Monday, November 16, 2009

Car alarms

A minor nuisance, no doubt, but am I the only person who objects to the fact that during wind and rain hypersensitive car alarms go on in the middle of the night? After all, what is the justification for having your car alarm enabled in Jersey anyway? What evidence is there that having a car alarm deters car thieves, and how does the comfort a car alarm confers weighed up against the nuisance they create when they go off at 3 and 4 and 5am? I would be interested in knowing how easy or difficult it is to disable the thing, and whether legislation exists elsewhere to tackle this.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

National Poetry Day

The theme of NPD is heroes and this morning on BBC Radio Jersey I read a poem I wrote about one of my local heroes, Gerard Le Claire. Several listeners have asked to read it, so here it is:

In Memory of Gerard Le Claire

He tried so hard to look older:
glasses, goatee, gruelling missions
to the world’s end on shoestring budgets;
fresh-faced for all his pains, as if some shaman
had slipped him an elixir, at lectures
they would think a schoolboy had come to the dais.

Imagine him at sixty, walking the shoreline
between South Hill and the Dicq,
with crows’ feet, at last, and his hair silver!

Loving this place, he loved the world more -
‘The local is global’ - et cetera:
rivers in the wrong places,
downpours drumming on the sea,
the earth crazed like old china …

‘We must meet up for a beer,’ he’d say,
pumping my hand, and we had years to arrange it:
this table with its view of the sea,
a cargo ship crossing St Aubin’s Bay,
and two glasses, one empty, the other full.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Anonymous writes: ' Will you be building a toilet block in the new park so you can convert it at a later date to a cafe?'

We have been pursuing a policy wherever possible of combining the refurbishment of toilet facilities with the addition of revenue raising opportunities such as the caf├ęs introduced in Broad Street, The Parade and Havre des Pas. Apart from helping to enhance town life in these areas (I've yet to meet anyone who doesn't think the new public square in Broad Street, with its cafe, fountains and seating, a vast improvement on what was there before), these new concessions have provided local people with job opportunities and have helped to offset the cost of toilet provision by the Parish.

It is of course unfair that St Helier ratepayers should bear the cost of toilet provision which is used by the Island and visitors. I along with most of the Parish Deputies have argued in the States Assembly that a contribution to this service should be made by the States out of general taxation. To date these arguments have fallen on deaf ears but I will continue to seek a fair deal for St Helier ratepayers in the provision of all public amenities.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thank you, Senator Maclean

The Council of Ministers has been forced to reinstate the funding for the Millennium Town Park by one of their own members pressing the wrong button when it came to the vote. After many hours of debate -which will be available on Hansard ( in a fortnight or so - Deputy Geoff Southern summed up and called for the 'appel'. Senator Alan Maclean, formerly a Deputy for St. Helier No. 2 District in which the promised park and car park are to be built, had previously spoken against the proposition, and, one assumes, fully intended to vote against it, too.

But, he told the Greffier who was in the chair, the papers on his desk meant that the 'pour' button was pressed by mistake. The result, 23 in favour, 22 against. I missed seeing the look on the Treasury Minister's face as the Senator behind him tried in vain to have his vote changed, as I was too busy enjoying this momentous day in the States Assembly; there was even a burst of applause (most unparliamentary behaviour) over the traditional footstamping, and for States Members who have campaigned, argued, and pleaded for this particular promise by the States to be kept, it was an emotional few moments.

The four JDA members all spoke well, especially Deputy Southern, and there were persuasive arguments from the other St. Helier Deputies, apart from Deputy Ben Fox who inexplicably voted against. Daniel Wimberley, Deputy of St. Mary, made the best researched contribution, although Senator Maclean (how he must regret his hubris) chortled as he mocked the length of Daniel's speech. Perhaps the most compelling speech came from Senator Ian Le Marquand early in the debate, when he distanced himself from the Council of Ministers, recognising that the North of St. Helier Masterplan was simply a delaying tactic to avoid delivering the long-awaited preferred Millennium project for Jersey.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Next Big Thing

Yesterday I attended the Council of Ministers for a presentation on the much hyped and slightly overdue Masterplan for the North of St. Helier, aka How to deliver the Millennium Town Park without it costing the States of Jersey a penny. This project, as its name implies, is already a decade overdue since it was voted by Jersey people as their preferred States sponsored project to mark the new Millennium, a green lung stretching from Bath Street, adjacent to the Odeon, across the private car park (the 'Talman site') and the Gas Place car park. It's also a decade since more than 16,000 people signed a petition calling for the whole site to be used for the purposes of a park, with underground car parking. And if the Council of Ministers have their way it'll be another decade before the first sod is turned and the first blade of grass sprouted.

