Oh the world is hung with silver tongues with good advice to give
If you can’t show me how to die, don’t tell me how to live
The plainsman’s song, though it’s seldom long, it’s more than meets the ear
And all I believe is the falling leaves at the turning of the year
Unencumbered by family, presents, turkeys etc. I decide to head for the great outdoors on a somewhat stormy Jersey lunchtime. My original plan was a traditional Christmas Day long run, but with my present state of unfitness I’d have been back indoors within 30 minutes. So I jump in the car and head off to the St Ouen car park of Val de la Mare reservoir and plod off along the north side.
This time a year ago they were half-joking about towing an iceberg down from the North Pole to augment the Island’s water resources. Today the water was lapping over the top of the dam, full to the brim. I escape out into the lanes of St Ouen, the parish that skulks out in the north-west of the Island and keeps itself to itself, defying modern times to intrude. Few people are about – the early walkers no doubt roasting chestnuts on an open fire by now.
Over towards L’Etacq. No sign of any early potato planting on the côtils just yet. I’m no farmer but even I’d guess that putting seed potatoes into sodden ground is not going to end well. And this is classic Jersey potato country around here and no doubt the ‘earlies’ will be in before long covered by their plastic sheeting.
Half way up one of the côtils a dry stone wall has collapsed under the combined weight of earth and water. There it will remain like so many of Jersey’s damaged walls. There will be neither the cash nor the know-how to rebuild them in the old way. Times past, before social welfare and minimum wage, there would be a queue of lads waiting to earn a few bob with some heavy labour. Now there are blokes who only get out of bed on a Friday to collect their dole cheque.
Heck but it’s wet; the whole of the British Isles is basically under water at present. It’s hardly fair when the likes of Kansas is presently in the midst of one of their most serious droughts ever. Lynn Woolf from the excellent blog From Sand Creek will tell you all about that.
Around onto Jersey’s west shoreline, well wrapped against the periodic blasts of rain coming in off the Atlantic. It’s majestic in its wildness this part of the world. What buildings there are are mature, low-rise and easy on the eye, set back several hundred yards from the shoreline. Whatever our giddy-headed politicians have visited upon us with the Plemont development at least the environment down this way takes precedence.
A jumpy pheasant breaks cover as I walk by. It needn’t worry. The pheasants and children of Jersey are all safe from random loonies taking pot shots. Try buying a gun here and watch the police crawl all over you. (Bad enough being stopped for being a few mph over the speed limit a little later :-()
Finally, back into the reservoir area, plodding back towards the car park. There’s been some fine work done on the ‘lost’ arboretum in recent months. If you’re so inclined you can go and look at dozens of different species of tree, all neatly labelled. I’m such a townie by birth that a tree is a tree, a flower is a flower, a bird is a bird. Contrast with the knowledgeable Jane Fritz, travel writer extraordinaire, who rattles off these things tirelessly and who puts me to shame.
And finally, for the day that’s in it, a collection of flowers, plants and cards on a bench dedicated to a well-loved wife and mother. The bench is engraved with a section of Jenny Joseph’s whimsical poem Warning: When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple.
Jersey, as nice a place as you’ll find anywhere.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
eat three pounds of sausages at a go
or only bread and pickles for a week
and hoard pens and pencils and beer nuts and things in boxes