Monday, 31 August 2015

RIP Oliver Wolf Sacks

Oliver Wolf Sacks, CBE (9 July 1933 – 30 August 2015) was an English neurologist and author, famous for writing best-selling case histories of his patients' disorders, with some of his books adapted for film and stage. - Wikpedia

Oliver Sacks, who has just died, was an amazing man. A neurologist who was a very shy man, and yet saw his patients as human beings.

This comes out very strongly in his second book, Awakenings. This detailed the miraculous recovery, then tragic relapse, of the near-catatonic patients given the experimental drug L-dopa.

Frozen in a decades-long sleep, these men and women were given up as hopeless until 1969, when Dr. Sacks gave them the then-new drug L-DOPA, which had an astonishing, explosive, “awakening” effect. Dr. Sacks recounts the moving case histories of these individuals, the stories of their lives, and the extraordinary transformations they underwent with treatment.

It was brought to life wonderfully in the movie “Awakenings” with Robin Williams, another wonderfully talented individual no longer with us. Sacks made one request: that the name of the doctor be changed to Sayers.

A medical review noted that:

Normally, films that are based upon actual events take a great deal of liberty in changing the details of the events that they depict. Awakenings appears to be an exception to this trend. Although the names of people involved are changed,... the movie seems to depict a particular disease and the drug used to treat it very accurately. Robin Williams did a good job imitating the personality and mannerisms of Oliver Sacks as the renamed Dr. Sayer.

The film has few inaccuracies, as the review by Andrew Clapper notes: "Rather than starting L Dopa treatment with one patient and then expanding to all of the EL patients as depicted in the film, Oliver Sacks actually began his study as a double blind procedure with a placebo group and a treatment group. He also originally intended to conduct the study for 90 days. Once he saw that fifty percent of his patients were showing improvement, Sacks went ahead and began giving all of the patients L Dopa and dropped the 90 day limit on the study. Sacks' decision to do so is a good example a particular bioethics issue."

But Sacks also had a brilliant BBC documentary he made on the subjects of his book “An Anthopologist on Mars”, in which he speaks to many people, and uncovers the person, not the symptom. There is a surgeon with tourettes – apparently in operating conditions, the twitching motions just vanish away. And Temple Grandin, such a clever autistic woman, who invites him round and lacks all the social niceties, offering a cup of tea, seeing if he is tired and wants a break!

WH Auden, reading Sack’s first book, “The Man Who Mistook his wife for a Hat”, told him: “You’re going to have to go beyond the clinical. Be metaphorical, be mythical, be whatever you need.”

And no one can doubt that Sacks did.

Last week, I was listening to the Radio 4 “Book of the Week”, which was entitled “On the Move”, in which he describes his life – it is a painfully honest memoir, full of regrets despite his successes, and one in which at least he find love in his old age.

That was after gruelling treatment for a tumour in the eye, in which Sacks was both fearful, and amazed, describing the way in which his vision distorted under treatment, and the new ways he saw the world. That was nine years ago.

Unfortunately while ocular melanoma was removed, leaving him blind in that eye, he as he himself says, unlucky that the cancer had spread to his liver. In the New York times, he wrote about this, and I finish this posting with some extracts from that (the full link is given afterwards). Like all that he wrote, it is inspiring.

Oliver Sacks on Dying

It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can. In this I am encouraged by the words of one of my favorite philosophers, David Hume, who, upon learning that he was mortally ill at age 65, wrote a short autobiography in a single day in April of 1776. He titled it “My Own Life.”

Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life.

On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.

I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.

This is not indifference but detachment — I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future. I rejoice when I meet gifted young people — even the one who biopsied and diagnosed my metastases. I feel the future is in good hands.

I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Migrant - or Refugee?

The parables of Jesus sometimes lose their force because of their familiarity, and yet here was a man who reached out to the outcasts, the refuse of society, and never lost sight of their essential humanity. I remember reading Kiekegaard, before his legacy was stolen by later existentialists, who forgot the point he hammered home time and time again, the divergence between the message of Christianity and those who profess it:

In the magnificent cathedral the Honorable and Right Reverend Geheime-General-Ober-Hof-Prädikant, the elect favorite of the fashionable world, appears before an elect company and preaches with emotion upon the text he himself elected: "God hath elected the base things of the world, and the things that are despised"—and nobody laughs.

In fact it is Christians, like Giles Fraser, like the BBC Songs of Praise team, like the teacher in Jersey from De La Salle, who are responding to the call for action to help those in Calais, who are fellow human beings like ourselves. They hear a call for compassion. And for their pains, the wrath of tabloid newspapers like the Daily Mail, feeding xenophobia, descends on them. When did refugees become "migrants", a much less compassionate term, one which distances "us" from "them"?

Here is a parable for our times, a reworking of the parable in Matthew's Gospel, and a call for rethinking compassion.

Parables of the Sheep and Goats
When the Son of Man comes as King and all the angels with him, he will sit on his royal throne, and the people of all the nations will be gathered before him. Then he will divide them into two groups, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the righteous people at his right and the others at his left.

Then the King will say to the people on his right, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father! Come and possess the kingdom which has been prepared for you ever since the creation of the world.

I was a refugee, hungry and starving with children crying, their bellies empty, and you fed us and gave us clean water to drink a drink

I was a migrant, homeless, with children fearful of the future, and you received me into your country and clothed me and settled me.

I was ill, living in a camp at Calais, and you brought medicine and provisions to nourish me back to health.

I was imprisoned behind barriers, living in a migrant camp, forgotten, and you came and visited me and told the world of my plight, and that of my family, my children, and others like us.

The righteous will then answer him, 'When, Lord, did we ever see you hungry in a refugee camp and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we ever see you a migrant, a stranger to our land, and welcome you in our country?

When did we ever see you sick or imprisoned behind barriers, and visit you?'

The King will reply, 'I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of these followers of mine, you did it for me!'

Then he will say to those on his left, 'Away from me, you that are under God's curse! Away to the eternal fire which has been prepared for the Devil and his angels!

I was a refugee, fleeing a land torn by war hungry but you would not feed me, and told me I should go home (but where is home, but burnt out villages) and not be a parasite, and told me charity begins at home.

I was a stranger in a strange land, in a migrant camp, but you would not welcome me in your country, and cried out “send them back”, and “they have no place here”.

I was in a living prison, behind barriers in a refugee camp, and you did not visit me, but from afar spoke of the cursed migrant, not a fellow human being, not a refugee.

The King will reply, 'I tell you, whenever you refused to help one of these least important ones, you refused to help me.' These, then, will be sent off to eternal punishment, but the righteous will go to eternal life."

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Pandora's Box

Pandora's Box

I sometimes wonder at the world
And all the suffering so unheard;
Dead bodies in a lorry, just left,
And no one to mourn, be bereft;
And a mad killer shooting on TV:
Presenters killed for all to see;
There was the airliner crash earlier:
No sign the co-pilot being surlier,
Before he crashed the plane
Into the mountains, killing all;
All these deaths by man appall,
And yet they go every day;
Is there a death wish, our way,
Not that of the Tao, but fraught:
A nature that can twist, distort?
The history of mankind in blood:
All evil destroyed in the flood?
Not a hope. A myth of the Jew,
And its falsity, they know, few
Indeed survived the Nazi purges;
At least there are funeral dirges,
And we do not forget, or do we?
Some wish to destroy Israel, see
All her children dead and dust,
And think that is somehow just!
I fear to read the news, the carnage,
Nothing learned since Rome and Carthage;
It never seems to end, wars, death,
Such bloody visions like Macbeth;
And what can in all truth be said
To comfort when we see the dead?
As a boy I read the Greek stories:
Trojan War, The Heroes, glories;
Odysseus on the long way back;
Jason, Theseus, Procrustes rack;
But one stands out among the lot
Pandora opened the box, a blot
Set free upon the world, hate
Greed, lust, and so, so late
She closed the box, then heard
One last voice, a final word;
The word to be spoken very last,
After all black deeds were past,
Opened again, and out flew one
A sign that evil had not won
A winged sprite, small, and light,
Hope can make the world still bright.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Goodnight from Him: A Review

Goodnight from Him: A Review

This was a Radio 4 comedy drama by Roy Smiles. Smiles has written past plays like this one, in which the central protagonists are real people. He wrote - Ying Tong (the Goons), Pythonesque (Monty Python’s Flying Circus) and Dear Arthur, Love John (Dad’s Army).

