Changes have happened all around us this year—we’re observing them and living them. The harsh closed signs, endless commercial spaces for lease, and out-of-work artists, musicians, servers, retailers, teachers, and flight attendants with nowhere to go. Many of us had to change our life direction this year, whether we liked it or not. We feel lost and maybe we feel found as well.
If you are changing directions with your job, your business, and/or your passion, today I’m sharing three difficult steps that have worked for me this year. I say “difficult” because none of them are easy steps to take.
It’s probably more like 300 steps rather than 3 steps by the time you work through everything. Anyway, I hope this helps if you’re in limbo right now.
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.
Have you ever seen a ghost? If not, do you believe in them, or at least have an open mind? If there was a scale of belief 0 – 10 where would you be? I reckon I’d be a 7 or an 8.
Obviously, if you’ve seen a real live ghost you’ll be a 10. Others, many of you, will be a sceptical zero. So no, I’ve never had the pleasure though I’d desperately love to learn that ghosts exist on a physical level.
We’re short of apparitions here in Jersey. We do have a few old legends but they are firmly rooted in the past with no sightings (to my knowledge) in modern times. Our medieval castle Mont Orgueil does supposedly have a resident ghost whose dark corner I point out to our visitors; there is a little substance to this maybe according to previous ghost hunters. Doctor John Lewis, in his memoirs of the Occupation years, describes taking rooms in Bath Street and, for several nights in a row, heard a tumultuous racket coming from the room next to his own bedroom. Upon opening the dividing door there was silence and emptiness. He had almost got used to this phenomenon until one night the noise stopped abruptly, never to reoccur. (The building has since been demolished.)
A family I know well once experienced the sensation of an invisible ‘someone’ walking slowly across their living room and out through the wall – there were three of them who simultaneously experienced this. I re-wrote this scene in A West Cork Mystery.
And of course, Ireland is where you will find ghosts, if anywhere. There is a rich cornucopia of myth, legend and folklore documented by the likes of WB Yeats, Lady Gregory and more recent writers like Michael Scott. And Ireland of course doesn’t just have ghosts; it has the faeries which, as everyone knows, are the descendants of the Tuatha Dé Dannan who were driven underground to the Otherworld by their conquerors the Milesians. They interact with the human race in myriad ways.
As a child, on a visit to an aunt in west Cork, she’d say, “Go to sleep now but wake up at midnight to see the leprechauns dancing outside.” And next thing the morning light would be streaming in through my window.
Walk (or run, as I’ve had the pleasure of doing) through the misty wilds of Connemara, wander through the deserted village of Slievemore on Achill Island, listen carefully to the dark silence descending over any Irish village once the pub door has been closed for the night, sit for a while, your back against a standing stone which pre-dates any history we know. Then tell me again that you’re a zero.
Are readers of this blog still connected with their alma mater, the school you attended before going on to tertiary education? Certainly I’ve paid my subscription to the Old Philipians’ Association these last 50 years, and I follow, with mild interest, their Facebook group. Recently a conversation on the Facebook group caught my eye. It concerned cross-country running. During the winter us boys used to be sent off on a designated course around the streets of west Birmingham, or perhaps on several laps of the school’s playing field. No coaching, no advice, just do it. Meanwhile the masters in charge would sit and chat, drink tea.
This was OK by me. I enjoyed any sports we were made to do, though I never excelled at any. But it’s only now I realise how much outdoor sports in general, cross-country in particular, was hated by so many. They would try to avoid running with every excuse under the sun. Unable to avoid it they’d drag their feet, share a fag, risking the approbation of the sports masters.
The result? The vast majority left school with no intention of continuing to run, either in competition or to keep fit. What was the mindset of those trained sports teachers who used running as some type of punishment? Surely their role was to teach sport, not to inflict it. Those of us who continued with sport in later years did so in the form of team sports – soccer, rugby, cricket with your mates.
This wasn’t just my school. It was all boys’ schools. And after a miserable couple of hours in the mud and rain it was compulsory communal showers, excruciatingly embarrassing for many boys, especially with the odd creepy master peering in to make sure no one was dodging.
And the girls’ schools? I don’t know. They were the mysterious St Paul’s girls up the road in their neat grey uniforms, noses in the air, chaperoned by scowling nuns. But I do know from anecdotal evidence that many girls equally hated sports as delivered by their schools. We see so many women, now in middle age, taking up running for the first time and amazing themselves by enjoying the experience.
I’d love to speak to those old sports teachers about their approach back in those days (1960s) and I’d also like to know how that approach compares to today. Surely our schools are teaching children sport, starting with first principles and developing skills on a programmed basis. Aren’t they?
