Town Church was being restored, and the architect there had vandalously thrown this piscina out to be carted away with the rubble, when St Simon's rescued it, and restored it to its ancient use.

The opening ceremony was fixed for St Andrew's Day, 1866; but trouble had for some time been brewing. The district was still part of St Helier's parish, and ecclesiastically Mitchell was only Filleul's Assistant Curate.

But the St Simon's Association, when the Sheep Fund collapsed and the financial responsibility fell on to their shoulders, seem to have gone ahead with little reference to the Rector. Filleul not unnaturally resented this. One cannot carve slices out of another man's parish without his consent.

Neither side was conciliatory, and a few weeks before the Opening Mitchell announced in a sermon that "certain painful circumstances" had compelled him to send in his resignation. At a farewell meeting on St Andrew's Eve to present him with a parting gift both Churchwardens were mysteriously absent. They were driving furiously about the island to find the Dean, because they had heard that the Rector meant to forbid the opening of the church on the morrow.

The Service however passed off peaceably, and lasted from eleven till two with the baptism of Mitchell's infant daughter after the second lesson, the Athanasian Creed in honour of St Andrew, sung Litany, and Holy Communion.

The British Press reported: "A general impression prevailed that the opening would be objected to by the Rector, and that it was probably that physical force would be resorted to. But all passed off agreeably. The Rector was seen rambling about the place, evidently disturbed in mind, during the Service, but he did not muster sufficient courage to enter the building."

J. J. Balleine, whom the Rector now put in charge, was naturally received with suspicion; but he soon won his way. As a Naval Chaplain for nearly twenty years he had served in the Crimean and Chinese Wars and in all parts of the world, and was definitely what is called 'a man's man'. In his early days there was nothing alarming about his ritual or doctrine. He announced, "Now that we have a church of our own the Holy Communion will be administered fortnightly instead of monthly."

When a newspaper called St Simon's 'high,' his Churchwarden protested: "We have no graven Images, no gorgeously decked altar, no ecclesiastical millinery changing colour with feast or fast, no candles blazing at noonday." But he more than maintained the church's musical reputation.

He secured as organist the gigantic Edwin Lott, who with his flowing cape and flowing locks liked to be mistaken by strangers for the Abbe Liszt. Later he became organist of St Sepulchre's, Holborn, where he had among his pupils the future Sir Henry Wood, who devotes two amusing pages to him in his autobiography. He gathered at St Simon's a choir of 35 highly trained singers, 15 trebles, 6 altos, 6 tenors, and 8 basses, dressed them in scarlet cassocks, and drew all the music-lovers in the Town to the Services.

On September 4th, 1869, the church was consecrated by Bishop Ryan, who had been Bishop of Mauritius, and on May 6th, 1872, the district legally became a parish, and Balleine, who had been Curate-in-charge, now became Vicar.

One small point I am not sufficiently versed in ecclesiastical law to expound. Whereas all the other new parishes in the Town were described in official documents as 'Ecclesiastical Districts,' St Simon's was created a 'Particular District.'

For twenty-seven years Balleine was not only a faithful Parish Priest. It was said at his death that he was on terms of personal friendship with every man, woman, and child in his parish - but he threw himself vigorously into the public life of the island, the long controversies over the harbour works, the struggle for compulsory education. The Early Closing Movement owed much to his advocacy. And more than once influential deputations tried to persuade him to stand for election as Deputy. He was also an active member of the Order of Foresters, which was then vigorous in the Town.

But love of music and love of ceremonial often go together; and in his later years the ritual of his church grew definitely `higher'. Under his successors this process continued, till it was unkindly said that the favourite hymn at St Simon's was, "We nightly pitch our moving tent a day's march nearer Rome."

To-day at St Simon's most of the Pre-Reformation ritual and customs have been restored; and no one protests. The Church of England has learnt to take pride in the thought that she is the broadest and most tolerant of all Churches. She does not attempt to squeeze all her children into the same mould. She recognizes that some are helped in their devotions by an ornate ritual, while others feel the Presence of God most clearly in a Quaker-like simplicity. And she caters for all. It would be a bad day for our island Church, if all our Services became exactly alike.

But now, in 1981, the future of St Simon's Church is in the balance. It is understood that the somewhat derelict and abandoned Vicarage is on the point of being sold, and whereas there is no possibility, under Diocesan regulations, of its ever having a resident priest, what is to become of it?

Admittedly, on High Days and Holy Days, there appears to be no lack of priests from other churches to celebrate High Mass for an eclectic congregation. But one must ask in fairness what purpose does this serve? Ought this Church to be preserved as a fine piece of architectural church-building, devouring money and valuable space in an over-crowded Town, or would it be better to substitute the whole edifice for a high-rise block of dwelling units, to house the hundreds of young couples in Jersey who are crying out for low-priced accommodation? No doubt, our PILOT readers will express their views in our correspondence pages.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

No, Minister

Picture courtesy of C Le Masurier Limited.

I reprint below a letter in last nights JEP from David Cabeldu’s Save Our Shoreline regarding the International Finance Centre (pictured in a "mock up" above). The key hold-up to the project going ahead, and the one major safeguard, was the necessity to have sufficient pre-lets for the development could commence.

It is clear that the States of Jersey Development Company are looking for ways to circumvent that undertaking, and they are being aided and abetted by the Treasury Minister, who has apparently dismissed this pledge as “historic” and dating back to the time when Harcourt had lost the project, an feeble excuse worthy of James Hacker, MP.

Alan Maclean seems to have forgotten that Harcourt had to put up £95m bond to ensure that if they were unable to complete the development, the States would not be left footing the bill. Senator Ozouf extended their deadline for raising the bond twice, but they were still unable to raise it.

At the time this was done, in 2009, the Jersey Evening Post editorial included the following paragraph:

“It is evident that the global economic downturn is biting here. Its ultimate effect on our financial services industry and that industry’s demand for the sort of new accommodation that the Waterfront’s Esplanade Quarter is supposed to supply must be matters for serious concern. It is therefore legitimate to ask whether the present circumstances can be regarded as favourable for the launch of a £350 million scheme – the largest ever proposed in this Island.”

The leader article went on to say:

“The stakes are so high that no go-ahead can be given until we know for certain that all promises can be kept, who is truly capable of delivering the goods and, crucially, that there will be adequate future demand for Jersey’s financial services to justify continuing with such a huge undertaking in such dramatically changed circumstances.”

In the end, the States of Jersey Development Company, or to be more exact, its previous incarnation as the Waterfront Enterprise Board, was tasked with proceeding. The safeguard – in place of a bond by Harcourt – was a stringent need for 200,000 sq feet of office space to be pre-let first.

The stakes are still high, and reneging on pledges made will make the Island’s taxpayers hostage on the project succeeding. There is fierce determination to move ahead at any cost, and it is time for States members to stand up and be counted before the Council of Ministers rides roughshod over any Scrutiny report or indeed before Scrutiny finishes its task.