This play tells the story, not always in chronological order, of Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker from their beginnings in cabaret and repertory theatre, their first meeting at the bar of the Buckstone Club in 1963 and how they were chosen by David Frost for his new show The Frost Report (alongside John Cleese); it details what Barker calls the “extraordinary luck” of getting their own Saturday night BBC1 series The Two Ronnies in 1971 which ran for 16 years until 1986, topping the ratings, until Barker decided to call it a day and retire (although he was lured out of retirement to play Inch, Churchill’s butler, for one last performance).

We see the differences between the extrovert Corbett, able to ad-lib, and Barker, a shy introvert who needed characters to hide behind, and who also was a workaholic - he managed to find the time to write for the show under the –pseudonym Gerald Wiley. It also shows their great strength was that they broke the mould for comedy pairings – they were not a double act, comedian and straight man, as for instance Morecambe and Wise, Little and Large, Hale and Pace, etc – but rather two actors who did their own shows in between – Barker in Porridge and Open All Hours, and Corbett in Sorry.

One strength is the way in which it brings out Barker the perfectionist, calling it a day on all his series when they were still at their height. There were only three series of Porridge and a few specials. This is something notable about good comedies of the time – Fawlty Towers only had two series, To the Manor Born only had two series, Yes Minister only three, Yes Prime Minister only two - and while Dad’s Army ran and ran, it ended on a high note. More comedies that start on a high and go one and on and on – Are You Being Served, Allo Allo, My Family – run out of steam, and become tired parodies of themselves.

Speaking of parodies – Smiles uses parodies of some of their greatest sketches - Fork Handles, the Rude Man at Party, Mastermind from the Two Ronnies and The Class Sketch from The Frost Report, but I felt that these really did not work well.

A few of the parodies of the sketches came across fairly well, but on the whole, they seemed enormously laboured. The introduction and closure sequences, which involved fake news item jokes, fell particularly flat. The parodies were so bad, they made you see how extraordinarily good the Two Ronnies actually were.

Robert Dawes gave a very passable impression of Ronnie Barker, but Aidan McArdle’s Ronnie Corbett varied in Scottish accent, at some times passably like Corbett, but at others very different

Every so often McArdle reminded me of Tony Hancock’s Joshua Merriweather, of whom Patrick Cargill’s Producer said “It is never the same two performances running” (where Hancock incorporated bits of Welsh and impersonations of Robert Newton's 'Long John Silver'. Then McArdle would pull himself back, and we’d get that somewhat plummy Scots Corbett voice).

Addis with Cleese was more of a generic voice than anything, while James Lance as David Frost had little more than a run through Frost’s cliché’s “Great” “Super, Super, Super”. In fact, hearing those makes me wonder if David Nobbs actually cribbed them from life for his TV show Reginald Perrin – it is entirely possible, as Nobbs wrote for “The Frost Report”.

The bottom line: a genre than Smiles has made his own, if you really want laughs and a lighter touch than the heavy handed parodies, watch the real show. But in between the parodies, some good stuff about the two actors and their working relationship.

Ronnie Barker - Robert Dawes
Ronnie Corbett - Aidan McArdle
David Frost - James Lance
John Cleese - Matt Addis
Writer - Roy Smiles

Producer Liz Anstee

Thursday, 27 August 2015

A.C. Saunders: 1861-1938

A.C. Saunders: 1861-1938

In 2004, at a meeting of the History Section of the Société Jersiaise, George Langlois mentioned that A.C. Saunders gave his father an inscribed set of his four books on Jersey written in the 1930s and that G R. Balleine drew on them for his history of the Bailiwick.

Balleine’s History of Jersey is still in print, but Saunders is largely forgotten – and yet he incorporates details left out by Balleine. Currently I’m working through his Jersey in the 17th century for my blog to make it more widely available.

So who was A.C. Saunders? This obituary comes from the 1939 Annual Bulletin of the Société Jersiaise, Volume 13, pages 435-436, and gives some of his background; like Balleine, he was Honorary Librarian of the Société Jersiaise, a good place for research!

Victoria College also notes him as an entrant for the 1st Term 1875, register entry 1542:

Saunders, Arthur Charles. Son of C.B. Saunders, St Saviour’s Road. Brother of 1543. Afterwards. Avranches College (France) and at King’s College, London. Entered H.M. Customs. Served at Inverness, Ipswich. Collector Lowestoft (1900), Londonberry (1903), Collector Swansea 1908, Collector Portsmouth 1914, Collector Newport 1916. Retired 1921. Living at Cambrian Villa, Beaumont. Librarian of the Société Jersiaise.

A.C. Saunders: 1861-1938, Obituary from Bulletin
Arthur Charles Saunders, Honorary Librarian of the Société Jersiaise, died on June 23rd, 1938.

The son of Mr C B Saunders, whose Caesarea Nurseries, on Mont de La Rosière, St Saviour, were so justly celebrated in Victorian times, he became a pupil at Victoria College in 1875.

His education was continued at the College of Avranches, Departement de la Manche, and completed at King's College, London. He then entered HM Customs and was stationed first at Inverness and later at Ipswich.

On attaining the rank of Collector of Customs, he served at Lowestoft in 1900, Londonderry in 1903, Swansea in 1908, Portsmouth in 1914 and Newport in 1916. During the war he was given the rank of Commander. He sold the family home, Alphington House St Saviour, which he inherited from his father, in 1901.

In 1921 he retired from the service and settled in his native island. He became a member of the Société Jersiaise in 1926 and was elected to the post of Honorary Librarian in 1928.

Mr Saunders' long and active connection with maritime affairs inspired him to study the careers of many eminent Jerseymen who had spent their lives at sea.

Some of the results of his wide researches were embodied in articles written for the local press. Others, as the following list shows, were published in our annual bulletins:

1929 “Charles Robin. Pioneer of the Gaspe Fisheries”
1930 “The Corsairs of Jersey”
1931 “Admiral Philip de Carteret, Seigneur de la Trinite. Circumnavigator of the world, 1766”
1934 “Nicholas le Messurier, Master Mariner”
1939 “Vice Admiral Philip Durell, 1707-1776”
(This article was written early in 1938 but published posthumously).

In addition to all the above, he wrote:

“Jersey in the 18th and 19th centuries” Published by J T Bigwood 1930
“Jersey in the 17th century” Published by J T Bigwood 1931.
“Jersey in the 15th and 16th centuries” Published by J T Bigwood 1933
“Jersey before and after the Norman Conquest of England”. With an introduction by C T Le Quesne, Published privately, 1935
“Jean Chevalier and his Times”. With an introduction by Dr R R Marett. Published privately 1936

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Other Noted Jerseyman of the 17th Century by A.C. Saunders

Some more from A.C. Saunders “History of Jersey in the 17th Century”.

Other Noted Jerseyman of the 17th Century by A.C. Saunders

Among other Jerseymen who distinguished themselves during the 17th Century, we find the names of Philip Le Geyt, Philip Dumaresq, Dr. John Durell, Reverend Philip Falle, and Peter Monamy and others, and short sketches of the careers of these men, will no doubt be interesting to those studying the history of the period.

