DOGS AND DEMOCRACY- STANDING FOR THE DOUZAINE By Richard Harding

The first time I stood for the douzaine back in late 2012 it was pretty straightforward. I filled in a form at the Constables office, found a proposer and a seconder, both of which had to be on the electoral roll, and when nominations closed I was told that as the number of candidates was equal to the number of vacancies I was duly elected. At the Parish Meeting we were asked to introduce ourselves to everyone. As a presenter on Island FM, I’m used to speaking to thousands of listeners but I still get slightly nervous standing up in front of audiences in the flesh. Parish Meetings attract a regular group of parishioners who are usually very passionate and knowledgeable about local issues but the challenge is to attract more people to come along and have their say. I felt very proud to belong to the Douzaine which is far older than the States itself According to Darryl Ogiers’ superb book ‘The Government and Law of Guernsey’ St Peter Port Douzaine was mentioned in a document from 1444 but may have its origins in the thirteenth century.
I served my four year term and found it rewarding if sometimes very challenging as the Douzaine was rocked by public controversy on several occasions. You have to develop a thick skin! The Douzaine serves the island’s capital and as such is subject to more media coverage than the other parishes. A decision was taken to start posting redacted minutes of our monthly meetings on the Constables website which I personally welcome; we publish the Townie Magazine twice a year and our activities and decisions are widely discussed on social media. In my first four years I’ve learned an enormous amount both about this lovely parish but also about the States. Town deputies attend the first part of our monthly meetings and we have a chance to question them and give our views on items in the billet and other matters of local concern.
Towards the end of last year I had to decide whether to re-stand and, after much thought and discussions with my partner Bev, decided to stand again. This time there were seven candidates for five seats and parishioners decided at the parish meeting that a full election should be held complete with two polling booths at Beau Sejour and the Constable’s Office. We were given two minutes to stand up and make a short speech on the night. I had prepared one but decided this time to ad-lib. We were told we could spend up to £600 on our campaign. In the end I decided to produce a simple A4 leaflet, spent £40 on photocopying and delivered it from door-to-door. It was good to meet people in person and issues raised ranged from wheelie bins through the Christmas lights to hedges. I had expected dogs to sometimes snap my hand putting the leaflet through letter boxes (which they did but happily missed) but I hadn’t expected so many letterboxes to have brushes fitted which virtually destroyed many a leaflet before it hit the doormat! I work full-time but tried to get around as much of the parish as possible in the evenings and weekends but I apologies if I didn’t reach you…
Election Day came and I made sure I was outside the Constables Office in plenty of time for the 10am opening carrying my ‘Vote Harding’ sign and some spare re-written leaflets. I was joined after a while by the two successful new candidates Adrian Gabriel and Tim Bush. After a hastily eaten snack Adrian and I headed up to Beau Sejour. On two occasions a prospective voter left us to look after their dogs while they went in to cast their ballot! You can never tell for sure if people have voted for you but try to guess- if they rush past or fail to make eye contact it’s probably not a good sign… I stayed at Beausie until the polls closed at 8pm before going home for something to eat. Less than an hour later, I returned to the Constables Office to wait nervously outside with the others for the count to finish and the doors to swing open. We were invited inside the entrance hall and although I hoped to scrape in, I was astonished and humbled to have topped the poll! I feel this time I have a proper mandate from parishioners that only a full election can give, although I wish the turnout were far higher than 5% of parishioners on the roll. A few weeks later I joined the other returning and new douzeniers to be sworn in by the Bailiff Sir Richard Collas at the Royal Court.
Douzaine elections are unlikely to ever match the States general election for turnout and media coverage but we need to try and reach more people. We are your Douzaine and are recognised by the states as being the ‘grass roots level of government’. Should island wide voting be introduced in the States, the douzaines will be even more vital in maintaining that personal connection with people. If you would like to throw your hat into the ring there are usually a couple of elections a year so why not stand yourself? Here’s to the next four years!

*The very approximate UK equivalent of St Peter Port Douzaine would be the St Peter Port  Town and Parish Council.  Douzeniers are Councillors and the Constables are the Mayor and Deputy Mayor.

