We interrupt this blog in order to broadcast an annual cherished august literary phenomenon known as the Guernsey Gazette. Its international popularity is the stuff of legend, and we are shameless in choosing this little piece of ether in which to publish it this year. For those of you ‘tuning in’ to this iGazette who are accustomed to the more tangible calligraphic editions of the past, sorry. This year we have decided to pilot this prototype e-version (or should that be i-version, I’m never sure?) because
- this blog has proved popular with so many people who don’t normally get sent the regular manuscript Guernsey Gazette (GG) by post; we want you newcomers to share in these previously exclusive joys without incurring additional over-budget expense to ourselves, naturally,
- we also want to test out whether this method of publication and delivery will cause any significant dents in the supernal popularity of this annual organ, and
- on-line is so cool, trendy and way-to-go innit?
Moreover, to be blunt, you can like it or lump it, as there was just no way a GG was going to be produced in the normal Noahic way this year in time for the festive posting. Just wouldn’t have happened. So it’s this or nowt.
What normally happens is that around the end of October, Judith opines to Jonathan “Have you thought about what you’re going to write in the Gazette this year?” to which he replies “Don’t be silly, there’s plenty time yet! Summer’s only just gone.” Then, mid November Judith tries again with a “Any progress on the Gazette front?” which is greeted traditionally by “I’ve got loads of things jotted down in my journal.” What this refers to is Jon’s custom during the year to use a page at the back of his trusty Moleskine journal (see here for an explanation) to note down any significant, memorable, funny family happenings which might then be suitably embellished to form the annual Gazette in due time. These last couple of years have seen Jon’s iPhone (4 now – yes, he has upgraded, thanks for asking, and yes, he does like it… very much… almost as much as matrimonially, one might say – ‘one’ being Judith, generally) brought into the fray as a means of recording bits and bobs from life under the notes app.
Come the end of November, Judith’s pleas are beginning to sound liturgical; “I do not want to presume that you’ve finished the Gazette yet, but can I remind you that it will be December next week?” To which Jon intones the antiphon “Calm down dear! No need to worry.” Finally as advent eventually ventures upon us Judith disconsolately attempts one last effort with “Is the GG ready? I’m posting the cards in a few days.” Which is generally met with a ceremonial pause after which Jon’s irascible response is something like “What! How? *¡%?*•$@ €*≠¶¿§! Now you tell me? Why didn’t you warn me? I haven’t even started it yet!”
After another solemn pause usually Jon speaks again, more calmly this time, offering something like “Well at least I’ve got the stuff in my Moleskine and on my iPhone… I’ll work on that”
And this is how events transpired this year, only that when Jon did consult his Moleskine and iPhone the combined list of things to write about consisted of
- Lucy > U fys grad job sw/cones
- Grace > Oli d/test job
- Ems > job tall (hair=+12”)
- Judith + nursing
- L/St P
- New York?
Now not only did this not add up to much, most of it made very little sense… to anyone, least of all Jon, who began to believe that he’d jotted most of it down whilst asleep. How could this year have been so dull? For one ghastly moment, and, having decided that this was definitely the year to launch iGazette, Jon thought of publishing the whole thing in Comic Sans just to liven things up a bit. But don’t worry, none of us is that cruel. And then, all of a sudden (Note: has it ever occurred to you what a bizarre expression that is? I mean, as opposed to ‘two thirds of a sudden’ perhaps, or ’37.4% of a sudden’?) revelation, inspiration and not a little perspiration came! How could any of us forget? 2010 was without doubt
THE YEAR OF THE BOAT
So, I hope you are sitting comfortably, as I have a tale to tell. And as it is now so unusually close to Christmas, you deserve to have a glass of something warming in one hand and a nibble or two or something else in t’other. Only that would mean that you could not hold your laptop properly, or have you got an iPad now? Really… how novel and chic. And do you like it? Wait a minute, where was I? Are yes, the boat. Actually maybe that was what ‘F<Bt’ referred on Jon’s iPhone list, not some strange mathematical formula or mistyped reference to Facebook.
Our boat (or to be precise our 50% of boat – as we share it with our good friends
Julian & Bebe & their family, and whilst suddens can’t really be split, boats can,) was actually originally purchased in the summer of 2009, but as we spent a few months of that year off the rock and travelling the globe, Jon not returning until late October, we did not really get out more than a couple of times last year. It’s a great little nippy 21ft Sea-Ray sports-powerboat with a small 2 berth cabin and a juicy 275 Mercruiser in the stern.