IFC pledge by Former Treasury Minister
Letter by David Cabeldu

Last night at the St Breladeʼs public meeting about the International Finance Centre, the Treasury Minister Senator Maclean was asked about a pledge given to the States by his predecessor Senator Philip Ozouf, our current London based Assistant Chief Minister.The Treasury Minster was asked if he would honour a promise given to the States by Senator Ozouf that 200,000 sq feet of office space would have to be pre-let before development would be allowed to commence on the deeply unpopular and divisive International Finance Centre.Senator Maclean said that this figure was ʻhistoricʼ and dated back to Harcourt days.

Consulting Hansard, we read that Senator Ozouf first pledged that this amount of space would be the minimum requirement. In a statement to Members on 1 July 2009 he said:“It may be helpful for me to inform Members that under the terms of the draft development agreement, the development of the Esplanade Quarter would not commence until agreements have been entered into for the letting of at least 200,000 square feet of office accommodation. I undertake to update Members as and when the situation changes.”

And only last year on 4 February 2014, in answer to a question on the subject by Deputy John Le Fondré, who was requesting a confirmation on the 200,000 sq feet minimum requirements, Senator Ozouf replied, “No, the position has not changed.” A promise made to the States so recently can hardly be considered to be ʻhistoricʼ.

To be clear: 200,000 sq feet is the floor space of approximately 3 buildings. Yet we were told last evening by Senator Maclean that the current plan is to go ahead with an (undisclosed proportion) of pre-let floor space of one building only, which will expose the public to risk, as borrowing is now required, Harcourt having left the scene. The plan has changed again, this time to piecemeal development, and only proposing to deliver offices, not a mixed use scheme as approved in the masterplan.

Call me old fashioned, but I have always believed that a pledge given to the House by a Minister (or any other States Member) should be honoured. While we are used to Senator Ozoufʼs undoubted talent to leave the questioner wondering (until too late) what his reply actually meant, his answers were, for once, unequivocal. The current Treasury Minister should make it clear whether he will be honouring his predecessorʼs pledge or whether he has moved the goalposts? If the latter is the case then surely the Assembly need to agree on this drastic revision?

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Where the Bradford Factor goes Bad

This article was prompted by a story in “The Guardian”:

“You are a healthcare professional working with elderly people. You really have no business being at work because your throat is sore and inflamed; you feel febrile and have a cough. In short, you are going down with something which is, at best, a cold - but may be flu.”

“Exposure to the illness would be potentially lethal for your frail patients, but sick leave could result in you facing a formal occupational health or disciplinary hearing. You are on the horns of a dilemma already facing many health workers this winter, but one which will soon face many more.”

““This is the "Bradford factor", a system for differentiating longer, infrequent staff absences from those which are more frequent, but of shorter duration. The assumption behind it is that high frequency, short duration absences are more problematic in certain types of organisation, are symptomatic of different problems and require separate identification in order to be addressed.” (1)

How does this work?

The Bradford Index equals the number of spells of absence in the last 12 months squared, multiplied by the number off days off - (SxSxD)

So by way of example:

one absence of 14 days is 14 points (i.e. 1 x 1 x 14)
seven absences of two days each is 686 points (i.e. 7 x 7 x 14)
14 absences of one day each is 2,744 points (i.e. 14 x 14 x 14)

It is a common tool in use by Human Resources department, and apparently originated during the 1980s with a connection to the Bradford University School of Management. However, I have been unable to track down any provenance for it.

In fact, another individual who investigated found this was a Dr Geoff Helliwell who noted:

“IDS first referred to the Bradford factor or formula in Study 365 published in July 1986. That publication included a reference to the use of `Bradford' factor point scores by May & Baker (now Rhone Poulenc Rorer). Contacts at the company say that this method of calculating absence rates had been introduced as a result of managers attending a series of seminars on production management arranged as a part of a Bradford University management course in the mid-1980s. Controlling absence was one of the management areas that was covered. However, as you discovered, if you contact Bradford University's School of Management they know very little about it and I have never come across any published record of its academic origins.” (11)

Insofar as it appears anywhere in literature, Dr Helliwell found that the earliest mentions were: IDS Study 365, 'Absence', July 1986, page 5, IDS Study 498, 'Controlling Absence', January 1992, pages 3/4 (successful use of the formula at Victoria Coach Station), IDS Study 556, 'Absence & Sick Pay Policies', June 1994, page 6. He notes that a description of the factor also appears in `Measuring and monitoring absence from work' published by the Institute for Employment Studies in 1995, although its origins are not given.

This is a singular deficiency, because how it was created, what rationale lay behind the squaring of number of spells of absence, and if it was ever peer reviewed in any academic journal, is not available. In fact, as far as I can ascertain, it never has been subject to academic scrutiny in any peer reviewed journal or featured in any books on statistics.

In that respect, I find myself in agreement with a report made by Robert Perrett and Miguel Martínez Lucio in June 2006, ironically from the Bradford University School of Management, the supposed origin of the formula.

“An individual who has two spells of absence of five days in duration accumulates just 40 Bradford points, whereas a colleague who has five spells of absence of two days accumulates 250 Bradford points and is reprimanded. Use of such formulas is common. Others formulas exist in an attempt to differentiate types of absence and to provide them with a scientific rationale. Many of these formulas use spurious evidence and research, and are sometimes even difficult to identify in terms of originating documentation, but this has not deterred many organisations from using them”” (2)

The study noted that it was used as a disciplinary tool targeted at employees who played the system and were absent frequently. It is known that sick leave can be abused by employees, and that this is often short term, just the odd day.But odd days can mount up.

“Overestimating the extent of abuse can result in the implementation of harsher punitive measures that can actually result in an increase in absence rather than a decline. This was witnessed in one of the case studies undertaken. Almost half (47 per cent) of respondents believed that employees with genuine illnesses had been penalised because of the absence provisions (41 per cent did not believe this to be the case and 13 per cent were unsure) furthermore, 44 per cent of respondents claimed that sickness records formed part of an employee’s appraisal. “

“Penalising genuinely ill employees, immediately following absence or later through an appraisal system, can create a range of negative repercussions for the employee and employer alike”

And this leads to significant problems like those highlighted in the Guardian article:

“For example, employees might feel compelled to go to work to avoid being reprimanded, potentially spreading diseases. This will also have a negative effect on productivity, moral, motivation, and the desire to remain employed with the organisation.”

Philip Taylor is a Professor of Work and Employment Studies and Assistant Dean International at the Strathclyde Business School at the University of Strathclyde. He has also examined the cultural shift which has taken place:

“Taylor also points to the way in which the management of sick leave over the past two decades has become more draconian with short-term illnesses penalised through the “Bradford factor”, the use of return to work interviews and discipline and dismissal triggered by particular levels of absence. The effect of this in the workplace has been to institutionalise bullying as layers of managers are forced to “cascade” pressure to workers below them to meet targets.” (3)

Part of the problem is the focus on number. If we were to examine the Bradford Factor properly, using scientific methods, then we would have to look at the following:

What is the likelihood of any short term absence being spurious?

