Journey Update: June ’13
True to his word, Grant arrived after work the following day and whisked us on a 5 hour narrated tour around Jersey. For anyone considering a visit, I can safely say it’s very pretty with lush beaches and craggy bits around the edges, and the middle seems to be farmland producing great potatoes, dairy herds and veg. Grant was a brilliant tour guide.
Our last stop before sunset was a 20ft tall sculpture of a horned cloven footed devil, standing ankle deep in a small lake, tucked away among trees and vines. Called ‘Devil’s Hole’, it was baffling, sinister and beautiful. The sun set in molten gold as we turned along the coast road to face a gorgeous and famous old lighthouse on a spiky chunk of rock. We all ended the night eating chicken and chips and drinking wine on Joker.
Grant had a lot to say about other aspects of living there. For example, there’s no NHS and it costs around £50 to see a doctor.
“It’s a nice place to live, but there’s a lot of poverty. More than people think. I’s a very rich island but if you’ve not got much money you can’t really leave, the ferry’s so expensive- so people get frustrated. Some people develop bad drug problems, drinking, depression.”
The tax status of the Channel Islands has made them a magnet for the rich and the dodgy for a long time, though apparently they’ve recently become much tougher on the money laundering. It’s clear just from wandering the streets that there are tons of rich people here. Deep sailors’ tans (the kind who sail as far South as the ACTUAL Med, folks! Or even spend whole chunks of the year in tropical climates. AND have a house or three as well as a boat). People in pristine sportswear, knotted pastel sweaters and flashy cars are everywhere, as are the luxury goods shops catering to them.
The following day, Grant was back, determined to help us get to the bottom of our erratic engine. After hearing the list of symptoms and the conditions under which Joker fails us- fine on the flat, calm waters of the harbour, chokes when we need her out on the waves- he concluded there was probably gunk in the fuel tank clogging the system when it got bounced around. Sam and Grant covered the cockpit in a gaudy arrangement of spanners and greasy rags- apparently to set the scene- then hauled the diesel tank out and dragged it away to one of the garages Grant works at. I made soup out of the leftover chicken and looked after all the spanners and rags.
They finally returned five hours later, reeking of both diesel and petrol. Due to the awkward shape of the tank, it had taken several rinses of petrol to sluice out the gunk. And there had been LOTS. The tank came back as clean as a whistle and after munching chicken soup they screwed it back in. Grant had spent his entire day off sorting out our engine, completely gratis. What could we do but feed him again?
Over the previous weeks we’d been talking with increasing excitement to a friend about investing in a land project with them somewhere near Bristol. The usefulness of emails and phone had run its course, and now we had to have a look at the place and spend time face to face thrashing out the details. We had to return to the UK for a few days.
It was a dislocating prospect. Having made it only to the Channel Islands over nine months, we now faced a short journey back for a flying visit. I was excited to see people again, but as we checked out flights- direct from Jersey to Bristol for less than the combined ferry and train fare- I couldn’t face getting on a plane.
We decided we weren’t going to fly anymore six years ago, for reasons to do with reducing oil consumption and getting a more intimate perspective on travel- how long it takes to traverse the earth, what you see on the way. We’ve only broken that vow two or three times for work and family- still more than we felt comfortable with. Also, it only takes one and a half hours. After taking nearly 10 months to reach Jersey, I didn’t think my heart could handle that.
So with trepidation, we booked a four hour ferry and four hour train journey combo, to unravel all our arduous travel in a single ticketed, tannoy-announced, buffet catered eight-hour day. We would board the wave-devouring Condor ferry that so terrified us while sailing, and ‘pop back’ for five days.
Come the day, we loaded ourselves down with the usual baggage of clothes and filming kit, but also bulky winter clothes, a punctured dinghy and a few other chunks of stuff we weren’t using, as a further ‘donation’ to my parents’ overloaded attic. Nice of us, wasn’t it?
We left Joker bobbing reproachfully on the pontoon. We lugged the lot onto the ferry and settled down to a strangely flourescent passenger safety video. The Condor steadily munched the waves, erasing all the ground we’d covered and taking us home…