Certainly our boat has been a major feature of this year, starting from the very beginning since it was as early as on a bright sunny 2 January that Jon & Jules first ventured out in 2010 for a bracing afternoon trip around Herm, Jethou, Sark and Brecqhou, taking in
Sir David & Sir Fred Barclay’s neo-gothic castle of a folly on the latter as we swept past at 35 knots.
That’s the wonder of the sea in this part of the world; it’s cold but it’s not freezing, you can still enjoy being out on it in the winter. Moreover the numerous little islands around us, and being so close to France, make it so much fun.
Ah! Which brings me to France… and fun! Having had the pleasure of the islands close by, numerous lunches and dinners on Herm, etc. (jealous yet?) Jon suggested that we might venture out later in the summer as far as France, the Normandy coast being only 25-40 miles away depending on which port you call into. Strangely, Judith agreed. Strangely because whilst our boat is fast, it is also small; it is really the sort of craft you see used for water-skiing and other maritime sports. And so, with Judith having only asked once “Will it be safe?” (and so Jon never having to say in defense anything more complicated than “What could possibly go wrong?”) we invited Bare Necessities‘ other co-parents to join us for an extended lunch in Carteret one Thursday in August.
On the appointed day we found ourselves around 9am sitting on Bare in the Marina having prepped her and awaiting the arrival of Jules and Bebe. After a few minutes we heard from them that Bebe had decided not to come having heard on the shipping forecast that it could be “blowing force 4 locally Force 5”. Now I should say that Jules and Bebe are more experienced sailors than we, having owned a boat for several years before us. So I asked Jules candidly, did he think it was still OK to go? And of course being a male human being, he did, and he’d still like to join us if we did not mind; he wanted to stock up on his French wine supplies. Very wise. That was fine by us, and we comforted one another that a) the forecasts are often wrong, b) from the shelter of the Albert Marina it looked like a mild, sunny day, c) force 4 couldn’t really be that bad, after all it went up to force 11 or something didn’t it? and d) “locally force 5” meant that there might be ‘pockets’ where it felt a bit breezier perhaps.
So we set off, heading out of St Peter Port in a South Easterly direction towards Carteret, passing ‘Lower Heads’ south of Herm (sounds painful, but bear with me) and then very soon coasting past the southern tip of Little Sark at a brisk 30 knots. It started to get a little choppy after that, and the sea became what is known technically as ‘confused’, and to the uninitiated as “Oo er, I’m feeling rather queasy!” For those of you who don’t know, the Channel Islands are situated in waters with some of the highest tidal variations in the world; for example it’s not unusual to have 11 metre tides here. On top of that, we are in the Bay of St Malo roughly where the warm North Atlantic Drift, or Gulf Stream meets the cold English Channel, so the tidal currents can also be very strong and strange. Thus we started to get quite wet. I should point out that apart from the small cabin in the bow the rest of the boat is not under cover, so if you are hitting the rollers you get wet at the helm unless you duck in time below the small windshield! And even then… well you get my gist. Moreover you don’t really want to retire to the cabin while she’s bouncing about on the briny as the headroom is er… minimal.
Nevertheless we ventured on and soon past the north-eastern tip of that rectangle to the south of Guernsey, otherwise known as Jersey. So in under 90 minutes of leaving Guernsey we arrived in the Normandy port of Carteret, which whilst not the closest port we could have chosen, has the advantage of a very good marina and a pretty line of quayside restaurants all serving a mean moules-frites to hungry sea-farers. It was a bright, sunny day and so swallowing our so very nearly emitted emesis and making no comment on the journey to anyone, we moored up and ambled to the nearest refectory to enjoy our déjeuner. And très bon it was too.
The Carteret marina is based in an estuary and so we had some time to kill after lunch before the water level was high enough for us to set off back home. This was fine as we had planned to get supplies (wine and cheese… and fuel it turned out, as typiquement the marina refuelling depot was shut for a mere 6 hours – that’s taking lunch to a ridiculous extreme, but hey! this is France). Eventually having headed back carrying 40L of petrol and a similar amount of wine, we found a group of Jersey guys had moored up alongside us.