Amongst the plethora of hiccups, false starts and delays that have probably already cost a small fortune and put a smile on the faces of a whole host of UK consultants, there have been two main problems in delivering the project: first, the issue of the contamination of the ground due to its previous use as the Island's gasworks. But I think even those most committed to the goal of stalling the project would have to admit that there is now enough information to go on in terms of dealing with the contamination - and there's even a couple of million left in the States' coffers to pay for this. (All the rest of the promised States' funding has gone, but the decontamination money is safe for the time being, so it's not all bad!)

The second reason for the delays has been the need to provide alternative car parking, as consultants' reports filed at some stage down the years determined that the original aim of underground car parking was simply not feasible. That was when the idea was dreamed up of putting a car park on the site of Ann Court ... once the residents had been rehoused and the outworn accommodation demolished, you understand. The information sign alongside the site still gives this as the timetable for delivering the park by 2012. Yet when the Housing Department started moving people out of Ann Court, nearby residents began to wonder at the wisdom of putting a multi storey car park there, rather than new sheltered housing, for example, or some decent open space - with a perfectly serviceable multi storey car park a hundred yards away in Minden Place, why build another one on Ann Court? And didn't the Island's commitment to a sustainable less car-reliant future mean that we would think twice about such a project?

The solution dreamed up by the Planning Minister was to have a masterplan of the whole area, originally promised in a few months but actually it's taken nearly twice as long, but then delay really is the common theme of this project. The consultancy that won the contract was Hopkins, who've only recently completed the Esplanade Quarter Masterplan. They asked to see me at the start of the exercise and I was pleased to have a chance to share my vision for the kind of regeneration that would follow the creation of the Town Park. These were not my views alone; they were the dreams and aspirations of literally hundreds of men, women and children who had been part of the popular movement that led to the petition; they were primary school children (now adults) whose models of the kind of park they would like to play in were put on display in the Town Hall back in the 1990s; they were members of the Millennium Park support group who canvassed the views of residents of the area.

The most important thing, I told the consultants, was that people want the whole area for a park. They don't want to be offered a compensatory area somewhere else and a smaller park here, after all, this is a pretty small park by any standard. If you run between Robin Place and Gas Place it takes how many seconds? (it will take a fit child much less). The extra width at the bottleneck of the park can be provided by incorporating the two streets as extensions of the open space, even though they would have to be paved to allow essential and emergency access. The original design, completed at the end of a two-day workshop, accepted this as gospel: that's why the petition was so specific - we don't want you to build on the park. Not a car park, not a cafe, not a toilet block, but parklkand, from one end to the other and from one side to the other (we could and should be getting the Le Seilleur building incorporated into the scheme to provide complementary services for the park). This is what I told Hopkins: by all means look at the opportunities to regenerate the surrounding area; by all means supply artists' impressions of a leafy traffic-calmed David Place, and dream of the gentrification of Bath Street, but your key job is to solve the problem of where to provide the car parking that will be displaced by the Town Park.

What have Hopkins done? They have come up with a scheme that shows a line of three-storey houses along the northern side of the bottleneck, and housing on three sides of the Gas Place car park. The site needs 'enclosing', you see (the consultants employed ten years ago argued that the creation of the park would lead to the redevelopment of the park-side properties anyway, as night follows day.) Green Street car park has found its way into the Masterplan, too, with lots of redevelopment there, and (no surprises for guessing this one) they are proposing underground car parks for the Town Park, as well as for Ann Court! Underground parking, is, after all, perfectly feasible. All of this, and there's more, at no cost to the States.

