These days, when not sat in Jersey’s infernal traffic, I am running, albeit quite slowly. Even this gentle activity means that it is impossible to fully appreciate the finer detail of one’s surroundings. Yesterday however I had a few minutes to spare and wandered around the lanes close to Hamptonne in the parish of St Lawrence.
King Charles II Woods When Charles I was beheaded in London in 1649, his young son Charles fled into exile for a number of years. He spent five months in Jersey where Laurens Hamptonne proclaimed him the next King. Adjacent to the car park is a little area of woodland, each tree planted in remembrance of one of the signatories of the proclamation.
Jersey Fine Tea One of Jersey’s first tax dodges was the tea business. The Overseas Trading Corporation imported tea leaves from Ceylon, India etc. free of duty. They would blend and package the leaves, exporting to much of the world. The OTC has long gone but now we have Jersey Fine Tea and its boutique crop growing right next door to Hamptonne.
Eggs for sale Go right ahead, take some, pay what you think.
A Jersey Arch Peculiar to Jersey, nine stones, the height precisely twice the width.
All within a few minutes walk and all with a story to tell.
I woke that morning with a dry throat and a rasping, grating thirst. Blinding heat flamed behind my eyes, sweat beaded my forehead. I clambered out of the balled-up bed sheets and stumbled to the bathroom. Turning on the cold tap, I immersed my head in the freezing water, then filled a glass. I swallowed the water down in greedy gulps, refilled the glass and drank again. Wiping my face on a clean towel, I examined my reflection in the misted mirror. Two bloodshot eyes in an angry, flushed face stared back. Searching the bathroom cabinet, I discovered a packet of paracetamol. I downed two tablets and finished another glass. A strange sensation coated my tongue; a sharpness I had never noticed before.
Downstairs, I prepared a simple breakfast. Though my throat was painful, I felt ravenous. That was most unusual for me. Finding no enjoyment in food, meant I…
Early in 2019 I took a fancy to being a volunteer with Jersey Heritage who manage several of the island’s major historically significant sites. Being of more mature age than some I was encouraged to consider the job of Tour Guide, skipping the entry level job of Visitor Host. Mont Orgueil, our showpiece medieval castle, was my preference. I spent time there familiarising myself, swotted up on the history and picked the brains of more experienced guides. Each had (and has) a different approach to their tours. Armed to the teeth with new knowledge and rudimentary skills, I was let loose on the public.
That year of 2019 was great fun. I was slotted into Monday mornings and I would rock up each week for a 10.30am tour of about 75 minutes. Mondays were popular with visitors; the queues built up before opening time and it was constantly busy until early afternoon. I’d usually gather together a fairly large group and set off on the journey to the top, learning the art of guiding on the hoof. That year the visitors were predominantly from the UK but with a good proportion from Europe and elsewhere. On busy summer days I’d double up, finishing my tour at the top of the castle before trotting down to pick up a second group.
I must have made a reasonable impression as, for the 2020 season, I was taken on for a paid role, Visitor Services Assistant, two days a week. My volunteer guiding would continue subject to this new role. Then of course, the pandemic hit. Everything ground to a halt before cautiously re-opening after a few months. Even so, there were no overseas visitors and no Jersey folk wanted a tour of their local castle. Week after week us guides would turn up, hang around, drink coffee, go home again. It was a sad kind of year even though Heritage kept the sites open as best they could and without having to make redundancies, a relief for the full-time staff.
But 2021 has been better. Especially since midsummer the border restrictions have eased and the UK visitors have returned in reasonable numbers. And, slowly but surely, us tour guides have seen our groups increase in size again. Still no French or Germans though – we’re always happy to welcome our continental friends but one has to modify the banter a bit!
Into November now and Mont Orgueil will remain fully open until Christmas. Even this morning I had a lively dozen or so on the tour and enjoyed a good bit of chat with them. Hopefully 2022 will, fingers crossed, see things improve even more.
