Researching a Jersey Tragedy

I thought that I’d give this old post an airing. It relates to another scene in A Jersey Midsummer’s Tale. I’ve not progressed the matter since, maybe I won’t.

Back On The Rock

In A Jersey Midsummer Tale I incorporated a tragic story – that of the death of a young lad. He was wiped out by a plane which was attempting to take off from the beach at Jersey’s West Park. During the 1930s – until the airport was opened in 1938 – the sands on Jersey’s south coast were used for all aircraft movements.

Although the novel was set in 1935 the actual incident took place in August of the previous year. For a long time this has been nagging at me. Did the lad (I’ll leave out names for the present though it is of public record) have any relatives still alive in Jersey to this day?

Well, tracing descendants is harder than tracing forebears. However the excellent Jersey Archive Service gave me a lead. Indeed the young boy had an older brother. And, cutting the story short, I was…

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Lucille in Wonderland

My second book, ‘A Jersey Midsummer Tale’, isn’t very good. It just doesn’t work and several times I’ve thought about unpublishing it. What’s stopped me from doing so is the fact that there are some pretty good bits in there (if I might say so).

When I was writing it, it had dawned on me that writing has no boundaries; it was my book and I could put what I wanted in it. It was thus that I came up with Chapter 10, spotlighting Lucille, a simple Jersey farm girl. The year is 1935 and her head is filled with images from magazines and films of the day. She’s a dreamer. And one day she has a dream. Aeroplanes were still a novelty but Lucille found herself on one.

The plane dipped and turned and she saw now with surprise a coastline with blue sea shimmering in the sunshine. The plane circled low over the sea and now there were yachts and smaller boats and a harbour and a town.


Then, after the plane had landed

‘I’ll take your bag Madame, if you’ll step this way.’ He gestured towards the car.
‘Thank you, but…can you tell me where I am?’
‘Why Miss Lucille, this is Monte Carlo Airport.’

After checking in to the poshest hotel in the town, Lucille went for a walk.monte carlo

Through the hotel grounds and into the busy streets she strolled, turning left towards the harbour. People smiled at her as she walked, ladies envied her, men admired her and she smiled and blossomed at the occasional wolf whistle. She walked tall, shoulders back as she examined the goods in the unfamiliar shops. A flower seller stepped out from his stall and presented her with a red rose with a little bow. She passed on the kindness by bending down and handing the rose to a little girl who followed Lucille with her big eyes open as she clutched her unaware mother’s hand.

She met a couple of familiar-looking women at a waterfront bar.greta garbo

mae west

I don’t think we’ve met,’ her neighbour went on. ‘Of course I know who you are. But my name’s Greta and this is my friend Mae. Mae, this is Lucille from Jersey.’
‘Hello!’ said the lady the other side of Greta who Lucille noted for the first time. She was blonde with remarkable red lips.
‘We’re in the movie business Lucille, but maybe they don’t show us in Jersey?’
‘Oh but they do! Only this morning I was at the pictures watching John Wayne…’ she paused, momentarily puzzled. Was it this morning, or yesterday, or did she just dream it?

Lucille is invited to a grand dance by the Prince of Monte Carlo. Getting ready, she encounters a shower for the first time.

Cautiously, she stepped into the contraption and twisted a knob. Nothing. Then she pulled down a lever and a freezing jet of water shot over her pale body. Squealing, she hopped out of the shower a lot faster than she had gone in before turning to regard it with suspicion.

And at the dance

Then they danced to the band, the other couples leaving the floor to the Prince and the lovely Miss Lucille from Jersey. After this they edged off the dance floor and, still waltzing, made their way onto the balcony overlooking the town and harbour.
‘Lucille, I think I’m falling in love with you.’
‘No, that cannot be. I am but a humble farm girl and you are a prince!’

And there’s finally a dream within a dream. After the dance Lucille awakes to find Lillie Langtry, the famous Jersey socialite and actress who lived her later years in Monte Carlo, by her bedside. They chat, and Mrs Langtry tells Lucille that, despite her extensive travels, she always loved Jersey best.lillie langtry

‘Why don’t you go back to Jersey then?’
‘Oh but I have gone back, Miss Lucille. And now I think that’s it’s time you also went back.’
‘But I don’t want to go back!’ wailed Lucille, tears starting to fall.
‘My beautiful girl, you’ll find that your dreams will come true of their own accord if you’ll just let them and don’t force them. Now let me help you back’.

A bit Alice in Wonderland, isn’t it?

My Running in 2018 – a review with pics


It’s been a funny old running year. For much of it I just couldn’t get going. It was a struggle. On two successive Sundays I bailed out of my long runs and got the bus back home. I felt sluggish.

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Our glorious west coast


Everything hurt. Although I continued to lead groups on Saturday morning, and Wednesday evenings during the summer I stopped enjoying it so much. I didn’t feel up to entering races. In fact I entered four half-marathons (Southampton, Winchester, two in Jersey) but didn’t make the starting line in any of them.



Stirling Castle


Rozel Harbour

I started wondering if it was time to pack it in altogether.




Fishermen’s Church, La Rocque

JJ group Radier

At Radier Farm

At which time I considered my diet again. Not for the first time in my life. I dusted off the juicer, hit the fruit and vegetable shelves, started following my own preaching about avoiding processed foods.





At Queen’s Valley Reservoir


South-western rockscape

And what a difference it made, almost immediately. My body reacted joyously, I felt loose again, less achy, a spring in my legs. The enjoyment came back.