The Council of Ministers were impressed, as you would expect. Surely this would be the death knell for Deputy Southern's amendment to the Business Plan which seeks to reinstate some States funding for this States sponsored Millennium project! But more exciting than defeating Deputy Southern (such victories pall after a time) here was the perfect replacement for the Esplanade Quarter Masterplan, the multi million pound project likely to be mothballed due to the credit crunch - here was the Next Big Thing! Would it deliver the Town Park? Not in the lifetime of this Council of Ministers. But what a splendid opportunity for more consultants, and for more delay!

There is a lot to admire in the Hopkins Masterplan for the north of St. Helier, don't get me wrong. But as far as delivering the Town Park is concerned it's a blind alley. A decade ago we voted to create a park across the whole of the site, and to put the parking underground - why don't we just get on with it?

Monday, August 3, 2009

St Helier's new party scene

One of St. Helier's main traffic arteries was blocked on Sunday 2nd August by the Stopford Road street party, organised by Rod Bryans (pictured). I walked over to see how it was going and was really impressed by the difference the lack of traffic makes to a community. No surprises there - there's plenty of evidence that interraction between town residents is reduced in direct proportion to the speed and volume of traffic, but it was good to see that demonstrated in practice. There were tables down the middle of the road with food and drink (thanks to the Co-operative Society of the Channel Islands for sponsoring that) and people of all ages (8 weeks upwards) mixing, many of them for the first time. There were also leaflets available describing the history of the road, how it got its name, and some of its more famous residents.
As I met and talked to some of the residents I had a curious sense of this happening across the town, and how good that would be if, say, on the last Sunday of the month, April through to September, town residents were able to turn their stretch of the highway into a village green.
It's probably no coincidence that the first St. Helier street party in many a year has taken place in one of our Residents' Parking Zones or RPZs. Since their inception a dozen years ago, one of the key arguments for creating RPZs was that it would foster a sense of neighbourliness, of belonging to an association of people who share common experiences (like having to move their cars every two hours in the pre-RPZ days) and common needs, like the ownership of a car on Sundays as well as during the rest of the week. I still get a buzz out of seeing the RPZ permits on people's dashboards as I walk past their cars, though the buzz of a street party is even better. So thank you, Rod, and to everyone who helped run the Stopford Road street party. I hope we can use the 'event plan' that was required to snip through the red tape as a template for future street parties, both in your street and elsewhere in the Parish.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Racism in Jersey in 2009

I suppose what I find shocking about racism in Jersey in 2009 is the way it issues forth from the mouths of people whom I know well - or believed that I did - people with whom I associate, work, do business, socialise; that it comes from older people who are naturally shell-shocked with the changes that have come upon their island in the past few decades I can understand, but to hear racist attitudes spouting from 16 year-olds, who have recently been granted the right to vote? It makes me wonder what our expensive education system is doing to inculcate tolerance, fairness, and, au fond, intelligence in our young people. It makes me wonder what we have learnt from the lessons of the holocaust when people can rise up to protest against the renaming of a shabby backwater of a street, a street with few residential addresses and only a handful of businesses, and seize upon all manner of excuses to defend their xenophobia.

But we’re not racist, they protest. Why we know Portuguese people ‘and they’re quite nice, really’ - this is verbatim, from last night’s Parish Assembly; ‘though I wish they wouldn’t talk to each other in their own language when they’re serving us.’ Ironic, that ... And here’s a call logged on my answerphone this evening - the caller gave her name but no number so there’s not much I can do to seek to show her the error of her ways, to convince her - if that would be possible - of how darkened her mind is:

“I’ve just heard on the news that it’s been approved that we now have a Route (sic) de Funchal, and I just wanted to voice my disapproval and absolute horror at that appalling decision. I think it’s a disgrace, an absolute disgrace, we are local people, this is Jersey, if we wanted Portuguese we would go to Portugal, we don’t have a St Helier in Portugal and why the hell should they have a Funchal in Jersey. I really think you should think long and hard before you make these irrational decisions, and upset half of the island. You’ve had people most I would imagine were unemployed Portuguese while the locals are busy trying to work to support this island. I think you need to think long and hard Mr Crowcroft, you’re Constable but the time will come when you will need our votes, and you won’t be getting mine if you continue down this vein.”

Make what you will of that. Or compare it with an email I received earlier the same day from a young man who was at last night’s Assembly:

“First of all I would like to let you know that I am pleased the proposal was approved last night to rename the street. I am also aware that before this could have got to the stage of being presented to the Parish Assembly last night, there was a lot of work involved, which means that there were a lot of people like yourself who were of the opinion this should be done and supported you all the way. For that I am very grateful and pleased.

