On Tom Hodgkinson’s website there’s a legendary section entitled Crap Towns. I commend it to you – it illustrates the awfulness of urban life in present-day England. If it was still open for nominations I would have another recommendation for them after Wednesday night.
Havre des Pas, which hugs the south-east coastline of St Helier has a famous history – for its shipyards in the late 19c and then for its outdoor swimming pool which, together with the beach and land-based attractions once formed a major part of Jersey’s tourism industry. Those were the days. I live just around the corner but I’d recommend any off-season visitor to chew their right arms off before spending an evening down that way.
Not owning a telly I simply wanted to watch the Birmingham City v Aston Villa Carling Cup match with a decent pint. First port of call was the multi-roomed White Horse at the Dicq. Despite having been there forever the White Horse does not have an ounce of atmosphere – nothing to commend it at all, but at least the blackboard outside promised that they were showing the match. In I went and, when the barmaid confirmed that the match would be shown from 7.45 I ordered my first pint of the evening, a passable pint of Guinness. With a couple of minutes to go until kick-off she started stabbing the controls but the best she could get was Cliff Richard singing Mistletoe and Wine. Slugging back my pint I headed out the door to Wack’s Bar. Now, for well over a century this was a terrific little watering hole called the Prince’s Hotel. I remember it serving a lovely pint of draught Bass. Now it is run by a chap who clearly wants to be anywhere but where he is. The lack of any other customers (apart from one misguided non-local who wandered in) says it all. To be fair he summoned up the match on the big screen whilst sloshing a pale imitation of what a pint of Guinness should be into a glass. It was a cracking match but yer man made it plain by his plentiful sighs that he was doing me a favour by staying open. At one stage I asked, in all seriousness, if he wouldn’t consider stocking Liberation Ale which is flying down the throats of Jersey drinkers right now; he didn’t have a clue what I was on about. At 70 minutes on the match clock I asked him if he wanted to lock up (this was about 9.15) and he said I could watch the match to 90 minutes but that he would lock up if it went to extra time. I didn’t want to impose so I headed off into the night to find another telly.
Hurrying by the Hotel de L’Etang I saw the match being shown inside and darted in. After a few minutes the proprietor appeared to tell me that the bar was for residents only – fair enough but you’d clean up with a full licence in this area mate. Past the Ommaroo Hotel, I’m still mentally damaged by that place after an office Christmas dinner years ago when the extra vegetables arrived after the Xmas pud! On to the Fiddler’s Arms, tacked onto the Hotel de Normandie, which always looks a bit dodgy to me. Dodgy or not it was firmly shut. Next door the antiseptic bar of the Normandie itself was showing the Man City match so, in despair, it was back full circle to the White Horse. Glory be – the match was now on and I walked in as Birmingham fluked the winning goal on 85 minutes.
I wonder why tourism is now only a sideshow in Jersey?