Once more I started to look forward to running. Early morning runs before work became a habit. The miles built up. I happily ran in the last few races of the year, the highlight being a 52-minute Autumn 10k, the age-equivalent of my best time set eight years ago. I hit my 1,000 mile target which, at one time, was looking hopeless.


Petit Port


Overlooking sand dunes


Harbour, St Brelade’s Bay


Neolithic passage chamber, St Ouen


Bouley Bay


Misty evening on the dunes


Super Slow run, St Lawrence


View up to Portelet Common from Ouaisné


Old Smugglers Inn


Railway bridge, St Clement


Site of former Mont Mado quarry


St Martin’s Churchyard


St Catherine’s Woods


Windmill, St Mary

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Dappled sunlight, Grantez




A break from jogging the trails at Grantez


One more of our west coast

So looking towards a good 2019 with renewed enthusiasm.

A gift of dreams – a short story for Christmas

I’m not that much into Christmas. I’ll therefore let my blogger friend Andrea deliver to you a bit of magic this Christmas Eve.

Harvesting Hecate

My food ran out days ago and there’s no prospect of rescue up here at the top of the world. I try to put up my tent, but the arctic wind bludgeons and tears at the fabric. My compass is gone, my GPS is behaving strangely and the whiteout obliterates the stars. I no longer know which direction to walk in. The next time I fall, I stay there, slumped in the snow, ready to give in to sleep at last.

I drift, watching flurries of snow dart past my goggles. The snowstorm cancels out any differences in the landscape. When my eyes close it’s darker, but that’s the only difference, it seems, between being awake or asleep.

There is something tugging me. Something rough and insistent. I try to shrug it off but it gives me no rest. I open my eyes to a blur of dark movement. It…

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I thought a few of you might like to see this excellent blog post describing the celebration of Lucia, the Bringer of Light. It is chiefly celebrated in Sweden and is told by Annika Perry.

Annika Perry's Writing Blog

My Three Lucia Figurines

TODAY (13th December) nearly every home, school, hospital, factory, workplace, church, hotel and restaurant in Sweden is celebrating LUCIA.

Lucia is the Bringer of Light and is celebrated on what, in the old almanac, was the darkest day of the year. The day is one of light, hope and love. The tradition has its roots in St. Lucia of Syracuse who died as a martyr in AD304.

Whilst the dark holds its firm grip on night, households across the country waken and quietly prepare. The long white gowns will have been carefully ironed the day before, the red sash belts laid out, candles and matches placed at the ready.

Lucia herself carries a crown of candles on her head. These are often now battery powered but not too long ago normal wax candles were used. The crown was placed on a damp handkerchief on the head…

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A visit to Gorey, Jersey

A quiet December day, I’ve been de-selected from jury service. Go back to work maybe? Nah. I’ll take a walk and – in particular – pay a visit to Mont Orgueil, something I haven’t done for years. And fair play to them for opening all year round. Times past, Jersey basically shut down from October to March, its money made from the summer tourists. Those days have gone.

Gorey became a fortress town 800 years ago. As relations improved with France over the centuries its strategic position fell away. Oyster farming became a big industry and source of employment, until the oyster beds were dredged out. Shipbuilding took its place, until steam overtook sail.

Today Gorey is probably as quiet a place as it has been for 100 years. Let’s take a look.

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Secondary Characters

Like a bad penny you turned up in the change

In any novel that we read or write there will most likely be a protagonist and an antagonist. You may end up with more than one protagonist, especially where there are different threads or stories throughout the novel. In Supply and Demand there are three clear protagonists.

Your antagonist may be a single person or entity. There might be one antagonist, or a group of some sort. Or your antagonist might indeed be ephemeral. In Supply and Demand it might be said that the entire human trafficking industry, or perhaps a section of it, acts as the protagonist in the story.

Then you have your secondary characters – those who act as facilitators and who add colour and context to the narrative. A question to the writers out there. What becomes of your secondary characters? Do they fade and disappear when their part in your story is done? Or do they resonate with you so strongly that they turn up later in your writing? Like a bad penny.Bad penny

Tess Reitzel née Picot was one of four main characters in A Jersey Midsummer Tale. During that long, hot day four became three, then two. But when the story was done Tess kept calling to me. ‘Tell my story,’ she called. And so I did in Tess of Portelet Manor.
Similarly in A West Cork Mystery one of my protagonists started off in a Darwin (Australia) bar. There he was given a helping hand by a hard-bitten, blonde barmaid. Chantilly lasted for a chapter. But she deserved a bigger part as I pondered in this post. Finally she got what she deserved as one of my three protagonists in Supply and Demand.

platinum blonde

Chantilly maybe?

So, to the writers, have you ever – without pre-planning – found a future role for a secondary character who you previously threw away?

Some stormy nights your memory haunts me
You won’t go away
(Rory Gallagher)

Supply and Demand

‘Me and my mother and the babies, we live in a hut, in a room, next to the canal. We have nothing. We only wish for my father to come and live with us again. You see my foot?’ She pointed to her left foot. Startled, Dilawar now saw she had only four toes. ‘One night when I was small, a rat ate my little toe in the night. That is how we live. But it is OK. I am good at selling flowers.’

It was in 2011 that I watched the documentary The Day My God Died. I blogged about it shortly thereafter. Seven years later, after a number of false starts, my story inspired by the film sees the light of day.

dfw-rm-sad-cover-3dIt’s not a book that you may wish to read. It’s disturbing though not graphic. But, knowing that – as individuals – we are powerless to halt human trafficking, I felt impelled to write on the subject. If it helps to raise awareness then who knows, it might do some good.

Kindle e-book at the moment, paperback to follow shortly.
United Kingdom –
United States –
India (where much of the story is set) –