The Days of the Spartan Dinner Dances

Times past, I was quite heavily involved with my local track & field club, Jersey Spartan AC. Shortly after I became Secretary in about 1999, one of the things I pushed for at committee was an upgrade to the club’s annual ‘bash’. So we decided on an Annual Dinner Dance, the sort of affair that even then was going out of fashion.

But they were great, and continued for a dozen or so years. The club members, their partners and families enjoyed the opportunity to dress up. Some were unrecognisable from the sweaty articles in scanty clothing that we were accustomed to seeing.

Bruce Tulloh book

One of the keys to the successes of those evenings were the invited Guest Speakers. I have to say that I had a hand in securing most of these guests. And each and every one had represented Great Britain (or Ireland in one instance) in at least one Olympic Games, including two gold medalists. Here, for the record, is the list in approximate order in which they came to Jersey, with their Olympic credentials.

  • Myrtle Augee – Seoul 1988 shot putt 17th, Barcelona 1992 shot putt 14th.
  • Sonia O’Sullivan – Barcelona 1992 3000m 4th, Atlanta 1996 5000m DNF & 1500m heats, Sydney 2000 5000m 2nd & 10000m 6th.
  • Mary Peters – Tokyo 1964 pentathlon 4th, Mexico 1968 pentathlon 9th, Munich 1972 1st.
  • David Hemery – Mexico 1968 400m hurdles 1st, Munich 1972 400m hurdles 3rd & 4 x 400m relay 2nd.
  • Bruce Tulloh (RIP) – Rome 1960 1500m heats.
  • David Moorcroft – Montreal 1976 1500m 7th, Moscow 1980 5000m semi-finals, Los Angels 1984 5000m 14th.
  • Christina Boxer – Moscow 1980 800m semi-final, Los Angeles 1984 1500m 6th, Seoul 1500m 4th.
  • Dalton Grant – 1988 Seoul high jump 7th, 1992 Barcelona high jump 29th, Atlanta 1996 high jump 19th.
  • Chris Tomlinson – Athens 2004 long jump 5th, Beijing 2008 long jump 27th, London 2012 long jump 6th.
  • Katharine Merry – Atlanta 1996 200m 19th, Sydney 2000 400m 3rd.
  • Colin Campbell (Jersey’s own) – Mexico 1968 400m heats, 1972 Munich 800m heats.

Christina Boxer

In most cases these great athletes travelled to Jersey for expenses only. On a number of occasions I was honoured to meet and talk with them over dinner the night before the function. Each brought their own individual charm to the proceedings and we, as a club, were unfailingly impressed with their willingness to reach out and give up their time for the furtherance of athletics.

Happy days indeed, but I think the days of the Dinner Dance are now over.

Solar Power Holds Rock Steady At $000,000,000.00 Per Barrel

Reblogged from one of best satirists around.

The Out And Abouter

sunsteal An unknown man packs nearly $0,000.00 worth of sunlight into his trunk, as solar markets hold steady.

Carrying on a trend that started 4.6 billion years ago, and is expected to endure for at least another 20 billion fiscal quarters, the energy blasting towards Earth in an unbroken stream from the sun continued to demand exactly $000,000,000.00 per barrel on the open markets today. 

“Look, the bad news is no one made a killing on this energy source we like to call ‘daylight,’ this week,” said solar market expert Max Helios. “There have been no new nearby suns discovered for a very long time, and the energy is difficult to monopolize, falling as it does in an even pattern of life-giving brilliance on the upturned face of our planet.”

“But the good news is no one is having to pay anyone else to take their solar energy. And never…

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Time Team Re-runs

Any Time Team fans about? For the uninitiated, Time Team was a British television series which started in 1994 and ran for 20 years. Basically it broke the mould of stuffy academic archaeology by potting digs done over just three days (rather than months, which was typical) into 45 minutes for television purposes.

