Unexpected outcomes.

I go away for a couple of days, the first time I've been off island in 5 years, and everyone goes manic.   There has been a rally about cuts, a public debate about the environment, an organic farm visit and our first literary festival.  It is almost as though people have been waiting for the opportunity to do things of great interest to me  when I could not participate.  I look forward to hearing reports of the various events, though I already hear the visit to Brian Adair's organic farm was very interesting and decently attended.

It was quite a feat to get to the church for the wedding I was attending....

A May miscellany

With the lengthening days my working schedule has changed and I am now starting most days by 6am scything and raking grass. If it goes to plan this will produce enough mulch material to extend the beds and create more compost for use on them in the autumn. Of course something might happen to throw the plan off course, such as a return of the sciatica, but one needs some sort of a plan to make progress.

I was interested to read the TTS ministers comments on charging for waste disposal.  I have no doubt the real intention is to raise some funds via the user pays (it is not a tax!...

Electricity and Explosions in the Bailiwick of Guernsey

I’ve been looking at some stories in the Guernsey Press recently on Alderney and Sark.

Is the future for Alderney electrifying?
“A FRENCH tidal power project which would pave the way for a much larger scheme in Alderney waters moved a step closer yesterday. Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, announced that following a rigorous selection process, naval shipbuilding giant DCNS had been chosen to partner in the development of a pilot tidal turbine array off the coast of Normandy. ”

“The project will see the installation of seven tidal turbines in the Raz Blanchard which will stay there for 20 years....

Jersey and Winchester: The View from Guernsey

On 30 November, 2013, under a headline of "Sex complaint row threatens church split", the story broke that "Guernsey may leave the Diocese of Winchester in a protest move, it has emerged."
This was a statement made by the Vice Dean, who said that Guernsey would follow Jersey if a current dispute with the diocese resulted in "divorce". As the Guernsey Press reported it:
"Vice-Dean the Rev. Kevin Northover acknowledged tensions were high between the Jersey church and the diocese following an investigation into how a sexual misconduct complaint was handled by the Jersey Deanery. If the relationship cannot be patched up, it has been suggested that Jersey might look to withdraw from the diocese, potentially moving to one in Europe....

