Friday, 30 June 2017

Beautiful Britain - Jersey - Part 2

My history for the next few weeks will come from “The Channel Islands” by Joseph E Morris, B.A., published by London, Adam and Charles Black, 1911. It is fascinating because, firstly, it is a guidebook from 1911, depicting a Jersey before the Great War erupted across Europe, and secondly because it is very much an outsider looking in, and making very personal observations mingled with the history.

Beautiful Britain - Jersey - Part 2

Mont Orgeuil

Mont Orgueil, where we stand, is not a bad starting-point from which to commence our exploration of Jersey. Happy, indeed, the visitor who arrives at this little port from France-and the steamer comes from Carteret in little more than an hour.

Most English tourists, on the other hand, make Jersey first at St. Helier, which happens to be a town of considerable dullness, and compares very badly with St. Peter Port, in Guernsey.

Mont Orgueil, however, may be reached at once from St. Helier by one of the two strange little railways that traverse the south coast of the island. The traveller should quit the train at the previous station of Gorey Village, and walk thence across Gorey Common to the Castle.

This last, placed bravely on its boss of rugged rock, grows more and more impressive the nearer we approach it. Superb in situation, and un- usually picturesque, this " hill of pride " has yet few features of real architectural interest. Parts of it date from about the end of the twelfth century, and the archeologist, of course, will gather "sermons" from every stone of it.

But the ordinary sight-seer will be best delighted with the picturesque approach up long flights of steps past successive gateways ; with the beautiful views of land and sea to be got from its towers ; and, best of all, by the general view of the castle itself, dominating the little harbour that crouches below its walls.

The structure is built of a soft red granite, that is very pleasant to look on, and not least so in spring, when its broken walls are beautifully variegated with a thousand brilliantly orange wallflowers. One is reminded for a moment of the famous verse - A rose-red city, half as old as time -  which is said to have won the Newdigate prize for Dean Burgon's poem on Petra.

Prynne at Mont Orgueil

Nor so is Mont Orgueil by any means lacking in tragic “foot-notes" to history. William Prynne had been condemned to lifelong imprisonment by the Star Chamber in 1634, and to lose both his ears in the pillory.

Two years previously he had published his Histriomastix, " a volume of over a thousand pages," in which he had upheld, with many ancient and modern instances, the immorality of the drama and of play-acting.

Unfortunately, at about this time Henrietta Maria had herself taken part in some private theatricals, and a certain passage in the index, " reflecting on the character of female actors in general, was construed as an aspersion on the Queen."

For this, and other offences, he received the savage sentence, which was carried into execution with unrelenting cruelty. At first he was imprisoned in the Tower ; but three years later (having in the meanwhile been found guilty of another “seditious libel" and branded on both cheeks) he was removed, first to Carnarvon Castle, and afterwards to Mont Orgueil.

With the meeting of the Long Parliament, in 1640, Prynne was immediately set at liberty. In Jersey he had occupied an enforced and tedious leisure by indulging a propensity for verse-making. His “Mount Orgueil, or Divine and Profitable Meditations”, was published in 1641 ; and “A Pleasant Purge for a Roman Catholic” in 1642 – “Rhyme," says Mr. C. H. Firth, in the Dictionary of National Biography, “is the only poetical characteristic they possess."

A line or two may be quoted from Mount Orgueil as a sample :

Mount Orgueil Castle is a lofty pile,
Within the Easterne parts of Jersey Isle,
Seated upon a Rocke, full large and high,
Close by the Sea-shore, next to Normandie.
The poet then goes on to tell us how this stronghold is sometimes assaulted-but assaulted to no purpose - by sea and wind, " two boystrous foes":

For why this fort is built upon a Rocke,
And so by Christs owne verdict free from shocke
Of floods and winds ; which on it oft may beate,
Yet never shake it, but themselves defeate.

The Bandinels and the Carterets

Less than a decade later and the walls of Mont Orgueil witnessed still blacker tragedy.

The quarrel of the Bandinels and the Carterets is an ugly page of history that almost recalls in its unrelenting ferocity some of the worst clan " vendettas " of the Highlands. The trouble began, apparently, with the action of Sir Philip de Carteret, when Governor of Jersey, in attempting to deprive David Bandinel - the writer does not know the rights and wrongs of the quarrel – of part of his tithes as Dean of the island.

Shortly after this the Civil War began in England, and the Channel Islands were immediately plunged into internecine strife. Philip de Carteret was leader of the Royalists, while Bandinel espoused the cause of the Parliament. The latter at first was triumphant, and Carteret and his wife, Elizabeth, were respectively besieged by the Parliamentary troops, the one in Elizabeth Castle, and the other in Mont Orgueil.

Carteret was not quite sixty years old, but the severities of the siege were too great for him. There were wrongs, no doubt, on both sides; but the Puritans seem certainly to have acted on occasion with a surly lack of generosity that goes far to atone for the brutal persecution by the Royalist party of a man like Prynne.

In 1644, when Colonel Morris was besieged in Pontefract, we read in the diary of Nathan Drake that "the enemy basely stayed all wine from coming to the Castle for serving of the Communion upon Easter Day, although Forbus (their Governor) had graunted p'tection for the same, and one Browne of Wakefield said if it was for our damnation we should have it, but not for our Solvation."

Similarly, in Jersey, the Parliamentary Committee, of whom Dean Bandinel was one, refused the dying Sir Philip the last consolations of religion, and even (according to some accounts) the presence of his wife. This, too, after an appeal so piteous as might well have drawn

iron tears down Pluto's cheek,
And made Hell grant what Love did seek.

Send me Mr. La Cloche, implored the sick man, “to administer unto me such comforts as are necessary and usual in these extremities, and that you would permitt my poor wife to come unto me, to doe me that last duty, as to close my eyes. The Lord forgive you, as I doe forgive you all."

One is glad to read, however, in the Dictionary of National Biography, that Lady Carteret was in fact allowed to visit her husband, though almost at his very last gasp.

" When the flooring of [St. Ouen's] church was altered 229 years afterwards, the body of Sir Philip enclosed in a leaden shell was uncovered, when it was found by the late Francis Le Maistre to be as white as wax, to have suffered very little decay, and to measure 6 feet 4 inches."

An Attempt at Escape

Presently the "jade Fortune " changed her favours, and the island was recovered for the King by Sir George Carteret, nephew and son-in-law to its former Governor. Dean Bandinel and his son James, the Rector of St. Mary's, were immediately clapped into prison in Mont Orgueil Castle, in the same cell that had for merly been occupied by Prynne.

It does not appear that they were treated harshly, but Sir George was a man of cruel severity, and it may well be that they dreaded his further resentment.

Anyhow, father and son resolved on a romantic escape. At about three o'clock in the morning, on the stormy night of February 10, 1644, they  attempted to lower themselves from the window of their cell by a rope made of knotted napkins, sheets, and pieces of cord.

" It is improbable that they had reconnoitred this place in the daytime," says Durell, " for had they been aware of the great elevation, they would never have made the attempt, as long as they were in their senses."

Durell wrote in 1837, when the Tour de Mont (completed by Henry Paulet in 1553) was still in existence for the whole of its height. This is said to have been 200 feet high, and the place of imprisonment of the Bandinels was immediately under its battlements. The building was supposed to be dangerous, and is now pulled down to its basement.

Anyhow, when James Bandinel came to the bottom of the rope - he was the first to venture on the perilous descent - he found it was much too short. He allowed himself to drop on the rocks below, and was seriously hurt by the fall. His father, still less fortunate, was only halfway down, when the flimsy rope parted in two. He was thus dashed to the earth from a much greater height than his son, and was found lying there next morning in a dying condition.