The team of colourful experts was fronted by ‘Everyman’ Tony Robinson who attempted to summarise what was happening in layman’s terms. Each week they’d descend on a place or site of interest. Clearly there was a fair bit of research done beforehand so that the team could crack on straightaway with the dig. Usually, before the first day was out the first trench had been opened and the trowels were at work and tentative interpretations suggested.

Time Team 1

Tony Robinson, Phil Harding, Mick Aston, Carenza Lewis

The early episodes are presently available to view, so I’ve been sitting down and watching them in the evenings. What struck me straight away was the technology, or lack of it, in the 1990s. OK, the word ‘geophysics’ was a new word to most then, with the ‘geophys’ people marching up and down fields with their equipment, measuring differences in resistance below ground. Mighty impressive, but the output was delivered by clunky printers and first generation CAD. Cutting edge for the time but I’m looking forward to see how geophysics advanced over the 20 years.

In one of the first episodes, one of the experts explained to Robinson on-screen a new technology called Global Positioning System – GPS. ‘So,’ said Robinson, ‘you mean you send a signal to a satellite up there (he points to the sky), the satellite sends a signal back and tells you where you are?’ These days we all use GPS as standard in one form or another.

Time Team 2

Carenza, Tony & Phil

And no Internet! The archivist checking the history of the site would triumphantly wave a dusty book containing vital background. To be fair, much of these old academic records, maps etc. are probably still not digitised, but today our first port of call is Google or a specialist website.

During its time, Time Team did huge amounts to advance archaeological research. It inevitably put noses out of joint in academic quarters but it stimulated the whole profession. And its time-limited format showed what was possible when it came to involvement with major building developments which were halted for investigation of lost historical features.

Time Team 3

Long live Time Team. You can find the re-runs on


My First Marathon Finish

NB: Long post, no pictures, a bit of self-indulgence.

Something just led me to look up my August 2008 blog on this matter and, guess what? There wasn’t a blog post at all. It seems like there was a nine-month hiatus in my blogging after I moved to Ireland in early 2008. So, almost 12 years later, here’s what I recall of my very first marathon finish.

You’ll note it wasn’t actually my first marathon, or even my second. Just the first I finished. So I’ll deal with those bad ones first. In 2006 or 2007 I entered my first full marathon, in Cork. I ran badly, didn’t get much beyond half way. I was puzzled and disappointed, but put it down to inexperience. Then, in June 2008, I entered Cork again. This time I’d trained like a demon with training runs up to 20 miles and beyond. Inexplicably I failed again, worse than the previous occasion. There seemed to be no reason for this abject failure – I’d run plenty of half-marathons at this stage so to not get beyond 13 – 14 miles was inexplicable.

What was I to do? I couldn’t just give up on marathons. What I did was enter another one, seven or eight weeks later, at Longford in the Irish Midlands. Instead of training even harder I cut back my mileage and added in a bit of gym work – resistance, lifting, rowing machine. I headed down to Longford on the evening before the race. A good start to race weekend – the hotel couldn’t find my booking so I had to head out miles into the countryside to find a room. However, the next morning, it was cool, breezy and damp. Just the conditions I like. Off we went.

Even at the outset I felt better, more confident that this was to be my day. I took it steady as we headed out of town, into the country. I passed a couple of chaps with ‘100 Marathon Club’ on their vests and started to feel even more confident.

Then, suddenly the half-marathoners who had started at the same time split off to the right and the race took on a different complexion. Into the lovely Longford lanes we went, not many of us. At times it seemed that I was running alone. There were very few marshals and only the occasional sign to assure me I was still on course. And then, a bit of fun with a wheelchair competitor. I’d trot by him on the little climbs as he toiled, pushing his wheels around. Then a little later, on the downs, he’d come flying by me, ‘Wheee!’