Guernsey Internet Watch

Perils of the Internet
Peter Roffey has an interesting piece on the Deputy Bebb remark that went viral, looking at "the perils of politicians using internet forums but behaving as if they're only talking to a small group of acquaintances."
In this case Deputy Bebb called locally born Guernsey people "inbreds". Peter Roffey remarks that he should have realised that "innocent joshing of a colleague, with whom he's probably on friendly terms, was bound to go public if made as part of an exchange open to all States members." Deputy Paint, however, who complained about it, has himself not exactly been devoid of prejudice: "After all, he's been pretty robust in his language towards non-locals in the past. Not long ago, on a Sunday phone-in, he told a long-term resident campaigner for better disability provision that if he didn't like Guernsey the way it was 'there's a boat from the end of the White Rock every day'."
He comments that "I only wish that Deputy Bebb had had the sense to realise that sending his response to 47 States members was very different to pulling the leg of three or four local friends."  It is a sentiment that one or two of our local politicians, and aspiring politicians, might do well to remember. To paraphrase the old war time saying, "careless talk costs votes".
Skyping Off or Skiving Off?
Guernsey States members have decided to allow themselves to "attend" committee meetings remotely by video link or Skype. Peter Roffey asks: "Is it a sensible use of modern technology, allowing busy members to be in two places at the same time? Or just a dereliction of their duty to turn up at these important meetings in person?"
He asks whether it really matters if they're not physically in the room, and are meeting in a virtual environment. He takes the view that it does:
"I think it does. While video conferencing in its various forms is better than no meeting at all, it's no substitute for real debate around a committee table. Particularly when discussing complex and emotive issues such as school closures, welfare reforms or how best to run our health service. "It's not just a question of missing body language or non-verbal communication. It's more that real debate, where policies can be decided and refined, relies on interaction, cut and thrust, and occasional polite interruption."
I tend to agree. If it is one to one, Skype is excellent, and you can see the person you are talking too with ease. But more than one person, and it all becomes rather disembodied little picture on monitors, even big monitors. Something is lost, the nuances, the physical space involved.
I suppose it depends what the meeting is all about. Meetings can so often ramble on, incessantly, taking an age to discuss anything, and trickle down the agenda with the speed of a glacier. For those meetings, a virtual self might be preferable, and who knows, if the technology advances, you can even have a video of yourself nodding sagely, rubbing your chin, scratching your head, while you can go off to the gold course, or down the pub.
But he does make a very good point about privacy. Who is listening in? Where is the security that someone, out of sight, may be within earshot?
"If a States committee was considering my application for a housing licence, or funding for my cancer treatment, or an appeal against my child's 11-plus results, I would want that done in total privacy. I would not be impressed if one or more committee members were in a hotel foyer - or even in their hotel room, with their spouse half-listening in the background."
Two local teachers who set up class blogs to interact with pupils and parents were been short listed in a national education competition. They didn't win, but did come in the top ten shortlist, quite an accomplishment. Peter Curtis and Jerry Thomas (both of Vauvert school) entered each other's work for The Education Blog Awards 2012 after seeing it advertised.
School related blogs seem to be quite a big thing in Guernsey, for example:
Then there are general interest blogs
A personal blog, with very much a recent history theme, some press cuttings, and interesting personal and charming stories that are not the kind of bad news you get in the newspapers. Worth a dip.
Tourist related, good stuff on Guernsey locations, well written.
A well written literary themed blog.
On the whole, there seems to be a huge amount of effort to get pupils at schools engage with writing blogs very much as personal diaries of what they are doing, and their interests.
There are really only a few political blogs.
Ebenezer Le Page is snappy, and does snipe at the Barclay brothers - "the brother's Grimm", "two vindictive old men" etc., with very short and well targeted little pieces, nothing long, just "Reader's Digest" size pieces. He also is critical of the editor of Guernsey Press, which seems to be getting fed stories by Kevin Delaney (according to him), and also of its coverage of stories in general. It is closest to some of the Jersey political blogs, but very different in tone. It is mostly focused on Sark.
25 Square Miles is longer, but very occasional, the last post being 2011! It's well laid out and argued, but no name calling, or mocking of politicians except in general non-personal terms - "incompetent sitting deputies who in all likelihood stand to lose their seats should the change cause a rush of able candidates to put their names forward next time."  I think we have some of those here too!
Ellis Bebb has recently started a blog
In which he says "Given that I'm not known for being a timid wall flower (well I don't think so anyway) and given that I get rather frustrated with people's view of the political discussions I thought it time to start presenting my view in the round rather than the narrow view that's so frequently presented in the conventional media". He is disparaging about the BBC, Guernsey Press and CTV for playing safe in politics. His own blog is by degrees critical, intelligent, informative, and well-argued. He writes well, and doesn't engage in name calling, and so far covers quite a wide range of local issues. And you won't find the word "inbreds" anywhere in sight! Definitely one to watch.
Deputy Ogier has a website but with blog like posts, on recent political news:
Post are not frequent, but there is one from September 2013. Well written, critical of aspects of government but in a constructive way - issues such as climate change, population policy. A very chatty style, reads well.
This blog is very much the Guernsey equivalent of Mark Forskitt's excellent blog, with a strong focus on sustainability, alongside comments on climate change which would warm the heart of Nick Palmer. Some of it is very much a cut and paste job, but it serves a useful purpose in collating recent news stories together (again like our very own Green Man, Mark Forskitt, with his "daily news"). A nice design, and tabs make it easy to navigate.
Is just a placeholder blog, one entry "Hello World"! Disappointing.
It is interesting that Jersey has a group of very political bloggers, but the same landscape seems altogether absent from Guernsey. I think that has to do with Haut de La Garenne and its aftermath, which galvanised bloggers onto going online - for the record, I started blogging in 2006, before that. But Stuart Syvret's blog, and the various "Voice Blogs" (although under "common ownership"), Rico Sorda's Blog, The Jersey Way, and Tom de Gruchy (alias Mike Dun) all seem to have taken their impetus and focus on Haut de la Garenne.
The absence of that from Guernsey has meant that their blogging culture is entirely different. Political blogs are few and far between, and tend to cover a wider more diverse range of issues than Jersey ones. 

