Aspirations of a Sheep

In A West Cork Mystery Joe and Miranda, touring around the west of Ireland, stopped to stretch their legs. Leaning against a wall they looked across the vast, rolling, rocky countryside with, in the distance, some woolly inhabitants. One sheep appeared to be heading up a hill, away from the flock. Joe and Miranda lightly speculated that this sheep was determined to find a different, better life. No longer would she run with the crowd.

Most stories begin with a single idea, or incident, that inspires the writer. Some of these ideas are better expressed in the short story. dfw-rm-aoas-cover-3d

So at last I got around to gathering together some of these bits and pieces that I’ve jotted down over the years. (I was pleased to rescue the earliest of these from an old laptop that was, surprisingly, still working.) There’s no central theme but – as you might expect – there’s a bit of Jersey nostalgia in there among what is a fairly random collection. Fourteen stories in all and you might like a few.

Not a long read and priced accordingly – £0.99 or $0.99. Available to download now by clicking here for Amazon UK or here for, paperback to follow.

Let me know what you think.

Is the Blogger Dying?


Ronez Quarry, St John, Jersey, active since 1861

It was about 2005 that I started creating a simple website diary to talk about my new-found passion of running. The word ‘weblog’ had only recently been coined and I suppose mine was indeed a type of early blog. Maybe it’s still out there in some corner of cyberspace where abandoned websites still live sad and lonely lives waiting for a reader to show up.

In early 2008 I emigrated (or so I thought) to Ireland.  In October of that year I set up a proper blog to cover my adventures there. Roy in Ireland is still readable, though the posts have been brought onto this blog’s archive.

I started this blog up shortly after my unexpected return to Jersey, along with a now-mothballed blog entitled Athletics Jersey. It covered a lot of stuff connected with writing, and indeed my growing love for my home island. And, until fairly recent, I continued to be an active blogger. I’m not sure what happened.

Today I took a look at the 54 blogs listed in my Reader. I categorised them as follows.

  • Active – 26
  • Sporadic – 14
  • Dead – 14

So I’m not the only one. I wonder, are new blogs springing up to replace those dying a natural death? I’m not so sure. Maybe us bloggers are dying off and people are taking more to bite-sized applications like Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and God knows what else.

What do you reckon? Are we an endangered species?

The Green Island Escape Attempt

A postscript to the photo of Maurice Gould’s grave in the previous post. This story is well told in Peter Hassall’s own words, those of the incomparable Michael Ginns MBE, deportee and chronicler of the Occupation years and Mike Bisson’s immense work of local reference Jerripedia. If you follow that last link you will find photos of all three young men involved.

On 3rd May 1942 late in the evening, Dennis Audrain, Peter Hassall and Michael Gould set sail for France. All were mere teenagers. The Island was by then of course under military occupation. The lads had access to their small boat only because of a fishing permit. Almost immediately the boat ran into rough waters and capsized. Audrain was drowned, the other two swam ashore to be arrested by the Military Police. They were carrying photographs of German defences and were therefore assured of harsh treatment.

Later that month the pair were taken to a German concentration camp Hinzert where they were tortured and beaten over a long period, as well as working 12-hour days on starvation rations. In July 1942 they were transferred to Wittlich where a severely weakened Gould died of TB. Before he died, Hassall promised that he would not leave Gould in Germany.

In June 1944 Hassall was tried in Breslau on charges of espionage. He had no defense lawyer. He was found guilty, sentenced to death, but because of his youth this sentence was suspended and he was put to work in Swidnica, Poland. Finally he was moved to Hirschberg until, on 8th May 1945, the lone warder simply opened the gates.

Peter finally returned to Jersey months later. For over fifty years, and despite moving to Canada, he made efforts to fulfill his promise to Maurice Gould. Finally, on 3rd May 1997 (55 years to the day since the escape attempt) Gould’s remains were re-interred at Howard Davis Park.

Peter Hassall died in 1999.

Howard Davis Park, Spring 2016

Most weekday mornings and evenings I walk through this park to and from work. It is on the fringes of St Helier. I am always impressed with the hard work, dedication and care that the gardening staff show, but right now, in the springtime, it is a picture.

I wrote of the interesting history of the park in October 2010.

First of all, a bit of fun – a couple of ‘then and now’ shots. The first one is (I believe) from shortly after the park opened to the public in 1938 and I think it has been colourised. (Photo credit to Jerripedia). The second is from much the same angle today.

So onto the main gallery where you can see the Allied War Cemetery, the formal gardens (looking a bit bare), exterior and interior shots of the billiard room, the only remaining bit of the original property ‘Plaisance’, a silhouette of George V with the mast of ‘Westward’ behind him, the Merton Hotel (in the ‘then’ shot above) and a general selection of shots, the final one with St Luke’s Church as the backdrop.

You’ll notice, top right, the grave of Maurice Gould. He is part of one of Jersey’s Occupation ‘escape’ stories which I will relate at some point.

Trinity tales

Here’s a re-blog of a post from way back in September 2010.

Back On The Rock

If you set foot on the cliff paths of Jersey’s north coast you should know that you’ll be in for a tough walk/jog/run.  The path sweeps from low to high and some of the climbs are fierce, even with the great work done down the years to provide steps in the steepest places.

However the weather was magnificent as I set off from White Rock with the French coast as clear as a bell; also the Ecrehous, the group of islets inhabited in the summer by a few fisherfolk.  The best-known resident was of course Alphonse Le Gastelois who lived in self-imposed exile there from 1961 to 1975.

