Friday, February 10, 2006

Jersey, part one

Apologies to those who've been mailing me off-blog. Am currently in an Internet caff in St Helier, and it's probably costing me limbs. I have replied to the must-reply-to stuff, but read the rest. Proper replies next week, if you're lucky.

(Apologies also if this post is all over the place. Trying to remember how Macs work, too.)

Cab picked me up this morning at six to get me to City Airport. Surprised how busy the roads were - and there was a nasty queue into the Blackwall Tunnel that threatened to spoil my weekend for a bit. But it all turned out groovy, the flight was fine and I arrived in a sunny-but-not-hot Jersey at just gone ten.

The taxi driver proudly pointed out the famous cows and the changes to the waterfront in the last 12 years as we made our way into town. More impressed by the space-age dome on the top of the hill overlooking St Helier - they've roofed Fort Regent and turned it into a sports centre, it turns out. Bit like any other sports centre, but the steep steps up the rockface are worth it for the view.

Met Liadnan, who gave me a quick walk round the block as a smoke-break before returning to work. He showed me the square where the best bits of the 1781 Battle of Jersey was fought, and the famous "V" cut into the ground during the Nazi oocupation.

He then headed back to work, and I had two museums to myself. The Island Fortress Occupation Museum is a bit shabby, with yellowed, original newspapers and smudgy handwritten testimonies in the way (if you're of a tallish persuasion) of the dusty old dioramas.

Still, the scope of the first-hand accounts is very impressive, and the 45 minute documentary also covers a lot of perspectives - from the locals, the resistance, and even the occupiers. Judging by the glasses and clothes, these interviews were conducted in the 60s and 70s, so the memories are still fresh and vivid.

In fact, there's palpable bitterness about the way black marketeers were able to exchange their Marks for Sterling after the war - as it was like the British Government condoned the profiteering. Evidence about collaboration and so on also seems to have gone unremarked on, to the consternation of those who reported in. Especially when girls who'd perhaps had little choice but to "Jerry-bag" were hounded through the streets...

Then to the Jersey Museum, which is more up-to-date and interactive. Learnt all sorts of top facts, like the fact that now cows have been imported since 1812, so as to preserve the famous breed. I can also now tell the distinctive features of the Jersey arch.

The Dr would have liked the 1861 merchant's house (part of the Jersey museum), especially the nursery-room drawings of different nations' characters. Also delighted by the museum shop pushing it's Lily Langtree biography. The Jersey born-and-buried toffs' crumpet was famous, they say, for her acting. And so was the John Nettles of her day.

After an American-sized sandwich with Liadnan for lunch, I climbed up to Fort Regent in the hope of some fun castle-y bits to look at, but there weren't any. Plodded back down and have spent the last hour in the Maritime Museum.

Clearly aimed at kids, there were lots of buttons to press and so on. Don't remember the Greenwich one being this much fun, but then a) I'm usually there with the distinguished academic, and b) there was no one else there so I could play.

Best thing was a globe with bright blue liquid inside that swirled around, and you pressed a button and the breeze coming in from the top picked up, and MADE A WHIRLPOOL!

The exhibtion also passes through a real, live boat-fixing workshop, which was the only point I wished there'd been other people round me. Felt a bit of a tit watching the experts on my own.

After the Nettles-narrated film about local sea-life, I pootled round the Occupation Tapestry, each pannel lovingly knitted by a different local parish. I like the colours in the sky.

Short time to kill before Liadnan's off work, and he promises drinkies tonight. He also wants to do the top-looking castle in the bay, which is why I've resisted that temptation so far.

Oh, and a correspondent tells me to check out the zoo. He says they have an Aye-aye, which - even more pleasingly - "there was no chance of seeing in Madagascar".

Will endeavour to report back soon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh, you must go to the Durrel Trust Zoo. Gerald Durrell is such a hero of mine and I've wanted to visit it since I was teeny. It was hugely groundbreaking in its day, still is, really, and is the model for zoos the world over now. Really worth a visit. Jealous.