Possessing an imagination far too fanciful for my own good, and finding myself increasingly bewildered by the barmy suggestions coming from Charlie Chuckle’s Laughter Factory, I have a different theory.
Those of you who have seen the film ‘The Truman Story’ will know that it chronicles the life of a man who goes about his daily business blissfully unaware that he — and those around him — are living in a constructed reality soap opera, televised each day of the year to a worldwide audience of billions.
I suspect that our little Island community could be serving the same purpose. The States Building is not really a parliament but the production centre where footage gathered by CCTV cameras is edited for broadcasting around the globe.
You laugh? Well, let’s try an alternative theory based on another Hollywood blockbuster. You wake up day after day and live through the same things over and over again — à la ‘Groundhog Day’ — as unpleasant events go on repeating themselves.
Our politicians do have a tendency to operate in recurring idealistic cycles. Just when you thought that common sense had prevailed, and the last crazy idea had joined all the others in the trash-can of history, a persistent Member with the tenacity of a terrier comes yapping back. Or there is a new and enthusiastic recruit to jump on the bandwagon of fanciful proposals.
Now, instead of grappling with important issues — such as the price of basic foodstuffs and Jersey’s high cost of living — we seem to be on the point of investing large sums in a feasibility study into a multi-billion euro bridge (or tunnel) to France.
As a Grouvillaise, my first concern was which vingtaine we would have to sacrifice for the infrastructure of the bridge’s footfall in the Island.
Bridges don’t just arrive and knit seamlessly into existing roads — especially when there are motorways at one end and narrow rural byways at t’other. Anyone who has driven across a bridge in the UK or Europe will know that the two ends take up considerable land space, usually covered with acres of concrete.
Then, after a few minutes thought, I realised with relief that as this bridge will have to be high enough to allow for the rises in tides and give Brittany Ferries and other ships enough funnel room to sail underneath, Grouville is likely to escape untouched as the bridge soars over Gorey Common and the village and makes landfall somewhere in Faldouet. Take that, St Martin!
Ditto the land-swallowing proportions of a tunnel. The English end of the Channel Tunnel takes up a fair proportion of Kent and that county is much bigger than Jersey. Ask those who live close to the tunnel’s infrastructure what impact it has on their lives.
Environment Minister Freddie Co-hen, not usually one to book a seat on a flight of fancy, says that it ‘would probably be worth carrying out a broad, dirty feasibility assessment’ of the potential benefits and costs of a link. As opposed to a clean one, I suppose. The Senator and the engineer, Peter Lundhus, who was in Jersey at the behest of the Environment Scrutiny panel, cited the example of a new bridge between Sweden and Denmark as a regenerator of the economy. Well, Mr Lundhus would say that, wouldn’t he? His company managed the aforementioned engineering feat.
But aren’t there a few glaring differences between the Danish/Swedish example and Jersey’s particular circumstances? Such as:
– Denmark is at the tip of northern Europe and a gateway to the many countries beyond.
– Sweden forms the southern part of Scandinavia, with Norway and Finland as neighbours.
– Both have very modern road networks with easy access to neighbouring countries.
– Both have GDPs far greater than Jersey’s and populations that number tens of millions who will use a bridge for access between regions.
Jersey, on the other hand:
– Is 45 square miles in area with a road network constantly being dug up, filled in and dug up again.
– Has a population of 90,000.
– Boasts more pedestrian crossings to hinder traffic movement than anywhere in the world.
– Is a dead end!
Moreover, there are not enough parking spaces in St Helier for the working population, let alone the hundreds of cars that could speed over the bridge from France every day and get stuck in traffic jams from Faldouet to the Tunnel.
No, there must be an ulterior motive behind this bridge idea. I suspect a covert intention by the inmates of the Laughter Factory to jump ship and slip back into bed with our former French buddies.
The regular meetings between Jersey, Normandy and Brittany are not what they seem. First it was Jersey advocates training in France. Then pétanque pitches began appearing everywhere. And what incantation do our beloved politicians mutter in French before States sittings?
Islanders have thwarted the ethnic rebranding by rejecting a move to French time — but beware of men throwing shiny metal balls. They could have sinister intentions.
Keep the CCTV cameras rolling.