I miss her. The girl I used to be last October. The person I was before thesadness would consume most of my days, leaving me to over analyze everything. We're still the same person. Just. Different. She's me. I am her. But along the way, our lives disconnected and plucked out the simpleness and innocence with complexity and experience. We're layered together, but the bright colors that once sparkled around us slowly faded into black and white. She had a lightness about her, and she didn't even realize it. She could dance around in the golden moonlight in her bare feet, blackened from walking down the street without shoes, with a strong drink in one hand and her cell phone in the other. Capturing every smile and every wink she'd send to her future husband. She'd listen to the waves collide against the rocks. She could run through the summer…
This is supposedly the age of throwaway fashion, sweatshop-produced garments that which, in the affluent West, can be worn once or twice and then discarded. Even charity/thrift shops hesitate before accepting them onto their hangers, pricing them at a quid or two. So I got thinking about those garments which do not remotely fall into the throwaway category, our Old Faithfuls.
I once had a denim jacket. I was in my early 20s and won a £50 prize. I splurged on a good pair of jeans and that jacket. It fitted like a glove and it came to Jersey with me when I left home. I must have had it 10 years and would have it today, but I’d outgrown it and, almost as if it realised its likely fate, it went missing, never to reappear.
Then there is my gilet, Exhibit A below. It is a Nike, bought during my Dublin days c2008. Strangely the shop didn’t remove its security tag. It used to set off the odd alert around the town shops until I managed to prise it off. It is comfortable and suitable for most situations in non-extreme temperatures and is still going strong.
But my pièce de resistance is my long-sleeved running top, Exhibit B. You’ll see it was awarded 20 years ago next month on the occasion of the Jersey Spartan AC Half-Marathon in November 2001. It was the third of nine of these races that I organised. In those days these shirts were highly coveted, being of the long-sleeved variety and therefore most suitable for winter training. It is rare to see long-sleeved T-shirts these days, and they have been largely replaced by thermal base layers. I’m hanging on to it for nostalgia’s sake.
You’ll note the domain name http://www.jerseyspartan.com. In 2001 the internet was still in its infancy and accessible mainly by dial-up for most people. It was a couple of months previously that 9/11 started to accelerate the age of 24-hour rolling news that we now take for granted. That domain name is still in use 20 years on.
So, can anybody say that they own clothing that is more than 20 years old?
For 363 days of the year, Hamptonne Country Life Museum is an oasis of tranquillity. Tucked away in the lanes of St Lawrence parish, even many Jersey people scratch their heads in negotiating their way to the site. Holidaymakers – often elderly – are dropped off the no.7 bus every hour and proceed to head into the narrow lanes, taking wrong turnings, asking for directions, before finally arriving at the ticket office and shop. Most are then more eager to be shown where the toilets and café are rather than the other delights of our site, curated by Jersey Heritage.
Once settled, our guests can relax in a unique Jersey environment, a real throwback to the days when the only sounds to be heard in the country were birdsong, animal talk, the occasional smatter of the ancient Jerriaise language and perhaps the clank and creak of primitive farm machinery. Within minutes the heart rate steadies. A slow walk through the orchard clears the mind, the children delight in interacting with the chickens, sheep, pigs and Jersey calves. Of less interest to them, but fascinating to our adult visitors, are the three historical buildings which once consisted a working farm. And Lauren Hamptonne himself became the first person to proclaim – in Jersey’s Royal Square – the young Charles II as the new king of England after his father was executed.
But in mid-October, for a weekend, this all changes. Even during the Middle Ages there was room for high days and holidays and Jersey has its Cider Festival, a hark back to the days when cider production was a major Island industry. Just for two days. See the horse operating the apple crusher? The pictures are by Jersey Heritage.
And let me tell you that a day on the front desk at Cider Festival time leaves one as drained as any farm worker 😃
Dawns rise high over the cliff and green tinges the branches when her people feel the urge to move again. The furred who live nearby have grown wary, leave no prints to follow. The tiny body that she pushed herself inside out to birth stayed thin, sucked only weakly. Eventually it stopped, went rigid like dried tendon. Yet still she carried it, as skin shrunk around stick-like limbs and stretched over shoulder blades. Now the group gathers things to leave, and she feels the pull to join them. But putting down her burden is frightening. Inhaling her infant’s heady birth-smell, still caught in its dark hair, she crouches at the shelter’s edge. The clutched bundle is lowered to the ground and, for the first time, lies apart from her body. The others approach curiously, reach out to prod, pull, stroke; to know. Yet beasts will come later and this precious thing must be protected. She scoops a hollow, slides the already dusty form down, covers it. Embraced by the soft dirt full of their stony leavings, she draws back and joins the people to walk on.