This article was originally published in The Townie.

Photo Richard Lord

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A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF GUERNSEY’S RADIO STATIONS By Richard Harding

In 2015 the Bailiwick’s newest radio station took to the air although you may not know it unless you live in Alderney. On the 12th February, following a series of short-term trial licences, Quay FM became the Channel Islands first Ofcom- licenced community station broadcasting on 107.1MHz. It was founded by broadcasting veteran and island resident Colin Mason. Licences were advertised for the whole Bailiwick and although there were rumours several groups had shown an interest only Quay FM applied by the closing date in March last year.
The story of radio in the Bailiwick goes back much further. Two of the ‘swinging sixties’ offshore pirate radio station ships were fitted out at the Marine & General boatyard in St. Sampson’s. Radio 270’s ship, a converted Dutch lugger called the Oceaan 7, then sailed to an anchorage in Bridlington Bay to broadcast to the north east of England and Radio Scotland 242’s MV Comet headed even further north… Remembering the principle of Radio Caroline and the other offshore pirate stations as well as the so-called ‘périphériques’ beaming in their signals from outside France into the country- RTL from Luxembourg, Europe 1 from Germany , RMC from Monaco and Sud Radio from Andorra, the founder of France’s biggest commercial radio network NRJ (pronounced energy) Jean-Paul Baudecroux held brief talks with Sark’s Seigneur Michael Beaumont in the early eighties with the idea of building a huge transmitting station on the island to serve France. Perhaps not unsurprisingly the idea was quickly rejected…
The first Guernsey-based station to hit the local airwaves wasn’t Island FM or even BBC Radio Guernsey but hospital station Jubilee Radio based at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital. Named after the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, they began programming within the hospital the following year although there have been a few interruptions over the years. The station can now be heard on the internet or on smartphones using the TuneIn app. Jubilee have recently refurbished their studios which have been moved to a new home above the canteen.
Broadcast radio arrived in the Bailiwick when BBC Radio Guernsey took to the air on AM only (or Medium Wave as it was then known) on 269 metres or 1116kHz from Commerce House on the sea front on the 16th March 1982 the day after BBC Radio Jersey. The first manager was Tony Talmage and current Assistant Editor Kay Langlois is the only remaining member of the original team. Originally the station broadcast for just a few hours a day and their first major challenge was covering the 1982 States election. Stereo FM transmissions began on 93.2MHz in 1985 with and Alderney relay on 99MHz added a few years ago. Earlier this century the station moved to state-of- the- art new studios along the road at Bulwer Avenue and has greatly expanded its broadcasting hours compared to the early days. The station sometimes splits its frequencies to offer live coverage of States meetings on 1116kHz AM alongside regular programming on its FM frequencies.
In August 1988, the Channel Islands got their first real taste of local commercial radio, albeit semi-pirate when Contact 94 started broadcasting programmes in English from Lessay in Normandy. The operators led by Jersey hotelier Stephen Clipp bought a small legal French station turned up the power and beamed their signal towards the islands. The station changed frequencies several times and the signal was strongest in Jersey where they had a sales office. Following the announcement that legal commercial radio was going to come to the Channel Islands, and judicial moves to close the station for interfering with the signals of other radio stations, Contact 94 decided to close down in 1991 so that it was in a position to bid for the Jersey licence. In the end they didn’t bid and the licence was won by Channel 103FM. According to Tony Esnouf around this time there was also some English language programming being produced by Radio Force 7 and broadcast from transmitters in St Malo and Granville although the signal was far weaker than that from Contact 94. An internet-only Contact 94 tribute station ran for a few years recently until it became Bailiwick Radio with a number of different streamed services.