Remember, remember, the fifth of November

"Remember, remember, the fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and plot."

In 1908, Edith Carey writing a letter to Folklore magazine, described the late arrival of Guy Fawkes celebrations in Guernsey. She wrote:

"To the best of my belief there were neither November bonfires nor Guy Fawkes celebrations in Guernsey until the beginning of the nineteenth century. What customs may have prevailed over here in the days before the introduction of the Reformation and the Puritanical spirit, I do not know. But after that date, in 1565, 1567, 1581, 1582, and 1611, "Ordonnance" after "Ordonnance" was passed by the Royal Court forbidding songs, dances, and all "jeux inlicyte," under penalty of the culprits having to do penance in church on the following Sunday, with bare heads, legs, and feet, wrapped in a winding sheet and holding a lighted torch. These restrictions, which were framed to put an end to aught that savoured of "la superstition" as well as of "le viel levain de la Papaulte," effectually put a stop to all our primitive festival customs." (1)

In fact, the only remaining custom was one which had its celebration on New Year's Eve, where  in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, "boys still dressed up a grotesque figure, which they called the "vieux bout de l'an," and buried or burnt with mock ceremonies in some retired spot. But that practice also fell into abeyance "

It was apparently not until the second quarter of the 19th century that an English family of small farmers introduced Guy Fawkes celebrations to the Island.

 "To the country people the name "Guy Fawkes" meant nothing, while they had a confused recollection of the earlier "bout de l'an" celebrations; so to them the "Guy" was invariably known as "bout de l'an" or "budloe" (as they spelt it), though without any real idea of what the name conveyed. Therefore, I think that it was the veritable "bout de l'an" of New Year's Eve which is referred to in the term "bout de l'an," and that any November fires-if any there were-had been abolished far too long to be remembered." (1)

But Guy Fawkes even in English history remains the most obscure of villains. He is more of a symbolic figure to be burnt, a part of a fire ritual, than a real person. As Dewey D. Wallace notes:

During the twentieth century, the anti-Catholicism of the event receded, and the "guy" was simply a means for the extortion of candy and coins by children unaware of Guy's original significance." (2)

The conspiracy is well known, and is succinctly stated in Nigel Balchin's essay on the subject:

"The King and Parliament were to be blown up. The Princess Elizabeth and the little Prince Charles were to be seized. Various Catholic gentry were to be rallied. Princess Elizabeth was to be proclaimed Queen. So much was reasonably clear. But just what was ever intended to happen after that was far less so. Indeed, amongst all the conspirators there does not appear to have been a man whose brains rose much above the level of undergraduate rugby toughs organising a November 5th rag" (3)

It was presented by the Attorney General Coke as a fiendish plan of devilish cunning, thwarted only by one letter sent to Lord Monteagle, warning him against attending Parliament, and the perspicacity of James I in divining that this was a plot to assassinate him. But it was instead, probably well known to Sir Robert Cecil, James I's chief "spymaster", who simply gave the conspirators enough rope to hang themselves, and played a waiting game to see who exactly was involved before they were ready to be caught in his net.

As Balchin notes:

"There are a number of other aspects of  the whole matter which certainly are very odd indeed, and which seem to suggest not only naiveté but positive co-cooperativeness on the part of the authorities. The conspirators are able to rent a house belonging to the Crown next door to the House of Lords. When their plan for a mine fails, they are able to rent the cellars of the House itself. Percy, who arranged these things, was well known to be an ardent Catholic; and in each instance another tenant had to be ejected to make room for the conspirators. The authorities could hardly have been more helpful!"