Philip Le Geyt

Philip Le Geyt was born in the parish of St. Helier, at Mont-a-L'Abbe in the year 1635, and like many other young men at that time he went to study in France, at the Universities of Saumur, Caen and Paris where he showed great promise. Returning to his native Island, his abilities and character were soon recognized, and we find him appointed the Greffier of the Court.

His father had been a Royalist, and was one of those who had sought refuge in Elizabeth Castle with Sir George de Carteret when General Haines landed in Jersey. During the siege, we hear that his house was broken into, and his furniture stolen, and that during Parliamentary rule he had to compound for his estates. Philip was twenty-three years of age at the time of the Restoration, and on the death of his father, he succeeded him as one of the Jurats of the Royal Courts of the Island. In due course he became the Lieutenant Bailiff. 

His judgments were always recognized as those of a learned and just judge, and he has come down to posterity as a great Lawyer whose work " Sur la Constitution, les Lois, et les usages de cette Ile " has in the past been recognized as a standard work by Jersey Lawyers. Le Geyt was much esteemed by his countrymen, and died much regretted on the 31st January, 1710.

Philip Dumaresq
Philip Dumaresq was the son of Henry Dumaresq and his wife Margaret Herault, and became in due course Seigneur of Samares. His father, Henry, had been a great friend of Michael Lemprière, and had followed the fortunes of the Parliament. 

During Sir George Carteret's tenure as Lt. Governor of Jersey, he had been tried, and condemned to be hanged as a traitor and his property confiscated. He had returned to Jersey in 1651, but his son Philip, who was born about the year 1650, did not follow in his father's political footsteps but joined the Navy and eventually became a Captain in His Majesty's Service. He was a great friend of Philip Falle the historian, and just before his death he gave Falle his map of Jersey which he had drawn on a large skin of vellum.

His naval training stood him in good stead when he retired from the Service, for he spent his time in writing a description of the Island with its bays, rocks, currents and possibility of defence. This manuscript was considered of such value that it was treated as a secret document, and Dumaresq presented it to King James II in the year 1685.

Dumaresq was elected a Jurat in 1681, and Sir Edward de Carteret complained that when Sir John Lanier was appointed Governor he became very" acquainted one Philip Dumaresq, otherwise called Saumaresq, which your Majestie doth know that his father was hang'd in Effigie according to our laws as a Traitor, which said Dumaresq gave him such Councell that has caused all our defferences."

In the chapter on Sir John Lanier, we realized that the Bailiff and the Lt. Governor were not getting on very well. They carried their disputes to the Council Chamber in London, where Sir John, supported by his Secretary and Dumaresq, lost their case. Sir John, before Sir John Nicolls (probably Secretary to the Privy Council) said to Sir Edward de Carteret. " You and I will decide this business presently, and took me (Sir Edward) by the hand, and soe down we went to the Court, where he told me we will take a coach and goe to Hide Parke, and coming to Whitehall gate I call'd a coach and opened the door of it, when presently Sir John Lanier, his Secretary and Dumaresq leapt therein and did run away and left me behind."

However no duel was fought. The Lord Chamberlain, hearing of the quarrel, sent first for Sir John, and then for Sir Edward, and forbade them " in His Majie's. name to give noe challenge to anybody nor to receive any."

But whatever Sir Edward had to say about Dumaresq, Falle, in the preface to his history of Jersey, acknowledged the valuable information he had obtained by the perusal of Dumaresq's manuscript on the defence of the Island.

Durell in his notes doubts whether Falle ever saw the manuscript. It was kept as a very confidential record until the time when Admiral D'Auvergne, Duke of Bouillon, was in charge of the naval forces in the Channel Islands, when it was sent to him for his information. The Admiral allowed several copies to be made, and it was considered by those who had the privilege of seeing it, as containing the most valuable and practical suggestions for the defence of the Island.

Dumaresq died quite young, in the year 1690.

Reverend John Durell, D.D.

Another distinguished Jerseyman was the Reverend John Durell, D.D., who belonged to one of the principal families in the Island. He was born in St. Helier in the year 1625.

At the early age of fifteen he was student at Merton College, Oxford, but times were very unsuitable for study, and, when in 1643, the town was besieged by the Parliamentarians, Durell went over to France. On the 8th July, 1644, he took his degree as a Master of Arts, at the University of Caen. From Caen he continued his studies at Saumur, and returning to Jersey in 1647, eventually became Chaplain to Sir George Carteret at Elizabeth Castle.

Evidently Sir George thought much of Durell, for when the Castle was besieged by General Haines, and matters were looking very black for the Royalist cause, he sent his Chaplain to the young King in France, to ask for assistance or instructions as to what should be done. The King could not grant what he had not, and Durell returned to the Castle and told Carteret that the King advised him to surrender on the best terms possible.

So Elizabeth Castle ceased to be a Royalist stronghold, and Durell started on his travels, and after many vicissitudes of fortune, he became Chaplain to the Duke de la Force, father of the Princess of Turenne. He remained there until the restoration, when he returned to London and was appointed to the newly established Episcopal French Church in the Savoy. Durell was a man of great personality backed by considerable ability, and he soon was appointed Chaplain in ordinary to the King, a prebendary of Salisbury Cathedral, a Canon of Windsor, a prebendary of Durham Cathedral, and on the 27th July, 1667, he was installed as Dean of Windsor.

He translated the Book of Common Prayer into French, and by an Order in Council dated 6th October, 1662, it was directed that the book should be used in all the parish churches, and chapels, in the Islands of Jersey, and Guernsey, and the French church at the Savoy. The King gave him authority " to have his booke printed in what place, by whom, and in what volume he shall think fit and forbidding any other to print the same booke."

Here we have a foreshadowing of the Copyright Act, and his prayer book helped to keep his name before his fellow islanders as a great and distinguished Jerseymen. He was reported to have been a man of great learning, and very charming manners, a great courtier, who was held in great favour by those who held high office in the State. He died in the fifty-eighth year of his life, and was buried in one of the chapels at Windsor, and the following inscription can he read on the marble stab over his grave :


Reverend Philip Falle

We now come to a man who was the first known historian of Jersey. He was born in the year 1656, in the parish of St. Helier of a respectable family. At the age of thirteen he was entered at Exeter College, Oxford, and, after obtaining his degree, was ordained in 16 77. Sir John Lanier presented him with the Rectory of Trinity in the year 1681 with the stipend of forty pounds per annum.

His parish work did not prevent him being tutor to the son of the Governor, who in 1689, presented him with the Rectory of St. Saviour, then one of the best paid livings in the Island.

The people of Jersey about this time were very much troubled with rumours about the French preparations to invade their Island, and it was decided to send a deputation to London, to submit to the Privy Council and ask for sufficient forces to be sent to the Islands so that they could repel any possible invasion. The States appointed as their representatives, the Reverend Philip Falle, and Advocate Durell.

Evidently King William was favourably impressed with Falle, for shortly after the deputation had arrived the King appointed Falle one of his Chaplains, and, on the death of Queen Mary, he preached her funeral sermon.

When in 1700 he was appointed a prebendary of Durham, he ceased his connection with Jersey as a member of the States and resigned his living of St. Saviour- He became Rector of Shirley, a very well endowed appointment.

It is said that Falle wrote his history to support the application before the Privy Council from the Royal Court in connection with the possible dangers of invasion, and, for many years, his history was the standard work on the subject. 

It is an extraordinary thing, that living as Falle did, so near those wonderful years when first one side, and then the other was in power, he gives so scant an account of the doings of those days, but he knew his Jersey and her laws, and we are indebted to the historian who first told us the story about our forefathers. 

The first edition of his book was printed in the year 1694, and is now very scarce. In his later years, he remembered his native land, by presenting his collection of books to the States of the Island, and thereby enabled our Jurats to start a public library.

He died on the 7th May, 1742 at the age of eighty-six, after a long and useful life.