The Channel Islands could have had local commercial radio many years earlier. Manx Radio in the Isle of Man began in 1964. The idea for local radio here had been studied by the President of the Guernsey Post Office Board Conseiller Peppino Santangelo and the States of Guernsey gave in-principle approval to a pan-island station for Guernsey and Jersey in 1970 but it foundered when the States of Jersey referred it back to the Broadcasting Committee.
There have been several temporary stations over the years known as RSL’s (Restricted Service Licences) broadcasting for a up to a month at a time such as Offshore Radio set up to cover the World Powerboat week in 1988, Island Sport 105.3 run by Island FM and also relayed in Jersey on 101.3MHz for the 2003 Nat West Island Games, the trial broadcasts of Quay FM in Alderney twice a year and even Old School FM broadcasting briefly from Elizabeth College. There have also been a few internet radio stations most recently one operated by Fusion Night Club.
Guernsey’s licence was won by Island FM and the station was opened on the 15th October 1992 by Broadcasting Committee President, the late Valerie Renouf. It beat Jersey’s Channel 103FM in the race to begin scheduled programming by 10 days. The station took to the air on 104.7MHz FM from Southside in St Sampson’s when current Commerce & Employment Minister Kevin Stewart, formerly a presenter on both BBC Radio Guernsey and Contact 94, made the opening announcement and played the first song, Madonna’s La Isla Bonita (Spanish for the beautiful island). The station later added a relay station to improve reception in Alderney on 93.7MHz. Island FM set up the very successful local charity Help a Guernsey Child and has run many fundraising events including Big Kids Days. In 1998 Island FM was sold to local newspaper baron Sir Ray Tindle and Tindle Radio was born. The group took over the The Beach in Great Yarmouth and expanded at one point to own around 13 radio stations including Jersey’s Channel 103FM. In 2013 Tindle sold its loss-making stations in East Anglia but retained the two Channel Island stations along with Midlands 103 in Ireland. Island FM still has its original Chairman, John Burley, and one original team member, Carl Ward, who started as a freelancer before landing a full-time show in 1996. In terms of market share, reach and listening hours per head Island FM continues to have the highest audience figures for any radio station in the whole of Britain (RAJAR Q1 2017).
Despite competition from TV, services like Spotify, X Box, downloads and more I’m still optimistic that radio has a bright future. Here we could eventually have more community radio stations and possibly a DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) multiplex with some locally-produced channels although whether they would be commercially viable in such a small market is another question. In 1979 the Buggles claimed video killed the radio star. I say, not yet!

This is an updated version of an article originally published in The Townie

GUERNSEYS ANCIENT LANGUAGE- By Richard Harding

Walking around town you hear people speaking mainly English. You may catch a few words of Portuguese, Latvian, Polish, French, German or Dutch but turn the clock back a few hundred years and it would have been Guernsey’s own Norman language Guernésiais which you would have spoken and heard from day to day with ‘Good French’ as it was called reserved for church, the States, schools and official use. There are probably only a few hundred fluent speakers of the Norman language still alive in the island. As many people used to stay in their own parish for most of the time, different accents and many different words were used in different parts of the island and even parish. Between the wars many teachers came from the UK and discouraged the language from their classrooms. The war itself with many islanders evacuated also dealt a big blow to the use of the language as did English language wireless shows.

St Peter Port once had its own variant but it is thought this may have died out up to 150 years ago. English has probably been the dominant language in town for the last two centuries vying with French in the 19th century. English aristocrats, officers, soldiers, sailors, merchants and more recently financiers along with other incomers have settled in town. The Church of St James the Last, now known as St. James Concert and Assembly Hall was completed in 1818. It was the first in the island to cater for English speakers, specifically the British garrison. The market was one place were Guernsey French could be heard regularly, mostly spoken by traders and customers from out of town.

Up until 1204 Guernsey was part of the Duchy of Normandy rather than coming under the English Crown and gradually a distinct variety of Norman evolved here. Guernésiais is one of three Norman languages still spoken in the Channel Islands along with Jèrriais in Jersey and Sercquiais in Sark. Aurignais in Alderney died out completely around the time of the Second World War. It was one of a group of languages called Les Langues d’Oïl which was descended from Vulgar Latin spoken mainly in Northern France. Although often dismissed as “patois” by townies who sometimes struggled to understand their country cousins, Guernésiais was a fully fledged language albeit one which was not originally written down. There is no official way of writing the language although many people base their spellings on those from Marie De Garis’ dictionary. Norman French has a long and proud tradition and includes some Scandinavian words brought over by the Norman invaders. It was the dialect of the Île de France around Paris that developed into modern French but only because it was the home of the Kings of France. Due to its relative isolation from mainland France, Guernésiais is thought to be the purest of the Norman dialects although of course it has been influenced by English and French over the years. It is likely that if William the Conqueror were to come back to life today he would be able to at least understand some Guernésiais, more so than the dialect spoken now in Normandy itself!