17, 18 miles, way further than I’d managed in Cork, and feeling relatively comfortable. 20 miles, and I found what they say is true. The last six miles is where a marathon starts. Out now on the hard shoulder of the N5, the Longford bypass. Remember those two ‘100 Club’ runners? They trotted by me, still chatting away together. When your resources are gone, your body has nothing left to give, you have to find ways and means of continuing. Unlike in Cork though I could sniff the finish – so much of endurance running is mental. I tried a trick – for each of those last six miles, concentrate on a person special to you and they’ll get you home. Whether or not it was that, I somehow found myself on the outskirts of Longford Town, still virtually alone. And then, like a vision, the finishing line on Main Street. Sunday lunchtime and a couple of dear old ladies kindly clapped me over the line. Someone handed me a medal.

Happily the nearby Longford Arms had made room for me on this Sunday evening and I tottered up to my room, collapsed on the bed, legs and everything quivering and cramping. I finally found the strength to get to the shower…it wasn’t working. The hotel agreed to change my room to one with a working shower, but this was further pain. Finally I showered and managed a somewhat tortured rest.

But by 7pm I was right as rain. Medal around my neck I headed off on a pub crawl, gleefully downing a pint at each and moving on to the next on that quiet Sunday evening. After about seven pubs and seven pints, waving my medal at disinterested bar staff at each one, I happily weaved my way back to my hotel.

I won’t forget that day anyway, but now it’s recorded here. Thank you for reading.

Buying an apple

In 1935 my character Tess in A Jersey Midsummer Tale bought an apple at Newman’s Cash Stores while considering what to do about Robin, a young man who waited outside for her.


Credit Jerripedia

85 years later she might be surprised to see the present shop on the site at Red Houses is rather bigger, but I guess she could still buy an apple there.

Waitrose Red Houses

Micro History

In Jersey we have our big historical set pieces; Mont Orgueil, Elizabeth Castle, the amazing Neolithic structure which is La Hougue Bie. Scattered around are the few dolmens that remain more or less intact. We have the world-renowned Paleolithic cave structure of La Cotte.

But within our 9 x 5 island there is so much more of historical and social interest everywhere, all around. Often you might not see or notice these bits and pieces. To be honest, they may not be of huge interest to everyone.

But here are a few example I’ve collected in the last couple of days with easy walking distance of where I live.

I’ve been past this hundreds of times without noticing it. It reads ‘St.C 1’, meaning it’s in the parish of St Clement and it’s one mile from the Royal Square in St Helier. See how the later wall is carefully shaped around it. As you can see, there it is, marked on an 1849 map, to the right of the map.


Green Road 1849

Disused railway platform
Moving on to the FB Fields, on land gifted to Jersey by Florence Boot née Rowe, a Jersey girl who married Jesse Boot, the founder of the chemist chain. Here is the back edge of the platform of the former Grève d’Azette railway station that ran alongside the fields until it ceased operations in 1929.


Changing rooms
And, just a little further along, what is grandly referred to as a ‘Pavilion’ on the 1935 map. Changing rooms serving the further reaches of the FB Fields. Let me tell you that cramming a team of cricketers and their gear into one of the small changing rooms within is mission impossible.


Concrete square
This is a curiosity that people walk by without a second glance. It looks suspiciously German, possible a gun mount, but I can’t find any reference to it. It’s a handy resting place anyway. [Edit: it’s a water tank previously used to water the fields.]


Main Pavilion
A lovely building, probably built in the 1920s. It’s given great service to generations of sportsmen and women.


Cricket nets
And finally (for now) our lovely cricket nets which I remember being opened by (I believe) Derek Randall and now in rack and ruin through lack of maintenance.


Witches Rock, Jersey

Long ago in Jersey, Hubert was engaged to be married to Madeleine. Hubert liked to go for long walks and one night his walk took him to Rocqueberg Point, where he fell asleep next to the great rock there. When he awoke the rock had gone. He was in a magic wood surrounded by beautiful girls dancing among the trees. Hubert danced with them, and promised to return the following night. Hubert told Madeleine his story and she warned him not to return there, but Hubert decided to go.