The son, after wrapping his insensible old father in his cloak, had attempted to make good his own escape. He was caught, however, a few days later, and conducted back in triumph to his cell. That same day the gates of Mont Orgueil had been opened to allow his father's body to be taken to the grave.

David Bandinel was buried in St. Martin's Churchyard, two miles to the north-west of Mont Orgueil by the Faldouet road. I have searched for his grave on the east side of the churchyard, but there seems now to be no memorial, and the hawthorn that once marked it has vanished. It is said, however, to be in close proximity to the tombstones of Lucy and Mary Roche Jackson. His wife and son were afterwards laid by his side.

Mont Orgueil was unsuccessfully besieged by the French under the leadership of the Duc de Bourbon and the great Bertrand du Guesclin, Marshal of France (whose splendid tomb may still be seen in the north chapel of St. Laurent, at Le Puy), in 1374. It was in honour of this achievement that it received its present name from Thomas, Duke of Clarence, and brother of Henry V.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Eroding Democracy: Revising the Election of Jurats

From 1603 Jurats were elected "by the plurality of votes of the common people of the isle". Once elected they could not resign without special permission from the King in Council. There are 12 Jurats in the island and they're in office until they turn 72. Jurats act as lay juror, who along with the Bailiff form the Royal Court and oversee polling at the islands elections.

As the BBC website notes:

The original role of the Jurats was judicial and legislative but the legislative side of the role was removed in 1948 was the States of Jersey was reconstituted without them.

Jurats are appointed by an Electoral College, made up of the Bailiff, Jurats, the 12 Constables, elected States members and members of the Jersey Bar and Royal Court Solicitors.

When a vacancy comes up for a new Jurat a letter is sent announcing the vacancy to every member of the Electoral College by the Bailiff.

It is then up to the members of the Electoral College to nominate candidates for the vacant position. Each candidate has to be nominated and seconded by members of the Electoral College.

The proposals for changing how the Judiciary are appointed suggest the establishment of a Judicial and Legal Services Commission. While the idea is not without merit (and will be returned to in another blog later), in this instance it would detract from democracy, replacing a broader electorate (the electoral college) by a panel of 10.

The consultation asks about the Jurats:

"Should the current Electoral College process be replaced by selection by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission and appointment by the Bailiff or should the present system of election by the Electoral College continue?”

“For example, selection by the Commission might encourage more persons to put themselves forward for Jurat as the Electoral College process might be off-putting to potential candidates who might otherwise put themselves forward for the important role of Jurat. This might be so both because of the very public risk of failure should a candidate not be successful (regardless of whether the unsuccessful candidate had the necessary qualities and qualifications for appointment), and also because of the ‘electoral’ nature of the process.”

“On the other hand, does election by the Electoral College provide a public and transparent process that provides important legitimacy to the role of Jurat?"

On paper, the Commission sounds promising:

“It is proposed that the Commission would have a membership comprising members drawn from the judiciary, the legal profession, and the public and that half of the members should be drawn from across the judiciary of Jersey with representation from the Court of Appeal, the Royal Court, the Magistrate’s Court and the Tribunals”

Then you realise it is just 10 people!!!

“There would be 10 members of the Commission (“the JLSC Commissioners”).”

“The JLSC Commissioners would be: the Bailiff (ex officio, in his role as Chief Justice, President of the Royal Court and President of the Court of Appeal); an Ordinary Judge of the Court of Appeal (the “Court of Appeal Commissioner”); the Deputy Bailiff (ex officio); the Magistrate (ex officio); the Chairman of the Jersey Employment and Discrimination Tribunal (ex officio) (the “Tribunal Commissioner”); 3 lay Commissioners (“the Lay Commissioners”); 2 lawyer Commissioners (“the Lawyer Commissioners”)”.

Apart from the ex-officio members, the rest – 6 members in all – would be appointed by the Jersey Appointments Commission following a public appointments process.

So what is the current system for Jurats and their voting in by an electoral college?

The current electoral college is made up of made up of the Bailiff, the Jurats, the 12 Constables, elected States members and members of the Jersey Bar and Royal Court Solicitors.

This is broad and representative in many ways. It has 372 members! And any of the Electoral College can nominate a candidate.

Is a commission of 10, selected by the Jersey Appointments Commission, or members ex-officio, going to have anything like the range and diversity of those?

It might be said that the election of Jurats by a commission of 10 will be on the basis of “merit”, but 10 individuals will have a much narrower spread of views on what constitutes merit.

The Electoral College may have its biases, but it is broad. The commission will be narrow by comparison. With the best will in the world, it cannot hope to match the wider scrutiny of proposed Jurats given by the College. And there is always the problem that a small panel will have all the prejudices of a a select and small elite. It is more likely to be biased rather than balanced.

Do we want this erosion of democracy?

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Jacob Rees-Mogg: Let's have the view from 1785

Speaking on Channel 4 News, Jon Snow described the election as a “shambles” for the UK.  He said: “Do you think this shambles in which we find ourselves is in anyway a respectable condition. What do you think other countries are thinking what’s going on here?”

Jacob Rees-Mogg claimed the presenter was “classically overstating” the result of the election in which the Tories fell short of an overall majority.

Snow snapped back criticising the Prime Minister for going into an election “looking for a major mandate” without being able to deliver it. But the Conservative MP rejected the term “a shambles” as the pair began rowing.

He said: “Hold on, you call it a shambles, you call it a butcher's slaughterhouse. That’s what a shambles means, I’m surprised you don’t know, most uncharacteristic. It clearly isn’t a shambles, what it is, is a less successful result than we wanted, it’s not the large majority that we wanted.”

“Shambles” of course, means “a state of total disorder.” An example would be "my career was in a shambles".

But words change their meaning, and “shambles” once had a meaning of “butcher's slaughterhouse”

In English, the word appears in the early 15th century, and the meaning changes from a "place where meat is sold" to "slaughterhouse" (1540s), then figuratively "place of butchery" (1590s), and later to generally "confusion, mess" (1901).

Reece-Mogg, having done only half his homework, settles on the meaning from the 1540s, and not the earlier “place where meat is sold”, and should be marked as 5 out of 10 for fixating on one meaning, and not the earliest at that, and 9 out of 10 for behaving like Lord Snooty.

The etymological fallacy is a genetic fallacy that holds that the present-day meaning of a word or phrase should necessarily be similar to its historical meaning. An argument constitutes an etymological fallacy if it makes a claim about the present meaning of a word based exclusively on its etymology.

Jacob Reece-Mogg likes to convey a spurious air of knowledge, hence his exchange with Mr Snow. It suggests that here is someone who knows what words really mean. Actually shows up someone who does not know what words mean, because they rarely mean one thing, and meanings change over time

Someone summed up his approach as follows rather neatly on the Wordcraft site where they do not suffer linguistic mistakes lightly:

“There is an extremely pompous, rather nauseating Tory politician in the UK named Jacob Rees-Mogg. Like many Tory politicians he always tries to put down the people interviewing him with his shows of erudition.”

When the exchange was shown as a clip on “Have I Got News For You”, Paul Merton's comment was beautifully apposite: "Let's have the view from 1785".

Actually, it is a view someone who knew what a word once met – it did not always mean “slaughterhouse” – and who has the strange notion that must somehow be the real meaning of the word today.

Words change meanings all the time, but public school educations are not particularly good at teaching what is a commonplace fact to any linguist.

That is partly because they are only taught Classic Latin, and never learn about the change in meanings that took place as it developed into the late Latin of the 3rd century, and they learn a prescriptive grammar built on Classical Latin which promotes such nonsense as “you must not split infinitives”, something which is impossible to do in Latin, where an infinitive is just one word, but which is demonstrably possible in English. There is nothing wrong with “to boldly go” unless you suffer from the peculiar notion that English must behave like Latin: any linguist will tell you that it does not.

