Day 5 Harbours North and East

Today was our day for the north coast and then as much of any other coasts that we could manage. We arrived at the quiet and attractive Bordeaux Harbour, the first of several, so the fisherpersons amongst us can admire boats. This is in the north east of the island and we have seen a good many island roads on the way, not all of them intentionally. Next, a hunt for another of the guide book’s ‘must sees’ – Dolmen le Déhus. This is a well kept Guernsey secret, so well kept in fact that it took us several attempts to find it. Then the only parking space within several hundred yards was taken by a hedge cutter’s van. Today was clearly national hedge cutting day on Guernsey as every hedge owing islander seemed to be out there with their clippers.

Dolmen le Déhus is a small burial chamber dating from between 2000 and 3500BC. Neolithic types were clearly short, or maybe it doesn’t matter if you are being buried but the roof height was about four foot and the ceiling was an unforgiving rock. It did not take long to exhaust the possibilities of this attraction. Having crawled right round and then exited without damage to our persons, I read the interpretation board outside and realised that I had missed some ‘remarkable carvings’. Supposedly, these look like a bearded man with a bow and arrow. My companion insists that I have seen them as he particularly put on the appropriate light. This escaped my notice so I insist that we re-enter. One of our party has clearly forgotten about the ceiling height issue but he seemed to survive. I look at the alleged carvings. I remain unconvinced. It just looks like a slightly uneven piece of rock to me.

026 St Bordeaux Harbour 18 September 2017We continue our drive along the north coast, stopping to look at various fishing boats at Grand Harve. Beyond Cobo Bay the coast is comparatively less attractive. On reaching the far north western corner, we start to head south. After a refreshment break at Pleinmont we rethink our plans to circumnavigate the island, as the south coast road is closed. I decide that this is a good opportunity to locate an ancestral church in an inland parish. Not helped by the fact that several roads are closed and the map has road names in English, when on the ground they are in French and vice versa, we eventually arrive at the very well kept twelfth century church at Castel. There are wonderful, commanding views across the island and you can understand why early settlers might have chosen this as a site for a place of worship.

We then go to purchase tickets for our trip to Sark later in the week. In order to save money, we book on the 8am boat. This means that we will need to find a parking space that allows us to stop for more than 10 hours. This is not as easy as it sounds. The ferry company direct us to ‘the eastern arm’ but this all seems to be 10 hours maximum. We give up circulating car parks looking for the magic ‘23 hours’ signs and call in on spec at the Guernsey Record Office, expecting to book an appointment for late in the week.

The record office is housed in a former church and it turns out that we can be accommodated today. The place is deserted and judging by the signing in book, our attendance has doubled the daily average for the past week. The adjectives ‘quaint’ and ‘Dickensian’ spring to mind and the lady who emerged from the bowels of the building did her best to help us. I was after records of the Town Hospital aka workhouse. My chap was in the indexes for four years and his death was recorded there but weirdly, the admissions and discharges book (which did include those who were discharged to the grave yard) only noted his admission. Looking at the records was not without difficulty as one of us had no reading glasses and some of the records were in French. Languages were never my forte but I could dredge up enough basic French to roughly work out what was going on. Interestingly, many inmates were discharged to go to Quebec and there’s a whole potential research project out there for someone, following these individuals up on the other side of the Atlantic. Sadly, there are too many things on the very long ‘to do’ list for the ‘someone’ to be me.

There is an outdoor swimming pool at our apartment. We are obviously paying for this facility within our ‘rent’ so our parsimonious nature dictates that we do actually have to use it. Over the past few days we have commented that no one stays in the ‘heated’ pool very long. We trip across the grass in a stiffish breeze. ‘Trip’ was nearly an appropriate term as I have neglected to bring my contact lenses so can barely see the pool at three paces. The water temperature is best described as ‘chill-off’. I brave it out for ten lengths and then hasten back indoors. We now know why there is a high turn over of pool inhabitants.

Unfortunately, the job that cannot be mentioned has tracked me across the seas, so that takes care of the evenings.