Peter Monamy
In the loan exhibition of pictures from the Macpherson Collection held at the Guildhall in London, in the Autumn of 1928, there were no fewer than eight pictures by this Jersey Artist. Among them was one which attracted considerable attention " Sundown, Man of War Saluting." It is a picture of wonderful balance, and the sea, the two men of War and other vessels are very true to life. He painted many vessels belonging to the Navy, and was considered a master in detail.

Peter Monamy was born in Jersey in the year 1670. Early in life his parents moved to London, where the son was apprenticed to a house and sign painter near London Bridge. We do not know how long the apprenticeship lasted but Monamy's attention was evidently fascinated by the movements of vessels passing up and down the River and in his spare time he acquired that knowledge of ships which was to be so useful to him in his after career.

He probably tried his hand at painting ships as they lay at anchor, and thereby earned small sums of money from those masters or owners who wanted pictures of their vessels. He possibly may have watched the Van der Veldes and other marine painters at work. It has been suggested that Monamy was probably a pupil of one of the Van der Veldes, but the elder died when Monamy was only 23 years of age and most probably at that time Monamy was still at work as a house painter.

In the illustration of a picture now in the possession of the Societe Jersiaise, we have a typical specimen of his work. There are several Monamies at Hampton Court, and other collections, and in the Old Vauxhall he was employed in painting scenes depicting Admiral Vernon's victories.

In 1731 his portrait was painted by H. Stully and shows him at 61 to be a man of good appearance and intelligence. However he does not appear to have been a good businessman, or perhaps the prices paid at that time for his pictures did not do more than support him, for, when he died at his house in Westminster in 1749, he was a poor man.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Busy weekend for Jersey RNLI lifeguards

Photo shows RNLI lifeguards and Jersey Fire and Rescue Service helping a teenager who fell from rocks at St Brelade’s Bay. Credit Jersey Fire and Rescue

I've received this press release today from the Jersey RNLI (see below), which I'm putting out on my blog about incidents this weekend, with a few comments first about safety:


The teenager who fell at the weekend was "coastering". The relatively new adventure activity of coasteering is all about getting wet swimming and jumping and scrambling round rocks. It’s also a great way to experience the wonders of the natural coastline.

The Website "Safe Water Sports" says:

"Coasteering is a wild fusion of rock climbing, scrambling, swimming and cliff jumping and a full on adrenalin activity guaranteed to get the heart throbbing and the blood rushing. It is a primitive activity with no equipment such as ropes or climbing harnesses, just basic safety wear, enabling total freedom of movement."

"Coasteering is potentially very dangerous if not carried out under the supervision of qualified and experienced instructors and should not be tackled independently."

Please take note!

Rip Currents

I've seen someone in difficulty in St Brelade's Bay caught out by a rip current one Easter, and it was only the swift action from a lifeguard from L'Horizon's Swimming Pool which stopped the swimmer being dragged out to sea.

A rip current, commonly referred to simply as a rip, or by the misnomer "rip tide", is one specific kind of water current that can be found near beaches. It is a strong, localized, and rather narrow current of water. It is strongest near the surface of the water, and it moves directly away from the shore, cutting through the lines of breaking waves.

Rip currents can be hazardous to people who are in the water. Swimmers or floaters who are caught in a rip and who do not understand what is going on, may not have the necessary water skills, may panic, or may exhaust themselves by trying to swim directly against the flow of water. 

Because of these factors, rips are the leading cause of rescues by lifeguards at beaches, and in the US rips are responsible for an average of 46 deaths from drowning each year.

As the press release says, talk to the lifeguards on duty about the sea conditions before going into the water.

Press Release: Busy weekend for Jersey RNLI lifeguards

RNLI lifeguards in Jersey had a busy few days this weekend, going to the aid of a teenager involved in a coasteering accident and rescuing seven people from strong rip currents.

On Sunday (23 August) RNLI lifeguards were alerted by the Coastguard that a 15-year-old girl had been injured after falling around 10 metres from a cliff top at St Brelade’s Bay landing on rocks below.

Lifeguards Ford Ramsden, Tom Buttel, Nathan Fogg and Cara Mallory-Vibert were first on the scene and managed to stabilise the casualty.

Jersey Fire and Rescue Service arrived at the scene in an inshore boat with a paramedic who administered further first aid, before the casualty was transported to the boat on an RNLI inshore rescue board. She was transported back to the bay to a waiting ambulance.

Rob Stuteley RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor said: ‘It was not a straight forward rescue, so the team did extremely well and responded to the incident quickly. The services worked well together to ensure the casualty was safely removed from the rocks and taken for further care.’

On Saturday (22 August) RNLI lifeguards at St Ouen’s rescued seven people after they got into difficulty in strong rip currents. Lifeguards were afloat on the rescue watercraft (RWC) for three hours guiding bathers away from the rip currents and back into the red and yellow flagged area.

RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor Will Glenn said: ‘With temperatures in the high 20’s the beaches were very busy over the weekend and there were a lot of people in the water. Lifeguards rescued a number of bodyboarders and surfers who got caught in rip currents and brought them safely back to the shore.

‘The rip currents at St Ouen’s can be very strong at times. We would advise that people talk to the lifeguards on duty about the sea conditions before going into the water and remember to swim or bodyboard between the red and yellow flags.

‘If you become caught in a rip current on a bodyboard, stay with your board, wave your hand and the lifeguards will come to assist.’

The RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign is running throughout the summer. To find out more about the dangers of the coast and how to stay safe, visit or search #RespectTheWater on social media.

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 230 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and has more than 180 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK. 

Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved 140,000 lives.

Monday, 24 August 2015

The Politics of a Tyrant State

Islamic State militants have destroyed Palmyra's ancient temple of Baalshamin, Syrian officials and activists say. Syria's head of antiquities was quoted as saying the temple was blown up on Sunday. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that it happened one month ago.

Last week, it emerged that the 81-year-old archaeologist who had looked after Palmyra's ruins for four decades had been beheaded by the militant group. The group has also published photos of what they said was the destruction of two Islamic shrines near Palmyra, which they described as "manifestations of polytheism"

-- BBC News

The destruction of shrines by Islamic extremists is a demonstration of power, of the ability to take over the world and mould it in their own image.

But it is also a sign of fear. The very existence of anything which could contradict the strict puritanical variety of Islam is something they fear, because it shows that people at different times have believed different things.

That’s why they also go to lengths that actually pervert Islam, beheading an 81 year old. What could he do? He could speak. He could tell people about the past.

There is a sense of deja vue. If you look at the old photographs of party officials and leaders in Russia, particularly in the Stalinist era, you will see that photos are touched up to change history to the official line. History is rewritten to erase the past, just as is happening here.

That, of course, is picked up in Orwell’s 1984, where people who fall out of favour become “non-persons” and are erased. It is a world where there is only one way to think, no dissent is permitted, as Orwell notes:

“It is a stifling, stultifying world in which to live. It is a world in which every word and every thought is censored. . . . Even friendship can hardly exist when every . . . man is a cog in the wheels of despotism. Free speech is unthinkable…. You are not free to think for yourself. Your opinion on every subject of any conceivable importance is dictated for you.”

And like 1984, there needs to be someone to hate – in the case if ISIS, anyone different, including - let us not forget - other varieties of Islam.

There’s another interesting comparison, pointed out in an article entitled “Islamic State’s ‘medieval’ ideology owes a lot to revolutionary France” by Profession Kevin McDonald. He points out that the originator of the term “Islamic States”, Abul A’la Maududi, looked to the French Revolution for inspiration “which he believed offered the promise of a “state founded on a set of principles” as opposed to one based upon a nation or a people.”