Madeleine hurried to the priest and he advised her to take a crucifix and follow Hubert. She did so, to find him dancing gaily with some ugly old witches. When Madeleine held the crucifix up the witches vanished, shrieking. Hubert was saved.

Witches Rock

1959, credit Jerripedia

And to this day you can still see the Devil’s cloven hoofmark on the rock.

Buffalo Bill’s Jersey connection

Hardly matching the Irish diaspora, but you’ll find Jersey surnames all over the world, principally on the Gaspé Peninsula, Quebec, a reminder of the flourishing cod fishing days there.

But a more unusual link is that created by Philippe L’Escaudé of St Ouen, the parish situated in the far north-west of Jersey. It turns out that he’s the great-great-great grandfather of William Cody, or Buffalo Bill. Philippe was born in Jersey in 1668 into an old established Jersey family. At some stage Philippe emigrated, quite possibly to Canada. Along the line the surname was corrupted or amended, but the acute accent over the final ‘e’ of the surname would certainly explain how that came to be.

William’s (that is Buffalo Bill’s) father Isaac was born in 1811 in modern Ontario and his mother in Trenton, New Jersey (which itself is highly significant in Jersey’s history). William was born in Iowa in 1846. He became a hunter, soldier and Indian fighter, but his reputation was artificially enhanced by a writer, Ned Buntline, who made money out of his mostly fictional Buffalo Bill adventures.

Buffalo Bill

William later became famous for his touring Wild West show, a pastiche of what life was supposedly like in those pioneering days. He died in Denver in 1917.

Today Philippe’s former Jersey homestead in St Ouen is marked by a plaque, fittingly in Jersey’s own wild west.


Lavoirs and Abreuvoirs in Jersey

Not unique to Jersey but there are a lot of them around. They’ve become so much part of the landscape that they rarely attract a glance or comment from islanders. Some remain in fine order, others more neglected.

Lavoirs were communal clothes washing facilities. They were constructed over, or beside, running water. There would have been an agreement which families could use them, perhaps for a small fee. In this way the cost of construction might have been recovered. Here’s one of my favourites at Ruette Mathurin, Grouville. Note the stream running through the meadow into the lavoir.

Lavoir, Ruette Mathurin

Another, off Princes Tower Road, St Saviour, now in the care of the National Trust for Jersey.

Lavoir Princes Tower Road

Finally, here’s one at Mont Mado, St John in use in 1909 – credit Jerripedia. There are many others.

Mont Mado wiki

The abreuvoir is the lavoir’s big brother – it was designed to provide drinking water for animals. Possibly our best example is at Le Marais a la Cocque, Grouville. Here the abreuvoir is accompanied by a public water pump, its steps in latter times providing amusement for big children.

Grouville old Société

Credit Société Jersiaise

Grouville new

Mont Orgueil, Jersey

Easily the most photographed location in Jersey, Gorey Castle (later to be named Mont Orgueil) owes its origins to those pesky French. While King John of England was also Duke of Normandy, our French island (which shortly afterwards became British) was a peaceful backwater. When John lost his Norman possessions and Jersey opted to stay loyal to John, trouble was in the offing. In 1212 there is first mention of a defensive castle here at Gorey, 14 miles from the Normandy coast.

Though the French were a constant nuisance in the centuries to follow, Mont Orgueil was never taken by force. But in the 1500s the castle became vulnerable to cannon fire from higher ground and was superseded by Elizabeth Castle. Only thanks to Sir Walter Raleigh, Governor of Jersey 1600 – 1603, was it saved from demolition.

Mont Orgueil Kev

Credit Kevin Lloyd

Gorey and its little harbour were transformed in the early 19th century by a lively oyster fishing trade and, later, a shipbuilding industry along its shores. The 20th century saw mass tourism and this was a hugely popular spot.

These days Gorey is quieter, but in easy reach for a walk around the harbour area or a visit to its bars and restaurants. Of course Mont Orgueil is normally open to visitors and it’s my pleasure to be one of the volunteer tour guides there.