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Day 3 Saumarez Park and Folk Museum

We headed north today, becoming increasingly aware of just how many cars there are per mile of Guernsey road space. Having said that, the drivers are very polite and we do our share of ‘filtering in turn’ across yellow road markings, which is reminiscent of New Zealand’s ‘make like a zip’ but is not an official system in England. There are heavy showers forecast again today and this time it looks like they might be right. We utilize our National Trust membership to gain free entrance to the Folk Museum at Saumarez Park. I was faintly amused that the girl on the entrance spent time looking for the expiry date on my life membership card. I felt like pointing out that, though I might not look very lively, I was indeed still above ground, so therefore it had not expired.

The Museum was small but interesting, although I did think it was a shame that many of the people in the dioramas were featureless shop dummies. We learned about the National Trust for Guernsey’s restoration of the fifteenth century Les Caches Farmhouse. We may add that to our list of places to visit. There was a display of Guernsey jumpers, showing the different family patterns. These could be used to help to identify drowned fishermen. I was also particularly taken with the traditional ‘Cobo Alice’ dolls. These were originally made in the 1870s by a lady called Alice from Cobo (obvious really). She used the old sails from her husband’s boat for the bodies. There were a number of recreated tradesmen’s workshops, which were stuffed full of old tools; handy for researching family history occupations. Last time I visited Guernsey, nearly forty years ago, I went on a tour of a tomato producing business and I was shocked to read, at the museum, that large scale commercial tomato growing collapsed in the early 1980s when a dockers’ strike made exporting virtually impossible. Later, we did see several derelict hothouses, which may well be the remnants of this industry.

We dodged the showers to visit the nearby walled garden, which is run by volunteers. Their herb collection was very impressive; Mistress Agnes was very envious. We then drove on to the north coast but the weather didn’t make strolling along the beach an appealing prospect so we returned to St. Peter Port. There may be a superfluity of cars on Guernsey but their parking system is good value for money. We have purchased an ‘everlasting’ disc for about £4 and that allows us to park in any designated car park or parking space for however long we choose, up to the maximum number of hours stated for that particular space. We park on the quay. My companion gets all the local fishing gossip from an unsuspecting passer by and we learn how salt used to be unloaded on this part of the quay. Fortunately, I managed to curtail the conversation before our designated two hours parking is up. We have parked here so that I can skulk in doorways taking sneaky photos of the houses where my children’s ancestors lived in the nineteenth century so next up is our walk round the back streets of St Peter Port to fulfill this mission. This went better than such ventures often do. I found all the properties on my list, although the photographs were somewhat spoiled by satellite dishes, cars and recycling bins.

012 Albany Apartments 16 Sept 2017

Albany Apartments

The final photograph on our list was nearer to where we are staying, at the top of the town and we walk along to secure that photograph before spending the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the apartment.

Day 2 Herm

Yesterday, the weather forecast suggested that today will be rainy. We therefore decided to do something under cover and dress appropriately. The evidence outside the window, backed up by Holly whatever-her-name-is on the TV, suggests otherwise. We hastily change our plans and decide that today we will go to the next nearest island of Herm. We embark on the Trident V. The name is probably a Neptunian reference but it is somewhat odd to be travelling on something called after a missile. After a twenty minute journey in beautiful sunshine we arrive on Herm. It is about half a mile long, covering an area of 1¼ square miles and has around sixty permanent inhabitants. In the second half of the twentieth century it was leased by the Wood family from New Zealand but a few years ago the lease was transferred to a foundation who are obliged to maintain it as a haven for visitors.