The Bradford factor has an inbuilt assumption that short term absences are either spurious or reveal an underlying health problem. There is no means of differentiating between the two.

For example, it cannot factor in predictable short-term absences: as for example, time off every week for treatment or counselling. The employer should accommodate this if it cannot be done outside working hours.

Nor can it deal with unpredictable short-term absences which may happen often/for a variety of reasons such as an underlying medical condition or poor immune system. This may lead to the employer suggesting an employee work flexible (or zero hour’s contract) or lighten or vary the workload for a particular period.

Now it may be argued that a high Bradford score is a good measure for identifying the basic short term absence, but the problem arises what to do when you know the reasons for the absence, because the calculation now tells you nothing more than what to expect.

In fact, a more granular computation, and one which didn't rise so spectactularly, would be to take a sum of Bradford Factors of different counts, so that a count of 1,1,2 - Bradford score on 3x3x4 = 36 would instead become 2,2 and 1,2, being 2x2x2 +1x1x2 =8+2=10. This would still isolate smaller days off but would differentiate better between them.

And it also does not help with understanding how absenteeism affects the business. Compare Tom who takes seven days off in one hit to recover from an injury and has a Bradford score of seven with Cally, who takes six absences for minor illness over six days with a Bradford score of 216.

Now if it was, for example, a business which specialised in bureau work book keeping. 25 days spread out over a year is not so critical, because the employee is back on the following day. 25 days in one go might be critical, especially where payroll functions are concerned.

But because the focus is on the high score, and not the nature of the business, this is not seen. In fact, a scoring method which rated longer periods of absence – say Tom plays rugby in his spare time, and has a few spells off - would actually be more useful.

Moreover, I have seen only one case where the Bradford factor has been analysed to look at systemic factors, type of work, different workplaces, so that a normalised benchmark can be visible. If systemic factors are causing workplace illness, then it is the workplace or working practice rather than the employee which needs to be addressed.

The return to work interview is a method of getting more information about the kind of illness, more than purely the bare bones of a Bradford figure. But the problem arises here insofar as it can be conflicted. As Phil Taylor points out:

“Return to Work Interviews (RWIs) became the most frequently utilised procedure. In practice, RWIs conflate caring and welfarist intentions (soft HRM) with calculative and disciplinary motives (hard HRM), but, principally, they reflect the latter and the impact of US thinking on occupational health, which emphasises getting people back to work rather than the employment problems that might have made people sick in the first place” (4)

The conflict here is between the use of the return to work interview as caring for the employee, and using it as a means of disciplining the employee.

The Employment Law Clinic notes this:

“Remember, this is a return-to-work Interview, not a disciplinary hearing (if a disciplinary becomes appropriate, deal with this separately, and in accordance with your disciplinary procedures)”(5)

As another site notes:

“Make sure the conversation with the absent employee is clearly focused on their well-being and their return to work. Try to focus as much on what the employee can do as things they may need help with. Returning to work is an important milestone in getting life back on track, but if the employee is made to feel a ‘problem’ in some way, they will feel disheartened.” (6)

However, in practice it may be almost impossible to construct a Chinese Wall to prevent the return to work feeding into a disciplinary, even if they are held separately. This is very clearly seen in the HROnline Website:

“From a motivational point of view, there’s evidence that companies that impose RtW interviews experience a reduction in sickness absence. There are a few reasons this could be case. First, it shows that you are taking absence seriously; that your company is taking some sort of action on absence. But second, there’s a “fear factor” involved – some employees who might in the past have taken the odd day off when they simply couldn’t be bothered to come to work might be wary of being “found out” if they slip up in the interview by contradicting their original cover story.” (7)

Clearly absenteeism is an issue that needs to be addressed, but the use of the Bradford factor as somehow more than a mathematical artefact, coupled with the “fear factor” for a return to work interview, can inculcate a hermeneutic of suspicion which is not healthy for the workplace.

As someone who has worked conducting interviews notes:

“A return to work interview is where your line manager meets with you after you have been absent (sickness, unauthorised absence, sometimes even lateness). They will sit down with you and have 'an informal chat' which involves them ticking boxes on a form and asking you how you are in a kind and caring manner (i.e. asking for answers to a set of preset questions then writing everything you say down)”

“I've had to do return to work interviews in call centres and admin jobs many times over the last 10 years, I was also a line manager in an office for a while and had to do them on other people (look, I was young and I needed the money, OK?) They are part punishment, to make you feel like you have to come up with a good explanation for your actions, (like not doing your homework at school), and to reinforce the authority of your line manager as they become the embodiment of the Divine Right of The Company (a bit like scrofula).” (8)

HR Magazine has an interesting interview with James Arquette:

“James Arquette, director at absence management company, FirstCare, is not a fan of the Bradford scale. He feels it doesn't place enough emphasis on why an absence has occurred, which is what employers and managers must look at to determine how to support members of their team. "Ultimately, it is the action of employers once they have absence data that will allow them to manage absences most effectively," says Arquette. "The Bradford scale is far too reactive, whereas a policy based on sensible 'triggers' - a specific number of stress-related absences - can allow employers not only to identify a problem, but to step in proactively and provide appropriate support."

In conclusion, the Bradford factor is a blunt tool with inbuilt assumptions about patterns of absence from the workplace. The idea that its numbers are neutral and therefore unchallengeable is quite frankly nonsense. Other computational methods can provide better answers and more granular detail.

There is no theoretical basis for that assumption presented as a hypothesis and tested, with results public in a peer review journal, not is there any other comparison with statistical patterns such as Poisson distributions.

What I would expect to see is some kind of paper like “Multiple Approaches to Absenteeism Analysis”

“This piece compares eight models that may be appropriate for analyzing absence data. Specifically, this piece discusses and uses OLS [Ordinary Least Squares] regression, OLS regression with a transformed dependent variable, the Tobit model, Poisson regression, Overdispersed Poisson regression, the Negative Binomial model, Ordinal Logistic regression, and the Ordinal Probit model. A simulation methodology is employed to determine the extent to which each model is likely to produce false positives. Simulations vary with respect to the shape of the dependent variable's distribution, sample size, and the shape of the independent variables' distributions. Actual data, based on a sample of 195 manufacturing employees, is used to illustrate how these models might be used to analyze a real data set”

Another piece is “Markov chain Monte Carlo analysis of underreported count data with an application to worker absenteeism”(1996) – “A new approach for modelling under-reported Poisson counts is developed. The parameters of the model are estimated by Markov Chain Monte Carlo simulation”

These are solid pieces of statistical research using sophisticated but standard techniques for modelling absenteeism. They can determine patterns that are endemic in the population or workplace as a whole and provide benchmarks for comparison. By contrast, the Bradford factor appears in no mathematical statistical studies. The absence of the terms "false positives" or "significance testing" from any promotions of it on HR sites should flag up a red warning that this is a statistically crude method.