“This universal citizen, separated from community, nation or history, lies at the heart of Maududi’s vision of “citizenship in Islam” (Islamic Way of Life). Just as the revolutionary French state created its citizens, with the citizen unthinkable outside the state, so too the Islamic state creates its citizens. This is at the basis of Maududi’s otherwise unintelligible argument that one can only be a Muslim in an Islamic state.”

And there are other similarities, which are just beginning to reach the outside world. Like the Terror, internal dissent is stamped out, but what counts as dissent is sifting as internal power groups vie for control. As one source revealed in June 2015:

“ISIS militants are divided into several competing groups: Some are extreme hardliners originally attracted by the harsh application of Sharia law; others are Syrian militants who now complain that they bore the brunt of the months-long fighting over the border town of Kobani and are reluctant to be used to reinforce ISIS units in neighbouring Iraq. Still others are Gulf Arabs jealous of the power held by hardcore Iraqi militants who form the inner coterie of the ISIS leadership around Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The Gulf Arabs, many of whom are veterans from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, feel excluded from overall decision-making.”

There have been quarrels and executions internally. An example is the following:

“North African recruits say they have been used as cannon fodder, especially in the battle for Kobani. Last week, four Tunisian recruits who joined ISIS months ago were executed in the neighbourhood of Rumaila in central Raqqa, say opposition activists. They were described as traitors. Two other Tunisians, possibly along with family members, were executed in the Eddekhar neighbourhood of Raqqa.”

Jamie Dettmer comments:

“The quarrels and executions trigger more cycles of revenge as commanders and groups compete and jockey for power and survival.”

Some terror groups face an internal crisis and survive . As Martin Kramer observes: “All Islamist movements have such potential conflicts. Hezbollah, for example, was a coalition of Shiites from two very different regions of Lebanon (Bekaa versus South), but it never split because Iran mediated the differences.”

But Dettmer asks: ““The question is who within ISIS is mediating differences and whether internal conflict-resolution can contain the terror army’s mix of multiple groups and nationalities.”

Sunday, 23 August 2015

And Was Made Man

For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
(from The Nicene Creed)

Right from the start, the notion that Jesus is in some sense not a real man, but a god like being who has disguised himself as a man has been present. Of course, the Pagan gods, such as Zeus, could do this all the time, appearing in a human form, but that being an illusion to deceive the sense of mortal man.

And it is perhaps hardly surprising. The gospel stories abound in strange tales, tales that seem to belong more to the realm of legend than fact. While the healing stories are something common to other human beings, stories in which Jesus turns water into wine, walks on water, or feeds the five thousand with a few loafs and fishes, are not commonplace even by the most remarkable of ordinary men.

The notion that Jesus was somehow a divine being in disguise was called the Docetic heresy, and elements of it still pervade Christianity today.

A modern form for a scientific age is Superman,, and it is informative to compare Batman with Superman. Batman is simply an ordinary man, well trained in methods of fighting, aided by gadgets, and a crime fighter; he hides himself beneath a mask, but beneath that mask is a normal man. Superman, on the contrary, hides himself as Clark Kent, an apparently normal man; his real appearance is an alien from the planet Krypton, imbued with super powers by earth’s sun. Clark Kent is a façade, disguising the being with superhuman powers beneath.

And that, in a nutshell, is like the docetic heresy. Jesus appears like a man, but every so often, he gets out his superpowers and does those clever miracles like a Harry Potter wizard.

Here is a second look at a very different portrayal of Jesus, that in the play “Son of Man”. Dennis Potter’s Jesus is very different. There is only one “miracle”, driving a demon from a woman, and this is seen as if it could be healing of a psychological disorder. But elsewhere, lest we forget it, Jesus is human. He is not a fake. He is not Superman in human disguise as Clarke Kent. There is no halo visible.

Where he is man, he is true man, and Potter hammers this home, probably in ways which caused Mary Whitehouse to want him prosecuted for blasphemy, because Potter does not skate delicately over those bodily functions which we all have as human beings:

JESUS: The son of man must be a man. He must be all of a man. He must pass water like a man. He must get hungry and feel tired and sick and lonely. He must laugh. He must cry. He cannot be other than a man, or else God has cheated.

JUDAS: But Jesus - if -

JESUS [urgently]: And so my Father in Heaven will abandon me to myself. And if my head aches he will not lift the ache out of it. And if my stomach rumbles he will not clean out my bowels. And if a. snake curls into my thoughts, then the fang will be in my mind. If I were to have no doubt I would be other than a man.


And God does not cheat.

That’s the great strength of Potter’s Jesus. When asked how people will know, what sign he will give, he won’t do anything special. You have to take him as he is, and see him for who he is, and that insight, that moment of clarity, is the miracle of faith. It is the holiness of the man that is the sign. God does not cheat.

Mark Lee comments on Jesus that why might glean from Son of Man: “He was man as to his conscious thought, and bodily desires, needs and sensations: and being a man he was vulnerable to all human weakness and frailty to which we are all inclined. But, according to this view, also being inwardly God, his soul was divine and this meant he had the divine goodness, wisdom and power of his inner self to resist all selfish desires and impure thoughts.”

Over it all, as in the previous part, is context: a cross present, a sign of what the Roman’s do, of someone else’s death, rather like in England there used to be a scaffold at crossroads, which might have a hanged felon on it, or would stand as a stark warning. It is in fact something we don’t see or hear about in the gospels until the end, but here, it is present, although as Potter notes, it has become so much part of the landscape of the people under Roman rule that they don’t see it for what it is, just as someone passing the empty scaffold would simply see it as part of its surrounds.

This act finishes with a note of irony which I rather like, because Jesus knows where he is going, and he and Judas both know the threat of the cross, and we also get a reminder that Jesus is a carpenter.

God does not cheat
An Extract from "Son of Man" by Dennis Potter

JESUS: Love God your Father above all things. And love your neighbour as yourself.

JUDAS: Who is my neighbour?

JESUS: The man next to you. Or him in the corner of your eye. [dryly] You can't miss him.

JUDAS: I try to follow the Commandments.

JESUS: Good.

JUDAS: What else must I do?

JESUS: Go home and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor.

JUDAS: Or to the Temple?

JESUS [bitingly]: The poor!

JUDAS: And then?

JESUS: And then follow me. Give up everything else - family, friends, money, security - and come with me. We are about to - illuminate this land.

[JUDAS suddenly sinks to his knees.]

JUDAS: Yes, I will follow you.

[JESUS smiles and touches JUDAS' head.]

JESUS: What is your name?

JUDAS: Judas Iscariot.

JESUS: Welcome, Judas. [He embraces him.]

JUDAS: MyL - l - lord --?


JUDAS: Jerusalem is full of rumours about you. Some even dare to say that you are - [He stops.]

JESUS [quietly]: I am that I am.

JUDAS: That you - you are the - Messiah.


JESUS: Is that what they say?

JUDAS: Are you?


JESUS: I am that I am.

JUDAS: But - Jesus --?

PETER: Leave him be!

JUDAS: Jesus - !

[JESUS, strangely agitated, has gone to the cross. It is as though he has just seen it, just realised what is there.]

[With urgency] Jesus - Be careful. Please be careful.

[JESUS throws back his head and roars with laughter.]

JESUS: Careful I Have you trekked out all this way to tell me to be careful!

[The four others join in his laughter.]

JUDAS [shrilly]: They'll nail you up on the Cross!

[The laughter dies.]

[Embarrassed]: If you put a foot wrong - it's that horrible thing...

[He points at the cross. The others, except JESUS, automatically cringe back from it.]

ANDREW: I didn't even see it - I didn't even...

JESUS [harshly]: It is part of the landscape.


JAMES [agitated]: Come on. I -.suddenly I don't like this place.

ANDREW: Me neither. By God, no!

[But PETER, who has been glaring at JUDAS, suddenly bursts out angrily at the newcomer.]

PETER: What do you want? Eh? What do you have to say that for!