Virtually everything in a public school education of the old sort provides a toolbox for making an individual into a linguistic ignoramus, including the conceit that they must be right. Jacob Reece-Mogg is a perfect example.

The word “nice” is a particular good example of how a meaning can shift markedly over time. I remember being told by equally ignorant people that “nice” “really meant precise”. This kind of semantic essentialism is wholly false.

If we look at the development of the word – we see that in the late 13th century “nice” meant "foolish, stupid, senseless," from Old French “nice” of the 12th century. The Old French meaning of "careless, clumsy; weak; poor, needy; simple, stupid, silly, foolish," derived from the Latin nescius "ignorant, unaware," literally "not-knowing,"

It developed in an extraordinary way, from “timid” (pre-1300) to "fussy, fastidious" (late 14th century); to "dainty, delicate" (c. 1400); to "precise, careful" (1500s, preserved in such terms as a nice distinction and nice and early); to "agreeable, delightful" (1769); to "kind, thoughtful" (1830)

By 1926, it was pronounced by Fowler to be "too great a favourite with the ladies, who have charmed out of it all its individuality and converted it into a mere diffuser of vague and mild agreeableness."

"I am sure," cried Catherine, "I did not mean to say anything wrong; but it is a nice book, and why should I not call it so?"

"Very true," said Henry, "and this is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk; and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! It is a very nice word indeed! It does for everything."

The current meaning of “nice” is usually “pleasant; agreeable; satisfactory” – “we had a nice time"

Andrew L. Sihler, writing in Language History: An Introduction, comments that:

"In our own day the etymological fallacy is widely honoured, as revealed in countless statements by columnists, in letters to editors, and other public fora, which declare for example that the real meaning of doctor is 'teacher'; or that the verb orient properly means 'to arrange something to face east'; or that gyp 'cheat' is derived from Gypsy (probably), and therefore its use in any context is de facto an ethnic slur; or that decimate correctly means only “to punish a mutiny or other serious breach of military discipline by killing one soldier in ten.”

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, 1995 is even more caustic:

"One thing to remember when you read or hear someone insisting that an English word must have a certain meaning because of its Latin or Greek roots is that these insisters apply their etymologies very selectively. You will find few of them who object to December being used for the twelfth month, when its Latin root means 'ten,' or to manure being used as a noun meaning 'to work (land) by hand.' So when you read, for example, that caption must refer to matter above a picture because it comes from Latin caput 'head,' keep manure in mind."

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Do you want the good tea or the bad tea

Razor: Do you want the good tea or the bad tea
Bill: What’s the difference?
Razor: I call one “good” and the other “bad.”
Bill: ...I’ll take the good one.
Razor: Excellent. A positive attitude will help with the horror to come!
Bill: What horror?!
Razor: Mainly the tea.

A wonderful line from “World Enough and Time”, last week’s Doctor Who. There is something about tea which lends itself to humour far more than coffee. Here are a few snippets, quotations about tea which are amusing:

“Arthur blinked at the screens and felt he was missing something important. Suddenly he realized what it was. "Is there any tea on this spaceship?" he asked.”

― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

“My hour for tea is half-past five, and my buttered toast waits for nobody.”

― Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White

“Dad was at his desk when I opened the door, doing what all British people do when they're freaked out: drinking tea.”

― Rachel Hawkins, Demonglass

“As far as her mom was concerned, tea fixed everything. Have a cold? Have some tea. Broken bones? There's a tea for that too. Somewhere in her mother's pantry, Laurel suspected, was a box of tea that said, 'In case of Armageddon, steep three to five minutes'.”

― Aprilynne Pike, Illusions

“What kind of tea do you want?"
"There´s more than one kind of tea?...What do you have?"
"Let´s see... Blueberry, Raspberry, Ginseng, Sleepytime, Green Tea, Green Tea with Lemon, Green Tea with Lemon and Honey, Liver Disaster, Ginger with Honey, Ginger Without Honey, Vanilla Almond, White Truffle Coconut, Chamomile, Blueberry Chamomile, Decaf Vanilla Walnut, Constant Comment and Earl Grey."
-"I.. Uh...What are you having?... Did you make some of those up?”

― Bryan Lee O'Malley, Scott Pilgrim, Volume 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life

"At Christmas, tea is compulsory. Relatives are optional.”

― Robert Godden

“Goblin tea resembles a nice cup of Earl Grey in much the same way that a catfish resembles the common tabby. They share a name, but one is a nice thing to curl up with on a rainy afternoon, and the other is found in the muck at the bottom of polluted rivers and has bits of debris sticking to it.”

― T. Kingfisher

“If there are no spots on a sugar cube then I’ve just put a dice in my tea.”

― Robert Rankin, The Antipope

“I looked at Judith. "This sounds strange, but I don't suppose you saw three mad women with a cauldron of boiling tea pass by this way?"

― Kate Griffin, The Midnight Mayor

“Want some tea?" she said.
"I thought some tea might be nice. A nice cup of oolong. Want some?"
"But you just took my clothes off."
"Oh. All right, then, sex it is.”

― D.L. King, Stubborn as a Bull

“I think just a cup of tea...' There was something to be said for tea and a comfortable chat about crematoria.”

― Barbara Pym, Quartet in Autumn

Monday, 26 June 2017

Bergerac’s Island - Jersey in the 1980s - Part 1

The exhibition in the Museum - "Bergerac’s Island - Jersey in the 1980s" - shows how shocking legislation was for gay people in Jersey and how the attitude for gays was entrenched in predudice which erupted as Aids sufferers - initially mostly homosexuals - were demonised by the press.

Elliot Tiber in his memoir “After Woodstock”, describes how Aids hit the world:

“By 1983, it seemed like gay men in New York were dying in unprecedented numbers. My friend and lover, André Ernotte, and I were shocked as we started to hear that more and more friends of ours—men we knew from the clubs and colleagues in the arts community—were suddenly being hospitalized. The pain and suffering they endured was horrible; it seemed that death was their only reprieve.”

This is typified in a Daily Mail’s headline. Always the beating pulse of British prejudice, it came out with “Britain threatened by gay virus plague” (6th January 1985)

As there was no known cause or cure, the media spread the idea that Aids could be passed on in the air—or by kissing, or touching, or just being near a gay person.  It took Princess Diana to shift perceptions in a 1987 visit to a hospital ward of HIV / Aids sufferers..

In front of the world's media, Princess Diana shook the hand of a man suffering with the illness. She did so without gloves, publicly challenging the notion that HIV/Aids was passed from person to person by touch. She showed in a single gesture that this was a condition needing compassion and understanding, not fear and ignorance. 

But to seek treatment or testing in Jersey was problematic if you were gay, because it was illegal. Always legal for women, homosexuality was decriminalised for men in 1967 (England and Wales), 1980 (Scotland) and 1982 (Northern Ireland). But in Jersey, prior to 1990, same-sex sexual activity was a criminal offence if practiced in public, such as in holding hands, or displays of affection. 

As the States Minutes record, in 1989, Deputy Edgar John Becquet told members:

Because of the incidence of AIDS during the last few years and because of the relationship which sodomy has to this dreaded affliction and because of the necessity of protecting the population of this Island my Committee is of the opinion, after consultation with the Public Health Committee, that it should not bring in legislation to repeal the 1938 Law on sodomy and bestiality as it considers that in the matter of the rights of individuals to indulge in unnatural practices the question of the health of the population of this Island must take precedence. 