As Trevor Blackmore notes succinctly, the Bradford factor has a

“very dubious pedigree. Recent enquiries to Bradford University came up blank as to who proposed this statistical monstrosity. No reliable, scientific evidence as to its effectiveness over other methods. No RCTs, no factor analysis, nothing - only unreliable case study evidence comparing a couple of years data within a few companies measuring very limited outcomes.”

That, of course, doesn’t stop people using them or believe because they crunch out numbers that they are somehow “scientific” any more than it prevents people using the Stanford-Binet IQ test, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or any other pseudo-statistical measuring techniques.

The promotion of the Bradford Factor has the blurb – “Absence Management Made Simple”, which should be warning enough, although simplistic would be a better term, and probably explains why it has had such wide take up by Human Resources departments and not by professional statisticians.


.(2)   Preliminary results from a survey of UNISON safety representatives: Interim Report, June 2006, Bradford University School of Management

.(3)   Taylor, Philip, 2012, “Performance Management and the New Workplace Tyranny”, Report for the Scottish Trades Union Congress, available from

.(4)   ‘Too scared to go sick’—reformulating the research agenda on sickness absence, Phil Taylor, Ian Cunningham, Kirsty Newsome and Dora Scholario, Industrial Relations Journal 41:4, 270–288


.(9)   Sturman, M. C. (1996). Multiple approaches to absenteeism analysis


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

TV Review: The Dark Side of Victory

TV Review: The Dark Side of Victory

In “1945: The Savage Peace”, documentary maker Peter Molloy’s narrative focused on how Germans were treated in Berlin by the Russians, and in countries like Poland and Czechoslovakia. People spoke of how they were raped, or saw others raped and beaten to death, and how even the native German population of Czechoslovakia, some of whom had actually opposed the Nazis, were all treated brutally, savagely.

The Russian army in Berlin was out of control, and in formerly occupied countries such as Poland or Czechoslovakia, what prevailed was essentially mob rule. For some reason, in Czechoslovakia, those leading this campaign of lynch-mob revenge wanted it recorded, and there were some horrific scenes of people lined up and being shot against an earth bank, and then a lorry crushing the legs of the corpses afterwards.

There was appalling violence to those ethnic Germans who had lived peacefully for centuries in neighbouring countries, and much of it was filmed; this rare archive film had not been seen before, and coupled with the unique testimony of eyewitnesses and victims, told a terrible tale.

As Gerard O’Donovan wrote in the Daily Telegraph

“Molloy’s film was most effective in highlighting the scale and savagery of the reprisals – shootings, forced death marches, the rape of two million German women and children, the public humiliation, torture and execution of countless ethnic Germans, particularly in Czechoslovakia and Poland.”

A former Jewish prisoner from a former German concentration camp in Poland became a Camp Commandant for the Germans interred there, and delighted in thinking of brutal ways to humiliate the men and women imprisoned. Here was someone brutalised as a prisoner who had in turn become a vicious sadist.

It was harrowing to watch, and shows how badly people can behave, giving into the worst instincts for retribution, and not following proper judicial process. “Anarchic, vengeful and bloody” is how one reviewer commented.

While it was true that the German army had themselves committed acts of atrocity, the absence of rule of law just meant anyone could be accused, taken, killed, regardless of the culpability.

In 2009, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer made it very clear why the rule of law should prevail, and not that of the lynch mob, however understandable the desire for swift summary retribution should be:

“If we forsake the fairness of the trial process, simply on the premise that ‘a crime was committed, so someone must be held responsible’, we lose all notion of justice and surrender to the sometimes understandable but always inappropriate yearning solely for retribution.”

“I understand immediately the views of others who might say that ‘the ends justify the means’, but down that path for a civilised society operating under the rule of law lies the abandonment of the very rule itself, and the tacit acceptance of the lynch mob. If we cannot operate our system of criminal justice, other than by using the means that we deprecate in others, we have failed in our basic duty to respect that rule of law.”

Monday, 25 May 2015

Shorelines, Waterfronts and Democracy

“The Queen has given Jersey ownership of much of the beaches and the seabed around the island. She has owned the land on Jersey's beaches up to the spring high tide mark and 12 miles out to sea. That will now go to the States which wants to lease the space for wave and tidal energy schemes.” (BBC News)

I have a horrible feeling of foreboding that this land will end up in the property portfolio of the States of Jersey Development Company, in which case not only will any wave and tidal energy be at a premium, it will also go to pay the inflatable salaries of its chief executives.

Reg Langlois was saying that the Jersey International Finance Centre was being put forward by the States, and by politicians we elected to govern us, so we should let them get on with the job of governing.

That’s a deeply flawed idea on two counts.

Firstly, it is the JDC which will be developing the site, and despite promises of returns, they have only made a paltry dividend return to the States. Most of this Quangos funds get eaten up by very high executive salaries, and consultancy and legal fees. In fact, incredibly, the States pay them for the rental of Liberation Station, land ceded at a peppercorn value to the JDC!

Instead of rewarding executives by that vague and slippery term “performance” for bonuses, perhaps they should be rewarded by the amount of cash they can return to the States – now, and not twenty years time by which time many of us will have shuffled off this mortal coil or joined the wheelchair brigade at the Midsummer Dream Retirement Home for slippered pantaloons.

The fact is the JDC, which is bringing forward the scheme, which hastily demolished the car park, is a Quango. It was not elected by us; we had no vote in it. That is something Reg doesn’t seem to have seen.

Secondly, the notion that we should just let politicians govern because they were elected, and they can therefore do what they like, does not accord with the idea of representative democracy. That is a democracy where we elect people to represent us. If the vox populi is against a finance centre, it is perfectly possible for the Council of Ministers to ignore that, but they can’t claim to represent us.

The notion that an elected body can do what it likes is an argument used by dictators all over the world. It is about time that we saw through the defects of that. You would think that the fact that Hitler came to power by democratic means would flag up a red alert on that fallacy, but it appears not.

That Reg can’t see that is a real blind spot in his argument, but one which I sure would have Robert Mugabe rejoicing!

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Rethinking Divinity

Rethinking Divinity

To love God -- that's a tall order.
Does the Milky Way notice me?
The Horsehead Nebula? If I'm a speck
of dust compared with their grandeur
how much smaller I must seem
to the One Who made them. And yet --

the mystics say the world was born
because God was lonely. She wanted
to sit in her rocking chair and chat
while She knitted the sunset clouds.
How could I not love the One Who whispers
exist! and the daffodils bloom?

- Rachel Barenblatt

Most people who I know grew up with an idea of God as male, and often an old grey bearded man. Michelangelo has a lot to answer for, although he was probably simply reflecting the cultural norms of the Middle Ages.