So what are the opportunities to learn the language? Dr Harry Tomlinson teaches a popular evening class for beginners at the College of FE, likewise Jan Marquis runs beginners and elementary conversation groups and other courses. A growing number of books have been appearing over the last few years. The long-awaited latest edition of Marie De Garis Dictiounnaire Angllais-Guernésiais is a key work. The last edition was published in 1982 and was long out of print with copies fetching sometimes hundreds of pounds. Several books have been published by Dr. Harry and Hazel Tomlinson and Jan Marquis. As for the media there is Donkey Dialogue every Thursday in the Guernsey Press and on Saturday Morning you can tune in to the Guernsey French news with Cynthia Lenormand around 8.35am on BBC Guernsey and then Jan’s Guernésiais Ditaon d’la Semoine (Phrase of the Week) around 9.25am on Island FM. Several infant and primary schools in the island offer lunchtime and after-school teaching in Guernsey French and at Blanchelande it is even part of the scheduled lessons. There are several regular volunteer teachers. While no town schools offer regular teaching, pupils from Vauvert Primary School compete in the Guernsey French Eisteddfod each year along with other schools.

What of the future? The Culture & Leisure Department officially launched the Guernsey Language Commission on Liberation Day 2013. The original Commissioners were States Former Deputy Darren Duquemin, businessman and Jurat Terry Ferbrache, Guernsey Museums Director Dr. Jason Monaghan, PR Guru Steve Falla, website entrepreneur and the voice of Len and Enid on Island FM Randalls ads, Neil Inder (now a Deputy) and language graduate Louise Mahieux. The Administrator remains Guernsey Museum’s Access and Learning Manager Jo Dowding The aim of the Commission is to support the existing Guernsey French organisations, raising funds and providing grants, and lifting the profile of Guernésiais through a website (language.gg), assisting teaching initiatives and more. The hope is that islanders will take a real pride in their language Guernésiais with many islanders learning a few words and phrases with a few becoming fluent speakers thereby giving the language a future as well as a glorious past.

This article is an updated version of one originally published in The Townie.