"Again, when Monteagle receives the mysterious letter, he has it read aloud, and one Ward, who was present, at once warns Thomas Winter of the letter's existence and of the fact that it is in the hands of Cecil. If Ward, who was not a conspirator, knew that Winter would be interested, how many other people knew ? Indeed, it appears that via Ward, via Monteagle, the conspirators were, throughout, kept in touch with what the authorities were thinking-or appeared to be thinking-about the whole business."

"Further, when, after several weeks' absence Fawkes returned to his post in the cellar on November 3rd, his return corresponded almost exactly with the time fixed by Cecil for an examination of the cellar. Yet no step was taken to apprehend him or even to question him very closely. The Lord Chamberlain took surprisingly little interest in him and his heap of fuel, and he was able to warn the other conspirators that everything' was getting uncomfortably hot."

"Finally, though Fawkes was a desperate man who would not have hesitated, on his own statement, to blow up the place and himself with it to avoid arrest, he was in fact surprised and taken by the party which, ostensibly, only came to make a rather more thorough search of the cellar than the Lord Chamberlain." (3)

And a fortnight before the arrest, Cecil penned this cryptic note:

"I spend my time in sowing so much seed as my poor wretched fingers can scatter, in such a season as may bring forth a plentiful harvest. I dare boldly say no shower or storm shall mar our harvest except it should come from beyond the middle region."

What can one conclude? I concur with Balchin's thesis, that the conspirators were outfoxed, outmanoeuvred, and finally entrapped by Cecil. Their half-baked schemed was doomed from the start, and they were pawns on the chessboard, or amateurs taking an expert on at poker:

"It seems to me fairly obvious that from some indefinable but quite early stage in the whole drama, Cecil knew that a plot was going forward, and was playing his characteristic waiting game with the conspirators, giving them enough rope to hang themselves. Whether the Monteagle letter was genuine, or a part of the whole process, we shall never know. But throughout one gets the impression that the conspirators were being almost ostentatiously warned of their danger, in order to make them reveal themselves by flight or precipitate action. The most likely explanation appears to be that while Cecil knew of the plot, he needed time to learn the details and the identity of all those concerned. The irresistible impression is of a game of poker between a silent expert and a set of reckless novices. " (3)

The event was enshrined in memory, and as Dewey D. Wallace notes, the Church of England played its part in keeping that memory alive:

"Following the plot's discovery and the seizure of the conspirators, Fawkes and others were brutally executed and the penal laws against Catholics harshly enforced, in spite of the moderation of King James I. But in the aftermath of the plot the focus was on keeping it alive in memory, and the next three chapters describe that remembering: on the anniversary of the plot's discovery, parishes of the Church of England were to have annual services of thanksgiving for England's deliverance, the service for the occasion not being removed from the Book of Common Prayer until 1859. "(2)

But by 1901, the anti-Catholic propaganda element was fading, and the figure of the "old guy" was taking on a more symbolic aspect, more detached from history, more a feature of a fire festival. The rhymes themselves while remaining, were also becoming corrupted. A writer to Folklore noted that the formula shouted by parties of boys carrying "Guys" down the street in Kensington was becoming debased:

"Please to remember
The fifth of November
Should never be forgot.
Guy, Guy, Guy!
Hit 'im in the eye !
Stick 'im up the chimney-pots, and there let 'im lie !"