And that has a trickle down effect. Can women be priests in the Church of England, or bishops? The key reason why some people opposed that, and in fact at least one clergyman in Gouray simply doesn’t regard them as “authentic” is to do with gender. God is male. Jesus was male. The 12 Apostles were male.

And yet the Hebrew for Spirit, the Spirit of God, who broods over the waters, about to give birth in the Genesis poem about creation – is female. The Hebrew word – ruach – meaning breath, wind, spirit, is not a male word but a female one.

Why then, do people talk about the Holy Spirit as “He”. While the Hebrew word was female, the same word in Greek, Spiritus, is male, so once the Latin translation – the Vulgate – became the norm, masculinity was again in the ascendancy.

The wisdom literature which began to develop in towards the end of the Old Testament, and continued in the period before the New has also an interesting perspective on gender:

Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,

She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
those who hold her fast will be blessed.
YHWH founded the earth by wisdom;
by understanding he established the heavens;
by his knowledge the deeps broke open,
and the clouds drop down dew.

For she is the breath of the power of God,
and a pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty:
therefore can no defiled thing fall into her.

As it develops, wisdom becomes the creative force of God, the power for good. And wisdom is female – the term used is the feminine Hebrew Hokmah (Wisdom)

I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and covered the earth like a mist. I dwelt in the highest heavens, and my throne was in a pillar of cloud. Alone I compassed the vault of heaven and traversed the depths of the abyss. Over waves of the sea, over all the earth, and over every people and nation I have held sway. Among all these I sought a resting place; in whose territory should I abide? Then the Creator of all things gave me a command, and my Creator chose the place for my tent. He said, 'Make your dwelling in Jacob, and in Israel receive your inheritance.'

And yet…. John’s Gospel replaces almost all of the attributes of the Wisdom literature by his Logos poem – and Logos is a masculine Greek word. Wisdom is transformed to Word.

God is in theology “beyond gender” but unless one simply uses the term “God” all the time, there is a tendency to use the term “he” as the term “it” suggests something wholly inhuman, and alien, and somehow less than personal.

Should we use the word “Goddess”? It is interesting to note that whereas in times past, “actor” referred to males, and “actress” to female, the term “actor” has become gender neutral, but not genderless, available to use for both male and females who act. The term has become broader, more inclusive in meaning.

So perhaps it is time to use “she” much more in relation to God, and reclaim the feminine within the divine. It is of necessity a fiction – as all Neoplatonists would agree – but a useful one, as it prevents us falling into the trap of thinking about divinity in purely masculine stereotypes. After all, there has already been around 2,000 years of that, which is surely enough.

Enemy of Apathy ~ by John L Bell & Graham Maule ~ Lyrics

She sits like a bird, brooding on the waters,
Hovering on the chaos of the world's first day;
She sighs and she sings, mothering creation,
Waiting to give birth to all the Word will say.

She wings over earth, resting where she wishes,
Lighting close at hand or soaring through the skies;
She nests in the womb, welcoming each wonder,
Nourishing potential hidden to our eyes.

She dances in fire, startling her spectators,
Waking tongues of ecstasy where dumbness reigned;
She weans and inspires all whose hearts are open,
Nor can she be captured, silenced or restrained.

For she is the Spirit, one with God in essence,
Gifted by the Saviour in eternal love;
She is the key opening the scriptures,
Enemy of apathy and heavenly dove.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

The Final Phase

The Final Phase

A great darkness within the mind
Down into the abyss, so blind
Falling, falling, ever down I fall
And as I descend, a fading call
Ill met in the dark, I try to cope
In absence of light, where is hope
And did the lore of Peln find a way
Roots deep within the earth, they say
And in stone, a cavern, dark embrace
Where the gods speak to us face to face
Shadows of the hunters, a primal past
Long dead bones, but a spirit to last
Infuse the earth with ancient rite
In the darkness, where there is no light
Paintings on the walls, they left a sign
Of where they chanted, of their shrine
Outside to the cave mouth, I flee
Breaking on the rocks, the sea
Couch grass in the breeze is blowing
And I know now where I am going
The far and distant shore awaits
And there a Summoner at the gates
The ship sets sail, across the waves
Leaving far behind those stony graves
Into the mist, waters lapping on wood
The Summoner beckons, in cloak and hood
Light promised so much, but in the end
All breaks apart, and no one can mend
Darkness brings peace, the dying breath
The darkest wine, the sweetest death.

Friday, 22 May 2015

A Mid-Term Look at The Jersey Care Inquiry

A few questions and answers about the broader historical picture as the inquiry recommences.

The word “historic” is applied to the inquiry but is that appropriate?

The inquiry is actually termed the “Independent Jersey Care Inquiry” and it is” investigating the abuse of children in Jersey's care system over many years.”. Nowhere in the terms of reference does it use the term “historic”, and in fact the term 3 of the terms reference sets out the scope at looking at governance of child care by the States from the post-war period to the present day, but with a special emphasis on the 1960s to the 1980s.

The website does use the term “historical” as many of the abuse cases predate the present, and seem to be clustered but not exclusive to Haut de La Garenne,

The inquiry is an offshoot from the original police investigation Operation Rectangle into Haut de La Garenne, and various other care homes which had closed some time ago. That really was “historical” as Haut de La Garenne had closed in 1986, and other “family group homes” were no longer open by the time the police inquiry started.

The term “historic” and “historical” are often muddled – historical is something from the past, and historic is something of significance from the past. Channel TV and the BBC have generally used the term “historical child care abuse” while the JEP have used the term “historic child abuse”.

However, the events are historic in the sense of significance.

What “historic” significance does the inquiry – or the whole care scandal - have, if any?

I think we have to look at Jersey’s historical abuse as part of a wider trend against burying the past. In Ireland and across the UK, evidence has come to light that institutional child abuse has taken place across decades, blighting the lives of children.

There has been at least one case of abuse has been reported in Guernsey, by a man who had been in care homes in both Islands, and it also was physical rather than sexual abuse. That doesn’t mean there could not be any further abuse cases that haven’t come to light. But there have been cases reported and at least one person sent to prison in the Isle of Man for sexual abuse of children at a boarding school in the 1970s.

What we can see in Jersey is part of a trend worldwide to expose the child abuse which took place in the past. Jersey was not immune to the same pattern which we see elsewhere in other jurisdictions, in which children’s lives were blighted by individuals in the past, most notably in the 1960s and 1970s.

What is important is what happens now: are sufficient safeguards in place to prevent that happening again in institutions. No safeguards can be perfect, but the lessons of the past can inform the best practice of the future. That is what is important.

What impact has it had?

The impact has been two fold.

It has opened people’s eyes to the fact that Jersey was not immune to the same kind of abuse taking place in institutions elsewhere, and that a number of children’s lives have been blighted as a result.

There has been a media impact to the wider world, but this has taken the form of confused and muddled reporting. There are several competing historical narratives which give differing impacts on Jersey. What impact it has on outsiders depends on what narrative they encounter, and what they believe after reading it..