JUDAS: It is a warning.

PETER: Well stuff your bloody warning --

JESUS [interrupting]: Peter I

PETER: Well - he comes out here, all poshed up, and starts -

JESUS [severely]: Peter!

[JESUS looks closely at JUDAS, who lowers his eyes.]

[Quietly] I understand where you are from. I understand what you are saying. But what is written is written. What is foretold is foretold.

[The others are out of it; this is between JESUS and JUDAS. They listen, but only half-understand.]

JUDAS: Then you are He?

JESUS: Perhaps. [A little smile.]

JUDAS [imploring]: Don't you know?

JESUS: God does not cheat.

JUDAS: I don't understand - ?

JESUS: The son of man must be a man. He must be all of a man. He must pass water like a man. He must get hungry and feel tired and sick and lonely. He must laugh. He must cry. He cannot be other than a man, or else God has cheated.

JUDAS: But Jesus - if -

JESUS [urgently]: And so my Father in Heaven will abandon me to myself. And if my head aches he will not lift the ache out of it. And if my stomach rumbles he will not clean out my bowels. And if a. snake curls into my thoughts, then the fang will be in my mind. If I were to have no doubt I would be other than a man.


And God does not cheat.

[Pause. ]

JUDAS: Then how shall we know?

JESUS: By what you see. By what you hear. How else?

[Again JUDAS points at the cross.]

JUDAS : Then you know - that thing ! You know it waits for you.

JESUS [very calm]: It waits.

[Silence. The others want to go.]

JOHN: We don't like it here, Master.

PETER: That thing!

JAMES: Let us go down into the village -

ANDREW: Please. Jesus -

JOHN: We don't like it here!

[JESUS's calm is shattered by their whimpering. His own fear bubbles to the top. He rounds on them, almost savagely.]

JESUS [with harsh mockery]: `We don't like it here, Master.' Too bad. Too flaming bad, my friends. Just look at that cross. Go on! Look at it!

PETER [Angrily]: Why should we?

JESUS: So that we can keep it in our minds. [He taps angrily at his forehead.] Keep it in here. Keep the shape stinging behind our eyes. And let one little splinter of that bloodied wood stick and fester in our brains. Right? [He strides up to the cross and holds the upright beam, clinging to it.] God won't let me alone. Not now. I am His. Oh, oh. He burns inside me. He tears at my chest. He lights up my eyes. He tugs at my clothes. Oh Holy Father, you have hunted me down. You have opened the top of my head. I have heard you. I have seen you. Dear Lord God on High - shall I show a man a chair, or shall I show man the truth of your justice and the path to your Kingdom?

[Feverish now, and impressive. The others kneel, except JUDSASs, who stares wide-eyed at JESUS]

Oh, oh, He burns inside me! The Lord God is in my head and in my eyes and in my heart and in my mouth. Yes, in my mouth. He has told me what to do, what to say. I am His. I am His. I am His. I am the Chosen One. I am the Way. I am the Messiah. Yes. Yes!

[Pause. JESUS lowers his arms. Now he is calm and matter-of-fact.]

Go into Jerusalem all of you, one by one. Tell the people about Jesus of Nazareth. Tell them He is the One. The One they have been waiting for. Tell them that in three days I shall enter the Holy City on an ass, so fulfilling the prophecies of our forefathers. Tell them to greet me as they would their King. But it is the Kingdom of God I come to honour. Go now! Do as I say! Go! Go!

[They rise and move off, and JESUS turns back to smack at the cross.]

[Smiling] Ach! You should have stayed a tree. A tree. [Slight pause.] And I should have stayed a carpenter. A carpenter.

[Pause. Then he follows the others. The light fades.]

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Corpus Hermeticum

This poem takes its starting point on two Hermetic texts, the Corpus Hermeticum XIII.18 and the Corpus Hermeticum XIII.11. Those following the work of Iamblichus, a philosopher of the 4th century, in what was known as "theurgy". Alongside Plotinus and Porphyry, he was a founder of Neoplatonism.

Theurgy (/ˈθiːɜrdʒi/; from Greek θεουργία) describes the practice of rituals, sometimes seen as magical in nature, performed with the intention of invoking the action or evoking the presence of one or more gods, especially with the goal of uniting with the divine, achieving henosis, and perfecting oneself.

Henosis (Ancient Greek: ἕνωσις) is the word for mystical "oneness," "union," or "unity" in classical Greek. In Platonism, and especially Neoplatonism, the goal of henosis is union with what is fundamental in reality: the One (Τὸ Ἕν), the Source, or Monad.

As I've currently been studying a number of Neoplatonic writings of the 4th century, it seemed appropriate to fashion a poem; I have, however, attempted to given it a local Jersey feel, hence the dolmen!

Corpus Hermeticum

Powers within me, sing a hymn
Sing to the One and to the All
Open up both mind and limb
Open portal, break down wall

Now sing together with my will
Hymning light, the joy of mind
Within the dolmen, on the hill
Open inner eyes so blind

Sacred knowledge, join with me
Enlighten me, all you powers
Earth and land and sky and sea
As I gift the offering of flowers

Throughout heaven, earth, water, air
Make Wisdom give her blessing here

Friday, 21 August 2015

The Fat Public Sector by Ben Shenton

One of the things which seems to be lacking in the States is an organisation chart, giving the relationship of different posts to each other, and a brief description of what each post is for. The States websites provide a "top level" summary, but it is barely a sketch, and certainly not fit for purpose.

And yet - unless we have a breakdown, how can the States see where it is management heavy? How can they see how matters can be streamlined?

The last organisation chart - a very comprehensive and detailed one - was done by former Senator Sarah Ferguson, after she was told that there was not one for the hospital, but she could go in, get data, and do one herself. I think that's pretty atrocious. The States should have their own charts, and keep them up to date.

We hear a lot about "lean" in the States; it is the latest management buzz word. There is no evidence coming from the States that "lean" has produced savings. We are told it is marvellous, but what I'd like to see is not "improvements" detailed in copious project reports, but the bottom line -- claimed savings adding up to a sizeable fraction of total costs.

According to the Mind Tools website, "The Lean approach is based on finding efficiencies and removing wasteful steps that don't add value to the end product. There's no need to reduce quality.. – the cuts are a result of finding better, more efficient ways of accomplishing the same tasks."

Is there a paper trail which documents these efficiences and the removal of wasteful steps so we can actually see improvements made rather than just hearing that they have been?

There's a saying about movies - don't tell, show. It would be nice if the States did a bit more showing, a little less telling.

And in particular, can we have details of what middle management posts there are, and what they actually do, and why they are necessary. There seems to be a lot of pyramid style Empire building. We know what teachers and nurses do. But what do all the fancy named post holders above them do?

I remember Dick Green, who was a nice chap, but in charge of a quango at Education which produced lots of paper, but nothing very concrete. He could not escape the mindset of the pyramid; for him, that was how organisations should be built.

Ian Gorst has said in a number of speeches and replies to questions that States management organisation is stuck in the early 20th century (or perhaps the 19th). Ben Shenton's analysis suggests that not much has changed to improve matters.

Here's Ben Shenton in the JEP, sharply identifying a new management position in Education, and asking what precisely is going on:

Ben Shenton on Public Sector Management

Just how committed are the very well paid management teams in the public sector in achieving the political ambition of cutting costs while maintaining or improving front-line services?

I doubt that any taxpayer begrudges the salaries of dedicated nurses, inspirational teachers or diligent policeman. What they do begrudge is a fat public sector with too many pen-pushers and too many layers of government. Let’s look at the current government vacancies on the States of Jersey website and examine if the notion of running efficient departments while saving money is sinking in.

I’ve picked the role of ‘professional partner to schools’ as the vacancy to review. This is a brand new position with a salary of up to £78,943 per annum; if you add in social security and pension contributions, the taxpayer cost will be in the region of £100,000. It is a permanent role and the five-year residency requirement has been dropped, as seems commonplace in the public sector, so anyone can apply.