HMS DARING- ON BOARD GUERNSEY’S WARSHIP by Richard Harding

HMS Daring is a Type 45 Area Air Defence destroyer based in Portsmouth- the first of six each costing £1 billion now in Royal Navy service the others being Dauntless, Diamond, Dragon, Defender and Duncan. Her Viper Missiles are capable of destroying targets up to 70 miles away. She has a top speed of around 45 knots, is 151 metres long and weighs 8000 tonnes. She is the seventh HMS Daring to hold the name.
Construction work by BAE Systems began on the Clyde in 2003. She was launched in February 2006 and made her maiden visit to Guernsey on 27th January 2009 en route to being commissioned in Portsmouth the following day where she was welcomed to her home port by cheering crowds.
She provided humanitarian relief to the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 and circumnavigated the globe that during that year and early in 2014. Earlier this year Daring’s crew successfully carried out test firings of Aster 30 missiles.
Daring has a regular company of up to 190, can carry a Royal Marines detachment 60 strong and could handle a far larger number should a humanitarian evacuation be necessary.
The WR21 gas turbine engines that power Daring and the other Type 45’s have recently been upgraded to better cope with the high water temperatures in some parts of the world along with new diesel generators.
She and her company returned recently to her home port after undertaking a tour of duty in the Gulf.
Members of the ships company have taken part in several events including football matches and charity runs while in Guernsey along with meeting Guernsey Sea Cadets.
Thanks to my day job as a presenter and journalist at Island FM I have had the honour of visiting Daring three times on media visits- most recently on her brief stopover in July. I also took advantage of a public visit to return with my partner Bev and her son Matt when we saw a Westland Lynx helicopter. Daring is affiliated to both Guernsey and the City of Birmingham where Bev comes from originally so she was doubly keen to visit the ship.
All my visits to Daring have involved being the same tender the Liberty Lass brought over from Torbay which is specially adapted to access the hatch towards the stern of the ship. The tender runs a regular service between the ship and the cruise liner landing stage on the Albert Pier. There’s usually a bit of swell alongside but once you cross the ramp and step aboard Daring it is incredibly stable. On each media visit I was welcomed along with my fellow journalists and escorted through the maze of hatches and corridors, you have to watch your step with many pipes and hazards. The ships company whizz down flights of steps front-first but I was happy to accept the advice of facing the steps. I glimpsed medical areas, people queuing at the canteen, the mess rooms, the engine room and on two occasions the Opps Room which is from where the missiles are actually fired. I also visited the Captain’s Quarters and the Bridge with its sophisticated navigation systems and commanding views. The commanding officer has his own special seat surrounded by high-tech equipment from where he (so far they have all been male) can direct potentially life and death operations. On my first visit I interviewed Captain Paul Mc Alpine and on the last two occasions Commander Philip Dennis both of whom were friendly, self-depreciating and happy to answer all my questions.
On visits to the island a drinks reception is usually held for around 40 guests followed by dinner for the Lieutenant-Governor, the Bailiff and a small number of other senior figures.
Daring’s visits to Guernsey may only be occasional for operational reasons but her company are proud of the links to the island and we can be proud that our island is linked to the first of the latest generation of warships.

This is an updated version of an article first published in The Townie

 

GRAPE EXPECTATIONS ON TRIP TO BORDEAUX…

I know France pretty well and lived in the capital for three years but one place I’d never visited and have long wanted to was the centre of the world’s most prestigious wine district, Bordeaux. The city on the banks of the Garonne River has some fantastic buildings and many fine eateries to suit all budgets but celebrating my fiftieth birthday and learning about wine were the main reasons for the visit. Bev and I decided to leave the car at home and fly down via Southampton.

The Aquitaine region was ruled for centuries in the Middle Ages by the English after Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry Plantagenet, the future King Henry II. The city later supplied Guernsey’s thriving entrepôts which supplied the smugglers along the south coast of England….

First stop the left bank of the Garonne and the Médoc.

REVERDI 2REVERDI 1

The area was once one of marshland and swamp which was drained by Dutch engineers. When we were there earlier this month the grapes were clustered on the vines. I wondered why rose bushes were planted at the end of rows and was told that they catch diseases before the vines so serve as nature’s early warning device. The first grapes were about to be harvested for the local equivalent of champagne, Crémant de Bordeaux available in white and rosé, the next grapes due to be harvested were for the white wines (around 12% of the region’s production) and finally reds, mostly Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc with some Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carménère. Visiting the AOC Listrac Médoc Château de Reverdi we were guided by co-owner Audrey Thomas through the whole wine making process from harvest through fermentation to bottling and storing including, not just alcoholic, but malolactic fermentation which involves converting harsh malic to lactic acid found in dairy products. Last year was disastrous for the region but this year, despite months of cool, rainy weather an Indian summer has saved the harvest and may produce some exceptional vintages.

FERRAND 2FERRAND 1

Another day, another visit and the lovely village of Saint Émilion, a NATO World Heritage Site followed by a short drive to the Grand Cru Classé Château de Ferrand estate owned by the descendants of Baron Bic of biro pen fame! This was wine production on a far larger scale than the Médoc château we had visited and a wine estate in the Catalan area of Spain we went to a couple of years ago. One of the most interesting aspects we learnt about was the barrels. The best barrels are made of French oak and cost 800 Euros each, twice the price of the cheaper American oak equivalents. The wines aren’t bottled for at least a year after the harvest. Unlike Beaujolais in Burgundy, the wines here are never sold very young. When the barrels are replaced the old ones are often sold to Spanish sherry producers. It is illegal to water the vines in the Bordeaux region. Of course each visit ends with a tasting during which you learn to tip the wine in the glass against a white background, the redder the wine the newer it is and the browner the older. You also see how much of the wine clings to the side of the glass. Wines with the most legs are the youngest and most alcoholic… You then smell the wine to get an initial impression, swirl it in the glass and that frees the aromas. Finally, taste the wine and try to slurp it in your mouth , mixing it with air to taste the full flavour. Then either spit out or swallow! Of course certain wines are recommended to accompany certain dishes, and while anyone is free to drink red wine with fish or white with steak if they really want too, the rationale is is that the wine should never overpower the dish and the dish should never overpower the wine.