However, following recent discussions with H.M. Attorney General on the interpretation of paragraph (ii) of Article 8 of the Convention and in the light of the possible constitutional implications my Committee considers that it would be desirable to hold discussions on these matters with the Home Office and the Policy and Resources Committee respectively

He also suggested that repealing the laws would actually make dealing with Aids harder:

It would be detrimental to the AIDS Advisory Committee's campaign, and in fact, I believe would put it back several years, if we were to give the impression that the Laws should be changed on the back of our AIDS problem. This would infer that AIDS is only a gay problem and therefore further stigmatise the condition.

Deputy Mike Wavell, however, argued that the two should not be linked in this way:

`Sir, on a point of order, I must challenge that. I think, if you read on, I said that I didn't think it should be changed solely on the back of the AIDS issue, but did state that on moral grounds and other grounds, there was every indication that it should be changed.''

And the Attorney General, in the course of his discussion on the European Convention on Human Rights, and homosexuality, noted that:

I am asked whether Jersey has a legal obligation to rescind legislation affecting the rights of homosexuals. The answer to that is clearly in the affirmative unless it can be shown that there are `serious reasons' founded on public health for the interference with the human rights of homosexuals. Put another way, it would be necessary to show that the decriminalisation of the act of sodomy between consenting adults in private would seriously affect the health of the community. I am aware of no evidence that such is the case.''

Jersey is not a sovereign state but is a dependency of the United Kingdom. While the Island has a substantial measure of autonomy in domestic affairs and it is a well established constitutional convention that the United Kingdom Parliament does not legislate for Jersey on a domestic issue without the consent of the States, Her Majesty's Government, as the Deputy correctly states, is responsible for our international relations. If the Island maintained a refusal to alter its domestic law so that, as a result, the United Kingdom was itself in breach of its international obligations, I have little doubt that Her Majesty's Government would, in the last resort, with or without the consent of the States legislate to alter that domestic law. This would, in my opinion, be a matter of grave constitutional significance.

Deputy Roche mention that "I must tell the House of the great concern of the Public Health Committee, in as much as to date in the United Kingdom, there have been 1,259 male deaths from AIDS, and out of that number, 1,051 have been homosexuals.''

In 1990, the Minutes record this:

The President of the Legislation Committee made a statement in the following terms - ``A delegation, comprising the Bailiff, myself, Senator Jeune, the Attorney General and the Greffier, met at our request the Rt. Hon. John Patten, Minister of State at the Home Office on Thursday 19th April, to discuss the implications for Jersey of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights that a law which makes homosexual practices in private between two consenting adults illegal, was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. 

Very full and frank discussions took place from which it has become clear that the Convention contains no provisions which permit of any departure from that judgment. The Minister explained that that judgment was binding on Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom as a signatory to the Convention and that Her Majesty's Government had already taken steps to bring the law in Northern Ireland into line with that in the rest of the United Kingdom which was in conformity with the judgment."

"The Minister reminded the delegation that the Convention had been extended to Jersey at the request of the insular authorities and it was the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government to fulfill its international obligations by ensuring that Jersey law was not in breach of the Convention. He said that the customary law in Jersey regarding sodomy was in breach of the Convention and that it was therefore imperative that the law was changed and he hoped that the Island would legislate accordingly. He made it clear that, if the Island did not, then in order to fulfill its international obligations, the United Kingdom reluctantly would have no option but to legislate itself in this matter."

This did not please Senator Dick Shenton who led a private contingent of States Members to attempt to block Jersey legalising homosexuality. This attempt was crushed by the UK Home Affairs Minister; it is recounted amusingly in Peter Crills A Little Brief Authority - the Jersey delegation troops in, Dick Shenton at head, ready to be belligerent. Minister - "Well, gentlemen, are you going to pass the legislation, or are we going to have to do it for you". Crill's acerbic comment: "collapse of stout party!".

However, the age of consent was 21. The Sexual Offences (Amendment) (Jersey) Law (1995_ - five years later - reduced the age of consent for sexual intercourse between males from 21 to 18.

The age of consent was equalised, regardless of sexual orientation, in 2001 at 16 in England, Scotland, and Wales. In Jersey, the age of consent has been equal since 2006. Again it lagged behind the UK.The debate saw some vile language from States members - words such as "buggery" were used by some members.

It is a measure of how the States have caught up that the discussion on gay marriage resolutely steered away from any such language, but it has been a long road!

Sunday, 25 June 2017

On Wine and T.F. Powys

A village is like a stage that retains the same scenery throughout all the acts of the play. The actors come and go, and walk to and fro, with gestures that their passions fair or foul use them to.

Sometimes the human beings who occupy the stage, that is, the farms and village cottages, remain the same—or almost the same—for many years; sometimes they change more quickly.

Theodore Francis Powys (1875-1953) was a British writer from a family of writers, best know for his idiosyncratic Christian fantasy, Mr. Weston's Good Wine. In this book, Mr Weston, a wine seller, appears in the small rural town of Folly Down, and it is clear that there is more a work than just the surface narrative.

Mr. Weston, for a common tradesman - and the most princely of merchants is only that - possessed a fine and creative imagination. And, although entirely self-taught - for he had risen, as so many important people do, from nothing - he had read much, and had written too. He possessed in a very large degree a poet's fancy, that will at any moment create out of the imagination a new world.

Mr. Weston had once written a prose poem that he had divided into many books, and was naturally surprised when he discovered that the very persons and places that he had but seen in fancy had a real existence in fact. The power of art is magnificent. It can change the dullest sense into the most glorious; it can people a new world in a moment of time; it can cause a sparkling fountain to flow in the driest desert to solace a thirsty traveller

Here is an extract from the book in which the sensuality and the history of wine are explored. And yet underlying it is also a kind of rural spirituality or folk-religion; it is an extraordinary book, and well worth reading.

An Extract from Mr Weston's Good Wine
by T.F. Powys

Mr Grobe lifted the flagon. It was already uncorked. He forgot to wonder where his Bible had gone to, but suddenly he thought of it. ‘Perhaps,’ he said, speaking aloud, ‘Mr Weston has taken my Bible and left his wine — a very good exchange!’

Mr Grobe took a wine-glass out of his cupboard. This glass he dusted carefully, for he had no wish to let any dust mingle with Mr Weston’s Good Wine.

Although London gin was Mr Grobe’s favourite drink, he was certainly no despiser of wine. He had indeed often mentioned wine in his sermons, long after he had ceased to mention God.

The juice of the grape was a favourite subject of his to take in the pulpit, and it did the hearts of his hearers good to hear him upon it. The very word ‘wine’ pleased the people and awoke the churchwardens, Mr Bunce and Squire Mumby, from their slumbers, as often as they heard it spoken. Mr Grobe would extol in moving terms the delights of the grape, and bless the vine for yielding so good a gift to man.

He had often taken the trouble to explain how, from the very earliest days, the vine, the richest and the most valued of all the plants of the field, had been cultivated by man. From the first page to the last of the Bible, the juice of the grape was drunk most heartily, and, ‘indeed,’ Mr Grobe would say, with a sigh, ‘sometimes, as was the case with Noah and Lot, a little too well.’

Mr Grobe would tell his hearers how the Son of Man, from the beginning to the end of His short stay upon the earth, had praised this good liquor, and was called a drunkard for delighting in it. He told them how Jesus could distinguish between a good and a bad vintage, and that the wine He gave so freely to the company at Cana must have been Tokay.

‘Our blessed Saviour,’ he said, ‘was no niggard, no crafty one in His giving. He gave lavishly, and it is perhaps well that the gospel does not inform us how the guests of that evening reached their homes.’