The job summary states: ‘Jersey is seeking to recruit an exceptional professional to join our growing school development and evaluation team.’

The use of the word ‘growing’ hardly instils confidence that those in charge at Education have grasped the concept of keeping costs under control.

This is not a cheap role and is not a front-line appointment. The post holder will be a member of the school development and evaluation team and will report to the head of school development and evaluation, who already costs the taxpayers well over £100,000 per annum. The job seems to entail visiting schools ‘to make judgments about effective strategies for school improvement’. Obviously the head teachers and the very well paid head of school development and evaluation are incapable of undertaking this role.

This appointment is not surprising when you see the organisational structure at Education accompanying the job description. For example, the early years administrator reports to the five members of the early years advisory team, who report to the teaching and early years learning adviser, who reports to the head of early years, who reports to the assistant director standards and achievement, who reports to the director for education, sport and culture, who reports to the minister. Not one student-facing person among all these roles; not one member of front-line services.

If the unions want to look after their members, they must stop their ridiculous 1970s strike rhetoric and help to mould a lean and efficient public sector. At the moment it looks like they wish to inflict higher taxes on most of their members to protect fat public-sector management. They need to realise that the public-sector managers use them to protect their own cosy positions. This has to stop.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Trends in Climate Change

Trends in Climate Change

Yesterday as well as rising sea levels, the pre-amble to the sequence on BBC Radio Jersey described “wildfires” as a consequence of climate change! Really?

There was recently a wild fire at Les Landes. It does not take much for the gorse to get tinder dry, and this happens every year. What does set it on fire – as happened at Les Landes – is man made as a result (for example) of someone carelessly throwing away a cigarette butt, still smouldering. It is not exactly connected with climate change, and it looks as if the merry jingle cataloguing disasters was pinched from elsewhere – maybe places like Spain or California, where they really do have wild fires raging.

Yesterday we had something even odder. We were told that young children were an age group vulnerable to climate change – in particular flooding and heat. Now heat I can understand – like older people, the body’s regulation of heat in the young is not as good as that of most adults, and they are vulnerable to extremes of cold and heat. But – flooding?

I pictured to myself the flood waters rising to the necks of small children and then over the tops of their heads, while to adults standing nearby, it was only reaching waste height! At any rate, no explanation was given as to how young children were vulnerable to flooding, particularly in Jersey, which after all was supposed to be the focus of the story.

At present, there is no measurable increase in sea levels around Jersey, but there is more unsettled weather, and a greater coincidence of high winds, heavy rain, and high tides – the elements for flooding on the lower coastal areas.

Sceptics will point to extreme weather in the past, and it is important not to ignore these facts. Two years before the idyllic long summer heat wave of 1976, Jersey was being battered by severe weather, twice in one year.

This makes it important to look at trends, of looking at clusters of bad weather events and their frequency over a number of years. Two dice, after all, when thrown twice will come up sometimes with two sixes. But if the dice are weighted, as we may well suspect they are because of climate change, one would expect to see a greater occurrence of sixes than was hitherto the case, or could be expected by chance.

A statistical study in 2014 by Dr Erich Markus Fischer showed that extreme heat waves and heavy rain storms are already happening with increasing regularity worldwide. The chart above shows the annual frequency of North Atlantic Tropical storms. The chart goes up and down, but the overall trends is upward, and sharply. We are in a period of very nasty unsettled weather.

Locally, the late Tony Pallot, Principal meteorological officer has said in 2014 that while the recent conditions are not unusual in themselves, bad weather is becoming more common.

And another report shows that so-called “blocking patterns”, where hot or wet weather remains stuck over a region for weeks causing heat waves or floods, have more than doubled in summers over the last decade. That's certainly something effecting us in Jersey.

Even the sceptics must admit that change to more extreme weather is occurring, even if they deny its cause. The fact remains, however, that regardless of the acceptance or not, that sea defences need to be looked at to improve greater resilience against bad weather.

What sceptics do is to point to bad weather events of the past, to show that it happened then. That is why statistical trends are more important than singular occurences.

An example is the severe weather of 1974, demonstrating that extremes of weather have occurred in the past, even if their frequency, taken as a long term trend, is increasing year on year. The Almanac report was as follows:

January 28 1974: The motor yacht Naomi sank in Gorey Harbour last might after she broke loose from her moorings in the gale-force winds. Only the cabin top of the yacht, owned by Major-General J. H.O. Wilsey, of Maufant Manor, was visible early this morning, and Gorey Harbour attendant, Mr. Doug Park, said that the vessel was badly damaged.

January 29-Although the petrol tanker Esso Tynemouth has been sheltering off the Isle of Wight since the weekend and is not expected to reach the Island until tonight, Esso say they have plenty of petrol in store.

The tanker, carrying 520 tons of petrol for the Island, has been unable to complete her journey from Fawley because of gales.-The Defence Committee announced that the Island had almost met the required reduction in the use of all fuels, said that the saving in petrol usage only amounted to 5 ½ per cent last week. A further call to motorists not to use their cars for non-essential journeys was made,

February 9: Rough seas and winds gusting to gale force caused chaos on Jersey’s low-lying south coast this morning when they combined with a 39 ft high tide. For more than an hour, parts of the of the coast roads from La Grande Charriere through the Dicq and Havre des Pas and from Gloucester Street right along to St Aubin were flooded and closed to traffic.

February 11: This morning’s high title combined with gale-force winds from the south to cause some of the worst damage on exposed south coast areas in many years. Hardest hit was Gorey where the harbour took the full force of the storm and a number of boats were wrecked. Tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage was caused at Gorey in what was described by a veteran fisherman as " the worst storm in living memory”. The occupants of two sea-lashed cottages at Gory say they were afraid to sleep in their homes tonight because of the possibility of more serious damage.

March 9.-The full extent of the damage to the early potato crop caused by the severe frost earlier this week has not yet been ascertained, but it is expected to be quite serious.

September 2.---Mountainous seas and gale-force winds lashed Jersey's east coast this morning leaving a trail of destruction from Gorey to St. Catherine for the second dine this year. At least three valuable boats were smashed against the rocks until they were nothing more than drift wood, and several other craft suffered minor damage after dragging their moorings and pounding against harbour walls.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Pensioners Bus Fares: Manipulating the Figures

"Politicians use statistics in the same way that a drunk uses lamp-posts—for support rather than illumination" - Andrew Lang

I've just had a reply to my Freedom of Information request. My questions and comments:

As Eddie Noel, Minister of Transport and Technical Services, has proposed that pensioners should pay for buses travelling at peak times, please could TTS or other relevant authority supply me with:

Question: Statistics on numbers of pensioners travelling in peak time (which I assume the Minister must have)


The most recent quarter for which data is available covers the period January to March 2015. Using the definition of “peak time” as the one and a half hours from 07:00 to 08:30, on weekdays only (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and bank holidays), the average number of recorded bus passenger journeys using a concessionary travel card is typically 120 per working day, equivalent to nearly 4 fully seated single decker commuter buses.


This is an extremely manipulative use of statistics. It falls into the presentation of statistics which make an impact but don't tell you anything useful, like the fact that the average person goes to the toilet 2,040 times per year, or that the average person drinks 12,000 cups of coffee in a lifetime.

The image of 4 fully seated single decker buses filled with pensioners at peak times every day has a similar impact, but it is just as useless in telling you the spread of pensioners across all bus routes.

While the figures are correct, to put it in a better perspective - which shows how much spin there is - there are around 48 buses taking people into town during the period from 0.70 to 08.30 - as most routes have more than one bus travelling in.