My trip to the Bordeaux area has not only reaffirmed my love of (especially red) wine but also enthused me to find out as much as I can about this wonderful drink which goes back thousands of years. It seems the early wines were drunk for their alcoholic content and effects or for ceremonial purposes rather than their quality which was usually highly questionable. The oldest production so far discovered goes back to Georgia around 6000BC!

RETURN TO ALDERNEY…

On Friday, accompanied by my colleague Carolyn, I caught the noisy Trislander to the Channel Islands’ most northerly inhabited island, Alderney. Although part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, Alderney is in many ways an island apart from a Guernsey perspective. Many and possibly most Guerns have never even visited their northern cousins because it costs roughly the same for the 15 minute flight as to fly to the UK. There are occasional ferry services but they are not much cheaper. It’s a great pity because Alderney has much to offer- beautiful scenery and a real community feel, admittedly centred around pub life! This was my eight visit to the island since arriving in the Channel Islands in 2005 but I’m ashamed to admit I hadn’t been back for around four years. I was there to host my Island FM show from Alderney Week and previous visits were mainly to compere Great Parish Quiz nights at the Moorings (now Rea’s Bistro) although I was once stranded for the night on the way back from a day at the Lessay Fair in Normandy when the Manche Iles Express vessel the Victor Hugo drifted onto the rocks in Braye Harbour! It was no hardship as I was warmly welcomed to former Alderney States member Bill Walden’s comfortable B & B. It was great to be back and catch up with familiar faces such as Ilona Soane-Sands (now BEM!) as well as Di and ‘don’t mention the war’ Pete at the Marais. It was the first time I’d been to Alderney Week when the population of the island swells. The place was buzzing but several people told me most of the time it is very quiet. The island has been suffering from de-population since I was last there losing around 500 full time residents. The cost of living is high especially food, petrol and electricity although property is relatively cheap compared to Guernsey and there are no restrictions on who can live there although you do usually need an Employment Permit. I noticed several shops and pubs had closed since my last visit. I ran into Guernsey’s legendary Deputy John Gollop whose mother Vera lives in the island. He told me he thought that although the population numbers had been falling, he believed the numbers were underestimated especially at certain times of the year when visitors and those with second homes were in the island. He also believed the tax advantages need to be better sold to potential new residents in the UK as the Isles of Scilly has stolen a march on the island despite those advantages. Like Sark, the island has it’s own government the States of Alderney. Unlike Sark, many public services have been transferred to Guernsey meaning two Alderney Representatives sit in the States of Guernsey. Many islanders were actually born in the Princess Elizabeth Hospital in Guernsey and also come here for their secondary education but despite that are, wrongly in my view, denied residency rights in Guernsey. Alderney was almost entirely evacuated during the WWII and many slave workers are known to have died in the Nazi camps. The true extent of the horrors will probably never be known. Islanders returned much later than in the other islands. Homecoming Day (a recent innovation) is celebrated on the 15th December whereas Guernsey and Jersey’s Liberation Day is on the 9th May and Sark’s on the 10th. Alderney’s wildlife is stunning and puffins are a feature of nearby Burhou. The Alderney Wildlife Trust does a fantastic job caring for the natural environment and it’s a great place to walk. The island was once described to me as a large village surrounded by the sea and that’s a pretty good description.  Alderney has a thriving e-gaming industry, although the servers themselves are in Guernsey and potentially the island could prosper once tidal energy can be harnessed as the Race between the Island and the Cotentin peninsular in France has a very powerful tidal flow. Media-wise Alderney has two publications the Alderney Journal and the Alderney Press and the island’s community radio station Quay FM has recently been awarded a full-time licence and is set to begin broadcasting in the next year. We at Island FM used to broadcast across Alderney Week with Carl Ward, Cazza and Mike Campbell and, although this fell away due to budgetary constraints, we now plan to return more frequently. To my mind affordable transport it absolutely key to a brighter future for this lovely and unique island. Some Guernsey Deputies should also try harder to understand the challenges facing the island. Alderney deserves to be better known to Channel Islanders and tourists alike.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JON!