Mr Grobe held out the flagon and poured out a glass. A rich odour, pleasant and vinous, filled his room. He raised the glass and held it level with the globe of the lamp. The deep colour of the wine was wonderful and rare: he leant over the wine, and the scent of it was ravishing.

‘How beautiful,’ he thought, ‘must have been the fair hill-side where the grape from which the wine had been pressed was grown. Was it Spanish wine or Burgundy? Or wine from Gascony that so pleased Michael de Montaigne in his tower? Was it Italian wine, so fine and so heady, that makes all men polite?’

Mr Grobe went to the window; he opened it widely. All was silent, but as he looked into the darkness the wind rose suddenly, whirling the leaves in the Folly Down lanes, and then again there was silence.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Midsummer Magic

As it it Midsummer and a recent summer solstice, I thought I'd write a rondeau to celebrate this time. Midsummer is traditionally 24th June because it was that date in the old Julian calendar, but when the calendar was reformed under Pope Gregory the Great, the new Midsummer (and solstice) moved to around the 21 June. That is why Shakespeare has a Midsummer Night's Dream on 23rd June (Midsummer's Eve) while the real Midsummer's day is now several days adrift from that.

Midsummer Magic

In moonlit night, the magic shines
The dolmen marks the sacred signs
Jupiter is rising, sharp point of light
The bringer of joy, and much delight
Until in dawn sky, then declines

We mark the quarters out in lines
Our magic drawn in strange designs
Beneath the stars, the sky so bright
In moonlit night

Dance in the grove, in round outlines
Sign softly songs, and make the signs
The spiral: opening the quarter’s rite
In druid robes, all garbed in white
We take the chalice, drink the wines
In moonlit night

Friday, 23 June 2017

Beautiful Britain - Jersey - Part 1

Beautiful Britain - Jersey - Part 1

My history for the next few weeks will come from “The Channel Islands” by Joseph E Morris, B.A., published by London, Adam and Charles Black, 1911. It is fascinating because, firstly, it is a guidebook from 1911, depicting a Jersey before the Great War erupted across Europe, and secondly because it is very much an outsider looking in, and making very personal observations mingled with the history.

Introduction: Jersey

If on a fine day we take our stand on one of the terraces, or battlements, of Mont Orgueil Castle -and there is hardly a pleasanter spot in Jersey in which to idle away a sunny summer afternoon -we shall realize more completely than geography books can tell us that the Channel Islands really constitute the last remnants of the ancient Norman dukedom that still belong to the English Crown.

For there, across the water, not more than twenty miles away, and stretching from north of Carteret far southwards towards Granville and Mont St. Michel, is the long white line of the Norman coast itself-on a clear day it is even possible to make out the tall, twin spires of Coutances, half a dozen miles inland, crowning, like Lincoln or Ely, their far-seen hill.

No part of France, it is true, approaches so closely to Jersey as Cap de la Hague (the extreme north-west point of the Cotentin) approaches to the north-east corner of Alderney. Still, under certain atmospheric conditions-such, for example, as Wordsworth experienced when he wrote his fine sonnet headed Near Dover, September, 1802 - the " span of waters " - hardly greater than the Straits of Dover themselves--really seems almost to shrink to the dimensions of " a lake or river bright and fair."

Contrast with this proximity the long stretches of open sea that separate these islands from Weymouth or Southampton, and we begin to realize how, physically at any rate, Jersey is more properly France than England:

Elle est pour nous la France, et, dans son lit des fleurs,
Elle en a le sourire et quelquefois les pleurs.

The impression thus gained is hardly diminished when we quit our lofty watch-tower and descend to the plain. The Channel Islands are doubtless destined in the end to be wholly anglicized, but the process is one of imperceptible transition.

The “Clameur de Haro”

A curious French patois, that is really the last relics of the ancient Norman speech, is still the common language of the people. " It is probably," says Mr. Bicknell, in his charming Little Guide, " the nearest approach now extant to the French spoken at the time of the Norman Conquest by the Normans in England."

French is also the language used commonly in the country churches ; and it is strange to follow the familiar English liturgy rendered thus in a foreign tongue. The Channel Islands, though jealously retaining their ancient independence, and as separate in many respects from England as are Canada and Australia, are yet integrally part of the established English Church. The Reformation freed them from the yoke of Coutances only to subject them to the yoke of Winchester.

French, too, or rather Norman, is the curious " Clameur de Haro " that plays so strange a part in the ancient island law. This is the regular machinery, in actions connected with real estate, to maintain the existing status in quo till the action can be fought out at length ; and in Jersey is set in motion by the plaintiff himself, whereas in England it is necessary to invoke the Courts of Law.

"At the disputed place the aggrieved person, in the presence of two witnesses, orders the aggressor or his agent to desist by exclaiming: I Haro ! Haro ! Haro ! A 1'aide, mon Prince, on me fait tort.' After this he denounces the aggressor by exclaiming: ' Je vous ordonne de quitter cet ouvrage '; upon which, unless he desist instantly, he is liable to be punished for breach of the King's authority, the property being supposed to be under the King's special protection from the moment the ` cry ' is made."

Afterwards the action is tried ; and, of course, if it prove that the complainant has invoked the “haro" wrongly (the word is said by some to be derived from the Frankish haran," to cry out, or shout ; but by others to be a corrupted form of Ah Rollo "- the first Norman Duke-or Ah Rou "-Oh my King), he is liable to be fined by the court.

It is sometimes said that this strange process was in constant use in Normandy long before the arrival of Rollo and his fierce followers from the North.

French, again, is the architecture of the churches, that in some ways has no parallel in England. French, in many particulars, is the aspect of the towns, whose long rows of white- washed houses, with their never-ending sun-blinds, testify to a warmth and sunlight too conspicuously rare in England.

Actually French are many of the faces that one encounters in the streets or on the quays. The Channel Islands of late years have become a favourite touring-ground for summer visitors from France, who so seldom venture to cross the Channel to explore the beauties of England itself. The admirable little “Guides Joanne” now include a volume on the “Iles Anglaises de la Manche”. It is amusing, however, to read in this work that in one respect at least Jersey is still definitely English.

“L'observation stricte du dimanche regne a Saint-Helier comme en Angleterre. La ville deserte, avec ses boutiques fermees, offre un silence sepulchral."

But the closed shops, if not the sepulchral silence, are now becoming common in France itself.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

And so to bed...

I usually finish my day by putting up a quotation on Facebook, prefixed by the phrase used by Samuel Pepys in his diaries, "and so to bed...". Here is a selection of recent ones.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Mary Baker Eddy:

When angels visit us, we do not hear the rustle of wings, nor feel the feathery touch of the breast of a dove; but we know their presence by the love they create in our hearts.

Off to bed now... quote for tonight is from Suzy Kassem:

Laugh, I tell you
And you will turn back
The hands of time.
Smile, I tell you
And you will reflect
The face of the divine.
Sing, I tell you
And all the angels will sing with you!
Cry, I tell you
And the reflections found in your pool of tears -
Will remind you of the lessons of today and yesterday
To guide you through the fears of tomorrow.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Aristophanes:

Look at the orators in our republics; as long as they are poor, both state and people can only praise their uprightness; but once they are fattened on the public funds, they conceive a hatred for justice, plan intrigues against the people and attack the democracy.

And so to bed... and my quote for tonight is from Douglas Adams.