“You’re not heading back to Guernsey this evening are you?” asked their skipper. “We’ve been having second thoughts about heading back to Jersey” (which is only about 16 miles due west of Carteret compared to about 40 nor-west to Guernsey). Judith was unfortunately taking a keen interest in their opinion. “It was a bit choppy on the way over,” I retorted “But I’m sure we’ll be fine.” They were not giving in: “Not sure about that” said the one, “It’s blowing force 5 NE and storm clouds out there. And the currents will be against you too.” At this point Judith gave me one of her looks. “Ha! Well good job we’re in a power boat then!” I remarked nervously. “You done the journey before then?” asked the skipper. “Is that the time?” I enquired, of no one in particular, and very soon we were gently motoring out of the marina. That was around 6:45pm.
At around 10pm we made it into St Peter Port. If ever anyone was glad to barely make out in the dark the familiar rocks to avoid in the Little Russel it was us. We had taken over twice the time to get back. At one point, banging up and down on every wall of water that seemed to be being thrown at us, I looked and saw the southern tip of Sark. “Phew!” I thought ‘We’re nearly home.” I asked Julian to take the helm and I fixed the lights up as darkness was falling. An hour later, after some incredible crashing and banging about, I looked again and Sark seemed exactly in the same place. On the portside only 10 miles away or so the northern shoreline of Jersey seemed to be extending itself forever, and I wondered at one point if we’d be better to drop anchor in one of those Crapaud bays for the night.
In all this time Judith exhibited what can be only described as radio silence… with an occasional little whimper, as we were flung involuntarily into the air again and came smacking down on some piece of unfriendly sea which at times resembled liquid concrete. From time to time I asked Judith “Are you OK?” but each time I knew it was a stupid question before the words left my lips. “Just get me home” she whispered on one occasion as she looked up with soulful eyes. We were evidently not doing more than 8 knots and yet we felt like we were going (nowhere) a lot faster. We used the whole tank of petrol on the way back compared to a third getting over to Carteret!
Enough shipping yarns! Suffice to say, Judith needed a couple of weeks of physio to recover from such jolting, but at least, as I often tell her now, she has a boating tale to tell. Judith’s only comment was “I don’t do exciting.” (This, as you can imagine, has been much quoted now!)
Now the girls have been up to their usual mischief this year. Lucy stupidly went and graduated in the summer,
which was a real shame as she was doing so well at attending her one lecture per week, most weeks. We had really hoped she might continue as a student for at least another decade as there is nothing Jon likes more than paying dirty, disorganised, and socially inept clowns (art college lecturers to the uninitiated) enough money to make them seem important enough to be always off campus at the drop of a hat, travelling the globe on so-called lecture tours, drinking sprees masquerading as research and the like. Not that Jon feels strongly about these things or is opinionated or anything.
Any how, Lucy’s last year included her Final Year Show of course for which she produced an interesting ‘audio art’ piece, which seemed to please her tutors, even if her father failed to see the connection with ‘Fine Art (Painting)’ which was the title of her degree course. Maybe I should have submitted a cowpat for my Music Composition class in my final year? Sorry. Got me on a bit of a band wagon there. Look, she passed, with honours, let’s leave it at that and be grateful. Next to Lucy’s audio piece was a fascinating display by a student who had decided to buy white emulsion from B&Q and to simply paint the walls floor and ceiling white. Simply and badly it seemed. She called it “White” I think, and we were reliably informed that it took 9 months in conceptualisation. Personally I would not trust her to paint my ceiling it was so unevenly finished. Enough! Enough!
So Lucy got her BA (Hons) and returned home like all good students to work part-time in a café for the minimum wage. Actually only for a month or so – this was her regular holiday job – and she’s now landed a great permanent job at Martel-Maides, a top Guernsey Estate Agency & Fine Art Auctioneers. But her café job offered some amusing moments. Lucy told us one day that a French group had ventured in and one man had come to the counter and ordered “Swiss cones”. It was busy and there was no-one else around to ask really, but Lucy was pretty certain when she informed the man “I’m really sorry but we don’t have any.” But he was shocked “But ow eez zat? Ouat do you say?” “We don’t serve swiss cones here” Lucy confidently assured him. “But ouat are zose zen?” he said, pointing at the three scones he was asking for.