We set off to circumnavigate the island in a clockwise direction. If we had our time again, we would have opted for anti-clockwise, as our route means that the roughest, steepest terrain was at the end but hindsight is a wonderful thing and all that. Our last minute change of destination means that we are not fully prepared for more than a very brief stroll. We have had the foresight to don our walking boots and I am wearing in the recently purchased ‘girls’’ pair (see blog post for 30 August). Or should that be, they are wearing my feet in? I have the wrong trousers and the wrong glasses for walking. I normally go for non-varifocals (glasses not trousers) as then you can see where you are putting your feet. A good idea I find. My travelling companion is grumbling that he hasn’t got his larger rucksack and is wearing the wrong underpants (I would recommend not speculating on the latter.) To be fair, the rucksack is my fault. Relying on the weather forecast, I have a thin fleece and a thick fleece and a coat with me. Oh and a fetching plastic poncho but I won’t count that. It is pushing twenty degrees, my tee-shirt is sufficient when I’m walking. For the benefit of all the Australian readers that have been frequenting my website of late – yes, we do think that is pleasantly warm, if not positively hot. The superfluous layers are being crammed into my companion’s inadequate rucksack.

006 From Herm 15 Sept 2017Herm is beautiful and very peaceful. Cars and cycles are forbidden; motorised transport is limited to tractors and quad bikes. We see the remains of some Neolithic burials. There are plenty of butterflies and the sun continues to shine as we reach the white shell beach, which allegedly has fifty different kinds of shells. It is as well I am not visiting with my grandchildren. If they knew that, we would be unable to leave until we had found all fifty. We pause for an ice-cream and the obligatory paddle, in what is pretty jolly chilly water.

Our circumnavigation, with paddling and ice-cream break, has taken about three hours. We head inland to look at the small settlement on the island. The architecture bears the stamp of the Prussian prince, Gebhard Lebrecht Blucher von Wahlstatt, who leased the island from 1891 until the First World War, when his nationality made it necessary for him to leave. His renovations extended to St Tugual’s Chapel. Nope, me neither. St Tugual not being high on most people’s list of must know saints, I will enlighten you. He was a sixth century monk, who had connections in Brittany and in Wales. Merther Tydfyl may be so named because it is his burial place. There were certainly monks on neighbouring Sark (that’s neighbouring Herm not Merther Tydfyl) in the sixth century and they may have been responsible for the monastic settlement on Herm. The  chaepel’scurrent north aisle and the nave are a similar size, making it an unusual L shape; parts of the current building may date to the tenth century. It was used by the monks and friars until the sixteenth century. Von Wahlstatt had it renovated and reconsecrated and it has been in use ever since.

A couple of spots of rain, as we head to the pontoon for the ferry, are all we see of the forecast heavy showers. I try not to panic when the ferry is ten minutes late. We return to Guernsey and head for the supermarket for provisions. There are clearly too many cars on Guernsey and we begin to feel a bit guilty for having ignored the exhortations to leave ours at home. Many roads are one-way streets so our route is peppered with no right or no left turns. We have already discovered that driving in Guernsey means you have to go in the wrong direction in order to, hopefully, end up at your destination. Supplies secured, we return, via a circuitous route, to spend the evening in our apartment.

Day 1 Island Bound

Twenty four hours later than scheduled, we headed off on an uneventful journey to our overnight stop. Our ferry check-in is no later than 8.15am. We can check-in from 6.45am. Clearly then, in my view, we need to be at the terminal from about 5am. Being very restrained, the next day, we delay for a couple of hours and reach the terminal just after they begin the check-in. We seem destined to be at the back of the slowest queue at every stage. At one point we are surrounded by over height vehicles in the 4.1 metre high queue. Surely this cannot be right, we are in a Nissan Micra. Our queue is halted while a large campervan pulling a car on an oversized trailer is measured. There is a great deal of tutting and sighing. I suspect the owner had to pay extra. Three queues later and said camper van is failing to reverse up a 1:3 ramp on to the ferry. More delays. The ferry is at capacity to make up for yesterday’s non-sailing. It takes ‘about 250’ cars, we seem to be number 249. I am beginning to regret having had quite such a large glass of grapefruit juice at breakfast.