I went to the meeting last night expecting to find some opposition and prepared for the possibility of people not approving the proposal. I thought people would not like to lose the street's name and all the bother associated with a change of address.

After a while of listening to people with objections against this change, I felt some genuine worries, however most the people I felt they were purely racist and many of them used what could be seen as genuine reasons/ objections, but I couldn't but feel that they were purely describing their true motivation.

Less than half way through of the debate, I really felt so disgusted and humiliated. I wished I had not gone to the meeting, I didn't think I would be able to stay until the end. I really felt there was a lot of hostility and a particular group of narrow minded people who kept claiming they were not racist, but their attitudes denied this.

Last night, I was pleased that the proposal was approved and thought that all the feelings caused by the racist comments I had witnessed would go away and would make me feel better by the approval of the name change. I was wrong, this feeling only lasted a couple of minutes, as I walked out of the Parish's doors I felt humiliated again and like these people had put me back in my place. I even got to the conclusion that no matter how hard I would try, I would never be able to mix in and be a part of the community.”

Despite the victory of 21st century inclusiveness, fairness and open-mindedness that last night’s Parish Assembly represents, the hurt caused to this parishioner at the same meeting is enough to make me weep. I have not felt so disgusted with the behaviour of my fellow islanders since it was reported to me that a person or persons lay in wait for a gay couple to exit a town take-away, in order to hurl them through the windows of a shop in Bath Street on 16th July (St. Helier Day). To date no prosecutions have been brought.

You may rest assured, parishioners who are disgusted by my desire to promote the naming of Rue de Funchal and to raise the profile of our Portuguese community, that I will continue to do all that I can for this community. And I will also do all that I can to make sure that those whose narrow-mindedness and ignorance leads them to mock, abuse or injure homosexuals get shown the pitiful error of their ways.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dressing up

Last month 'Anonymous' commented, a propos of the fining of 2 Parish Deputies, and the absence of any public comments from the Town Hall about it, "Its all very well dressing up in the fancy red gown but your job has its unpleasant duties too." Well, thanks for that - who would have guessed that the constable's job is not entirely a bed of roses!

Actually there're loads of pleasant duties involved in my job, but dressing up is not one of them, especially for the pilgrimage from the Town Church to the Hermitage beyond Elizabeth Castle which this year takes place on Sunday 19th July. The St Helier pilgrimage is quite short, as pilgrimages go, and takes about half an hour depending on how fast you walk. But if you have to dress up in heavy robes, as a lot of the pilgrims do, it is quite hard work. The members of the Church wear their cassocks, and the Dean of Jersey who leads the procession through town and out across the causeway to the Castle, has to don his ornate surplice. I am expected to wear the red robe that has been worn by St Helier constables for about a century, together with the chain of office made of gold – these are quite heavy too, on top of a suit – and I’m sure I’m not the only constable who has asked himself why we celebrate the life of St Helier in the middle of the summer!

Then there's Minden Day, which this year takes place on Sunday 2nd August, and commemorates the 250th Anniversary of the Battle of Minden - it's usually pretty baking hot for that one, too, which takes place, surprisingly enough, in Minden Place.

Most of other occasions when I wear the robe and chain of office centre on ceremonies for past and serving members of the armed forces at the Cenotaph. Several - the D Day ceremony, Armed Forces Day, the launch of the Poppy Appeal, and Remembrance Sunday - are followed by a reception in the Assembly Room, and we also host receptions for visiting regiments and crews of naval vessels. On such occasions I am happy to take the extra trouble to dress up out of respect for the servicemen and women who are present, and feel that it's a privilege to meet them, to listen to their stories and to acknowledge their courage and spirit of self-sacrifice.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

St Helier Rates

From Maurice Le Cocq

The Constable of St Helier, Simon Crowcroft, has gone on record as saying that he would like to increase the rates for St Helier ratepayers to pay for more street cleaning.
In view of the current economic times, including frozen wages and huge increases in basic commodities like electricity, instead of increasing costs for cash-strapped ratepayers, surely he could be looking at other ways of getting the job done without increasing our rates.
We have an ever-growing number of people being sentenced to community service, so how about following other jurisdictions and getting these people to sweep the streets? If it’s good enough for Boy George to sweep the streets of New York, why can’t our own home-grown offenders sweep our streets?
(Before I get irate letters from the unions, they need to appreciate that if the money isn’t there to pay for extra staff, they aren’t going to be taken on anyway, so no one is losing out.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Millennium Town Park - 'Framed'?

