Nothing for it on a damp 1st January Sunday morning but to put my gear on and put in a few slow kms. I headed around to the north east and St Martin’s parish, parked up and headed off. As has become a habit, I declare my intention for the year by tackling a serious hill. In this case the two tracks leading up from Gorey Pier to Haut de la Garenne.
From there I plodded easily through the gloomy countryside (St Martin always seems gloomy, though pleasingly intriguing) following a roughly circular course and taking in the gentle morning, the nature and landmarks. Hope you like the pics.
Back to Longbeach car park 9.6km later, just as the rain began in earnest. Delighted to bump into Hannah Bechelet, a fellow runner and former Jersey resident now working as a TV presenter in Birmingham, back in the Island for the holidays with her husband and young twin boys.
I think the quiet months of January and February will find me doing a bit more rediscovery of our lovely part of the world at a suitably slow pace.
So, yesterday evening I drove into town, parked up and competed in the last 5k road race of the year – the course is out of town, along the south coast walkway, turn at half way and return. Pleased enough with my time I jogged back to my car (a Nissan Juke) for the short drive home. I turned the ignition key – buzzzz! – no other reaction, least of all the expected comforting purr of an engine. Now, I have never been under the bonnet of the car in the five years I’ve had it. There’s no point in doing so as I have no idea of what goes on in there.
A few buzzes later I gave up and jogged home, not so far. There was nothing else I could do before the morning.
This morning I walked into town and tried the ignition again. Buzzz! Now armed with a few phone numbers, on the second try I managed to get a garage to come out and have a look. The nice young mechanic quickly diagnosed a dead battery. He quickly charged it up and instructed me to go for a long drive to fully charge it – and took a call-out fee of £63.
Off I happily went for the long drive. Some while later I happened to stop momentarily, and the engine stopped. You’ve guess it – Buzzz! as I turned the key. The battery had NOT charged. Another phone call. The same guy again arrived in no time and got me going with instructions that I should go straight to Roberts Garage in town who would replace the battery while I waited. Another £63 call-out fee.
With great trepidation I drove the few miles to Roberts Garage and thankfully got there without further mishap. Within 15 minutes I was off again, new battery fitted, £129 paid.
So yeah, a bad day. But now I reflect it wasn’t so bad in the great scheme of things. Yes, my negligence in getting the car regularly serviced had cost me money I’d rather not have spent. But I was surprised and grateful that the tradesmen had been so efficient and fixed me up without delay.
And here I am, sitting in my cosy seafront apartment, dinner cooking, football commentary on. The money is a nuisance but at least I had it. I have my health. I’m working the next two days at a part-time job I love and which, at this time of the year, entails little more than reading a book in between looking after the occasional visitor.
Had I not won the lottery of life I might be starving or homeless, sick, fighting in Ukraine with death a strong possibility. I could be a beggar in the streets of Kolkata, desperate to feed a wife and children. I could be on a flimsy boat in mid-Channel with fifty others, desperately seeking escape from a murderous regime. I could have been the guy found dead in the undercarriage of a plane which arrived at Gatwick from the Gambia last night.
I wonder, if asked, would others swap their bad day for mine.
Time passes and you must move on Half the distance takes you twice as long So you keep on singing for the sake of the song After the thrill is gone – Henley/Frey
A certain air of melancholy descends once the last person has left an event and the gate has closed. Different in the case, say, of a football stadium with the knowledge that the next game will soon be coming along in the next few days or weeks.
The recent Jersey Festival of Words took place here recently in a huge marquee in Howard Davis Park for the first time. Putting it up was one thing, setting up the audio and video, laying the flooring, setting out the seating was quite another. Then the panic of the day before with the setting up of the various desks and stalls in the separate foyer marquee and the arrival of the food and other stalls. Then the few days of appearances by authors famous and not so much, playing to the public. Then at 10pm on the Saturday night as Lionel Shriver stepped out into the foyer for her book signing session, the take-down in the main marquee had already begun.
On Saturday and Sunday last we had our annual Faîs’sie d’Cidre (Cider Festival). It is one of the remaining old Jersey country fairs and we have unaccustomed crowds visiting Hamptonne to see the big horse helping crush the apples as part of the cider-making process. There is music, food, and lots of other stalls and entertainment. But everyone is gone by 5pm to the relief of our local residents.
Going back in for my Monday shift was a little sad. The remnants of the previous day were being cleared away, the last pressing of the apples was dripping into barrels, very much interesting the wasps. We awaited collection of the last mobile vans by the various vendors. A couple of the staff were recreating their cricket glory days, bowling apples at a bench. I even had a go, reminding myself why I haven’t played for 20 years or more.
And what about the folk who lived here for centuries up to fairly recent times – the young Charles II in waiting was thought to have been a visitor here in late 1649 during his exile. There are fewer places more likely to harbour the ghosts and spirits of those who have passed this way, and the merriment of the weekend must have roused them. But as things returned slowly to normal and the first day visitors arrived, I was not privileged to meet them.
Our Friday morning Slackers & Skivers run group – an offshoot of the amazing Jersey Girls Run – had its heyday during Covid lockdown. Since then, most of the group have found themselves returning to work, resulting in regular turnouts of three or fewer. So it was this morning I kept the flag flying by running solo in the lanes of St Martin, the parish which best retains the character of old rural Jersey.
To head inland from this coastal road one has no option but to head uphill. The long Mont des Landes provides an early opportunity to get the heart going and the calves stretched.