Here’s a 20-minute interview with him recorded in 1968

The trot from White Rock to Bouley Bay is the easiest bit, though that’s not saying much.  Dropping down to the bay the sign of the Black Dog reminds me that I ought…

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Release of Barry2

Happy to say that my fifth novel is now available for Amazon Kindle. Paperback coming soon.


It is, of course, a sequel to my first novel Barry. That first book was written before I even learnt that there was method in writing stories. I wonder if this one is an improvement after years of practice, absorption of advice and mixing with other indie authors.

As I did the final read through it struck me how multi-toned the story is. It was meant to be fairly earnest but I couldn’t resist having fun with my older Irish couple. I was pleased to see that each of my characters have individual quirks and/or issues, without me having planned them. These characters colourise the story around the main protagonists Barry and Lara who are, by contrast, always strong and reliable.

And I wonder if readers will feel the latent menace in the Miere sub-plot, or whether I’ve failed in that?

And did I rush the ending? Could I have strung it out, built the suspense?

Anyway, it’s out there to either fly or to crash and burn. I hope you give it a try.

The missing tower

First Tower old 1

The round tower at First Tower, St Helier, many years ago. Note the water tower atop the original structure.


The round tower from much the same angle today. Where did the water tower go?


There it is! Someone nicked it and I found it up their drive.

Edit Apr 2016 – A friend reports that she spoke to an old lady at the property recently. She related that her grandfather had the tower transported (she doesn’t know when or how) to the present site when it had fallen out of use. He had a use for it for his nearby commercial greenhouses. (Further edits if and when possible.)



Noirmont, Portelet & Ouaisne

One of my most-viewed posts is from February 2012, though it has yet to attract a ‘like’ or ‘comment’🙂 Maybe that’s because it’s crap but anyway here it is again.

Back On The Rock

Crisp and clear. Parking at Noirmont it was a three-top and gloves day for sure. Every time I venture this way the boys of the Channel Islands Occupation Society seem to have done more work in reinstating Batterie Lothringen. The Germans’ alpha defensive position during the Occupation, the bunkers were back-filled in the late 1940s and the armaments slung over the cliffs. Now much has been recovered and is there for all to see.

Batterie Lothringen at Noirmont Point

First a warm-up trot across Noirmont Common, through the woods and over to Portelet. The sign for the Old Portelet Inn says est.1606. Hogwash. The building may (or may not) date from then but the pub is firmly mid 1900s. It’s a fine establishment though and one puts up with the restaurant feel as it keeps one of our few remaining decent country pubs going. EDIT Sept 2013 – thanks…

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Take The Next Step – Jersey Marathon 2015

After Longford 2008 and Cork 2010 (drawing a veil over two previous ignominious DNFs) I declared ‘never again!’ Two miles from the end of Jersey 2015 I fervently wished I had stuck to that. That two miles could have been two hundred as far as I was concerned.
I’ve done OK these last 16 months. I’ve totally reappraised my eating and drinking habits, lost a bunch of weight, have trained and raced well. In fact in my 63rd year I’ve set a new PB (PR in the US) for 5k and have come close to doing likewise for 10k. So, deciding that life’s too short for regrets I put my name down for the 10th running of the present incarnation of the Jersey Marathon.
Now, it must be said I’m no runner. I only started 13 years ago to regain a bit of fitness and grew to enjoy it without ever getting beyond the ‘respectable’ mark. Still I had hopes of getting inside my previous best mark of 4:27, a rate of 10-minute miling.
Jonathan Edwards started the race - pic Matt Porteous

Jonathan Edwards started the race – pic Matt Porteous

So, four miles in and averaging 9.21m/m. In fact, with the exception of a sharp uphill section in Mile 5 I didn’t slip into 10-minute miling until the second half of the race. A mistake? Possibly. But sometimes you just go with your gut feeling. It was a perfect day for running, mercifully the cloud cover remained keeping the temperature down and I was enjoying the great race experience. As well as the individual marathon there is a team relay. The result is that it’s a dynamic experience for runners and spectators. The support throughout from the Jersey public was awesome, the best I’ve experienced.
The eventual winner Aleskey (Russia) - pic Matt Porteous

The eventual winner Aleskey (Russia) – pic Matt Porteous

They say – and how true it is – that the second half of a marathon starts at 20 miles. From Mile 15 I had to start to dig deep and from Mile 20 it was becoming a serious challenge. Never a thought of quitting though – you find ways and means from that point. Thankfully there’s a downhill section bringing the runners down to St Aubin with three and a half to go. Another painful mile and my legs done packed up on me. For the first time in a marathon I was reduced to alternate walking and running. The mainly younger, fitter relay runners streamed by together with a number of marathoners. Many had words of encouragement to me and others as they did so.
The leaders in Waterworks Valley having dropped me - pic Matt Porteous

The leaders in Waterworks Valley having dropped me – pic Matt Porteous

There are many examples of battling through the pain barrier. Today once again it was Anthony Lewis a local journalist who suffered a catastrophic stroke several years back. It is an achievement for him to manage one painful step. Today he pushed his body to a half-marathon in six hours.
The ‘central governor’ theory propounded by Tim Noakes is interesting. It holds that the mind protects us from over-exertion by programming our muscles accordingly. The trick is to over-ride the theory. Thus, with the finish at last only a few hundred yards away all the pain slipped away and I was striding like a champion down Conway Street, Commercial Street and Wharf Street lined with fantastic support to finally make the finish line at the Weighbridge in a chip time of 4:34.31 and 15th M60.
No longer running tall, relaxed, smiling

No longer running tall, relaxed, smiling

And I’m happy to say, slow or not, I still beat my beautiful and very fit daughter Emma (26) who finished her very first marathon.
Yes I’m pleased I gave it a shot but – never again. My mile splits which tell a tale were