The creation of the Millennium Town Park is shockingly overdue. As long ago as 1997 the Policy & Resources Committee felt the need to explain the delay in realising the project, putting it down to the complexities of the contaminated ground; since then, successive committees have commissioned feasibility studies, contamination reports and masterplans, which if placed together would probably fill a large bookshelf.

Many of the consultees involved in the early stages of the plans for a Town Park were primary school children: their models of how the completed park might look were displayed in the Town Hall, and various meetings held there with stakeholders, whose views on the type of park facilities were sought and carefully recorded. It is an indictment of the States relationship with the public that senior politicians have, since the late 1990s, simply ignored the outcomes of those early consultations. Meanwhile, the school children who contributed their vision of the new park have grown to adulthood, convinced, one must assume, that the States of Jersey cannot be relied upon to act upon the wishes of the people.

The majority of those who have campaigned for a Town Park, including the Millennium Town Park Group, have pledged to see the whole of the site used for open space. The Parish of St Helier has indicated that it would wish to see the roads bordering the site incorporated into the whole, albeit as paved areas where vehicular access to properties is still required.

One of the myths which some States Members have subscribed to is that such open spaces need to be framed by buildings. This view is especially espoused by the Planning Minister, Senator Freddie Cohen, who also wished to see the newly paved Weighbridge Square allow for a National Gallery at the Old Harbour end, to stop the open space from ‘bleeding’. The hoggin petanque pitches that were laid down were seen as a useful ‘temporary’ treatment of the end of the square earmarked for the gallery, but even the Minister would admit that such is the success of the new petanque space that it is likely to be permanent.

I don’t agree that the Town Park site needs to be ‘framed’ by terraces of new buildings along their edges. Early studies by imported consultants indicated that in the case of the Town Park, the surrounding properties would benefit from substantial increases in value, due to their position on the edge of the park, and that, in time, there would inevitably be investment in those properties that currently ‘turn their backs’ on the site. It should be pointed out that this process has already begun, with award-winning development of terraced houses on the south side of Gas Place.

As a member of the political steering group of the current master-planning process for the north of St. Helier, I pointed out at my first meeting with Hopkins, the chosen architects, earlier this year, that there was this historical opposition to building on the park; however, I have been disappointed to find out recently that they will be proposing the construction of housing on both sides of the park. The reasons given are likely to be aesthetic as well as financial, but I would argue that the open space provided by the two sites is simply too small to be compromised in this way.

The argument will be made that the Ann Court site, once cleared of housing, can provide additional open space, as well as new housing units, but I would argue that it is a case of both - and, not either - or; St Helier will only prosper as the focus of the majority of new housing developments if town residents have sufficient open space.

When I presented the petition for the creation of the Millennium Town Park to the States in 1997, and it was adopted with only two votes against, I believed that this decision would safeguard the sites against those who wished to see buildings upon them. Twelve years on from that near-unanimous decision I think that the time has come for the States to show once again that it is committed to the creation of the Millennium Town Park across the whole of the site, in recognition of the fact that the need for open space in St Helier has increased.

For the benefit of anyone who doesn't remember the Town Park petition, (P.190/1997), here it is:


To His Excellency General Sir Michael Wilkes, K.C.B., C.B.E., Lieutenant-Governor.

To Sir Philip Bailhache, Bailiff, President.

To the Members of the States of Jersey.