And as Balchin sums up Guy Fawkes:

"It is as a symbol only that he really exists. As a man, we have no individual picture of him. He might, on the facts we know, have been any one of thousands of brave, simple, ardently religious men who have very pardonably found the larger moral issues beyond their grasp, and have expressed the hot confusion within them by desperate action. The cloaked figure lurking in the shadows of the cellar with its gunpowder and its slow match is at once menacing, farcical and pathetic. But it is not the man Guy Fawkes. It is the Old Guy - and the Old Guy is not a person but an idea, which the writer of Morality Plays would perhaps have recognised and understood more clearly than we do. When the Devil is unsuccessful (as always in fiction, but not always in life), he becomes not only laughable but mildly pitiable. The cards were so clearly stacked against him. It is only when he succeeds that he need be taken seriously. Evil, to most of us, is still partly an event, and not merely an intention." (3)

(1)   Folklore, Vol. 19, No. 1, 1908, pp. 104-105
(2)   Church History, Vol. 76, No. 4 (Dec., 2007), pp. 854-855
(3)   The Anatomy of Villainy, Nigel Balchin, 1950

Guernsey Watch

A look at a few news stories in our sister Island...
Crimewatch Guernsey
Guernsey Police were investigating a robbery which occurred at about 5:30am yon the morning of Tuesday 15th October at the Longstore Handy Stores, St Peter Port. Two young men entered the store. They had covered their faces. They are described as being tall and thin, wearing black clothing. No one was physically injured during the incident. Police in Guernsey have arrested two men in connection with an alleged armed robbery in St Peter Port. Breaking news is that Police in Guernsey have arrested two men in connection with that incident.
This is in fact the second incident of this sort this year. There was a robbery at 2.50pm on Tuesday 26th March 2013 at Union Street Stores, St Peter Port. During the incident, the proprietor of the shop was assaulted and a male stole the shop till and made off from the premises. The till was later intact found at Constitution Steps, as was some clothing worn by the offender. The suspect was described as being a white male, in his 20's, wearing the jacket pictured over a navy blue hoody, blue joggers and trainer. I've not been able to trace any reports of the arrest of the individual concerned.
One thinks of Guernsey and Jersey as safe compared to the UK, and in relative terms of violent crime they certainly are, but every now and again incidents like this remind us that robbery can occur anywhere.
Get your DABS all over this!
"The BBC's national digital radio services are being extended to Guernsey. It is part of a move to bring the Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) service to 2.5 million people in the British Isles before the end of 2015. Local radio services will not be available on the DAB transmitter but the existing FM and MW services will continue to operate. Previously it was thought the island would not get DAB before 2017." (BBC News)
Jersey has apparently had DAB radio from June 2011although I've been unaware of the fact, as I listen to local radio channels or radio 4 on my car radio, and that does not have DAB radio. Apparently you can get DAB radio fitted to a car if you want. In fact, I had little idea of the merits or otherwise of DAB. Apparently DAB reception quality degrades rapidly when the signal strength falls below a critical threshold, whereas FM reception quality degrades slowly with the decreasing signal. That probably means that the some of the more distant coastal regions or valleys may have more of a problem with the signal. As one commentator said: ". my new, expensive Roberts radio purchased from the JEC fails to even squeak in the digital mode".
According to the UK Free TV website looks at local DAB gaps:
BBC Guernsey: No plans to add digital services to 93.2 FM and 1116 AM.
BBC Jersey: No plans to add digital services to 88.8 FM and 1026 MW.
But Guernsey's independent radio station, Island FM, seems to show no problems with lack of DAB coverage, and is as popular as ever as it celebrates 21 years of broadcasting. It began in 1992.
It makes one wonder if the move towards DAB radio is driven not by popular demand but by commercial and ideological reasons.
In a debate by email, which has now been leaked, referering to group called the "Singers" seeking permission to perform on Herm, a Guernsey Deputy referred to local people as "inbreds"
From Elis Bebb: "I believe the inbreds are entitled to a vote these days."
This prompted a backlash from Barry Paint:
Barry Paint wrote:
Dear Deputy Bebb
