Jersey’s Heritage Fleet

I did a rare shift at Jersey’s Maritime Museum the other day – front desk, selling entry tickets to (mainly) our overseas visitors. It is, by general consensus, an excellent attraction. The museum is pretty big and showcases the Island’s long maritime history in an imaginative and interactive way. Young and old enjoy it equally.

A major bonus within the building is the Occupation Tapestry Gallery. This was created in 1995 and is a classy and poignant reminder of the unhappy Occupation years and had much input by the survivors.

My 30-minute lunch break came but the usual cubby hole had an electrician working away therein. I was directed instead to the Boat Workshop, accessed through ‘no entry’ doors deep within the museum. Like Alice climbing through the looking glass I found myself in a different world I only vaguely knew existed.

Over two levels lie workshops for carpentry and related works together with a big library of seafaring books and other assorted ephemera all connected to the sea. I found a kettle, made a coffee and sat down. There on the table I glanced at a French language glossy trade magazine which could have been printed yesterday but which, upon inspection, was dated October 1992.

One of Jersey Heritage’s remits is the restoration and maintenance of the ‘Heritage Fleet’, vessels that have a long connection to the Island. This work is done mainly by enthusiastic volunteers.

The boats bob happily in the nearby harbour to be taken out for a spin around the bay when occasion permits.

Shame on me that it took me so long, and a busy electrician, to discover all this.

Mythical Isles of the West

From the always excellent Roaringwater Journal blog, an entertaining look at the folklore and beliefs surrounding the islands which (might) lie off the Irish mainland.

Roaringwater Journal

The fine map, above, was drawn in 1375 and is attributed to Abraham Cresques (courtesy Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division). it is known generally as the Atlas Catalan. What interests us is that it depicts two islands off the west and south-west coasts of Ireland (see detail below): Hy-Brasil and Demar. These landfalls are shown on maps since then through the centuries, the last depiction being in 1865.

We look out to the hundred Carbery Islands in Roaringwater bay. The view (above) is always changing as sun, rain and wind stir up the surface of the sea and the sky and clouds create wonderful panoramas. But, generally, the view is predictable: we know that Horse island will be across from us, and Cape Clear will always be on the distant horizon, while the smaller islets break up the surface of the ocean in-between, and help calm down…

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Walled Garden

These eighty years the garden’s stayed unchanged
No, as the seasons turn they fade or bloom
The colours, textures somewhat rearranged
This time next year familiar scents assume

The gravel paths, the cared and tended beds
The birds that visit daily reassured
There is no predator that softly treads
Their safety at their grazing is ensured

But should the writer seek to fly away
To seek excitement, danger, far and wide
To seek out wond’rous places, for they say
We will regret our chances if denied

But here surrounded by wisteria
One cannot claim that it’s inferior

Ode to Alexa

*Might have been inspired by The Zombies*

Now I know I’m old and single
Maybe prone to a silly thought
There’s a woman called Alexa
Who is driving me distraught
Though she’ll turn the volume lower
And tell jokes without a care
When I want to know her better
She’s not there

When I need some information
Maybe learn some history
She will give me all that’s needed
She solves every mystery
But when night falls and I’m lonely
Alexa drives me to despair
I would marry her tomorrow
But she’s not there

She obeys my every order
Switches lights both on and off
She’ll suggest a piece of music
Maybe play Rachmaninoff
But when I ask her to come closer
Run my fingers through her hair
She is not so quick to answer
‘Cos she’s not there

Spring 10k 2022

Times past, this flagship event attracted many runners. For whatever reason(s), controllable or not, there were just 47 finishers last Sunday. Furthermore, there were few, if any, participants who were not regular and/or competent runners.

Still, it was a sunny if somewhat chilly morning as the race started, back to the Radisson before turning and heading west along the well-worn promenade along Victoria Avenue. Generations of runners have used this as their training ground, primarily for its traffic-free environment and its welcome lighting on winter nights. Perhaps some of those old runners were, invisible to us, sitting on the sea wall and casting a critical eye.