On Tuesday my son Jon celebrates his eighteenth birthday. It’s a proud moment when I buy him his first legal pint, although I suspect it will taste strangely familiar… We’ll be celebrating with his girlfriend Heather, family and friends in Brighton as he lives across the Channel in Sussex.

Jon’s been through a lot in his life especially dealing with the loss of some peripheral vision caused by a benign brain tumour which regrew after a couple of years. He bravely went through two tough operations and radiotheraphy and will have to take medication for the rest of his life. A number of fundraising events were held here in Guernsey and islanders were very generous helping out with the costs involved for us going up to St. George’s Hospital in London. Touch wood, all’s now going much better for him health-wise.

I’m immensely proud of Jon and, depending on his exam results, he would like to study to become an architect. Whatever he does I will always be proud of the way he’s handled things that luckily most people will never have to face. I always look forward to catching up on his news and plans. Jon has trained as a lifeguard and has good a holiday job looking after water sports on the beach five minutes walk from his home. An idea job for him! He also helps out with promotional events for Splash FM and other radio stations in their group around the south. Radio runs in the blood with the Hardings. He also always makes a telephone appearance with Carl and Lou on their Christmas Day show on Island FM…

Buon jour de neissace Jon!

 

 

ISRAELIS AND PALESTINIANS- TRAGIC COUSINS

THE PEACE SHIP

I began my radio career working for an offshore pirate radio station broadcasting to the Middle East. The station was called the Voice of Peace and it’s slogan was ‘Broadcasting from somewhere in the Mediterranean, love peace and good music’. In reality the rusty MV Peace was anchored 3 nautical miles off Tel Aviv in Israel. The ethos was simple, to encourage Arabs and Israelis to live together and try and get on. The station was founded by Israeli Abie Nathan who sold his showbiz-haunt restaurant, the California, bought the ship and fitted it out with broadcast equipment and a transmitting mast. The Voice of Peace broadcast for 20 years between 1973 and 1993. Abie naively thought that after the famous handshake between Israeli PM Yizhak Rabin and Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat the station would no longer be needed. Wrong.

The tragedy is that Arabs and Jews are very close Semitic cousins who share much history and should and could be very good neighbours. Peace in Hebrew is Shalom and in Arabic Salaam. On Saturday the symbolic number of 1000 Palestinians killed in Gaza was passed. The Israeli death toll was 40 soldiers and 3 civilians but the numbers alone don’t tell the whole story. Israel clearly has far superior fire power and defensive capabilities with the Iron Dome missile shield. Palestinian civilians have paid the price of the Hamas policy of locating rocket launching sites in highly populated areas and not renouncing the wish to destroy the State of Israel. The current unrest was sparked by the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers and the following reprisals but the reality is tit -for -tat attacks, wars and killings have been a feature of the conflict since the modern State of Israel was born in 1948. Because of the segregated nature of the communities, I only had the chance to get to knew Israelis, although I did visit Palestinian East Jerusalem and Bethlehem in the West Bank. Israelis I spoke to felt their country was not just the fulfilment of a Biblical promise but also a vital sanctuary. Most Jewish people believe much of the rest of the world allowed the Holocaust to take place. When the chips were down the world allowed 6 million of their people to go to the gas chambers so they can only count on themselves. The thinking is that Israel is a small country the size of Wales or Belgium surrounded by hostile Muslim states who would like to see it destroyed and losing one war would be game-over. Anti-Semitic acts around the world bolster this view. For these reasons no chances are taken and this often leads to a disproportionate amount of force used to maintain security. On the Palestinian side 1948 was seen as Al Nakhba, the catastrophe. Thousands of Palestinians were thrown out of their homes and many still live in refugee camps while some others were allowed to stay and became Israeli Arabs, still with fewer rights than their Jewish neighbours but certainly better off in many ways than Palestinians living in the West Bank and especially Gaza. Some families have kept the front door keys of their ancestral homes. The Palestinians had nothing to do with the Nazi holocaust and they have lived under occupation for 66 years.