He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Francis Gerald Downing:

Rage, Wisdom, and our lives inflame
so living never rests the same:
you are creative power and art
to blow our mind and wrack our heart.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Robert Browning:

The rain set early in tonight,
The sullen wind was soon awake,
It tore the elm-tops down for spite,
And did its best to vex the lake:
I listened with heart fit to break.
When glided in Porphyria; straight
She shut the cold out and the storm,
And kneeled and made the cheerless grate
Blaze up and all the cottage warm.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Robert Louis Stevenson:

In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.
I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people's feet
Still going past me in the street.
And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

As I Please: Some Musings

I parked in the underground car park at Waitrose a few weeks ago, and as I looked out to where the wind blew strong, I saw leaves caught up in a swirling circular dance.

It reminded me of long ago, when I was a school boy, watching leaves move around by a school building.

My father would drop myself and my sister off at our schools on his way to work. School in those days didn’t start around 8.30 but began at 9 am. And you could also leave St Brelade by 7.30 am and not face much in the way of traffic, which only really began to build up after 8pm.

So there we would be, driving into school, listening to Radio 2 – no BBC Radio Jersey in those days. It was “easy listening” as Terry Wogan always used to remind us on the way in, punctuating his show with moments of fun.

I will never forget Frank Sinatra’s song – “Stranglers in the Night”. Or the Abba song with the lyrics – “I saw you last night in Tesco”. Then there was Wogan’s Winner, and Fight the Flab, where (if you were at home), you were supposed to jump up and down and “watch your wobbly bits move” as Wogan put it.

After Wogan, sometimes in school holidays or half-term, there would be Pete Murray at first, and then later on Jimmy Young. There would be a bit of overlap, and Wogan and Young would have some banter together, which usually consisted of Wogan (who never took himself or radio too seriously) winding up Young, who saw himself as a serious radio presenter and interviewer, a “man of the people”. It’s always fun when someone who takes themselves slightly too seriously gets their pomposity pricked.

Drop off by the school gates took place around 8.15 to 8.20, and that meant around three quarters of an hour before school began. The school buildings were locked up until 8.45, so I found a sheltered spot which had cover from rain, if not wind and cold, where I could shiver in winter! Summer was much better.

But when it was windy, there was an area bounded by three walls near where I stood, where the wind caught any leaves, or empty crisp packets or sweet wrappers, and they would dance around in a vortex, just like that I saw in Waitrose.

It’s strange how the wind gets caught by buildings, and doesn’t blow in a straight line, but creates its miniature cyclones, and there it would be, spinning the debris and leaves around, sometimes with them rising, then their weight would bring them back down, and the cycle would continue.

In summer, even if windy, it was warm enough to get out a book and read, but winter meant hands had to be kept firmly inside rain coat, and scarf wrapped around neck. The old style rain coats were not as good at either keeping one warm, or in fact, keeping the rain off!

And so one would watch the leaves, around and around, until if lucky, a friend turned up around 8.35 am, and there was someone to talk to.

And the around 8.45, the doors would be open, and we could go into the classrooms, and at 9 pm, the porter would come out and ring a hand bell to let anyone know that they should be in their form room.

There was a lot of just waiting around, and it could be very boring. Today, in this busy world of technology, everyone is probably on their smart phones, on Facebook, or looking stuff up online, but in those days, if you had to wait a lot, and couldn’t do anything much, you learnt to daydream.

I used to daydream a lot, and sometimes, in a particularly boring lesson, I’d be drifting off from the teacher droning on. Sometimes, I got a clip around the ears with a ruler, which brought me back to reality with a bang, as the teacher came up behind me, and suddenly... ouch!

Teachers today, of course, would not be allowed to do that, nor to throw blackboard dusters at their students, as I remember one rather angry French teacher did. It only hit the floor, but it did make us jump and pay attention, especially as there seemed to be something dangerous about a real Frenchman over for a term on an exchange visit with one of our teachers: it would be a caricature to say excitable and emotional, but he certainly seemed very different from our rather more placid teachers. And there are probably not blackboards and dust and chalk nowadays in schools.

Looking back, it seems almost like something out of “Goodbye Mr Chips”, and in truth, it probably was in a way. The wooden desks had ink wells in them, although the time of inkwells was past, and we all had cartridge fountain pens. Who uses those now?

The ubiquitous biro, and its imitations, have largely replaced that, but we had to have ink because it was the culture of the school at that time. But you could snap your wrist and flick it forward, and ink would shoot out onto paper, which used to be quite an interesting diversion.

The others were picking apart small pieces of the large pink rubbers we had, and flicking them at fellow students, and sucking the end of one’s pencil. Fortunately, despite being called “lead pencils”, they were of course graphite, which is considerably less toxic.

I look back, and I wonder if there is somewhere a little pocket of time, a small eddy in the flow of minutes, where the past is still there, and the leaves are blowing around in their own little vortex, and a short and skinny schoolboy is day-dreaming as he waits for another school day to begin.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Decision Day in the States

Who should be the subject of a vote of no confidence?

This is the day when a debate may start about a vote of no confidence in Chief Minister Ian Gorst, yet in many ways I think it is the wrong vote of no confidence. Let me explain.

It appears that the vote of no confidence was largely triggered by Ian Gorst bringing back Senator Philip Ozouf as an Assistant Minister. This would seem to be confirmed by the rumours that the Council of Ministers was divided on the issue, and the decision whether to bring Senator Ozouf back was in part hampered by Collective Responsibility, suggesting that a joint decision making came out against his re-appointment. Senator Gorst went ahead anyway, but it transpires, asked Senator Ozouf to resign on Friday. He declined.

If Senator Ozouf had resigned or was sacked from his post by Senator Gorst (who after all has a power to fire), then it is clear that the vote of no confidence would be close but most probably lost.

Senator Gorst calls this “a distraction” which seems to be a coded way of saying he would have preferred it if Senator Ozouf had resigned to save his own skin!

Mindful of his political future, Senator Gorst has apparently tried to toss Senator Ozouf to the wolves by asking for his resignation. It reminds me of that quip by Jeremy Thorpe of another politician on dumping friends: "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his friends for his life."

This means, therefore, that the vote of no confidence is principally about Senator Gorst’s judgement in re-appointing Senator Ozouf. But if it is Senator Ozouf’s record that is on the line, would a vote of no confidence in him as Assistant Minister be more appropriate?

That way he would have the chance to defend his record.

Whether criticisms of him are correct or not, I think that natural justice demands he has a chance to reply to his critics.

Senator Ozouf in the meantime has been frantic in trying to put his case out into the public domain. He writes:

“I have no option but to speak out as it’s clear the CM – who I support – is being pressurised by an unnamed group of people who are demanding my head for allegations that have either been investigated or dealt with and being tried by kangaroo courts with no option to defend myself. I will always put Jersey first. But what has been going on in recent days is beyond the pale.”

Blame on Senator Ozouf, while some may be justified, may also deflect blame from Senators Farnham and Maclean. While it is not clear how much they scrutinised the loan process, they signed off on loans and were responsible for those.

It was certainly also the case that Senator Maclean got the fund passed the States, and then returned to ask for remuneration for the board, without telling the States that he had already advertised the post of Chair as a remunerated position. His specious argument that a “Chair” is not really part of the Board was special pleading and should not be forgotten. It was duplicity of the worst kind.

So to return to my point; why not bring a vote against Senator Ozouf directly?

Now I’m not sure whether a vote of no confidence can be effective against an Assistant Minister, but I think it would be a brave Council of Ministers who supported an Assistant Minister’s retention if the vote went against them. Moreover, an Assistant Minister with integrity would resign.

But I do know that a vote can and was nearly brought against a Minister. Senator Terry le Main, in a situation where he was conflicted as a Housing Minister, wrote to the Courts regarding an infraction of the housing law, when the individual on trial had supplied him with election materials at cost price. Given the threat of a vote of no confidence, he resigned as Housing Minister.