The humble petition of the inhabitants of the Island of Jersey shews –

(a) there is substantial public support for a public Town Park with underground car park (“the Town Park”) on the land currently comprising the public car park at Gas Place and the private car park occupying the site of the former Gas Company offices and workshops, the whole situate between Bath Street and the new Gas Company offices (“the entire land”);

(b) the maintenance of an open space on the entire land is desirable to ensure the quality of life of the residents and users of St. Helier;

(c) the Park would be a desirable and appropriate project to reflect aspirations for the future of St. Helier as a vibrant urban environment in the twenty-first century;

and accordingly your petitioners pray that –

(1) the Town Park be created on the entire land;

(2) the Town Park be known as the Millennium Town Park;

(3) the Town Park constitute a Millennium project for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations of Jersey, the residents of St. Helier and their children;

(4) the entire land should not be used for a multi-storey car park or other uses precluding a public park.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.

Countersignature of
Member presenting...................................................................... A.S. Crowcroft

Number of signatures.................................................................................. 16,404

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Liberation Day - Vive la difference?

My hairdresser - yes, I do still need to go to one, still have some hair clinging to the sides of my head - was delighted to discover that they needn't have transferred all their bookings for Saturday to the previous day (and cancelled those that couldn't be moved). I was in there last week submitting to the shears and explaining that they didn't come under the provisions of the Sunday Trading Law. While I was there watching the pathetic quantity of clippings tumble onto the floor, they had an assistant busily rebooking the diary for Saturday.

Presumably it's not illegal to get your eyes tested on Liberation Day either, in between shopping for an engagement ring, getting essentials from the chemist, a good book to take onto the beach, some flowers to give your beau, and sitting down to a fine meal in one of our many town restaurants. And food is on the list of things that are okay to buy on a Sunday (or on Liberation Day) too, so corner shops and supermarkets can open if they choose. There's no restriction on cleaners, gardeners, plumbers, decorators, builders, scaffolding-erectors - the list goes on and on.

A couple of months ago I was asked by Chamber of Commerce to allow our shops to open on the afternoon of Liberation Day, once the majority of the commemorations were finished. It was put to me that in these straitened times town retailers could ill afford to lose the trade that is expected on a busy Saturday in May, with extra tourists on the island to take part in the Liberation Day events. The compromise - closed a.m, open p.m - also had the blessing of the Dean and the Bailiff.

Having agreed to the request, I waited for the public reaction - I did not have to wait long. Lots of people, from members of the Parish's Roads Committee, to traders (large and small), to parishioners (young and old), to States' Members, told me by email, by letter, by letters to the JEP, that they wanted Liberation Day to be kept special. When I pointed out that the Sunday trading law (which includes Liberation Day thanks to an amendment to the law brought by Senator Routier) allowed a large proportion of shops to open ANYWAY, and that surely it was unfair that, for example, a clothes shop would be closed but a jewellers could open - the response was that two wrongs don't make a right; ideally we would - we should? - give future Liberation Days even more protection than they currently receive.

The Town Centre Manager came up with the compromise of designating the Sunday after Liberation Day as a fete or festival which would enable all shops to open under a blanket Sunday Trading permit. This is what happened last Christmas when all Parishes participated in the Fete de Noue, or Christmas Festival. Only the other 11 parishes weren't enamoured of the idea this May, so St Helier was left (as often happens) to plough its lonely furrow, and the St Helier Fete de la Liberation was born.

Quite why the Economic Development minister, Senator Maclean, has now declared the whole weekend a 'fete or festival' I'm not sure, as it's still up to the Constables of the individual parishes to issue Sunday trading permits, and it's not as if he's seeking to allow any more shops to open on Liberation Day than have currently got the ability to do so.

My guess is that there's going to be an awful lot of business going on this Saturday, most if not all of it perfectly legally carried out, either because the businesses concerned already have a Sunday Trading permit, or because they don't need one. In most cases it won't be motivated by greed, either, but because times are tough.

The question for the future is this: can Jersey's government do more to keep Liberation Day special? Or should it be left to the public to vote with their feet - to turn out in force in the morning to the commemoration in Liberation Square, and in the afternoon, to the slaveworkers' memorial at Westmount Crematorium. Isn't it all a bit reminiscent of the Pharisees, to insist that everyone shuts up shop? Thou shalt not buy or sell anything on Liberation Day, thou shalt not buy a shirt or a pair of shoes, thou shalt not take a taxi, thou shalt not get one's hair cut?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Slow boat to Jersey

At the end of our Easter break in the UK we made it to the ferry terminal in good time only to find I’d confused Poole with Portsmouth and instead of the fast cat that would get us home by lunchtime we were to be cooped up all day on the conventional ferry. The family were amazingly forgiving, though the need for penitence changed once we went up from the car deck.