Almost by chance I find that I’ve started a little sideline. Having written and self-published eight books I more or less know my way around the process. I also know that writing books is likely to lose you money, rather than the other way round. I’ve been happy with that situation and have never really sought to monetise my hobby by seeking agents, spending time on marketing, etc.
A year or so ago I was put in contact, by a mutual friend, with a local woman who had a story she wanted to tell. Over a number of months I sat down with her and chatted with a voice recorder discretely placed. I’d transcribe the recordings and slowly we built a book together. Eventually we self-published the book, the client’s name on the cover. Moderate sales to date but unbroken five* reviews on Amazon. The client was happy to have achieved an ambition, I was happy having made a few quid.
Afterwards I wondered if there might be a local market for a Writer For Hire. I ran (and am running) a little classified advertisement in the local paper. I’m happy to say that there has been a steady response. The work is stacking up nicely; one local woman is writing her hilarious and poignant memoirs longhand, I’m typing it up, correcting, critiquing, structuring and advising. Then there’s a shorter project comprising a local lady’s Occupation memoirs. I’ve been entrusted with polishing up the hair-raising story of a guy who survived, amongst other adventures, six months in Bali’s notorious Kerobokan prison; I’m getting involved in a book tracing 100 years of a local football club.
What have I learnt about the freelance life? Firstly, you need to establish mutual trust or you won’t produce your best work. People won’t volunteer personal stuff to someone they don’t trust. Second, this work isn’t a hobby and I owe each client my full care and attention. Third, this is stuff I am good at, enjoy, and can do it from my armchair at any hour if I wish. At other times I’ll take myself off to the library. As to price, this isn’t my primary, or even secondary, source of income (yet). I can therefore work as cheap as I wish. I refuse to ask for upfront payment, and I cap my price so the client isn’t concerned about rising costs.
Having spent a life working with figures I know what I enjoy most.
As far as inconveniences caused by Covid-19 go, when many have died, not being able to go to the pub is pretty low on the scale. No one disagreed when they were closed towards the end of March. They are the prefect breeding ground for the transmission of disease. And, unlike schools which can also be considered high risk, they are not an essential part of life. Of course, if you want alcohol, there are other ways of obtaining same.
And so it was that the last time I ventured into town for a quiet beer with the boys was on 15th March, 16 weeks ago. We generally meet at the Peirson in the Royal Square before moving along to the Mitre, also known as the Blue Note Bar. In Ireland these two places would be known as ‘old man’ pubs – quiet, pleasant, good beer, low music, nothing much to entice the younger set.
Not many people about last night, a contrast to those images from selected spots in England where there was crowding and trouble. Of course, there is never news where everything is in order.
So there we were, reconvened in the Mitre at our reserved table, four of us. Our fifth and final member, our 80-year-old ‘President’ was missing. We bumped elbows, ordered our drinks and carried on from where we’d left off. Football is the common denominator. We all support English clubs – Burnley, Leeds, Birmingham and Barnsley respectively. We are also all runners, or ex-runners. The conversation and beer flowed steadily. The drill in all Jersey bars is seated only, one-metre physical distancing. The police stepped in, saw that all was well, and went on their way.
And a couple of hours later we went home. Nothing special you say, but to us it was, in a quiet sort of way. The pub is a part of our social lives, occasionally abused by some, but a welcome port of call for others, especially after the troublesome months we’ve been through.
On 10th July 1971 around 11.45pm a car jumped the lights at Georgetown, just east of St Helier, and drove off erratically. Police Constables Riseborough and McGinn, on mobile patrol, gave chase. It was hair-raising as the Morris 1100 attempted to evade the chasers for several miles. Had the driver simply stopped at the outset and apologised he might have got away with it I imagine.
He was eventually caught and arrested and taken to police HQ. Over the ensuing hours it became clear, by the man’s dress and the contents of his pockets and car, that this was no ordinary arrest. It was Edward John Louis Paisnel, 46, The Beast of Jersey. A building contractor, well-known and respected, married with a daughter and two step-children.
Searches of his house at Grouville revealed the extent of his activities and of his interests and mindset. His wife Joan professed to know nothing of her husband’s nocturnal activities.
He was charged on 13 counts and was quickly found guilty and sentenced to 30 years. He served 20 years in Winchester Gaol and was released after being a model prisoner. Astonishingly, he sought to return to Jersey but no one here was having it. He moved to the Isle of Wight where, three years later in 1994, he died of a heart attack.
As the COVID-19 statstics in Ireland continue to decline, rules for ‘cocooners’ are being eased on a phased basis and the horrid term ‘cocooning’ is falling out of use.
After 100 days we take tiny little steps back to a new normal. A ‘normal’ that is as yet unknown and possibly fraught with danger. As the ‘lockdown’ is phased out I will end this series of posts with some reflections on the rough road travelled.