And if a vote of no confidence can be brought against a Minister, why not an Assistant Minister? So it seems to be that Chris Taylor has picked the wrong target.

After all the trigger for the vote was Senator Ian Gorst's decision to re-appoint Senator Philip Ozouf as Assistant Chief Minister. And yet this does not appear in the proposition, despite the fact that everyone knows this is what it is all about!!

To say that the proposition took out the personal equation is like saying we will discuss storage in the room, when the elephant in the room is the real consideration.

As Gary Burgess says:

"On Tuesday, the Chief Minister faces a Vote of No Confidence. It is not in doubt that having Senator Ozouf out of the way will shore up Senator Ian Gorst's position. But is it right that he ousts Ozouf to save himself?"

Monday, 19 June 2017

Look A Like

William Bailhache, actor linked to a madcap "Triumvirate" of Bailhache, Ozouf and Gorst, known collectively in their comedy TV show as "The Baddies"

Sir Tim Brook-Taylor, Jersey Politician gets knighthood. "Another Goodie for me", he exclaims. "I shall have to stay away from Oddies in future although I might go to the Garden".

Is it my imagination or does Jersey Bailiff, recently knighted, look like actor Tim Brooke Taylor?

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Parables for our time: The Rich Man and Lazarus Retold

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. He lived in a fine mansion in the city along with his rich friends.

Not far from his way was an old tower, where there lived many poor people, including a one named Lazarus and his family. Although they were poor, they were happy.

But the rich man and his friends did not like the view from their mansions of this tower, weather worn and ugly grey, so they asked the city authorities to make it look better.

And it was decided to clad this ugly grey tower with fine materials, so that it would not be an eyesore to the rich man and his friends.

As this was a tower in which there lived Lazarus and his family, and many poor people, all expense was spared, and the cheapest materials were used. For the builders, too, were rich men.

The time came when the Lazarus and many other poor folk died, for the tower caught fire, and the cheap material burned like a Roman candle, as in the days of Nero, and many died, including Lazarus.

But the time also came where the rich man died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And he burned then, while you burn now.”

“And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, greater than than between rich and poor, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.”

“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five rich brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment because of their greed and lack of compassion.’

 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the ashes of the fire.’”

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Fractured Lives

For this Saturday, I have used a poetic form called a "constanza"; it is, of course, about the tragedy at the tower block in London. Let us hope that lessons are finally learned, and for the sake of cost, more lives are not put at risk.

Fractured Lives

The fractured lives will never heal
A time to question, why, O why
No answers come but yet to die

Wings of death now come to steal
Broken, blackened, empty shell
And dying in a burning hell

Come, comfort, hold in arms and feel
Survivors stunned, and others lost
Death count rises, such the cost

Flags at half mast, church bells peal
Silence descends, no words to speak
The future empty and so bleak

Mourners in candlelight now kneel
Grief and weeping grips the crowd
Darkness gathers like a cloud

Last night, some ate their final meal
Came together, broke their bread
Today so many now are dead

Oh where is hope in this ordeal
Fate a thread so fine and thin
Tears falling for the loss of kin

Spinning lady of the silver wheel
Watchful gaze, the cold stars shine
This is the time of darkling wine

The opening of the seventh seal
Death always seeming so unjust
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust

Friday, 16 June 2017

Jersey In Colour - Part 7

Today is the final extract from an early 1960s Jarrold Guide to Jersey, entitled "Jersey In Colour". How beautiful the Island looked in the 1960s!

There are a number of mistakes in the guide. The Jersey Round Towers, or Conway Towers, are not Martello towers and have a very different design. The guide also references Faldouet dolmen, which is a tomb-like megalithic structure, often called a passage grave because of early antiquarian interpretations - a menhir is a single standing stone, and the guide conflates the two.

If you've missed the other parts, here they are:

Jersey In Colour - Part 7

On those summer evenings when Mont Orgueil Castle is floodlit the scene is one of romantic splendour, and we seem to recapture something of the spirit of those stirring times in Jersey's history when the castle was a bulwark of major importance to the defence of the island.

Mont Orgueil, which overlooks Gorey Harbour, was begun by the Normans in the tenth century on the site of "Caesar's Camp". In the centuries which followed considerable additions and alterations were made. The thirteenth-century bastion was greatly enlarged during the succeeding years by the building of stronger walls and mightier towers.

Only twice did the castle succumb to invaders. During the Wars of the Roses it was first surprised by the French, who were supporters of the Lancastrians, only to be recaptured five years later for the Yorkists.

Today the pleasant little township of Gorey seems still to lie secure under the protection of Mont Orgueil, whose two principal towers stand witness to the skill and faith of their builders. Harliston's Tower, constructed in the reign of Edward IV, defends the main entrance, while the topmost point of the keep, known as the Somerset Tower, was built in the sixteenth century.

During the reign of Elizabeth I, it was decided to concentrate on the building of the castle at St. Helier, but Mont Orgueil was saved from the usual fate of destruction through Sir Walter Raleigh, who was then Governor, and it played an important part in the Civil War.

In 1905 Mont Orgueil was acquired by the States and has been skilfully restored. A short distance from Gorey there stands a fine example of a prehistoric menhir, or dolmen.

HAVRE DES PAS is a suburb of St. Helier where shipbuilding thrived until the late1880s, when holidaymakers took over the beaches that the slipways had occupied.

The harbour of its name is little more than a shelter, with a narrow entrance between reefs, and the only advantage to be gained by navigating it is the shelter given by an upstanding rocky spine.

"Des Pas" refers to the shape of two feet found naturally sculptured in a rock. Today the cottages built as married quarters for the soldiers of the fort stand on the site.

The footprints were attributed to the Virgin Mary, and before 1200 a chapel had been built over them. This had a varied history, partly due to its isolation, until it was blown up in 1814 when the fort was built. The military considered that the cover it afforded might be an aid to an enemy storming the fort.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Fire Risk and Tall Towers

In 2005 JEP READERS voted emphatically against plans for high-rise developments on the St Helier waterfront in a telephone poll. The proposed development was set to be more than just new residential apartments and offices, the developers said it would also feature a boutique, media retailers, restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and other amenities. There would be three "iconic" towers of 20 storeys high.

One of the few supporters of the scheme said: “Three towers create perspective, contrast and balance…..The most important thing now is to make a decision. I hope this will be for tasteful high rise up to 20 storeys.” Another said: “A slender and elegant 20 storey building would be better than a lumpy and bulky 15 storey one.” In 2006 architect Peter Sandover's came up with suggestions for buildings of four, six, eight, nine, ten, 11 and 15 storeys on the Waterfront. The developers were still after at least one building of 20-storeys. There the scheme dropped off the radar.

The issue of fire safety seemed pertinent to me, especially as the Jersey fire service had limited resources – since reduced in numbers under Kristina Moore, just as the London one had been by the UK authorities, and I did some research at the time on fire in tall towers.

The fire in the Grenfell Tower – 24 storeys, only 4 more than the original Jersey proposal highlights the need for a proper understanding of the risk to life of fire in tall buildings.

The investigation into the cause of the blaze is likely to focus on whether cladding panels fixed to the outside of the building contributed to the pace of the fire spreading. While complying with building fire and safety regulations, this is about as much comfort as those on the Titanic being told that lifeboard provision exceeded that of the Board of Trade regulations. Clearly - as they appear to have been implicated elsewhere - an urgent re-appraisal is needed immediately.

There was also a lack of sprinklers to dampen the blaze, and it should be noted that water sprinklers also help to take smoke out of the air. A source who works for Grenfell Tower’s fire maintenance system says that: “There are no sprinklers in the building. I know that because we would manage them if there were. Regulations were different in the 1970s. Even now it’s only a recommendation. Sprinklers are expensive. They cost about £3,500 per dwelling — a lot for a high-rise building. But you should never put a limit on the price of safety of people’s lives.”