Grace passed her driving test earlier this year, amazingly in the snow; this means we can all drive now, except for Emily (but at least even Emily can vote as of this year – as the voting age is 16 now in Guernsey). She can of course also legally procreate, but not purchase alcohol or tobacco, which some would argue are essential before and after medicaments. Her parents meanwhile are not sure whether to rejoice or weep. Also Emily is now “the only one without a boy-friend” as she likes to point out (although Jon regularly reminds her that he does not have a boyfriend either). But the fact remains that Grace has now found Ollie, or vice versa (not sure).
Ollie Smith, it turns out, is a good mate of Luke Vidamour (Lucy’s man) as they go back to school days. All four of them were part of ChristChurch London until the middle of this year. Now only Grace remains in London, as a second year Maths undergrad, we having poached back most of our Guernsey students who had been on long-term loan to them! Grace also landed on her feet with a plum job in a local finance house for the holidays. It pays well, she loves it, they like her, they are very generous, her Dad is very relieved, etc.
Emily now towers above everyone except her Dad. Of course her hair adds about 12 inches to her height, and she often gets mistaken as our oldest daughter. She also has a Saturday job, working in the same café in the grounds of Saumarez Manor where Lucy used to work. Emily particularly likes doing the washing up there. All day sometimes. She’s really good at it at home too. Now in her GCSE year, Ems favourite subjects are Cooking (or whatever they call this now? Home Economics? Catering? Food Science? Edible Materials?) Photography, and, you guessed it, Art.
So all you dirty clowns out there swanning around the globe, lecturing on Whiteness and swigging back Margaritas like there’s no tomorrow, there’s probably another £9k p.a. wending its way towards you from yours truly in the next couple of years. No don’t thank me. You deserve it. You really do. Enough already!
Having returned to nursing part-time Judith continues to work a couple of mornings and one afternoon per week, either in community or clinic services and really enjoys both. It suits us as it’s so flexible and means she can say ‘no’ one week without too much difficulty (or guilt!) Also, the uniforms come in handy…
We visited France again (via car ferry to St Malo) late Summer and enjoyed spending some time with our dear friends the Hayters and then took a slow road south to spend a week with our other dear friends Grahame & Helen Atkins at the maison provençale of still more dear friends Ray & Sue Lowe, in Gignac, kindly loaned to us. En route north afterwards we paid our regular dues in St Palais-sur-mer before returning home.
This year has also included sorties into Romania, where we made some great new friends at churches in Brasov and Iasi. We also accepted a kind invitation from our great friends Gareth and Raye Forsey and visited New York and Connecticut, and spent some time with their growing multicultural church in South Norwalk, like the Romanian churches, this represents a company of people with whom we feel increasingly in mission-partnership.
This year has seen some changes in church staff and the exciting development of a new generation of leaders, Jon calls his ‘Young Lions’ who are beginning to take responsibility and shape the future direction of Church on the Rock. It’s been good again to see many newcomers join us from all over the globe – Africa, America, Australia, Europe… and an exciting new initiative in partnership with a couple of other churches has been the establishment of an on-island Kingdom Theological Training Base, in liaison with NWTP and the Westminster Theological Centre. This is opening up for the first time dynamic, live mission-equipping theological training (at graduate and post-grad level) to a whole group of people who would never have access except going off island at great expense. This is the fulfillment of a dream for Jon as 16 students are currently doing the first year.
As the year closes, Will, Jon’s Dad is becoming increasingly weak and frail and we wonder how much longer he will be with us. He is totally at peace with God and in his 98th year is as ready to ‘graduate’ as Millie (Jon’s Mum) was three years ago now. He still lives with us and we need to be around quite a lot at the moment as his mobility is very limited. Which is also partly why this GG did not get done earlier. We hope you have enjoyed this reformation, this first iGazette and we await with anticipation the praise, tributes, honours and accolades, which will no doubt emanate from all four corners of the earth very soon now this is published into the ether. There’s no hurry, but thank you in advance.
Oh, the Aga and the Volvos are doing just fine, thanks for asking.
Until next year, or, if you continue to read this blog – and I advise starting at the beginning to get the full mind-numbing effect, till next time…
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!
(you know where to find us)
P.S. If you sent us a boring newsletter in which the top highlight was your child’s Grade 4 clarinet exam result we forgive you. But we probably won’t have read it anyway, so please forgive us.