So what now? I’d like to see two viable independent states who respect each others security and forge together a new future of friendly co-existence. Until that security can be absolutely guaranteed it won’t happen. There are sadly many on both sides who don’t believe peace is achievable and sometimes even desirable. Israel is still building settlements on the West Bank which they then call ‘facts on the ground’ (ie now- exist and not going anywhere) some seeing the land as the Biblical Jewish Judea and Samaria, some as a cheap place to live. Meanwhile many Palestinians still have the ultimate goal of driving the Jews into the sea. Bring back the Voice of Peace. A voice of sanity is much needed in that troubled but very beautiful region.

DIGITAL ISLAND

Guernsey’s Commerce and Employment Minister Deputy Kevin Stewart and board member Deputy Heidi Soulsby popped into Island FM this morning and I interviewed them for our news about the Economic Development Framework six month status update. It sounded dry but surprisingly wasn’t. Most interesting were plans for a new Digital Innovation Centre. If T & R agrees to cough up some cash the island could get a centre that houses and supports start-up digital businesses, trains their staff in things such as coding and nurtures them to potentially make a valuable contribution to the island economy. The idea is to turn the centre into a Public-Private Partnership seeking funding from business as well as the taxpayer. Deputy Stewart is a larger-than-life character who brims with enthusiasm but of course delivery on this and other projects such as the e-finance policy (for which C & E is also bidding for funding from T & R) will be key. Other topics I questioned him on were Bitcoins-they would look out for opportunities with this and other emerging virtual currencies while being cautious because of the risks of money laundering, 4G phones-with licences awarded yesterday to the three incumbents Sure, JT and Airtel-Vodafone both here and in Jersey, he wanted to see a 2% tax on revenue being levied in Guernsey to pay for the use of the radio spectrum. One of the concerns I voiced was JT as the incumbent and States-owned telco in Jersey were investing in a superfast fibre-optic network called Gigabit Jersey. He told me that Sure would be making moves in the same direction here. On the question of Jersey versus Guernsey Deputy Stewart suggested that Jersey was talking the talk but Guernsey was walking the walk. We shall see…

NO GST (GOODS AND SALES TAX) NO WAY!

Top marks to the Guernsey International Business Association, the Confederation of Guernsey Industry and Guernsey Chamber of Commerce who have just released a report warning of the dangers of the island introducing its own form of VAT. Consumption taxes hit the poorest hardest and will also hit local retailers who will incur new expenses as tax collectors and find their profit margins squeezed. The States need to change their culture, get their own house in order and minimise waste and inefficiency before even thinking about introducing such a tax. The pensions, benefits and tax review is looking at ways to square the circle of an ageing population and increasing deficit and how to provide public services in the future. GST is still very much one of the options on the table and may well be coupled with other measures to prize more cash from our pockets. The report warns GST would create a ‘lethal legacy for growth’ and growing our economy is essential to everyone’s prosperity. It would be far too easy to introduce a rate and gradually increase it to meet budget overspends. The tax would also be added to the equivalent of UK VAT in many cases. Many shops refuse to deduct UK VAT from their prices and trouser the money, attempting to justify the move by citing high freight costs, rates, rents etc. Yes, these add a certain amount to the cost of doing business but certainly not 20%. If this were the true cost, how has it exactly tracked VAT from 17.5% down to 15% then up to 20%? To make matters worse, I recently discovered that a UK jeweller based here was charging UK VAT here but not in Jersey. The reality is if GST were introduced at our neighbour’s rate of 5% we would in many cases be paying 25% and I was told when I came here in 2005 this was a low tax island!