Each of Jersey’s 12 parishes has its own character. St Martin always seems dark and quiet, no one ever seems to be out and about. Today the heavy drizzle is welcome after a dry summer and early autumn. Nature reigns, happy in its solitude and gets on with gently adapting to the season’s turn. Acorns and chestnuts lie in profusions along the lanes.
Then over to the Farmers’ Cricket Field. The season having just finished, Jim Perchard has scarified the outfield in preparation for re-seeding. The ground was formerly agricultural land but opened for cricket in 2005 thanks to Jim the landowner and his passion for the game. It quickly replaced Grainville as the premier cricket ground in the Island, just as Grainville supplanted the FB Fields in the late 1970s.
Turning back towards my starting point and a little diversion down another quiet lane which runs, little used, back to the coast road.
Back to civilisation after just 9k. A welcome coffee at the Driftwood Cafe and entertainment from a woman complaining bitterly over the freshness or otherwise of the croissants.
I have mentioned before my slight obsession with a 20-year-old au pair from Finland, Tuula Hoeoek, battered to death here in Jersey in the final hours of 1966. Yes, I still pass by the field entrance where she was found dead, 2-3 times a week. I say, “Hi”, remind her of the date, give her a weather update. I move on, never expecting or receiving a reply
This morning I paused there as usual, happy to catch my breath after a bit of a climb. The field is overgrown right now, but something had appeared that wasn’t there 48 hours earlier. Standing all alone.
Edit 10th August, eight days later. The sunflower has gone, no trace remains. Another life snuffed out too early.
A new course, out and back from Les Quennevais heading away to the north-west of the island and returning by the coastal route. Yes it looked a promising course but the rather nasty final two miles were to come home to roost.
An 8am start, a good innovation which gives clear roads for the first hour at least. After that time the whole of Jersey becomes awash with Sunday drivers going nowhere in particular. About 400 entries including a notable mainland contingent with a lively bunch from Watford Joggers. Conditions splendid as we set off with a lap of the cycle track to spread the field out before we venture out onto the roads.
As for me, I feel in good shape, hoping to get inside 1:55, so averaging kms of 5.30 mins. We take the lanes which snake around the airport’s west runway and dive down the steep escarpment towards St Ouen’s Bay – here I protect my ageing knees and the younger ones fly by me. Down onto Chemin du Moulin which winds northwards through the rather wild landscape of St Ouen.
I’m way inside my target time, running smoothly, exchanging banter with my fellow runners in the mid pack. It’s a feature of the longer races these days that the gals are as plentiful as the guys which adds to the race day experience. It’s odd to recall the times when women were only grudgingly accepted into road racing with some of the guys being affronted if they were “beaten by a girl”. Those “girls” are plenty tough and not afraid to beat anyone.
So onto darkest L’Etacq, as far from civilised St Helier as is possible, and we turn for home, heading south via the Five Mile Road. There are fewer groups now, most running solo. It is easy to fall into the mindset of accepting everyone else’s pace as fatigue sets in. A few, me included, make little breaks, overtaking other runners, trying to keep the tempo up. As we approach the south end of the Five Mile Road, at La Pulente, my pace is holding up, assisted now by regular intake of fruit pastilles. But I’m flagging and the hard work is only just starting. There’s an off-road section around the Petit Port headland which slows us considerably – it’s rocky and dangerous. Out on to the roads again and then the long, mean climb at Corbière – a lot of walking going on though I manage to run it, though at much the same pace as the walkers 🙂 Finally, on to the Railway Walk which leads to the finish, just over a mile away. But now I’m bushed, I’ve lost all track of time, only aware that my 1:55 has probably gone. As I drag towards the finish, two legendary oldies – Bernie Arthur and Sue Le Ruez – glide by me. Sparked into whatever life I have left, as we hit the cycle track, finish line in sight, I manage to edge by them both again to finish in 1:57.45.
A great morning, well-organised race, excellent company. A tough old race but running is termed an endurance sport for a reason.
There isn’t much call for thatchers here in Jersey. We have plenty of lovely, traditional granite buildings but of thatched roofs there are no more than a handful.
So when five thatchers from Devon arrived in the island a couple of weeks ago, everybody sat up and took notice. Here at Hamptonne we have three historic farm buildings, two of which have thatched roofs. It is 20 years or so since they were last attended to. It was only as they got to work with their bright, golden straw that it could be seen how overdue the work was.
It was a surprise when they initially just tidied up the existing thatch and prepared to lay the new over it. The second surprise was the thickness of the new thatch.
The guys are a taciturn bunch. They don’t say much, but just get on with it, dawn till dusk, seven days a week though they finish a bit earlier on Sundays. We’ve had TV and radio up here filming and interviewing, reluctantly in the case of the boss thatcher. They just want to get on, finish the job and head home with a cheque in their back pocket.
Today they’re just about finishing off Hamptonne House, the former home of Laurens Hamptonne who was the first to acclaim Charles II as King when his father had his head chopped off. Shortly they’ll start on Langlois House assuming we can deal with swallow nests, bats and other impediments to work.
I often run past the field entrance where Tuula Hoeoek, a young au pair, was assaulted and battered to death 54 years ago. This field entrance is at the top of a serious hill so it suits me anyway to stop for a few seconds.
“Hey Tuula, how are you doing?” I wait and listen, there’s no answer. I move on.