Personally, my aim was a consecutive sub-50 minute run – the math being easy as I kept my eye on my trusty Garmin timepiece. The leaders were soon in the distance and the chatty mid-pack bunch easing slowly ahead, chatty but still faster than me. I felt comfortable enough, hitting my 5min kms as we headed west. Richard Watson eased by me early on but I edged by him again as we turned at St Aubin for the run for home.

Money on no.5, just before the turn

Then a reality check as a moderate south-easterly breeze sprung up, right into our faces. The even-paced cruise turned into a bit of a battle, arms working harder, no-one immediately in front to latch on to, recruiting one or two tricks to maintain rhythm. The last long run-in from First Tower and an anxious check of the watch. 49.43, which I consider a good morning’s work.

The Caretaker

Museum café rainy day
Killing time another cup
Perhaps a bun then I can stay
Until the manager locks up

Maybe he’ll notice maybe not
Perhaps I’ll stay here all the night
I’ll happily stay and be forgot
Till opening time and morning light

And then I’ll stay another day
A day a week perhaps a year
And from this corner rarely stray
The staff forget that I am here

And others sit around me now
I say hello no answer back
It’s odd when I remember how
I used to laugh and have the craic

But I am happy to be here
My work is done and now I’m free
I do try not to interfere
As I sit back and drink my tea

Today I wandered through the halls
Which were familiar way back then
I overheard two people say
“Whatever happened to old Ben?”

For I am now part of the show
Though not what visitors pay to see
Don’t be alarmed if you should glimpse
A shadow with a cup of tea

Hamptonne – 400 years

Beyond the meadow runs the valley road
But yet you’d hardly know that it was there
The centuries have passed, new ones unfold
The sheep still safely graze without a care

Along the way the orchard seems at peace
But work goes quietly on as through we tread
The trees know that their task can never cease
The ancient Cider Fest must go ahead

The buildings have been here for many years
If they could talk what might they tell to us
But no great dramas only hopes and fears
Their world has moved along with no great fuss

But wait they didn’t hear so long ago
The morning noise, the red-eye to Heathrow

Morning Run

Along the springtime lanes with steady pace
The low sun blinds I should have worn a cap
Although I’m feeling good it’s not a race
No plan today and I don’t need a map

They say you’ll hurt your knees but they don’t know
The feeling that you get transcends those fears
The worries, cares and thoughts which bring you low
Recede as a new frame of mind appears

The rhythm of life and rhythm of feet are one
Though legs will burn you’ll get that special feel
You’ll never know until you start to run
The meditative state it will reveal

So grab your shoes and let’s go for a run
No promises but you might find it fun

The Building of the Breakwater

The tale of Ireland is a tragic one
We know the many troubles it’s been through
The warlike men with axes, guns and spears
The Vikings down to Cromwell and his crew

But then there came a hidden enemy
In eighteen forty seven if I’m right
It came along in silence, mockingly
From nowhere came the cruel potato blight

This new attack the others did eclipse
To emigrate the folks salvation lay
The people climbed aboard the coffin ships
Which sailed to take them to Amerikay

But wait some heard of yet another land
And not so very far across the sea
In Jersey maybe they could lend a hand
To build a harbour paid most handsomely

Some lads packed and sadly hugged their mother
Set off by foot to finally reach the port
And with their final pennies bought a ticket
‘Take us to Jersey’ was their only thought

And so when they arrived at Jersey docks
Off they were sent to Verclut’s shantytown
To blast and lift the heavy granite blocks
From early morn until the sun went down

And in the night while all the locals slept
A penny whistle sounded notes forlorn
As they lay down to rest and quietly wept
And prayed their families lived to see the dawn

Each morning they would rise unwillingly
Their weary bones to drag all through the day
The works proceeded only grudgingly
The lads relieved to still receive their pay

And then one day the building work just stopped
Maybe you know just how the story goes
The harbour lads just went off home to Ireland
I think a couple may have stayed, who knows

Today we happily drive down to St Catherine
And stroll along the breakwater so slow
Perhaps next time you’ll spare a thought for Ireland
And those gallant lads who built it long ago