Here are some snippets which illustrate both the complexity and problems facing tackling and preventing a fire in tall buildings.

Research Notes:


UK Fire Officer Paul Grimwood has researched firefighting experience in high-rise buildings since 1975 and his 28 page report in FOG ATTACK (1991) demonstrates that many incident command systems and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for tall structures are based on out-of-date policies.

The author worked on detachment with ten big city fire departments in the USA in 1990 and attended fires in five of the world's tallest buildings including the World Trade Center, New York City and the Sears Tower in Chicago. He also visited the scenes of past conflagrations at the Interstate Bank in Los Angeles and the Churchill Plaza in the UK where he discussed firefighting operations with firefighters and chiefs who attended these incidents. Using several case histories he explains how incident command systems, a detailed pre-plan 
(SOP), manpower and equipment logistics are key factors in any successful operation.

Fires in high-rise buildings everywhere have the potential to be one of the most challenging incidents to which we respond. The potential for loss of life is high. Fires can burn for extended periods of time before operations can begin. The reflex time involved is extended due to the additional time required to reach the fire area. It is not uncommon for 15 or 20 minutes to elapse after the arrival of the first unit before fire attack can actually commence.

A fire in a high-rise building requires a high level of coordination. Members should anticipate a large commitment of resources. High-rise fires have historically proven to be some of the most demanding a department can face. Members must realize that the majority of high-rise buildings in Northern Virginia have built-in fire protection systems. 

These systems include sprinkler systems, standpipes, fire detection systems, and fixed fire suppression systems. Only with proper preplanning, will familiarity with the response district be possible. 

There are still a significant number of high-rise buildings, both residential and commercial, that have nothing more in terms of fire protection than a standpipe. Northern Virginia alone has several thousand high-rise buildings, and many more are under construction or in the planning stage. Each of these presents its own set of problems and challenges in the event of a fire.

An event that will most certainly take firefighters by surprise is the negative pressure that often exists BEHIND them as they advance into a fire involved floor of a high-rise structure causing the fire to be 'sucked' out of the apartment or floor to head directly into the stair-shaft. This negative pressure may be substantial and is a by-product of natural stack effects in the stairway itself. On occasions this effect can cause a negative pressure in the fire area itself to cause outside windows to break inwards, allowing exterior winds to intensify fire conditions.

At a high-rise apartment fire in Houston, Texas where a Fire Captain was killed in 2001, it was reported -

'They exited the apartment and headed down the hall, but a nasty thing happened when they opened the stairwell door, sources say. The stairwell acted like a ferocious maw, sucking heat and smoke down from the burning apartment. For Jahnke and Green the effect was overwhelming. The smoke grew thick as a blindfold; a torrent of hot air whirred past. The captains reportedly tried to beat a retreat by following their hose out of the apartment and down the hallway, a task made brutally complicated by the coiled, irregular pathway of their lifeline.

The violent shift in the air current created high confusion by sucking the heat away from the fire. To Jahnke it seemed as if they were headed toward the fire, not away from it, as they followed the path of the hose, Hauck says'.........

20 Storey Buildings

UK Fire Officer Paul Grimwood has researched firefighting experience in high-rise buildings and his 28 page report in FOG ATTACK demonstrates that many incident command systems and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for tall structures are based on out-of-date policies. 

The author worked with ten big city fire departments in the USA and attended fires in the World Trade Center, New York City and the Sears Tower in Chicago. He also visited the scenes of past conflagrations at the Interstate Bank in Los Angeles and the Churchill Plaza in the UK where he discussed firefighting operations with firefighters and chiefs who attended these incidents. Using several case histories he explains how incident command systems, a detailed pre-plan (SOP), manpower and equipment logistics are key factors in any successful operation.

A 12,000 Cu.Metre fire located high up within the confines of a downtown office high-rise structure is a lot different to the same fire located on the second floor! The logistical demands placed on firefighters have demonstrated that Incident Command needs to function well in advance of actual needs for as a plan is initiated there is a lengthy time delay prior to actioning! 

 At two fires in 1988 (Interstate Bank) and 1991(Churchill Plaza), US and UK firefighters were faced with office fires on upper levels that demanded a fresh 30 minute SCBA cylinder every 33 seconds for the entire duration of the Interstate fire and similar requirements for a fresh 45 minute cylinder every 80 seconds in the Plaza fire! Similarly in both fires, hundreds of firefighters were required to undertake a wide range of duties, estimated at both incidents as one firefighter for every 60 Cu.m of fire involvement.

It was in FOG ATTACK that he researched and initiated debate on reaction times - the time taken by firefighters to respond to an incident and get water flowing onto the fire on the upper levels of a high-rise. His research demonstrated 'reaction times' ranging from 9 to 40 minutes for fires located between the 10th and 33rd levels!

Air and smoke movement influenced by internal stack effects and exterior wind movements constantly catch firefighters out and negative pressure differences caused by internal fire towers or stairshafts have resulted in firefighter fatalaties both in the UK and the USA. 

The effects on water flows and fire streams in tall structures present unique challenges for the firefighting force and the difficulties of laying interior hose-lines are all discussed in the report, as are communication problems - "which stairway are we in guys - they wanna know".......! From 'lobby control' to 'staging' to 'search and rescue'........

Fire Ravages London High Rise - 2003
The most serious high-rise fire to hit the UK for many years took over 100 London firefighters several hours to control as flames ravaged the top five floors of the twelve storey Telstar House on Wednesday night.

During welding work in an elevator shaft in the 16-storey Garley Building in Hong Kong district on 21st November 1996, a fire broke out which killed 39 people and seriously injured around 80 others. More than 90 people were rescued, some of them in daring scenes in which a helicopter pilot risked his own life.

Maintenance and repair work was in progress in the office and business tower when highly flammable material caught fire during welding work in the basement. The fire made its way up through the elevator shafts and spread like lightning through the top three floors of the building. 

The immense heat and smoke made these floors a death trap for the people working there: the windows could not be opened to let the heat and smoke out, and escape routes were filled with smoke or impassable on account of the fire. As a result, 22 charred bodies were subsequently found in a single office on the 15th floor.

At 1029, June 30, 1989, in Atlanta, Georgia an electrical fire originating on the sixth floor of a 10-story office building killed five people, and injured 23 civilians and six firefighters. One woman had jumped from a sixth floor window prior to the Fire Department's arrival and was seriously injured. 

Firefighters removed approximately 14 people over aerial ladders and rescued five others from the interior of the building. The electric closet where the fire started opened directly onto the exit corridor. When the fire erupted, it immediately blocked the corridor, keeping most victims away from the two exits serving the floor.

This fire was reported to be the first multiple death U.S. high-rise office building fire in over 10 years. The fire demonstrates the need for automatic sprinkler protection for high-rise buildings and illustrates the impact that occupant behavior can have on survival in fire situations. 

All of the trapped survivors broke windows to offices and waited for rescue. Four of the people who died were overcome by smoke and toxic gases in the corridor or in offices where windows weren't broken. The fifth fatality was an electrician who was seriously injured by the inital electrical arc, then died from the effects of the fire.

The lo-story fire resistive office building was constructed in 1968 and was not required to be equipped with automatic sprinklers. The building evacuation plan, which had been practiced regularly, was credited with the successful evacuation of occupants on floors other than the fire floor. The building was occupied by a large number of federal workers who were required to practice evacuations, and also several private firms who were not obligated to and only occasionally participated in these evacuation drills.