Skies flicker as the days, years, centuries pass. Soils condense and hold the delicate bones tight. Others come and go above but eventually the vibrations of footfall stop. Even icy tendrils from heart-aching cold cannot penetrate to the tiny skeleton. Tens of thousands more winters, then deep thumpings murmur downwards. The weight lessens. Voices come: new people are building a house where none have lived for so long. Patten-shod feet clatter up and down wooden stairs over the small remains, a lullaby of life above death. In a blink, the house too is gone, then sediments shiver and shift as hands pull at the dirt. Clods crumble, and a chink of early summer sunlight grazes the white shatter of eggshell-thin skull. A voice shouts out, ‘Arrête! Os!’ Rough yet gentle hands – like those that last touched this lonely little one – reach down, after so long, to pick it up.
Rebecca Wragg Sykes is as far away from the common preconception of an archaeologist as the Neanderthals are seen as – in her own words, ‘Shambling around in bearskins waiting to become extinct already.’ Her scholarly but highly readable Kindred has each chapter prefaced by a piece of creative, yet relevant, fiction. Ms Sykes reminds me exactly how I fall short as a writer. I’m only part way through but this book is hypnotic. Get it here or at your national Amazon store.
In September 1942, during the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands, an order was received that non-nationals of Jersey were to be deported to Germany. At very short notice an English-born retired sea captain, his wife and five children were ordered to report to the harbour with a limited number of personal belongings. The wife describes in her own words the panic that ensued.
Parcels of larger size new suits and woollies and new pairs of shoes were untied. String and newspapers were strewn about the floor. By the window stood seven piles of clothing, but so far, no suitcases. Exhausted, worried and full of foreboding for the future, I knelt down, flung my arms above my head on to the bed and cried, ‘Oh God!’ At that very moment, I saw behind my right shoulder, and very near me, the tall figure of my maternal grandmother. She was calm. She said, ‘It will be alright.’ This she repeated. My grandmother had died in 1939. Somehow, I flung my body, fully dressed, upon the bed. I became unconscious.
The apparition was of the Charlotte of Lowestoft, mother of Caroline, referred to in my previous post. The family were reprieved at the last minute and continued to live in Jersey through the Occupation.
Family trees, by definition, are names linked by familial relationship. Often the names have dates attached – birth, death, marriage. At its most basic, that’s it, a science of tracing the links via documents and registers.
Much more interesting and intriguing are the stories that are sometimes attached to those names. They illustrate, illuminate and bring to life the individual, but often the life and times of those around them. Let me give you an example from a little writing assignment I’m presently engaged in.
In 1872, George and Charlotte welcomed the birth of a baby girl, Caroline in Lowestoft, Suffolk which is on the English east coast. Having trained as a nurse, young Caroline was engaged by a certain Algernon to tend to his brother Robert, who was dying. Upon Robert’s death in 1895, Caroline heard of a need for nurses at the British Seamen’s Hospital in Algiers, north Africa. She applied and was accepted. Whilst in Algiers, Caroline was engaged as companion to a Lady Cole, wife of a British diplomat. Eventually Lady Cole returned home to Edinburgh, accompanied by Nurse Caroline.
Wishing to visit her family, Caroline took the train and waited on the platform at Thorpe Station, Norwich for the connection to her home town Lowestoft. There she was, totally by chance, recognised and hailed by members of Algernon and Robert’s family. Her address was ascertained, correspondence ensued between Algernon and Caroline and, well, the rest is family history.
The other day I took a diversion in my planned run, to La Croix cemetery here in Jersey. Here lies Caroline who, having followed her daughter to Jersey later in life, died in 1963.