The biggest tragedy is the loss of the 1,715 men women and young adults in the Republic of Ireland who did not make it through this awful time. They range in age from 17 to 103. The loss of each one is a tragedy and a huge void in the lives of those who knew and loved them. I knew and loved a number of them. Across the…
Following on from Part 1, the people of Jersey were now scared, as you can imagine, especially in the country parishes. Left to their own devices, the Jersey police were getting nowhere. They called in Scotland Yard in the shape of DS Jack Mannings, a well-known adversary of the Kray Brothers in London’s gangland.
He set to work, compiling an identikit of the Beast and challenging the Jersey public to help find him. No man was above suspicion and many interviews took place. These included the loner Alphonse Le Gastelois who, relentlessly hounded by police and public, took himself off to the Écréhous reef in a 14-year exile.
No one was apprehended, but things went quiet. There were no further incidents until
April 1963. A nine-year-old boy in St Saviour was attacked with a similar MO as before.
November 1963. An 11-year-old boy was attacked, again in St Saviour.
July 1964. A ten-year-old girl in Trinity was attacked.
August 1964. A 16-year-old boy in Grouville was attacked.
Things went quiet again. Was he gone? In 1966 the police received a letter.
My Dear Sir, I think that it is just the time to tell you that you are just wasting your time, as every time I have done wat I always intended to do and remember it will not stop at this, but I will be fair to you and give you a chance. I have never had much out of this life but I intend to get everything I can now…..I have always wanted to do the perfect crime. I have done this, but this time let the moon shine very britte in September because this time it must be perfect, not one but two. I am not a maniac by a long shot but I like to play with you people. You will hear from me before September and I will give you all the clues. Just to see if you can catch me.
August 1966. A 15-year-old girl was savagely raped in Trinity.
December 1966. 20-year-old Tuula Hoeoek, a Finnish au pair, was murdered, her skull smashed to pieces. This doesn’t form part of the Beast’s official litany of attacks. I wonder why, as the MO was remarkably similar to his other attacks – victim picked up at bus stop, dragged into to a field etc. The extreme violence, maybe provoked by Tuula’s spirited resistance, was taking things to a new level though.
Maybe even the Beast was shocked as there was peace and quiet until
August 1970. A 13-year-old boy in Vallee des Vaux was dragged from his bed and indecently assaulted. Scratches on the boy’s body were identical to those found after the August 1966 attack.
It was, mercifully, to be the last reported attack.
The true story of The Beast is old news really, so much so that I hesitate even to blog about it. I’ve nothing new to add. However it’s strange that he (for The Beast indeed eventually proved male) has faded from the general consciousness over the years. For most of the island population it’s only a hazy story, half-remembered. And when, towards the end of my guided tours of Mont Orgueil, I ask our visitors to the Island ‘Do you know of the Beast of Jersey?’ there is invariably a collective bemused look and a shaking of heads, whereupon I relate an abbreviated version.
So here follows the story as I know it. As I say, there’s nothing new. What follows is from sources freely accessible which I’ll credit at the end of the story. I only wish I had access to the police records of the time.
November 1957. The first strike of the Beast, as he was later to become known. A 29-year-old nurse, waiting for a bus at Mont a L’Abbé, was dragged into a field and sexually assaulted. Many stitches required. The attacker’s face was covered and he was said to have an ‘Irish accent.’
March 1958. A 20-year-old woman walking from a bus stop in Trinity was dragged into a field and raped.
July 1958. A 31-year-old woman, also walking home from a bus stop was dragged into a field and sexually assaulted.
You see a pattern emerging.
August 1959. A young girl walking home in Grouville, dragged into a field and sexually assaulted.
October 1959. A 28-year-old woman indecently assaulted in St Martin, but fought off her assailant.
Two years of attacks, almost certainly by the same person, who was about 5’6”, maybe mid-40s, affecting an Irish-type accent and he smelled ‘musty’. The Jersey police were no nearer to him. There were also recurring themes in the attacker’s modus operandi though now they changed, and not for the better.
February 1960. A 12-year-old boy, asleep in his bed in the Grands Vaux area, was awoken and a rope placed around his neck. He was led outside and indecently assaulted.
March 1960. In St Brelade, a woman accepted a lift from a man who said he was a doctor. He drove into a field, dragged the woman out of a car, tied her hands up and raped her. Thrown back into the car, the woman then managed to escape.
March 1960 again. In St Martin, a 43-year-old mother was awakened by a noise downstairs at about 1.30am. Going down to investigate she heard someone in the living room but, on attempting to telephone the police, she found the wires had been pulled out. She was confronted by a man who grabbed her, demanded money and threatened to kill her. Hearing the woman’s 14-year-old daughter coming downstairs to investigate, the man left and the woman dashed out to a nearby house to raise the alarm. On her return, her daughter had been brutally raped.