The primary narrative begins with the finding of what was initially considered to be a portion of a child’s skull, and led to some very exaggerated headlines about paedophile rings in the more lurid tabloid press – News of the World etc. Yet at exactly the same time as the tabloids were talking homicide, and some were even talking about satanic ritual abuse - the BBC was reporting that Lenny Harper had ruled out homicide. That was not often picked up.

The skull fragment became a problem because it was, for the media, a fact about the case, and the way the tabloids picked up the case, when the skull fragment was discounted as a fragment of coconut, this meant the rest of the stories about Haut de La Garenne suffered by proxy in how the national media dealt with them.

Another narrative stems from a ramshackle press conference in 2008, in which Mick Gradwell and David Warcup effectively criticised the interpretation of some of the artefacts – such as items identified as shackles – and also said that homicides had been ruled out, contrary to.what Lenny Harper had said, although he hadn’t said that at all. It has been  damaging to the credibility of survivors as this was widely reported effectively as a trashing of the previous investigation.

This secondary narrative has problems because the BBC had already reported Lenny Harper ruling out homicide. The best interpretation that can be put upon it was that it was responding to the statements in the tabloids about the investigation considering homicides but not checking the facts – i.e. in this case, what Lenny had told the BBC as opposed to the lurid tabloid speculations in 31st July 2008 and on the BBC website that there would be no homicide enquiry. But it is difficult from a historical perspective not to see it also as an attempt to rewrite history, something historians are well aware of in looking at any historical narratives.

But to some extent that is a sideshow. The work done by Operation Rectangle in taking statements from victims was actually more important that the physical investigations at Haut de La Garenne. The press tended to focus on the latter – searching the House of Horror – which seemed to have only been marginally related to the survivors. None of the prosecutions depended on physical evidence procured from the site.

So there is a great deal that is problematic for future historians,unpicking both what occurred, and how it was reported or misreported. There’s a lot of material, but it is very tangled.

Has it had a sociological or cultural impact? On families, or communities? Do you think it will have made the island more open or less?

It has had an impact, much as across the UK. It is child abuse, physical or sexual, within institutions that were supposed to be safe places. I think all of this- both locally and globally, and including of course the case of Jimmy Saville – has made people much more aware of safeguarding issues.

It is part of a whole cultural shift in which we have, I think, become more sensitive to issues of child abuse, and paedophiles who prey on young children. It is in some ways safer, but it is also making a society that is more suspicious of the stranger.

There’s less trust of people we don’t know, and even less trust of people we do know, when it comes to our children.

So in some ways it has made a safer society, but in other ways less open, less able to trust in the way people trusted in the past.

To give a parable of this how changes make society less open – dog owners could for many years let dogs run loose around Val de La Mare Reservoir, But a few individuals abused this, and let dogs swim in the reservoir.

To prevent that happening, the rules are now that dogs have to be on a lead. The majority of dog owners always have been responsible, but the changes come about to prevent abuse by a few. But it makes dog walking less open and free that it used to be as a result for everyone.

How do the themes the inquiry and the wider scandal raise, sit with our affectionate notion of “The Jersey Way”?

As Professor Joad used to say on the Brains Trust on the BBC,  it all depends what you mean by “The Jersey Way”.

In a neutral form, it just means doing things differently.

John Nettles tells there was a narrow entrance onto the road where he was staying, and opposite was a broken mirror propped up with bits of brick. That, he was told, was the Jersey way of dealing with poor road visibility!

But it can also be used for being sly, sharp practice, underhand, double-dealing or just being plain slap-dash. In other words, as a euphemism for doing something badly, or keeping something concealed and out of the public gaze.

But a study of Private Eye and a look at the scandals in the UK show that there is in fact nothing that unique about these matters. Just look at the MPs expenses scandal, with the desperate attempts to keep that out of the public gaze.

The fact that there is an inquiry means that in part, at least, it seems to run counter to “The Jersey Way”. In this case, the “Jersey way” – in the sense of something bad - was when Terry Le Sueur decided that despite promises being made by Frank Walker, we didn’t really need an inquiry after all. Thanks to Francis Le Gresley that didn't happen, but that it could even be considered was a disgraceful betrayal of trust.

The notion that we will keep quiet and let matters be forgotten could be seen as "The Jersey Way", although the unpublished reports by authorities in the UK and elsewhere shows Jersey has not a monopoly on this kind of thinking. Many can be cited, for example, a blocked EU paper on hormone-mimicking chemicals, a scientific study into depleted uranium cancer fears in Iraq, a cross-governmental report on immigration, a report on the rise in emergency food aid in the UK, among others.

What do you make of the juxtapostition of Liberation Day in 1945 which we celebrate in a big way, with 1945 being the inquiry’s starting point? Ironic? Co-incidence?

Coincidence. The inquiry had to start somewhere, and the post-war period was an obvious starting point, as significant changes were happening in the States with the 1948 reforms. I don’t think we should make too much of it. If it had gone back further, which would have had to be pre-war, hardly anyone there would be alive today.

Liberation day should not be muddled up with inappropriate speeches about the care inquiry.

Do you think island historians in 50 or 100 years will be talking about this? What will they be saying?

Yes, but as part of the bigger picture. It will be a trend of reviewing the past which happened in Jersey just as in the UK and in fact across Europe. I think it will be seen in that context.

In a way, it is much like the Jersey soldiers fighting in the First World War. That is significant locally, and local historians will focus on those men who marched away. But they won’t ignore the bigger picture of the Great War. But UK historians probably won’t mention Jersey except in a footnote.

But it is part of our social history, and I would expect it to be mentioned - just as Edward Paisnel gets mentioned. It would be strange if it did not.

In general, I would expect to see social histories referring to the historical cases on abuse of children in care, but also placing that in the context of a culture in which it was decided to look into that darker side of the past. There is a perceived need that for the victims, there needed to be a cleansing of the Augean Stables.

There is also a need for the survivors to testify to how their lives were blighted by abuse in what should have been safe institutions, and be witnesses to that shameful part of Jersey's past.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

How should we protect our soil?

Today’s post is a reprint of a letter in the JEP because I think it needs wider coverage, and also a comment by Glyn Mitchell on the Bailiwick article.

On Thursday 23 April 2015, the Bailiwick Express reported that:

“The latest figures show that Jersey Water's supplies are within EU limits, but "raw water" running off fields regularly exceeds them. The Environment department has issued the water company with a dispensation that expires on 31 December 2016 - the company haven't had to use that dispensation since 2013, for a slight breach of the limit.”

Environment Minister Steve Luce said: “One thing that is changing is that the medical advice from around the world is different and certainly there is more emphasis being placed on the levels of nitrate in water.

“We are advised, as the Department which issues dispensations to Jersey Water, that our advice will be quite soon that we should not be continuing to issue dispensations, so we are fully aware now that in the coming years we may well not be in a position to issue those dispensations.”