At last, we are on board. At the final stage of the loading process, I, as the passenger, am told to bail out so that the passenger door can be parked against a barrier. Chris and the car roar off into the bowels of the ferry leaving me to find my way to the passenger lounge. This I do and fortunately, we do find each other again. Our captain tells us that the crossing will be slower than normal as part of the engine is being run in. Well, that is true to form and inspires us all with confidence. We have been warned that this ferry a bit on the bouncy side and the weather is still lively. The woman across the aisle is revisiting her breakfast. In a domino rally like effect, it transpires that she is not to be the only one. We survive this challenge unscathed. Just as we near Guernsey, another announcement from the captain. Our bow-thruster is malfunctioning. You may not know what a bow-thruster does but it seems that it is essential to the docking process, there will be a delay. I pity the poor day passengers whose ‘day’ is now about three and a half hours long.

Inevitably, we are not the first to disembark, nor the second, nor the third…. We are not helped by a stupid driver who has failed to return to his car when requested. As we leave the ferry we are directed in a particular lane. Is it to be our bad luck to be hauled in by customs? It will be thin pickings as we have nothing to declare. Customs pass us by and karma is clearly in force as the chap who was late returning to his car is pulled over instead.

We drive a short way up the hill to find our apartment. One good aspect of all the delay is that we don’t have to wait to get our keys. The apartment is lovely, almost as large as my house and has twice as many toilets. After much needed refreshment we take a stroll down to the quay at St. Peter Port to get our bearings. I even manage to squeeze in a visit to a church that features in my children’s family history. You can’t have a holiday without family history.

The Weird and Wonderful World of the World Wide Web, with a bit about Travel

I don’t know. I spend my time blogging insightful comments on literature and dropping pearls of historical wisdom from every pore and by far the most popular post so far this year has been my rant about medical non-services! There is a lesson in this somewhere. Then, over the last few days, practically the whole of Australia has hit on my website for no apparent reason. They haven’t been directed there via another website, so have I been mentioned in a down-under talk or a magazine perhaps? These appeared to be genuine visitors and they are clicking through to the Amazon pages of my books and judging by the Amazon ratings, making purchases. I’d love to know who to thank. Answers on a postcard………

Actually, this is more of a blog about non-travel. This really should be a post about the first day of my holiday but no. There I was, two days ago, all set to be driven off in order to be near the terminal for an early morning ferry the following day. You know how it is, you’ve unplugged stuff, eaten a odd variety of food so that there are no left-overs, poured the last of the milk down the drain, put the bin out, just the lap top to shut down. In pops an email. They regret our ferry has been cancelled due to forecast bad weather, can we ring this number? We can and do and learn that we will have to wait to sail for an additional 24 hours, so that’s the first day of the holiday disappearing into oblivion. Magnanimously the ferry company tell us that they won’t charge us for changing our booking! Weirdly, the ferry company’s website still claims that a ship will sail for our destination at the later time of 11am but we are told that this is not the case. We now have to buy more milk, break out a new bin bag, raid the freezer for an evening meal and feel cross at the loss of a day of our holiday. We do try and put the latter in perspective. It does seem petty to be moaning about a curtailed holiday when the storms elsewhere have rendered hundreds homeless. Hopefully holiday posts will follow tomorrow.

Bedside Manner Bypasses: or the latest in the saga of what is not wrong with me (sorry no history) #rantalert

Garden 2 August 2016The next installment in my quest to discover why I am not in full health took place yesterday. Just a shame nobody warned me. I am gradually working my way through a long list of hospital departments and the latest referral letter was due no later than today. With a holiday looming, I was concerned that the letter might arrive after I left, with an appointment for before I returned, so, in the absence of a letter, I planned to ring today to see what was going on. It was 1.20pm yesterday, in a break between exciting #Daisy episodes, when, for no particular reason, I decided I would make that call a day early. ‘Yes Madam, your appointment is today. Did you not get the letter?’ Well that would be a no – if I’d got the letter would I be ringing? No wonder they get so many no shows. ‘What time is it? Have I missed it?’ I ask. ‘I’ll have to find out and ring you back.’ At 1.30pm I am told that the appointment is for 2.30pm. ‘Can you get here?’ I do a quick calculation. I am 16 miles from the hospital and I’d rather not drive myself. ‘Are you coming by public transport?’ Probably not – the next bus is tomorrow. She agrees that they will understand if I am late. I ring the fisherman of my acquaintance, now doubling as the chauffeur of my acquaintance, hoping that this isn’t one of those occasions when he has his mobile on divert because he is out of signal and I end up talking to myself. Things continue to go my way as he is home. 1.45pm and he is at my house and we are on our way. We arrive at the hospital with ten minutes to spare. I muse at the irony of those sat smoking under the very large signs explaining that the whole hospital site is a no smoking zone.