"I'm fairly positive that you are well aware of the great offence you have caused to many local Deputies by your comments on the Deputies website, referring to local people as "inbreds". You have not been in the States for very long and it may be the sort of language you are used to using in your previous occupation but it is not what is expected from any member of the States whether they be local or, as you are a guest in this island, even in jest. The island as a rule welcomes people from all walks of life and from many different cultures and places around the world. The local people do not expect to be insulted by anyone fortunate enough to be able to live here. Should what you have stated be put in the public domain, there can be no doubt that there would be a very adverse reaction to the comment, by local people and from all the good people who come here to work, which you are one. I would respectfully ask you to give a full apology for your comment to all locals who are able to view this site immediately."
There were some comments on this saying that this was just part of the rough and tumble of politics, but Barry Paint was having none of it:
"I have to say that I'm surprised that some of you that have responded to my request for an apology has been received in the way it has. The use of the Deputies distribution web site for personal insults and inappropriate language must be close to, if not breach the code of conduct passed and agreed by the States as a whole. This site is a private site, as we all well know, but I have to point out, as you are all very well aware that some are only too pleased to leak information when it suits them."
This has, of course, been leaked to the Guernsey Press, although it is not clear by whom. And it has provoked a variety of online comments, ranging from those who Bebb's comments see it as something you might expect in a large company, and no more than "banter" and a humourous riposte, to those who wondered if this discussion was "from the States of Guernsey or the infant school council".
There's been news of the finding of a suspected depth charge that has been hidden in the Guernsey harbour mouth for 70 years. Let's hope Deputy Bebb's remarks don't turn out to be another hidden depth charge for him!
Breaking news on that story is that the Royal Navy Southern Diving Unit have dived on the find, and found that access is difficult. Until the find has been properly assessed by Royal Navy experts it is unknown if the find is an unexploded charge or shell.
Pension Pots
Unite have rejected the States final offer on pension reforms. Their regional officer said that "without a doubt' if the States refused to make any changes to the proposals, the island could expect to see a mass protest march, as seen in the UK when it made similar changes."
Deputy Allister Langlois will still be taking proposals to the States. The pension liability stood at £503m back in August this year, and changes could effect around 16,000 islanders. Reforms are looking at increasing contribution rates -proposed from 6.5% to 8%., a rise in the age of retirement to 65 from 60and reducing benefits.
I suspect that Jersey will be watching very closely to see what happens, and decide its own strategy later, probably - says the cynic in me -after the 2014 elections. It is also interesting to see how Guernsey will fare with attracting specialists. In comments on the Jersey situation, Sarah Ferguson said:
"Major changes in 1987 mean that pensions are not automatically inflation proof and that the actual amounts are lower. It is necessary to maintain parity with some UK schemes because we have to employ specialists from the UK. If our pension scheme is significantly different we will not attract people."
But final salary pension schemes are unaffordable in today's economic climate, and most private sector ones have long closed. My preferred suggestion is to retain it in the interim, but with a cap, so that the rock face worker on £20,000 or so receives a full sum, while Chief Officers have it capped to a certain fixed limit. Clearly a final salary pension on a low income is something needed to keep the wolf from the door, but cutting back on Chief Officers to a fixed limit would still leave them with far in excess of average pay.
On the Buses
There may be an industrial dispute between drivers and CT Plus in Guernsey. Bob Lanning, Unite representative was in the Island for talks after the driver's representatives rejected a 1% pay offer from CT Plus. He said: "1% is not viewed as acceptable. But I do not want to see a strike, I have told them  quite clearly to give the Guernsey system a chance."
Comments meanwhile highlight the fact that the public sector workers have had a pay freeze, and are envious of the drivers getting a 1% offer.
Man with a Suitcase
The Vale Power station saw a call for Guernsey bomb disposal experts after a black suitcase was found at the back of the building. According to CTV, the suitcase was apparently filled with "general rubbish". I have no idea what this means. What is "general" rubbish? 
Fortunately the Guernsey Press gave a few more details - "The contents of the suitcase turned out to be nothing more serious than a few blankets."
That would seem quite specific rubbish to me.