I should point out that there was for many years a relatively free and much better fertilizer, namely using seaweed as fertiliser - known as vraic in Jèrriais.

In fact, seaweed contains all major and minor plant nutrients, and all trace elements; alginic acid; vitamins; auxins; at least two gibberellins; and antibiotics. An article on seaweed notes the following anecdotes:

“We have a market gardener customer at Sittingbourne in Kent who tells us that before he used seaweed meal, heavy rain used to run down his sloping plots and carry all his seedlings and fertilizers into the ditch. Since his introduction of seaweed, the structure of his silty, sandy soil has so improved that soil, seedlings and nutrients are no longer of being washed away, even in the heaviest rain.”

“As to water-retaining characteristics, Miss Constance MacFarlane of the Nova Scotia Research Foundation told members of the Fourth Seaweed Symposium at Biarritz, in 1961: 'In the spring of 1956 I was greatly impressed with fields in the island of Jersey. This was not in any way a scientific experiment, but the results were most obvious. The year 1955 had been exceedingly dry. The only fields suitable for a second crop of hay were those which had been fertilized with seaweed. All the others had dried out, and had to be ploughed up for other crops.'”

And here is the letter and comment from Glyn:

How should we protect our soil?
From Glyn Mitchell.

'Green policies could be given a higher priority by the States after the Assembly agreed to adopt environmental changes to a proposed government strategy document draw up for the current political term.' (JEP 29 April).

Is this good enough? Do we have the luxury of time? Can we rely on the States Assembly - and department responsible - to protect our Island for the enjoyment of future generations?

Generating three centimetres of top soil takes 1,000 years, and if current rates of degradation continue all of the world's top soil could be gone within 60 years, a senior UN official said "on Friday.

About a third of the world's soil has already been degraded, Maria-Helena Semedo; of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, told a forum marking World Soil Day.

The causes of soil destruction include chemical-heavy farming techniques, deforestation which increases erosion, and global warming.

The earth under our feet is too often ignored by policymakers, experts said.

'Soils are the basis of life,' said Semedo, FAO's deputy director general of natural resources. 'Ninety five percent of our food comes from the soil.' Unless new approaches are adopted, the global amount of arable and productive land per person in 2050 will be only a quarter of the level in 1960, the FAO reported, due to growing populations and soil degradation.

Soils play a key role in absorbing carbon and filtering water, the FAO reported. Soil destruction creates a vicious cycle, in which less carbon is stored, the world gets hotter, and the land is further degraded.

'We are losing. 30 soccer fields of soil every minute, mostly due to intensive farming,' Volkert Engelsman, an activist with the International-Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements told the forum at the FAO's headquarters in Rome.

More locally a recent Scrutiny Environmental Policy Review proposed that `consideration be given to ensuring that effective sustainable soil management is included in the vision, strategy and plans for the Island's future well-being and prosperity'.

After sampling Island soils for microbial populations, I am pleased to say we have some very healthy soils; equally we have some of the sickest, found in our agricultural fields.

Has the time come to protect our Island's soils by law? With technical and scientific advances some say we are the pivotal generation, the question we have to ask ourselves - are we comfortable trying to solve current soil problems by financially supporting the systems that created the problem in the first place, or is it time to explore more natural forms of farming?

`Ecocide is the extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been or will be severely diminished.'

'The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself' - Franklin D Roosevelt.

Comment on Bailiwick Express by Glyn Mitchell.

First I would like to say you would be unwise to blame only the farmers. Anyone who applies Growmore, MiracleGrow etc are as guilty of increasing the nitrate levels in the soil as anyone else.

Although not apparent to the naked eye, a healthy soil is a dynamic living system that is teeming with life. Most of the organisms that live in the soil are beneficial micro-organisms such as fungi, bacteria, protozoa, and nematodes. While seemingly insignificant, they are represented in the millions in any given soil, providing a range of important services that promote plant growth and vigour.

The collective term for all of these organisms is the 'soil food web'. The interactions amongst these organisms can provide plants with many of the requirements that they need to survive and flourish which includes the availability & retention of nutrients, disease suppression, and the building of soil structure. However, soil biology is an aspect that has largely been overlooked with many growers preferring to settle for something delivering a quick short term fix.

The use of chemicals to kill pathogens and pests can also kill the beneficial organisms. The result is a sterile environment conducive to further disease and nutrient deficiencies. The quick fix often leads to a grower’s dependency on more and more artificial chemical and fertilisers to maintain his crops, as with each application he is killing the natural soil food web. This could be compared to developing a drug dependency and the need to enter rehabilitation to kick the habit.

A balanced and healthy soil food web provides many benefits including the need for fertiliser, pesticide and water requirements can all be substantially reduced. This is accomplished by understanding what good guys and bad guys populate your soil and then applying a good organic compost to provide healthy competition.

Bacteria are responsible for producing organic Nitrate (NO3) they get eaten by nematodes who excrete ammonium (NH4), or nitrate (NO2) ions. This important process is called nitrogen fixation. Industrial fixation (inorganic nitrate) cannot be consumed into a plant available form by microorganisms, so after the plants has taken up all it can absorb the rest leaches into our soil and ends up in our drinking water. It is akin to throwing away money.

So the question remains who is responsible for the cleanup. There is an argument that suggests the Department that licences the application of Inorganic applications should be held responsible for the cleanup cost, not organisations further down the line. Which puts Deputy Luce in a predicament, so why not introduce a charge on nitrate and “cides” through the dock heads and use the revenue received to support farmers wanting to move to more natural methods of growing organic food?

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

How The Bailiff’s Speech was Taken Out of Context

Liberation day seems to have worked rather well, although the late shift of part of the ceremony to the Pomme D’Or Hotel caused a hiatus between events.

Despite Terry Le Main’s somewhat gushing letter praising the Bailiff for listening, it should be remembered that the first response to criticism from the organisers – including the recently elected Bailiff – was that we have it right, trust us!

It was only after a number of Occupation survivors had stated categorically that they would boycott the event that a rethink was hastily convened, and by all accounts, the acoustics in Liberation square left much to be desired to those not in the seated circle.

I wonder if more consultation beforehand would have resulted in a better arrangement. Apparently seats were short for the re-enactment, but they seemed plentiful in the People’s Park. I don’t know if the re-enactment was or could have been broadcast using JT’s wonderful gigabit broadband to the People’s Park, but that was clearly a solution.

I didn’t quite understand the letter to the JEP about the difficulty of moving from one venue to another. The timetable said “after the ceremony ends, shuttle buses to People's Park will start and continue until 2.30pm”

Because of other commitments, we only came to the People’s Park around 5.30 pm, in time to see the children singing, where the programme seemed to suggest the Big Band would be playing. I don’t know where the disconnect happened, but sitting down and watching the children sing war time songs was very enjoyable.

