Sometimes people have something to shout about

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In his speech on Liberation Day this year, as I recall, he spoke again about racial tolerance and the blending of different cultures, the way in which people in supermarket queues will hear Portuguese or Polish spoken as often than English, the contribution that people from other countries make to Jersey life.

It is not always a popular stance to take, but in my humble opinion it is absolutely the right one.

Now the new Bailiff, Michael Birt, has a chance to make his own mark. At the very least, the somewhat unusual circumstances of his taking of office will go down in the history books as an event worthy of note.

Here is a man who has devoted large swathes of his life buried in bundles of paperwork, sitting behind a bench for months at a time, expected to make crucial and timely judgments about some of the nastiest criminals and civil cases involving complicated trusts.

Then, having climbed the ladder of success and at the point of taking his place as head of Jersey’s judiciary, a crowd of protesters start shouting outside the Royal Court: ‘Birt out.’

On the other hand, if I were one of those who say they have been abused as a child, if I believed I had a legitimate reason to ask for justice, and believed that it had been denied me, then I would be angry enough to shout in the Royal Square against anyone and anything which I saw as a hindrance.

I once interviewed a psychologist who had set herself the task of writing a book about the female survivors of sexual abuse in Jersey. These were people she had counselled over a number of years. Of course all their names were kept confidential in the book.

The pyschologist told me that often people come to terms with these things only later in life, in their 30s, 40s and 50s. It was only then, she said, that they could begin to face what has been suppressed for so long.

I did wonder, at the time, how there could be so many women walking the streets with these terrible secrets locked away inside them. Perhaps some of those women were among the protesters last week.

Heritage is what we want it to be

A COUPLE of weeks ago I wrote about the lack of support for Jersey Heritage, in particular my own.

A reader who took the trouble to write to me (thank you for your thoughts) berated me for my apathy. She is absolutely right. I am scandalously apathetic.

I was one of the 2,000 people who was sent a States questionnaire about the Island’s heritage. I was one of the 900 odd who didn’t bother to fill it in. In fact, I was sent the survey twice – presumably in the hope that I would be one of the ‘random households’ who might take the time to answer umpteen questions.

To be honest, I hadn’t realised I was one of only a select 2,000. My immediate thought, on seeing that it was a States-originated questionnaire, was that I didn’t have the time to fill in a form which would only be used as propaganda. Maybe that says more about our government than about me.

Anyhow, thank goodness some people bothered, because the results were out last week and they are quite interesting. Notably, the question which asks ‘When considering heritage in Jersey, what comes to mind?’ shows that the natural environment comes out on top. Of those who responded, 84 per cent said that the natural environment was what came to mind, compared with the 82 per cent who thought of historic buildings.

Actually I hadn’t thought about the natural environment as heritage. But if you’re taking into account the coastline, the headlands, the beaches, the cliff paths and all, then yes, I visit heritage sites every week. Sometimes I visit them every day. It depends how much time I have. I love walking along them, cycling along them, sitting and looking at them, paddling around them, smelling the sea salt, picking up shells and pebbles, enjoying what is there for the taking, free, in all weathers and all seasons.

In fact, I was up at Les Landes last weekend. I walked up from L’Etacq, past the scene of the furze fire, wondering whether some no-brainer had left a cigarette butt among the heather. I walked on, in a sea of purple and yellow flora, past the plethora of German bunkers that still scar the landscape.

I wondered who had been there before me, staring down the barrel of a gun, looking out towards the humps of Sark and Guernsey on the horizon. I walked past the ancient sites of earlier inhabitants, men and women etching a living slaying woolly mammoths, hunting fish and gathering berries. I passed the ruins at Grosnez and imagined French invaders eyeing the cliffs below and wondering if it would be worth the bother.

I ended up at Plémont, where a decaying holiday camp still litters the skyline; the States are still debating whether or not to return the headland to its former glory, for the benefit of the Island.

I will be one of those down at St Ouen in October for the Save our Shoreline campaign.

So perhaps I’m not quite as apathetic as I first thought. It all depends, I guess, on what you think of as heritage, and what really matters to you.

Esplanade? Now why was I thinking of offices?

A COUPLE of days ago I had the pleasure of meeting the director of Irish developers Harcourt, Pat Power.

We had spoken several times by telephone, so I was aware that Mr Power was particularly gifted in the art of obfuscation.

The conversation around the table at the Institute of Directors branch lunch turned to whether States offices should be among the first to spearhead the new Esplanade Square office quarter down on the Waterfront.

The idea which has apparently already been mooted is that Cyril Le Marquand House – which admittedly has seen better days – should be vacated and used for residential flats while States workers currently housed there take up some of the 14 new purpose-built office blocks planned for the new quarter. Now there’s an idea.

I did try asking Mr Power if, by default, there were not enough private sector takers for said offices. Mr Power replied: ‘Absolutely not. That is not what I am saying at all.’

And he reminded me that only 60 per cent of the planned accommodation is earmarked for offices – the rest is for apartments and shops and the like. Just thought you might like to know.

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