What used to be called the Purser’s Office (in those grim, dank, interminable days - and nights - of Sealink crossings) , was now ‘Reception’ and we went there first to enquire about a cabin. How many berths would you like? That’s £34 please, (a four-berth cabin is £73 on the night crossings) and and so-and-so will show you to your cabin. Lo and behold, a smiling member of staff appeared to conduct us there. The en-suite cabin with views over Portsmouth harbour had clean linen, soap towels; a desk and socket for working at a laptop; the bunks were comfy, too. Exploring the Commodore Goodwill, we found ourselves in clean, comfortable and relatively empty cruise ship, with a choice of lounges, restaurant and bars, and a family film to watch.

Later on the kidz opted to stay in the cabin with all its novelty so the parents, kicking their heels with glee as they legged it down the corridor, could enjoy lunch on their own: a choice of several main courses washed down with a choice of half a dozen wines, followed by coffee. The restaurant staff were as friendly and helpful as everyone else we were served by. Far from being a bore, the journey turned out to be an enjoyable extension to our holiday, a perfect mini-cruise. Okay, so the sea was calm, but as one of our fellow travellers said, the conventional ferry has the advantage of not being subject to the vagaries of the weather.

I realised today how much I dislike travelling by air, the whole wretched experience from the online check-in, luggage worries, the queues, the searches, the long walks, the close confinement in a narrow metal tube at 20,000 feet – no, whenever I can find the extra time I’m going to take Condor's slow boat between Jersey and the U.K.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Businesses won't have to pay for the town's recycling scheme

According to the article on page 3 of the JEP on Friday 3rd April, I think that 'Town businesses could pick up the bill for the new St Helier recycling scheme'. Now why would I want to do that? How could that possibly strike anyone as fair? Actually the rest of the article makes the point that we are only considering charging businesses for EXTRA collections. In other words, everyone who pays rates is entitled to go on receiving their weekly refuse collection, which is going to include a collection of recyclables like paper, tins, plastic bottles and glass, but if you run a business that generates a load of refuse on a daily basis you will have to pay for the extra collections.
The article also points out that the new recycling scheme is going to be put to a Parish Assembly for approval, once the staff involved in operating it are fully signed up to the scheme, and once the parishioners have been consulted about the scheme. So if businesses object to paying any for the extra refuse collections they can simply turn up to the meeting and vote against it. Mind you, they will have to have a pretty good argument against paying for extra services, as if they don't pay for them everyone else will!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Wrong Street

Someone wrote to me about illegal parking in St James Street, or so I thought: St. James Street is really busy and is part of the Ring Road, so I asked that a letter be sent to the premises in the street concerned to advise them that a zero tolerance approach would be taken to illegal parking, and in due course a meeting with a delegation representing businesses in the street appeared in my diary.

I thought something was amiss when they arrived as the group included people I knew who run businesses in a different part of town, and when they circulated photographs of commercial vehicles unloading in James Street I realised that at my request the traffic wardens aka parking control officers were blitzing the wrong street – St. James Street goes past the former St. James Church between the Bacchus and Admiral pubs; James Street links the Nelson Street car park with Burrard Street and is effectively a cul-de-sac. James Street currently has yellow lines prohibiting parking on both sides, but the many businesses in the street need to be able to have deliveries, so why on earth did I want to adopt a zero tolerance approach to parking?

Good question – I didn’t. I apologised for the case of mistaken identity and a solution to the problem was quickly found, as not only did I propose to replace the yellow lines with some marked unloading bays, but issues like the condition of the pavements, the potential for some al fresco areas and traffic calming were all agreed as needing the Parish’s attention.

Subsquently I’ve found out that I’m not the only person to have been confused by these street names. The landlord of the St. James Wine Bar (confusingly situated not in St. James Street but the other one) regularly gets mail sent to an address across town, and other people have reported to me that it’s a confusing situation.

By coincidence I had a letter recently from the head of the Catholic Church asking why the Parish had not considered renaming a Parish road to reflect the fact that for more than half a century the Portuguese community has been settled in Jersey – James Street seems to me to be eminently suitable:
How does Rua da Madeira sound?