After that there was a long hiatus where they were setting something up for the next act, and after 20 minutes waiting, we decided enough was enough – the wind was rather chilly – and went off.

I wasn’t there for the Bailliff’s speech but I’ve read it since.

William Bailhache spoke of what he called the "harsher side" of the Nazi occupation during the World War Two. Quoting from a diary of the time, he described accounts of well-known residents "fleeing like rats" in 1940.

Jean McLaughlin, from Jersey Evacuees' Association, said the comments were hurtful. She said: "I felt very sick, very hurt and I felt for our family, for my mum and dad who were not here.

"Everybody left this island for different reasons. My father took me away for my safety. They were courageous to leave their families and possessions."

But in fact he was saying something very different. He began by citing three different stories from Liberation:

“A man is trying to light a cigarette but his lighter fails. He asks you if you can give him a match. Your human instinct is to say ‘Yes of course’. But you turn away, say nothing because this is March 1941 and you are British living in Jersey and he is a German. So you are angry because you have just been petty; and angry because he just shouldn’t be here; and frightened in case he is one of those “who abuses power and you simply do not know what the consequences of that might be

“On 9th May 1945 by mid-afternoon a large crowd had gathered in the area of the Pomme d’Or and indeed the re-enactment ceremony, which was conducted this morning, show the events that followed. All the German soldiers who had been billeted there and in the Royal Yacht Hotel were ordered to be out of town by that evening. A contemporary diarist recalls that “Some Jerry bags – the name given to a girl or woman who had been friendly or associated with the Germans, were beaten up pretty badly. Some had their clothes torn off and had to find their way home …………..with a mob following behind”.

“The same diarist described the events of June 1940 in this way:- “Hundreds then rushed to register for evacuation which lasted Thursday, Friday and Saturday. As I had a pass, I saw practically the whole of the evacuation and was really surprised to see some of the best known residents fleeing like rats”.

And then he commented on those stories – not with praise – not praise at all! – but to show how they were examples of “extreme positions”.

“These are three stories of the Occupation to set alongside the re-enactment to which I have just referred. It is somehow comforting to concentrate on that familiar re-enactment story isn’t it? Those who were here on 9th May 1945, if they are old enough, will remember people smiling and laughing, perhaps for the first time in years, and a huge sense of relief, of joy and of optimism.”

“But those three stories tell their own rather harsher tales of some of the effects of invasion and occupation, when ordinary people do things they would not normally do, or take up extreme positions which they would not normally take up.”

Notice those words – he is actually saying that those three examples were bad things – people behaving in ways that were unworthy of them because of the effects of Occupation. He is most definitely not saying that they are right, or that they should be approved.

He goes on to say:

“It is important to recognise that when times are hard people can react both heroically or less than heroically, and sometimes the elements of a person’s character or their circumstances are mixed up only slightly differently to produce one outcome or the other. If we recognise that, it is possible to reconcile ourselves to each other, whether those points of difference arose in 1940, 1945 or at any time thereafter.”

In other words, he is saying that those three ways or reacting – lack of basic courtesy, condemning people to left out of hand, and attacking girls who had formed attachments with the Germans – were people acting “less than heroically”.

In fact he said, that

“It is sometimes said that Liberation day belongs to those who were here in Jersey on 9th May 1945. I think it belongs to others too - the day is important not only for those who suffered the Occupation here as children, but also for the families of those who evacuated, whether for safety or to join His Majesty’s Forces in defence of the realm and were unable to return to their homes and families for five years; and to those who were deported.”

“As a matter of history Liberation Day is directly about all three groups – evacuees, deportees and those suffering the Occupation in Jersey – and the 70th anniversary of liberation naturally has these three groups as its primary focus.”

So he has been condemned by having his words taken out of context, whereas he is actually reclaiming the liberation story for those who were evacuated!

And what of the Jerrybags? He doesn’t mention their story.So I will. 

Now it is probably true that some local girls took advantage of the kudos and status to lord it over others, There is certainly evidence of that happening, where woman gained special privileges or protection.

But that was not the whole story, and if we just tell the one story, again and again, we demonise people who also should have their stories of liberation through love.

In 2002, the Daily Mail published the story of Guernseywoman, Gladys:

“Gladys was an exceptionally pretty 27-year-old when she met Hugo Fach, the young German soldier she still calls the love of her life. It was a year after the invasion of the islands in 1940. Her two daughters, June, then nine, and seven-year-old Sally (Jemima Harrison's mother), had already been evacuated to Cheshire and Gladys was trapped in a loveless marriage to Laurie, a violent, drunken wife-beater who was having an affair with a woman who worked alongside him at the German officers' billet”

“Gladys was lonely and desperately missing her children, who were allowed just two 25-word letters home a year. Then, one afternoon, cycling back from her mother's house, she had an encounter with two German soldiers that would change her life. 'I was pushing my bicycle up a hill and there were two soldiers coming down,' she recalls.”

“During the early days of the War, before the desperate food shortages and D-Day landings, the relationship between the occupiers and islanders was relatively civilised - even friendly - so Gladys was not unduly concerned when one of them caught hold of her bike.”

“'He wouldn't let go,' she says. 'I kind of pulled and pulled and he still wouldn't let go. Then he said, "If you will meet me tomorrow I'll let your bicycle go." In the end I said yes.' Within days her flirtation with the handsome Hugo, a gentle, kindly father of two, had escalated into a fully fledged affair. The pair would sneak off secretly whenever they could to a favourite clifftop hideaway. There they would sunbathe, picnic and talk about the War, life and their families. Hugo's two daughters were the same age as Gladys's”

“None the less, the lovers faced huge risks if their secret affair had become known. He was an occupying enemy soldier, banned from romance with the local girls; she risked a lifetime of ostracism. Even so, Gladys's worries about what the Germans or other islanders might do to her were nothing compared to her fear of her husband's reaction if he found out her secret. Even though he was having his own affair, she is confident that Laurie would have killed her.”

“Today, Gladys refuses to acknowledge the term 'Jerrybag', with its implications of a short, meaningless affair with the enemy. 'This was genuine. I loved him, and still do,' she says simply.”

Although separated after the war, he in East Germany, they corresponded fitfully, and met once again. But he had responsibilities and returned to his family.

“In 1979, a couple of days before he died, he called his granddaughter to his bedside and asked her to translate into English his last letter so that Gladys could read it in her own language. Today, a frail old lady, she keeps the letter on top of a bundle with a white ribbon around it. In stilted English, but nevertheless drenched in emotion, it describes how much Gladys had meant to him, how the memory of their times together on the clifftop in Guernsey sustained him - and how he never, ever forgot her.”

This was not a “casual fling”, and it was not the only such romance which was heartfelt and genuine. There was no gain, no flaunting it, no special privileges as a result. 

And Gladys story is not the only one of true love; there are others which run counter to the idea that all “Jerrybags” were bad.

If love cannot break down and overcome the barriers of war, what hope is there for the human race?