My hero Bob Le Sueur just celebrated his 100th birthday. He is a legend in Jersey having lived, worked and resisted during the Occupation. As a young man and office junior he found that all of his colleagues, including his superiors, had evacuated the Island in advance of the German invasion. On telephoning his head office in the UK he was instructed to take charge, and so he did.
He spent much of his spare time during those terrible years risking his own life by organising shelter for escaped slave workers and carrying out various other acts of subversion. Since the War he has devoted much of his life to supporting various human rights causes and charities.
Now, I love my social history on a very amateur level. I enjoy seeing those black-and-white photos of old Jersey and hearing the old folk tell their stories of their youth. But it annoys me intensely to read, on an almost daily basis, the sighs and laments from those who long for those days to return.
“Look what they’ve done to Jersey.” (Whoever “they” are.)
“The Island has been ruined.”
“I wish I’d lived back then.”
I bite my tongue and refrain from suggesting that, should the complainers be transported back 100 years, they’d be clamouring to return to 2020 – with all its faults – before nightfall.
So, what does Bob have to say? Surely he looks back on his life in Jersey with fondness and regrets those things we have lost? This is what he has to say:
“I’m not someone who sighs for the good old days. I feel happy to have lived long enough to have seen so many positive improvements in our lives, in our attitudes and what we call our values.
“The position of women has improved dramatically in my lifetime, and we as a community care about the disabled. They are no longer hidden away, particularly the mentally disabled.
“I think young people today, in general, are much more aware and concerned about people in other parts of the world who are being victimised.
“I’m proud that I live in a self-governing community which has the breadth of vision to look beyond the horizon, and be a small part in the positive development of the global village.”
That’s Bob. If only there were a few more like him.
*Bob’s recently-produced memoir Growing Up Fast is available as an ebook here, and Waterstones here in Jersey has, I believe, copies of the paperback.