Even assuming that we only count inward travel - 120 /48 gives approximately 2.5 pensioners per bus. That's not a lot, and if we consider all routes - after all, not all travellers are making an inward journey to St Helier, the figure drops to around 1.5 pensioners per bus, even less.

Of course, some buses routes - the 15, for example, may have more pensioners because that route has around 6 buses going inwards at peak times. So the figure of 2.5 per bus is an average, but it gives a better idea of the number of pensioners at peak times than the image of 4 fully seated buses - and don't forget that the 15 is in fact usually a double decker as well.

Question: Definition of what is meant by “peak time” in this particular context


As indicated in the answer to the first question, “peak time” in terms of bus travel is taken to mean the one and a half hour period between 07:00 and 08:30 on a working weekday.


It is useful to know the Minister is only counting morning peak time.

Question: Rate at which pensioners would be expected to pay if not full fare


In the proposed States' Medium Term Financial Plan 2016-19 (MTFP), there are references to concessionary fares on page 70:

"Increases in bus ridership have meant that expenditure on concessionary fares for pensioners and the school bus service is significantly in excess of budget. Concessionary fares are a substantial contractual cost of the service and these costs will continue to increase year on year, unless changes are made to the concessionary travel rules".

and on page 85:

"Concessionary bus fares are also under consideration to maximise bus capacity during the morning peak period".

In the light of budgetary pressures, a peak hour charge remains a more preferable policy option than reducing services. However as no policy decision has been made, it is not possible to indicate the fare level that would be charged for a concessionary pass during the morning peak, were such a proposal to be formally put forward.


Even if pensioners paid full price we are talking less than £1,000 per week which is alleged loss in revenue, say £50,000 per year. This is a pitiful saving if that is what is intended. That is not even half of Philip Ozouf’s expenses account! It is clear that the Minister is scraping the bottom of the barrel for savings.

Activity, as Sir Humphrey says in “Yes Minister” is politician's substitute for achievement. In the absence of any really effective cuts, Eddie Noel is trying to show he is doing something by nibbling away at the edges

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Jerseys Anglican Church: Some Problems with Safeguarding


Clergy and senior lay leaders in Jersey's Anglican Church have had training in protecting islanders from abuse, the Bishop of Dover said. The Right Reverend Trevor Willmott said new safeguarding measures are in place to reassure everyone in the church. It follows a decision by the church's governing body - the Synod - that improvements must be made. Bishop Willmott said there was no question in his mind that "God's people are safe in this island".

-- BBC News

What would be useful to know, in the interests of transparency, would be the enhanced policies and procedures. I’ve had a look at the Town church website, and the only thing remotely connected is in the diary where there are “safeguarding training and lunches”.

There is no safeguarding officer to contact in the list of contacts, no safeguarding policies on the website, and no indication of these new improvements at all, no links to safeguarding elsewhere (such as Dover) - or, for that matter, what training consisted of, or what they had for lunch!

Now pretty well any club or organisation which deals with children and vulnerable adults has a policy on their website, but the Anglican Church in Jersey does not. We have no idea how complaints will be handled, whether minutes of meetings will be kept, whether it will be ensured that vulnerable adults will have someone they trust in attendance.

[As an insert, I have been informed that St Brelade's Church will be making a copy of the policy available at the back of the church on the notice board.]

It is also not clear how the church would act to implement the policies anyway. Part of the problem, both locally and in the UK, has been the way that in local communities, it is difficult to find someone outside and independent to look into these matters.

As one English survivor, called CF, said of her case:

"An abuse policy that does not have a clearly stated process of implementation is effectively worthless. A vulnerable person or an abused person by definition has no power in the Church. This means that someone with power has to make a decision to implement the policy, but to do this they have to suspend their total and complete faith in the priest or other person concerned."

There is a link to the Canons of the Church of England in Jersey on the Town Church website, and it is here that some interesting notes on safeguarding arise as the local Canons differ from the English Canon Law.

Let us look at changes to Canon Law to improve safeguarding in England:

On 16 February 2015, David Pocklingtom reported on changes taking place to Canon Law in England. This is what he noted:

At General Synod on 12 February, Mr Geoffrey Tattersall introduced the main provisions of the Draft PCCs: There was agreement that the disqualification and suspension provisions for PCC members should mirror those in relation to churchwardens. Furthermore, a bishop should also be empowered to suspend PCC secretaries and treasurers who are not PCC members.

(GS 1952A) and the draft Amending Canon No.34 (GS 1953A) – Draft Measure and draft Amending Canon for Revision. The main points identified in his speech are summarized below, and the Report by the Revision Committee is available as GS 1952-3Y.

The main provisions of the draft Measure are:

Suspension of a priest: Section 36(1) of the Clergy Discipline Measure already provides for the suspension of a priest or deacon when disciplinary proceedings are commenced or he/she is arrested on suspicion of committing a criminal offence, is convicted of certain offences, or included on a barred list.

Clause 1(1) of the draft Measure adds a power to suspend where the bishop is satisfied on information provided by the police or local authority that a priest or deacon presents a significant risk of harm – as defined in clause 1(2) – but before suspending the bishop is required to consult at the very least the diocesan safeguarding advisor. Such suspension continues for 3 months but may be renewed.

Churchwardens: The current clause 2 of the draft Measure provides for the disqualification and suspension of churchwardens. Mr Tattersall highlighted that:

Although the initial draft provided for a waiver of disqualification, the Revision Committee was persuaded that any such waiver required further clarity. Consequently clause 2(2) provides that before giving any waiver the bishop must at the very least consult the diocesan safeguarding advisor, and must give reasons for any such waiver, and that any such waiver will be of unlimited duration and have effect in every diocese;

As to suspension, the Committee agreed that a bishop should not only have power to suspend a churchwarden in the circumstances set out the present clause 2(5) of the draft Measure: i.e. if arrested on suspicion of committing a Schedule 1 offence, but also if the bishop was satisfied that the churchwarden presents a significant risk of harm.

And the draft Measure states this:

A relevant person must have due regard to guidance issued by the House of Bishops on matters relating to the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults.

(2) Each of the following is a relevant person—
(a) a clerk in Holy Orders who is authorised to officiate in accordance with the canons of the Church of England;
(b) a diocesan, suffragan or assistant bishop;
(c) an archdeacon;
(d) a person who is licensed to exercise the office of reader or serve as a lay worker;
(e) a churchwarden;
(f) a parochial church council.

(1) In this Measure, “child” means a person aged under 18.
(2) In this Measure, “vulnerable adult” means a person aged 18 or over whose ability to protect himself or herself from violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation is significantly impaired through physical or mental disability or illness, old age, emotional fragility or distress, or otherwise.

Given that part of the reason for the split between Jersey and Winchester arose from a complaint made by a lady called HG about a churchwarden, these changes in England’s Canon Law - which mention churchwardens - need to be replicated in Jersey.

Remember what the report said about the Churchwarden (EY):

"E.Y.'s behaviour towards women had been a matter of concern at St X for some time with comments about it coming from various sources. In a telephone call to the Safeguarding Advisor J.F. in December 2008 the Dean R.K. says that E.Y. had been spoken to about the fact he is too tactile, stands too close to women, touches too much/inappropriately. His manner was deemed to be inappropriate to such an extent that he was chaperoned within the church when in close proximity to women. This was an informal but explicit policy of the parish and at interview the Dean of Jersey acknowledged that it was known to him."

What is missing, therefore, from the Bishop’s statement is:

1. Policy and procedure documents available online in the public domain, including contacts and how to report a complaint.

2. Changes to Jersey Canon Law to bring it in line with England’s new safeguarding measures.

3. Clearly the informal policy described above should not be tolerated, but it would be good to have that made explicit as well.

Without those changes, the statement by the Bishop of Dover, that "God's people are safe in this island" seems rather hollow. It leaves significant gaps which still need to be rectified if that statement is to be made good.