Thursday, August 16, 2007

Isle be seeing you

We're taking our annual trip to Jersey to see the in-laws tomorrow. It should be more, and indeed it used to be, but it's not cheap, we've got to think about the cat and anyway, they come over here more these days. Still, in-laws aside, it's always a trip I quite enjoy.

Do you know the Channel Islands? If so, you'll be aware of how old-fashioned they are. I've not been to any of the others apart from Jersey, but in the 18 years I've been visiting it's been taking an awfully long time to haul its arse into the here and now. I imagine Guernsey, Alderney and especially Sark are much the same. Sark has no cars. How lovely.

It's old-fashioned in many different ways. To look at, bits of it can be quite Fifties - brick-built bungalows in seaside colours are everywhere. Attitudes are stuck in the Seventies - the Portuguese, the biggest ethnic minority on the island are to blame for all ills. Restaurants can also be very Seventies - when was the last time you saw black cherries jubilee or chicken a la king on any menu? I'm not complaining. There are copious restaurants, many with spectacular views of castles and sea or comforting bays. Bars and pubs are stuck in the Eighties - expect to see blue cocktails and hear Earth, Wind and Fire and you won't be disappointed.

The main town, St Helier, seems to become more rundown as the years go by. It used to be a good little shopping centre, and of course with no VAT it's very attractive. But here's the rub - no one goes to Jersey anymore so how can the shops survive? There are only about 150,000 inhabitants. Or is it 900,000. Still not much more than Iceland.

Tourism is now virtually non-existant save for French daytrippers. We used to go on holiday there when I was young. In fact, Hughie Green hosting the 1973 Battle of Flowers was the first famous person I ever saw. Jersey then was awash with families on holiday. But over time, foreign holidays have become dirt cheap, with £30 flights to European cities, while Jersey's flight prices have remained high - so why go there for £170 when you could fly to Greece for less?

Jersey's feudal government is very tough - it rules with an iron rod. So if anyone tries telling them they should let in Easyjet or lower prices, they're not interested and you will not open your mouth again. But something's got to change.

My brother-in-law has grown up there and stayed there. He's very into water sports and with loads of huge beaches to choose from - but where is everyone? Why isn't this the new Newquay. Where are the weekend breakers at the lovely country hotels? Where are the families on cycling holidays? Why did the German Underground Hospital bother to revamp (very good, by the way). Why did they expand the airport? No fucker comes. John Nettles was there until very recently, welcoming you to Jersey, albeit in giant-sized carboard cut-out form. When did Bergerac finish again?

Jesey must reinvent or it will die. Still, it's nice and quiet in the meantime.


TV Cream's Anatomy of Cinema said...

I had my honeymoon on Jersey*, and it was ace. We were the youngest guests at our hotel by a good thirty years. Cycling round the island is one of the best things you can legally do.

I also had a memorable family holiday on Guernsey in 1981, cleverly bypassing the Royal Wedding, and that was ace too. It was the summer of Botham and Je Suis Un Rock Star. Ahhh...

I like the way all the shops in Jersey are the same as in Britain, but go under different names for some kind of tax reason or other. It all adds to that lovely 'semi-foreign' feel. The food is, as you say, defiantly Craddock-era, right down to the little chef's hats on the rack of lamb. I think I ate more in those two weeks than I'd previously eaten in my entire life.

Is it true that, if you want to live on Jersey, you have to go up before some kind of residents' committe who decide whether they want you there or not?

* Yes, we did take in the German hospital, and very good it was too, albeit something of a temporary mood sapper. The Guernsey Tomato Centre, however, was sh*te.

Five-Centres said...

I don't think you have to go before a panel, but you definitely have to have a certain amount of cash before they'll consider you.

Can I say at this stage that while my in-laws have a lovely house overlooking St Ouen's Bay, it was bought by my mother-in-law's mother in the 1950s when they'd let anyone in. She had breast cancer and was told to go and live by the sea. So she did.

Clair said...

Isn't Jersey all hung up on keeping the hoi-polloi, isn't it? My solution is for them to allow budget airlines in, but not to allow any rancid, cheapo accommodation to cater to the hen/stag crowd. Then it might attract the Thirtysomething crowd who go to Cornwall. Or just do TV Cream weekends where you can dress up like Jim Bergerac and eat Beef Wellington and Crepes Suzette.

Five-Centres said...

Great idea Clair. I'll be Charlie Hungerford.

A Kitten in a Brandy Glass said...

Nice idea, but I fear that as a vegetarian, I'd have to survive on half an avocado and some sherry trifle...

TimT said...

Never mind the 1970s - having just got back from a blissful week in Sark, I can confirm that it's more like the 1870s there. No cars (though they do have tractors and a few motorised wheelchairs), no streetlights - if you go out in the evening, you need to take a torch to find your way home.

The food is clearly better than on Jersey, though. There are only a few hotel restaurants and cafés, but they all serve good to excellent food, without a chicken a la king in sight. Highly recommended to anyone who wants a relaxing break - with the bonus (?) that you might be forced to prolong your holiday if the boats can't operate, as happened to some friends of ours this week. They had to stay on an extra two days because of gale-force winds in the Channel.

PS: Bags I be Barney Crozier - I met him when I was a teenager, as he was best mates with the bloke who owned the shop where I had a holiday job

Gwen said...

Was there a glamorous female? I can't remember. If so, can I be her?

Clair said...


Interesting news story happens in Jersey!!