I look for directions to the department I need. I am going to be vague here to protect the guilty but the department is called the x and y department. I scan the very long alphabetical list of departments, nothing under x or y. We enquire. I need the first floor. I have come in on ground level. The first floor is down one. This is the deep south-west, we do things differently here. Turns out I should have looked for the z department. It is all a learning curve. This consultant is very abrupt and dismissive, obviously thinking I am making it up. Some of my medical history is deemed irrelevant and I am clearly expected to be able to discern the difference between what is related and what is not. I am asked if I have any allergies and I name two types of medication. ‘No’, I am told shortly, I am not allergic to one of these, it just doesn’t agree with me. Well pardon me but a reaction that ended me up in A & E with a suspected heart attack seemed pretty allergic to me at the time. After a two minute cursory examination they decide that I have nothing serious but they cannot do anything to alleviate my symptoms. All they can offer is that I may have anaemia. Again I don’t want to give too much away but these symptoms are confined to one side of part of my body. I know I have no medical training but really? Is it possible to have one sided anaemia? Perhaps if I lay on the afflicted side all my red blood cells will congregate to the site of the problem and I will be cured. The consultant clearly thinks I have wasted their time. I feel as if I have wasted mine. I suppose I should just be glad that, despite my feeling that they haven’t looked very hard, they couldn’t find anything serious and that the other medical personnel that I have dealt with have all been lovely. I have now resolved to live with the symptoms, which are painful but not life restricting and stop trying to find out what causes them. I think it is back to the time of Mistress Agnes for me and a quick chew of a herb or three. Rant over – normal service will resume shortly.

Daisies, Blue Poppies and other Flights of Floral Fancy

I am excited to announce that I will be working with Blue Poppy Publishing to bring #Daisy to a discerning audience. Who am I kidding? There’s no need to be discerning. Blue Poppy focuses on local authors and was founded by Ollie Tooley who was one of the historical novelists that I chose for my advent calendar last year. Do check out the Blue Poppy website and like their Facebook page. Publication date is set for November 2018. That may seem like a long way off – please tell me it is a long way off – but it means that I have a deadline that is considerably before that. I am going to need to up my production rate.

I have finished off a chapter this weekend. It had stalled because I was unable to identify which Bideford house one of my main characters worked in in the 1890s. It’s a novel, does it matter? Ah but it mattered to me. I have finally worked it out so can wax lyrical about the cream bricks and arched windows phew. You learn so much researching historical novels. I now know when telegraph boys started using bicycles and what the stair well in front of the servants’ door is called. I knew that anyway but had a crisis of confidence and needed to convince myself. A quick speed read of 96 pages of my battered copy of Upstairs Downstairs (yes they were books before it was a 1970s TV series) and I was vindicated – despite a certain amount of scepticism from a fisherman of my acquaintance.

Also on this weekend’s agenda, a research report for a client. To be honest, genealogical research for others is a very small part of what I do nowadays but this has been a fascinating case. There are reputed murders (several), actual murders (one), separations, confusing stage names and the longest service record I have ever seen (61 pages), complete with the soldier’s temperature chart.

DSCF3888Then it was the village garden and produce show. I always try to get involved in community events. The cooking classes were clearly a non-starter. I hadn’t had time to create something crafty. As my garden is a wasteland, being as it is mid re-vamp, plant and vegetable classes were challenging. Fortunately I could fall back on my herb garden, which was made-over last year. So second prize for a posy of herbs, or Tuzzy-Muzzy as we say, I’ll take that. I am sure I should be Daisy writing rather than blog writing so that’s it for today. I wonder if I can get another chapter finished amongst two talks to present in two days and the return of the job we must not mention.